Tag Archives: novel

Hello NaNonites by LV Gaudet

Hello NaNonites.

 

I met a few of you at the kick off.

I’m Lori.  I write dark fiction and Halloween is my favorite flavor of holiday decoration.  I don’t get online every day, busy life and all.

You can find me on NaNoWriMo under my published name: LV Gaudet

https://nanowrimo.org

 

Are you ready for thirty days of obsessive writing?  One of the tools I like to use is mocking up a book cover for inspiration.  A visual of the literary feel of the story.

 

For those who don’t know what it is, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  For the month of November you pledge to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  Yeah, we’re nuts.  We are writers.  There is a wine that goes nicely with that.

 

I had to look back on my Nano books to figure out this is my 8th year.  Oops, I was a year off tonight.  I won three of those years.

Here are my NaNo creations in chronological order:

Garden Grove Cover - Amazon ebook - front cover

 

Garden Grove – Self published.

 

NaNoWriMo 2011 Cover

 

Untitled – I will come back to it.

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

 

The McAllister Farm (winner!) – Published by Indigo Sea Press, a small indie press in the US.

Blood cover

 

Blood (winner!) –  Based on the short story.  I will finish it, but it’s getting weird.

 

thumb

Butterflies in the Garden (winner!) – Needs a do over and I vote this worst ever mock cover.  This will eventually be published under my alter ego to frighten the middle years/teens.

 

Old Mill Road cover idea

 

Old Mill Road – Still a work in progress. On the back burner.  I’m still looking for the old Mill Road monster.

Nathan copy-NaNoNathan – Yeah, and then there is Nathan.  Nathan was born in Hunting Michael Underwood.  But, he wouldn’t stay there.  I only made 9000+ words and gave up.  But, the voices in Nathan’s head are still there.  They will get out.  Run.

Killing David McAllister

And this year’s Nano is Killing David McAllister.  Fourth book in the McAllister Series and it will be the final.  Hunting Michael Underwood was supposed to be the last, but the story was not done.  Well, except for the spin off.  White Van.  That was not a NaNo book.  I will get back to it.

 

If you find me on Twitter (@lvgaudet), you will probably see random posts about the #BigDumbBunny.  The name is self-explanatory.  She’s big.  She’s dumb.  And she looks like a big dumb bunny with those ears and the bunny hop.

 

Feel free to check out one of my blogs.

The Intangible World of the Literary Mind (lvgwriting.wordpress.com) is my first blog.  It’s a blog about writing and being a writer for writers.  I haven’t been as active as I would like to be.  Life and stuff.  Writing.  You get it.  I’ve posted stories, tips on writing, editing, creating platform, and promoting yourself and your writing.  I post my own tips as well as hitting the reblog button to share the advice of others.  I share (reblog) the odd book review and write my own book reviews when I have time to finish and review a book.  I have a lot of reviews I am behind on writing.  I post some random stuff too.

LV Gaudet, author (lvgaudet.wordpress.com) is a fan blog.  It’s all about the reader.  I share weird and creepy news stuff.  Sometimes podcasts by some other people who like dark stories.  And I post my own stories here.  I am working on being more sharing.

Vivian Munnoch, author (vivianmunnoch.wordpress.com) is a nom de plume.  An alias.  My sometimes alter ego.  I use this name for the child friendly stories.  This is where I would post anything to do with the younger realm of darkness.

 

 

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My First Book Signing

So, I had my first book signing this month.  Luckily for me it was a very casual laid back affair.  I would have felt completely awkward with any kind of crowd.  My neighbor and friend, who runs the local lumber store in our small town, graciously agreed to host me in a combination wine tasting and book signing event.

If you are not familiar with small town Manitoba, one of the things that separate it from the urban cities is that small town businesses like grocery and lumber stores can be a licenced Liquor Mart retailer.

Armed with a box of books and boxes of cheese and crackers and some one-bite brownies (that we were fancy enough to serve out of the boxes), I was set up at a table sandwiched between displays, a stack of boxes, and shelves.

Although it was a Wednesday, we failed in advertising it in advance (my printer is DOA), and it is a very small town, we had a fairly steady stream of traffic – for a small town lumber store on a Wednesday night.

We got to visit with neighbors who we seldom see, and I even sold a few books.  Seven books, in fact.  Much more than I thought I would.

I call this first ever Sanford wine tasting and book signing event a success.  I even left signed copies behind on sale on consignment.

We discussed doing a second book signing before Christmas.  Maybe this time I’ll find a way to print up some posters in advance.

It’s small, and it’s a start, but even the writers who are big today started small somewhere.  With luck, I’ll find more nooks and crannies to have book signings over winter.

Maybe I’ll even sell another seven books.

 

Can you handle a little darkness?

Follow The Woods installments

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

 

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

 

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

 

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

 

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

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Middle Children (or Books, really)

Root, book two of my Dormant trilogy, is completed and at my publishers! It’s bittersweet letting go of a story I’ve been absorbed in for so many months. However, it’s time to release Root into the wild and see how it fares.

Recently a friend commented that the middle book was usually her least favorite of a trilogy. It got me thinking about trilogies in general and middle books specifically. As I ticked through some of my favorite trilogies I realized that frequently my favorite book is the middle book. (The same holds true for movie trilogies in many cases.)

In the first book, the author has done the work of introducing the reader to world and the characters who inhabit that world. There’s often a lot of world building and character-building. Always interesting and necessary but sometimes the action can get a little lost. In book two of a trilogy, the assumption is the audience read the first book, so the author can spend a few lines on the events from book one, and then dive right into the action. The action is usually leading up to the climatic events in book three without having to resolve everything.

In no particular order here are some trilogies where the middle book is my favorite (no spoilers – though it was hard!):

The Tony Foster Trilogy by Tanya Huff. The middle book is Smoke and Mirrors, which takes place almost entirely in a haunted house. I relish Tony’s view of the world and he’s so accepting of the events that unfold around him that it makes scary scenes more enjoyable. This is my favorite in the series for it’s humor, tension, and deep character development.

The Old Kingdom trilogy by Garth Nix. The middle book is Lirael. The focus shifts from the characters in book one and ups the stakes for the Old Kingdom’s’ survival. Lirael and her companion, the Disreputable Dog, are delightful together and I cheer for Lirael’s hopeful success in achieving her desires. I love this book because we get to know more about the folks in the Old Kingdom, Lirael is an appealing character and her problems feel familiar, even though I’ll never have the opportunity to be a seer.

