Saturday, June 28, 2014

Meet Kaitlyn. . .

Born of Irish blood emigrated to the United States by her mother and her father's parents, Kaitlyn Mac Veigh was the picture of a stereotypical Irish lass.  Her coppery hair fell in loose curls to the middle of her back.  Her fair skin was freckled everywhere the sun could kiss.  And her bright eyes were the color of a clear summer sky.

Kaitlyn never met her grandfather, but Móraí (MO ree), her grandmother, lived with her from her earliest memories.  Móraí was a pillar in Kaitlyn's childhood even before her mother died from pneumonia she contracted while hospitalized after an appendectomy when Kaitlyn was just three.  Then, when she was just starting third grade, a car accident ripped her father away.  After that it was just Kaitlyn and her grandmother.

But Móraí raised the young girl as she had been raised in Ireland. The older woman came from a line of traditional celtic healers, and she began teaching Kaitlyn the different herbs before the girl could walk and talk.  Kaitlyn proved to be a meticulous and innovative student, devouring Móraí's teachings with the fervor of a cat with a can of tuna. 

There were times when their Celtic beliefs cost a young Kaitlyn her friends, or made her the center of ridicule at school.  These instances left burning holes in her spirit that she was never able to extinguish or fill.

Grace was Kaitlyn's only real friend in school.  The girls had been close since working on an eighth grade science project together.  They became friends right away, and spent hours forming the type of friendship that should last a lifetime.  

Because of her past experiences, Kaitlyn was careful to keep her Celtic background and practices to herself.  Especially once she learned that Grace's family was devout Christian.  She never lied about her religious beliefs, but she never told her friend about them either.

One day, in eleventh grade, Grace asked Kaitlyn to go to a weekend youth-group retreat with her.  Grace assured Kaitlyn the group had no specific religious orientations, but once they were there it became clear that it was a Christian-based youth group.  

Feeling betrayed, Kaitlyn was quiet and withdrawn throughout the weekend.  When Grace confronted her the second night, Kaitlyn admitted to not being Christian without divulging her religious beliefs.  Her friend was shocked.  Having lived in a family with such strong Christian beliefs had left her blind to the fact that not everyone was Christian.  She immediately started preaching to Kaitlyn, trying to convert her.  She even took the matter to one of the youth group leaders, begging him to help save her friend.

This made Kaitlyn angry, and she went to find a quiet spot for some privacy.  At the edge of the woods, she performed a ritual for inner peace and understanding.  But Grace had followed her.  When she saw Kaitlyn doing her ritual, she screamed, pointing at her from a distance, and yelling, "Witch!  You're a witch!" 

Kaitlyn had been raised with peace as the center of her spirituality, but this horrid accusation screamed at her by her best friend lit a fire within.  As she stood from her small circle of sticks she had formed, her arms went stiff at her sides, her fingers spread wide.  Flames born from nothing but the earth and twigs flared waist-high, licking the air before abruptly extinguishing without a trace they were ever there.

Screaming in terror, Grace turned and ran for the lodge.  But she wasn't the only one frightened by the burst of flames.  Kaitlyn was also taken by surprise.  While Grace ran from her, tearing their friendship with each step, Kaitlyn collapsed to the ground, her bare feet to the side, her arms propping her up, her hair curtaining her broken expression.

Two leaders ran out to get Kaitlyn.  They half-carried her trembling body back to the lodge where she could hear the hysterical babbling of Grace recanting the tale.  Bringing her a glass of water, they asked her version of what happened.  But she wouldn't speak.  These people may not seem as fanatical as Grace and her family, but you never knew.  No amount of avoidance would make the story any less crazy without twisting it.  Kaitlyn wouldn't lie, so she said nothing at all.

That night she stayed in the common room of the lodge with her bag at her side.  In the morning, after eating breakfast alone while the other kids murmured to each other and peeked at her over their shoulders, Móraí picked her up in her gold Corolla.  No words were spoken, and Kaitlyn eventually succumbed to her exhaustion from not sleeping through the night.

