#FREE #KINDLE CIVIL WAR JOURNAL OF A UNION SOLDIER

AudiACXIn 2013, I published the memoir of my great grandfather, Harmon Camburn, based on his days as a Union soldier from 1861-1863. It’s been a true labor of love, and to celebrate his words, the Kindle version is free until November 1. Also, the audio version has just been recorded by Jeffrey A. Hering at Hering Voices, Inc., and will be available on Amazon and iTunes in time for the holidays. Click here to get your free download today.

Here’s an excerpt from 1862:

October 28 – We left Edwards Ferry and moved up the river nine miles to Whites Ford. At this point, the Potomac broadens and shallows so as to be fordable. In mid-channel is a small island. Here we found troops crossing into Virginia. The current was quite rapid and the water was cold and waist deep. The troops preceding us were slow and straggled badly in getting across. Our colonel held us until nearly all those in advance were out of the water when he said, “Now boys, show those fellows how to ford a stream.” Entering the water with a shout, we cleared the stream and were on the high bank ahead of some that were nearly over before we started. The banks on the Virginia side were nearly perpendicular, and the cannon had to be hauled up by ropes. After hauling up those belonging to our brigade, we moved back a short distance and built large fires of rails and dry logs to warm our limbs and dry our clothes.

October 29 – We marched toward Leesburg.

October 31 – We reached the vicinity of Leesburg, a village that nestles at the foot of a high range of hills or a low range of mountains, called the Kittoclan Range, a spur of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Leaving Leesburg to our left, we began a gradual ascent of the hills. Taking a shortcut from one road to another, we passed directly through the grounds of Mr. Swan, the President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Passing through an arch, the uprights of which were surmounted by large cast-iron eagles, we traversed the deep park and approached the castle-like residence situated half way up the side of a mountain. The building and grounds were very imposing and the view was magnificent. Without halting, we toiled on to a still greater elevation and camped on the summit of one of the lesser hills of the range. Here we found General [George] Stoneman’s cavalry division, the cavalry and our brigade forming a corps of observation, which was to scour these mountain ranges to discover a lurking enemy and gain information that might be of use in future campaigns. Stoneman issued an ironclad order forbidding his soldiers from taking anything from the inhabitants without pay on pain of having their heads shaved, their buttons cut off, and of being branded on the cheek with the letter “T” for thief, and drummed out of the service. Our marches were rapid, and their directions were changed from day to day.

November 1 – Standing upon Faitheys Hill, the highest peak of the range, Leesburg lies at your feet like a toy. To the north, thirty miles away, over in Maryland, the Sugar Loaf Mountain, clothed in green, looms high above the surrounding country. The Potomac, a silver thread, winds its way for miles among the forest-clad hills. Washington, sixty miles away, glitters in the sunlight. The expanse between the river and the Blue Ridge Mountains lays spread out like a panorama, with cultivated fields, beautiful dwellings, and woodlands. To the south, the crest of the range, with it s undulating swells dotted with brown fields of corn, stretches away with its diversified scenery. To the west, the Blue Ridge Mountains, towering, crazy and wild, their lofty peaks and dark glens, veiled a thin haze of blue smoke, completes a picture of grandeur and beauty.

Leaving these beauties of nature, we went on picket near the village of Hamilton on the Winchester Road.

We were now in a country that had never been devastated by an army, and poultry, vegetables, and dairy products were plentiful. Thirteen dollars a month would not buy many of these things; still the soldiers indulged to the full in these luxuries despite Stoneman’s withering order.

November 2 – From my post in the edge of Hamilton village, it was amusing to hear a rooster begin a lusty crow in the early morning and change it to a squawk right in the middle.

At ten o’clock, we took up our march along the western side of the Kittoclan Range. A little skirmish near Snickersville resulted in driving some rebel cavalry through Snickers Gap in the Blue Ridge.

November 3 – Our march led us along the base of Bull Run Mountains, through Mountville and New Lisbon, in the direction of Ashley’s Gap. As we traversed this rough and rugged country, government rations were almost entirely discarded, and we lived off the country.

Harmon and Eliza Camburn

Harmon and Eliza Camburn

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – WENDY UNSWORTH

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpgI’m very excited to welcome Wendy Unsworth back to Author Wednesday. I’ve been anxiously awaiting her second book in the Berriwood Series, after having read The Palavar Tree. The wait is almost over. Beneathwood is a novel filled with drama and suspense and will be available in e format on November 24, 2015, and in paperback on December 8, 2015.CoverBeneathwood

Welcome, Wendy. It’s so nice to have you back.

Hello and thank you for inviting me back to your lovely blog; it’s great to be here.

Next month you will be publishing the second book in your Berriwood Series. Can you tell us something about the idea behind the series?

Berriwood is a fictional village in the beautiful and ancient county of Cornwall in England. I was lucky enough to live in that part of the world for a few years and anyone who does couldn’t fail to be inspired by its windswept moors and rugged coastlines. The house we lived in was built in 1745 and, amazingly, that’s not too unusual for that part of the world. History is everywhere. When I had the idea to write a series of novels featuring the characters of one village it had to be set in Cornwall!

I wanted to write a series about characters from within a small community so that the common theme in each book is the connection to the village. I have a fascination (I think this is a writer’s lot in life!) in people. I might be sitting in a crowded train or plane or in the window seat of a coffee shop, and as I watch, I wonder about the lives and motivations around me. So, that was how I imagined Berriwood; on the face of it a pretty place where folks go about their ordinary lives, but what is ordinary? I should say right now, this is no quiet, nothing-ever-happens, kind of a village. I like to test my characters!

photo 2In the first book of the series, The Palaver Tree, I took my ‘ordinary’ character, Ellie Hathaway, a woman who had grown up in Berriwood and was perhaps quite naive about the wider world, and sent her on a journey as a volunteer teacher in Africa. Ellie had come to a crossroads in her life and was looking for new purpose. I knew that, beneath her gentle exterior, was a strong and resourceful woman (as so often in the case!), and I was eager to explore how she would respond when the chips were down and her life and the lives of others were at stake.

In Beneathwood the story is centered entirely around the village where the stakes, are, for one family, similarly high!

I loved The Palaver Tree (click here to read my review). I visited Cornwall and I understand how the setting would be perfect for your literary purposes. Beneathwood is an interesting title, how did the name come about?

Houses are important to me. I have lived in quite a few different ones, but each, in my mind, defines an ‘era’ of my life. Beneathwood is the name of a house and is very central to the whole story. I once saw an old and weathered sign to a house of the same name. It was on a winding country road, but the building wasn’t in sight. It must have been tucked far down a track and obscured by trees. I was intrigued. The name stuck with me, and I knew that one day I would recreate Beneathwood in a style and setting of my own. I also liked the way it fitted in my mind with the village of Berriwood. Beneathwood is a part of the village, but is indeed, on the edge, beneath it, so to speak.

That’s a perfect name and one word titles are easy to remember! Can you tell us a little bit about the story within Beneathwood, without giving too much away?

It’s all about that house, or so it seems to be. After Postmistress Beryl unexpectedly inherits Beneathwood from her Aunt there is plenty of restoration work to be carried out, and her husband, Gordon, recently retired and beginning to suffer from boredom, thinks the project is heaven sent. Olivia, the Carroll’s daughter, would honestly rather see her father do a quick tidy up and get the house on the market. She hated the place even before she found Auntie Edith’s body on the floor of the sitting room. But Gordon approaches his new task with a typical eye for detail and the process becomes a labor of love.

When an accident leaves Beryl unable to continue to work at the post office, the Carrolls decided their best option is to move in.

Beneathwood is a story about secrets and how they can unravel, even though the passage of many years might seem to make them safe. It’s also a story about preconceived ideas and misconceptions and how a situation, even amongst close, family members, can be so differently interpreted. Finally, the story is about love, as most stories, even in the most oblique of circumstances, are.

It sounds lovely, and I look forward to reading it. What’s in the works at the moment. Will we be seeing more in the Berriwood Series?

Yes, for Berriwood, I have two more books planned. Book three has a working title of The Devil You Know and is a story featuring Caroline Duke, the owner of the village newsagent’s shop. Caroline is married to Pete Duke; he is a man who has succumbed to addiction, unlike his twin brother who is Oh! So perfect!

Book 4 is still very much still in the outline stage but is probably going to feature again Tiffany Harris, the gullible young woman from The Palaver Tree who has learned a lesson or two since we last saw her.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00056]I also have a great time, in between longer projects, writing for children. My Come-alive Cottage series is written purely for fun, and I adore creating characters such as Aunt Kitty, the witch, the eccentric Colonel Culpepper and the very silly, Aunt Sillime. Keller Culpepper is the heroine of the stories, and she always manages to save the day!

I also have an idea for a new adult book, possibly stand-alone, but that is nothing more than a little seed at the moment, plenty of water and nourishment required. If only there was two of me!

