Tag Archives: cat

The Ellsworth Express…..

10 Dec

Today on the GSP Christmas Promo we welcome John C. Elliott.

Dr. Elliott worked for the U.S. State Department from 1966 to 2008, conducting international operations, and concurrently for Mossad in Israel from 1985 to 2010. While engaged with his work, he has been shot on four separate occasions, stabbed three different times, run down by automobiles twice and blown up twice. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business, an MBA and a Juris Doctorate degree. He is a public and motivational speaker and conducts safety and crime-avoidance seminars nationwide. He is fluent in English, Gaelic, Hebrew and Hungarian, and can speak conversationally in Italian and French. He’s an on-air contributor for the BBC in London and in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He is also an editorial writer and the author of eleven books, with several more on the way. His first book was penned aboard a charter flight across the Pacific Ocean in 1969. By the time he reached Travis Air Force Base in California, it was complete.

My website: http://www.JohnElliottBooks.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChappyElliott
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/john.c.elliott.7
Myspace: myspace.com/585768794

His book we are highlighting is The Ellsworth Express.
he story takes place in Columbia Falls, Maine, a sleepy coastal village, and involves a strange sea fog that creeps in from the ocean every few months, a Civil War ghost train, and five friends who attend the small elementary school in town. One of the friends, Tobias Franklin, has a mysterious past, and together they go about attempting to solve the village’s recurring mystery where people occasionally disappear, never to be seen again. The book is intended for children in grades two through six.


The Ellsworth Express

Every night I lie in my bed,
Cold and afraid of the nightmare to come. Scared of the screaming and running in my dreams. That face, a horrible face. The face I see before waking up screaming. The woods, the branches clawing at me like knives. Stumbling over roots and unstable ground. Afraid to look back at the dark face trying to catch me. He tries to grab at my hair missing by just inches. Everything so real. I trip knowing that he’s inches away. All I can do is scream. I wake up screaming only to realize it’s only a dream.
~Francesca Paul


No one in the village saw it coming, because it came in the middle of the darkest night anyone could ever remember. No one heard it coming, because most people were asleep as it crept steadily forward. Those very few people who were awakened when it came felt their ears popping and they felt very, very afraid! Mrs. Emma Hewitt, the elderly lady who lived in the small one bedroom apartment above the tiny pottery shop, was one of those unfortunate few. She just happened to be returning to bed with a warm glass of milk when she looked out of her bedroom window. She gasped in horror and stepped back from the window in fright, the glass of warm milk falling from her hands and breaking into hundreds of tiny fragments on the cold, hardwood floor at her feet. “Oh no,” she murmured to herself. “Please, not again.”

But it had returned, and it was right outside of her window. She looked again and saw that it was growing stronger and getting closer. It looked as if it was alive, a terrifying living beast, so enormously huge. The colors were so odd, so strange, and so disturbingly vibrant; and she knew right then and there that lives would be taken that night, people would be changed forever, and her small village would be thrown into chaos once again. Just then, she remembered her window had remained wide open, because she liked the cool ocean breezes while she slept at night. She quickly lurched forward to slam it shut against the oncoming horror, cutting her foot on the broken glass, her blood mixing freely with the warm milk on the floor. She was just in time! It would move on tonight, taking someone else away, never to be seen again. But it would return; it always did.

Chapter One
Two Weeks Later

It was late in August in Columbia Falls, Maine, and for the students of the tiny Columbia Falls Elementary School it would soon be the start of the new school year.

Columbia Falls was a small village, and everyone seemed to know everyone else. The summer had been long and hot, and many of the students had spent those long hot summer days at Jasper Beach, where they collected buckets full of green and red jasper stones; the beach at Rogue Bluffs, where they happily swam in the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean and explored the miles of rocky coastline.

But all that was soon coming to an end, and some of their parents had driven the forty-two miles into Ellsworth to buy new school clothing for their children at the department stores there, an hour away. Others would even drive an extra half hour, all the way to Bangor, to shop. And while most of the children were looking forward to the new school year, some were sad to know summer was almost over.

This new school year was a little different, however, because four new students would be attending classes in Columbia Falls. Two of those new students were the twin brothers, Jeffery and James Carlisle. They were identical twins, and it was sometimes difficult to tell who was who. Occasionally, even their parents had a hard time telling them apart. Their father was a technician for the Air Force, attending to the enormous radar installations at the Columbia Falls Air Force Base several miles away. It was located at the top of one of the largest hills in this part of Maine, and from the top of those barrens, that’s what the local people called the tops of those hills, one could see for miles. Mr. and Mrs. Carlisle fell in love with the beautiful scenery in Columbia Falls, and when they found out about the job at the air force base, Mr. Carlisle applied for the position right away.

Another new student was Jack Higgins. Jack had bright red hair and hundreds of freckles all over his face. All three boys were twelve years old, but Jack was quite short for his age, and was sometimes embarrassed because he thought that the others would make fun of him when he attended the new school. He had been made fun of before, back in his old school in Rhode Island, where some of the students called him Peewee and Midget. One of the students in Rhode Island had even called him a dwarf right to his face. So for Jack, the thought of attending this new school was somewhat frightening. Jack’s parents were doctors at the Machias Hospital, about twelve miles away, and they were hoping the students attending Columbia Falls Elementary School would be a lot kinder to Jack than the boys and girls back in Rhode island.

The fourth new student was someone hardly anyone knew anything about at all. He was a tall, skinny boy, who called himself Tobias. Tobias was actually Tobias Franklin, and the only person who seemed to know anything about him was George Morris, an old farmer. Mr. Morris was the person who registered Tobias for school, and some people thought Tobias lived above Mr. Morris’ enormous old barn. There was a small room up on the third level of the old, hay-filled barn, and some of the boys and girls in the village had seen Tobias walking into that barn through the huge double doors more than once.

Tobias always wore the same old-fashioned looking clothes. He had a pair of dirty, mud-streaked work boots, gray-colored coveralls, and a long-sleeved shirt best described as red with a checkered pattern. He had been seen only for the last two weeks in the village, and no one seemed to know where in the world he came from. No one saw Tobias’ parents, nor had anyone seen him riding in a car. If you happened to see Tobias at all, you only saw him walking quickly with his head down and his hands thrust deeply into the pockets of those gray coveralls.

The most striking feature about Tobias, however, was the color of his unruly mop of hair. It was a thick head of hair, but it was stark white. No one had ever seen a twelve-year-old boy with that color of hair before. Not even old Mr. Morris had that much white in his hair. Oh sure, Mr. Morris had gray hair, but not the snow-colored white Tobias had. Tobias was a complete mystery, and some of the boys and girls sitting on the rocks of Jasper Beach that day were talking about him, wondering how he got to Columbia Falls in the first place, and why his hair was so very white.



