Must love dogs in Alaska

My contribution to the set Love, Christmas – Movies You Love is The Polar Xpress. Unlike the movie The Polar Express, mine doesn’t have a train as the primary means of transportation. It has dogs. The sled dogs and their ‘lead dog’ (musher) in my story come to the rescue of a downed doctor who is trapped beneath a snowmachine in the mountains near Talkeetna, Alaska.
Why did I change from a train to dogs for my story? Who wants to cozy up to a steam or diesel-powered iron monster? Yes, there are trains in Alaska, but to get up close and personal in the Last Frontier’s back country in the winter, you either need a snowmachine or a dog sled…unless you’re a superwoman and can handle cross country skis like Kikkan Randall!
I saw my first Iditarod dog sled race in 1992. In those days, the roads were blocked off so the dog teams could cross them on their way north. Flaggers stopped traffic while the teams of a dozen or so furry friends and their two-legged pets who ran behind their sleds crossed Tudor Road on the way to Eagle River and beyond.
I remember crying that day at the beauty and irony, Alaska’s traditional mode of transportation being granted first rights to the road as the modern exhaust-spewing cars waited for the fragile yet determined teams to pass. I was close enough to see their foggy breath, their smiles that proved to me that running is what they loved to do.
The race doesn’t start from Anchorage now—it’s only a ceremonial one. The ‘real’ Iditarod begins further north where there’s more snow. Those with pull (like a mother-in-law) or for a donation to a charity (there are many to choose from), regular folks can ride in a dog sled, bundled in blankets and furs as the teams scurry over the hauled-in snow-covered roads, the downtown Anchorage streets lined with folks waving as their favorite dogs and mushers hurry past.
I can’t think of any other sport that takes so long to finish and relies on the stamina and tactical skills of the coordinator who is not only a player, but also the chef, vet, mechanic, tactician and who is the only one who is allowed to take care of any problem that arises. The musher can’t get help from anyone (save a veterinarian). If a person so much as gives her a bucket of water for the dogs, she’s disqualified. Her months and years of selecting and training her dogs, vet bills to keep them healthy, costs of transportation to Anchorage and from Nome and the entrance fee, can all go belly up with one well-meaning spectator.
The trail is about 1,049 miles long, depending on where they start and whether the northern or southern route is used. Essentially, it’s from Anchorage or nearby and terminates in Nome. Note: There are NO roads to Nome.
A fast-paced race might take eight days for the winner. The last place or ‘Red Lantern’ winner—as in the caboose carries the red lantern—might come trundling into Nome thirty-two days after starting. The average is more like ten or twelve days, but either way, it’s a long arduous trail with snow melted over canned heat for water, food mixed in five gallon containers, booties put on the dogs to protect their feet, straw laid out for their beds, and if the musher is lucky, four hours of sleep for him or her.
Do you think you’re as tough as these guys and gals—barely eighteen to senior citizens—who run this race? And I do mean run: mushers might take a break by stepping on the runners, but they trot behind the dogs most of the way.
Enjoy my story of the California doctor who is rescued by the nearly blind woman who started Second Chance Kennels and dreams of running the Iditarod or ‘When worlds collide, there are sure to be sparks!’ Part of Love, Christmas – Movies You Love.

Amazon USApple iBooks  – Nook  –  Kobo  – Amazon UK

What is RWA?

In case you didn’t know, RWA stands for Romance Writers of America. I’m a member and right now (July 20, 2018), we’re nearly finished with our annual conference. This year it’s being held in Denver, Colorado. Talk about a tremendous number of folks gathered with the same goal in mind!

Nearly two thousand women and a few men are here to find out how (or to share how) to make a writer’s HEA (happy ever after) story become a hit with readers, whether through fine-tuning the craft of writing or exploring the best ways to promote the works.

One of the nice things about this group is that there isn’t any ego-fueled competition. Even at the award ceremonies, the women (all were women this year) were saying how they felt like sisters and honored to be nominated. It sure looked like they were truth-telling, too.

What’s your favorite flavor of romance? Are you into romantic suspense, sweet and/or sassy, how about a little rom com (romantic comedy)? Would you like to know what

it feels like to fall in love with a prince or duke, either now or in the past? How about lovin’ on a vampire or a werewolf in a paranormal adventure?

They may all be considered ‘romance,’ but there are so many sub-categories, there’s never a reason to be bored. Loads of diversity here!

My author friends and I have put together a huge variety of box sets for you to enjoy, all available for only 99 cents each or free to read if you have a Kindle Unlimited account. (Search my name or some of the other authors to find more sets)

Click on some of the links and find out why I finally gave in and admitted that I am a romance writer — and proud of it.

Oh, and if you can’t wait for a new solo book from me, ONE ARCTIC SUMMER is live today! If you want to wait until the end of the month, it’ll be in SWEET AND SASSY AT THE BEACH. Either way, it’s a great story of a sassy college grad who learns what life is really about when she visits Barrow, Alaska in 1994, the coldest and warmest city in North America. 

 

Chapter One excerpt – 2016 Love Christmas Collection – Frosty the Snowman – by Mimi Barbour #mgtab

FrostySnowPup_CVR

Frosty the Snowman…pup!

This book is dedicated to Stacie Williams with a great big hug!.

Holiday Heartwarmers Book #4

By

Mimi Barbour

 

Chapter One… (Sneak Peek – unedited version)

Ice shards blew against the Cessna’s windshield and vision became limited. The previously relaxed pilot suddenly changed to a man with a mission. Tension ramped up and the earlier warm atmosphere turned cold as fear constricted throats unable to swallow.

