Be Aware: Cancer Warning Signs

Everyone is always so busy. Sometimes we get so busy that we ignore subtle signs that something may be wrong.

I want to take a moment to be serious. This post isn't about books and writing or other entertainment. It's about something that might save your life or the life of someone you love.

Once a year, I post the following.

Has cancer touched your life? It has mine. Just about everyone in my husband's family has died from a form of cancer.

Warning Signs of Cancer
  1. New lumps or growths on your skin
  2. A sore or bruise that does not heal
  3. A mole that changes in shape, size or colour or bleeds in unusual circumstances
  4. An ongoing cough or hoarseness that last longer than three weeks
  5. Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
  6. A change in bowel or bladder habits for no good reason
  7. Shortness of breath
  8. Loss of appetite
  9. Unexplained weight loss or tiredness
  10. Blood anywhere it normally shouldn't be – urine, bowel, spitting.
1. Listen to your body.

When something is wrong with your body, it gives you hints. Sometimes they're subtle. Sometimes they scream. If something is "off" or feels out of the ordinary, and this something continues more than a couple of weeks, pay attention. Your body is trying to send you a message.

2. If you think something is wrong, talk to a doctor who specializes in that part of the body.

My brother-in-law who passed away in 2015 after an 18-month battle with cancer had talked to his family doctor when he first started having difficulty swallowing. The general practitioner said, "Oh, that's nothing. We can fix that with diet and acid-reflux medication."

There's a reason the phrase "second opinion" was created. If my brother-in-law had sought a second opinion, his esophageal cancer might have been caught before it reached Stage 4. Always seek a second opinion--especially if you don't get better after a couple of weeks. If your problem is anything to do with your insides, don't wait too long to get that second opinion.

When we think something is wrong, we just want someone to assure us that it's not. That's the easy answer we all want. BUT, with cancer, you want the hard answer--the one that comes from a specialist who deals with problems associated with your particular issue, not a general practitioner who probably isn't familiar with subtle warning signs various cancers create.

3. When you know you'll be facing surgery/chemo/radiation or any kind of cancer treatment, assemble your home team that will help you survive.

Just as the surgeon assembles his team, you do the same. Line up the family and friends who can help you in whatever way you may need help. This might mean doing research to share with the rest of the time about what to expect after treatment. Maybe it's people to be companions when you need someone to drive you or keep you company when you're climbing the walls. Maybe it's to dine with so you won't eat alone. Or maybe someone to bring snacks and make sure you don't lose too much weight. All of this is especially true if the cancer patient is a man because men don't reach out for support the way women do.

When the patient is finally home after surgery, he or she needs someone there on a regular basis who will push the patient to eat even if they say they're not hungry or everything tastes bad. The team member must speak hope and optimism and healing and give the patient a vision of the future that will surely be achieved.

A team member should also listen carefully to the patient. If he's complaining about something several times, then there's something there that must be addressed. Unfortunately, when you're around someone who is going through an ordeal involving pain and serious medical treatment, it gets too easy to turn a deaf ear to what seems to be chronic aches and pains. You need to really listen and sort through what's being said. It's always a good idea for the patient or the primary caregiver to keep a journal of medication, treatment, medical complaints, etc.

Chemo, radiation, and surgery are the most debilitating events anyone will ever go through. They affect you physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Some people think it takes a village to raise a child, but I know it takes a village to survive cancer treatment.

It's not easy, but it's doable. Millions do it. So can you if it becomes necessary.

Takeaway Truth

Take care of your health. Donate to cancer research. Charity Watch rates charities to see where the money actually goes. Click Cancer to find the best organizations that use your money for research, not expense accounts, salaries, etc. Always listen to your body.

Catch These Goodies from August

If you were like a lot of people, you were hitting the beach and doing other summer "last-hurrahs" rather than reading blogs and surfing the web.

In August, I blogged about books, writing, being happy, being healthy, and other assorted subjects that interest me. I also posted several reviews.

Did You See...

Here are 7 good posts you may have missed while frolicking outdoors in August.

3 Tips to Keep Your Brain Young

Don't Worry, Be Happy: 5 Rules

How to Be Happy, Part 1

How to Be Happy, Part 2: Kill Doubt

3 Free Contemporary Romance Sampler Books

3 Free Romantic Suspense Sampler Books

5 Blog Decisions To Ensure Success

Hope you enjoyed your summer. The kids are back in school, and the working world is tackling everything that must be completed by year's end. Yikes! That's right, only 3 more months until New Year's. (That's a scary thought, isn't it?)

Make time to read books and blogs. You just never know what you might find. 

Takeaway Truth

I'm always here blogging about books, writing, entertainment and life. Stop by everyday and say hello. Better yet, click Follow and get an email when a new post is published.

Love Christmas Excerpt by Donna Fasano

This week, the fabulous Donna Fasano is here with an excerpt from the Love, Christmas Romance Collection which launches this fall--just a few short months away!

About Donna Fasano

USA TODAY bestselling author Donna Fasano is a three-time winner of the HOLT Medallion, a CataRomance Reviewers Choice Award winner for Best Single Title, a Desert Rose Golden Quill Award finalist, a Golden Heart finalist, and a two-time winner of Best Romance of the Year given by BigAl's Books & Pals Review Blog. Her books have sold nearly 4 million copies worldwide and have been published in two dozen languages. Her books have made the Kindle Top 100 Paid List numerous times, climbing as high as #5.

Donna's book, Grown Up Christmas List, will be dedicated to reader Leann Griffiths. Congrats, Leann, for winning the Authors’ Billboard Love, Christmas Rafflecopter! I want to send out a huge thank you to the thousands of readers who entered. And now, on to the Sneak Peek.

Grown Up Christmas List
by Donna Fasano

Excerpt from Chapter One

Lively strains of Christmas music floated from somewhere in the rafters as Dina Griffin let her gaze rove over the rows of shampoo bottles lining the shelf. Lemon yellow, bright purple, jarring chartreuse, the plastic containers came in a rainbow of colors, each competing to catch the eye of shoppers. There were products that guaranteed help for damaged split ends; others promising shine and curl; and still others offering to clarify, volumize, or medicate. The abundance of choices astonished her. And to think, all she’d ever expected from her shampoo was clean hair. It wasn’t as if she’d never been shopping, but her busy life usually had her running in, snapping up her tried-and-true bargain brand, and going on her way. Studying the bottles closer, she read phrases like moisture milk, herbal escapes, essential oils, vitamin-laced, and tea therapy.

Tea therapy?

A few steps further brought her to the matching conditioners, also in a mind-boggling, kaleidoscopic variety. Then came the specialty shampoos for dandruff and hair loss and itchy, scaly scalp conditions. And nits.

Lice. Ew.

Dina shivered inside her bulky winter coat as she ambled along, feigning great interest in the items on display.

She reached the end of the aisle, and just as she stepped out to make her way around the shelving unit, the electronic doors at the front of the store slid open, drawing her attention.

A cop entered the pharmacy, and adrenaline shot through Dina like a high voltage jolt. Perspiration broke out on the back of her neck and her heart began to thud. She turned her head away, dipping both her chin and her gaze as she sunk back as far as possible into her wide-brimmed hood. Mustering a calm nonchalance she certainly did not feel, she skirted the tall, end cap display of hard pretzels and slipped into the neighboring aisle. She stopped halfway down and perused the first-aid section with enough focus to lead anyone who might notice her to think her life depended on finding the perfect band-aid.

The officer wasn’t here for her. He wasn’t. He couldn’t possibly know she’d run from the police in Baltimore. He couldn’t.

