Saturday, March 10, 2012

Read An Ebook Week: Rehearsal

ad-square-sm“Hey sweetie, wanna dance?”

Duncan raised his arm to wipe the sweat rolling under his chin onto his sleeve and threw her a glance. Shagged brown hair topped her average-height frame; she was not much shorter than he was, he supposed. A modern girl, judging by the way she spoke to him and her forthright gaze. “Thank you, bu’ I am workin’.” He looked back to check on his ordered beer. Smoke from the guy next to him mixed in with the general haze in the bar and choked his mouth and throat.

She moved closer. “Not at the moment, you’re not.”

Returning his eyes, he noted a tenacity in her expression and body language. A quality he liked, to a certain extent. “Well, y’ are right. At the moment, I am tryin’ t’ cool off a bit. Then I am goin’ back t’ work.” A trickle of sweat rolled down the side of his face from underneath the damp hair falling over his forehead. Duncan dipped his head to pull the bottom of his T-shirt up, rubbed it across his face, and let it fall again.

Accepting the mug that finally came across the bar, he took a large swallow. The coolness against his hand echoed the stream of liquid in his throat.

The girl cuddled into his shoulder. “Are you ever here when you’re not working?” Fingers with painted nails touched his arm.

Ignoring a snigger from the new bartender, he again raised the mug to his lips, allowing time to consider an answer. “Now and then.” The chill of the glass distracted him from the girl’s flesh pushing against his and the flirtatious scent of her cologne.

She broke through, sliding both hands around his fingers and the heavy mug, and pulled it from him. “So maybe you’ll dance with me another night?” As she sipped his beer, she kept her eyes on his. Narrow eyes. Lashes painted longer than natural matching thick black lines extended from the corners, the brushed-on green of her lids attempting to extend the brownish-green of her pupils. It didn’t work well.

She rubbed a finger around the edge of the mug, hinting.

Duncan considered the offer. She looked fake, but not snobbish. And who was he to be too particular? “Maybe.”

She grinned and pushed the drink back at him.

“Keep it.”

He watched her move away, flaunting the beer to her table of friends, repeating the conversation, he figured, making it more than it was. He never understood the infatuation girls had with guys in local bands. Hell, this wasn’t even a good local band. His mates were okay guys, as far as it went, but barely third-rate musicians. It didn’t seem to matter. They were only background noise for pick-up lines and attempts at relaxation by intoxication in the dark out-of-the-way bar.

Dark was helpful. It disguised the niched plank floor and scratches in the old wooden tables with only patches of varnish left as pointless protection. Duncan imagined his mum would cringe about him playing at the little dive, though it was better than many he’d played. For the most part, it was kept clean, not close enough to clean for her, but enough. He was just as glad she didn’t know how he was living: day to day, city to city, jumping from one third-rate band to another while doing whatever other cash jobs he could find.

This one wasn’t bad. Joe and Mel gave him a room in their house next door and all the food and beer he wanted in exchange for restocking the bar, carting kegs, and helping Joe build the breezeway to run between the two buildings. His part of what the band made, he kept. It was enough.

Duncan ordered another beer and watched the small crowd, studying the ones he recognized as regulars and the few he didn’t. Mostly, he played to the same group every weekend. It was only a paycheck. There wasn’t one, he imagined, who would even know if he played a wrong chord now and then. They weren’t listening, not more than enough to go through the motions of dancing. Their drummer was at least decent. They kept a good beat.

A movement from the table of Thiel College students caught his attention. They were always easy to spot, dressed too well for the bar full of locals and holding their chins higher than necessary. One of them rose to retrieve his drink from the bar instead of barking an order at the girls serving. He was the only male at the table without a cigarette hanging from his mouth or fingers. Worst part of playing in bars, the damned cloud of nicotine.

The guy was heading in his direction. Duncan turned back to catch the bartender. “Is tha’ beer comin’ tonight?”

“Make that two.” The college guy moved up behind him. “And a wine spritzer. After his, of course.”

Wine spritzer. For the girl at the table sitting sideways in the chair with her legs crossed and her shoulders straight, Duncan guessed.

“How long have you been playing?”

Glancing up to make sure the guy was talking to him, he answered, barely. “A while.”

“Obviously. I meant, how many years?”

“Why?” Duncan raised his hands in a questioning gesture at the new bartender. He would have to go back and play before he ever got it, at this pace.

The intruder took advantage when the stool next to him was vacated and planted himself as if he actually belonged in the bar. “You’re wasting your talent here. You’re a hell of a guitarist.”

Thiel College, photo by Kelli Eyers

Rehearsal is a series of 5. Two are out. But they are not at Smashwords currently because I unpubbed them. Temporarily. They are being overhauled.

To my Rehearsal fans who keep asking when the next one comes out, I’m hard at work at it. It should be out this year. First, the first two will be re-released, with new edits and new covers. In print as well as in ebook.

