Friday, 30 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from "When Love Collides"

Thank you so much for supporting Michelle this week during the spotlight for "When Love Collides." We hope you enjoy this excerpt. Leave a comment, today, Saturday, and Sunday, on the excerpt post and I'll pick one winner out of the hat to receive a PDF copy of Michelle's story, "When Love Collides."



From the corner of her eye she saw him make a fist. The sight of his tension made her breath catch. "I know you cared about me as a good friend should. You were always so kind to me and I hurt you. I regret that."

"Lot of good it did me," he muttered, his stare holding fast to something behind her.

She couldn't keep her chin from quivering. Biting the inside of her cheek, she attempted to hold back more tears. This appointment wasn't going well at all. The more she said, the angrier he seemed to get. A scowl from anyone these days reduced her to a puddle of sopping tears. She hated that, but couldn't seem to control her emotions.

Blinking, he swiped his hand over his face. "I have people waiting. Let's get back to the exam, okay?" He sighed. "I shouldn't have allowed my feelings to get involved."

Her throat swelled further and she could barely speak. His feelings? What did he mean? She covered her face with her hands and tried her best to regain control.

"Here," Scott muttered.

She glanced up. He handed her a tissue and their hands bumped.

"Thank you," she rasped, stretching the tissue as she blew her nose.

His voice softened. "You're welcome."

She sniffled, wiping her face and grabbing some fresh tissues.

"It might not seem like it, Rocky, but I forgave you a long time ago." He shifted his gaze to the wall. "Don't worry about it."

Her throat squeezed when he'd used his pet name for her. She didn't believe him, but held on to a shred of hope that he really would forgive her someday and they could be friends again. At least he said he'd forgiven her. It was a start.

"Can, um, we... talk later?" While staring at Scott, she wiped her nose.

He cleared his throat, something she remembered him doing whenever he got nervous. "First let's see if we can identify the cause of your symptoms so they can be treated. Can you please lift your hair?"

Scott removed a gadget from his pocket and turned on the light with the flick of his thumb. He slid his stool closer and leaned forward to check inside her ears for fluid. A shiver raced up her spine when his breath encountered her neck.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Michelle Sutton talks about "setting"

When I wrote When Love Collides years ago, I had it set in another state. I ended up pulling it off that series and making it a stand-alone book. Part of that required a change of location, so I decided to switch it to the county where I live. There is a lot of unpredictable weather in Arizona during the summer monsoons in the high desert, so I thought that would fit the mood of the story. Sometimes Raquel gets in a mood and it's because she can't control her symptoms. You can't control monsoons either. You just work around them.

There is the opening scene where Raquel is shivering on the table and feeling like a drowned rat. She's just glad she doesn't know anyone at the clinic. So what does a good writer do? I make sure that the one person she doesn't want to see her looking like a drowned rat is the person she runs into. Then when they meet again the next day and Scott is waiting for her, he's a nervous wreck. I toss in some thunder when he's already jumpy and moody and it works very well for the setting. There are other times when things start to look hopeful and bright. That's when the clouds go away, the sun starts beaming, and a rainbow appears in the sky.

Once I started making the weather as unpredictable as their emotions each day, I think it added to the tension between them and the fear of not knowing what to expect. It fits the story well, which is why I love the cover. In it the hero is holding an umbrella over the heroine in a protective gesture, which is very symbolic of their relationship. So that is how I use the setting to compliment or add to the emotion in the story.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Character Interview with Raquel from "When Love Collides"

Natalie Portman inspiration
for "Raquel"

Welcome to Desert Breeze Publishing's blog today for your interview. Tell us a little bit about your nickname.

Raquel: You mean Rocky? That's a nickname Scott gave me years ago. It's kind of ironic because lately I haven't felt strong at all. Not only is my body weak, but it's easy for me to get depressed about it.

Chronic illness can cause depression. So what do you do when you're depressed?

Raquel: Sometimes I cry for no reason. I really hate that. I don't want to be perceived as weak, but it's hard when everything looks sad and bleak, you know?

I hear you there. Tell us about what you love about Scott?

Raquel: He's a faithful guy and an amazing kisser. I've never met anyone I can trust like I trust him. He doesn't say one thing and mean another. He's always there for me. I know he's human, but in some ways he seems perfect, and I know I'm not, so sometimes that makes me depressed.

What about the fact that he loves you? Doesn't that help cheer you up?

Raquel: As long as I don't focus on my illness, yes. I would love to be cured, but there is no cure. Sometimes I worry that Scott will get tired of having to take care of me. He says not to worry about tomorrow, for it has enough worries of its own.

Yes, I recall Jesus saying that to his disciples. So are you going to trust God in this? That if He wants you and Scott to be together for the rest of your lives then He'll work things out?

Raquel: If there is one thing I've learned from these crazy, unpredictable symptoms is that I can't make it a day without God. So while it's aggravating, it does keep me dependent on Jesus. That's not a bad thing. Now if He would just heal me… But even if he doesn't, I've committed my life to serving God.

That's a great attitude to have. Thanks for joining us today, Raquel.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Character Interview with Scott from "When Love Collides"

Tom Hardy, Inspiration for "Scott"

It's good to have you here today on Desert Breeze Publishing's blog. Are you nervous?

Scott: Not at all. I've gotten past my initial fear of talking about my past with Raquel. I no longer get a lump in my throat or tearful now that I've settled in my heart that we're meant to be.

Are you normally an emotional guy?

Scott: That's the crazy thing. I hadn't gotten tearful in almost ten years. Then Raquel returns to my world and I'm almost a basket case at first. The upside of this is once I sorted through things and forgave her for hurting me, I was thrilled at how alive I felt around her. I really do think God has a mate picked out for us. Sometimes it just takes a while for us to figure that out.

So are you two getting married?

Scott: That's the kicker. I want to, but she's putting up a bit of a fuss about it. She's worried that I will be straddled with a woman who needs to be taken care of and can't do anything for me. She's wrong, of course. I'm working on helping her to see she is lovable regardless of what she can do for me.

That must be a bit challenging at times. Do you think she'll come around and finally get past the fear?

