Racing Dreams and Family Saga’s

Merindah Park

by

Renee Dahlia

 

A brand new rural romance series about an emerging racehorse stud and the family desperately trying to make their racing dreams come true.

John Henry Bassett

‘Money lost, nothing lost. Courage lost, everything lost.’

My dad’s favourite quote. Maybe not one I should be listening to, given my gambling-addict dad sank our once-famous horse stud into a deep, deep hole. Five years I’ve been digging it out. Slowly. Carefully. And now … I am risking it all. Risking Merindah Park on a stallion. Tsuyoi Red, runner up in the Japan Derby last year.

Now is not the time to get distracted by a gorgeous, pragmatic veterinarian.

Toshiko Sato

I’m at a crossroads in my life. Though my father encouraged me to follow my dreams and become an expert veterinarian, he left our family’s horse farm, Tomikusa, to my younger brother. My family expects me to honour my father’s wishes and marry a neighbour-a perfectly nice man who I don’t feel any spark with at all. But my own ability to bet-successfully-on horse races has given me options.

This decision would be easier if I didn’t feel the wicked chemistry hovering between me and the handsome, broad-shouldered Australian that my brother has decreed I will travel with to Australia to look after an injured horse. I’m usually so good at calculating the odds. But how do I choose between losing my place in my family, and losing myself?

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Renée Dahlia is an unabashed romance reader who loves feisty women and strong, clever men. Her books reflect this, with a side-note of dark humour. Renée has a science degree in physics. When not distracted by the characters fighting for attention in her brain, she works in the horse racing industry doing data analysis and writing magazine articles. When she isn’t reading or writing, Renée wrangles a partner, four children, and volunteers on the local cricket club committee as well as for Romance Writers Australia.

Q.  What sentences in writing have changed your life?

That’s an incredibly esoteric question! There is a sentence in a Lisa Kleypas book (A Wallflower’s Christmas) that I credit with giving me the idea to attempt to write a romance novel. I’d written non-fiction for over a decade, when I read this. I complained one day that I’d read all the books in the house, and there was nothing new at the bookshop, and Matthew challenged me to try writing one of my own.

Q. What is the best opening sentence you have written?

I have a soft spot for the opening sentence in The Heart of a Bluestocking (http://books2read.com/u/3yD16v).

It perfectly sums up the heroine, Claire.

‘No,’ Claire said emphatically. ‘I don’t owe you my time.’ She lifted her chin a fraction and glared at her father. He stared back with those astute eyes.

Q.     Best closing scene, you have written?

I enjoyed writing the epilogue to the Merindah Park series – it gives the reader one last taste of all the characters, as well as a nod to the success of one of the horses whose stories are threaded through the series.

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Loss, Love, Redemption and a Miracle on Four Hooves.

I’ve been to Scotland before, as has Mel. That doesn’t stop us from being struck afresh by the beauty of the lochs and mountains.

The drive from Inverness up to Lairg is every bit as challenging as Sadie found it when she first arrived, except that it’s summer and there is no sheep auction due for some time.

Epona Lairg Michelle Dalton Author

I’ve accompanied Mel, (my partner in writing all things steampunkerish and my fellow BookBaybZ) to interview Sadie Munro, heroine and horse whisperer extraordinaire, the main character of my new bestselling release Epona.

We pull up to a large stone mansion. Scaffolding hugs its west wing. The beautifully manicured garden sports summer blooms and emerald green grass. The front door opens and out steps a woman I know almost as well as I know myself.

“You made it!” She smiles bringing together her hands beneath her chin as her fiery curls hug her cherry cheeked face. They emphasise eyes as green as the manicured lawn.

“Please to meet you.” Mel walks up and holds out her hand.

“Any friend on Mich’s…” She wraps a warm hug around Mel.

“Good to see you again.” I squeeze her shoulder before stepping inside the wide open entrance of Saorsa.

 

 

 

“How are Nan and Oupa?” I ask as she waves us toward her study.

“Oh very well. They are in town, meeting with the council, then they are going to play bridge with friends.” Sadie smiles and the enitre room lights up. “Come sit down, Giles will be in shortly with some tea and some of Mrs Perkins home-made short bread.”

“That’s nice.” Mel smiles when a greying gentleman in a suit walks in, tray in hand, and places it down on the table before us.

“Well don’t mind me,” I sit back with a steaming cup of Oolong, “Mel knows what she wants to ask.

Mel fires up her trusty iPad and nibbles on her lip, apparently unsure where to start.

“It’s been quite a journey for you, Sadie, and I’m not just referring to the hills. How have you been getting on?”

“It’s been interesting. Good, not easy but we’re happy… I’m happy, thanks.”

“You met your neighbour, Blane, under less than ideal circumstances. Do you think that’s why things were a bit tense between you?”

