Cowtown Critiquers Christmas

I love my critique partners. They have literally rescued my characters out of plotting wells I let them fall into...or helped me shovel crap onto ones that needed it. I so admire these ladies and their intelligence and creativity. And they are so fun to be around. When I can't make it to one of our monthly plotting sessions at The Cotton Patch (we're the noisy laughing ones at the long table in the back who never leave--our poor waitress) I really miss them and can't wait for the next month when I can be with them. 

Seriously. Even when my personal life feels as bleak as wading through a quagmire with leeches in a dark jungle with vines slapping my face, a few hours laughing with the cowtown critiquers strengthens my lungs to get back at it and keep swinging that machete.  

We usually exchange small gifts at Christmas time. This year I wanted to add a personal touch and thanks to Pinterest (Best ideas ever. I want to do everything and I don't even like crafts.) I saw these personalized frames that would be perfect. So I had each of my critique partners write down what they love about writing or reading. Printed it off, and voilĂ ! 

personalized picture frames

Turned out pretty nice if I say so myself. Below are the quotes they each gave me.

"I write because it's who I am. I've been writing so long, I can't imagine not putting words to the page. It would be like a chunk of me is missing. Writing is just me. Besides, it's the only way to keep the voices in my head subdued."  C.A. Szarek

"I write because there are too many stories floating around in my head. Sending a story out into the world makes room for the next book and the next, and the next…"  Michele Welsh

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” 
― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
― Mark TwainThe Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain

"I read to escape, to ride the roller coaster, to marvel at the journey. I write to humble myself, to embrace the challenge, to throw caution to the wind and soar."                    Gina Lee Nelson 

"I love to read because I love to learn new things, not just facts and figures, but words and ideas. I love to feel the highest highs and the lowest lows and to be moved to tears, laughter, or breathlessness. I love to be able to experience other times or other worlds through the eyes of characters that I have come to love and who resonate with me." 
Jen FitzGerald

It Happens Sometimes

I ran into an old friend I haven't seen in at least a decade, if not more. We had kids close in age. We each had kids with health issues, but you know how it goes, you just push on, keep them healthy and happy and do whatever needs to be done. Live life the best you can.

We moved out of the area first and then they moved. So it was an unexpected surprise and pleasure to run into them.

We hug. We exchange pleasantries. So good to see you. You look great. How is everyone? Then she asks, "Is everyone healthy?"

And that tiny part of my heart that is still hiding, still whimpering, tucks farther away and I hear myself answer, "No, we lost Chase five years ago."  Even as I say it, my mind is reeling. How can it be five years? It still hurts so bad.

She nods gravely. Her expression is different than the usual wince of sympathy. It's calm. "I'm sorry. I had no idea. It's not a club we wanted to be in."

It takes a few seconds for that to sink past the focus of trying to push it all down and keep my emotions from bubbling out "What?"

"We lost Spencer two years ago. Tumor in the brain. They gave him eight months. I'm sorry, I thought you knew. His wife was pregnant. He wanted to live long enough to see the baby born."

"Did he?" I ask with a little hesitation.

"Yes." She smiles and I look past her shoulder at her family, at her daughter-in-law, sitting behind her. And I understand her expression now. The calmness, the understanding. It's the difference of having gone down to all the depths of hurt and loss that would take lifetimes to express them all unless you've been through it. Funny how all that hurt can be conveyed in one look. That club no one wants to belong to.

I remember Spencer well. He was a light. A smart funny kind kid who took every obstacle by the horns and rode it through. I'm glad he had a child, that they have a little piece of him in another person.

Our exchange was brief. I was already tearing up, even though I knew I could get it under control in a few minutes. Even though there was so much I wanted to say, most of it wouldn't have gotten past the lump in my throat anyway. But there really wasn't anymore we needed to say anyway. We get it. We're members of the same club.

My Book Cave

Here's a cool new site that lists books according to violence and/or heat level. So if you like certain things and don't want to read about other things, this is a good list to sign up for and find the promotions on books you like reading. 
My Book Cave - Free & Discounted Ebooks
MBC Blast ad 1
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My Book Cave is the company behind this ingenious idea. The concept is simple.
Just sign up for the genres and ratings you want to see, choose your heat, violence, and swearing comfort level, then My Book Cave delivers ebook deals to your inbox. Rating include All Audiences, Mild, Mild+, Moderate, Moderate+, and Adult.
And right now, My Book Cave is having a huge giveaway with two ereaders and three cash gift cards. Just for signing up, you’re entered to win one of the ereaders. Visit My Book Cave to sign up or check out their blog for the rest of the prizes.
Happy reading!

