Thursday, 30 January 2014

Kotar & Gessler: Pirate Treasure

It's my distinct honor to welcome two ladies to Heart of Fiction who have both been part of all our lives but we never knew it. S.L. Kotar and J.E Gessler's writing career spans decades, but Pirate Treasure is their first published literary work of fiction. How can that be? Well, I'll tell you!

S.L. and J.E. wrote for Hollywood. One of their earliest sales was to the Gunsmoke franchise -- Kitty's Love Affair just celebrated it's 40th anniversary of its first airing, 22 Oct 1973. What makes this episode so important is that it was the first time ever in which a kiss was shown on screen for this series. Until then, hand holding was as steamy as Gunsmoke ever got. It was a good old shootem up western, not a romance. But we all know, Kitty and Matt had a thing between them since the series first aired in 1955. Kitty's Love Affair also earned the franchise their highest ratings ever! Well done, ladies.

S.L. and J.E. went on from there to write pilots for William Shatner, who gave S.L. her nickname, Captain. They've both written for a number of magazines and periodicals, and as medical professionals in their 'day job', the pair have also written some very important medical texts which are used in universities today -- Smallpox: A History ; Cholera: A Worldwide History; The Complete Guide to Ambulatory Cardiac Monitoring and Full Disclosure Telemetry; and their book, Yellow Fever: A History, is due out later this year.

If that wasn't enough, S.L. and J.E. also wrote and published historical nonfiction -- The Steamboat Era: A History of Fulton's Folly on American Rivers, 1807-1860; Ballooning: A History, 1782-1900; The Rise of the American Circus, 1716-1899; and Riverboat: The Evolution of a Television Series, 1959-1961.

Wait! I'm not done yet. Pirate Treasure is the first in a complete series called The Kansas Pirates Saga. And in May, S.L. and J.E. will see the first book in another complete series released . . . a western series called The Hellhole Saga; book one is First Draw.

And do you want to know about an untitled series which has 137 completed novels? All things in time, friends, all things in time. Today, we'll focus on pirates and the treasure they seek.

Pirate Treasure isn't your average buccaneer swashbuckling tale. I mean, it IS set in Kansas after all. But the arrival of a special woman into the Ward's lives will bring some of that pirate magic to this midwestern state.

Set in 1857, the state of Kansas had been part of the Louisianna Purchase just 54 years earlier. In 1854, the Kansas Territory had been organized. And it will be two years until the US Constitution would be would be adopted.

In this year, there is relative peace, but in a small town like Lawrence, people are still suspicious and superstitious. And when Seth Ward's wife dies, leaving him with two young children to raise alone, the last thing he needs is for his community to turn their backs on him when his son, Peter, shows signs of something unexplainable. They call the boy haunted.

At his wits end, Seth places a help wanted ad. The way things are going in town, he's pretty sure it will go unanswered, but he has to try for the sake of the kids, and himself.

Born in Nova Scotia, Barbara Nelander served on board her father's ship, learning the ropes from the deck up, so to speak. She's used to working in difficult situations and when she takes a job with the Wards, she's truly put to the test as she walks in the ghost of Seth's late wife and helps Peter come to terms with his situation.

Neither Seth or Nelander, as she's called, expect to be attracted to each other, and as their affections grow, so does the bond within the new family. Using her high seas experience, Nelander transforms their home into a figurative pirate ship, each of them having a job to do on that ship. Nelander and Peter set out to deal with Peter's tormenters, exacting a buccaneers' revenge, and discovering the illusive treasure all pirates search for.

All is not roses though. The hot Kansas summer threatens everything Seth and Nelander are working so hard to achieve, as tempers grow hotter under the Kansas sun.

