Tag Archives: women’s fiction

Still Breathing – Cover Reveal

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Women’s Fiction
Date Published:  November 17, 2018
Designer: Damonza
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
 
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Newly widowed and on the threshold of seventy, Lizzie Warton questions the value of her remaining years. Uncharacteristically, she decides for the first time in her life to do what she wants, instead of what everyone expects.
Against the wishes of family and friends, she sets out for Africa to work at a Ugandan middle school. When she lands at night in the Entebbe airport, her hosts are not there to meet her. Near panic, she hires a local taxi. The driver drugs her, steals everything, and dumps her limp body in a slum. Waking in the dark, she feels someone tugging off her shoes.
Without money, a passport, clothes, or medications, Lizzie is forced to start over and find a way to survive. Soon she learns that nothing in Africa is as it appears. The grind of daily life in the third-world is beyond anything Lizzie imagined. Nevertheless, encouraged by budding friendships in surprising places, and against every sensible instinct she’s ever developed, Lizzie’s own personal search for meaning becomes the grand adventure of a lifetime.
Excerpt
      “Hey, muzungu! Over here!”
“Lady, best prices in Owino!”
 “I have jeans. You want jeans? New styles from America!”
“Hey! Pretty white lady! Over here!”
 “Best quality! Best prices! Today, only for you, muzungu!”
“I have a new shipment! Come and see!”
“Muzungu! Lady, what you need?”
Lizzie was sick of the accented voices shouting at her. She had yet to see another white woman in the claustrophobic market. Warned in advance, she had ignored the hands on her arms, the fingers trailing across her fingers, even the nudges to move her toward their shops, but she was fed up with the vendors’ constant calls aimed at her. Still, she doggedly maintained her wooden smile, even though she was gritting her teeth behind it.
At one point, a vendor called out a question in Luganda and someone else answered it. Lizzie was sure it had something to do with her. Laughter broke out and other voices chimed in with more quips. Grinning faces nodded at her as she walked away.
Lizzie shot a questioning look at Mrs. Birungi, who rolled her eyes, even though a smile tugged at her mouth. “It is nothing – just vendor talk. Ignore it. We need to go over that way.” Birungi pointed to a split in the congested path ahead, and steered them to the right.
Afiya pulled abreast of Lizzie a little later as they bobbed through a brief open place in the moving crowd. “They said they not sure if you are white or Ugandan.”
“What?”
“It was joke. Our people always make jokes.”
“How was it a joke?”
“Somebody said you half Ugandan.” The girl suppressed a grin.
“I don’t get it.”
“They said you have white top but Ugandan bottom.” Afiya smiled broadly as she said the line.
Lizzie looked back at her, puzzled.
“This kind bottom.” Afiya patted her own rump. “Word means both things. They admired your…bottom.” Afiya couldn’t help but giggle as she repeated the word.
Lizzie understood and sighed. “Well, I guess that’s not the worst thing I’ve ever heard.” In her mind, a little appreciative thought blossomed at still being noticed in that way, at all. She hastily chided herself and kept walking, but her hips now swayed a tiny bit more, nevertheless.
About the Author

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Originally from South Minneapolis, Gene Fournier earned a BA in Philosophy & Literature from St. Louis University followed by a Masters in Film from USC. Gene is a member of the Writers Guild of America west (WGA) and worked as a screenwriter and editor in Hollywood, but sadly, he never got that big break.
Seeking a return to his roots after twelve years in California, he accepted a Director of Media position with a multinational company headquartered in the Midwest. For thirty years he wrote, directed, edited and distributed corporate video programs around the world, managed live presentations, and orchestrated the creative elements for national and international meetings.
Retired now, with his seven children grown, and a dozen grandchildren to distract him, Gene is finally able to write down the stories he’s been carrying in his head all these years.
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Come Back – Virtual Book Tour