Happy reading!
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P.S. If you’re an author and have a fantastic book you’d like to feature for free on My Book Cave, go on over.  I did. They’re always looking for great books.


$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 11/18/15

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Traditions of the Wedding Ring

wedding ring
My daughter and SIL

Rings as body adornment have been around for quite some time. Close to 5 thousand years ago, we get our first written hit of a circular band for finger wear from the Egyptians. All those thin reeds growing along the river? Not just for weaving baskets, girlfriends. Some ancient enterprising young lass or laddie braided the sedge into jewelry (minus the jewels) and the first known rings became a trend. 

According to their writings on papyrus scrolls, the betrothed couple exchanged these braided rings as a circular symbol of eternal love without end. They placed the rings on the left hand due to the belief that the vein that led to the heart ran from that finger. 

Caveat: I'm sure the cavewomen in their day had their own rockin' styles of body wear, but since they didn't write it down, they get no credit. Document people, document.

Moving on. As can be imagined, the reed rings of the Egyptians weren't exactly made to last. Not to worry. There was plenty of leather around. Rings were also made out of ivory or bone and just like today the more costly the material was apparent proof of how deep the love. 

The Romans put their own spin on ring giving. Maybe "giving" isn't the right word because for them, it was a stamp of ownership, instead of undying love. Ouch. "if you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh."  These betrothal rings were often made of silver and often engraved. They did sport a romantic side with also wearing the ring on the heart vein finger. They termed it vena amoris (vein of love).

It actually beats some of the traditions of the wedding garter. 

It was the Christians around 800 years A.D. that started using rings in the actual wedding ceremonies. The rings were at first very ornate but somewhere along the line some uptight priest decided that was unholy so the rings became more simple, closer to what we have today.

Then when the colonists shipped out to America, the bride was given a thimble by her groom. Yeah, about as exciting as getting a vacuum on your anniversary. But they were puritans so excitement wasn't exactly what they were after. Still wanting a little frivolity or more likely an outward sign that they were a respectable married woman, some of the women took the top of the thimble off and wore them as marriage bands. 

Many cultures throughout the world have their own symbolism, myths, and practices associated with the marital ring. At its core, the circle is a symbol of no endings or  beginnings. One eternal round.  Even the hole symbolized more than dead space, but more of a gateway that led to unknown events. Which, pretty much sums up marriage.  


Why my sudden interest in bridal traditions? I'm researching for my up-and-coming Chantry Inn series, which will feature several weddings and one long-lost wedding gown. To be notified when these books will be released follow me on Facebook or my newsletter

Morning Pages

Last night I read an article in the RWR (Romance Writers Report) about a writer, Sheila Athens, who attended a recent workshop with Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way. Apparently this book is a must-read for authors, painters, singers, actors, pretty much anybody who yearns to delve deep into their artist spirit. Okay, I just made that description of the book up because I have no idea what the book is really about other than hearing other writers talk about it. I've never read it.  
The Artist's Way article
Article from July 2015 RWR (trademarked)

But the article was only a little over two pages long... so I've got time to see if everything worthwhile in the book is cramped in there.

Anyway, the writer (Sheila) summed up a few things she learned from the other writer (Julia).
What caught my attention was the tool of "morning pages".

 Basically an artist will write 3 handwritten pages every morning to connect on a spiritual level with her creativity. Just write. And for writers, we aren't supposed to use those 3 pages as part of our WIP (Work In Progress). I admit I winced at that one because if I'm writing I want it to count as something substantial. But no, WIPs are to be set aside and this is free forming. Julia claims that will make our WIPs more productive later when we let everything on our mind flow out.

So bright and early before I had to head out, prepared to sweat while helping out with my son's band's parade. And yes I did get wet and sticky. Not because I did anything strenuous, but because I was outside in Texas in July. Don't know why I bothered with showering.
Keller Central High Band 

Where was I? Oh yes, bright and early I pulled out one of my notebooks, grabbed a pen and wrote. Oh my gosh, I am shocked, simply shocked, at the spew of mucky roadkill that flowed onto my
3 pages. From "I am an introvert and would rather stay home from this parade" with a side helping of "I miss my son." and all sorts of random resentments on top of things I'm grateful for and plain old things that don't really matter at all. It was strange, I'm telling you. And those pages need to be shredded. Anyone who came across them would think I've lost my mind.

Did it clear my mind well enough that my WIP flowed better? Well, I don't know yet. I haven't gotten to it yet. Have to take a second shower first after the parade.

Maybe I better read that book.

Have a wonderful Fourth of July!!!

Tradition of the Wedding Garter

garter from ExclusivelyWeddings

Tossing the garter used to be a custom called Fingering the Stocking back in the old days (Fourteenth Century thereabouts) in England.

