Pornography in the Church and a Love Story

So, what’s that about, you ask? Pornography and a love story? Yes, those two can go together and do in Honor Respect Devotion. We’ll talk about that in a moment. In the meantime, we all understand that pornography is a hard issue. It’s at the front of  much discussion on sex trafficking these days, and yet, it’s estimated that anywhere between 50 to 80% of Christian men struggle with this issue. That number is slightly higher for non-Christians. Some men don’t even see it as a problem. However, others are finding their way on social media to tell how it effects relationships, marriages, the brain, and even physical “performance.”

In Honor Respect Devotion, I’ve sought to bring forth the issue in a way that shows God’s redemptive power and his forgiveness. China’s struggle to walk with God in the midst of heartache and physical problems adds another layer of complexity to the book. Their stories are interwoven with romance, action and suspense.

Jake Osborne is a search and rescue pilot for the US Coast Guard. His mission is to save lives–and he has a very personal reason for it. The Coast Guard’s motto is Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty; and it is something he tries to live out–not only for the CG, but also in his life as a Christian. But, in the past, he has struggled with pornography–and even now, the temptation sometimes raises its ugly head.

China Summers has a “bad girl” reputation and left home to get away from the church; but two years later, she returns. Her relationship with an older man ended when he found out she had a serious medical condition. Devastated by both events, she’s spent the last six months seeking the God from whom she ran away. But when she shows up at church again, will the she be rejected or received?

Jake and China are seeking to live a life surrendered to God, to live with honor, respect, and devotion; but will the Church let them? It’s sometimes said that Christians kill their wounded. Is that true? Do we extend love to those that are struggling or only to those we think walk perfectly? And does anyone walk perfectly?

Check out Covenant Eyes http://www.covenanteyes.com/ for more information on this subject. There are many other places on the internet to do your own research.

Honor Respect Devotion is free this weekend. Here’s the link: http://amzn.to/2hBz73P It’s Book 5 of The Dangerous Series http://amzn.to/2lfJQ5r, a novella, but will stand alone. Try it while it’s free. And then please let me know what you think about it. What is your response to the knowledge that 50% to 80% of Christian men struggle with pornography?

 

 

 

Looking for Justice–Dealing with Real Issues in Christian Fiction

So often I’ve heard that Christian fiction isn’t real or doesn’t deal with life as it is. People talk about a Hallmark moment, and they often mean something “sweet” or that “ahhh” feeling–which we all should have, but many times don’t.

I’ve wanted to write stories that show real life while including the love of God and the love of good people. Life can yank the warmth and laughter right out of us some days, but God and his wisdom can restore it.

Looking for Justice deals with rape and domestic violence–not pretty subjects, but it shows how we can overcome the effects of mistreatment in our lives, especially when we are willing to do things God way.

In the mountains of Tennessee, two people are running from the pain of their past lives and wind up teaching at a Christian college. But even there, things do not go smoothly. One of their students is attacked and they have to push through their own pain to help her–putting their own lives in danger. Looking for Justice has dogs, horses, Tennessee’s gorgeous fall foliage, a deepening romance, and suspense–with real life issues. It is on sale for 99 cents through February 10, 2017. It is Book 4 in The Dangerous Series (http://amzn.to/2lfJQ5r), but can stand alone. Here’s the link:http://amzn.to/2kFaeZa

Please let me know how you like it and what you think of Christian fiction that deals with issues like rape and domestic violence.

 

A book that deals with domestic abuse and diversity in Christian fiction.

A book that deals with domestic abuse and diversity in Christian fiction.

I’m talking about Toni Shiloh’s interview with Author Jerusha Agen today. Her book, This Redeemer, deals with domestic violence and has a diverse set of racial characters–something I love seeing in Christian fiction. And since God has placed those caught in domestic abuse on Jerusha Agen’s heart just as he has mine, I wanted to, hopefully, give her book a wider audience. You can tell by the title that this book has a redemption factor. I don’t want to “give away” too much from the interview because reading the whole thing will give you an understanding not only of Shiloh’s new site, Diversity Between the Pages, but also of Jerusha’s new book. Be blessed as you read it.

What do you think of having diverse racial or ethnic characters in a story? Those that are Caucasian having African-American, Hispanic, Asian, etc main characters, as well as African-Americans and Hispanic, etc, having Caucasian or Asia or other racial, ethnic characters in them? What problems might a writer find while writing a story including different racial and ethnic characters?

 

Author Interview (+ Giveaway): Jerusha Agen

My own books deal with rape, domestic abuse, human trafficking, pornography and abstinence within a “clean-read” fiction story of romance and suspense. What do you think of Christian fiction that deals with real and sometimes controversial subjects?

Linda
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness there of…”

Amber Alert, As Long As You Both Shall Live, Splashdown, Looking for Justice, and Honor Respect Devotion are Christian romantic suspense books that deal with real life issues. All are on sell at Amazon.  http://amzn.to/2lfJQ5r
My other blog: Writing for God; Fighting Human trafficking: https://lindarodante.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

Honor. Respect. Devotion.

Honor. Respect. Devotion.

I’m releasing my new book in December–a novella, but still part of The Dangerous Series. It’s Book 5. Working hard to get it finished! Here’s the blurb:

China Summers’ bad girl persona began in high school, followed her to college and home again. Only she isn’t that kind of girl anymore. Life has tossed her like a broken ship in towering seas. She’s drawn to Coast Guard pilot, Jake Osborne, but he’s obviously heard the rumors about her.

Jake has fought his own battles, ones he thought he’d won. But China’s return makes him wonder if he celebrated too soon.

They’re both looking for a life far from the temptations that raged before, but with a murderer out to launch them into a watery grave, will they get a chance to find it?

Author Interview with Toni Shiloh and a Drawing for a Free e-Book!

Hello Toni!                                                           author-interview-toni-shiloh1                          author-interview-toni-shiloh

I’m so looking forward to this interview today! I love finding out about new authors and writers. Can you tell us what genre you write and a little of your writing journey?
Certainly! I write Christian contemporary romance. It all started with a creative writing class I took in college. I took the class because I needed it for my requirements and I had no idea how much I would love it. I’ve dabbled with writing in the past but I never showed anyone. My teacher was extremely supportive and once the writing bug bit, it was all over. In 2014, I made a commitment to myself to finish a story and take my craft seriously. I’ve been writing ever since.

What book are you featuring today and what story can you tell us that has something to do with your book?
Today, I wanted to talk about my latest book, Buying Love. I wrote it in November 2015, and I’m overjoyed that it is now available for readers to enjoy. This book is special to me because it was written for National November Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo). It’s a contest that takes place to motivate writers to write 50,000 words or more for the month of November. It was the first time I entered, and I was successful at reaching the goal. Buying Love is the result of it.

Can you give us a short summary or back copy blurb about the book you are featuring today, Buying Love http://amzn.to/2deXj91?
Will money ruin everything? Nina Warrenton is ready for the next step in her life plan—marriage, but no one has proposed. Taking matters into her hand, she places an ad in the newspaper hoping to entice a willing stranger. But when she begins to fall for the small-town chef, she realizes how much she wants him to love her and not her money.

Dwight Williams needs fast cash to save the family restaurant. When he sees Nina’s monetary offer for a husband, he goes for it. He’s determined to save the legacy his dad left him, but can he let it go to prove his love for her? Can Nina and Dwight find true love, once money has entered the equation?

I love this idea, and I love the cover of your book! What do you do when you sit down to write? Do you listen to a certain type of music or eat chocolate or exercise? Anything special?
The first thing I do is pray. I always want my words to be guided by the Lord. Then I set up my music, because silence is a bit unnerving to me. Depending on the genre or my mood dictates the type of music I listen to. Generally, I listen to Contemporary Christian, Country, or artist like Adele. I also love to snack on crunchy foods, such as, chocolate covered nuts, seaweed (when I’m in a health conscious mood), or trail mix.

What is something unique or amusing about yourself or your life that we would like to know?
I talk out loud quite often. It drives my husband crazy because he can never tell if I’m talking to him or myself. But, it helps me focus and I get more things done that way. 😉

Give us a short biography about yourself and tell us how we can contact you (fb, twitter, website).
Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.
She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the local Virginia Chapter.
You can find her on her at the following sites:
Website: http://tonishiloh.weebly.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/authortonishiloh
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/116452363653059921235/posts
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/tonishiloh
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/tonishiloh
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tonishiloh
Blog I’m part of: http://puttingonthenew.com ; http://heartwingsblog.com

*GIVEAWAY!* One free ebook of this same title will be given to the winner of a drawing. Anyone who makes a comment on this post on my blog (lindarodante.com) or on my author facebook site (Linda K. Rodante) will be put in for a drawing. On Monday, following this blog, a winner will be drawn and their name will be given to the author who will contact them and arrange for the book to be sent.

Please give us the first chapter of your book:

Chapter One

Nina Warrenton checked her watch for the umpteenth time. He was late. On the one hand, she was thankful; on the other, she was annoyed. Who makes an appointment and shows up late? Granted living in the D.C. Metro area guaranteed multiple opportunities to be late, but she made an effort to arrive on time to any appointment. Too bad the unknown Mr. Williams didn’t hold the same virtue.

She sighed. Had she acted prematurely? Putting an ad for a husband was a little archaic, but she believed it would get the job done. However, none of the previous candidates had panned out. One man had been released from prison a couple of months ago. Another had answered her ad with the hope of moving out of his mother’s place. Still, another had answered her ad because the voices in his head had prompted him to. She shook her head.

Maybe the face that Mr. Williams was missing was God showing her he wasn’t the one. Maybe he was prematurely balding or had the personality of wilted lettuce. Of course, she had prayed that God would send her the right man, but there was no guarantee He would acquiesce to her request.

She tapped her pen on the table and looked around the room. The coffee shop was filled with D.C. metropolitans ready to embrace the autumn air. It was a gorgeous day with a light breeze and the preferred seventies temperature. Was it possible that Mr. Williams was already here and hiding behind a coffee mug or laptop, to secretly get a first impression without her noticing? She peeked around the shop, but she was the only one alone.

She glanced at her watch again. He was only five minutes late. Maybe he took the metro and it was running behind. On the other hand, maybe he drove and couldn’t find a parking spot. The sound of her pen hitting the table seemed to mark the seconds. She knew this part of D.C. wasn’t filled with ample parking, but she wasn’t ready to excuse him yet. Her place was a block away and she had made the journey in no time.

