Monday, January 16, 2012

Play It Again by Tracy Krauss

Inspirational Romance

Sparks fly when an ex rock and roll junkie and a stuffy accountant rendezvous at a local resort, but neither are prepared for the emotional entanglements, family complications, and a threat from the past that unexpectedly resurfaces. Set in the 1980′s, this story brings two opposing forces together in a clash of romance and danger, while its musical undertones highlight the theme that God can turn anything into beautiful music. PLAY IT AGAIN is the much anticipated prequel to AND THE BEAT GOES ON. Find out where Mark Graham's journey began in this, the story of his parents.


Chapter One        
Smokey tendrils drifted in time to the soft strains of jazz music that filled the dimly lit lounge. Russ Graham surveyed the clusters of patrons at each small circular table, resting on the troupe of aging jazz musicians for a moment, before focusing on the amber liquid swirling in his own glass. It was not the kind of place he normally frequented, but business had brought him out to the island for a few days and there wasn’t much else to do in the evening – alone.
Earlier he’d noticed a sign in the hotel lobby advertising the Jazz ensemble. "Jack Burton Band" the sign read. Russ had a vague recollection of that name and thought he might as well check it out. He looked a little more closely at the aging troop and decided that Jack Burton must be the one wielding the saxophone and counting out the time. He was small and wiry, with thinning hair- probably in his early to mid sixties. Next, there was a burly, white haired, black man on the drums; a gangly, hawk nosed man bending over the piano; and a stocky man with longish gray hair and a mustache leaning on a big, bass violin.
Despite the band’s aging appearance, the bluesy jazz that came from their instruments seemed to transcend all barriers of age and time. Russ closed his eyes for a moment and let the strains of music wash over him. How long had it been since he just let himself relax? Just let go and be. Too long. Much too long.
He quickly opened his eyes. Guilt and pride – his two constant companions – would not allow even this brief reprieve. He should probably just head back up to his room. He needed an early start tomorrow in order to finish up his business and head back to Winnipeg. Mark was in good hands at his mother’s house, but he didn’t like leaving him for too long. He took his responsibilities seriously, and he didn’t like pawning his son off on others – even his own mother.
Russ raised the tumbler to his lips and downed the rest of the fiery liquid. As if on cue, a pretty waitress was there to whisk the glass away and offer another. “Um … I guess another wouldn’t hurt,” Russ said, glancing at his watch. It was only 9:30. He didn’t drink much, as a rule, but one more was no big deal. Besides. Who was here to see?
As the waitress retreated on her errand, Russ glanced around the room once again. What little light there was in the room cast an ethereal glow about the crowd. His gaze stopped at a young woman, sitting completely enraptured at a small table near the stage. Her hair, which was very short, appeared to be some shade of red, although it was difficult to tell in this light. Large hoop earrings hung at her ears, swaying with her in time to the music. She looked awfully young to be in a bar, but then again, there was also a sense of worldliness about her - a strange combination of girl and woman.
He was jolted back to reality by a resounding slap across the back. “Hey, bro! Fancy meeting you here!”
“What the …? What are you two doing here?” Russ sputtered.
Ken Graham, Russ’s older brother, stood next to him grinning, his wife Kathy hovering nearby. The contrast in appearance between the two brothers was as marked as their personalities. Ken was well over six feet tall, broad and well built, with sandy blonde hair and twinkling eyes. Although he was already thirty-seven, his boyish expression allowed him to pass for a much younger man. Russ, on the other hand, usually wore a firmly set look about his chiseled features. His dark blue eyes held a deep intensity and his hair, which was dark and wavy, he wore in a neatly trimmed, conservative style. Shorter than his older brother, he still maintained a powerful, trim physique.
“Didn’t I tell you me and Kath were coming out to Hecla for the weekend?," Ken asked as he plunked himself unceremoniously into the chair opposite Russ.
“No, I don’t recall anything about it,” Russ muttered.
“Hm. Must have forgot,” Ken shrugged. “The company’s having a sales convention. Wives are invited so Kathy came along.” Ken raised a hand and caught the eye of the oncoming waitress. Hecla Island was a popular spot for business meetings. It was a scenic location just a two hour drive from the city of Winnipeg and offered first class facilities. “What about you? I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“My firm does their books, remember?” Russ answered, his scowl deepening as the waitress arrived with his scotch.
“What have we here?” Ken queried, raising his eyebrows. “Looks like we caught you red handed.”
“I’m not allowed to have a drink?” Russ asked.
“No, go ahead,” Ken laughed. “It’s just good to see you take off your priest’s collar once in awhile.”
Russ clamped his jaw tight. He wasn’t about to react to his brother’s jibes. “Where are the kids?’ he directed at Kathy.
“Your mother’s,” Kathy sighed, as if that explained everything.
Russ frowned. “Oh. I guess three isn’t too much for her to handle . . .”
“Relax,” Ken said. “You’ve got nothing to worry about. At least your kid isn’t a brat like some people’s.” He jerked his head in Kathy’s direction.
“They’re your kids, too, remember?” Kathy quipped. “Or have you forgotten already?”
“What ever you say,” Ken shrugged, taking a large swig of the beer that had just arrived. He leaned in toward Russ conspiratorially. “Greg's not used to staying overnight without his mommy," he snorted.
“He’s only five,” Kathy sniffed, digging for a cigarette.
“She keeps babying the kid. No wonder he's such a brat," Ken continued.         
"I hated to leave them, the way your mother was carrying on," Kathy explained, taking a long drag on her cigarette.
"Do you have to blow that right in my face?” Ken complained, waving at the smoke. “And just what did that mean anyway?"
"You know exactly what I mean," Kathy said, expelling another puff of smoke. "She's always trying to interfere with how we raise our children." Ken grunted dismissively. “No, I mean it! She's always pushing all that religious garbage at them. I've had it with them coming home and asking me if I'm going to heaven or hell. It's scaring them."
“A little fire and brimstone never hurt anybody,” Ken defended. “Look at me. I turned out okay.”
“Fine example," Russ noted dry.
“Oh, right, " Ken snorted. “Mr. Perfect talking."
“Is he always this sociable?" Russ asked Kathy, striving for lightness.
“Only on good days," Kathy laughed humorlessly, stubbing out her cigarette.
Ken tipped his beer back and guzzled the rest as if in some kind of competition. “Ah!” he breathed, followed by a loud burp. “What’s a guy got to do to get another drink around here?” Kathy just rolled her eyes. “Hey, bro. Order us another round while I take my wife for a spin,” Ken said. "How about it, Kath? Wanna dance?” He was already dragging her toward the dance floor.
Russ watched the pair with a combination of amusement and pity. Kathy was now laughing breathlessly up at Ken, obviously happy to be the recipient of some positive attention. It was a shame that it took liquor.
His attention was caught by another couple on the dance floor. It was the girl that Russ had noticed earlier, dancing with Jack Burton, the aging saxophone player who had laid aside his instrument while the rest of the troupe carried on. Mismatched as they were, they seemed to dance as one with energetic abandon. And despite what Russ considered to be her somewhat unbecoming attire – cut off jeans, a turtle neck sweater and hiking boots - there was something provocative about the way she moved with such grace and fluidity, totally unembarrassed. In fact, she seemed oblivious to any onlookers, so immersed was she in the dance.
When the song ended, the young woman and her partner retreated to her table, laughing. The other band members took a break and joined them. The older men seemed very familiar with her. Especially the leader. He placed a possessive arm about her shoulders and was leaning in close to whisper in her ear. Something rose up suddenly within Russ’s chest. Disapproval? Disgust? Envy, maybe?
He slammed back the rest of his scotch, wiping his mouth just as Ken and Kathy reappeared.
"Did you see that couple out there?" Kathy enthused. "Weren’t they great? Just like out of a movie!"
“The old man certainly seems lively for his age,” Russ offered with a shrug.
“I wasn't lookin' at the old man," Ken guffawed with a wink. "Mm-mm. Them’s a great set of legs!"
"I didn’t notice."
“Oh right,” Ken laughed. “You can fool most of the people most of the time, but this is your bro, here, man. I know you’ve still got some red blood in there somewhere, no matter what you want people to believe.”
“Whatever. She’s not my type.”
“She too skinny for you?" Ken asked.
“Just drop it,” Russ responded tightly.
“Maybe it’s been so long, you forgot how . . .”
“Shut up," Russ clipped.
“I know Miranda was a bitch, but -"
“I said, shut up." Russ rose from the table, his anger barely contained.
“Where you going?’ Ken demanded.
“To my room. Goodnight.” Russ turned sharply and headed for the exit. For a moment the three Scotch that he’d downed rather abruptly went straight to his head. He slowed his pace just enough to regain his bearings and then continued toward the door.
Directly in front of him, also nearing the exit, were the wiry old musician and the strange young woman. She had her arm slung casually around his shoulders, while his encircled her slim waist. Another wave of – something - flooded Russ’s body as he watched them. He told himself it was loathing, but other parts of his anatomy whispered ‘lust’. Probably just the Scotch. He wasn’t used to drinking anymore.
Who cared, anyway? What wayward girls did with aging jazz musicians was really no concern of his. So why couldn’t he get her image out of his head?

