The Butterfly

The Butterfly emerges

from its silken shell-

Reborn, it arises,

no longer bound to earth.

Free at last, the butterfly glides

to heights unknown before.

So do our loved ones find

a beautiful release

as, earthbound no more,

they leave our sight and joyfully rise

to a garden of matchless beauty,

a place of light and peace.

by Evelyn Phillips

 

I miss you, Kimberly Ann.

Courage, Strength, and Unconditional Love

What is the ultimate gift?

Cool off with a frosty New Year’s Eve Chapter One excerpt from The Garden Collection, a story of courage, strength, and unconditional love.  I’ve posted the New Year’s Eve Prologue to this sweet romance a few years ago. If you prefer to start there, here’s the LINK.  Enjoy.

 

Friday, December 31st – Present Day

Standing behind the counter at Mason’s Diner, Brianna Carlson waited for Henry Mason to pass her orders through the grill window. The breakfast and lunch crowd had her running. Now, the late lunchers filled only three of the ten stools at the counter and two of the eight booths along the windows.

Her half-sister Chloe’s paper snowflakes covered all of the windows as if another blizzard had hit town. Multi-color Christmas lights blinked around the window frames. By the cash register next to the counter, a two-foot-high fake Christmas tree held so many of Chloe’s homemade ornaments the patrons couldn’t see the branches.

Catching her breath, Brianna stared at the poster behind the register and smiled. Lucy had suggested Bree put her own doodle sketches to good work and enter the competition to design the New Year’s Eve Gala poster. Out of one hundred applicants, she won. She had drawn dark snowy woods where the old trees have snarled branches. The trees’ arthritic fingers reach for the sparkling red box with a bright white bow that illuminates the small clearing. The caption reads What is the Ultimate Gift?

Bree was proud of herself and so were the regulars at the diner. They celebrated her excitement by encouraging her to attend the gala. As the winner, she received one hundred dollars and a ticket to the party. She had saved her money for three weeks to buy a dress with matching purse and shoes.

“Bree, your order’s up,” Henry yelled from behind the grill. She saw only his eyes and the top of his bandana-covered baldhead through the open window.

The retired men along the counter chuckled. “Are you daydreaming again, Cinderella?” Charlie asked as he took off his baseball cap that had covered his thinning gray fringe.

Blushing, she laughed. “Maybe I’ll find my Prince Charming tonight,” she replied, picking up the BLT and cheeseburger platters.

George unrolled his silverware from his napkin. “Are you ever going to tell us what’s in the red box from your poster?”

She set Charlie’s BLT in front of him and grabbed the ketchup from under the counter. “What do you think is in the box?” she asked, handing George the bottle for his burger and fries.

“Money?” George asked.

“How about keys to a yacht?” Charlie added.

“I know what’s in the box,” Chloe said from the end of the counter. Her long brown hair in a thick braid matched her big sister’s. Chloe bit into a French fry and grinned.

“Well, my sweet one, please share with us,” Bev Mason said from behind the cash register. With her wrinkled smile, she played the elder matron with ease.

Chloe looked at her. “Can I tell them?”

Bree laughed and nodded. “I always thought it was obvious,” she said, absently touching her gold locket tucked under her Mason’s Diner t-shirt.

“Tell us right now,” George demanded. He winked at Chloe as he wiped his mouth.

“It’s love, sillies. I can’t believe you never guessed it.”

“Oh, and you’re a genius?” Bev asked

“I’ve gotten all excellent marks so far in first grade,” Chloe stated.

Brianna nodded. “You have a lot of wonderful tutors,” she said, glancing at her work family.

Chloe had grown up on that stool. They had put her name on it. Bree felt blessed that Bev and Henry let her work and care for Chloe at the same time. Over the years, the regulars had taken turns keeping her occupied. She and Chloe had many aunts and uncles.

As the men teased Chloe that they had made her smart, Officer Eddie Kent stomped his feet inside the door. In his dark blue uniform and auburn crew cut, he sat at the opposite end of the counter. Having known Eddie since they were in kindergarten, Bree greeted him with his usual glass of milk.

“It’s not ready yet?” he asked.

She frowned. “I wasn’t sure you were working today. I’ll get right on it.”

Bree quickly entered the kitchen and helped Henry with the order of rare steak and scrambled eggs with a side of raw onions and garlic toast. Eddie ate it every day he worked. Superstitious about his job, he said it kept him safe. For the last year, that’s all he ate. She carefully set his plates in front of him. She had learned not to stand too close afterward.

“Bree, don’t worry. I’m here if you need anything,” Eddie said, reaching for the knife.

“What?”

“Kent! I will explain it,” Chief Mason said, taking up the entire doorway.