She glanced down at her aqua journal to review her notes about the man in question. He had filled out the questionnaire she had sent when he contacted her about the ad. She knew he was a few years older than herself and lived in Loudoun County, a suburb in Northern Virginia. Coming from that direction, he probably was stuck in traffic.

She really wasn’t that obsessed with time. However, he was the third candidate she planned on meeting face-to-face. Third time was the charm, right? If so, why wasn’t he here? Why hadn’t Prince Charming swept her off her feet? Shouldn’t she be the one making him wait?

She glanced up at the tinkle of the door chime. She inhaled sharply. In strode a man, wearing a sweater that matched the color of her notebook, a white-collared shirt peeking above his collar and hanging past the sweater’s edge. His maple-brown sugar skin reminded her of her favorite body scrub. He was gorgeous.

She shifted in her seat wondering if he was her missing appointment. Mr. Williams had agreed to bring a white rose so that she could identify him. However, the bookshelf by the door hid his hands. The man scanned the crowd then brought his hands up and took a sniff of the aforementioned flower.

It was him.

She wanted to grin, but held back. She didn’t want to get her hopes up. All the other candidates had been so dismal that her dreams had begun to wan. She really wanted to meet her next life goal of having a family, but a husband was imperative. If Mr. Williams didn’t pan out, what was she going to do? Her ex-boyfriend had gleefully dumped her a few months ago.

She shook her head to dislodge the thought. She didn’t have time to entertain it. Instead, she stood up and waved a hand, hoping to catch the man’s attention. He turned and captured her gaze.

She gulped. The electricity that hummed in the air had to be her imagination. He gave a brief smile and walked her way. She clasped her hands, hoping to present a confident façade and hide the one that was shaking in her gray suede, ankle boots.

He stopped at the bistro-style table and cleared his throat. “Are you Nina Warrenton?”

The deep timbre of his voice ran down her spine. “Yes. Are you Mr. Williams?”

His eyebrows rose. She suppressed the urge to fidget. Had she sounded unfriendly?

“I am.” He held out a hand in greeting.

She placed her hand in his and almost jumped at the shock that went up her hand. Get a hold of yourself, Nina. He’s just a man.

“Nice to meet you.” She licked her lips, suddenly feeling the need for a drink of water. She sat down and reached for cup. “Would you like to get a drink? I’ll wait.”

He flashed a smile, wider than his first, and her insides quivered. Her Mr. Williams was really handsome. He’s not yours yet.

“Thanks, I appreciate that.” He placed the rose on her journal. “For you, Ms. Warrenton.”

“Thank you.”

He walked away and stood in line to place his order.

She watched, noting his broad shoulders. His outfit was wrinkle free. Although he wore dark wash jeans, he had on dress shoes. The man was a walking advertisement. Was it for pretense? Did he dress like that often?  She wondered if his car and house were as neat as his appearance or if he was he really a slob.

She looked down at the notes. He said he was a chef. Were chefs messy? She hated clutter and preferred to put everything in its designated spot. Why hadn’t she put that question in her survey? She had added nitpicking ones like “Which side did he hang the toilet tissue on?” She had felt relieved to find he was an over-type-of-guy, one less argument to worry about.

She watched as he thanked the barista and placed a tip in the jar. He had good manners. She wondered if that could be attributed to his parents or was he a self-made man? Lord, I pray that You would guide me in this interview. You know how important it is to me to successfully complete the next item on my list. Please, let him be the one.

Her ex had admired her determination at completing a goal, only to cite it as an aggravating habit when he dumped her. Would Mr. Williams agree?

She couldn’t think of him as Dwight. Not yet. Maybe if he agreed to get married, but for now, it was vital to view this as a business relationship. Who knew, despite his good looks, he could fail at the interview portion as the other two guys who managed to get that far had.

He walked back to the table and took the seat across from her.

“What did you get?”

“The dark roast with cream and sugar. You?”

So he was a coffee drinker as well. “Caramel Macchiato.” She stared at him, noting his thin goatee. Suddenly, her mind was devoid of all the questions she had planned to ask. She reached for her cup hoping to regain her focus.

“So, why the ad?”

She watched him as he took a cautious sip of coffee. Should she be completely truthful? She scooted in her chair. “I like setting goals for business and for my personal life. A husband is necessary for the next goal on my list. I don’t have a boyfriend so this seemed like the best way to go about it.” She cringed inwardly. She sounded like a robot or worse, heartless.

He slowly nodded. “What’s the goal?”

“I’d like to be married and have a child before I hit thirty-five.”

His eyebrows rose again. Was that a facial expression she should start expecting from him? Was he unsure of how to proceed as much as she was?

“Wouldn’t you rather let nature have its way and fall in love?”

She tilted her head. “I don’t necessarily believe in ‘falling in love.’” She sighed as she used air quotes. “I think society has diluted the feeling and used it as an excuse for divorce and for not keeping their vows sacred. I know my way seems a little unconventional, but I believe that God will guide me through this endeavor.” She looked down at her journal. Why couldn’t she relax and speak from her heart? She sounded like she was making a proposal in the boardroom. But you need to be analytical. Hopefully Mr. Williams would understand.

He sat back and took another sip of his coffee. “So then whoever you chose, you intend to stay married until death do you part?”

“Absolutely. Wasn’t that your intention when replying to my ad?”

She saw his chest rise and fall. He rubbed the back of his head. She tensed as she waited to see if he was going to lie or was just looking for the words to continue.

“Honestly, when I first applied to the ad, it was because of your comment of a monetary dowry upon marrying. I have a family business that could use the financial support. However, after filling out your questionnaire, I prayed to God asking for guidance. It made me uneasy that just any man could apply and potentially be a candidate. Frankly, I worry about your safety.”

His brown eyes met hers and she tried not to turn into a wet noodle. She appreciated his candor. Thankfully, all the past candidates had agreed to a background report, which a coworker conducted. Now she owed him a favor, but it had been worth it. She was able to weed out those who did not meet her standards, bankrupt and financially incompetent men, not to mention the criminals who were unfit to participate with society.

He said he worried about her. The thought was mind-boggling. When was the last time someone truly worried about her? She could count on one hand the people she was close to. “Thank you for your honesty. The background check helped and I haven’t met a single man in a private place.” She shifted in her seat. “By the way, I appreciate your willingness to drive to D.C. I’m sure the commute wasn’t pleasant.”

Driving in the D.C. Metro area could be a nightmare on a sunny afternoon. Add to it that this was Saturday ensured that traffic was a given, no matter what time of day.

“Not a problem. So do you have additional questions to ask?”

She nodded and turned to the additional questions in her notebook. Here goes nothing.

*

Dwight Williams watched her as she referred to her journal. He had been floored when she stood up. He half expected the mysterious Nina Warrenton to be ugly. What else was he supposed to think about a woman who’d put an ad in the paper titled, “Seeking a Husband?” Yet ugly she was not. She was breathtaking, although he couldn’t put it on one stand out feature. Her skin reminded him of the pumpkin bread his mother made. And her haircut reminded him of Toni Braxton’s old short cut.

Yep. She was beautiful.

He remembered how he read the entire ad out of curiosity. He’d tossed the paper shortly after and had a good laugh at it. However, it refused to dislodge itself from his mind. After a week of seeing the advertisement run in the paper, he had finally sent her an email as stated in the ad. He had expected her to contact him via the phone but instead, he’d received a link to Survey Monkey to fill out a questionnaire. He felt like he was in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

“Why do you want to get married?” she asked.

He stared at her, pulling his mind from his musings. He huffed. He didn’t know how to answer that. Be honest, you have nothing to lose. “My idea of marriage is to have a life partner. One who would take an interest, if not an active role, in my business. One who I could share every aspect of my life with. To laugh with, to know she has my back, basically someone to live life with.” He stopped, trying to find the right words to explain his desires. He met her gaze, once again startled by her beauty.

“That sounds like a dream marriage. Even though we aren’t in love, would you let that allow you to stray from your vows?”

“No.” He believed in the sanctity of marriage. Even if he found this whole process a little odd. “If I commit myself to you, I will keep our vows sacred. As I said in the survey, I’m a Christian and would not break the commands God has put in place.” He wiped his hands on his jeans. He couldn’t believe he had come here.

Was he crazy? No, just desperate. He couldn’t let his family’s business go under without trying every avenue available to him. He wanted to ask how much the dowry was, but he didn’t want to be crass. He sighed. This was so bizarre.

“Would you be willing to relocate to D.C.?”

He hesitated. Driving to D.C. from the edge of Loudoun County, where the family restaurant was located, would wreak havoc on what little patience he had. He hated the traffic. “Honestly, no. My business is in Loudoun County. To move here, but have to travel there every day, would be a nightmare. Not that I’m not willing to talk it over.” He settled his elbows on his knee and leaned forward. Suddenly, he realized he knew nothing about her. She held all the cards. “What do you do?”

“I’m a CPA working primarily as a consultant, so I don’t have a nine-to-five-job.”

The husky tone of her voice captured his attention, so it was a moment before her words penetrated the haze her voice had created. “Wait, you’re a consultant?” At her nod, he continued. “Well then would you be willing to relocate?”

He held his breath, awaiting the answer. Was he really considering going through with this charade? He pictured his ledger and the amount noted in red. His options were limited.

“Perhaps, many of my clients are located in Northern Virginia. But I also have some in D.C.”

He nodded. He didn’t want to argue the point because he still wasn’t sure if he was going to go through with this. What would God think? “I feel like you know more about me since I did your survey. How about you share a little about yourself?”

She shifted in her seat. It seemed to be a nervous habit of hers. He wanted to laugh because she looked like a little kid.

“Well, my favorite color is the same as your sweater. My birthday is the fourth of July. I graduated from high school at sixteen. And, that’s about it.”

His clenched his jaw. She sent him a one hundred-question survey and he got about three facts from her. “Okay, how about this.” He sat back, crossing his arms over his chest and his feet at the ankles. “You fill out the survey you sent me and send it to my email since you’re not going to be forthcoming.”

Her eyes widened a little. “Are you mad?”

“Well, let’s see. I ask you to tell me about yourself and you spit out your favorite color, birth date and when you graduated high school.” He sat forward. “This is your idea Ms. Warrenton. I’m trying to be a good sport, although I’m not even sure the one-sided inquisition is worth it.”