Daughter of Smoke and Bones trilogy by Laini Taylor. The middle book is Days of Blood and Starlight. We know Karou’s secret and now all hell is about to break loose between two worlds. Taylor finds a good balance between our world and the alternate fantasy world.

One notable exception is The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – The Two Towers is my least favorite. Though, I do love the Ents and it establishes Pippin as my favorite hobbit.

Does this hold true for some of your favorite trilogies? Let me know in the comments!

Now, about the third book…

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan twitter photo

 

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan is the author of Dormant, the first book in the Dormant Trilogy available on http://www.secondwindpublishing.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She’s diligently working on Root, book two in the trilogy. Follow LeeAnn on Twitter @atticusmcl and on Facebook at LEMWrites.

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Meeting Jack Kerouac by Jonna Ellis Holston

I was about to meet Jack Kerouac, pioneer of the beat generation, the man who wrote On the Road in twenty days on Benzedrine, typed it on a 120 ft. scroll of tracing paper taped together like only a person high on Bennies would do, the guy who practically invented the style of spontaneous prose. Was this the most exciting night of my life? Alas, I was just a seven year old girl. Meeting Jack impressed me less than knowing that I could stay up late that night at Aunt Mary’s party.20160118_125848_resized

A man in a wrinkled trench with a Florida tan, a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, he stood before me. Auntie Mary handed me paper and a pen, told me to ask for his autograph. He was creepy, his undershirt was showing and he was… wobbly. With trepidation, I did as told.

“What do you want me to write?” he asked Mary, cigarette hanging between lips and acting as though he’d been pestered by a bug.

“Write something nice about Jonna,” she said and spelled my name for him. He wrote just that. Jonna… just Jonna and tried to hand it back to me. “Come on, Jack write something nice,” she goaded. He wrote more words, signed the page and handed it to Auntie for perusal.

“Jonna is a goner in Glockamara. Oh Jack, you’re so silly,” she laughed and passed the page to me.

I may have been only seven but I knew that this guy wasn’t normal. I thanked him and retreated. With signature in hand I ran to my place, my place behind the large potted plants to try and figure out, with my seven year old mind, what the heck the famous writer meant by Jonna is a goner in Glockamara. I knew about alcohol. I liked when the people at Mary’s parties got wobbly, everyone laughed and danced. There was even some old lady who would sing when she was wobbly. I could watch everyone from my little secret place but tonight I was keeping an eye on him, this guy… Kerouac, this weirdo that everyone seemed to be so gaga over, I mean… somebody had to.

What was so great about him? Look at how he was dressed. People wore their best at Mary’s parties, how come he got to wear dirty old clothes? And he was wobbly but he wasn’t singing or dancing or having fun. He wasn’t… enjoying wobbly.

“Oh, Jack, let me fill your drink.” I heard from somebody.

I spied Uncle Dino, crossed the room and climbed onto his lap. He explained that Jack was an alcoholic and I comprehended that notion pretty well. “Well if he drinks too much then why is everybody getting him more?” I asked… when life was still simple.

“Watch what he does. He takes his drink then he sits over there.” He pointed to the chair next to my place in the plants. “Watch him”. Jack sat; hunched over, sipped his drink. I soon got bored and started playing with Uncle Dino’s face. “There.”

“What?”

“You missed it. Go watch him from the plants like you do.” Well this just floored me. How did Uncle Dino know about my place? People never paid attention to me at a grown-up party. Wasn’t I invisible? I skulked back to my place, as close to Jack as a plant to dirt.

“Jack, let me freshen your drink,” said some lady I knew. I looked across at Dino. He nodded and I realized that Dino was sitting in his place. That seemed pretty funny to me, that Dino had a place where he watched people too. We smiled knowingly, one observer to the other as she served Jack his drink; he took a small sip and held the glass precariously in his lap. I watched this old guy sip his drink and it was still boring, but a small leather notebook peeked from his pocket and it caught my eye. Jack shifted his weight and it stuck out a bit more, then he may have crossed his legs or something and it was right there…

I can’t say for sure if the book fell out of his pocket or if I helped it out. I may actually have picked the pocket of Jack Kerouac and then I hid the journal between the pots. Uncle Dino gave me a stern look from his place then tipped his chin for me to watch Jack. That was about as exciting as watching ice melt. His drink of amber, still half full, Jack lifted his head sharply, looked around then he dumped his drink into the plant beside him. What? Why did he do that? I looked to Dino for answers.

Jack jumped up to argue again with someone about something and I flipped through his book, his book of scribbles. I couldn’t read any of it but I recognized one symbol, the crucifix and it was on most every page. I guessed it was a prayer book and I reverently placed it in his chair and made for the shelter of Dino’s lap.

Jack died about ten years later, in 1969, of cirrhosis. I refreshed that memory with Uncle Dino several times and he confirmed that not only did he witness Jack dump drinks frequently but that he often saw him transform from nearly passed-out drunk to completely sober within seconds in order to read a passage or a poem, perfectly enunciated, for the crowd.

That was also the year when I first read On the Road I understood none of it. I’ve re-read the work several times since. What holds me to the pages is the rawness of his words, the feelings of how never did anything ever go right, the desperate a search to find meaning in a messed up life. In that way, I suppose, it’s every man’s story.

We were from Lowell. In 1959, the year I first saw Jack, Lowell was a distressed mill town of greyness and brick. Our family home overlooked greenery. About forty years earlier, he grew up near the smelly Merrimac which rippled its flotsam and side-floating fish. Everyone in town called him Jack… just Jack.

You can swim in the Merrimac River now. The mills are museums and trendy shops. Kerouac Park, downtown by the river… there, the homeless sleep. Monoliths engraved with exquisite quotes of his work shade the drug deals and wear spray paint graffiti. Somehow I think he’d be okay with that.

Jack claimed that his stories were about his search for God. I only know that I saw the crosses in his journal with my young impressionable eyes. To me his work will always be about hope, hope for the disenfranchised, hope for the oppressed, for the different, for the mad.

Glockamara, next I heard of Glocca Morra was from Finnian’s Rainbow. It’s a sentimental song about a fictional Irish town with little brooks, willow trees and a carefree boy with twinkling eyes. It sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?

So, how are things in Glocca Morra, Jack, since you’ve been gone? I imagine that you are resting by a gentle stream with a cool breeze on your face. I hope you found peace and I hope you found God, because when I saw you, Jack, you drank alone.

 

Pictured above, Charles G Sampas (my uncle and Godfather), my beautiful mother, Rachel Ellis and Jack.