Brianna looked at Cameron Mason, the Chief of Rushing for the last ten years. With his bushy brown mustache, he reminded her of a young Sam Elliott from the Western movies. He had the deep voice like him, too. All he needed was a cowboy hat. Bev and Henry were proud of him and his profession although Bev hoped he’d marry soon. She wanted grandbabies.

Bree thought of him as an overly protective big brother. Since she didn’t have a car or a license for that matter, he’d give them a ride occasionally across town to their tiny loft apartment. He also lectured her on safety. She and Chloe paid attention to all of his rules.

Chief Mason smoothed down his thick mustache with his thumb and finger and pointed her to the end booth. His business-like manner unnerved her. With a hand over her stomach, she sat.

He stopped Chloe from jumping off her stool. “Stay put. I want to talk to Bree in private.”

“Cam, what’s wrong?” she asked as he sat across from her.

“I just found out Wayne got parole.”

She gasped. “When?”

“He’ll be released tomorrow. Because of overcrowding, he’s being let out earlier than I had expected. There was nothing I could do.”

“Oh, God.” She placed her shaking hands on her lap. Chloe stared at her reaction. “Do you think he’ll come back here?” she whispered.

“I honestly don’t know. Follow my rules, Bree. They’ll keep you safe. If you see him anywhere in town, call my cell,” he said, pulling out his card.

She stopped him. “I still have it memorized.”

Cam nodded and left for the kitchen to talk to his father. She stared out the window at the two fresh inches of snow. What should she do? Wayne’s letters from prison promised to take Chloe away from her. She had no legal rights. Could he come back and reclaim his daughter? She would not let that happen. He would never lay a hand on Chloe. Bree had taken the brunt for years so he wouldn’t hurt her.

Chloe knew next to nothing about her father. Bree had told her that he was in jail because he had hurt them. Bree had preached taking responsibility for your actions since Chloe could talk.

Chloe thought it was like being grounded for doing something naughty. That pretty much summed it up. Although Bree didn’t think Wayne would learn anything from the experience except more contempt toward her for putting him there. He would return to make her suffer. She had to leave. She jumped as Chloe slid in next to her.

“Bree, what’s the matter?

She hugged her. “Nothing for you to worry about, my sweet Clover,” she said, nudging her out of the booth. “I have to get back to work.”

While she made plans in her head, she absently cleared the tables. While carrying the tub of dirty dishes, she banged her shin into the metal cart behind the counter. The tub crashed to the floor. Plates and mugs shattered. With tears in her eyes, she rushed to clean the mess. This usually happened when she was stressed or tired. With partial blindness in her left eye and a limp from a healed broken leg, her coordination sometimes made her clumsy.

Eddie Kent laughed as he finished his meal. “Bev, have you run out of plates yet?”

Bree looked up at her. “I’m sorry.”

Bev smiled. “Honey, it’s an hour past your shift. We know it’s not your fault. Why don’t you and Chloe take off? Tonight’s the big night.”

As she put the last broken plate in the tub, she slid it to the side and stood. Charlie grinned and asked, “You’ll save me a dance?”

“I’m first in line. She promised me yesterday,” George added.

Bree smiled as they tried to cheer her up. “Only if you can recognize me. It’s a masquerade ball after all.”

She helped Chloe with her coat, hat, and mittens. Stepping outside, she took a deep breath. They would make a run for it. They’d hide, and Wayne would eventually give up looking. With a purpose, she reached for her sister’s hand.

“Bree, do you want a ride?” Eddie asked, absently patting the gun at his side.

Resisting the urge to wrinkle her nose at his horrid breath, she shook her head. “We have errands. Thank you though.”

Bree gently tugged Chloe’s hand down the street. They had three stops before she dropped Chloe off with Lucy, who was recuperating from a sprained ankle. Luckily, the stops were in order of the direction they were going. Chloe shuffled her boots through the snow on the sidewalk and sang “Let it Snow.”

After closing out her savings account with one hundred and twenty-six dollars, she pulled open the door to the pawnshop. The stifling heat hit them in the face as they wiped their boots on the rug just inside the door. She spotted Gus Fuller wearing a Santa hat. He had played Santa at the diner’s Christmas party. With a long white beard, he fit the part perfectly.

Bree sighed. “I need to talk to Gus for a moment. Do you want to wander around?” Chloe nodded and headed for the stack of board games while Bree met him at the counter. “I’d, uh, like to see what I can get for this,” she said, slipping her precious locket over her head.

Gus turned it in his hand. “This is a high-end piece. I’d say it’s worth about two grand. I can only give you five hundred, but Donovan’s Jewelry may give you more.”

