AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – FLORENCE OSMUND

???????????????????????????????Today on Author Wednesday, best-selling author Florence Osmund stops by to talk about her life as a writer since leaving the corporate world several years ago. She’s been a phenomenal success in her new career, and her advice is well worth following. She writes literary and women’s fiction. Red Clover, one of her best-selling titles, is a coming-of-age piece with a strong male lead character. Regarding Annaanother of her hits with readers, follows a young woman as she explores her mysterious past. Please join us as I probe her mind for some thoughts on her success.Red Clover cover Google

Good morning, Florence. I’m so pleased to have you on my blog today. I always love to ask writers when they were first able to describe themselves as a “writer” or “author.” When did it happen for you? 

I spent a long career working for large corporations, and during that period I wrote numerous articles, white papers, proposals, and other business-related documents. It wasn’t until I retired in 2009 that I began writing fiction. I started referring to myself as an author in 2012 when I published my first novel—at the tender age of sixty-two. I don’t regret having waited that long to do what I love to do—I have so much more material now!

It doesn’t matter how long it took, and sixty-two is very young! Now that this is your full-time gig, how much time do you spend a day writing?

I would like to be able to say that I spend as much of the day writing as I so desire. I’d like to be able to say that, but I can’t. I discovered early on that books don’t sell themselves—most of us authors have to spend a considerable amount of time promoting our work. Otherwise, no one would know of its existence.

I’m an early riser and usually spend mornings doing things that help to build my author platform—maintaining two websites, participating in on-line discussion groups, writing articles, answering e-mails, keeping up with social media, crafting promotions, and maintaining my e-mail subscriber list. That leaves the afternoon open for writing, usually in three two-hour blocks, since I can’t seem to sit in one place for more than two hours without a break. With this routine, I’ve been able to publish one book a year, and that works for me.

It’s an incredible juggling act to be both marketer and writer, but it sounds as if you’ve found a formula that works for you. Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Describe a time when a subject chose you.

For years while I was working in corporate America, I thought about writing books after I retired. And for years, every time an idea for a story line would come to mind, I wrote it down on a scrap of paper. It didn’t matter when or where. I could be walking down the street when I observed something that I thought would make an interesting scene in a novel. Or I could be at work and someone would say something that sparked an idea. Over the years, I amassed hundreds of these ideas in a shoe box. When I was ready to start writing, I pulled them out, scrutinized them, and put them into piles. When I was done, I had three stacks of notes that showed promise for three distinct stories.

That’s amazing! That’s a great bit of advice for any writer at any stage. I do the same thing, but I need to get a shoe box to save all those ideas that grab me. Life is the best food for feeding fiction. Do you find that similar themes or messages emerge in your fiction? 

The protagonists in my stories are average people who find themselves faced with difficult decisions. Like most of us, both supporters and defeaters surround them. It’s particularly rewarding when readers of my books think about their own set of values and what they would do in a similar situation. Many have shared their own stories with me. In one case, a book club had chosen one of my books for their monthly read and invited me to join in by phone. At the very end of the discussion, one of the members said that I had told her story, almost down to the smallest detail, and she thanked me for shedding light on part of it that she hadn’t realized before. Rewards like that are priceless.

I agree. I’m amazed when readers/strangers tell me that. I’m pleased to hear that you’ve had that experience. You are right–absolutely priceless. What are you working on these days? 

In August of this year, when novel number five went into the very capable hands of my editor, I started writing novel number six. It’s about a cozy mystery writer who thinks her husband may be imitating some of the behaviors of the characters in her books. He claims she’s being paranoid since he admits to never having read any of her books. She feels betrayed by his lack of interest in her work but is still suspicious of his actions and is particularly concerned about her current project where the protagonist goes missing. Maybe she should change the ending?

I love that premise. It sounds intriguing and scary. You’ve been very successful in a short period of time, so can you give other writers some tips or advice?

Regarding Anna front cover - Amazon-Google (3)Up until recently, I never paid very much for advertising and promotions for my books, and I did okay. Then I connected with eNovel Authors at Work , a group of authors who know a lot more about the subject than I do, and the results of their paid promotions convinced me to try it. I promoted Regarding Anna on BookBub, a paid promotion site, and the results were phenomenal—during the month following the promotion, more than 4,600 copies of this book were either purchased or borrowed through Kindle’s lending library. Being an author is like any other business in that the return on investment can often make decisions easy.

I have heard great things about BookBub, so I’m happy to hear about some real tangible results. Now let’s talk about reviews, which are an inevitable part of publishing. What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

“Florence Osmund paints such a rounded picture of each character that the reader feels he is in the book with them.” —Excerpt from a review of Red Clover by Charlie Bray, Founder of INDIETRIBE.com

If we put our books in the public domain, bad reviews are also inevitable for even the best authors and their work. What advice can you give to other writers about receiving a bad review?

It’s important for authors to understand that book reviews are extremely subjective, and no one has ever written a book that appealed to all readers. What one reader loves, another one will hate. No one likes to receive a bad review, but when I do get one, I don’t fret over it. When I do start to take notice is when I see repeat criticisms. For example, I know now that I wrote my first book with what I’ll call a “cheesy” ending, and readers commented on it. I couldn’t change the ending without changing the beginning of the sequel, but I could include the first chapter of the sequel at the end of the book, and I could bundle the two books for a discounted price. The bundled version of these two books is currently averaging 4.7 stars on Amazon, but individually they each average only 4.0 stars. Sometimes it pays to listen to your readers.

That’s good advice. You’re smart to ignore or to listen when there seems to be a pattern. I love picturing my favorite authors as they create, so tell me, where do you write?

I live in downtown Chicago on the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan. When I’m at my desk writing, I look out over Navy Pier and the north end of Monroe Harbor. I find the water calming and inspiring, and the activity going on just enough of a distraction to clear my head when I get stuck on something. I can’t think of a better place to write.

That’s very special and I can envision it perfectly. I love Chicago and that view is spectacular. Thank you so much for stopping by today, Florence. I hope you’ll come back when you publish your next book.

Osmund_PhotoAbout Florence from Florence: I currently live in the great city of Chicago where, after a long career in corporate America, I write literary fiction novels. I like to craft stories that challenge readers to survey their own values. Topics I have tackled include ethnicity, questionable heritage, desperation, dependency, precarious familial ties, and complicated matters of the heart. I have a website called Novel Elements that I dedicate to helping new authors—offering them advice I wish I had received before I started writing my first book.

Click on the links below to connect with Florence Osmund:

Florence Osmund Books website

Novel Elements, author advice website 

Facebook Author Page

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Goodreads

SNEAK PEEK OF A CHRISTMAS PROMISE AND CHANCE TO ENTER RAFFLECOPTER!

His Christmas Promise by Alicia Street
A stray dog with a penchant for giving warm and fuzzy love finds refuge with an ex-Army helicopter pilot and helps restore his bedridden grandmother’s will to live. It seems like a Christmas miracle until the bachelor war vet discovers the mutt belongs to a little girl who wants him back—and a single mom who makes him rethink his freewheeling ways and maybe even believe in love.

