Thursday, August 29, 2013

Katherine Holmes presents Swan Bonnet on Penny's Tales

Book Title: The Swan Bonnet
Author: Katherine L. Holmes 
 Release Date: July 14th , 2013 
 Genre: YA Mystery Length: 168 
Publisher: GMTA Publishing LLC
Presented by: Enigma Press


Unknown to Dawn, her grandfather has shot an old swan out of mercy. In their coastal Alaskan town, her father buys the swan pelt, preventing her Uncle Alex, a fur trader, from selling it for export. Dawn’s father surprises her part-Aleut mother with a hat she helped to make and also with an idea to catch poachers. Shooting swans has become illegal but Alaska is a territory and Prohibition occupies the Sheriff.

Dawn and her mother become involved with suspicious responses to the swan bonnet besides its haunting effect. Because Dawn’s grandparents see the swans first, Dawn agrees to secretly watch the migration with the Deputy Sheriff’s son. But after she and her mother encounter women from a ship and find out about a hunting party, they ride to the inlet. There are also townspeople roving the shore but who is the vigilante and who is the poacher?



A time ago in the frontier territory, flocks of migrating swans chuffed to the same ocean inlet and swooped down for a night or two in the spring and in the fall. The far bay was hedged in hardy reeds and fenced off by foothills, providing rest and refreshment. Whistler and trumpeter swans arrived as regularly as the mountain streams melted and the snow came. In the spring, one pair stayed to nest while the others flew on. They were waiting in the fall with their cygnets when the swans from the north stopped to strengthen themselves before their journey over the Pacific Ocean.
A few years after 1900, a man came to the inlet with his wife and boy. He built a cabin even if the pair of swans on the bay flaunted their wings at his sailing skiff. They wouldn’t be properly introduced until the garden was grown and the woman and boy tossed sunflower seeds along the shore. The man fed them corn when he sailed from the inlet to the waters that were full of salmon.
The new family woke up one autumn morning and found the pair of swans hosting a flotilla of migrators that trampled the shore and feasted on the sunflowers. They ate the last of the corn too but in their wake, the woman found swan feathers and down. She gathered up the precious plumage and took it to the nearest town on the Alaska seacoast. That was half a morning’s wagon ride from the cabin under the foothills. Merchant ships came to the harbor for salmon and fur. The swan feathers sold like caviar.
As more folks moved to Alaska, the family at the bay couldn’t help but notice how the migrating flocks were dwindling.

Towards 1920, fewer and fewer of the trumpeter swans made rest stops at the inlet. But whistlers still came after nesting in the tundra.

"What a relaxing, classic, and vibrant story..."  -  from the HarperCollins Editor's Desk review at

After stints in publishing and as a reporter, Katherine L. Holmes obtained an M. A. in Writing from the University of Minnesota. Her poems and short stories have been published in many journals. In 2012, her short story collection, Curiosity Killed the Sphinx and Other Stories, was published by Hollywood Books International. She has also published a children’s fantasy, The House in Windward Leaves.



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Michele Riccio and Sex Lives and Dental Chairs at Penny's Tales

Book Title: Sex Lives and Dental Chairs
Author: Michele Riccio  
Release Date: July 30th, 2013 
 Genre: Romance/Chick Lit Length: 260 
Publisher: GMTA Publishing LLC
Presented by: Libertine Press


Jane Tynan wants to be happy. Her needs are simple: a satisfying job, a quiet home, and the man she loves.

But since she testified against her ex-husband, what she has is: an assumed name, a crap job, an apartment upstairs from the world's loudest sex addict, and no man at all. Unless you count the cute-but-suspicious deputy investigating her neighbor's disappearance, the Ski-Mask Wearing man camping in her yard, and the dentist she "accidentally" assaulted before her root canal.

Faced with dental bills rivaling the national debt, the revelation of her past to the police, and zits Jane figures she's hit bottom. Then her ex-husband turns up looking for payback. Jane must decide between running away and calling in a favor from the man she loves, but can't have.

We've got questions for Michele Riccio

When do you get your ideas? The Dollar Store - they have a bin in the back room... oh, sorry When do I...

At the least convenient time possible. My current work-in-progress hijacked my brain and threatened to sever ties between the left and right hemispheres unless I dropped everything to write it. Unfortunately, at the time I was desperately trying to finish editing a completely different novel which about three-quarters of the way through the critiquing process with my writing group (group plug: great place to learn and get feedback). For two months I pretended to have a dual personality, editing one novel while creating a first draft of another.

Also, for the past seven years I've participated in National Novel Writing Month ( held in November. I can almost guarantee conceiving a plot idea in September or March. But never the final week of October, when I could most use one.

Seeing as how you jumped the gun on where... : Not a problem, I can elaborate. The ideas come from... from... Sorry. No idea.

Why do you write in a particular genre? Good question. For which I don't have a good answer. I'm not even sure what genre I write in. I'm not good with labels and pigeonholes (ick, pigeonholes – full of dirty feathers and guano...). I write the sort of story I want to read. Somewhere between a comic-romance and a cozy-mystery. But with more sarcasm per square-inch.

I've been told I 'write pain well' – which is, I think, because I have taken painful moments from my own life and made them funny in order to avoid alienating friends. I mean, if I whine to everyone about my torturous root canal experience, eventually they lose interest and start avoiding me. But, if I whine with the added bonus of making them laugh... they tend to stick around while I complain. My protagonists tend to have much pain heaped upon them because I have already vetted the jokes and don't like to waste humor.