She groaned. Robert had spent too much money on her. Her eyes started to water. She quickly wiped her face. This is about responsibility and survival not sentimental trinkets. She took the locket back from him and stared at it. She wore it all the time and touched it often. She was surprised the etched ivy hadn’t worn off. Finally nodding, she set it back on the counter. She had to protect Chloe. As she tucked the money into her wallet, Chloe joined her with a magic kit.

“Bree, do we have extra for this? It’s three dollars,” Chloe said.

Gus smiled. “It’s yours for a hug.”

Chloe laughed and ran around the counter. After paying with a hug, she kissed his cheek and tugged his beard. “Thanks, Gus.”

With slouched shoulders, Brianna moved toward the door.

“Bree, take care of yourself,” Gus said quietly.

She wanted to grab her locket and run. Instead, she limped out the door. There would be no turning back.

The bus station had one last departure at five tonight for Chicago. She didn’t think they’d have time to pack so she opted for the ten o’clock trip tomorrow morning. She wanted to be selfish and go to the gala. Her one last hurrah.

Continue reading The Garden Collection on AMAZON

Ima Liar Liar

“What’s real? What’s not?”

These are two of the biggest questions I’ve gotten since publishing Dearest Mother and Dad, and, frankly, it surprised me.  I mean all my books are fiction.  Even though I researched a few truths for each book, they’re mostly lies…made-up stories.

For example, can you use nano-drugs to control a person’s actions like the drugs in Chemical Attraction?  Not unless there’s top secret research going on.  So, I guess it seems plausible.

Can you shape the inside of a diamond to look like an American rose similar to the one in The Garden Collection?  It would be cool, expensive, and plausible.

Can you transport a Russian satellite inside the trailer of a semi-truck like the one in The Trucker’s Cat?  Who knows what’s inside those non-descript trucks, but it seems plausible, too.

If you’re asking what’s real and what isn’t in Dearest Mother and Dad because it’s historical fiction and based on letters my father wrote to his parents during the Korean War, here are those answers.

REAL: the Korean War

REAL: the battles

REAL: the dates

REAL: Orrin’s (my dad’s) letters to his parents  (Names were changed to protect the innocent … and the guilty.)

FAKE: the rest of the story

My dad didn’t share his experiences, so I made it up. Isn’t that what writers do?  They lie.  We’re liars although I prefer the term fiction writers.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Christina’s Author Page on AMAZON

 

 

 

Me versus History

Disclaimer: this information may be obvious to most.

I admit history was not my favorite subject in school. I’m not even sure we covered the Korean War in high school. (Before you smartasses say something snarky about the Korean War was a current event to me back then, I graduated in 1985. I’m old—not that old.)

It wasn’t until I married an enthusiast who liked to spout historical facts that I started to pay any attention. He talked about the people in history rather than the dates, which was more interesting. That’s one of the reasons I found this project challenging. I had to match dates with battles from Dad’s letters. I was taking tests in high school again.

One of the things that confused me at the beginning of my research was the M.A.S.H. unit. My only reference to the Korean War as a kid was TV’s M*A*S*H. Our whole family watched it. Well, Dad didn’t. Mom said he was a corpsman at one. It didn’t seem so bad with all the jokes and hijinks. Dad hated that show. Now, I understand why.

However, as I read Dad’s letters, he referred to Able Med as the place he spent much of his time during the war. My husband’s knowledge of random historical facts didn’t help in this instance. It wasn’t until a week into my fact checking that I understood M.A.S.H. units were for the Army and Med Stations (like Able Med and Easy Med) were for the Marines.

Navy Corpsmen worked with the Marines. The Army equivalents were Medics. The light bulb above my head brightened. It all fell into place for me. Now, I could focus on creating characters who told me their story—my favorite part of writing.

I’ve since learned that Navy corpsmen aided the Marines in a variety of places in Korea: the Battalion Reserve hospital in the rear, Medical Evacuation hospitals close to the front, Forward Aid stations just behind the fighting, and the front lines patrolling with the Marines.

How about that? My husband learned something from me about history.

(Christina: 1; Kraig: 286) Thanks for stopping by.

 

Dearest Mother and Dad now available

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Add Dearest Mother and Dad to your GOODREADS list

Corpsman Orrin Connor’s faithful letters with a touching twist shield his parents from the horrors of war. His buddy Rawley Armstrong’s poignant letters give his sister the harrowing truths. Throughout their dangerous assignments during the Korean War, they debate the consequences of their choices. Orrin gains comfort in downplaying his experiences while Rawley feels a healing purge. As they get to know the Marines in their charge, the corpsmen gather a variety of opinions. Although Orrin and Rawley disagree, their friendship remains true until the bitter end.

“It all happened within minutes. For some, it would last a lifetime.”