Lord Badger’s Adventures ….

9 Dec

Today we welcome Gene Fehler on the GSP Christmas Promo.

Gene Fehler loves to write for kids of all ages. He also loves baseball, both playing it and writing about it. He still plays more than eighty baseball and softball games a year, and ten of his thirteen published books deal with baseball, the most recent being When Baseball Was Still King: Major League Players Remember the 1950s (McFarland, 2012), a collection of anecdotes gleaned from the interviews Gene did with more than one hundred former major league players. Gene’s poems have appeared in more than three hundred periodicals, anthologies, and textbooks. He’s also an avid book collector, with more than 6,000 titles in his personal library, about two-thirds of them sports books. Gene has two grown sons and three granddaughters. He lives with his wife Polly in Seneca, SC, where he loves to walk their two toy poodles. For more, visit his website.

WEBSITES: http://www.genefehler.com
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/gene.fehler

His book we are highlighting today is Lord Badger’s Adventures
Lord Badger is the wisest creature in the forest. He needs every bit of that wisdom to be able to solve the poem riddles that let him know his beloved nephews Melfryn and Bryndelf face a crisis, whether the crisis is in the form of a giant dragon that breathes green fire or in the form of someone who has stolen Santa’s magic dust and thus threatens the arrival of Santa on Christmas Eve.

In these two delightful stories, “Lord Badger and the Gray Mice,” and “Lord Badger and the Magic Dust,” we see the wisdom and heroism of the ageless gentle badger.


One: Lord Badger and the Gray Mice

Lord Badger smiled as he shut his front door. He walked to the window and watched Melfryn and Bryndelf Badger skip back toward their home in the woods. It had been quite a fun evening of games and music and storytelling.

Old Lord Badger lived by himself in a small cottage in a deep forest. At least three evenings a week, the children of many of his forest friends would stay with him. And he never accepted payment. “It keeps me young,” he told the parents. “I’m happy to do it.”

And happy he was. Those evenings were among his most wonderful and exciting times. Why, just this evening he’d been reading his paper while Melfryn and Bryndelf were in the kitchen, eating their dessert. A frantic shout from the kitchen brought him running. “Come quick, Lord Badger! We’ve had an accident!”

He’d bounced from his chair, letting the newspaper flutter to the floor behind him. Imagine his surprise to see Melfryn and Bryndelf sitting at the kitchen table, blood covering their faces. “We’re hurt! We’re hurt!” they called out.

What could have happened? He rushed to their side, praying they weren’t seriously injured.

Then they laughed and wiped their faces with their napkins. “It’s only strawberries,” Melfryn said. “We decided to dip our noses in it to see what it would look like.”

“Doesn’t it look real?” Bryndelf Badger asked. “Just as if we’re really bleeding.”

Lord Badger took a deep breath before he answered. He decided not to tell them he’d just aged another twenty years. “Quite real,” he said, and the stripes on his own face returned from a pale white to their normal shade of brown.

“Are you okay?” Melfryn Badger asked. “We’re sorry if we scared you. We didn’t mean for you to be worried.”

“Oh,” Lord Badger said, “I wasn’t worried. I was merely afraid for you. I was frightened that you had both suffered some terrible accident. I was terrified that two of my favorite nephews might be in pain and might be permanently disfigured. But worried? No, I wasn’t worried.”

Now, alone in the house, Lord Badger sat before his fireplace and smiled. They were good boys. They had apologized again and again for having played such a thoughtless practical joke.

Lord Badger had not fibbed to them. He had not been worried, merely terrified. Every time he started to worry, this poem automatically popped into his head:



Brambles and Thorns….

8 Dec

Today we once again we welcome Lisa Farrell on the GSP Christmas Promo.

Lisa Farrell has been writing for as long as she can remember. Much of what she writes is speculative fiction, but she tries other things from time to time. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia.
          Lisa’s Blog: http://lisafarrell.blogspot.com/
         FACEBOOK:  http://www.facebook.com/lisafarrelluk
Her book that we are highlighting today is Brambles and Thorns.
Moira’s mother is long gone and her father comes and goes, but she can look after herself. So when Riana appears, trying to get involved in her life, Moira resists. She doesn’t want a fairy godmother; she wants to make her own choices.

Adam doesn’t know who he is. He has grown up as the plaything of some very sinister fairies, and only the occasional kindness of the three sisters has kept him alive.

Moira and Adam must both get their destinies back on track, but Riana has been doing more than giving gifts and setting people up. And even the sisters cannot claim innocence.


Moira cut across the field, her bike rattling beneath her. She went through a particularly large cow-pat and knew her jeans had been splattered. Anne’s mum would probably insist she change into a pair of Anne’s clean, expensive jeans. They would be too short and would show her ankles, which she’d not shaved since last week. That woman’s kindness always led to humiliation.

The sky was thick with clouds and a feather-light mist was rising, making everything dim and grey. By the time she came home she would need her lights, but the batteries were running low. Maybe she would leave them off and speed silently through the darkness, a creature of the night. Of course, if she ended up in the river, then it would be her fault.

She had not seen a soul since she had reached the river path, and usually it was busy. Maybe the cold was keeping people at home, or in their cars. Moira sniffed hard; the cold made her nose run. She didn’t want to slow down to dig a tissue from her pocket. It wasn’t much farther to the bridge, and the light—not that she was scared of the half-dark.

Someone was standing on the bridge, right in the middle, right in her way. Moira flicked at her bell a couple of times as she approached, but the figure just stood there, a dark form under the light. Moira was forced to stop, clenching her brakes, and found herself face to face with a woman who looked more than a little crazy. She had a huge hooded black shawl pulled around her, over a humpback. Her face and hair were white, shining out from the darkness under her hood. Her eyes doing the rabbit in headlights stare.

“Excuse me,” Moira said, dismounting.

The woman didn’t move so Moira pushed past her, and the woman let out a yelp of surprise. Moira fought the urge to apologise, or look back. She hopped back onto her bike and got away as fast as she could.


“Hey, Morra,” Anne’s mum said. “Come on in!”

If the jeans were noticed, they weren’t mentioned. Moira followed her into the house, gritting her teeth and politely refusing the many offers of food. She used to think Mrs. Harris pushed food on her because she thought she wasn’t fed properly at home. She had soon realised it was because Anne was too fussy to eat any of her cooking, so she had no other child to give it to.

“Is Anne upstairs, Mrs. Harris?”

“Call me Sally, please, Morra,” the woman said, her head bobbing up and down like a mother hen’s as she spoke. “Yes, she’s upstairs, but be sure to knock, I think Darren’s still with her.”

“Darren Marsters?”