Thank you again for asking me here today. It is a real pleasure to be ‘out and about’ in the writing community.

First, I’m happy you’re bringing back Tiffany. She was memorable and probably learned the most in The Palaver Tree. I’m delighted to find you reveling in your work. Writing children’s books is a noble endeavor, and it’s wonderful to see you having a good time with it.  Congratulations on publishing Beneathwood. I hope you’ll return when Book three is ready for publication.

photoAbout Wendy: Wendy Unsworth was born and raised in Lincolnshire, England. Her passions are her family, travel, beautiful gardens, and reading and writing stories. Wendy lived in Ndola, Zambia, and Nairobi, Kenya, throughout the 1980s and early ’90s before returning to the UK to acclimatize back to the English weather in a Cornish cottage close to Bodmin Moor. She has also lived in Portugal and hopes to go back there in search of some sun.

Click below:

The Palaver Tree – Amazon US

The Palaver Tree – Amazon UK

Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

 

 

Worshipping the Ever-Elusive Amazon Book Review

Very thoughtful post from fellow colleague Francis Guenette. I can’t say it any better, so I’ll let her say it for me.

disappearinginplainsight

five stars - google image

Amazon is in the process of suing 1,114 Fiverr users for offering to write fake product reviews for money. The publishing giant is hot on the scent of authors who used this type of service. That will result in many book reviews being pulled. Amazon is also cracking down heavily on the practice of review swapping amongst authors.

This is a positive happening for readers. I’m not alone in having skimmed through some stellar reviews, bought the book in question, began to read and found myself stunned at the formulaic, predictable writing, or plot holes, or lack of proofreading or all of the above. I definitely wondered who on earth could have penned those five-star reviews.

Cash register - Google image

Paying for reviews is a major no-no for all self-published authors. Put aside the fact that the big publishing houses pay for reviews all the time. For those of us who have chosen self-publishing…

View original post 632 more words

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – NICK TORY

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpg

Happy Author Wednesday! Today I welcome Nick Tory, who is the author of the Johnny Books, humorous novels with a reluctant hero. It’s a pleasure to introduce Nick to you today.

j12 cover jdriver cover jrealestate cover

Nick, it’s great to have you visit today. Tell us some things about your writing life. First, what is your vision of yourself as a writer?

I’m still not sure I am one. Books keep coming out with my name on them, so that part is registering in my brain, but then I look and see them on the internet, or see that people read them, and I think, there must be some mistake. Everything in those pages is just the ramblings of a lunatic. Then I realize that I am that lunatic, and that usually ruins my afternoon.

I have news for you. You may be a self-described lunatic, but you are a writer. So, what’s on your writing plate at this moment? 

I’m in the midst of a humor series called Johnny Books. It’s set to be ten short books (about one hundred pages each). Three trilogies and a finale. The humor is off-the-wall, absurd, goofy, and a little dark. I’ve basically tried to cram one thousand jokes into each story, which are all about a dimwitted anti-hero named Johnny Tee, who always seems to get himself into life-threatening situations and luck his way out of them. The first trilogy (which consists of Johnny 12 Steps, Johnny Vegas, and Johnny Driver) has him mixed up with the city’s dangerous underbelly, and in the second trilogy (consisting of Johnny Real Estate and the soon to be released Johnny Zookeeper), he tries to go straight and get real jobs. He’s sort of a tough, bumbling hobo whose moral code is ambiguous even to himself. I love him because you root for him even though every fiber of your being tells you not to.

He sounds like my kind of guy. I’m looking forward to reading Johnny 12 Steps. What type of research is required to create your Johnny Books?

The funny thing about doing research for these books is that sometimes I need to just shut down my internet connection. I’m writing from the perspective of a guy who is supposed to be very clueless, so I actually have to be really careful about how much I know on a subject. When Johnny was going to become a realtor, I started researching the occupation, and with everything I read I thought, there’s no way he would know any of this, even if it was his job. The only place I have to stop and dig for more information is if I think the laws of physics are being broken, and I’m pretty sure I’ve only loosely followed those. There’s a lot of freedom writing that way. Just like life, my writing is all about erasing any potential accountability.

That’s interesting. I can see how too much information would get in the way. Plus you’re off the hook, right? Even though you’re writing a humorous story, do you have messages you try to convey in each one? 

As bizarre as the stories may get, I always try to have Johnny learn something about how to treat people, or about how to be a better person. He doesn’t usually completely get it, but it’s important that the reader still likes him at the end of the day. I’m not sure that I’m even trying to get the reader to even agree with the messages. I’m pretty sure I’m not qualified to dispense that kind of moral information, and even if I technically am, you’d be better off not really listening to it, but instead maybe just nodding and smiling at me while you mentally hum Greensleeves. Also, I want the reader to understand that humor doesn’t need to be dirty to be funny. I’m a big fan of dirty humor, the filthier the better, but I don’t write it, because it seems too easy, and also, one day I want kids to actually be able to read it.

What? Sorry, I couldn’t hear you over my humming. How’s that for humor? Who has most influenced your writing and why?

The writers that make me laugh the most are John Swartzwelder and Jack Handey. I also really like the Richard Parker and Joseph Garber. But more so, I’m influenced every day by the funny people in my life though. If you make me laugh, then I want to spend time with you. I could tell you my funniest friends’ names, but as it turns out, they’re a bunch of nobodys. Fellow author Amy VanSant has been a good friend as I’ve entered the field and helped make the books better.

The funnier the better. My best friends are the ones who make me laugh. In a good way! Are you planning to continue writing in the same genre after you finish the Johnny Books?

For the foreseeable future, yes. I’ve tried a little bit with other genres, but when I read it, I always hate it. Usually, it’s been science fiction. I would have no business writing romance, which is why I will probably write a terrible romance novel someday. It will be completely unreadable. People will download it on an Amazon free day, and they will later be angry that they did, even though it was free.

That’s the spirit! The reviews will be interesting. For those books you have written, what’s the best thing that’s been said about one of them by a reviewer?

It was a very nice review, but somebody called it a “breath of poetic fresh air,” which, like I said was very kind, but is by all accounts an out and out lie. It’s probably a lot more like a breath of air you’d take in a very nice bomb shelter. There is a lot of effort in place to make it breathable, such as mechanical systems in place to recycle the air and stop you from getting violently ill. But after a while you look around at the people you’ve called a family for all your life and think, what the hell is really entering my lungs right now? Also, what happens when this is all over? Will there still be other people? If so, will they like me?

So you’ve even managed to take a good review and turn it around to black humor. Good job! What is the best thing someone could say about any of the Johnny Books?

That it’s funny. Writing humor is interesting because it’s so incredibly subjective. Because of that, I just write what makes me laugh. If people tell me it’s not funny, it’s easy not to argue because to them, it’s probably not. I have to respect their opinion, and I don’t hold anything against them outside of a rage-inducing, life-long grudge.

Humor is the most difficult genre to do well, at least for me. I admire you for tackling it! Thank you for stopping by today. I laughed quite often.

About Nick:  Nick Tory is a recluse who lives in a shack in the mountains. His primary daily contact with humans involves angrily hollering at the mailman. While not much is known about him, there are some existing stories. One is that he wrestled a bear. Another is that the bear was actually just his own shadow, and he was just rolling around like a maniac in a hallucination-induced rage. A third story is that he is living in a big city with a wife and two daughters and enjoys concerts and baseball. He is the author of four books, including Johnny Vegas and Johnny Real Estate.

Links:

Amazon Author Page

Johhny Books Website 

Twitter: @nick_tory

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – CHRISTINA CARSON

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpg

It’s been far too long since I’ve featured this author on my blog, but here she is with a post about how her latest releases came to be. Christina Carson shares her thoughts about the “seeds” for an author. I’ve written reviews for her books and featured her on Author Wednesday. 9Her first two books, Suffer the Little Children and Dying to Know are masterpieces of literary fiction. DyingToKnowFinal (3)She now presents us with Accidents of Birth, Book One and Two. Her post today addresses where these works of historical fiction originated. Book One follows the life of Imogene Ware from her birth in Mississippi in 1928 through some turbulent decades in the South. Book Two chronicles her life in the last three decades of the 20th century. It is with great pleasure that I turn over the blog to one of my favorite authors, Christina Carson.