“We’re going down aren’t we?” Hali Gibson’s voice hadn’t risen from her normal tones. Not even a little. But inside hidden deep in her emotions lived a wild spirit that screeched and then whimpered. I don’t want to die! Not yet. Not now!

As if by sheer want and personal influence she could force the noisy plane back up into the blanket of white sleet that had suddenly appeared, she clutched the leather panel in front of her and bit back her screams.

The pilot bellowed over the plane’s roar. “I’m afraid so. But hold on! Up ahead, there’s a frozen lake that might work as a landing strip. Maybe we’ll make it.” He aimed his voice toward her and issued orders. “Just don’t panic.”

“I never panic.” She screamed back, her eyes feeling like they were protruding two inches from their sockets.

That got his attention, but just for a second. His expression fierce like that of a warrior pitted against an enemy larger than life, he ordered, “Brace yourself!”

In comparison to her own instability, she noted the giant-like man behind the controls appeared ridiculously steady. As if he’d force-landed his small Cessna in the middle of the frozen Alaskan outback any number of times. He kept speaking into his earphones giving their particulars and using the word “Mayday” to get attention.

It had certainly gotten hers. Who could blame her for thinking two voices might add more impact. Her screamed maydays certainly had more force than his.

With only a thin layer of plastic between them and the thickened white sleet that enveloped the small aircraft unexpectedly, it seemed to Hali that the fragile windshield appeared totally inconsequential.

For a few seconds, she wished herself back in the small airport in Ketchikan and pictured a sock in her mouth stopping her from insisting she needed to be his passenger. Why in hell had she fought so hard to be here now? God must be punishing her for being so pushy.

Hali listened to the roar of the small engine working as hard as it could, fighting against the elements of nature. She decided that when one faced death, seconds lasted longer, which gave people time to reflect. Why me, Lord? Forced to endure, she tightened every muscle in her body and prepared to meet her maker.

A humming noise from the pilot caught her attention. Watching him previously manoeuver the small plane, she’d seen the skill it had taken to manipulate the controls, hold the aircraft steady and if sheer will could force this bird through the white wall of hell, he’d be the one to do so. But damn, did he have to sing them to their demise?

What the…? The guy was singing Frosty the Snowman. Of all the crazies in the world, trust her to beg this particular Looneytune to let her come with him just so he could serenade her last moments on earth with a children’s Christmas carol.

Without realizing she would, her voice melded with his only she used the words. If it helped calm his nerves, she was all for it.

On the other hand, he hadn’t yielded to their dilemma, in fact, quite the opposite. As if in hand to hand combat with the devil himself, he fought like a man possessed. Continuing to fly blind, it was only the control panels delivering instrument readings he needed that kept the plane from plunging out of the sky.

Tipping from side to side didn’t help her nerves either. The harsh roar of the engines, revved to ear-splitting levels, caused her head to feel like it would explode. And Hali supposed the vibration had increased because of their escalating descent. One could only imagine the ground coming up to meet them, they certainly couldn’t see it.

Suddenly, howling from the crate in the rear of the plane ripped at Hali’s soft heart and guilt hit her hard. Because she was a wuss for driving long distances alone, she’d decided to take this bush plane into the wilds of Alaska from Ketchikan to Juneau rather than drive the 300 miles to deliver her cousin’s Samoyed – a present meant for her husband’s brother. Now, because of her cowardly decision, the gorgeous animal would most likely die.

My fault. All my fault. At the airport, after she’d been bumped from the regular flight, she’d beseeched this pilot to let her and the dog be his passengers. Seems there’s a pecking order in Alaska. If you owned the Airlines, you were first in line and could change the route anytime you wanted, even if Christmas was only a few days away.  Which left paying customers angry but forced to wait for the next flight.

Hali, unexpectedly stranded, had pleaded with this man to no avail. In her excitement, she’d even dropped her suitcase which had flipped open, scattering her belongings everywhere. Like a gentleman should, he’d helped her collect her property, had handed her over underwear, sweaters, even her going-away gift from the girls at the office, which had softened his stubborn expression slightly, but he’d still refused her pleas.

It hadn’t been until the pilot who’d originally bumped her had his say and a large chunk of money changed hands that the tall man had agreed to the arrangement. Within a few minutes, he’d rounded her up, got them belted into the place and they’d taken off.

Now she was locked into a sardine can, with a complete stranger controlling her life and—go figure… she’d begged to be here.

While her mind was travelling through time, the pilot had pulled off a miracle. They were speeding along a stretch of ice, hovering slightly above the ground. Battered on both sides, the winds didn’t like being robbed of their prey.  As the man in charge searched for a place to safely set the little plane down, he fought to keep them from tipping.

With visibility much better at this low altitude, up ahead, Hali saw what he did. There was a sheltered bay surrounded by trees. The lake looked to have less snow. And, cleared from the driving winds, the visible frozen surface invited them to drop in and stay a while.

Singing louder, with sobs of joy blending in, Hali swiped at her eyes, blinked repeatedly and watched the pilot set the plane down as gently as the buffeting wind would allow. Finally, he drove it closer to the shore and brought them to a complete halt.

In seconds, he’d turned off the motor. As if the turning of the key stopped their nightmare, it cut off their mingling voices also.

Hali watched him drop his face into his now shaking hands. Without realizing her intentions, she reached over to touch, pat, wishing she could hug. Finding her own hand enveloped in a tight grip, she didn’t move. For her, connecting in this way with another human being was a normal action and so she allowed them these magical moments before expressing her relief. Truthfully, she’d choked up and words wouldn’t be forced through clogged emotions.