Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday's Book - Escape Affinities Book 1 #MFRWauthor #YA #fantasy #elements

In Affinities, Escape, a Books We Love Young Adult Fantasy, two sets of halfling twins, Ashlea, Brandien, Jaydren and Kylandra sent away from their home by their parents to protect them from trouble, search for mentors to teach them how to use their affinities. Each of these young teens has an affinity for one of the elements. Ash for Air, Bran for Water, Jay for Earth and Ky for Fire. During the escape, they face many problems forcing them to use their affinities by trial and error. They also meet Alizand, the son of the ruling prince of Wesren. Zand has an affinity for Fire and this will keep him from gaining the rule. Dom Senet, an advisor to his father, and once a friend of the quartet’s parents suspects Zand’s affinity. He wishes to corrupt the teen and use him to gain control of the four princedoms of the land and of the highlands. The evil dom has all four affinities. The four must reach a secret place and find teachers before the evil man discovers them

Escape (Affinities Book 1 - Young Adult Fantasy)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Saturda'y's Blurbs features Books by Jude Pittman and Jamie Hill #MFRWauthor #mystery #paranormal

Jude's Books

Deadly Secrets, Book 1 Kelly McWinter, PI

Bad Medicine (a novella)

Sisters of Prophecy, a historical time-travel suspense

Jamie's Books

Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday - A Visit from Jude Pittman and Jamie Hill as a team #MFRWauthor #writing

Jude is up first

1. What were you in your life before you became a writer? Did this influence your writing?
Hmmm, according to the Facebook “What were you in your past life” questionnaire I just took, I was, of course, A Witch – just like my ancestor. 
As far as in this past life, I’ve been a writer since I started writing poetry to my mother in grade school.

2 Are you genre specific or general? Why? I don't mean genres like romance, mystery, fantasy etc. There are many subgenres of the above.
I’m fairly consistently specific with writing mystery/romantic suspense.  With Sisters of Prophecy the subject matter – my great, great, great etc. grandmother who was a prophet in Britain reputedly a witch, took the book along some paranormal lines, but with me, there’s always got to be a mystery involved.

3. Did your reading choices have anything to do with your choice of a genre or genres?
Absolutely. I grew up in rural Alberta at a time when reading material wasn’t so easily available to us on the small farms, and I started reading my mom’s Agatha Christie books at a fairly young age, fell in love with the genre and have been a mystery, and eventually a romantic suspense fan all my life.

4. What's your latest release?
Sisters of Prophecy, Ursula, a historical time-travel suspense co-written with author Gail Roughton.

5. What are you working on now?
New Directions, a mystery/romantic suspense co-written with Jamie Hill, taking the Kelly McWinter PI stories in a new direction – and with a terrific romantic suspense writer partner.

6. Where can we find you?
 In addition to writing I am also the publisher at Books We Love Ltd. so you can always find me there.

Here's Jamie

1. What were you in your life before you became a writer? Did this influence your writing?
I have never *not* been a writer. I started at age ten, writing novels in spiral notebooks. I remember letting my fifth grade teacher read one, and she said it was 'interesting'. haha! They were total crap, but I appreciate that she didn't dampen my enthusiasm. In high school I wrote scripts for my favorite TV shows. Somewhere around the age of thirty I picked up the writing again but didn't get published until I was forty-five.
Having said all that, I have had several careers in my life including hair dresser, administrative assistant, and childcare provider (my longest job, for twenty-one years, which coincided with raising my children.) I currently work in a bustling orthopedic surgery practice scheduling surgeries and working with patients on insurance and financial issues. Being so busy keeps my mind focused during the day. In the evenings and on weekends I like to unwind by watching some TV and creating my own stories.
2 Are you genre specific or general? Why? I don't mean genres like romance, mystery, fantasy etc. There are many subgenres of the above.
I would say I'm fairly genre specific. I only write contemporary, I've never been able to master the research needed to write historical fiction. Although I did write one story set in the 1970's, and that was great fun because I was growing up then and remember a lot of the fads (including avocado colored appliances!)
I write either straight romance or romantic suspense, as I love a touch of mystery, but there has to be a romance in there too.