This series was my first long piece of fiction. It began way back when as ideas and occasional scene sketches. And when I decided to return to my writing in 1996, the dock scene of the first book was the first thing I wrote. It’s a very long series. Five might not sound long, but they average around 650 pages each. And there will be a sequel. It’s already in progress. It’s a good thing some people still love thick books!

I’m excited about the new versions, since I’m using a cover idea from my daughter and hoping I can pull it off well enough. No hints. In the meantime, while I’m working on the re-releases and the new one, there are two free read short stories at Smashwords that relate to the novel. They’re called Evan’s Story and The Water’s Touch (okay I don’t spend a lot of time on titles of 2,000 word free reads).

I couldn’t highlight all the rest of my books without mentioning Rehearsal, so there’s the scoop.

Edinburgh airport sign

Did I mention the guitarist you met above is from Scotland? Not because it’s in right now. Because way back in … uh, well in high school (should I admit that was the mid 80s?), I decided he needed to be Scottish based on real music of the time. I also decided way back before I ever moved here that his best friend would be from Pennsylvania and a Thiel College grad. Funny how things work since I now live a stone’s throw from there and Scotland is one of my all-time favorite travel destinations.

Oh, the girl in the book. She’s a dance teacher who babysits part-time. She and Evan live across the hall from each other in fictional Lakewood, Massachusetts. She loves to visit Boston. So did I when we lived close.

Susie picked up the last toy from the floor and dropped it into the plastic bin she kept for Timmy and Taylor. Now that her charges had gone home, she thought about catching up on paperwork she hadn’t bothered to do yet. But she was tired tonight. So instead, she lit the three lavendar-scented candles that accented her oak coffee table, flopped onto her favorite corner of the light brown sectional couch, and pulled her legs up in front, entwining them into a knot.

The silence was deafening after having the little ones there most of the day, and she wondered if Evan would come back over. She doubted it, since his friend just arrived. What would he be like in person? Of course, she had heard a lot about Duncan and knew how excited Evan was about him coming. She also knew Evan wasn’t sure he would stay. At least she would finally get to meet him, and no matter what he was like, she would welcome him for Evan’s sake.

Even if the guy had pulled her best friend away when they were finally getting to spend time together. The show had kept her so busy recently, with extra practices and planning meetings and ordering costumes, that she had hardly been able to say two words to him in the last two weeks. And she’d missed him.

BostonSkyline-lkhI do still have print copies of the original edition of Rehearsal: A Different Drummer & Rehearsal: The Highest Aim. If interested, email for price info.





Friday, March 09, 2012

Read An Ebook Week: Finishing Touches


Jenna inhaled deeply, allowing crisp fall air to invade her body. Feeling a nip of winter creep through the open window, she pulled the plush blanket higher around her baby’s shoulders. Jenna loved the precious time spent rocking her child to sleep while he snuggled into her breast. At these moments, she felt the most connected to her only love. She also missed him the most vividly.

Running her fingertips over Aaron’s tiny head, Jenna studied the perfect little features, so like his father’s. Daniel had never tried to conceal the pride he felt whenever someone mentioned how much his son resembled him. He considered the child his greatest work of art, and his most important. Jenna’s husband had been many things, but humble was never one of them. She couldn’t help a grin at recalling his admission that he was a very good-looking guy. And he really was, or had been. Even after he got sick and lost too much weight, his features had still been perfect and his eyes absolutely beautiful.

She snuggled her baby closer and returned her gaze to beyond the window. The view from their loft was breathtaking at this time of the year, with hundreds of maple trees along the banks of the Illinois River boasting their shades of red and yellow and greenSpiritofPeoria-Hawkins-8in and brown. The Spirit of Peoria, a reproduction of the beloved old riverboats, often sailed by with passengers walking the decks or standing at the rails. Six years earlier, Jenna and Daniel watched the Julia Belle Swain together whenever they caught it floating along the river. Once, covered only with a sheet pulled from their bed, they had stood before the large window and talked of taking the short cruise on the old paddle-wheel. Some day.

“Some day” had never come. Neither had so many other days they planned. Their time together centered around his painting, but then, he told her to expect that. She hadn’t argued when he refused to go out because he was working or when she had to go to bed alone. She had been warned and willingly accepted his terms. The naivete of youth, Jenna mused. Now, there was no later for them. The Julia Belle and Daniel were both gone.

His baby stirred in her arms and Jenna coerced herself to rise slowly, moving across the loft to settle Aaron in his crib. Convinced he was still slumbering, she wandered into the kitchen to pour a cup of mint tea, a habit she had developed while carrying her first child. Daniel’s mother suggested it might help settle her stomach and it seemed to work. Even well after the morning sickness was gone, Jenna continued the routine and joked with her husband that maybe he should try it as well, to calm his nerves. He didn’t like mint tea. He didn’t like boats either, except at a distance. Alan once said Daniel’s work was the only interest they shared. Jenna quickly pointed out her advanced pregnancy proved him wrong. Her friend hadn’t been amused.