What's next? Dunno, more coffee or lunch? I'm thinking maybe wings – oh, next for the writing... (you could be more specific in your questions). I'm still editing the novel which hijacked my brain. Unlike my first two novels (I Do-Over and Sex Lives and Dental Chairs – both available on, yes, that was a shameless plug) my current work-in-progress is less slapstick/sarcastic – showing the parallel occurrences of a woman's present and past. History doesn't so much repeat in a loop, it spirals.

Seeing it written out like that – it bears a pathetic resemblance to my final college essay, in which I postulate events in a person's life don't repeat exactly, but spiral to incorporate growth and experience. Look at me, art imitating life.

Why do you write? Short answer, the stories won't let me alone.

I've always told myself stories, as a kid it was a way to get to sleep back when my bead-time was determined by someone else (I've always been a night-owl, so early bedtimes were difficult). Later I started writing for my own enjoyment and entertainment. Right before junior high I had a traumatic experience with my English teacher, an in-class assignment 'describing a character', and a trip the the principal's office. I stopped writing for several years, and I might never have started again, except the showers at my college house were being abused by the entire campus (bad enough they were in a creepy basement room – but after trekking down three flights of stairs only to find a random creepy guy had used your shampoo and all the hot water...) So, rather than complain and tick people off, I wrote a little fable explaining the concerns of myself and my house-mates and put it in the school newspaper.

People liked it. Better – they stopped using my shampoo.

After that I started writing again. Mostly very short (under two pages) stories for my friends. Then an idea for a novel started kicking around in my head... And I was back, baby.

Oftentimes creative works have 'Easter eggs' hidden in them. Have you ever hidden an egg? The minions put you up to this, didn't they?

Yes, I've tucked away references to authors I admire and movies/shows I enjoy. Some of the in-jokes are really just for me – I don't expect general recognition. Because a novel is a very private thing until it goes public. I guess the hidden bits are there for the soul-mate-reader to find and squwee! Over.

Well, it's been lovely interviewing you, we should do it again sometime. Yes, it has been fun. I'll call you when my next book comes out. Oh, by the way, we're out of half-and-half. And bread. Someone needs to go food shopping instead of playing computer games...


Chapter One

Another year and I thought maybe I should do something, commemorate it somehow. So this is it. Seems lacking, huh? I would have called, but then you'd find me and it's better this way. Better for me at least.
Hope you are well


