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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Winter Reads

Every summer there's a lot of attention given to Beach Reads--books deemed perfect for reading while baking under the sun in a beach chair. What about Winter Reads--books that are enjoyed while sipping hot chocolate, bundled up in an afghan in the overstuffed chair by the fireplace?

I've written two books where the action occurs during the cold of winter. The Company You Keep begins in January with plenty of snow.

The snow had crusted two days ago when sleet had
covered everything with an icy glaze. With slippers on her
feet, she broke through the hard coating and sank into the
soft snow beneath.

The sharp sting of the frozen crystals on her skin did not
stop her from scrambling after the disappearing spirit. She
caught a glimpse of the lantern’s glow waiting by the
gnarled maple at the edge of the woods. Fear prickled
along her neck, but an odd compulsion propelled her

The light dipped, swayed, and moved on into the woods
until the gleam became feeble and indistinct. By the time
Jennifer leaned against the twisted trunk of the old maple,
the light had disappeared altogether, and she did not have
the strength to go further. Her own battery lantern
flickered and went dark.

Her lungs hurt as she panted in the cutting air. The
wind had swept the snow away from the base of the tree
and she sat on one of the tree’s bulging roots while a wave
of desolation washed over her. Surprisingly, as suddenly
as it began, the bitter chill in her soul ended. The opening
to the portal must have closed.

She shivered violently. In the stillness, clouds of vapor
from her breath trailed high in the air. She found she
couldn’t stop shaking. She knew she should keep moving,
but wracked by the dreadful trembling, she remained
huddled at the foot of the ancient tree.

Are you cold yet? You probably will be if you read the book. The snow hangs around through most of the book.

However, if you'd like to be not only cold but wet, here's a scene from Sea Of Hope, which starts off with a nor'easter.

She glared out over the crashing waves with her lips pressed tightly together and realized how numb and heavy her heart felt, as though it had been weighted down with lead sinkers. Alone with her grief for the first time since her father's death, she relished the blast of the gale. It pumped some of its power into her thin frame and woke her from a weeklong nightmare.

"How could you do this to me, Dad?" she cried out over the howl of the storm. "You made a promise to me." But the tempest tore her words away and the only answer to her question was the shrill scream of the wind and a shower of salty spray that stung her eyes.

Sheets of rain pelted her and the pier shuddered as the waves slammed into it, but Doria stood her ground. With a Nor'easter battering the New Jersey coastline, conditions on the pier were hazardous, however what she intended to do would only take a moment.

Then there's my Young Adult Historical/Paranormal, Outside Blessings. Set along the New Jersey coastline in January of 1896.  

Neema faced the howling wind as waves lashed against the rock jetty, sending icy spray high into the air. Because the surfmen from the lifesaving station had found her sister’s ice-covered body wedged between the huge granite boulders, she had decided to search for clues there.  
Over the past two weeks, she had painstakingly hunted in all the crevices in the massive stones, bit by bit, day by day. She refused to give up. If she did not find anything in the jetty to bolster her case, she would sift through every grain of sand around it.
Taking great care, she walked along the slippery, ice-covered rocks. The tide had gone out so there was less chance she would be drenched with a cascade of salt water. If she returned soaked to the skin, Mrs. Kelleher, the housekeeper at the Courts’ cottage, would have a conniption. Worse, Mr. Court might fire her—despite her skill with a needle. 
As soon as she came to the point where she had stopped the day before, she knelt down. She had placed a sturdy piece of driftwood into a crevice to mark the spot. She pulled out the wood and slid her thinly gloved hand into the space. Searching all around the huge gray stone, she found nothing of importance other than bits of shells, splinters of wood, and seaweed. She crept to the next stone and repeated the process.
From out in the water, she heard a sharp bark.
“Go away, Seamus!” she called back. Seamus annoyed her. He had wanted to mate with her the past two seasons, but she refused him—as had all the Selkie females. He was obnoxious to every one of them. Since he failed to attract a mate, he had been banished to the bachelors’ island. She avoided him much as she would a shark.
He barked again in a more strident manner. This time he sounded much closer.
She pulled her hand out of the crevice and glared at him. His nearness unsettled her. He sat on a low, flat rock not ten feet from her, bobbing his head up and down. She turned away, refusing to communicate with him. His unwelcome distraction hampered her progress.
She glanced toward the east where the sun rose above the horizon. Soon the whole household would be up and she would be missed. Clamping her teeth together, she plunged her hand into another frigid crevice. She had only a quarter of an hour at best and she must not waste it even though her fingers were numb with the cold and she shivered uncontrollably.
Seamus continued barking, but she kept at her task. As she finished sliding her fingers around one boulder, she went on to the next. This would have to be the last one for today, and she would be forced to run all the way back to the cottage to make it in time.
The bell in the church tower tolled the hour. She wanted to cry, for she must leave and she had gained nothing toward finding an answer for Lila’s death. Gathering up her courage, she set her chin defiantly. She would not be defeated. She stood, turned, and cautiously stepped along the boulders to make her way back to the beach.
In the golden beams of the morning, she caught the glint of something inside a crevice only three feet from Seamus. Had he seen it, too? Is that why he had been so insistent? Or was it a trick?She grabbed her sturdy piece of driftwood, intending to shove him away if he came close to her. Keeping one eye on Seamus, she bent down. He barked, growled, and lowered his head.
“If you bite me, I will clobber you with this stick,” she threatened. Then in one swift movement, she scooped up the bright bauble.
Her heart thundered as she opened her hand and stared at it. It was Lila’s silver heart locket— the one Gustave had given to her on her birthday. Lila’s initials were engraved on the surface, so there could be no doubt.
She trembled as emotion swamped her like a giant wave. With knees too weak to hold her, she sank upon the hard, cold granite. Her chest tightened as she realized she sat in perhaps the very spot where her sister had met her doom.
She tried to open the tiny clasp with her frozen fingers, but she could not. A small sob escaped her lips.
Seamus inched closer, but she was too distraught to care.
“What are you doing there? Can’t you see the sign? Don’t climb on the rocks.” A deep voice shouted at her. “Seals bite! Get away so I can get rid of that creature!”
Neema’s heart quailed when she saw the man holding a pistol not twenty feet from her. Beside him stood a giant, hairy dog, the lifesaving station’s St. Bernard.
Panic gripped her. “Don’t shoot!”
“Move away from the seal.” The man aimed the gun at Seamus. “Those beasts can crush shells with their teeth.”
“Put that gun away!” she shouted.
Seamus wriggled away and slid into the water.
The man and the dog clambered up onto the rock wall.
“Are you crazy?” he shouted at her.
“What if you missed him and shot me?” Neema fired back.
“You should have listened to me.” The insignia on his uniform marked him as one of the surfmen of the lifesaving station.
“That seal didn’t hurt me.” She gave him her fiercest glare and managed to get to her feetthough her knees still quaked. The surfman’s rugged face would have been pleasing but for the livid scar across his cheek which went all the way to his chin. She stared at it and wondered if it went further down along his neck, but she could not tell for a thick scarf lay wrapped around his throat.
“Seals attack without warning.”
“Only when they feel threatened,” she retorted. Her hands clenched into tight fists.

Keep your ereader charged just in case the power goes out. Bundle up, stay warm, sip hot drinks, and download a good book. There's no better way to enjoy winter!

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