Happy Friday the 13th by @JoanReeves #mgtab

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Okay, let’s see a show of hands. Who is worried that Friday the 13th brings bad luck?Who’s superstitious?

Not Me

Let me step out from under this ladder where I’m petting a black cat and tell you that I’m not superstitious at all. However, I have a fondness for superstitions because my mother was unbelievably superstitious. I think this is because she was an only child born to a middle-aged couple. My grandparents were actually born in 1882, and my mother was the spoiled darling of them and their elderly siblings and friends.

I’ve always thought it was weird that I–a child of the volatile Sixties–had grandparents who were born just 17 years after the Civil War ended. My grandfather told me stories from his youth such as seeing Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Many people in that era were superstitious. When I helped my mother write her memoir in 2008, just 2 years before she passed, she wanted to include a chapter on Superstitions. I was amazed that there were so many bad luck omens that ruled peoples’ lives.

Excerpt from Memory Lane, My Mom’s Memoir

My mom’s memoir contains a long list of superstitions. Here are 13 for Friday the 13th.

  1. To drop a dish rag means you will have company.
  2. Telling your dreams before breakfast makes them come true.
  3. If you lay a coat on the bed, someone will die.
  4. If the palm of your right hand itches, you’ll shake hands with a stranger.
  5. If the palm of your left hand itches, you’ll receive money.
  6. A rooster crowing on the roost means a death.
  7. If your right eye itches, you’ll have good luck.
  8. If your left eye itches, you’ll have bad luck.
  9. If you give a knife to someone, you’ll cut your friendship in half.
  10. Spilling salt means a family quarrel.
  11. Find a penny, and you’ll have good luck.
  12. Sweep anything out of the house with a broom after dark, and you’ll have bad luck.
  13. Never sweep beneath someone’s feet or they’ll never marry.

So have a chuckle or two over superstitions and make Friday the 13th a day to have fun instead of anxiety. Better yet, chase away bad feelings with some feel-good romance novels like those in A CHRISTMAS SHE’LL REMEMBER. It will be a holiday collection YOU’LL remember. Get it today for the pre-release price of 99 cents. This set will publish on October 19.

About Joan Reeves

Joan is a New York Times and a USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance. All her fiction have the underlying premise:  It’s never too late to live happily ever after.

Joan lives her happily-ever-after with her hero, her husband, in the Lone Star State. They divide their time between the hustle and bustle of Houston and a quiet house in the country where they grow wine grapes and fruit trees while battling gophers, skunks, coyotes, deer, and the occasional copperhead snake.

Be the first to know about new books and giveaways. Get a free ebook just for signing up for Joan’s Mailing List.

Joan Reeves
NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Joan Reeves makes her home in the Lone Star State with her hero, her husband. They have 4 children who think they are adults and a ghost dog, all the ingredients for a life full of love and warmed by laughter. Joan lives the philosophy that is the premise of her romance novels: "It's never too late to live happily ever after."  View website
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Vengeance rules her life… Maggie’s Revenge by Jacquie Biggar #RomSuspense #MilitaryRomance #mgtab @jacqbiggar

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JacquieBiggar_MaggiesRevenge_800px

DEA Special Agent Maggie Holt is fierce, smart, beautiful– and in over her head.

Maggie has been working undercover 15 months when she is taken by Chinese-Mexican cartel leader, Chenglei. She tries to escape with 8 other women and is captured and brutally punished.

Adam O’Connor is angry and frustrated. It’s his fault his partner, and one-time lover, is missing and no matter how many leads he chases, they don’t bring Maggie home.

An unexpected break in the case sends Adam south to Texas. His old SEAL Team Chief, Frank Stein, offers his home and his help in the search effort.

Will these two strong men find Maggie? And will their decades old friendship be destroyed by their love for the same woman?

Read the exciting continuation of the Wounded Hearts Saga this December!

Pre-order Your Copy Today!

she scared him. Magdalena Holt had the power to rip his safe, secure world apart and Frank wasn't sure he could handle the fallout.