Finishing Touches was my first published novel from 2003. This one is set in my home area of Peoria Illinois, with jaunts into Chicago. It features the Illinois River and her riverboats, the trees Jenna loves, the Glen Oak Zoo, Illinois Central College, the architecture tour in Chicago, the Loop area, and the Lakeshore Drive, plus a few other places along the way.

Jenna is a very young widow with a new baby who has never figured out her own path as her mother tries to plan it for her and then her husband’s art career takes over. Left on her own, she begins to again dabble in her own artwork, letting it be both therapy and a guide to a new start. 

“Jenna, I never disliked Daniel.”

“Then why did you stop coming over?”

“Because he didn’t want me here.”

“I wanted you here.”

“You could have come over any time. Cheryl loves visiting with you. You didn’t have to isolate yourself because Daniel wanted to be isolated.”

“He didn’t want to be isolated, he just…”

“Wanted to be left alone to work. I know, but he did isolate you. You always had a bunch of friends in school you never see anymore. Have you even talked with Karla recently?”

She shook her head. He was right. She missed running around with her cousin and chatting about anything and everything.

“I didn’t dislike him; I just didn’t like what he was doing to you.”

“It was my choice and I loved being with him.”

“But you lost yourself….”

“No. Alan, I found myself with Daniel. I was lost before him and I’m even more lost without him now.”

He began to argue but decided against it. “Jen, come spend the day with us.”

With the happy couple and their three kids? “No, thank you. I don’t really feel like going out.”

“Maybe not, but you need to. There’s a new art exhibition at Lakeview. Why don’t we go see it?”

Art? “No.”


“No. Alan, I can’t…”

“Okay, what about the zoo? The kids have been bugging us to take them again…”

“Then you should do that. We’re fine right here.”

Finishing Touches is free as an ebook download currently. Find it at Smashwords, Kobo, Sony,, Diesel, and iTunes.

It’s also the inspiration for a coming young adult novel filled with art and sketches, plus, a sequel to the original novel, expected in 2013.

The baby gasped as the light breeze hit his mouth and Jenna turned his head into her shoulder, running a hand over his shiny dark hair. She stepped closer to the sign, touching her fingers to the coolnessGlenOakZoo-Hawkins-8in of the stone. The sensation triggered memories of her bare legs resting on top of the granite while Daniel carefully but quickly captured the scene with his charcoal stick. He always sketched in charcoal. He said he could get more life in a charcoal sketch than in a pencil sketch.

The leg lying against the stone had taken a while to get warm again, the other propped up so only the bottom of her foot was cold. Daniel asked her to remove her sandals because it was more natural and fitting for a zoo sign. He was the one to convince her that true art was more felt than learned. It had to come from deep within the soul.

Finishing Touches
LK Hunsaker

Novel Site
at Smashwords

[Special thanks to my sister and niece for the photos of Glen Oak Zoo, The Spirit of Peoria, and Illinois Central College]

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Read An Ebook Week: Off The Moon

two worlds collide

“C’mon Reynauld, you’re already in fryin’ water. Where’re ya going?”

Ryan veered around his bodyguard, dodged an ugly silver car doing a bad job of parallel parking, and jogged across the street. Daws would stay on his heels even if he was late, and Mac could wait. What choice did he have? Ryan paid for his time.

He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to peer up at the office building. The height made him cringe. It wasn’t even one of Manhattan’s taller buildings. Seven stories. Tall enough.

“What is up with you today?” Daws stopped at his side. “You’re edgy as hell and you’ve seen this building a thousand times. What is so fascinating?”

“Not sure. Maybe nothing.” He strode a wide angle around a couple of girls heading his way as they eyed him, pushed through the glass doors, and slid between a crowd of business suits and briefcases. It reminded him of a mud-covered pig rooting through tight-assed penguins. Grinning at the thought, he decided to hold it in his mind to use later.

Daws cut him off. “The paycheck is that way.”

“And what are you going to do? Throw me over your shoulder and make me go? Come on, lighten up. I’ll only be a minute.” He feigned anger at the body blockade. “Either get out of my way or come with me. There’s something I gotta do.”

“Something you can’t do across the street where you’re supposed to be?”

With an eye on where the girls he’d avoided were descending and joining forces with a few more, Ryan shifted out of their vision as much as possible. “Not unless you can pick this building up and move it over there. Might get kinda messy, though.”

Daws crossed his arms in front of his chest. “I’m not one of your flattering fans who thinks you’re hysterical. You’re holding everyone up and no matter who you are, their time matters…”

Ryan ignored the rant and ducked around to sprint toward the elevator. He called for someone to hold it when it started to close. Stares answered and relief showed on a suit’s face just before the door clenched tight. “Great. Guess we do the stairs.”