Author Bio:

Tracy Krauss is a high school teacher by profession, and a prolific author, artist, playwright and director by choice. She received her Bachelor's degree from the University of Saskatchewan and has gone on to teach Art, Drama and English -- all the things she is passionate about. After raising four children, she and her husband now reside in beautiful Tumbler Ridge, BC where she continues to pursue all of her creative interests. Her first two books, AND THE BEAT GOES ON and MY MOTHER THE MAN-EATER, were both nominated for the 'Indie Excellence Book Awards' for religious fiction in 2011. A third novel, PLAY IT AGAIN, the much anticipated prequel to her first book has just been released. Tracy also has one stage play in print


This is one best comtemporary novels I've read all year. I started reading this book yesterday and read until I had to go to bed last night, then finished it this morning. For me, this is the kind of novel that is very hard to put down. I read into the wee hours. I didn't want to sleep and just wanted to read this book. The tension kept building and building. While some elements of the story are common to romance novels, the author did such a great job putting the elements together and making it compelling. The setting, characters, and dialog brought me back to the 1980s, and parts of the story felt like they could have come from my life. ~ Michelle Sutton, author of NEVER WITHOUT HOPE  and  THEIR SEPARATE WAYS

Why did Tracy write PLAY IT AGAIN?

I like redemption stories and PLAY IT AGAIN is just that. I also like the fact that God doesn’t wait for us to get our lives together before calling us, and even after the call, He doesn’t expect us to become something we aren’t. We still have certain God given personality traits – ‘quirks’ and flaws that He then uses to reach other ‘quirky’, flawed people. I’m also fascinated by the ‘opposites attract’ syndrome and this certainly is highlighted in this story. Sometimes I think God has a terrific sense of humor when He brings people together, again because he knows what we need better than we do. The two main characters in PLAY IT AGAIN are flawed, quirky, definitely polar opposites, and certainly not typical – all factors that make them ideal candidates in God’s eyes. Finally, I set this book back in the 1980s because this is the era of my own conversion and the story made sense to me coming from this time and social fabric.

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