Dina dared not chance looking behind her, but her stomach sank when she sensed someone approaching. As the person got closer, she could feel the mass of him. It was the cop. Had to be. And the man must be built as solid as a brick wall.

He wasn’t here for her. He wasn’t. She repeated the silent mantra, bending at the waist and grasping the first package within reach. Tweezers, she realized. Silver. Pointy-tipped.

Her fingers were trembling, so she released the plastic and cardboard container. However, when she pulled her hand back, her coat sleeve caught the edge of several packages and tweezers went tumbling like inept circus acrobats. Dina scrambled, snatching them up, and hurrying to re-hang them on the metal display hook.

The cop stopped directly behind her. She straightened, closed her eyes, and drew in a breath in an effort to calm her anxiety. And that’s when she smelled him.

The scent of fresh cut sandalwood tickled her nose. Warm and slightly spicy.

He cleared his throat and her eyes flew open.

Could he have picked up a splinter on the job somehow? Be in dire need of a pair of pointy-tipped tweezers? Maybe he’d cut himself shaving and needed one of those small circular band-aids. That would be her luck, all right. A splinter-laden, razor-nicked cop in need of first-aid supplies, and she just happened to be standing right in front of the display.

Her only goal in walking around the pharmacy had been to warm up a little. Although the day was sunny and the outside temperatures on the mild side this morning, it was still winter, and the damp concrete she’d slept on had left her chilled to the bone. Her hips had been aching and her feet had felt like brittle bricks of ice when she’d arrived, and she’d just wanted to limber up, work the cold out of her joints and toes in a heated environment.

“Miss? I need you to come with me.”

How could he possibly have known…

Dina hesitated, nerves forcing her to swallow even though her mouth had gone as dry as course sand. She was not going back to Baltimore. Not until she absolutely had to. What compelled her next action, she had no idea—fear, panic, sheer survival instinct—but she spun on her heel and glared into his face.

“I’m not going anywhere with you. This is a free country, and I’ve got rights. I’m staying right here, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.”

An instant of shock registered on his face. But his jaw quickly set, his lips flattened, and he seemed to grow three inches when he squared his shoulders and straightened his spine.

Oh, Lord, save her. Had she really just gone all rebel on an officer of the law?

“Yeah,” he said, his tone soft but firm, “this is a free country. And you do have rights. Just so long as you don’t take things that don’t belong to you.” He pinched the sleeve of her coat between his fingers. “So put back whatever it is you’ve stolen, and come up to the front counter with me. We need to have a chat with the manager.”

“Wait. What are you talking about?”

He muttered under his breath, then said loud enough for her to hear, “Being uncooperative is only going to make matters worse for you. Your parents are already going to be upset when I call them. It’s bad enough you’re cutting school. Shoplifting is a serious offense.”

Cutting… What?


She looked at him as if he’d suddenly sprouted a grotesque, green beard.

“All right.” He sighed. “We can play this any way you want.”

Her bravado withered like a sycamore leaf in the dead of winter when she felt herself being propelled toward the front of the store. There must have been only an inch of her coat fabric in his grip, but it was enough to force her to toddle along beside his long-legged stride like a twelve-year-old.

Takeaway Truth

Please look for Love Christmas Romance Collection which contains Donna's novella and 19 others from bestselling authors later this fall.

Review: Pilot Episode, Jean Claude Van Johnson

Amazon is trotting out its pilot episodes and giving Prime Subscribers a chance to vote on which they would like to see.

Recently, darling hubby and I watched the 3 up for votes: I Love Dick, The Tick, and Jean-Claude Van Johnson.

I'm reviewing Jean-Claude Van Johnson which was the best of the 3. (The Tick is also eminently viewable and fun.)

Jean-Claude Van Johnson

I didn't know what to expect going into this. Everyone knows who Jean-Claude Van Damme is but who's this Johnson guy? They're one and the same. Or, I guess you could say Johnson is JCVD's alter ego.

Jean-Claude Van Johnson stars global martial arts and action film star Jean-Claude Van Damme who portrays, well, Jean-Claude Van Damme, a global martial arts and action film star. Not much of a stretch, right?

The kicker is that the Jean-Claude in the series is actually a black ops killer known as Jean-Claude Van Johnson.

Trust me on this, the series is hilarious. It's funny, campy, and, best of all, JCVD fearlessly makes fun of himself from his being a "former" action film star who goes unrecognized wherever he goes to his attempt to come out of retirement--as "Johnson" and as an actor.

Of course, it's all because of a woman, his lost love from years past, played by Kat Foster. Can he cut it when he jumps back into the game? Is he still as deadly as he once was?

I wasn't a big fan of JCVD--until I saw this series. The man has unsuspected depths, and this Pilot is superb in every way. I can't wait to see where this goes. Are they going to introduce other aging action stars who also have alter egos as black ops assassins? Who is the mysterious Brown whom JCVD replaced on the assignment--and movie--in Bulgaria?

Inside Joke

The movies pitched to JCVD by his agent (played by Phylicia Rashad) are roll-on-the-floor laughable. Think of every classic novel, re-imagined for today's audience.

As an example, the movie being filmed in Bulgaria is a re-imagining of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn with JCVD as Huck and a buxom blonde as Tom Sawyer. The confrontation between Huck and Pap Fin (Tait Fletcher) is vintage martial arts--and funny.

Takeaway Truth

If you're a Prime Subscriber, check out the pilots and take the surveys to voice your opinion. If you're not a Prime Subscriber, you might want to sign up now. Amazon Prime and Netflix, the other highly popular streaming service, have some of the best original programming. Here's a link for a free trial.

Join Amazon Prime & Watch Thousands of Movies & TV Shows Anytime plus listen to Prime Music free. Just click to start your FREE Trial Now

5 Blog Decisions To Ensure Success

If you start a blog, lay the groundwork before hand.

Bloggers who do this find it easy to blog consistently and easily. Plus, they have more fun with their blogs than those who start off by winging it.

1. Decide your focus.

Will it be personal, a creative endeavor, a tool to build name recognition, a monetization effort, or what?

2. Decide how much time you can devote to the blog on a daily or weekly basis.

The more you blog, the easier it is to attract readers. Readers like fresh content especially if a blog interests them. Just be consistent. Tell your readers how often you'll blog.

3. Decide what is legally fair game to post on your blog.

Legal issues regarding copyright infringement by using text or images owned by others can leave you open to lawsuits.

4. Decide who composes your target audience.

What are the demographics and interests of your target reader? Know this in order to appeal to what interests them.

5. Decide on an editorial calendar.

What you write about should be broad enough that you can write about various aspects often yet be specific enough to interest your target readers.

Takeaway Truth

A compelling blog is hard work, but it's also very rewarding. All it takes is some focused thought to make it attract readers.

Let's Play Cast That Movie

Today I'm having a belated birthday celebration for Romeo and Judy Anne, one of my most popular romantic comedies published 5 years ago.


Leave a comment on this post with your email to win an audio book of Romeo and Judy Anne.

Discover This Romantic Comedy

I think it's time for new ebook readers to discover this romantic comedy that hit the Top 100 Amazon Bestsellers list. When the new wore off, Romeo and Judy Anne settled into the top 1,000 for a long time.


Can good girls ever win?

High school principal Judy Anne Palmer doesn't think so. She was always a good girl who never did an impulsive, rebellious thing. Ever. And look where it got her! Stuck in a life she hates!