 

 

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It’s Time For the Final Review by L.V. Gaudet

I have some delightful news to share.  I have received the final review file for The McAllister Farm; book two of the McAllister mini-series.  I have also been in communication with the publisher regarding the cover art.  This means The McAllister Farm is very close to seeing publication at last.  I hope I’ll soon be able to reveal what the cover is going to look like.  The excitement it tempered a little, however, by the knowledge that nothing happens very fast in the publishing business.

 

 

*** SPOILER ALERT *** 

The McAllister Farm does contain a big spoiler.  So, if you have not already bought and read your copy of the first book, Where the Bodies Are, you will want to do that now.

 

Don’t worry; the story does not stop here.  I am working on writing the third book, which follows the twisted lives of, well you’ll guess who after you read Where the Bodies Are, bridging the gap between the first two books to bring the stories together in what might just turn out to be an explosive conclusion – either literally or metaphorically.  I haven’t figured that out myself yet.

 

This breaking news brings me to our topic today – doing the final review before publication.

 

What does it look like and what is expected of you?

 

I receive it in the form of a read only pdf file.  That is the file format used by Adobe Acrobat reader.  If you are like me and runner on the free version of Acrobat, there wouldn’t be much more you can do with any pdf file anyway.

 

You get the file as a read only for a very good reason.

 

Before you even query a publisher, you should have already put both yourself and your book through the ringer, tearing down and rebuilding through rewrites and edits, possibly even questioning your very existence.  Your book should be polished to absolute perfection; critiqued, been through the hands of beta readers, and have you feeling pretty darned good about yourself and confident in your book’s chances of success.  (Hint: this is what we tell ourselves, that we should feel confident.  But really, we all have that big white gorilla in the closet that we sometimes aren’t sure we should talk about – the fear that nobody will like our book and everyone will think it is absolute rubbish.)

 

After your book is accepted by a publisher, they will then have their editing/proofreading people take a stab at it.  They may require you to make revisions, maybe little things or possibly entire re-writes. Don’t take this personally.  They just want your book to be the absolute best it can be and have their own ideas of what that looks like.  Unless you too have published hundreds of books, it’s a fair guess to say they have more experience at what sells than you do too.

 

After all that is done and your book has gone through all the edits and revisions, and is polished to perfection once again, your publisher will have their people format it for print, both physical and electronic.

 

Now your publisher sends you that glorious read only file for final review.  This is your last chance to catch any mistakes, both yours and the editor’s, as well as any issues in the formatting.  You get a read only file so your publisher knows that you did not inadvertently monkey around with any formatting.  At this point, your publisher wants to have absolute control over all changes because they are ultimately responsible for the quality of the books they put out.

 

Carefully note any errors or changes, including the page number and location on the page to make it easier for your publisher’s editing people to find, and send that information on to them.  With luck, you will see your new book in print within the quarter. Of course, that all depends on how fast your publisher is, what kind of a publishing schedule they are working on, and about a hundred other factors, not all of which will be in your publisher’s realm of control.

 

Watch for these titles at Indigo Sea Press:

where the bodies are

 

Where the Bodies Are – (Now available!)  A woman is found suffering from a horrific attack.  Kept in an induced coma due to her injuries, both physical and emotional, she is the only known witness.

More women’s bodies turn up, left in places the authorities believe are meant to cause an increasing media frenzy.

Detectives Jim McNelly and Michael Underwood are tortured by their inability to stop the killer, each for his own reasons.  Jim McNelly is tormented by his failure to protect every victim, secretly grieving his wife, and taking each failure personally.  Michael Underwood feels a special connection to the victim, dubbed Jane Doe, her real identity unknown.

Only the killer knows who she really is, and her identity is what draws him back to her, within the detectives’ net.  Will they be able to stop him before he comes back for Jane Doe?  Before he kills again?  Maybe not.

One woman is still missing, her body the second shoe waiting to drop.  Katherine Kingslow is the killer’s best victim yet, aside from Jane Doe.  Held prisoner, Kathy lives in torment and terror, at the killer’s mercy.

Lawrence Hawkworth, a reporter of questionable morals, may just hold the key to finding her and stopping the killer.

There is a much darker secret lying behind the Jane Doe case, one that may ruin the detectives and everyone else touched by this case.

 

Coming Soon-The McAllister Farm - twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

The McAllister Farm – (Coming soon!)  Take a step back in time and meet the boy who becomes the man who created the killer in Where the Bodies Are.  1981 to be exact.

The McAllisters are a secretive family, and for good reason.  Proud and stern, William McAllister rules both his family and his business with a firm hand and sense of strong morals.  The most important thing to him is protecting his family, second only to protecting the family business.

When William’s son Jason starts getting in trouble and bringing attention on the family, it is the beginning of the downward spiral of their world.  William’s reclusive and eccentric behavior makes him the prime suspect when someone starts killing local young women, guilty in the eyes of every person in the community.

His wife Marjorie, who does not handle stress well, is pushed in the middle of the growing animosity between the community and her husband.  Timid and nervously wringing her hands, she too wants only to protect her family, her children.

Can they keep their family and their secret safe?  They are the keepers of a dark secret that will continue with Jane Doe and the killer in Where the Bodies Are.

 

work in progress

 

Working title: The One That Got Away (title may change)  – This story brings the characters of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm together in a conclusion that will leave you wondering.

run awayEvents escalate in the search for answers.  Lawrence Hawkworth returns as he searches for answers to his own secret, one not of his making, one that haunted his mentor and likely caused his death.  It is a secret that may bring him closer to the secret behind the Jane Doe case.

Jim McNelly can’t let the Jane Doe case go, nor the bigger darker secret they learned in the woods behind the old McAllister Farm.  He can’t let go of the one who got away either.  Certain that Katherine Kingslow and Jan Doe are dead; he can’t rest until he can recover their remains and bring their killer to justice.

Michael Underwood is chasing down his own murky secret.  He returns to his past, drawn by haunting memories, down a twisted dark well that may lead to a revelation he will not want to learn.

All of these secrets lead towards the McAllister family and the events of 1981.

 

work in progress2

 

White Van – The white van is back.  This is a twisted tale that exists on the outskirts of the McAllister mini-series.  How many have heard real life urban legend tales of the white van?  Everything from missing and murdered victims to stolen dogs, and the always-elusive suspect white van.

white vanWhite Van reveals another piece of the puzzle in the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are.  A secret you will learn more about in The One That Got AwayWhite Van gives a glimpse into how much larger the secret is than you may have thought.