Kindle Cover - Book OneThe Seeds that Grow Our Stories by Christina Carson

The creative process, the one that brings us all so much pleasure either through being the creator or the recipient is indeed a strange bird. Somewhere, seemingly out of the ether, an idea begins to emerge. It reminds me of when I was a child and had my first experience growing crystals. Have you ever grown a crystal? Ah, a positively magical affair, especially to a child. You’d get your Dad to go the druggist and buy whichever chemicals were legal for you to have that had been listed in the crystal-making book you were reading. You’d make a supersaturated solution of each one of the chemicals by mixing them in water, suspend a thin twine tied to a stick which spanned the drinking glasses you’d snuck out of the kitchen…and wait. Within a day or so, the tiniest of crystals would emerge on the cord and then one would start to grow. Sometimes they’d get as big as my thumbnail. It was astonishing—these beautiful crystals from ostensibly out of nowhere – ruby red, sapphire blue and diamond clear, depending on the solution. There was a critical time period, however, which you couldn’t predetermine, in which you had to harvest the crystal or the solution begin to dissolve it and take it back. I have always sensed that stories come into existence in just this way. Somewhere in the back of our minds, saturated with intellectual and emotional experiences, a seed exists around which a story begins to form. What is that seed? That is an interesting question, for if you find it, you can watch the marvel of the creative process that unfolds. The novel Accidents of Birth began in just that manner.

I was sixteen and about to have some minor surgery. My mother had tucked me in at the hospital for a three-day stay, and being an independent child, almost obnoxiously so, I suggested I was just fine, and she need not come again until it was time to go home. I had never been in a hospital. I had no idea how much empty time there was lying there. There was nowhere to go, no TVs and no one to talk to as hospitals were much emptier those days. By the time late afternoon of day one rolled around, I was beginning to rue my offhanded dismissal of my mother, until the sound of soft, rhythmic singing came from down the hall followed by a gentle rap on my door. I said, “Come in.”

In response, an aging Black orderly came around the corner. His hair was salt and pepper gray, his face a deep rich brown and his eyes gentle with concern. Seeing me all alone, he began to fuss over me as if I were his blood daughter. I was awed. I had never had anyone treat me with such loving kindness, let alone a total stranger.

Come morning, I realized it wasn’t a chance happening, for when the orderly came then, she was a forty-something Black woman who proceeded to care for me in the same inclusive manner, making me one of her own. Her kindness knew no bounds, and I lay there in wonder. She stayed with me until the prepping for the operation was over, and I was wheeled off.
I saw those two several more times before I left the hospital. I wanted to say something to them, but I couldn’t understand all I was feeling at that young age. I was a kid. What did I know about life and all its glaring contradictions? But…I never forgot what it felt like to be loved like that.

Over the years, that seed drew from all the experiences that made up my life, and eventually formed a story I would have never imagined writing – me, white, from a racist family and having always lived above the Mason-Dixon Line. Then, a protagonist emerged, a woman who was illiterate, quirky, filled with earthy wisdom, and, yes, Black. That was as startling to me as any crystal I’d ever grown. Mrs. Imogene Ware came into my life, created from that original seed, and retold in her own way that sixteen-year old’s experience:

“We sit quiet again. Then I git up, walk over to where she set an reach out to her. She come to me like she a frightened little child, an I hold her tight an stoke her hair, coo to her, an tell her over an over she be fine. Tell her over an over I love her so, juss who she be, an I always will. They be no doorways where love live, nothing that open an shut. They be no time where love live, nothing that begins or ends. But she don’ know that, an my heart weep fo’ her.”

It took me years to grow into a place where I could write this story, have the maturity and the openness to let it come to and through me. Three days in a hospital with two incredibly caring souls gave me a gift beyond the obvious, however. It predisposed me to look at the Black culture throughout my life, and collect examples of its beauty and goodness. In the process, I met some exquisite human beings, Black women leaving their mark on the world. Out of that came Accidents of Birth, a story wrapped in the brutality and racism of the 20th century but told as a profound love story, for the seed of this novel was love.

Kindle Cover - Book TwoSome final words from Miss Imogene pondering like she so often did as she and her cart horse, Polly, travelled up and down their farm to market road:

“It clear to me now my mama didn’t leave me with no suggestion. She leave me with her life. She leave me knowing my work be to love this world too, like she did. An sittin right here at the edge of this road ponderin’ on what lies ahead a me, it feel more curse than grace, but that juss ’cause I be scared. An then as I look at the people round me, I see they be livin’ out what they be left by they mama or they papa. An it don’ seem to matter whether you respected them or not, just being round ’em for so long, who they be an what they believe seep into ya. An it don’ look like no easy thing to be achangin’ that. But by God above, there muss be some way to use what we learn to make our chiluns’ lives kinder and happier, not juss repeating our woes. Then I chuckle quietly as I think of the years of slavery, an racism, an poverty, an disease, an it occur to me history don’ seem to favor that notion. Well, I do, indeed I do.”

And so do I.

IMG_0140 resized-framedChristina Carson on Christina:  I am sixty-nine-years old and  have worn many caps and walked many roads. I started in research as a scientist even before graduation, then taught in nursing for a number of years, owned a masonry contracting business with a mate and worked at that and building houses. I went on to farm. I am a creature of the land and love animals. That life was a dream until it ended. I then went on to become a stock broker, which I hated, and then the aimless period began with intense doubt and chaos. I was there for years making it up as I went along and spending a great deal of time afraid and despairing.

I will forever consider Canada my home, but I returned to the states in 1996 after thirty years in Canada to marry a man I met in Vancouver where I lived for five years.  He and I are perfectly suited to one another in intent, direction, and integrity, and as for the rest, we play that by ear.

Links:

Accidents of Birth, Book One 

Accidents of Birth, Book Two

Amazon Author Page

Twitter: @CarsonCanada

Facebook 

Christina Carson Websites:
Books that Entertain and Inspire 
Asked and Answered 

Book Review Friday – P.C. Zick’s reviews of Christina’s Books

Suffer the Little Children

Dying to Know

Author Wednesday – Christina Carson

June 5, 2013

March 5, 2014

May 14, 2014

Saturday Spotlight – Christmas Pets and Kisses Boxed Set #XmasPets #CoverReveal

SIXTEEN ALL-NEW, NEVER-BEFORE-PUBLISHED SWEET (PG-rated) CHRISTMAS ROMANCES from NY Times, USA Today, and Award Winning Authors – 99c for a limited time!
Ring in the Christmas cheer with sixteen all-new sweet and heart-warming romances from New York Times, USA Today and National bestselling authors. Don’t miss out on this romantic collection of Christmas tails…uh, tales as adorable pets with fins, paws, feathers, and hooves bring holiday magic with the gift of true love
Golden Christmas – Helen Scott Taylor
Every Christmas Vicky hides so she doesn’t have to celebrate the date she lost her husband and son. She doesn’t want to see anyone but when she finds a dog’s lost ball she meets Jon, a wounded ex-soldier who’s struggling with his own problems. This brave man touches Vicky’s shattered heart and makes her realize she can’t hide forever. With his support, can she find the strength to love again?
Two Loves for Christmas – Mona Risk
Tabloid pictures of charming laywer, Josh Dutton, threaten his father’s senatorial campaign. The family decides he needs a sweet ‘temporary fiancée’ to repair the damage. With only her German shepherd for friend, Emma struggles with problems. Attraction sizzles between Josh and Emma but no one mentions the ‘fake fiancée’ detail. When the truth surfaces will Josh be able to prove that his kisses were not part of a charade?
Dog-Gone Christmas – Melinda Curtis
Widow Marnie Haywood wants Christmas hosting her in-laws to go smoothly. And it would – if her handsome neighbor and his friendly St. Bernard would stop coming over, mooching food, and stealing kisses.
His Christmas Promise – 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.
We Wish You A Ferret Christmas – 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?
Christmas Lovebirds – 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?
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?
The Vet’s Christmas Pet – J.L. Campbell
The last thing Toni wants for Christmas is more responsibility, but her daughter has other ideas. A near accident not only brings them a dog in need of a home, but Matthias Laing, who Toni would prefer to keep in the past.
Tails, Time, and St. Nick – Mary Leo
Kris Timemaker has inherited a magical clock. Using the clock’s magic for anyone other than St. Nick on Christmas Eve has some grave consequences, but when his daughter’s beloved Westie goes missing, and his estranged wife asks for his help, Kris has no choice but to take a chance with time and try to win back his family in the process.
Graced – Jade Kerrion
Connor Bradley doesn’t have time for distractions, not while juggling single parenthood and his clinic on five hours of sleep a night. He most certainly doesn’t have time for Noelle, the high school flirt, who is prettier and more irresistible than he remembers. When Noelle’s father’s heart attack derails Connor’s plans for his first Christmas without his wife, Noelle wants to save the day for his adorable children, but can she also find her way into Connor’s guarded heart?
Unexpected Gift – Chantel Rhondeau
Aspiring decorator Cali Johnson moves to New York City—lonely, afraid, and far from home during the holidays. When she finds a lost cat in her apartment building, she strikes up an odd friendship with his reclusive owner, Marcus Ritz. If only she knew what he was hiding.