She let out a puff of air. “I’m sorry, Mr. Williams. When I get nervous, I start listing facts. It’s what I know and what I do. I don’t mean to be difficult.”

She stared at him, her eyes beseeching him. He wanted to walk out, but how did he know the next interviewee wasn’t some gigolo looking for easy winnings? Are you any better?

He closed his eyes and rubbed the back of his head. Then he met her gaze. “I’m sorry. Maybe I’m not the right person for this. I do need the money, but marriage should be about love, not some analytical approach to what God intended to be a blessing.”

She leaned forward, her hands squeezing her side of the table. “But don’t you see? It can be this way as well. I reviewed all your information and noticed that where I’m weak, you’re strong. You have a business that you hinted needs financial support, I have the finances. God created us to complement one another. If love was strictly about feelings, He wouldn’t command us to love one another.” Loosening her grip on the table, she reached for her drink trying to steady her nerves. “I know this seems very odd in its approach, but I promise that I would give this relationship my all. Please consider it.”

He stared blankly, unsure what to do.

“Mr. Williams—”

“Please call me, Dwight.”

“Dwight, can I ask what’s going on with your restaurant?”

“We’re losing business.”

“So my dowry I’m offering would help, right?”

“Yes, but that’s not a reason to get married.”

“You need help, right?”

He nodded.

“Then wouldn’t I be a definition of a helpmate?”

He froze. The way her logic worked was frightening. You can’t contradict her, can you? He wanted to groan in frustration. He knew answering the ad was going to be a decision he came to regret, and he hadn’t done anything yet besides meet her for coffee.

“You know I’m right, Dwight.”

“I might see the logic,” he said reluctantly.

“Great.” She beamed at him and the force of her smile hit him straight in the solar plexus. Breathtaking didn’t begin to describe it.

“Can I take a few days to think about it and pray?”

“Absolutely. I hope you’ll come to the same realization I already have.”

He eyed her skeptically. “We’ll see, Ms. Warrenton.”

“Please, call me Nina.”

He stood up and she followed suit. He looked down noticing their height differences for the first time. His nerves prevented him from noticing earlier. She had to be five foot two if anything. He held out his hand. “It was nice to meet you, Nina.”

She placed her hand in his and he squeezed it, trying to hide the tremor her touch created.

“Nice to meet you, too, Dwight.”

He left the coffee shop wondering what God would say to the whole ordeal.

 

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Author Interview with Debby Mayne and a Drawing for Three Books!

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Hello, Debby!                 author-interview-debby-mayne2

I’m so glad for this interview today. You’ve been writing for a while, I know, and have about 60 books published. Can you tell us what genre you write and a little of your writing journey?

I write southern women’s fiction, inspirational romance, and cozy mysteries. Before I wrote fiction, I wrote articles for parenting publications and health journals. I’ve always been an avid reader, so when my husband challenged me to write a book, I gave it a try. Then I was hooked.

You’re featuring three books today! What are they?

All 3 books in the Class Reunion series:
Pretty Is as Pretty Does http://amzn.com/B01ES91MS2
Bless Her Heart  http://amzn.com/B01ES91MMS
Tickled Pink  http://amzn.com/B01ES91MQO

I’ve read those, and they have some wonderful characters. Can you give us a short summary or back copy blurb from them?

Pretty Is as Pretty Does: Priscilla Slater goes to her ten-year high school reunion with equal parts dread and eager anticipation. Even though she’s a successful owner of a chain of hair salons and no longer has the mousy brown hair, crooked teeth, and discount-store wardrobe, she still feels like the ugly duckling. But when she arrives at the reunion, Priscilla soon realizes that her old classmates aren’t exactly as she remembers them. With humor and a just a touch of sassiness, Priscilla finds herself facing her own truth―and she may be surprised at what she discovers.

author-interview-debby-mayne3

Bless Her Heart: As Priscilla Slater’s 15-year class reunion approaches, she decides to attend out of curiosity… and to flaunt her latest achievement―taking her business to a national level with the possibility of a TV show. As if getting ready for the event and putting up with the pranks of her former classmates isn’t enough, Priscilla’s hometown visit is further complicated by her parents’ separation. With the once-solid sanctuary of her home broken at the foundation, there’s only one thing Priscilla’s parents can agree on: no matter what sort of accolades their daughter receives as a hair stylist, she’s not living up to her potential. Eager to escape the painful reality of her childhood home, Priscilla bolts as soon as a call from New York brings good news: her offer to purchase one of the best salons in the country is likely to come through. But returning to New York means returning to Tim, Priscilla’s best friend and business pal who has been impatiently suggesting their relationship should be more than a friendship. Despite her recent achievements, will Priscilla learn that success doesn’t always result in popularity―or love?

author-interview-debby-mayne4Tickled Pink: Priscilla Slater shows up at her 20-year reunion as a national celebrity. Her hair salon dynasty has skyrocketed, and to top it off, she has her own line of hair products. She has become a huge success with the “Ms. Prissy Big Hair” line that lets women with the thinnest of locks get the coveted “big hair” look so popular in the South. Her classmates have finally come to terms with adulthood, but they’re handling it with the grace of a Southern woman wearing white after Labor Day. It’s just downright awkward! Asserting the maturity that her classmates have often lacked, Priscilla holds her head high. But she can’t ignore everything. When she catches her mother in the arms of her former high school principal, Priscilla can’t get out of town fast enough. Eager to get back to her more comfortable life, Priscilla runs head on into an ultimatum: Tim tells her they’re not getting any younger―as if she has to be reminded.

What do you do when you sit down to write? Do you listen to a certain type of music or eat chocolate or exercise? Anything special?

I prefer total silence when I write. My most productive times are extremely early in the morning, like around 6:00 AM, and I am able to go until around noon. For some reason, I typically get a second burst of energy late at night, after my husband goes to sleep. I walk at least 10,000 steps per day, and during that time, I work on scenes and dialogue in my head.

What is something unique or amusing about yourself or your life that we would like to know?

I’m an eavesdropper. Most of my dialogue is inspired by conversations I wasn’t supposed to hear. I occasionally slip up and interject. Surprisingly, most of the time it works out just fine.

That’s funny. I wonder if you tell them you’re a writer. I think most people would go with that. Give us a short biography about yourself and tell us how we can contact you (fb, twitter, website).

Debby Mayne has published more than 60 books and novellas, 400 print short stories and articles, more than 2,000 web articles, and a slew of devotions for women. She has also worked as managing editor of a national health magazine, product information writer for HSN, a creative writing instructor for Long Ridge Writers Group, and a copy editor and proofreader for several book publishers. For the past 12 years, she has judged the Writers Digest Annual Competition, Short-Short Contest, and Self-Published Book Competition. Three of Debby’s books have been top ten favorites by the Heartsong Presents book club. Love Finds You in Treasure Island, Florida received 4-1/2 stars and was named a “Top Pick” by Romantic Times Magazine.

Connect with Debby at
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DebbyMayneAuthor/
Twitter: @DebbyMayne

*GIVEAWAY!* All 3 books (paperback only) in this series will be given to the winner of a drawing. Anyone who makes a comment on this post on my blog (http://lindarodante.com) or on my author facebook page (Linda K. Rodante) under this post will be put in for a drawing. On Monday, following this blog, a winner will be drawn and their name will be given to the author who will contact them and arrange for the book to be sent.  You could win all 3 books in the Class Reunion series!

Can we read the first chapter of Pretty Is As Pretty Does?

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7

Chapter One
(Priscilla Slater)

We are thrilled to announce
Piney Point High School’s
10 year reunion
on June 10 at 7:30 PM
in Piney Point High’s
Newly renovated gymnasium.
Attire: Sunday best
RSVP: Laura Moss 601-555-1515
PS: There will be a pre-party
At Shenanigans in Hattiesburg
Starting at about 5:00 PM.

Wow. Ten years. As I read my high school reunion invitation a second time, I can’t help but smile. Although I still own one of the most successful businesses in my hometown of Piney Point, Mississippi, I’ve lost track of most of the people I graduated with.

I’m not surprised Laura added the pre-party to the invitation. Her husband has never attended any social event before pre-partying his face off—even in high school. Pete Moss graduated with the distinct honor of high school lush, and as far as I know, he continues to hold that honor, which is ironic since I don’t remember ever seeing Laura touching a drop of anything stronger than her mama’s two-day old sweet tea.

This is going to be one insane event—one I’m not sure I’ll attend. But just in case, I pin the invitation to the bulletin board beside the fridge. And for an extra measure of reminding, I jot the date on my calendar. In pencil.

As I kick off my nearly four inch heels, I make a mental list of the pros and cons of being there. If I were to be totally honest with myself, I sort of want to go. Even though this will be one major impress-a-thon, and I haven’t lived up to my parents’ expectations, I’ve taken a small-town beauty shop and turned it into a mega business—one of the most successful in the history of Piney Point. And I’m not ready to stop there. I already have three shops—the original that used to be called Dolly’s Cut ‘n Curl, one in Hattiesburg that formerly held the title Goldy’s Locks, and the salon where my current office is located in Jackson. In honor of my first salon, they are all called Prissy’s Cut ’n Curl, although I’m seriously considering changing the name to something a little trendier since I’m planning to expand. I mean, really, can you imagine anyone in New York City telling her friends she gets her hair done at the Cut ‘n Curl? Besides, I hate being called Prissy. I named it that because Prissy is easier to spell than Priscilla.

I’ll never forget Mother’s reaction when she found out I’d dropped out of my first semester of college and enrolled at the Pretty and Proud School of Cosmetology. You’d have thought I announced I wanted to pledge Phi Mu or something. No offense to anyone in Phi Mu. It’s just that Mother was a Chi Omega, and that makes me a legacy, which carries even more clout than being Miss Piney Point, something I never was.

My parents are super proud academians to the nth degree. Mother is a professor of English, and Dad is the head of the History department at the Piney Point Community College. Both of them got their graduate degrees at the University of Southern Mississippi, and Mother started her career there (as the administrative assistant in the school of Music until a tenured position opened up). Dad refused to do anything but teach, so when two perfect positions opened at PPCC in Dad’s hometown, they jumped on them. Now you’d think they were tenured professors at an Ivy League college the way they carry on.