Sadie sits back in her chair hugging her cup of tea as she considers Mel’s question. The green of her eyes sharpen as a soft blush caresses the freckles on her face.

“Yes and no. It’s hard to see past the trauma when you sitting plum in the middle of it. I think the fact that his presence reminded me there was still good in the dark world I was lost in. It scared me, still does some days.”

Epona Michelle Dalton Author

I nod and bite into my biscuit. “Gosh these are good.”

“Leave one for me.” Mel looks at me over the rim of her glasses. I answer with a cheeky grin.

“Have you always had a connection to horses?”

“Since I can remember. Theirs were the first voices I heard as a child. They’re mighty and majestic, I often shudder to think I nearly pushed them away from my life.”

“Starting over in a new place seems like such a great thing to do. But that’s not your experience, is it?”

“I guess it helped that I arrived with no expectations. I was a hollow shell when I knocked on Munro Manor’s front door. It’s strange, like the soul of a horse who knows her kind, I knew I’d come home. I mean Africa was home, but she expelled me, and Scotland opened up her arms as though she knew I’d return to her someday.”

“Was there a moment when you turned a corner and saw a future, after all the grief of the past?”

Sadie swallows hard, leans forward and places her cup on the tray then places her elbows on her knees and looks Mel dead in the eye.

“The night Epona found me. But as humans, I guess we’re always turning corners aren’t we?”

“Thanks for your time and the great shortbread.” Mel smiles as she sits back and tucks in to her tea and biscuit.

“It’s such a pleasure. Please come back anytime.” Sadie replies.

EPONA

Michelle Dalton Author Epona Romance Womens Fiction BookBaybZ

Can Sadie overcome the trauma of her past and find redemption in the wild Scottish Highlands?

After a horrendous attack on her family farm in South Africa takes the lives of her loved ones and leaves her wounded, her only escape is to leave the country of her birth for the highlands of Scotland and her last living relatives. But Sadie’s life may still be in danger.
Blane Buchan is an Englishmen living in the small highland town of Lairg, seeking a life away from the emptiness of London society and a past he’d rather forget.

When Sadie finds a mysterious blue roan mare, she must use the gift given to her from Epona; Protector of horses. But the mare just might be the one who saves her.

From the mountains of South Africa to the wintry Highland Moors this is a story of redemption, love and the powerful connection between humans and horses.

Epona Michelle Dalton Author BookBaybZ Bestseller

 

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Cherry Blossoms, Umbrellas, and Heroes in Tutus.

About the Book

Literary Crush Publishing brings you a new spring anthology with four brand new sweet romance stories each written around the theme: April Showers.

 

About Your Story Jayne Kingsley

Cherry On Top

Adeline Miller has just accepted her dream job coordinating the final event of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, but being back opens up old wounds she’d rather keep buried.

Mason Smith knows he’d be nothing without Clarise and Jeffery Miller. They fostered him when he was a teenager and gave him a chance. But he knows, better than anyone, that he is to blame for the rift between them and their only daughter, Adeline.

A young love that wasn’t to be, can Mason now prove he’s worth the risk? Is Adeline ready, finally, to admit why she ran away, and by doing so achieve everything she wants in life and love?

Jayne Kinglsey

Jayne Kingsley writes contemporary romance filled with fashionable and fun heroines and hunky heroes. She holds a Bachelor of Design – Fashion and Textiles and spent 12 years working in the Fashion industry before hanging up her stilettos (temporarily) for life as a mum.

Q. Have you ever read the ending of a book after only reading the first few chapters? If no, why, if yes…why? 

Yes, either to find out who the real hero is or to check there is a happy ending, I don’t like books that don’t have an obvious happy ending. Having just read Stella’s answer I might hide now though 🙂

Excerpt from Cherry on Top

                                “Adeline?” A soft voice sounded behind her.

Oh no.

He wasn’t supposed to be here. She’d checked the guest list. Twice. His name wasn‘t there, which was the only reason she’d ticked yes to coming tonight.

Taking a deep breath, she turned on the spot; the air whooshing out as her eyes met whiskey brown depths. She stared, unable to pull her focus away before a slight bump from behind and distant apology flicked the switch back on her brain. Taking another sip of her glass she realized she’d finished it. Well done Addie, not quite the sophisticated image she’d been hoping to project. Mason signaled a waiter, taking her empty glass and replacing it with a full one, his fingers brushing hers with a whisper touch, yet she still felt the sizzle all the way to her heart…

 

About Your Story Stella Quinn

The Umbrella Diaries

Duncan needs a hero — he just isn’t expecting her to turn up on his front porch under a tattered red umbrella.