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Contemporary/Upmarket/Women’s Fiction
Date Published: September 2017
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Vi Masters wonders…can you come home again? More, she wonders why anyone would want to. She fled upright, backwater Freedom, Iowa at seventeen and hoped never to return. But this time, she can’t stand up against the pleas of the aunt who raised her. It’s one weekend. How bad can three days be?
Three measly days in a wonderful eighteen-year marriage – that’s what Vi’s stepmother hopes. But what if Ben discovers what Tammy knew about why his daughter ran away – something he seems determined to finally find out? She can’t be sure Ben would forgive her, and that’s got Tammy scared to her bones.
One day in and Vi has to face how Aunt Sadie is failing, Caregiving will surely wreak havoc on Vi’s hard-won career, but how can she not? At least she might be able to turn the party Sadie’s planned into a night even Alzheimer’s won’t let Sadie forget.
But that’s before Vi finds out Nate Barlow has moved back to town. Now after all she’s already survived, Vi must dig deep for courage. Nate will never be able to accept Vi’s past. Will he? Who knew hope would be so scary?
EXCERPT

Chapter 12

Nate

I figured I’d chat with Victoria at Sadie’s shindig Saturday and leave it at that. So it caught me off guard when she showed up for a Pinewood breakfast Friday. Makes sense, I thought. Sadie wanted to show her off. Not because she was famous, but because she doted on Victoria, always had.

So why was I surprised? And worse, why did it feel like a punch in the gut?

Chill, I thought as my ears went hot. No biggie. I had famous clients. Got tongue-tied with the first few, but as my dealer says, they all put their underwear on one leg at a time. But picturing Vi Masters in underwear didn’t help at all.

It felt like seventh grade. I wasn’t prepared then either. The guys had ragged on me something fierce – those days when all girls had cooties – which meant I stopped hanging with her a few years before. So when she walked into school that fall, I hardly knew her.  When did she get so tall and willowy? With these subtle curves that set my imagination reeling? Why hadn’t I ever noticed her eyes were like the river at sunset?

From then on, she was Victoria, not Vicky, not Vee, like I called her when we were kids. Sexy, sultry, worthy-of-worship Victoria. And from then on, my damn ears and tongue were an adolescent nightmare whenever I came within ten feet of her. Smooth, that’s what I was.

Find your smooth now Slick, I thought as she moved toward my end of the counter.

I had more than a few minutes to get myself under control. Every last customer – Dick the retired trucker, George the retired math teacher, Mrs. Briggs and about a dozen more – wanted to shake her hand and have a word.

Working the room, I thought. Like a gallery opening. Coffee instead of wine.

I watched her smile and chat her way through the crowd. A pat on the arm here, a question there, a compliment on Miss Harriet Blue’s tacky old sweater, one I remembered from piano lessons. Miss Harriet puffed right up. She’ll likely go to her grave in that sweater now.

Mrs. Briggs got most of Victoria’s time. No surprise there. Even before we could read, the library was her favorite haunt. Worked there senior year – when she wasn’t bussing tables here at the Pinewood. So it was my haunt too.

That year I finally started acting human around her. Made conversation, joked around. Took till prom before I got the nerve to ask her out. She about knocked me flat when she said, “We’ll have a better time on prom night, don’t you think, if we go to a movie or something the night before?”

Long time ago. I jerked back to the present as Sadie tugged Victoria to the counter.

“Connie, just look at my Vicky.” She giggled as only Sadie can. “Vi, I mean. Oh, I’ll never get used to it.” Sadie turned from Victoria to Ma, “Doesn’t she look wonderful? I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to see my baby again!”

Up close, seventh grade memories didn’t hold a candle to this gorgeous creature.

“Connie, it’s so good to see you,” she said. “The Pinewood wouldn’t be the same without you. And you look better than ever.” Actress or no, she sounded like she meant it.

Victoria reached out to squeeze Ma’s shoulder – a simple greeting between old friends – but Ma pulled back, slammed the coffee pot down on the counter, and said, “Victoria Johansen – Vi Masters – whatever you call yourself – I always did like you. But I have a mammoth-sized bone to pick with you!”

Obviously not the greeting Ms. Hollywood expected. A calm veneer slid over her face fast as a lick, but like most painters, I notice things. Her hand dropped to the strap of her handbag, white fingers gripped tight. No wonder. Ma can be a scary lady.

“Do you have any idea what you put my boy through when you ran off?”

I tried to interrupt. “Ma. Let it be.”

She gave me the eye. “I will not. She ought to know what it was like for you to get hauled down to the police station. As if you knew where the silly girl went.” Ma wheeled back to Victoria. “And your father! Son of a bitch hit my boy! Blackened his eye. Worse, he made my Nate feel like a criminal, like he’d hurt you, or drove you away when anybody – anybody with a brain not up his butt – could see the only bad thing Nate ever did was fall for you.”