Based on her father’s letters to his parents throughout the Forgotten War, author Christina Thompson has produced this work of historical fiction to pay tribute to Navy corpsmen by remembering their service to their brothers and their country. Imagining her father had guarded his parents from the carnage of war, Christina elaborates on what could have happened while staying true to the dates and experiences her father shared in his actual letters.

 

#HumbleBrags

A humble brag is a complaint with the intention of drawing attention to something of which one is proud. Humble bragging is said to be more irritating than outright boasting. Is it?

For example, I might say, “I’ve been so busy spending my gobs of royalty money I haven’t checked my Amazon ranking for a while. Much to my surprise, I was just above 1,000,000. Yay me!”

Are you impressed? Nope, me either. What would your mock humble brag be? I know you can do better.

Well, I’ve seen the fun lists of favorites on social media, so I decided to make a specific author’s list as a humble brag. Is this bragging or promoting? Humble bragging or not, I’d like to share my achievements; and I want to celebrate and learn about your passion projects.

Let’s have some fun. Are you an author? Copy and paste your answers on your blog or Facebook page then put the LINK to your humble brag list in the comments below. I’d like to read them.

Are you a fan of my books? Do you agree with my favorites? Let me know what your picks would be in the comments below.

Here’s my list:

The name of my Series: The Chemical Attraction Series

The number of books in my Series: 4

The total number of books I’ve published: 8

The number of rejections before my 1st publication: 162 (Yikes! Well, I’m proud I didn’t give up.)

The number of years I’ve been writing: 15

The year and name of my 1st book published: 2012, Chemical Attraction

The number of books self-published: 4

The number of books with publisher: 4

My publisher: 48fourteen

My book ideas come from: Life and NPR

Out of all my books—my favorite book: Dearest Mother and Dad

Out of all my books—my favorite cover: The Garden Collection (My daughter drew it.)

Out of all my books—my favorite character: Joe Roberts from my Series

Out of all my books—my least favorite character: Cindy Carter from Their Rigid Rules

Out of all my books—my meanest character: Vincent Jordan from Chemical Reaction

Out of all my books—my nicest character: Brianna Carlson from The Garden Collection

Out of all my books—my favorite couple: Joe Roberts and Madeline Pierce from Chemical Attraction and Chemical Reaction

This minor character from my books deserves main character status: Aunt Sylvia from Chemical Attraction

This backstory tidbit about a character isn’t actually in my story: Spoiler Alert: In my Series, Peter Bingaman is Joe Robert’s biological father.

My favorite place to write: any quiet place—office, car, backyard…

My favorite topic to write: the synchronicity of life and romance

My writing preference—computer or paper & pen: paper and pen

My reading preference—print or eBook: print

My favorite social media platform: the WordPress community

My favorite part of writing: the magic of the characters telling me their story

My least favorite part of writing: blogging (My books are exciting; I’m boring.)

My writing rituals: brushed teeth, no bra

The best advice I’ve received: Write what you would love to read.

The worst advice I’ve received: Write about the trends that are popular right now.

Link to my Amazon Author Page

Thanks for stopping by.

AUTHORS, don’t forget to copy/paste onto your blog/social media platform then put the LINK to your humble brag list in the comments below.

FANS, what are your favorites? Post them in the comments below.

 

 

Q & A with Narrator Gary Bennett @TheActualGCB

I’m excited to share my interview with Narrator Gary Bennett. When talking to my husband, I’ve referred to Gary as “My Cousin Gary”. (My maiden name is Bennett.) Gary’s not really my cousin, but I felt a kinship with his creative mind. He’s a man of many talents. AND, I liked saying, “My Cousin Gary is narrating my novel” and “My Cousin Gary just sent me his awesome excerpt.” So thanks, “Cousin Gary”, for joining me today.

CHRISTINA: I love the results of your hard work on Chemical Attraction. Tell us a little about you and your professional background.

GARY: I spent the first half of my professional life as an Electrical Engineer and running my engineering firm. I’ve always had a creative side, though, from art (mostly pencil and pen drawing) to music (guitar, piano) and I always wanted to invest more time on those creative endeavors.

CHRISTINA: Why did you decide to begin narrating audiobooks?

GARY: In my engineering life I spent a lot of time traveling, and during those travels I fell in love with audiobooks. I eventually reached a point in my life where I wanted to explore my creative side more (and do engineering less) and I just happened to stumble upon an interview of one of my favorite audiobook narrators in which he described how he got started in the industry. And something in my soul clicked. I researched and invested in some studio equipment. I sought out training and coaching from industry professionals. And once I got behind the mic, I found myself transported into a whole new world. A gap in my life I didn’t even know existed was suddenly filled, and I finally figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up!

CHRISTINA: What do you look for in a book when choosing to audition for a project?