Scott: I do. I think she has been beaten down so much by her ex that she has a hard time seeing herself as worthy of me even though it's been a long time since he died. She says I don't need her and that I've got it all. Well, she's wrong. Without her it feels like I've got nothing.

How sweet! Thanks for joining us today, Scott.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Michelle Sutton

STEPH: I don't know much about "When Loves Collides." Can you tell us about it?

MICHELLE: It's a story about a young woman who has a history of poor choices she has made, one of which was marrying a man who turned out to be abusive. The story begins ten years later after the husband has been dead seven years, but the lingering issues from his abuse remain. Complicate that with the fact that she has weird health issues and a good man from her past steps in to provide support and encouragement (and he happens to have always loved her, but she didn't know it) you have a love story with some powerful emotional content.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

MICHELLE: Goodness, I wrote this story back in 2005, or maybe 2006. I don't remember, but I'd say about four to six months.

STEPH: Where did you find the inspiration for the novel?

MICHELLE: Much of it came from my own life. My mother had MS. I did dump a nice guy for a jerk (and found out later the nice guy had been in love with me.) Who knew? I missed that somehow. I thought it would be fun to write a story about what might have happened if I ran into him again. That was the skeleton structure for the plot. Most of the story is pure fiction.

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

MICHELLE: Not really. I lived with someone who had MS. I have lots of friends that are PAs (physician assistants) and I lived with my grandmother when I was younger and in college (like the story about her living with her aunt when Raquel first knew Scott.)

STEPH: Raquel has been hurt. What are her strengths as the story opens?

MICHELLE: She is determined to keep her aunt at home and out of a care facility. She is also determined to make things right with her past and talk to Scott about why she left and ask for his forgiveness.

STEPH: How is the hero, Scott, attracted to Raquel? What pulls him toward her? What do they share?

MICHELLE: There was always something Scott found attractive about Raquel, mainly her personality. She was tender and sweet and though a bit skittish, she was a very loyal friend (up to the point when she left town anyway.) He found her vulnerability a powerful draw and he wanted to be there for her. What he didn't know (at the time) was that being raped by a man before she'd met him had a lot to do with that "sad look in her eyes" that made him want to hold her and put a smile on her face.

STEPH: What do you hope resonates with readers when they finish the novel?

MICHELLE: That love is about your commitment to the other person's well-being and you can't earn love. It's about how a person feels when they are with you. It can't be earned by being the perfect woman despite what the media depicts. It's either there, or it isn't. But love isn't very strong without trust backing the relationship. To truly love someone, there must be trust.

STEPH: How important was the setting to the story?

MICHELLE: It rained quite a few times (heavy monsoon rains) in the story, and as with those unpredictable storms, sometimes in life emotional pain hits us just as hard and unexpectedly.

STEPH: Hollywood is calling. Cast the lead characters.

MICHELLE: I wish! Okay, well, hmm... I suppose that Scott would be Tom Hardy (Inception) and Raquel would be Natalie Portman (V is for Vendetta)

STEPH: Fun Question: Do you make New Year's Resolutions?

MICHELLE: Nah, I don't keep them, so why bother?

Friday, 23 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from "Joy Restored"

Thanks to everyone who supported Jude this week in the Desert Breeze Spotlight. She's sharing an excerpt from "Joy Restored." See the end of the post for a GIVEAWAY that Jude is offering. Happy Holidays to all!

Moderator Steph


Kate's heart beat in sync with the slow-moving hearse crawling along the rutted lane. The image of a tiny ant heaving a giant burden seared her mind, but the ache in her heart rested with the body in the hearse.

The Davidson Family Cemetery soon came into sight, looking as neglected and abandoned as Kate felt. The driver of the hearse hurried to Kate's car as soon as the procession stopped.

"Mrs. Davidson, please step over here."

Undertaker Shirley Brown ushered her closer to the fresh, mounded dirt after Kate and her children climbed from the car. She could do with an extra dose of strength right now, but how could she muster it given the pain and anger she felt in her heart?
Her arms tightened around her three small children, who huddled close, the cold wind whipping hard against their legs. Her children were Clayton's legacy. His only legacy.

If only she could get through this. She, her children, and a meager band of mourners stood like sentinels beside the open grave as the body of her husband, Lieutenant Clayton Patrick Davidson, was lowered to its final resting place. He would join his Scottish forefathers in this rural Tennessee countryside. The Vietnam nightmares could rest, too.

Father O'Connell's words of intended comfort cut through the cold mountain air. Kate looked at the priest. He radiated kindness from the top of his balding head to the tip of his black robe blowing in the harsh wind. It certainly wasn't required of him to conduct the funeral, for she and Clayton hadn't been God's most faithful of St. Francis' Parish. Father O'Connell had wanted to do Clayton's service.


In closing, Father invited all to join in the Lord's Prayer. Heads bowed.

Kate extended her hand to him at the last 'amen.'

"Thank you, Father. I appreciate your doing the service."

"You're welcome, my child. You're also welcome at God's house."

She felt him squeeze her hand. She nodded. God's house? She didn't think so. She hadn't been able to help Clayton, and God certainly hadn't helped him either.

God is supposed to help those in need. Could she ever believe that again?


Reviews of Joy Restored

I was thrilled at the Amazon reviews and have included a couple.

5.0 out of 5 stars A Charming Debut!, November 14, 2011
By Christian Romance Reader This review is from: The Chronicles of Chanute Crossing Book One: Joy Restored (Kindle Edition)

This wonderful debut novel from Ms. Urbanski (previously published as a non-fiction author) will completely charm you! How I longed to visit the lovely Chanute Crossing while reading this book, but the author does the next best thing by painting such a vivid portrait of the setting and absorbing the reader into the world of her characters. The children of heroine Kate captured my heart immediately, and Seth is the old-fashioned, strong and honorable (yet vulnerable in some ways) romance hero of my dreams. A cast of colorful secondary characters round out this heartwarming novel. It's a sweet and worthwhile journey of faith and love for both Kate and Seth as they each resolve loss from the past, and endure a number of trials along the way. How wonderful to know we'll enjoy a revisit with these characters in the next installment of the series! Grab a blanket and your favorite beverage and settle in for a truly great read.