So much for calm veneer. Victoria’s face went white beneath her California tan, and I respected the maker of that handbag strap. She swallowed hard. Her eyes cut to me for the first time, then back to Ma. She opened her mouth, but it was clear she didn’t know what to say, where to begin.

Ma, on the other hand, still had plenty to say. Or would have, except I interrupted again.

“Ma. She didn’t know. Look at her face. How could she know? Let it be.”

“Well she ought to know.” Ma wasn’t done, but she was running down. Ma’s like that. The woman has a mighty temper. But when she’s said her piece, it’s done. Usually. “You left a mess for other people to clean up, missy, and you ought to know it!” Then, apparently satisfied she’d said what she needed to say, Ma picked up the coffee pot with her right hand, swung her left around for a mug, and said. “Now. How do you take your coffee?”

Victoria sank onto a stool, looked at Ma, at me. “Connie. Nate. I’m sorry. I am so sorry. I…” She swallowed hard again. “I didn’t know. Didn’t think… Oh God. I wish… I’m just so sorry.”

I decided to let her off the hook. “Long time ago. We survived. And so did you, I’m glad to see.”

“Nate. Nate Barlow.” Like she saw me for the first time. “You’re still here. You look…”

I grinned. “Yeah. I know. Like an aging hippy. I get that all the time.” I tugged on my ponytail. “You wouldn’t believe the grief I get from the Freedom Regulars.”

She smiled – less assured, less sparkling than the Hollywood smile she’d dished out on her way down the counter. Softer. A little rueful. A lot like the night I kissed her. “I’ll just bet. Didn’t we always say that the Freedom Regulars would never change? But that’s not what I was going to say. You look good. That’s what I was going to say. Good.”

“Ah, hell. I can’t do it.”

“Can’t do what?”

“Can’t stay mad at you.”

Her smile faded. “Oh Nate. I am sorry. So sorry. I never thought Ben would come after you. Hit you? Oh Nate.”

I waved her off. “No biggie. It wasn’t my first black eye. Or my last for that matter. Can’t pin Ben’s actions on you. Wouldn’t be mad at you for that. If I could.”

The smile was nearly back. “Okay. I’ll bite. Why would you be mad at me? If you could?”

I picked up my coffee. Took a long swallow. Milked the moment. “The prom. You stood me up. For the prom.”

I said it lightly. Like it didn’t matter. Not anymore. Back then? Stood up on prom night? Suspected of something awful. Not the best night of my life.

Now trumps then. I expected a snappy comeback like she zings on TV, but she seemed as much at a loss for words as during Ma’s rant. An odd cast shaded her eyes. Almost like…sorrow. I cut her a break.

“Even so, can’t seem to stay mad at you.”

Funny how the relief on her face made me feel easier too.

“I’m glad,” she said.

Watch yourself pal.

Ma came back with the coffee pot. And a smile. She can’t stay mad either. Just don’t get between her and her cub. As if you could.

“More coffee, you two? Crayons, coloring books? Legos?”

Victoria’s laugh came out low and husky. “Just like when we were kids, Connie? In the back booth? Waiting for you and Sadie to close up? That’s a good memory.”

“For me too,” Ma said. “For half the town, I’ll wager. You two were good for business. Got folks to dig deeper in their pockets.”

“Good old Pinewood.” Victoria looked around the diner. “So much the same. But different too. Brighter than I remember. And those wonderful drawings! Those are new.” She gestured to the framed caricatures that lined the walls. “The Freedom Regulars!” She grinned.

“Those are Nate’s. He’s a very successful artist, you know. He’s had shows in New York, London, all over.”

“Ma. Stop bragging.” My damn ears went hot again.

“Nate! Really? These are yours?”

I nodded.

“They’re wonderful! So fun! So…real.”

Funny. That’s what I was going for. To poke fun – gently – at folks, and still show I like them. Each one has hopes and dreams and sorrows – all important, all real.

“Nate did well up at Ames, even studied in Paris.” Ma came around the counter to stand behind me, hands on my shoulders. A united front. I let Victoria off the hook, but Ma wasn’t quite done with her. “He was gone a long time. I thought maybe he’d stay in New York City, he did so well there. I’m sure glad to have him home though.”

Victoria got the message. “Connie. I really am sorry for…what happened after I left. I wouldn’t have brought on trouble for you or Nate. Not if I could help it.”