Excerpt

Maggie wiped the sweat dripping into her eyes and scowled at the still-too-damn-hot sun taking its sweet time to dip behind the hills. She looked at the other women hunkered under the Humvee to grab what shade they could, and sighed. They were bruised and bloody, but alive. That’s all she could ask for right now.

Well, that and a tank of gas would be nice.

And a cool shower.

A steak dinner.

Her own bed.

Maybe she was hallucinating.

She laid the rifle across her thighs and leaned against the massive tire of the truck, one of the only spots she could touch without getting burnt. Someone with a sense of humor must have a plan for her, otherwise how could she have escaped a Mexican prison after months of captivity, get shot and survive it, then outgun a truckload of banditos and still be able to sit here boiling to death?

“You should join us,” Olga called, her voice raspy. “It’s safer under here. You don’t look so good, my friend.”

Maggie tried to make her smile reassuring, though the pain in her side was getting progressively worse. She’d glanced at it a few minutes ago and been dismayed by the redness surrounding the wound. “Soon. I need to do a reconnaissance of our friends over there first. I’m just getting up the energy.”

She hated how weak and dizzy she felt. They had neither the time for her to fight through an infection—and unless one of the ladies knew some desert secret—nor antibiotics to help the healing process.

Thank goodness, the men had not been trained troops. It took only moments for the firefight to end, with no injuries to the women. Maggie hated to kill them, but there was no choice. It was them or her. The grenade blast had done a good job of creating chaos among the men. They’d jumped from the truck, fearing another blast, and then it was a simple matter to pick them off from there.

She used the butt of the rifle to climb awkwardly to her feet and trudged through the sand toward the carnage, stiffening at the sound of steps behind her. She turned and frowned. The women trailed her, Olga in the lead brandishing a piece of lead piping that had been lying on the floor of the Humvee.

“Go back,” Maggie cried. “It’s too dangerous. At least until I make sure they’re…”

Olga reached her side and clasped a hand around her waist, careful to avoid the wound. “You can barely stand,” she whispered, for Maggie’s ears alone. “Do not be so brave, you’re stupid. We need you to get out of here. I need you,” she added.

Maggie gulped tears of gratitude. They may be in the middle of a war, but she’d made a friend for life.

She nodded. “Okay, let’s do this.”

***

Chenglei poured his tea and ignored the foot soldier sweating in his doorway. The child he’d been training lay sobbing quietly on the floor at his feet. Her leg was red and angry-looking where the hot liquid had spilled. She’d been warned on the proper etiquette; he never repeated himself.

It was a sign of weakness.

And Chenglei refused to fail.

“Tell me, how is it your militia cannot manage to capture five scrawny women? This is beyond my understanding.” He glared at the soldier. “Did I not make myself clear? I want them,

dead or alive. Why could your fools not accomplish this one small matter?”

The man wiped a shaky hand over his brow, then resumed Parade Rest position. “I am sorry, señor. I lost good soldiers today. The woman, she has training. My men were not expecting a firefight. They did their best under the circumstances.”

Under the…

Chenglei sipped his tea and tried to calm his nerves. The girl’s sniveling wasn’t helping matters. He gave her a shove with his toe. “Go to your room. I do not wish to see you again this night.”

She hiccupped and lifted her head, eyes red, cheeks flushed. She would be a beauty one day; if he didn’t kill her first.

“Go,” he snarled, some of the fury churning within escaping despite his control. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Once.

Twice.

There, see. The monster who beat at the doors of his mind did not rule him, he was its master. Just as he was the ruler of his fate. And one stupid American woman was not going to change that fact. He waited until the child slipped out of the room before addressing the captain.

“You are right. The woman—the one with dark hair—she is a spy.” The soldier stiffened. Chenglei hid his satisfaction. “She is here to destroy the cartel. We must do whatever is necessary to stop her. Do you understand?”

The man gave a sharp nod, the light of retribution shining out of his dark eyes. “. I will round up another team, and this time, she will not get away.”

Bueno,” Chenglei murmured. “Bring her back alive, if you can. I do not care about the rest; your men may do as they wish with them. But Señorita Holt and I have business to finish; I want her returned to me.”

