Friday, 29 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from "Win's War"

Thanks so much for supporting Jackie during her spotlight week. Leave a comment today, Saturday, Sunday on the excerpt and I'll pick a lucky poster to win an Amazon GC from Jackie. Enjoy the Excerpt!

Moderator Steph


"They're going to do what for Fourth of July?" Win Johnston strained against the machine that exercised his thighs.

"They're going to have a ceremony here at the hospital the Saturday before," the Marine facing him said as he worked a dumbbell up and down with his remaining arm under the watchful eye of Karl, one of the physical therapists. "The brass thinks it will be good P. R. for people to see us wounded warriors."

Win said a word that wasn't on the list of acceptable comments by a first lieutenant. He'd said a lot of those words in the months since he'd lost his legs in Afghanistan.
Nobody had complained until he'd arrived home at Naval Medical Center San Diego.
That's when physical therapist Emily Fisher had entered his life. Her shapely blonde façade and sweet smile hid a drill sergeant who expected him to shape up without complaint and especially without profanity.

"Is it a command performance?" he asked Snipe, thinking the man would probably need a new nickname now that he'd lost his dominant arm.

"Will be for you." Snipe snickered. "Poor marine. Lost both legs, lost his father in Desert Storm."

Win grabbed a ball and bounced it off Snipe's bean.

Snipe and Karl, laughed. "And it don't hurt that you're movie star handsome from the knees up."

"Guess that means you're off the hook with that piss-poor mug of yours."

"Ante up." The musical voice and the jingle of coins in a jar announced the arrival of Win's nemesis. Emily Fisher held the jar in front of him.

"Piss isn't a swear word." Win did his best to look innocent. Just seeing the blush on Emily's pale skin was worth a double fine. How she'd managed to stay so innocent after working with Marines for years, he didn't know -- but he could always get a rise out of her.

She rubbed her cheek, probably thinking she was hiding the blush, but her motion only drew more attention to it.

He stared right at her and wished he could put his lips on what he figured would be the softest skin he'd ever touched. Damn if his shorts didn't get tight at the thought. At least that part of him still worked fine.

"That'll be two quarters," she said in a breathy voice he could imagine only too easily coming from her mouth as she lay on a pillow beside him.

"Sorry. No pockets in these exercise shorts." He shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, damn, I've got pockets," Snipe said.

Emily swerved and held out the jar to Snipe. He deposited a quarter with a laugh.
The money went to families of guys who hadn't come home from Afghanistan, meaning the patients cussed a lot more than they would have without the jar.

"How much longer do I have to lift this damn dumbbell? I have a cramp in my bicep," Snipe called.

Thanks, buddy.

Win waited until Emily went over to Snipe, then lifted what was left of his legs out of the machine and fitted them into his stubbies. The metal poles with square plates on the bottom didn't look much like legs, but standing on anything was way better than sitting in a chair. His stumps covered, he stood and smiled at Emily. When she returned the smile with a twinkle in her sea blue eyes, he acknowledged to himself that he didn't want her to see him as just another patient. He wanted her to acknowledge him as a man.

Vanity, thy name is Win.

Find Jackie on her blog at:

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Meet "Win Johnston" from "Win's War"

My name is Win Johnston. They call me a hero, but some of the guys and women I fought with in Afghanistan didn't come back. They're the real heroes. Then there are the people like Snipe who lost the ability to do the job he was best at or Nat Rodriguez who had her own fight even before Afghanistan. The hardest fight of my life was the one to get back on my feet and do something useful.

I love living in Southern California, too. I can still surf and take walks with Emily.

I'm the strong silent type, so I don't much like talking about myself. Still, I'm learning that talking can help things like PTSD and it really helps in a relationship. It's amazing how much Emily likes it when I tell her I love her. Talking helps in my new job, too. You'll hear more about that if you read the Christmas story. You'll also hear more about my grandfather and the woman who's teaching him to talk. I've heard more about his feelings since he met Jean than I have in years. She's a great lady and you'll want to meet her.

Author's Note: Win thinks it's hard being the strong silent type? He should have to write one.

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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Emily Fisher visits from "Win's War"

My name is Emily Fisher and I am the heroine of Win's War. Heroine. It has a nice ring to it. I work with heroes all the time at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, but I never expected to be one myself. Of course I'm a heroine in a private war, the war Win waged to get his life back because he wanted to continue being a Marine. With my help he found out how to serve his country in another way.

I love living in Southern California where the sun shines in the winter and salt air blows off the Pacific Ocean. After work I can ride a bike, walk by the beach or take Segway tour over to Coronado. Of course we do have an occasional earthquake, but no place is perfect.

Some of the other Marines I worked with at the hospital are coming to my folks' house for Christmas. Snipe will be there back from Los Angeles. Nat Rodriguez will be there looking for a new job to transition into from the Marines. You can come, too, by reading my free Christmas story available in December.

Find Jackie on her blog at:

Monday, 25 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Jackie Leigh Allen talks about the inspiration behind her latest release, "Win's War."

WIN'S WAR, is my story about a double amputee came out June 21. In San Diego County I'm constantly aware of the men and women protecting our country. Just north of me lies a huge Marine base at Camp Pendleton. South of me the Marines have Air Station Miramar. The Navy has Naval Air Station on Coronado peninsula and a submarine base on Point Loma. Then there is Naval Medical Center San Diego where a lot of my story takes place and the Veteran's Hospital in La Jolla. The Marines are building a huge new hospital at Camp Pendleton. Many of my friends either served in the military or have family members who did. We check the paper and watch TV to get the latest news on what's happening. We just christened a ship named the San Diego and built here. The population in Oceanside swells and shrinks depending on how many troops are deployed from Camp Pendleton. Reading about these brave warriors gave me the idea for a hero who has to overcome more than the usual problems of our heroes. I hope you like and respect Win as much as I do.

Find her book at:'s-War-Jackie-Leigh/Detail.bok

Friday, 22 June 2012

Thanks so much for supporting Petie during her spotlight week. Leave a comment on any of her posts during this week and you'll be entered in a random drawing to receive a PDF copy of her novel, "Everglades." Make sure you leave your email address so we can get ahold of you if you win. The winner will be announced on Monday, 25 JUN on the DB Blog and on the Yahoo Connections Loop.

Moderator Steph

That did it! The little witch!

Skye gripped the stick so hard his knuckles turned white, and the creases went blood-red. He punched down on the accelerator and threw her back in the seat.

Hah. Mess with me, will you?

His chest heaved like a bellows. Bad enough she dressed him down in front of the district boys, but in front of Jameson? He ground his teeth and swerved the airboat off to the right to pull even with the other boats and skipped the craft sideways, knowing the move would put Kayli's heart in her throat.

A black heart.

