I am excited to announce that my new mystery for young readers is now available through Amazon and my website as well as some wonderful bookstores. (Links below)
To give you a little taste of Taya Bayliss – Tree Hugger, here is the book trailer and the first chapter.
Chapter 1: The Sounds of the Bend
Taya Bayliss stood on the platform that formed the floor of the treehouse. She tied the corner of a tarpaulin to a branch before pausing to gaze out over the stretch of riverside land known as Monahan’s Bend. Red gums, silver wattles and manna gums grew happily in the rich soil, creating shelter for possums, bats, kingfishers and parrots. Small birds made theirhomes in the paperbarks, tea trees and bottlebrushes. Ducks and other waterbirds built their nests along the river’s edge and raised their babies safely there.
Although The Bend, as most people called it, was only a short distance from the centre of the city, it was almost silent, thanks to the canopy formed by the tall trees and the lush under-storey of shrubs and grasses. The Monahan family, who had owned the land since colonial times, had always allowed the public to enjoy the peace and beauty of The Bend. Walkers and joggers had worn a pathway along the riverbank. The only rule that the family had insisted upon was that no wheels were allowed at Monahan’s Bend. Taya breathed deeply, drawing in the rich smells of the surrounding trees and bushes.
Two men walked quickly along the path. Deep in a conversation punctuated by violent hand gestures, they did not notice thedark-haired boy and the blonde girl in the treehouse above them. As they disappeared from view, Taya turned her attention back to her handiwork. She checked the knot to make sure it was secure. The tree house now had a rainproof roof.
‘We’ll have to get going soon,’ she said. ‘I’m nearly done,’ replied a voice from below her. Chris Comino, her best friend and neighbor, was standing on the lowest branch of the large fig tree, attaching a rope ladder to a higher branch. ‘There,’ he said. ‘That should make getting up to the platform easier for us.’
Taya looked down. The rope ladder would certainly make access to their treehouse less of a struggle. ‘But, we don’t want it hanging down when we aren’t here. The treehouse has to be a secret place.’
Chris climbed up from the branch to stand beside her. He patted her shoulder. ‘You young people,’ he chuckled. ‘No imagination. Watch this.’ He pulled on a cord that was tied to the last rung of the rope ladder. The ladder rolled back up to the platform of the treehouse. ‘Now I just tie it off back here,’ he added, securing the rope to a small branch. ‘And taa-dah – no rope ladder! When we want to use it, all we have to do is release it. You may applaud now.’ He stretched his arms sideways like a magician who had just made a rabbit disappear.
Taya nodded in approval and provided the requested applause. ‘That is totally cool. Now, we just need…’ she stopped mid-sentence and turned to look towards the river. ‘What was that? Did you hear that?’
‘What?’ Chris followed her gaze, listening intently. ‘I can’t hear anything.’
‘I thought I heard something – sort of a shout.’
‘Who’d be shouting down here? It was probably a bird.’ Chris inspected the tarpaulin. ‘This looks really good. We can leave stuff up here now and it won’t get wet. I think I will bring a plastic storage box though, just to be on the safe side.’
Taya stood still, ears straining. She shook her head. Was it really a shout? It sounded really weird, like someone was in trouble. Am I imagining things? It probably was just a bird.
She looked around again, suddenly uncomfortable. The Bend was strangely quiet. Something didn’t feel right. There was no scurrying of small animals in the leaf litter, no bird song. It was as though the inhabitants of The Bend were waiting, listening, for something to happen, just as she was.
The sound of feet pounding along the path broke the silence. A man approached. Heavily built, he looked uncomfortably hot, his jaw clenched, his blue shirt darkened by sweat. It was one of the men who had passed the tree earlier. The children watched him as he hurried off in the direction of the Captain’s Point ferry terminal.
‘Angry man in a hurry,’ Chris said.
‘Hmm, maybe he had an argument with his friend,’ Taya agreed. ‘Come on. I told Dad we’d be at Tall Pines at three o’clock.’
‘Right. We can pick up Minnie on the way.’ Chris released the rope ladder so that they could climb down from the platform. Once on the ground, he tugged on the rope to draw the ladder back up out of sight, tying it off on a bush behind the tree.
‘Did you know that they used to scratch for gold down here?’ Chris asked as they walked past the ferry terminal and turned into Captain’s Point Road.
‘Who did? When?’
‘According to my history teacher, people used to pan and scratch for gold around the bend of the river and, they actually used to find some.’ He passed to pick up a pebble. ‘Just imagine scratching out little nuggets of gold.’
Taya grinned at the thought. ‘But that was back in the 1800s, wasn’t it?’
Chris lobbed the pebble into the water. ‘Yes, but people were still digging tunnels into the riverbank right up until the ferry service was started in the 1920s. The city council had the tunnel entrances filled in after some guy was killed when a tunnel collapsed.’
He grasped Taya’s arm, staring at her in mock horror for a moment. ‘That’s probably what you heard just now – Old Jasper’s ghostly wails. Oooooooh!’
Taya rolled her eyes. ‘Oh, very funny. You’re hilarious, Comino. Ghosts! Whatever next?’ She walked purposefully on. Chris might have been joking about a ghostly presence, but she still felt uncomfortable, on edge. The riverside area had, for the time being at least, lost its air of serenity. For the first time in her life, Taya was glad to be walking away from Monahan’s Bend.
What happens next? Do you believe in ghosts?
Taya Bayliss – Tree Hugger
E. J. Gore 2015
Age Range: 8-12 years