Wow! Pirate Treasure is an edge of your seat read. From chapter one, readers will be pulled into a unique world where great historical romance meets swashbuckling high seas drama. Pirates in landlocked Kansas? At the heart of the story is the budding relationship between Seth and Nelander. The attraction isn't traditionally instant, but we grow with the characters through the reading and see how their relationship blooms. Nelander's character is well-drawn and believable. Her spirit lifts from the page with each turn. Seth's plight compounds the drama as he suffers the loss of his wife, has to raise two young children on his own, has a community of peers shunning him because of his son's new-found 'affliction', and how can it be possible he's falling in love again? A gripping must read, and a wonderful start to a fabulous series!

Before we get to an excerpt, be sure to drop S.L. and J.E. a note in the comments below **with your email address** to enter the draw for a copy of Pirate Treasure.

• • •

They said the boy was haunted and the townspeople of Lawrence, Kansas, wanted nothing to do with widower Seth Ward or his two children. In 1857, superstitions run high.

Left alone to raise Patricia and Peter, Seth has been isolated from his neighbors since the death of his wife from a lingering, malignant disease. Nearly at his wits end, a young woman appears in response to an advertisement for help.

Barbara Nelander dared brave the terror of a dead woman's ghost and the haunting of her son because she was not like other women. Born in Nova Scotia, "Nelander," as she was called, had served as a crewman aboard her father's trading ship since early childhood. Used to working in a man's world and handling difficult situations, she signs aboard with the determination to dispel the ghosts of the past.

Transforming the homestead into a figurative pirate ship, she uses her wiles to restore Peter's self-confidence, extract a buccaneer's revenge on those who tormented him and battles drought alongside Seth as the harsh Kansas summer threatens to destroy the family and the relationship that develops between the "captain" and "first officer."

Nelander had little exposure to men of such ilk. Her father had owned his own vessel and therefore kept clear of banks. Captains of her acquaintance who worked for hire, however, spoke of them in language unfit for public ears.

The teller waited until the manager retired to his office, then scurried after him, politely knocking on the door. It required three light scratches before a booming voice ordered, “Come in!” The man adjusted his starched neck collar and disappeared. Ten minutes later he reemerged, pale and perspiring. Not daring to speak, he used two fingers to motion the waiting customer.

“Mr. Pronger will see you, now.”

Fully aware that the delay had been a purposeful one, Nelander followed the clerk down the hall, waved her hand by way of dismissing the minion and strode through the door. The teller later described the incident by saying, “It were as though she owned the place!”

Mr. Pronger rose from behind his massive mahogany desk in a gesture of civil obedience. The observer likened the act to a magistrate offering a condemned man a hood before ordering him to walk the plank.

“What can I do for you...madam?”

“I desire to transfer money from an account I have in Nova Scotia to this facility.” In order to make herself perfectly clear, she added, “From one bank to another. The account is in my own name. I shall sign whatever documents are necessary. I would appreciate expedience in the matter.”

“You are not from around here, madam?”

“My name is Barbara Nelander, sir, recently Second Officer aboard the Bottom Dollar. I have arrived only this morning from San Francisco.”

“You are in need of funds?”

She supposed he meant to embarrass her as the question appeared superfluous.

“I am.”

“And you need this money for—?”

Her head shot back. “To continue my journey.”

“You are returning to Canada?”

“I am. As soon as I get my money.”

Which may, or may not, have been a threat.

Or an inducement.

The bank president removed an official form from his desk. Making a show of fitting a nib to the end of a pen shaft, he uncorked an inkwell and dipped it. Hand hovering over the paper, he inquired with a judge’s dour inflection, “Name on the account from which you wish to transfer funds?”

“Would it be easier for me to fill out the form, myself?”

Pronger evidenced genuine surprise. “You can read and write?”

“I have a degree, sir, from Davy Jones University.”

“I am unfamiliar with that institution. Is it in Canada?”

Not normally prone to lie, Nelander considered it more in the nature of a jest.

“It has branches there.”

• • •

Find S.L. and J.E. online at --

Facebook --
Tirgearr Publishing --
Tirgearr Publishing --

Don't forget to leave a comment with your email address for the draw!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Tegon Maus: My Grandfather's Pants

Please help me welcome, Tegon Maus, to Heart of Fiction.