GARY: It has to be well written. That’s something that one can tell fairly quickly. If it isn’t written well, I’m not going to enjoy reading it, and then the narration becomes a job. Good story arcs and interesting characters also factor in to that decision.

CHRISTINA: What kind of preparation do you do before starting to record?

GARY: First, I always read the book. As I read it I take notes on the characters and build them up from what’s in the text and also what may only be implied. I research pronunciations. I highlight difficult or important passages. I prep the manuscript so that it’s more readable in the booth, changing the fonts, spacing, chapter divisions. And then I’m ready to get behind the mic and record.

CHRISTINA: How do you get a feel for the characters and the tone of the story?

GARY: The tone of the story comes from not only the action described in each scene but also the language of that narrative. The words that are actually used to describe the scenes determines the energy and the tone of the delivery.

Much of my character building comes from the text itself. How each character is described, how they behave, how they speak, how they interact with other characters. But there’s always subtext the drives each character as well. You have to open your imagination to find what motivates each character to do what they do, so that you can take the text and build a 3-D character, a real person that you can visualize, from what’s written.

CHRISTINA: How do you come up with different voices and keep them all straight?

GARY: The development of each voice often just comes naturally as I’m prepping the book, and I’ll often visualize a specific person I know in my life upon which I’ll base a character, maybe tweaking a trait here or there to bring shine uniqueness. Each time a new character voice is introduced, I copy the audio track of that voice to a separate file I maintain for every book and series, so that when that same character comes along later in the book (or in the next book of a series) I can refer to that original recording to ensure that their voice is consistent.

CHRISTINA: What is the greatest challenge in recording an audiobook?

GARY: Maintaining focus and staying engaged, in the moment. Each recording session lasts anywhere from two to eight hours depending on my schedule, and it’s my job to be–to really *live*–every character and be completely engaged in every scene. When the book is well written it’s very easy to slip into that mode but it still requires focus to stay there and not get distracted by fatigue, dry mouth, external noises, etc.

CHRISTINA: What made you choose Chemical Attraction? Do you have a favorite recorded scene?

GARY: I’ve always been drawn to thrillers and mysteries, and the added romantic element as well as the occasional humor really appealed to me. I think one of my favorite scenes was when Madeline impersonated the Homeland Security Agent at the rural sheriff’s office. Witnessing her stepping out of her norm and the growth she had throughout the course of the story was really fun. And of course the final standoff at the farm/lab was a lot of fun to record!

To learn more about Gary Bennett, visit these sites:

Narrator Gary Bennett’s Website

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

The Audiobook of Chemical Attraction is available on Audible

On the Verge of Giving Up

While his charisma masks his loneliness, Joe Roberts is far from perfect. On the surface, he’s a womanizer dismissing many after one date. Deep down, he’s searching for an instant chemistry with his soulmate, the one person who will love him for his faults not in spite of them.

In this short story leading into Chemical Attraction, Joe is on the verge of giving up on his search. Find out what changes his mind.

 

“King Midas in Reverse”

Using his cell phone’s flashlight and carrying his shirt and shoes, Joe Roberts tiptoed around the coffee table and sofa. Glowing, glaring eyes held sentry on the table by his only exit. The damn cat hissed as Joe reached for the door knob. A growl from behind stopped him. He sighed. The overhead light flipped on. Busted!

“You’re seriously sneaking out without saying goodbye?” Kala Ross asked, wearing a ratty low-cut Ohio State hockey jersey. Last night’s smoky eyes had become 1:00 a.m. raccoon eyes.

Joe slipped his shirt over his head, hopped into his shoes, then lied. “I got called in,” he said, wiggling his cell in his hand. “And I didn’t want to wake you.”

“You used that excuse last time. Since when are truck drivers on-call?” she asked with a grating whine.

He ran a hand through his dark brown hair. Her sexy curves no longer held his attention. He had pursued the Starbuck’s barista for a week. On their first date, he took her to Sweet Lorraine’s sharing a bottle of wine from their long list. After dinner, she invited him back to her apartment. During last night’s rare second date, Joe couldn’t retreat fast enough when she threw out words like boyfriend and relationship. Needless to say, he won’t be going back to that Starbucks.

“You’re always on the move,” she added. Her stiff, bleach blond hair stuck out around her face like a lion’s mane.

He tried to break the tension. “Hey, you didn’t complain about my moves earlier.”
“I won’t be your whore,” she said, crossing her arms, which lifted up her breasts creating a canyon of cleavage.

Joe had been in this uncomfortable situation before. He never liked hurting these women, but he lost interest quickly. Eva and Taylor said he enjoyed the chase more than the catch. He agreed with his sisters’ assessment.

Instead of arguing—which never worked—he quoted a Hollies’ song that seemed to sum up his life. “I’m not the guy to run with, ‘cause I’ll pull you off the line. I’ll break you and destroy you. Give it time.”