“And you couldn’t help it then?”

Victoria studied the inside of her coffee mug.

Ma persisted. “So you’re not telling why you put us through that?”

“Ma. Give the girl a break.”

“No harm asking, is there?”

But there was. I could see it in Victoria’s eyes.

“No.” She said it quietly, dropped her eyes, then raised and leveled them at Ma first, then me. “I had…reasons. Good reasons. Private reasons.”

I know Ma. She wasn’t satisfied. If she chose, Ma could wear you down till you’d confess crimes you never committed. But this time, she only gave Victoria the eye. And when that didn’t produce answers, Ma nodded, and said, “All right then. We’ll leave it at that.”

“Guess she can’t stay mad at you either,” I said.

“I hope that’s true.” She paused. “Friends?”

“Friends,” I said.

Ma nodded. “Friends.”

“Just like that?” Her voice was light but there was effort behind it. The handbag strap wasn’t out of danger yet.

Ma and I glanced at each other and shrugged.

“Just like that,” I said.

“Once a friend, always a friend,” Ma said.

“Thank you.” She blinked, seemed about to say something, but gave her head a tiny shake. She gave us both a bright smile – still sincere, but somehow not quite so personal. Like she pulled on a cape of Hollywood bravado. She glanced over to where Sadie was in full chat with Miss Harriet Blue and said, “I hope maybe you can help me with something.”

What now?

Victoria leaned toward Ma. “Connie. You’ve known Sadie a long time. You see her as much as anybody. How’s she doing?”

“Well… Now honey, you know your aunt is an old friend. A good friend.”

“I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t important.”

“Well…”

“What Ma’s trying not to say is that Sadie never was the sharpest crayon in the box.”

Victoria smiled. A sad smile this time and a nod. “Oh, I know. She’s a dear, sweet woman, and I love her. But she’s always been a little…dizzy. What I want to know is…well, is she getting dizzier?”

I was surprised to see Ma’s eyes fill. She grabbed a napkin, turned toward the wall, dabbed. “Damn, damn, damn.”

“Ma? You okay?” Nobody gets between the cub and his mama either.

I saw her shoulders square like they do before she tackles any hard thing like pull a splinter from my finger or face down Ben Johansen. She nodded. “She’s slipping. Not a lot. Not enough so most people notice. But she gets confused. More now. Carleen and I, we’ve been picking up the slack.” She gave a little grin. “Not exactly new. More this last year.”

Victoria nodded and studied her coffee again. And then, damned if her shoulders didn’t square up just like Ma’s. She looked up. “I’m not surprised. Afraid and sad and…royally pissed off. But not surprised.” She paused. “How long can you keep covering for her, Connie?”

“As long as she’s able to get here. To stand upright, to walk. As long as she stays…docile and will follow directions. If it gets to the point when she fights us, well… Then it won’t be good for her to be here. For her – or for us. Till then…” There went the shoulders again. “We’ve got her back.” This was no off-the-cuff response. Ma’d given it considerable thought.

Victoria nodded. “Thank you. I needed to know.” She looked my way. “Nate?”

“Can’t say I’ve noticed much. Not job-related. But…” I didn’t want to say any more than Ma had. “She’s not as careful with her hair as she used to be.”

“Her hair?” I caught the tone. The surprise. And the speculation. Not the first time.

“No, I’m not gay,” I said. “I’m a painter. I notice things.”

Ma looked at Victoria. “I raised a boy who notices a woman’s hair. I’m so proud.”

She is. I know it and she knows I know it. Won’t stop her pulling my chain though. The two of them laughed – till they had to grab and dab. Which was fun to see.

Sadie left Miss Harriet Blue and joined us at the counter with a look that said, “I know there was a joke here. I know I won’t get it. But I like to laugh too.” Classic Sadie. Out loud she said, “Vicky, honey, I’ve got my hair appointment.” Poor Sadie. “What’s so funny?”

Victoria smothered a laugh before she kissed Sadie’s cheek.  “You go ahead. I’ll walk over to Lindy’s and meet you. Half an hour?”

“Okey dokey!” Sadie bounced toward the door.

As soon as she was out of sight, Victoria said, “I want to do something for her. Something that will matter later, when… Later. I could use your help. It’s about tomorrow night’s party.” Ma and I listened as Victoria told us what she wanted to cook up.