When I met Tegon, the first thing I asked was if this was his pen name, because it was a great one if it was. To my surprise, it is his real name. I've always had a 'thing' for unusual names, which Tegon thought was a bit funny.

Fast forward a few months and I've gotten to know Tegon and learned about his exciting life which he shares with his wife, whom he calls Dearheart. A gentleman and a romantic, is our Tegon! They've been married for 43 years and by all accounts, it's been a match made in Heaven.

Today, Tegon joins us to introduce us to his latest book, My Grandfather's Pants. This is a unique story and is set apart from his usual genres -- the fantasy series, The Chronicles of Tucker Littlefield from Netherworld Books, and the soon-to-be-release sci-fi series, The Eve Project from Tirgearr Publishing.

My Grandfather's Pants is the story of Jack Laskin. He lives an ordinary life, has an ordinary job, and sees his future as gruelingly . . . ordinary. Until the day his mother asks him to try on an old pair of pants. Initially, Jack refuses. They pants shabby, worn through, and has a poorly stitched hole in the leg. Frankly, he wonders why they haven't been thrown out.

Then his mother tells Jack about his late grandfather and the day he was shot while wearing the pants. Something in the story changes Jack's mind and he takes the pants home to try on. This will be the best decision he's made in years, as suddenly, as if my magic, everything in his life starts falling into place. Including his love life. He's so happy that not even his mother and her meddling lady-friends can put a damper on things.

It's when a woman from his grandfather's past comes to him and tells him he has something she wants that his life takes yet another turn. He has no idea what that 'thing' is, but sets out to find out the connection his grandfather had to this mysterious woman, and what she thinks Jack has that she wants.

My Grandfather's Pants is a lovely, heart-warming read. It's full of so many things going on that it's hard to classify its true place within a single genre. This story will make you chuckle. It will make you sigh. It will also keep you turning pages as the suspense builds to see what will happen next. There's romance, too. And the grandfather's magical pants. My Grandfather's Pants a fabulous read. Tegon tells a wholly believable tale which plays on most of the emotions. At the very heart of it, this is a family story and shares the importance of family history. I say 'well done, Tegon.'

Before we get to an excerpt, be sure to drop Tegon a note in the comments below **with your email address** to enter the draw for a copy of My Grandfather's Pants.

• • •
Jack Laskin is an ordinary man. More than ordinary according to some. Running the family hardware store and a life that would bore a snail, nothing exciting ever seems to happen to him. 
Then, at his mother’s urging, he tries on a pair of his late grandfather's old pants and everything changes -- most importantly his emerging love life. It's not long before his mother and her meddling friends get involved.

When an old friend of his grandfather’s tells Jack he has something she wants, his new-found life takes another turn. Having no idea what he is supposed to have, Jack looks to his girlfriend, Connie, and her brother, Robert, for help.

In the end, the answers will all be found in his Grandfather’s Pants.
"Mom, I really don't want them."
It was always the same. Even now that I was well over thirty, she spoke to me as if I were still ten. Once she started down that track there was no turning around the train. It was best to allow her to run her course, always straight ahead, full bore, and the world be damned.

"No one wore them after Henry. Not really. Your father tried them on once...just the once for a moment or so and he knew," she said softly.

Folding them over her arm, she stroked them gently as if lost in some personal memory.

"Mom," I protested half-heartedly.

"Just take them, Jack. If you don't feel you're ready, if you decide you don't want them for someone who will," she said, pushing them into my hands.

I held the pants for a moment, trying to ignore the tears welling in her eyes.

"They look like they might fit," I offered cheerfully, holding them out in front of me. A light beige gabardine, nice for their time but obviously dated, the cut and lines were all wrong for today's fashion. "Connie will be back this weekend and I want to put my best foot forward."

I wanted to change the subject, to get her on a different track. The only other two she traveled with any regularity since dad died was my search for a wife and then, with that accomplished, children.

"They will, trust me. If they fit anyone, it will be you." She ran a sentimental hand over the belt loops. 