I was given an advance copy of this novel by the author for purposes of writing this review, and I thank her for it. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure of joy., November 21, 2011
By Doug Spurling - This review is from: The Chronicles of Chanute Crossing Book One: Joy Restored (Kindle Edition)

I loved this book! I felt like I was reading Karen Kingsbury. I couldn't wait to read the next page and now I can't wait to read the next book.

From the beautiful scene on the front cover to the depth of detail from being raised in the area, Jude paints a picture of beauty from scene to scene.

However, the beauty is carved from the rugged terrain of life. The opening scene is an open grave and a wounded soul. The uplifting story does not gloss over the raw winds of life that tear at the heart and attempt to rip away the soul. But tragedy-proof peace is woven into the peaceful setting of Chanute Crossing and the strength of joy overcomes and restores.

Thanks to all for dropping by and thanks, Steph, for the spotlight.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment and your address for drawing of a PDF copy of Joy Restored.

Jude Urbanski

Desert Breeze


Thursday, 22 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Jude Urbanski talks about inspiration for Faith Restored

"It is Better to Light a Candle than to Curse the Darkness"

This is an old Chinese proverb. But what does it really mean?

Just for a theoretical exercise, I asked Kate Davidson, my heroine in Joy Restored, if she could apply this proverb to her situation. I was surprised at her initial anger. She wasn't about to light a candle at her husband's needless death. Nothing could light the dark, at least in the beginning of her trial. She cursed the darkness.

I told Kate another way to look at this proverb was to ask "Where was God in all this? Where was He on this journey of yours?" That, too, proved hard for Kate. She said God doesn't hear her anymore, much less journey with her.

Kate is so like many of us isn't she? Our darkness obscures all the good surrounding us. We can't see blessings right in our pathway. Sometimes we even want to persist in our night.

She's challenged by my hero, Seth Orbin, to accept the peace that is hers in God. She still doesn't get it and thinks poor Seth is delusional. It takes a few trials on both of their parts to pull them together and for Kate to learn it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

Now that's mercy.

I didn't realize how much this story resonated with my own soul until I had completed it. At low points in my life, some similar to Kate's, I have felt sorely disconnected with my Source of Power. I've asked 'Where is God?' I found in the darkest of night, if I looked up, I could see the stars, all shinny and bright. In our deepest winter there is an invertible spring.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Jude Urbanski talks about Max Lucado

Here's my theory about Max. Max Lucado, that is. To meet him was on my list of impossible dreams and while I did not get to shake his hand or really meet him, I did get within six feet of him at a Make a Difference concert. I'll take that as a fulfilled dream.

My theory is… Max, with his writings, has been called to minister to the masses. And minister he does. Colleen Coble says she would read Stephen King's laundry list and I would do the same with Max. In sum, I am so uplifted by his words, which are always geared to help deepen our journey of faith that I would read anything he wrote. Can say I've noticed Max is not too different than many of us--he has honed his writing skill with experience. I still love his beginnings works though, and his middle works and his today works!

Like priest, writer and speaker, Henri Nouwen, Max makes the simplest truth profound. His best trick is to make profound truths understandable. So easy, you shake your head and begin to apply what you've read to your own life and are surprised at the fit.

I collect Max's books and highly recommend one, especially for this Christmas season. His One Incredible Moment celebrates the majesty of the manager. Lucado said God took the ordinary night of Jesus' birth and hooked an "extra" in front of the ordinary. The night was ordinary no more. The photos alone are worth reading the book.

Though Max's subject material is ordinary, his words are far from clich├ęs, his metaphors fresh and Texan like. Did I mention he is pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio,Texas? Visiting there is also on my list of to dos.

Sometimes, reading his books is like taking a mini writing course! Make at least one of Max's books a 'must' read.


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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Jude Urbanski shares her Christmas Fudge

Author Jude Urbanski

Christmas always meant Grandma Glady's Karo Fudge!

She usually made it and brought it, but if she made it at our house, we knew we were in for a lot of hand stirring! If she made it ahead, she'd appear with about six pounds of caramel nut fudge. All in beautiful boxes or tins.

It takes a long time to make this fudge, but is certainly worth the effort. Enlist the kids for stirring, by all means.

We always looked forward to this treat. The fact it may not be the best for us nutritionally was happily forgotten when we tasted the delicious fudge.

Grandma Glady's Karo Fudge

6 cups sugar
1 pint white Karo
1 large can Carnation Milk
1 small can Carnation Milk
1 pound butter
2 cups English walnuts, cut up

MIX all ingredients in very large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and stir constantly. Cook until candy forms a firm ball in a glass of cold water. May need to reduce heat some.

REMOVE from heat after firm ball forms and stir until candy 'snaps' and has sheen on top. Candy will be 'stiff'. Usually an hour or more of stirring is needed.

POUR into a buttered 9 x 13 dish. Cut before completely hardened. Enjoy. It is good!

Gladys Martin


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Monday, 19 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Jude Urbanski

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

JUDE: Joy Restored is about a young, widowed mother wrestling with the eons-old question of "where is God when we're going through dark nights?" Her troubled, Vietnam vet husband is accidentally killed and in her anger at God she almost misses the incredible love offered by a wonderful Christian widower.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

JUDE: I worked on the novel, which is my first, off and on for over a year and had put it 'away' when the opportunity with Desert Breeze came along.

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

JUDE: I find it a hoot that the era of my novel, the late 1970 and into the 80s, is now called Modern Historical. That makes me feel akin to the dinosaurs! I had to reread about the Vietnam War as well as refresh about cars, clothing and music of that period. I had to think typewriters and not computers for the work environment. I learned all I could about the setting of Pickett County, Tennessee and made trips back. I was born in this county, moved away, so had to refresh myself on the dialect of southerners. My mother's short novella, My Little Cabin Home, is also set in Pickett County and is a free companion download to my book.

STEPH: What attracts you to Inspirational writing?

JUDE: Most my non-fiction writing is inspirational, which blends with my life as a Christian. When I decided to move into fiction, I made a deliberate decision to continue in the Christian inspirational arena. I'm aware writing can be inspirational, yet not Christian, but to me the two easily mesh.

