Sunday, November 10, 2013

God Bless NaNoWriMo, Good Friends and Loki

Thanks to the boost of NaNoWriMo and some serious soul searching, I'm writing again. In addition to the constraints of time and the commitments of job and family, one of the reasons I've not been writing lately is that it wasn't fun. I was worried about what genre things were, what audience, would I have to work with X publisher, etc.

I realized that was the source of my writer's block. Yes, time has been a problem, but the source of my writer's block has been the fact that writing wasn't fun anymore. Somewhere it had stopped being about telling the story in my head and started being about whether or not anyone cared, would like it, where it fit, etc.  So Wrong!

While writers love their readers, we really do, we need to remember that ultimately we write for ourselves. We write for the people that live inside our heads, the people who play out their stories in our minds and who tell us those stories. They trust us to commit them to words the way that they need to be told, not force them into a genre or worry if anyone will get it.

Writing needs to be fun again.

I discovered recently that a friend whose fanfiction I devoured as faithfully as I read her non-fanfic work, was still writing fanfiction despite having focused on publishing her original works. (Not that her fanfic isn't original, it's some of the best and the plots and characters were vastly original.) Here was the brilliant Jennifer Melzer still having fun with her writing.

I was so jealous! 

Tom Hiddleston as Loki from the Marvel franchise
Then came NaNoWriMo and the old urge to write came back. So now a piece I'd played with, written a chapter or two of a long time ago has been dusted off and come out of hiding. I've added 17, 100 words to it in the last week. It's now more than twice the original length and I feel like I'm just getting started.

And every time I get worried about it, I remember a quote from Tom Hiddleston who plays Loki. When advising a young thespian who was going to be playing Loki in a school production, he said the important thing was to remember that through it all, in everything Loki does, he's having fun. It's always about the mischief and the fun.

Go Loki!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Umph Gone

I tend to post in spurts. Not exactly an attractive thought, but there it is. Today I looked over my blog and realized I hadn't posted since September. Part of me isn't surprised.

My writing slowed to a trickle when my son Z was born in 2008. Now, with the birth of my twin girls in September of 2012, I'm afraid it's ground to a screeching halt. And what I've been thinking lately as I rock a child to sleep, fuss about toys that need to be picked up, corral dogs and worry about what I'm actually going to do in my day job that day; I've realized I miss the writer I knew. I very much feel like I'm no longer that person. She was a separate entity from silly little me with my permanent stress headache, far more gray hair and the worry lines around my eyes and mouth.

Even in the very rare moments of quiet I find I can't write even if the opportunity presents itself. I sit at the computer, maybe edit a page or two of one of the multitude of WIPs saved on my computer and can't find the umph to write. Forget romance. You have to feel romantic, feel loved and respected, feel sexy to write romance. Lately all I feel is tired and embattled.

So for those of you waiting for the next story in the series I had begun to come out, I apologize. There aren't many of you, so somehow I don't think I'll be disappointing many people. Readers have moved on, if there were any. I have the next story all mapped out, know what needs to happen, but right now my hero is sitting in a wheelchair, soaked to the skin and very drunk. My heroine is two rooms away trying to get some much needed peace and quiet while his music pounds away loudly. And they've been there for four years now.

Elyssa Edwards isn't doing much better. Her hero is stuck monitoring juvenile delinquents and she can't quite get him out of the scene.

So we plod onward, making no real progress and hoping and wishing for that magical moment when we'll feel like writing again, when we'll have time. Ah, the slippery slope that has killed many a potential writer's ambitions. But when I think of my former editor's admonition, "Butt in seat, fingers on keys" all I can think of is which fingers? The ones changing the diapers, feeding the baby, stopping the dogs from eating each other or the ones that long to go in my ears as I scream, "Lalalalalalalala" and pretend I can't hear the call of adulthood and responsibility shrieking in my face.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

New Release

Measure of Healing, my second novel, is now available in paperback from Ellora's Cave's Blush line. (This is the new designation for the Cerridwen Press books Ellora's absorbed.) Amazon link for paper back     (For some reason the cover doesn't show yet)

 I must say I like this cover much better than the cover for the ebook. The hero is a much more accurate representation of a tough Hispanic/Were-Cougar who makes a living with his hands than the previous one. But one of the realities of publishing is that an author has little say over the covers of their books and sometimes the titles given their stories.