3. Did your reading choices have anything to do with your choice of a genre or genres?
Growing up I was all about the bodice rippers and mysteries. I have to believe that influenced what I like to write myself, romance and romantic suspense.
4. What's your latest release?
Cover of Darkness is the third book in my Witness Security series, it was released earlier this year.
5. What are you working on now?
I am playing with the fourth and final book in the WS series, Darkest Before Dawn. At the same time I'm actively co-authoring a book with my friend Jude Pittman, New Directions, which is the first book in our new McWinter Confidential series. She created the character of Kelly McWinter and I'm bringing my own private investigator into the mix. We think it will be great fun, and a great read.

6. How can two people speak with one voice?
It's interesting when you first start out, finding the rhythm. One of us will write a segment, the other will edit it and add another segment. I was pretty heavy-handed when we started, admittedly guilty of trying to make all the characters sound like me. haha She gave me a couple of virtual hand slaps and when I realized what I was doing, I backed off. I think we've found a smooth system now!
7.  Where can we find you?
At my publisher's website, Books We Love:

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Thursday's Opening Scene -- Divided Dreams - Janet Lane Walters #MFRWauthor #Medical #romance

Divided Dreams

Chapter 1

You can’t go home again. Andi Sherman repeated the words she’d said hundreds of times. Yet, here she was on the road to Fern Lake.
Her stomach roiled. As the car sped along the highway leading to the town she’d left eleven years ago, she gripped the steering wheel. She gulped a breath. Yesterday she’d celebrated her twenty-ninth birthday and she still yearned for a faded dream.
She spotted the sign for County Road 178. On an impulse she turned. Fifteen or twenty minutes instead of ten would see her in her old home town.
The July sun shone bright in a near cloudless sky. A few wispy clouds called ‘mares’ tails’ streaked the brilliant blue. She rolled down the window and inhaled the scents of summer, dust, wild roses, mown hay and other aromas different from those of the city. The winding road would take her past the house where she’d spent her childhood, a house that no longer existed. The property, lost to greed, slovenliness and criminal activities, had been taken for back taxes. She had escaped long before that day.
Dead. All her family members except a younger brother had died when the meth lab had burned like an inferno. Dan Sherman, two years her junior, hadn’t been home the day of the disaster. Neither had she but she’d seen pictures of the fire on television.
Andi sighed. The day she’d graduated from high school she’d left Fern Lake to begin a slow climb to success. She knew nothing about her brother’s whereabouts and she had no desire to learn.
Pressing her foot to the gas she sped past haunted memories and focused on the future. Now a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner she was on her way to join two doctors who had offered her a partnership in their practice.
Her thoughts drifted to her new partners. Josh had settled in Fern Lake five years ago. Grace had joined him two years later. Andi had always wondered why they hadn’t become a couple. They liked the same food, movies and books. Maybe she would find a way to open Josh’s eyes to the possibilities.
What about you?
She shook her head. She had a new career to explore. Eleven years ago she hadn’t dreamed of returning to Fern Lake as a nurse practitioner or for any other reason. Her journey had taken hard work and intense study. From nursing assistant to practical nurse to an RN, bachelor’s degree and finally to her Master’s. All this had left her with little time for herself.
The busy days had kept at bay memories of the boy who had hurt and rejected her. Only after hearing Rob Grantlan planned to sell the nursing home/rehabilitation center his father had built for him had she considered returning. The news he’d given up his medical practice had allowed her to accept her friends’ offer.
As she struggled to banish thoughts of him her knuckles whitened. Her chest ached. A rush of tears blurred her vision. She had no time for remembrances of lost dreams shattered like crystal spheres beneath battering words. She recalled the day she realized he’d never loved her and had used her for his pleasure remained strong.
Pleasure. Yours, too.
She had to admit the sex had been exciting. Her teeth clamped on her lower lip. She stopped the car to wipe tears away.
After gulping a series of deep breaths she hit the gas. When the car reached the snake-like segment of the road bordered by huge oaks and maples she slowed. This was no place for speed. A booming noise startled her. She drove around the final bend and discovered the cause. A luxury sedan had slammed into a massive oak. A plume of steam shot into the air. Andi slammed on the brakes and pulled onto the berm of the narrow two lane road across from the wreck. She grabbed her phone and dialed 911 as she ran toward the smashed red car.
The crumpled front end curved around the tree trunk. A rear door hung open.
An operator spoke. “This is 911, what is your emergency?”
“An accident. County road 178 about two miles from town.” She slid her hand across the jagged teeth of glass. “The driver has a faint pulse.”