Marianne needs a new venue for her dance school to escape the unwanted attentions of a creepy groundsman, so the For Let advertisement in the newspaper seems like a lucky omen. Enquiries to 241 Hope Street, Cathedral Springs, between four and five pm, today only.

She plucks an umbrella from the stand in the hallway and sets off for make her enquiry. Her dance school business means everything to her; since the injury which destroyed her career, it’s the only dream for her future she has left. And today, she’s feeling lucky.

Duncan doesn’t leave his house. Not today, not yesterday, not since he left the hospital all those months ago with steel pins holding his leg together and the words of a dying teenager imprinted forever on his brain.

Turns out, he doesn’t mind living grumpy and alone in his big old house. At least, that’s what he’s been telling himself.

But then one day a young ballet teacher knocks on his door and pirouettes her way straight into his heart. Duncan’s going to have to find the courage to forgive himself if he wants a chance at living in the world again. And now he’s got a reason to try.

Stella Quinn

Believes romance, adventure and escape are the reasons we love to read. They’re also the reasons she loves to write. She’s just finished a trio of holiday romance novels:  Tropic Storm, Stowaway, which came second in the RWA Emerald Award for best unpublished manuscript in 2018, and Island Fling, which won the coveted Valerie Parv Award in 2018. She is thrilled her novella, The Umbrella Diaries, is being published in Literary Crush Publishing’s 2019 April Showers anthology, and she has a short story, Beneath The Waves, published in an RWA Australia anthology.

Q. What sentences in writing have changed your life? 

Some poetry lines have stuck with me over the years. “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gire and gymble in the wabe”, from Jabberwocky – I love this because it’s nonsense, but the heft and hew of it still manages to convey voice and imagery. Another is from a poem by Alfred Noyes: “The highwayman came riding, riding, riding; the highwayman came riding, upon a moonlit shore”, which I love for the sheer romance of it. Horse manes ruffling in a sea breeze, the thunder of their hooves … wonderful. There are heaps more, but those lines have been circling in my brain for decades.

Excerpt from Umbrella Diaries

Tuesday it was raining. Not that he was watching for her, because why would he be? He just happened to be at the window, that’s all. Purple leggings. Black boots with a heel that seemed a tad reckless given the icy conditions of the sidewalk. A coat of – what was that color? Grass green? Pea green? Frog green?

And today’s umbrella was tartan, like the tins of shortbread he remembered from the pantry when he was a boy. She’ll put the umbrella down to come through the gate, he thought. Then he’d see her face. But she put down the knapsack she brought with her each day to work instead. Dropped a hand over the latch and was through and out of sight before he could finish the thought. Not to worry. It couldn’t rain all week, and then she’d have no need of an umbrella. He could wait until the next day. He was good at waiting.

Connect with with these gorgeous Authors

Stella Quinn

I’d love it if readers could subscribe to my newsletter so I can let them know about all the upcoming releases I have scheduled for 2019.

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Jayne Kingsley

As Stella has said, I’d love if readers would like to subscribe to my newsletter to stay in touch, sign up even comes with a free short story!

WEBSITE

Thank You for taking the time to chat to us about your writing and your book.

Stella: Thank YOU Michelle and Melanie xxxxxx

JK: Thank you for having us lovely ladies! xxx

Guts, Glory, and a Forever Broken Heart.

With a sun so hot it bleached the blue from the sky, the heat lay on west Texas like an unwanted blanket. It was August, close to the end of a summer that would go down in the books. The hottest day, the longest dry spell, the highest temperature in downtown Odessa. On and on, a litany of heat that someone, sometime would pull out and say, “and on this day in 2018 …”

“Damn weathermen,” Casey spat and kicked the caliche with a boot. “Sum-bitch said it would maybe storm.” He kicked backward with the heel of his right boot, and again, and once more. There was nary a mark left on that hardened ground by that hard heel of his boot. This time of year the ground was like concrete.

“Even worse this year. All the storms go north or south. Some kind of current, ninja or ninny I think they call it,” he mumbled to himself.

He looked to the east, to the caprock shimmering and wavering in the heat on the distant horizon. To the north and south, all he saw was heat rising. To the west, nothing but a great roaring dust devil. “Damn weathermen.”

“Hey there, Mr. Bugs,” he said to the jackrabbit he could see hunkered down by the tumbleweed to his left. “Don’t think you need to worry ‘bout rattlers. No self-respecting snake would be out in this heat.”

Casey walked on, steel blue eyes shaded by his straw cowboy hat. His boots crunched and cracked on the hard-baked caliche. Eyes wrinkled from years spent squinting into a west Texas sky, he continued on his way, just an old man out for a stroll.

“Ain’t it wonderful, Mr. Bugs. In west Texas, you can be the tallest and the smallest, and both at the same time. Grandpa Leander used to tell me that and then that jolly old man laughed with that wonderful laugh he had. Lost him sixty years ago back in June. I miss that old man.”