One night in Dallas, she meets a man and decides to indulge in a liberating night of passion--liberating her from the stigma of being the oldest living virgin north of the Rio Grande. After all, she'll never see her one-night Romeo again.

Unfortunately, the night doesn't turn out exactly the way she planned, and her one-night Romeo isn't exactly one-night stand material.

When Roman Carlisle turns up in her hometown as a new teacher on her faculty, Judy Anne knows that she's in big trouble. Can she resist the desire that burns between them? Can a night of sex and illicit love be enough?

With eccentric small town characters, a bratty niece, an overbearing school board president, and the temptation of a secret lover, Judy Anne has all she can do to keep her passion from turning into the biggest scandal little Clayton Bend, Texas, has ever seen.

Let's Play Cast That Movie!

I've always thought this book would be great as a movie so I thought I'd share my list of actors who would be perfect as the main characters of this book. I've embedded their respective IMDB links so you can see a picture of them and learn more about them.

Oh, and I've chosen actors who probably aren't that well-known. Yet.

Judy Anne Palmer, high school principal -- Emily Bett Rickards who's most known for her appearances in the super hero series Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow and for family movies like Dakota Summer etc. She not only looks the way Judy Anne should, but Ms. Rickards has a "likability" and vulnerability that shines through her roles. Of course, it doesn't matter what hair color and eye color are. That can all be altered. Even height if one remembers Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher. *g*

Roman Carlisle aka Romeo should be portrayed by Alex Pettyfer of I Am Number Four and Magic Mike. Since Roman is American but raised in England, Mr. Pettyfer would be perfect with an American accent tinged by the crispness of an English accent.

Heather Rodriguez, Judy Anne's best friend, should have Francia Raisa, known for Bring It On: All or Nothing and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Heather gets her own story in Crazy For Love, Book 4 of the series which I will eventually get written if life crap would stop happening.

Brian Carlisle, Roman's step brother, should be portrayed by Jamie Bell, known for Billy Elliot and The Adventures of Tintin.

Howard Gruen, officious school board president, should have J. K. Simmons in the role. I love this actor. He is so very good in every thing which stands to reason since he is an Academy Award and Golden Globe winner. He brings authenticity to every role whether it was as a shrink on Law and Order, a police assistant chief on The Closer or a pitchman for State Farm Insurance.

Pauley Alford, general trouble-maker and all-around bee-otch, should have Alex Sgambati, known for One Tree Hill, Blue Bloods, and Sleepy Hollow, cast.

Thanks for playing along. If you've read Romeo and Judy Anne, what do you think about my fantasy movie cast?

Takeaway Truth

Leave a comment with your email address on this post to win an audio book copy of Romeo and Judy Anne.

Love Christmas Excerpt by Nancy Radke

From Nancy Radke

Independent authors often collaborate to write stories with a theme. The collection is then sold as a boxed set.

This year a group of 20 authors I am with picked the theme of Christmas Songs. Each story uses the title of a Christmas song taken from reader’s suggestions.

My song was, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Since I write the Trahern series, I thought at first that I would write it as a Civil War era story, of a soldier trying to get home, who keeps stopping to help strangers as he goes. One of the people he helps is a woman he falls in love with, and when he does get home he brings her, too.

But that was very close to the plot of a story I had already written, “The Quietest Woman in the South.” In that book, young Cade Trahern heads home at the end of the war, riding a cantankerous mule, General Wheezer, who becomes part of the story. While helping people, Cade falls for a woman who doesn’t say much, but when she does, she makes it count.

So I switched to modern times with our dangerous world, and put Lee Trahern in a rowboat in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. He has told his family that he would be home for Christmas, but he gave up his seat on the last plane out of the country being invaded, so is rowing back. Now all he has to do is row hard. All I have to do is get a young woman in the boat with him.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas
by Nancy Radke

Dedicated to Delene Yochum

Chapter 1

The ship, an old steamer, almost a derelict, looked like it was about to swamp, joining the many others at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.

Paralee Trahern could see people everywhere, covering it in the same manner in which they piled on top of the cars and other vehicles in the third world countries, not considering that a boat was different, and overloading it could cause it to capsize. If there was any room at all, they climbed aboard.

He watched as it approached him, then rowed closer. “I can take a few of you here,” he called, first in Aramaic, then French, and then in English. “Send three over.” It would almost swamp him, but if just a few came…

About forty jumped off the sinking ship and swam towards him. He hastily turned his rowboat around and started rowing like he was at Henley. If he let them come aboard, or even grab hold, he would be capsized and sunk along with them.

He rowed hard and fast, making the little boat jump. If he hadn’t rowed so close to start with, he might have made it. But the first one to reach his boat acted like an anchor. Then the rest came, flailing their way through the water.

Several grabbed the stern, their faces desperate. They were the ones who had rid themselves of their heavy clothing, enabling them to catch him, at the same time slowing his boat enough that the others reached it. Seeing the inevitable, he yanked both oars out of the oarlocks and stood up, holding them.

They tipped it sideways, trying to get in. As it filled with water, Lee simply walked over their bodies and out into the Mediterranean. Then he swam away from the rowboat a short distance and turned around.

Placing the oars under his arms, he waited, patience being one of the things a SEAL learns early on. The saltwater wouldn’t do his prosthetic leg any good, but he couldn’t take it off and maybe lose it. He felt thankful that he was in the warm Mediterranean and not the North Sea.

He watched while his rowboat went completely under. When they realized the boat was gone, the men swam back toward the steamer, which wasn’t doing much better, but which had not slowed down.

With their weight gone, the rowboat was still submerged, while his group of plastic water containers, tied by a rope to one of the thwarts, floated next to it.

The men paid it no attention, as they were intent on getting back. Some did, most didn’t. Those on the ship ignored them, leaving them in the water. They waved and screamed, but the ship continued on, and soon there were none.

It was growing dark and he kicked underwater to keep his movements hidden, while he maneuvered himself back to where they had sunk his rowboat. For a few minutes he couldn’t see it, then he stuck his head under and looked around. He had passed it on the right, its shadowy form suspended just below the surface.

He swam up to the boat and over it, then rested his body on the seat, which was about a foot underwater. Once the other ship steamed far enough off into the distance, he let go of the oars and laid sideways across the boat, his legs hanging over one side. In position, he reached across and grabbed the other side of the rowboat, and turned it on edge, letting it drain as much as possible while shoving it up into the air. Then he dropped it right side up.

It wasn’t completely void of water, but enough had gone out that the bow and stern were clear, and the gunwales a few inches above it. He retrieved his oars, flipped himself over the side and reentered the boat.

He worked for a while to get more water out, bailing with a small can he had kept for that purpose. Thankfully, the desperate men hadn’t tried to untie his bag of provisions, as they were too intent on keeping afloat. Once he had the water down to a few inches, he turned his back to the north and started rowing again.

Sofia Morgan stiffened as she hit the cool water, going down in a swirl of bubbles and clothing. After the searing heat of the sun, increased by the pressure of too many bodies jammed close together on the deck, the water shocked her, making her gasp for air.
Her friend’s husband hadn’t even allowed her to take her enveloping cloak off, before pushing her over the rail to join the men in the sea. His hand had thrust hard between her shoulder blades, sending her out into the air, as well as over the side. Did he want to get rid of her, that much?

She knew he hadn’t been happy, having her around, with her American ways. She was too independent, and made her college friend want to do things that were forbidden.

Once in the water, the cloak tangled around her, and she had to fight against a rising panic. She held her breath and pulled it off, one sleeve at a time. It was overly large, and she held it away from herself as she resurfaced.