There's probably nothing so annoying as waking up alone on your fortieth birthday to the sound of your twenty-five year old neighbor having sex.
And yet, there I was, listening to my twenty-five year old neighbor having sex. On my fortieth birthday. Alone.
The two-story building where we lived was old, drafty, and obviously needed quite a bit more insulation between floors since I could hear his groans and her sighs as if they might be doing it under my bed, not a floor below.
“Laurence, you are such a pain in my ass.” I opened my eyes. Enough light played in through the windows to read the book titles on my nightstand. Behind the stack I could see 6:5 on the digital clock. The last numeral hid behind a corner of Consequences. “I take one day off and you decide on a sunrise reenactment of the bounciest bits of the Kama Sutra.”
I wondered if it was the same girl as last time. The one who complained, loudly, after sex. I woke up that time too. Unlike a soldier in a war zone, I could not accustom myself to the sound and fury well enough to sleep through it.
Maybe I should have joined the military, picked up some useful skills like hand-to-hand combat and the ability to tune out the nearly continuous din from below.
My phone rang.
“Are you kidding?” I said to the ceiling.
The ceiling declined to answer, either me or the phone. I dragged the lime-green (got it on sale) quilt along with me and shuffled out of my off-white painted bedroom and into the 70's fake-wood paneled parlor. The metronomic thuds of the bed downstairs were overcome by the syncopation of the phone. It was a grand conspiracy to keep me from sleeping-in.
I grabbed the handset, silencing the rings. Would that Laurence could be so easily dealt with. “Hello?”
No, you have the wrong number. I am someone else. “Hi, Mrs. Petit.”
“Oh, it is you Jane.”
“Yup.” I flopped on the sagging tweedy couch and dragged the quilt up over my feet, covering my mismatched socks. “Is there a problem?” I asked.
“No, why would you say that?”
Because there ought to be a huge, massive, has-its-own-gravity-well-of-a-problem for you, my landlady, to be calling me this soon after sunrise. “It's a little early.” I pushed the speakerphone button and stood the handset on the coffee table.
“Oh, but you're up. I just wondered if you could check to see if Laurence's car is in the drive? I called, but he didn't answer his phone.”
“He's home,” I said. Too bad his home is here and not still with you and his father.
“Then why isn't he answering his phone? He has caller ID.” Frost bloomed in her voice, as if I had insinuated her darling son might wish to avoid her.
“Maybe he's asleep.” It was a broad hint, but she didn't pick up on it. I'd be more pointed in my comments if I had some degree of assurance Mrs. Petit wouldn’t raise my rent in a fit of pique.
“Well, see if the car is in the drive,” she said, tacking on a belated, “please.”
Through the wooden floor I could hear a faint shrill voice raised in anger. The dear boy must have finished too soon. Again.
Part of me wondered what I had done to deserve knowing this much about my neighbor's sex life. Surely karma could not rate my crimes as being this bad.
Laurence's paramour continued her rant, now accompanied by the sound of winter boots clomping on his wooden floor. “He's up now,” I said, “I can hear him moving around.”
“And the car? It is all right?”
Obsessed much? “Let me check.” The porch door slammed as I grabbed the phone and lurched from couch to window. Outside I saw a young woman, with a bad case of bed-head, storming up the semi-frozen ruts of the driveway. Her puffy white coat slumped down her arms and her pink scarf fluttered behind, as if trying to escape.
The same battered maroon compact I had seen a few days ago waited at the end of the drive. Damn it. If I had been going to work I would have been stuck behind her piss-poor parking job. And I was pretty sure that the lovebirds would have let me hang until they were finished. Or, until he finished and she flounced off in a huff.
OK, this early it wouldn't have been an issue. But if I had been going to work, I promise you Laurence would have waited until later to disappoint his girl.
“Car's here.” I propped the phone on the windowsill.
Laurence's disappointed friend revved her engine and reversed onto the lawn. It was too cold for her to tear up the ground much, but she made a fair attempt, spinning her wheels and dislodging some clumps. The tires squealed like angry pigs.
“What is that noise?” Mrs. Petit said. I could almost see her thin face pruning up into disgusted-mode. A look I was reasonably familiar with. “What are you doing?”
Me​? “That was someone outside.” Hint, hint, if you can hear that through the phone perhaps it is time replace the windows? “Looks like your son had company last night.”
The ass in question slammed the front door, rattling the entire structure. He marched across the lawn in jeans and a wife-beater, looking like he was on his way to a photo shoot for Red Neck Monthly. She gunned the engine again and he screamed obscenities.
Class act, that boy.
“Looks like they're saying goodbye.” Or good riddance.
“Oh, well,” Mrs. Petit huffed, “my poor boy, he has so many social obligations.”
“Shall I tell him you called?” I said, in a pleasant secretary voice.
“No, I was,” she paused, “I heard on the radio, there was an accident near Millbridge. A green SUV, like the one Laurence drives. I just wanted to make sure he got home safely last night, and when he didn't answer his phone… .”
He didn't get home last night. He got home at four this morning, stormed up the stairs like a herd of wildebeest, then lulled me into a false sense of quiet for a few hours before he started banging the bed against the wall. You, on the other hand, were courteous enough to wait until (I checked the clock did some half-assed math) 6:58 to call and ask if his car was intact. “Seems fine,” I said, still channeling the pleasant secretary voice.
“I'm sorry, I shouldn't be keeping you. Don't you have work today? I'll phone Laurence later on, when he's had his rest.”
“OK, have a good day,” I said and hung up before she decided I should go downstairs and make Laurence breakfast because her poor boy had been socially obligated to get up so early.
No one seemed to care that I was forced to be up early.
Prince Charming would have cared. If he wasn't off caring for his wife. A wife who was not me. And there's the rub, as Hamlet once (sort of) said. My Prince belonged to someone else. I needed to get over him and move on.
I shed the quilt and started the water boiling for chai.
Happy birthday to me.
This isn't where I expected to be at forty. I had envisioned a home of my own, a loving husband, maybe kids. I thought my family would be there for me.
That was before I found out my husband was an evil bastard. Before the divorce and exile from home. Before Prince Charming lost a leg – before Reg died.
Instead I was living upstairs from Noise Boy (who, I was beginning to suspect, had a sex addiction), alone, no family, and working, not as in the promised position of Librarian at the J. Regina School for Boys, but as a humble library clerk. The salary even more humble than the position.
Had I been capable of performing all of my job-ly duties, I might have cause for complaint. But I still struggled to comprehend the accounting system, let along master it.
Downstairs the stereo boomed on and the windows shivered to the beat. Baump, baump, baump, ba-baump. Terrific. I could feel the music; a huge pulsating heart beneath the floorboards. Poe's homicidal narrator would love this place.
I found my battered deck shoes, which I wore in lieu of slippers, and waited for the kettle to wail. The baump, baump, baump, ba-baump continued to thrum. The powdered chai shimmied in my insulated travel mug. “Fine, be that way. See if I care that you are a slave to the beat.” It was criminal, the way Laurence subjugated my morning beverage of choice.
If only I had a tiny bit more gumption I could rid the world of this menace to decent music. Except, if I killed Laurence, his mother would probably kick me out. Even his father, who had just last month needed to evict the raccoons let in via Laurence's carelessness with the basement door, would probably not want to rent an apartment to me.
I poured boiling water into the mug. It too danced in reaction to the bass beat.
Screw this.
I stomped down the back stairs and pounded on Laurence's kitchen door.
“Yeah?” he said, still dressed in the thin undershirt and jeans.
“The music. It's too loud.”
He looked at me as if I had spoken some strange language he'd never encountered before.
“Turn it down, please,” I said.
“My girlfriend left me.” He showed no hint of emotion. Only a blank stare; probably caused by a hangover or lack of sleep. Or total absence of brain cells.
“So sad,” not. “But, the music is still too loud.”
“I thought you were at work.” His eyes seemed to be focused on my chin. Odd, but better than his usual chest-centered gaze.
“Obviously not.”
“Too loud?” he asked, as if I had not already stated this very thing. “I'll turn it down.”
With that he shut the door. “Bye,” I said to the wood panel a few inches from my nose. “Have a great day. Moron.”
As I headed back upstairs the noise level decreased. Why was that so hard?
Well, because it was Laurence, that's why.
I locked my door behind me and headed to the bathroom to tend to practical needs. The face in the mirror didn't look forty, but that may have been a by-product of the zit. The monstrous incipient zit on my chin. Which had so fascinated Laurence. No wonder he had been dumbfounded.
Damn it, I was supposed to have wrinkles, not acne. OK, to be truthful, I did have wrinkles – wrinkles that were apparently housing zits like some sort of bizarre condo of the epidermis. What next? Puberty reversed? I shuddered. No, next was menopause (pause, like the body would regain youthful fecundity after a short break) and then death.
Laurence's music was now just above audible. A monotonous rumble almost more aggravating than full volume. I grabbed a pen and a postcard from the bunch on the counter and eased out the door.
New England March is not usually considered warm. March in Maine could be downright cold.
But it was quieter outside. And I had a Navy surplus pea coat, heavy enough to use as an anchor and warm enough, if I curled my feet up under me, to avoid frostbite. The sun had worked its way around to illuminate one corner of the long bench on my porch. I sat and let it illuminate me as well.
I didn't go in for journals. Too risky. Secrets weren't secret if you wrote them down. But if something happened, if Prince Charming showed up – I wanted him to know… something. I just wasn't sure what.
You didn't send me a card. I'd be disappointed, but if you had an address, I'd have to move. And I'm tired of moving. I want to be still.
You'd like it here, near the ocean. Lot's of fish.
If I have candles on the cake, I'll make a wish.
The back door slammed. The porch railing wobbled and I felt the earth move, but not in a good way. Laurence's SUV, in need of a muffler, growled and complained as he headed down the nearly naked drive. It used to be covered in gravel, but someone had a tendency to peal out, scattering the stones in plume-like formations along the side of the house.
The ricochets could travel an impressive distance.
I heard the lurch and squeak of an abused suspension hitting the edge of the drive then the engine roar fading into the distance. He was gone. To find another bimbo. Or buy bigger speakers. Or, the long shot, go to work.
Not that ringing up movie rentals was work. He mostly sat on a stool and played video games with the few lucky students who had gotten day-passes from the J. Regina School for Boys. But, it was my day off, I did not have to think about the school or the boys. And I had been granted a respite from Laurence and his noise.
I sipped chai.
And immediately I wished I hadn't.
The hot sweet liquid sent shock waves of pain surging through my molar and up my jaw toward my eye. I could feel my entire face as defined by shrieking nerve endings. I put the mug down and tried to master the sensation.
It defeated me.