At home, Móraí pulled ancient volumes bound in leather from the highest shelf of the bookcase.  Then she made a phone call while Kaitlyn ate a honey cake and drank fresh orange juice.  The food and drink was her best bet to regaining her lost energy, according to Móraí.

From that day on, Kaitlyn was taught how to control her powers by Móraí and a woman introduced as Brighid.  Kaitlyn knew the name from an early age, but she speculated if Brighid was indeed the goddess whose name she used.  Throughout the years of teaching, while Móraí aged gracefully into her elder years, Brighid seemed ageless.  She always appeared middle-aged, but her wisdom belied her apparent years.  Maybe it was just good makeup, but Kaitlyn had a feeling there was powerful magic behind it.

When Móraí became very ill, a twenty-seven year old Kaitlyn, adept at her healing arts, was able to prolong her life for less than a year.  In the end Móraí succumbed to the frailties of her mortal body and left Kaitlyn alone in a world that rejected her for her religious beliefs and magical abilities.

Now, at the age of thirty, Kaitlyn had only Brighid for a friend.  A powerful ally, to be sure, but loyalty among the deities was fragile at best.  Sure, the world had become much more tolerant and accepting, but Kaitlyn had been too badly burned by Grace's rejection.

She ran a business using her homegrown herbs.  Móraí's Medley, she called it.  Local produce stands, the kind that were permanent and only closed for the winter, and natural foods stores sold her blends of culinary herbs and teas. She stocked the shelves herself, making weekly trips to each of her retailers.  This way she knew what the consumers wanted, not the sellers.  She would make recommendations to the retailers based on her observations, they would tell her of any special requests, pay her to restock the shelves accordingly, and she was on her way.  She also sold online, but who didn't?

There were the occasional customers who heard through the town babble that Kaitlyn had special powers for certain things.  They would call the contact number for the business and indicate that they needed something special.  A lover's betrayal, or the desire to be noticed would be followed by a request for a love spell or potion.  A resentful employee or someone struggling to keep a job might request a spell or tonic for success and wealth.  And there were always those angry people who wanted revenge for whatever reason because they felt they had been wronged.

But Kaitlyn didn't use her art for those purposes.  She stuck to healing.  It was her calling.  Móraí had tutored her since birth.  Brighid had helped her develop and control her magic.  So, when a suffering soul called on her for help with a medical ailment, she heeded.  

This was the part of her business where she gained the most joy.  For her clients, she mixed teas and culinary herbs, bath oils, aroma therapy, salves, and lotions.  She also made her own eye pillows filled with herbs for different sleep troubles, wraps for sore or injured muscles and tendons, and even satchels to keep under the bearer's pillow or in a pocket or purse.  These medicinal treatments were imbued with magic to speed the user's healing, but she kept that to herself.  Instead, she showed her credentials as a certified and licensed herbalist and let the clients use their imaginations as to why or how her products and methods worked so well.  After all, the magic meant nothing for those people without the herbs it imbued.

She knew all her clients by name, both retail and private, but none of them were friends.  She secluded herself from all things social, delving into furthering her herbal studies and strengthening her magic instead.

And then she met David.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sunday Snippets (On Friday)

This is my second foray into this LinkUp.  I think I may have missed a week while I was lost in the revamping of The Sheepish Gardener.

This is 6 paragraphs--no more, no less--from a work in progress (Church Hill on the page link above).  I think a glance at the setting for this snippet is in order.  

So here, Ella and Dominic are relaxing on a pile of hay bales while Allison (Ella's daughter) helps the farm owner take care of the horses after they all went out on trail ride.  It's important for those who haven't read what happened before to know that Ella, Dominic, and Allison are on the run from a drug lord who has already had Ella's husband and friend killed.  She and Dominic have a past that runs deep and involves the man chasing them.