A smile creased Casey’s face; a pleasant smile, full of life and laughter. “Hell, I am that old man,” and his grin broadened.

He removed his hat and revealed a pale forehead, with silver wisps of hair plastered to the temples from rapidly evaporating sweat. He yanked his kerchief from his hip pocket, wiped his brow, wiped the brim of his hat, bent down and wiped a spot on his left boot. He stood, wiped his forehead again leaving a smudge of dust from his boot, plopped his hat back on his head, wadded up the kerchief, and returned it to his hip pocket.

He squinted his eyes against the glare of that August sun and held a right hand up to block what the brim of his hat didn’t. Up ahead was what he sought. He passed the gnarled and bent mesquite tree, and the ground fell away for a spell. Casey walked down the slope, and to the old boundary of a cracked and dried-up pond. He stood silent, remembering friends, family, and fun times around this watering hole.

Ahead was the same mesquite log that had been there for, “nigh onto ta seventy years, I guess,” Casey said to Mr. Bugs. He stepped over it and sat.

Then he got an itch and a twitch and stood, walked back to the mesquite while unbuttoning his fly to do the mandatory business all the boys had to do. Watering the mesquite, they had called it. Today, it took a while. “Hell, I can remember when I could knock the bark off that damn tree.” He settled for a wee stream and a dribble. A shake, only one, and buttoned up. The mandatory business done, he walked back to the log and sat back down.

Shadows stretched, and the sun began its journey downward. A hawk took to the pale skies and screamed from on high. Mr. Bugs skittered away into other tumbleweeds. Casey sat, remembering a pond and blue water reflecting white puffy clouds. A dust devil interrupted his reverie. It dashed across the pond, whirled around Casey and lifted his hat from his head. Casey made a grab, grumbled, rose and chased his sombrero. Catching it near the mesquite, he plopped it back on his head and strode down the slope and into the middle of the dried up pond.

He turned to leave when a metallic glint caught his eye. The dust devil had cleared the middle of the pond of loose sand, and something bright and shiny winked at him. Casey walked over and scuffed the ground with his boots, and kicked up something gold and blue. He picked it up, knocked the dirt off and looked in wonder at a Medal of Honor.

“How,” he said, as he wandered back to the log. He sat, tilted his hat back, scratched his forehead, and pondered the enigma he held in his hand.

Clouds and shadows passed and the sun dropped towards the horizon. He heard boots crunching dry ground behind him. He noticed the shadows were far longer than he expected.

“Pop? You ok? It’s on to dark and we got worried.”

“Sorry, Bobbie. Got sidetracked. Recognize this?” He tossed the medal to his son. Bobbie fumbled it a bit but caught it, and examined it.

“Not engraved. Know whose it is?”

“Yeah. Used my phone to run the serial number through the database. It’s Chucks.”

“Chuck? Uncle Chuck?”

“Yeah.”

“How did his medal get in the pond?”

“That is what distracted me. When did this pond last have water in it?”

“I dunno. Five, mebbe six years. Old man Hawkins rerouted his irrigation and this pond wasn’t needed for runoff anymore.”

“Thought so. ‘Bout the time Chuck visited me that last time.” Casey looked around. “It’s late, Dottie’s going to be pissed at me.” He lurched as he leaned forward and winced. “Damn it. Gimme a hand, will ya, Bob.”

The younger man took his father’s hand and steadied him as the old man rose from the log. “Knee,” Bob asked.

“Yeah. Sat too long with my butt too low.” He walked a step or two, shook his right knee out a bit, then started up the slope from the log with a diminishing limp.

“There ain’t nothing you could do to get my wife mad at you.”

“Well, it’s rude …”

Bob interrupted. “I know. It’s rude to not be on time if someone took the time to make you a meal. You and Mom drilled that into me and my siblings.” The two of them walked into an evening not much cooler than the afternoon had been. The sun-soaked caliche radiated all that heat back into the evening.

Dinner was ready when they arrived. The conversation around dinner retold tales of horney toad hunting by Bobbie Jr. The trip to town with Momma was told by Susan.

“If you folks don’t mind, I’ll be on the patio.” As he walked from the table, Casey heard Bob explain things to Dottie. He sat in his comfortable lawn chair, rammed a hand down his Levi’s and pulled that medal out of the depths of the pocket. His fingers traced the surface.

“We were planning to churn up some ice cream,” he heard Dottie call from the door. “Too hot to be baking anything.”

“That sounds good. Bring it on out.”

