Saturday, October 1, 2016

Saturday's Blurbs featuring Books by Claire Gem #MFRWauthor Contemporary #romance #paranormal

Hearts Unloched

A psychic interior designer reluctantly agrees to renovate a sexy investor’s abandoned hotel on a lake rumored to have once been the mob’s body dumping ground.
Interior designer Kate Bardach loves her single girl’s lifestyle—living in Manhattan and spending weekends at her lake house. She’s passionate about her career: reinventing old buildings. But there are some projects she can’t take on because of the spirits trapped there. Kate is psychic—she sees dead people.
Marco Lareci is one of Wall Street’s most successful investment brokers who’s achieved all of his life’s goals—except for finding his soulmate. His latest project, an abandoned resort on Loch Sheldrake, needs a savvy designer to transform the crumbling complex into a boutique hotel. When Marco meets Kate, he can’t believe his luck. She’s the perfect match for his business and his heart.
Marco’s body excites Kate even more than does his renovation project. But the haunting there, a bonafide poltergeist, affects her on an intensely personal level. Kate’s aunt disappeared from the place fifty years ago.
Will the spirit doom Kate and Marco’s love, or drive them closer together?

A Taming Season: A Love at Lake George Novel
Manhattan domestic violence counselor Zoe Anderson is going on the most important vacation of her life.
Before she can move on, help other women, Zoe needs to heal herself. She sets out for picturesque Lake George to claim the treasured family cottage she recently inherited. The place where she found happiness—before.
What she finds is a rundown shack.
The neighboring resort mogul, Jason Rolland, whisks in to her rescue, insisting Zoe stay at his upscale Lakeview Lodge. The wealthy, handsome playboy figures he’ll seduce her, then convince the her to give up the crumbling eye-sore next door. He’s been trying to buy the cabin—and demolish it—for years: the last reminder of his own tragic childhood.
What Jason doesn’t figure on is Zoe melting his emotional armor. But with his reputation, can he ever win her heart? Or will their pasts come back to bite them both?

The Phoenix Syndrome
Turning forty, for research technician Lannie Marvin, is rough. It’s the day she discovers her husband is leaving her. At work, a crazed mouse brutally bites her. Lannie snaps. She heads off to chase the object of her newest crush, drummer of a heavy metal band—and an old dream of composing music.
Tristan Allard, said drummer, holds a breast cancer benefit every year in memory of his wife. The musician is beginning to doubt his ability to write music without her inspiration. Plus, he’s damn lonely. So when a sexually charged, though slightly older woman literally plows into him at the backstage reception, Tristan is ready to learn more about her—and her long-buried interest in musical composition.
This new chance at life and love has them both euphoric, but reality bites. Tristan is headed back to the UK to audition his latest album. And Lannie soon learns an elevated libido isn’t the only side-effect of that experimental drug.
It’s a musician’s worst nightmare—the drug Lannie was exposed to have rendered the mice deaf.




Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday's Guest - Claire Gem talking about her writing #MFRWauthor #writing

1. Do you write a single genre or do your fingers flow over the keys creating tales in many forms?
I currently have books published in contemporary and paranormal genres, but my latest release leans more towards women’s fiction. Although there is romance, the heroine’s journey is the focus.

Does your reading choices reflect your writing choices?
Definitely! I started writing contemporary romances w/ghosts because I love this genre, and ran out of books to read! I will also try to be reading or listening to (I love audiobooks) a book in the same genre as the one I’m currently working on. Keeps me in the right frame of mind.

Are there genres you wouldn’t attempt?
I don’t believe I will ever attempt YA or even New Adult, as I believe I’m too “mature” to be able to relate to the minds of the younger set of today (I got a late start in my writing career). Although I would love to write a historical (I’m a Middle Ages freak—they call us “Rennies” for Renaissance fanatics), I am too much of a stickler for factual accuracy. I think I would drive myself crazy trying to write a fictional novel by cramming it too full of ancillary historical facts.