The feather touch of Dominic’s finger trailing up and down my arm was hypnotizing.  I drifted into a half-sleep state, aware of my surroundings, but seeming to float at the edge of a dream.  Fingers pulled gently through my hair.  A soft caress along my jaw, over my lips.  Enticing.  My lips parted, and the touch deepened. My tongue snaked out to wet the tingling skin.  Feathers slid down my neck, lifting my chin to the side.  Warmth dotted where the feathers left, starting at my collar and slowly creeping up to my ear.
He took my earlobe into his warm, wet mouth, tugging gently.  Large, gentle hands cradled my head as his lips danced along my jaw, leaving a trail of sweet expectation.  That warm thumb teased my parted lips before his tongue traced desire along the curves.  Then his mouth was on mine.  Gentle, kneading lips pressed their possession on my own.  And I accepted that possession willingly, opening my mouth to devour him, wrapping my arms around his strong back.  It had been too long since I’d felt him this way.
“Michael,” I murmured into the kiss.
And that ended my dream.  As the warmth pulled away from me, my eyes snapped open to find Dominic staring at me.  His eyes wore the pain of a broken heart. He turned from me and stood. 
I grabbed for him, catching his wrist.  “Dominic,” I said, my voice rough from my light slumber and the shock of dream versus reality.  He stopped, but didn’t turn.  “Dominic, please.  I fell asleep.  I was dreaming.  Please.  Don’t be angry.”
He sighed.  “I’m not angry, Ella.  I understand.  A lot’s happened in the past couple days.  In your heart, you’re married to Michael.  I shouldn’t have pushed you.  I’m sorry.”  He tugged lightly at his arm, and I let go.

You can find other Sunday Snippets here.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Trying a Linky List

This is a random post because, thanks to a fellow blogger, I discovered an author blog that started a Linky List on Sundays.  It's called #SundaySnippets.  The rules are simple:

1. Sign up in the Linky List below. The Linsky List will go live 12:01AM Monday and will close at 11:59PM Saturday night every week.
2.Post 6 paragraphs (no more, no less) from either a WIP or a published work. The post must be live by 9:00AM Sunday.
3. Open to both un-published and published authors.
4. Post the link back to the Sneak Peek Sunday so that others can hop along. Feel free to copy and use the Banner on your own blog or to promote your entry.

This is a WIP that's only just begun.  There is no title yet, but if you're new here please take a look at other pieces on my blog.  I'm always looking for new readers and their feedback.  We aspiring authors need all the help we can get. 


It was less than a minute, when Eleni came out of the bathroom wearing faded jeans that kissed every curve from her hips to her knees before flaring out to cover the tops of her sneakers.  “This was the only pair of non-work jeans I got when your mom took me shopping.  She insisted I get them.  What do you think?  Do they look okay?”  She turned sideways, looking behind her at her backside.  “I think they’re too tight and showy.”

“No.”  Ryan almost choked on his tongue trying to interrupt her self-negating.  “They look great.”

Her head came up, her eyes meeting his as a blush crept up her throat to color her cheeks.  Then she dropped her gaze, just as quickly.  “Thank you,” she murmured.

Taking a deep breath, Ryan ran his hand through his curls again.  He had to get this woman to relax around him.  “All right.  Let’s go,” he said, clapping his hands together.  

Eleni flinched at the sound, and Ryan cursed himself.  He had learned she was jumpy with sharp, loud sounds.  Especially in enclosed spaces.  She blamed it on sensitive ears, but he suspected it was related to the scar marring her beautiful face.

“I’m sorry,” he said in a softer voice.  

Check out the other Sunday Snippets.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Chapter 35 (part 2)

A sound woke me.  Looking at the clock, my eyes struggled to focus on the blue numbers illuminating the room.  Three-thirty.  

Another sound whispered on the ground below the window.  It sounded like a large animal fussing in the bushes against the house.  

Then came the distinctive shushing issued to tell another person to be quiet.

My heart stopped for a few beats as I listened without moving.  The sounds were still there, but much more muffled.  I thought I could hear voices, too.

Moving very slowly, I slid my legs to the floor, rolling out from under the covers into a kneeling position by the bed.  I slid the Samantha’s pistol from its hiding place between the mattress and headboard and crawled to the window.  

I knew better than to move the curtains, but a quick glance told me I would see nothing otherwise.  So, ever so slowly, I stood to my full height and pulled the edge of the fabric aside just enough that I could see the bushes along the house.  