 

 

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January’s Paradigm Launch—J. Conrad Guest

Launch for January’s Paradigm is tentatively Monday, February 15.

What started in 1990 as therapy for a bruised and bloodied heart soon turned into a passion to see it published. It took eight years to achieve that desire, well worth the wait.

Like most of my novels, January’s Paradigm is a very non-traditional romance. Or as Current Entertainment Monthly, Ann Arbor, Michigan, wrote: “J. Conrad Guest has taken the heartbreak of sexual betrayal and turned it into a romance-fantasy.” Current Entertainment Monthly also wrote, “Readers will not be able to put it down.”

Below appears another excerpt.


 

Seven

I arrived at The Oasis at eight-forty. Two of the three members of The Tri-Stars—Shauna was not one of them—were onstage doing a sound check. I’d hoped to arrange a chance meeting with the dark-eyed beauty before the first set. A quick reconnaissance of the establishment, already near-capacity, merely served to disappoint; she was nowhere to be found.

I paid the doorman the cover charge.

Porter’s bankcard had come in handy. From whence my knowledge of ATMs came, like my inherent ability to operate the computer, I ignored. The access code to the bank machine was something I attributed to a lucky guess. Porter and I shared the same date of birth forty-six years apart, so stated the driver’s license tucked away in the wallet in my back pocket. I simply punched in the number “10” and, adding forty-six to my own birth year, “56”, and walked away from the ATM a hundred dollars richer, taking comfort in the fact that Porter was going to finance this little vacation in 1992.

I pushed my way through the crowd toward the bar.

My fruitless attempts at locating Porter had increased my thirst. I needed to unwind with a good, stiff shot of bourbon chased by a beer.

Suddenly the populace surrounding me parted, and I came face-to-face with Shauna. She was shorter than I imagined she would be. What last night I’d taken to be stage makeup turned out to be natural; her complexion was dark and flawless. Her jaw was square; her high cheekbones were tinged with rouge. Beneath the finely-arched twin prosceniums of her eyebrows, her eyelids were shaded green; and they highlighted to perfection the fathomless brown eyes now studying me as intently as I was studying her.

The moment seemed long; it was long, I dimly noted, and threatening to go on even longer. If I didn’t find something to say, the moment would be lost.

Fortunately she came to my rescue.

“Don’t let me get in your way.” Her tone was husky, the measure playful.

My heart beat rapidly, but I managed to blurt, “Aren’t you the lead singer?”

Smooth, real smooth—like a kid meeting his idol for the first time.

“Shauna.” Her smile was as white as it was wide. And genuine, I was pleased to note.

“Joe January.” I offered my hand and was delighted when she took it. “Can I buy you a drink?”

“No thanks, I don’t drink.” And then, perhaps in response to the hurt look I was certain she couldn’t help but notice, she added, “How about a cola?”

I smiled and led the way through the crowd to the bar, where I ordered and paid for the soft drink. Shauna, accepting the glass I proffered, smiled her dazzling smile and I reflected, for the mere price of a cola. I’d gladly pay a thousand times that amount to bask in the warmth of that smile in a more secluded place.

“You going to be here awhile?”

The question at once both surprised and pleased me. “Actually I just got here.”

“Wait here. I’ve got to finish the sound check. It shouldn’t take but a minute or two, and I’ll be back to visit a while before our first set.”

As if to prove her probity, she left her glass on the bar in front of me.

I watched her departure, fascinated by the gentle motion of her hips, snug inside the leather pants that perfectly accentuated her perfect figure. I couldn’t help but be taken aback by the way she’d so completely managed to disarm me in so brief a time.

I watched her on stage, her manner supremely confident, her voice clear and resonant in its purity. Her interpretation of the lyrics, even though it was just a sound check, was genuine. She sang from the heart.

I suspected that her contentment stemmed from being on stage and that getting paid was simply the icing on the cake.

What served to perplex me was my sudden intrinsic capacity to decipher this. Never before had I cared or taken the time to perceive anything beyond the superficial. Yet now I was mystified by the warm and comfortable feeling, the security that accompanied the very pleasant discovery that something beyond exterior could entice me.

Typically a woman of such depth would only intimidate me. Now, however, something inside of me thrilled at the expectation that she could somehow appease the malaise I’d recognized last night while in the embrace of another; and that instead of providing the comfort I so desperately sought, last night’s encounter had afforded the catalyst that had resulted in my encore appearance here tonight.

Shauna finished her sound check and, true to her word, was making her way back through the crowd to where I waited at the bar, nervously turning my shot glass around and around in my hand. My heart rate picked up as she approached.

“You sound terrific.” I’d never been any good at making small talk, but I spoke the truth.

“Thanks.” Her tone was sincere.

But then she probably accepted the same compliment dozens of times nightly in the same affable way. Talented as she was, it hadn’t gone to her head.

“I’m surprised to see you back tonight.” No accusation, just an observation. “You left after our second number last night. I was afraid my singing had been an affront to your musical palate.”

She was teasing me now, and that was something I wasn’t used to. I had no idea how to respond to her jest. When I failed to reply, she pushed her advantage further.

“I’m surprised at the company you keep. She didn’t look to be your type.”

Feeling totally outclassed and outmaneuvered, I stammered something about my friend having taken ill and requested that I take her home early. If Shauna saw through my smoke screen, she gave no indication.

“Well, you’re back tonight,” she said. “And my confidence in my singing has been restored.”

In the span of a heartbeat, she’d managed to break and then restore my self-assurance. She looked at her watch.

“You going to be here after the first set?” She sounded accusatory.

I smiled and nodded my acquiescence, ecstatic at the prospect of her return.

“Oooh,” she purred, setting down her empty glass. When had she time to finish it? So lost in the depths of a gaze that was at once innocuous yet mischievous, I hadn’t even noticed her drinking it. “He can smile,” she playfully provoked. “Now if I can just get you to loosen up and talk, you might be able to help me pass an otherwise long and boring night on stage. And as long as you’re buying, I’ll need another of these.” She indicated the empty glass. Her smile positively beamed, and I felt my heart leap into my throat. She winked and was gone.

The first set ran nearly an hour. Near the end I found myself squirming in anticipation. Several times I’d refused the advances that a man alone in a singles bar in 1992 seemed to invite. Finally they stopped, my propensity toward the barstool duly noted by the female patrons who’d hoped to lure me into tending to their lonely needs.