He fairly shook at the image of her wriggling her fingers forward to get him to follow like a -- he growled hard and deep -- lap dog. She had just crossed the line. A lesson she needed, and a lesson she would get. You stick together in the Glades; Wren taught him that. Sticking together did not mean control. Now he would teach her.
The boats approached a deep water channel that led to Graydon's collection sites. Skye had studied Jimmy's airboat maps for a week before this trip. Graydon had to veer left, and he would. Skye pushed the stick forward hard, and the boat veered to the right into a dangerous skate across beds of maidencane. Kayli grabbed her seat with both hands, and he felt a grin smooth his scowl. Heck, it was her fault he scowled in the first place. She would learn to stick together out here all right and not try to control things.

Or me.

The airboat flew all out across the open marsh. Enormous beds of torpedograss lay ahead, and Skye felt a shot of adrenaline spike his gut. This ought to be good.


Kayli shrieked when the airboat veered violently to the right and skated sideways across the vegetation. Totally unprepared for the maneuver, she grabbed her seat with both hands to fight the centrifugal force she feared would fling her overboard.
Snatch him bald when we stop! That's what I'll do.

The boat screamed across the open marsh, and the vegetation bowing beneath the prow turned into one long mottled blur. Landers had never driven this fast before, and Graydon had turned off, so now she was out here alone and trying desperately to swallow the clot of terror wedged in her throat.

He won't kill himself, she thought. Stay calm. He's just trying to scare you -- she grit her teeth -- and doing a darn fine job.

Huge beds of torpedograss lay ahead, and Landers must have experienced a wave of guilt for the boat backed off its breakneck speed and settled down to a hair more speed than usual.

I can handle this.

The thought no more than skiffed across her brain when the boat reached the first torpedograss bed. A thin gray cloud emerged and levitated about two feet above the water. In the span of a few seconds, Kayli's bare legs simultaneously felt dozens of pin pricks, dozens of black spots erupted on her shirt, and pin pricks stung her cheeks and arms. She glanced down in horror and watched minute insect bodies pelting her entire person. She flung a forearm in front of her face and immediately felt a dozen microscopic squishes on her skin. She yanked her camera bag up and held it like shield in front of her head and shoulders, all the while feeling like she suffered through a blinding sandstorm.

Except it's bugs, she thought with a shiver. I'm covered in bug guts.

The airboat raced on, and she feared the bug storm would never end. After several interminable minutes, the airboat shifted right, and she could see open water to the sides of the boat. The tingling sensations on her exposed skin ceased, and she knew the bug storm had ended. She lowered the camera bag to assess damages.

"Eeewwww!" she wailed beneath the din of the propeller.

The entire front of her camera bag wore a bug-gut blanket of minute wings and bodies, some still squirming. Her gaze shot down to her legs, and she wanted to scream. She could see no skin on her shins and knees, only more bug bodies twisted in instant rigor mortis with bug guts spewed out in all directions. The bottoms and sides of her elbows were covered, too, and she fought back the gag reflex in her throat. She balled her fists and refused to cry, knowing at least a million dead insects were now squished on her person.

Landers had done this on purpose. She almost twisted around to scream invectives at her torturer, but instead she gripped her seat to stifle the urge.

"Aaaahhh!" she wailed as thousands of broken insect bodies peeled off in her hands. She wiped them off on the few open spots of fabric on her shorts and took at least a dozen deep breaths to keep from flinging herself at his seat and choking the veritable life out of him.


Skye watched her attempts to discreetly wipe her hands on her shorts, and he chuckled out loud. He couldn't see the front of her, but he already knew what she looked like. Tearing through a torpedograss bed to drive up the midges was an old airboat trick and guaranteed to put a hitch in the woman's get-along. Lord knew she needed it. The muscle in his cheek twitched.

So why didn't he enjoy this more?


The airboat slowed in an open water bay surrounded by bulrushes, and the massive propeller wound down and floated to a stop. Nothing slowed Kayli's rage, as it bubbled to a blister that stretched and exploded and sent her leaping up to face Landers as close to eye level as she could get.

"You did that on purpose!" she shouted.

Landers yanked his shades up on his cap. Instead of facing her glare head on, his gaze slowly perused the indeterminate number of bug corpses which stiffened on her legs and arms in the bright afternoon sun.

Enraged beyond reason at his blatant disregard of her tantrum, she resolved to climb his pinnacle and finally snatch him bald. Her foot stretched forward and so did his. Down on the accelerator. Hard. The boat lurched. She did not. Her foot sliced through thin air, tilting her sideways and sending her careening over the edge of the boat.

She hit the water sideways, and the dark wave closed over her head. She suffered a brief spate of panic until her sneakers found purchase in the mucky bottom, and her head pushed back above the water's surface. She gasped for a lungful of air, not having the presence of mind or time to grab one on the way in. Her eyes blurred with water, and she could barely make out Landers leaning on the side of the boat. Close enough to grab her, but he didn't. She felt her hair plastered to her skull, and water trickled down her forehead and dripped off the tip of her nose. She blinked rapidly until her eyes cleared, fully expecting to see Landers' scowl or worse yet, his smirk.

She wiped the hair back from her face and froze. No scowl. No smirk.

"Prop wash," he said, the engine now silent.

She nodded. Concern flashed in his incredible green eyes. The battle ended. A draw.
Her rage had chilled when she hit the water. Maybe his had, too.

"A truce," she said and watched his eyes widen slightly.

He nodded.

She tilted her chin up. "We'll call it a draw."

Review for "Everglades:"

Romantic Times Review of EVERGLADES
Genre: Contemporary Romance, General Contemporary Romance
Sensuality: HOT
RT Rating: 4 Stars
Loaded with gators, snow-white water lotus and cypress trees, as well as an incredibly fast-moving plot with a romance that readers will not soon forget, this book definitely has a variety of pieces that all come together to form a truly entertaining story.
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor

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Buy Link for Desert Breeze Publishing:

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Petie McCarty and "Tweeners"

What is a "Tweener" exactly?

My definition for this particular colloquialism would be: a romance novel that crosses or straddles the bold line between romance genres observed by most agents and publishers.

Agents and publishers have strong feelings regarding the bold lines drawn between genres, easily rejecting those manuscripts that cannot be pigeon-holed in the accepted scope of the predetermined genre. Said agents and editors truly believe manuscripts must fit the pre-ordained curriculum of genre in order to offer a contract.

When my first book "popped" into my head and I began to write, I also began studying the publishing industry, learning both as I went. At the time, I had no idea there were close to a dozen romance genres, all I knew was the movie running in my head. Unfortunately , I started out writing "tweeners" and didn't even know it. Four manuscripts later, I couldn't find a home for any of them.