Excerpt

Veronica Hughes walked out of the gray stone building and was guided across the windy pier by a man wearing big fat baby-blue earmuffs—the industrial strength variety. The kind especially made for manly tasks like firing pistols at the range, using leaf blowers, or in this case, escorting customers to their designated helicopter.
Her ride sat perched at the edge of the asphalt landing pad amid an array of white circular chalk lines: a cool jet-black helicopter with its mighty blades already roaring and chopping through the crisp November air. Its windy downdraft caused ripples in the water of New York City’s East River that surrounded the downtown Manhattan pier. It also sent Ronni’s long straight brown hair swirling about, although the set of regulation muffs she wore helped keep it somewhat out of her eyes.
Enough to see that the pilot waiting in the cockpit was Justin Reynolds.
She told herself it didn’t really matter, that whatever pilot was assigned to her flight would be fine. So how come she couldn’t suppress that happy relief that bubbled up knowing she’d get to see him one last time?
Foolish girl. Did she really want to be just another notch on his belt? Another female conquest? Mr. Alpha’s latest fix?
When the guide at her elbow helped her climb into the helicopter and buckled her safely into the seat right up front beside the pilot, Justin turned his head and faced Ronni, his brown eyes fixed on hers. He always looked like he’d stepped right out of one of those old World War II movies she’d seen on TCM—all virile and ready to rumble, his broad shoulders filling out his brown leather flight jacket. Perfect square jaw. A wisp of dark hair across his forehead.
He cracked a warm grin and a thunderbolt shot right through her. How was it that a mere look from this man could wake up some part of her she’d thought was long gone?
Holding her reaction in check—she wasn’t about to let him think she was one of those silly women taken in by his looks—she offered him a stiff, businesslike nod.
His face changed to a mask of cordiality as he welcomed her aboard. “Good afternoon, Veronica. Got some crisp clear weather for you today.”
Since she was the only passenger on this chartered flight, Ronni’s headset had a mouthpiece that allowed her to speak back to him. Too bad his deep voice in her ears sent her into a state of brain freeze, so all she could manage was a nod and a squeaky hello.
How could she allow him to affect her like this? Especially after she saw what a hotshot he was on the group shuttle flight she’d taken into the city this morning. At six hundred dollars a pop, the other five seats on that flight had been occupied by “beautiful people” straight off the gossip pages, including a few fashion models who’d flirted with the hunky pilot and vied for the seat next to him. Luckily Ronni’s client was even wealthier and usually chartered a solo flight for her, to the tune of $3500.00. She couldn’t help thinking how many shelter animals that could feed, or needy children for that matter. But she couldn’t risk losing her job by opposing a client’s way of doing things.
The ground fell away as the helicopter rose up, its nose dipping slightly downward when it moved east across the river toward Long Island. As they sailed above Brooklyn’s gray skyline, the buildings below bunched together like toys she almost felt she could reach out and grab in the palm of her hand. Ronni recalled her days backpacking in the Rockies and the deceptiveness of distance. Mountains that were miles off seemed only a short jaunt, when in reality they equated three days of hard trekking.
After Justin Reynolds made his usual comments about the flying conditions and their projected arrival time, he said, “So this is your last trip. Gonna miss ya.”
Her eyes went wide. He actually remembered. To keep her racing pulse in check, she reminded herself this was just a comment coming from a pilot doing his job to make customers feel special. It did not mean this well-practiced player had any feelings for her.
“I’ll bet you say that to all your passengers.” Ronni’s response sounded more sarcastic than she’d intended, so she added softly, “Yes. Thank you for remembering.”
“You must be one heck of a physical therapist.” As if the compliment weren’t enough to throw off her cool performance, he flashed her that devastating smile of his.
“Actually, I’m only a physical therapist assistant.” She’d dropped out of college to work full time to put Craig through law school. Then it was going to be her turn when he finished and signed with a firm. But her turn never came.
“Walker told me he’s ready to get back in action, thanks to you. Says he’s stronger than ever.” Mega-star action hero Walker Strout had been flying Ronni into Manhattan for his private physical therapy sessions every week. He’d originally been treated out in Southampton in one of the hospitals where Ronni worked part time, and he’d specifically requested that her supervisor give Ronni the eight-week assignment.
Its completion was like a gold star on her career file. She should have been feeling elated—and would have been if she hadn’t developed this stupid teenage crush on the man who piloted her flight each week. Even though she tried to keep her distance, he always managed to pull her into interesting conversations. Every week after seeing him she’d find herself thinking about things he said—and eagerly awaiting a chance to be near him again.
Good thing it was ending. She didn’t have time or energy for this nonsense.
As they flew over Queens and into the Long Island suburbs, she noticed all the cars on the highway below. “Whoa. Check out the Long Island Expressway. Bumper to bumper.”
“Aren’t you glad you don’t have to ride in that mess at this hour?”
“Yes, but I think my daughter might be down there. She spent the day with her father and he’s probably driving her home now.” Her tone went dry. “My illustrious ex. The reason I will never marry again.”
Why did I just say that? Where is my control?
“Oh, right. I remember you mentioned him.”
How embarrassing. Ronni knew he was referring to the one day she’d lost her cool. After having a texting argument with Craig, she couldn’t hold back venting her frustrations in front of Justin on the return flight.
Ronni changed the subject. “Do you ever fly over the city at night? I’ve noticed your shuttle schedule is only daytime.”
“Daytime’s safest. But we take the occasional charter flight at night. Why?”
“The Christmas lights will be up soon and I was thinking it would be a beautiful way to see them.”
“It is. Give me a buzz, and I’ll give you a little tour.”
“How much would that cost?”
“On the house.”
“Are you sure?”
He flashed a sly grin. “You doubt my generosity?”
She laughed. “Let’s just say, when it comes to women, I’ve found most men are usually seeking something in return for their… generosity.”
“Cynical.”
“Realistic.”
His eyes stayed on her as if he wanted to say something else. But he didn’t.
Ronni wasn’t sure what to make of his offer. Despite her overpowering attraction to him, she would guess this flyboy Romeo was like most men. Never seeing beneath the surface when it came to women.
Even when it came to their wives, as she’d learned from her disastrous marriage. It took her six years to realize her ex didn’t really know her and never cared to discover who she was or what she wanted.
She’d never be that stupid again.
***
About forty minutes after takeoff, and moving at 178 miles per hour, Justin looked out to see signs of their destination. He flew along the coast of Long Island Sound, but beyond the ribbon of sandy beach lay a gridwork of greenish gold rectangles dotted with tiny gray rooftops. The farms and vineyards of the North Fork reached into the distance, spanning a long skinny finger of land that led to the Atlantic Ocean.
Justin loved this place. He’d grown up on a farm in the down-home, rural North Fork, but he could also appreciate the more fashionable South Fork where he regularly delivered New York City passengers to the Hamptons. Right now he was headed for the heliport in Greenport near the tip of the North Fork.
Where Ronni lived.
“Almost home, Ms. Hughes.”
She glanced up at him and smiled. Justin loved those luminous amber eyes of hers. She was an angel with chestnut hair and a quick athletic body. He liked that she didn’t dress in a showy way. She wore a simple navy blue woolen pea jacket with practical loose-fitting trousers that would allow a physical therapist to move freely in her work.
Justin knew he should keep his mouth shut and just focus on flying the copter, but something inside him wanted desperately to change her mind about men.
Face it: the truth hurt. She may have a bad attitude, but could he blame her? Considering the one-night stands that made up his social life, guys like him didn’t exactly inspire female faith in the male gender. Who was he to judge her cynicism? After all, Justin Reynolds was a perfect example of the kind of man who wasn’t good enough for a woman like her.
So why was she getting under his skin? What did he have invested in changing her opinion of him? Why not simply chalk her up as a hot girl who had his number and didn’t feel like playing his game?
Maybe because lately Justin sensed that something was lacking in his life. A deficiency nagged at him. He felt like a person who’d lived on fast food for too long, then found himself craving something different. Something nourishing, life inducing. Everyone had a breaking point, that time when out of the blue they hit the wall and end up making changes.
Was Ronni his catalyst for change?
***
Buckled into the black leather backseat of her father’s car, eight-year-old Daphne Hughes glanced at her dad and Ellen up front, then whispered a secret to Cuddlebug. She didn’t really have to whisper it because Dad and Ellen never listened to anything she said anyway.
Right now they were busy talking about their boring law firm stuff, as usual. It went this way every visit. Her dad would ask how she was doing in school and start looking at his phone while she answered him. Ellen would tell Daphne she had pretty blond hair like her dad’s, then order a pizza or Chinese food, and Daphne would eat while Dad and Ellen talked to each other. After that they’d go into their home office and work, leaving Daphne in the room with the giant TV.
That was why she’d asked her father if she could bring Cuddlebug along this time. Her tawny-colored doggie with big brown eyes was the best company ever. When her dad said yes this morning, she’d let out a giddy squeal. Except when they got to his house, Ellen got mad and said the dog would mess on her rugs. So Daphne told them she really wanted to play outside in the back yard today and headed out there with Cuddlebug. That got them to stop arguing.
Trouble was, Daphne forgot the weather had turned cold. Thanksgiving was coming next week, but it felt more like Christmas. After a couple hours, her dad came out and tossed a football around with her, but by then her fingers were like ice sticks and she missed each pass, making him grumble something about girls.
She thought she’d warm up having Cuddlebug on her lap here in the backseat of the car, but then Ellen insisted on having all the windows wide open. Daphne wasn’t sure if she believed what Ellen said about dogs needing to have lots of air, because she saw her give Daddy a look and hold her nose.
Even though Cuddlebug wasn’t that big, he was kind of heavy on her lap, his head taller than hers as he sat. He kept fidgeting and making nervous whines, and his head was sticking pretty far out the window.
“Don’t worry, boy. We’ll be home soon,” Daphne whispered, hugging her arms around Cuddlebug’s narrow back, brushing her fingers into his coarse fur. “And Mommy will be home by the time we get there.” Just as she said it, Daphne got that uncomfortable twist in her tummy. It happened this morning when her mom left for the place she called a heliport. She might be flying in the air right now.
Daphne leaned her head near Cuddlebug’s and tried to look up at the sky, but that only brought back the nervous crimp in her stomach.
What if the helicopter crashes and Mommy never comes home to me? She squeezed her eyes shut. Please, please let my mommy be safe.
Daphne took a few breaths the way her mom had taught her to do when she got too worked up. Then she sat back and watched the world go by from the car window, her beloved pooch doing the same. She held tight to the dog, pretending her arms were his seatbelt. They passed a bunch of shopping malls and then the landscape turned to woods. Lots and lots of boring woods. So Daphne started thinking about Christmas coming and pretended she and Cuddlebug were riding in Santa’s sleigh.
Her fantasy was interrupted by her father using a swear word—the kind she’d been told never to say—followed by horns honking, screeching brakes, and a jolt that sent her lurching into the seat in front of her.
A loud bang came and then a second jolt, this one bigger than the first, lifted the car up off the ground. For a split second it seemed like the fun ride her mother took her on at Luna Park, the one that spun around while sailing through the air.
But this one hurt. Her arm banged hard against the door when she was thrown to the side. She heard Ellen scream. And in what seemed a blur, she watched Cuddlebug fly straight from her arms and shoot out the window into space.
“No!” Daphne cried and desperately tried to unlock her seat belt so she could go after him, but it was jammed. Or maybe her hand just wasn’t working right.
The cars had all stopped and she heard a siren in the distance. Daphne’s father bolted out of the driver’s seat, rushed around to the front passenger side, and tended to Ellen.
Unable to get the buckle to release, Daphne started yelling out the window for her dog. He always came when she called, but now as she watched him in the distance and could only sit there desperately shrieking his name, she saw his skinny brown tail disappear into the woods that bordered the expressway.
“You okay?” asked her father while opening her door.
“Cuddlebug got scared and ran away.” Her voice cracked and she couldn’t stop the tears that would only make her dad start muttering complaints about “girls” again.
“Most likely got spooked by all the commotion.” He unhooked her seat belt and helped her out. Daphne broke into a run, but her dad grabbed her waist. “Whoa. Hold still. Your hand is bleeding.”
Daphne struggled against his grip. “I don’t care. I need to go get Cuddlebug.”
“Just stay put. Anything else hurt?”
“Let me go. Cuddlebug’s upset and he doesn’t know his way around here.”
“That dumb dog is probably halfway to Canada by now. Nothing you can do about it.”
“I need to go find him.”
“You need to go to the hospital. We all do. See if anything’s broken. Your wrist looks like it might be.”
Yeah, her wrist hurt. A lot. But they were miles from home. If she left here now, how would Cuddlebug know where to find her? “I’m not going anywhere without Cuddlebug,” she sobbed.
“Quit whining. I’ll get you a new dog. A better one than that mutt.” He picked Daphne up and carried her across the road toward the arriving EMT.
“Nooooo.” She let out a wail that turned into a shriek. Daphne knew she was making a scene, crying and howling like a baby, but she didn’t care.
All she cared about was getting Cuddlebug back.
***


