Thursday, 19 January 2017

Available Now: A Bend in the Willow by Susan Clayton-Goldner

Susan Clayton-Goldner

Price: $4.99
(99c/99p through Sunday 22 January)

Willowood, Kentucky 1965 - Robin Lee Carter sets a fire that kills her rapist, then disappears. She reinvents herself and is living a respectable life as Catherine Henry, married to a medical school dean in Tucson, Arizona.

In 1985, when their 5-year-old son, Michael, is diagnosed with a chemotherapy-resistant leukemia, Catherine must return to Willowood, face her family and the 19-year-old son, a product of her rape, she gave up for adoption.

She knows her return will lead to a murder charge, but Michael needs a bone marrow transplant. Will she find forgiveness, and is she willing to lose everything, including her life, to save her dying son?

• • •

Willowood, Kentucky—1954

I was seven years old the first time I wished him dead. I remember everything about that cloudless February day. The sky had a dazzling light to it, the kind that bounced off snowdrifts and caught the sparkle in the spider web frost on the school bus windows. It was the kind of light that made dreams seem possible. Even for me. The bus smelled like tangerines, wet wool, and half-eaten peanut butter sandwiches left in lunchboxes.

I scooted closer to the window so Nancy couldn’t see me slip my hand inside my book bag to finger the pink envelope where Wayne Stafford had printed my full name with a heart drawn around it. Robin Lee Carter. As soon as I finished my chores I planned to paint a snowman card with a heart, instead of a carrot, for a nose.

Nancy poked me in the shoulder. “You got a secret in there?”

I shook my head. Nancy Preston and I swore we’d never keep secrets from each other. But this was a new feeling and I didn’t have the words to explain it yet, even to my best friend.

When the doors swung open on Bear Hollow Road, a string of yelping kids hopped from the bottom step and raced toward the sleds they’d left at the crest of the hill. I caught up with Wayne and touched his sleeve. “May I ride your sled?” I was careful to use the proper verb.

Wayne grinned, but before he could say yes, Peggy Thompson, in her red coat with black fur cuffs, stuck her prissy face close to my ear and whispered, loud enough for him to hear, “Robin Lee is nothing but dirty junkyard trash.”

Wayne’s gaze settled on his galoshes before he turned and ran toward the hill.

I stood up real straight, lifted my chin like Momma always said, and pretended it didn’t matter. Although my clothes weren’t as new and fancy as Peggy’s, they were always clean and well-mended.

I wanted to brag about the card Wayne had given me, but instead I held my nose and glared at Peggy. “You have cooties and your breath smells like dog poop.”

She gasped, stuffed her hands into a fur muff that hung from a braided cord around her neck, and marched away, her finger curls bobbing with each step.

Nancy slapped her palm over her mouth to hold in the giggles, but she couldn’t hide the sparkle in her blue eyes. Her mom worked on Tuesdays and Thursdays and paid my momma to babysit after school. I loved those two days better than any other. Even my daddy seemed happier. But today was Wednesday. I waved to Nancy, then ran toward my house, anxious to get the laundry hung so I could paint the snowman card.

Halfway up the drive, I spotted Daddy’s pickup truck parked at a funny slant, its front tires in the flowerbed Momma had covered with pine needles for the winter. Right away, I figured he’d been drinking. My heart thumped, but not in the good way it had when I found Wayne’s valentine. Daddy’s drinking moods were dangerous, like someone sprayed poison into the air. I knew my life was different, and sometimes knowing that was like skin pinched inside the teeth of a zipper.

• • •

Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona's Creative Writing Program and has been writing most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-line Contest. Susan won the National Writers' Association Novel Award twice for unpublished novels and her poetry was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Animals as Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, by the Greenwood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review-Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings. A collection of her poems, A Question of Mortality was released in 2014 by Wellstone Press. Prior to writing full time, Susan worked as the Director of Corporate Relations for University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona.

Susan shares a life in Grants Pass, Oregon with her husband, Andreas, her fictional characters, and more books than one person could count.