Everyone scurried about getting the wooden bucket, dropping the bags of ice on the patio concrete, finding the salt, and then at last Dottie bringing out the canister and setting it down in the wooden bucket. He let Bob supervise the churning. A layer of ice. Liberal rock salt. More ice. More salt. Then the affixing of the crank and handle, plastic bags, newspaper, and a blanket on top, followed by a young butt to hold it all in place.

Bob turned the churn towards himself and began cranking, tickling his daughter a time or two to make her giggle. Then there was silence. Susan, the butt on the churn, started to speak but Bob hushed her, “Shush. Not right now baby. Pop, can you tell us about the medal?”

Casey sat silent, fingering the object in question. His grandson walked to him and climbed up on a knee, and just looked at the gold pentagon in his grandfather’s hand. “Sure,” Casey said and seemed to set straighter with a bit of resolve.

“I can’t say for sure how it got in the pond but the time fits. Remember the last time Chuck came to visit me?”

Heads nodded around the circle, Bob cranked the ice cream, and a coyote yipped from the fields.

“He and I made several trips down to the pond and mostly just did what we did as kids. Sit and spit, and skip rocks across the pond. And talked. We talked a lot about our military life, and Ted’s. Ted had been the first to die. Didn’t even know what hit him. Lost a lot of good men that day in that valley.” He looked at his grandson, and said, “his grave is one you set flags on.”

“Theodore P. Brookes, 1st Lieutenant, 2nd Troop, 1st of the Third Calvary,” Bobbie Jr recited.

“That’s right,” Casey said. “You want me to turn that a while?”

“Nope,” Bob replied, “your job is to tell us about Uncle Chuck.”

“Guess we never have talked much about it.”

“Pop, it’s the only thing you never have talked about. Think maybe it’s time?”

Silence lay on the patio for a bit. The rusty churn creaked, the canister rushed and swished through icy water, and another coyote yip-yip-yipped, followed by the squeal of a rabbit. Life, Casey thought. You live, and then you die. He continued his story.

“I remember the last time Chuck was here. He wandered off to the pond by himself. We hadn’t lost Martha yet, and she told me she had seen him wandering down that way. When I got there, he was on his knees, sobbing. I squatted down, put an arm around him. All I could hear him saying was, ‘I couldn’t save him, Casey. Half of him just wasn’t there.’”

“Damn,” Casey stopped and looked at his daughter-in-law. “Dottie, you want the kids to hear this?”

“Casey, these kids watch the news with Bobbie and me. They ask questions, we answer. We don’t hide the world from them. I think they will be alright.”

Looking at the brown eyes of his grandson, he hugged Bobbie Jr close and gently stroked the head of his granddaughter.

“I think before I got there, he had skipped this across the pond,” Casey whispered, holding up the medal. “We did not do anymore rock skippin’ till he left, and he didn’t throw it any other time.”

“But why …” Dottie started to say.

“He never wanted it. Not because he didn’t think he earned it. Hell, anybody in that valley on that day earned and deserved that medal.”

“You were there,” Bob said.

“Yup, and I wrote citations for many medals for several men in my platoon. Chuck did not want it because of who he left in that valley, not who he brought out.”

“Dottie,” Bob said, helping Susan down and removing the newspaper and blankets from the ice cream churn. “I think the cream is set. We ready to uncork this?”

Bright eager young eyes focused on the contents of the wooden bucket and churn. Bowls were passed out, and everyone received heaping helpings of cold deliciousness. Silence reigned for a few minutes as the sweetness of a summer treat was savored, enjoyed, and shared. Seconds for Bob, Bobbie, and Susan. Dottie got the paddle. Casey sat back and enjoyed his family more than the ice cream. At last, it was all hands chipping in to clean up. Bowls and churn took to the kitchen, dishwasher loaded and started.

At last, everyone returned to the patio, Casey again with his grandson on his lap. Susan sat next to her father on one side, and Dottie next to her husband on the other. Casey and Bobbie Jr sat in the comfortable chair to the left of everyone.

“You want to continue, Pop? You don’t have to, ya know,” Bob said.

“I know.” Casey pulled his kerchief out, blew his nose, and dabbed his eyes. “Sorry about that, Grandson.”

“S’ok, Grandpa.”

“Nope, folks I think I need to. For me, yes, and also for Chuck. He didn’t want that blasted medal,” and Casey fell silent again, finding it difficult to swallow.

“Pop, why didn’t you get that medal,” Dorothy asked. Bob squeezed her hand, not in a deprecating manner, but in a manner that said thank you for asking the question I wanted to ask.

“I told them no. I lost too many men in that valley. Went in with 45. Came back with 12.” Silence, again.

“God, I lost so many.” The kerchief again. “I didn’t think, and I still don’t, that a platoon leader that lost over half of his men deserved it. I heard battalion was putting me in for it and I flatly told them, ‘Hell, no!’ Chuck would have done the same, but he was hospitalized and out of it for nearly a month. By the time he knew what was going on, he had the award. As I told him, you can’t un-award that medal, not with honor.”