She relaxed her angry stance, which surprised him. “I don’t think that.”

He stepped toward her and kissed her cheek. “Bye, Kala.”

The stealthy tabby had moved across the back of the couch and now sat in the chair next to Kala. If it could talk, it’d probably say, “Good Riddance.”

In his car, he thought about the other lyrics from “King Midas in Reverse” by The Hollies:

I’m not the man to hold your trust,
Everything I touch turns to dust.
I wish someone would find me,
And help me gain control.
Before I lose my reason,
And my soul.
I’m King Midas with a Curse.
I’m King Midas in Reverse.

Joe trudged down the dark hallway to his tiny apartment. The fact was he genuinely liked Kala. That’s why he asked her out again. Although ditzy, she had a nice personality. He wanted more than a sexy body though. Was he too picky? Should he settle with someone like Kala?

Joe’s list of negatives outweighed the positives, the general case when he assessed women. For example, Kala thought Jethro Tull was a guy, she couldn’t name a single Beatles’ song, and she liked the Buckeyes. He thought Taylor would disown him since Stuart taught at the University of Michigan.

In the shower, Joe contemplated his love life. He had dated many women, but he’d never had a steady girlfriend. These women pushed him to commit, and he pushed back by moving on. Was he selfish? Broken? Cursed? He felt nothing for any of them. Dating wasn’t fun anymore.

The only women he seemed to care about were his sisters. He wanted that chemistry like they have with their husbands. They’ve both been happily married for nine years.

Should he try abstaining for a while? To stop dating? To just stop pursuing women? To reevaluate his personal life, he’d give himself a six-month attempt … okay, maybe a three-month shot. Although his focus has always been on his career with the FBI, he’d talk to Peter Bingaman, his boss and friend, about more responsibilities. The distraction would be good for him. Too wired to sleep with the new outlook on his life, he headed for the office.

On the dark twenty-sixth floor of the Federal building, offices surrounded the perimeter with the hallways connecting as a square. In the middle were eight larger rooms for meetings, evidence, and work areas. Joe preferred the larger workroom. He didn’t want an office since he wasn’t around to use it. He preferred undercover work.

In jeans and a gray t-shirt, he walked toward the back corridor. Across from the breakroom, he used his passkey to open the door. The impersonal room was plain but functional. Shoved together, four desks with phones faced each other in the middle. Only two had flat-screen monitors and keyboards.

Sitting behind the one with a computer, he used a tiny key on the bottom drawer and pulled out three folders. He’d use the time to finish the paperwork closing these cases. At five-thirty, he sat back propping his tennis shoes on the corner of the desk. Grabbing a yellow legal notepad, he started a bullet point list of reasons for Peter to give him more responsibility and tougher assignments. He needed a bigger challenge.

Hearing the increase traffic of agents outside the workroom door, Joe ripped off the top page and stuffed it into his back pocket. He headed for the small café on the first floor for some breakfast.

Returning with a large black coffee, Joe nodded to Jane Whitmore, the doe-eyed young woman behind the reception counter. Peter’s assistant had a secret. None of the agents knew she was also Peter’s oldest daughter. Joe had seen her picture at Peter’s cabin. He appreciated her need to succeed without the agents treating her differently because of her father. The nepotism in this place was full of unprofessional agents.

“Is he in?” he asked, pausing by the counter.

“Yes, but he’s in a briefing,” she replied.

“I’ll catch him later then.”

Jane knew the truth that Joe and Peter were friends outside the office—much different from the rumors that Director Bingaman hated Joe. The agents assumed the Director berated Joe when called to his office. Actually, he and Peter played chess. Joe held his own, winning some, losing some.

Whenever Peter lost, he’d jokingly reprimand Joe for any minor issue—usually his casual attire. From the open doorway, he had hoped to scare the other agents into working harder. They stayed professional in public. The rumors amused them though.

Passing the first open office door, Agent Rita McMillian winked and gave him a flirty little wave. Joe winced and kept walking. Because of her bigwig uncle, Rita had yet to take her job seriously and flirted with the agents for favors. He despised that about her. Besides, Joe had a strict No Dating policy with the women in the office. Now, he added the No Dating Any Women rider to his rulebook.

Baby-faced Agent Mike Garrett waved a folder to get Joe’s attention. With a slight curl to his brown hair, Mike usually boasted his Love ‘Um/Leave ‘Um strategy with women. Joe knew the truth, which is why he added Mike to his team two years ago.

Mike’s fiancée had died in an automobile accident a week before their wedding. Hiding his depression and pain, he became a habitual Yes Man. Hating it, Joe worked Mike hard pushing him to the edge in the hope that he’d find his passion for life again. Joe still hadn’t figured out if losing the love of your life was worse than not finding one.