Back then, especially among families that were bent on getting the next heir as quickly as possible, making sure the marriage was properly consummated was a big deal. Big enough to have the entire wedding party come into the room (hopefully afterwards, but in some cases not) and take a good look at the stocking for, um, I guess some sort of evidence because apparently it was too easy to spill wine on the sheets.

If that wasn't bad enough, the guests would then fling stockings at the couple for good luck.  Because what is more lucky than stinky socks being thrown at you? Bonus points if you're the guest that gets a sock on top of the bride's or groom's head because you were then the next to get married. Has to be true, the socking said so.

But in France, the socks didn't even make it to the wedding bed. Once the bride uttered "I do" (Or rather a form of ‘I receive you as mine, so that you become my husband and I your wife'--only in French', the guests thronged her, tearing bits and pieces off her marital gown because what's more lucky than leaving your loved one in tatters at the altar? Kim Kardashian's idea of having three wedding gowns for the occasion gains a little more merit here. One gown for being torn apart and at least one other for the reception.
Kim Kardashian Wedding Dress

At some point, I'm sure in desperation, some brides decided to start throwing pieces of their attire out, hoping to avoid most of the rampaging at her and her clothing. Which went to finally the groom started taking the garter off and tossing that out. In my romantic nature I like to think of it as the protective groom stepping in to stop the mob in this manner, but who knows, it could have been the brides' idea for self-preservation. Either way, this new less-aggressive, less-invasive tradition began. Thankfully.

At this point the tradition of tossing the bouquet also arouse arose. Ha! Totally didn't mean to type arouse, but I kept it in there because I thought it was a funny Freudian slip.

There are also traditions that state that the garter represents the bride's virginal girdle so when the groom takes that off it's symbolic of what the bride is giving up to him. Who knows who connected the dots on that one but I guess it fits.

But for our modern times, there is little sock throwing and the wedding guests don't go into a frenzy to ruin that $5000 wedding dress.

Many brides will wear two garters both on the right leg above the knee, one for the toss and the other to keep.

The bouquet will be tossed first, followed by the groom removing the garter and tossing it out.

I read that the single male guest who catches the garter then places it on the leg of the single gal who caught the bouquet and superstition states that they will be the next to marry...and to each other. I've personally never heard of that part of it or seen it done, but, hey, they say going to weddings is a great way to meet people. Why not?


Why my sudden interest in bridal traditions? I'm researching for my up-and-coming Chantry Inn series, which will feature several weddings and one long-lost wedding gown. To be notified when these books will be released follow me on Facebook or my newsletter.  See my post on the Traditions of the Wedding Ring.


So I've been trying to learn more about myself as a person, be more positive, that kind of stuff. I've never ever meditated, but I found this on Mindvalley Academy and thought it was a good way to start going about it. At any rate, I'll have a few moments of quiet during the day and if it can help me sleep, win/win.

12 Steps to Thrive

Writing The End

There's not many better things than writing "The End" on a manuscript you've been working on for months.Second to that is getting through your first round of edits and sending the thing off to your editor. That's where I am now with Highland Illusion.

Out of all the Highland Sorcery novels this one has given me the most grief to write and I'm really not sure why. It's just been a bear. It's also a little different than the rest so maybe that's it.

First, it's less action and more relationship building than how I tend to write. I love action. About 90 percent of this book takes place in the same building. The Same Building!

Also for a little switch-up, the hero in this one tends to be the damsel-in-distress more so than the heroine. But he's the only human in the midst of a colony of vampires who are all stronger, older, and predatory. Plus there is no hiding anything he is feeling. The heroine--vampire, also stronger and older than him--can sense every nuance of what's going on internally with him so when he's feelin it for her, there's no hiding where the drop in his blood pressure has gone to.

I also go into religion more in this one. I couldn't help it. In the previous book Highland Son where Lance was first introduced, he is the son of a religious fanatic who preaches that anything with magic is as evil as the monsters running around eating people. Well guess what, Dad? Lance has magic. He can cast illusions, the same illusions that have been saving your butt. So dad tries to kill him. Try coming out of that with an intact love of God and religion. I don't think so.

So who does he become attracted to? A Christian vampire. Yup.

Anyway, it's written, it's off to edits. Want to read an excerpt?