STEPH: How much input did you have on the cover?

JUDE: Well, like other DB authors, I did all the cover art input. At one point, though, I asked if they would consider this marvelous (at least I thought so) photo I had taken. The cover is Mallard Point on Dale Hollow Lake in Pickett County, Tennessee which is my setting. It was a bit of a hard sale, but I so appreciate DB's willingness to work with me on this and I think the cover will help marketing in the area.

STEPH: Kate is the heroine. What are her strengths? Weaknesses?

JUDE: Kate is strong enough to manage a household, job and kids as a single mom, but her faith is weak, she's afraid to love and trust again and she puts blame in the wrong places.

STEPH: What does Seth find attractive about Kate?

JUDE: He's initially sweep off his feet with her beauty, loves her adorable children, but knows he and Kate are worlds apart spiritually. In spite of this, he loves her strength and is able to see her faith is there-just buried, way deep.

STEPH: What do you want readers to resonate with them after they've read the story?

JUDE: I'd like readers to know God is always walking with us, even in the darkest night. He's there in myriads of ways, if we but look for Him. I want them to enjoy and appreciate the incredible gift of love between a man and a woman.

STEPH: Hollywood is calling! Cast the main characters.

JUDE: Oh, me. I am so un-Hollywood! Ask my kids who live at Hollywood's doorsteps and they will know precisely! A tall, dark and handsome man and a beautiful, red-headed woman is all I can say, Steph. I can say though I readily see my story as a Hallmark Presents! Go film rights.

Here's Seth:

Here's Kate:

STEPH: Fun question: What's your favorite Christmas carol?

JUDE: I can answer this one so much better even though it is also hard because I have so many favorites, but 'Silent Night' is high on the list. I love the melody, words and story of the song.


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Friday, 16 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from "Faith in the Shadows"

Thanks you so much for supporting Sophie & Sadie during their spotlight week. Leave a comment on the excerpt post today, Saturday, and Sunday and we'll pick a winner on Monday to received a PDF copy of their story, Faith in the Shadows.

Moderator Steph


Hawk angrily dashed away the moisture on his cheeks. He had made it through the past year without family, he would do it this Christmas as well. He marched out into the weather and quashed the tempting thoughts of life with those he loved and those he longed to love. He fixed his mind on the future. Regardless of the hardships ahead of him, someday he would come home.

Hawk made it to the far edge of the paddock before he whirled around and trudged back to the barn. What ailed him? To forget his pack only showed the state of his addled brain. He must leave now, before Alice returned. It would be kinder for her this way. She would be hurt, but she would heal. Some day soon, he would walk up to this house, or maybe even ride up on a horse as fine as Thunder. He would take the stairs two at a time, no falling and stumbling ever again. Alice would be waiting in the doorway for him. He'd lift her off her feet and just stare at her face until he got his fill. Then they would walk together in the woods. He'd pick her wildflowers and properly ask her to be his wife.

"Soon," he muttered. "Please, God. Soon." In the dim winter light, he felt around at the foot of the cot for his errant pack. He snagged it with his searching fingers just as footsteps ran lightly into the barn.

"Hawk!" her voice trapped him. "Mama sent me to--" Alice's words halted, but only for an indrawn breath. "Mother said you were to help me cut the Christmas tree before the snow came. Will you?"

She knew. Hawk could tell by the disappointment in her voice. He slowly released his grip on his belongings and turned to face her. "I don't believe you need me to help you choose a Christmas tree," he protested, but he'd already broken her heart. He yearned to gather her close and mend it, but he clenched his fist tighter around his walking stick. "You don't need me," he muttered.

"I believe I do," Alice said. Her voice trilled and Hawk recognized the note of forced gaiety. She had used the same false tone at Pinehurst when extolling Joshua's virtues. The memory rankled and he waited for her to berate him for playing the coward once more. When she spoke again her voice strengthened with each word. "If I don't have help, I usually wander in the woods over into the next county. I'm gone for a fortnight. I love looking at trees. I can't help myself."

The soft confession melted his angry resolve. She took his hand and it trembled in his. He gripped it tightly.

"Come along." She gave him an insistent tug. "You can be back here and resume your business within the hour, if it's so important to you."

Hawk offered no resistance. Surely he could give them both this one memory. They moved as one out of the barn, through the gate, and into the upper pasture. The snow hit his face and melted like tears on his cheeks. He blinked away the moisture and his steps dragged. She slowed their pace but never stopped. "Alice," he finally said.

"Watch your step," she said.

Hawk stood stalk still and resisted her gentle pull. The sheep mobbed them, bumping at their knees. The stink of wet wool and the infernal baaing surrounded them. "Move along, Anna. I don't have a treat for you today, Dolly." Alice's scolding turned to laughter. The press of the woolly bodies squeezed closer; the volume of cries rose and deafened him. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "Dolly knows I always have some crackers or biscuit crumbles in my pocket and she won't let me go until I give them all a little something."

"She sounds spoiled to me." The normalcy of the moment broke through his pain but rubbed his emotions raw.

Alice burst into laughter again. "You're quite right. But just wait until spring lambing and see if you can resist the newborns."
"I don't know," Hawk began, but Alice continued on in a rush.

"Lawrence and I can teach you about lambing," she said. "Every year a few orphaned or weak lambs spend some time in a box by the kitchen stove. Dolly was one of my orphans." Her hand guided his down and a wet questing nose thrust between their hands. "That's Dolly," she said.

His lips curved up as she caressed the pet without letting go of his hand.

"Go on now," she said and clasped his hand tighter. Alice slowly towed him through the press of bodies. "We need to sneak out," she directed. He heard the clack of the latch and followed as they sidled through the north gate. The sheep snuffled and hooves scraped on the frozen ground, then their cries receded and nearly stopped. "We're headed up," Alice said. She tugged on his hand but he balked. "Alice," he said gruffly. "I won't be here for the spring lambing."

"I know," she said softly. "But won't you stay for Christmas?"