2. Heroes, Heroines, Villains. Which are your favorite to write?

I love them all, but I have to be in the right mood to right a particular character. Many times I’ll sit down to write a scene in the heroine’s POV, but the words just won’t come. If I switch to the hero or villian’s POV, suddenly the muse pipes up and I’m on a roll again.

3. Heroes. How do you find them? Do pictures, real life or plain imagination create the man you want every reader to love? Do they come before the plot or after you have the idea for the story?

I think most of my heroes conform to the “ideal soulmate” in my mind, so they are all rough and tough on the outside, a little goofy and clumsy, but have super soft spots they’re always trying to hide or protect. As far as the visuals, I get a mental image of my heroes once they start speaking to me on the page. The challenge is then to go “shopping” for royalty-free images of that man to use in my book trailers, or on my Pinterest page. Funny, though—I’ll be flipping through the pages and my hero pops out at me when I find him. Boom! No question, from first sight.

4. Heroines. How do you find them? Do pictures, real life or imagination create the woman you want the reader to root for? Do they appear before the plot or after you have the idea for the story?

My heroines, again, conform to my “ideal modern woman,” i.e., smart, beautiful, independent, even a little cocky—but with that secret wish to find the other half of her soul. Heroines also start out as a vague image in my mind, which becomes sharper and clearer as they come to life on the page. Then I have to go for “the search” for their picture for my book trailers.

5. Villains or villainesses or an antagonist, since they don’t always have to be the bad guy or girl. They can be a person opposed to the hero’s or heroine’s obtaining their goal. How do you choose one? How do you make them human?

I use humor to make my antagonists human. By presenting them in this way, they not only seem more realistic to the reader, but they aren’t as unlikable. I show them in embarrassing situations or making clumsy errors, thwarting their own efforts to interfere with the protagonists. Although my antagonists oppose my hero and/or heroine’s goals, they are seldom really bad people. Just flawed, misguided humans.

6. What is your latest release? Who is the hero, heroine and or the villain?

My latest release is called The Phoenix Syndrome. My heroine is a research technician who, on her fortieth birthday, discovers her husband is leaving her. Then she gets bitten by a mouse in her lab, once that’s been treated with an experimental drug. She goes a little bonkers, taking off to chase after an old dream of a career in music, as well as her latest crush, the hero: the drummer of a heavy metal band. There really is no human antagonist, but a very frightening opponent to the heroine obtaining her new goals—she discovers the drug the lab mice were being treated with have rendered them deaf. What worse fate for a woman with a goal of a new career in music?


7. What are you working on now?

I am finishing up another ghostly romance called Spirits of the Heart. A mental health counselor and a security guard are thrown together in a search to reunite a little girl and her father, two spirits trapped within the walls of an abandoned mental asylum.
8. How can people find you?

You can find me at www.clairegem.com and at www.emotionalcontemporaryromance.com. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and YouTube as well.



Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thursday's Opening Scene from Heart Throb #MFRWauthor #Medical #romance

Chapter 1

Magda Malone jammed her hands in the pockets of her white lab coat and felt the fabric rip. Just what she needed to add a bit of anger to what she’d just been asked to do. Why wouldn’t he understand no meant absolutely not?

Her jaw clenched. The temptation to commit an act of violence hovered like a giant thunderhead. She stared out the window of her office on the fifth floor of Rivertown Memorial Hospital and shoved her fury into a corner of her mind.

Sucking in a deep breath, she turned to her colleague and friend. At the moment, she wasn’t sure friend was operative. "Would you repeat your question?"

"Could you come to dinner tonight?" the cardiologist asked.

That wasn’t the portion of the original question she wanted to hear. "I believe there was more."

"Like I said. Nothing formal. It’s not a party or anything."

"Come on. Say what you said before. I need to be sure I’m not going deaf."

"Lin and I want you to meet my new partner. He’s her cousin and a really great guy."

Magda glared. "Ben, I’m not letting you off the hook. What did you want me to do with this man?"