See, I thought I had a shtick for my stories -- my version of branding. I hid an angel in each story, sort of like "Touched by an Angel" except you didn't find out who the angel was until the end. I left red herrings to throw the reader off, and if I did my job right, I shocked the reader when they found out who the angel was at the finale. Made sense to me.

Made no sense to the agents who reviewed my queries.

There was no inspirational discovery of faith in my stories, so some agents rejected as not fitting the inspirational genre. Yet the stories had an angel hidden in them, so others recommended I submit to an agent who accepted paranormal. Yet paranormal agents thought the mere presence of an angel should place them in the inspirational category. You see where this was going…around in circles. The agents had to pigeon-hole. Four novels that never really had a chance to fly on their own merit -- all "tweeners."

So, I decided manuscript number five would be different. Everglades was offered to a publisher as a "sweet" contemporary romance, yet drug dealers appeared in climactic scenes and the sweet romance editors pushed the manuscript toward the romantic suspense line of the house, where the manuscript couldn't begin to squirm into the required scene-to-scene action guidelines for romantic suspense. Therefore, rejection. A nice letter: "the story is intriguing, but this is not romantic suspense." The editors were absolutely right and ignored the fact I had submitted the manuscript as contemporary romance knowing I didn't have the moment-to-moment knuckle-biting angst required for romantic suspense. Everglades ended up another "tweener" -- a contemporary romance with suspenseful elements.

Enter Desert Breeze Publishing.

Thank the good Lord. A publisher who does not draw bold lines in the sand for genres and accepts manuscripts based on the salability of the story alone -- a publisher who eagerly crosses or straddles lines because the story is accepted or rejected based on its own merit with no preconceived rules for following genre lines.

I for one am very thankful, as I do not think Everglades would have been published otherwise. I think of it as "one of those God things." I found a publisher willing to take a chance on a sweet contemporary romance with suspenseful elements.

Come on, DBP Authors, raise your hands -- how many of you have "tweeners?" And how many of you know if it hadn't been for Desert Breeze, we'd still be on the outside looking in at the published authors. I'm here on my tiptoes with my arm in the air. Everglades was a "tweener," and I've got 4 or 5 more like her back in the hopper. Thank the good Lord for forward-looking publishers like ours who read between the lines.

Thank you, DBP Authors, for spending time with me this week on my very first -- ever -- blog. As a newbie author, I've found the transition so much easier with the help and support of the DBP Author Group. You're the best.

Review for "Everglades:"

Romantic Times Review of EVERGLADES
Genre: Contemporary Romance, General Contemporary Romance
Sensuality: HOT
RT Rating: 4 Stars
Loaded with gators, snow-white water lotus and cypress trees, as well as an incredibly fast-moving plot with a romance that readers will not soon forget, this book definitely has a variety of pieces that all come together to form a truly entertaining story.
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor

Find me on the web link:

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Buy Link for Desert Breeze Publishing:

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Petie McCarty talks about her favorite movies

All of us have one all-time favorite movie, one that we have watched over and over, and no matter how many times we've seen it… if the remote finds it, we screech to a halt.

Mine is Pretty Woman. I've probably seen it 50 times, but if it's on tonight, I'll stop and watch it again. I love anything resembling a Cinderella tale [maybe because of where I work ☺] and I even have a line of novels planned to write -- not a series mind you, just a similar set of tales each with its own personal Cinderella and the first one is finished, Bloom & Grow. But that's for another blogspot.

But I digress…

Now Pretty Woman may be my favorite movie, but my favorite movie actor of all time is still John Wayne. Go figure… Not a stretch though since he's the consummate alpha male, like Skye Landers in Everglades.

My favorite course in college turned out to be an elective course. We had to pick one course from the Art and Theater curriculum, so I chose John Ford and his Movies. I thought, "How boring could it be?"

Class was on Monday night from 7 to 10, and at the very first session, the professor informed us we would be watching one John Ford movie each week and then we would critique it for plot or theme or whatever. Things were definitely looking up. I learned with great joy that John Ford's favorite actor to direct was John Wayne. Heaven was watching a John Wayne movie every Monday night and getting college credit for it!

Oops, I digressed yet again…

Now, I have a lot of favorite movies that I have watched over and over, and I've just given you two big hints as to who might be on that list of 12 or 15. So, I have a deal for you. If you will post a comment to this blogspot with your favorite movie, I will give away a free copy of Everglades to the first person who lists a favorite movie that is on my all time favorite list. No fair to put Pretty Woman, but any other movie will count, and though John Wayne is my favorite actor, not all his movies are on my list. I'll let you know who won at the end of my blog week. Thanks for joining me here.

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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Research "Everglades"

Once the story line for Everglades "popped" into my head and my scene bullets were lined up, I knew I needed to do a ton of research to avoid offending anyone in the decades-long and ongoing controversy between agriculture and environmentalists over the maintenance and fate of our beautiful Everglades.

I "created" the Everglades Water District for monitoring and restoring the Everglades, through in real life that task falls to the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District who cooperate over the CERP, or Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. If you'd like to learn more, visit

Rather than point fingers over pollution, I created the "perfect" sugar plantation owner with a zero discharge of nutrients to the River of Grass and even a co-generation plant that burned bagasse (the fibrous material left after sugar cane is crushed for the juice) as a biofuel to provide power for his plantation workers. There is an existing sugar plantation in south Florida that actually operates a co-gen.

All the invasive species mentioned -- both plant and animal -- are dead-on fact. The Everglades is one of the chief thoroughfares for invasive exotic species to enter this country from the Caribbean or South America. The government really does have a python removal program in operation and has removed over 1600 individuals.

I didn't put one in the book, but did you know an exotic toad species has invaded south Florida -- Bufo marinus -- and reaches a body weight of 5 to 6 pounds??

The research on the Seminole Tribe of Florida was the fun part. The Tribe is really made up of clans just as Skye Landers explained to Kayli, and his "panther" clan really exists. I researched the chickees at length to keep them authentic for Wren's camp in the story.

I went to high school with two full-blooded Seminoles, brothers and twins. The brothers were two of the toughest guys in school, yet the most kind-hearted and always operated with their personal code of honor. So when you meet the Robles twins about halfway through the story you'll see how my high school classmates turned out -- all grown up.

The operation of the airboat and the science part of the research was the easiest for me. A co-worker of mine, who owns his own airboat, helped me with engine specs, damage to be expected when sinking an airboat, and procedures for raising a sunken airboat. The aquatic plants and "bugs" I knew from my too-long career in aquatic biology. I spent two years of my career surveying Florida waterways by airboat and most of my career in some form of aquatic plant management. I can tell you that all of Kayli's interactions with the environment on her airboat safari (with the exception of the hunky airboat guide and the drug dealers) happened to me at some time in my career, so the narrative comes from first-hand experience.