“Help is on the way. Is there danger of a fire?”
Andi stared at the shattered hood. “The steam has subsided.”
A whimpering sound caused Andi to turn her head. “There’s a baby.” For a moment she froze. The mewling sound became an ear-shattering series of screams. The injured woman never stirred.
Andi leaned into the car and unfastened the infant seat and snagged a diaper bag. She carried the seat and bag to her car. Had the baby been injured?  She turned to look at the car. Triage. The rules shot into her awareness. Care for the least injured first. She could do nothing for the woman until someone arrived to extract her.
The baby’s screams intensified. Andi took the child from the seat and tried to calm the infant. A wet diaper proved to be part of the problem. While Andi changed the little girl she checked for injuries. None were evident. She paced along the berm and patted the baby’s back but the cries persisted.
“Hungry?” she whispered. Feeding the child before a thorough neurological exam had been made wasn’t wise. She found a pacifier. The infant sucked halting the cries. Andi strapped the child into the infant seat.
She left the car windows open. Though the July day wasn’t beastly hot and she’d parked in the shade she worried about the tiny girl. Andi ran across the trail of deep skid marks on the gravel road. She halted at the car to check the driver. Still alive.
Sirens sounded in the distance and came closer. The driver’s pulse beat rapid and steady against her fingers. Andi tried to open the door but no amount of tugging helped. A fire truck, an ambulance and a police car arrived.
Andi drew a deep breath. Help was here.
“Move aside,” a man commanded.
Andi retreated and watched the firemen remove a tool from the truck. She believed the implement would allow them to force the door. The screeching noise made her cringe. Who was the victim and why had she sped on the hairpin curves of the road? The length of the skids showed she’d tried to stop.
Andi backed away until she reached her car. One of the officers approached. “Did you witness the accident?”
She shook her head. “I heard the crash as I reached the last curve. When I saw the car I stopped and called 911. The driver had a rapid but steady pulse. Then I heard the baby.” She continued her story as she watched the firemen and the EMTs work.
The officer flipped his notebook closed. “Good thing you happened along. She could have been here for hours. The road isn’t well traveled these days.”
Andi looked away. That was a change from the time when she’d lived in Fern Lake. Years ago the road had been busy with cars arriving to buy drugs from her older brothers.
“Sounds like you have medical training,” the officer said.
“I’m a pediatric nurse practitioner.” She watched the EMTs remove the woman from the car. The baby whimpered. Andi lifted the car seat. “I’d better take her to the ambulance before they leave.” She strode across the road.
One of the attendants turned. “Was your baby hurt?”
“She’s not mine. I found her in the rear seat of the wrecked car. She’ll need a neurological evaluation. I found no other injuries.”
The man took the carrier. “Will see one’s done.”
“How is the victim?”
“Barely alive.”
“Any idea who she is?”
He shrugged. “There’s no hand bag, no ID, We can’t access the glove box. Her face is bruised and swollen. Maybe from the accident or for some other reason. The police will have the car towed and they’ll investigate.” He handed the infant seat to one of his colleagues and slid two suitcases inside. “We might find something in these.” He paused on the step. “Who are you?”
“Andi Sherman. I start tomorrow in partnership with Josh Patton and Grace Lunt.”
He smiled. ‘Jack Browne. Heard you were joining them. Why not follow us to the hospital. I’m sure either of your partners would be glad to see you.”
“I could but I really want to see my apartment and unload my car.” She crossed the road. As she closed the rear door she saw the diaper bag. She turned to shout but the ambulance sped away followed by the fire truck and the police car. Looked as if the hospital had become her destination.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Setting - Places #MFRWauthor #amwriting

As I said before settings are important since they can do a number of things. When you go from countries and the other large areas, you need to be more specific. Places where the characters live or work are important to establish with word pictures. These places also show things about the characters and we'll get into that another time.

What do you know about the characters' choices of residences? Where a person lives and how they keep their place. Is the house well furnished? What are the things the characters choose to have around them. Writing contemporary stories can be easier that writing historical novels. In contemporary settings knowledge is easily obtained from books of house plans to sites that show furniture and other decorating tips.

I have some books that show the insides of Regency homes and the internet is full of sites and pictures of mansions, castles and other things. Make good use of these. A trick is to select just a few things that are of important and show a bit about the characters choices.

Now we look at places where they work. Places like schools, hospitals, offices, wharfs, ships and other places like this. The internet and the library are filled with things.