The side of the steamer loomed over her, and men were thrashing all around in the water. They turned, almost as one, and started swimming toward the lone rowboat.

Too many!

She looked up at the side of the ship and realized there were no ladders or anything hanging from the side. No way to climb back on unless someone lowered a rope. It was moving away from her. It hadn’t stopped when the men jumped off. She swam hard to make sure she was clear of the propellers.

Once at a safe distance, she looked around to where the rowboat had been. It would soon be sunk, unless the man rowing it got away in time. She swam back to where her cloak still floated on the surface, and grabbed it. Tying the arms together at the wrists, she whipped the wet garment through the air, catching enough air to create a small bubble that she could rest against.
When she looked again, the rowboat was turning on its side as the men tried to climb aboard. She watched as it sunk beneath them and they frantically tried to climb on top of one another.

What had become of the Good Samaritan? She figured he hadn’t expected such a reaction.

Then the men turned and started to swim back toward the ship. Not toward Sofia, as the ship had moved on, so the swimmers swam toward it and not to where she was, but she remained quiet in the water, not making so much as a splash. Desperate swimmers would try to climb on top of anything, so they mustn’t see her.

That had looked like a wooden rowboat. It should still be there, even if underwater. The men had all left it by now, swimming hard to catch the boat. Most were swimming with their robes still on, and the weight was pulling them under, causing them to grab their companions and pull them under too. A few had shed their clothes, and actually were catching up to the steamer, but no rope was thrown to them and they were left in the middle of the sea. Soon all but two were gone and she could no longer see the ship from her position in the water.

Would they try to get back to the rowboat? Then they too disappeared from sight, below the sparkling waves. Everything took on a serene, unreal quality, as if never disturbed by the floundering men.

She had tried to picture the location of the rowboat in her mind. It would be hard to judge distances, and she might swim right on past it, but there was no stopping. Nowhere to go but toward where she had seen the boat sink.

Now Sofia kicked hard for the rowboat, hanging onto her improvised flotation device. As she got nearer, she saw it flip on its side out of the water, and realized that the man must have gotten away from the mob, and had returned to claim his boat. He had invited a few, and probably hadn’t expected what happened. Maybe he would still be willing to take on an extra passenger. It wasn’t like she had an option.

She adjusted her direction. She would have missed it by ten feet or more, the way she was headed. She could see the man bailing out the water and kicked harder. She had to reach him before he started up again.

The stranger was her only hope. It wasn’t like there were ships aplenty around, for although the Mediterranean did have a lot of traffic, it was sporadic. She couldn’t count on another boat coming by before she drowned.

The man occasionally glanced toward the departing steamer, but he wasn’t looking her way. Even as she decided to leave her cloak behind so that she could go faster, he picked up the oars and started to row. “Help!”

He didn’t hear her. The noise of rowing must have covered her cries. Why hadn’t she yelled sooner?

“Help. Help!” The boat moved sluggishly, but way too fast for her to reach.

“Help!” She screamed, then waved her hand and hit the water, making as large a splash as she could. No use. Still, it was not in her to give up. She yelled again and started swimming.

Takeaway Truth

The Love Christmas Romance Collection, featuring 20 NY Times and USA Today bestselling authors, will be available for pre-order in the fall. I'll post the link as soon as it's available.

Love Christmas Excerpt: Let It Snow by Stephanie Queen

It's Monday so that means it's time for another excerpt from the upcoming Love Christmas Romance Collection.

Let it Snow
Book 9, Beachcomber Investigations Series

by Stephanie Queen

Excerpt, Chapter 1

Was it strange that a grown man—scratch that—middle-aged man should feel like impaled gutter trash, so devastated by the death of a mother he’d seen only a handful of times in the last decade?

The bullet that killed Dane’s mother may as well have hit him. It left a cannon hole in him, obliterating whatever had been left of his heart and soul. Maybe there hadn’t been much there anyway. How could there have been? Seemed he’d spent a lifetime fighting the soul killing hurt in all the most hellish places on earth to no end. Saving people, but not saving everyone.

Never saving everyone. But he’d survived.

In body anyway.

This wasn’t about his past catching up with him. No. Dane knew what the devastation, the pain and now the numbness was about. It was because he felt responsible for his mother’s death. Any shrink would have told him this.

The problem was—he was responsible for his mother’s death. She’d been murdered on his watch. At the hands of his enemies. It didn’t matter how much of the devastation he felt was guilt. It should be pure gut-gnawing guilt. He deserved to feel guilty as hell.

He should have been able to protect her. Least he could have done. She’d protected him all those years. Without his father. She saw that he got to adulthood when it was not at all a likely thing.

He stared out his kitchen window again. This time snowflakes filled the sky, obscuring his view of the bay and the ocean. Didn’t matter. He wasn’t going anywhere. Or maybe he should pack his bags and leave this place. Head for the next hellish place and destructive mission. Leave a mark. Try to make up for allowing his mother to die by saving someone else’s mother.
He may as well leave. It wasn’t like his beach shack or Martha’s Vineyard held the solace for him that they once had. Too many things happened here. Too much violence. And now death.

“I invited Cap over for eggnog.” Shana’s strident voice cut him.

Dane turned around to face her standing on the threshold of his kitchen. The glint of her beauty cut into him further. She stared him down with her arms folded like she expected an argument. Like she expected to win the argument.

He didn’t bother arguing. He’d retreat to his bed. Bring a bottle with him. Then he remembered she’d hidden or tossed all the bottles. No matter. She could celebrate the season with innocent eggnog and Cap if she wanted.

The thought of Cap—Captain Colin Lynch—and Shana together stirred an ember in him, but not much. Nothing like the spark it might have created before. There was no fire to be had in his belly. Not today.

“Go for it, girlie.” He smiled. It cost him to muster that much for her. But she deserved whatever he had. She tried hard. Probably too hard. He walked by her and headed to his room half hoping she’d follow him and he could seduce her, lose himself in mindless sex with her. But he’d drawn the line short of letting her put up her body for his use to cure him of his self-pity. Besides, sex was never a simple matter with Shana. He’d end up feeling guilty about it. More guilt. If it were possible.

She’d been trying to save him from himself ever since she’d come to the island. It was a matter of time now—a very short time he’d guess—before she realized the futility. Then he’d be left to himself. The only company he was fit for.

He shut his bedroom door behind him and didn’t bother pulling the blinds. It was barely mid-afternoon but the storm had darkened the sky to near nightfall proportions. It suited him. He’d sleep through the storm. Maybe when he woke again all the darkness would be gone.


Shana wished she had some kind of miracle to get Dane out of his depression. She looked at his closed bedroom door. There was no way she’d go that route. Then she’d end up as depressed as he was and there’d be nothing left of Beachcomber Investigations. Or her. Or him.

Cap thought Dane needed a shrink or heavy medication. But short of hitting him over the head and dragging him bodily, Dane couldn’t be convinced to see a professional. Now weeks later, Shana had hoped the Christmas season would cheer him, but if anything he was worse.

So far, today being Christmas Eve hadn’t cheered her much either. Anxiety had moved into her bones. She’d never worried over anyone or anything the way she worried now about Dane. Cap wasn’t the only one who felt the same way. The governor—his special ops unit commander and friend–called almost daily. Acer, a member of their special ops unit and as far as she could tell, his closest friend–texted her every other day. Sassy and Ronnie, their local twenty-something junior investigators came by often and she was lucky they did. Sassy brought pies from her shop and Ronnie brought pilfered food from the restaurant where he worked. If they hadn’t brought the food and forced her to eat, she would have diminished to a stick figure by now. As it was, her clothes hung on her.

