Monday, November 17, 2014

I Looked Away ~ Part 3

Lori Connelly, the creator of Written Fireside, which puts out several fantastic free reads per year, has given those of us in the group an incredible challenge with our first ever story in the women's fiction category. 

Lori started us off with Part 1, centered around a frantic mother and her missing child.

Elsa Winckler continued the story with Part 2, adding to the drama. Here is my contribution, Part 3 of I Looked Away, a story in eleven parts by the writers of Written Fireside...

Like a rock the size of a boulder landing in Garrett’s stomach, the other ranger’s mention of little Noah Tucker made his gut clench. He didn’t want to be reminded of last year’s failure. His failure.

Not again. I’m not losing another. Damn. Why can’t parents do their jobs? Don’t they even care these days?

“I left her sitting at the picnic table over there,” the mother, Madeline Buell said, and pointed down the path.

“And why did you do that?”

“Like I told your colleague, Judy, I went back to fetch our jackets because of the rain.”

“Leaving her sitting alone over there.”

“She wanted to watch the ducks. She could see them from there.”

“At what time did you lose track of her?”

Madeline Buell frowned at him. It wasn’t the frown of an uncertain person trying to recall details. It was the frown of someone offended by his question and tone.

“The time,” she said. “You’re expecting me to have thought to check the time at the precise moment I noticed Megan gone? I was busy…looking.”

Her focus left him. He watched her gaze jump from spot to spot in the distance past his shoulder, never resting on any one thing. Garrett couldn’t read her. Was this the behavior of a young mother who was worried sick? Or did she have something to hide?

“I don’t know what time it was,” she said.

With those words, a near echo to those another woman had uttered, he was instantly thrown back to last summer.

“How long has Noah been gone, ma’am?” Garrett stood in the open doorway of the Tucker’s RV. 

It was a little after 11am on July 5th, a Monday. The Tuckers had rolled in on Friday evening, the 2nd, for the three-day holiday. According to park reservations, they were scheduled for departure that afternoon.

Natalie Tucker, Noah’s mother, had wedged herself up into one corner of the camper’s dinette. She was slender, in her late twenties. Her upper body hunched over into itself, while her legs stretched out across the dinette’s bench seat, crossed casually at the ankles. Going by her eyebrows, he guessed her to be a dishwater blonde, but black was her current color choice, the dull black of shoe polish in a tin. Stiff and brittle from over-processing, it had a life of its own. Red rimmed her eyes. They weren’t puffy from tears, just red. She wasn’t crying. She didn’t sound too upset. She didn’t sound much of anything.

“I don’t know what time it was when I saw him,” Natalie said. She didn’t look up at Garret, but instead picked at a hangnail, raising her thumb to her mouth to chew at it with her teeth. “Jordan?”

Jordan Tucker, the boy’s father, sat across from his wife at the dinette. Forearms resting leadenly on the tabletop, he looked ready to keel over in a face plant. “What?” he asked.

“He wants to know when we saw Noah last,” Natalie said.

Jordan was slow to respond and when he did, Garrett could see he had trouble formulating his answer. The man reached for it, but his recollections of the previous hours weren’t coming. “Next to the campfire? I don’t know. Maybe one o’clock? One-thirty?”

“One-thirty yesterday afternoon?” Garret said. He barely succeeded in clamping down on the incredulity he felt, preventing it from leaking into his voice. They hadn’t seen their child in close to 24 hours and were just now coming forward?

“One-thirty in the morning,” Jordan said absently, and then shook his head “No. Couldn’t have been that late.”

“No,” Natalie said. “Sometime around dinner I think?” The way she said dinner, it sounded like a guess, not about when she’d last noticed her son’s presence, but whether or not there had been dinner. “He was sitting by the fire, playing with it with a stick. I remember I….I looked away…at…at…” She shrugged. “It was just a minute, I think, and then I don’t remember what we did after that.” Her voice rose toward the end of her statement, making the sentence into a question. She looked up at Garrett at last. Was she expecting him to fill in the blanks for her?

Garrett could supply an answer easily. Their camper reeked of pot smoke. Were he to conduct a search of the vehicle right now, he wagered he’d find more than the odd recreational baggie of weed.

Jordan groaned loudly and his chin dipped closer to the tabletop. “Poor kid. Can you find him?”

“We’re organizing a search now,” Garrett told them.

“Do you need me…us to help?” Jordan asked.

“It’s best if you stay here, in case Noah comes back.”

“Okay.” Jordan pursed his lips and lifted an eyebrow. “Whatever you say.”

Garrett emerged from the RV grim in the knowledge he had no timeline to use as a starting point for the search. When had six-year-old Noah gone missing? Last evening, late last night, early this morning? He knew he wouldn’t be successful in pulling additional information out of the couple. Yes, he’d leave another ranger, Judy Willis, behind to go over it all with them again, but he didn’t kid himself. Jordan and Natalie Tucker had probably spent most of the weekend getting wasted.