“But why didn’t he want it?” Bob said. “From what I read in his citation, more than anyone, he deserved it. He saved that pilot and many of the men in his platoon just by his leadership. One sidebar I read said his platoon went to Battalion with the nomination.”

“He didn’t want it for the one person he could not save.” Casey paused, torn about what he was about to tell them. “A lot of things have changed since those days. It was decades before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I knew in high school that Chuck and Ted had something going on.”

Dottie gulped, started to usher the kids out when she caught Bob’s eye. He was telling her no. She thought about it, sat back, and agreed with her husband. She saw Casey looking at her. “Go on Casey. Please.”

Big eyes and big ears caught the exchange going on between the adults, turned it over in their young minds as they looked at each other, and Susan said what Bob Jr was wondering. “Unca Chuck was gay.”

There, it’s out. They know Chuck, maybe knew all along, Casey thought.

“Yes, Susan, Uncle Chuck was gay.” To Bob and Dottie, he said, “Ted was the co-pilot in that chopper. The RPG that took out the chopper, cut him in half. Chuck had to leave him behind.”

Now Dottie gasped. Eyes welled with tears as she said, “Oh no.”

Casey paused for a moment as the sun dipped below the horizon and lit the western sky in ochre and gold.

“The one man he wanted to save, over all those that he did save, was the one man he could not save.”

 

 

 

The Wild Wild West and a chat with a Hot Cowboy!

It’s a dusty afternoon; Mel and I are exhausted from the flight.

“I never drink beer, but I tell ya, one would sure as hell go down a treat about now.” I whinge as we plod into the local waterhole in Marietta.

“I hope they have decent tea.” Mel tries for a smile.

We amble up to the counter and a tall woman greets us. She is brisk and confidence. This is clearly her place. Her eyes are the colour of toasted barley. Chestnut hair with streaks of grey running through it is tied up out of the way.

“G’day y’all. Can see you ain’t from around here. What can I get ya?” Her smiles highlights the twinkle in her sharp gaze as Mel leans on the counter.

“An Earl Grey and a beer, please.”

The woman rubs her chin, “Can do for both, though I’ve never had such a strange order before.” She chuckles as she types our request in to the electronic till and I pay.

“So, what are two gals like you looking for in Marietta?”

“Nate Hansen,” is all I say as I turn around and squint at my fellow patrons, all drinking, eating and socialising.

“Hey Nate! There’re two ladies here looking for ya! Thought you’d gone and changed your ways.” The bar tender shouts out across the establishment to a man sitting in the farthest corner sipping from a mug. Both Mel and I jump.

Nate looks up from his table, “Hey, darlin’, now don’t be like that.” He shakes his head. Clearly it is an old joke between them.

The lady chuckles then looks at us, “I’ll brings yer drink over to ya.” She nods in Nate’s direction.

Nate rises from his seat and holds out a hand in greeting. “Take no note of her. She loves to remind me of the past.”

Mel takes it in hers, “No worries. Please to meet you.”

And then I do the same, “All good. How are you?”

“Nice to meet you both. I was intrigued when Ann called to let me know she’d arranged the interview.”

Nate is a man who has the whole ‘tall dark and handsome’ thing doing him all kinds of favours. His grip is frim and the callouses on his hands speak of hard work. But the scars on his face tell of some risky business too.

“Nice town.” I say as I sit down. Mel pulls out her iPad and its small keypad.

“Yeah. Been here my whole life.”

“You were born here?” I ask as I shift in the hard chair.

“Nope. Ma brought me and my two brothers here to live with my grandfather when we were younger. Never left.” He reaches for his mug of half-drunk coffee just as the bar lady arrives with our drinks.

“Do your brothers still live in Marietta?” I ask, then sip the ice-cold beer. Its bitter bubbles rush down my throat and wash away the dust and exhaustion of travel.

“Jethro took over the ranch when the old man got too weak to run it. He’s a good man. Set his life straight to help our grandfather out, better than I ever was.” A look of regret and shame crosses Nate’s dark eyes.

“I hope you don’t mind me saying,” Mel looks up from her screen and reaches for her cup of tea, “But you seem to harbour a lot of guilt?”

Nate sighs as he leans forward on the table. He pins us both down with a gaze that could melt underwear in two seconds flat!

“I’ve got a lot to make right. Spent my whole life blaming everyone and everything for losing our mother. I need to grow up, stop hurtin others. Hardest part is changing my reputation.”

“The one she eluded to earlier,” I point a thumb back over my shoulder in the bar lady’s direction.

Nate nods.

