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

Memory of a Young Boy

When people talk to me about my writing, they frequently ask, “What drew you to this particular story?”  This remains difficult for me to answer in general, and that is particularly true for my third novel, Hotel Impala. The impetus for Dream Chaser, my first novel, was a newspaper story I read and filed away years before imagining the novel. It’s Not Like I Knew Her, my second novel, was largely autobiographical, set in a fictional location with entirely fictional characters.

The way Hotel Impala came about is more complicated and is perhaps better told as its own story.

Decades ago, as a graduate student and teaching assistant at Florida State University, I spent countless late-night hours at the Strozier Library. On a cold night in early February—I remember because my birthday was approaching—I left the library, exhausted and hungry because I had skipped lunch. It was a tradeoff I regularly made in the interest of more uninterrupted time at the library. I was eager for the warmth and privacy of my temporary home—a seventeen-foot travel trailer on loan from my parents—and the balance of the food from the care package my mom sent regularly to help me through the last week or so before receiving my next paycheck.

Shivering, I started up the heat in my VW Bug and drove away from the library, thinking about satisfying my hunger and getting warm. My route off campus took me to the intersection of Woodward and Tennessee Street. When I slowed and pulled to a stop beneath the glow of streetlights, I caught sight of a man and woman, my age or slightly older, and a child, maybe three or four, huddled together. The boy sat slumped on what appeared to be a cardboard suitcase, and I imagined him both cold and hungry. He leaned against the woman I took to be his mother, who had wrapped her arms about him, leaned and appeared to whisper.

The light changed, and I drove away, having done nothing. Though I felt I should have stopped, at the time I had no idea what I might have done. But the image of the boy, and trying to understand what comfort his desperate mother might have offered against the enormous weight of homelessness, has stayed with me.

Years later, when I began to hear the voices of Grace, her younger sister, Zoey, and their mom, Leah, who led me to write Hotel Impala, I believe it was an echo of that little boy to whom I failed to respond.  I want to believe that a random encounter, decades earlier, had planted a story seed; an emotional memory that has remained. Perhaps it is true that our hearts hold memories, waiting for our conscious minds to catch up.

Hotel Impala is scheduled for release on September 16, 2024

Available for pre-sale here: Pre-Order Now

A Call for Authors as Truth Tellers

“You have to give up wanting to please.”

The clearest and most profound voice I hear on how much we as writers/authors must risk as truth tellers is that of Dorothy Allison, author of the National Book Award Finalist Bastard Out of Carolina.

The following is an excerpt from an interview titled “Dorothy Allison on the Necessity of Making Readers Uncomfortable”, published by Garden and Gun, November 22, 2019, and posted online by Literary Hub.

Interviewer: You wrote once that Bastard Out of Carolina “disturbed the peace.” Is that part of the purpose of literature and music?
Yes. That never changes. And let’s be clear about what the peace is. The peace is a kind of silence about the very issues that writers exist to call attention to. It’s so easy to disturb the peace. All you really have to do is tell the truth, and it will disturb and upset people. In the kind of writing I love, the language is encouraging and comforting while the content is profoundly disturbing.

Interviewer: That’s an effective combination.
: It’s one of the things I love about a lot of Southern literature. We do it better than anyone. We can make you laugh and cry at the same time, which is my favorite thing. I work hard to do a kind of seduction in which you read sections that are very funny and charming, and then, two paragraphs later, it ain’t charming. It ain’t funny. It’s horrible. And to have both of those things happen at the same time, that’s life.

You can read the full interview here: Editors of Garden and GunDorothy Allison on the Necessity of Making Readers Uncomfortable  Literary Hub (