Minty’s Kiss – P.C. Zick
When newly divorced Molly retreats to a family cabin with Gracie, her ten-year-old daughter, she’s surprised to find her childhood crush, Nick, still living in the area. Can a small kitty named Minty help Gracie accept the love developing between Nick and Molly in time for her first Christmas in the mountains of North Carolina?
The Christmas Wish – Michele Shriver
Ashley McLaughlin is struggling to move on from her husband’s infidelity. Brennan wants to make amends for his transgression. Their young daughter, Hayley, has only one wish for Christmas- for her family to be together again. When Hayley suffers a head injury after a fall from her horse, will it help her get her wish? Or do the wounds from Brennan’s betrayal run too deep for Ashley to forgive?
Dante’s Gift – Aubrey Wynne
Seventy years ago, a collie mix brought two hearts together in war torn Italy. Will their story help their grandson find his own Christmas love?
Mavy’s Christmas Miracle – Sharon Coady
Anne Hurd returns to the Pocono’s to help her elderly grandfather. Six years earlier Kyle Shafer disappeared from her life. She rescues a kitten, takes her to a vet who turns out to be Kyle. Kyle can’t believe Anne walked back into his life. Will he scare her away, or will she give him another chance? Kyle decides to take a chance and try for the love he gave up on.
The Impossible Rescue – Annamaria Bazzi
Christmas is no joy for Julia who’s gambling husband comes around only to ask for money. When a handsome stranger and his cute Pomeranian puppy moves in next door, Julia feels guilty for their mutual attraction. Michael’s not the rescuing type, but when he spies Julia’s husband haranguing her for holiday cash, anger flares and he is determined to rescue Julia from another miserable Christmas.

What Early Reviewers Are Saying

Golden Christmas – Helen Scott Taylor
Two wounded hearts are brought together at Christmas by a golden retriever puppy.
“I found this to be well written and so heartwarming,… You are going to love this story as well as each one in this box-set.” – Cynthia, Page by Page Inside-Out Reviews
“I enjoyed this book so very much! It’s hard to go wrong with a hunky wounded warrior and not just one, but two precious pups!!” – Sandra D on Goodreads
“It is a really sweet story about second chances and it will touch your heart as it touched mine.” – Winnie Lim on Goodreads
Two Loves for Christmas – Mona Risk
Her German shepherd is her only friend until Josh teams up with Rino to love and protect her.
“This is not only a story featuring romance, but it has a touch of suspense too. Romance, suspense, danger and a German Shepherd – definitely a great combination. You’ll love this as much as I did.” ~ Winnie Lim
“This story is a romance story with a hint on danger and suspense. This story will definitely keep you interested.” ~ Julie Fowler
“Will Emma truly change Josh? Will they fall in love? This was a really enjoyable book!” ~ Kimberly Dawn
Dog-Gone Christmas – Melinda Curtis
A handsome neighbor and his friendly St. Bernard mooch food and kisses from a merry widow.
“It’s a sweet love story, with a bit of angst, a lot of humor, and some lovely kisses. I really enjoyed this story, and wouldn’t hesitate to read more from this author.” – Elizabeth Robbins from Goodreads
“Dog-Gone Christmas by Melinda Curtis is a sweet story. It is all about new beginnings and forgiveness.” – Julia David from Goodreads
“Dog-Gone Christmas is a sweet love story with some angst and humor involving a dog owner, his neighbor, and a dog — be prepared to laugh out loud at times.” – JoAnne from Goodreads
We Wish You A Ferret Christmas – Nikki Lynn Barrett
Can a lost and found ferret bring two fractured families together?
“As with every other Nikki Lynn Barrett book, I loved the characters and was drawn into the story immediately. You can’t go wrong reading a book by Mrs. Barrett and this is another example of that.”
“Nothing makes me happier than a book that deals with difficult issues and really gets down to the heart of the matter and how hard it can be…Such an amazing read and it really touches the heart!”
“We Wish you a Ferret Christmas is just the perfect story for getting us prepared for the holiday. Loved it.”
Christmas Lovebirds – Rachelle Ayala
Can two little lovebirds and Christmas cheer open Melisa’s heart to giving Rob another chance?
“I love it when authors add in a little animal love, too! It feels almost like 2 romances in one.” – Nikki from Goodreads
“This story is a great reminder of what the Christmas season is truly about…family and forgiveness.” – Julie Fowler
“It had laughter, love, heartache, forgiveness, and two little lovebirds that had their own thing going on.” – Lisa Longstreth
The Vet’s Christmas Pet – J.L. Campbell
A near accident brings Toni and her daughter a homeless dog and a man she’d prefer to keep in her past.
Ms. Campbell has hit the nail on the head with what love is all about. Bravo!—Rose Morales
The characters are lovely from the beginning and especially Jade and Ridley, the puppy, who actually steal the show.—Sally Stackhouse
It was sweet, refreshing and a good balance of how a blended family comes together.—Celeste Williams
Graced – Jade Kerrion
Noelle, armed with several goldfish and a kitten, brings Christmas cheer to a widower and his children.
“You definitely are on an emotional rollercoaster while reading Graced.”—Julie Fowler
“Graced is a must read that will pull on your heart strings.”—Terri Merkel
Unexpected Gift – Chantel Rhondeau
Far from home, a lonely young woman strikes up a friendship with a lost cat and his secretive owner.
“Unexpected Gift was truly heartwarming and a very different kind of love story. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop.” – Maria Diaz
“An emotionally turbulent, yet sweetly poignant, reminder that love has the power to heal all wounds.” – Liza Robbins
“What an incredible heart-warming story on true love that grows from the inside and not based on appearances.” – Rebecca Austin
Minty’s Kiss – P.C. Zick
One kitten, a broken-hearted girl, and long lost loves are brought together for a special mountain Christmas.
“I loved this novella. It is the first time I’ve read anything by this author and I liked her style of writing. This author has succeeded brilliantly.” ~Sally Stackhouse
“This story right here screamed made for TV. I love the Hallmark channel, and I could see this being played out there.” ~Celeste Williams
“This is a sweet story of love lost and regained, which will certainly put you in the Christmas spirit. If the rest of the stories are half as entertaining as this one, then readers will be well served.” ~David Lawlor
The Christmas Wish – Michele Shriver
Will a fall from a horse bring Hayley’s parents back together in time for Christmas?
“This was a great novella and I love the writing around it and how Hayley and Thunder showed Ashley and Brennan what really matters!”- Rebecca Austin
“Michele Shriver has once again given us another heartwarming story.”- Elizabeth Clinton
“This is another great read by Michele Shriver! Loved the sweet family story centered around Christmas!!”- Jill Snead
Dante’s Gift – Aubrey Wynne
Seventy years ago, a collie mix brought two hearts together in war torn Italy. Will their story help their grandson find his own Christmas love?
“Wynne has crafted a beautiful short story guaranteed to warm your heart and make you sigh.” ~ Kishan Paul, author of Blind Love and The Second Wife
“It is a story of romance…that will have you misty-eyed.” ~ Celeste Williams ~ Goodreads Reviewer
“This is a really beautiful love story that will touch everyone’s heart and brings tears to your eyes.” ~ Winnie Lim ~ Top Goodreads Reviewer
Mavy’s Christmas Miracle – Sharon Coady
Anne takes a rescue kitten to the vet, only to discover he’s the man who broke her heart.
“I just couldn’t put down! Very sweet, family oriented reading… A definite “feel good” story that is at home around the holidays or any season! I heartily recommend this story!” ~ Holly Lachman-Militello
“This story is full of Christmas hope, dreams of lost love found and family. I couldn’t put it down. A delightful tale you will read again.” ~ Karen Baird-Butler
“..this story is phenomenal. Love the characters and the plot is amazing. I couldn’t put it down. Would highly recommend this to anyone that loves a good romance!!” ~ Delina Parker
Available Now!

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – AURORA SPRINGER

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpg

Today I welcome a scientist to Author Wednesday. Aurora Springer is a biophysicist by day, but at night, she creates stories of romantic and suspenseful science fiction. Today, she’s stopped by to give us the background in the creation of her Grand Master’s Trilogy. Two of them Grand Master’s Pawn and Grand Master’s Game have been published so far. Pawn-newTGame-new-blueT

The Story Behind the Grand Master’s Trilogy

By Aurora Spring

The original concept for this trilogy dates back some thirty years ago. However, Book 1, Grand Master’s Pawn was not completed until last year and released in March 2015. Thirty years ago, I had compiled a stack of handwritten short stories and one novel, which was published in 2014, as The Lady is Blue.

My initial idea, being frugal, was to combine several short stories into a full-length novel. The organizing theme pays homage to Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass. A young woman, the Pawn Violet, travels on missions to different planets under the command of a mysterious Grand Master. Two of my short stories and skimpy notes about a dragon morphed into Violet’s first three missions. Following the chess analogy, each mission is a move in a game of chess. Assuming Violet makes the first move, after four missions she has reached the seventh square of the chess board and can be promoted to queen in her next move. Violet enters the secret world of the Grand Masters, but she is not fully promoted until the end of Book 3.