Mrs. Harris’s eyes gleamed. He had obviously charmed her. She obviously didn’t know about his reputation.

“Maybe I’d better come another time.”

“Oh no, dear, she’s expecting you. Go on up.”

Moira suppressed a shudder. If Anne was expecting her she was probably in for a scene. Maybe she should stall a bit longer, let Darren call Anne’s bluff. How long could it take to undress, given how little Anne ever wore?

Moira climbed the stairs slowly, her socked feet treading quietly on the faded flowery carpet, her hand gripping the polished brass handrail. At the top she paused, listening for clues. She heard Anne’s patently cute giggle, but that didn’t tell her anything.

She stood in front of the door and examined the pretty, painted sign. Welcome to Annabelle’s Room had been done in swirly blue letters, tiny flowers curling from them. The door was white and plain, but there were sticky marks where Anne had taped posters to it in the past.

Moira held the doorknob in her palm. The brass was cold. She wondered how many hands had held it in the past. Had it been here before the Harrises moved in? Or had Mrs. Harris insisted on changing everything, so it was all clean and new?

She opened the door without knocking and found Anne and Darren on the bed, fumbling at each other, still mostly dressed. Darren was topless and he seemed genuinely embarrassed, tumbling from the bed and retrieving his shirt from the floor. Anne just giggled.

“Your dad didn’t let you fit that lock yet?” Moira asked, forcing a smile.

“Not until I’m sixteen,” Anne said, lying back against the pillows. Moira could see a red silk bra through her open blouse. She wasn’t known for wearing blouses, but buttons slowed boys down.


When Darren had gone they laughed about him, and Anne told her all the secrets he’d spilled. There was nothing too incriminating, but Anne loved gossip in all its forms and was enjoying herself so much that she made herself breathless with talking, her cheeks turning a delicate shade of pink.

Moira pretended to listen, until Anne paused long enough for Moira to bring up her idea. She hadn’t come just to talk about Darren.

“I found this,” Moira said, producing a crumpled page from her pocket. “I thought it might be fun to have a go.”
Anne was frowning as she took the page, which Moira had ripped from a magazine, but her brow smoothed as her eyes skimmed the words. She smiled, and her eyes lifted from the page and met Moira’s.

“Unlock the secrets of your destiny with candle magic,” Anne said. “A bit melodramatic isn’t it? And they’ve spelt magic wrong.”

“Since when do you know how to spell?” Moira teased, plucking the page from Anne’s hand. “You only do well in English because Mister Rangle fancies you.”

“Ew!” Anne shrieked, jumping to her feet and dancing about as though the thought of Mister Rangle was a bug to be shaken off.

“Maybe his initials will appear in the water, and I’ll know you like him too!” Moira said, laughing. Anne grabbed a pillow from the bed and began hitting her round the head with it. Moira collapsed, but pulled Anne down too. They ended up in a giggling heap on the floor.

“Whose initials would you like to see?” Anne asked her.

Moira pushed her off.

“Come on,” Moira said, “I can’t stay long. Let’s do this. Please?”


Moira lifted the candle slowly over the bowl. She knew that candlelight was supposed to be flattering, but she still felt self-conscious with Anne watching her. She tipped the candle and let three large drops of wax drip into the water. The wax solidified at once, and she waited for the pieces to stop spinning so she could interpret the shapes they made.

Then it would be Anne’s turn, and they would both know who Anne was destined to be with. Or so the magazine claimed. Moira took a breath to say the words, but before she spoke, something changed. The light of the candle dazzled her, the darkness beyond it made her feel suddenly alone. She was aware of Anne talking, but the girl sounded far away. Moira’s ears seemed full of water, the world was receding and all she could see were the wax drops, still spinning round and round. Candlelight flickered on the rippling water, streaking it red. The red faded to pink and Moira saw ribbons fluttering. There was a dark shadow in the middle of everything, the shape of a person, surrounded by tiny lights.

“You shall have him,” whispered a voice by her ear. “He shall be your handsome prince.”

Moira screamed and the light came on. Anne was standing with her hand on the switch, staring at her like she was on fire.


Halloween Candy and a Christmas Tree…

6 Dec

I live in West Virginia, with my husband and my two young children. I also have several picture e-books and one picture book in print available: Bobby Bunny And The Missing Tooth, published through AKW Books, The Puppy Who Found A Boy, published through Publish America and Clean Clothes For Bobby Bear, through Fairy Tales And Dreams Publishing.

For more information, Check out:

Her booke that we are highlighting today is Halloween Candy and a Christmas Tree.
It’s the day after Halloween and 5 year old Pamela and 8 year old Jackson are still experiencing a sugar high. They’re driving their mother crazy and she can’t get them to stop fighting or bouncing off the walls. What’s the solution? Make them agree on something to do of course! The problem is all they want to do is put up the Christmas tree! Hilarity ensues as their mom tries to convince them to do ANYTHING else, loses the battle, and discovers that Halloween candy and a Christmas tree don’t make such a bad combination.

November first. My kids Pamela, age five, and Jackson, age eight, made it their sole mission to drive me crazy. This was probably largely because they spent the night stuffing themselves full of Halloween candy, and they no doubt had reached for it again before their eyes were open all the way next morning.

As I sipped my first cup of coffee, Pamela hopped; yes, hopped into the kitchen.

“Mom, I was thinking . . .” (hop, hop, hop) “. . .We should go to the park today.”

I glanced out the window at the rain; the high temperature was supposed to be only fifty-seven degrees.

“Not today,” I said, getting dizzy from seeing her hop in circles around me.

“But why?” she whined, not missing a hop.

“It’s too cold and wet.”

“I’m a bunny, and bunnies like rain.”

“No they don’t,” I said.

She stopped hopping, blinked several times, and began galloping.

“Then I’m a horse, and horses like rain.”

I looked at my coffee and sighed. I was never going to get peace, quiet or any more of my coffee until I got her to leave me alone.

“Do you know what horses really like?” I asked.

Her eyes twinkled in anticipation. “What?”

“They like to watch a Saturday morning cartoon while their mommy drinks a cup of coffee.”

For some insane reason, this worked.

“Yay!” she screamed, as she galloped through the kitchen and into the living room.

I picked up my cup and downed as much as I could before Jackson appeared in the doorway.

His blond hair was sticking out in ten different directions. His Transformer pajamas were wrinkled from tossing and turning in his sleep, but he wasn’t galloping, hopping or whining this early in the morning, so he was my favorite child for the moment; that is until he opened his mouth.

“Pamela took the remote from me, and said that Mommy horse told her to do it. I tried to take it back and accidentally elbowed her in the nose. Now it’s bleeding.” He said it so calmly it took a minute to sink in that I needed to move, NOW!

