Meet Grace, Zoey, and Leah

Below is an excerpt from my third novel, Hotel Impala, which is scheduled for release in September 2024 from Twisted Road Publications. This excerpt introduces twelve-year-old Grace, five-year-old Zoey, and their mother, Leah.


Photo by Bob O’Lary

The school bus pulled away and Grace glanced back toward home. She sometimes still imagined their mom standing in front of the purple door, waving long after the bus had rounded the corner and vanished from sight. Zoey dared not as much as a backward glance but hugged her backpack to her chest as though a substitute for all she needed.

“Mom waved. Didn’t she?” Zoey’s eyes were focused elsewhere.

“You tell me.” Her sister’s improbable optimism, too early, wore on Grace’s own resilience. The glimmer of hope slid from Zoey’s face, replaced by a pinched expression, and she squeezed her backpack even tighter.

Regretting her harshness, Grace leaned and whispered, “Dad said she’ll be well enough to volunteer at the animal shelter again soon. That’s good, right?” But she knew Dad, too, often chose hope when there was little else to offer.

Zoey chewed on a bleeding cuticle, and Grace knew only one of her better stories, drawn from her earliest memories of their mom and baby Zoey, would satisfy her sister. Zoey never stopped begging for more of her stories; peppered with plenty of Grace’s sweetest lies. The worst part of living in stories that were never completely true was Grace’s fear of someday running dry of stories, leaving her and Zoey to live fully inside their mother’s tilted realities.


Leah woke from what must have been a long absence. Through the scarlet-edged pain that was the heavily medicated workings of her mind, she struggled to salvage bits and pieces of what was once familiar. To make whole again scattered remnants of faded memories and surrendered sensations. She traced the tender pink scars on her wrists, and heat from her shame rose before she remembered she no longer cut herself.

Bad memories must be sealed away in the deepest recesses of her mind if she were to wake to the good of the here and now. Had she heard or only dreamed: two sets of hurried feet. Twenty toes, one set bigger, the other smaller, treading lightly across the floor. The wiser voice repeating the family mantra: Our Mom is fine. It’s just that she sometimes lives inside her head.

Her Grace was kind, though stoic in her denial of the harshest truths. Zoey was beautiful and sweet, and yet a fully selfish child. Impulsive yet timid and lacking in proper deference. Their father, while compassionate, was a sad man who had yet to find his true voice.

In the dream, the sucking sounds of a rubber seal yielding; cold milk sloshed into two shallow bowls. Milk dribbling from the corners of Zoey’s overstuffed mouth, wiped onto the back of her perfectly shaped diminutive hand. Bowls half full. Raised voices. Chairs scraped across worn tiles; hurried feet, door swung wide, and stale air escaping.

The roar of the yellow dragon, belching toxic poisons, carried her daughters away, and she had done nothing to save them.

You can find more information about the book HERE

Hotel Impala Copyright © 2024 by Pat Spears