About the Author

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Sally Crosiar lives in the Finger Lakes of New York State where she reads incessantly, enjoys time in and on the water, savors dark chocolate with red wine at every opportunity, and teaches about health and play for Empire State College. She is the author of Find the Love of Your Life, based on her own true story, My Uncle Dave, a children’s book with an adult message, and co-author with Dr. Sidney B. Simon of Love Builders: Tools to Build Every Relationship. Come Back is her debut novel.
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Bittersweet Addiction – Blog Tour

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BITTERSWEET ADDICTION

by Q.B. Tyler
Bittersweet Duet, #2
Publication Date: July 26, 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction

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AVAILABLE NOW! (#FREE WITH #KU)

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SYNOPSIS

“Lead us not into temptation…”

Dr. Will Montgomery had already given into his temptations.

He’d tasted the forbidden fruit, again and again for months.

Despite the obstacles in his way, he claimed the beautiful Charlotte Pierce and fell head over heels in love.

She was finally his.

But a stolen love, a forbidden love— comes at a price.

And in the aftermath of their affair, Will finds himself backed into a corner desperate for an escape from the chaos.

Chaos that threatens to destroy him and reveal the secrets he’d kept hidden.

Secrets that may just cost him everything.

And if there’s one thing Dr. Montgomery should have learned by now is the truth always comes out.

*Bittersweet Addiction is the final part of the Bittersweet Duet.*

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DON’T MISS HOW IT ALL STARTED! BITTERSWEET SURRENDER, PART ONE IN THE BITTERSWEET DUET!

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SYNOPSIS

“I was in a relationship with two men and neither were giving me up.”

That thought flashed through Charlotte’s brain like a bright neon light as she followed her husband out of her marriage counselor’s office.

The office where she’d sat twice a week as she tried to repair the glaring problems in her marriage.

The marriage that she’d fought hard to save to a man that wasn’t fighting alongside her. She’d been lied to, ignored and used as a pawn to climb his ladder to success. Charlotte was broken, not just her marriage.

But, then she met Dr. Montgomery and everything changed.

They say love is patient and kind of course, but what happens when that love comes at the cost of everything?

Love was a force that took no prisoners when it decided to strike and Charlotte had been hit—hard.

By a man that wasn’t her husband.

By the very man who was supposed to save her marriage.

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EXCERPT :

I never have to feel alone again. My heart reacts to her words and I have her in my lap kissing her like our lives depend on it before she can say anything else. I don’t speak, I let my mouth do the talking for me as my tongue winds with hers. I wrap my arms around her, holding her tight against me as the pain of talking about my past bubbles inside of me. My mouth waters again thinking about what I planned to do after I left this room, but Charley’s tongue wipes away the feeling just as quickly. I pull away from her when I feel like we both need a breath and rest my forehead against hers. “God, where have you been all my life?”

She doesn’t say anything, because I don’t think she really has the answer. Finally, she speaks, her voice just above a whisper. “I would have wanted you if we met in high school. Or college. I would have made you feel wanted. Special. I would have protected you from them. I’ll protect you from them now. You’re not alone, Will. Not anymore.” My nose rubs against hers, my eyes fixed on hers as they penetrate me.

Seeing me.

Feeling me.

Knowing me.

That’s the thing about meeting your soulmate. They know what you need to hear sometimes before you do. I’d never used the word alone. Or lonely and it’s like she could feel it just by looking in my eyes.

“I love you,” I tell her as my heart pounds so hard I wonder if it’ll fly out of my chest. A part of me wishes it would so she could see my heart only beat for her.

Even if I was keeping a secret from her.

“I love you too. I wish you’d open up to me. Stop hiding from me. Whatever it is you’re holding onto, let it go. You don’t have to carry it all on your own.”

I’d said that so many times, I wonder if she’s just merely telling me to practice what I preach. Share things with your partner. You’re in this together and you need to share the weight of the baggage you bring into your relationship. One person can’t do it alone.

But what happens when the baggage is too much? So heavy it overpowers the relationship and forces it to break creating irreparable damage?

This is why people have secrets.

This is why people feel they have to carry things alone.

It’s why marriages end.

It’s why I have a job.

 

ABOUT Q.B. TYLER

Write. Wine. Work. Repeat.
A look inside the mind of a not so ex-party girl’s escape from her crazy life. Hailing from the Nation’s Capital, Q.B. Tyler, spends her days constructing her “happily ever afters” with a twist. Romantic comedies served with a side of smut and most importantly the love story that develops despite inconvenient circumstances.