About the Author


Alicia Street is a USA Today bestselling author and a Daphne du Maurier award-winner. She writes both sweet and steamier romances and sometimes collaborates with her husband, Roy. She spent many years as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher and is a compulsive reader of every genre. Alicia grew up with dogs and cats and could not imagine living without furry pals.
His Christmas Promise is EXCLUSIVE to Christmas Pets & Kisses from October 6 – November 6, so pre-order Christmas Pets & Kisses today and be the first of your friends to read His Christmas Promise by Alicia Street

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A FERRET KIND OF CHRISTMAS FROM BEST SELLING AUTHOR NIKKI LYNN BARRETT

Unique and original – one of the sweet romances stars a cute ferret! Check out this excerpt, and I’m sure you’ll fall in love.


We Wish You A Ferret Christmas by Nikki Lynn Barrett

Widower Lance Rossiter wants nothing to do with the pet ferret who caused his daughter to be hit by a car. Widow Cara McLean is shocked by the ferret her son finds and wants to keep. When Lance and Cara meet, sparks fly and love suddenly seems possible. Can a lost and found ferret bring two fractured families together?

Excerpt

“We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you….” Children’s voices blended with a few adult ones filled the hallways.
Seriously? Lance Rossiter glanced up from the magazine he’d barely been looking at anyway to peer out the hospital room door. Christmas carolers? So people still did things like that? He found it a little disheartening that Christmas tunes were sung as a background noise to beeping machines- one of them currently hooked up to his five year old daughter to monitor her breathing.
Fine. Maybe some people felt the need to surround themselves with the holiday. He could put on a little cheer and go with the flow. He loved Christmas, as did Tamara, but his bad mood reflected on his first reaction to wave off the cheery carolers.
Nah, really they were a welcome sound. Plastering on a smile, he stood and quietly moved toward the holiday cheerers. He watched as the group of around eight or more kids with two adults slowly walked down the hospital hallways singing. In their hands, they each carried a bag. Lance spotted a teddy bear hanging out of one of them. So not only were they singing, but bringing gifts as well. Maybe a get-well effort? Kind of like candy stripers, or whatever you call them. They weren’t over-the-top loud, and their harmonies blended well. Others had taken up his idea and lined the doors of hospital rooms. Some were wearing a smile, but others were unsure what to make of the whole scene. When the kids spread out and handed each person a bag, his heart melted. Well, this wasn’t something he saw every day. What a sweet gesture. Whoever organized this event deserved a medal. This was a perfect way to brighten a sick child’s day.
A little sandy blond haired boy Lance guessed to be about seven trailed behind. He wasn’t singing, and his face was masked into one of confusion and worry. The woman leading the group stopped, smiled, and held her hand out to him. “Come on, Alex. Don’t be afraid,” she soothed. “You love music.”
The boy didn’t reach for her hand. He trailed close behind the woman, but didn’t make eye contact with her. His gaze was cast downward. The child shuffled his feet along the tile.
“Look up at me, please,” the woman said softly. The rest of their party continued down the hall singing. The kid clutched the gift bag.
Lance should have gone inside, but he continued to watch the two. Most of the other patients and family members had already disappeared from the doorway, probably taking pictures of the goodies, posting them on social media, and sharing them with the patients.
“No! Leave me alone!” The boy screamed and ran from her, barreling straight towards Lance. Startled, he took a step back as the boy plowed into him, ran into the room, and closed himself off in the bathroom.
Alrighty then. Talk about awkward.
“I’m so terribly sorry!” The woman’s cheeks reddened as she darted toward him. “I’d hoped for a better outcome today.” She shoved her frizzy brown curls from her face.
Unsure what to do or say, Lance shrugged his shoulders. “Kids will be kids.” He stared back at Tamara and hoped this situation could be resolved quickly. He felt for the little boy, who was obviously having some kind of meltdown. He also sympathized with the woman, who’d become very flustered and nervous.
“Alex, please come out of the bathroom. I don’t want to have to call your mom. She’s very busy at work today,” she coaxed from outside the door.
The sound of crying wafted through the walls. Lance didn’t want to sit back down, but standing around seemed like the wrong thing to do. He didn’t want to leave the room in search of a nurse or someone else who could help, either. He blew out a breath and hoped to hide his exasperation. While patient and understanding, he silently pleaded with no one in particular for this to get situated quickly.
The woman glanced back at him again. “I really am sorry-”
“It happens.” He waved it off, but Lance wished he’d never walked toward the door. Would that have stopped the little boy from running into his room? Maybe not. Thank God for little favors, though. Tamara hadn’t woken from her nap to this mess.
The woman pulled out a cell phone and, in a desperate plea, spoke into it. “Cara? I’m sorry to bother you, but Alex locked himself in a bathroom at the hospital. In a patient’s room. I think it’s best you come down here.”
Lance stifled a groan. This could take a while.
As the boy inside the bathroom continued to wail, the sound of Christmas carolers on TV now drew his attention, singing the same song he’d just heard.
“We wish you a Merry Christmas….”
Some Christmas.
*****