Out of breath, Mike stopped in front of him. “Agent Roberts, we may have a new case. Agent Orr said that you have a personal connection to the town Allenton.”

Surprised at a case in Eva and Matt’s hometown, Joe took the folder holding a single page. “I do, so let me read this over first. Orr took the call?”

“Yes, Sir,” Mike replied, before heading to the computer lab.

In the empty workroom, Joe read over the half sheet of paper that was the short transcript of the call, which didn’t give him much information. A woman scientist working at BennTech’s Medical Research Facility in Allenton uncovered possible illegal financial and chemical component errors there. That was all they had to go on? He suddenly felt a compulsion to find out why she would call the FBI and not the locals like Chief Connor. Joe would keep this assignment hush hush from his family until he knew more.

Joe dialed Eva to make arrangements. She’s been bugging him about attending a fundraiser for the twenty-three people who had died from the flu last year. Sylvia’s husband and Matt’s parents were among the victims.

With his left hand holding the phone to his ear, his right hand turned on the computer screen. “Hey, I got some time off in a couple of weeks. Do you still have a ticket to that shindig?” Wincing, he pulled the phone away from his ear. Why did Eva just squeal?

“I do!” She sounded too giddy for his question. “Joey, you can stay in our guest room.”

“Actually, I thought I’d stay at Sylvia’s,” he said, logging into the FBI’s computer system. He could come and go as he pleased at Sylvia’s B & B whereas Eva would track his every move.

“Even better,” she exclaimed. “Do you want me to reserve you a room with her?”

“No. I’ll do it. I want to pay in advance for the two weeks.”

“You’re going to have so much fun,” she said.

“What’s the matter with you? You sound too cheery about my visit. You’re freaking me out. Are you high?” Joe asked.

“How dare you! I’m a mother,” she replied, sliding back into her usual domineering attitude. “Bring your suit. This is a formal affair. Love you. Bye.”

Before he could mockingly complain, she hung up on him. He’d confirm his ticket for the fundraiser with her again next week.

Agent Tim Orr entered their workroom. The weightlifting hulk with massive arms sat across from him. “What did you think about that anonymous call from Allenton?” Tim asked.

“Since my sister’s married to the police chief, I think I’ll go alone and talk to the woman. I’ll call if I need help,” Joe replied, uncomfortable mentioning anything about his personal life.

“Not really your sister,” Tim corrected.

Joe glared making Tim flinch. “Close enough to one.” It shouldn’t surprise him that his team checked into his background. After all, he knew all of theirs.

Tim nodded. “When are you going?”

“In two weeks, the town is sponsoring a fundraiser. Since she wants this to be a clandestine meeting, she can meet me there. Call her back.” Joe paused. “Let’s go with the lyrics from “King Midas in Reverse” by the Hollies.”

Tim took the sheet of paper with the number. At least she was smart enough to use a burner phone, not her work phone or, worse, her home phone. Joe wondered what spooked her to be so secretive.

While Tim made the call, Joe struggled to keep a straight face. Tim had to explain three times that the anonymous agent wanted her to use a code word from the song to identify herself at the fundraiser.

Frowning, Tim hung up. “She’ll do it, but she wasn’t happy.”

“She should have given her name then,” Joe said, using a hardened tone that the agents knew intimately.

Joe handed Tim the three finished case files to submit to Director Bingaman’s office. Tim left and Joe made another call to Taylor, who was nine months pregnant with her second child. Joe hated not knowing the gender.

“Hey, did you have that kid yet?” He knew she hadn’t; Stuart had promised to call.

“Any day now,” she replied. “What’s new? How was your second date with Kala?”

“There won’t be a third,” Joe replied.

“So Eva told me you’re going to the fundraiser in a couple weeks,” she said.

“You already heard? Damn, Eva’s got a big mouth,” he replied. “Yeah, I have a few weeks off.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re going to show support to Matt and David. I think I’ll be a bit busy to attend.”

“Can Stuart handle this delivery without me?” he asked with a laugh.

“Good Lord! I better have this kid by then! I can’t take much more of this.” She paused. “Joey, promise me you’ll have fun while you’re there.”

“I’m taking my fishing pole,” he replied. “Keep me posted.”

“I will. Love you.”

“You, too,” he replied. He swore off other fun for six—for three months.

Joe typed BennTech Medical Research & Development into the FBI’s data base search engine. Their website popped up. Under the Distinguished Scientists page, he scanned the list of names and easily identified the anonymous caller as Dr. Madeline Pierce, the only high-ranking female scientist working at their Allenton facility.

Propping his feet on the corner of the desk again, Joe clicked on her name bringing up her bio and picture. In the professional headshot, the gorgeous woman with her hair in a tight bun smiled back at him.