Pamela was sitting on the couch, her bloody hands covering her nose, her eyes full of tears.

I grabbed a towel and cleaned her up. Once her nose stopped bleeding and I made sure it wasn’t broken, the kids decided to start fighting over the remote again.

I was tired, experiencing caffeine withdrawal, and the thought of another elbow colliding with another nose sent me over the edge. “Both of you sit down—now!” I screamed.

The remote fell to the floor with a thud, and both kids obeyed.

“I am going to finish my coffee and maybe even have a second one. When I get done, I’m coming back in and I want you two to have an idea of an indoor activity we can do today. You both have to agree on it, and I don’t want any arguing. Do I make myself clear?”

Both kids nodded. I went back to the kitchen, downed the rest of my coffee, which was now cold, and poured myself a second cup. Better have another one, I thought, pouring a third cup. The way this day is going, I may need it. When the last drop was gone, I went back to the living room. Both kids were smiling like the cat that ate the canary.

“Did you agree on something?” I asked.

“Yes,” Pamela said.

“We want to put up the Christmas tree,” Jackson joined in.

The very idea made me glad I’d had that third cup of coffee.

“We could play checkers instead,” I offered.

Both kids shook their heads.

“Chinese checkers?” I asked.

They shook their heads again.

A movie marathon? I could rent The Little Mermaid, Spiderman or whatever movie you want. We could make a fort out of blankets, pop popcorn and watch movies all day long.”

Two little heads shook side to side in unison.

“Face it, Mom,” Jackson said, “we win this time.”

I sighed. He was right, and I knew it.

Every year the kids begged me to put up the tree starting the first day of November, and I put them off until the middle of December, but this year I had no choice. They had beaten me. I thought of staring at the tree trimmed in silver and blue, and lit from top to bottom for almost two months. I felt like the Grinch already. I’ve got to stop Christmas from coming, but how?

I got desperate, really desperate. “Who wants a cat? We could go to the Humane Society and pick out a little fluffy kitten.”

Two heads shook in unison again. I gave up. “I didn’t want a cat anyway,” I mumbled as I headed for the stairs. Time to dig the half bare, artificial tree from the depths of the storage closet.

Every year when I put away the box of ornaments, lights and color-coded tree branches, I promised myself I wouldn’t pile anything on top of it, so that I wouldn’t have to dig it out the next year. Every year I broke this promise the first week of January.

Piles of suitcases, kids’ artwork, curtains I never got around to hanging, shoes, summer clothes, old toys bagged up and headed for the Salvation Army, knickknacks and assorted items that fall into the junk category were standing between me and the dreaded Christmas tree.

Within an hour I had dug deep enough into the closet to find the box that held the tree. I felt triumphant, until I turned around, saw the mess behind me and wondered how I was going to get myself and the tree both out.

Pamela’s face appeared in the closet doorway. “Tell Jackson I am old enough to put the star on the tree this year,” she said.

“I didn’t say she’s not old enough; I said she’s not tall enough. There’s a difference.” He stuck his tongue out at Pamela, who stuck hers out at him in return.

“Pamela stuck her tongue out at me!” Jackson whined.

Pamela pointed her finger at her brother and jumped up and down. “He started it!” she cried.

Apparently, both of my children were under the impression I was suddenly struck blind and had not seen what had just happened.

“Let’s put your energy to good use and help dig me out of here,” I said.

“You’re stuck in there?” Jackson asked.

“No,” I said sarcastically. “I just like sitting in the closet, knee-deep in crap, while you two fight in the doorway.”

“So, how stuck are you?” Pamela asked.

“Stuck enough that I’m begging my kids to help get me out.”

The kids smiled at each other, sinister smiles that made my blood run cold. Then they both darted down the stairs.

“Don’t run!” I called after them. “You’ll fall and break an arm or a leg!”

I began trying to fight my way out, but it was useless.

I glanced down at the tree box I had spent so long finding and sighed. I would have to come back for it after I foiled whatever candy-induced scheme my children had come up with. Out of desperation, I climbed on top of the pile and crawled out of the closet.



Christmas Holly

5 Dec

Another welcome to SuttonFox at GSP Christmas Promo. 🙂
An avid reader since childhood, Sutton was captured early by the written word. As a teenager she filled notebook upon notebook with angsty poetry, and spent many hours making up stories on long walks home from school.
     Life intruded before she could seek publication, and she willingly gave herself over to college, employment, marriage, motherhood, and all of the wonderful time consuming things we call life.
     Only as she’s gained experience and learned as we all do, to juggle schedules, activities and responsibilities, has she found the time to pursue her passion for writing.
     A native Coloradan, Sutton now calls the bluegrass state of Kentucky home. One she happily shares with the love of her life and two cats.
     Sutton loves to hear from readers. Please feel free to contact her and let her know if you enjoyed her stories!

To learn more about Sutton, check out her website at:

Her book we are highlighting today is Christmas Holly.
Young, beautiful, and certain of her future, Holly Clark fully expected to have a wonderful time attending her mother’s annual Christmas Eve bash. The one thing she didn’t expect—was her own untimely death.

Gallery owner and world renowned artist, Greg Marshall is desperate to relive his past. Until he receives a startling visit from a woman he believed to be the love of his life. Her sudden appearance has the power to change everything.

Love doesn’t mean what it used to. Can the past really affect the future, or can the future transform the past?


