Murder is the new mascot at Ellington High…
A murdered coach and a missing counselor has thrown the school into a foreign curriculum of anger, fear, and suspicion. English teacher Emily Taylor is determined to prove that her missing friend is not a murderer. But if she’s not, then who is? And where could her friend be? Against the advice of fellow math teacher and former crush Tad, Emily and her best friend Gabby dig into the dead coach’s past. But someone doesn’t want Emily unearthing their secrets and is determined to see that she gets a failing grade in the sleuthing department. Soon, Emily finds herself scrambling for a new lesson plan to solve the murder…before the killer sets his own deadline!
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Emily Taylor is the protagonist in my debut novel, Murder Is Our Mascot. I thought you all might enjoy learning a little bit more about the people in Emily’s life. Here is a journal entry that her mom, Susan Taylor, has written to tell you all a little bit more about herself.
Susan Taylor’s Journal:
What is there to say about me? I am a homemaker and proud of it. Ray and I will celebrate 31 years of wedded bliss this May. Our beautiful baby girl will be 28 years young come her next birthday. She is still the delight of both Ray’s and my life. Raising her gave me purpose. I had never really enjoyed working as a loan officer at the bank. I enjoy numbers, but not the 9-5 grind. I am more of a free spirit. Emily and Ray both tell me that I am a not-quite-reformed hippie. Maybe they’re right. I think it’s just more that I like trying new things. I need constant outlets for all of this creative energy. If I am not redecorating a room in our house, I am trying some new type of craft. I am currently working on creative uses for nylon rope. I saw an online tutorial of how to make a lamp. I think Emily and Helen, one of my good friends, would enjoy a lamp like that…
Anyway, about me. Well, I am the middle child, but no, I do not have that ridiculously-labeled “middle child syndrome.” My older brother Paul still lives in our hometown, about 20 miles away from me. He runs a successful deli. He and his wife Elise have one child, Eddie, or Edward as he now likes to be called, who plans to take over the deli when his parents retire. Our younger sister, Renee, got married straight out of high school. She met a plastic surgeon who was passing through the area. He had stopped by the deli for a sandwich. He left with more than a full stomach, however—he took my sister’s heart with him. They live in a beautiful home out in Arizona. When Mom started to need a little more looking after, Renee took her in. Mom loves the weather out in Arizona, and Renee loves the company. She never had any children. I think she always thought there was more time to plan for children, but time has a way of getting away from you. Anyway, Mom deserves a pampered life.
Elizabeth Watterson was one tough lady. She raised all three of us as a single mom after Dad ran off to gamble away their life savings in Las Vegas. We never heard from him again. Mom never said a bad word against him, and even though I was only in diapers when he left, I have never forgiven him. If I ever run into him in a dark alley…
Moving on. As you can see, I have never met a fight I won’t back down from. I will defend my family and friends to the death. As long as they don’t ask me to cook…I HATE to cook. Emily’s love of cooking and her forgiving nature come from her father, but her bullheadedness and willingness to stand up for the underdog—well, I think she gets those traits from me.
We really don’t look anything alike, though. We are both short, but I am what I prefer to call “plump-ish,” while Emily is slender, even though she always thinks she has to lose weight. I have eyes that Ray calls “emerald” in color. I have naturally wavy, blonde hair…and it will stay blonde thanks to my stylist for many, many more years to come. Emily always wanted my wavy blonde hair, but I think her straight brunette hair is gorgeous. A ‘grass is always greener on the other side thing,’ I guess.
But I can’t complain. I have a good life. Good health. Good friends. Great family. Hobbies I enjoy. Now, if I could just get a grandchild…Ah, then life would be perfect. Emily doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to comply with this wish of mine, though. 🙁
The clack of Emily Taylor’s high heels echoed hollowly in the deserted high school hallway. Normally, she loved the sound her heels made on the tile floor. Her obsession with high heels began when her height topped off at a gargantuan five foot one inch, and their authoritative tapping sound typically made her feel confident and in charge. But not this morning. The click-clack reverberating off the rows of metal lockers seemed ominous, a warning of some kind.
Letting herself into her classroom, she decided that the school seemed somewhat sinister because she was unused to being there that early. Her great love affair with her snooze button meant that getting to school before it was filled with a mass of hormone-fueled teenagers was a rarity for her, but she had needed to get in early today in order to prep for a special before-school meeting with a student’s mother. Stevie Davis was new to Ellington High and was really struggling in Emily’s junior-level English class.
Something about Stevie tugged at Emily. He usually hid his eyes behind his fringe of bangs, causing Emily to fight the urge to grab her scissors and hack away at his curtain of hair so that she could see what was going on behind it. The few times he had tossed his hair back with the irritated shrug that was his typical answer to any question, his eyes had seemed sad, lost, or…something. Emily wasn’t sure what that something was, but she was hoping that this meeting with his mother would shed some light on his issues.
