My favourite critique partner, Eva Scott and three of her Queensland writing buddies, have got together and produced a Christmas present for everyone - four short Christmas stories - A Season to Remember. I wanted something more so I asked her for a personal story, too.....
Some of my best Christmas days have been spent thrown together with an assortment of people in far flung places. London 1993 was an amazing Christmas with some of the most interesting folk I’ve ever met, the kind of people who cycle across South America or drive from London to India in a beat up old Combi van (back in those days you still could), or opening restaurants in Nepal. Everyone brought a dish and we had venison, turkey, ham, salmon and chicken. We’d all been to a rave the night before so Christmas lunch was very late in the day. Everyone swapped stories of daring-do long into the night along with plans for future adventures. Two decades on I often wonder where they all are now…
And here I find myself celebrating Christmas in 2014 with three amazing writers, swapping stories about adventure and daring-do. We travel all the way from the nineteenth century to 2525 in a perfect arc of love and romance. Better still, it’s all free! Visit Smashwords to download your copy today.
Four short stories on the Christmas theme, spanning time, places. Uplifting, funny, thought-provoking, heart-warming, ‘A Season to Remember’ will make your heart sing.
‘All That Glitters’ by Eva Scott
Molly is a modern day Cinderella, second best to her half-sister Aimee and never measuring up to her step-mother’s expectations. Now Aimee has the chance to marry an elderly millionaire and Molly is expected to keep the man’s grandson, Connor Rathmore, from sabotaging the event. Handsome, charismatic and very, very sexy - how is she going to keep him from sabotaging her heart?
Excerpt: All That Glitters
“Well, are you ready?” She sounded rude but it was all she could manage to say. On the way over to pick him up she’d been too preoccupied to consider him at all. Instead she replayed the conversation she’d had with her stepmother. After receiving a reprimand for arriving late, Maria had grilled her over Connor Rathmore and found her answers less than satisfactory. Then the lecture started on her appearance. Where were the shoes? She’d kicked off those horrible expensive shoes at the airport and hadn’t given them another thought. An unforgivable act in her stepmother’s eyes. It was impressed upon her that she must try harder and remember her sister’s happiness. Of course. Molly loved her half-sister, Aimee, despite the fact the girl was spoilt rotten. Underneath all the embellishments she really did have a good heart. It wasn’t Aimee’s fault she’d been raised to be a life-sized doll.
She appraised the man before her. She steeled herself not to react to him. When he’d opened the hotel room door, more primal male than any man she had ever encountered, something unexpected happened to her. Bam! Right to the heart. Very inconvenient and impossible, the idea could not be entertained. Not for a millisecond. The consequences would be devastating.
“Good evening to you too.” He bestowed what she assumed was his best killer smile. “Shall we go?”
He stepped through the door, so close the heat radiating off his body hit her like a furnace. Her natural reserve began to melt. The scent of him was so… masculine and her knees wobbled as she caught her breath. Moving away wasn’t an option, even if she tried.
He smiled as if aware of the effect he had on her. Without looking back he strode towards the elevator and pushed the button. They stood in silence side by side while they waited. The animal magnetism between them shimmered, increasing with every passing second.
Molly’s senses scrambled. She stumbled into the lift. This situation would need careful handling. The man beside her must not guess his presence caused a meltdown. Her attraction to him created a complication she did not need. Just one week. Please help me make it through this one week. If her stepmother suspected an attraction between Molly and Connor, all hell would break loose.
‘A Touch of Christmas’ by Susanne Bellamy
As Starship Bluefire settles into orbit around Earth, Captain Andra Veluthian anticipates meeting her favourite human, Colonel Nick Madigan. Have his efforts to save the planet succeeded? And if so, will she lose any chance to be with him?
Knowing Andra’s fascination with all things Terran, Nick has planned a surprise for her. After all, it is Christmas, the season of giving. But when Earth’s leader and the Gravlarian captain spend time planet side, the temperature soars.