I try hard to ignore the growling sound rumbling in my belly. But when the noise turns to hissing, I relent and pull a Lean Cuisine from the freezer. I know how to cook, but it seems rather pointless to do that for one. I also know that one Lean Cuisine isn’t enough, so while it heats in the microwave, I grab a bag of premixed, prewashed salad and dump the contents into a bowl. Then I chop a tomato, grab a few olives, and pour a tablespoon of ranch dressing on top. I step back and study the salad before I squirt another tablespoon or two. The salad’s full of fiber and the Lean Cuisine is low-fat, so I figure that balances out the extra calories.

Just as I’m about to sit down and enjoy dinner, the phone rings. It has to be Mother, I think. She’s the only one who ever calls my house phone. I hesitate with the temptation of not answering, but my daughterly duties overcome me. What if she needs something? I’d never be able to live with the guilt if I didn’t answer an important call from the woman who gave birth to me after twenty hours of labor, or so she tells folks when they ask why I’m an only child.

“Did you get your invitation yet?” she asks without letting me finish my hello.

Leave it to Mother to know about the reunion before me. “Yes, but I’m not sure I’m going.”

“There’s really no point, Priscilla. After all, it’s all about showing off all your accomplishments, and it’s not like you’ve made all that much of your life.”

I want to let Mother know how I really feel, but I somehow manage to keep my yap shut. So she takes that as encouragement to keep going.

“That silly-frilly little job of yours will get old one of these days, and then what will you do?”

“Mother, you know it’s more than a job to me.”

She laughs, which annoys me to no end. “All you do is decorate the outside of women—”

“Some of our clients are men,” I remind her.

“Okay, so you work on the outer appearance of women…and men. How does that really make any difference in the world? You could have been so much more than that, Priscilla. Your father and I—”

“My business makes a huge difference in a lot of people’s lives, Mother. Not only do our clients feel better about themselves, I keep a couple dozen people employed so they can feed their families.”

“Well, there is that.” Mother pauses as she reloads. “At any rate, I agree with your decision not to attend the reunion.”

“I didn’t say I decided not to go. All I said was…” What did I say? Mother got me in such a dither I can’t remember.

“Do you want all your old classmates to see you in braces? Your father and I figured that was why you haven’t shown your face in town in the past year. I’m surprised you even have a salon left. You know the saying about what the mice do when the cat’s away.”

“I hire only people I can trust,” I tell her through gritted teeth. “And the braces are coming off soon.”

“So are you going to the reunion or not?”

“I’m not sure.”

Mother lets out one of her long-suffering sighs. “Okay, sounds like you’re not letting pride get in your way. Just be sure if you decide to go, give us plenty of notice so we can clear our schedule for your visit. Your father and I have social obligations, since he’s the head of his department.”

“Yes, I know, Mother.” Ever since Dad’s promotion, Mother likes to remind me of his position. And it’s been at least three years. “Whatever I decide, there’s no need to clear your schedule.”

“You know you’re always welcome to stay here at the house,” she adds.

Naturally, I assume so. “Thank you, Mother.”

“And don’t forget to bring your church clothes. We’re not like your church in the city. We still show our respect by dressing nicely.”

“Yes, I know.”

I hear Dad calling out to her, so I’m relieved when she tells me she needs to run. After hanging up, I lean against the wall and slide to the floor, never mind the fact that I’m wearing black pants, and Fluffy, the neighbor lady’s cat I took in while she went on her cruise, has left a fine blanket of white cat hair throughout my townhouse—enough to build a new cat from the contents of my vacuum canister.
*
All the way to my office the next morning, Mother’s voice rings through my head. “Someday you’ll thank me for this,” she said when she dropped me off on the steps of my dorm at Ole Miss. She went there for undergraduate work, and she reminds me it’s always good to start out away from home so I get a taste of being on my own but with a safety net—as if I’m arguing about where I’m going to college. that wasn’t the case, though. My argument was that I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go to college.

I pull into the parking lot of my Jackson shop and open the car door. Before getting out, I sit there and stare at the two-story, red-brick building with an upscale salon on the ground level and my office upstairs. This is the first salon I built from the ground up, and I’m mighty proud of its success in the two short years since I’ve been there. The newspaper reporter who last did a story on me claims I’m lucky in business. In reality, I did a year-long study and determined this location has the most potential for growth, with the nearby old, decrepit mansions being bought for a song, divided up and renovated into apartments, and sold for a fortune. Then there’s the artsy-fartsy nature of the twenty-something, fresh-out-of-college hot-snots moving into those apartments. Finally, I get out of the car, grab my briefcase, and head up the side staircase to my office. Before I open the door, I know Tim is here by the fresh scent of Abercrombie and Fitch’s latest cologne for men.

“Looky what the cat drug in.”

“What are you doing here so early, Tim?” I toss my briefcase into the tiny office behind my assistant Mandy who is too busy opening mail and acting like she’s minding her own business for me to think she’s not getting a kick out of my annoyance. “Any messages?”

“Just got here, Prissy. You got a ton of mail from yesterday.”

“I need to talk to Sven. It’s just not right for all our mail to get here after we leave.”

“I know, right?” Mandy cuts a glance over at Tim then rolls her eyes toward me.

“So are you here for my order?” I ask Tim who remains seated…and quiet, in one of the three chairs across from Mandy’s desk.
Tim is a sales rep for his uncle’s beauty supply company, and he covers most of the center of the state. If he gives all his customers the attention he gives me, he’d never have time to sleep. Even Mandy has noticed.

“I thought I’d take you to breakfast.”

I fold my arms and arch an eyebrow as I study him. “What’s the occasion?”

He shrugs. “I dunno. I thought maybe we could talk about your reunion.”

“Are you kidding me?” I shriek. “You know about the reunion?”

“Um…” He glances over at Mandy who shrugs and busies herself with some paperwork that’s been sitting on her desk for a week. Finally, he turns to me and meets my gaze with challenge. “Yeah. I talked to Sheila last week when I stopped by your salon in Piney Point.”
Sheila’s the hairdresser I put in charge of the Piney Point salon when I left to open the Jackson office. “Why did you stop by there? I do all my ordering here.”

If Tim doesn’t stop shrugging so much, his shoulders will get stuck. “Old times sake, and all that.” He stands. “So if you don’t have a date, I’m available.”

It’s no surprise that Tim has a crush on me, even though he’s at least three years my junior. And since I have no desire to be called a cougar…and you know that’s exactly what will happen if we even hint we’re a couple…I’ve resisted all his advances. Besides, the chemistry isn’t there for me. “It’s two months away, Tim. I have no idea what I’m doing that night.”

Instead of hanging back, he follows me into my office. “At least think about it. We’ve been friends for a long time, and you can totally be yourself with me.” He holds both hands out to his sides and makes one of his goofy faces. “My mama taught me good manners, so you won’t have to worry about me. I know which fork to use for the salad, and I even have my own tux.”

I can’t help but laugh. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Yeah, you start with the outside silverware and work your way toward the plate.”

“No, Tim,” I say slowly. “I’m talking about the tux. You seriously own one?”

He nods.

“But why?” I leave out the part about how he has always fancied himself a redneck, and even if he hadn’t come out and said that, I would’ve known the instant he told me he owns every single book Lewis Grizzard and Jeff Foxworthy ever wrote.

All satisfied and full of himself, he replies, “It’s from my stand-up comic days, back before I came to work for Uncle Hugh.”
That explains a lot. “I’ll have to let you know, Tim, but first, tell me why my last hair color order is taking so long.”

“I take it you don’t want to go to breakfast?”

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Author Interview with Sandy Mauck and a Drawing for a Free Book!

Hello Sandy!             author-interview-sandy-mauck2                              author-interview-sandy-mauck

Thank you for giving us time for an interview today. I am looking forward to learning a little more about you and your writing. Can you tell us what genre you write and a little of your writing journey?

I write Christian Historical Fiction just past the turn of the century. I have always loved to write but it took a long time to get to a place where I was able to do it. I started in non-fiction but found my niche in fiction. Many of the life obstacles that kept me from writing were the very things I write about. I weave them into the stories. My main characters are Christians who have a relationship with God. I want people to know they can have that wonderful experience.

What book are you featuring today and what story can you tell us that has something to do with your book?

I am featuring the first in my Rose Arbor Bride series, More Than She Dreamt (http://amzn.to/2f5alf5). This book features a single mom and her walk out of the wilderness to the hope of a new life.

Being a single mom was hard then and it is hard now. I was a single mom with four children for seven years with very little help. I know the fear that Katie, my heroine, felt; and I know the way she trusted God to go on.

My books will always have sweet romance and some humor. My youngest character, Jeremy, has brought laughter to a lot of my reviewers. His speech and misunderstandings make for some charm in a book about how God can make a way out of our wilderness and learn to pray for our enemies.

Can you give us a short summary or back copy blurb about the book you are featuring today?

It was more than she dreamed of, but as romance begins to bud, the thorns of a heartless beauty rise to tear it apart. Young widow, Katie Jensen, endures patiently under her oppressive uncle in desolate Arizona Territory. She tries to keep her promise to her dead aunt to be a witness to and take care of her uncle. But when his tirades grow worse, she gathers her two precious little ones and runs.

Making their way to an unknown land, they come to the town of White Rock, which is strangely like the place in Katie’s dreams. They are welcomed into the cottage of a kindly grandmother who takes in boarders.

When Danny, the older woman’s grandson, comes home, he finds surprises in store: a crisis, a beautiful young woman, and her adorable children who bring laughter and life into all their weary souls.

Katie is filled with hope when an unexpected romance sparks but there is a vindictive raven-haired beauty and an old enemy conspiring to put it out—permanently.

Will God give Katie rest as she and the family pray for their enemies? Can she stand strong in her faith when fear overwhelms her?

What do you do when you sit down to write? Do you listen to a certain type of music or eat chocolate or exercise? Anything special?

For the initial write or draft, I do nothing. I like quiet and no snacks. I enjoy watching the story unfold and my characters improvise. I sort of leave my world and enter theirs. This is the fun part. I let them have their way (within reason). Sometimes they add characters and I get perturbed. “What am I supposed to do with her?” I ask them.

On the rewrites, I try not to eat but get stressed sometimes. That is when quiet is the most essential. Tea is my calmer. I love chocolate but I don’t eat it because I don’t eat sugar. But I am a honey and tea connoisseur. I have to stop and exercise or I will go crazy and get beyond my already not so pleasantly plump form. I do little mini ballet workouts in my small space.