And Dane didn’t notice. Nothing stirred him. Nothing made a difference to him. If she left now, would he care? Would he notice? Would he be better off?

Would she be better off?

No. She’d never forgive herself. It was just as much her fault that his mother was murdered. On her watch. She should have been able to protect Dane’s mother, to prevent the murder—should have seen it coming and have been able to do something.
A rap on the back door saved her from sinking further. She’d hidden the bottle from herself just as much from Dane. She hoped she could enjoy a splash of brandy in her eggnog tonight without succumbing to sobbing. But Cap had been a shiny spot in the bleakness, like her north star, for this past month.

Cap pushed open the back door and stepped into the kitchen with a rush of fat wet snowflakes riding on the cold wind.
Behind Cap, in a bright red snow covered sweater and white knit hat, a stranger stepped forward. Shana jumped back and automatically felt for her gun on her hip and then the back of her waistband.

“Don’t worry—he’s with me.” Cap smirked and moved forward. The man stepped inside behind him and pushed the door closed. Shana shivered. Then she remembered she ought to smile at her guest. She was turning into her crazy aunt Shirley and she wasn’t yet thirty years old. She noticed the man had a bag. She looked at Cap for an introduction or an explanation or something.

“This is Father Pedro.”

She looked closer at the man. He had wet graying hair and dark eyes. Maybe they were kind eyes, but right now they were non-committal. Intelligent and searching like he was looking into her soul and sizing her up.

“I’m Shana. Have a seat. I’m about to put the final touches on the eggnog.”

“Do you have anything hot?”

“Of course—you must be cold.” He had no coat and his sweater was wet.

Cap took off his coat and looked around. She knew he was looking for Dane.

As if by thinking about him they had some cosmic pull, Dane’s door banged opened and a second later he appeared on the threshold of the kitchen. Shana was surprised he wasn’t aiming his old Glock at them, but the look he leveled was threatening enough.

“Dane—“ she said.

“Who the hell are you?”

Padre Pedro stepped around her and his face transformed to warm beautific saintliness. He went to Dane with his arms extended. He had to be nuts.

Dane put his arms out too—to stop the man in his tracks.

“Whoa there, fellow—answer my question. Who the f-ing hell are you?”

The padre stopped an arms distance away as Shana went to Dane’s side—or as close to his side as his porcupine mood would allow. She might need to step in to protect one of them.

“Dane—“ Cap began.

Dane glared at Cap to silence him.

The Padre stood and took his time studying Dane—brave for a man with Dane the Demon expecting an answer.

All the while Shana figured what kept the Padre safe was the new look on his face. It was like he was heartbroken, like seeing Dane made his heart weep. In fact he looked like he was about to cry when he spoke in a sad, deep ominous voice.

“Oscar sent me.”

Takeaway Truth

Don't you love it? Love Christmas promises to be very special this holiday season.

Thursday3Some: 3 Free Romantic Suspense Sampler Books

Last week on Thursday3Some, I profiled 3 Free Contemporary Romance Sampler Books.

Like those 3 free excerpt books, this week's offering of 3 Free Romantic Suspense Sampler Books features New York Times, USA Today, and national bestselling authors.

Free sampler books are a great way to "test drive" a book before you buy.I look at them as an author's gift to readers--a way we can say thank you for buying our books.

Of course, we hope that you like the sample you read and will want to buy that one, but at least you have the opportunity to read the first chapter to make sure it's something you'll enjoy.

Book Bites 2

Do you love stories of men and women falling in love against a backdrop of suspense and danger? Secret agents. Hidden identities. Lovers forced to revisit a dangerous past. Innocent women who stumble into murder. Long-buried secrets. Games of cat and mouse.

If so, here's an anthology for you. Book Bites #2 lets you sample 14 heart-pounding romantic suspense chapters from fourteen New York Times, USA Today and National best-selling authors.

As you try before you buy, you'll meet heroes and heroines at war with each other but forced to work together. A heroine on the run from an abusive marriage. A SEAL who promises to care for his best friend's wife and baby. A heroine who dreams through others' eyes. A werewolf and his partner on a perilous assignment. A woman falling in love with a man she suspects is a terrorist.

Whatever your taste in romantic suspense, there is something for everyone in Book Bites #2 from the authors of Authors Billboard.

Authors and Titles of Book Bites 2

Mimi Barbour - Roll the Dice

Patricia Rosemoor - See Me In Your Dreams

Jacquie Biggar - Tidal Falls

Sharon Hamilton - Seal's Promise

Kathryn Johnson - Mercy Killing

Rebecca York - Dark Moon

Debra Burroughs - The Scent of Lies

Cathy Perkins - Cypher

Nina Bruhns - In His Control

Cynthia Cooke - Deadly Secrets, Loving Lies

Lois Lavrisa - Liquid Lies

Taylor Lee - Red Rock Rises

Pat Amsden - Lost in Vegas

Richter Watkins - Cool Heat

Book Bites 4

Give yourself a present in this sampler of 10 romantic suspense stories. Masters of the genre introduce you to compelling characters like a young widow who can't get over her grief, a jaded sheriff saddled with a woman in trouble, a burned out vice detective, and more. Plus, drop in at a Christmas party where someone kills Santa. Best of all, each story weaves a compelling suspense plot with a heartwarming romance.

This sampler, sprinkled with humor and mystery, has a range of wonderful plots from a trace of western, to a classy female detective and with plenty of police procedural stories to deal with International Crime throughout.

Authors and Titles

Patricia Rosemoor - Crimson Holiday

Mimi Barbour - Special Agent Finnegan

Nancy Radke - A Tennessee Christmas

Rebecca York - Christmas Captive

Nina Bruhns - Must Love Santa

Sharon Hamilton - SEAL My Home

Taylor Lee - Blue Christmas

Jennifer Saints - A Weldon Family Christmas

Pat Amsden - A Christmas Wedding to Die For

Jacquie Biggar - The Sheriff Meets His Match

Book Bites 6

Give yourself a summertime treat. Get this sampler of 14 romantic suspense chapters and choose your next favorite author. Masters of the genre introduce you to compelling characters like a French Count, a navy pilot, star-crossed lovers, FBI hostage negotiators, terrorist victims, and more. Plus, drop in to meet a hero who’s every woman’s dream turn into his secondary character – an intriguing wolf.

Best of all, each story weaves a compelling suspense plot with a heartwarming romance.

This sampler, with first chapters of books by Stacy Juba, Mona Risk, Jacquie Biggar, Mimi Barbour, Donna Fasano, Rachelle Ayala, and Joan Reeves, is sprinkled with humor and mystery, has a range of wonderful settings from the Silicon Valley to a mountain wilderness and conflicts that deal with human trafficking and dangerous undercover operations. Open the first page and get ready for a thrilling ride!

Authors and Titles

Ticket to Nowhere - Patricia Rosemoor

Her French Count - Mona Risk

Special Agent Kandy - Mimi Barbour

Broken Build - Rachelle Ayala

Courage Dares - Nancy Radke

Twilight's Encore - Jacquie Biggar

Heat Lightning - Joan Reeves

Hunting Moon - Rebecca York

Collateral Damage - J. L. Saint

The Single Daddy Club: Reece - Donna Fasano

Stop in the Name of Love - Nina Bruhns

The Beachcombers - Stephanie Queen

The Moscow Affair - Taylor Lee

Sink or Swim - Stacy Juba

Takeaway Truth

The above free sampler books give you 38 samples of books by best-selling authors!