I watched as Shauna manipulated the crowd. Instinctively she sensed their mood and knew what they wanted to hear, providing respite, usually in the form of something she and the band wanted to play, at just the right moment. Her movements were sensual, yet not vulgar. And her voice was magnificent in its range and flexibility. She rocked, finding somewhere within the raw power to rattle the chandeliers. Her interpretation of the two blues tunes that provided a reprieve from the intensity of the rock-and-roll intonated the pain of the lyrics, while the sole ballad of the set was sung with the pure innocence of an altar boy during Sunday morning service. She had a natural affinity for people.

I didn’t think for a minute that she was bored with performing.

The breaks between sets, I suspected, were from her point of view a chance for the band to catch their breath and slake their thirst, but more for the sake of the dance floor patrons who discovered the ten or fifteen minutes between sets enabled them to recharge their batteries.

Feeling that I’d simply serve as a diversion until the next set got underway, I felt the ego that Shauna had managed to build up nearly an hour ago deflate.

Shauna was just now telling everyone to sit tight. The band would be back in a few minutes to rock down the rafters. Those on the dance floor shouted their approval.

I signaled the bartender for a refill for me and a fresh cola. I’d just finished paying for the refreshments when Shauna slid up onto the stool beside me. I was startled; the thought that she might seek company elsewhere had briefly crossed my mind.

“Thanks,” she said, slightly out of breath as she took the soft drink and downed nearly a third of it. “How’d you manage to keep this stool empty?”

“It wasn’t difficult.” I’d never found difficulty in maintaining my distance when I wanted to.

“Not with a scowl like that, I imagine it wasn’t.”

I felt the heat rise in my cheeks. Her eyes sparkled as she laughed and my embarrassment turned to ire. I didn’t like being the butt of someone’s jest.

Shauna placed her hand on my knee in reassurance. I was amazed at the lightness of her touch; and just that quickly, my anger was defused.

“We sound okay?”

I was grateful for the change in direction to another topic. Perhaps now I could maintain control of the conversation for a while. I nodded and queried, “You do any original material?”

“One or two.” Then, in response to my raised eyebrows, she added, “People come to hear what’s popular, and popular is what gets air play; and unfortunately, since we get no air play, we aren’t popular.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

“Hard to argue with statistics. We play anymore than we do, and the dance floor tends to thin out.”

I decided to take a risk. “Don’t tell me; the ballad was yours.”

It was her turn to look surprised.

Yes. How did you know?”

“It seemed your style.” I was beginning to regain my balance; but before I could pose my next question, Shauna once again changed tack.

“How come you weren’t out on the dance floor?”

And just that quickly, my advantage was lost.

“There’s no one here I care to dance with.”

She bestowed her laugh upon me for the second time, a wonderfully-melodic sound.

“You weren’t so choosy last night.”

My face burned with embarrassment.

She didn’t call my earlier bluff, I thought, helpless. Just my luck she now thinks I’m lying.

I wanted to say, “That was before I met you,” but my discomfiture held me in check. In the end I settled for a shrug that said, What can I say? She laughed again. I felt myself redden further; and then, just in time, she put an arm around my shoulders and apologized.

“I’m sorry, Joe.” It was the first time she’d used my name, and I marveled at the mellifluous way she said it. “It’s just that you’re so easy.”

I waved my empty glass at the bartender. I hadn’t been aware that I’d even been sipping it since she’d joined me, let alone that I’d finished it. Shauna checked her watch.

“Listen, buy me another cola.” She laid her hand on my arm. “I’ve got to go backstage and freshen up. You know, do the things we women have to do to keep guys like you watching us.” I doubted she had to work very hard at it. “Be right back.”

I was struck by the energy level she was able to maintain.

Adrenaline, fueled by caffeine, I guessed as I held up her empty glass. It certainly isn’t alcohol.

During her absence I tried to think of some way I could arrange to meet with her in a more neutral setting without seeming like I was coming on too hard, something with which she was probably quite adept at dealing. My efforts frustrated me.

I can’t hold an intelligent conversation with her. How can I land a date?

Suddenly I feared her motives.

What makes you think she’s even interested in you? More than likely she picks someone out of the crowd nightly just to keep that caffeine high going.

I felt compelled to leave.

Here I was a man out of time twice removed, sitting calmly in a bar without a clue as to how I got here. I sat, a man in doubt of the actual authenticity of his own reality, trying to deal some broad who gets her kicks out of watching me squirm in discomfort. No one had ever been able to do that before, which only added to my feeling of inadequacy.

Without a doubt, I should be back at Porter’s trying to figure a solution to the equation, not how to get this self-styled rock queen between the sheets. I can get sex anytime without having to go through this.

And then I remembered last night, how lonely and unfulfilled I’d felt, despite the level of physical gratification I’d attained.

Well, I rationalized, settling myself back down onto the stool. Maybe there are answers to my questions that can be ascertained through an association with her.

Any chance to argue myself out of staying disappeared with Shauna’s reappearance; her smile immediately convinced me that I’d made the right choice.

“I’m delighted to see you haven’t abandoned me.”

“To be easily replaced, I’m sure.”

She took my sarcasm for humor and leaned over to whisper, “Save a dance for me?”

Then she was gone, leaving me with an uncomfortable sensation of comfort.

My thoughts swam. I was experiencing emotions and input to those emotions never before encountered. I was attracted to this Shauna, but not in the usual sexual sense. Not that I didn’t find her alluring. There was a time, in another century perhaps, when all that I would care to concern myself with would be the exploration of the dark, deep secrets concealed beneath the sexy attire that served to promote the image of a rock star. But that image spoke in terms of a rather warped reality.

Here I am, it said, on stage for the adulation of one and all. Welcome to my fantasy. A fantasy that guarantees stimulus to senses of sight and sound; listen to my voice, watch me move. Now, if you dare, try to emulate my undulations. You are all a part of my fantasy, for without you I am nothing. Yet I remain apart from your fantasy. Here I stand, symbol of your want, your hunger, your desire and your lust—one and all, male and female—but rest assured you can never have me.

But equally disturbing since my arrival in 1992 was my troubled sleep, dreams plagued by a demon and haunting images of another, alternate self. One that was weaker, more emotional than I.

Yet even in my conscious state, I was being tormented by uncertainty, accosted by unfamiliar feelings of denial, distrust and betrayal. And now I’d discovered that a new passion had been awakened—a passion heretofore unknown—a passion for emotional intimacy.

Yes, I had to admit that my attraction to Shauna went far beyond the superficial. It exceeded my rather curt allegation that perhaps it was she who held secret the knowledge that would empower me to see past the barriers that had so surreptitiously been placed before me.

