Today I’m departing from erotic romance to feature author extraordinaire Carrie Crain, who’s put her quick wit and wild sense humor into a “quirky” children’s novel, The Adventures of Austin Girl and Legend of Diablo.” Besides her humor, what I like about Carrie’s writing is her keen attention to culture and the way she uses her observation and insight in her writing.
Carrie Crain: Austin Girl, a dispirited teenager, discovers a magic Samurai sword, leading her on a journey to Planet Disco to save her kidnapped Grandpa from the nefarious Diablo, and return to Earth before she becomes a permanent guest.
- Length: 137 pages
- Genre: Children’s fantasy/adventure
- Audience: Middle Grade
- Format: Paperback and e-book version for the Kindle, Nook and iPad
Cara Bristol: What was the inspiration for Austin Girl and the Legend of Diablo?
Carrie Crain: In 2005, I spontaneously enrolled in UCLA Extension’s Writer’s Program where I studied screenwriting and creative writing in fiction. I had to write an original story for a treatment. I think I drank too much wine and listened to too much Led Zeppelin. Austin Girl just popped in my head as a character name because I was writing under that nom de plume and living in Austin, Texas.
Cara Bristol: What is your favorite part of the book?
Carrie Crain: The villain, Diablo. He’s immature, whiny, and funny. I enjoyed writing him that way as opposed to dangerously scary.
Cara Bristol: What made you want to write a children’s book?
Carrie Crain: Back in 1999, my stepson gifted me a silly-looking beagle puppy named Buddy. This beagle added so much insane adventure to my life, I jotted down all the crazy stuff he did: snow skiing in Louisville, KY; chewing my Gucci bag; ruining a brand new dining table; eating carpet, rescuing and finding my lost Jack Russell puppy. I wrote down the stories and pretended Buddy was the author. My original goal was to write a children’s book series based on the adventures and antics of Buddy the Beagle.
Cara Bristol: Some children’s fiction is written on two levels, one for children and a deeper one for adults. Is Austin Girl a book adults would enjoy?
Carrie Crain: I hope I’ve written a unique blend of sophistication and adventurously fun storytelling that appeals to both adults and children alike. There is a fun mix of adult and teenage characters with the same quirks and problems we go through today. I tried to make sure the children characters were educated, smart, and goal-driven.
Cara Bristol: You set the story in the 1970s. What about the decade inspired you? What is your favorite part of the 1970s?
Carrie Crain: Well, actually, the ordinary world is set in present-day in a fictitious town in Texas. The “New World” on Planet Disco is going back in time to the disco-era of the ‘70s. LOL. I have always been a dork when it comes to ‘70s nostalgia, from the disco music, clothing, movies, and attitude. I wanted this teenager to experience this even on a small-scale. I thought, you know, it might be funny to have this character hate this place, not only because the villain resides there, but also because of the disco environment.
Cara Bristol: When you were a child, what kinds of books did you enjoy reading? What was your favorite:
Carrie Crain: I still own my Walt Disney books. These were the stories I read. Cinderella, Snow White. I fell in love with fairy tales and this other fantasy world. It was a fun escape. Later on, I progressed to the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. Love the books, loved the TV show too. There was one book that I kept reading over and over called Escape to Witch Mountain. I suppose that one was my favorite and Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo.
Cara Bristol: What are you working on now?
Carrie Crain: I’m wrapping up a mystery/comedy with romantic elements called Jackpot. I’m also writing an edgy/dark rom/com novella called The Script Doctor, and a sexy rom/com called Romancing Dracula. I have many stories going, or notes on, but those two are the ones I’m paying attention to currently.
Carrie Crain: I am a housewife who struggles daily with my Bipolar Disorder and anxiety. I paint and will take classes. I ride my bike and workout with a personal trainer, and read. I’m usually creating something, whether a photo album for friends or family, or photographing and videotaping my dogs.
Cara Bristol: Quick five…
You can invite five famous people, dead or alive, to a dinner party, who are they: Christina Bale because I picture him as my Diablo and as the male character in The Script Doctor, Raymond Chandler, Hunter S. Thompson, Hemmingway, Jackson Pollock.
Your favorite room in your house is: My office with the windows and western décor.
Without looking, reach into your purse and pull out three items. What do you have? A weathered, torn copy of The Elements of Style, 2nd edition. The cover is completely torn off but I still carry both the cover and the book in my purse. Ray-Ban sunglasses A flattened sea-salt caramel.