Alejandro Ramirez's Were-Cougar mother drove him out after his first transformation, leaving him to seek out his human father and find the family his human side craved but that his animal side can never embrace. Now a man, he finds himself responsible for a traumatized Were-Cougar child. When he turns to the Weres for help, they send him to a human.

Dr. Gabriela St. Jerome hates the Cougars with every fiber of her being. But now she must swallow that hatred to work with Alejandro to help this Were child who has been thrown into transformation far too early by the horrific death of his mother. As they are forced together in the remote woods of the North Georgia Mountains, both find their mutual attraction overwhelming. But if Brie gives in to this man and her own passions, it will cost her life.


This story was the result of a challenge from writer Jennifer (Hudock) Melzer when we were both part of the most amazing critique circle ever. Jenn challenged us to write a story based on a headline from a newspaper. I found a story about the decreasing population of Florida Panthers and how they were nearly extinct. Since I'd been a fan of Were stories but was a bit burned out on the idea of the Were-Wolf. I decided to try something a bit different.  This story, that was originally just suppose to be a short (something that happens to me a lot) grew into a novella. It was published as an ebook in 2008 by Cerridwen Press. ( Nook link for ebook)

While not a prequel, the book is connected to the world in Circle of Wolves. 

Excerpt

Working together they carried the crate into the small bedroom in the back of the house. Alejandro noticed the Spartan décor. The bed was stripped to the mattress and a couple of blankets were stacked on it. The room had a bedside table and rather than a dresser, a shelving unit. All of it bare. There was one picture, its plastic frame affixed to the wall by screws at all four corners. A small clearing in the Everglades met his eye. Brie opened the door to the crate.


“I cleared everything out of here when I came to get the 4Runner,” she responded to the question he didn’t ask.

“Will it take long to clear out the closet?” Alejandro leaned against the wall of the room. Brie watched him shift slightly against the wall as if he were stiff and was stretching. If he was doing what she thought he was doing she’d slap him.

“I’m not clearing the closet,” she walked over and pulled on the door. The latch was tight.

Alejandro frowned. “You’re not going to give him a place to hide are you?”

“No,” she turned to face him. “We’ll leave the crate with the blanket for a day or two then I’m taking it out as well.”

He opened his mouth to protest but stopped when she glared pointedly at him. “You said you wouldn’t interfere in this.”

“You’re sure about this? That this is the right thing?” He couldn’t help it. His mind kept telling him how stupid it was to trust a human to know what was right.

It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him if he didn’t trust her, she could have him and the boy back on the plane in a matter of hours or just open the back door and toss them both out. Instead she forced herself to see past his skepticism and his suspicion. She counted to ten, twice. She told herself he was worried about Tomás and that that was to his credit.

“I’m sure,” she said through tight lips. “He’ll be better if he wakes up alone,” she motioned to the door.

Alejandro frowned at her again. “Alone in a strange place?”

“Not entirely strange. The scents will not be threatening. He will stay in the crate most of tonight and tomorrow, unless I miss my guess.” She looked pointedly at the man, “And I never miss my guess.

“Then he’ll start exploring the room. Something he’ll feel freer to do if there is no one around.” She walked out of the room and he followed, closing the door behind him.

“What if he hurts himself? You’re just going to leave him in there for the next few hours unsupervised, unmonitored?” This was not right. He was a child, cat form or no. You didn’t leave a child unattended for that long. Especially one you had drugged.

“No, I’m not. That’s where you come in.” She’d been thinking about this on the drive in. If she was stuck with him, he might as well be useful.

Alejandro relaxed. Was she being deliberately obtuse? “You want me to stay with him.” He stated, finally understanding. The woman should have just said so.

“No.” She met his eye unflinchingly. “You are not to step foot in that room until I say you can. Those are the terms, Cougar. Take them or go.”

When he didn’t answer but stared at her, eyes blazing, she snorted angrily, “Look, do we really have to do this crap or is there enough human in you to realize that we’re talking about a living child and not a deer carcass that you’re protecting? Because, Cougar, you are either going to help or stay out of my way.”

She didn’t even blink when the low growl came from his throat. “No one who didn’t birth me or raise me ever talks to me like that, lady. And even they don’t talk to me like that any more.”

“Oooh,” she rolled her eyes. “Big scary Cougar-man is angry.” She stood tall and actually stepped closer to him. “See me tremble.”