Manners be damned. One more time would be way too many. Her temper came online just about the time her shoes became visible. Again.
     “How much longer do I have to do this?” Holly Clark really wanted to slap the woman standing behind the desk.
     “As long as it takes.” Zahara, the administrative assistant responded with a stellar you-are-a-pain-in-the-ass look.
     “I’ve been doing it for twelve years!” Impatient, she worked to tamp down the irritation which seemed to swamp her every Christmas Eve. Patience must be part of her penitence; she just had to do her best to ignore it. Along with being named Holly. Around the holidays, the jokes ran non-stop. Imbeciles. Like she hadn’t heard them all already?
     “I’m sorry, Holly,” the woman put emphasis on her name, like it wasn’t real or something. “Until you’ve saved ten souls, you can’t go on. Those are the rules.” She folded her arms across her chest. “I don’t see what you’re so upset about. You’ve saved nine already. You only have one more to go.”
     “I’d like to talk to your supervisor.” Maybe intimidation would work. She narrowed her eyes, propped her fists on her hips, and gave the woman her strongest I’ll-kick-your-ass glare. “Now.”
     The bitch actually had the nerve to roll her eyes.
     “Puuuhlleeeeze.” Unfolding her arms, the surly assistant leaned forward, eyes intense. “He doesn’t want to talk to you.” She picked up the clipboard resting on the desk in front of her, along with a copy of Ghosting at Holidays. The official handbook of the only mostly dead. “Look, it’s not my fault you drove off that bridge into the water and drowned.” She held up one hand to forestall any interruption. “I know. You dropped your cell phone while trying to read texted directions to a Christmas party. And yes, that explains the snowberries and golden chains in your hair, the barely there red dress, and those four-inch heeled gladiator sandals which still look hot after all these years. We have the same conversation every Christmas Eve. The boss says you still haven’t quite learned what you need to know. By the time you save your tenth soul, you should understand and be able to move on.”
     “As the Ghost of Christmas Future, I can only show them their choices. I can’t choose for them,” she argued. “The last three weren’t even interested in changing their ways. They didn’t even care what became of them as long as they had plenty of money!”
     Stubborn could be her middle name. Just ask Mom. Frustration made her groan. Thoughts of her mother made her sad. They’d always had so much fun shopping and wrapping presents, preparing for her mother’s annual fête. A former model, happily married to high profile attorney, her mother held the soiree at a different club every year.
     And she hated being reminded of how she’d died. She should have just asked for directions to the party before she left, not been so certain she knew everything. It would have kept her from fumbling around with her phone, and she wouldn’t be here now. She’d be with her mother, and—the past was past. Going over and over it wouldn’t change things. In her world, that was fact.
     “That’s true. It’s a different world today.” Admin extraordinaire shrugged her shoulders. “So, it will take as long as it takes.” With a disdainful sniff, Zahara disappeared. “Good luck. And Merry Christmas, Holly.” Her voice echoed eerily through the room.
     “Merry frickin’ Christmas to you, too!” she grumbled. People appearing and disappearing in a puff of smoke still unnerved her after all these years. She didn’t think she’d ever get used to it. What was wrong with ordinary doors?
     With a puff of smoke, Tinsel Wilson appeared before her. “Hey, Holly.” He gave her the once over. “How’s my favorite brunette? Still lookin’ good after all these years.”
     He reached for her and thankfully, without substance she felt nothing save a brush of cool air. Although she did move away when his hands reached to cup her breasts. The Ghost of Christmas Present creeped her out. He had to be almost double her age, even though he’d only passed on two years ago. Well, the age she’d died at, anyway. No one had to know she was fast approaching forty. She didn’t look a day over twenty-seven. The age she’d been when she’d drowned. Thankfully, there were some benefits to this gig.
     “You’re up, pretty girl. I got him nice and worked up for ya.” He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
     “It’s a man this time?” she queried. Great. Once they got a good look at her, it took at least three visions to get them to focus on anything but sex. “Thanks, Tinsel.” With a snap of her fingers and a puff of smoke, she vanished.  



Toys, Lights and Trinkets…

2 Dec

Today it is our privilege to host a book from the collection of Jim Woods on the GSP Christmas Promo.

Jim Woods wrote novels and short stories, many of which stand alone, while others are assembled into collections, in worldwide milieus. He was a world traveler, having researched numerous exotic locales as settings for his stories. Much of his world travel was for big game hunting which, coupled with his background as editor with Petersen’s Hunting, Guns & Ammo and Guns magazines, frequently allowed him to bring firearms into play in his tales. Jim Woods passed away October 8, 2012; he lived and wrote in Tucson.

The seasonal release we are highlighting is Toys, Lights and Trinkets.

The stories in this eclectic trilogy are unrelated, except for their setting at the end of year holiday season. The first must be saddled with the based on true events disclaimer; the next is related just the way it really happened; and the last story is pure fantasy.

     GHOST BREAKERS (third story in book)

The wizened old witchdoctor in Zimbabwe had been right all along. Although he obviously did not know us—my wife Anne and me—he was much too believable in his wisdom. He somehow knew things about us he had no need or right to know, but we solicited the interview. No one tricked or coerced us to consult him, so we listened to him. Anne and I were a lot younger then, and at the same age, and on one of our several safaris in southern Africa when the old Mashona gentleman consulted the bits of carefully arranged chips of mystic bone that spoke to him. One of his revelations predicted Anne would live ten years longer than me. He was right on; I crossed over a full decade before Anne joined me once again. And while it is true, there is a time to die, Anne’s family would take her passing especially hard, it coming so near Christmas—a time that should be reserved for happy memories.

Even though I left earlier, and fittingly, in the fall of the season and the autumn of my time, I couldn’t stay away. Our lifetime together was too strong in the physical world to be fractured, simply because I happened to be deceased. I hung around the house to keep Anne company. Admittedly, a few friends and even family tittered behind her back about her carrying on conversations with me. We tried to pay no attention, and really were not offended. In fact. it was amusing to us knowing what was going on and they only could guess, and speculate that Mom or Grandma, depending on which generation was the questioning source, was hanging on to the cusp of dementia. Anne and I held a lifetime of memories to recall between ourselves, and we untiringly relived and talked them over.

Anne and I stood together, hand-in-hand, at her funeral service. Being unseen, except to one another, made it easy for us to get a front row view. The Anne beside me was beautifully young, and she noted the same about me. Shucks, I don’t mean she said I was beautiful, just she thought me young and in my prime. We both agreed the body on display the day before at the funeral home was not Anne, but some wrinkled lady who still showed evidence of having been beautiful, and if we examined her closely, my red-haired Anne did show through. Everyone in attendance had nothing but kind words for my bride, as they did for me as well, ten years back. The difference was at my wake; everyone still talked respectfully about me, which was to be expected since Anne was present for all the comments and conversations. That condition changed somewhat drastically at the after-service gathering in remembrance of Anne. It was our granddaughter, Rochelle, whom we both loved, who opened the less than lovable exchange with her mother, Anne’s only child, Charlene, from her first marriage which went awry before I came into her life.

“What are you going to do with all of Grandmother’s crap?”

“I’m surprised you’d say something like that. Mom and Dad may have accumulated a lot of things over their lives and travels, but certainly no crap. They always bought quality.”
Good for you, daughter, Paxton telepathed. You tell her!

“Sorry, I didn’t really mean it that way. They just have so much stuff. How do you even start disposing of it all?”

“Let’s not rush into disposing of anything. I still have to locate the will, although Mom has told me everything goes to me and I’m listed as executor.”

What do you mean, have to locate the will? It’s right where I told you it would be, in the safe, and the safe combination is pasted behind that framed certificate in my library.



Shandy’s Gift…..

1 Dec


Today on the GSP Christmas Promo we welcome Sara Dean.

About herself she says:

I live in West Virginia, with my husband and my two young children. I also have several picture e-books and one picture book in print available: Bobby Bunny And The Missing Tooth, published through AKW Books, The Puppy Who Found A Boy, published through Publish America and Clean Clothes For Bobby Bear, through Fairy Tales And Dreams Publishing.