The captain bowed and backed out of the room, closing the heavy brass-plated door behind him. Chenglei had a love of beauty and was careful to surround himself with only the very best of everything. The wall-hangings dated from the sixteenth century, as did the Aubusson rug he sat upon, legs crossed. The rich greens and golds pleased his eye and the silkiness of his robes gratified his skin.

Success.

He’d made something of his life; he wasn’t about to let some gringa federal agent take that away from him.

I’m so excited to share Maggie’s book with you. Her story began way back in #2 of the Wounded Hearts series, The Rebel’s Redemption (soon to be available in Audible format), and quickly became a fan favorite. It’s taken me a while to give her journey the attention it deserves. Her voice has haunted me for long enough, it’s time to tell the tale!

When writer’s say they work in solitary, that’s not strictly true. At least, it isn’t for me. My characters live in my mind. They argue, dream, demand, ask for advice, rule my heart and my pen.

While I’ve written a few standalone novels, I have to admit I favor writing in a series. I like building a world and filling it with strong, interesting people readers can connect with, have empathy for, fall in love with.

If I can do that, I’ve done my job 🙂

Jacquie Biggar
Lives in paradise along the west coast of Canada with her her husband, daughter, and grandson. Loves reading, writing, and flower gardening. Spoils her German shepherd, Annie and calico cat, Harley. And can't function without coffee. View website
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Is “Rich Author” Oxymoron @JoanReeves #mgtab

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Graphic Image: Young surprised woman in eyeglassesDo you think “Rich Author” is an oxymoron?

Side Note: I love the word oxymoron: “a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.” The example usually given is: military intelligence.

Yes, these are the things I think about while I idle through life on a summer day. After all, hot summer days are perfect for sitting around and thinking about stuff. That’s such a fun thing to do instead of slaving over a hot keyboard and pulling recalcitrant thoughts from my brain.

I was watching a morning show interview with Ms. Famous Author. Curious about her past, I did an online search for her name. One of the SERP’s (for those who don’t speak Internet, that’s Search Engine Result Page) that popped up was How Much Is Famous Author Worth.Graphic Image: Dollar Sign

Inquiring Minds, Etc.

Seriously. Isn’t that a terrible invasion of privacy? Yes, but that’s not going to stop us from visiting that page, is it?

So I continued my procrastination research. I found a website that gives Top 10 lists. Just in case you ever wondered who the richest authors in the world are, I can now definitively answer that, courtesy of Trending Top Most.

This website gives lots of juicy details about celebrities, and rich authors are celebrities. (So rich author is not an oxymoron.) The author list gives the books that made them such huge bestselling authors so be sure and check it out for all the details.

There are some surprises such as Jim Davis of Garfield fame. I’m rather certain his making the list was due to licensing deals.

I take issue with the inclusion of Candy Spelling. Even though she is an author and has appeared on the NYT list, I don’t believe she accrued her $600 million from her authorial works. I think her riches came from being the heir to her late husband Aaron Spelling. But that’s just my supposition.

Graphic Image: The Winner IsTop 10 Richest Authors (In David Letterman Order)

10. Stephenie Meyer- $180 million (in 2010 and 2011 alone, she earned over $40 million!)
9. John Grisham- $200 million
8. Dean Koontz – $275 million
7. Tom Clancy- $300 million
6. James Patterson- $310 million
5. Danielle Steel- $375 million
4. Stephen King- $400 million
3. Candy Spelling- $600 million
2. Jim Davis- $800 million
1. J.K. Rowling- $1 billion

Of one thing, I’m completely certain. No one on this list need worry about being pushed aside by me.

Back to the Salt Mines ComputerGraphic Image: Heat Lightning Book Teaser

Enough procrastination research. Back to writing Dead Heat, Book 2, Outlaw Ridge, Texas.

Book 1 is Heat Lightning, set during a hot July in Texas.

Heat Lightning is on Kindle Unlimited so you can read for free. (Buy for only $2.99.)

Within Heat Lightning is an excerpt for Dead Heat, the new romantic suspense, which I think you’ll love! The new book will be published in August.

