Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mother Nature 1 -- Me 0

I'm waiting for the third shoe to drop.

Yes, I know it's the other shoe (since shoes come in pairs), but then again "they" say misfortunes come in threes.

First, I got caught up in a brag. Jim told me there was poison ivy in the patch of back yard I'm trying to clear of ground ivy and honeysuckle vines. I said "I know, I saw it."  I donned long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and knee boots before pulling the first vine. I was being careful, right?

And, I informed him, I''d never had poison ivy. In. My. Life. In spite of playing in the woods as a child, picking wildflowers in the spring, berries in the summer, or colorful foliage in the fall. Sinusitis, yes, but no itchy rash.

As if Mother Nature heard my boast, she flung it at me. I saw what I thought was a bug bite on my wrist. I'm very allergic to mosquito bites, so figured the red, itchy swelling was just that. Then I started itching in other places. Little blisters formed. The itching grew more and more intense and spread over more and more of my skin.

To give Mother nature even more of a chuckle, when I called my doctor I discovered she had left. I mean left the county. With no warning. I was told to come in and pick up my records and good luck finding another doctor, honey.

Trying nowadays to find a doctor who not only takes new patients, but also accepts Medicare is like searching for one particular grain of sand on the beach.

I finally found one, but couldn't get an appointment until late August.

I hope by then the poison ivy will be but a  distant memory.

So you see, it's no wonder I'm looking fearfully over my shoulder for the last blow of the trilogy.

I'm afraid to guess for fear it might come true.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Introducing Heather Gray

This week I''d like to introduce Heather Gray, a fellow Astraea Press author. If you don't know about Astraea Press, they are a "non-erotic e-publisher that offers wholesome reads but still maintains the quality of mainstream romance."

Heather is the author of the Ladies of Larkspur inspirational western romance series, including Mail Order Man, Just Dessert, and Redemption.  She also writes the Regency Refuge series with titles His Saving Grace, Jackal, and the soon-to-be-released Queen.  But that's not all!  Interested in contemporary Christian romance?  Take a look at Ten Million Reasons and Nowhere for Christmas.

Heather loves coffee, God, her family, and laughter – not necessarily in that order!  She writes approachable and flawed characters who, through the highs and lows of life, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.  And, yeah, her books almost always have someone who's a coffee addict.  Some things just can't be helped.

Hiding in the shadows just got harder.

When tragedy strikes, Juliana and her family must flee their home. Can they persuade a virtual stranger to help them? Juliana isn't so sure, especially after their chaperone threatens to cane him. Even as Juliana struggles to trust him, she finds herself drawn to this mysterious man. Surely all she wants from him is refuge…

Rupert is a man whose life depends on his ability to remain unnoticed. What, then, is he supposed to do with this family he's inherited?  His life is overrun with an ancient chaperone who would terrify a lesser man, two spirited girls, and the secretive Juliana – someone he comes to think of as his own precious jewel.

With this new responsibility thrust upon him, Rupert will have to make sacrifices – but will God ask him to sacrifice everything?



A duke had been cut down in the prime of his life. According to the War Department, The Hunter was to blame.

Jackal had been put onto The Hunter's scent and told to ferret him out at all cost. It was his job, his duty to the crown, and he treated it with the seriousness it demanded. Evil could not be allowed to go unpunished, and people who took pleasure in destroying the lives of others would not walk away with impunity, not on his watch.

Jackal met with his contacts in the Austrian government and found no gratification in revealing they had a traitor in their midst. It had been a necessary move, and now the problem would be dealt with. The Austrians would put The Hunter down, and England's hands would remain clean of the mess, exactly as the minister wanted.

Grim foreboding furrowed his brow as he left the meeting with the Austrians. His lack of evidence mocked him. He'd done as ordered, and they'd believed him, but had it been his choice, he'd have gathered more proof first.

Jackal climbed into his carriage and slapped his hand against the roof, signaling the driver with his readiness to depart. A lengthy ride awaited him. He would leave the carriage and his current identity behind in Munich once he arrived there. New papers and fresh horses were waiting for him. The same would happen again when he crossed over into Stuttgart, and then again in Brussels. His task was clear: remain alive long enough to claim each of the new identities and return safely to his homeland.

Sitting back on the roughly cushioned seat, he accepted what he'd begun to suspect. This would be his last assignment for the crown. He was getting too old for the job. The time to retire was upon him. The younger bucks were willing – if not entirely ready – to take their place among the ranks of the unseen, unknown, and unnamed heroes of war. Jackal shook his head. Not too long ago, he'd been one of those young bucks. Ready for retirement at age thirty-two? The thought would be laughable in any other career. In his line of work, though, only those who retired young lived to be old and grey.