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Finding Me – Blitz

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Salty Key Inn Series, Book 1
Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Wild Quail Publishing
Published: February 2017
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Sheena Sullivan Morelli and her sisters, Darcy and Regan, receive the unexpected news that their Uncle Gavin Sullivan, the black sheep of the family, has left them a hotel on the Gulf coast of Florida. The gift comes with a twist. They must live together for one year at the hotel and prepare the hotel to receive guests within a year. Sheena, eager to escape her role of unappreciated wife and mother, can’t wait for the opportunity to find herself. Dreams of sitting on the beach sipping margaritas are shattered when they see the property in need of renovation. But they begin their work of meeting the challenge. If they succeed, the bulk of Gavin’s estate will be theirs. Facing the unexpected, working together, the three sisters learn a lot about each other and the gift of family love.
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Other Books in the Salty Key Inn Series:
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Finding My Way
Salty Key Inn Series, Book 2
Publisher: Wild Quail Publishing
Published: June 2017
Darcy Sullivan and her two sisters continue to work hard at the Salty Key Inn, the small, Florida hotel they unexpectedly inherited. In order to inherit the rest of Uncle Gavin’s sizeable estate, they must meet his challenge to open the neglected hotel by the end of the year. Darcy figures once they meet the challenge, she’ll take off, travel the world, and maybe, just maybe, begin writing the world’s best novel. When she meets Nick Howard, an older man who is a reporter for the local newspaper and takes over his weekly column, her life changes. Under his tutelage, she writes about local residents, learning to see people in a different way—especially after meeting a cousin no one knew about. Her joy at having the part-time job that’s always been her dream is shattered when she learns Nick is dying. For support, she turns to Austin Blakely, whose grandmother is terminally ill, and through their growing relationship, comes to understand what true love is.
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Finding Love
Salty Key Inn Series, Book 3
Publisher: Wild Quail Publishing
Published: February 2018