Her cantankerous old computer whined to life as Emily flipped on her desk light. Dark, swollen clouds crowded the sky, swallowing her early morning classroom in shadows. Emily felt jumpy and spooked, as if those dark clouds were pressing down on her, enshrouding her in their gloom. Must be an allergy medicine-induced hangover making her feel strange this morning. Nothing like fall to get her sinuses going. As soon as she got her notes together for her meeting, she’d grab a cold shot of caffeine from the stash of sodas she kept in the teachers’ lounge fridge. That would help clear her head. Or at least it would if Tad, the conference-hour-sharing, next-door math teacher and fellow soda junkie, hadn’t depleted her supply.
As she pulled out samples of Stevie’s writing and wrestled her computer into spitting out a copy of his grade report, the lights flickered. Glancing out the back wall of windows, Emily watched the increasing wind whip the trees into a frenzy. Multicolored fall leaves rained down like confetti. She usually loved the electric feel in the air before a good thunderstorm, but a loss of power would ruin her day’s plans. Figuring she better make her copies before the ancient, temperamental copy machine went on the fritz, she began sorting through the piles on her desk for the paper she needed. They were organized piles, of course. Oh, who was she kidding? Trying to find the one thing she needed on her messy desk was like trying to isolate a single snowflake during a blizzard. Shuffling papers and files, Emily jumped at the first boom of thunder. The accompanying flash of lightning happened to spotlight the copy of the quiz for which she was searching. Hoping to entice Stevie into becoming more involved in class discussions, she was starting a unit on mythology since he had shown some interest in legends. Today’s quiz was over the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, or it would be if she got her copies made in time.
Tucking all of her information for the meeting with Stevie’s mother into a stray file folder, Emily grabbed up a fresh legal pad and pen and headed out the door. Halfway there, she turned on her heel to go back for the quiz she needed to copy. Yep, she definitely needed that soda. A glance at her vintage Strawberry Shortcake watch showed she was, as usual, cutting it close on time. But first things first.
Popping the top on the last soda in the fridge, Emily silently thanked whoever was the God of caffeine for their nectar as she took her first icy sip of the sugar-laden soda. No diet drinks for her, no sir, as the extra ten pounds on her hips could attest. Tad had tried to hide the last can behind a pitcher of green tea, knowing Emily would never touch that, even if it might benefit her hips. She, however, was on to his nefarious ways. Practicing her evil victory laugh, she click-clacked her way to the copy room to get her copies started before the meeting. Another crashing boom of thunder rattled the windows as Emily threw the door wide, propping it open with those cursed hips while she flipped the light switch. Nothing. Scanning the hallway confirmed her suspicions. The power was out. She took a step backward, thinking she would head downstairs to consult with Principal Matthews. Rain began to lash the windows over the stairwell, making the darkness of the hall seem even more complete. She fumbled her way a few feet down the hallway until the lights flickered back on again. Not wanting to waste a second in case the power decided to blink off again, Emily dashed back to the partially open copy room door. Hitting the light switch again with one hand, she rushed toward the hulking machine on the far wall.
That was when papers went flying and sticky, syrupy soda sprayed everything in its path. Emily went airborne. Throwing her hands out in front of her to break her fall, Emily winced as they skidded through sticky wetness. The picture of grace she was not, so finding herself flat on her face was actually not uncommon for Emily. She could trip on a completely flat surface. The lights flickered again as she clambered to her feet, worrying about getting the sticky mess cleaned up before someone else slipped. Glancing down at her hands, she was busy cursing her lost lifeline, her last caffeine hit, when she realized that the sticky substance covering her hands was not soda. It was something thicker, and redder. Finally looking back to see what she had tripped over, Emily saw what appeared to be a head protruding from behind an office chair. Taking a cautious step closer, she could see that the head was surrounded by what looked like a puddle of congealing blood and was, thankfully, attached to a body. Unfortunately, it appeared to be a dead body. And that’s when Emily began to scream and scream.
About the Author
Tracy Comstock is a small-town girl from Missouri. She lives in a home where she is outnumbered 3:1 by the males in her life: her husband and their two extremely adorable, but terrifyingly ornery sons. She has no pets as all living things, besides humans, of course, come to her house to die, including the victims in her books. All her life Tracy devoured books. Her parents’ most effective punishment was grounding her from reading. Although she has a B.S. in Education and a Masters in Literature, she was nudged down the path to publication by encouraging (and sometimes threatening!) family, friends, professors, and students. When not working on Emily’s adventures, Tracy is an adjunct instructor for several local colleges, where she gets to teach others about her greatest passion: writing.
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