A native of Massachusetts, I've never mastered the art of writing about myself in third person. No idea if these facts are in any way linked.Back when I could still be trained to do such things, I avoided learning to type properly in an effort to ensure I never had to work in an office. These days, I work in an office and write novels on the side. Typing very poorly indeed.I read all sorts of books - but seem to be capable of writing only comedic novels with snarky heroines or the occasional re-telling of a fairy tale.



Monday, August 26, 2013

Enita Meadows stops by Penny's Tales


Jei’s forgotten everything of the world he comes from—the aswang, the taste of blood, me. But he’ll remember…soon.
by Enita Meadows

MuseItUp Purchase Link:
Amazon Purchase Link:

The Aswang Gimo

Everyone has heard of Count Dracula, the most famous—or infamous—of all classic vampires. The Transylvanian nobleman, the charismatic, the cunning. Far fewer, however, know the tale of Gimo, the most notorious and revered of all aswang.

So what’s an aswang anyway? Aswang, being similar to vampires, are malevolent ghouls that live only in the islands of the Philippines. They drink blood, change their shape to hide in plain sight, and are said to live in small clans within human barangay (towns/civilizations).

The most famous of these creatures was Tiniente (“Lieutenant”) Gimo, from the small town of DueƱas in the province of Iloilo. The real man (and this is only assuming he wasn’t truly a blood-drinking demon!) was a leader to the village in which he and his family lived. It was said that he was unafraid to hide the fact that he was aswang, but did not flaunt it for any sort of personal gain. Among the townspeople, the aswang leader was both feared and respected, as he is said to have often used his abilities for defending and bettering his town and its people.

It would have been a crime if the great Lieutenant Gimo didn’t have some significance in The Aswang Wars trilogy. Although he doesn’t make an actual physical appearance in the paranormal adventure mystery, he is credited to the beginnings of the war around which it revolves, and unlike the kind guardian that some say he was, my Gimo is certainly one nasty character.

Gimo, long since vanished from the world, is the father of the Segbin clan and one of the greatest warriors in its history. The Segbin, known for their original forms of great bear-wolves—with long, prehensile tails, gnashing teeth, and dark black fur—are the real baddies of the story. It’s their goal to dominate the aswang world, and in turn eradicate the human race from their islands; and the whole thing started with Gimo’s ancient hate of Man.

Gimo also has a very special connection to the main character of the story, Jei Rivera. But since amnesiac Jei knows no more about his own past than we do, it is going to take some journeying on his part to find out the significance of Gimo’s story. We’ll just have to wait until book 2, Mantahungal, to learn the role the great legend plays in Jei’s search.

Blurb for Mantahungal

Finding his role in the great Aswang War, Jei Rivera still feels blind to the new world around him. The memories long lost still evade his recollection, while the voice in his head taunts him with the unknown. Hoping to find the origin of his own mysterious birth, Jei travels into dangerous territory once again to learn of how he came to be. But with enemies around every corner—and the most deadly foe of all living within his own mind—Jei may sacrifice his life to uncover the mystery.


This place was familiar to him, and he seemed to know every beam, every lamp, every pew, on instinct. But when he sat alone in one of a hundred tiny rooms on the second floor of the church, the only thoughts he owned were the faint trickles of mystery held in the mirror mounted on the wall.
Jei crawled toward the mirror and slowly picked himself up off the floor, feeling the sting of new wounds he’d taken for his disobedience. He pressed one palm and forearm to the glass and stared through dim moonlight at that same cold reflection, and in those shallow, haunted eyes he knew were his, he saw emotions he didn’t know before.
He pressed his forehead to the glass, stared, and the voice spoke to him once more.

That should be me.

Jei backed away from the mirror in fear, and like a wave, he began to feel. He felt the pain, the hatred, the love, the anger, the sadness, and it all swirled in his head like a wildfire. Jei yelled in frustration, and his fist slammed into the glass. It shattered all around him and fell in pieces to the floor, crashing as he stood panting with bloodied knuckles and heaving chest.
What was this? He’d never known emotions before, not in the way he knew them now. Something had been changed about him, something that transformed him as quickly as his body under a phase between physical forms. Something made him feel, his sanity held tightly by the voice within his mind. The tiny waves he’d felt once in a while months ago while fighting on the streets of Manila—knowing nothing but his own name—were nothing like the crippling tremors that plagued him now.