He studied his hands. "Was just a suggestion, not an order."

"And that was?"

"You can show him a good time." He joined her at the window.

She arched a brow. "A good time as in.…" Her voice trailed away. She thought she had grasped his suggestion, but she wanted to hear the words repeated. Then she would stomp. "Does your wife know you’re soliciting?"

"What?" His round face reddened. "That’s not what I ... well, maybe ... just ... couldn’t you make him happy to be in Rivertown? If you two don’t click, you could show him around the ... dating scene. You know what I mean. Lin and I want him to settle here."

Magda shook her head. "Spit it out, Doctor." Anger oozed from the dark corner and colored her voice. "Just how do I accomplish your purpose?"

He stared at the window. "Anything it takes."

"No deal." She clipped the words. Would he understand why she was so angry?

"Mag, come on. Wasn’t I there for you when you needed a shoulder. I need a partner who will stay, especially now."

Magda sighed. Ben and Linda had been there when she’d needed them, but he was asking for too much. "Why me?"

"Men like you. You like them and --"

"Don’t say it." She stalked to the desk and stared at the stack of folders needing her attention. "I don’t want to lose a good friend, but you’re treading on the brink."

"I didn’t mean you had to ... you know.…"

She rested her hands on the cool metal surface. "Let us set the record straight. I choose the men I want in my life. I don’t need anyone, not even a good friend, fixing me up with a man."

"I hear you." He sank on the chair across from the desk. "Lin said you’re bored with the local dating scene. Come to dinner. If you don’t like Eric, you can leave. If you do, who knows what will happen. Give me one good reason you’re being so stubborn."

Was the invitation his idea or his wife’s? Sure she’d told her friend about the lack of interesting and eligible men in the area. Did it matter who had dreamed up this scheme? She wasn’t about to accept. Her friends had heard her views time and again. She wasn’t about to repeat them. "What do I always say?"

"You don’t play where you work."

"Sounds like you’ve heard me."

"But --"

"Been there. Done that. Got burned."

He rolled his eyes. "But you received a nice divorce settlement. Give my new partner a chance. What can you lose?"

My independence, she thought. "Goodbye, Ben." She pointed to the door. "There’s a large flock of available women out there who would be glad, even eager, to meet an available doctor. I can name a dozen who are closer to his age."

"So he’s a bit younger. What’s seven years?" He backed to the door.

"Almost half a generation. See you."

He opened the door. "Eric has a thing for older women."

"Good for him. Ask Mabel Gray to dinner."

"Older. Not ancient."

"Tell Linda I’ll call tomorrow. Let her know I feel an urge for a shopping spree."

He groaned. "For what?"

She shrugged. "My vacation. Your soon-to-be baby. I can think of a dozen reasons, but I don’t need an excuse to shop."

"Bye." He closed the door.

Got him, she thought. Her anger changed to amusement. Spare me from matchmaking friends. She reached for the top folder. Her mind wandered from the budget to the future.

Four weeks until vacation and she had plans. Sun, surf, moonlit nights at a singles’ resort where she could meet men who had no desire for a commitment. She wanted a fling or two that allowed her to escape with her heart intact.

Her whirlwind marriage and the divorce a month after he had finished his surgical residency had taught her a painful lesson. Never become involved in a relationship with a doctor. Since the day the decree had become final, she’d controlled her life and she chose the men who shared her bed.

Her pen skidded across the paper and left a red mark. Darn you, Ben. Why had he set her thoughts on days best forgotten? She heaved a sigh and returned to work.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wednesday's Writer's Tip _The End #MFRWauthor #amwriting

You're ready to type the end. Allow yourself that moment of relief and of joy. The book is finished, but you need to check one thing. You need that scene packed with emotion. All was lost. Then the character decides to fight. The scene before you write the end needs to show this. Someone or even more than one character will win and someone or more than one will lose. this climax scene needs to set all right with your world - the fictional one. Real world don't always act in this way.