Why did Samantha have bushes surrounding her house, anyway?  Didn’t she know, especially as a cop, that they gave intruders a place to hide?  The ones around her basement windows were the worst.

And that was exactly where a saw the first figure.  A man crouched in the window well, a small pry bar in his hands.  Apparently he was going to attempt to pry the thin glass window out of its frame.

Why aren' they block windows? I found myself thinking.  Samantha needed to take a class on home safety.  Sure she had weapons and the training to use them.  Maybe she even had hand-to-hand combat training.  But home safety was about preventing the need to use weapons or fighting skills in the first place.  The goal was to keep criminals out.  

There was another figure on the far side of the bushes.  This one had a familiar bulk, but he was in shadow, so I couldn’t be certain it was who I thought.

I heard the frame of window give with a creak and a pop.  A flashlight swept through the rectangular hole where the dirty glass had just been. Then the beam swung to the face of the man behind the bush.

A sharp intake of air had me dropping the curtain and moving across the room to wake Allison.  I had to hide her first.  The closet was obvious, but since I didn't know my way around, it was my only option.  Under the bed, Allison wouldn’t be able to move fast enough if she needed to run.

Once she was huddled under a pile of clothes in the back corner, I hurried to Samantha’s room.  Her door creaked as I pushed it open.  She rustled the sheets as she moved at the sound.

“Samantha,” I whispered, creeping farther into the room.  “Samantha.  Wake up.”

Her movements hushed, she climbed out of bed and stood fully clothed with her pistol at her side.  “What’s wrong?” she whispered back.

“Two men are breaking into the basement.”

Her curse was barely audible. 

“One of them is Carwahl.”

At that, her emerald eyes flew to mine.  “Carwahl?  You’re sure?”

I nodded, searching her eyes in the dark for more information.  I thought I had it.  “He was at the hotel, wasn’t he?  That’s why we left in a cab.”

She nodded.

I huffed out a breath.  “Okay.  So what now?”

“Where’s Allison?”


She nodded again.  “We have the advantage of knowing they’re here.  The basement door leads into the kitchen.  You said there were two?”

“Yeah.  Carwahl and another guy.”

“But there could be more,” she finished for me.

I nodded.

“Okay. I want to keep them away from the stairs.  Away form Allison.  So let’s greet them when they come through the door.”  I followed her into the hallway.  “Follow me.  I know the silent way through my house.”

I didn’t reply, just followed behind her, gun at the ready.

She stayed to the right of the stairs, against the wall.  At the bottom, she skipped the third step.  After she checked the front door lock, we headed into the living room.

The basement door clicked open and squeaked on the hinges.

Our time was up.  Now we had to confront the enemy with maybe a bit less of our element of surprise.

Samantha crept toward the dining area of the kitchen, signaling me to head back the way we came.  I would cover the hall.  

Slinking back to the threshold, I pressed my back against the wall, gun at the ready.  I looked for shadows moving in the floor and walls, but the dark hour and no lights threw everything in shadow.  None of them moved.  I heard careful footsteps in the kitchen.  It sounded like the men were checking dark corners, though I couldn’t understand why if they thought we were sleeping.

Maybe I should be with Samantha, I thought.  She was closer to them, and if they were both armed what were the chances surprising them wouldn’t end badly for her as well?

A floorboard groaned under the weight of an intruder.  They both whispered a curse, one of them hissing at the other to be careful.

Without warning light flooded the back of the house.  The men shuffled for cover.

“Freeze.”  It wasn’t a yelled command, but Samantha’s voice seemed to boom through the silence of the house.

Now there were shadows on the front door.  Both were holding their arms in the air.  Both still had guns in their hands.  

“Drop your weapons,” Samantha ordered.

I watched as the shadows slowly lowered their guns to the floor.  Peeking around the corner I could see Carwahl and a younger man, the latter closest to me.  I could see his eyes watching Samantha as he “looked” at the floor.  Just before his pistol reached the ground, his jaw tightened and he gripped his gun tight in his hand.  

I whirled around the corner, the barrel of my gun aimed at the young man.  