* * *

About Enita Meadows
Twitter: @EnitaMeadows

Bio: Enita Meadows is a nineteen-year-old writer living in Seattle, Washington. Having begun writing her first “book” at the age of ten, Enita started early and still spends most of her time at the computer penning stories, working on graphic design projects, or fueling her addiction to the internet. When she manages to pull herself away from the screen, she enjoys reading, nature walks, and spending time with any dog that will put up with her.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lizzy Stevens talks about Rachel's Legacy on Penny's Tales

2nd Edition

Revised 8-14-13

Amazon Best Seller

#35  in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Anthologies 

 Rachel Connors loved her life, and her job as a manager at a ski resort in Aspen Colorado, but after learning she was ill, she decided to take a long needed vacation to her parent's home. This was when she met Kyle Landers, who in her absence had moved into her parent's lives, and before he'd even met Rachel, Kyle had decided not to like her. Kyle had been alone in the world when Rachel's parents had taken him in; and he couldn't understand why their ungrateful daughter had chosen to distance herself from them. 
Rachel and Kyle grew closer, and she knew she was falling for him. Everything changed when  Rachel was scheduled to meet Kyle, but a call from her doctor summoned her back to Aspen, telling her parents there was a problem at work. When Kyle hears of this, he boards a plane to find her, learning the truth of her condition. Their love blossomed but it was to be short lived when on their flight back to the ranch the plane crashed. Despite an extensive search, Kyle was never found, and Rachel was forced to go on without him.

Four years had passed, and Rachel's relationship with Marcus, her new boyfriend, was moving to a different level, but at the same time, the thought dead Kyle had come out of his coma; his mind lost in the events four years earlier. After Rachel accepted Marcus' proposal, Kyle returns, leaving Rachel with a dilemma. For four years Marcus had been by her side, but now Kyle was back, wanting her just as much as he had the day of the crash. She needed to get away to make her decision, so she left for Aspen, only Kyle followed her to try to convince her that they belonged together. 

Who will Rachel Choose?   Is Kyle’s love enough to bring her back to him?

Watch the book trailer here:

Chapter One
The snow was coming down hard, quickly blanketing the ground as it fell. Rachel Connors sat on her window sill, watching it fall. The tears rolled down her face, as the thought of going back home haunted her. She hadn't seen her parents in five years, and wasn't completely positive she was making the right decision in going back now. She needed to be near family now more than ever. Rachel decided to keep her medical problems to herself. There was no sense in making her parents worry about her. She would tell them nothing.
The sound of the cab's horn jarred her out of her thoughts. She wiped the tears away and grabbed her bags. She would be staying with her parents until after the holidays. The doctors didn't need to see her until the new year. How am I supposed to forget everything and enjoy a vacation at a time like this? Rachel sat in the back seat of the cab as it headed to the airport. It would be a long plane ride from Colorado to her parents' ranch in Tennessee, an hour and a half outside of Nashville. It was always beautiful there. They always teased her growing up about being a singer, but she never had any interest in singing. She always wanted to be a talent agent. She wanted to be the one who found the talent, which was exactly what she did. She was very successful at it, until she received a job offer to manage a friend’s ski resort in Aspen. It was a great escape from the harsh realities of the past, and she grew to love her new life.
Rachel took a long nap on the plane. She had been under a lot of stress lately. It seemed like only minutes after her head hit the pillow that she heard the flight attendant say they were landing. She looked around and saw that they were coming onto the runway. She rubbed her eyes and stretched her arms before standing up.
Kyle Landers waited for her in the terminal, holding up a sign for a woman he had never met. How do I get myself into situations like this? he thought as he started to pace back and forth. He couldn't tell Sue and Tom that he wouldn't go pick up their daughter for them even though he knew he wouldn't like her. He couldn't understand how she could stay gone as many years as she did knowing her parent's missed her. Kyle would do anything for Sue and Tom. They took him in four years ago when he didn't have anywhere else to go. He had no family and them gave him a job on the ranch. He looked back and forth for Rachel. He had seen many pictures of her over the years.  Kyle decided he didn't want to give some stuck up, too good to come home to her family, uptight woman a ride. He dropped the sign into the trash can and walked out. He would tell Sue and Tom the flight must have been delayed. He felt a little bad lying to them, but he knew that their daughter could use a good lesson on how you treat people.
As she entered the terminal, Rachael looked for her ride. Her parents told her a man named Kyle would be picking her up. Not seeing him, she thought he might be outside, or in the luggage area. As she left, she saw a large cardboard sign lying in the trash can with her name on it. Where was he? Why didn't he wait? The plane was right on time.
 She collected her luggage and walked out of the building, hopeful of catching a cab. Rachel walked up and down on the sidewalk trying to hail someone, with no luck. All the cabs were busy and she wanted to go home. She grabbed her bag and started to walk. Surely somebody would give her a ride within an hour and a half’s distance, she thought. As she looked around for prospects, she saw a young man getting ready to get into his truck. “Excuse me, sir. My name is Rachel Connors. Can you please give me a ride to my family’s ranch? I'll pay for the gas and if you can't take me all the way there, I would be happy with anywhere close.  My ride didn't show up to pick me up and I can't seem to get a cab.”
Kyle shot her a look that let her know he wasn't in the mood to talk. He couldn't believe his luck. Of all the people wanting a ride it had to be the one person he wanted to leave at the airport. “Let's go. I have a lot of work to get done back at the ranch.”
Rachel didn't know what to think. “Okay,” she said, as she glanced down at the ground.
She jumped up into his truck not saying a word. Rachel felt a little uncomfortable being with him. Once she buckled in, she looked over at him. “Excuse me, but you haven't even told me your name.”
“Kyle. My name’s Kyle,” he said as he continued to drive.
“Have I done something to offend you? I don't even know you, but you seem to dislike me for some reason.”  She said, as she played with her hands nervously. “Wait a minute. Are you Kyle Landers? The same Kyle Landers that works for my father? Why were you going to leave me here at the airport? I wasn't late.”
Kyle really didn't want to get into it with her right then, but it was going to be an hour and half ride back to the ranch. He knew he would have to talk to her at some point in time. “Why don't we stop to eat? I haven't had lunch yet.”
Rachel wasn't sure if he was trying to be nice now or if he was just hungry.  “That sounds good to me,” she said even though she was still angry at him for leaving her there.
They drove for another thirty minutes in silence before turning into the parking lot of a small restaurant. Rachel had eaten at there before and remembered them having good food although she hadn't been eating much of anything lately. She hoped the trip back home would take her mind off her problems, but not bring up bad memories in the process. They found a table in the back away from everyone.
Kyle sat down and picked up a menu without speaking. When the waitress walked by he waved her over to him. “I'll take a cheeseburger, fries and a coke please.”
Rachel saw the waitress look over at her. “I'll take the same. Thanks.” She looked over at Kyle. “How long have you worked for my father?”
“Four years.” He said without adding anything more.
“That's great. My father really needed help after Bobby. . . . Well, never mind. I'm glad my father has you.” She took a sip of her soda trying to hold back the tears as she thought about her brother.
Kyle looked surprised to hear that Tom had somebody else work for him. He hadn't ever heard them talk about anyone else. “Who's Bobby? I've never heard the name before.”
Rachel looked surprised by the question. “Oh, well. . . Bobby was my brother. You would have liked him. He died six years ago in a car accident.”
“I'm sorry to hear that.” He felt bad for asking now.
The food came and they ate in silence. When they were finished, they started back to the ranch. Neither of them spoke. Rachel couldn't help but wonder why Kyle seemed to dislike her so much. How could he make a judgment so fast without even knowing her? She sat there staring out the window thinking about when she was younger.  She remembered how her and Bobby would go on long walks exploring the entire ranch or taking the horses out across the range. He would run the horse like he was in a race that he had to win. She could remember staying back, watching him go. He feared nothing and embraced life to the fullest. Rachel could feel the tears starting again. She hadn't been home in so long that she had buried the memories deep down. She always thought about Bobby during the holidays, but more so this year. Bobby would have handled the news from the doctors better than she did. Rachel wiped a tear from her eyes.
Kyle glanced over at the saddest person he had ever seen. He was beginning to think maybe he misjudged her. Could she have good reasons for not coming around? Did it have something to do with Bobby? He knew that he didn't know anything about her, but the same time he knew that he wanted to. “Is everything all right?” he asked.
Rachel wiped her eyes and sat up straighter. “I'm fine. Just memories catching up,” she said with a little smile.
Kyle could tell that she didn't really want to talk about it and he wasn't sure that he did either. “It's not much further,” he said as he wished he could take the words back. Of course she knew it wasn't much further. She grew up there. He always got flustered when he got nervous. He stared at the road, trying to focus on his driving.