I write a lot of stories placed in hospitals. I've worked in hospitals and I've been a patient. I can draw on my experience. but then I write fantasies taking place in other worlds. The easy ones are when I do alternate history or reincarnation stories. There are sites and books I can depend on to help me set up sites. But these are also important for fantasies of other worlds since the particular sites I choose can give the reader a way to identify. A tower from a historical site can be adapted. What I always have to remember is how the characters will react and what's important to them in each particular setting.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tuesday's Inspiration - Writer's Block #MFRWauthor #writer's block

This was first written in 2010 but it remains true to this day. There is a disease suffered by writers.

Almost every writer has suffered from writer's block and there are no sure cures for the condition. A writer writes. That's the sum total of the problem and may be the solution. I've suffered three times in my career from being unable to write. Maybe the causes were unique to me but they may be reasons other people can relate to.

One - A meeting with an agent who liked my writing. She asked me to bring three ideas when I traveled to NYC for a meeting with her. I wrote three sketches of books I thought she might see the value of. She read them and then told me, "They're good. Just pick one and write the book." That's when it hit me. Those weren't my stories. They were ones I thought someone else would like. The ideas were good but really not my kind of books.

Two - Had an editor like a book and she made detailed suggestions on a book that was essentially written. Her suggestions were great. Now comes the kicker. Making the suggested changes set me off on a different direction and a different story. For several weeks I tried to fit the changes into the book I'd written and mostly sat and stared at the pages. Because of the suggested changes I saw a different book and not the one I'd already written. The suggestions were wonderful but not for the book I'd written. A new book was all I could see.

Three - Having written three novellas that are interconnected, I need a fourth to complete the series. For the past six months I have toyed with this concept and nothing came to mind. I jotted down scenarios that sounded reasonable but I was unable to write more than a paragraph or two. Just the other day something started bubbling in my unconscious. It's not ready yet, but I think I will be able to finish the quartet.

Now for the bit of advice. Writer's block can be caused by writing something that's so not you, having changes suggested that don't fit your story and by being unable to find the proper vehicle for a story. Are there cures? Perhaps but each person must find his or her own. Mine is this Be true to yourself and write what you'd like to read. One often given to me by other writers is to just apply the seat of your pants to the chair and your fingers to the keyboard. Before you know it,the block eva

Monday, July 25, 2016

Meandering On Monday with Janet Lane Walters #MFRWauthor #Poetry #Heat wave #Writing

Meander 1 - Poem - Strike


They brought him home.
His face a bloody mess.
And I screamed, screamed.
My father's face I did not know.
A stranger distorted entered my life
Victim and does i one flesh.
The memory of violence
Lives with me yet.

Meander 2 - We are experiencing a heat wave. There have been clusters of hot and humid weather. They say there must be three days in a row to be considered a wave. The day between didn't really help. My study has no air conditioner. Fortunately in this old house there are other rooms with the cooling machines. The ceiling fan does carry some of the cold in here. But other than less heat and humidity we need rain. We are on restricted water use. I do hope our neighboring state will have the same restrictions since they suck most of the water from out small county.

Meander 3 - Writing. Mainly I'm typing but I really hope to have my special project finished by the middle of next month. Then I will really get to work on my own stories. There are so many to work on. I'll finish the three medical ones making the series extend to six books. Then I'll need to finish some series and trilogies especially the one that will be twelve books.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday's Book - Divided Dreams #MFRWauthor #medical #romance #author

Divided Dreams (Moon Child Book 4)

Rob Grantlan has given up medicine to become an author. As a Gemini, having two careers seems just right. His quiet days are overturned by the death of his wayward sister and his taking guardianship of his two month old niece. When he learns the father of the infant is his old flame Andi Sherman’s brother a plan unfolds. Years ago, he hurt her. He still loves her and he wants to regenerate that love.

Andi Sherman is now a nurse practitioner in Pediatrics. She has vowed never to return to Fern Lake. The offer of a partnership in a friend’s practice is tempting. She refuses until she learns Rob has given up the practice of medicine. She believes he will leave town. On the day after her July birthday, she returns and comes upon the accident, finds the dying woman and the baby. When she learns the little girl is her niece and Rob hasn’t left town she is conflicted. She still loves him but she can’t trust him. News from her brother brings a threat.