"Promise me you’ll wear them this Friday."

As she spoke, I spotted my escape from this unwanted, thirty year old, hand-me-down: a small repair in the left leg, just above the knee. Repaired with a thread of exact color, the patch seemed to run against the grain of the material, making that spot rough to the touch.

"Ah, look. What a shame. There's a hole," I said, turning them to show her.

"Used to be a hole. That's where Grandpa Henry was shot," she absentmindedly fingered the mend.

"Shot?" I exclaimed, dropping them. "Why haven't I heard about this before?"

"You would have to know Henry. He never liked to talk about himself."

"He's been dead for nearly fifteen years, and it's never come up before now?"

"Force of habit, I suppose. I thought you knew."

"So, tell me now," I said, sitting on the couch.

"To hear Henry tell it, it was nothing really. Before the hardware store your grandfather worked as a mechanic. He was on duty at the station late on a Saturday afternoon. The night guy called in sick and asked Henry to pick up his shift. Shortly after dark, a man showed up with a gun, forcing Henry to surrender the money.

In those days a cashbox sat next to the pumps. Everything was full service. People were more honest, not like now."

"Mom, please."

"It used to be nice. People were happy to be of service. That's all I'm saying."

"Mom." I sighed.

"The little bastard took the money from the island and then put the gun in Henry's back and told him to open the office so he could get to the safe. When Henry opened the door he went through first and slammed the door closed on the robber's hand.

"Well, the gun went off, hitting your grandfather in the leg. It made him so angry, he threw the door open, took the gun from the man and beat him within an inch of his life.

"The police, the fire department, and an ambulance came. Henry made them all wait while he continued to pump gas, check oil, and wash car windows because he was still on duty. He let them treat him between customers, saying it was his responsibility, refusing to close the station until someone came to take the keys.

"The police threatened to arrest him if he didn't cooperate but eventually even they relented. Soon they were pumping gas and washing windows for him so the medics could do their job."

"That's crazy. He was shot, a bullet in his leg, and bleeding and he refused to stop pumping gas because it was his job? Mom, that's nuts."

"That was your dad's dad," she patted my knee as she stood.

"That's why he limped?"

"Yes, it is. You're a lot like him, Jack. More than you know. Wear them on Friday, for me. Connie Johnson will appreciate them," she offered before closing the door.

For a moment, the silence that filled my house was laden with guilt. Mom was good at that. All women are, I guess.
• • •
 Married forty-three years to a woman he calls Dearheart, Tegon Maus lives a contented life in a small town of 8,200 in Southern California. By day, Tegon is a successful home remodeling contractor, but his passion is storytelling.

Tegon's progatonists are frequently wedged between a rock and a hard place, but manage to work things out through the story. Like most when pushed into a corner, it only brings out the best in his characters and become the unstoppable force of a reluctant hero. Tegon's signature style is creating characters who are driven and believable, and who strive to find happiness.

Tegon is the author of The Chronicles Of Tucker Littlefield series.
Find Tegon online --
Don't forget to leave a comment with your email address for the draw!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Kit Marlowe: The Big Splash

Image courtesy of SL Johnson
Let's give a big welcome to Kit Marlowe who returns today with her latest release, The Big Splash, the first book in a new series.

Kit visited with us this past July on the release of her book, The Mangrove Legacy, the story of two cousins, Alice and Lizzie, who suffer the loss of their beloved uncle only to be kidnapped, and kidnapped again, and to find life on the high seas. High drama and adventure for two refined ladies.

The Big Splash is a wholly different read. Kit takes us back to the 1920s -- the Jazz Age in London -- the beginning of the modern age. Music was lively, champagne flowed freely, and the women lived just as fast and free as their male counterparts. Through it all, one woman is looking for love, and even though men throw themselves at her feet, Constance Wynne only wants the one man she can't have.