Highland Illusion

New York City

Lance stared up at the octagonal tower at the top of St. Michael’s Chapel. The moonlight slashed down upon it, creating intricate shadows across the ancient building. The chapel had survived more than three hundred years, withstanding the great fire, the fall of the two towers, and also the air strikes the navy threw at the city in their attempt to slaughter all the monsters that had flocked to the once densely populated island.
It was almost fitting that the oldest enclave of vampires in America had taken up shelter there.
To say he was nervous to walk inside, even with Deverell vouching for him, was a chasm of an understatement. They’d driven in the old jeep for days, abandoning it when it finally gave out, and then kept to the shadows and traveled mostly at dusk and night to stay out of the sunlight on Rell’s behalf. The sun’s rays wouldn’t outright kill vampires, but rather acted as radiation poisoning to their sensitive flesh, a terminal effect just the same.
Once they had the vampires onboard, their numbers and swiftness of attack in getting the anti-rift serum into the Sifts’ population would give their world—their future—the advantage they desperately needed.
“Are they in there?” he asked around the growing lump swelling his throat.
Oui.” Deverell’s gaze scanned the roofline and then the columns supporting the portico. “They are all around us, dozens of my brethren. I sense their presence.” Which meant they also knew about them being on the street just outside, unprotected, yet what human really had protection around a colony of vampires? Would the old treaties between mankind and vampires still be honored? Or were they long ago forgotten, a casualty of the Sifts’ uprising.
Taking a wary step forward, Lance squared his shoulders, trying to look confident, knowing the vamps inside would detect the frantic racing of his heart. “Well, let’s get this thing done.”
“Hello. You inside.” Deverell spread his arms wide, showing he held no weapons. “We come in peace.” His long coat fluttered beneath his outstretched arms.
Lance crooked a half grin and copied the vampire’s pose, stretching his arms wide. “We come in peace?”
Deverell shrugged. “It seemed fitting.”
“Fitting and ridiculous.” An amused voice spoke right behind Lance’s shoulder, causing him to flinch. Damn, vampires moved fast. He hadn’t felt or heard the approach from behind. He twisted his head to look at a rangy vampire grinning at him, two long eye-teeth pressing against his lower lip. “And you brought lunch.” His nostrils flared, sniffing Lance as though he was meat rotating on a spit.
A hiss of irritation bristled off Deverell. “He’s my friend, August. Under my protection.”
August leaned back, disappointment quieting the eagerness of his breathing and dismissed Lance from his attention to focus fully upon Deverell. “Why have you come then?”
“To help you,” Deverell stated blandly. “To help us all. We’ve a means to rid ourselves of the Trogs once and for all.”
August’s eyes narrowed. He smoothed his hair back from his distinguishable widow’s peak. “You don’t say.” Shrugging, he turned on his heel toward the old church’s entrance. “Come along then. And bring your pet. Don’t want it left unattended out here all alone.” He grinned at Lance. “There are predators about.”
Trogs? Lance mouthed behind August’s back. The humans had first labeled them as Sifts but Trogs was as apt a name for the horrible carnivorous beasts as any.
Deverell shrugged, eyeing the vampires slinking in the shadows around them.
“I thought they’d show a little more enthusiasm at a chance to be rid of the Sifts,” Lance admitted.
“I as well.” Deverell frowned. “They must not believe us.”
“You did say they’d be hard to convince.” They passed through the doors into the muted interior of the church. Light from a dozen tall candles rubbed a low shine upon the large chapel, throwing dozens of marble angels scattered about in shadow and light. Sculptured faces seemed to follow their progress through the considerable space. Most of the pews were gone, the few left were pushed back against the wall or arranged in clusters for sleeping or conversing, rather than in neat rows facing the pulpit and large cross for worship.
Lance blinked, stumbling a step at a flash of memory pushing behind his eyes. Kneeling between two long pews, no, not kneeling, hiding, his small body curled over his knees, his sister pushed up against him, trembling, their mother whispering, “Be still, be silent,” as she dragged them into a church for refuge as though church walls could keep out hungry salivating monsters.
“Deverell,” a feminine voice, brimming with welcome pulled Lance back to the here and now. She glided toward them with the sinuous grace of a cat. Satiny black hair fell to her hips as straight and still as glass. She took Deverell by the forearms and kissed his cheek. “You’ve returned to us after all.” Violet eyes tilted. “I admit I believed you perished beneath the teeth of the troglodyte beasts as so many of our brothers and sisters have.”
The dozen or so vampires within the chapel were gathering closer, fluid of movement, detaching from the walls like fog rolling in from the sea.
Grinning, Deverell ran his hands down the female’s arms until he was clasping her wrists. “Lost to the monsters, Oriana? You know me better than that.”
She smiled demurely.
Standing beside her, August watched them steadily. “Deverell claims he has the means to rid of us the Trogs.” He shared a meaningful look with Oriana.
“Oh?” A sleek brow lifted. “That is…interesting. And unnecessary. We’ve come upon means of our own to rid us of the foul beasts.”
“Means of your own?” Deverell tilted his head, dipping his long dark hair along his shoulder. “And what would those means be?”
“A discussion for another time.” Oriana glanced pointedly at Lance. The vampires obviously didn’t want to discuss anything in front of him, an unimportant human. “For now, you will be our guests. August, be a lovely and show them where they can refresh themselves.”
It took every ounce of Lance’s restraint to remain quiet and let Deverell take the lead. Sometimes playing unassuming was the best course. They hadn’t traveled all this way to be summarily dismissed. They had a way to stop the Sifts and the vampires would listen.
The signs of his frustration must have showed through the rhythm of his pulse or the flash of heat beneath his skin for every gaze turned on him curiously. Deverell’s grimace warned him to get it under control. He couldn’t forget that he was in the midst of predators every bit as dangerous as the Sifts, old treaties with humankind remembered or not.
“This way.” August indicated they go ahead of him through the adjoining door to their right into a narrow corridor.
Coming from the other end of the hallway, a female stormed toward them. Head down, every muscle of her lithe body was tight. Fists clenched, she wasn’t paying any heed to her steps until she was nearly upon them, stopping short before crashing into Lance.
Mere inches shorter than he, her face snapped up to almost the same level. Shiny dark eyes took him in, a flash of scrutiny before they slid away to focus on August.
Lance wasn’t as eager to cease his own scrutiny of her. It would take a lifetime of practice to be able to manifest an illusion as captivating as the reality before him or the expressive qualities of the downturn of her lips.
“What is it now, Celestine?” August asked with the tint of annoyance.
Celestine. Lance stared at the slight blink of inky lashes against dusky skin.
As though feeling his perusal, her gaze fell back to him, and damn if his pulse didn’t set off to win a speed record. The quirk of her brow proved she detected the change in rhythm and understood the cause of it.
Caught, he decided to roll with it and gave her his cheekiest full-of-himself grin.
Amusement curled her lip and she leaned in close, her breath a whisper at his neck and glories help him, if his fate was to be devoured by a monster, let it be her.
Petit chat.” Indulgence purred through her husky voice and then she was pushing past him and Deverell, tossing back to August, “I need to speak with Oriana.” She paused, cautious. “We haven’t enough. It’s too soon to…” She shook her head, setting soft black curls to swaying about her shoulders, then clamping her lips shut, she strode off.
“Problems within the ranks?” Deverell arched a brow at August. “Come on, August, whatever it is you’re planning, you really need to hear us out first. What we have to say may be of a benefit to whatever it is you have cooking. You know me, you know my history. I would never come here if it wasn’t important.”
August stopped, lips flattened, and indicated they go through one of the doors near the end of the hallway. “Yeah I know you. That’s why we’re going to have you wait right in here until Balius returns.”
“Balius is back with the colony?”
Standing outside the room, August’s grin turned predatory. “Back. And in charge.” He swung the door closed in their faces.