If you decide to try the story, feel free to email me with questions about my research or experiences in the field. I love to talk "bugs."

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Monday, 18 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Petie McCarty

STEPH: I don't know much about "Everglades." What's it about?

PETIE: Environmental photographer Kayli Heddon has strong ties to the sitting governor of Florida who asks her to do a controversial and top-secret photo-essay on the Everglades Restoration which the governor intends to use to garner the environmental vote in his re-election bid. An airboat safari is set up with a Seminole airboat guide to take Kayli and her entourage deep into the River of Grass for her pictures.

Unfortunately Kayli's scheduled guide gets side-tracked and begs his cousin -- half-Seminole, half-Cuban sugar plantation owner, Skye Landers -- to take the tour in his place. To further complicate matters, Kayli's ex-boyfriend Clay Jameson finds out about the airboat tour and decides to tag along. Jameson and Landers are at immediate loggerheads, and Kayli is caught in the middle, agitated with Jameson and beguiled by Landers.

Kayli is in charge of the expedition and insists on calling the shots; Landers is used to giving orders not taking them. When Kayli finds herself stranded alone with Landers, she learns that trust means everything in the dangerous River of Grass, and a skilled partner can make all the difference in your survival.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

PETIE: Everglades took about a year to write, much longer than any of my other manuscripts. I wrote a large part of the story while taking care of my mother when she was under Hospice care. The story provided a much needed outlet for emotions during the minutes I could spend writing while my Mom slept. This manuscript is closer to my heart than any of the others, and I am very thankful Desert Breeze agreed to publish it.

STEPH: How much research did you have to do?

PETIE: Tons. Once the story popped in my head, I knew I didn't want to misstep either with the existing restoration effort [known as the CERP, or Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, and co-managed by the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers --] or with the venerable Seminole Tribe of Florida or with the sugar plantation industry. The research for Everglades is the main reason the story took so long to write, and I probably spent the better part of two months studying books, articles and web sites on the various factors before I ever started filling in my scene bullets.

STEPH: How does the cover reflect the story within?

PETIE: The cover is shows a tree hammock in the Everglades like many of those described in the book. Indigenous and unique hydrology, endangered species, and climatic conditions create a sensual backdrop for the story. The Everglades ecosystem functions like Cupid's arrow for two perfectly suited people who would otherwise never have found each other.

STEPH: Kayli is the heroine. What are her strengths? Weakness?

PETIE: Orphaned at a young age, Kayli is determined to carry on her parents' legacy of fighting to protect the famous River of Grass and jumps at the chance to complete the governor's assignment. She, like her parents before her, blames the sugar plantation owners and farmers for polluting her beloved Everglades.

Raised by an absentee aunt, Kayli has learned to take care of herself and to depend on no one else. She has no fear of new challenges, yet trust comes hard to her, and she has a habit of choosing boyfriends who need her to take care of them rather than vice versa. That is, until she meets Skye Landers.

STEPH: What does Skye find appealing about her?

PETIE: Kayli is the first woman Skye has ever met who cares as much about the River of Grass as he does. Her devotion to the Everglades forms an immediate atraction for him and also keeps him at arm's length for he knows if she finds out who he really is, she will hate him. Circumstances force Kayli to trust him, and with that trust, he earns her loyalty and an airboatload of guilt for not coming clean about who he is and what he does.

STEPH: What is the theme of the novel?

PETIE: Never pre-judge a book by its cover. Likewise, people are not always who they seem. Never ever lay out rules or templates in your head for selecting the love of your life, for your heart will surprise you every single time. True love finds its own path to happiness, and it doesn't consider income or career choice.

STEPH: As a writer, where do you draw inspiration from?

PETIE: Some writers have muses. I have always thought of my stories as "one of those God things [a saying my family has] ." I had never felt the magic urge to write when I was younger…or even when I was older. There came a day when I wanted a new job, and I decided to let God pick my new job rather than searching for the wrong one on my own. So I said, "God, please find a new job for me, the one you want me to have." Two months later, I started writing the story that wouldn't get out of my head. Until that day, I had never considered writing a book or even a short story -- I didn't think I could. For a while after that, writing was just something I had to do. And along the way, I fell in love with writing. My stories are not there one minute and the next minute they are there from start to finish, and I spend a day speed-writing scene bullets. I'm only allowed to wind my way in between, and I'm lucky enough to see the movies running in my head.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

PETIE: I was given a Nook for my birthday this year, and I didn't really want one, loving the feel and yes, even the smell of books. But my darling husband reminded me that if I didn't have a Nook I'd never get to read my own book. So on my release date, I got to put my book in my Nook. ☺ So I could look at my book in my Nook whenever I took ….oh never mind, there's no more "ook"s.

STEPH: Fun question: Any summer vacation plans? Atlantic Ocean or Pacific Ocean? Why?

PETIE: Where am I going this summer? I'm going to Disney World…oh wait, I go there every day. I work there -- at the happiest place on earth. ☺

Seriously, we have a second home in Crossville, Tennessee on the Cumberland Plateau, so I'm headed there in July for a book signing at the Art Circle Public Library. The director was happy to have a book signing for an E-pub. Yea! Crossville is also the golf capital of Tennessee so I will get a few rounds in as well.

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Friday, 15 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from "Nutured in Purple"

Thank you so much for supporting Jude during her Spotlight week. Leave a comment on today's post today, tomorrow and Sunday and I'll pull a random name out of the hat to receive their choice of either book one, "Joy Restored" or book 2, "Nutured in Purple" from Jude. Enjoy the Excerpt!

Moderator Steph


Elizabeth had come to this planning meeting simply because her mother harped she never did anything at church. She didn’t want to be here at all. Planning a boxed supper auction wasn’t her idea of fun even if the proceeds did go to an orphanage mission project. Orphanage. No doubt the brainchild of one of the elder Orbins.

There sits Kate with her adorable new son. Her adorable son. Not mine.

Besides Kate, Winnie Orbin, Margie Craig, Myrt Rich, Nan Holden, Ermon Upchurch and a few other ladies Elizabeth didn't know at all clustered around the table in the church basement. Of course, Mama was there. She had insisted Elizabeth come.

These ladies were the doers of Chanute Community Church. Most had attended all their lives, as their parents before them.Well, maybe not Kate. She hadn't been here all her life. She was a foreigner. A foreigner melded to the most aristocratic of families. How had that happened? How? It shouldn't have happened.

Elizabeth took in the women, all well dressed, but she couldn’t help notice how her own Mama’s dress surpassed them all and how her rings glittered on her fingers. Mama still looked pretty good for her age.