I understand about those characters! They think they have a life of their own! What is something unique or amusing about yourself or your life that we would like to know?

I live in an RV. It has been beyond a challenge to write here, but I have now written two novels without a lot of conveniences. Waiting for a house and a desk, Someday. Then I really will be a happy camper. Or non-camper! I tell people they can do anything, if God says they can. I whined a lot but then prayed through and just did it. It can be done. Oh, and I have a 2″ pet giraffe.

A 2″ pet giraffe! That sounds interesting! And you’re so right about God. He is our mainstay! Can you give us a short biography and tell us how we can contact you (fb, twitter, website).

I live in My own happily-ever-after with my Bible doctrine writer husband in the west we love. We have five children and nine grandchildren.I enjoy crocheting (a different kind of yarn) and am also a professional artist.

Website: www.sandyfayemauck.com
Facebook: bit.ly/AUTHORFACE
Twitter: @sandyfayemauck
Amazon Author Page: bit.ly/AUTHORAMZ

*GIVEAWAY!* One free book (either paperback or ebook) of this same title will be given to the winner of a drawing. Anyone who makes a comment on this post on my blog (lindarodante.com) or on my fb author page (Linda K. Rodante) will be put in for a drawing. On Monday, following this blog, a winner will be drawn and their name will be given to the author who will contact them and arrange for the book to be sent.

You can read a chapter of Sandy’s book here: http://amzn.to/2f5alf5

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Author Interview with Dan Walsh, a Drawing for His Newest Book, and a Chapter to Read!

author-interview-dan-walsh                                   author-interview-dan-walsh-finding-riley2

Hello Dan!

Thank you for giving us time for an interview today. I’ve read a number of your books and we’ve “talked” on the internet, but I’m looking forward to getting to know you more today. Can you tell us what genres you write and a little of your writing journey?

I guess you could say my bread-and-butter genre are Nicholas Sparks-type books (that’s the author people most compare me to). Thirteen of my 17 novels are in this genre. But I also love to write suspense. I have 2 stand-alone suspense novels, and last year I began the Jack Turner suspense series. It has really taken off. I’m researching the 3rd book in this series now and hope to start writing the book on November 1st. It will release in the spring, Lord willing.

My writing journey has been a little bizarre, compared to most of the author friends I have chatted with. I finished up my first novel in the summer of 2007, spent the balance of the year polishing it up. I put together a package that included a query letter, synopsis and the first five chapters. Then I compiled a list of A-list agents and began submitting it to them. Two of the first three loved it and asked to read the whole book. I signed with one a week later, and she had a contract with a major publisher in two months. That book went on to win 2 Carol awards, and my career began to take off, you could say.

Wow. That is different from most authors. I’ve head it takes years before most authors get a contract. What book are you featuring today, and what story can you tell us that has something to do with your book?

It’s called, Finding Riley, and just released October 1st (my 17th novel). It’s the second book in my Forever Home series. Each of the books include a shelter dog as a main character. Of course, there are plenty of humans in the story and even a nice romantic thread. The first book, Rescuing Finley, came out 11 months ago and is doing very well both in sales and reviews (276 Amazon reviews, Avg 4.8 stars).

As for a background story, I can say that the dog on the cover is actually a shelter dog named Charlie that my wife and I adopted two years ago. He’s definitely the inspiration for my “dog character” Riley. In early November I plan to create a page on my website, or maybe Facebook, with lots of pictures of him and some of the locations featured in the novel.

Can you give us a short summary or back copy blurb about Finding Riley?

Sure, here it is:

An unexpected surprise brings the Mitchell family of Savannah a chance to experience the Christmas trip of their dreams. An unexpected disappointment threatens to turn it into the worst Christmas ever. John Finch and his friend Alfred live in the woods. Been doing it for decades. He likes wintering in Florida, but this year’s been particularly harsh. Between the cold, freezing rain and terrifying lightning storms, John’s starting to wonder how much more of this lifestyle he can take. A new friend enters the picture and changes everything. Kim Harper, the dog trainer introduced in Rescuing Finley, is contacted by a billionaire philanthropist seeking her help with a new dog training project that will help the homeless. Is he for real? And is her co-worker right, does this rich handsome man’s interest in Kim go far deeper than her dog-training skills?

I love the fact that it has to do with Christmas, too! What do you do when you sit down to write? Do you listen to a certain type of music, eat chocolate, exercise or do something special?

I love music, but when I write I need complete silence. We are empty nesters now, so I often write in the living room. I have Fox news on, but muted most of the day. For some reason it keeps me company. I’ll un-mute it for something like an earthquake. The words “Breaking News” mean absolutely nothing anymore. I love chocolate but I am a Type II Diabetic, so we’re not eating chocolate all day long. Exercise? I do some, need to do more. But never when I’m writing.

What is something unique or amusing about yourself or your life that we would like to know?

Let’s see…in high school I was a long-haired surfer bum. My ponytail reached all the way down to my belt in the back. I was a full-time pastor for 25 years until 2010, when I started writing novels full-time. During my years as a pastor, except at the end, I never talked about my love for fiction. Here’s a secret…99% of pastors don’t read fiction, let alone write it. Finally, because of some nerve damage in my arms and hands I now have to “speak” my books into existence using a headset and voice recognition software. I’ve done that with my last six books (it works really well).

It’s hard to picture you as a long-haired surfer bum! I wonder if you would ever consider a book using that “scenario.” 🙂 Can you give us a short biography about yourself and tell us how we can contact you (fb, twitter, website).

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 17 novels including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times), 3 Selah Awards and 3 of his books have been finalists for RT Review’s Inspirational Book of the Year. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Word Weavers International, Dan writes fulltime in the Daytona Beach area. He and his wife Cindi have been married 40 years. You can find out more about his books or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Pinterest from his website at http://www.danwalshbooks.com.

*GIVEAWAY!* One free book (either paperback or ebook) of this same title will be given to the winner of a drawing (the drawing is for those within the US only). Anyone who makes a comment on this post on my blog (lindarodante.com) or on my author facebook page (Linda K. Rodante) under this post will be put in for a drawing. On Monday, following this blog, a winner will be drawn and their name will be given to the author who will contact them and arrange for the book to be sent.

Will you please give us the first Chapter of Finding Riley?

1

Okay, he got it. It was December. But it was also Florida. So why was John Finch still shivering inside his sleeping bag, his body all curled up in a ball?

He’d packed up his things three weeks ago and hitched a freight train down from Memphis to avoid freezing weather like this. Riding a freight train was a scary thing, but John couldn’t get the money together for a Greyhound ticket. At the time, it seemed worth the risk. But now?

He heard the tent zipper go down.

“You ever coming outta there, John? Fire’s burning nice and hot now. Coffee’s all brewed.” It was his friend, Alfred. Alfred’s the one who’d invited him to this camp. Some of Alfred’s friends had nicknamed him Two-Sheets because, most of the time, Alfred stayed slightly inebriated. Not fall down drunk, mind you. Otherwise, they’d have called them Three-Sheets (“three sheets to the wind”).
John peeked his head out of the sleeping bag. “What time is it?”

Almost nine. Starting to see the sun through the trees. Supposed to be the last day of this cold snap. Said so on the radio not twenty minutes ago. So, c’mon. We need to get to work sprucing up the camp for that cameraman who’s coming. Don’t want him to think the homeless are nothing but lazy bums.”

That’s right. John couldn’t believe it. Some idiot had gone and said yes to a guy making a documentary about the homeless. He’d found out about it last night. “When’s this guy supposed to show up?”

“I don’t know. What’s a-matter? Didn’t you sleep okay last night? I certainly did. I always sleep better when it’s cold.”

John sighed. He might as well just get up. Alfred wasn’t gonna stop nagging until he did. And he definitely didn’t want to still be in bed when that camera guy started filming their campsite. “All right,” he said. “Gimmie a minute. I’ll be right out.”

“Want me to pour your coffee?”

“That would be nice.”

Alfred zipped the tent flap back up “Save you a spot by the fire.”

John sat up on his cot, started getting out of his sleeping bag. That was something to be grateful for anyway, not having to sleep on the ground. He’d slept on one of those aluminum camping cots you pick up at Walmart for thirty-five bucks. John didn’t pay that, of course. Alfred had snatched it for him the day before John arrived. Some guy was breaking camp and heading south, said he needed to travel light and couldn’t take it with him.

Reaching over, John lifted his leather jacket from a crate beside the cot and put it on. He looked down at his boots. They were a little small. He couldn’t lace them up wearing anything more than one pair of socks. Right now he had on three. But at least he could feel his toes. How long would that last after shedding two pairs and cramming his feet into those old boots?

He sighed again. Didn’t matter. Had to be done.

He did it quickly and stood up just as fast. It was a dome-style tent with decent head room. Alfred bought it used a few months ago. Told John how much he’d paid for it. John figured that was a hint, so he’d given him some money when he got here. Almost half, which is why he didn’t have any money for the bus ticket. But now John was having doubts about his investment.

Last night made it three nights in a row where the outside temperature had dipped below freezing. Maybe he could talk Alfred into the two of them taking off in a few days, make their way south.

John knew you got down around Tampa and, while it could still get chilly at night, it was nowhere near this cold. He wasn’t exactly sure where they were now. In the woods somewhere a few miles north of a little town called Summerville (at the moment, the name hardly fit). The nearest named-town he recognized was Ocala, maybe a half-hour away.

As he unzipped the tent and stepped outside, he heard Christmas music on a radio somewhere in the distance. Johnny Mathis singing, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. No mistaking that distinctive vibrato. Looking around at the sight before him, John couldn’t quite agree with Mr. Mathis. It was cold enough to feel like Christmas, but it looked just like what it was—a dirty old camp of homeless people living in the woods.

He’d seen plenty of similar camps in several different states over the last two decades, since he’d joined their ranks. This was better than some. Definitely more organized. Alfred had said the two guys who’d been here the longest set things up almost four years ago. Most of the camps John lived in had either fallen apart, or everyone got chased out within a few months.

John walked down the narrow path toward the fire pit, saw a smiling Alfred waving, pointing at an empty canvas chair beside him. A steaming cup of coffee sat on a makeshift table. Though the woods were pretty thick out by the road and for the first hundred yards or so, they opened into a nice clearing where the tents had been set up. Here, only a few shady trees stuck out of the ground every so often, palm trees had sprouted here and there, and lots of skinny saplings were scattered all about.