Starship Bluefire – Log entry #1878 Orbit established around Planet Earth. Local time: 0715 - 22 December 2525 AD
“Reverse thruster off. Docking complete, Captain.”
Captain Andra Veluthian ordered her viewing screen to retract, rolled her shoulders then rested her head against the padded headrest of her Conforma-chair and looked at the view. Framed by a huge window on the bridge, planet Earth appeared close and surprisingly whiter than on her last stopover two years earlier. Through breaks in the dense cloud cover she could even discern the long coastline of what Earth dwellers used to call South America and, just appearing on the western edge across an expanse of ocean, was the island continent they called Australia. Home of the wombat, wallaroo and one handsome colonel.
Colonel Nicholas Madigan, political leader and guiding hand in Earth’s struggle against extinction.
Last visit, the fair-haired colonel had set more than a few hearts pounding among her crew. Including hers.
Three Ships’ by Elizabeth Ellen Carter
An adventure romance set in the early 19th century on the Devon Coast.
“Why doesn’t the lieutenant do something?” Laura whispered tautly.
“Just wait,” her father insisted.
Blackwell too had stopped running as he watched his two men close the gap. They were now only ten yards away when Renten picked up the lantern, pulled out the candle and dropped it in the cauldron.
The blackguards closed in – five yards, two yards – then the powder in the cauldron ignited. Renten disappeared in a flash of light and billowing smoke.
The two men ran into the miasma and, a moment later, their cries of distress were heard as they ran right off the edge of the cliff.
Laura gripped her father’s hand at the sound and the sight.
When the white-blue smoke cleared, the cliff edge was deserted, save for the cauldron.
‘Sands of Time’ by Noelle Clark
Kitty faces her first Christmas without the love of her life. She looks back with fondness on the memories of Christmases past and, with the love and support of her grandson Joe, finds inner strength to face the future with anticipation. Kitty realises that, as she gets older, time passes so quickly. Although sad and happy memories flood through her on this special Christmas day, she chooses to embrace every moment of life.
They were nearing Kingfisher Island. Not a grain of the tract that joined the small sandy cay to the mainland was visible. A couple of small boats were moored along the deep channel on the southern side of the causeway, with people fishing from them. The boats bobbed up and down on the whitecaps, sometimes disappearing from view, then emerging again.
“Just over there, please, Joe. Near that clump of mangroves.”
Joe pulled on one oar, turning the bow of the boat towards where she pointed. Within a minute, she heard the sand scraping against the keel under the boat. Clamping her hand on the gunwale for support, she stood carefully and jumped over the side, landing in knee-deep water. Joe shipped the oars and joined her, the water not even reaching halfway to his knees. He grabbed the pointy prow and pulled the boat up onto the beach.
She gazed around her, the familiar sight of the few remaining stumpy mangrove trees, and the covering of pigface on the small dunes bringing a lump to her throat. The mauve star-shaped blossoms of the coastal succulent groundcover looked exactly as they had done for all these years. Nature’s legacy, constant and predictable, unlike humans, whose term on this planet was fleeting. For a moment she recalled the faint, salty perfume of the little dune succulents whose strong roots helped the sandy hillocks from washing away with each tide. When crushed, they emitted a soft waft of delicate scent. Not for the first time, she wondered why they’d been given the hideous name of pigface.
Joe’s outstretched hand appeared before her eyes, inviting her to take it. She refocused her vision, reached out, grasped it, and took a few steps through the water and up towards the sandy beach. Joe tugged gently on her hand, helping her to stand upright in the choppy waters which made the little boat bob roughly. A cascade of spray caught them both in the face as it slapped against the side of the wooden boat with a thud. They laughed in unison, blinking at each other through salt-filled eyes.
“Gotcha, Nan.” Joe’s smile, always so generous, beamed at her. She smiled back, raised her arm, and wiped her face with the sleeve of her blouse.