Graphic of writing penAbout Joan Reeves

No, you won’t find her name on a Top 10 Richest Authors list, but she is a New York Times and a USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance. All her fiction have the same premise that is her motto: It’s never too late to live happily ever after.

Joan lives her happily-ever-after with her hero, her husband, in the Lone Star State. They divide their time between the hustle and bustle of Houston and a quiet house in the country where they grow wine grapes and fruit trees while battling gophers, skunks, coyotes, deer, and the occasional copperhead snake.

Be the first to know about new books and giveaways. Sign up for Joan’s Mailing List.

Joan Reeves
NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Joan Reeves makes her home in the Lone Star State with her hero, her husband. They have 4 children who think they are adults and a ghost dog, all the ingredients for a life full of love and warmed by laughter. Joan lives the philosophy that is the premise of her romance novels: "It's never too late to live happily ever after."  View website
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Life is About Choices

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Life is about choices.

Really. It is.
Not only small choices, such as what should I wear to work today?
Or bigger ones such as: Should I even go to work today?
Or even bigger ones: Should I tell the boss to shove it, sell everything I own, buy a Harley Davidson, and tour Route 66? Without a GPS?
Okay. Maybe today isn’t the day to make decisions that extreme, so let’s do this instead.

Pick at least one of these romance box sets and live a life that isn’t yours vicariously. You won’t cause any harm. Or go bankrupt. Or get lost. But you’re sure to fall in love. At least once.
Would you like to snuggle with a detective who also happens to be a werewolf? Or maybe a reborn Egyptian god? Check out Mystic Lovers.
Did the movie (or old TV show) Wild, Wild West get you itching to share a saddle with secret agent James West? Check out Angel in Aces Wild, part of Rebels, Rogues, and Romantics.
How about suspense, murders, living on the edge, trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, all with some hot romance on the side? If this is for you, check out Dangerous Encounters and Risky Encounters, both box sets with romantic suspense that will keep you gripping the edge of your Kindle.
Are contemporary romances more your speed? From puppies to young brides and…and…well, more themes than I have room for here. Kiss Me, Thrill Me, Sweet & Sassy, and Unforgettable Romances are great (and well-endowed with loads of stories).
Tired of choices?
Heck, why not make time to read them all? After all, the prices are fantastic!
All these box sets are only 99 cents each and also available on Amazon to read for free with your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

P.S. If you like to live and love out of this time era, check out my stories in Rebels, Rogues, and Romantics; Mystic Lovers, Sweet and Sassy, and Kiss Me, Thrill Me. I think you’ll be glad you did!

Dani Haviland
Dani Haviland, formerly of Connecticut, Arizona, and Alaska, recently semi-retired from selling tractor parts, tools, and roses. She moved to a more temperate climate in western Oregon to pursue her passions: writing, gardening, and photography.  View website
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Writers Reading Vs. Readers Reading by @JoanReeves #mgtab

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I spent most of the past 5 days working in the yard at our house in the country. Three years ago, a leprosy-carrying critter tunneled all around the foundation of our house and pretty far up under the foundation of the back porch.

Our neighbor tried to trap it in a cage made for wild critters. He succeeded only in catching 1 pissed-off giant skunk instead.

I learned a lot about wildlife pests that year. For instance, only 1 thing deters an armadillo. Death. My only hope was that it might become road kill. I guess that eventually happened because it stopped coming around. By then, the yard was wrecked. Mulch was scattered everywhere, shrubs were uprooted, flowers were dead.

Real life problems intervened, then last year, another armadillo found our yard. Same story. I bought Coyote Urine Granules which was touted as an armadillo deterrent. Well, it didn’t deter the armadillo, but it sure made us run for cover. Eventually, that pest must have met a speeding car on the highway too.

This year, we made the commitment to evict the weeds that had replaced the landscaping. Big commitment, and an even bigger job!

You may be wondering what this has to do with the title of my post. When I’m pulling weeds and digging up surviving plants, I have a lot of time to think. So I thought about books and reading. I thought about my work in progress and suspension of disbelief which led me to think about how readers would accept my new story. Another leap, and I was thinking about how a writer reads versus how a reader reads.