Lost in melancholy, Jackal barely noted the change from the raucous noise of a bustling merchant district to the quiet pastoral sounds that would accompany him on most of this journey. Europe was a large land with rich cities interspersed with vast emptiness dotted with small hamlets. Traveling by carriage would take weeks, but as long as he could report back that he'd done as ordered, it would be worth the time.

He settled into his seat. They were still days from their first sanctioned stop. As always, the best defense was to keep moving.


A change in the carriage's soothing methodical movement woke Jackal from his doze and alerted him that something was amiss. Awareness coursed through his veins, pushing away the remnant of sleep. A quick glance at the curtained window told him it was late morning. They'd ridden through the night to put as much distance as possible between them and Vienna – the current hub of Austrian government.

The carriage was moving with a wildness he'd felt only one other time in his life. Dread snaked through his middle as he accepted the truth. There was no longer a driver in control of his conveyance. Jackal crouched low on the floor for balance as he prepared to throw open the door and jump. Perhaps he should have sought retirement one assignment sooner.

Before his hand could touch the door, a jarring force threw Jackal against the seat to his left, shooting pain up his arm. They'd been boarded, then, and his driver – an agent he'd worked with for years – had likely not been alive to sound the alarm. Emotion would come later. For now, Jackal needed to focus on one thing: Survival.

The carriage gained speed under the skillful hand of whoever now sat in the driver's seat. I should have jumped when I had the chance. Jackal shook his head as he calculated the odds of survival.

Palming his gun, he pounded on the roof of the carriage, commanding the driver to stop. Surprise flared to life as his conveyance did indeed come to a standstill. Rather than slow to a gentle stop, the carriage halted its forward momentum in a skidding bone-shaking fashion. It was the kind of stop that guaranteed no beast would be able to walk away from it afterward.

Jackal jumped before the dust could settle. His best chance would be to go on the offence and catch the driver off-guard. Though he'd assumed the driver had a partner, nothing could have prepared him for the vicious attack awaiting him on the other side of the door.

Jackal no sooner touched the ground than he was trampled under the anxious feet of a high-stepping horse. He'd not even had a chance to gain his footing. As he lay on the ground, Jackal both heard and felt the breaking of bone in his left leg. A couple of his ribs surrendered to the heavy hooves as well. Rolling onto his side, he took aim at the perpetrator. The sun blinded him, and he could distinguish no features on the man whose gun dared him to move. In the split second it took for him to reassure himself he was not aiming at an innocent bystander – for they were indeed in one of the numerous modest hamlets that dotted the continent's countryside – the rider pulled the trigger, and pain seared through Jackal's already throbbing leg. It felt as if the lead had burrowed its way into his very bone.

He pulled the trigger of his flintlock pistol, and the man on the horse recoiled. Even as Jackal reached for the gun concealed at the ankle of his wounded leg, he knew it was futile. The rider had a second gun in-hand before his own fingers even brushed against the grip of his hidden weapon. Pain tore through his shoulder, immobilizing his shooting arm. Another ball of lead ripped into his middle. He felt his blood seeping out onto the street.

Accepting his fate, he asked only one thing. "At whose hand am I to die this day?"

Laughter vile enough to sour port met his question. "Today the Jackal shall meet his end at the hands of The Hunter."

The Hunter? The Austrians were supposed to have him by now.

"Your plan failed, and I am free. Prepare to die."

Blackness closing in around him, Jackal released the last thought held captive in his mind.

Why God?

Cold claimed his body as he slipped into darkness. He neither heard nor felt the next shot.

Sound s interesting, doesn't it! You can get her books at
Amazon US     Amazon UK    Barnes & Noble     Smashwords    iTunes

You can find Heather at:
Website – http://www.heathergraywriting.com
Blog – http://www.heathergraywriting.com/blog
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/heathergraywriting
Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+Heathergraywritingnow
Twitter – http://twitter.com/LaughDreamWrite
Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/LaughDreamWrite

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Time spent or time wasted?

The question was, "How many hours a day do you spend writing?"

I wish I could have answered, "Oh, eight or ten..."

But my mama taught me not to lie. She didn't wash my mouth out with soap, but she did give me a pretty good snap on the ear with her thumb and forefinger.

So I said, "Two, on a good day."

The problem is, I am finding it increasingly harder to concentrate these days. I hate to attribute it to age, so let's just say there are a lot of distractions.

I got to thinking about what I actually do do all day.

If I wake early, I read until it's time for the newspaper to be delivered, around 6 a.m. Then I fix my coffee and read the paper, ending with the crossword. I have to make sure my brain is in full function mode.