Show the winning character in all his or her glory. The lovers are reunited. The detective catches the villain. The evil wizard is taken down. Show the villain in defeat as well as the winners in joy. The reader will be happy to see the end of the journey. Doesn't mean this story will end happy ever after or even happy for now. The ending needs to show an ending that satisfies the reader.

There is one thing. Make sure you tie up all the loose ends. If there's a subplot make sure the reader sees that it has ended. If you've laid clues throughout your story make sure they're all tied up so the reader doesn't react with a well the story's over, but what happened to X or Y. Once this is completed you can type the end and then set about editing before you send the story off.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tuesday's Inspiration _ Writing When There Are Other Things To Do #MFRWauthor #Inspiration


I belong to a critique group. Some of the members keep writing every day while others don't and they wonder why they never have anything to read or seldom have words to read. There is a trick since an author is called on to do more than just write books. Even the book has several layers of tasks. The thing is to multi-task but not the way some people use this clever way of keeping on top of everything.

The first is to make lists no matter if they are just in your head. You need to think about what needs to be done. There's writing, editing, typing and promotion. Each one of these takes time. Now if you have a full time job, writing time is hard to find. Some people skip lunch and take this time to write. Some people get up an hour early to get some writing in. There are those who forego a favorite TV show. The decision of how to find the time is yours.

Now if you're retired, there are other things that keep you from accomplishing that first item on the list. There are the grandchildren who want your time or the children who think you would be the perfect sitter for their children. There can be the husband who is also retired and can't figure why you would want to spend time in front of the computer when you could be out and doing things, often things that are more his ideas of fun than yours. Sometimes you have to say no.

So is there a solution for all these distractions. You need to set a time every day that's your writing time and make sure the family knows this is your time. After awhile they are more likely to notice when you don't follow your routine. Another is planning your book so that when you sit down to write you waste little time moving along. Know what your next scene will be and suddenly you will sit down and the words will come quickly.

I'll try to inspire you on the other areas in the time to come.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Meandering On Monday with Janet Lane Walters #MFRWauthor #Poem #writing

Meander 1 - Poem - Dead End Street

One way traffic...dead end street.
Stop sigh at the corner.
Don't go in there. There's no way out.
Marie doesn't see the sigh.
Drives ahead...slowly crawls.
The wall at the end is a solid mass.
The wheels spin.
The engine roars.
Fenders bump the wall.
No way front. No way back.
Stay.

Meander 2 - Fall has come and this is my favorite part of the year. I love the thoughts of harvest and the cooler days. The brilliance of leaves on the trees always makes me smile. The tree in out yard becomes almost garnet in color. Sort of red and sort of purple.  The fall is a good contrast to the spring colors of all white flowers against the bright green leaves. Fall also means Halloween and children out with their costumes. I so enjoy watching them and handing out treats. Fall also means Thanksgiving with the feasts one should not over eat but does. Fall brings other more serious things. Elections and this one is a dilly. I'll not mention anything about the candidates and why I think they run. Fall also brings Veterans' Day when we think about those we have lost. Though there are moments of sadness during fall, I still feel lifted by the change from the heat of summer.

Meander 3 - Writing. I'm beginning to feel good about the new story as I'm workking on the plot draft. This means tightening and ridding the story of those dreadful plot holes. Like a death in chapter 1 and a live appearance in chapter 9. This character isn't needed for other than a mention. She's gone and will stay gone. I'm still typing in and editing Past Betrayals as I go along. I've almost finished segment three and there will only be five to go. Also reformatting stories for BWL and groaning when I find mistakes that should have been picked up in the proofing. Someone said no story is ever released perfect. I think I believe them.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday's Book - Heart Throb #MFRWauthor #Medical #romance

Product Details

Magda Malone likes men and has no desire to marry. She’s been there, done that and got burned. She’s happy with her position as coordinator of the cardiac unit at the hospital. A new neighbor promises many nights of steamy sex. Damon also has no desire for marriage. He had too many steps as a child and sees marriage as a serial sort of game. He doesn’t want to play. When Magda learns he’s a cardiologist, she blows him off. The problem is Damon has fallen in love and he must convince Magda there’s more between them than sex.