Elizabeth absently twisted the large diamond on her own ring finger. The date was creeping closer and soon she’d be Mrs. Willard Wittenberg. Not what she had wanted, but she guessed it would do. Willard wasn’t all bad.

"Oh, Elizabeth, we’re glad Adeline brought you. We can sure use your help," Winnie Orbin said. "We’ll need several cakes and pies to auction and I wonder if you and your mother would bring your famous lemon pound cake for the auction?" She looked toward Adeline.

Adeline answered, "Winnie, we’d be glad to bring a lemon pound cake, won’t we, Elizabeth?" Her hand strayed to her silver hair, tucking in what didn’t need tucking. "It’ll be practice for us. We’re having lemon pound cake at Elizabeth’s wedding shower next week." She smiled.

Elizabeth did not feel the need to say anything. Mama, why do you always tell everything you know?

"That’s exciting. When is the wedding, Elizabeth?" Ermon Upchurch sat beside her.

"It’s in five weeks, during Fall Break at school. I have nearly everything done, just last minute things left, you know."

"Good for you, Elizabeth," Margie said, "I’ll soon be the only unmarried one in Chanute Crossing!" She laughed.

"Margie Craig, you’re single by choice, so let’s not hear any more about it, okay? Remember Bob was single a long time before I came from St. Louis to marry him."

"Nan, we all remember your arrival and how happy it made Bob," Winnie said, "but, ladies, right now, we’d best get back to planning. Our event is less than two weeks away."

Elizabeth watched Winnie quietly, yet efficiently organize and delegate until every detail was completed. Though she hadn’t wanted to, Elizabeth said yes to working behind the boxed supper the social.

Willard wouldn’t be too happy. He was hanging in there with the Men’s Bible Study, but she felt his frustration and sometimes anger with the group. Especially toward Seth, whose kindness Willard found hard to understand or accept. It made him suspicious. He wasn’t used to kindness. Never had been.


The Chronicles of Chanute Crossing
Joy Restored, November 2011
Nurtured in Purple, June 2012
Desert Breeze Publishing

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Jude Urbanski talks about attitude

What was my reason for writing these two books? What was my passion for doing so? Two good questions to ask before you dive into a novel, give up family time, sleep and a host of other things.

Francine Rivers, a favorite of mine, always asks a question as she ponders her beginning material for a book. Usually she says, it’s a ‘what if?’ query. She uses ‘what if’ to get creative juices going.

I find I use ‘I want readers to…’ as a starting point. I may not know what this want is, however, until I’m into the book. I confess to being not a pantster, nor a plotter, but probably lean toward the plotter side, as I do character sketches, think about biographies, and a quasi-outline before I start. Sounds plotter doesn’t it? Maybe.

In my current series, I wanted the reader to come away with hope. It’s no secret life has dry patches and my characters experience them. I wanted readers to gain understanding that the desert or the dry patches can birth abundant growth. Literally and figuratively, if one only looks.

Gail Delalney and Desert Breeze gave me a chance to put my passion out there. I had written a fair amount of nonfiction, but answering DBs call for submissions made a dream of mine come true. I am appreciative and thankful.

Before you dive off into your next book, consider your passion, your attitude and why you are writing it.

Find Jude at:

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Character Interview with Willard from Nutured in Purple

Great stories are driven by great characters. These great characters drive the plot of any great story; plot and characters are finely interwoven.

Get to know your characters intimately with character sketches, biographies or interviews. Take all the time needed to do this. Today, I’m interviewing handsome Willard Wittenberg, main character from Nurtured in Purple. I’d done sketches of Willard for book one, but couldn’t bring myself to like the man, much less love him. Book two changed my mind. Willard’s heart opened and I saw him as a good man needing grace.

JUDE: Willard, what are your fears?

WILLARD: I am afraid of losing Elizabeth. I am afraid, no I feel guilty, about what I did to Seth Orbin and his business.

JUDE: How do you handle frustration?

WILLARD: I flare up and say hateful things. Things have always gone my way and I don’t handle frustration well because of that.

JUDE: Is trust hard for you?

WILLARD: Very hard. Most people are out to get you. The only person I trust is Elizabeth and sometimes I’m not sure about her.

JUDE: What secrets do you have?

WILLARD: Not sure I want to say, but I’ve always felt insecure in my life and haven’t wanted people to know. I had an overpowering father, a successful brother and a needy mother and sister. My biggest secret is I was responsible for the fire in Seth Orbin’s sawmill.

JUDE: What bothers you right now?

WILLARD: This thing in the Men’s Bible Study I’m attending. They say God loves me completely. I can’t understand this, knowing myself as I do. I’m trying to figure this out, but it seems impossible God could love me.

JUDE: Do you wish anything was different?

WILARD: I wish my marriage was better. I wish Elizabeth truly loved me, wanted my child.

After this imaginary conversation with Willard, I understood him in fresh ways. Try an interview with your characters.

Find Jude at:

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Jude Urbanski talks about "setting"

Chanute Crossing, my fictional town in Nurtured in Purple, is based on the long-ago town of Chanute in Pickett County, Tennessee. That Chanute today is called a populated place, not really a town at all. To me, the Chanute of present day is more like a small, small village. There is a church, turned community center, a cemetery and several houses along the Highway 127, heading northeast out of Static, Tennessee, which is nearly as small as Chanute.

I chose this as my setting because I have a very soft spot in my heart for this place. My ancestors came west to settle in Chanute or its surrounding areas and lived there for generations. I was whisked away at a very early age, but know my roots began there. Also, I chose the setting because long ago, my now-deceased mother, wrote sweet, nostalgic love stories with the same setting. She had a fictional name for her town, which was Snow Mountain, but I know it was Chanute, in her mind.

Photo Credit: Wolf River Bridge by: Chad Laytham

Many people, especially sportsmen, are familiar with Dale Hollow Lake. This man-made lake is a ‘sportsman’s paradise’ says the advertising. Mainly for fishermen or those who love boating. I can say the lake, the hills and valleys of Pickett County are truly beautiful. Very serene.

Indians roamed the hills as their great hunting ground before white settlers came to this wilderness in 1760. The area later became home to a couple noted individuals—Sargent Alvin C. York of World War I fame and Cordell Hull, political statesman. Mark Twain passed through the area for a while, but less savory men, like bootleggers and Confederate gorilla-fighter, Champ Ferguson, made up a goodly number of inhabitants of long ago. Sad to say, my great grandfather ran with the Ferguson group.

The people of today are friendly, hospitable and maintain many, charming southern customs.

From the map it’s seen Pickett county lies in what used to be called Middle Tennessee, just on the north side of the state and slightly east. I’ve included some photos, some of which are directly related to my books.

Enjoy your tour through Chanute Crossing! Think of Willard and Elizabeth.