While The Big Splash is a novelette, there's a big story here. Kit keeps pages turning with witty banter, interesting characters, and a rollicking good time. Readers are guaranteed a hearty chuckle and a trip back in time. Get your flapper dresses on ladies, and men don your best suit. Polish up the motor, and shine those champagne glasses. Put on some Cole Porter to get you in the mood, and get ready to dance till dawn!

Before we get to the excerpt, we had a chance to chat with Kit --

• • •

Welcome back, Kit, to Heart of Fiction, and congratulations on the release of The Big Splash. I really enjoyed reading this story and can't wait to see the next one.

You're such a busy lady, one wonders how you find time for writing. How do you manage with everything going on in your life? Do you have a writing routine? What's it like?
When I can spare a few moments from my whirlwind life of champagne, dance halls and other shenanigans – those pictures that claimed to show me dancing in the fountain at Trafalgar Square? I won't say they're faked but I'm almost certain I wasn't wearing that blue sequin dress that day, so it can't possibly be me, can it?

So anyway, when I can spare a few moments as I said, I like to draw out my adventures at my mahogany writing desk that I inherited from my grandfather who was an adventurer. He took in the greater part of the globe and sailed into many exciting ports and voyaged up mountains and across deserts or so he always told me. My mother claims he was a shoemaker, but I am sure she's just being modest.
Your grandfather sounds quite the man. Very well traveled, even if only in his mind ;-) Your mahogany desk sounds like it could very well have gleaned some of your grandfather's stories. I love that this is part of your writing space. Tell us about the rest of your space.
So at my mahogany desk I take my lovely fountain pen in hand and my very finest vellum and look up at my portraits of Jane Austen, Winifred Watson and Georgette Heyer and just let the muse fill me. Usually the staff deliver a tray of martinis or some other mind-strengthening concoction to me after about an hour to be sure I can withstand the strain. I have an east facing window. I find it most conducive to provoking the imagination. I have fresh flowers brought in too. Nothing like the scent of camellias to fire the old synapses.
Hmm . . . I wonder if Constance Wynne has a little more of the author's personal life in her than we're led to believe! Perhaps we should have also asked if it's Martinis at dawn ;-)

Aside from martinis and camellias, what do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?
I live a quiet life in my country cottage when I can, cantering across the meadows and jumping the occasional stile or fence, my hounds yapping at my heels. I don't hunt. Foxes are sacred creatures to me, of course. When I can be lured into town I see all the latest shows with my friends who, generally being a louche lot, drag me out to the most glittering clubs and force me to dance and drink and laugh until all hours. It's quite hectic but it does supply me with an awful lot of material.
And for all your protesting, me thinks you live the life of Reilly and enjoy it very much!

Thank you for taking time to chat with us, and best of luck with The Big Splash. It's certainly a great start to your new series. My guess is the next time we're taking with you, there will be a great whirlwind over the the next book in the series, The Big Spin!

Before we get to an excerpt, be sure to drop Kit a note in the comments below **with your email address** to enter the draw for a copy of The Big Splash.

• • •

London, 1929

Constance Wynne Hare exhaled noisily. “This is most inconvenient, Miss Emery. I can’t believe you would be so inconsiderate!”

Miss Emery remained unmoved. “I’m afraid I cannot in good conscience continue in your employment.” Her lips pursed thinly. The expression made them entirely unattractive.

“But I am lunching with Mr. Wood in less than an hour,” Constance explained with what she thought certain must be admirable restraint. “It is imperative that I be on time and presentable. Whatever should he think of me if I turn up late—or like this?” she added, gesturing wildly at her reflection, which repeated her movements agreeably. Both were a shambles. The late night, and even later morning, had left the young woman looking in need of another week’s rest at least.

“It is immaterial to me, miss,” Emery continued, unruffled. “I am leaving at once. You may forward my final wages to the agency.” Without further ado, Emery picked up her dowdy bag and stalked down the hallway. In a moment, Constance heard the front door close forcefully behind a very vexing lady’s maid.