Hints of some of my favorite authors arise in these books, including: Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, and Philip Jose Farmer. The White Mother in the book shares aspects of Miss Marple and Yoda. Violet’s Grand Master sounds like Darth Vader. Yet, characters acquire a life of their own. My story is a mystery, and “appearances can deceive” as one person says near the end of the book. The Grand Master’s griffin avatar may have been influenced by my visit to Bletchley Park, UK, where two stone griffins guard the main entrance to the mansion.

When I started writing in earnest, the story expanded into a trilogy with the beginning and end of each book etched in my mind. The twelve Grand Masters are humans and aliens with immense psychic powers. We learn that Violet’s father was murdered after he prophesied the destruction of the Council of Twelve Grand Masters.

The complex world of Grand Master’s Pawn describes visits to eight planets and five or six alien races, such as the Brululians, with their rotating eyestalks, and the dragons, who are the reptilian inhabitants of the Planet Sythos. In Book 2, Grand Master’s Game, we learn more about the powerful Grand Masters and the Council of Twelve. The divisions between the Grand Masters culminate in a battle between the opposing forces of four Grand Masters. Currently, I am writing Book 3, Grand Master’s Mate, and creating two new planets. As you may guess, there will be fewer Grand Masters by the end of the trilogy. I hope to publish Book 3 before the end of the year.

Building imaginary worlds is fun and laborious. The Grand Master’s Trilogy is my most intricate universe to date, and has generated a short story, the trilogy, and another potential side story.

About Aurora:  Aurora Springer is a scientist morphing into a novelist. She has a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and discovers science facts in her day job. She has invented adventures in weird worlds for as long as she can remember. In 2014, Aurora achieved her life-long ambition to publish her stories. Her works are character-driven romances set in weird worlds described with a sprinkle of humor. Some of the stories were composed thirty years ago. She was born in the UK and lives in Atlanta with her husband, a dog, and two cats that sit on the keyboard. Her hobbies, besides reading and writing, include outdoor activities like gardening, watching wildlife, hiking and canoeing.

Click on the Links below to connect with Aurora and her books.

Grand Master’s Pawn
Grand Master’s Game 

Blog: Aurora Springer Novels
Amazon Author Page
Facebook
Twitter 
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/101087717415198221200/posts

.

ONE DAY TO GO AND ONE LAST SNEAK PEEK AT CHRISTMAS PETS & KISSES

 
Golden Christmas by Helen Scott Taylor
Every Christmas Vicky hides so she doesn’t have to celebrate the date she lost her husband and son. She doesn’t want to see anyone but when she finds a dog’s lost ball she meets Jon, a wounded ex-soldier who’s struggling with his own problems. This brave man touches Vicky’s shattered heart and makes her realize she can’t hide forever. With his support, can she find the strength to love again?

Excerpt

Music pounded in Vicky’s head in time with the thud of her feet on the dirt path as she ran. She concentrated on the rhythm to fend off the memories that circled just below the surface, like demons trying to grab her ankles and drag her down.
Cold nipped her cheeks, and her breath billowed in smoky plumes as she ran up the incline to the higher path. The thermometer outside her rental property had indicated it was around freezing, even though the sky was bright blue and the sun was on her face.
As she reached the top of the ridge, the rolling English landscape of the North Cotswolds lay before her. Rosemoor Hall, a Jacobean manor house, presided majestically over its twelve acres of manicured gardens, the golden hues of its Cotswold stone walls shining in the sun.
Every year she rented an isolated country property a week before Christmas, and this year she was staying in the manor’s gatehouse. She stocked up on groceries and if she were lucky, could go for the whole time without seeing another living soul.
Fifty acres of gardens, parkland, and farmland lay around the manor house, and she had access to all the land. Apparently the house was open to the public during the summer season, but at this time of year it was closed up, giving her miles of empty paths to run.
Vicky surveyed the historic house and briefly imagined the interior—the huge fireplaces, the four-poster beds, and the antiques the house likely contained. Once she had a passion for old houses and loved visiting them. Her interest started at school when she did a history project on the Victorians. She’d even kept a journal of the visits she’d made to various historic houses around the country. But that felt like a lifetime ago now.
Her feet slapped against the frozen ground, giving a satisfying jolt with each step, and Vicky tried to focus on her music again. She managed for a few minutes before her attention wandered back to the scenery. Giving up on the monotonous tune, she pulled out her earbuds. The sun was surprisingly warm for December. Where it touched the whitened grass by the house, streaks of green appeared as the ice melted.
As she ran on, the front of the house came into view. A man with a golden Labrador stood on the half-acre rectangle of frosted grass outside the front door. Tall and lean, clad in jeans, a blue winter jacket, and a dark wool hat, the man drew back an arm and hurled a yellow tennis ball.
“Go on, girl. Fetch it.” His voice rang out, deep and cultured, a note of enthusiasm and pleasure in his tone.
The dog streaked off across the icy grass and grabbed the yellow tennis ball in its mouth, then loped back to the man, sat, and dropped the ball obediently into his outstretched hand.
“Good girl.” The man bent and smoothed the dog’s head, talking more softly so Vicky couldn’t make out the words. Then she realized her feet had stopped moving and she was standing still, watching.
She blew out a breath of irritation with herself. She didn’t want contact with anyone who might be happy and celebrating Christmas. She just wanted to be alone to mourn.
Pulling her attention away from the scene below, she continued, focusing instead on the distant trees dotted across the acres of parkland, huge old oaks and sweet chestnuts, their bare branches skeletal against the blue sky.
Yet the strange attraction of the man drew her attention again. In her peripheral vision, she saw him toss the ball a couple more times and pet his dog, but she made sure she kept running.
When she reached a fork in the path, she decided to take the right turn, away from the house and the unwanted distraction. Yet her feet went the other way, carrying her along the route that circled the house, keeping the man and dog in view.
She was closer to them now, only fifty yards away. Elevated on the bank in her bright pink-and-blue running gear as she was, he must have noticed her, but he didn’t look her way. He drew back his arm and tossed with incredible power. The tennis ball arced through the air, bounced on the chest-high stone wall surrounding the lawn, and hit a tree.
The Labrador took off after it, jumped up at the wall a few times, then stood with its front paws against the interlocking rocks and barked.
“Get the ball, Honey.” The man stared after the dog, but he didn’t move to retrieve the ball. Couldn’t he see he’d thrown it too hard and it was lost outside the wall?
Vicky halted and stepped off the path to get a better view. From up here, she could see the yellow ball was stuck in a tree, wedged between a branch and the trunk.
Should she say something? She didn’t want to get involved and have to talk to anyone, but the dog was frantically jumping up at the wall now. It had obviously seen the ball but couldn’t reach it.
“Go on, girl. Fetch it, Honey.” The guy bent and held out his hand to receive the ball.
What was he, some kind of idiot?
Vicky sucked in a chilly breath and shook her head. She should have taken the other path. “The ball’s in a tree,” she shouted.
The man’s head jerked up as if he hadn’t seen her. “Oh, thanks. I didn’t know.”
He reached behind him and grabbed something resting against the wall at his back—a white cane.
Vicky pressed a hand over her mouth with a burn of shamed surprise as he held the cane in front of him and walked forward slowly.
No wonder he hadn’t seen her. No wonder he hadn’t noticed the ball was out of his dog’s reach. She felt bad now for thinking he was an idiot.
“I know where the ball is,” she shouted. “I’ll get it for you.”
Vicky ran down some lichen-encrusted stone steps to the lower level and jogged across the crisp grass to where the dog was standing up against the wall, whining.
“Hey there, girl.” She pulled off her gloves and patted the dog’s silky head. Then getting a firm hold on top of the wall, she pushed her toe in a gap between the rocks, climbed up, and worked the ball loose from the tree before dropping it to the eager dog.
She jumped down and turned to face the man as he reached her. He was a good-looking guy, his lips curved in a friendly smile. His eyes were dark brown and looked perfectly all right, except they didn’t move normally. It was strange to be standing here in front of him and know he couldn’t see her.
“Thanks. I let rip a bit with that last throw. Usually when I do that, it bounces back off the wall. I must have aimed too high.” He pulled off a glove and held out his hand. “Jonathan Bramwell.” He nodded back over his shoulder. “I have an apartment in the house. I assume you’re staying in one of the estate cottages over Christmas.”
The word Christmas stung Vicky as she slipped her hand into his strong, warm grip. “Yes. I’m staying in the gatehouse.” To avoid Christmas, she added silently.
“This is Honey, who’s very grateful to have her ball back.” Jonathan’s smile widened as he stroked behind the dog’s ears. “Say thank you to…” His head came up, almost as if he were looking at her. “You didn’t tell me your name.”
“Vicky Jones.”
“Say thank you to Vicky, girl.”
Honey nuzzled Vicky’s hand, her tail wagging and her intelligent brown eyes warm and friendly.
“It was my pleasure, Honey.” Vicky stroked the dog’s velvet ears and realized it really was a pleasure to pet this sweet dog. Not much touched her these days. She was surprised such a simple thing affected her so much.
“Do you need to get back quickly?” Jonathan asked.
Vicky shook her head and realized he couldn’t see that. “No. I was out for a run.”
“Come inside and have a cup of tea, then,” he said, a hopeful note in his voice. “When you have time, I’ll give you the guided tour, if you like. I do that in the summer when we’re open to the public. I know Rosemoor Hall like the back of my hand, so I can do it from memory. The place hasn’t changed much since I was a kid,” he added with a laugh.
Vicky was already shaking her head again, the motion instinctive as she stepped back to distance herself. The old Vicky would have jumped at a private tour of such a beautiful manor house, but since the accident that took her husband and son, she couldn’t summon enthusiasm for anything. She didn’t want to have to make small talk because it invariably got around to family.
“You don’t have to stay long,” Jonathan said.
Honey pursued her, nudging Vicky’s leg with her nose, a pleading look in her eyes. Or perhaps Vicky imagined that.
“Thank you for the invitation, but I don’t want to cause you any inconvenience.”
“You won’t. It’ll be nice to have someone to talk to.” Jonathan pulled off his wool cap, revealing shaggy dark hair, and rubbed at a scar on his forehead. “Actually, you could do me a favor, if you don’t mind. I have a migraine coming on and I can’t find my medication. If you could spare a few minutes, I’d be eternally grateful if you’d take a look. I think the packet might have fallen down behind the cabinet.”
Vicky hesitated for a moment, but how could she refuse?
• • •
Three steps up from the grass to the gravel, then fifteen steps to the house. Jonathan counted silently, noticing the change in temperature as he moved from the sunny lawn to the shadow of Rosemoor Hall. He held his cane out and tapped the wall, a sharp ringing sound against the Cotswold stone, once, twice, three times before the corner, then he turned along the side and continued until the hollow tap of his cane on the wooden back door.
He reached for the handle and turned it. The fresh, clean, frosty air gave way to the familiar smell of polish and seasoned wood inside the house. The footsteps behind him stopped as he held the door open.
Jonathan felt bad asking a complete stranger for help, especially a woman who was reluctant; he could hear it in her voice and her hesitant steps. It went against every instinct he had to impose on others, but it was a matter of survival. The migraines were bad enough if he took the medication; he didn’t want to suffer twenty-four hours of even worse pain. He could call one of his cousins, but they both led busy lives and he didn’t want to impose.
“I’m sorry,” he said, catching Vicky’s subtle floral fragrance as she walked in and passed him. “It won’t take long.”
“It’s okay. I’m not in a hurry.”
He noticed the embarrassment in her voice. Even people he’d known before he lost his sight were uncomfortable around him now. Some didn’t know what to say, and he understood how they felt. In the old days, he’d have probably been the same way.
He caught Vicky’s fragrance again, and it summoned an image of a tall, slender woman wearing a yellow summer dress with flowing dark hair over her shoulders. Of course, Vicky wouldn’t be dressed like this in December. She’d said she was running. The image morphed, and the woman in his head now wore form-fitting Lycra.
He pressed the side of his fist to his mouth and cleared his throat as he banished the evocative image and the flash of desire. It had been four years since a woman who wasn’t either a member of staff, family, or a medical professional had entered his apartment. Sometimes he wondered if he’d ever meet a woman who was interested in him again. Not that Vicky was here for a social visit, of course. He was certain she’d much rather be outside running.
Four steps along the flagstone corridor, the grit on the soles of his shoes crunching. He’d forgotten to wipe his feet, but it was too late now. He tapped his cane on the wall and found the opening to the bottom of the narrow wooden staircase. This used to be the servants’ staircase when he was a boy—a lifetime ago.
He gripped the handrail, the wood sliding beneath his palm, polished smooth by thousands of hands over the last four hundred years. Familiar with the run and rise of each stair, he mounted them quickly and stepped onto the carpet in the upper hallway.
“My apartment is just down here.” With a hand to the wall, he took eight steps, then touched the varnished door that he only ever locked in the summer when members of the public visited the house.
Jonathan pushed on the door, and Honey’s sleek body brushed his leg. He angled his head and listened, half fearing Vicky had doubled back and gone, but the faint rustling of fabric and her sigh reassured him she was still there.
In his rooms, Jonathan could move about easily. He kept everything in its place and had a clear mental map of the space. “My medication is in a tray on my chest of drawers in the bedroom. If you want to follow me.” He’d thought he had a few hours before the headache got worse, but it was bad already.
An uncomfortable prickle of heat up his neck made him feel like a teenage boy asking a girl to his room for the first time, awkward and clumsy and not sure what to do.
His fingers rose to the scar on his forehead. He massaged the ridge of skin that marked the near-fatal head injury. He hated being blind and scarred. Sometimes he even forgot he was the lucky one. He’d escaped the twisted wreck of the Army Mastiff alive after it ran over an IED. Three of the men under his command had died there.
About the Author
 
NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Helen Scott Taylor lives in South West England near Plymouth in Devon between the windswept expanse of Dartmoor and the rocky Atlantic coast. As well as her wonderful, long-suffering husband, she shares her home with a Westie who digs up the garden searching for voles, and an elderly cat who adores treats.
Golden 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 Golden Christmas  by Helen Scott Taylor

Get into the Christmas spirit with CHRISTMAS PETS & KISSES. Limited time offer, so grab your set today! ONLY 99cAmazon US ~ B&N ~ iTunes ~ Kobo ~ Amazon UKGoogle

You’re Invited to the Christmas Pets & Kisses Countdown Launch Party! [September 21 – Oct 6]
Chat with the authors and win great prizes! Come join the Fun.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
//widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

SNEAK PEEK COUNTDOWN – MONA RISK’S TWO LOVES FOR CHRISTMAS

Two Loves for Christmas by Mona Risk
Tabloid pictures of charming laywer, Josh Dutton, threaten his father’s senatorial campaign. The family decides he needs a sweet ‘temporary fiancée’ to repair the damage. With only her German shepherd for friend, Emma struggles with problems. Attraction sizzles between Josh and Emma but no one mentions the ‘fake fiancée’ detail. When the truth surfaces will Josh be able to prove that his kisses were not part of a charade?
Excerpt