Find Jude at:

Monday, 11 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Jude Urbanski

STEPH: I don't know much about "Nurtured in Purple." What's it about?

JUDE: Nurtured in Purple is Book Two in The Chronicles of Chanute Crossing Series and the final book in the series. We follow the continued love story of now-married Kate and Seth, of Book One, as they struggle with the turmoil of Kate’s life-threatening pregnancy. But Willard and Elizabeth, who were the troublemakers in Joy Restored, are really the stars of Nurtured. It takes a long time though for these stars to shine bright, because they are still bent of seeking revenge against Kate and Seth. The book covers their ragged journey to faith.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

JUDE: Well, let’s see. I would say about six months of serious writing, which is a record maker for me. I’m usually more pokey, but a certain DB editor knows how to light those sparks! I couldn’t believe I did it.

STEPH: Did you have to do a lot of research for the novel?

JUDE: The setting is very familiar to me since I’ve been returning there for years to do genealogy research. My ancestors had lived there for generations. I continued making visits, interviewing local people, learning all I could about the flavor of the small towns in the area. I read about the famous Dale Hollow Lake there in Pickett County, Tennessee. I subscribed to the newspaper. Learned about sawmills. Sometimes it is easy to get lost in the fun of research and put off writing. LOL!

STEPH: How does the cover reflect the story within?

JUDE: When I look at the pink and purple colors of the cover, I feel enclosed in a peace and with a feeling of being comforted. My characters experience much that isn’t peace, but my aim was to bring them to a place of feeling ‘nurtured in purple’ because they are royalty to God. Interestingly, both covers are photos I’ve taken at Dale Hollow and I love them, but cover artist Gwen Pfifer really pulled it all together in a beautiful way.

STEPH: Elizabeth is the heroine. What are strengths? Weaknesses?

JUDE: In this second book, Elizabeth is the heroine. Kate becomes the secondary supporting character. Elizabeth’s strength of independence becomes her weakness, almost to the point of narcissism. Sad to say. Her world had always been self-centered.

STEPH: What does does Willard find appealing about the heroine?

JUDE: Willard, our hero, had always loved Elizabeth. Always. He said they were alike and he understood her. Perhaps Willard also loved himself a little too much, making it easy to understand Elizabeth. She broke his heart once, but he married her anyway. Elizabeth almost broke his heart again as her flame for Seth still flickered.

STEPH: What is the theme of the novel?

JUDE: I’d say the theme or goal of the series encourages us to know that with God, tragedies can be spun into triumphs. We all know life has dry patches, but God is always there to turn us into a well-watered garden, if we let Him.

STEPH: Where do you draw inspiration from?

JUDE: I draw a lot of inspiration from plain everyday life, which is so rich. Like many writers, I see my hero at Wal-Mart, build a story from one unexpected simple gesture I experience or witness. Movies and books provide inspiration for me, but times of quiet and solitude yield the most inspiration. All that aside, I also draw inspirations from writings groups and friends. We support and sustain one another.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

JUDE: I do have an eBook reader ( a gift from the kids) and I love my Kindle. I didn’t know I would enjoy it as much. It is just SO easy.

STEPH: Fun Question: Any summer vacation plans?

JUDE: Summer vacation? My best summer vacation is the one coming up and you’ll like this, Steph, being from New England. We’ve planned a week with our kids in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Getting kids together is a feat as they live all over the country. So I’m looking forward to this time.

STEPH: Jude, I've been to Kennebunkport, Maine when I was young, but not to Old Orchard. I'd love a chance to go. Take pictures and share with us!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from "Kidnapped"

Thank you so much for supporting Maria during her spotlight week. Leave a comment today, tomorrow and Sunday on the Excerpt post and included your email. Maria is giving away a PDF copy of her story, Kidnapped. One lucky winner will be chosen on the following Monday, 11 JUN. Enjoy the Excerpt!

Moderator Steph


Something poked Patricia, awakening her from a deep sleep, and she yelped, thinking it might be a rat. When she focused her eyes, she stared at Travis's legs right in front of her. He had nudged her with the toe of his boot. She still held the soft little cup clutched to her chest, and didn't let it go even as she fought to sit up. "Oh no."

He answered dryly, "Yes, I'm happy to see you too."

It took a couple of seconds for reality to sink into her mind. Offending him would be bad, maybe even lethal, and she tried to talk her way out of the slip, "I was hoping it was a dream."

His next words weren't at all what she expected. "You wouldn't cause any trouble for me if I were to let you out, right?"

The prospect of seeing something besides the bare walls of the cell felt almost intoxicating, and she shook her head eagerly. Travis smirked, "You wouldn't, say, try to overpower me with that really dangerous cup or anything, would you?"

Had he seen her? Had he been watching her? All night? She felt herself blush, but still clutched the cup harder. It was hers, the only thing she had, and she wanted to keep it. She still dropped it when he reached a hand down to pull her up. Accepting the offering seemed dangerous, but rejecting it even more so. Putting her hand carefully in his, half expecting pain and death, it surprised her to find it warm and human.

"It'll take us a few days to reach Central. Any mischief and you get to spend all that time in here, do you understand? If you try to contact William, try to steal the ship, sabotage it, anything, it's back to the cell. Am I making myself clear?"

She nodded obediently and glanced down at her hand still holding his. It surprised her she wasn't as afraid of him anymore. He almost seemed like a real person. Looking up, she found herself staring at the ruined part of his face. That too seemed less frightening and revolting now. If anything, it looked painful and filled her with sympathy. "Why are you doing this? Being nice to me, I mean?"

He made a dismissive gesture, "I don't know. I should kill you and get it over with, but I guess you're harmless."

Dropping her hand and turning abruptly, he walked out with long strides, and she hurried to follow. As soon as she got into the corridor her head started to spin, trying to take in all the unfamiliar sights and smells, and she had to jog to keep up with him to the elevator. If she'd still had doubts about where she was they evaporated. This thing, whatever it was, couldn't have been made on Earth.


Review snippets:

"Kidnapped will hold your attention from beginning to end. You MUST read it."
Paula L. McElwee

"I highly recommend "Kidnapped" to anyone who enjoys, action, romance, sci-fi and a spectacular read!"
Mrs. Michael

"With taut, escalating action, Kidnapped is a thoroughly intriguing read."
Chelsea Perry, Apex Reviews

"In a genre where minutely-detailed descriptions of nanorobots in the blood stream make quite a few appearances, Maria Hammarblad makes her traditional narrative refreshing -- not cliché. The jury approves."
The Scattering

Book trailer link:


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Thursday, 7 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Human Aliens by Maria Hammarblad

From time to time, people ask me why my aliens seem so human. Shouldn't they be eight foot tall, blue, and have tentacles and ray guns? Well, some do, but in my imagination most people the heroine runs into are more or less human. I concoct a convenient explanation of a common past, where the race spread or was sent all over the universe. The species might have developed differently on different worlds, but is basically the same. There are definitely culture clashes, though.

