Monday, December 23, 2019

Welcome Fran Thomas

When I was growing up in PA, in fourth grade we studied how the Spanish came to Florida. I never dreamed I'd eventually move here, but something about their story must have spoken to me. A classmate and I wrote a play about two children crossing the ocean. I like to joke that we only wrote it so we could play the two lead roles. I played the brother since I was taller than my co-author (I never grew much after that). Our cast included all of the girls in our class (the tallest girl was the captain of the ship) and none of the boys (we were nine years old, after all). I don't know if we had costumes, but we did have props (I was supposed to stick a knife in a door and picked up a plastic fork instead, earning me an unintended laugh). After the boys sat through our opus, we performed it for the fifth graders too. This is the first writing I remember doing. Sadly, I don't have a copy.

I wanted to write a romance for a long time and started several. I knew nothing about plotting, so every time I got stuck in the middle and didn't finish. Finally, in 2016 I was determined to complete a book. That ended up being the first book in my Calusa Town Tales. These are set on a small island in the Gulf of Mexico suspiciously similar to the real island where I live. 

Stylin' with the Art Teacher is the fifth novella in the series. I'm pretty sure it will be the last, but anything could happen. In the meantime, I'm planning to start a new series after the first of the year. Stay tuned.

Astrid Jensen loves teaching art to the children of Calusa, but she has ambitions beyond the classroom. She wants to bring her colorful designs to the attention of Florida fashionistas. No matter what it takes.
Spencer Hall is a self-proclaimed control freak. He got burned collaborating with people who valued the almighty dollar over artistic integrity.
It won't happen again.

It was the middle of hurricane season in Calusa, but not a cloud marred the bright blue sky.

   Astrid Jensen pulled her red convertible into a parking space at Calusa Town Elementary. Since school was starting the following week, all the teachers were on the small campus on an island off the coast of Florida for an in-service day. On this mid-August day, Astrid was grateful the school rooms were air conditioned.

   Just inside the front door, she was greeted by Will Thompson. The jovial principal beckoned her into his office. “All ready for a new year?”

   “I can’t wait to see the students. I’ve been thinking about all the ways I can encourage their creativity.” She loved being an art teacher. Elementary school kids were eager to draw and paint. They hadn’t yet learned to censor their innate creativity.

    "That’s what I wanted to talk with you about. I hired a new fifth grade teacher who happens to have a background in theater. He wants to start a playhouse here in Calusa.”

   Astrid nodded politely, not sure what that had to do with her. “That’s a great idea. I’m sure the town would support it.”

   “The thing is, he’s new to town and doesn’t know anybody. I was hoping you’d introduce him around. I know the golfers and fishermen, but I’m not that much into the arts. You met a lot of people by judging the painted poles, didn’t you?”

    Astrid had been on the committee to choose the designs that now enhanced utility poles all over town.  “I suppose I did. Sure, I’ll introduce him to folks.” A little shy and fairly new to town herself, she didn’t relish this idea. But Will was her boss. What was she supposed to say?

   “I knew I could count on you. He’s already in his classroom. Let’s go.”

   Will tapped on the partially opened classroom door and poked his head inside. “Gotta minute? There’s someone here I think you should meet.” Stepping to one side, he let Astrid precede him into the room. “This is Astrid Jensen, our art teacher. You mentioned you’d be looking for someone to help with set painting once you get your theater group up and running. Astrid, this is Spencer Hall.”

   Astrid’s violet eyes widened in surprise. This guy looked as if he belonged on a football field, not a stage. Even though she was tall, she had to look up to meet his gaze. His school polo shirt hugged a muscular torso. Her extended hand was swallowed up in his firm grasp. 

   “I’d be grateful for your help. I’m hoping to put something in the local newspaper after Labor Day to find out if anyone’s interested.”

   Well, he certainly had the voice for theater, smooth and resonant. His words were carefully articulated. No southern drawl, so he must be from up north. What would possess someone like him to come to little ole Calusa, of all places?

Pittsburgh native Fran Thomas never meant to move to Florida, but Fate (and her husband) had other ideas. A stint as the editor of the local newspaper gave her plenty of material for her novellas.

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