Rachel could see her parents’ house coming into view as she got more excited. She couldn't wait to see her mom and dad. It had been a long time. They had visited her two years ago in Colorado, but she just couldn't bear to come back home after Bobby died. She’d stuck around home for about a year after his death and then she had to get out of there. He was not only her brother but also her best friend. She didn't know how to live without him. She knew that learning how to was one way she could remember him.
The truck stopped and Rachel jumped out as fast as she could. She saw her mother standing on the porch with a smile on her face. Rachel ran to her and threw her arms around her. “I missed you,” she said to her mom.
“I missed you too, baby. I'm glad you're home, even if it's only for the holidays,” Sue said, hugging her tighter.
“Where's Dad?” Rachel asked as she looked around.
Sue pointed into the house. “He threw his back out again. That's why Kyle had to pick you up.”
“Is he all right now?” she asked. Looking back at Kyle, she said, “Thank you for driving me home.”
Kyle nodded his head. “No problem. I'll talk to you later, I'm sure.”
Upon entering the house, Rachel found her father lying on the couch with a heating pad behind his back. “Dad, how are you feeling?”
Tom sat up with a smile. “You made it. I'm glad you're here. How was the trip?”
“It was fine. I don't think Kyle likes me much, but the trip was fine,” she answered.
Tom gave her a smile. “Kyle just takes a little getting used to. He's a good man.”
They talked for hours, sitting in the living room around the fireplace. Her mother had made hot chocolate and apple spiced cake. Her mother always made the best cakes in the world. At least that was what Rachel always thought. She loved being home again and hated to think about leaving. She decided to go take a nice long, hot bubble bath before going to bed. She needed it after all the stress she had been under lately. She planned to get up bright and early to go riding on the ranch. It had been too long time since she’d had the chance.
The next day Rachel got up and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. She walked in to the stables to pick out her horse, and saw Kyle brushing one of them.
“Good morning,” she said.
 “Hi,” he said. “Going riding this morning?”
“Yes. It's been a while. I can't wait. Would you like to go with me?” she asked, then blushed. The words came out of her mouth without thinking.
Kyle didn't know what to say. “Sure. I have time. Let me saddle up a couple of horses.”
Rachel went over to one of the stalls and started brushing a midnight black horse. Its coat was shiny and smooth. “This is my horse, buttercup. I haven't ridden her in a while. I'll get her ready for me to ride. If you don't mind?”
“No. Go ahead. I'll saddle up Ranger for me.” He walked over to the brown horse in the last stall and started getting the horse ready.
Ten minutes later, they headed off across the land. Rachel loved the feel of the wind hitting her in the face as she galloped across the fields.  Thoughts of her and Bobby racing their horses flooded her mind.
She pulled up at a creek to let her horse have some water and a rest. Once dismounted, she looked back to see if Kyle was still there. He was coming up behind her at a slower pace.
“You ride great,” he told her as he jumped off his horse.
Rachel smiled. “I love to ride. I never get a chance to anymore. The only thing I ride now is a snowmobile.”
She walked over and sat down on a big rock and watched her horse drink from the creek. Glancing up at Kyle she said. “It's okay though. I get paid good money to do what I do.”
“Money isn't everything though. You need family too.” He still wasn't sure why she moved away, but he was starting to think she had reasons, and maybe he was wrong to misjudge her the way he did. He could tell that she loved her family. Why did she leave? He wanted to know, but didn't want to come right out and ask.
Rachel sighed. “I know, and I do miss my family. It was really hard on me after Bobby died. I stuck around for about a year afterwards, but then I had to get out of here. Now I don't know what has been keeping me away. I wish more than ever that I lived here near my parents.”  She looked away with a tear in her eye. She didn't want to cry in front of him, and she didn't want this complete stranger to know anything about her medical problems.
“I'm sorry if I upset you. I didn't mean to do that.” Kyle felt horrible.
Rachel wiped a tear away. “You didn't upset me. I always get emotional around the holidays. More so now than before.”
Kyle didn't know what she meant by that, but he could see a sadness in her eyes. He stood there staring at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She was about five foot, five inches tall with long brown hair. She couldn't be more than a size six. He couldn't believe that he was looking at her that way. It was only a day ago that he had decided that he didn't like her. Things were changing for him too. He looked over at her. “I guess you and your brother were close?”
Rachel smiled as the thoughts of Bobby came back to her. “Yes, we were like best friends. We did everything together. It was really hard for me when he died.  We had spent the whole day together that day at a baseball game in Nashville. That night Bobby wanted me to go to the store for him and get him some ice cream, but I was tired and said I didn't want to. He left to go get it himself, and on his way home he was hit by a drunk driver. I can't help but blame myself. If I had gone to the store, then maybe he would still be here with us. It's my fault he’s dead.” Rachel couldn't stop the tears from falling. They were coming down like rainfall.
Kyle went over to her and took her into his arms. “It's not your fault, Rachel. You can't blame yourself. Is that why you have stayed away so long? If it is, then I think you need to come home to your family.”
Rachel wiped the tears away and walked back to her horse. “You don't understand. I can't leave Aspen right now. I have to be there. I wish I could, but I can't.” She walked over and got up on her horse, riding away without looking back.
When she returned to the stables, she removed the saddle and brushed her horse down, thinking about how great it would be if she could move back to the ranch now. But no—she needed to hear from the doctors first. Rachel was snapped out of her thoughts by the sound of Kyle walking in with his horse.
“I'm sorry I upset you. Sometimes I put my whole foot in my mouth,” he said as he walked the horse to the stall.
Rachel laughed. “You’re fine. I just get a little emotional sometimes. It's not your fault.”
“How about you let me take you out tomorrow night for dinner to make up for it?” Kyle had no idea where that came from. He was usually a little on the shy side with women.
She looked at him with a little surprise in her eyes. “I would love to go out with you tomorrow night, but I can't. Mom and Dad are going out of town to the cattle sales, and I promised that I would get some baking done for Thanksgiving for her. You’re welcome to come over and let me cook you something if you would like. We can watch a movie while the cakes are baking.”
“Sounds good to me.” Kyle said. “I'll see you then.
Rachel couldn't believe she had made a date with him. She barely knew him, but she couldn't help but think how great looking he was. He was six foot tall with sandy blond hair and a great complexion. She could tell that he worked long, hard hours out in the sun—he was well muscled and tan. She walked in the house and saw her mom over by the stove cooking. She went over to her and gave her a hug. “Something smells good.”
Sue smiled over at her daughter. “It's beef stew. One of your many favorites.”
Rachel laughed because she loved to eat. She told her mom. “Guess what I'm doing tomorrow night.”
“I have no idea, dear.” Sue answered.
“I'm cooking dinner for Kyle while you’re gone. He asked me out and I told him I had to do the baking for you, but that I would cook him dinner. He said yes.” She seemed to be talking a mile a minute.