Her book that we are highlighting today is Shandy’s Gift.

In the sequel to Forgiving Jesse, Shandy decides to surprise Jesse by inviting his estranged dad to stay with them over the holidays. She hopes that their time together will start to rebuild their broken relationship. But is the resentment and anger too great to allow them to start over? Or will Jesse be willing to give him one more chance when he faces a crisis with his own son?


The tree was decorated with every ounce of tinsel we could possibly find, our attempt to hide the fact that it looked like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.

Shandy stood in front of it, holding seven-month-old Jesse Jr., known as JJ, for short. He kept trying to pull the tinsel from the branches, while Shandy tried in vain to pry his chubby fingers off of it.

I snapped picture after picture of them, laughing the whole time.

In the corner, Shandy’s mom glared at me as she ate the hard-as-stone sugar cookies Shandy had baked that morning. If we had owned a dog, I would have fed them to it, but since we didn’t, I let her mom eat them. After all, there was no point in letting them go to waste.

I put the camera down and sat down across from her. She picked up a Santa Claus cookie, bit its head off and glared at me again. I knew she was thinking, If only I could do the same to you for knocking up my little girl.

“So, how’s your first Christmas as Grandma going?” I asked.

“Would have been better if you would have waited ten years.”

“No, by then you wouldn’t be able to get around without the help of a walker.”

She paused, the cookie halfway to her mouth. “I’m only forty-five.”

“Well, if you keep eating cookies like you’re doing now, you’ll be too fat to walk on your own.”

Shandy came over, still pulling tiny silver strings from JJ’s hands. “Will you two quit fighting? It’s Christmas Eve.”

“I’ll sign a temporary truce for JJ’s sake,” I said, smiling, since I got the last shot in before the truce began.

“Yeah, me, too,” she mumbled. “Now, give me the baby and you two go get his presents. I want to see him open them.”

I reached under the tree and pulled out the small silver package Shandy had carefully wrapped the night before.

We were only eighteen, newly married and extremely broke, so all we could afford was a rattle. Not that it mattered. He was too little to understand what all the fuss was about, and happy just to stare at the wrapping paper.

Shandy’s mom bought him a swing, and my grandma bought him a bouncy seat. The rattle seemed so small and stupid next to their presents.

I pulled Shandy to the side and handed her a small box.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“Just open it,” I said.

Inside were two small silver earrings, shaped like hearts. I found them on clearance at a nearby store, but I didn’t tell her that.

Her eyes lit up. “Jesse, they’re beautiful!” she cried, wrapping me in a big bear hug.

She let go and tried them on. “Your present will be here any time,” she said, while checking out her appearance in a compact mirror.

“Did you order me something?” I asked.

“No,” she said hesitantly. “Not exactly.”

The baby started to fuss. She closed her compact and went to check on him.

I was still wondering what she was talking about, when there was a knock on the door.

I threw it open and came face-to-face with my dad for the first time in over a year.

“Merry Christmas, Jesse,” he said.

The snow was at least a foot deep and still falling heavily all around him. I knew he had to be cold, but I slammed the door in his face anyway.

“What are you doing?” Shandy cried. “That’s your present.”




Christmas Dance…..

30 Nov

Today the GSP Christmas Promo welcomes Rowan Shannigan.


Rowan Shannigan has always harbored a deep fascination for the paranormal. She believes in Ghosts! She believes Angels watch over us. She knows Demons stalk us and she really wishes Elves were around to be yummy and heroic when we need them for inspiration!

Rowan lives in Texas with her son and her very own Soul Mate. Her house is filled to the brim with love and laughter, not to mention a few ghosts here and there. Oh, and more than just a few cats! You can’t forget the cats!

Awareness is Rowan’s first Young Adult novel, with two more books planned out for this, the Awakening Awareness series. She also writes Romance for adults under the pen name of Shiloh Darke.

The book that we are highlightin today is Christmas Dance.


Maddie is a teenager who is in LOVE with a boy who is just so out of her league. She’s a dork, He’s a Jock. She’s plain, He’s Drop-Dead-Gorgeous! Of course, she doesn’t believe he could ever have feelings for her. Then, amazingly, he asks her to be his date to the dance. She’s totally shocked, skeptical and suspicious. Why would someone like him ask HER out? But Stephen has secrets and a crush of his own. Will she accept him when he lets her in on them?


Chapter 1

Stephen Daniels; that’s the name of the boy I loved. Now, you have to understand, when I say loved I’m not referring to some little schoolgirl crush. I was not taken to flights of fancy. I never swooned when a cute boy walked past me. I never even really swooned with Stephen, either. Panicked if he walked near me? Yes. Stared at him when I thought he wasn’t paying attention? Of course. But what I felt for him wasn’t some fickle crush.

How do I know, you ask? It’s simple, really. My affection for him started the first day of kindergarten. I was walking past a row of desks and tripped over a book bag. He caught me and worried over whether I was hurt or not for the rest of the day.

Now, I won’t say we became fast friends. I was too shy, and he was too perfect. I’m not exaggerating, either. He was perfect. Beautiful green eyes, wavy blond hair, and a smile that just made my heart melt. He was an amazing person, too. From that very first year, and every year following . . .perfect because he wasn’t a stuck-up snob like other people who were naturally beautiful could be. No, not my Stephen; he was kind, with a huge heart. He was always friendly and outgoing. He never had a bad word to say to anyone.

Of course, he had so many people who were attracted to his natural inner and outer beauty that he really didn’t get to know me all that well. I was outside of his circle. But he still always found a way to be nice, and we sometimes talked to each other; when I wasn’t too busy being tongue-tied around him. Like I said, I never swooned, but I often stuttered like a fool in his presence.

Of course, I could never say I was the beautiful, outgoing girlfriend my Stephen so richly deserved. I’d like to tell you he fell madly in love with me the first time he saw me; just like I had with him. But the truth is: I didn’t believe he’d ever seen me. Not really, even though he went to my high school and had the same lunch hour as me. Heck, he was in five of six classes with me. He always had been in at least four classes with me ever since we started middle school. It almost seemed like some cosmic order was trying to thrust us together. Hmm . . . sometimes I wondered if he’d ever noticed it like I had.

We were as different as night and day. He sat in the front of the classes; I always lingered in the back. Where he was outgoing, I was the introvert. If I thought it would do me any good, I’d have tried to come out of my shell. But I was always scared to death of rejection. So I stayed where I was and just dared to daydream about him. Daydreaming can be almost as good; if more than a little unsatisfactory.