Why do I do this? It is interesting to imagine what life on other worlds might look like. If there is life out there, I'm convinced it doesn't look anything like us. (I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!) Life takes on so many forms on our planet alone, and it might develop along quite different lines on another world.

I write science fiction romance, and while I like to think love is indifferent to species - I love my dogs, for example - I do think romantic love and attraction is connected to more basic needs. Romance is about falling in love, about physical attraction as well as attraction of the soul, and there has to be a certain genetic compatibility to make it feasible. Would a human heroine from Earth fall for a spaceman that looked like a giant purple jellyfish? Maybe, but it seems more likely she'd fall for a humanoid.

Book trailer link:


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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Interview with Patricia, heroine of Kidnapped

STEPH: Patricia, what was the worst part of being in space?

PATRICIA: Being in space! It was absolutely horrifying. It's beautiful, but really big and scary. Well, after I got past the first shock, I think it was the food. These people are so fixed on efficiency you wouldn't believe it. It's like… eating a bar of cereal, but more like hay, day after day after day. I would have killed someone for some real food. Not killed, exactly, but you know what I mean…

STEPH: Travis took you to a restaurant though, right?

PATRICA: Yes, he did. I was so scared at the time, but he did his best. I don't think he understood why I didn't want to eat anymore hay-bars, but he tried to fix it for me. He even got me chocolate!

STEPH: I hear you had a problem with your clothes too?

PATRICIA: Oh, yes, what an ordeal that day was. I stepped into this personal cleanser; it's a tube that's their version of a shower. It's a carwash - it sprays stuff over you and dries you off. You get clean, but it's not pleasant. Anyway, when I got out of the tube, my clothes were gone, and I thought someone took them. Imagine standing on a spaceship in the middle of nowhere, no clue of how to get home, without a thread to wear. I had to put on some alien clothes, Travis said they were from prisoners, I don't even want to know where he got them.

STEPH: If your life was a movie, who would play you?

PATRICIA: Mila Kunis, definitely. Everyone says I look just like her. *fluffs hair* My writer says it might be hard to accomplish because she's very famous and probably busy, but hey, a girl can dream, right! I always say if you do something, you should do it right.

Book trailer link:


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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Free-floating chips, ants, and black holes! by Maria Hammarblad

In documentaries, cartoons, and some science fiction movies, one can see astronauts float around in zero gravity. Being able to push oneself from one wall to another does look cool, but not very practical. In The Simpsons, Homer goes to space and has to utilize his zero-gravity chips-eating skills when he spills snacks all over the cockpit. Unfortunately, he also spills ants. I don't remember how the episode ends, but it's rather funny.

I thought a lot about gravity and the lack thereof when I wrote Kidnapped, and I had an explanation to how Travis's ship can have artificial gravity in one of the first drafts. It slowed the story too much, so I took it out. Patricia is in the middle of an adventure, and who cares how she can walk. She walks. Right…?

Anyway, the subject intrigues me. The common trick in novels and movies is making a spaceship spin, creating an illusion of weight through centripetal force. I don't know if it would work in a bigger scale or not; at least in my mind, the ship would have to spin rather quickly to have an effect. I wonder if a person inside would know the ship was spinning? Sounds like a way to get motion sick, for sure.

Truth is, we don't really understand gravity. It's connected to mass, and we know what it does, but the theory behind it is still iffy. When I wrote "Kidnapped," I thought, "You'd need something really heavy. Lots of mass, so high density to make it smaller than a planet…" What is the one thing we know of that has extremely high density and high mass? So high it eats anything that comes to close? A black hole!

In my imagination, Travis's people have learned to master the science of black holes, putting one the size of a pinhead in the bottom of the ship. It's surrounded by a nifty containment field, controlled by the computer. Ta-da, all gravitational problems solved. Patricia can run around, jump, and feel quite at home without having to worry about drifting to the ceiling. If she were to spill something, it would end up on the floor where it belongs. Travis's floor is self-cleaning. I want one!

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Monday, 4 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Maria Hammarblad

STEPH: I don't know much about "Kidnapped." What's it about?

MARIA: Kidnapped is about a girl who is in the wrong place at the wrong time; she's abducted by mistake. It's a bad situation. She wakes up in a spaceship surrounded by peculiar objects, and a very scary person is interrogating her in a language she doesn't understand. She tells herself it isn't real, but eventually she has to accept what's happening, and try to survive and get back home.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

MARIA: I wrote the first version when I was a teenager, and forgot all about it for decades. When I remembered about it, getting the story down was a pretty quick job, but I've rewritten it over and over again.

STEPH: How much research did you have to do?

MARIA: That is an excellent question. The story is set in space, and there are spaceships, other worlds, and a battle between good and evil. I evidently made all that up. However, for any story to become believable, it needs traces of truth. Earlier in my life, I've taken classes in Earth and Space science, and when I wrote Kidnapped, I took a college class in Astrobiology. It was a lot of fun!

Any science in my books is mixed up with lots and lots of imagination. It's fiction, and even though many scifi readers have a good grasp on science, I do think it's okay to ignore some facts in favor of the story. For example, I know a moon would most likely be too small to maintain an atmosphere, and that its gravity would be too low for a human to just walk around on it like we do on Earth, but having someone land on it, seeing a giant planet hang in the sky, is much cooler than reality!

STEPH: How does the cover reflect the story within?

MARIA: Better than I dared dream. I love how you see the Earth in the background; it's there, but ways away, and Patricia works so hard to get back to it. Holographic maps are mentioned a couple of times in the book, and the map has a nice symbolism to it. Patricia is lost in so many ways, and she sure could use some guidance.

STEPH: Patricia is the heroine. What are her strengths? Weakness?

MARIA: She likes people, and she's an optimist. People don't see her as a threat, and she's so likeable they want to help her. She's also impulsive and follows her heart, for better and for worse.

STEPH: What does Travis find appealing about her?

MARIA: She's a pure soul, if that makes any sense… She's innocent, forthright, and very different from everyone else he ever met. She can show kindness without ulterior motives, and no one has been kind to him before, not even when he was a child. Afraid of him, sure. She is afraid of him too, but she still has the ability to feel sympathy.

STEPH: What is the theme of the novel?

MARIA: I'd say, Hope. Bad things happen, but it's important not to give up.

STEPH: As a writer, where do you draw inspiration from?

MARIA: Everything! Things and people I see around me, people I meet online, the news… I see something and my mind starts playing a "What if" game. I'm writing a story right now that started when I was driving to the store and saw a guy on a motorcycle in the rear view mirror. "What if that guy follows the heroine?"