She was either the bravest human he’d ever known or the most foolish. His brothers and sisters backed off before they pushed him too far. Even his father seemed to know how far to press him.

“Don’t push me, lady.” He stepped up to her and glared down into her face. Even as he did it, he knew she wouldn’t be intimidated.

“Why? What are you going to do about it?” she smirked at him. A little more, she thought, just a little more and we’ll know.

“Are you stupid?” he moved closer, forcing her to back into the hall wall to avoid making contact with him. He braced his hands on the surface to either side of her head. “Little doctor I could rip your throat out before you could even scream.”

“I’d like to see you try it.” She sneered. Alejandro narrowed his gaze and watched her. She was amazing. She wasn’t afraid of his threats. His proximity bothered her. Hell, it bothered him. But he smelled no fear, no hesitation in her. If he wasn’t so angry he’d damn well be impressed.

“As tempted as I am,” he stepped back and turned away from her. “I won’t.”

There it was. What she wanted to know. “Why? How do I know you won’t get pissed off later and kill me in my sleep?”

“Because I said I wouldn’t,” the words came out loud but he stopped them from becoming a full yell. “On the plane I told you I wouldn’t hurt you.”

“And because you never have,” she said softly.

The change in her tone turned him around. Her face was calm and emotionless but her eyes held a shrewd look. Her voice, when she spoke was almost gentle and it ran down his spine as if it physically stroked him. “You’ve never attacked anyone, have you?”

“I’ve had my share of fights and I’ve got the scars to prove it.” He watched the startling blue eyes watch him.

“But you’ve never attacked. You’ve defended yourself but you’ve never attacked.” She said the words as if she knew them to be absolutely true. With humans that was to be expected. But she could feel it in him. He’d never even attacked another Cougar, never challenged another male.

“What does that matter?”

“It matters a great deal,” Brie smiled inwardly. She didn’t trust him. Trusting a Cougar got you dead, or worse. But she didn’t have to sleep with a gun under her pillow. When the time came that he hurt her it would be because he had no choice or didn’t understand the consequences of his actions. He might be the cause of her death but she now believed he wouldn’t be the instrument of it. Then again maybe that’s why he’s here, she thought. It wasn’t the first time this had occurred to her. Maybe he’s a part of it or maybe he’s just an innocent pawn. She was wondering more and more if the whole thing weren’t a set up. Wondering if the Cougars hadn’t gotten tired of waiting. His presence here would give them all the impetus they needed to finish what they started all those years ago.
 


 



Sunday, September 16, 2012



I’ve been very naughty about updating this blog. Perhaps I can beg the excuse of having recently had twin daughters, but the truth is that really had nothing to do with it since they are only five weeks old and I’ve been a slacker for far longer.  I’ve read so many books in the time since I last posted that I’ve decided to just give you the best of the books and not waste time on the ones I didn’t like.

Divergent- Veronica Roth

While I'm becoming more and more annoyed with the level of gratuitous violence in young adult literature, mostly because of the vast and ambiguous nature of the label young adult which puts inappropriate content in the hands of younger and younger readers, this book was a good read. Violent, but good. Not violent on the level of Hunger Games which is the very definition of gratuitous violence, but still violent.

The story is well written and engaging but the overall message is a bit disturbing. Intelligence and education make you evil. The world is divided into five factions, Dauntless who honor bravery above all, Candor which honors honesty above all, Amity which honors friendship above all, Abnegation which honors selflessness above all and Erudite which honors learning above all. Guess who the bad guys end up being? Guess who the end up being mindless dupes of the evil intelligencia?

Very indicative of a communist theory where each to his own talents and ability but that those who focus on intellect and learning are not really contributing and are embracing elitism. Remember the Chinese Cultural Revolution? The persecution of academia in Cambodia and Vietnam?

The idea that the military is the brainless arm of the elitist intelligencia is a very sad and dangerous message to be sending. Not to mention the idea that being intelligent makes you power hunger and evil.

Mary Boleyn, The Mistress of Kings - Alison Weir

This is Alison Weir's typical quality work. The story is well researched and Weir admits that the historical record that exists for Mary Boleyn is very thin and a great deal of the "facts" about her life are really conjecture based on biased comments by individuals who would have a serious axe to grind against any Boleyn and who are known to be inaccurate or were not contemporaries of the Boleyns.