Writer’s Viewpoint

I think as writers we always look at situations in books from a writer’s viewpoint. I don’t think readers look at those same situations in the same way.

For instance, if a writer is trying to create a situation in which the protagonist does something most people wouldn’t do, the writer agonizes over how to make it believable to the reader. The writer jumps through all kinds of mental hoops to create a situation in which readers will suspend their disbelief and follow the viewpoint character through the story.

Reader’s Viewpoint

Actually, I don’t think most readers (who are non-writers) ever really think about whether a situation is outlandish–especially if they immediately identify with the viewpoint character. They’re not thinking about the story in the same way as writers.

Readers don’t shop for books, picking up one after the other, with the thought, “No, I won’t read that because the premise is unbelievable.” Or, “yes, I can suspend my disbelief and read this.”

Most readers are wanting to be taken on an adventure so they’re not nearly as critical as writers. Otherwise, there would be no paranormal or fantasy sales or any of the other genres populated by high concept books. There’d probably be a lot fewer romance and mystery sales too.

When a reader wants a mystery, he/she probably doesn’t pick up a book, read the blurb, and think: I don’t believe a wacky woman could work as a bail recovery agent. Or, the reason this housewife wants to play sleuth is ridiculous.

Writers who are reading will think like that, but readers don’t. Readers just dive in, wanting an adventure, wanting to be entertained. Readers are more lenient with books than writers, as long as the reader is entertained. Ultimately, suspension of disbelief is achieved by being carried away by a story and its characters.

Bottom Line

Regardless of the genre, readers follow this thought process: “Hmm. This sounds intriguing.” If it does, they buy. Readers buy based on the way the story or the character resonates with them. They don’t pick apart the blurb or over-analyze the premise.

Writers may buy the same book, but that little editor inside them is constantly analyzing and critiquing–not just the writing and the story, but the way it was marketed too.

At least that’s my 2 cents. What do you think?

Passion. Secrets. Lies. What Tessa doesn’t remember may be the death of her.

Post Script

I loosely based the setting in my Outlaw Ridge, Texas series on the country-side near our house. In Heat Lightning, the first book of the series, the only varmints Tessa and David encounter are the two-legged variety. Heat Lightning is free on Kindle Unlimited, or only $2.99 to buy. Dead Heat, Book 2 of the series, will be published in July.

Joan Reeves
NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Joan Reeves makes her home in the Lone Star State with her hero, her husband. They have 4 children who think they are adults and a ghost dog, all the ingredients for a life full of love and warmed by laughter. Joan lives the philosophy that is the premise of her romance novels: "It's never too late to live happily ever after."  View website
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Romance Novel Defined by Joan Reeves

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Fresco_image-of-a-couple-on-the-wal-12147584_BSPWhat is a romance novel?

As a reader, you may be surprised that the answer to that question is frequently under discussion by romance authors and the main organization of romance authors.

Sure, you know that the romance novel is a literary genre, and that the primary focus in this genre is the relationship – the love – between two people. Once, publishers of romance novels demanded writers end the story with a happily ever after. Now, writers can end stories with an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.

To me, there’s a huge difference between happily ever after and emotionally satisfying and optimistic. Personally, I wonder if this alternative ending for a romance novel merely reflects contemporary cynicism about long-term relationships.

Teensy Bit of Romance Genre History

In 1740, Samuel Richardson penned Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded. Considered the first romantic novel, Pamela had two surprising elements that were different from other novels. First, it focused almost entirely on courtship. Second, the novel was told from the viewpoint of a female protagonist.

In the next century, the remarkable Jane Austen, whose Pride and Prejudice is now considered the pinnacle of romance, came along. She inspired Georgette Heyer – I always think of her as the twentieth century Jane Austen – who introduced historical romances in 1921.

About 10 years later, a small British company called Mills and Boon began publishing what were called category romance novels – short books with a set number of pages and standard elements. (In England, romance novels were often called courtship novels.)

The Mills and Boon romances were resold for a North American market by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. who marketed directly to readers and allowed mass-market merchandisers to sell the books too. The genre was off and running.