“Sam!”  I yelled to warn Samantha.  She took the cue.  

Three shots fired in rapid succession.  Each from a different gun. Samantha shot Carwahl.  My shot hit the younger man’s crouched form, entering his chest just behind his arm as he shot at Samantha.

The two men went down, followed by the sound of Samantha crashing into the table and chairs behind her.  With my gun trained on the men, I rushed to her.  

“I’m okay,” she said, her hand pressed to her leg.  

Bending down to her, I found her pants were soaked in blood and shredded on her left calf.  The bullet appeared to have sliced through the outside of her leg.  When I touched it she sucked in a breath and cursed at me.

“Get their guns,” she told me.  “And check their pulses.”

I pushed the weapons toward her.  Carwahl had a weak pulse, but the other guy was gone.  My bullet must have gone through his lung and hit his heart.  Either that, or he had drowned in his own blood.

“Nice shot,” Samantha said.  

A pounding on the front door made me jump.  I grabbed my gun and headed for the front through the living room so I wasn’t a blinking target for another potential bad guy.

“Samantha!”  The male voice yelling her name was powerful. 

“Jonny,” she said.  “My neighbor.”  She pointed toward the front of the house.

I looked through the peephole just as the man yelled again.  “Samantha.  I’m going to break the door in.”

Making quick work of it, I unlatched the door and pulled it open a crack keeping my leg behind it.  “Who are you?”

“Officer Bramish.  State Police,” he said, stepping into his professional role.  “Who are you?”

“Ella,” I offered.  “You got ID?”  Maybe it wasn’t the time to be particular with Samantha    already shot and one of the bad guys still alive, but I wasn’t taking any chances. 

Officer Bramish held up a black leather case, revealing his badge and photo ID naming him as Jonathan M. Bramish, Pennsylvania State Trooper.  “Where’s Samantha?” he asked, peeking around me into the house.

I let him in, shutting door so close to his back, he jumped a bit.  He was tall.  Over six foot.  With dark hair cropped close to his head and graying at the temples.  He had pulled on his socks and boots under cutoff sweat pants and a shoulder holster.  His gun was in his hand.  It would’ve been a pleasant view in different circumstances.

“I heard gun shots.  Where’s Samantha?”  His eyes fell to the pistol in my hand, then took in my bandaged arm.

“Dining room,” I said, pointing down the hall.  “We got the guys, but she’s shot.”

Jonny, as Samantha had called him, hurried down the hall with his weapon pointed at the men on the kitchen floor.  He didn’t waste time talking to me.  When he saw Samantha, he dropped to his knees at her side.  “Samantha.”  There was a hint of something in his voice.  Something more than just professional concern.

She looked up at him with a shaky smile.  “Jonny,” she answered.  

“What happened here?”  He examined her wound tenderly.

She sucked in a breath.  “I got shot, you idiot.”  Swatting his hand from her injured leg, she snapped, “Don’t touch it!”

Jonny turned his sharp gaze on me.  If I hadn’t lived through the past few days’ events, I would’ve cowered into a chair under the steel-blue stare.  

“These men broke into the basement, and Samantha and I caught them.  The one guy’s dead, I think.  The other has a gut wound, so he’s still alive, but barely.  The dead guy shot her.”  The words tumbled out with the hope of turning those cold eyes from my face.  

Jonny stood, holstered his gun, and walked to the sink to wet a towel for Samantha’s face.  Only after he had made her a bit more comfortable did he turn back to me.  

“That was very succinct,” he said.

“It’s what happened.”  My tone bit, but I didn’t care.  I was fed up with cops, and no matter how he seemed to care about Samantha, I didn’t know this guy from a city hoodlum.  Badges had lost their power for me.

Samantha put her hand on Jonny’s arm and squeezed.  A simple nod confirmed my story, but that didn’t mean he thought I was clean.

Silence fell between us, encasing the bright kitchen in a shadow of mistrust.  In the distance the howl of sirens began to flood the night.