This was a bit drier than Weir's usual work, but the subject is so controversial as to require a higher element of academic writing, especially given the fictional accounts of this woman's life that have been popularly accepted as fact.

No Ordinary Day-Deborah Ellis
This is an excellent little story. It's a character driven piece about a young girl in India who is one of the throwaway children of the world. Running away from an abusive home, Valli survives on the streets. But a dangerous disease is eating away at her body, one that terrifies her and will kill her if she doesn't accept the help of a young doctor. In India, even today leprosy is still a problem and its victims stigmatized as evil and unclean.

The story is well written and Valli is a well developed character that people of all ages should be able to identify with.

Bringing Up Bébé –Pamela Druckerman

Some people are bound to dislike this book because parenting styles can be a very touchy subject. Many people take it as a personal affront when someone advocates or uses a different method or disagrees with them. As mothers we tend to over react. This book doesn't criticize any method of parenting used by American parents, but tells us her experiences raising her children in France and her integration and embracing of many components of French parenting

The book is fascinating reading and I found that though I am an American, I could see the reason and the logic behind the French philosophy, a philosophy that the whole culture seems to embrace almost to a person. The idea that children need to experience controlled frustration so they learn to manage it, that they need time to be alone to know themselves and to learn to be alone comfortably, the idea of the "cadre" the structured framework of expectations and rules of the family that allow children freedom and leeway inside the boundaries set makes excellent sense.

Echoes of the Titanic-Mindy Sterns Clark and John Campbell Clark


Very well written and nicely paced. An enjoyable read with good characters. I know that sounds like a simplistic review, but what more do you need to say?

The one hundredth anniversary of the Titanic disaster looms and with it the disaster of another kind. Kelsey Tate is the great granddaughter of a Titanic survivor. Her great grandmother Adele was a power house of women in business before women were supposed to even know what business was. She built her father’s company into a strong and powerful financial institute by investing in the lives and dreams of women and immigrants. Now her legacy and legend are threatened. Kelsey’s father, the natural head of the company has suffered a stroke. The company is facing a hostile takeover and now Adele’s very identity is being questioned. Could Adele, Kelsey’s idol, be a fraud? Did she really steal the identity of her cousin who perished on the Titanic?

To find answers when all doors close around her, Kelsey turns to the one man she has ever loved, a man whose trust she betrayed many years ago in her quest to follow in her great grandmother’s foot steps.


The Lady Most Likely-Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway

A nice, light little triple romance. This was a lovely way to tie together three shorts. When the Earl of Briarly tells his sister he's ready to marry and take a wife, she's thrilled. Then he tells her to make a list of eligible young women. Going one further his sister invites several young men and women to a house party. The Earl's sister's matchmaking brings together more than just one couple destined to be together.





There are several more- some really great, but most were series and I think I’ll group them in a later post looking at some of the series I’ve really liked this summer.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Reviews and thoughts on free books

There are two things in life that I adore.

1. Free things

2. books

So free books should be an absolute no brainer. Well…not so much it seems. I looked back of this list of book reviews and the previous lists and led me to a realization that saddens me. When I first got my new Kindle I was pleased by the prospect of being able to download the free books to help me find new authors I enjoy reading. However of the twenty books I’ve read that were free reads, I’ve found two authors whose works I would be willing to pay for. Not exactly a good average. I will wade through a lot in the name of free, but I think the lesson here is you get what you pay for.


Side Jobs-Jim Butcher

This book is a collection of several of Butcher's short stories that have appeared in anthologies or have been published in other forms over the years. The stories span the entire series with the first story being before Storm Front and the last taking place just after Changes. Some of the stories are great and some are just okay. I had originally been excited that the novella from Thomas Raith's perspective was included since it isn't in print and sounded interesting. However, I was underwhelmed by it. The premise held promise, but there was something about it that just didn't ever gel.

The best story was "The Warrior". It takes place after Small Favors and deals with Michal and the Fists of God. It was a terrific story about how sometimes the things we do, that we think don't matter or are inconsequential, are the things that make the biggest impacts on those around us.


Giving Chase-Lauren Dane

I cannot figure out the 5 star reviews on this book. Are there two different books out there that are being confused? The premise had promise but the delivery was sloppy, redundant and irritating. The dialogue and character development was absolutely ridiculous and down-right insulting.