To be sure, she fascinated me. Certainly the package she came in was enough to turn the head and raise the blood pressure of any red-blooded American male, but there was more. Something mysterious—and God knew I loved a good mystery, almost as much as I loved endeavoring to sate the needs of my sexual appetite.

Part of the enigma was the simple fact that I found her to be a puzzle; and that was something I’d never before equated with the fairer sex, preferring instead to imagine them as merely an end to a need.

I couldn’t deny that Shauna had awakened in me two needs: a need to be in her company—for in that company, I presumed to find comfort to ease a loneliness that until last night, in the lazy afterglow of sex, I hadn’t been aware even existed—as well as a need to discover more about the conflicting passions she seemed to have brought to the surface.

I felt unguarded, helplessly open to her scrutiny, and I found that threatening. Something inside me told me that in order to more fully understand these new sensibilities, as well as my attraction to Shauna, I would have to become more open and vulnerable. That insight served to further threaten me; yet my instinct seemed to promise an end result that could prove more gratifying in more ways than any other result I’d previously sought as an end.

But what of her needs? What if I were simply a diversion? Her interest in me, the way she looked at me and the interest I purported to be in that look, seemed to be genuine; yet she was a performer.

I tried to picture her nightly selecting a different paladin to keep her supplied with caffeine while amusing herself with small talk at their expense and couldn’t.

I took note of the dance floor, filled to capacity with dancers, most perspiring profusely as a result of their exertions while the empty stools down the length of the bar confirmed that I was among the scant few who weren’t out on the dance floor.

On stage Shauna was also perspiring heavily, the result of her aerobic efforts as she and her band mates rocked vehemently. I watched, entranced, as she worked the dancers, feeding off them and then, almost as if in grateful acknowledgment, gave it back to them. The energy she emitted was then caught by the dancers, where it was held for a moment as they basked in its warmth, before being sent back magnified a hundred-fold.

No doubt about it, I thought. She’s in her element.

Suddenly I knew. And just as suddenly, I knew that Shauna knew.

This was her fantasy, her escape from whatever trials and tribulations that defined her own personal reality. Her sincere congeniality simply mirrored that reality. She was completely at peace with herself, and her contentedness grew from within. Her self-assurance came not from performing, as I’d originally imagined, but instead from the serenity that comes with being totally quiescent with oneself.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I now knew that whatever doubts I’d had concerning Shauna’s integrity were now unwarranted. While she seemed to enjoy teasing me incessantly, I knew she would never knowingly hurt me. She was honest, a rare commodity even in 1947, as well as trustworthy. Perhaps it was seeing mirrored in another my own strong ethics that had attracted me to Shauna.

Shauna.

Suddenly that name didn’t fit her, and I knew it was assumed. I was now more than ever driven to find out more about her.

I regained my composure and confidence. I could only hope she wouldn’t knock me flat on my ass ten seconds after she seated herself on the stool next to me. She had a way of keeping me off-balance, and I couldn’t deny that I enjoyed her playful ridicule. I couldn’t help but find myself amused by it, as well as challenged.

She evidently felt comfortable in my company, despite the ponderous disposition I’d displayed. Maybe she was just trying to get me to loosen up. The idea of her playful affection warmed me.

Well, I concluded, two can play at that game. I’ll just have to even the score.

On stage Shauna was introducing the next song, a ballad to be sung by her backup singer, a knockout blonde named Melody, in whom I wasn’t the least bit interested.

Shauna locked eyes with me as she put the microphone back into its cradle and, with a slight motion of her head, invited me to join her on the dance floor.

A moment later she slipped into my arms and nestled herself comfortably into my embrace, nothing vulgar, just comfortable. I led, marveling at the soft texture of her hand.

Is it really that small?

My heartbeat quickened as she moved her other hand up around my neck, her head now resting on my chest; my own head was aswirl with myriad sensations, all of them pleasant. I contented myself with the moment, knowing it would be over all too soon, finding solace in the hope that there would be many more such moments. If I never found a way back to my own time, I could think of worse places with less desirable people to spend the rest of my life.

I inhaled the sweet fragrance of her hair; somehow, miraculously, it had managed to escape the fate to which Chrissie’s had succumbed. I sighed and tightened my hand around hers.

In response she gazed up into my pale green eyes with her own brown ones, alive with mischief, and accused, “Boring you to pieces, am I?”

I only smiled my pleasure at her and pushed her head back down to its rightful place.

A moment later the song came to an end and with it the moment.

Her eyes alive with mirth, she promised to join me at the bar in just a few minutes, where she would proceed to “drink you under the table.”

“No mean feat,” I countered. “Considering the alcoholic content of cola.”

She left for the stage, while I, feeling ten feet tall, headed for the barstool I’d been keeping warm all night. The envious glances from the other male patrons in the establishment did nothing save to inflate an already-swelling ego.

While I waited for the set to end, I tried to think of a way to arrange a more intimate meeting with Shauna. I didn’t wish to come on too strong, too desperate; yet playing it too insouciant would risk looking like I was simply coming on.

As a result of this new dilemma, I became aware of the delicate nature of what I was contemplating. Never before had the consequences of rejection weighed so heavily. In the past, rejection simply meant moving on to the next most likely candidate; my needs had always been easy enough to accommodate. Never before had I been faced with the perils associated with the failure to attain that which I so desperately aspired.

Desperately?

I was beginning to sound like a man smitten. And the implication that I affiliated with that malady left me with a feeling of mounting inadequacy.

Needs: I needed to find out who I was and why, for the first time in my life, I was being harassed by moments of anxious apprehension. Furthermore, I needed to explore the uncertainty of the reality of my existence.

I should catch a flight to Michigan, if that’s what it took, and try to locate this Robert Porter character. I was convinced more than ever that he could better provide answers to the list of questions that seemed to lengthen of its own volition than Shauna could. But I seemed paralyzed by fear, a never-before faced debility because until now I’d never encountered it. And it was safe to say that the basis for that fear was the revelation of that which my endeavors might unearth.

Wants: I wanted to explore my uncharacteristic fascination with the mystery girl on stage. I’d initially thought that she might possess answers to questions and I still thought that, but to which questions?

I began to reassess the nature of those questions. I wanted her but for more than just her body.

Through her, I felt certain I could learn something of myself; yet what that lesson might be, I had no clue.

JP Cover Front

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A taste of a work-in-progress

Since Betrayal was published, many people have asked me if I’m working on another novel. Each time, my response was the same: ‘I’m always working on another novel’. Nine times out of ten, they reacted with surprise, as if once was enough. But, for those of us who write, once is never enough.