Deverell turned to Lance as the bolt locked into place. “Balius. That is unfortunate.”

The Calm After the Storm

Calm after the storm

The Calm After the Storm by Mya O'Malley

Can true love shine through the darkest storm?

The storm of the century raged through the northeast, causing destruction and despair, millions were left without power and hope. Weeks later, countless people were still devastated by the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, Emma Riley among them.

Determined she didn’t need the help of a man, Emma was convinced that she could brave the aftermath of the storm on her own. That is, until Jake came into her life.

After having suffered heartbreak and embarrassment, Jake Mack, a utility foreman, volunteered to travel north from small town, Georgia to assist with the aftermath of the storm. Jake was decidedly done with women. But he didn’t count on meeting Emma or falling in love so quickly. Can he trust this woman or will his past get in the way and ruin the relationship with the one woman he truly loves?

Excerpt from The Calm After the Storm:

Jake and his crew had now been in the suburbs of New York for a few days. His first thought upon entering this area was his surprise at the devastation. Sure, he had heard about the destruction on the news and had seen footage of the aftermath of Sandy, but it still hadn’t prepared him for the actual sight of Sandy’s rage. Telephone poles were down, trees were snapped in two, and houses were completed destroyed by the storm. Seeing all the destruction only strengthened Jake’s resolve that it had been the right thing to come. He felt proud to be able to help out and be a part of the solution to the horrible aftermath of this disaster.

As the day was wrapping up. Jake and Chris met up with some of their crew in the next town to finish one more area before calling it quits. The chill in the air was something that Jake had prepared for, but was not accustomed to. Clutching the new flannel he had purchased right before his trip, he put it on over his thermal shirt. Thankful for his thermos filled with hot coffee, Jake grabbed it but quickly tossed it aside.