“We found you a fiancée.” Sitting behind his imposing desk, Josh Dutton’s father didn’t even blink as he uttered his outrageous statement.
“Excuse me?” Genuinely puzzled, Josh stepped closer and studied his dad’s expression.
Was the new campaign putting too much stress on Senator Howard Dutton?
Deep lines crinkled the skin at the corner of his eyes, but the senator’s lips showed his usual arrogant smirk. Had Josh been summoned to his father’s office in the Wellesley mansion just to hear this nonsense?
To reassure himself that he’d misheard his father, Josh spun toward his mother. Relaxing on the brown leather sofa she casually leaned forward to rearrange the roses in a crystal vase adorning the glass and brass cocktail table. The aromatic fragrance didn’t do much to soothe Josh’s mood.
“Mom, is he okay?” Josh jutted his chin out toward his father.
“Of course I’m—”
“Your father and I found you the perfect fiancée,” Nancy Dutton announced patiently. Usually her sweet voice agreeably counterbalanced her husband’s autocratic decisions. Today, her soft words exacerbated Josh’s headache.
“So kind of you, Mom. Frankly I’m not looking for a wife. Even if I needed to consider a serious relationship I believe I have enough willing women around me not to require your generous help.” He hoped his sarcastic tone would end the annoying conversation and allow him to leave soon enough to meet his gorgeous date of tonight. With a snort, Josh shoved his hands in his pocket and fingered his car keys. Convinced he’d better not linger around his father’s treacherous office he sidled toward the door.
“Too many willing girlfriends. Too many scandals,” his father bellowed. “That’s exactly the reason why you need a steady woman at your side. I’m fed up of seeing the tabloid magazines feature your scandalous exploits on a weekly basis.” Senator Howard brandished a newspaper and opened it to the middle page. “Look, look at this picture,” his father tapped the paper with a furious finger. “Look at this person.”
A muscle jerked along Josh’s jaw. Determined to remain unruffled, he took the paper and smiled at the photo of the blonde woman dancing with him at the City Hall Gala. “Nice picture. That’s Tammy Burt, a paralegal working at the court. Very pretty.”
“Who cares?” his father spat. “And this one?” He handed him a magazine with another picture of Josh with a brunette in a bikini on a yacht.
“Another good shot with Annabelle on her father’s boat.” Josh summoned his reserve of calm. “What’s wrong with it? We went out for the day with a group of friends. Annabelle is a colleague, a lawyer and a successful one at that.”
“A lawyer? All I see is an almost naked woman at your side.”
“Give me some credit, Dad. I have good taste. She’s not only smart, she has a stunning figure.” Josh affected a nonchalant shrug. His charm served him well in business and a beautiful woman on his arm never hurt. What more could he ask for?
“I can see that. And she’s cuddling against you for the paparazzi’s delight. Did you read the caption? Read it. Out loud.”
“Senator Howard Dutton’s son, attorney-at-law, Joshua Dutton, enjoying an outing in style. Hmm…”
“And this one.” Dad shoved another paper in his hands. “Read it.”
“Lovely Brooke McColey and Joshua Dutton in an amorous pose. Senator Howard’s son entertaining himself with extra-curricular activities while his father preaches hard work and good behavior to straighten our economical crisis. Maybe we should follow Josh’s example to succeed in life,” Josh read and examined the picture. “What a jerk. Anyway, don’t worry about this one, Dad. It’s an old photo from last year. We broke up a few months ago.”
“That’s the problem.” Senator Howard banged his fist on his desk and heaved a heavy sigh.
“Howard, let me explain the situation to Josh.” Nancy Dutton raised an appeasing hand. “Josh dear, you keep dating different girls and leaving them. Unfortunately this reflects badly on your father who’s running a new campaign. You’re giving ammunitions to his rivals and they are having a field day using all these pictures to snatch his voters.” She left the sofa and came to stand near the desk, next to Josh.
Josh frowned. On one hand he understood his father’s frustration, on the other hand Senator Howard’s endless campaigns tended to restrict his children’s freedom to no end. “I promise I’ll be more discreet.” Josh added a reasonable nod to appease his father and get him off his back.
“You already told us as much a year ago,” his father fumed.
Annoyed by his dad’s accusations, Josh opened his palms. “I can’t always look over my shoulder for a hidden camera.”
Both parents rallied around him.
“That’s my point. If you’re in an official relationship you don’t have to worry.” Senator Howard seized Josh’s arm in an iron clutch, proving he was still the powerful man his rivals would like to defeat.
An exasperated huff escaped Josh. “But Dad do you realize you’re asking me to sacrifice my chosen way of life for your damn campaign? Aren’t you going too far?”
“It’s only for three months. You can break the engagement as soon as I’m elected.”
“What?”
His mother pushed her husband aside and grabbed Josh’s hands. “You know I volunteer at Newton-Wellesley hospital twice a week. Two months ago, I met this woman, Maria Cassiero, a patient, undergoing therapy after a difficult back surgery. Now she’s doing her best to walk again. Well last week, I found her crying and refusing more treatment. Apparently, the insurance hardly covered two-thirds of her expensive procedures. Her husband died almost a year ago in a boat accident. A mechanic by trade, he owned two thriving auto shops in the Newton area.”
“So why can’t she pay for her treatment?” So far his mother’s story didn’t hold much interest. “If you want to help her, I can contribute.” He reached in his pocket for his phone to write an online check.
“Thank you, Josh. No need for that now. I already offered to cover her extra costs when she mentioned that after her husband’s death the shops’ income greatly shrunk. Her stepdaughter left law school to take care of her.”
“Ah.” So there was a young woman in the picture. Obviously a good-hearted, loving daughter, generous enough to sacrifice her studies for her stepmother. A paragon of virtue, hardly his type. He bit back a derisive comment but gave his mother an impatient glance.
“Poor Maria, she sobbed while telling me she didn’t want her daughter to lose her future because of her. When she showed me the young woman’s photo I had an epiphany.”
Mom smiled and Josh’s heart sank. He’d already guessed the conclusion his mother had reached.
“She’s so pretty. I could easily see her with you, Josh. But I don’t want to upset you by interfering in your life.”
“You could have fooled me.” He snickered. “So what have you and Dad been doing for the past hour?”
“Spare us your sarcasm,” Senator Howard barked. “All we want is your cooperation for three months. Only three little months with a beautiful fiancée.”
“She accepted?” Talk about an opportunist.
“We don’t know yet.” Mom sighed. “Stop bickering you two. I explained to Maria my idea of giving you a fiancée for a few months to erase the lousy image caused by your scandals—”
“Mom, I didn’t cause any scandals. I didn’t hurt any woman. I didn’t create any unwanted kid.”
“Thank God. As if we needed that.” Mom crossed herself and Dad’s cheeks turned a heavy shade of purple that worried Josh. He hated his father’s politics but he still deeply loved his parents. After counting to ten to recover his cool, he pledged to remain calm in front of any crazy eventuality they came up with.
“Okay Mom, keep going.”
“Well Maria was so grateful for my help that she promised to vote for Senator Howard and to bring Emma to meet you.”
“Emma?” Nice name. For the sake of his mother who’d never let him down, Josh smothered his annoyance. “You have a picture? I should at least see the face of the woman who’d be hanging on my arm for three months.”
“No picture, but you’ll meet her tomorrow.” A smile grew on his mother’s face. “I knew you love you father enough to —”
“Of course I love my father. And I love you.” He gently patted her shoulder.
“I invited them for dinner here and told Maria our chauffeur will pick them up around 5 pm.”
“Tomorrow?” Just like that. He rubbed his neck already feeling an unwanted noose strangling him.
“Will you do it, sweetheart?” Mom pleaded. “It’s for a good cause. Two good causes actually. Your father neutralizes the smear the tabloids have thrown on his campaign and Maria continues her therapy.”
“I see a third good cause.” Forgetting his usual diplomacy, Dad smirked. “Josh gets a taste of monogamy for a while.”
Josh’s mouth twitched at his father’s lousy joke but he swallowed his acerbic reply.
“Well what’s your answer, Josh?” Mom squeezed his hand although her tone had turned a tad impatient.
His gaze flipped from his mother to his father. In spite of her easygoing manner and charitable heart, Mom could be as manipulative as Dad. And often more efficient. No wonder Senator Howard had maintained his senatorial seat for ten years. He had her infallible support. How come Josh had never found a woman who loved him unconditionally as Nancy loved her dictatorial husband?
“Josh?” Mom repeated.
“Okay, Mom.”
“Oh darling, I knew you’d accept.” Mom threw her arms around his neck and hugged him. “You’re free to go now, but be here tomorrow before 5 pm. I’m counting on you.”
These were the same words he heard so often as a little boy.
I count on you meant he should ace his classes, score goals in soccer, win his tennis match, make sure his younger brother and sister behave. Yes, the same I’m counting on you. At ten or at thirty, the middle child of Senator Howard’s five kids hated to disappoint his parents.
Tonight the cost of his good behavior soared.
“Goodnight, Mom, Dad. See you tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Son.” His father gave him a hand and Josh shook it, and then Dad pulled him in for a hug. “I really appreciate your effort.”
His back straight, Josh feigned an indifferent expression and walked out of the office to the front door. These three coming months would test his will power, but he’d consider them a contribution to his father’s wellness, rather than his campaign. Maybe with a little blooming luck his engagement to Emma would prove to be a charming interlude.
~*~
In the comfortable but messy living room of their two-story house, Emma Cassiero helped her stepmother prepare for their special evening. Crouched next to her stepmother’s recliner, Rino, the golden-brown German shepherd, relaxed and watched her through half-open eyelids.
With precise downward strokes Emma swept and blended the makeup on Maria’s cheeks, chin, nose, and forehead. “Much better. This foundation gives you some color.”
Maria chuckled. “You can’t transform a sick woman who looks like a ghostly witch into Cinderella.”
“You’re beautiful, Mom. I just want you less pale if you’re so determined to visit these people. To be invited to dinner by a senator’s wife is not a daily event here,” Emma joked to lighten her own grim mood. “Right, Rino?”
At the sound of his name, the dog slowly moved his muzzle toward her, rubbed her leg and groaned his approval.
Maria slipped a pearl necklace around her head and clipped on her earrings. Exhausted by the effort, she slumped against the back of the recliner and closed her eyes.