Many of these same people asked if I’m writing a sequel, or if it’s the same style of story as ‘Betrayal’. My answer was always no.

So, in order to prove that I am writing another novel, and it’s not a sequel, I decided to provide a small excerpt from what is very definitely a work-in-progress. It’s the first draft of a half-written manuscript, and it will have to endure a multitude of editings before I’m satisfied with it. But, here it is…just a taste of ‘Letters from Nowhere’. (Actually, this is Chapter 3)

             I remembered the mysterious letter only after the kids were in bed, my chores were done, and I was getting ready to crawl under the covers for the night. With all the usual evening drama it had completely slipped my mind. I rushed downstairs to root through my bag and pull out the forgotten mail. I hastily shoved the regular bills and papers into a drawer, and I grabbed the mysterious envelope to take upstairs with me to read in bed. Something this special deserved a comfortable environment to give it full honors.

            On my way past Ethan’s bedroom I was summoned for a last-minute attempt at prolonging bedtime. Much to his disappointment, I didn’t fall for it. A few minutes later I was happily ensconced in my bed covered with a plump duvet.

            I was eager to see the contents, but hesitant to rip open the authentic-looking envelope. I wanted to preserve the look of the yellowed paper and the faded cursive writing. But I knew to discover who had sent it to me it had to be opened.

            Gently, I slid my finger under the seal and pried it open with minimal damage to the envelope. When I looked inside I was delighted to see the letter was also written on paper that had been made to look very old. Whoever was behind this knew how to peak my curiosity.

            As I unfolded the letter I could have sworn there were several particles of dust that fell onto my duvet. I was tempted to look at the bottom of the page to discover who had sent it to me, but decided I would delay the pleasure and see if I could guess by the contents of the letter.

My dearest,

            I imagine you are surprised to hear from me. I am almost as surprised to find myself writing this letter to you. In my thoughts I have written it a thousand times, each time wondering if it would be good enough for you; if you would be able to understand the way I feel. Would the words be clear enough? Would my feelings show through?

            I have never fancied myself as a writer of love letters, but I know I can always learn. If it is the only way I can communicate with you, then so be it. Hopefully, in the future, you will come to appreciate me in different ways, and you will see I am someone worth getting to know and perhaps love.

            I could probably fill many pages with words about your beauty, both inside and out, but I know your head won’t be turned by such behaviour. You have heard it too many times before from too many men.

            Instead, I will try to help you, in any way that I can. You will come to appreciate me more that way. You don’t think you need help. You’re a very strong, independent woman, but everyone needs a friend. And, for now at least, that is what I will be to you, a friend.

            So, my dearest friend, I wish you a good night and sweet dreams.

 

            I stared at the letter in disbelief for several minutes. It was unsigned and I had no clue who had written it to me. It was also kind of creepy. Some strange man was writing me love letters. It sounded like we may have already met. I looked around the room, at the darkened corners, and the door of the closet that stood ajar.

             Actually, this was beyond creepy.

            I reread the letter, and told myself I had to calm down. The second time around, I decided it was actually very generic. No names were mentioned at any point; not mine, not his, not the names of these imaginary men who were constantly telling me how beautiful I am.

            Therefore, it was obviously a prank. This guy was sending out letters to many women, trying to freak us all out. He had succeeded with me, but only temporarily, and it would surely end there. I would be extra cautious in my movements to and from the house, but I refused to let myself be driven crazy by this lunatic.

            I finally drifted off to sleep after two tours of the house to make sure everything was locked up tight, and several hours of tossing and turning.

 

***

A.J. McCarthy is the author of ‘Betrayal’ a romantic suspense thriller published by Indigo Sea Press.

 

 

 

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To Offer it Free or Not – Marketing Your Work

Free BooksAs with everything to do with the art of writing, publishing and marketing books, there are different views on the worth of offering your books free.

Some will argue that you should not work for free.  And, in essence, that is what you are doing when you offer your books free.  You have spent countless hours writing, editing, perfecting, and polishing your writing.  You chose the perfect cover, formatted the book for eBook, and finally are rewarded with seeing your hard work available to the world.

Of course, you want some monetary gain from all that hard work.  Who wouldn’t?

But, unless you are already a well-known author, will the world even know you exist?  Will they (the readers) buy your book when you are an unknown quantity to them?  When there are so many badly written, badly edited, and just plain bad, stories out there, the reader needs to have a reason to want to invest their money in your book.

Possibly one of the more appealings ways to an author is the free sample chapters.  However you get that out there, through posting them on social media, allowing partial sample downloads on Smashwords, or ther means.  Free samples let the reader get sucked into the story, and just as they get hooked they are cut off with no option except to stop there or get your book.

I see offering books free as a marketing tool.  Companies do it with other types of products all the time, offering try me samples in the hope you will love it enought to buy it.  The buy one-get one free offer.  Buy that and we’ll toss this in with it.  Get one month free.  Even the grocery stores get in on the action with their free sample days.  These are all teasers to encourage you to buy or try their product.

If there is one thing everyone loves, it is getting something for free.

How many books have you passed over buying because you didn’t know if you would like the author?  The write up on the back cover looks good, the cover art is enticing, but you just don’t know.  So you decide instead to buy that new book by the author you love.

This does not mean you have to give it away free forever.  Offer it free for a limited time. With so many companies marketing other products by this method, it must work.  Otherwise, they would invest that marketing money in other ways to market their products.  You can always offer it free again if it suits your needs.

You can also offer limited time coupon codes so that those who get the code can read it free while others have to purchase it.  Coupon codes can be used in a targeted marketing campaign.  For example, let’s say you are publishing a humor book suitable for grade school kids about survival while camping with scout groups.  Offer the coupon code to your local scout groups, giving the kids the eBook free.  If they read it and love it, they’ll tell their friends about it.  Target book clubs for your genre.  If your book is about gardening, offer the coupon code for free limited time download of your book to a few garden clubs.

Knowing they got something free that others have to pay for makes people feel special.  They feel like they got a prize, they feel superior, they feel a small sense of empowerment.  They feel like they matter just a little bit more.  They feel like someone cares.  Each feels special in a different way, depending on their personality.  It doesn’t matter how they feel special, you made them feel that way and they like you more for it.

The hardest part of selling books is getting readers to know it exists. If free offers help, then it is worth it.  The first job of selling your book is getting someone to read it.  If you did your job right in writing the book, then they will do your second job for you – getting them to talk about it.