“There you are,” Alfred said. “Nice and toasty over here.”

John could feel the heat even this far from the fire. More than the heat, he was aware of that coffee cup. As he walked around and behind Alfred to avoid the smoke, another guy who’d been sitting a few feet away got up and headed toward a tarped area, where breakfast was being served.

“If you’re hungry,” Alfred said, “maybe you should follow him. They’re not gonna serve breakfast much longer.”

John sat and picked up the cup of coffee. “This is all I need. Thanks for getting it.”

“No problem.”

John took a few slow sips. He stretched out his legs to warm up his boots. Between the fire, the coffee going down smooth, the breakfast smells hanging in the air, and the sun shining through the trees…this wasn’t so bad after all. But you could have all this a few hours south and be totally rid of the cold as well. He leaned over in Alfred’s direction. “While it’s just the two of us here, I want to bring up something we’ve talked about before.”

“I know what you’re gonna say already.”

“You do? Okay, what is it?”

Alfred stared into the fire. “You’re gonna say, we’re in Florida. Florida’s a long state. What are we doing so far north? Why don’t we head further south a few hours? Find a place where we don’t freeze our butts off at night.” He looked at John. “Am I right?”

“Okay. So maybe I’ve been talking about this a little too much. But can you blame me? I don’t know how you’re putting up with this weather. Doesn’t it bother your arthritis?”

“It bothers me some. But I’m telling you, John. I ain’t ever been in a place like this, where I feel mostly safe at night. You never been attacked before.”

“I have, too.”

“Not like I have.”

He’d almost forgotten. Two years ago, Alfred had been ambushed in the middle of the night by two guys who’d broken into their camp. Beat him up real good. Stole all his stuff. Took him four days in the hospital to recover. “Okay, not like you have.”

Alfred pointed to the guy who’d just left. “See him? He just came up here a few days ago from a camp just south of Orlando. Said a guy in the group he was staying with got hacked to death by some lunatic with a machete. Not beat up, killed. Right in his tent. Happened three nights ago. That’s why he left and came up here. I knew you were going to want to talk about this again, so I asked him how cold it was down there, you know, at nighttime. Know what he said? It wasn’t bad at all. At night or during the day. I didn’t even have to ask him, why then didn’t he just stay put. You know why?”

“Okay,” John said. “I get it. They ever catch the guys that did it?”

“Nope.”

“So they’re still out there somewhere.”

“Down there somewhere,” Alfred said. “Not up here.”

“You don’t know that. If they didn’t get caught, what’s keeping ‘em from making their way up here?”

“They wouldn’t do that. No one in their right minds would head north in December, not with it being this cold.”

John just stared at him. Did Alfred even realize he’d just admitted they weren’t in their right minds either, staying up here where it was so cold? “Never mind,” John said.

“Anyway,” Alfred said, “that killer could never get into this camp. Too many people. And everyone here knows everyone else. They’d stick out like a sore thumb. Besides that, they don’t let just anyone plop a tent down here. It’s invite-only. You should-a heard all the questions they asked me before they said yes about you coming in.”

John sighed. How did Alfred think any of that made them any more secure than people in homeless camps anywhere else in the state? At night, camps were all the same. Dark. Anyone who wanted to could sneak around in the dark any time they pleased. They could come up here and attack you in the cold, or stay down south and do it where it was nice and warm. “Alright, you win. I won’t bring it up again.”
Just then, some excitement started up over at the tarped breakfast area. A bunch of people were gathering around. “What’s that about?” John said.

“I’m not sure,” Alfred said. “Looks like the camera guy. The one making that documentary? I think he just showed up.”

“Great,” John said. “That’s just great.”

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Author Interview with Robin Densmore Fuson and a Book Giveaway!

author-interview-robin-fusion

author-interview-robin-fuson

Hello Robin!

It’s so nice to have you on my blog today. Thank you for giving us time for an interview. I am looking forward to learning a little more about you and your writing. Can you tell us what genre you write and a little of your writing journey?

I started my journey by writing Christian Children Fiction. I have one book in a series published and two more on the verge of publication. My children’s blog, where over a hundred and fifty stories centered on Biblical character lessons, is very popular with families and schools. On my other blog, I have a few fantasy children stories along with articles and Flash fiction stories I’ve written in their entirety. My Christian Historical Romance novella as well as a Flash Fiction I wrote have both won awards.

What book are you featuring today and what story can you tell us that has something to do with your book?

My book, Rosita Valdez and the Giant Sea Turtle (http://amzn.to/2efalam), is the first book in a series for children third through sixth grade. I visited the Cayman Islands a while ago and had the opportunity to snorkel. Also while there, I visited a turtle farm and held young giant sea turtles. I believe those two things became part of my story of Rosie.

Can you give us a short summary or back copy blurb about the book you are featuring today?

Come on an adventure with eight year old Rosie and her friends as she meets a giant sea turtle in a cove of the Pacific Ocean. Watch and learn with Rosie as she struggles with truthfulness and as she jumps into action when crisis comes to the cove.

What do you do when you sit down to write? Do you listen to a certain type of music or eat chocolate or exercise? Anything special?

I normally go to my cozy office with a cup of tea and play soft music. The music is chosen to enhance the vivid pictures in my mind to produce the mood of the scene or character or the energy level I needed to evoke the feelings of my character. I can’t write a frightening or dangerous scene with mellow music. My blood needs to pump, so I rev up the beat but still keep it as background to not distract me but enhance my experience that I hope is conveyed to the reader.

What is something unique or amusing about yourself or your life that we would like to know?

Well, I have a dozen things but I’ll concentrate on two. I collect giraffe figurines and pictures. They are all over my house in nooks and crannies and out in the open. The big thing in my life—I have dyslexia where my brain doesn’t connect the dots like other people’s do. That’s why writing is not what I would have chosen. The Lord said He would work through my disability. I can’t take the credit for making the words develop into pictures on the page, He enables me.

Give us a short biography about yourself and tell us how we can contact you (fb, twitter, website).

I live in Rifle, Colorado, with my husband Jimmy. Together, we celebrate with seventeen grandchildren. Grand Prize winner for romance and People’s Choice for flash fiction, I am multi-published and write a blog for children and their parents and teachers. I’m a member of ACFW, Vice President of ACFW Colorado Western Slope, and member of John316 Marketing Network. I enjoy leading a Bible study group and singing in two community choirs.

A few years back, my late husband and I went to Russia and Ukraine to help teachers learn new techniques in sharing God’s word through their local church and Awana program. I love to have company and challenging my young guests to explore and discover the many giraffes in the obvious and hidden nooks and crannies of our home.

You can find me:
www.kidbiblelessons.com
www.robindensmorefuson.com
twitter.com/RobinLFuson
facebook.com/AuthorRobinDensmoreFuson
google+RobinDensmoreFuson

*GIVEAWAY!* One free paperback of this same title will be given to the winner of a drawing. Anyone who makes a comment on this post on my blog (lindarodante.com) or on my facebook author page (Linda K. Rodante) will be put in for a drawing. On Monday, following this blog, a winner will be drawn and their name will be given to the author who will contact them and arrange for the book to be sent.

***

Please give us the first chapter of your book:

Chapter 1

Introduction

Rosita Valdez likes to be called Rosie. She has two best friends, Jade and Belita. Rosie likes to call Belita “Lita” for short and she feels special because she is the only one Lita allows to do this. Rosie lives on an island, in the Pacific Ocean, in the 1950’s. She comes from a big family which includes Grandpa, Grandma, Papa, Mama, three older brothers, a baby sister named Mora, and a black dog named Chico.

Rosie’s family works hard on the island. Her grandpa and papa own a big plantation that grows fruit and coffee. They have many people working for them, including Jade and Belita’s papas. Many duties are expected of Rosie at home. She helps Mama clean the house, cook, and watch baby Mora. Rosie likes to help watch baby Mora most of the time, but sometimes Mora cries too much and smells funny. When Mama or Grandma changes Mora’s diaper, she smells better!
After Rosie gets all her chores finished for the day, she can go play with her friends. Rosie’s favorite thing to do is play in the ocean. Rosie has been playing in the ocean since she could walk. She is a very good swimmer for an eight-year-old. Jade’s mama goes with them when they go to the big cove at the ocean. Rosie, Jade, and Lita like to snorkel so they can see all the animals and fish in the cove. While snorkeling, they play hide and seek or chase each other. Sometimes they go exploring underwater, finding shells, fish, and great hiding places.

Chapter 2

Underwater Fun

Rosie has had many adventures. Her favorite adventure started when she was snorkeling in the cove. One day, while Rosie, Jade, and Lita were playing hide and seek, something wonderful happened. Jade was counting very slowly, “one…two…three…four…” while Rosie and Lita swam away to hide. Right away, Lita found a good place to hide behind some thick seaweed. Rosie kept on swimming, looking for a place to hide. She swam and swam before she finally found a small space between two rocks in which she hardly fit. Seaweed was all around to hide in. She crawled in and waited, but Jade didn’t come.
Looking around her, Rosie thought things looked different than they do on other days. The pretty shells and fish were much brighter, and something was odd about the big rock on her left side. She didn’t remember seeing it before. It felt smooth and different than the rock on her right, which was rough and familiar. The one on her left had algae growing on it like the other rocks, but it still seemed different. Rubbing her hand across it, she thought, why is it smooth? As she was touching it, it suddenly moved! She jerked her hand back! It moved again and turned! It blinked! She was looking into a face with two eyes that were looking at her. Finally she knew what it was. It wasn’t a rock, but it was a giant sea turtle! The turtle appeared to be smiling, and then it winked at her! Rosie reached out to touch it again, and it didn’t swim away! The turtle reached out its leg and Rosie took hold of it.

Off they went swimming together. Rosie never had so much fun! Moving its head, the turtle indicated for Rosie to climb on its back. She climbed up and held on to its shell. Swish! The turtle flew through the water faster than she had ever gone before. It swam all over the place, with Rosie giggling and hanging on tight. She was not afraid at all because she knew she could hold on and not fall off. Rosie saw fish and animals she’d never seen before. She saw many colors, and so many fish and animals she hadn’t known were in the whole ocean! The turtle took Rosie farther than she had ever gone. She was having so much fun, she almost lost track of time. She knew she needed to get back, since it was getting late. Rosie slid off the turtle’s back, so it stopped and turned. Rosie pointed behind her. The turtle seemed to understand what she meant, so she climbed on again. Swish! In no time at all she was right back to where she had been hiding. She got off its back, and it winked at her before swimming away.
Rosie waved goodbye then went looking for Jade and Lita. After finding them, they all swam to shore. Jade and Lita wanted to know where she had been hiding, since they couldn’t find her. Rosie said she went swimming with a giant turtle. They just laughed and said, “Rosie, you always have a great story!” Rosie smiled, and they walked home.