Something you dislike: Know-it-All types. They are annoying and rude.
An indulgence: A glass of Honig cabernet and a chocolate-covered double-layer Oreo.
An excerpt from Austin Girl and the Legend of Diablo:
The sound of a backfire rattled store windows on the downtown street as Lucky Stevens parked his piece of hippy junk on the East side of Lucky’s Antiques located at 13 Concho Avenue. He drove a flower power Volkswagen bus. The bus was one of those rare 23 windowed jobs with curtains—a residence on wheels. Straightening his suspenders, he stepped out into the dusty landscape, newspaper in hand. He moseyed past a 1960 black Chevy Pie Wagon parked up ahead, admiring the car. The hot rod was decked out custom style with red and orange flames painted horizontally across the sides and hood. He tipped his beaver Stetson hat to the female driver and grinned handsomely. The pink-haired woman was preoccupied with talking to a Magic 8 Ball and didn’t notice the fifty-year-old cowboy.
Scratching his chin, he leisurely strolled up to a period oak and stained glass door. He reached in his Wrangler jeans front pocket and extracted a set of keys. He put the key in the lock and opened the door to a familiar sight. His antique store was housed in a red brick building in Checkered Past, Texas. He could sniff out valuable antiques just by employing his sixth sense. Lucky adjusted his string tie that matched his belt that matched his ostrich quill boots. He was in love with ‘vintage everything’ including his clothes and gentleman accouterments. Ambling through the door, he removed his Panama Jack sunglasses. His gait was deliberate, like a sore racehorse. Bells jingled like rowels on a spur letting out the sounds of commerce. Lucky may have been a little deaf, but he wasn’t so deaf that he couldn’t hear money jingle in the pockets of those who entered into his world. Lucky flipped on the lights and made a silly face at the store’s security camera.
Lucky laid his morning Austin American-Statesman newspaper down on the cracked countertop beside the turn of the century cash register, and looked at the time on his 40 year-old Rolex he’d won in a bidding war at an estate sale of one of Lyndon Johnson’s cousins so many years ago. It was still early for shoppers, just a little half past seven a.m. on Friday.
A set of white pine plank stairs off to the side began to creak. They led to the attic. Lucky housed antiques there that were part of his private collection, including one secret item in particular that oddly wasn’t for sale. He ditched his attention to the paper and walked over to the bottom of the stairs, looking up into the darkness. “Skinny, you up there?” Lucky hollered sharply. His young stock boy didn’t answer. Shrugging, he turned around to walk off. A thump on his noggin sent Lucky crashing to the hardwood floor. His Stetson flew off of his gray haired head and skidded across the floor like ice on marble. Staggering to his feet, he rubbed the back of his head. “What the—?”
“Where’s the sword?” the female driver of the Pie Wagon asked. Her voice was sharp. She waved a Magic 8 Ball in his face. Lucky glimpsed the black ball in his foggy state and thought, “Did this crazy lady just hit me with a nostalgic toy?” Lucky came to enough to savvy what the woman said, and a certain but profound panic triggered internally. He staggered, his back facing the stairs.
Lucky’s speech slurred as his lips struggled to form words, “What sword? Ah — I don’t stock swords,” he answered in a semi-unconvincingly manner. Sweat poured from his brow and ran into his keen steely colored eyes. A thin stream of blood dripped from his temple and onto his shirt. He anxiously scanned the room for his hat. He always wore his hat, except in church. The only time he wasn’t going to wear his hat was when he was dead and buried, which wasn’t going to be today if he had a say in the matter.
The shapely woman swung her closed palm and clobbered Lucky upside his jaw, knocking him back into the stair railing. The fall smarted his back. He didn’t know what hurt worse: his back or jaw.
“Hey, who do you think you are? What is going on here?” he asked, risking a stare at the intruder’s black leather outfit and purple thigh-high boots. He pretended to be interested in her attire. “Going to a costume party?” he joked, rubbing his jaw. “If so, you’ll need a cat mask. Then you can go as Puss and Boots,” he said, to deliberately stall for time. He needed to reach the phone, which was across the room beside the cash register to call 9-1-1. He looked over in the direction of his Colt single-action revolver with a history dating back to the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. If the revolver had been loaded, he would have snatched it in a heartbeat. But, for safety reasons and because it was for sale, there were no bullets. He was beginning to think he was up the Concho River without a paddle.