Then, in 1972, Avon published The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss, the first single title romance novel to be published as a paperback original, and the modern romance genre was truly born.

Beautiful romantic couple of newlyweds holding hands & kissing near old castle

Beautiful romantic couple of newlyweds holding hands & kissing near old castle

My! How Romance Grew

From then until now, there have been a lot of romance novels published. The genre has grown and given birth to sub-genres of every possible variation. It has become the most popular genre in North America where it accounts for more than half of all paperback books sold.

Romance isn’t just a North America phenomenon. The genre is popular on every continent–well, maybe Antarctica might be an exception. Romance novels are published in more than 90 languages.

Romance Readers Out of Touch?

For years, the romance novel was decried as being lowbrow and read by women who were out of touch with reality. We’re not out of touch with reality. We just know what we want. We want romance!

A good romance novel sets the standard for the kind of love and romance a woman wants in a relationship. If a man really wants to know what a woman wants, he should read a good romance novel.

I find it heartwarming — and a bit ironic — that our beloved genre is now the most popular, best selling genre of all time. Tell that to your romance-dissing acquaintances the next time they start talking about how romance novels aren’t “real” books!

With all the changes and growth in our contemporary world, I guess it’s no surprise that the romance genre reflects those changes–providing the happily ever after some want and the optimistic and satisfying ending others may want. But, I’m not willing to give up my happily ever after – in real life or fiction.

All About Love and Commitment

Heat Lightning_NYTMaybe, I don’t want to give up the HEA because that traditional ending is all about lasting love. Today, in the wake of so much death and destruction in the news, I find myself thinking more than ever about the importance of love. In the end, it truly is the most important thing in anyone’s world.

With the romance novels I write, I always aim for that happily ever after for my characters, not just an optimistic, satisfying ending. In Heat Lightning, love once existed between Tessa and David, but amnesia stole every moment of their life together from Tessa. The desire sizzling between them makes Tessa want to discover their love again, but David is hiding something. Will she risk everything to love him again?

Well, my motto is: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.” So Tessa and David have more than a fighting chance!


Joan Reeves writes funny, sexy Romance Novels–available at most ebook sellers. (Audio editions available at Audible, and iTunes.) All of Joan’s books have the same underlying premise: “It’s never too late to live Happily Ever After.”

Joan lives her Happily Ever After with her hero, her husband, in the Lone Star State.

Readers, sign up for Joan’s Mailing List/Free NL . Writers, subscribe to WritingHacks, Joan’s free NL for authors. Connect Online with Joan: Blog * Facebook * Google+  * Twitter * YouTube.

Joan Reeves
NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Joan Reeves makes her home in the Lone Star State with her hero, her husband. They have 4 children who think they are adults and a ghost dog, all the ingredients for a life full of love and warmed by laughter. Joan lives the philosophy that is the premise of her romance novels: "It's never too late to live happily ever after."  View website
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Chapter One excerpt – 2016 Love, Christmas Collection – Let It Snow – by Stephanie Queen #mgtab

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LetitSnowCover-GirlinWindow-black with snowflakeBestLet it Snow

Book 9 – Beachcomber Investigations Series

by Stephanie Queen

EXCERPT

Chapter 1

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

The bullet that killed Dane’s mother may as well have hit him. It left a cannon hole in him, obliterating whatever had been left of his heart and soul. Maybe there hadn’t been much there anyway. How could there have been? Seemed he’d spent a lifetime fighting the soul killing hurt in all the most hellish places on earth to no end. Saving people, but not saving everyone. Never saving everyone. But he’d survived.

In body anyway.

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

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

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

He stared out his kitchen window again. This time snowflakes filled the sky, obscuring his view of the bay and the ocean. Didn’t matter. He wasn’t going anywhere. Or maybe he should pack his bags and leave this place. Head for the next hellish place and destructive mission. Leave a mark. Try to make up for allowing his mother to die by saving someone else’s mother.

He may as well leave. It wasn’t like his beach shack or Martha’s Vineyard held the solace for him that they once had. Too many things happened here. Too much violence. And now death.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

Would she be better off?