Review: 

This was the first book I've read by Janet Lane Walters, but it definitely won't be my last. As you can see the cover is eye-catching and the story did not disappoint. Heart Throbs is steamy, exciting, enjoyable and entertaining. . .


Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book totally surprised me. I was expecting the usual boy meets girl, they fall in love and then spend time in the bedroom. But from the first chapter until the end, Magda and Damon are more often than not, in their birthday suit.

The surprise is that instead of something salacious, "Heart Throb" turned out to be a beautiful love story about two people who are afraid to fall in love but found themselves falling in love anyway. And yes, the sex scenes sizzle, but somehow, I cannot call this book erotica. There is something sweet and lovable about Magda and Damon that spending time under the sheets is a natural progression of things.

But, don't even think for one moment that this is PG 13. It is definitely Rated R. In fact, while I was reading the book, I had to check the product description if it was under Erotica. It is under Contemporary Romance. And you know what, Amazon classified it correctly!

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a hot and fast story that had me wanting to met a guy like that and be as bold as her. She was amazing in her prowlessness and made her way known, he was all for it and added to the delight of the story. great read!!!
Format: Kindle Edition
What a couple Damon and Magda were. Lust at first sight. I thoroughly enjoyed this quick read. There were quite a few typos where I had to stop and think what word was it meant to be, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story.

on 29 October 2014
Great read, really enjoyed it
on 8 August 2012
great book for a quick read i read it twice and for a free download it is great value but if i had to pay for this book i would be realy disappointed
s
.

on 18 January 2012
this book is a nons top page turner. while very erotic its a very exciting romance with a twist that makes you never want the story to end. would love to read what happened next


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saturday's Blurbs featuring Books by Barbara White Daille #MFRWauthor #romance #contemporary @cowboys

From the Hitching Post Hotel Series:

Book One – The Cowboy’s Little Surprise

The Long Way Home
A guy like Cole Slater is hard to forget. Tina Sanchez should know—for years since high school she's tried to bury the pain of Cole's cruel betrayal. But it's impossible to ignore the man she sees reflected in her young son's eyes now that Cole is back in her life—and about to meet the child he never knew he had. 
Returning home to New Mexico, Cole is determined to put his playboy reputation to rest. Especially now that he knows there's a little boy looking up to him. And seeing Tina again reignites all the feelings Cole ran from as a teen. Despite his fear that he can't be the man Tina deserves, he's determined to try. For his son's sake—and his own.
Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-a-Million

Harlequin

Kobo

Book Two – A Rancher of Her Own


A Reason to Stay 
Ranch manager Pete Brannigan has no interest in playing tour guide to a city slicker like Jane Garland. But spending a few days with the headstrong photographer is a small price to pay for everything her grandfather has given the single dad. Though Pete's drawn to Jane's sharp wit and striking beauty, he won't hurt his young children by falling for another woman who puts her career before family. 
Jane's seen the world through her camera…and used it to shield her emotions. With Pete, she can finally let her guard down. If only he could do the same. Despite their powerful bond, Pete still can't trust Jane with his kids or his heart. But if he keeps pushing her away, he may ruin any chance their relationship has to develop.
Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-a-Million

Harlequin

IndieBound
http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780373755776

Kobo

IndieBound


Book Three – The Lawman’s Christmas Proposal


A husband for Christmas?

Mitch Weston's back in Cowboy Creek, and self-proclaimed matchmaker Jed Garland has his single granddaughter Andi on his mind. Mitch is a lawman, good with the little ones and easy on the eyes. He and Andi were high school sweethearts, for heaven's sake! Why can't they see they're perfect for each other?