Firstly, the errors in grammar and word choice are unforgivable in a professionally published piece of work. I'm astounded that the writer, editor and final line editors all missed the incorrect tenses and missing words in sentences. Secondly the book was redundant. Characters repeated themselves and, worse, the scenes of intimacy repeated themselves. I realize that publishers of romance and erotica...and let me point out that this is true of smaller publishers and not so much the larger houses...have turned characters having unprotected sex into a crime and everyone better break out the protection. I understand the nod to political correctness; still, it is the responsibility of the author to handle that with finesse. This author failed miserably. The repetitive "tearing open" was so jarring and the actions in the intimate scenes were so redundant that it was dull. Fewer scenes described in depth, done better would have been preferable.

Finally, watching episodes of Designing Women is not a substitute for research. All of the characters were repeatedly addressing each other as honey, sugar, darling, etc. I live in Georgia where this book is set and no one here talks that way, especially the men. The men in this book sounded like women--or rather some stupid stereotype of southern women. No man in the south calls a woman in his own age group honey, sugar or darling unless she's his girl. And the women in this book were nothing more than a rehashing of the most simplistic and ridiculous stereotypes of southern women. To hear the author tell it, only the heroine, her closest friends and the mother of the hero are anything but cold-hearted B..'s or well, it starts with an sl- and I don't think I can use it in a review either. This book is downright insulting to the modern Southern woman.


Under the Persimmon Tree-Suzanne Fisher Staples

This is the story of a young girl, Najmah, caught in the middle of the war in Afghanistan. Her father and brother are taken by the Taliban and forced to fight. After her mother and infant brother are killed by American bombs, she is helped by the son of a neighbor who takes her with his family to a refugee camp on the Pakistani/Afghan border. Parallel to Najmah’s story is the story of a young American woman, Nusrat, who came to Pakistan with her Afghan husband so that he could open medical clinics across the border to help his people. As the story opens, that husband is missing. Eventually the two females' paths cross. And Nusrat finds herself frustrated in her attempts to save Najmah and the other children living in such horror.

This was just okay. It is a young adult book, written for the tween crowd, but still it seemed very rushed, as if the author was being held to a strict page limit. Many of the characters were undeveloped and their actions were therefore erratic. The lack of development made it hard to understand or to rationalize why the characters did what they did. Even in a children’s book, these basic elements of a story must be developed.


Ghost Story-Jim Butcher

Seriously? I kept expecting Bobby Ewing to step out of the shower. The story itself was really good. But the resolution to the bigger problem of Harry being dead was a cheat and not even worthy of a soap opera. No one expected Harry to stay dead but the solution to the mystery of his killer? Thank goodness it was really only a subplot in the grander scheme of what was happening in the book because if this was the grand finale, I probably would have chucked the book at the wall.



Laird of the Mist-Paula Quinn

If you're not big on historical accuracy and don't mind when an author forgets she's writing about the 17th century, you'll be fine. The author's characterization of the gender roles of this era are not spot on, and her over use of the Highland brogue reads less like authentic dialogue than as affected and difficult at times to read. In some places it is so badly done as to be incomprehensible. I do believe every fourth word of dialogue is "bonny", "braw", or "dinna".

Overall it is a predictable little read for those who don't want to think, which is fine. One of the best things about books is that they help us escape. Just don’t expect a great sweeping historical work of literature.

Also, I don't have a problem, as some have, with the hero being too much of a nasty murdering fellow to be forgiven. At the time, life was brutal. The Campbells and the MacGregors have been just shy of all out war for generations and that means they’ve been hacking up members of each other’s families. Of course one of the leaders of the MacGregors has killed and murdered the girl’s family members. It is what it is. But you can't make him a hero just by making the bad guy even worse than he is, not letting him kill the heroine or her brother and having him say "I love you." This guy is too brutal for that and the author doesn't give the reader enough to overcome that.


Rose Quartz-Sandra Cox

Four ancient women received magical amulets endowing them with a special gift or power. Those amulets still exist and Bella Tremain is the keeper of one. Now mad man Victor Price is in prison for trying to steal the healing amulet, but he's not out of the game. With help from the outside, he's set his sights on Bella's amulet that brings beauty and, more importantly, creativity hoping it will help him find a way to escape.

Cox consistently delivers engaging and well developed characters. Her stories are strong and well written. I'm looking forward to the third installment of the series.