Constance stared at herself in the mirror for a moment, noting the distressed look upon her face and the horror of her hair. This would not do. “I must cancel lunch,” she said, although there was no longer anyone to hear the words. Wrapping her marabou-trimmed satin robe more tightly around her shoulders, Constance rose and crossed to the telephone desk. She picked up the receiver, then paused.

Whom should she call?

Sighing, Constance picked up the dialer and, with deliberate slowness, twirled the digits to obtain her mother’s exchange.

“Yes, hello. Matthison, is my mother at liberty for a call?”

While she waited, Constance heaved another sigh. It was quite a thing to be brought down to the level of phoning her mother for rescue.

“Constance, I am preparing a luncheon, you could not have called at a more inconvenient time.”

“Mother, I’m desperate!” Constance wailed. “Miss Emery has bolted.”

“Oh, Constance, not again.” Her mother’s disapproval seemed to snake right through the telephone cord to admonish her. “Why can you not keep servants?”

“I have had the cook for three months now,” Constance said with some tartness.

“Only because you never eat at home,” Mrs. Wynne Hare countered, successfully silencing Constance for the moment. “Whatever shall you do now?”

Constance pouted. “I rather hoped that you would have some motherly advice.”

“You know what my advice will be, Constance. Stop behaving like a raving lunatic and be a sensible girl. Marry a nice young banker and settle down in the country.”

Constance winced. It wasn’t so much that she didn’t anticipate the use of the phrase. This phrase formed the foundation of Mother’s perennial advice, after all. But the words had been delivered with such a ringing attitude of certainty that her own will wavered if but for a moment.

An ordinary girl would have quailed before the commanding maternal tone. Constance, however, was no ordinary girl. What a robust constitution and plenty of parental latitude in the past had not provided, a generous trust fund account finished off. This proved a freedom one would not easily relinquish.

She tried another tack. “How on earth could I snag a banker if I don’t even have a lady’s maid to call my own?” Check, Constance added silently.

Her mother’s sigh sounded suspiciously like defeat to Constance’s ears. “Well, I suppose that is true enough,” her mother said.

“Of course it is! Now whatever shall I do? I don’t think the agency will give me another so soon.”

“You appear to have been born most undeservedly under a lucky star,” Mrs. Wynne Hare said after a minute pause. “Miss Vanbrugh’s lady’s maid has recently left her employment.”

“You mean Mrs. Baird’s employment.” Constance corrected her mother.

“Indeed,” Mrs. Wynne Hare’s tone indicated clearly she did not appreciate the correction. Constance winced. She would pay for the slip later. “In fact, her marriage rendered the position no longer suitable, it seems. Collier has an abhorrence of working for married ladies.”

“Collier?” Constance tried to conjure an image of the person in question and found herself unable to recall a thing about Miss Vanbrugh’s lady’s maid, which spoke well on her behalf. The ones you noticed often provided unpleasant shocks. A good lady’s maid should be as flattering as a well cut chemise and just as unobtrusive.

“Yes, Collier. I must say it seems the height of irony that all of her charges seem to end up married rather sooner than expected.”

Constance could not help but notice how the glow had returned to her mother’s tone. Check for the other player this time. This peculiarity of habit or luck on the part of the lady’s maid did not bode well for the acquisition, but Constance was in a bind. “Well then, can you phone and have her sent around? Things are a shambles here and I am meant to be lunching with Mr. Wood in less than an hour!”

“I do not approve of that young man,” Mrs. Wynne Hare sniffed. “He is decidedly louche.”

“I know, Mother, but until I can snag a suitable banker, I do enjoy amusing myself with the likes of Mr. Wood.”

“Your inability to ‘snag a banker’, as you vulgarly put it, may be due entirely to the amount of time you are seen gallivanting around town with the likes of Mr. Wood.”

“I need the strong guidance of a good lady’s maid,” Constance countered with surprising smoothness, which impressed and cheered her no end. “Do please ring Collier and send her around, there’s a dear, Mother.”

“Well, all right.” Her mother sighed with the requisite weariness.

“Heavens, I am going to be most horribly late for lunch.”

