August has arrived and for me, it’s a busy month brimming full with changes. I spent part of the summer traveling, spending time in New York City, Washington DC, and Virginia with five airports and two train stations along the way. I leave again soon to accompany my daughter back to Virginia where she’ll be attending George Mason University. I’m there for moral and financial support and to help her move into the dorms. Returning home alone, leaving her a thousand miles away or more, will be hard for me in many ways but I also celebrate her new adulthood and wish her success.
My son starts eighth grade this year, early to my way of thinking since for most of my school career I never began classes until after Labor Day. He’ll be in the high school building this year, a change for him. Since a construction project adding both classrooms and a FEMA shelter is underway, the parking is limited, the traffic patterns are going to be a mess, and it will be anything but an ordinary year. Since I work as a substitute teacher at the same campus, I’m facing major changes since I will no longer be an employee of the Neosho R-5 School District but a Penmac employee.
If the subbing doesn’t work out or if I can find a better paying job, I plan to find something else and yet still balance the writing career I’ve nurtured for so many years. I refuse to give it up but if some serious money doesn’t start happening (let’s whisper “movie deal”, my ultimate daydream fantasy from our lips into God’s ear), I need more money. One daughter begins college, another is taking a gap year but she has educational plans ahead too. Not to mention the rising cost of any and everything.
August also marks two new releases for me from two different publishers. The first, Ryker’s Justice, releases from Evernight Publishing on August 14th. It’s a fast paced story with a lot of local background and culture. I think readers will enjoy it very much, especially those who loved Pink Neon Dreams and Stranger Danger. Here’s the amazing, awesome cover and the blurb:
Home for Jude Ryker is the rugged Ozark Mountains. When he returns as a Department of Justice agent to investigate a major moonshine operation, he doesn’t share his assignment with anyone. As far as the locals know, he’s back, like a bad penny. While he digs into the case for ATF, he puts in time as a handyman at a local inn. When he meets guest Nicole McAdoo, he wants more and before long, they in a relationship. He shares first with Nicole, then with his family his true purpose. When he uncovers the truth about the moonshiners, things get serious and could prove deadly – for them both.
Ryker’s Justice is a brand new, never before published original work. The second, Gray’s Good Samaritan, coming August 28, is from Astraea Press so it’s a clean or sweet romance. Some readers may recall an earlier version titled “Miss Good Samaritan” from another publisher with whom I am no longer associated. It’s been updated, improved, and sweetened so it’s a much better, stronger read now. Here’s the also fabulous cover for it and the blurb:
On an ordinary Saturday morning, Robin Cavanaugh’s life takes a wild turn. A wounded man leaps into her car at a traffic light. He refuses to go to the hospital and after he reveals his real name, she realizes she knows him from church. When he swears he’s one of the good guys, Robin abandons common sense to help him. As his condition worsens, she soon learns he’s not really Spike Mc Gee, a criminal but an undercover agent whose life is in danger. His brother, Jack, a doctor, pulls Gray through and soon, Robin is part of the action too. Their love grows under the unlikely conditions and when Gray heads home to visit his mother, Robin comes too. While there, Gray proposes and she accepts but a family tragedy brings them back to Tulsa. Everything hangs in the balance as Gray goes undercover as Spike on last time…if he survives, they can find their happily ever after.
Other works upcoming include Dion’s Desire, second in my Immortal Love series from Evernight, Carnival Glass, also from Evernight, plus Ronan’s Blood Vow and Tidings of Cofort and Joy (and yes, that’s a Christmas story) from Astraea Press. I’m working on another for the Immortal Love series tentatively titled Vulcan’s Vixen as well as a new WIP set in New York (my hero is one of the city’s finest) with the working title of Callahan’s Fate, another I’m calling Warrior for now, another I call Revenge for Blood, and a little shifter tale, Johnny Gator. And yes, I like to keep busy J.
Changes are in the air for me and it’s not just autumn looming on the horizon. Here’s a little taste from Ryker’s Justice:
October chill added the hint of frost to the night air. When they emerged onto the blacktop, the trees began to be replaced with open fields. Above, the moon commanded the sky as it rose, the color tinted with harvest orange. The stars glistened, each a bright diamond flung into the darkness. Jude switched on the defroster to keep the windshield clear and when he hit a rough spot in the road, the radio, always unpredictable, blared to life.
The high, nasal voice of Hank Williams sang across the miles and decades, as familiar to Jude as his childhood toys. His daddy favored the singer’s classic music and Jude had been raised with the songs as a soundtrack for their life. After his mother’s death, his father spent many a long night playing the worn LPs on the stereo, drinking and often crying. Hank’s melancholy music could touch a chord deep within Jude and shred his heart. He reached for the knob to shut it off when he realized Nicole sang along with the tune.
Each word slashed through Jude’s emotions, sharper than a knife, and laid his soul bare. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” hit his Achilles’ heel. He’d grown up to the sound of whip-poor-wills and he knew the gut-wrenching kind of lonely Hank still sang about. As a little boy, he’d cried some nights when his father repeated the song more than once. The poignant lyrics tonight reminded him how empty his life stretched out for so very long. Since leaving home and turning his back on college, Jude had held tight to first the Navy, then to his job as an ATF agent. Work replaced family, friends, and hope. Brick by invisible brick, he’d built a wall to keep out the rest of the world because if he let them close, they possessed the power to hurt him.
Since his return, Jude’s family poured love into his life. His brothers’ quiet acceptance, their wives’ welcomes, and the affection of their children had taken root. He’d allowed himself to become friendly with the Cockrells and now Nicole had slipped beyond his barriers. No matter what hurts he’d suffered, what pain he’d known, what bad hands life might have dealt him, Jude knew he’d never suffered the way Nicole had.
She sang the lyrics, eyes closed, her alto voice taking the words and claiming them. Nicole made it into her song, her lament. Jude shared the raw emotions she put into it and he wanted to weep or rage. He ached to pound the steering wheel to vent his feelings, and he wanted to take her with such a powerful rush of desire that he didn’t dare trust himself to share.
Without warning, without thinking, he pulled into the parking lot of a long-closed restaurant as gravel crunched beneath his tires. As soon the truck halted, he touched her hand. “Stop,” he cried, his voice hoarse and harsh. Then Jude twisted the radio off and silence fell between them, heavy as sin, darker than midnight.
Nicole lifted her head and faced him, her eyes brimming with unshed tears. “Jude?” she asked, hesitant.
Clumsy as a bear, desperate as a drunkard in search of drink, he grasped her shoulders and took her mouth with his. From the first impact, want triumphed over common sense and tenderness drowned under the powerful rush of aching need. In those moments, Jude sought to fill his emptiness, to erase his loneliness with Nicole’s vital presence. Desperation mingled with rising desire and he kissed her hard. Her mouth remained immobile beneath his and then yielded, her lips meeting his with the same hungry fire. Nicole wrapped her arms around him and held tight. Her essence, the taste of her mouth, the aroma of her hair and skin, surrounded him and he drank deep. Their connected mouths delivered a rush of pure emotion, enhanced with adrenalin. Jude kissed her until his lungs protested, until his breath came short and his body burned with want.
Something in the kiss awakened feelings he didn’t expect to have for any woman and delivered him from the abyss of his solitary life. He tasted hope on her lips and the impact skewered him, sharp and visceral. Everything he thought he’d wanted and worked for changed in those moments to a new reality. Jude broke away with more turbulent emotion than he’d had during meaningless sex. His feelings were engaged as much as his body, and the combination packed a potent punch.
He stared at her and when she smiled, his heart twisted into a pretzel knot. “Maybe I should sing more often,” she said.