My name is Madison Elliot. My friends call me Maddie. Unfortunately, where Stephen is dreamy perfect, I’m only average. My hair is mousy brown. It doesn’t even have any highlights in it to make it look like it might have any luster. It’s long and straight. My eyes are just an average color of brown; nothing fancy, no sparkle in them, either. My mother says there are flecks of green in them and they light up when I laugh, but I really don’t see it. I think I was God’s idea of a joke.

The reason I say this is because . . . well, my mom was head cheerleader when she was in high school. My dad was the star quarterback on the football team. They were high school sweethearts who fell madly in love. When they got married, everyone said they were going to make such beautiful babies.

As a baby, I was sweet. I can admit it; I’ve seen the pictures. But from the age of two to the first year of school, something went drastically wrong. It’s like the opposite of that story, The Ugly Duckling. I started out being really pretty. Then, as I aged, I wilted like a flower without sunlight.

Add all these things together and it equals a sad existence, with a mundane life. Or at least, it did. My life would have stayed that way, I’m certain, if it hadn’t been for that fateful day, two weeks before the Christmas Dance of our eleventh grade year. That was the day everything changed.
Stephen and I were both in Miss Oscar’s homeroom. She was in charge of planning the Christmas Dance that year. She had been told to pick two students from her homeroom class to assist her in the planning. I don’t know if it was God or fate, but when she picked, Stephen and I were the two students she wanted to help her.

I don’t know how it happened, but during the time we were helping Miss Oscar plan for the dance, fate finally stepped in and my life—not to mention my luck—changed. I remember it all like it was yesterday . . .



Holly and Ivy…

28 Nov

Today on the GSP Christmas Promo we welcome back Lisa Farrell.

Lisa Farrell has been writing for as long as she can remember. Much of what she writes is speculative fiction, but she tries other things from time to time. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia.
          Lisa’s Blog: http://lisafarrell.blogspot.com/
         FACEBOOK:  http://www.facebook.com/lisafarrelluk

The seasonal book we are highlighting in this post is Holly and Ivy.

Ivy doesn’t get excited about Christmas, but her mum won’t let her spend the holiday alone and miss out on the magic. No matter that her mum has technically departed the mortal world… Witches have their ways.


Ivy slammed the door and let out a stream of curses that would have made her old mother proud. Her commute was bad enough without the Christmas shoppers clogging up the tube. She kicked her shoes off and stomped into the kitchen to find something to dull the memory of her day. Half a glass worth of white was still in the fridge, but it just left her feeling cold. Fergus padded into the kitchen and sat between her and the door.

“All right, I’ll feed you,” she said. “No need to give me that look.”

Fergus’ tail twitched as he watched her pour dry food into his bowl. He seemed to be judging her. Mum had always spoilt him, fed him carefully cooked chicken and fish. Now he had to make do with brown flaky lumps that smelt faintly of mouldy cheese.

“Tell you what, I’ll shop tomorrow,” she said, “get you some posh cat food, stuff they advertise on TV.”

Fergus ignored her and wandered off towards the bedroom. He had heard such promises before. Ivy shivered, but she could tell from Fergus’ behaviour that she was alone in the flat. She would have a hot shower; that might cheer her up. It was the weekend now. Hooray.

The shower wasn’t enough to warm her. She turned the water up as hot as it would go and scrubbed herself briskly. She felt like she was turning into some sort of ice queen, she’d been alone so long. She didn’t have any close friends in London, and as for men . . .

Ivy wrapped a towel around herself and scowled at the wet footprints leading to her bedroom. She’d know the shape of those gnarled toes anywhere.

“Not fair, Mum,” she muttered, following the prints. “I was naked in there, funnily enough.”

There was a sprig of holly on her bed, and Fergus was purring contentedly on her pillow.

“What do you want?” Ivy asked, picking up the holly to examine it. Three juicy red berries shone in the light. “You think I should decorate? Christmas doesn’t cheer me, so if you’re trying to make me feel better, just let it drop.”

Something just out of her line of vision fell from the bookcase to her left and hit the floor with a thump. Ivy jumped despite herself, startling Fergus. He lost his usual composure, leaping from the bed and streaking from the room.

Ivy’s lips were clamped shut as she retrieved the book from the floor. She was determined not to speak ill to the dead. “Ha ha,” she muttered, replacing her mother’s old copy of A Christmas Carol on the shelf. “I get it, I’m Scrooge. Now I’m going to bed, so leave me alone.” She donned her nightdress a little self-consciously and climbed into bed. As she closed her eyes she thought she saw the curtains flutter, though the window was firmly closed.

“‘Night, mum,” she whispered.

It wasn’t until she was buying cat food the next morning that the thought occurred to her. Perhaps her mother didn’t want the flat decorated. Maybe she was nudging Ivy to remember her. This had always been her mother’s favourite time of year. Her only daughter could surely take the time to pay her respects.

“All right, mum,” she said, though she was alone. “I’ll come see you today.”

She hurried home to feed the cat, and then set off at once. Every minute that passed seemed to make her little mission seem more urgent, until she was fighting the urge to speed on the icy roads. She didn’t drive often these days, but being on the familiar roads seemed to erase the last few months of her life and she almost forgot her destination was the graveyard, not the old house.

She parked behind the church and stepped out of the car to find herself knee-deep in frosty nettles. Thankful for her jeans, Ivy quick-marched back up the road. She knew where the holly grew round here, and though there probably wouldn’t be any berries left now she could take some for her mum. It was the thought that counted.

The world felt bigger here, where fields stretched away on each side and the sky was wide. So different from her new home. The air smelt so clear, and tasted like ice water at the back of her throat. She reached the line of trees and slowed her pace, looking for the bush they’d walked to together, years ago.

Berries shone. She couldn’t believe it; the bush was full of them.

“Looks untouched, doesn’t it?”

She started, her hand flying to her chest of its own accord. A man was standing between the trees, a tall, dark, handsome stranger. If her mum had somehow set this up, she might have just got it right for once.

“Oh, sorry,” she said, quickly stuffing her hands into her pockets. She didn’t want to come across like a Jane Austen heroine. “I didn’t see you there.”

The man stepped out of the trees. Ivy took in his deep brown eyes, square chin and broad, muscular shoulders. For a moment the silence was awkward.

“Picking holly?” he asked, pulling a small pair if shears from his pocket. “Me too.”

“Well there’s plenty for two here,” she said, laughing unnecessarily. “I don’t need much anyway, and I’ll be out of your way.”

She hadn’t thought to bring any shears. She pulled at a small sprig, but it wouldn’t break. She felt her face growing hot and red.

“Here.” The man leant past her and snipped the sprig free. She gasped as his hand brushed hers, and a sharp tingle passed up her arm.




Wishes and Promises…….

27 Nov

Today we welcome Charlotte Holley to the GSP Christmas Promo.