“You look too tired. You sure you want to go?”
Mom seemed so preoccupied today. Several times she’d started to talk about her new friend Nancy, and then stopped in mid-sentence and mumbled under her breath. Emma had caught her crying a couple of times which was normal considering…
“The least I can do is accept their invitation. Nancy Dutton is a very nice lady. A generous soul the kind you don’t find anymore.”
“I’m grateful that she convinced you to sign up for the second phase of your treatment. That’s why I agreed to go to their house with you to thank her personally.”
Emma sighed at her reflection in the mirror above the living room credenza. The blue color of her outfit suited her well. She’d bought the silk dress when Dad took her out with Maria to celebrate her good grades at the end of her second year of law school. Little did they know that two weeks later his cherished boat would explode and kill him.
Mom had insisted she wear the fancy dress today. What a waste, just to entertain an unknown politician and his wife.
“I want you to meet Nancy and her husband. They’re good people we can count on if we need help.”
“I still wonder…” Emma sprayed a whiff of perfume on her neck and then on her stepmother’s. “Since when does a hospital volunteer, especially a senator’s wife, invite a patient to her house?”
“Nancy has become a good friend, always encouraging me. They want to meet you. Maybe he can give you a job or…” Mom blinked several times and bit her lip.
“Do you think so? A part-time job would be great. I’d still have enough time to take care of you.” Emma exhaled with relief. You’re starting to improve. You’ll walk again soon, Mom, with the right therapy.” Emma repressed the pang of anxiety gnawing at her stomach and blanked any sign of worry from her face. Bringing the walker closer to the recliner, she held Maria’s elbow with one hand and slipped an arm behind her back to help her stand.
“I’m doing my best, sweetheart. I don’t want you stuck to my side forever. I often pray you meet a nice man and find happiness.”
“Nice man?” With a snort, Emma crushed her mom’s daydreaming. Where would she meet a nice man who’d accept her and her mountain of problems? So far she’d met more jerks than nice men, Scott Garett and the likes.
“Yes, a presentable man, educated and with good-manners. You’re pretty enough to attract any guy you set your heart on. Nancy mentioned she has four sons and—”
“For heaven’s sake, Mom, stop dreaming. Politicians or their sons are not paragons of virtue. Far from it. They know how to take advantage of people.”
“But Nancy is not like that. She wants to…to…” Maria sighed. After she shifted to straighten her back, she rested a pensive gaze on Emma. “We won’t have problem with payments.”
“Of course we won’t. I told you I’ll sell the small shop soon. It’ll cover the first phase of your treatment, and then if necessary I’ll sell the second shop. It’ll be more than enough.” She offered her dear mom a reassuring smile.
Maria caught Emma’s hand. “Don’t sell anything. It’s your inheritance. It should help you go back to law school.”
“I’ll resume my studies once you get better. I can get a scholarship or a loan that I’ll repay later.” With a gentle hand she caressed her mom’s hair.
Rino scrambled up to a sitting position and turned his head to the left, his ears twitching.
The door bell chimed and he barked. Their ride had arrived.
Emma collected their purses, the box of chocolate wrapped in silver paper for their hosts, and a silk shawl for her mother to add over her suit.
A hiss escaped Maria’s lips as she slowly shuffled to the door. “You’re not listening, Emma, I don’t want you —and I don’t need you— to sacrifice the shops. Mrs. Dutton said she’d pay the medical expenses that are not covered by insurance.”
“No way.” Emma’s hand stalled on the doorknob and she stared at her mother, her eyebrows gathered in shock. “You can’t let a stranger pay for your treatment. We don’t need her.”
“She’s a dear friend now.”
“A senator’s wife? What does she want in return? Our votes for her husband?” Bitterness underlined her questions.
Maria shook her head and grabbed Emma’s arm. “Wouldn’t you vote for a politician whose wife is so generous? I would do anything to thank them.” She raised imploring eyes to her daughter.
“Why, Mom? We’re not paupers. Dad left us two auto shops. Why would you accept charity from strangers when I can help?”
A couple of votes didn’t justify paying for the expensive treatment. What else did they want from Maria and Emma? After her father’s death, Emma had met her share of unscrupulous people. Many had tried to take advantage of the sick woman and her young daughter.
“Enough, Emma. I want you to meet them before casting unfavorable judgment.” Her labored breathing frightened Emma. She refrained from more comments and opened the door.
“I’m Carl, the Dutton’s chauffeur.” In black suit and cap, the man gripped the walker to lower it down the two steps. “Are you ready, Ma’am?”
“As ready as can be.” Maria twisted herself to tackle the first step.
Rino growled at the stranger and bared his impressive canines. A bit on the defensive, the man jumped down two steps and stared suspiciously at her protector. “Huh, your dog wouldn’t bite, I hope.”
Sure he would. “Hmm.” He’d already done it to defend her. “Just a moment please. I’ll be right back.”
Emma raked her fingers through Rino’s fur the way he loved it and urged him inside. “Come, buddy, we’re going to the backyard.”
“Take your time, Miss. Meanwhile, I’ll help the lady to the car.”
Emma led Rino to the fenced backyard and the doghouse where he could nap in the shade. “Be a good boy.” She set out a bowl of water and another with chow. “Have fun and guard the house.” After an extra dose of caresses, she entered the kitchen and closed the door, then went to the front hall entrance.
The driver had settled Maria in the backseat of a black Mercedes waiting at the curb. After an indifferent glance at the luxurious car, Emma locked the house and slid next to her mother. Lost in her thoughts, she repeatedly cursed her stepmother’s tendency to match-make and barely paid attention to the scenic drive or the time spent until the driver slowed down to pass through a gate. The car rolled on a gravel driveway between two rows of magnificent maple trees and stopped in front of an imposing mansion.
Good Lord, was that where they were having dinner?
Emma climbed out of the car while the chauffeur opened the other side door to help her mother. Their hosts must have been watching for their arrival. An elegant woman in a maroon dress, her strawberry blond hair impeccably coiffed, glided down the five marble steps and bent to hug Mom. “I’m so glad you were able to come, my dear Maria,” she greeted with a friendly voice.
“Thank you for inviting us and sending your driver.” Maria turned to Emma and proceeded with the introductions. “My stepdaughter, Emma Cassiero. Mrs. Nancy Dutton.”
“Emma, what a pleasure to meet you. You’re even prettier than your picture.” Nancy hugged her with as much affection as if she had been a long-lost niece.
Why had Mom shown her picture around? Was Emma making too much out of a friendly gesture?
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Dutton. I’m very grateful for the support you’ve given my mother. This is for you.” Emma gave her the box of chocolate.
“Thank you. Very kind of you. And here is my son, Josh Dutton.” Nancy waved to the striking man who’d followed his mother outside. Gorgeous enough to be called Man of the Year on any magazine—and make Emma’s heart beat erratically. Maybe she’d been confined at home for too long caring for Mom and had forgotten some men could be attractive enough to stir her blood.
Josh’s unfathomable gaze swept over her from head to toe and backtracked, roaming over her legs, skimming her waist and chest, and resting on her face for more appraisals.
Oh but he was so annoying… even conceited.
A flush warmed Emma’s cheeks but she raised her chin, returned the once-over, and stared him down. “Mr. Dutton,” she said with an icy tone.
Amusement glittered in his ocean-deep blue eyes shaded by a fringe of long dark lashes. “So glad you came, Emma.” He had the audacity to wink at her.
Yes, a perfect jerk.
In spite of his brazen arrogance, his smile confused her and her gaze riveted on his chiseled jaws and nose in the hope of finding his features lacking. Wistful hope. Physically he was close to perfection.
A queasy feeling filled her stomach and she slowly inhaled to regain control of her senses.
Nancy guided Maria up a side ramp and through the front door opening on a marble entry hall adorned with an antique credenza, gilded mirror and a velvet love seat. “Please come inside. We have a lot to talk about.”
Was Mrs. Dutton planning to explain her generous offer?
Emma didn’t have time to delve into the question. A warm hand settled on her back. Josh’s lemon scent surrounded her. He led her to a huge family room furnished with two brown leather sofas, matching armchairs, dark wood cocktail tables, and various knickknacks she couldn’t take in with her mental faculties focused on the large palm stiffening her shoulders and melting her insides.
Without waiting for an invitation she eased out of his hold and scooted to her mother’s side. Nancy had already helped Maria into a comfortable wingback chair and arranged a pillow behind her back, and then sat on a chair close to her guest.
Ignoring Josh who observed her curiously, and determined not to share a sofa’s closeness with her unsettling host, Emma sidled to the matching wingback chair across from her mother’s and dropped there.
A robust man in his late fifties entered the room, a jovial grin on his face. “Ladies, what a pleasure to meet you. Nancy talks so much about you.”
“Here you are, Howard,” Nancy introduced her husband.
“Maria, I feel I already know you.” Senator Howard was as friendly as they come.
His charisma filled the air and he outstretched both arms to enfold Maria’s frail hand between his. With silvery hair at the temples and thin lines underlying his eyelids, he presented a mature and pleasant personality quite in line with his position. Emma flipped a glance from the senator to his son and noticed the subtle smile hovering on Josh’s lips.
He’d settled on the empty sofa and seemed amused by his father’s affable greeting.
Had she missed something?

About the Author


NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Mona Risk
A tireless traveler, Mona lives in Florida and writes contemporary romance, medical romance, and romantic suspense, simmering with emotion and sprinkled with a good dose of humor. Her novels are set in the fascinating places she visited–or in Florida, her paradise on Earth.
Two Loves for 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 Two Loves for Christmas by Mona Risk
Get into the Christmas spirit with CHRISTMAS PETS & KISSES. Limited time offer, so grab your set today! ONLY 99cAmazon US ~ B&N ~ iTunes ~ Kobo ~ Amazon UK ~ Google

You’re Invited to the Christmas Pets & Kisses Countdown Launch Party! [September 21 – Oct 6]
Chat with the authors and win great prizes! Come join the Fun.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
//widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js