Take this opportunity to "test drive" these popular romantic suspense novels risk-free.

Grab them today!

5 Books That Stood the Test of Time by Cassie Phillips

Freelance Blogger
My guest today is Cassie Phillips who writes for Culture Coverage.

I met Cassie via email when she contacted me about guest blogging on SlingWords. We've had a technologically-challenged correspondence, but it's been worth it. I think you'll like the post that Cassie has offered for today because she's like us--a reader through and through.

About Cassie Phillips

Cassie is a freelance blogger and a big fan of all genres of literature. She said: "I especially loves it when her favorites pop up on must-read and can’t-miss lists. It totally verifies her love!"

You can find Cassie online at her blog, Secure Thoughts , at her Culture Coverage Web Page, and at her Twitter accounts: Cassie_Culture and SecureThoughtsC.

5 Books That Have Stood the Test of Time
by Cassie Phillips

Either by written prowess or movie-making popularity, some stories have catapulted to stardom just by engrossing new generations in their classic tale. From unrequited love to tales of otherworldly design, audiences keep coming back for more of these five classics again and again.

1. Dracula

The world’s lingering obsession with vampires and all things that go bump in the night has not slowed down since Bram Stoker brought the count to life in 1897 from his home in the United Kingdom. Instead, I’d say it’s done nothing but sped up.

From the modern video renditions to the entire spin-off genre that led to Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris, and Twilight fame, the world is still as obsessed with the bloodsucking undead as they were when they first cracked the book's spine.

From True Blood to Monster High, Dracula has truly left its bloodstained mark on the pages of pop culture as readily as it has on the pages of literature, and it’s sure to keep sinking its fangs ever deeper as time goes on.

2. Batman

The DC Comics hero is one of the more serious heroes of the universe, and it’s only made Batman a veritable success for the past decade, even though his story dates back to 1939.

While a comic book may not be everyone’s idea of real literature, it’s undeniable that the character has incredible lasting power, even if he’s over 70 years old. From Christopher Nolan’s adaptation to the very recent Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice flick, each generation has had its own bat-fearing vigilante to clean up the streets and put crime to right.

Since DC Comics launched its latest comic book Rebirth initiative, classic characters like Batman are getting their humanity back with new stories, and new stories always means renewed interest.

3. Tarzan of the Apes

The tale of the intelligent savage was a British colonial dream hero, and Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs is the penultimate demigod that keeps on giving.

The first movie edition, a silent film from the 1900s, broke the story to the big screen, and it was followed by countless adaptations—from the 1960 bodybuilder picture to Disney’s rendition that included a bopping soundtrack from Phil Collins—and has resulted in a remake this year starring Alexander Skarsgard.

What does this mean for a story that’s over a hundred years old? It means it’s still a fascinating one for viewers and audiences to fall in love with.

4. The Lord of the Rings

While The Lord of the Rings craze may have jumpstarted over a decade ago, the recent release of The Hobbit trilogy (and talks of a theme park) have reinvigorated the wonderful world of Middle Earth to the point where it’s more than just a global reference point, but one that is as strong today as it was in its post-World War II 1954 printing.

Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations (available for streaming on American Netflix if you’re feeling up to it) felt totally right for their time—winning Best Picture nominations and Academy Awards galore and proving that the fantasy realm is no longer taboo.

It inspired texts like George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, J .K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, and definitely Christoper Paolini’s Eragon. Even if you’re super familiar with the original, these texts are sure to feel just about right to any hardcore Tolkien fan.

5. Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen’s classic tale of love in Edwardian England has been a main fixture on the world stage since its publication. Through movie adaptations, additional books and spin-off series, it’s become the one love story we continue to take to heart time and time again.

From Joe Wright’s beautiful film adaptation in 2005 to the recent parody novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, where Austen’s heroines get a modern reboot when half of their acquaintances are the reanimated and destructive undead, this story doesn’t look like it’s stopping anytime soon.

Old Favorites Are Ever New

Some stories just stick with us and get better with time, and even if they’re familiar, true fans like the reintroduction of the classic every once in a while—who doesn’t like to revisit old favorites? So sink your teeth into these texts to freshen up your memories and get close to these beloved tales.

If you have any suggestions or comments, please send them my way. I’d love to stumble upon a new favorite read!

Takeaway Truth

I'd be willing to bet most of these on Cassie's list are on your list too. Am I right?

How to Be Happy: Part 2, Kill Doubt

I've been writing about how to choose happiness over misery. I started with Don't Worry; Be Happy: 5 Rules.

Then someone asked in an email how to choose happiness when life was so full of chaos with too much to do and little time for anything but responsibilities.

In response, I wrote How to Be Happy: Part 1. I added the Part 1 because achieving happiness is a process resulting from achieving certain attitudes which come from developing certain habits.

In Part 1, I talked about conquering that constant feeling of "overwhelm." I'm the poster girl for being overwhelmed because it seems I've had a lot on my plate for many years. I gave some sensible tips to help one begin the conquest, i.e., getting your environment in order so it nurtures you rather than drains you.

Why I Offer Advice

I'm not a certified counselor or a degreed professional in anything. I'm just a writer who came from a highly dysfunctional family. (Don't we all?) I've just lived long enough to have worked a few things out. So I offer sensible tips because they're things that work for me.

Today, I want to talk more about developing the habit of happiness because that's really what happiness is. There are many aspects of the happiness/unhappiness equation, but Doubt is one of the biggest elements.


Doubt erodes happiness and kills dreams. Even when you seem to be succeeding at something, Doubt is that little voice inside you that says: "This is a fluke."

Doubt makes you question every success. Doubt makes you miserable and steals the joy you might have because you never really believe that you're good at what you attempt.

Doubt keeps you from taking leaps of faith and perhaps achieving greater success.

If, like me, you come from a dysfunctional background where belief in your own capabilities was never nurtured, you can change that. You can nurture yourself, your ambition, your dreams, and cheer yourself on to success.

How To Eradicate Doubt

1. Own your emotions, and keep a journal to help understand them.

I think keeping a journal can work wonders in self-discovery and inner growth. Own the doubt. Face it once and for all and bring it into your conscious mind so you can analyze and study it. Write down experiences or thoughts about why doubt has such a stranglehold on you.

Now, for every experience you wrote down--probably crap from your childhood--look at that with the eyes of an adult. Write down what you think about it as if it were something that happened to a friend who confided the experience to you. What would you advise that friend? What would you tell her to come to grips with it and put it to rest once and for all. Write all that down. Look at it as an adult and lay it to rest.

Accept that you may have had a crappy childhood, but that you can have a happy adulthood. 

2. Realize that self-confidence is grown, and that you can grow it.

No one is born confident. You build confidence through experience, accomplishment, and effort. Effort is required to tackle something you've never done before. Effort is required to tackle something that scares you. The experience of trying and failing and finally succeeding builds confidence. If you succeed one time, you have that experience and can draw on it to try again and possibly succeed again.

In your journal, write the positive things that happen and underline them. Write how you faced failure and what you learned from it. Most people focus on the negatives in themselves and their world. Start changing that and re-read the positives you journalize, realizing that there is much good in you and your world.

3. Realize that there is no shame in failing.

If you fail at something, the consolation prize is always the pride in yourself for trying. Trying, making the attempt, is just as important as winning. People like to quote Yoda: "Do, or do not. There is no try." Maybe that works for someone who was nurtured from the cradle and has confidence oozing from every pore, but that doesn't work for me. There is pride in trying, whether one wins or not.