Cara McLean ignored the frustrated mixed with pity stare from her boss as once again she had to leave her desk for another meltdown rescue. Alex had been been having meltdown after meltdown at school, and more frequently she continued to go there to coax him out of a room. It wasn’t really the teachers’ faults. They didn’t know how to handle him.
Just before school, Alex had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, after countless appointments and evaluations. She’d dodged the suggestions for months about moving Alex to a more private school setting. He was a bright kid and had a lot of talent, but it appeared his behavioral issues were going to be in the way of regular learning.
It took her a long time to accept it, and Cara hoped the damage hadn’t already been done. She’d agonized over the decision and the pros and cons of it since the diagnosis. It didn’t help being a widowed mom of two and going at this alone, especially since Cara had attempted to convince her late husband that something wasn’t right with Alex. No, he’d avoided the subject and said she was paranoid. Nothing could be wrong with his son.
Now, things were spiraling out of control. Time to actually get something done about it. Swiping at stray tears, she swallowed her regrets, then headed toward her car to drive to the hospital. Ten minutes later, she arrived in the crowded parking lot. Cara called Jean to find out where they were.
“Still in the room. The others have gone on to keep things normal.” There was a frantic note in Jean’s voice. “I made that mistake again- mentioning for him to look at me- and he got extremely agitated. I’m sorry.”
Suppressing a sigh, Cara asked for the room number, then hung up and made her way.
Alex’s cries could be heard all the way down the hall. And no nurses helped? What about the patient in the room? Cheeks heated, Cara stepped up her pace. Nurses stood outside the door, baffled and unsure what to do.
“Excuse me, but that’s my son in there. I’ll get him out. I’m so sorry.” Cara apologized as she blew past them and bumped full force into a body. “I’m-”
Strong arms held her steady. “Careful there.” Her skin tingled where the man’s hands still rested.
Cara stared up into the blue eyes of a gorgeous man. Oh, this must be his room, or at least a member of his family, as this was the children’s ward. There was compassion, curiosity, and a whole lot of torture in those eyes. What a disaster! He continued to study her, and Cara was frozen in place. His bangs drifted across tan skin along his forehead. A tiny mole close to his hairline caught her attention for a moment. Sucking in a breath, Cara realized she’d better move, instead of staring back at this man.
“I’ll have my son out of the bathroom in just a second,” she whispered, regaining her composure and jerking out of his hold. He dropped his hands to his sides. No wedding ring on his left hand. Why did she even look? A shiver rippled through her. Cara briefly searched the room. Her heart ached for the pale young girl in the bed with her eyes closed.
Could this day get any worse? Failure and worry settled over her shoulder like a heavy weight. She needed to coax Alex out of that bathroom, take him home, and make the necessary calls.
Cara ignored the stares and walked with rubbery legs to the door and knocked. “Come on out, Alex. I’m here. Please open the door, okay?” Her voice came out weak and squeaky. Ugh. She dared not to look back at the blue eyed man behind her, though she had to really work at that. Who cared what he thought about her? She’d never see him again. After today, Cara could wake up and forget about this encounter. But those eyes, the way they carried so much, really ate at her. He had a story to tell, but she’d never hear it.
“Mommy?” Alex’s voice came out small and uncertain. What was he doing in there? Had he hurt himself? Was he curled up on the floor, trembling and scared? It bugged her to no end how she couldn’t understand her son sometimes. What went on in his busy brain? What did he think and feel when hit with these meltdowns? Most people who weren’t up to date with signs and symptoms of Asperger’s would naturally assume a spoiled brat temper tantrum. Cara knew better, but she didn’t feel like explaining herself every single time Alex had a meltdown. And it happened more and more in public. What should she do, not go out any more to avoid it? That wasn’t the right answer, but she had no idea how to avoid that type of behavior. It all came down to wishing she could understand, so that making decisions would be easier.
“Yes, buddy. I’m here. Come on out so we can talk. There’s a little girl who needs her rest, and we’re in the way.” She kept her voice calm. No loudness, no distractions. Cara hoped for the best.
For a fraction of a minute, no one said anything. The crying stopped, but no other sounds came from behind the bathroom door. Cara anticipated a wail, a shout, something. Then after the hesitance, the door opened and Alex ran straight into her arms. Cara couldn’t be sure, but she thought she heard several sighs of relief.
Yeah, they did what she felt like doing. Tears formed in her eyes as she held her son. “Will you say sorry to the nice man for barging into his room?”
Alex’s lower lip quivered. Big eyes stared back at her, but her son did just what she asked. He pulled out of Cara’s hug and stood before the man. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.
“It’s okay,” the man awkwardly replied. “I accept your apology.”
“Give him the gift bag for the little girl, Alex.” Jean broke her silence, prodding him gently.
He thrust out his hand, still clutching the bag. “Here you go.”
Mr. Blue Eyes smiled. Dimples. Oh, he had dimples. “Thank you, Alex.” Not a tone of disdain, not even an irritated scowl. He could have really pitched a fit, but the man took it all in stride. Cara sent him a look of relief and a silent thank you. His gaze lingered on her for a lot longer than she anticipated. Alex hung back behind Cara. She blinked, breaking eye contact with the man so she could focus. Time to get out of here.
Cara led Alex out of the room. Jean followed, making more apologizes to the man. Nurses had finally scattered away from the door, but the faster Cara got out of here, the better.
“Cara-” Jean started once they were down the hall. She’d bet Jean had a lot to say right about now.
“I know, okay? I get it. I’m going to make those calls and look into getting him in the school you guys keep suggesting!” She didn’t mean to yell. Her loud voice echoed off the beige walls. Keep calm, keep calm. The last thing she needed was to upset Alex because she got all riled up and defensive.
Jean blanched. “I wasn’t going to say that. It’ll be good for him, though. I was going to apologize because I pushed again for eye contact. That’s what set him off.”
Shaking her head, Cara turned away again, keeping her arm on Alex’s shoulder. Jean was a good teacher, wonderful and patient, but Cara knew that she wasn’t equipped to deal with a child with Asperger’s when the rest of the kids were mainstreamed students.
“Cara.”
Keeping her tongue in check, she faced the teacher.
“It’s not your fault.”
The words were meant to be a comfort and a help, but they weren’t at this very moment. Giving Jean a curt nod, she walked Alex out of the hospital, attempting to put her emotions in check.
Lately, she took everything to heart, blaming herself. How could she not understand her son? Why did she feel so helpless? As Alex’s mother, Cara should have some sort of idea how to handle these situations, but she didn’t.
And it bothered the heck out of her.