“Let it go, Reynauld. I promise if you’re good and play nice, I’ll bring you back after work.”

“Funny. We’re getting a crowd, you know. The more we delay, the more there’ll be and I’m not giving in.” Ryan noted the glower and did his best not to smile while near-sprinting toward the stairwell.


If you’ve been following my blog this week, you’ll recognize Daws from Moondrops & Thistles. He’s my Army Sergeant, now turned bodyguard for young pop star Ryan Reynauld. If you read Moondrops & Thistles, you’ll understand why he is now Ryan’s bodyguard and why he puts up with his antics. You’ll be ahead of Ryan, then, since he doesn’t know.

Off The Moon started as something entirely different than what it became. I sometimes let my stories do that: decide what they need to be despite what I wanted. I started with the idea of a young woman who is afraid to talk to people. As I started to develop the idea, Ryan popped his head in and kind of took over, ignoring what I wanted him to do and doing what he needed to do. He does that. I had to like him, anyway.

So this one is entirely from Ryan’s POV. When he continues to ignore Daws in the scene above, he finds Kaitlyn standing on a window ledge … uh, watching pigeons. Daws isn’t a fan of pigeons. Ryan isn’t a fan of heights. He’s terrified of heights.

His world abruptly changes. (That happens to some men when that meet ‘that’ girl, doesn’t it?) For Ryan, it gets pretty intense. It gets intense enough I recommend this one only for 17 and older. (Ryan’s language isn’t so nice at times, either, as is rather typical for… well, it’s true to his character).

Of f The Moon either yanks readers right in and holds them tight till the end, or makes them throw it across the room. At least, I figure that’s what happens when a reader tells me at the beginning she just loves it and I suddenly hear nothing more about it. It’s probably hidden in a corner underneath cobwebs. Ryan’s okay with spiders, as far as I know. For those who did finish it enough to leave a review, you can find them on the novel’s site and let them tell you what they thought. Granted, there are controversial issues. Ryan is often more an anti-hero than a hero. But he’s young. He has growing to do. And he finds a way to do that.

Of course, you can give it a try yourself, since it’s only $2.96 this week (only through Saturday at midnight!) at Smashwords. See whether it holds you in or collects spiderwebs. (Okay, I guess the ebook version won’t do that. I don’t recommend throwing an ereader across the room, not that I would do that to a book, either. But you get the drift. Drift. Water. Boats…) Ryan adores boats.

Off The Moon-LK Hunsaker

He forced his voice not to shake as he had practiced a bazillion times at the start of his career. “Is the view nice up here? Myself, I prefer the ocean view. You know, ’cause if I fall in the ocean, I can swim. I’ve yet to learn how to fly, though. But hey, to each his own, right?” He got nothing but a stare. “I bet it’s cool to watch everyone down there scurry like ants. I don’t have the nerve to look myself. Heights aren’t my thing. But hey, describe it for me. I’m visual. I’ll get it from what you say.”

Her eyes remained on his, wary. She said nothing.

“How about if you come this way more so I can hear you better? I haven’t heard a word yet.”

When he reached a hand toward her, she slid farther from him. He pulled it down. “Hey, it’s okay. I’ll listen harder. I’m Ryan. I’m supposed to be at work across the street but decided to check out your place first. Glad I did. I don’t often get to meet anyone who goes to extremes to be alone as much as I do. It’s quiet out here, huh? Well, not so much since I’m annoying you and you can tell me to go away if you want. I know how it is.” Complaining to himself about sounding so stupid, Ryan heard Daws return and tried to wave him away.


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Read An Ebook Week: Protect The Heart

AbeMaura-©LK Hunsaker

Abraham slung his backpack over his shoulders and headed down the dusty road toward town. His father asked to take him. Begged, nearly. But Abe didn’t want his goodbye, which could be his final goodbye, to be at the train depot. He wanted it at home, on their farm, where by all rights he should have been helping with chores. His father would manage without him. He had always managed. Even through the torturous years of watching Abraham’s mother drift away through the mind-dissolving dementia and then finally leave them for good, his father had managed.

Abraham hoped with every part of his soul he would return to the farm, to his father, and be there to help him manage during his aging days. It would be soon. Charles Luchner showed signs of slowing. It hurt Abe to see it. It would hurt him more to have to see his father watch him leave on that train, standing on the platform managing to control his sadness, his fear.

At the edge of his property, he kicked a rock out of his path. The long walk into town would do him good, help him prepare for what was to come. Not that he wasn’t prepared already. Constant farm chores without machinery to make them easier had built his strength and stamina well. Days of rising before the roosters to take care of the crops and the cows, and to move lines in bitter cold air and knee deep snow and in the hottest times of the summer made him sturdy. He didn’t figure war would be much harder, physically. What he wasn’t sure of was how disruptive it would be to his mind. He had no qualm about fighting as needed. He was raised to stand up for himself and those around him and did so without hesitation. And now he was proud to do it for his country. He’d never actually taken a life, though. He knew how to avoid that risk during a fight.