"I can't."

purchase links for FAITH IN THE SHADOWS:

We hope everyone will stop by every now and then to keep in touch. Thanks for hosting us, Stephanie - it's been wicked fun!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Author Spotlight - On Writing by Sadie Cuffe

In our high school English class we read, "The Sun Also Rises" (Hemingway). I don't remember many details about the book, but I can't forget the exchange I had with the teacher over one of the lead characters. I thought the heroine gave in too easily and gave away her self respect. Mrs. Perry responded, "Remember, you can't judge characters by your standards." Then she added, "But I agree with you."

After all these years, I realize the wisdom of that statement in my writing and my life. It helps us work together well (mostly) because I let Sophie be Sophie and she lets me be me. I think it's slightly more difficult for Soph, because, well I'm me, and she's type AA (but she always tolerates my upside-down notes and around-the-corner arrows with grace!)

But in the world of writing, this English teacher gem opens up a blank page of possibilities beyond personal reserves and even past our imaginations. It helps us create villains, saints and sinners who aren't cookie cutters of Cuffes (say that three times fast!). And, in the creation of heroes and heroines, particularly in historical settings like FITS, it motivates us to get outside our heads and into theirs. Hawk and Alice aren't exactly how we thought they'd be after we typed the first sentence.

We thought Hawk would be tougher, but in his toughness on himself, he emerged a more sensitive and conflicted human being. And Alice, fortunately, refused to let herself be eclipsed beneath our whimpering mental and emotional block. Characters take us on a journey of the mind and soul if we let them be who they are and not who we are. Sure they're just a bunch of letters pushed together on a screen, but they're individuals.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Sophie Cuffe talks about Sisters and Christmas

When my daughter was still living at home, she, Sadie, and I would rent "White Christmas" from the video store, then eat our way through it, making fun of the characters, and repeating the dialog along with them. Our favorite song was "Sisters" and Annie and I used it to audition for one of the local theatre's musical productions. Sadie and I have always been "disgustingly close" (as we've been told a time or two) despite the six-year age difference (yes, I'm older...RHIP [rank has its privilege]), so maybe that's why the song is so special. Our sisterhood reaches beyond our blood bond to include daughter, daughter-in-law, and all the girls who "get" what being a true sister is all about. They're the ones who love you when you're most unloveable and give you metal slap-upside-the-head when you question why they even like you. "Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters..."

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Christmas Memories by Sadie

What is it about Christmas that brings out such intense memories? As a kid, I'd always wanted to have a farm of my own when I grew up. I realized that dream and for me there's always something special about being in the barn and feeding the animals on Christmas Eve. One year my parents were up visiting on Christmas Eve. I was going back to their home for a family get together the next day.

Before I left home on Christmas morning, I went out to feed the livestock. When I opened the grain bin, inside was a smooth metal scoop with a red ribbon tied to the handle. The note with it proclaimed it was from the animals, but the strong bold printing was my dad's.

Dad grew up in California during the depression. He was the youngest of a large family and, as far as I can figure, they never had a tree or the stockings and presents we loved and took for granted during our growing-up years. He was a generous man, but wasn't that much into trimming the tree or gift buying, relying on us and our mom to buy gifts for him to give.

Mom told me the scoop was his idea and he did his own shopping.

Our dad is no longer with us, but we still use his scoop every day. And, as I stand in the barn on Christmas Eve this year, surrounded by the animals contentedly chomping hay, releasing the scents of green fields drenched in drowsy summer sun, I won't feel the early winter darkness or the sharp cold creeping in under the door -- I'll feel the rough calloused warmth of his big hand in mine and know he's still holding my hand watching over us. Thanks, Dad. Merry Christmas.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Sadie & Sophie Cuffe

STEPH: I don't know much about "Faith in the Shadows." What's it about?

SOPHIE & SADIE: Set in the period right after the American Civil War, the story is about Alice, an independent woman of faith, and Hawk, a man who feels he lost not only his vision but his self-respect on the battlefield. The world around them is changed, and their lives are changing, too. Alice's brother will soon marry, and she feels the pressure to move out of the family home. Hawk feels the stress of providing for himself and not being a burden on anyone.

In 1866 society circles, the purple splotched birthmark on her cheek brands Alice a spinster. When a gentleman courts her, she jumps into a loveless engagement to Joshua, a braggart in desperate need of cash.

His groom, Hawk, knows Joshua's dirty secrets, but as a blind war veteran he has few choices. His employer's threats make it clear he'll be on the street if he breathes a word of the truth to Alice.

But when Joshua bullies Alice at their engagement party, Hawk steps out of the dark and becomes her champion. Torn between honor and need, Hawk comes to work for the Wainwright family. Alice and Hawk share the same vulnerability and pride. When friendship quickly turns to love, each is blinded by a dark secret. Joshua's interference plays on their insecurities and threatens their future together. Can they face the truth about themselves and each other before they're torn apart?

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

SOPHIE & SADIE: Probably about three months. FITS was written in-between our real life of family, farming, freelance jobs, and work, so it wasn't completed all at once. It's also been sitting in the shadows for awhile and has undergone several changes over the years, which amounts to another three months of tweaking.

STEPH: What was the inspiration behind the story?

SOPHIE & SADIE: Sadie loves the Civil War and post-war era and has always wanted to write about it, and Sophie finally agreed. Originally, we wanted the story to be of a Yankee girl caught in a spy scenario. Alice didn't turn out to be a spy, and wasn't involved in the war, her life and passions are more like we imagine we would've been in that time period. Since FITS is the centerpiece in the trilogy, the spy story will be coming up next in the tale of Alice's brother and Hawk's sister. (The Seekers- release date 7/11/12)

STEPH: Alice is the main character. What are her strengths? Weaknesses?

SOPHIE & SADIE: She's intelligent and kind, has a quick wit and a good sense of humor. She possesses undying family loyalty and isn't afraid to try her hand at any kind of work or dare. Her weaknesses spring from her strengths. Alice is so independent she won't accept others' help or advice. Her stubborn streak causes her to doubt her strengths and question the love of her family and friends. She sets impossibly high standards for herself. Alice believes beauty is only skin deep for the entire human race, with the exception of one person -- herself.

STEPH: What does Hawk find attractive about Alice.

SOPHIE & SADIE: He loves her honesty, her sense of humor, her warmth, generosity, kindness, her courage, and friendship.