“Come on, Chris! I asked you to stop drinking my coffee. Now there’s none left,” he said as he shook his head, irritated at his friend.

Chris looked up at his boss sheepishly. “Sorry, man. I didn’t sleep well last night. I needed some caffeine.”

“Well, that makes two of us.”

They rode until they approached the utility pole that needed attention. Jake and Chris were among the first to arrive and got busy setting up for the job. Within minutes, the rest of the assigned crew trickled in. The workers were now familiar with the details and routine of this job, so for the most part they worked in silence, focused on getting this last job done so that they could grab some dinner and hit the sheets. It was cold and dark, the night chill settling in upon them. Jake supervised and helped his crew perform their individual duties as quickly as possible. As they were just about wrapping things up, Jake headed over to Steve, one of the older guys directing traffic. He looked frail and tired.

“Hey, Steve. I got this. Why don’t you call it a night, huh? We’ll meet you at the hotel for some dinner.”

“Nah, Jake, we’re almost done here. I’m good,” Steve said as he looked up at Jake with glaring dark circles under his eyes.

“Steve, go. I’m serious. Get in a hot shower and we’ll meet up for dinner. Boss’ orders. Now go and take Andy with you,” Jake gestured toward another man on the crew who looked like he was ready for bed.

Shrugging his shoulders, Steve made his way to one of the smaller utility trucks, calling for his co-worker to join him. Jake took over the responsibility of directing traffic, slowing people down and stopping cars when necessary. Yawning, he waved a small SUV along, noticing that the approaching driver was slowing down, much more than necessary. Jake squinted his eyes to get a better look. The car came to a stop when Jake stepped up to it and its window rolled down. Looking back at Jake was a woman who appeared pretty, even in the diminished light. Wait, scratch that—she was stunning, with long, wavy hair and piercing eyes. His heart faltered just a bit.

“Hi. I wanted to thank you guys for all of the hard work that you’ve been doing. We really appreciate you guys coming up here. I think I speak for everyone,” she said as she smiled widely. Her smile hitched his breath ever so slightly. Jake smiled back. This was certainly a change. Since he had been in this area, some people waved, some people smiled, others remained with their eyes straight ahead, but nobody had yet offered any thanks verbally. So different from the Southern hospitality way of life where he grew up, Jake mused.

Here it was different, the pace of life was much faster. People always seemed to be in a rush, and they minded their own business for the most part. Sure, being so close to the big city must be nice and the landscape was quite beautiful at times, but he didn’t think this lifestyle was something he could ever get used to. It seemed too stressful, too impersonal. He would be glad to be back home when his job was finished.

The woman leaned over and offered Jake a box of donuts, disposable coffee cups, and a box of hot coffee. Jake was impressed.

“Thank you, that was very thoughtful!” Jake gushed, thrilled at the idea of hot coffee. He thought he felt warmth spread across his cheeks despite the chill in the air.

The woman stared back and smiled at Jake for a minute and then set her eyes on the road ahead. She waved as she pulled away.

“Wait!” Jake called out. “Wait, what was your name?” But the words were lost. The mysterious woman with the coffee and donuts was long gone.

“Guys!” he called out as his crew worked on cleaning up for the night. “Guys! Our guardian angel just appeared, and she brought coffee!”

The coffee and donuts were gladly received, but the idea that someone would go out of their way to show a random act of kindness truly touched Jake. He felt the warm liquid slide down his throat and knew that he would always remember the woman’s thoughtfulness. Who was he kidding? That woman’s beautiful face was what he would most remember. He just wished that he had gotten her name.

Mya OmalleyAuthor Mya O'Malley
Mya O’Malley was born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, where she currently lives with her husband, daughter and three step-daughters. The family also consists of two boxers, named Destiny and Dolce, and a ragdoll cat named Colby. Mya earned an undergraduate degree in special education and a graduate degree in reading and literacy. She works as a special education teacher and enjoys making a difference in the lives of her students.

Mya’s passion is writing; she has been creating stories and poetry since she was a child. She spends her free time reading just about anything she can get her hands on. She is a romantic at heart and loves to create stories with unforgettable characters. Mya likes to travel and has visited several Caribbean Islands, Mexico, and Costa Rica. She is currently working on her sixth novel.


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Numbers Game

Numbers GameNumbers Game by Rebecca Rode

Treena is nervous for Rating Day. A single number will brand her forever—a valuable citizen, or a pathetic waste of space. Her top-Rated boyfriend is confident their scores will coincide so they can attend the academy together. But when the big day arrives, her true number shocks everyone.