His father told him to be someone else out there, to tell himself he was doing good and that sometimes evil was necessary to prevent worse evil. “Never let it make you feel bad about who you are.” Charles Luchner’s voice echoed in his thoughts. “Remember your heart is in the right place and that’s what matters.” Lives came and went. They always would. The heart is what lasted. Protect the heart, he’d said.

Abraham adjusted his backpack in an imitation of adjusting his thoughts and wondered how soon his father would find the wood carving at the back side of the house. He’d done it in secret as a message for when he wasn’t there. A heart. Enclosed within hands inside an image of the farm, their farm. Abe engraved it in the back of the wooden bench swing he’d made while he kept it hidden in a corner of the barn. His father loved to sit out behind the house on nice days and simply look over their land, land passed through generations of his family, worked by many hands who loved their bit of America, as his father said. Before he left, Abe wanted him to have a more comfortable place to do it; a place that would leave a part of himself behind for his father to keep. He’d moved it out to the yard just as dawn was breaking.

As he walked, he eyed the light echo of misty mountains in the distance. There weren’t many trees in Snake River country, at least not in his part of it, in southern Idaho. What were there were rather sparse, as compared to what he’d seen during his travels back east. His father had sent him to see something of the country after he earned his diploma and before he settled in to learn how to take over the farm. Abraham’s thoughts often returned to the long train trip where he jumped off here and there to explore different territories and different people. As much as he loved the travel, he also loved the return to his mountains. To his farm. One day, it would be his. One day after that, he would share it with a family of his own. Anyway, that was his plan.

If he returned.
~~ ~~ ~~

So begins Protect The Heart, my sweet home front novel. As the excerpt shows, this one is set partly in southern Idaho, specifically the Snake River Valley around Twin Falls. I’ve been there, a few times, visiting my in-laws. It’s where my husband grew up. A beautiful place, and a natural for a story setting, particularly natural for an old-time feel story.

This isn’t a historical. I have to upfront about that. It’s actually a blend of different times, both the World War eras were ladies still wore long dresses and protected themselves with parasols, and more modern times where soldiers drive Humvees and fight in the desert. It’s a tribute to my great uncles, and to my husband, but it’s very much set around my heroine, Maura, the girl who stays home and takes care of everything and everyone around her while she’s on her own.

It’s romantic. Sweet. Emotional. True-to-life. And it emphasizes nature both in the setting of the great SnakeID-riverandcanyon-lkh River and the fact that it’s set in a small farm town with focus on growing vegetables and flower gardens (with a touch of a metaphor thrown in). There are liberties taken. For instance, every time I visited, the locals were terribly friendly and warm. It’s not quite true for Maura. The story dictated otherwise.

This week at Smashwords, Protect The Heart is only $1.46 (be sure to use the provided coupon code).  It is also available in print from The print version includes charcoal sketches by the author.

Protect The Heart is also a short read, only 191 pages in print. A great introduction to my work for those who are still new to me!

I should note at this point that all of my books are somewhat different styles (other than the Rehearsal series which maintains the style through the series). While Protect The Heart is sweet (all age safe) and uses a more old-fashioned tone, Moondrops & Thistles, which I featured yesterday, is more contemporary, more sensual, and has a feisty heroine. Off The Moon, which I’ll feature tomorrow, is fairly intense, all male POV, with stronger language and adult (controversial) situations. Rehearsal is more young adult style, although written for adults. And Finishing Touches is more mainstream, all female POV, with no strong language but lightly adult themes. If one doesn’t appeal to your personal preferences, another might. You can always read the first 10% on Smashwords before buying.

Boots-charcoal drawing, ©LK Hunsaker

Here’s a bit from Maura’s POV:

With another sigh, she grasped her parasol from the rack beside the front door and went out to the front porch. She didn’t want it opened to cover her head. The sun leaked beautiful heat from the sky and she wanted to raise her face and let it sink in. Her father would have a fit. Young women of “a certain class” shouldn’t look like farm hands. Did he think if she did marry Cameron, she wouldn’t ever help him on the farm? She supposed the wealthier farm ladies didn’t, but the thought appealed to her, maybe even more than Cameron did. She had to think caring for crops and animals would be much like working at the home in care of people, but with less heartache. The infants she always fell in love with were adopted out easily if they were open for adoption. The young mothers often settled for whatever man would have them and their children, often older men they didn’t care anything about. It hurt her to see it.

No. Maura wouldn’t be one of them. She would wait. If she didn’t find someone, she would be fine on her own. The house would go to her when her father passed. She could take care of herself as long as she had a roof over her head.