Will Tammy’s presence in their lives find a way to allow them to love and trust again?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Saturday's Blurbs features Books by Frank Talaber #MFRWauthor

Raven’s Lament
Ever meet anyone who took you to the edge of everything you ever thought possible, or ever knew?
Meet Canada's West Coast version of Milligans, Peaceful Warrior.
Charlie Stillwaters. He'll not only take you to that edge. He'll smile as he kicks you screaming off it.
Based on a true story and native oral legends.

Shaman’s Lure

Vancouver real X-Files case. Witch freed from Stanley Park. Mayor Dead. Hell's angels mad as he comes back from the dead. Yup, you heard me right on that one. It's all tied in with the adage that when you get really drunk and everyone tells you about what you did, but don't remember. Well, there's a bar in Stanley Park that when you've had too much to drink, spirits take over your body until you sober up. Hey, I hear they have half price shooters on Tuesdays. 

Shuttered Seduction

Your usual romance, Man meets woman they fall in love. Go bungee-jumping, meet grizzly bear. Oh did I mention he wants to buy her business out from under her? Hmm, maybe not your usual romance then. And I ain't even going to give you a clue about the cross-dressing party.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday - Frank Talaber talking about Writing and genres #MFRWauthor

1.  What's your genre or do you write in more than one?
Urban fantasy and science fiction. But yes, I do write in many. I’ve been told to specialize, but as a writer I enjoy the challenge of writing in many genres. Besides, I get bored easily and enjoy the challenge of different genres. I’ve written in erotica, in romance, in comedy, in spiritual and done many short stories as well.
2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?
I always ask ‘what if’ as a writer. I’d written a romance, which is now published under Shuttered Seduction by Books We Love Ltd. But one day after reading an article about the cutting down of the Golden Spruce tree on Haida Gwaii. Which was done by a white man in protest of logging. The native oral legend is that a prince was trapped inside and hence the leaves have turned gold in sorrow. I remember staring at a totem in the museum and asked myself, what if a prince was trapped inside? After that and doing a lot of research on native legends and stories I began to write and think along the lines of urban fantasy stories. I always lived and believed in the fantastic, must be the gypsy blood in my veins.

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

I’d like to try young adult, the hard part would be trying to tell a story without getting literal or in other words not using big words or terms. I like using unique words on occasion.

4.  What fiction do you read for pleasure?

Sword and sorcery, I love the old Robert E. Howard novels. Fantasy and science fiction, also enjoy reading some romance novels as well.

5.  Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing,
Well I’m a licensed automotive technician and run a nine bay auto repair shop. I read and collected a lot of comic books as a youngster. Many had some wild crazy stories, I think that always stuck in my head and began me asking, ‘what if.’ I really began writing back in high school, took a creative writing course and always remember on the first day  flipping through the course material and raising my hand and saying, ‘but it’s blank.’ The instructor replied with ‘yes, it’s your job to fill it.’ The idea was to establish writing flow and at first it was murder putting down one paragraph. But by the end of it, I was pounding out several pages and often took it home to pound out even more. One of the first things I ever wrote publicly was a letter to a comic book (Legion of Super-Heroes) and they published it. I was hooked then and there as a writer.

6.  Which of your characters is your favorite?
Charlie Stillwaters, why see below, a paragraph I had him write for a blog entry.

I’m Charlie Stillwaters, Haida shaman or Ska-ga as we call ourselves, officially Union member three, local one. Yes, not a big union, but then how many shamans do you know personally.
Hello ladies, gentlemen, tree spirits, annoying ravens, goblins, hebegebes, spectral entities, witches and any other assorted bizarre beings that want to hear about me. By the way a couple of these I just threw in since it is getting near All Hallows Eve and thought it might make good exposure. Most of these beings are what I’ve spent my life fighting, playing poker with (by the way ever play spectral poker, you are allowed to read the others minds in order to see their cards, brilliant. Well until you play a drunk chipmunk and all he could focus on is the ace. Boy did I lose a lot of hazelnuts that night. PS. A good hint, if you play a bear, make sure all the salmon are expired, otherwise you throw them on the table to call someone’s bluff and they just flop off the table, making a mess, spilling all the fermented apple juice and usually getting the bear quite upset. Not a good thing.) I try to stick to Tiddly Winks with bears. Much safer. They Tiddly and I wink.

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

There are. My answer is simple for every hero or heroine, there’s a villain, the old laws of balance and yin and yang. The greater the hero, the greater the villain. And yes, Charlie has battled some pretty great villains.