About the Author


USA Today bestselling author Nikki Lynn Barrett I’m an avid lover of books. I’ve been writing as far back as I can remember, completing my first “book” by fifth grade in one of those one subject spiral notebooks. I have a passion for music, photography, jewelry and all things creative. I live in Arizona with my husband and son, but dream of being somewhere much colder and stormier. For now, I’ll have to live that life through my characters and stick it out with the summer heat.

We Wish You A Ferret Christmas is EXCLUSIVE to Christmas Pets & Kisses from October 6 – November 6, so pre-order Christmas Pets & Kisses today and be the first of your friends to read We Wish You A Ferret Christmas by Nikki Lynn Barrett



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SPORTS RULE AS AUTUMN REIGNS

Here in Pittsburgh it’s difficult not to be a sports fan especially right now. Baseball teams vie to play in the play offs with the World Series lurking. Football started two weeks ago and already Super Bowl contenders race to win a ring. And if that’s not enough, the hockey season is about to start. Whew.

To escape the competition of your favorite teams for a few minutes this season, why not slip between the pages of a great box set of romantic, steamy stories – all with a sports’ theme, hunky heroes, and delicious relationships?

Score One For Love – Ten Stories for only $0.99.

Download your copy today!

Amazon – Kindle

B&N – Nook

iBooks – Apple

KOBO

Google Books

Here are the stories grouped by the sports.

Football

Loved by the Linebacker Lyssa LayneLoved by the Lineback by Lyssa Layne – “Love Lyssa’s books. Love this story.” Amazon review

Blurb: When sports agent Camila Lemos and linebacker Evan Purser meet, anything but sparks fly. When the walls are broken down, will a touchdown be scored or will it be yet another fumble for both?

Michele- Playing for KeepsHockey
Playing for Keeps by Michele Shriver – “This is such an awesome book! Another great one to read by Michele Shriver.” Amazon review

Blurb: Hockey star Colton Tremblay’s bad-boy reputation got him traded from Montreal to the expansion San Antonio Generals. As a female reporter, Maya Dominguez can’t afford distractions from the players she’s assigned to report on, but Colton is used to getting what he wants. Can he persuade Maya that this time, he is playing for keeps?

Third Base_KindleBaseball
Third Base by P.C. Zick – “A great beach read, rainy day read. . .or anytime or place read.” Amazon review

Blurb: Baseball star Tomas Vegas puts all his energy into winning the World Series, until he meets the widow Adriana Moretti. His supermodel ex-girlfriend and Adriana’s tightly-knit Italian family threaten them, but the more they’re pulled apart, the more they silently yearn to be together.

Monochrome image of torso and ball

Soccer
Played by Love by Rachelle Ayala – “A great tale of love, sex, and betrayal.” Amazon review

Blurb: Soccer goalkeeper, Jaden Sloup, has his eye on Ella Kennedy, a woman who won’t date jocks or frat boys. When Ella discovers his ruse, she runs into bullies who force Jaden to fight and prove that jocks and frat boys can be good guys too.

Flawed by Jade KerrionBeach Volleyball
Flawed by Jade Kerrion – “An awesome read filled with angst, heartache, passion, and a deep love.” Amazon review

Blurb: When burned-out actress Ariel Falconer meets professional beach volleyball player, Jake Hunter, their mutual attraction is immediate and scorching, but neither is ready for the emotional complications of false impressions and clashing expectations. Can Ariel and Jake escape unscathed, or will their conflict shatter their dreams and the promise of love?

An Unforgettable Lesson final_edited-1Golf
An Unforgettable Lesson by Abbie St. Claire – “The sparks fly in this one. And the banter is fun. You can’t help but smile.” Amazon review

Blurb: Huck Tyson hates golf. Period. When it’s suggested that he learn to play for his day job’s camaraderie, he’s less than welcoming of the idea, although desperate to advance his career. Amelia Berringer, the club’s only golf pro, doesn’t expect her student to be quite so negative and meets Huck’s sarcasm with a snarky bite of her own. However, neither of them expect romance to rise from the greens.

9 Chantel Rhondeau -Serving Up LoveTennis
Serving Up Love by Chantel Rhondeau – “This is a wonderful story about what can happen when the boundaries of professionalism are blurred.” Amazon review

Blurb: Melanie Rush has a huge crush on her coach, Ethan Patterson. He has strict rules against relationships within his tennis program, but Melanie wants to break them all. She’s determined to make Ethan hers, no matter what it takes.

Marcia James RacingHeartsStock Car Racing
Racing Hearts by Marcia James – “Racing Hearts definitely filled a void in my life. It was JUST what I needed!!” Amazon review

Blurb: Stock car legend, Tom “Torque” Tyler, faces a bleak future following a traumatic head injury and seizures. Determined to drag her high-school crush from his self-imposed solitude, service dog trainer, Meg Klein, and a tiny but talented seizure response dog bring Tom hope and love.

FindingtheStrengthMartial Arts
Finding the Strength by Stacy Eaton – “A crisp and engaging read, and one I easily finished in one sitting.” Amazon review

Blurb: The night Tayla Adams is attacked, Third Degree Black Belt, Cam Giles steps in and stops the violent man. Little did Tayla know that when she takes a self-defense class she will come face to face with her knight in shining armor, but can Tayla learn to defend herself, and gain enough confidence to protect the two of them when the time unexpectedly comes?

Body Lock Kimmie EasleyMixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Body Lock by Kimmie Easley – “Seriously awesome book, combining a heady emotionally heart-stopping story with serious hotness!.” Amazon review

Blurb: After the violent death of her fiancé, Dakota Asher finds herself with a new desire to tempt fate as an adrenaline junkie. MMA coach, Ford Herveaux specializes in adrenaline. Dakota now specializes in Ford.

BOOK REVIEW FRIDAY – BLEEDING HEART BY STACI TROILO

bleeding heartOn Author Wednesday this week, Staci Troilo wrote about her choice to write multi-genre novels. After reading Bleeding Heart, her first venture into suspenseful romance, I can attest that she’s made a wise choice to branch out from mainstream fiction and mystery. She titled it Bleeding Heart for a very good reason (you’ll find no spoilers here), but I can tell you it was heart-stopping, heart-throbbing, and heart-pounding as well.

The novel, the first in her Medici Protectorate series, never allows the reader a moment to relax and take a breath for a variety of reasons. It’s a novel that crosses genre lines in a fascinating cross-pollination of lives, eras, and continents. There’s suspense, mystery, intrigue, and history. But overriding the whole thing is a romantic sensuality that tops anything I’ve read of late.

I’m impressed with what Ms. Troilo accomplished in this book. It’s intelligent and explores an area of mystery that has plagued generations from the United States to Italy. But she’s also written some of the steamiest sex scenes I’ve ever read. I’m embarrassed when I read some steamy romances because the plot line can delve into cheesy. Not so with this novel. She matched the personalities of her main characters–Franki and Gianni–perfectly. Both proud, stubborn, and with streaks of anger that are down right frightful. Even Franki’s sisters and Gianni’s adopted brothers fear that anger. What a combustible combination when the two meet and then eventually collide into one another on an explosive sensual ride.

It’s a roller coaster of a book that takes the reader from a city in the U.S., loosely resembling Pittsburgh, to the past of Michelangelo’s Italy.

But there’s more, if that’s not enough. There’s the paranormal aspect of the Medici line that’s been passed down to Gianni and his family tribe. Franki only begins to understand her family’s role in the whole Medici mystique after her father’s murder. That’s right–there’s murder, too. And the threat of murder always overhanging the sisters who are beautiful, talented, and devoted to their mother and dead father.