Pausing at the trellis, she fingered a morning glory and dropped the parasol back to allow the dense blue-spotted vine to provide her shade. Its soft silky petal felt much like an infant’s cheek. Delicate and yet hardy. Calming and nurturing even as it needed to be nurtured. Her mother said, when they had last sat on the front porch together, how the morning glories reminded her of Maura. Each year the plant rejuvenated itself, became more hearty, more filled in, with more blooms.

Maybe her mother was right, but she felt more like her beloved columbine with their two layers in two shades, one softly rounded, the other pointed, as if in warning. The yellow stamen shooting so proudly from the center announced their need and longing for pollination. Maura blushed at the thought. She was, after all, old enough. Twenty-three already. Quite old enough.

Protect The Heart (click for buy link)
LK Hunsaker

Protect The Heart by LK HunsakerProtect The Heart back cover







Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Read An Ebook Week: Moondrops & Thistles

Moondrops&Thistles-cover2in=== January 1991 ===

A downpour either way he turned. Opting for the lesser storm, Daws walked away from the television and toward the one small window in the sparse room. Lightning flashed thin streaks in the distance. He was drawn to it the way he was drawn to artillery fire in the night. He always enjoyed night training, the way the howitzers shot their rounds high up into nothingness and left a trail of smoke, now and then with a burst of flame. He especially enjoyed the rare bursts of flame. After tonight, he wasn’t sure that enjoyment would last. The call would come. He could do nothing but wait for it.

Thoughts of home surfaced, but he couldn’t go. He had leave time saved. It wouldn’t matter. They were on stand-by. All leave was cancelled.

Not that he had any particular reason to be home. No one was there to worry if he was there or anywhere else, but it was still home. He’d found that thought increasingly important over his ten years of service. After seven years of moving at the whims of the Army, he’d put in for his current duty station as a condition of reenlistment. He was now at least close enough to get back to the city with an easy five and a half hour drive. Daws had a fleeting thought that he should have gone drill and requested Fort Dix. Would’ve been closer. Maybe he still would.

“The liberation of Kuwait has begun.”

At Fitzwater’s voice, Daws yanked his eyes back to the screen. Apache helicopters had struck Baghdad and Kuwait. A shiver crawled through his body into his soul. He was prepared, as well as a man could be prepared for the journey into something unknown. His mind was set for it to happen. Still, he wasn’t gung ho waiting and hoping, as a few he knew. Very few. Most were resolved, aware it was their job, what they’d signed up to do if ever necessary, what they’d trained to do. They would happily go on about their business if the call didn’t come, however.

It would.

He turned from the dull light of the room to the barely dark outside the window, to raindrops reflecting the building’s security light as they fell, to tree branches whipped by rushing wind. Thunder rumbled louder, announcing the storm’s advance. Appropriate.

A sharp ring startled him, even though he was waiting for it.

As he turned the television down and grabbed the receiver, he managed to pull his well-taught military bearing into his voice, as well as his stance. “Dawson.”

“Sergeant. I assume you’re watching the news.”

“Yes, Major.”

“I wanted to be the first to let you know, although your lieutenant will send out the formal announcement within the hour. We leave tomorrow.”

Tomorrow. He’d hoped for a couple of days. Still, they’d been warned. “My men will be ready.”

“I have no doubt.” The major’s voice was calm, light. As always. “At ease, Sergeant. I can feel you at attention even through the phone.”

“Yes, Sir.”

A light chuckle preceded a pause. “Fred, it’ll be good to have you at my back.” 

This is Read An Ebook Week and I’m one of many participating through Smashwords.  The excerpt above is the opening for my newest, Moondrops & Thistles, set at the beginning of Operation Desert Storm and continuing the next couple of years. Yes, it is war related, but it is not overly graphic. It is romance, but it is still not graphic. It focuses on the growing relationship of Daws, my Army Sergeant, and Deanna, working in advertising and trying to grow in her field. In the midst of the relationship, Army life is depicted (honestly, not the way you often see on television and in some other novels) and they deal with separations and effects of battle. It also shows Deanna’s struggle through iffy choices and a male-dominated career. It is societal. It is romantic. It is deep characterization and question-asking.

And it’s on sale this week in ebook format for 25% off. (I meant to make it 50% off but that puts it less than $0.99 which is not supported.) 

Its counterpart, Moondrops & Thistles, short & spicy, is also 25% off. At roughly 2/3rds the length, much of the societal and war issues are removed and love scenes are a bit more intense (more straight genre romance, with more focus on Deanna than on Daws). Barely over $0.99 this week, it’s a bargain for romance lovers!

It starts like this:

M&T-S&S72-5in“Moron.” Deanna swiveled back toward her desk and half wished the man would have heard her. She supposed that would be grounds to get fired, though. Maybe she didn’t care.

Of course she cared.