Never a Bride- Amelia Grey

Mirabella has given up hope that her fiancé, Viscount Stonehurst, will ever return to marry her. Their fathers fixed the match six years ago after which he left for the Americas declaring he'd only return and marry her when he was old and gray. Since she was destined to be a spinster what would it hurt if she let a few gentlemen steal a kiss in the garden? Especially if the kisses revealed the identity of the man who drove her best friend Sarah to suicide? When Viscount Stonehurst returns unexpectedly, it creates more than one embarrassing moment for Mirabella.

This is the author's first Regency and it does show. What was surprising is that this isn't this author's first novel, she writes under a different name as well. My biggest criticism of this book was the dialogue. Mirabella is no novice to the ton or to the rules of society. It is not quite believable that she would act if she had no social filter on what she says or that she would be so forthcoming and unguarded with her returned fiancé, especially at first. He is a member of the nobility and she is a merchant's daughter.

In addition, the author does not fully establish why some characters would act as they do in the story. The "bad guy" for example, (he's not the actual antagonist in this story) is not really established as someone who would act as he does. There are no flaws revealed in his character until the last handful of pages when he's "revealed". It wasn't a surprise he ends up being the baddie, but Grey does not establish his character in this vein. Finally, the characters are likable, but they don't work as a couple. The chemistry feels forced.

It's a nice little story, just don't have great expectations.


The Farmer Next Door-Patricia David

Let me start by saying I like this author. I enjoy her Amish stories but this book, while an enjoyable read, was a tad irritating. This was a nice story but I think the author needs to work on her research. This was a problem in a previous book as well. While I'm no expert in Ohio adoption law, I'm fairly certain it takes more than six weeks to finalize an adoption, especially when the child's state of residence isn't Ohio, but Texas. And add in that the adoptive parent moved into the state the same week the process begins?

This was a nice story but I think the author needs to work on her research. This was a problem in a previous book as well. Perhaps instead of spending her time researching alpacas, the author should have taken a few minutes to research other elements of her story. It takes more than six weeks to finalize an adoption, especially when the child's state of residence isn't the same as the adoptive parent. And add in that the adoptive parent moved into the state the same week the process begins?

Perhaps instead of spending her time researching alpacas, the author should have taken a few minutes to Google Ohio adoption laws. A quick search (five minutes on Google) revealed that it takes a minimum of six months after a child is placed in the home before adoptions are final. The boy doesn't arrive until halfway through the story.


Again it's a nice story, but sloppy research is a major flaw.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Frightening Literacy Statistics

Over 50% of NASA employees are dyslexic. They are deliberately sought after because they have superb problem solving skills and excellent 3D and spatial awareness.

More than three out of four of those on welfare, 85% of unwed mothers and 68% of those arrested are illiterate. About three in five of America's prison inmates are illiterate.

44 million adults in the U.S. can't read well enough to read a simple story to a child.

U.S. adults ranked 12th among 20 high income countries in composite (document, prose, and quantitative) literacy.

60 percent of America's prison inmates are illiterate and 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems.

When the State of Arizona projects how many prison beds it will need, it factors in the number of kids who read well in fourth grade.

46% of American adults cannot understand the label on their prescription medicine.

There are almost half a million words in our English Language - the largest language on earth, incidentally - but a third of all our writing is made up of only twenty-two words.

In 1999, only 53 percent of children aged 3 to 5 were read to daily by a family member. Children in families with incomes below the poverty line are less likely to be read aloud to everyday than are children in families with incomes at or above the poverty line.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New In Print!

My first novel is finally in print. It was originally published by Cerridwen Press, which has been absorbed by Ellora's Cave publishing in their new Blush line. It even has a shiny new cover. This book was incredibly special to me. It only saw the light of day because of the amazing friendships I had forged with a group of talented writers including the amazing Jennifer Hudock who was one of my personal cheerleaders during this process.

In Sanctuary the Committee controls everything, food, health care, housing, information and even love. The Committee's life guides match the single residents for three-month compatibility assignments. Everyone gets ten chances to find true love or at least an acceptable partnership.

There is something special about Leah Bradley. She has the unique ability to reach out and really connect with the people in her life, but if she's so special why is she facing her seventh assignment? From the moment she meets James he makes it clear he grants no one access to his life or, especially, his heart. Brooding and sad, he carries a darkness inside him that swallows another part of him every day. What's worse, he seems to want it this way. Leah slowly loses her hope and her heart. But just when James begins to see Leah the way she truly is, he's forced to ask himself one question: Does the Committee really have happily-ever-after in mind?