In that instant, a sharp electrical charge surged through the computer mouse jolting his body. Twitching, he howled in pain. From the abrupt shift, his chair tipped over knocking him on his butt. His arm buzzed with numbness.

He blinked. “What the hell just happened?”

XXX

Joe’s Quest for Love continues in the romantic thriller, Chemical Attraction

Back into the Fray

Although we returned home refreshed, the first week back from our vacation was hectic—catching up on laundry, meal prep, our playful puppy, my Freebie Friday promo, work…  You get the idea.  I think it’s like that for most of us after having time off, right?

While I made headway on my first draft at the cabin, I had a tough time focusing on my writing at home.  Missing the sounds along the river, I tried playing my videos on a loop in the background.  It’s not the same, but it is close enough until our next trip to Manistee.  Listen below and let me know what you think.

 

 

My view of the Little Manistee River near Manistee, Michigan.  Read more about our stay on a previous post: Zane’s Landing: a writer’s paradise

#FreebieFriday for Chemical Attraction

My publisher at 48fourteen is running a Giveaway TODAY ONLY (6/7/19)

How Exciting!

Chemical Attraction is FREE on Amazon.

 

TODAY’s the ONLY Day!

1) Grab your FREE copy of CHEMICAL ATTRACTION!

2) Read. Enjoy. Write a Review.

Thank you.

“…the Perfect Mix of Mystery, Suspense & Romance…”

In this gripping stand-alone novel, Dr. Madeline Pierce, a dedicated scientist working in nanotechnology, has pain in her heart from an abusive relationship. She hides in her research. His charisma masking his loneliness, FBI Agent Joe Roberts searches for an instant chemistry with his soulmate, the one person who will love him for his faults not in spite of them.

When Madeline discovers discrepancies at her medical research facility, the FBI sends Joe as a courtesy.  Joe and Madeline soon realize they have bigger issues to deal with other than their Chemical Attraction.

In the nearby farming town, animals violently attack the residents. Someone is experimenting outside the laboratory. Are human test subjects next? With the help of Joe’s sister Eva, a physician assistant at the local hospital, and her husband Chief Matt Connor, Joe and Madeline hunt for this new bio-weapon before the death toll rises.

 

Zane’s Landing: a writer’s paradise

For our 30th Anniversary, our children gifted us with a vacation in a cabin near Manistee, Michigan. Andrea found it on Airbnb and sent me the link way back in March. Well, I scrutinized every detail of the pictures and read all the reviews. Could it be that wonderful?

Spoiler: Yes. Yes, it was. It exceeded our expectations.

About five miles before we reached the cabin, we had no cell service. I knew this going in and prepared a map ahead of time. Frankly, after the first day of cell phone detox, I embraced not using it except to take pictures.

We arrived and were thrilled with the cozy place. Lilac and woodsy scents greeted us. A gift basket filled with nuts, crackers, chocolate, and two cans of Birdwalker Blonde from local StormCloud Brewing Company welcomed us.

The two-bedroom cabin had an attached screen porch, a deck, and a fire pit nearby.

Beyond the rustic wooden gate, steps and boardwalk lead us to a screened shelter next to the Little Manistee River known for its Brown Trout and Steelhead. Farther along the bank, we found another fire pit, chairs, and pile of wood.

With all the amazing places on the grounds, I didn’t know where to sit and write first. My husband, Kraig, loves to fish so he was in heaven planning his attack. I had shade, no bugs around me, and a comfy chair. I was near enough to Kraig to throw out a “ooh” and “aah” once in a while at his fishing prowess.

With my notebook and pen on my lap, my mind focused more on the chirping birds, rustling underbrush, and flowing river. I gave myself permission to meditate the first day and soak it all in. Just listening and breathing.

I counted twenty-one chairs throughout the cabin and property each with an inspiring view. (I only sat in five spots during the week.) For the next few days, my notebook filled up fast. At night, Kraig read Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files while I continued to write. The TV remained off.

Many birds visited us and we identified them from the Birds of Michigan Field Guide found on my nightstand: a Baltimore Oriole, a Goldfinch, a huge Pileated Woodpecker, and a Bald Eagle.

Although Kraig and I did our own thing near each other, (I think it’s called Parallel Play) we still talked about our past, our future, and our dream to retire to a place like this someday.

As you can tell, I highly recommend Zane’s Landing. (By the way, the first draft of my next novel is almost complete.) Michael and Lindsay, thank you for hosting us.

SIX STARS OUT OF FIVE

Andrea and David, thank you for this thoughtful gift. We love you so much and would love to have you join us next time. Believe me when I say, there will be a next time.

 

Book your vacation at Zane’s Landing.

You will not be disappointed!