Be forewarned–not everything is solved at this end of this novel because Book Two is now being readied for release in 2016.

I highly recommend reading this book to add lots of spice and excitement to your life! I know my heart is still bleeding all over the floor after my voyeuristic visits with Franki and Gianni through all their trysts.

Blurb for Bleeding Heart—Franki, secret legacy of the Medici, is prophesied to return Italy to its former glory. Targeted for assassination and ignorant of her enemy’s identity, she is protected by Gianni, the warrior destined to defend her. He must conquer her fears and his demons to save them both.

Purchase Links:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks.

 

 

Women of Words book Blitz #eNovAaW

I’m pleased to be a part of Women of Words Book Blitz with my novel, Trails in the Sand. You’ll find some great books here and a chance to win some fantastic prizes. During the tour, Trails in the Sand can be downloaded from Amazon for only $0.99.

Continue reading

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – STACI TROILO

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpgIt’s a pleasure to welcome back Staci Troilo to Author Wednesday. Today Staci is taking over the blog with a post on writing in multiple genres. I’ve read all of her books to date, and she switches from mystery to mainstream to romantic suspense with ease. Here’s her take on why it might be helpful or harmful to an author. Read on to find out which one she prefers!

Amazing When Sweaty Teaser

Pros and Cons of Writers Crossing Genres

By Staci Troilo

Hi, P.C. It’s an honor for me to be here today. Thanks for inviting me. And to your readers, hello! I’m glad to be here and appreciate the chance to chat with you for a bit.

While many writers have backgrounds in the sciences, mathematics, and law, one constant remains—

Writers are creative.

That can mean different things to different people. For me, it means I can’t be pigeonholed. I have too many interests, too many ideas that appeal to me, too many stories to tell.

Many successful authors have branded themselves by their genres. I say horror; you say Stephen King. I say romance; you say Nora Roberts. I say thriller; you say James Patterson.

And that’s proven quite lucrative for them.

The problem with me is this. You say horror; I say I have an idea for a story. You say romance; I say I have an idea for a story. You say thriller; I say… well, you get the idea.

So which way is right? Specialized niche or multi-genre?

The Pros of Writing Multi-Genre

  1. Creative Freedom—You have all these great premises and concepts bouncing around in your brain. There’s no reason to squelch them. Write them. Write them all.
  2. Audience Overlap—Some readers are fans of a genre, but some are fans of a writer. If you write two or more genres, a reader who found you and loved you because of one story could try to cross over to your other genre work. A sci-fi writer can’t usually attract a western reader, but if that western reader loved your historical, he might try your space opera because he likes your style. He may even tell his friends.
  3. Earning Potential—If you write only in one genre, you’ve limited your sales to what that genre can generate. Expanding to other genres opens you to a higher potential revenue.
    *Note: I am not advocating writing solely to earn money. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about the art. Also, and I can’t stress this enough, I am not suggesting writers pick a genre that offers a high sales potential and writing for it. If you aren’t interested in a genre, it will be obvious in your writing, and your numbers will suffer for it. Write what you love, love what you write, and write only for the love of writing. (If you agree, Tweet it.)

The Cons of Writing Multi-Genre

  1. Branding—It’s difficult to brand yourself when, for lack of a better term, you’re inconsistent. There’s a reason Stephen King is synonymous with horror. That’s what he built his reputation on. If he began by writing three novels a year, but each in a different genre, he may have taken longer to gain traction with his fans.
  2. Organization—If you’re only focusing on one genre, your mindset doesn’t need to change. But when writing more than one style of novel, you may be in development in one genre, writing in a second style, and editing yet a third. It can take time and focus to deal with these changes. And if you’re working with an agent and/or publisher, you could find meeting their deadlines and expectations difficult.
  3. Time—If you write vastly different genres (say, Christian inspirational and erotica), you not only know there won’t be cross-over in your audience, you know that publishing one of these genres could cost you readers in the other. In cases like these, creating a pen name/new persona and marketing each genre separately would be the best solution for the respective works. It will also take roughly twice the time.

Which path you choose is up to you. I couldn’t commit, so I chose multi-genre. So far, I have seen crossovers in my readership, and I’m pleased to reach more people.

My Cathedral Lake Series is mainstream fiction focusing on dysfunctional family dynamics. The relationships in these novels are critical to plot development. My Medici Protectorate Series is romantic suspense with paranormal elements. But, as in my other novels, the relationships drive the plot. So, despite the two different genres, there is one constant—my writing.bleeding heart

I love to tell stories. I get inspired by things every day, so my idea list is constantly growing. I don’t think I’ll ever find myself without fodder for a new work. How many genres will I ultimately try? Who knows? But I am certain of two things:

  1. My loyal fans will test out my other works.
    and
  2. My stories will always be driven by strong character relationships.

So, yes, I do write in multiple genres. And I love it. But I am consistent in what I provide my readers.

Maybe the genre doesn’t matter so much. Maybe it’s all in the delivery. I’d love to know what you think. Leave a comment and let’s discuss it.

Staci pose 1About Staci:  Staci Troilo writes multi-genre fiction focusing on flawed relationships. Her series and standalone titles span mystery, contemporary, and romance genres and several sub-genres, including suspense, paranormal, and medical dramas. Her short fiction has won many regional awards. Find her at http://stacitroilo.com.

Bleeding Heart—Franki, secret legacy of the Medici, is prophesied to return Italy to its former glory. Targeted for assassination and ignorant of her enemy’s identity, she is protected by Gianni, the warrior destined to defend her. He must conquer her fears and his demons to save them both. Available now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks.

Connect with Staci:

TwitterFacebookGoogle+PinterestLinkedInAmazonGoodreads

Read other posts about Staci and her books:

Author Wednesday – October 9, 2013

Author Wednesday – February 11, 2015

Book Review Friday – Type and Cross

RACHELLE AYALA’S CHRISTMAS LOVEBIRDS SNEAK PEEK!

I am very pleased to welcome one of my favorite authors, Rachelle Ayala. When I started Author Wednesday more than two years ago, Rachelle was my first guest. Click here to read my very first interview. Rachelle is also the reason I’ve ventured into writing romances. Through her Romance in a Month class, I learned about the genre and became inspired by her energy. She’s also the creator and leader of the Christmas Pets & Kisses box set. Today, I am very pleased to offer a sneak peek at her story in the box set. I hope you enjoy!

Christmas Lovebirds by Rachelle Ayala
Melisa Hart has a soft spot for her brother Connor’s ex-best buddy, Rob Reed, who slept with Connor’s girlfriend. When her pet lovebird is mixed up with Rob’s, Melisa discovers he’s always cared about her. Can two little lovebirds and Christmas cheer open Melisa’s heart to giving Rob another chance?
Excerpt