That night, as Rosie helped Mama set the table for supper, she hummed a little song. Mama asked Rosie why she was so happy. Rosie said it was because she had so much fun with a giant turtle in the cove. Mama laughed and shook her head saying, “Rosie, you and your stories! Now, go call Papa, Grandpa and your brothers for supper.” Rosie ran out the back door and rang the big bell. Bong! Bong! The big bell told her family that supper was ready. She wondered how loud the bell sounded at the far end of their plantation. She would like to find out someday.

Supper was always a fun time for Rosie, because the whole family was together eating, talking, and laughing. Papa and Grandpa talked about the crops, but her brothers ate so fast they hardly talked at all. Mama and Grandma talked about what they and baby Mora did all day. Mora had started crawling and was getting into everything. The boys were so busy eating, that Papa didn’t ask them any questions about their day. He would ask them later, after they were finished. Papa asked Rosie how her day was. Rosie told him she finished all her chores then after lunch, went to the cove with Jade and Belita. She told them about playing hide and seek while snorkeling and meeting a giant sea turtle that took her swimming. Her brothers’ eyes grew big, they stopped eating, and everyone grew quiet. Then Papa started laughing and said, “Rosie, you always have great stories and you have a good imagination!” Rosie smiled her big smile.

Rosie helped Mama wash the dishes, and after a while, it was story time. Every night before bed, Grandma would read stories to the children, while Mama sat and held Mora. Grandma read exciting stories, and when Mora was quiet, it meant the story was especially good. She was very quiet during the story about a faraway place where Nomads lived with camels, around an oasis in the desert. Rosie loved story time, because she loved to imagine herself in a faraway place full of adventure. Before long, it was time for bed. Rosie hugged Grandma, Papa, and Grandpa. She told her brothers and Mora goodnight, then brushed her teeth and combed her long black hair. She loved to crawl into bed where she could lie and think about things. Mama tucked her into bed, helped her say her prayers, and kissed her good night. Her dog Chico jumped up on the bed. She hugged him to herself as she remembered the great fun she had with the turtle. She thought about everything she’d seen and hoped she would see it again. She just knew the turtle was a boy and decided he should be her turtle. Rosie wondered if she should name her turtle, then fell asleep thinking about names for him.

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Author Interviw with Mimi Milan, First Chapter, and Free Book Giveaway

author-interview-michele-claudio                              author-interview-michele-claudio

Hello Mimi!                               

Thank you for giving us time for an interview today. I really enjoyed this book, the different culture, and hard situations–but still a clean read. The cover is wonderful, too. I am looking forward to learning a little more about you and your writing. Can you tell us what genre you write and a little of your writing journey?

I write in several genres. However, I’ve only published historical westerns. I do have two contemporary stories coming out next year, though. One is a sweet contemporary boxed set I was invited to write for. The other is a suspense story, loosely based off my own life – a reason why I write. I’ve had an interesting one to say the least. It makes for good fodder!

What book are you featuring today and what story can you tell us that has something to do with your book?

Today I’m featuring the second book in my series, The Jericho Resistance. The book, Twice Redeemed (https://www.amazon.com/Mimi-Milan/e/B011O65CQU/), focuses on a heroine who works in a cantina (saloon) for a wicked man who essentially owns her. Believe it or not, this isn’t too far from the truth of how some places operate. Mercedes is based off someone I knew in Mexico who went to work for a bar, but then wasn’t allowed to leave. She only got out after family negotiated for her release.

Sadly, this kind of thing doesn’t only happen in other countries. Approximately nine years ago, I was barely staying afloat as a receptionist and had to find a job to supplement my income. So I took a part-time “waitressing” job at a local club in my North Carolina hometown. I noticed the other girls (mostly immigrants, but also a few American girls without any ties) made LOTS more money than me. When I asked the owner how they were earning such tips, he explained the rules. Basically, the girls were a little more than waitresses, and they charged guys for drinks, dances, and a lot of other “extras.” Money they had to split with the owner. I remember him explaining, “It’s not the kind of work for a girl like you.”

That’s when I realized it wasn’t the kind of place for a part-time job and quit. It was only later that I understood how dangerous the situation could have become.

Wow. That sounds like a bad situation that you were blessed to get away from. Can you give us a short summary or back copy blurb about the book you are featuring today?

*South of the Border Suspense* with *Christian Undertone*

Who will save her from herself?

After helping another girl escape, Mercedes Nobles suffers unspeakable abuse at the Jericho saloon. So when a familiar cowboy rides into town, she jumps at the opportunity to start a new life… even though she carries a secret that could destroy any chance of happiness for either of them.

John Durbin may have turned in his badge, but he still lives by a certain code of honor. That includes returning to a seedy Mexican cantina to rescue a woman who helped his friends escape. However, the tables turn and he finds himself getting married “in name only.”

Struggling with cultural differences, they question how the marriage can survive. Will John sacrifice his faith to make his new wife happy? How will Mercedes redeem herself when John learns of the secret she’s hiding?

*Authentic Mexican recipes found at the end of the book.*

I appreciated the way you showed the struggle John Durbin had to save this young woman. So, when you sit down to write, do you listen to a certain type of music or eat chocolate or exercise? Anything special?

I can’t eat chocolate (I know, the horror) and I find music too distracting (it makes me want to dance instead of write).

I usually brainstorm the chapter I’m about to write before doing so. That way the words flow a little easier. However, sometimes a snag will occur. If that happens, I usually do one of two things. If I’m child-free at the time, then I’ll go for a walk around the block. If the children are all home, then I’ll grab the broom and sweep the floors. LOL! Strange, right? I don’t know what it is about sweeping the floor, but it always helps me focus.

Oh, yeah. And I talk to myself. I literally talk out the scene like the characters are interacting. You don’t know how many times my son has walked in on me and asked, “Who are you talking to Mom?” In fact, my family has gotten so used to it that they just laugh now. “Mom’s doing it again.”

That’s okay, though. The one steady compliment I always get is realistic dialogue. I think that’s because I speak the dialogue out loud. If it doesn’t sound like something I would say, then it doesn’t get said in the book!

Which is very important! What is something unique or amusing about yourself or your life that we would like to know?

Ooops! I think I just told you in the previous question. Is there anything else? Hmmm.
Oh! I know! I wish I could go around dressed in Steam wear all day long. However, I think people would find me strange if I was walking about in Victorian clothing with goggles on my head.

I think you’re right about that! Give us a short biography about yourself and tell us how we can contact you (fb, twitter, website).

Mimi Milan spent two decades scribbling away in notebooks before realizing that her life’s calling was to write. So she returned from Mexico and attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in Film. She decided to take her education a step forward, and was recently accepted in the MFA Creative Writing program at Queens University.

The books Mimi has outlined to write all give back to the community. The causes she supports include, but are not limited to: human trafficking, children with special needs, bullying, and Women’s Rights. She specifically enjoys writing multicultural stories that oftentimes have a bit of “Latin spice.” Mimi currently resides in the suburbs of Charlotte, making time for God, family and imaginary friends.

She can be found online at:

www.mimimilan.com
www.facebook.com/AuthorMimiMilan
www.twitter.com/thewritingMimi
writemimimilan@gmail.com

*GIVEAWAY!* One free book (either paperback or ebook) of this same title will be given to the winner of a drawing. Anyone who makes a comment on this post on my blog (lindarodante.com) or on my author facebook page (Linda K. Rodante) under this post will be put in for a drawing. On Monday, following this blog, a winner will be drawn and their name will be given to the author who will contact them and arrange for the book to be sent.

***

Please give us the first chapter of your book:

 