STEPH: What do you want readers to take home after reading the novel?

SOPHIE & SADIE: FITS and the Wainwright trilogy carry a theme of being deceived by appearances. This novel, in particular, shows us how often we project what we feel and think on others. We'd like the reader to come away from FITS with a realization of the dangers of trying to read other's minds, and a determination to be all God designed them to be, embrace the gifts He gave them, and not spend their lives keeping a low profile and living in the shadows.

STEPH: Hollywood is calling. Cast the lead characters.

SOPHIE & SADIE: As you can probably tell, we're way past our twenties and thirties and…so we aren't that in tune with the latest move stars. Our casting would be a blast from the past with Stephanie Zimbalist as our heroine and John Schneider as our hero.

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

SOPHIE & SADIE: No, not yet, but maybe someday.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

SADIE: At this time of year, it's more of a mess than usual, if that's possible. I have snippets of dialog and notes everywhere. My favorite Thesaurus is buried under a bunch of research booklets, but I can still see my favorite photo of my grandparents for inspiration. On my desk, I have a couple of heart rocks from the nearby beach, a wooden acorn to remind me "Even a blind pig (and a struggling writer) finds an acorn one day," and an old Babba Louie figurine from my childhood so I won't forget my roots. I also have a leather giraffe and a fake miniature Jack-a-lope sitting on my tower that help hold up a piece of poster board as a makeshift shield because the sun is at such a low angle right now it hits me in the eyes in the afternoon.

SOPHIE: I'm ashamed of my side of the office. The stack of papers on my desk was so high I moved it to the kitchen table to weed it out. It's still there, with even more on top, and I've got another pile on my desk that's steadily growing. grrrr. But the wall behind my monitor is plastered with photos, one of me and big brother beside the old family Nash when I was 5 (I still have the same bangs!). My favorite photo, though, is my daughter with her sleeping baby in the fleece baby sling I made for them. Kiwi looks like a little pea in a blue pod.

STEPH: Fun question: What are your favorite Christmas foods that you like to bake.

SOPHIE & SADIE: Christmas bread – our Aunt Mert used to make it for the entire family every year and we hope we do her justice in trying to carry on the tradition. This doesn't exactly qualify as baking, but our Aunt Shirley used to make her own hand-dipped candies and fudge, and Sophie's inherited the ability to make that same great fudge. We also love to make Chex party mix, our own beef jerky, and caramel popcorn balls. That's why we'll always be BMWs (Big Maine Women) and proud of it! For a copy of the Christmas Bread recipe, visit our website at under Cuffe Stuff.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from "Nina's Niche"

Thanks so much for supporting Jackie during her week in the spotlight. Leave a comment on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday's blog and you'll be entered to win a gift certificate from Amazon from Jackie. Remember to leave your email contact information. Jackie and I hope you've enjoyed your time with "Nina's Niche."

Moderator Steph


Jake hopped out of his Jeep and waded through the snow to the passenger side. When he lifted Nina, she immediately put her arms around his neck. The touch of her soft hands against his skin sent his thermometer raging.

Inside, he placed her on the rug in front of the fire and kneeled beside her. "Where do you hurt?"

"My head. Front and back. Got any aspirin?"

"I don't think you'd better take any drugs yet."

Nina giggled. "Aspirin's not a real drug."

And what would she know about drugs? "I'll get you something to drink after I call your folks." The lights went out.
"Damn." At least he kept emergency supplies -- flashlights, batteries, candles always on hand.

"Naughty, naughty."

"It's good to see you haven't changed. I'm glad you're still a nice girl."

"No way." She ran her hand over his stubble.

He hadn't shaved this morning figuring he wouldn't see anyone. He hoped his bristles didn't hurt her soft little hand. "What do you mean?"

She put her fingers on his lips and he automatically kissed them.

"I'm through being nice." She pressed his fingers against her lips and smiled.

"What the hell do you mean?" He jumped up. He didn't know how to treat this woman if she wasn't his old friend, Nice Nina. Having a friend like her had been the one good thing in his life -- until she didn't go to the prom with him.

He picked up the phone. "Dead. Damn it to hell. And my cell doesn't work here. What am I going to do?"

"Sit beside me." She patted the rug."

Jake dropped next to her. He couldn't go out in the storm and leave Nina alone. He didn't think he could make it to Julian anyway until the roads were cleared.

"Why didn't you stay down in San Diego?"

"Wanted to have an adventure and I am." She turned on her side. "Lie down next to me."

Jake hesitated for one moment, but there was only so much temptation a guy could take when she was offering him what he'd dreamed of. He stretched out facing her and the fire. The flames made a halo around her head, reminding him she was still a nice girl even if she didn't think so. Nothing much would happen. This would only go as far as a few kisses, and they'd done that before.

Nina put her hand behind his neck and pulled his face down to hers.

In an instant he was lost in the taste and feel of Nina.

Visit my website: and enter my contest for a chance to win a gift certificate to Romano's Restaurant where Nina and Jake have a romantic dinner.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Jake from Nina's Niche visits the blog.

Hi, readers, my name is Jake Anderson and yes, I am, or was a bad boy. I cut school, broke the speed limit on my bike—but never when Nina was riding behind me—and got drunk one night like my dad. Once was enough. I fell in love with Nina Jones in high school. She was as opposite from me as you could get. Nice Nina always came to school on time with her homework done, was a cheerleader and taught Sunday School. But Nina was also one of the few people in town that didn’t think I was a loser. She stood up for me when people made fun of my shabby clothes. She studied with me—when I studied—and she loved to ride on the back of my bike. Those were the best times of my teenage years with Nina’s arms around my waist, her front pressed to my back and the wind blowing away all the bad stuff. Of course, as a randy teen I wanted to get into Nina’s pants, but I never got farther than a few fabulous kisses. Fast forward ten years. Nina’s gone through a traumatic engagement and I’ve dated a few women. Now Nina’s sexy and ready to roll, but hey, I’ve had enough of being the bad boy. I want the respect of the town, of Nina’s father and most of all of Nina. So-o-o, even though Jackie likes to write sex scenes, I wouldn’t let her. That’s the secret of why Jackie had to let us wait for the wedding night. Come back tomorrow to see how close we got to making love.