No. She’d never forgive herself. It was just as much her fault that his mother was murdered. On her watch. She should have been able to protect Dane’s mother, to prevent the murder—should have seen it coming and have been able to do something.

A rap on the back door saved her from sinking further. She’d hidden the bottle from herself just as much from Dane. She hoped she could enjoy a splash of brandy in her eggnog tonight without succumbing to sobbing. But Cap had been a shiny spot in the bleakness, like her north star, for this past month.

Cap pushed open the back door and stepped into the kitchen with a rush of fat wet snowflakes riding on the cold wind.

Behind Cap, in a bright red snow covered sweater and white knit hat, a stranger stepped forward. Shana jumped back and automatically felt for her gun on her hip and then the back of her waistband.

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

“This is Father Pedro.”

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

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

“Do you have anything hot?”

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

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

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

“Dane—“ she said.

“Who the hell are you?”

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

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

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

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

“Dane—“ Cap began.

Dane glared at Cap to silence him. The Padre stood and took his time studying Dane—brave for a man with Dane the Demon expecting an answer. All the while Shana figured what kept the Padre safe was the new look on his face. It was like he was heartbroken, like seeing Dane made his heart weep. In fact he looked like he was about to cry when he spoke in a sad, deep ominous voice.

“Oscar sent me.”

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Stephanie Queen
About USA Today Bestselling Author Stephanie Queen A romantic at heart and a writer by nature, Stephanie Queen has the enthusiastic soul of a cheerleader. So of course she loves creating stories where the good guys always win. Although she's lost count of all the jobs she had before she settled on being a Novelist, her favorite was selling cookies as a Keebler Elf. She is a graduate of UConn (go Huskies!) and Harvard U and lives in New Hampshire with her family, her cat, Kitty, and her (real or imagined?) chauffeur, Myren.
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Balancing Your Focus

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Focus is defined as a central point of attention. What we consistently focus on and put our attention to expands takes or gives energy whether positively or negatively. If we focus on sickness or disease, we will tend to manifest sickness or disease. If we focus on health and well-being, we increase our energy and strength.

How is my attitude and energy? The answer to this question will show where our focus is directed.

We need to focus our attention on the things we desire to achieve, and maintain that focus.

Focusing on the present moment is important because it is the only moment when we have power over making a change. It is important to be aware of our weaknesses and work on improving them, but it is crucial to focus on our strengths, for it is our strengths that will lead us to success and fulfillment.

In the words of Anthony Fernando: “Never let the things you can’t do stop you from doing the things you can do.”

Look at what you can start doing now! Wherever you place your focus gives meaning to the focus, and drives emotion. Instead of looking at the irrelevant and negative details of life, count the many blessings of your life.

“If one advanced confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”~ Henry D. Thoreau.

S N Y T Her French Count 6715What could be more exciting for a young American architect than to live in a French chateau owned by a handsome count and to work on the restoration of a chapel in the Loire Valley?

But when her professor is poisoned because he knew too much about a missing statue, Cheryl’s summer job changes into a dangerous treasure hunt and Count François is faced with a difficult choice. Are the statue and his chateau worth endangering the life of the impetuous young woman who’s turned his life upside down?
Mona Risk
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, Mona Risk, received an Outstanding Achiever Award from Affaire de Coeur Magazine. She's a two time winner of Best Contemporary Romance of the Year from Readers Favorite; a winner of Best Romance Novel of the Year from Preditors & Editors Readers Poll; and an EPIC Award finalist. Mona Risk's name has often been posted on the Amazon.com 100 Most Popular Authors in Romance list, and her books have garnered: Top Pick, Outstanding Read, Sweetheart of the Week, and Best Book of the Week from various reviewers, and received two mentions in Publisher's Weekly. Mona lives in South Florida and has traveled to more than eighty countries on business or vacation. She writes contemporary romances, medical romance, romantic suspense, and paranormal fantasy. Sprinkled with a good dose of humor, her stories are set in the fascinating places she visited or more simply at home. If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy her international romances. Meet the spirited heroines and special heroes who share irresistible chemistry in stories that simmer with emotion.  View website
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