“Oh, Constance, when is that not the case?”

“But what should I do to occupy myself while I’m waiting?”

“Can you not read a book or something?”

“Mother, be serious,” Constance said, her eyes wide with shock.

“For heaven’s sake! Take a bath, Constance.”

• • •

Kit Marlowe is a writer of historical romance with humour (although there are those who say she’s secretly an English professor who writes under other names). You can find her on Facebook, too. Her lovely author portrait was created by the fabulous artist S. L. Johnson. Marlowe’s novel The Mangrove Legacy will be published by Tirgearr Publishing; you may also read her on-going comic steampunk serial, Airships & Alchemy.

Find Kit online --

Tirgearr Publishing

Don't forget to leave a comment with your email address for the draw!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Joyce Brennan: The Hidden Journal

Happy New Year, readers! Welcome back to Heart of Fiction. Today we're thrilled to announce that Tirgearr Publishing is back publishing for a new season, and what better author and book to begin with than Joyce Brenna and her new story, The Hidden Journal.

Joyce comes to us from the ever sunny and warm Las Vegas where she lives her hubbie and two dog-babies. Joyce is a seasoned writer with several books under her author belt, lectures on the craft of writing, and is a long standing member of several writing groups, including RWA and local groups.

The Hidden Journal is Joyce's latest release, the story of Jenna Mitchell, a designer from Chicago who moves her business to the small town of Crestridge, Kentucky. When the market collapses, Jenna decides to take over a local antique shop. When she meets Drew Kelsey, sparks fly, and not the good kind. It takes her friend-turned-matchmaker to make the couple see their sparring is masking their true feelings for each other. It's not long before they fall in love and plan a future together. It's when Jenna finds a journal in an old desk in her shop that her world starts crumbling, aided by Stella Ledbetter who has other plans for Drew. Will true love prevail? You'll have to read The Hidden Journal yourself. No spoilers here. I'll only say this is a great read. It's full of romance and suspense, and very well could keep you up all night turning pages. Don't say you weren't warned ;-)

Before we get to an excerpt, be sure to drop Joyce a note in the comments below **with your email address** to enter the draw for a copy of The Hidden Journal.

• • •

This can’t possibly be right.
A sickening wave of panic surged through Jenna as she parked in the driveway and stared at the old stone cottage. With trembling fingers, she opened the folder sent by the real estate agent. She rechecked the address and then studied the photo. No mistake. The snapshot, taken in the lush of summer with flowers in bloom and leafy trees promising peace and seclusion, displayed a quaint fieldstone cottage with a wraparound porch—not the drab, unkempt and almost forbidding structure that appeared before her.

Her heart pounded in her chest. Her throat closed around the cry that fought to escape.

My God, What have I done?

Her sister’s remarks haunted her. “I can’t believe you bought a house you’ve never seen, in a state you’ve never visited.”

Jenna had attempted to justify her actions. She had to get away. She needed to be on her own, take charge of her life. It sounded reasonable at the time but now she realized her mistake. She owned this neglected cottage, complete with overgrown shrubs, and a sagging porch, along with whatever other disaster waited inside.

She grabbed one of the boxes from the back seat and carried it to the porch. Before she could turn the key in the lock, the door squeaked open. She inhaled sharply and shoved the door open with the toe of her shoe.

“Hello? Anyone in there?”

Silence echoed through the empty house. She set the carton on the floor and flicked the light switch on and off—nothing. She had asked the real estate agent to have the power turned on. Obviously, they had a miscommunication.

She shivered as much from the damp chill penetrating the house, as from the overwhelming dread of her decision. Reality clamped over her as she stood in a dank cottage in a strange state, cold and alone. Jenna gasped as the air squeezed from her chest.

“Good or bad, I made my choice. No point wallowing in self-pity.” Her voice fell flat. As if talking aloud would rescue her from the disastrous decision. She focused on the fireplace in the living room. A fire should solve the heat problem and provide some light until morning.