Sue hadn't seen her daughter look that excited about anything in a very long time. “I'm glad honey, but I would be careful not to lead him on. You’re still leaving at the end of December aren't you?”
“Yes, Mom. We won't get serious. It's just one date.” Rachel tried to make herself believe it more than her mother. She went over to the cabinet to get the dishes down to set the table. Then she went to get her father for dinner.
They all sat down at the table together to eat. Rachel made small talk with her dad about the ranch and the horses. “How's it going around here lately?”
Tom looked over at his daughter. “Well, I could sure use a good manager to run this ranch. Do you know anyone that can run a whole business, like maybe a huge resort, that might be interested in the job?”
Rachel had no idea that her dad wanted her to run the ranch with him. “Dad, I can't believe you are asking me this. I would love to, but I can't right now. I have some stuff that I have to take care of back in Aspen. Hopefully I can get that all taken care of in a few months and then I would love to move back here.”
Sue’s face could have lit up the whole room. Happy didn't come close to the way she felt at that very moment. She would do anything to have her daughter back home. “What do you have to take care of?”
Rachel nearly choked on her iced tea. “What? Oh, I just need to give a notice at work. Help train somebody. That could take a few months. Then pack everything that I own and move it here. It might take me some time to get things in order, but I will work on it as quickly as I can.”
After they all finished eating, Rachel went to take a long hot bubble bath. She filled the tub to the top, and then sank down in the steaming hot water. She felt so relaxed for a few minutes. She laid there in the tub, and before she realized what she was doing, her hand reached up and fell on her breast. She couldn't help but touch it, but when she did the tears came flooding from her eyes. The doctors had found the lump in a routine exam. They told her that it may be nothing but they would have to run some blood tests and CT scans. If that didn't give them the results that they wanted then she would have to have a biopsy. Rachel laid there in the bathtub crying until her water went cold on her. She didn't know how long she had been in there but she knew she didn't want to get out.
After what seemed like hours, Rachel got out and dried off. She stood there looking at herself in the mirror for a few minutes. How could somebody as healthy as she had always been be sick now? It didn't make sense, and it didn't seem fair. Was she being punished for something? That was all that she ever thought to herself. She got dressed and crawled into bed. Maybe thinking about spending time with Kyle would help take her mind off other things.
Rachel woke up to the smell of bacon cooking. She had truly missed being with her family. She usually grabbed something quick and easy for breakfast. It had been a while since she had a nice home cooked meal like the one she smelled downstairs. She threw her robe on and headed down the stairs. When she made it to the bottom, she saw Kyle sitting at the table. She turned around and ran back up the stairs as fast as she could. She couldn't let him see her like that. She had to make herself beautiful. She ran over to the dresser and started combing her hair and putting some make-up on. She grabbed a red t- shirt and some blue jeans. When she finished getting dressed, she walked into the kitchen to find only her mother there. Her father and Kyle had already left to get started on the ranch work.
“Didn't I hear voices down here a few minutes ago?” Rachel asked as if she hadn't seen Kyle sitting there.
“Yes, you did. Your father and Kyle already went out to the back field to gather the cattle for tonight’s sale. They will be gone for most of the day. I'm sorry that you missed them,” her mother told her.
“It's no big deal. I was just wondering.” Rachel said as she acted like she wasn't really interested. “I think I'll go into town today and do some sightseeing. It's been a while since I've been home.”
“That sounds like a great idea, dear.” Sue was glad to see her daughter thinking of it more like home. She had wanted her to move back for many years now.
Rachel spent the whole day in town going from store to store looking around. She went into the music store and spent hours in there. She remembered going there with Bobby many times. It had a new owner now, but everything looked the same. Rachel picked up a couple of CDs to buy. After she left the music store she went into a small general store. The first thing that grabbed her attention was a pink ribbon pin for sale for one dollar to help promote breast cancer awareness. It seemed like she noticed more things like that now then she ever had. Rachel walked past the pin without picking it up. She didn't need any reminders telling her that she might have cancer. It was scary enough thinking about it on her own and knowing that she was going through it alone. Rachel couldn't tell her parents they could lose the only child they had left. She spent the rest of the day in town and then headed back home. She wanted to say goodbye to her parents before they left for their three day trip. They had asked her if she wanted to go with them, but she didn't want to leave the ranch. It had been too long since she had been back there. Rachel didn't want to think about leaving. She only had six weeks before she had to go back home for her doctor visit. That's when she would get the results to the CT scan and blood work. She didn't understand why the doctors couldn't get the results before the holidays, but they said the lab was overloaded with work and they were way behind. She didn't like it, but she understood.
She pulled into the driveway and saw the cattle trailer hooked up to the back of her father’s truck. She had made it just in time to say goodbye before they left. Rachel walked in and found her mother in the kitchen making notes. “What are you doing mom?”
“I'm making you a list of pies, cakes, and breads that I would like you to make for me while I'm gone. I'll be delivering them to the church when I get back. They are making baskets for needy families.” Sue told her as she handed her the list.
“Wow, Mom. You have enough stuff on this list to feed the whole state. I'll be busy all night and tomorrow too.” Rachel pretended to be angry, but the whole time she loved every minute of it. She hadn't done any baking in years. She used to love making things with her mom. It was going to be fun being in the kitchen all weekend. She walked over and gave her mom a hug. “I love you. Have a good trip.”
“We will. You have a good weekend too.” Sue hugged her daughter and then turned and went out to the truck.
Rachel went back into the kitchen to try to figure out what she wanted to fix for dinner that night. She wanted it to be perfect for Kyle. She put some chicken breasts in the oven to cook. Then she peeled some potatoes to make mashed potatoes. She sliced one of her mom's fresh loaves of bread and put some butter on the table. Rachel had everything almost finished when she heard Kyle pull in. She ran upstairs to spritz on her favorite perfume before he walked in. After double-checking her hair in the mirror, she hurried downstairs to the kitchen.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Dugan's Creek - FREE on Amazon

A devastated Heather Stone is headed to her sister's house for some TLC after her boyfriend of 3 years breaks up with her.  "I need space.  There is no sizzle in our relationship!"
As if things weren't bad enough, her car dies on a lonely stretch of highway and she starts walking.  She's hot, thirsty, and her feet are getting blisters.
A sign says Dugan's Creek.  She finds soothing cold, rushing water.....and so much more!

With Dugan's Creek, you will get a two-fer.  I entered the 2013 Word contest and my short story, The Red Cloak, was a finalist in the contest.  I decided to put The Red Cloak as a bonus story with Dugan's Creek.  I hope you enjoy my two stories for FREE!!!!  (2 days only,  August 23 & 24)