He immediately assigned two rangers to organize ground search teams. He couldn’t contact the Forest Supervisor for a helicopter or other equipment until they had more to go on. Logically, there was only so far a six-year-old could wander, and it made sense to start with the easiest possible answers first, commonly used trails, public restrooms and—he shuddered—the river. He also dispatched teams to spread out through the campgrounds, talking to other campers who hadn’t already packed out for the weekend, asking if anyone had seen the boy and when.

Garrett did everything right. He pushed his people, but no harder than they pushed themselves. Vehicles exiting the park were stopped and drivers questioned, even more intensely when initial search parties turned up nothing and he and his teams feared Noah might have been abducted. An amber alert was issued. Water rescue covered the river. Hundreds of volunteers came out for the search.

Six hours, nine hours, working until darkness forced a halt to the search, they turned up squat. Not a single hint of Noah or what might have happened to him emerged. Their best shot at last known whereabouts had been the retired couple in the space next to the Tuckers who thought they might have seen him around the Tucker’s campfire at five-fifteen the evening before.

A full day passed. Garrett tried not to think about temps that had dipped into the twenties during the predawn hours. To their credit, none of the volunteers showed any signs of giving up on the second day; combing the forest well beyond the range even the most curious and determined child his age could have traveled.

Not once did the Tuckers stir from their RV. They couldn’t continue to use, not with Judy Willis and others watching, but sobered up they weren’t any more help. They remained curiously detached about Noah’s fate until it eventually sank in an arrest for child neglect was in their future.

Garrett couldn’t say if it was desperation or a hunch that prompted him to search the old logging trail at the far north end of the park. Just before sunset on the second day, he got in his truck, utterly frustrated with himself and the boy’s parents and drove eighteen miles over terrain only a dedicated off-roader could handle until he reached the trailhead.

Noah lay curled up at the base of a Douglas fir less than a hundred yards in. A stuffed toy, a tiger with its bright orange and black stripes, gave away the child's location. Noah, wearing only a tank top, shorts, and sneakers with no socks, lay curled around the animal as if sleeping peacefully. He wasn’t asleep. He’d died of exposure, no doubt during the early morning hours before light, when not even a helicopter would have been of assistance in locating him. How had the boy come to be here? Where had the stuffed animal come from? He already knew it didn’t belong to Noah.

He knelt next to the motionless form, touched the tiger’s face, traced a finger along that happy, childish grin and broke down, too exhausted to do anything but weep.

Yanking himself forcefully out of the past, Garrett studied Megan Buell’s mother, and wondered if he had another Natalie Tucker on his hands. Madeline's shoulder length honey blonde hair was fine and wispy, but it suited her equally delicate face. She appeared frazzled, not just worried, but permanently frazzled, and again, he received the impression she was hiding something. She was also livid with him.

“Look,” she said. “Believe anything you want about me. Call me anything you want. Irresponsible. A bad mother. I’m not who matters. Megan does. Find my baby!”


Where is Megan? Will Garrett and Madeline find her in time? The incredibly talented Elise Forier Edie, author of The Devil in Midwinter, and contributor to the holiday-themed anthology, Krampusnacht, continues the story with Part 4 on her website

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Release Day for SPELL TOUCHED (Breens Mist Witches, Book 1)

Happy October 1!

Release Day has finally arrived for SPELL TOUCHED, the first in my five-part series Breens Mist Witches. Currently, the book is available here on Amazon. Coming later this week to Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple iBooks, Smashwords and more.

Genre: Paranormal romance
Length: 45K words
Heat Level: Spicy
Intensity: Action sequence includes graphic violence.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Visiting Today with Fantasy & Western Romance Author ~ Lori Connelly

For a sneak peak at Spell Touched, releasing in just six days, pop over to Lori Connelly's blog and her weekly "First Fight Friday" feature. Hosted by her pal, Cowboy Marvin, Lori invites a different romance author each week to share the first "fight" scene between the hero and heroine of their latest novel.

Though the heated discussion I've shared between Sean and Gisela of Spell Touched is brief, it's one of my favorite "scenelets" in the book.

While you're there, but sure to check out another of Lori's projects, Written Fireside, a series of free reads told by writers she brings together around the virtual campfire. Running currently is the sexy Halloween Fae romance Of the Storm.

Lori is the author of the Men of Fir Mountain western romance series, including The Lawman of Silver Creek ("The steam rolled off the pages of this Novella.") and The Outlaw of Cedar Ridge.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Written Fireside ~ Of the Storm: Part 2

...Fae Meets Halloween in a Romance Free Read

Last year, Lori Connelly, of Written Fireside fame, invited me to participate in a Halloween round robin story with her and seven other writers. That story, A Witch By Chance, was so much fun to read and write, I secretly hoped she would ask me back again this year. Yay! She did. Below is my contribution to this year's free romance story, Of the Storm.