She grabbed an armful of logs and kindling from the stack on the porch and dumped them in the fireplace. After adding wads of the packing paper from her carton, she looked around for matches. She found them in an ornate metal box attached to the wall next to the mantel. After more than a few attempts, she managed to ignite a blazing fire. The dreary room lit up almost instantly.

Jenna returned to the car for her suitcases. She pulled the three from the trunk holding her personal belongings and juggled them up to the porch. She nudged the cottage door open with her shoulder only to inhale a choking cloud of smoke. It reeked throughout the house. Bits of burned paper floated around the room. She let the luggage fall to the floor and dropped her arms in defeat. Black smudges appeared around her eyes as tears of frustration spiked down her face.

I must have been out of my mind to buy a place like this.

“Lordy, Ma’am, looks like you forgot to open the damper.” A wisp of a girl brushed past her. She dropped the basket she carried on the kitchen table and tended the fire. Jenna stood back, helpless as the child opened doors and windows before stopping to greet the new owner.

“You must be Ms. Mitchell. I’m Molly Keiffer.”

“Please, call me Jenna. You’re a life saver. How did you know…?”

“I’ve been watching. Mr. Grant told us you’d be here today or tomorrow. Gram sent me with something for you to eat until you had a chance to get to the grocery.” A smile broke out on Molly’s face as she added, “You’re gonna love Gram’s homemade soup.”

Tea bags, muffins and a small jar of honey also peeked out from under a blue and white napkin that partially covered the small wicker basket.

“This is a nice surprise. Will you join me?”

“No Ma’am. Gram told me not to be a bother and to come straight home.” Molly grabbed candles from a drawer in the kitchen. “You’ll probably need these and there’s an oil lamp in the bedroom.”

Jenna shook her head as the girl with the flame-red hair and freckles that scampered across her nose, darted around the cottage.

“I almost forgot. I’m supposed to tell you if you need anything, we live in the only other house on the lane.” Molly turned and ran out the door, her corkscrew curls bobbing in the March wind.

Jenna turned the tap in the kitchen.

At least the water works.

Feeling like a character from Little House on the Prairie, she filled a blackened teakettle and hung it on a swinging hook attached to the fireplace. While waiting for the water to boil she surveyed the mess and thought about the strange child. Thank goodness she came when she did.

The inside of the house gave the impression that the former owners had stepped out and planned to return any minute. An assortment of household items crowded every inch of the kitchen. A coffee mug sat on the table and a soiled dishtowel hung from the back of a chair. In the living room, personal belongings were scattered everywhere.

Aside from walking into the bedroom to get the oil lamp before it became too dark to locate it, Jenna didn’t venture through the rest of the house. She was cold, tired and thoroughly distressed.

The soup and a steaming mug of tea gave her a second wind. She unloaded the rest of her cartons from the car and attempted to organize her belongings. She pulled a few necessities from her luggage and stacked everything else against the living room wall.

It seemed to take forever to warm the cottage once the smoke cleared and she closed the doors. She gathered a worn afghan from the back of an old wooden rocking chair, wrapped it around her shoulders and sat on the couch. Mesmerizing flames flickered in the darkness. She melted into a fitful sleep, stirring with every unfamiliar noise the creaky old cottage had to offer.
• • •

Joyce Brennan writes Romantic Suspense and Cozy Mysteries. She served as editor for a business school newspaper before embarking upon a career with American Airlines. She has authored three Romance novels: Hidden Journal, Broken Promises, and Don't Dance on My Heart. Her short stories have been published in four anthologies and in an internet magazine. She is an active member of the Las Vegas Romance Writer’s, a Chapter of the Romance Writers of America, The Las Vegas Valley Writers, and The Henderson Writers Group. She gives presentations on writing, hosts a critique group and a leads a Creative Writing class. She writes articles for the community newspaper and gives writing advice on her blog. Joyce volunteers at a warehouse that provides medical equipment for seniors. She resides in Las Vegas, NV, with her husband, Tom and their two Yorkies.

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