Because Andi already lost one husband to a dangerous job, and now she's all about playing it safe, for her sake and her children's. Being a cop is everything to Mitch. After discovering Jed's plan, Mitch and Andi come up with their own: they'll pretend to get engaged and then break up due to irreconcilable differences. Jed's got his work cut out for him—because this match needs a Christmas miracle!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-A-Million

Harlequin

IndieBound

Kobo





Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday's Guest - Barbara White Daille talking about Writing #MFRWauthor

Janet – thanks so much for inviting me to drop by your blog again!

1.  What's your genre or do you write in more than one?

Right now, I’m writing short contemporary romance for two different publishers, and while there are some differences in the books, they’re all home and family stories with a little bit of humor and quirky characters.

My ongoing Hitching Post Hotel series with Harlequin Western Romance features lots of cowboys and a matchmaking grandpa who owns a New Mexico wedding destination hotel.  A new series, Snowflake Valley, debuts in November from Entangled Bliss and is set during the winter holidays.  Each book focuses on one of three sisters whose troubled past relationships have made them nickname themselves the “bad-luck Barnetts.”

2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?

I would say it was a mutual decision.  I started out by writing juvenile mysteries, because I was still in grade school, and those were my favorite books!  I then moved on to writing and selling short fiction, both romance and mystery.  After I moved up to novel-length projects, I began with mysteries, romance, and romantic suspense.  Short contemporary romance led to my first novel sale—and makes me feel like I’ve come home.

3.  Is there any genre you'd like to try?  Or is there one you wouldn't?

Right now, I’m happy with what I’m doing and thrilled that I’ve branched out to a second publisher to write the types of books I love.  Still, I’ll always be a writer, and I’ll always want to grow and challenge myself.  At the top of the list of genres I’d like to try someday are my old faves, mystery and romantic suspense, and my new love, women’s fiction. 

4.  What fiction do you read for pleasure?

Contemporary romance.  Adult mystery and romantic suspense.  Women’s fiction.  And sometimes re-reads of favorite juvenile mysteries or young adult romances to remember why I fell in love with books and became a writer.

5.  Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing.

I’ve been a reader all my life, and one of my biggest thrills when I was kid was learning to print my own name, which was a requirement for getting my own library card.  I’ve been “writing” stories since I was five years old and scribbled the drafts in crayon, using words I didn’t yet know how to spell.  I wrote my first full-length, typed novel when I was in the eighth grade, and it included both a romance and a mystery.

Writing and reading are my top two favorite things to do.  I’m very lucky to be able to write full-time, as I have so many characters inside my head who want their stories told!  And my hope is always that those stories will bring as much pleasure to my readers as other authors’ books give to me.

6.  Which of your characters is your favorite?

This is one of the most difficult questions ever.  I love all my characters, because each is special in his or her own way.  But I will admit that Sam Robertson, the hero from one of my Flagman’s Folly books, A Rancher’s Pride, has always held a very special place in my heart.  He comes home one day to find he’s been given custody of a four-year-old daughter he never knew he had, a daughter he has no way to communicate with because she’s deaf.  It was a heart-wrenching—and heart-warming—story to tell, and I only hope I did Sam and little Becky justice.

7.  Are there villains in your books and how were they created?

There are “villains” in my books, but not the traditional type.  Mine are caring and full of good intentions—and always very certain they know what’s best for my heroes and heroines.

In other words, my villains are the the family members and friends who conspire to help each couple reach a happy-ever-after ending.

8.  What are you working on now?

A couple of projects.  First, another standalone book in the Hitching Post Hotel series for Harlequin which will debut next March. It tells the story of a woman who doesn’t want to fall in love with a cowboy and a cowboy who refuses to fall in love at all.  But when a one-night stand leads to an accidental pregnancy—and three babies—the hero and heroine desperately need to work through their conflicts to do what’s best for their kids.  It’s proving to be one of my most emotional stories so far.