If you haven't already read Part 1, you'll want to read it first, here.

Of the Storm

Part II by Aileen Harkwood

“The queen requests the Samhain Torc,” Brishen said. “I am to collect it from you and deliver it to her majesty before the hour changes.”

He might use the word request, and speak in bland tones normally suited to please pass the potatoes, but Amaya knew better. This was not a polite entreaty. It was a demand.

“Well, she can’t have it,” she said. “The torc has been in the sacred trust of my family for over 800 years. It’s not the Queen’s to command.”

He raised one moon-silver brow in disbelief which she thought might also be tinged with admiration, or, knowing Bri and the fae, was more likely delight at her stupidity. In refusing Tasaria—her great-grandmother twenty-one generations removed, with far too much human blood running through Amaya's veins to ever be considered one of them — she not only denied the Queen of the Fae what she desired. She risked death. Tasaria wasn’t squeamish. She’d do it herself, executing Amaya by her own hands, in full view of the court.

Amaya didn’t know who had created the Samhain Torc, that part of its story had been lost to the centuries, but she understood its role in human-sídhe relations, and the dire necessity of keeping it out of fae hands. The torc was not simply an obscenely priceless historic artifact. It was a door between the realms only someone attuned to it by blood could use, and only on a single day of the year.

Today was that day, Halloween, or as the fae preferred it, Samhain.

“In case you hadn’t noticed…” Bri nodded significantly at thunderheads visible through her kitchen window, thousands of feet high, ignited by lightning, and boiling up into a storm no one in their right mind would consider natural.

“Her armies?”

“They’re prepared to force the border if you don’t hand over the torc.”

“Good luck with that.”

“You assume she won’t be able to?” That too-silver-to-be-human eyebrow went up again.

Odd, she’d known her counterpart from the other side of the border most of her life, but never before noticed; Brishen’s eyebrows were neither symmetrical nor perfect. Distinctly unfae-like. His stance, hip leaning into her countertop, arms folded across his upper body, may have communicated trademark sídhe boredom, but his broad chest couldn’t carry off the fae’s boneless dissipation.

Too much human in you, Bri. You’re a throwback, aren’t you?

Contrary to the fae way of thinking, the imperfections made him more, not less attractive.

“You’re unwise to underestimate the queen’s–”

“I don’t have it.” She blurted out the catastrophic news she’d learned the moment she’d stepped over her threshold.

“Excuse me?”

“I don’t have the torc. It’s gone.”

His face showed no reaction. “Some sacred trust.”

“Makani’s missing,” she added. “You didn’t see the disaster in the living room?” Her worry over her sister’s absence gnawed at her.

He gave a precise shrug. “I figured…typical human housekeeping.”

“Wow. Thanks.”

She abandoned him and returned to the living room. This wasn’t an ordinary mess, not even for Makani.

“So,” Bri said, having followed her. “Where do you think it is?”

This room, the sign on the door, Bri’s lack of surprise at hearing of the torc’s disappearance...felt off, so off. She turned to him.

“Why the sudden build up at the border?” she asked. “What aren’t you telling me?”


Ready to go on to Part 3? The fabulous Elise Forier Edie continues the story on her blog. You won't want to miss it. Definitely some fae fireworks between Bri and Amaya!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Spell Touched (Breens Mist Witches) ~ Cover Reveal!


Would you dare to fall in love, if you knew you’d be dead by midnight...? 


I'm thrilled to have a cover to show you for SPELL TOUCHED (Breens Mist Witches) due out October 1. Check back here next week for an excerpt from the book, and visit me September 26 on Lori Connelly's First Fight Friday blog, when you'll get a peek at the first, shall we say, "heated discussion," between SPELL's hero and heroine.

Here's the blurb:

Gisela Marton doesn’t know what to make of the mysterious gift left on her doorstep on Halloween morning, with its strange card that reads, Happy Death Day, Gisela! Everywhere she goes people she’s never seen before in the small town of Breens Mist, Oregon, wish her the same. Is this a tasteless joke meant to terrify, or a genuine threat?

Maddeningly calm, with a seductive grin that makes her hope this isn’t her last day on Earth, Sean MacLenna appears out of nowhere at the restaurant where she works to confirm the worst. She is going to die. At midnight. What Gisela and most others in town don’t know is they share it with a hidden society of witches, one that has protected the community for two hundred years. Every spell of protection woven comes with a price, however. In Gisela’s case that price is to sacrifice her life for the good of the town, and Sean, one of Breens Mist’s warlocks, has vowed to make her final hours the most pleasurable possible.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Facebook Book Party Alert ~ Saturday, August 16th

Have you ever been to a giant multi-author book party on Facebook? Well, I haven't. That's about to change, however, and I'm looking forward to the games, prizes, and hanging out with you!