“Yeah. Had a bad habit of pickin fights, drinkin too damn much and waking up in a different bed each mornin. It ain’t a life I want to live. But now I have a reason to change.”

“And what’s that reason?” I ask, then take another large gulp of the bitter beer.

“Our Grandpa died before I could show him I was the man he wanted me to be.” I glance at Mel as we both note the deep regret and hurt which hugs the edges of Nate’s tone.

“I can see family means a lot to you, Nate.” Mel across her keyboard.

“Family. It’s everything!” His gaze shifts from that of a lost little boy to a man.

“So, do you work on the ranch with your brother?”

Nate leans back in his chair, pulling his hands through his dark hair as a grin spreads across his face. The smile speaks volumes and the twinkle which brightens his gaze tells of love, hope and good things.

“Nah, I work for Joy. She’s my… Read the book will ya.”

“I can’t help but notice the look of happiness in your eyes when you mention her.” Mel cocks her head.

Nate proffers a grin that has every buckle bunny in towns, knees turning to jelly.

“Well, Thanks for the chat Nate.” I reach out and shake his hand as Mel packs up her stuff.

“Pleasure.” Ever the gentleman, he stands to see us out.

 

About the Book

Nate Hansen desperately needs a reboot to his playboy image that doesn’t involve women, drinking and fighting. Rehabilitation and building a solid future proves elusive as he can’t land a permanent job until someone mentions local widow Joy Mitchell who’s advertising a full-time ranch job. Perfect.

Joy Mitchell is desperate for a ranch hand to help keep her dead husband’s legacy alive out of the greedy grasp of her manipulative father-in-law. Nate’s reputation precedes him, none of it good, but the ranch is running on empty, and Joy make the hard choice. Problem is the job she’s offering isn’t exactly what Nate had planned.

Nate knows what its like to lose everything, but seriously, become a mail-order groom? But Joy won’t or can’t compromise.

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Making wingspan in a wind-tossed world

My new romance, Grounded, is set in an alternative reality where human beings have wings – by my protagonists can’t fly.

My initial world-building entailed working out how buildings, furniture, clothes, transport and physiognomy worked, and then how that affected Clementine and Benedick, my couple looking for their Happy Ever After.

It soon became clear, though, that another aspect of a reality where most people can fly is how that would affect language. Every community and culture has its slang terms, its metaphors, its insults and in-jokes.

Creating a wing-related vernacular became one of my favourite aspects of writing Grounded, and in fact gave me my favourite metaphor for its theme.

Clementine Torres is an artist who was born without wings, which makes her quite tiny in a world where most others take up room with the span of the wings as well as the height of their bodies.  It’s easy for Clementine to be overlooked and people often bump into her.

Clementine is determined to be seen, however. She uses her art and her words to make ‘wingspan’.

Born wingless, she’d never known what it was to fly, but on days like this Clementine knew exactly what it would feel like. It was a rush in the blood, the flavour of air and sound, the uplift of beauty beyond the ordinary, the luminescent spark of life in commonplace things. And okay, maybe that’s not what flying really was, but Clementine didn’t care. This was her wingspan, the way she spread her metaphorical wings and soared through the world, capturing a part of it rarely seen by the winged.

 

The concept of ‘wingspan’ is only the beginning of course. So many aspects of life can be rendered with an apt bird-related metaphor.  In this alternative world, the inhabitants of Australis don’t have eBay, they use Magpie; they have a search engine called Echolocater instead of Google. And if you break the law, you end up in the Cage rather than the Clink.

People who fly would make reference to the elements, I thought. When people are feeling chirpy (aha!) they say they are ‘sunshiney with loads of lift’.  If things are going poorly, they’re ‘a sun-blighted mess’.

‘Sun blister it,’ they’ll snarl if they want to swear,  or they’ll refer to ‘sunblistering featherheads’.

Humans will forever find insults for other humans, and the Grounded world has its share of ‘entitled featherweights’, ‘feather-pluckers’ and ‘storm-blighted buzzards’, as well as ‘squawkers’ with a lot of flap but no lift.

There are the really nasty insults too. Crawler and grub are both pejorative terms for people who can’t fly, but in turn, fliers can be called ‘flappers’ –  a term for a ‘vapid winged idiot’.’ More flap than glide’ says one character, offended by the use of ‘crawler’.

Benedick uses the insult against himself in a fit of  self-recrimination:

‘Wind-blighted, feather-plucked, useless flapper,’ he cursed himself then stopped, shuddering, drawing heaving breaths.

He was not having a good day. Luckily, his brother Peri is good at teasing him back to good humour. Peri says Benedick is ‘so chill, like a crow in a blizzard’. He also calls him a stern old puffin.

Clementine is the type to not give a cold, salty crosswind what anybody thinks, while Benedick sometimes feels a-tumble, like a wind-tossed sparrow.