He held on to her hand until she reached the dry beach, then he stretched into the prow of the dinghy and pulled out an anchor attached to a sturdy rope, walked further up the beach, and buried it firmly into the sand. When it was secured, Joe turned and retrieved the picnic basket and the rest of the things they needed for their visit to the island, and deposited them where the low dunes met the beach. She walked to the picnic basket, leaned over and opened it, took out an old blue blanket, and spread it down on the sparse tufts of grass. Ignoring her sand-encrusted feet, she stepped onto the blanket, sank back on her elbows and gazed dreamily up at the cobalt sky.
Eva Scott writes contemporary romance set in her homeland of Australia and historical fiction set in the Ancient World. Her books offer passion and adventure in some of the most beautiful and intriguing places in the world. Her heroes and heroines are strong, sassy and ready to rise to their challenges, and learn a little bit about themselves along the way.
Having lived overseas for several years, Eva returned to study Anthropology before heading off to live in Papua New Guinea for a year. There she met the love of her life, author G.W. Gibson, who was stationed there with the Australian Defence Force. The rest is history, romantic history.
She now lives on the Redcliffe peninsula with her husband, small son and an assortment of animals. When Eva is not writing she enjoys mentoring first-time authors, cooking up a story, practising yoga and getting out on the bay on her stand-up paddle board.
Eva is a member of Romance Writers of Australia; North Lakes Writers Group; Queensland Writers Centre and Australian Romance Readers Association. She is published by Musa Publishing and Harlequin Escape.
Elizabeth Ellen Carter
A future with words was always on the books for Elizabeth Ellen Carter who started writing her own stories when she ran out of Nancy Drew mysteries to read at the age of ten. Using her mother’s Olivetti typewriter with all italic keys, she spent endless school holidays making up her own (italicised) stories and then using the Dewey Decimal System to arrange and categorise her bookshelf.
Somewhere around the age of 13, she determined to become a journalist and at 17 was awarded a newspaper cadetship. She covered news, council, education and health but had the most fun as an entertainment and features reporter covering film, TV and music.
Best of all, she met her husband at the newspaper and, together, they started a small award-winning media, marketing and advertising agency. Today, she works as marketing manager for an international organic skin care company.
In 2012, Elizabeth also returned to the keyboard to write stories (and found laptops are so much better than manual typewriters).
Her debut novel, Moonstone Obsession, was shortlisted for the 2013 Romance Writers of Australia’s Emerald Awards for unpublished manuscripts.
Elizabeth is a member of the Romance Writers of Australia, the Australian Romance Readers Association and the Gold Coast Writers Association. She is currently published by Etopia Press.
Noelle Clark is an Australian author of contemporary romance and commercial historical fiction novels. Her books weave romance, intrigue, and adventure into colourful, exotic, and interesting locations around the world. Widely travelled, Noelle uses real life experience of places, culture, and people as a backdrop to her stories, giving the reader an authentic taste of the location. Her novels feature strong, mature heroines and heroes, who—often without knowing it—are ready for new beginnings.
She lives close to the sea and shares her home with two cats and two dogs. She has two grown up children, and five very small grandchildren. When Noelle's not writing and travelling, she plays guitar, tends her vegetable garden, enjoys the company of family and friends, and—of course—reading.
Noelle is a member of Queensland Writers Centre; YON Beyond Writing Group; Romance Writers of Australia; and Australian Romance Readers Association, and is currently published by Etopia Press and Secret Cravings Publishing.
Susanne is an Australian author of contemporary and suspense romances set in exciting and often exotic locations. Her heroes have to be pretty special to live up to the real life one she married. He saved her life then married her. They live on the edge of bush land on a mountain in beautiful sunny Queensland, Australia with two children and their dog.
Paris will always be one of her top spots, and she fell in love with Scotland when they visited the west coast (nothing to do with fine single malts!), and recently had her first real trip to Italy--tick off one Bucket List item! She has enjoyed New Year in Kathmandu and trekked in the Annapurnas, sailed in Ha Long Bay on a junk, and stayed on a floating hotel beside a tethered elephant in Thailand. The Peak in Hong Kong and Mt Faber cable car ride in Singapore are favourite spots. Susanne loves travelling to new places and exploring the culture and history, and meeting new people. These experiences are gradually being incorporated into her stories.