“Come here, cutie pie. Step up.” Melisa Hart stuck her finger into the birdcage for her lovebird, Cassie. “That’s a good girl.”
Her entire class of kindergarteners held themselves still in barely suppressed excitement.
“Can I hold her?” her most talkative student, Bree, squealed.
“It’s ‘may I hold her,’ and, no, not right now.” Melisa brought her bird’s beak to her lips and let Cassie take a nibble, which was her version of a kiss.
“Eweee!” Mattie, the tallest boy in the class, shouted, pointing. “She kissed the bird on the lips.”
“Beak,” Bree corrected Mattie. “Birds don’t have lips.”
“Oh yeah?” Mattie retorted. “How do you know? Bird Brain Bree.”
Melisa stuck Cassie on her shoulder and put her hands over her hips. “Class. What did I say about teasing? Is it nice or mean?”
“Mean,” the children shouted in unison, startling Cassie, whose wings flapped briefly.
“Inside voices,” Melisa reminded the children. “Cassie gets scared easily.”
“Will she fly?” Mattie asked.
“Of course she can fly.” Bree turned her nose up at the taller boy. “Everyone knows birds can fly.”
“Actually, she has her wings clipped to keep her safe.” Melisa tickled Cassie under her wing and said, “Scratchy.”
The little bird lifted her wing and spread out the feathers.
“You’re stupid.” Mattie stuck his tongue out at Bree.
“That’s enough,” Melisa said. “Mattie, go back to your sharing chair. Bree, you too. Talking out of turn. The rest of you will get to line up and hold Cassie.”
“But I wasn’t being mean,” Bree said.
“You were belittling Mattie and talking without raising your hand. Go.”
She stomped back to her chair, her blond curls bouncing. “My Papa’s getting me a big bird for Christmas.”
“You too, Mattie.” Melisa pointed toward the boy’s chair.
“Screech,” Mattie shrieked and flapped his arms at Cassie.
The bird squeaked and flapped her stubby wings. She lifted straight up like a helicopter, hit her head on the ceiling and landed on the top of a row of hanging overhead lights.
The rest of the class jumped up and down, pointing and yelling.
“She can fly.”
“Come here, little birdie.”
“Is she stuck up there? Is a fireman going to get her?”
“Oh look, she’s scared.”
“Everyone, take your chairs,” Melisa said as calmly as she could. “Sharing time is over.”
“Ahhh …” the children complained.
Melisa glanced at the wall clock. Ten more minutes until Christmas break. As much as she loved her students, their energy and excitement with Christmas drawing near meant they couldn’t sit still or follow directions.
She passed out the green candy Christmas trees she made by drizzling melted candy over straight pretzel sticks, along with a flyer about the Giving Tree Toy Drive at the Reed Christmas Tree Farm. Bring a wrapped toy and take a picture with a pet bird, ride in a firetruck, and other fun activities.
When the bell rang, Melisa stood at the door and wished all the children a happy vacation and New Year. She kept one eye peeled for Cassie, in case she made a break for the open doorway, but the little bird seemed content to perch high above her and preen her colorful feathers.
“Bye, Miss Hart,” Bree waved her candy Christmas tree. “I want to take a picture with Cassie. How are you getting her down?”
“The janitor has a ladder.”
“My Papa’s coming home.” Bree nodded. “I prayed real hard.”
“He will, sweetie.” Melisa caught the eye of Ella, Bree’s aunt, and reassured. “I’m also praying for him.”
Bree’s father was a war veteran who’d gone back to Afghanistan for a humanitarian trip. He’d been taken hostage by terrorists, but the news reported that he was safe and had been airlifted to Germany to be debriefed, and hopefully able to return by Christmas.
“Are you going to the Christmas Tree Farm tomorrow with Cassie?” Ella took the green pamphlet from Bree and helped her unwrap the Christmas tree candy.
“If I can get her down from the light.” Melisa pointed to her bird. “How about you?”
“Bree, you want to go to the toy drive?” Ella ruffled Bree’s head.
“Yes, I want to hold Ms. Hart’s birdie and take a picture. But we have to bring a toy.”
“Then let’s go to the toy store and pick one up,” Ella said, winking at Melisa. “Maybe we’ll see your teacher there tomorrow.”
“Sure thing.” Melisa said to her friend from UC Berkeley where they’d taken student teaching classes together. “Let’s have coffee some time and catch up now that school’s over.”
“Great. I’ll text you,” Ella said as she took Bree’s hand.
Once all the students were gone, Melisa shut the door and called Larry, the custodian. After she got Cassie down, she’d have to get her wings trimmed again, despite what the guys on the bird forum argued.
Clipping was for Cassie’s safety. She’d heard too many stories of birds flying away, landing in frying pans, or crashing into windows to be persuaded by the free-flight people, especially that arrogant guy with the handle Lovebone who claimed his parrot regularly flew outdoors and hadn’t gotten lost yet.
These days, anyone could say anything on the internet without proof.
Melisa climbed onto a table and held her finger, waving it up and down as a landing strip. “Come on, Cassie. Don’t be afraid. Fly to me, baby. Come on.”
The bird bent low and arched her wings, shaking and considering, but unable to figure out a way down. She’d been so frightened by Mattie that instinct took over, but now that she was calm, she couldn’t bring herself to try.
Melisa turned on her cell phone to check her messages. Maybe she’d ask Lovebone how he got his bird to fly to him.
# # #
Dr. Rob Reed was running late. He hated evening shifts, and these days, they were getting slammed, especially with the increased ambulance traffic due to all the holiday parties and their drinking and carousing activities.
He whistled for his bird, Casey, a lovebird he rescued from his irresponsible actor brother who was the king of the impulse buy. The little bird flew skillfully, hovering a second before landing on his outstretched finger.
“Good boy,” Rob said, handing him a sunflower seed. He tucked the bird inside his cage. “Papa has to go to work. Sorry I have to cover you early tonight.”
Rob was an emergency room doctor working shifts that jumped around without rhyme or reason. He’d go from twelve-hour overnight shifts, to sixteen-hour six AM to ten PM shifts, to ambulance rides to transfer critical patients. But it was the evening shifts that relegated his dating life to a big fat zero.
Not that he could complain. He was making good money for a young doctor fresh out of residency, and this year, he’d purchased a cabin in the mountains near Lake Tahoe. Not bad for a twenty-nine-year-old.
San Francisco General was the only level-one trauma center for the entire City of San Francisco and northern San Mateo county. Once Rob was on the job, he was on. No time for phone calls, internet, chit-chat, or even catching a bite to eat.
After packing his food in thermal packs, he checked the free flight parrot forum where he was the moderator.
There was a message from HaveAHart, a kindergarten teacher who was a newbie bird mama.
My little bird had a fright in the classroom and she’s perched on the overhead light bar. She seems to be trying to fly to me, bending low and lifting her wings, but she’s not taking off. What do I do?
He dashed a reply.
Call a fireman. It’s easier for a bird who doesn’t know how to fly to go up, but it’s scary to come down. Your bird doesn’t have the confidence to fly, so to her, it’s like jumping off a cliff.
He shut his laptop. There really was nothing he could do. Why did these people never listen until they were in trouble? Clipping wings was like chopping a man’s legs off. Rob was sorry he was so grouchy, but he’d bet her bird had other problems too, probably feather-picking, incessant screaming, and other pathological behavior that came from not being able to do what came naturally—fly.


About the Author

I love the magic of the Christmas season filled with family and the spirit of giving and helping others. From romantic suspense to sweet contemporaries, I write from my heart and love to include children and pets in my stories. My stories range from steamy to sweet, so be sure to check the reader’s guide at my website.
Christmas Lovebirds is EXCLUSIVE to Christmas Pets & Kisses from October 6 – November 6, so pre-order Christmas Pets & Kisses today and be the first of your friends to read Christmas Lovebirds by Rachelle Ayala
Get into the Christmas spirit with CHRISTMAS PETS & KISSES. Limited time offer, so grab your set today! ONLY 99c


HOW ABOUT ANOTHER SNEAK PEEK AT CHRISTMAS PETS & KISSES?


Christmas on Cougar Mountain – Nancy Radke

Hard-working Zoey is dedicated to helping children learn, and has built her business to the neglect of having a family. When she rescues a dog on the freeway, she discovers that the escape artist brings a family with him, including a boy she would like to help, and as love grows, a man she would like to keep. But will Kellen ever trust her to help his son, much less give her his heart?t.