People talk about books and share information on them for three reasons:

(1) They loved it,

(2) They found it controversial and it got their blood boiling,

(3) They hated it.

Nobody talks about the book that isn’t noteworthy.  They also won’t talk about it if they haven’t read it or even heard of it.  If they loved it, they will talk about it, and they also will want to read more.

Another way to get free samples of your work into your potential readers’ hands is short stories.  Offer short stories for free eBook download.  Blog them, Facebook them, share them.

Consider this:  work together with another author who writes similar stories in the same genre.  You both offer a free short story written by the other with the purchase of your book.  Both authors have a vested interest in promoting the books, one to earn the royalties and the other to get their reader audience to grow through the free short story.

Always remember to plug your other work.  Whether a book or a short story, free or for a price, always remember to include a plug for other published work that is available.

Every piece has to be your best.  Whether free or not, a 100 word flash fiction or 150,000 novel; every bit of writing you put out there needs to be good.  Advertising yourself with mediocre short stories will not increase your readership.

However you choose to market your work, the goal is the same – getting potential readers and buyers to notice you in a sea of possible authors.

L. V. where the bodies areGaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

Watch for book 2 of the McAllister series coming soon at Second Wind Publishing, LLC:  The McAllister Farm.  The secret behind the bodies is revealed.

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00015]

Other links to purchase L.V. Gaudet’s books

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

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Excerpt from ‘Betrayal’

My novel, Betrayal, published by Second Wind Publishing, will be launched on June 1st. To give you a bit of a preview, I have chosen an excerpt from the book to post to my blog. I hope you enjoy it.

Ben stood for a moment, staring blankly at the closed door. He was trying to assimilate everything that had happened today. The arrival of the girl had been a surprise, and he had suspected all along she was hiding something, but now it was confirmed. Now he knew that not only was she hiding something, but it was something dangerous. Tori had had a very good reason not to follow the road back into town. She was running from someone and that someone had just come knocking at his door.

The two strangers had obviously followed her footprints through the snow. Ben had no doubt Tori had made no effort to cover her tracks. It had taken a lot of explaining on his part to convince them it was his footprints leading to the cabin, and he wasn’t so sure they were entirely convinced.

There had been no question in his mind of handing her over to them. True, he valued his private time alone in his cabin and he would have preferred Tori had chosen someone else’s lake to fall into, but he was not cold-blooded enough to turn her over to a couple of goons. She was in trouble and he wasn’t going to make it worse for her. Ben pivoted and looked speculatively towards the bedroom where she was hiding.

He knew she had heard everything that had been said, but hadn’t been able to understand. He also knew she had probably recognized the voices at the door and remembered them as belonging to the people who had inflicted those bruises on her neck and face. He was sure they were responsible for her injuries. Several pieces of the puzzle fit together now. There were still some gaping spaces, but, if he handled this carefully, he might be able to fill them in. The question was whether he really wanted to. After all, this cabin was meant to be his refuge, not a hotbed of intrigue.

A.J. McCarthy is the author of Betrayal, soon to be published by Second Wind Publishing.

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Sea of Destiny – Part 33 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverDr. West isn’t convinced that Kyle is legitimately interested in Emily. He fears that Kyle is just after her money, much like her ex-husband was.

“Mr. Scott, you’ve convinced me and I don’t convince easily. Maybe you are the right one to go. I’ll set it up.”

“Can you reach someone at this hour?”

“Watch me.” He grinned. “I’ll call your cabin when it’s done. And do me a favor, will you ask Carmelita to meet me for drinks?”

“Ask her yourself when you call. She’ll think I’m being a smart ass.”

Conceding the point with a nod, the doctor picked up the phone. Kyle waved and left. A different nurse was on duty than the one he had danced with. She stopped him as he headed toward the door.

“You’re Ms. Geraci’s friend, aren’t you? The dancer?”

Kyle chuckled, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Well, I dance, but I’m not a dancer by profession.”

“You made quite an impression on Becky this morning.”

“Oh, yeah?” He chuckled. “See what being light on your feet can do for a guy?”

“I wish my boyfriend could dance. Do you give lessons?”

“I live in Orlando. Might be a bit of a trek for one of us.”

“Oh, no. I live in Winter Park. I’m just here as a favor to Dr. West. Do you give lessons?”

“I hadn’t thought about it.”

“Maybe you should. Emily said you taught her to dance and it would be so much fun if Matt could take me dancing. He’d rather watch sports.” She wrinkled her nose.

“I’ll think about it.”

“Thanks!” She kissed his cheek. “Here’s my number. Call when you get home and let me know.” She handed him a piece of paper with her number and the caption ‘dance lessons for two’. “So you know I’m not just hitting on you.” She blushed.

“I’ll let you know, but don’t get your hopes up.”

Back at the cabin, he poured himself a JD and Coke, sipping it while he waited. True to his word, Dr. West called a few minutes later.

“It’s set. The priest was incredibly easy to reach. He’ll see you tomorrow afternoon at 2:00. One of our reps will be waiting for you to take you there.”

“That’s about the time the sightseeing tour leaves, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but I don’t see how you can manage both.”

“No, the point is I don’t want Emily to think I’m sneaking around behind her back. I’ll get off the ship with everyone else. My family will understand, at least I hope they will.”

“Take them with you. The rep can give you a private tour when you’re done. And having your family with you will give credence to your request.”

“Thank you, Dr. West.”

“Mr. Scott, I want Emily well as much as you do. If this helps her….”

“Yeah.” Kyle’s eyes suddenly filled with tears. He wanted to get off the phone before he started bawling like a baby. “Did you talk to Carmelita?”

“My next call. Goodnight, Mr. Scott.”

“Call me Kyle.”

“And I am Thad.”

They hung up. Kyle had the momentary qualm wondering if he was doing the right thing. Closing his eyes, Emily’s pain ravaged face floated past and he knew he had to do whatever it took to bring back the flush of health he saw in her picture.

Carmelita tapped on the suite door before opening it a crack.

“You decent?”

“As much as I ever get. I’m dressed.”

She poked her head around the door. “I’m going out for a bit. With Thaddeus.”

“Go have fun, Lita.”

“Shall I leave the suite door open so you’ll hear Mindy?”

“Yes. Let Cindy know you’re leaving.”

“She’s asleep already.”

“No she’s not, she’s faking. Probably reading some torrid romance novel with a flashlight.”

“I’ll tell her or leave her a note. I’m not sure when I’ll be back.”

“Enjoy yourself. How often do you get to have drinks with a handsome doctor? Have fun, but make good choices.”

© Dellani Oakes

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