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

MARIA: For the longest time I thought I didn't need one; I read on an iPad and was quite happy with that. Then, I thought that since I write e-books I should at least try a real e-reader, so I bought a Kindle Touch. I like it much more than I thought I would; I love that it works in sunlight, and the text to speech function is convenient. I mean, it misses to pause at periods and new chapters and such, but it's pretty good for being a machine. I plug it into the car stereo and listen to books when I'm driving.

STEPH: Fun question: Summer vacation is coming up. Any plans?

MARIA: I should make something up, shouldn't I, hahaha! I don't have any big plans; I live in Florida and it's pretty much a vacation paradise. If I have some time off, I like to sit in the back yard with the doggies, or go to the beach. I do want to go to Kennedy Space Center, we'll see if I get around to it.

Book trailer link:


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Friday, 1 June 2012

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from "When Shadows Falls"

Thank you so much for supporting Tina during her spotlight week. Leave a comment on today's post today, Saturday and Sunday along with your email so we can get ahold of you, and we'll pick a winner on Monday to receive a free copy of Tina's novel, "When Shadows Fall." Enjoy the excerpt!
Moderator Steph


Matthew drew up his legs, rested his arms on his knees, and tucked his head on his arms. The sapling straightened in relief. The sweat beaded and ran a line down his back; he was too busy visiting with Rebekah to care.

Where was she now? How was she? Nathan promised to keep him informed, but so far, no word had arrived. It worried him. If he had the time -- if he hadn't joined up -- he'd look into things himself, but he wouldn't have leave 'til November. He was beginning to doubt he'd make it till then.

"Mr. Cavanaugh." Hearing his name, Matthew stood up, brushing his backside. "Mr. Cavanaugh." A young private scanned the area, searching for him.

"Here." Matthew waved and headed toward the messenger.

"Mr. Cavanaugh." The private studied Matthew's attire, then saluted and tried to catch his breath. "Captain St. James would like to see you in his quarters, sir."

"Will that be all, Private?" Sweat beaded on the young man's forehead. It dislodged and rolled with his nod. Matthew swiped his own brow. "If you've nothing further to do, maybe you should head down to the stream. I think I see an empty spot."

"Yes, sir." The private started to run then stopped and saluted.

The private headed for the stream and crammed himself in the small space. Matthew went in search of Nathan.

"Nathan." He stopped outside the tent.

"Come in." From behind his desk, over a stack of papers, Nathan looked up at his friend. "Glad you could come by. We don't see enough of each other."

"Probably has something to do with this war," Matthew said lightheartedly.
Nathan's face devoid of emotion, he nodded. "You just get back?"
Matthew nodded and plucked at his shirt. "Haven't cleaned up.
I'm surprised you can get this close without gagging." Matthew smiled... Nathan didn't. Something was wrong. Matthew took a seat on Nathan's cot, and studied his friend.

Nathan looked healthy enough. A little tired. Weren't they all? Nathan's double-breasted coat with blue velvet cuffs and collar, was slightly worn, but he dressed impeccably in spite of it. From his regulation haircut, right down to the shine on his black Wellingtons, he looked like a true career soldier. What was amiss?

"I know you haven't given your report, but I wanted your assessment of the situation." Nathan looked up long enough for Matthew to glimpse the pain in Nathan's brown eyes.

"It doesn't look good. But you know that. We aren't going to hold Harper's Ferry, and Lee knows it. He's determined to make a stand here." Matthew sighed. "It was nothing short of a miracle to find Lee's orders in Frederick and it's to our benefit Lee has his army divided with us sitting right between 'em.
Let's hope, McClellan will use that advantageously. But this won't be a minor skirmish and it can't be stopped. Over a hundred thousand men are in those fields -- itching to fight."

"So, when it does come -- and it will. Soon. -- It will be nothing short of hell on earth. I just pray we hold the line. Pray we hold Maryland." Matthew barely nodded. "That's about all I can say."

The table wobbled as Nathan moved from behind it. His stack of papers shifted as if caught by a breeze -- a ghost breeze the whole camp was looking for. Nodding solemnly, he took a seat on the cot. It creaked and bowed under the weight of both men.

"I wouldn't tell this to another soul, but I'm afraid. I'm afraid I'm not going to make it through this next battle. I feel it, Matt. I can't even tell Sara."

Matthew understood the feeling. It tormented him too, tormented them all. "It's nothing to be ashamed of. Only a fool would say he wasn't afraid. You'll make it home."

Tears formed in Nathan's eyes. "This feeling is awful strong. And how long will home be there?

"Don't talk like that, Nate. We'll hold the line." Matthew fought to hold his tears. "You won't die. You can't." I won't let you.

Nathan met Matthew's eyes directly. "But if I did. I couldn't without you knowing how much you mean to me. You're like a brother. I count it a privilege to call you friend."

"And I you," Matthew choked the words, tried to swallow the pit in the back of his throat. It felt as if his heart lodged there. The two men hugged and cried like mere babes. Somewhere amid the pain, they both found a smile. They pulled apart slapping each other's arms softly.

"About that bath," Nathan teased and covered a snigger with his hand. He dusted Matthew's shirt before he grew serious again. "Matt, I know I've hounded you about the Lord and your eternal soul, but I couldn't bear to have you go into this next battle without telling you again of God's love. I've been praying for you. Praying you'd accept the gift of God's grace. Praying you'll be okay. I want to know if I do die, I'll be able to see you again."

Nathan's sincerity touched Matthew. True, he'd told him all this before, but knowing at this moment in time Nathan prayed for him, humbled him. "I know," Matthew's voice broke. "I know I've always told you, I'll think about. And I do. It's on my mind more than ever. I'm glad you pray for me. Don't stop."

"Ah, Matt. I call you brother now because you're dear to me. One day I hope to call you so 'cause you know the Lord. I won't stop praying." Nathan squeezed Matthew's shoulder.

"I'm glad." Matthew smiled.
"I should let you clean up before you give your report, but I'll see you there."
"Until this afternoon then." Matthew turned to leave and Nathan stopped him.
"Wait, this might interest you." Nathan pulled an envelope from his pocket. He handed it to Matthew with a wink. "It came while you were gone. Don't worry about getting it back to me. You keep it."

Matthew stepped out of the tent and turned the envelope in his hands. After a month, word had finally come from Rebekah. Matthew stuck the letter in his pocket; he'd read it once he'd cleaned.

Changed and shaved, he settled back on his cot half an hour later and opened Rebekah's letter. It didn't matter it wasn't addressed to him, all that mattered was knowing she was okay.

When Shadows Fall
In the Manor of the Ghost,
Touched By Mercy
Website Twitter @Tina_Pinson
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD... " Jer. 29:11