As Regan Sullivan continues to work with her sisters, Sheena and Darcy, to meet their Uncle Gavin’s challenge to make the Salty Key Inn a success, she wonders why she can never find the man of her dreams. Her sisters are happily settled with men they love. Why can’t she do the same? When she’s involved in a motorcycle accident with Brian Harwood, Regan learns to think differently about both her appearance and herself. And as she deals with her injuries and helps Brian recover from the accident she feels guilty about causing, Regan discovers that the love she’s always sought has been there all along.
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Excerpt
 CHAPTER ONE
SHEENA
In early January, Sheena Morelli sat with her two sisters in a conference room of the Boston law office of Lowell, Peabody and Wilson, waiting to meet with Archibald Wilson himself.
“Do either of you have any idea why we’re really here?” said her youngest sister, Regan. “The letter from Mr. Wilson said something about a reading of a will. But that doesn’t make sense to me. I didn’t even know Gavin Sullivan.”
“Me, neither. He’s probably some rich uncle leaving us a lot of money,” teased Darcy, the typical middle sister, who was always kidding around.
Sheena laughed with her. The three Sullivan sisters had no rich relatives that they knew of in their modest family. They were hard workers who relied on only themselves to make it through life. Well, thought Sheena, maybe Regan wasn’t as reliable as she and Darcy. As the baby of the family, Regan had always been a bit spoiled. At twenty-two and eager to escape her old life in Boston, Regan wasn’t about to spend too much time with the family. This time, though, at the formal request of Mr. Wilson, Regan had dutifully left New York City to come to “Bean Town.”
As Sheena waited in the conference room for Mr. Wilson to show up, she studied Regan out of the corner of her eye. With her long, black hair, big, violet-blue eyes, and delicate Sullivan features, she was a knockout—a Liz Taylor look-alike.
Darcy sat on the other side of Sheena in a stiff-backed chair. Studying Darcy’s blue eyes, red hair, and freckled nose, Sheena thought of her as cute…and funny…and maybe a little annoying, though everyone seemed to love Darcy’s sassy attitude. At twenty-six, Darcy claimed she hadn’t found her true calling. Whatever that meant.
Sheena had found her calling in a hurry when she got pregnant as she was starting college, where she’d planned to take nursing courses. Ironic as it was, her wanting to become a nurse and getting caught like that, had changed many things for her. Now, at thirty-six and with a sixteen-year-old son and a fourteen-year-old daughter, she still hadn’t recovered from losing her dream.
She straightened in her chair as a tall, gray-haired man entered the room carrying a file of papers.
“Good morning, ladies. I’m Archibald Wilson, the lawyer representing Gavin Sullivan. I’m pleased you all could attend this reading of his will,” he announced in a bass voice. He looked the three of them over critically. “Which one of you is Sheena Sullivan Morelli?”
She raised her hand. “I’m Sheena. Do you mean the ‘Big G’ Sullivan?”
Wide-eyed, her sisters released loud gasps. The name “Big G Sullivan” had been mentioned in the family on rare occasions, and only when her father and his two other brothers had had too many beers. And then it was never kindly.
Mr. Wilson nodded with satisfaction. “Yes, that’s my client. Sheena, though all three of you are beneficiaries, I will address you on most of the issues, as it pertains to the specific language of the will.”
Sheena sat back in her chair, her mind spinning. This scene seemed so surreal. Their father had broken his relationship with this brother years ago. He’d always said his brother was a loser, someone he could never trust.
“He’s left something for us?” said Darcy. “I was only teasing about such a thing.”
The lawyer studied Darcy a moment, took a seat facing the three of them on the other side of the small conference table, and opened the file he had carried in.
He began to speak: “I, Gavin R. Sullivan, of the State of Florida, being of sound and disposing mind and memory, do make, publish, and declare this to be my Last Will and Testament…”
Certain words faded in and out of Sheena’s shocked state of mind. Though her sisters might have been too young to remember him, she had a clear image of the big, jovial man who’d captivated her with his smile, his belly laughs, and the way her father grew quiet when they were in the same room together. On one particular visit, the “Big G”, as he was known, gave her a stuffed monkey that she’d kept on her bed for years. It wasn’t until the fur on the monkey was worn off that she’d noticed a seam was tearing. One day, while she was probing the hole, a gold coin fell out.
Sheena showed the coin to her mother, who snatched it away and whispered, “Don’t tell anyone about this. It’s very valuable. Someday you’ll need it. Until then, I’ll keep it safe for you. Your uncle loves you very much.” As her father walked through the doorway, her mother held a finger to her lips.
Until now, Sheena had forgotten all about the coin.
Archibald Wilson’s voice brought her back to the present. “Sheena, you, Darcy, and Regan are now the legal owners of the Salty Key Inn, but you, Sheena, will be in charge of taking over the small hotel in Florida, as your uncle directed in his will. Is that understood by the three of you?”
Sheena and her sisters dutifully bobbed their heads. The bewilderment on her sisters’ faces matched her own feelings. How in the world were the three of them going to run a hotel?
“Remember,” Mr. Wilson warned them, “the hotel may not be sold for a period of one year. And the three of you must live there together for that entire time if you are to have a share in the rest of his sizeable estate, the details of which will remain undisclosed until the end of your year in Florida. You have just two weeks to prepare. In conversations I had with him in setting up the will, I believe Gavin Sullivan intended for this to be a life lesson for each of you.”
“Whoa! Wait a minute! What about the lease on the condo I share with two of my friends? I can’t just walk away from that,” said Darcy.
“And mine?” said Regan.
The lawyer nodded. “Read over the conditions of the will. Any expenses like that will be taken care of by Gavin’s estate. All expenses as you settle in will be handled through me. But, beware, there will be hidden tests for you throughout this entire process. Tests that could make a lot of difference to each of you.”
Sheena exchanged worried glances with her sisters. She wished she’d asked their mother for more information about the uncle she was never to mention. And now it was too late. Their mother had died a little over a year ago.
“Live together in Florida for a whole year? Was Uncle Gavin crazy when he set up this deal?”
exclaimed Darcy. Her indignation was understandable.
Mr. Wilson stood. “I realize you all have a lot to talk about, a lot to think about. And let me know if you need any further clarification of the terms of the will. You are welcome to continue using this conference room, and please feel free to help yourself to any of the refreshments on the side table.” His lips curved with a touch of humor in what had been a mostly expressionless face. “Enjoy the challenge.”
After Mr. Wilson left them, Sheena sank back into her chair. Her mind raced at the thought of suddenly leaving Boston to go live with her sisters in Florida for an entire year. How could she do that? It would be difficult for her on many levels. They were sisters, after all, and like sisters everywhere, being together for too long sometimes caused battles to erupt. More than that, she had a family. And her husband, Tony, wouldn’t like the idea at all. Her children even less.
“What a joke,” said Darcy, shaking her head. “Living with the two of you for an entire year? Running a hotel? No way. And, Sheena, Tony would never allow you to do something like this. You’re what he calls ‘the Mrs’. And what about the kids?”
Sheena glared at Darcy. “Wait a minute! What did you mean by that ‘Mrs.’ remark?”
“Don’t take it the wrong way,” urged Regan. “It’s just that your family depends on you for everything. Especially Tony.”
Deep in thought, Sheena remained quiet. Tony was a good man who prided himself on always doing the right thing. And he expected her to fulfill what he thought was her proper role.
Though their relationship was still new when she got pregnant, Tony had stepped right up and offered to marry her to prevent her mother’s conservative church friends from counting on their fingers how long it took for their first baby to appear. It helped that their son, Michael Morelli, had started his life in the outside world a little late. Still, Sheena had always appreciated Tony’s consideration.
A worried sigh escaped her. She knew Tony wouldn’t support her being away from their family for an entire year. That would be going against his idea of her in the proper role of taking care of their family. And yet, with his business recently doing poorly, it might be an answer to their prayers—though Tony’s fragile ego might prevent her from actually saying so.
“What about you two?” Sheena asked. “You’ll have to quit your jobs. What then?”
Regan shrugged. “I don’t care. My job is boring—answering phone calls, greeting people and all. They’ll just find another receptionist to take my place.”
Darcy shook her head. “Receptionist? You were so much more than that. More like some kind of hostess with all those special meetings you helped them with. When I visited you in New York, I witnessed how it was—you serving them drinks before they went out to some business dinner.”
“What about you, Darcy?” Sheena asked. “You’ve got a very good job working in IT.”
Darcy grimaced. “Actually, I don’t like it very much. Working with numbers and codes all day isn’t that exciting. Mom was always so proud of me and my job that I didn’t dare tell her I wasn’t happy there. But, with her gone, I’ve been thinking of doing something else.” She smiled. “Maybe this whole thing isn’t dumb after all. Maybe this will be the beginning of something new for all of us.”
Sheena returned her smile. Put this way, it sounded wonderful. If, only…
###
 