Excerpt

A dog… on the freeway! Or just about. A lovely Border Collie, it was walking up the on-ramp, headed into deadly traffic. Zoey’s headlights picked up the shadowy form as she drove past.
Quickly decelerating, she pulled over to the edge and stopped, throwing on her emergency flashers. She hadn’t reached the actual freeway yet, she still had about thirty feet before the lanes merged. Watching for any cars coming up the on-ramp behind her, she opened her driver’s door and stepped out into the pouring rain. It was December in Seattle, so she was used to it. She splashed around to the back of her car and called the dog.
“Here boy. Here girl.” What did you call a dog when you were a total stranger? “Come on.” She bent forward and patted her hands against her legs. Zoey had grown up on a farm in Idaho and was no stranger to animals. She used her very best, soft coaxing voice, one that had saved the lives of lambs and other baby animals who had lost their mamas and had to be coaxed into eating. “Come on, pet. This is no place for you. You’ll get killed, or cause a pile-up, as people try to miss you. Come on, sweet.”
The dog paused, looking about, totally bewildered, then looked toward her, head low. Hers was the only encouraging, friendly voice around, and Zoey called again, wishing she had even part of a sandwich to help bring the dog to her. The rain soaked her hair and shoes and made short work of her raincoat. She could feel the moisture working its way around the collar.
“Come on. Would you like to go for a ride?”
The collie lifted its head.
“Ride? Go for a ride?”
That evidently meant something, and Zoey hurried over to the passenger door and opened it. “Get in! Ride.”
The dog bounded forward and leaped into her car. She shut the door quickly. None too soon, as two cars made the turn and were headed up the ramp, their headlights blinding her. She waited for them to swerve around and pass on by, then she rounded her car, cracked open the driver’s door, and slipped inside.
A wet tongue greeted her, adding to the wetness on her face. The dog was halfway onto the driver’s seat, thoroughly soaked, and Zoey had to push it away so that she could sit down. It put a wet paw on her arm and licked her face, treating her like a long lost friend, giving her a big doggy “thank you.”
“Down. Get down,” she protested, thankful that she had chosen to travel in her jeans and heavy coat, rather than in her better clothes.
The dog immediately jumped down on the floor and sat there, head cocked to one side, as if to say, “Now what?”
She stared out into the pouring rain. Almost a monsoon. Now that she had the collie off the freeway, what was she going to do with it? She was still close to Bellevue, although not familiar with this neighborhood.
“Well, I’m not going to have to worry that you’ll bite me,” she said, flipping on her turn signal and accelerating onto the freeway. “Let’s hope your owner had a chip put in you.”
She continued alongside the freeway for a few hundred feet, then pulled back off it, following the cloverleaf around. She drove down to the small shopping mall where she had stopped to get some coffee. There should be a veterinarian somewhere close. She didn’t want to take the dog with her, out of the area where she found it, in case the owners were looking for it.
Flipping on her phone, she searched for a nearby vet’s office. She found an animal hospital about a mile away, and drove to it.
Leaving the dog in the car, she tried the office door. Still open.
“Hi. I found a dog on the freeway, and would like to see if it has a locator chip,” she called across the room to the attendant.
“Sure. Bring him in.”
Zoey still wasn’t sure if the dog was male or female, so checked when she opened the door to take it out. Male.
He ran happily ahead of her, but when she said “Heel,” he came in close to her left side and stayed there.
“Well, someone has been teaching you manners,” she said, opening the vet’s door and going inside.
“He doesn’t look like he’s been injured,” the lady said, as they approached her.
“No. He was running up the on-ramp when I got him.”
The attendant petted the dog on the head and got a sweeping tail wag response. “Good boy. He might have been following his owner’s car. Dogs do that, expecting to get picked up. Then they get lost or hurt.”
“If so, he might be from around here. I picked him up on this exit.”
The lady scanned him along the back and shoulder. “No chip. Probably a family pet, and so no one thought to put in a chip. Do you want to leave him here?”
“What will you do with him?”
“We’ll send him to one of the pet rescue groups. If they can’t find his owner, they’ll put him out for adoption. If no one takes him, he’ll be put down.”
“That would be a shame. He’s a nice dog. Well trained. I think I’ll leave my name and number with you, and take the dog. You know what he looks like. If someone calls looking for him, you can send them to me.”
“Do you have room for him?”
“Yes. I have a large enclosed porch where he can stay.” Zoey wrote down her name and phone number on a pad and handed it to the attendant. “I put ‘Found Dog’ beside my name.”
“Border Collie. Male,” the attendant said, and added the words to the paper. Then she tore off the note and stuck it on a bulletin board on the wall behind her.
Zoey looked at all the notes. There were a lot of them. “All lost dogs?”
“Dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, birds… you name it. Even a rooster. We get a lot of missing pets this time of year. Folks get busy with the Christmas holidays and forget to check their animals. Or they think someone else in the family has done it.”
That wouldn’t be her, Zoey thought. Her family was still in Idaho.
“Come along, Dog.”
“You’d better name him. Do you want a leash?”
“A name?” Zoey’s mind stayed blank. What would she name the dog?
“Call him Jack. Just something rather than ‘Dog.'”
“OK. Jack was my grandfather’s name. I can remember that.”
“Have you had a dog before?”
“Not recently. But my folks had dogs. There was always one or two around.”
Leashes and collars hung on a rack near the counter. Should she get one? She might only have this dog for one day. She realized she wanted Jack. He would keep the nights from being so long. He probably wouldn’t sleep out on her porch, after all.
“I’ll take a leash and collar.” She chose a serviceable-looking set from the rack and put it on Jack. Sixty dollars. She could afford it, and pulled out her credit card.
The attendant ran the card and handed it back to her. “There you go. Don’t get too attached. Owners have a habit of showing up out of the woodwork, when you figure they never will.”
“Thanks for the warning.” She put the collar and leash on the dog. “Come on, Jack.” The collie followed her to the door and waited while she opened it. “Good dog. Heel.”
Jack positioned himself on her left side and stayed that way out to the car. She opened the door and he looked at her. “Get in.”
Thus invited, he jumped inside. She went around the car and joined him.
“There is no way I’d let anyone put you down,” she told him, giving him a scratch behind the ears. “Even if you chewed holes in my boots. I’m a sucker for a lost animal. Besides, you’ll make the kids feel at home.” And herself less lonely. She didn’t say it, but she thought it.
Zoey’s biological clock was ticking. She was almost twenty-eight and had no man interested in her. She had tried gym membership, but couldn’t stand the smell. Online dating seemed too risky. Her work kept her so busy, she really didn’t have time for dating. She had spent her college-age years getting her business going, and hadn’t met anyone.
Now she wished she had spent a little time looking around, “husband hunting,” but it had seemed so important to find a place where she could work. She had tried renting a duplex, where she could live in one side and work in the other, but it wasn’t set up the way she wanted it, and the double rent was just as expensive as a house. So she had bought a new house, built the way she wanted it.
She felt left behind. As lost as this dog. The eligible men had all settled down with someone else. She was going to have to make some changes in her life. Schedule more vacations. Join some clubs. Go out and meet people. Pray about it more often.
She turned on the windshield wipers and drove home to their rapid thumping. At top speed they still couldn’t keep the windshield clear of the heavy rain. Like everyone else on the freeway, she slowed down to forty miles an hour.
The dog in the car made a difference. She had made this trip many times, to and from the airport, but always by herself. Just the presence of a living, breathing being in the car beside her made a difference. He couldn’t talk back to her, but she chatted away to him, happy to have a companion for the journey.
“Do you know you are both beautiful and intelligent?” she asked Jack. “I don’t expect I’m going to get to keep you very long, not a dog like you. But if your owner is out of town or somewhere, I wouldn’t want you to end up at a shelter and go to someone else. Or get put down. I’ll take care of you. You really are a sweetie. You don’t look very old.”
In reply, he steamed up the windows and filled the air with the smell of wet dog, but she was very glad to have him.


About the Author

Author Nancy Radke, started out writing full-length, modern romance and suspense stories, then switched to novella length for her western series, The Traherns, and now writes both, usually two or three books at the same time. She has published ten Sisters of Spirit books, including Christmas on Cougar Mountain, thirteen Trahern books, and one book of a new Brothers of Spirit series. A former special education teacher, her education background shows when she includes history, or in this case, reading problems, in her books. Her books are G-rated, no sex, no swearing.


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