8.  What are you working on now?

The third in a series, titled Thunderbird’s Wake. A pre-release blurb is below.

Agatha Christie, roll over in your grave, new sleuths on the prowl.  Haida shaman Charlie Stillwaters convinces Carol Ainsworth, a Vancouver detective, to join him as he breaks his way into a high security prison. The duo are determined to find out who killed the previous native elder before all lightning and thunder breaks loose, as they encounter deranged inmates, mystical beings, ancient serpents, wood sprites and someone who should have been dead long ago.
Not your usual crime/mystery!
Not your usual criminal investigators!
You thought Jack Nicholson was mad in The Shining…
Wait until you meet Charlie Stillwaters in the Sweatlodge.

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

My last release is a Romance Novel, entitled, ‘Shuttered Seduction.’
Don’t remember where I got the idea, but I think it all started with the notion of: what if a man and woman were to fall in love, only he was out originally to seduce her and steal her company out from under her feet.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thursday's Opening Scene - from Melodic Dreams #MFRWauthor #music #occupational threapy

Melodic Dreams

Chapter 1

To the sounds of her nephew banging notes on a xylophone, Maria emptied the last box of kitchenware she’d found at the thrift shop less than a block from the apartment complex. She paused and laughed. She knew that song, the theme from Jeopardy, her mother’s favorite program.

She drew a deep breath. So much to do to make this one bedroom apartment into a home for her four year old nephew. Beds to make, clothes to unpack. She needed to buy curtains to cover the blinds and add color to the ecru walls. She’d been fortunate that the woman from the Human Resources Department at Fern Lake General had found this place.

Last night, she and Jamie had slept on the green carpet in the living room pretending to be camping. This morning the furniture and other purchases from the thrift shop had been delivered.

Jamie finished his rendition with a sweep of the hammer over the keys. She leaned against the counter and loaded their bowls from lunch into the dishwasher.

Maria drew a deep breath. Inside, she quivered with tension she refused to allow to show. She must succeed.

Enough dawdling. There was a man she needed to see. Her gut clenched.

“Jamie, put your toys away. We’re going to see your father.” And pray the man agrees to pay for Jamie’s pre-school while she worked. Two weeks from today, she started at the local hospital as an occupational therapist.

“Will he like me?” Jamie asked.

She hated the worry in the boy’s voice and in his brilliant green eyes. She ruffled his dark curls. 

“What’s not to like?”

“He never came to see me.”

Maria sucked in a breath. She could have tried to locate the man years ago, but her mother had been adamantly opposed. “He didn’t know about you. Nana didn’t know his last name.” Maria brushed hair from her face. They could have learned. She couldn’t tell Jamie about his grandmother’s anger. Guilt curled in her thoughts.

Jamie looked up. “How did you know?”

“When we were packing to sell Nana’s house, I found some papers in a suitcase your mama left. I saw his name and looked for him.”

Jamie nodded. “Uncle Carlo said my mama runned away ‘cause my dad was mean.” His eyes widened.

She put her fingers on his lips. “What does Uncle Carlo know?”

“Just TV and beer.”

Maria popped toys in her huge bag and walked to the door. They rode the elevator to the semi-enclosed parking area and her battered ten year old blue sedan. She fastened Jamie into his booster seat.

Twenty minutes later with only one wrong turn, she pulled into the U-shaped driveway leading to a huge house at the top of the rise. She rehearsed what she planned to say when she saw Jamie’s father. She swallowed against a lump in her throat. How would he react when she handed him the folder with her reasons for being in Fern Lake?

“Is that the house?” Jamie pointed up the hill. “Looks like a castle.”

She agreed. The gray stone building rose three stories above the ground. Shrubbery lined both sides of the driveway. She turned in her seat and winked at her nephew. “Maybe we’ll meet a prince.” Or an ogre, she added silently.

“Don’t want to stay here. Want to live with you.”

His voice was shrill with fear that she needed to change. She touched his hand. “You will. I’m your guardian.” Except for the widened emerald green eyes, he looked like his mother without her selfish nature. “We need your dad’s help to pay for your pre-school while I work.”

Maria hoped for more than financial aid but she couldn’t tell Jamie she wanted his father in his life. Jamie needed a man, someone more honorable than her brother. She wanted Jay Lockley to spend time with his son. She’d always thought not looking for him had been unfair but she’d been unable to fight her mother and start a search in the days after the accident. Then, college had absorbed her time. Would the man understand?