About the Author

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Judith Keim was born and raised in Elmira, New York, and now makes her home in Idaho with her husband and long-haired dachshund, Winston, and other members of her family. Growing up, books were always present – being read, ready to go back to the library or about to be discovered. Information from the books was shared in general conversation, giving everyone in her family a wealth of knowledge and a lot of imagination. Perhaps that is why she was drawn to the idea of writing stories early on. Judith particularly loves to write novels about women who face unexpected challenges with strength and find love along the way.
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Tough Love – Blitz

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Women’s Fiction
Date Published: February 2018
Publisher: The Catalyst Group
 
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All that glitters is not gold and this is hitting home for Aleyna, a business woman, wife and mother, as she struggles between her traditional family desires and being unhappy in a marriage with her less than faithful husband, Kyle. Being a public speaker on confidence and success, Aleyna feels she isn’t being honest with herself or the world as she learns that the cancer she once beat has returned, bringing her face to face with a choice; her life or her marriage. This is a journey of self- discovery, strength, healing and courage.
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About the Author

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Aalia Lanius; storyteller, survivor, and a woman dedicated to reminding others that there is always hope in the dark, drawing you in with her spirit and vulnerability.  Based on personal experiences, she writes and speaks on topics such as survival of childhood molestation & teenage sexual assault, attempted suicide, eating disorders, marriage & relationship issues, divorce, parenting, financial success & health challenges.  Creative ambitions had always taken a back seat, focusing on health, business & being a mother, but not anymore! Her biographical fiction novel “Tough Love”, released February 2018 & she is confident that her stories will spread a positive message and impact others.
Her storytelling doesn’t stop there; her next book is set to release by January 2019!  In between writing fiction novels, she lives in Los Angeles County with her husband, Joseph Lanius, Film Executive Producer & Entertainment Attorney, whom she married in 2016 & welcomed a daughter with in January 2017.           
As a mother of four, Aalia splits her time between yoga pants, mom duties, red carpet events, & traveling the world with her family seeking adventure & any opportunity to share a positive message.
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