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Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Available Now: Legacy of Luck by Christy Nicholas

Druid's Brooch, #3
Christy Nicholas

Price: $4.99
(99c/99p through Sunday 15 January)

Irish Traveler Éamonn loves gambling, women, and drinking, not necessarily in that order. But he’s entangled in a true mess when he falls for fiery redhead, Katie. When she’s married to a Scottish Traveler, Éamonn travels to Scotland to find her, with the help of Katie’s sister and cousin, and the magical brooch gifted by his father. Their quest takes them across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Skye, encountering war, betrayal, death. In the end, Éamonn must make his own luck.

• • •

Ballyshannon, Ireland, April 1745

Éamonn Doherty loved the sound of the dice.

The soft clatter of the bone cubes as they rattled in the cup was music to his ears. As he tossed them onto the dirt clearing, he prayed to Saint Cajetan for luck. A trader from Venice had told him about the Italian saint of gamblers. He didn’t know if an Italian saint would listen to prayers from an Irish Traveler, but prayers could never hurt.

Éamonn rolled a nine. A good start for the game of Hazard.

Taking a deep swig of his small ale, Éamonn waited while the other player rolled the dice, to determine their own point.

It wasn’t easy to see the faded pips on the carved dice by flickering firelight. The spring sunset died, closing the first day of the annual horse fair.

The second player didn’t cast well. Éamonn smiled. This would be grand fun.

He jabbed his brother in the ribs.

“What?” Ruari hissed.

“Pay attention!”

“I’m more interested in the scenery.” Éamonn’s brother gestured at a gaggle of young women in bright-colored skirts, giggling and glancing in the direction of the gambling men. One with dark hair flashed him an inviting smile.

“Hmph.” At the ripe old age of eighteen, Éamonn had fantastic luck with lovely ladies. But he got great pleasure from gambling, and he was on a good run. He could always pursue the fillies later. He ran a hand through his hair, making it stick up. The dice clicked again.

Ruari tried his chances with gambling occasionally. He wasn’t quick enough to make a great winner but did enjoy the game. Éamonn liked him nearby in case things got ugly. A bad losing streak turned the gentlest of men into an angry lout intent on beating their money from fair winners.

Éamonn glanced to his other side at his cousin, Ciaran Kilbane. A better gambler than Ruari, but not as reliable. Éamonn sighed and got on with his work. He rolled the dice again, hoping to beat the last roll.

Ciaran got up without a word an hour later. Glancing up, Éamonn saw his cousin’s slim, dark form disappear behind one of the shadowy wagon shapes. He glanced at Ruari, who shrugged in confusion. They grinned when Ciaran returned with a squat stone bottle. He had brought out the poitín.

Since the law passed almost a hundred years ago required that a tax be paid on all spirits, many people distilled their own in secret.

Ciaran handed the harsh spirit around. Éamonn took a long swig, which made him splutter and cough. This batch tasted rough and raw. That was all to the good, though. It would make his opponents sloppy.

Ruari didn’t take a sip. Stolid and steady, Éamonn’s brother rarely let himself get out of control. The Rock of Gibraltar, that one.

Staring at the dice, he saw his opponent had beaten him in the latest round. How had that happened? He glared at the poitín bottle. Surely he wasn’t so drunk already?

He picked the dice up and rattled his cup, with another silent prayer. He closed his eyes, cast, and then opened them. Ah, there, he was on top again.

Éamonn loved winning. It thrilled him more than tumbling a lovely young lady or riding a spirited horse. Better than dancing or drinking. But he’d never stop when on top. Always one more roll, one more chance to be even better.

He threw again.

• • •

Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon, has her hands in many crafts, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing, and photography. In real life, she's a CPA, but having grown up with art all around her (her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected her, as it were. She loves to draw and to create things. She says it's more of an obsession than a hobby. She likes looking up into the sky and seeing a beautiful sunset, or seeing a fragrant blossom or a dramatic seaside. She takes a picture or creates a piece of jewelry as her way of sharing this serenity, this joy, this beauty with others. Sometimes this sharing requires explanation – and thus she writes. Combine this love of beauty with a bit of financial sense and you get an art business. She does local art and craft shows, as well as sending her art to various science fiction conventions throughout the country and abroad.