If you fail at something, go to the journal. Dump any negative feelings on those pages rather than let them take root and blossom in your mind. For every negative you write, counter it and write a positive statement. Then write how you plan to proceed when you try again. Trying again when one has failed takes courage, but that courage can be nurtured by ambition.

4. Dream big.

Ambition fuels courage, and courage fuels ambition. Be ambitious. Dream big. Get serious and set goals that are achievable . Write down a description of YOU as you will be when you no longer allow doubt to rule your world. How will you feel? How will you look? What will you attempt? How will you pass this lesson on to your children or to friends?

Read your doubt-free description often--like every day. Especially read it if you plan to attempt something you haven't tried before. 

5. Design and use positive supporting thoughts.

In your journal, design a set of positive supporting thoughts, or affirmations, that aid you in killing the doubt and accepting a life of possibilities. Make the affirmation a positive statement with no negatives, and make it specific.

Here are a few you might use. Edit to reflect what you wish to nurture in yourself.

I am well able to face any challenge today. I am full of confidence as I go through my day. Or, very specific: I am full of confidence as I write 5 pages today.

I am a skilled and gifted writer. I am confident of my writing skill as I begin this new book. Today, I have all the time I need to do all the things I want. Today, I embrace happiness and shun doubt.

Design your own affirmations. Read them every day. Pick 1 each day and write it 10 times every morning and every evening.

The brain is the most amazing part of the human body. What the brain believes becomes reality. All of the above is merely "brainwashing" in that it coaxes the brain into creating the reality you want.  I like to think of it as washing away all the negative thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs from the brain so you can repopulate it with the positives that bring happiness and inner peace.

Takeaway Truth

This "brainwashing" is not a latter-day concept. John Milton in Paradise Lost wrote: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

Love Christmas Excerpt by Jennifer St. Giles

Welcome to another excerpt from the upcoming Love Christmas Romance Collection. I don't know about you, but I'm loving each of these chapter excerpts. Today's is no exception. I think you'll love it!

Today's Chapter 1 Excerpt is by Jennifer St. Giles, a USA Today Bestselling Author. Find out more about Jennifer at the end of the excerpt.

Love Christmas features novellas by NY Times, USA Today, and National Bestselling Authors. Each novella bears the title of a favorite Christmas song. Something for everyone.

Merry, Did You Know?
By Jennifer St. Giles

Chapter 1 Excerpt

Your heart is free, have the courage to follow it.~ Braveheart

December 1
St. Simons Island, Georgia

MC Love listened as her sister, Summer Love, relayed the latest dysfunctional drama to riddle her family. Her stepfather, whom she called Steppy (because she couldn’t remember his name or what number he was, fifth, sixth, seventh?) and her mother, True Love, owner and CEO of Love International Resorts, had relationship issues.

Actually, all the Loves did.

“Steppy passed out drunk at NeNe’s wedding,” Summer said. NeNe was short for Never Ending. MC had seven sisters, one full the others half, all with the last name Love. Besides Summer and Never Ending, there was, Sweet, Timeless, Pure, Forever, and Madly Inn. That was another dysfunctional story.

Summer continued. “He didn’t just slouch over in his chair, mind you. He face-planted into the groom’s cake!”

MC made an appropriate noise of shock.

“The groom freaked out over his cake being destroyed and threw drunk-Steppy into the fountain. NeNe took issue with her new husband’s lack of respect for Steppy and threw cake at him. He then dropped her, wedding dress and all, into the fountain as well. That’s what you get with a hot-headed New York Italian! I kept telling NeNe that if she wanted the real thing, she had to go to Italy and find a younger version of Gianluca. Long story short, NeNe has filed for an annulment. She will now hold the Love record for the shortest marriage. Mother isn’t too happy.”

Summer had been in lust with Italian Rockstar Gianluca Grignani since the age of thirteen. No man Summer dated ever matched up to her idol. MC had often told her to go to Italy and find her own Italian. It ran in the family though. No man matched their mother’s ideal, so True changed husbands as often as she changed shoes. MC knew what would happen next. “Mother will now divorce Steppy, marry again, and annul after a minute of wedded bliss just so she can reign queen again.”

“I thought you said you haven’t spoken with her today?”

“I haven’t. Just a guess.”

“She mentioned something along those lines a few hours ago. So all in all, we missed seeing you but you didn’t miss much of a wedding. How is the French Riviera?”

MC gazed out over the Atlantic kissing the Georgia coast with wave after gentle wave. “Delightful.”

“Any deliciousness in sight?”

Code for hot male. “I haven’t been looking. Still recovering from he who shall remain unnamed.”

“Well, you know the Love motto. Can’t let a bad man keep you down. You’ve got to get back in the saddle and ride again.”
Looking down at her very pregnant stomach, MC grimaced. She wouldn’t be riding any time soon. A Grand Prix racer from Monaco, Mr. Unnamed’s only response to her, “I’m Pregnant” bomb had been, “Take care of it.” He’d then raced out the door and on to more fast cars and faster women.

MC had been relieved. Mr. Unnamed would make more of a lousy father than she a mother. She was sure his old-school, old-money family wouldn’t agree, but that wasn’t her problem.

“—I’m flying over.”

MC jerked to attention back to Summer. “What?”

“I said, either you find a man or I’m flying over and help you do it. Where are you exactly?”

“Oh…in a villa outside Cannes. The view is perfect for painting. Honestly, no need to fly over. If you must know, I heard a singer last night who intrigued me. As soon as I-uh-finish with my current project. I plan to check him out.”

That wasn’t exactly a lie.

Since she moved in a month ago, she had heard her neighbor singing most nights. Usually about two or three in the morning on his balcony. Lately, she’d set her alarm and would wake up and read until she heard him. Then she’d sneak downstairs onto her porch to hear him more clearly.

“Do that. I will call you next week. Hopefully we won’t have another Steppy by then.”

“Tell Mom I will not be coming to any weddings until I get this project done.”

“It must be spectacular. You’ve been working on it for months.”

MC frowned. “I don’t know. Art is art. We’ll have to see.”

“Okay. I want a full descript and name of your singer or I am coming. Bye.”

Summer hung up before MC could reply. She groaned. Now she’d have to get on the internet and hunt down a man performing somewhere near Cannes that Summer would believe MC had an interest in. Oh, the tangled web…

She hadn’t wanted anyone to know she was pregnant. Once the father bowed out, MC had made the wise decision not to bring an innocent child into the Love family’s mess. Her oldest sister, Timeless, had divorced. She had two boys, Chance and Lucky. Yes, their last name was Love, too. It was True Love’s crusade that any child born into the Love Resort dynasty had to bear the name Love or they’d forfeit their inheritance.

She would now have to make up a lover for Summer to believe in.

Everything MC needed, she ordered on line. The only time she left the condo was for her pre-natal checkups. She currently didn’t even have the heart to say hello to anyone, much less have another Love misadventure.

She just needed to survive the next month, see the adoption through, and then reassess her life. At twenty-six, most of life apart from her art had lost any appeal. Lovers were never true. Friends were shallow. Family was screwed. At least she found beauty and purpose in art.

Cannes is where her old self would go to relax and have fun. She’d come to Georgia to hide. No paparazzi would be camping out anywhere, anytime soon. Once she’d made the delivery then she’d—

The phone rang, but not hers. She moved to the French Doors that led to her private patio and walkway to the beach. She’d left the doors cracked to bring some fresh air in during the warmth of the day. A man dressed in plain black sweats and worn running shoes stood with his back to her at the edge of the sand dunes. The breeze from the ocean carried the sound of his voice to her as he held up his phone and faced his caller. She recognized the man’s deep, and somewhat haunting tone. Her midnight singer.