Visit my website: and enter my contest for a chance to win a gift certificate to Romano's Restaurant where Nina and Jake have a romantic dinner.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Jackie Leigh Allen talks about the inspiration behind Nina's Niche

I had always wanted to write a novel with a bad boy hero. Well, don’t we all love bad boys—as long as we don’t have to live with them? So Jake was the starting point for Nina’s Niche. I’ve spent many enjoyable hours in Julian, California, but I’ve also lived in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. It can be a wonderful atmosphere full of friends and helpers, but it can also be a place where no one forgets any mistake you’ve ever made. That’s Jakes’ situation and they weren’t even his mistakes. No one expected much from the son of the town drunk, so he decided to live down to their expectations. After he left town, he didn’t have the same pressures. He went to college and aced his studies. Of course, he couldn’t entirely leave his bad boy persona behind because he did like to ride bikes. He eventually upgraded to a Harley and had a ball riding with the wind blowing past his leathers. Traveling all over the western states, he saw a lot of beautiful places but no place felt like home to him. So he came back to Julian where he’s a proper, well enthusiastic, business man running a Harley agency. Come back tomorrow and Jake will tell you a secret about Nina’s Niche.

Visit my website: and enter my contest for a chance to win a gift certificate to Romano's Restaurant where Nina and Jake have a romantic dinner.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Jackie Leigh Allen talks about the setting in Nina's Niche

In 1869 people found gold in Julian, California.

Today they find treasures of the heart.

That’s the setting for my new trilogy and NINA’S NICHE is the first book. I want to welcome you to the world of Julian, California, or at least the Julian where my stories take place. I’ve changed the main street a little so Carol and Nina can run the Julian Junque Shoppe the way I want them to. I put Jake's Harley Agency on Main Street, too. That’s one reason being an author is so much fun. If I want Carol to sell Double Dutch Chocolate ice cream, she sells it alongside the antiques Carol views as treasures and the flowers Nina loves to arrange.

Every town’s flavor really depends on the people who live there and Julian is no exception. The daughter and nephew of the Julian Hotel’s proprietor were raising money for a trip to Washington, D. C. when I visited. Two walkers took pity on a lowlander and helped me find the elementary school after I mistook the library for a school.

In my Julian, the people shape the town, too. Nina’s father, the pastor of a church I’ve placed in the middle of the town, starts out more concerned for his flock than his family, but learns to bend like we all do in real life. That’s what I like to do in my stories—combine fiction and real life. I hope you will enjoy learning about the hidden gem of Julian where the snow piles up in winter, the daffodils burst with color in spring, the sun brings lazy days in summer and the apples ripen in the fall.
Come back tomorrow and learn more about bad boy Jake.

Visit my website: and enter my contest for a chance to win a gift certificate to Romano's Restaurant where Nina and Jake have a romantic dinner.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A wth Jackie Allen

STEPH: I don't know much about Nina's Niche. What's it about?

JACKIE: Nina’s Niche is the story of a good girl who wants to become a bad girl (she doesn’t really succeed) and Jake, the bad boy who reforms so he’s worthy of the good girl.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

JACKIE: I wrote it in about four months, put it aside and wrote An Officer and a Gigolo then went back and did about two months of rewrite on Nina's Niche.

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

JACKIE: I had fun researching the town of Julian, California. I also learned a little about Harleys because Jake runs a Harley agency.

STEPH: How did you come to settle on the title, Nina's Niche?

JACKIE: Since Nina didn’t like being Nice Nina, she had to find out where she did belong. With Jake’s help she learns her niche is Nice and Sexy Nina.

STEPH: What are Nina's strengths? Her weaknesses?

JACKIE: Nina is concerned about others, a hard worker and good at her job as an accountant until her world falls apart. On the other hand she does try some things she could have thought about a little longer when she’s trying to shed her Nice Nina label.

STEPH: How long have Jake and Nina known each other. What does Jake find attractive about her?

JACKIE: They were sweethearts in high school but she tried to keep it quiet because her father didn’t approve. Jake thinks she’s beautiful, sweet and sexy.

STEPH: Hollywood is calling. Cast the characters.

JACKIE: I haven't been going to many movies lately, but I think Anne Hathaway would make a perfect Nina if we could afford her. As for Jake, well of course I think of Jake Gyllenhaal if he'd dye his hair blond or maybe Matthew McConaughey.

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

JACKIE: I have a Nook and just got an Ipad.

STEPH: Fun question: What's your favorite holiday treat?

JACKIE: Over the long haul it’s been going to A Christmas Carol on stage, but this year I know the best holiday treat will be seeing my three year old grandson.

Visit my website: and enter my contest for a chance to win a gift certificate to Romano's Restaurant where Nina and Jake have a romantic dinner.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from "That Syncing Feeling"

Enjoy this excerpt from "That Syncing Feeling" by Michelle Levigne.
Moderator Steph


The airlock signaled all clear, pressure equalized, and something small and dark stepped into the shadows of the airlock. Nureen watched all the sensor readouts, both displayed in front of her and what came through her ship link, straight into her brain. Everything looked good -- at least, nothing had been detected that would endanger her life. That meant nothing, because Rovers knew, better than anyone else, that there were weird and wonderful and terrifying things out there beyond the range of the most modern technology and sensors. Just because the equipment couldn't see or sense something didn't mean it wasn't there.

Okay, I give in, she silently groused. I need some shore leave badly.

In response, the airlock pinged, signaling it was ready to open. She made one more check of the readouts, took a deep breath, and sent through the mental signal to open the airlock.

Two seconds later she nearly went to her knees. Nureen managed to hold back the automatic "awwwww" as she stared down at her visitor.

It was less than a meter tall, with enormous emerald eyes and big tufted ears. Its fur was silver shading toward lavender, and its four arms and four legs were short and chubby and sported four fingers or toes with blunt silver nails.

It was all she could do not to go to her knees and scoop up the creature in her arms to cuddle it.

"Hey, wait a minute." Nureen took two steps back from the goomibah. For good measure, she held her breath, in case the totally mythical, appears-only-in-children's-entertainment-vids-creature gave off mind-altering substances that registered as totally natural. They wouldn't set off red flags in her sensors, even as her brain melted and she lost three-quarters of her intelligence rating.