This Saturday, August 16th, I'll be joining 29 other authors at the "Platinum" Multi-Author, Multi-Genre Online Book Celebration.

My author slot takes place at 4:15 pm Central Standard Time, during which host Vicki Rose Stewart will no doubt cook up some devious challenges for your chance to win several cool prizes. Take a look at the photos below to see what I'll be giving away.

Coldwater Creek Necklace

This stunning necklace is made of liquid sterling silver and crystal teardrop beads with a copper flash overlay. Retail is $159!


Artist Made Steel and Amethyst Crystal Bracelet

Steel rings and amethyst crystals make up this fun and funky bracelet from a New Mexico art gallery.


Plus a Kindle Book Prize Package

That includes one ebook copy each of SAPPHIRE RIDGE, DANGEROUS DREAMS, and WOLF'S DEN.

Hope you'll join me there!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Christmas Romance in July Winners Giveaway Announced

My thanks to all the entrants in my July giveaway. Rafflecopter's random selection bot has done its thing and the winner of the top prize, a $25 Amazon gift card goes to Maureen C. !!!

Winners of the other prizes are:

eBook Copy of Dangerous Dreams ~ bn100
eBook Copy of Wolf's Den ~ Alan S.
eBook Copy of Sapphire Ridge ~ Elliot W., Colleen C., Martina W.

All winners have been notified by email and sent their prizes via Amazon. Enjoy! This was a fun contest to run.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What Makes a Good Romance Author Giveaway? Survey, Plus Win Prizes!

Have you ever entered a romance author's giveaway? What are your favorite prizes? What are you willing to do (or not do) to earn an entry? I started wondering what makes the BEST romance giveaways and, on the flip side, what really bugs people about them, so I created a survey. Share your opinions and help romance writers like me improve them! Results will be posted on this blog.

Click Here to Take Survey

Note: clicking on the link will open a new window and take you to Survey Monkey, the service I'm using to host this poll. The free version only allows 100 people to answer the questions, so once we reach that limit, the survey will be closed.

  And Enter My Current Giveaway!

While you're here, be sure to enter the Christmas in July Giveaway, featuring Sapphire Ridge (A Paranormal Christmas Romance). You'll have a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card or copies of my books on Kindle! You don't have to take the survey to enter the contest, though it would be really helpful.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dangerous Dreams a Finalist for the 2014 Readers' Crown

Woo-hoo and a half! Dangerous Dreams is a 2014 Readers' Crown Finalist in the Paranormal category.

Received the good news in an email last night. I am so grateful to be included among the incredible group of ladies who are finalists in the category. You know how Hollywood actors and actresses always say they're happy just to be nominated for something, but you kind of doubt them? They're only saying that, you think cynically, in case they don't win.

When it comes to this contest, however, I'm here to tell you the cliché is true. I am absolutely thrilled. I feel like I've won by joining this list of authors and their superb novels:
  • Alicia Sparks ~ Primitive Fix
  • Angela Campbell ~ Something Wicked
  • Ashley Robertson ~ Death Dealer
  • Brenda Dyer ~ Prophecy's Child
  • Caryn Moya Block ~ A Siberian Werewolf In Paris
  • Dena Garson ~ Ghostly Persuasion
  • Erin Quinn ~ The Five Deaths of Roxanne Love
  • Holley Trent ~ A Demon in Waiting
  • Jessie Donovan ~ Blaze of Secrets
  • Jody A Kessler ~ Death Lies Between Us
  • J.M. Kelley ~ Almost Magic
  • Kathryn Knight ~ Gull Harbor
  • Lisa Kessler ~ Moonlight
  • Lynn Cahoon ~ Return of the Fae
  • L. A. Kelley ~ The Naughty List
  • Molly Ringle ~ Persephone's Orchard
  • M.L. Guida ~ A Pirate's Curse
  • Shelli Rosewarne ~ Love Reawakened
  • Suza Kates ~ Suffering of a Witch
  • Suzzana C Ryan ~ Before I Wake My Soul to Take
  • Torie James ~ Timeless Night
  • Zoey Derrick ~ Give Me Reason
  • Zoey Derrick ~ Give Me Hope
A HUGE shout out of thanks to the readers who rated my book and helped it make it into the list above.

Romcon 2014 takes place in Denver this year, June 20-22, where the winner in this and other categories will be announced during the annual Readers' Crown Luncheon on Friday. If you haven't already read them, support these deserving paranormal romance writers by buying and reading their books. And while you're at it, I'd love for you to give Dangerous Dreams a try!