Access Denied was originally released in ebook form and is still available in that format. It received some wonderful reviews:

Coffee Time Romance: 4 Cups
Night Owl Romance: 4.5, Reviewer's Top Pick
Romance Junkies: 4.5 Ribbons
Emuse: 5 plumes
Fallen Angel Reviews: 3 angels

Excerpt:

The transport staff left the silver trunk, black bag and the long narrow plastic box in the second bedroom as he directed. He stood in the door way and looked at the evidence that he would soon have an intruder on his peace. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard the scratching sound coming from the plastic container. Moving closer he saw the grating along the sides and the movement inside.

His innate curiosity won out. James moved around the bed and crouched down to peer into the wire door on the front. A black nose sniffed out at him and two light brown eyes gazed back. A rhythmic thumping could be heard as a tail thudded against the sides of the crate. A pitiful, exited whine urged him forward. A dog! He was stunned. He hadn’t believed anyone outside of Committee members had the luxury of owning a pet. The mounds and miles of red-tape one would have had to have traversed to get permission for such a thing were staggering. The expense made this possibility almost non-existent for most. The expense of the actual animal aside, the Committee required a sizable bond be filed against the cost of feeding and caring for the animal.

I shouldn’t, he thought as he reached toward the cage. It had been so long since he’d even seen a dog, let alone touched one. He reached his long fingers through the holes in the grating and scratched at the animal’s ears. A happy rumbling sound came from the pooch. So What’s Her Name had a dog. He made a mental note to look up her name before she arrived. He straightened to do so when the dog whined again. I shouldn’t, he thought again but ignored it a second time and pressed open the lock on the door. It swung open and the long red body stretched and walked out onto the surface of the bed.

A playful yip made him smile. He reached down and picked up the dog, it lunged its body forward and aimed for his nose, nipping it playfully and licking his face. He laughed, “Hey old boy, wait a minute. That is not the way to impress the new guy.” But it had been. Scratches and pets were given as he stood there in her room holding her dog. “I wonder what your name is, little guy.”

“Charlie,” came a soft voice from the door way.

James froze. That voice meant two things. One, that What’s Her Name was here, complicated by the fact that he still didn’t know her name and secondly he had been caught having in effect, “gone through her things”. He turned slowly and saw the same plain face he had seen the previous night, now before him in the flesh. He stared at her for what seemed like forever. He honestly couldn’t think of a single thing to say. An introduction? An apology?

“His name is Charlie,” she said again with a gentle smile on her face. “I’m so happy you let him out. He hates being confined and I always feel guilty about it. Besides, I’m guessing this means you aren’t too unhappy about his coming along.”

“No,” James found his voice. “No, it’s fine. In fact it’s more than fine, it’s great. I used to have a dog. We always had dogs. Well, up until my last wife, she didn’t like…” He stopped. He was babbling and he was talking about his ex-wife. Those were two things he never did, particularly not with strangers.

“I’m glad you’re pleased. It could have been horribly awkward otherwise,” the smile was still in place. She stepped forward a pace and extended her hand. “Leah Bradley, Mr. Edwards.”

Thank God, he gave an inward sigh of relief. Leah Bradley. At least now he didn’t have to embarrass himself by admitting he hadn’t even looked at her name. “James, please,” he shifted Charlie and extended his hand as well. He stood there for a moment looking down at that hand, maintaining his grip. Something was odd about her hand, about the way it felt in his. His fingers were closed around it and he noticed it was neither cool nor warm. Her hand was small but square, with soft skin covering the palm and back. What was more was that there was almost a sense of comfort, of reassurance radiating from her hand to his. It sounded foolish even in the silence of his own mind. He dropped her hand and pulled his away abruptly. Whatever was happening, he didn’t like it.

He heard her sigh softly. Looking up he noticed an odd look on her face. The smile had transformed. “James, we need to talk. Before we do, though, I’d love to have a cup of coffee and a minute to get Charlie settled. The sooner we get down to the basics with him, such as where his bed is and where his… ah… bathroom facilities are, the better.”

James realized he was still holding the dog, who for his part seemed perfectly content with the situation. He set the animal on the bed and stepped away. “Coffee sounds like a good idea and we do need to talk. I’ll go get some started. Will you join me in the main room as soon as you’re finished?”

“We’ll be there shortly.”

James nodded and left the room.