I’m also wrapping up the final edits of the first Snowflake Valley book from Entangled, which features one of the bad-luck Barnett sisters.  At a children’s Christmas party, the heroine reprises her role of Miss Elf and is tricked into working side-by-side with her ex-boyfriend, currently known as Santa.  They wind up snowbound in a secluded lodge with a trio of kids, and I have to admit this has been an absolute hoot of a story to write!

9.  What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?


My latest release is Cowboy in Charge.  It’s also a standalone book in the Hitching Post Hotel series, and it came about because the heroine, who appeared in the first book, wanted her story told.  She’s divorced not once but twice, and her first ex returns to Cowboy Creek intending to claim the son he has never before laid eyes on.  He’s seeking redemption, wanting to make up for his wrongs, yet he has no plans to take on the role of daddy.  But when he arrives at the heroine’s apartment, she’s suffering from the flu and faints into his arms, and…well…from that point on, things get much more complicated for everyone in the story.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thursday's Opening Scene - Choices #MFRWauthor #Medical romance #hospital politics

Chapter 1

JOHANNA GORDON RAKED HER fingers through her short curls and glanced at the clock centered on the wall between her diplomas. Seven-thirty. No wonder her shoulders ached. She’d been hunched over the desk since four.
            With a sigh, she closed a folder and added it to the neat stack on a corner of the desk. She pursed her lips. For two weeks, the budget for the nursing department at the hospital had consumed her time. Unfortunately, money would remain her focus until she found areas to cut costs without compromising patient care or breaking the current contract with the nurses. Not that Hudson Community’s CEO cared about either option. She stretched to ease the tension between her shoulder blades.
            “Why couldn’t I...” An idea occurred and she smiled.
Something to consider. Richard Jamison didn’t care which programs were dropped as long as his pet projects remained intact. Just this morning he’d reminded her she belonged to administration and to remember where her loyalties lay. Not with him. She’d risen through the ranks and saw more than the profits and losses he tossed around.
            The loudspeaker on the wall crackled. “Dr. Red to the Emergency Room.” In staccato fashion, the operator repeated the message three times.
            With a well-honed response, Johanna rose, grabbed her briefcase and, in three strides, reached the door. The call for any surgeon meant an emergency requiring immediate surgery. Her body quivered with excitement. She dashed through the empty outer office, crossed the hall and hit the call button for the elevator.
            Just like an old fire horse, she thought. The alarm clangs and I’m off running. She stepped into the empty car. What was her hurry? How much help would she be? She’d been away from the bedside for ten years.
            As she exited on the first floor, she nearly collided with Rachel Hill. Her friend’s dark hair had slipped from the neat bun at her nape. Like a sail, Rachel’s lab coat flew behind her. She carried two units of blood.
            Johanna frowned. Rachel usually worked the day shift. “Bad accident?” Johanna asked.
            “The worst. A six-year-old hit by a car. And to think I volunteered to switch.”
            As Johanna matched strides with her friend’s half-running gait, the soft leather briefcase slapped against her thigh. “Need an extra pair of hands?”
            “Hardly. If there was another body in the room, they’d be standing on the patient. Be glad you’re out of the zoo. Not that I blame people for caring about a child, but if the patient was old, indigent or dying... Don’t let me get started.”
            “Want to talk?” Together they dashed up the five steps to the emergency room level.
            Rachel straight-armed the door. “Maybe I do. Dinner on—” The door closed and cut off the rest of her words.
            Johanna frowned. By the time they found an evening to fit Rachel’s schedule, she would have forgotten the incident that had triggered her anger. Instead of talking about the hospital, she would discuss her children. Despite their closeness, this topic always added to Johanna’s aching knowledge that she had no one.
            She continued to the exit. For the past few months, she’d wondered if the climb up the administrative ladder had been the right choice. Ten years ago, she’d been an ER nurse, meeting challenges and solving a dozen crises every day. The decision to leave the ER had been made for financial reasons. The higher salary had paid for her sister’s and  her parents’, home health aides. Six months ago, the family obligations had ended, leaving Johanna with an empty social life.