Maria sighed. If Jay Lockley spent time with Jamie, she could focus on her new career. Was she selfish to want time for herself? Since her sister’s death, Jamie had been her responsibility. And her joy. Though her mother had watched her grandson while Maria attended college and worked, most of her spare time had been spent with the child.

Drawing a deep breath filled with hope and determination, she put the sedan in gear and followed the driveway to the circle at the top where she parked. Would the man living here spend time with Jamie? Sometimes, the burden felt as heavy as holding the world on her shoulders.

Anger at herself bubbled like mud in a hot spring. Don’t think that way. Jamie was her delight. Bright, curious and in need of more than she could provide.

Thoughts of her brother’s greed and habit of taking more than his share arose. Her hands curled into fists. Carlo had claimed two thirds of the money from the sale of the house.

“She owed me. Borrowed money a dozen times to provide for you and the brat.”

Without proof, she’d been unable to show his assertions were false.

Her share of the money had kept her and Jamie solvent while she finished her degree. There’d been enough money left to last until her first paycheck from the hospital arrived. While calculating she’d forgotten the need for child care. Thus this visit.

Move, she ordered. Her gut churned. What if Jay Lockley refused to acknowledge his son? What if he was the selfish driven man Delores had cursed? Six months in hell, her sister had said. Six months when her career had floundered. Sure her husband had written the music for a hit Broadway show but little had come her way.

Lies or truth? Maria’s hands tightened. If he wouldn’t help her, she would find a way to make the venture work. She always had. She’d spent hours in the library searching for Jay Lockley. After learning he lived in Fern Lake, she’d decided to find a job nearby. The staffing agency found the opening in her specialty with a chance the position would become permanent.

Maria opened the car door and freed Jamie. He wrapped his arms around her neck. “I’m scared.”
So was she but she couldn’t let him know. She lowered him to the ground. “You’re too heavy to carry.” She pulled her bag and the folder from the passenger’s seat.

Jamie yanked on her hand. “This is a big house.”

“Sure is.”

Up close the gray stone building made her feel small. The place was so different from the three bedroom house where she’d grown up.

Jamie darted away. “Look. There’s a garden with flowers and a kitty.” He paused at the gate.

Maria chased him. A trellis just beyond the gate would soon be filled with blooming roses. She caught his hand. “Maybe we can look at the garden later.”

“Listen.” Wonder filled his eyes.

Music flowed from the open French Doors across the garden. The melody, though unfamiliar, had a rich and sensuous line making her sigh. Without a warning the song ended in a series of crashing notes. Maria’s grasp on Jamie’s hand tightened. What did the stormy cacophony mean? Anger? Frustration?

When she tugged him from the gate, Jamie looked up. “Could we wait to see if there’s more music? I like the sounds.”

“I know you do. When we return to the apartment I’ll put your keyboard together.”

He frowned. “Don’t have enough keys to make music like that.” His grin warmed her. Music had always fascinated him. Even as an infant his hands or feet had beat in time to the music he heard. What had given him the talent? Not from Delores. He’d never been interested in singing only in making musical sounds.

Ten years ago, Delores had left home and headed to New York City. She’d believed she would make a splash in the music world, especially on Broadway. She’d written about her nightclub act. Then, an angry and pregnant woman had returned. Her nasty remarks about the man she’d married had made the Russo family angry. Even Maria had believed her sister until the discovery in the attic.

Maria walked up the steps and faced a massive wooden door. She rang the bell. Jamie danced from foot to foot. When no one answered she rang a second time. Her foot beat an impatient rhythm against the stone landing. Why was there no answer? Did Jamie’s father live alone in this imposing place? Where was the butler…or a maid? Her shoulders tensed. Other than the nasty things her sister had said and the information she’d read on the internet, what did she know about him?

As she reached to ring the bell a third time, the door opened. Maria stared at the man framed in the doorway. He was more handsome than the pictures she’d seen. Broad shoulders. Glowering. His shaggy blond hair added to his dangerous look. The rumpled shirt and slacks added to her impression. Brilliant green eyes held anger.

“What do you want?” he snapped.

Jamie squeezed her hand. “Don’t like him. He’s sour.”

She nearly laughed. Her mother had said that when Jamie had a tantrum. Though Maria’s body hummed with a desire to smooth the scowling mouth, she couldn’t. Touching him would be the wrong approach. She’d come for his help, nothing more.