At twenty-seven, she expected to be more than just assistant to a production manager. She did more of his work for him than she was paid for, or that was ever acknowledged. She’d been at the top of her classes, even while supporting herself with the waitress job that quickly led to the hostess job – she had great people skills. Her mother used to say it would be her saving grace, if she could rein it in and throw it the right direction. Deanna long ago decided marketing was the right direction. She could talk her way out of, or into, most anything. She critiqued every commercial and every advertisement, seeing things she’d do differently. Maybe she wasn’t always right, but she could always convince someone she was. She had her hard-earned business associates, strong in English, along with her graphic art certificate. And she had six years with the same company. Whatever the socio-political scene these days said, advertising was still a man’s business and harder for her to be granted the respect she’d earned.

But that was the game and Deanna would keep playing it while she worked her way up. Not the way he wanted her to do it, either, the slime ball. So she wore her skirts fitted instead of baggy and droopy. She wasn’t droopy. There was nothing at all droopy about her and she wouldn’t pretend otherwise. All those mornings at the gym weren’t for nothing. It didn’t mean he had the right to assume she was what she wasn’t.

Moron. All men were nothing but morons. A shame she still needed, wanted, one of them. Not that one, though. Not if her boss was the last man on earth. Well, maybe then. After all, he did have the right parts. At least she assumed he did.

Allowing herself a chuckle and hoping if it ever came to getting stuck with the last man on earth that his parts would be worthy of the task, Deanna dropped the folder holding next week’s potential schedule onto her desk and checked the time. Ten more minutes. Then she could walk out of this metal and glass excuse for a building and find somewhere more quaint.

There were still a few quaint bars in Manhattan. Some still had pretty brick or stone fronts instead of metal and glass. Of course, they all held the same scum-bag mentality men: looking for one thing and pretending otherwise. Such a difference from her little hometown. Kentucky didn’t have much to offer as far as the kind of job she wanted, but it did have real men who weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty or open a door for a lady. Men who still said ma’am and please and thank you. She had no doubt they were looking for the same thing, but at least they were more often polite while doing it.
~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

The title of Moondrops & Thistles came from an Abraham Lincoln quote and meshes with the characters. 

Interested? This is a great week to check it out in either version, or both! If you buy one version and decide you’d like to try the other, leave a review for the one you read on Smashwords, let me know you want the other, and I’ll send you a deeply discounted coupon code for it.

I also have the full version available in print for those of you who would rather have the book in hand. Go to for purchase info. They come personally signed with a couple of bookmarks, one for you and one to share with a friend.

Interested in an interview for your blog about this book or my work in general? Email! I love interacting with readers!

Over the rest of the week, I’ll feature my other books here. Come back each day for new excerpts!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

In the Name of Fear

UK2008-493lkhMarch 1, 1692 began the infamous Salem Witch Trials.

Three hundred and twenty years may feel like a long time to us, but in history, it’s a very small drop of water in a large well. Fortunately, the Salem Trials didn’t last long. In October, Massachusetts Governor Phipps put an end to it and freed over 100 people who were to be condemned in mock trials. Sometimes it does only take on person in the right place of power to prevent atrocity.  

Speaking of wells, the photo is what used to be a well built as a memorial in the spot where around 300 suspected witches were burned at  Edinburgh Castle. Single women living on the fringe of society were most often accused. Some sources will say husbands even accused their wives as an easy way to dispose of them when they no longer wished to be burdened with them.

It was hardly only an American and Scottish atrocity. Witches were burned in England, Ireland, and Wales, as well, with Ireland and Wales having the fewest numbers. It also wasn’t a new phenomenon. There have always been witch hunts of some kind, since the beginnings of written history or longer. 

All countries have their witch hunts even today. They come in many forms. Republicans, Democrats, Tea Partiers, Congressmen...  Okay,  well maybe those of a certain religion or a lack of religion. Maybe those who make comments we don’t understand or agree with. Those who speak above our heads or those who can’t find an ounce of common sense. Those on the fringe who live differently. Those who make “too much” or those who don’t make anything for 30 years and still live better than those of us who have worked constantly for 30 years.

All witch hunts have one commonality: FEAR.

Back in the Middle Ages, people were afraid due to the Black Plague, to strange weather patterns, and of the fight between the Protestant Reformation followed by the Catholic Reformation. Men were beginning to be fearful of women who were learning how to defeat the plague of malnutrition and otherwise educating themselves (Men should very well be afraid of a well-educated woman! You know that’s the big reason so many Old Testament passages mark the man as in charge of the wife, because they were afraid of letting women have power. It’s also the reason women couldn’t vote for so long.). There was a lot of fear going around. It was all due to one thing: the unknown.

They had no idea what was causing the plague. Or the weather shift. They were at a loss as to which religion was right and who would go to hell for believing the wrong one. They were very much convinced that bad things happened due to some reason they thought they could put a finger on, and so many fingers were put on any reason they could find.