Charlotte Holley has an inborn love of all mysteries and the supernatural, and has been reading and writing about the paranormal for more than forty years. A mass communications major, she has written and published newsletters, magazine and newspaper articles, as well as poems and short stories since receiving her bachelor’s degree in 1980. As a beaded jewelry designer, she has also self-published twenty-two pattern collections on CD and in eBook form and has produced almost 400 individual original patterns. 
Having spent several years as a professional psychic, she has had extensive experience with the spirit world and has observed supernatural dramas that defy all rational explanation. Charlotte uses her expertise and story-telling ability to weave a powerful tale of mystery and horror, of love and deceit and of the overpowering desire of the human nature to make things right. 
Check out Charlotte’s website at: http://charlotteholley.com/

The seasonal book of Charlotte’s that we are highlighting today is Wishes and Promises.

Steven Carmichael is missing in action in Afghanistan, and it’s almost Christmas. How can his wife Janie tell their five-year-old daughter Kaitlin that her daddy is presumed dead? Both she and Kaity have been having dreams about Steve for a few weeks, but whose dreams are real? Kaity “dream-visits” her dad in his hospital bed and he promises her he’ll be home Christmas Day, so little Kaity is convinced Steve is alive. Janie’s dreams, however, have convinced her Steve has to be dead, though she can’t admit it even to herself. What will happen Christmas Day when Steve doesn’t keep his promise to Kaitlin?



“I want my daddy!” Kaitlin Carmichael cried. “Mommy, go get him. Now!”

“Kaity, honey, I told you before; I can’t do that. Daddy is far away, and he can’t come home right now,” Kaitlin’s mom Janie explained, brushing the wild auburn tangles of hair back from the eyes of her five-year-old.

Kaity sobbed inconsolably. “I—need—him, Mommy. He promised he’d come back soon, and I need him—now!”

Janie Carmichael held her daughter in her lap and rocked her, while Kaity clung to her with a strength Janie had never realized such a small child could possess. “What’s wrong? Did you have a bad dream? You can tell Mommy about it. Daddy left me in charge, and that means I can chase those scary nightmares away, just like he always does.”

Kaitlin looked at her mother like the woman had suddenly sprouted big green, hairy warts and pulled away from her, scrambling to the floor shaking her head. “It’s not the same. You aren’t the same as Daddy. Only Daddy can chase these monsters away!”

Janie tried to stay calm. She knew in so many ways she wasn’t an adequate substitute for her handsome, muscular husband. Even Kaitlin knew Janie was weak and scared; how could she possibly be brave and strong enough to chase away her daughter’s bad dreams? Worse still, how could she ever hope to tell little Kaity the truth? Steven Carmichael wasn’t coming back. Not now. Not ever. Daddy was missing in action in Afghanistan, and though Janie had tried with everything she had to will it to be otherwise, she had failed miserably. All she hadn’t done was to tell Kaitlin the news, choosing to postpone it until Steve’s death was confirmed.

“Aw, come on. You know Daddy wouldn’t want his best girl to be so unhappy this close to Christmas,” Janie cajoled. “What say we go downstairs and make some cocoa? I’ll read you a story, and then you can bunk with me the rest of the night. Huh? Would you like that?”

Kaitlin rubbed the tears from her eyes and wiped her hands on the sides of her purple flannel nightgown, searching out her slippers. Her chin was still quivering as she looked at her mother with her big, green teary eyes and shrugged. “Daddy would make me pancakes.”

Janie sighed. “Pancakes, huh? Is that what you want? Do you know it’s two in the morning?”

“Daddy says pancakes are the best way to make the monsters go away,” Kaitlin said.

Janie felt her shoulders sag a bit as she rose from the bed and headed for the door. Yeah, sure; Daddy’s pancakes would be the best cure for monsters. Hers? She doubted it. Everything Steve did was better than what she could do. He was a better parent . . . better storyteller, better cook. He even kept house better than she did. She fought back bitter tears as she held her hand out to take Kaitlin’s. “Pancakes it is, Princess! Nothing’s too good for Daddy’s girl.”

                                                                   Janie’s Dream

Janie woke much earlier than she would have liked, in view of the early morning pancakes and crying session with Kaitlin. She rolled onto her side and watched the little girl, who was sleeping peacefully now. It had taken more than three hours to calm Kaity down, but then she’d finally succumbed to weariness, into a deep, peaceful slumber. Janie wished she could have done the same.

Her own sleep had been fitful and troubled, with dreams of mortar fire and bodies strewn across sand dunes as far as she could see. In them, she wandered endlessly from one body to the next, looking for Steve. Always searching . . . she’d been performing the same futile hunt each night ever since she received word he was MIA. Missing . . . how could he be missing? Steve was the biggest, strongest, smartest man in his company, for heaven’s sake! Surely it was all a bad dream and she would wake up any minute.

The bright rays of sunlight peeping through the thin crack between the thick, dark drapes testified to the cold reality. She was already wide awake. Another day . . . and nothing was different; nothing was all right, and it would never be all right again. Steve was dead; otherwise she’d have surely heard something by now. She was only lying to herself if she thought different, and her logical self knew it; somewhere inside, she knew and even accepted it, but her heart couldn’t abide the thought.

The image from her nightly chase that taunted her most was the one she had tried the hardest to banish from her mind. All the dead soldiers in her dreams were bloody and gruesome, but not one of them was Steve. Except—as she walked through the carnage she found a lone Marine lying face-down in the sand. He was exactly the right build, the right coloring; she held her breath. His body wasn’t all bloody and mangled like the others, which made her heart pound with the unspoken hope that maybe . . .

Every time she found the man, she knelt close beside him and called out softly to him. She dared in that instant to hope beyond reason; surely she’d found him at last, and he was alive. Feeling her entire being tremble in response to the thought, she reached out to touch him, sure he was only knocked out . . . addled from a blow to the head or something minor. This was Steve! It had to be. She’d memorized every inch of that beautiful body. Surely no other man was as perfect as Steven Carmichael. Mustering all her strength, she reached to turn him, only to find he had no face. It had been blown off, and she still didn’t know if it was Steve, or just someone who looked so much like him she had been fooled. Still, something inside her wouldn’t believe she could be so easily deluded by any other man’s body, even if it did resemble Steve so uncannily.

How could she be sure? Would she ever know for certain, if they didn’t find his body? How could she go on living, knowing he was gone? She felt the tears flowing from her eyes. Steve, we both need you. Please come home to us . . . Then she shook herself and sprang out of the wide king-size bed, tearing off to the other end of the house, fearing her heart-wrenching sobs would awaken Kaitlin. Janie needed to be strong for her daughter, but she didn’t know how, and she was almost beyond trying.