Chapter One

“Por el amor de…”
Mercedes let out a slow breath, tracing the swollen flesh around her left eye with a gentle finger as she stared at her reflection in the cracked mirror. She couldn’t remember who her assailant had been the night before since he wore a bandana, but she knew it had to be the same man who assaulted her three weeks prior because of the slur he used.
Malinche.
Traitor.
Just about every man who frequented the Jericho saloon treated her as such. It hadn’t taken long for Belmonte’s watchdogs to worm out a confession from one of the other girls. The resulting rage had her hair standing on end when he cursed; a chair flung across the parlor. He was beyond livid to find out she was the one to help that American girl, Catalina, escape. Of all the people to betray him, Mercedes was the least likely to do so. Sold to Belmonte at the innocent age of fifteen, she had spent the better part of a decade gaining his trust. Aside from La Fea, she was the only one permitted to roam the market, flitting from one puesto to another in search of food and other necessities to run his business. Now she was confined by the same four walls day in and day out.
And game for even the cruelest of customers.
Studying her face, she pulled out a small compact. The pale powder was a slight shade darker than the beige bedroom walls, but still much lighter than her own sun-kissed complexion.
“Perhaps that’s a good thing.” She mused under her breath, dabbing at the compressed dust. The lighter color may have been just what was needed to cover the purplish bruise; a dark crescent moon pinned on the rim of her delicate cheekbone.
The bell on the wall rang and she dropped the compact, the contents bursting into a fine cloud.
“La madre!”
Mercedes kneeled beside the make-up to pick up a few small clumps that remained. She stuck a ragged fingernail into the crack of a floorboard and fished out a larger piece when the bell chimed again.
What would happen if she cut the string connected to it? She could always lie and say the damage occurred the night she was attacked.
No, that wouldn’t work. Cutting the thread would make the one that ran along the wall in the parlor loosen, or even fall. She would be the obvious culprit, punished for falling short once again.
A terse knock at the door shot her upright like a bullet.
“Ya voy!” She straightened her skirt, brushing off a mild dusting of powder from the black fabric. “I’ll be down in a minute.”
The heavy wooden door creaked open all the same. La Fea peeked into the room.
“Mercedes Angelina Nobles. Apúrate, nena!” She snapped her fingers at her friend. “You know el jefecito doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
Mercedes smiled at the younger woman’s feigned admiration for their owner. Although, gratitude wouldn’t have been too far from truth for her friend. La Fea had arrived at Jericho when she was even younger than her own delicate age. Nine? Ten at most. A dirty little urchin that for some unknown reason Belmonte allowed to run around like some wild animal. The ladies all figured it was because she was a useless kid who had yet to learn how to please a man. What was his excuse now, though? He had permitted her the luxury of maturing into a grown woman who looked more like something that spent the days rolling around in the dirt, instead of a working woman in the only saloon littering the border town of Nogales. Truth be told, the girl proved such a fright that Mercedes wondered if she ever bathed. She knew that she must have, though. Otherwise, the inevitable stench would have killed them all long ago.
Perhaps that would have been preferable to entertaining multiple chivatos night after night.
“A que ves?” La Fea jacked her chin up. “You like my face so much, maybe you should paint a picture.”
Mercedes snorted and looked away, embarrassed that she had been caught staring – a bad habit becoming worse since the routine attacks. She just couldn’t shake the evil feeling that someone was always watching; waiting.
“Sorry. Guess I got lost in my own little world.” She waved the girl away, refusing to voice her thoughts out loud. La Fea was the only one to show her any sympathy after Belmonte found out the role she played in Catalina’s getaway. A few medicinal herbs at the right time had sent most of his men in search of a place to relieve their stomachs. The incident at customs had directed the rest of them to the border, fearful that American soldiers were invading to take over their lands. “I’ll be down in a minute.”
She looked at herself in the mirror again and ran a hand down her figure, thankful that it was still slim.
La Fea threw her hands up.
“Ay, amiga! Everyone knows you look good.” She paused and Mercedes looked up. The girl winked and pointed to her eye. “Even with that fat face you got.”
Mercedes swatted at her friend who only giggled as she jumped back, then raced out the room. She chased after the girl, down the hall of painted adobe, colorful Aztecan gods looking down with disapproval until the pair skid to a stop at the edge of the stairs. They both knew Belmonte wouldn’t tolerate anything less than complete subservience in the parlor. Their playful behavior would belie that image and his authority.
“Suerte.” La Fea whispered under her breath as she veered off to the right, heading for the usual corner she hid in to embroider the cloth servilletas they used to keep the tortillas warm.
Mercedes repeated the hopeful wish, but was pretty certain that between the two of them, she was in much greater need of good luck. So much so that she had even taken to reading the Bible left behind by Catalina. Not that she believed any of it. She had given up on fairytales the day her parents prayed Belmonte would find her a good home.
She could still remember the two men negotiating. Her papá, desperate to get enough coin to never have to part with another child, looked like the frail viejo she soon realized he had always been. Belmonte, glorious like the golden calf that deceived Israel, argued down to the last peso with false promises of manna dripping off the tip of his slithering tongue.
And then there had been her mamá.
She could still feel the hot breath in her ear, a fervent prayer bequeathing her with all the blessings the Heavens could create. Then her mother pulled away and crossed her“hija tan preciosa,” the woman’s warm fingertips coming to rest a second time on her forehead before running them down her daughter’s cheek.
“Mujer!”
Mercedes wiped the back of her hand across the good eye and pushed back her long, dark braid as she hustled up to the bar counter. Belmonte grabbed hold of her arm, yanking her close enough to smell the Yuerba buenahe chewed.
“What took you so long, woman?” The steady rhythm of his jaw chomping on the minty herbs mesmerized her, and she wondered what would happen if a person were to straight-chew Senna. “First you undermine my authority. Then you keep my customers waiting. The food’s getting cold, the beer’s turning flat. Estás loca?”
He released her with a shove towards the counter where several new Talavera plates sat. Amorina, the latest girl to be acquired, spooned large portions of frijoles onto one of the clay pieces painted with a mariposa. The Monarch’s wings spanned from edge to edge, a milky-white glaze forever trapping him.
“Buenas, floja.”
Mercedes gritted her teeth, the sound echoing in her ears.
“It’s not afternoon yet.” She snatched up two readied plates. “And I’m not lazy.”
“Close enough. You’ve spent most of the morning in your room like some princesa while the rest of us had to do your chores.” Amorina slammed the large silver ladle down onto the counter, and made two firm fists. “You owe me for laundry duty!”
“Ni madres!” She dropped the plates back onto the counter, ready to claw at the hateful woman. “All you did was cry like a little chillona the first few weeks you got here. Who was doing your part then?”
“Que se callen!” Belmonte grabbed the ladle from the counter. Stepping between the two women, he raised it high in the air, ready to strike. “Both of you shut your mouths and get to work. Ahora!”
His growl sent them both scurrying away, Amorina whispering revenge under her breath.
“Suerte.” Mercedes tossed back, the word laced with sarcasm as she walked around the counter. She leaned over, snatched the plates up again, and made her way towards a couple of ranch hands sitting in a lonely corner. She set the first plate in front of one man, a chivato who reminded her of a mean, old goat that spent most of its days roaming the ranch, searching to satisfy a hunger no woman could ever quench. He caught her looking at him, and she quickly averted her eyes.
“Señor.” She nodded, her eyes still cast downward, and turned towards his companion. He looked like the kind of vaquero who spent more time chasing the calves than the bulls. Too soon to be put out to pasture; too old to keep up with the young bucks. She reached over to set down his food when she felt a swift strike from behind. The hard blow filled her cheeks with heat, and sent her flying into the cowboy. Food flung all over him. He jumped up and the beautiful Talavera crashed to the ground, a puzzle of broken pieces. Expletives filled his mouth as he brushed the food off.
“Mujer de basura!” He grabbed her by the braid and fire seared through her scalp. “Mi vieja just made me this shirt.”
The other man stood. “Make that perraclean it up.”
“Asi es.” He yanked her head close, burying her face in his chest. “Use your tongue.”
Her eye pushed in under the pressure of his firm grip. The tender flesh throbbed with renewed pain, and her eyes filled with tears.
She cried for help.
“YA BASTA!”
Mercedes felt the immediate sweet release of her hair as Belmonte approached them, four of his men crowding either side of him.
“You gonna’ side with this Malinche after all she’s done?”
The man’s tone filled Mercedes with the realization that he had been her attacker. She backed away from him, hopeful Belmonte would offer some small salvation.
“Qué no!” He turned away from her with disgust, hocking a string of spit to the floor. “I wouldn’t trust that bruja with a broom. She’d be liable to fly off on it instead of sweeping the floors.”
“Then give her to us.” The man ran his tongue across his top teeth. “We’ll take real good care of her for you.”
His threatening tone made Mercedes shutter. She edged closer to Belmonte.
“Por fa.” She searched his face, begging him to pleasesave her.
He only crossed his arms, disappointment clearly written all over his face. Then the man took another step forward, reaching out for Mercedes. Her breath caught in her chest, the feeling of immense weight pressing in on her as she fought to breathe again. She began to swoon.
“Stop.” Belmonte held a hand up to the vaquero while one of his guards caught Mercedes and set her upright again. “This is MY cantina, and what I say goes. And what I say is that you have to ‘pay to play.’ But, hijole, you don’t have the pesos.”
Belmonte rubbed his thick fingers together, indicating that Mercedes was far above the man’s pocket.
“How much for the Malinche?”
Belmonte paced the floor, stroking his chin as if in deep thought. She had seen this act before. In fact, it was the same tactic he used to purchase her from on her father. A cat and mouse game of take and release.
He would sell her if the price was right.
“One thousand pesos.”
“¿Como?”
The man’s jaw dropped open. Belmonte nodded his head as he approached the man and patted his shoulder. He turned him around and began walking him towards the front doors.
“Like I said, amigo, the price is too high.”
“The price is crazy!” The man argued, but allowed himself to be escorted out. His older compadre followed.
“He’s right, you know. I wouldn’t pay that kind of money for a horse, let alone a traitorous woman.”
Belmonte stepped aside and allowed the second man to pass. “Then you, my friend, don’t know the price of a good horse.”
“Maybe I don’t, but I do know the price of a good woman.” He thumbed back to Mercedes, casting a quick glance over his shoulder. “And that right there is no good woman. You need to teach her a lesson, my friend, or someone else is gonna’ do it for you.”
The look on Belmonte’s face revealed his understanding of the subtle threat.
“Don’t worry.” His hand reached for his pistol. He fingered the butt of it. “She gonna’ get her lesson.”
Would he really shoot her?
The man looked over at Mercedes once more, then nodded at Belmonte and turned on his heel.
She watched the patron make his way across the street for a moment, thankful that the pair had finally left. She wasn’t sure what Belmonte would do, but she knew he would hold true to his words. If he didn’t, then he’d have a bigger fire to put out later when other men came searching for her, determined to teach her a lesson for selling out her own kind. They would get their pound of flesh one way or another.
“Ay, mujer.” Belmonte kept his back turned towards her, but she could sense his irritation. “Mujer, mujer.”
“I’m sorry.” She feared the apology wouldn’t suffice this time, having whispered it a dozen times since the incident. “I can make it up to you.”
She approached him, slow but sure. This was the one thing she knew she was good at. She reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder, softly massaging it with the hope that he would turn to face her. One kiss and he’d be hers. Then he would forget the whole thing.
At least, for a little while.
She felt the tension begin to release, and his back slumped. She stepped closer, almost close enough for their bodies to touch. He reached up and wrapped his hand over hers, guiding it to a different spot to massage.
“See?” She whispered into his ear, low and soft. “I can make it better.”
She felt his deep inhale; heard his long, quiet sigh. He gave her hand a gentle squeeze.
Then his grip grew.
“I really wish you could, amor.” He turned, still holding her hand. Then he pulled her arm up, bending it backwards as he crushed her small palm with his fist. She cried in protest, but he kept twisting her limb and forced her back towards the counter where Amorina worked.
The girl dropped the utensils she was using to prepare plates of food, a look of horror painted on her face. She backed away from the pair.
Mercedes felt the owner’s full weight as he bore down, pressing her hard against the counter. He reached past her to one of the plates and picked up a carving knife.
She struggled beneath him. “Please! Please don’t.”
He grabbed her by the hair, willing her to stand still. Fire seared through her skull once more. He pointed the knife at her, the sharp blade flashing in her face as he spoke.
“Ya, cállate!”
Her scream filled the bar as he brought the knife down and began to saw away.

Wow! What an ending for your first chapter! I know the readers can’t wait to find out what happens. Everyone please sign up for the giveaway. We will have the drawing on Monday.

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