Her thick lips pursed, and her nostrils widened. She grabbed him by his shirt collar, yanking him close. His right suspender strap popped loose. “I need that sword old man!” she screamed. Spit misted his face. She released her grip, giving him a hard stare up and down.
Lucky wiped his brow and clipped the suspender back to the jeans, “Dagnab it lady, no one decks Lucky Stevens,” he said, gasping for air. He shook his head at her shock of pink hair. It looked like she was wearing the wool from a sheared sheep.
“Tabby. Name’s Tabby,” she corrected him.
“Like the cat?” he snickered, “I reckon you don’t need the mask. So, I can put you a costume together on the cheap. Does that sound better?” Lucky said, as he hoped his first customer would arrive, so he could holler for help. In his younger days, he could have had this woman licking dust off the floor.
Lucky fixed his tie and turned serious, “Now listen here Tabby. I don’t have any swords for sale,” he replied, rubbing his left eye. It was twitching out of nervousness. He then inched a few steps to retrieve his hat. He hated not being well put together. He took pride in his appearance.
She spun on her heel and walked around the store, breathing in a taxidermy skunk and tugging at a stuffed rattlesnake that were both displayed on the wall like trophies. “It’s a rare Samurai sword with an inscription, sapphire-encrusted handle, two rubies on the gold blade – ring a bell?” she asked.
Lucky patted his wounded head with his handkerchief while holding his hat in his left hand. Tucking the handkerchief in his shirt pocket, he caught a glimpse of a wooden sign on the wall that read, Good Cowboys Never Run; They Just Ride Away. The cowboy proverb filled him with temporary bravado. “All you’re doin’ is rachetjawin. I can’t understand all this hogwash,” he replied, craning his neck behind him. His eyes fixed on his nylon rope hanging on a coatrack outside the closed bathroom door. He slowly shuffled backwards in an attempt to grab it without drawing any attention. Back in his younger ropin’ days, that nylon rope would have bounced and followed him home. He thought maybe he could lasso Tabby like a runaway heifer on a cattle drive. The idea amused him. But then, something tragic happened. The chime on a wall clock rang eight o’clock. The bong obviously didn’t have the same urgency to him as it did to Tabby.
“My meter’s up,” Tabby snarled.
Lucky gave her a puzzled look. He wasn’t sure what that meant, but the look in her eyes when she announced it sent a wave of horror through his paunchy belly. The pain could have been heartburn, he quickly surmised. He turned and darted for the rope. Apparently, he had hung it up there good and tight because now the cotton pickin’ thing was stuck. She yanked the stuffed snake off of the wall and tackled him with a burst of inhuman speed. Before he knew it, she had tied his wrists with the snake.
“I killed that varmint with my bare hands,” he gasped. Even though his hands were tied in front of him, he still showed her the two-inch scar, a callous reminder. His knuckles were thick and beat up.
She ignored him and remained focused. “Who’s going to be looking for you, Lucky?” she asked. She walked over to the cash register, spying around. She picked up a whiteboard marker.
“Looking for me? Well – uh – my granddaughter,” he fumbled for an answer. He hobbled towards the front door, struggling to remove his hand restraints.
With lightning speed, Tabby took the marker and scribbled something on Lucky’s newspaper that was spread out across the counter. Flying in front of the door in an attempt to block Lucky, she banged her head accidentally and slid down to the floor. She was a mess and a half. “I’m probably going to get heck for this, but you leave me no alternative — it’s you or the sword. So, it looks like I have to take you as my hostage,” she threatened.
Lucky had a hunch that Tabby possessed some kind of supernatural power and that he was no match. “Kidnap? I’m too old for this bull malarkey. Where are you taking me?” he demanded, his voice shaking. Lucky felt dizzy. He really could have used a jolt of Folgers coffee right about then.
Tabby stuffed Lucky’s mouth with his blood splattered handkerchief. With her super strength, she pushed him outside the store and threw him in the trunk of the Chevy Pie Wagon, leaving his Stetson behind.
Austin Girl buy links:
Austin Girl also will be sold in select indie bookstores in Oklahoma: Full Circle Books in OKC, Steve’s Book and Magazines in Tulsa. Carrie also is working on getting the book in Austin, Texas, and London.
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