Oh, I'm so sorry, that buzzing voice said into her brain, without the creature's lips moving. I thought this form would make it easier for you to accept me.

This form? Nureen definitely needed shore leave. Metamorphic creatures were the stuff of legend, just like the goomibah.
We don't have time to discuss history and fable. The Synch is going to catch up with us. Those horrid hive creatures damaged my ship, and I certainly can't leave you out here unprepared. You'll have to trust me.

"Trust you for what?" Nureen dodged sideways, guided by instinct before her conscious mind registered that the goomibah was ... flying, straight at her. Without wings.

She shrieked, biting back a string of curses, when it flattened and wrapped around her neck and shoulders. All right, it was warm and soft and smelled of vanilla and ambrosia apples -- but it shouldn't have been able to do that. And wasn't there a parasitic flying plant on Congress IV that smelled like paradise when it wrapped around its victims' heads, rendering them unconscious before digesting them?

I'm protecting you! that voice insisted. Look outside your ship!

Nureen listened to her gut instinct more than the warm, soft sheet enfolding her, and braced herself for the worst as she looked.

It was worse than the worst. Mostly because she usually only imagined one thing at a time as "the worst." The "worst" she could imagine right now was to see the Talroqi ship bearing down on her.

She was wrong.

The vortex had expanded and was reaching out greedy fingers for her.

It had already grabbed hold of the Talroqi ship and was tearing it apart.

She figured if the vortex had the Talroqi for dinner, she was dessert.



Many thanks to Candy at Single Titles for a great review of my Borealis novella, "That Syncing Feeling."

Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

Rover Pilot Nureen Keala’s joy ride comes to an end when she receives an SOS from an alien running away from a Talroqi queen ship. Nureen rescues the telepathic shapeshifting creature named Tessur. The anomaly that captured Tessur suddenly grabs Nureen’s ship and tosses her into an unknown dimension ruled by a dictatorship called the Trans Planetary Protectorate (TTP). The TTP is a corrupt government out to rule their entire universe. Nureen’s appearance lets them know that there are new and unexplored areas of space left to conquer. To keep the TTP from her homeland, Nureen depends on Tessur and a dead hero from her own dimension. Can a simple pilot stop an invasion?

Five years earlier, Tedrin Creed fell into the same anomaly that captured Nureen. Creed hopes Nureen can help him get home. First he must convince her that he is really Tedrin Creed. According to Nureen, Tedrin Creed died fifty years ago during a space battle. Creed must convince Nureen that the anomaly captured him and that he did not die. Creed is a hero to Nureen. He was her grandfather’s best friend. Will Creed convince Nureen of the truth before the TTP can invade their universe?

Michelle Levigne takes a young pilot and tosses her into a situation that will change her life forever. Nureen had a crush on Tedrin Creed and dreamed of fighting aliens at his side. The anomaly presents Nureen with her fondest wish, but she does not trust Creed. He is too young to be the hero of the Talroqi war. The Trans Planetary Protectorate rules most of the known universe and is a brutal dictatorship. Ms. Levigne presents a story with lots of action and a forbidden love that should not be possible. Will Nureen help Creed return home and prevent the TTP from learning how to navigate the anomaly?

Major thanks to Long and Short of it and Night Owl review sites for their very kind words about my SF books.

First off:
New from Desert Breeze Publishing

Here are some snippets from the review:
Rating: 4.5 Books

Reviewed by Foxglove

That Syncing Feeling is a sweet and delightful love story, filled with adventure and humor, and unusual creatures. 

Michelle Levigne has added to the Borealis family with a romantic story of finding love where you least expect it, and with the most unlikely couple. I found this to be a fun filled and action packed adventure, with tongue in cheek humor, sweet first love and lots of danger along the way. 

Nureen Keala is smart, courageous and a bit of a dreamer. She is following in her grandfather’s footsteps, and trying not to disappoint those in command of the Fleet. ... I loved Nureen, with her daring attitude and her sassy remarks. I liked that she didn’t instantly believe Creed was the real deal, but made him prove his identity. ... I like Creed’s determination and his tenacity, and the way he finally was able to come to terms with his feelings for his best friend’s granddaughter.

The secondary characters in this are few but interesting. Tessur is a morphing shape changer, able to become anything that is even remotely organic, and this talent saves the day more than once in this adventure. My favorite comic relief was the addition of three TPP scientists assigned to keep watch over Tedrin Creed, Drs. Moek, Kerli and Lairy. They were clueless as to Creed’s intentions, and his ability to trick them was priceless.

There is a bit of adventure and danger as the trio of Nureen, Tedrin and Tessur make their escape from Borealis, and I was on the edge of my seat through most of the story. Do they make it back to their dimension and find a life together? You’ll just have to read That Syncing Feeling to find out.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Author Spotlight - Michelle Levigne talks about the inspiration behind "That Syncing Feeling"

Like I said on Monday, there were certain elements I wanted to play with. I wanted to have fun and be silly. I wanted a "merry chaos" story, where the main character kept muttering, "Why ME?" as one weird, inexplicable thing after another happened, and no matter how hard she tried, it just all kept going downhill.

I had this shapeshifting character named Tessur that I had created for a series of Star Trek fan fiction stories for the club I used to belong to. Essentially, my character, Lt. Mikara (animal telepath, cultural anthropologist) meets up with Cyrano Jones on her way to join her ship. Yes, that Cyrano Jones, of "Trouble with Tribbles" fame. Poor Cyrano, trying to get rid of this little three-legged stool that could walk ... and Mikara meets Tessur. They torment her captain with things that he's sure he shouldn't see, and Tessur gets Mikara out of trouble when she's temporarily assigned to the Enterprise (she's positive it's a death sentence) and "loses" her landing party team to a planet-wide mental "reprogramming" field.

In "Syncing," Tessur takes on various faces/bodies to get Nureen and Creed out of tight spots, and acts as a translator for her when she lands in an alien dimension. And he drives her crazy the first time she sees him "melt" into new shapes that shouldn't exist.

I torture my characters. It's fun!