To get her life—and boyfriend—back, she must go undercover and expose a military spy. Doesn’t sound too hard, except that someone wants her dead. And then there’s Vance, the mysterious soldier with a haunted past and beautiful brown eyes. Together, they discover a dark numbers conspiracy, one that shatters the nation’s future. Treena must join up with Vance if she is to survive the dangerous game of numbers—and the terrible war that rages within her heart.


“Your Rating is wrong,” Vance said. “Their precious Rating system says absolutely nothing about you and what you’re capable of.”

I shook my head. “So far, everything I’ve done has proven my number absolutely correct.”

“Treena.” His tone softened. “I don’t know why you that happened to you. But I do know one thing.” He stopped on the step below me, and I whirled to face him. We were the same height now, and his expression was fierce. “You are the most loyal, the most determined, and the most fascinating girl I’ve ever met. No number could ever describe you.”

The deadness inside cracked, and the pain came flooding back. I felt like a five-year-old again. Falling, grasping for a handhold, for something to save me. “It doesn’t matter now. Tali's dead.”

He gave me a long look. Then he sat down, right on the steps, easing me down next to him. I lay my head on his shoulder and let him pull me close. The warmth of his embrace felt completely and utterly right. For a long moment, I allowed myself to forget about the past few days. There was no empress, no punishment mode, and no mission. There was just us. The world was cool and dark, and his touch sent my heart pumping as if it had just awakened from hibernation.

“Dying isn't the worst thing to happen to someone,” he continued thoughtfully. “Anyone coward can die. The hardest thing is being left behind, trying to make sense of a world without them.”

I tilted my head back and allowed myself to look up into Vance’s eyes. They were dark, pulling, as if absorbing all the light that entered, saving it for some future purpose. His eyebrows were choppy, untrimmed, and his lips chapped. But somehow, it worked. It was simply . . . him. No surgeries, no tallies of volunteer hours and checklists. Vance just took life one day at a time, keeping his family safe, trying to put the pieces of himself back together. I could see it, the pain in his heart. It was something we shared now.

A warm feeling spread through my chest until I thought it would burst. This was who he really was. The tumultuous battle within him seemed to have trickled away, leaving one gallant, vulnerable boy. A boy who was looking at me as if I were something precious—who looked at me, instead of at my Rating. His eyes flitted between mine, his confidence replaced with uncertainty.

“It feels good to finally choose sides, doesn’t it?”

“Whose side are you on, then?”

His chin was just above mine, and he lowered it until our eyes were level. Then his hand tilted my chin upward toward his. His fingers brushed the side of my face, cradling it gently in his firm hand. I felt his breath on my face, felt the battle within him as well as I felt it in myself. But something pulled me toward him.

“Yours,” he said. He closed the distance between us, slowly, then paused.

And our lips met.

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Praise for the Book

"Gripping, from beginning to end . . . a tale as action-packed as Divergent yet as introspective as The Giver. . . . Sure to be an instant classic in the genre." –R.J. Craddock, author of The Children of Cain series

“Fluent and engaging . . . brimming with fabulous characters and intrigue that will keep you flipping pages. Can't wait to read the next book in this series!” –Adrienne Monson, author of the Blood Inheritance trilogy

“Had me hooked from the first page to the last . . . Thoroughly enjoyable. I highly recommend!” -Randy Roberts, BoredShorts TV (Kid History/Kid Snippets)

rebecca rAuthor Rebecca Rode

REBECCA RODE is an award-winning author and journalist. She is the author of the inspirational book, How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces, and writes for Deseret News,, FamilyShare, and Provo Daily Herald. However, her true love is writing for teenagers. She enjoys playing with her four children, traveling, reading, and martial arts, and she has a ridiculous addiction to her husband's chocolate-banana shakes.


$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

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Sounded Like a Bomb Went Off

Well, so it was my youngest's Birthday yesterday. Fourteen. Now Tater is his own man. He likes to keep things simple and would rather have me spend money on buying the parts for his computer that he is building. So I got him another part. Should be arriving today.

So simple party. I'm really good with that. I did go over the top and made really cute Tent invites, which he said were too cute. He's not like that and he was just going to tell his friends. "But, but, mom's like to know these things are official," I pleaded said. Fine, but not the tent. So redid them on flat boring paper, which I'm not sure got passed out since only one mom RSVPed. The rest just let their kids text Tater when they were showing up. They did come in to meet me though. Yes, we moms of 14-year-olds must band together in the face of our sons' I'm-too-cool-for-that swaggers.

Poop Cake

He has four good friends. That's all he wanted to come over for a sleepover hang-out. What do 14-year-old boys really like? Fire. And we have the perfect backyard for it too. A nice porch and woodsy non-grassy dirt that they enjoyed digging a hole for. I also had some long tree limbs that needed sawing. They got right to it. In no time, they had a great fire. They cooked tin foil dinners, roasted little smokies, had pizza, and then s'mores. You wouldn't think a fire could occupy boys so well.