His brown hair rustled in the breeze. He had broad shoulders and a trim muscular shape. She’d only need a few more details to satisfy Summer for a bit. Pressing her ear to the crack, she gleaned what she could.

Three years had passed, and Doug Warren still had to force himself to breathe sometimes. Usually it happened in the middle of the night, in the dark, whenever the rushing wind from the ocean made a sharp cry. He’d sit up in bed, his heart racing as he threw back the covers.

He’d then see the moonlit ocean beyond the glass doors and know he no longer lived in the mountains. His wife Lucy no longer lay by his side and his daughter Annie didn’t sleep in the next room. The crushing blow of reality always stole the air from his lungs, the spirit from his heart. Sleep after the flood of memories was impossible.

Last night had been no different. He’d gotten up, grabbed his guitar, and headed for the balcony. There, he’d huddled in the cold, with the waves crashing to the shore somewhere below, and sang. He hoped the wind would carry his love and spirit to their home in heaven.

Today he had played until the sun rose and the bright light of a new day burned his eyes. Then he had crawled back into his room and slept for an hour or two more. Most of the year, he had handyman projects lined up to fill a nine-to-five work week. But, not much happened in the winter on the island. Vacationers followed the warmth south like flocking geese and islanders hibernated for the most part.

This year—like last year—he planned to finish recording his first CD during the seasonal downtime. And this year—like last year—he couldn’t seem to pull it all together. So, once he pried his eyes open with a pot of coffee, he dressed in sweats and headed out for a run on the beach.

Before he slogged through the dry sand, his cell rang. His brother Brad had FaceTimed him. Doug hesitated answering. He didn’t feel like talking to anyone this morning. And he sure didn’t want to look anyone in the eye either. But guilt hit him and he answered, holding up the phone to see his brother’s mug—the poster man for badass State Trooper. Make that commander of field operations Major Brad Warren. “Yo, bro.”

“I see you’re already bumming the beach.”

“Catching the rays. You?”

“Catching the bad guys as usual. Thought I’d give you the heads up. Overheard Mom and Aunt Betty talking on the porch last night.”


“Christmas planning. Seems that if Mohammed—you—won’t come to the mountain—here. Then the mountain—us—are coming to Mohammed—there—for Christmas.

“Seriously?” Doug exhaled as his stomach clenched. He couldn’t go there. Not yet. Too many reminders haunted every corner he turned. Here he’d reached a level of survival.

“I’m afraid so. They’re really worried about you. And in all honesty, I can’t blame them. I’m worried, too.”

“I’m hanging in there. Really, I am. I’m just different now. After losing Lucy and Annie, I won’t ever be who I used to be, but I’m finding my way. A day at a time.”

Brad stayed silent a moment. “Nobody is expecting you be anything.  They just want to see you. Put their arms around you and let you know how much they love you. It’s time. You missed last Christmas.”

Doug exhaled hard. He knew his brother was right. “Here,” he said, forcing the words past the tightness in his chest. He feared all of his family’s well-meaning empathy would sink him. He did better when folks didn’t know about Lucy and Annie. “Y’all come here. We’ll do the works. Bonfire. Smores. Christmas Tree. Fish fry.”

“I’ll let them know.”

Doug winced. “Tell them, I’ve got all bases covered. They don’t need to do or plan a thing, but just show up and cook, okay?”

“Will do.” Brad rolled his eyes. “Hope that works for you, bro. I can already hear the multiple calls you’ll get as they worry about every detail.”

“Joy,” Doug said dryly. “Anything else you want to tell me before I go run off my frustration?”

Brad hesitated then shook his head. “Nah. It will be good to see you in person. Technology makes distance way too easy these days. But it can’t replace real face time. Catch you later.”

Doug disconnected, wishing he hadn’t answered. He could have at least had his morning run in peace. Now as he raced along the beach, memories chased him. Smiles. Laughter. His fire truck rolling up to the head-on collision. The moment he recognized the mangled car crushed by the truck, he knew their lives had been taken in an instant.

Breathing hard and heavy, he ran three times his usual distance before heading back to the condo.

MC paced the floor, her pregnant laden back ached a bit, but she couldn’t sit still. She couldn’t paint either. She’d eavesdropped on her neighbor’s FaceTime conversation with his brother and couldn’t get the words out of her head…or her heart.
Every song he’d sung in the night, now had heart-wrenching meaning put to it, and she didn’t know what to do about it.

I’m hanging in there. Really, I am. I’m just different now. After losing Lucy and Annie, I won’t ever be who I used to be, but I’m finding my way. A day at a time.

She couldn’t seem to let it go.

About Jennifer St. Giles

USA Today Bestselling author, Jennifer St. Giles, aka Jennifer Saints, J.L. Saint is no ordinary Georgia Peach. She’s a Golden Heart, three-time Maggie, two-time National Reader’s Choice, Marlene, RT Reviewer’s Choice and Daphne du Maurier award-winning author. Jenni writes in multiple genres, including: romance, paranormal, contemporary, historical and military and time travel. She is a passionate patriot, event planner and the Vice-President of a charitable foundation which helps women and children’s causes. Jenni believes fervently in following your dreams and never giving up.

Takeaway Truth

Love Christmas will be available for pre-order in early October. This romance collection promises to be very special.

3 Tips to Keep Your Brain Young

By the time adults reach a certain age, they're more concerned with maintaining their mental health than their physical looks.

Here are 3 tips based on research studies that work to keep the brain young. Pick one and start today. Then try the others later.

1. Try a video game.

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco found that video games helped older people reverse age-related memory decline and focus. Participants in the study were given 4 weeks of training. After that, the adults, all in their 80's, were able to beat untrained young adults in their 20's. Six months after the study, the older adults, even without practicing, maintained their skill level.

2. Join a singing group.

Another study UCSF was designed to see if singing improved the health of older adults. The results concluded that singing in a group resulted in less loneliness and better mental health than those in the control group. Additionally, after one year, members of the group had fewer doctor visits and fewer falling events too.

3. Lower your blood sugar.

Scientists in Berlin found that high blood sugar is linked to memory problems. Cut the sugar in your diet.

Takeaway Truth

Often, simple things can greatly improve health. Sometimes, those simple things can be fun too.

Review: The Fall, a Netflix Original

The Netflix Original series, The Fall, is the stuff of a woman's nightmares. If you live alone, you may want to watch this in a group because it's seriously twisted and scary.

Although The Fall is a Netflix Original, it's also available on Amazon in your choice of online streaming, DFD, or Blu-Ray.

The Fall is a psychological thriller that closely details 2 hunters -- one a serial killer working in the Belfast, Norther Ireland, area who preys on victims in and around Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the other a cold and calculating female detective sent to catch him.

Gillian Anderson is superb as DSI Stella Gibson, who seems to have ice water in her veins, heads the task force dedicated to solving the crime spree. Her character is not very likable, but she is very capable.

Jamie Dornan, seen most recently in 50 Shades of Grey, is Paul Spector, a husband and a father and a family counselor who lives a double life. This is no spoiler because the killer's identity is revealed from the start. Dornan is too good in the role as he toys with Gibson and brutalizes his victims. The man is seriously creepy.

Season 1 and 2 are on Netflix. Season 3 started filming in January of this year. I guess there are some lessons about personal safety that can be learned from this series so after watching it, take a look at your own habits that might be risky.

Takeaway Truth

Don't watch it alone, and, before you watch it, make sure your doors and windows are locked.