These past few weeks I've been going outside while it's cool (comparatively) and whacking off some shrubs and pulling up ivy that seem determined to turn our lawn into a habitat for wild animals. I've seen deer and would not be surprised to see a bear some fine day.

By the time I come back inside, Jim is up and most days he wants to "go get a biscuit" which takes a half hour or so, followed by a leisurely trip through the grocery store. Jim likes to go up and down every aisle in case he see something we need.  We go in for one item and come out with several bags, unless I remember to carry in my own reusable shopping bags. This entails catching the clerk before she starts loading up. "Miss! Miss! I have my own bags..." Waving them around in case she doesn't understand what I mean. Then it's one bag or two at the most. If the clerk packs our stuff, it could be a dozen, due to a store rule of packing no more than two items per bag. I think it must be a rule as they all follow it.

Then it might be the pharmacy, the post office, the library, or it might be the day we pay our utility bills. We get home close to noon and I do a few household chores before settling down in front of my keyboard.

Even then, I might not begin writing. There is email to check, better  look at Facebook and see what's happening...

Then I settle down and write until my mind rebels. If I've had a good day and accomplished my word count goal, I might reward myself with a few games of Spider Solitaire or Eggs, with the sound turned off because every time I make a hit in the Eggs game it sounds like glass shattering.

Then at five, time for the evening news and a glass of wine. Jim fixes dinner which we eat while watching Jeopardy! Then I clean the kitchen (believe me, this is more work than cooking) and grab my book. Evening is my time to read and I do until bedtime unless there is a program I want to watch, which is getting less and less likely.

And that is my day. It could be more productive, but hey! Life is short. Keep on doing what you enjoy doing. And if it's writing eight or ten hours a day, go for it. And if it's "wasting time" with your fella or reading the latest best seller, go for that, too.

Last I checked, the only person grading you is you.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A snippet from "A Question of Boundaries."

I've finished my second round of edits on "A Question of Boundaries" and today I am sharing another excerpt. Comments and/or opinions welcome!

Caroline had brought no jewels with her, but the feathers plucked from the hat Nathan had given her were tucked into her hair, which Tabby had drawn up into an elaborate arrangement of curls and waves. Amelia judged her ready and complimented Tabby on her handiwork. To Caroline’s relief, her companion managed to answer politely enough and the three descended the stairs.

Nathan was waiting, dressed in evening clothes that had been brushed and pressed. Although trousers had been popular for years, formal wear still included knee breeches and stockings. Caroline noted Nathan had splendid calves.

His eyes lit up as he saw her. “You are beautiful,” he said and then reached into his pocket and took out an oblong box. “Just one thing more.” He opened the box and removed a necklace. “I thought you might wear this, but I don’t think you need any more adornment.” He held up a chain of gold links holding deep blue sapphires and sparkling diamonds.

“Oh, I couldn’t possibly—” Caroline began, but she was overruled by Tabby and Amelia. Tabby seemed startled to find herself agreeing with her supposed enemy.

“Of course you can,” Nathan decreed. “Think of it as advertising my business. My cousin Evan designed it, if anyone asks. The sapphires are from North Carolina and the diamonds from our mine in Arkansas.”

Tabby took the necklace and fastened it around her mistress’ neck. “Lovely,” she declared, and no one disagreed.

Ready at last, Nathan and Caroline walked out to the carriage where a faithful Jim was waiting. As they approached the Rasmussen mansion, for the overly-ornate, three-story brick building could not be described without using superlatives, Caroline began to doubt her wisdom in insisting on coming. Every window shone with light and the carriages lined up along the drive reflected the glow from polished wood and metal trim. Alluring as the scene was, she couldn’t help feeling she was walking into a beautiful trap.

Nathan told Jim to be back at midnight. “We won’t stay a second longer,” he said as he took Caroline’s elbow and they followed the crowd of elegantly-garbed men and women to the steps leading to the double front door.

Caroline shivered as much from the chill night air as fear, for her shoulders were bare and the d├ęcolletage exposed more of her bosom than she was accustomed to.

Too soon they had climbed the stairway and were in the front hall, where Mr. and Mrs. Rasmussen stood greeting their guests.

“Mister Llewellen! I’m so glad you came, and your lovely cousin.” Her eyes expertly appraised Caroline’s gown and jewelry, and her smile became warmer. “Miss Llewellen. Mister Rasmussen, may I present—”

“I know who he is,” Rasmussen interrupted her. “Evening, Nate. Miss Llewellen.” His eyes swept over her body, lingered at her bosom, then looked beyond her, his eyes already on the next guest.

Caroline breathed a sigh. The first hurdle had been passed; he had not recognized her.

Coming soon from Astraea Press.