My heart stopped, my blood icing in my veins at my name ripping down the stairs.  My daughter’s voice so full of terror it cracked.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Discovering Laura Drake

Wow!  It's been a long hiatus, and while I could blame the weather, or the holidays, or my kids' school, there really is nobody and nothing to blame but myself.  I did crank down in November and early December to get ready for my first "craft show" with the gourd art my mom and I do (Mom & Me Gourds shameless plug), and that put everything else on hold.  But, the date passed, and still no writing.

I'm coming back, though.  And, to get back into it I'm writing a review of a book I received in a giveaway.  I had the option of more than several books to be given away by Sharla Lovelace, and when I won I narrowed it down to four.  I couldn't decide between them because they were all so different and new authors to me, so I asked her to surprise me.  

The book, along with a $15 gift card to Barnes & Nobel, arrived in my mailbox Christmas Eve.  I opened the bubble envelope Christmas Day and pulled out The Sweet Spot, by Laura Drake.  I was thrilled to get another Texas cowboy romance, and this one was different from the "typical" romance. . . It involved a hero and heroine who had already been married to each other, but had that marriage shattered by tragedy.

The back cover reads:
Charla Rae Denny was the perfect wife with a perfect life, content to keep the home fires burning while her husband, JB, competed as a champion bull rider.  Then their son died in a tragic accident--and everything fell apart.  Divorced and saddled with a hill of bills and a failing ranch, Charla must now cowboy up to put her life back together.
James "JB" Denny doesn't stay where he isn't welcome.  So when Charla shut him out of her grieving heart--and their home--a year ago, he took comfort where he could find it.  Now after seeing beautiful Charla again, he wants it all back.  She can't work the ranch alone, and deep in his heart he knows he can be the man she needs.  But after so much history and heartbreak, can JB convince Charla to take a risk and give their love a second chance?
I was drawn to this story because it's not your typical man-meets-woman-woman-fights-falling-for-man-but-does-anyway sort of romance.  I liked that they were once married.  I liked that the worst thing I could imagine was what blew a canyon between them.  (Not that I relished in that tragedy, mind you.)

The story opens with Charla occupying herself in a homemaker sort of way.  Fighting the draw of her addiction that began with the death of her son.  Boom!  She already has a vulnerability that affects her daily life, making other life struggles that much more difficult.  And she is faced with another almost immediately: money.  And that's where JB comes in.

JB spends almost the entire book trying to convince his ex-wife, who so obviously still loves him in some tucked-away treasure chest in her heart, that he has grown as a man.  He's trying to show her how much he still loves her.  To regain her trust.

And Charla turns him away at every turn.

But she is changing and growing, too.  She has a ranch to run, after all, so she pushes through old fears to take care of what takes care of her.  She makes a new friend who knows nothing of her past, helping her to move into the future.

Laura Drake's The Sweet Spot is a Romantic Times Top Pick and won "Best Debut of 2013" in the 2013 Curvy Book Awards.  And there's good reason for that.

Drake's prose is poetic, using fantastic imagery to take you from your sofa on to the Denny ranch in east Texas.  Her metaphors are an Indian summer to the hackneyed phrases of the past decades. The dialog feels real, true to the characters speaking.  The characters are so full, even the minor ones, it feels like you know them personally.

But I think my favorite thing about this book was the emotion.  Drake pulls you into the the lives of Charla and JB and makes you feel what they feel:  the heart-wrenching pull of the damaged love between husband and wife; the terror of losing a child so young; the fear of rejoining society in a small town.  All of it.  I lived this story when I read it, like it was happening to me or my closest friend.  I even had tears running down my cheeks at one point.

Their stories are true-to-life ranching stories.  The details are what make it so real:  the way a cutting horse "turns on" when a cow is in front of them; birthing a calf stuck in the wrong position; a harsh bit in a horse's mouth.  Drake obviously knows what she's doing.

It was a leisurely read.  One I didn't feel rushed to finish like the fantasy novels I've read.  I think that made it more enjoyable in ways that fast-paced books can't grasp.  The next book in the Sweet on a Cowboy series (love that title!) will be released January 28th, and you can bet I'll be at the store to pick it up.  I've been searching for real "cowboy" stories for a long time.  Laura Drake has provided what I've been looking for.