Have we changed much since then? Yes, we know what caused the plague, but we blame everything under the sun for causing cancer, including the sun. We know … well, scientists tell us why the weather shifts but even they argue among themselves. It’s cars, it’s humans, it’s cow manure, it’s … well, they don’t know for sure and that leaves us in a panic.

We’re supposed to CONTROL our worlds, aren’t we? How do we do that if we don’t know the cause? Who do we blame?

We’re big on blame.

We blame Republicans and Democrats. We blame Christians and Atheists (and every other religious belief). We blame God when we have troubles or we refuse to believe in God because He “lets” bad things happen. We blame business owners. We blame workers. Sometimes we’ll actually take blame ourselves. Sometimes we blame ourselves far too much.

It all comes from fear. 

Today’s big witch hunts are against bullies and homosexuals. Why? Granted, bullies are to blame for many things. But then someone or something made them the way they are. They didn’t come out of the womb bullies, did they? Shouldn’t we also take responsibility in how we deal with bullies? Maybe our reactions feed them or weaken them. Yes, we’re afraid of bullies. That’s understood. But what is a bully? It could just be those making laws we don’t like. It could be those rebelling against laws in a profane or violent manner. How do we know it’s not us? Is that what we’re afraid of? 

Why the big fear over gay marriage? Why the fight? Homophobes are afraid for a reason. Do they know why? Is it because their church tells them it’s “wrong” as though any human has the one right definition of right or wrong? Do they believe, as people did in the Middle Ages, that those living “in sin” are bringing tornadoes and earthquakes and the possible end of the world?

Seriously? Have we not come farther than that yet? If we know better, why do we care who gets married? Think it’ll rub off like the Black Plague?

Fine. We’re afraid. That’s okay. What’s not okay is to blame everything under the sun for bad things happening when … guess what? Bad things happen. They just do. Weather happens. Disease happens. Imagine how population would thrive if disasters, disease, and war didn’t happen. Then it would be starvation, just as if hunters don’t decrease the deer population, the deer starve.

We’re so afraid of death because of the unknown. We don’t know what happens next, or if anything does. It scares us. We’re afraid of those different than us because we don’t understand why they are. We’re connected and we want to understand. All well and fine. But maybe, just maybe we don’t need to understand. Maybe we can just shrug and say fine, so be it. What comes, comes. Yin and yang. Good and evil. Right and wrong. Republican and Democrat. Balance. Nature has a way of working itself out beyond our control.

How about taking a deep breath, throwing up your hands, and making your day more joyful by realizing you can’t control everything (something I tell myself often, since I’m a bit of a control freak – silly, I know). How about you run your life and I run my life and if you don’t try to run mine, I won’t try to run yours?

If I’m wrong about the sinners not taking the whole world into hell, I guess I’ll have to shrug and apologize later. But just like every Doomsday prophecy so far, I haven’t seen any actual evidence of that happening. Or maybe hell is what sinners are creating in their own worlds that overflow into ours?

“Men are not punished for their sins, but by them.”
Kin Hubbard

Maybe he’s right.

I’m a big believer that the Ten Commandments were meant as guidelines as to how to make our lives happier. I do believe we would be happier if we followed them. For ourselves. Not to use them to judge others. (Okay, I do believe murderers and such should be jailed because you know … they’re interfering with other people’s rights to run their own lives.)

So how about we all relax? How about we stop being so rude and vile and making those around us so unhappy? How about we argue our own case with respect for those with whom we argue, with full recognition either of us, or both of us, could be wrong? No name calling. No blaming one whole group for any one thing we don’t like (witch hunt!). No personal attacks on our opponents’ character (he who has no sin, cast the first stone).

I’m willing to try this out. Anyone else? I have plenty of fear. Trust me: Heights. Closed-in places. Large dogs. Mice. Social situations. Wondering if I parent correctly and well enough. Thinking I may be far too neglectful of friends and it may backfire on me. The thought of my very opinionated opinions hurting those I don’t want to hurt (I don’t want to hurt anyone, really, like them or not). Knowing I might actually be wrong now and then (that’s a joke, son). Loss. I have a huge fear of loss (which is why I so often write about it).

Fine. I have fear. That doesn’t mean I should insist no one ever get on a ladder or in an elevator, play with a large strange dog, not jump up on a chair if a mouse is in the room, or talk in public. I’m glad others can do those things without fear. I don’t understand how the do, but I can appreciate their difference that allows things to happen that I won’t make happen.

What is it that scares you about whatever it is you’re so against? No need to tell me. Journaling is wonderful therapy (so is novel writing). But ask yourself: What’s so scary about it?

Oh, why did Ireland and Wales have fewer witch trials? Simple. They blamed fairies for misfortune instead. Maybe we can just do that.

(If I’m captured by fairies and held hostage in revenge, someone come bail me out, please.)

UK2008-449-lkhEdinburgh Castle
(talk about a fortress against fear!)