In the end, though, these two lovebirds will find ways to give each other lift and wingspan, and metaphorically fly into a golden sunset.

 

 

Narrelle M Harris

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I’ve written over 30 novels and short stories, published in Australia, US and the UK. My award nominations include Fly By Night (Ned Kelly Award), Witch Honour and Witch Faith (the George Turner Prize), and Walking Shadows (Chronos Awards; Davitt Awards). My ghost/crime story Jane won the Athenaeum Library’s “Body in the Library” prize at the 2017 Scarlet Stiletto Awards.

My spec-fic het romance, Grounded, is out on 20 March 2019 with Escape Publishing, but I also write vampire novels, erotic spy adventures, het and queer romance, traditional Holmesian mysteries, and Holmes/Watson romances. On Patreon, I write the Duo Ex Machina series of M/M romance crime novellas. Number One Fan is currently being serialised there and will be on general release in around May.

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Grounded Blurb

In a world where flight is life, will two grounded people find other ways to fly?

When Benedick Sasaki’s wings are wounded in the line of duty, the former policeman doesn’t know if he has a place in a world where he can no longer fly.

The seductive truth about neighbours and Win!

 

Law & Disorder

by Liv Arnold

Lawyer Juliet Jackson has come head to head with Sergeant Jesse Burns on numerous occasions in court. He is provoking. Pigheaded. Punch-worthy. They don’t get along. Not one little bit. The unfortunate fact he’s also her next-door neighbour sends her loathing off the charts. But when Juliet’s caught locked outside her home in nothing but a skimpy towel, she must swallow her pride and turn to Jesse for help. She doesn’t expect the explosive chemistry between them and can’t help but wonder if Jesse’s as demanding in the bedroom as he is in the courtroom.

 

Law & Disorder by Liv Arnold

About Law & Disorder

I’ve watched the TV show Neighbours since I was a child. I used to come home from school, get changed, have a snack then sit down and watch. I love the community behind the storylines and the more light-hearted moments. So, I thought it would be a fun idea to have the heroine and hero as neighbours, but spice things up a little.

Liv Arnold AuthorAbout Liv

Liv Arnold has worked as a copywriter for several global companies and now runs her own freelance business. She grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and lives with her husband and their spoiled dog, who only eats freshly cooked meals. When she’s not writing, Liv’s avoiding the gym, devouring a cheese platter, or marathoning way too much TV. And of course, she’s a massive book addict and often reads until all hours of the night.

 

Q. What sentences in writing have changed your life?

That’s a hard one. There’re no sentences that spring to mind. I found The Kite Runner written so beautifully. So much so in another book I’m writing, The Kite Runner is the main character’s favourite book.

Q. Which book left you empty inside once you finished writing it?

Haven’t had that feeling so far. I’m so relieved when I finish my book and want to get stuck into the editing and my next book. I get distracted easily and work on multiple projects at once.

Q. What is the best opening sentence you have written?

I’m drafting a YA fantasy romance that moves at a fast pace. Every chapter ends on a cliff-hanger and I tried to build intrigue from the first sentence with: How to Tell the Difference Between a Regular Mirror and a Two-way Surveillance Mirror?

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Q. Have you ever read the ending of a book after only reading the first few chapters? If no, why, if yes…why?

I hardly ever do that because I like to read from start to finish. I read an erotica though called The Awakening of Sleeping Beauty. I usually don’t read erotica (must have a romance in the story for me), so I read the first few chapters and the end. Was curious if the main character escaped being a slave and if she got her HEA.

Q. What don’t you want to see in a well-written villain that happens frequently?

A villain that has no clear internal conflicts or motivation. There’s also so many clichés that comes with villains – they’re ugly, they wear dark colours, there’s nothing relatable about them. I love 3D characters where the reader might end up sympathising with the villain’s cause.

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Q.Who is the best villain you have written to date?

In my next book, Etched in Stone, I’ve written a Constable character who’s a little bit of a villain. Well she causes a lot of trouble for the main characters anyway through blackmail, abuse of power and threats. She stops at nothing to achieve what she wants to get her justice, but she has strong motives.

Q.Best closing scene, you have written?

My closing scenes usually has a little bit of humour in them or a twist at the end. Hard to explain without giving the ending away. For example, my short story The Commander and the Beast which was in the finals for the Monash Short Story Competition: Read it Here

This story was my first that placed in a competition and it ends with a twist that hopefully people wouldn’t have seen coming.

Competition Time

BookBaybZ and Liv Arnold Author

To win a copy of Law & Disorder, please follow my page www.facebook.com/livarnoldauthor and message me telling me you’ve followed. Winner will be drawn on 31 March 2019.

 

 

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