Her as yet unrealised dream is a trip into Earth’s orbit.
Susanne is a member of RWA and enjoys mentoring new authors. She is published with Escape Publishing, and will be a 2015 release author with Entangled Publishing.
Elke Feuer has a new book out - a must for readers of romantic suspense. She's the author of For the Love of Jazz and Deadly Bloodlines, book one in her Deadly Series. Deadly Race, the second book in the series releases today.
She stumbled into writing romantic suspense because of her fascination with serial killers, but writes other genres because characters keep telling her their stories and she's a sucker for a crazy story.
Elke was born and raised on Grand Cayman and lives there with her husband and two kids who keep her on her toes. She’s a coffeeholic, checklist fanatic, and future space explorer. She has a sarcastic/quirky sense of humor and loves meeting new people. When not writing, she's helping other writers in Cayman through her organization CayWriters.
She was a hurricane he had no intension of getting near.
Race car driver Remy Borden likes fast things: bikes, cars, and men. Her plans to become the first woman from the Cayman Islands to race internationally gets sidetracked when she’s injured and pulled from the final race because of a fiery confrontation with another driver.
Life goes from bad to worse when the racetrack owner is killed and she’s suspect number one because his death puts her back in the race. But racing again proves difficult when Dr. Jackson Wilson insists she stop racing until she heals, making her wonder if his ‘doctor’s orders’ don’t have ulterior motives-the racetrack owner was his friend.
She and Jackson search for the truth behind the murder when accidents start happening at the racetrack, and an adoring fan gets too close. Soon the simmering attraction between her and Jackson boils over, forcing her to admit Jackson makes her think of a life beyond racing.
“I didn’t really have a relationship with her. She was someone I wanted, but she didn’t know how I felt until an hour ago.” Would she decide to kick him out of her apartment for either leading her on or being a complete ass?
She gripped the couch tightly and it collapsed beneath her hands. Her eyes narrowed to slits and her mouth twisted in anger. Here comes her emotional eruption. He braced himself.
“You put me through all of that for nothing?” She said it with so much control he wondered where she got it.
“It wasn’t nothing to me,” he reasoned.
“Wasn’t nothing? Do you know how many times I felt guilty because you had a girlfriend, or know how many nights I lay awake imagining I’d go to hell for the dirty thoughts I had about you in this apartment, inside and outside your car, even the examination table in your office?” She paced before him.
Jackson was speechless, and turned on, as he thought about everything she’d just mentioned. He remembered the night she kissed him in the car and wondered what would’ve happened if they hadn’t been interrupted, or if they’d been in a secluded area instead of outside her apartment.
“Hey!” she shouted, pulling him from his erotic thoughts of her spread out over the roof of his car.
“Stop that! You don’t get to have a fantasy in the middle of my rant. Got it?” Her index finger pointed at him.
He wanted to smile, but knew she’d probably knock his lights out if he did. “Please continue,” he said as politely and seriously as he could.
“Why couldn’t you be honest with me?” She ran a hand through her hair.
Honest about that? She couldn’t be serious? “Honest about wanting someone I hadn’t even told how I felt? I hardly knew you, Remy, and you wanted me to share something I’d kept secret for nearly two years?”
“Two years?” Her voice echoed in disbelief.
It sounded ridiculous to hear it out loud.
She must’ve thought so, too, because she laughed. It started as a light chuckle, but then escalated to full, out loud, boisterous laughter until it was so extreme she fell to the floor behind the couch.
He walked over to where she lay. “It’s not that funny,” he insisted.
She looked up at him with tears in her eyes and laughed harder.
“I’m glad you’re enjoying this at my expense.” He extended a hand to help her up, but she waved it away as another fit of laughter overtook her. “You might not believe this, but I’m incredibly shy.”
She roared louder and gestured with her hand for him to stop talking.
He couldn’t blame her for laughing. He’d been anything but shy around her. She had a knack for bringing out emotions in him that were less than passive, with her audaciousness and that unfiltered mouth of hers.
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