            For a moment, she stared at the red brick building. The hospital’s center section was five stories, while the angled wings were four. The sight always made her think of a bird in flight. Lately, her office here had seemed more like home than the house eight blocks away.
            A reluctance to move held her prisoner. Spray from the lawn sprinklers misted on her face and arms. She studied the bank of peonies along the walk leading to the hospital’s front entrance. Their sweet scent mingled with the aroma of wet earth. With a sigh, she overcame the inertia and crossed the street.
Brisk steps carried her down the hill. In the distance, the Hudson River reflected the colors of the setting sun. At the bottom of the hill, she turned the corner. She hurried past houses dating from colonial days to a turn-of-the-century Victorian that towered over two houses built in the last ten years. Each house had a unique charm.
            She paused beside the yew hedge surrounding the yard of the house where she’d lived all her life. As she strode up the walk, her hand brushed the clipped edges. The scent of roses reached her. Red, pink and white blooms covered the trellises at either end of the porch.
            She climbed the steps, turned and paused. With arms crossed on her chest, she stared at the street. As though trying to erase a chill, her hands moved along her arms. A soft sigh escaped. The ice of loneliness couldn’t be rubbed away like frost from windows on a winter morning.
            Her hands dropped to her side, but she made no move to go inside where shadows of the past gathered. She had no desire to face memories of the years when she’d been a devoted sister and a dutiful daughter.
            She looked at the darkening sky. Sometimes, she felt her entire life had been lived in the moments between day and night—with every instant tinged with gray, and every action controlled by duty and responsibility. Were they virtues or walls she’d erected to keep from reaching for life?
            The sound of children’s laughter carried across the hedge from the house next-door. Like a gusting wind, envy rose. Her childhood memories held few laughing moments, just those of trying to teach games to a sister who lacked the ability to learn.
            With a habitual gesture, she combed her fingers through her hair. Life should be more than ritual and routine.
            As she moved from the edge of the porch, a pair of lovers, lost in each other’s eyes, strolled past. Johanna’s eyes burned with unshed tears. For her, only dreams of romance existed and, in her fantasies, she found adventure.
            She unlocked the door and stepped into the hall. The screen door closed with a snap. She flipped the light switch and the ceiling fan stirred the stale air.
            In the living room, she dropped her briefcase on the sofa and turned on the CD player. Strains of Tchaikovosky’s Sleeping Beauty followed her into the dining room.
            Memories swamped her. The room became a miniature hospital ward where an elderly man and woman lay in twin electric beds. Matching walkers, wheelchairs and commodes stood against one wall.
            Six months before, after the second death in three weeks, she’d scrubbed the walls and floor in an effort to ward off grief through frantic labor. After returning the hospital equipment, she’d hired a painter to re-do the room. The freshly painted walls and the refinished oak floor failed to blur the lingering memories.
            Why did I allow my life to take this road?
            Duty and responsibility. The voices were her parents’.
            In the kitchen, she seasoned a chicken breast, put it under the broiler, made a salad and cleaned strawberries for dessert. As she ate, she searched for ways to fill the long hours until Monday, but ideas remained as illusive as the shadows in the house. Why did the weekend seem longer than the five-day work week?
            After dinner, she opened the kitchen door and stepped onto the stoop. A crescent moon hung above the trees at the end of the yard. Wind rustled the leaves of the locust and oak trees and carried the scent of roses. She rested her hand on the wooden rail. Was there a different way to live?
She closed her eyes and entered the fantasy world she’d created as a child to escape what couldn’t be changed. A few minutes later, with a sigh, Johanna forced herself to resist the lure of escape into the world of her dreams. As a child, she’d needed these fantasies to escape reality. Was this a habit she couldn’t escape? How could she resist being in a world she could control?

            She closed the kitchen door, slid the bolt into place and turned the security lock. Before going upstairs to the bedroom, she made rounds of the first floor to check the windows and front door.