Friends around the Fire
The Culprits

What I didn't take into account was 14-year-olds like to do what their older brothers tell them they've done and that whole group mentality of let's-do-this-it-will-be-awesome and just plain 14-year-olds think they are invincible and sometimes do dumb stuff cuz it's fun even when the adult is right inside, in view, monitoring while also giving them some privacy. I'm looking right at them. What could go wrong?

Sneaky things these 14-year olds. Snuck a can of Axe deordorant spray right past me, stuck it in the fire...

Never heard such a loud bang in my life. It was an explosion that went as high as my house. I came off my chair just as fast. {{{What happened?}}}

The look on their guilty-little-didn't-expect-that-big-of-a-combustion faces. Priceless.

No injuries. None. Thank the Almighty on that one.

And of course several of my neighbors also hearing what they must have thought was an explosion--and they weren't wrong--called 911. A Fire truck began prowling the streets trying to pinpoint where it came from until we went out, waved them over, and explained. Funny thing, they didn't look surprised at what 14-year-old boys do, and just wanted to make sure everyone was all right. One of them even said happy birthday and that it was his birthday as well. I should have offered them S'mores but I was a little rattled after having had an Axe Spray Bomb go off in my back yard to think about it.

Maybe next time...

What follows is the motherly word of caution:
 14-year-olds reading this: Do not try this at home or anywhere else. There can be serious injuries, even death, when the can (any spray can) combusts, from flying metal fragments. Even though I relayed this in a light manner, it was a very serious scary thing that all four boys escaped from through sheer luck and the grace of God, despite their stupidity. It would be embarrassing to die from being an idiot. You don't want to be wearing that sign in the spirit world. Not a cool swagger at all. These four boys will never do something so reckless again.
And yes, as a mom, I tattled to the other moms. We do that you know.

To Do List of Books to Write

So many ideas, so little time...

I thought I better make a list of all these stories in my brain in case my memory needs a joggle. These are all of the books that are brain stock-piled, enough to keep me busy for years. Not in any particular order except #1 because that needs to be finished like yesterday.

Highland Illusion, Lance's story. Nearly complete. Cover finished, waiting and ready.

Highland Soldier. Ethan's story. Okay, so the reality is that I want to leave Lance's story and move onto Ethan, because he's a much more fun character to write. Truthfully, Lance and I butt heads. But Ethan is the loveable, black and white thinker, say whatever he thinks, vulnerable, gun-loving dude who gets totally turned around by his love interest. He's even sneaked in a few scenes in Lance's book.

Highland Laird, Dez's story and the final book that will conclude the Highland Sorcery arc, taking the ending back to the very beginning of the Limont Clan and their dealings with the Fae who made them the protectors of the balance of magic. Can't wait to write this one.

Highland Dragons. Going back to WWII before Edeen, the Limont empath was awakened by Roquemore, the half-dragon, half-vampire. This series will follow a squad of half-dragons as they work uncover to thwart the nazis. Very fun. Have the first book plotted and can't wait until I can dive into it.

Recycled, the second book to Extracted. I really feel like Extracted was some of my best writing yet and this YA series needs to continue.

Never After, the second book to Never Ever. Would you believe this book is already half-way written and waiting for me to get back to it? Poor Aden is at a perilous point in the story and just left hanging. Poor guy.

The next book in the Viking Mine world with Sigur taking the lead as he journeys off on his dragonship. I also want to write several more historical romances set in the Medieval era, going off on the same type of story, but in different cultures. For example: Spartan Mine, Gladiator Mine, Saxon Mine, Pharaoh Mine...well, you get my drift. Love researching history and then messing it all up to suit myself.

The Fourth book in the Anointed series. Here's another character I've left in a bad spot. Poor little brother Cael has other dimension goop seeping out of his wound which will work havoc on him, freaking big brother Jake out big time. Gotta get back to these guys before they bring their entire weapons stash to my door in retaliation. Sorry guys, I really am sorry.

Ireland, Y'all. This is a story of my heart that is plotted out entirely in my head about a young Texas widow who brings her epileptic daughter to Ireland for a new beginning and ends up in a small village made up of some of the quirkiest characters rattling around in my head.  Basically the mom will learn to give up some of her control and allow others to help her. It takes a village, that sort of thing.

Then finally after I get all of those written, I have another YA series I'd like to venture into, each book about some sort of supernatural creature that has to decide whether to be completely human or go back to his/her world. But that will be for much much later. Have too many others I'm committed to before that can happen.