#ThrowbackThursday, #ReadWithMe Style

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image source: epicreads.com

To make sure I’m keeping up with Ms. Felicia’s Blog Hop, which is to celebrate March as the National Reading Month, this throwback is, of course, about our favorite subject. Enjoy!

A Fear of Reading?

Originally posted 12-18-2014

Have you ever stopped reading a book, because you were afraid of what was going to happen next?

I can’t recall if I’ve ever experienced this situation before. I started reading this book (won’t name names. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else) awhile ago and can’t seem to bring myself to pick it back up again. The crux: It’s not only my favorite genre [erotic romance. Surprise!] It’s by one of my all-time favorite authors!

The dilemma I’m having is that I fear the protagonist is on a downward spiral into ultimate ruin. A total train-wreck of self-destruction that I simply can’t bear to witness. Have you ever been too empathetic to watch one of your beloved characters crumble?  Do you feel embarrassed for them when they embarrass themselves?  (I do that mostly with movie characters, ha-ha!)

In truth, there’s a lingering mystery surrounding the main character’s misadventure that’s alluring and will probably tempt me back into the book, but it seems I’m using whatever excuse I can to put it further and further off into the future. I have this problem with not being able to not finish a book once I’ve started it – even if it’s a really bad book (again, I won’t name names).

That isn’t the case in this situation, of course. The writing, as always with this particular author, is phenomenal, the characters are intriguing, the scenery perfectly detailed, etc, etc, etc. I know, “just pull up your big girl panties and read the book, already!” I’m getting there. Eventually.

Until then, what books are you enjoying over the Holidays right now?  Any recommendations? (modified for lack of current holiday)

 

 

#ReadWithMe ♥ Reading the Write Way

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Welcome back to another ‘Read With Me’ post for Ms. Felicia’s blog hop. If you’d like to link your post or blog to the list, just click on the banner above! This is in celebration of National Reading Month and will be happening all of March, so it’s not too late to hop in.

Read What You Write, Write What You Read

Let me tell you about an adventure I had with this #1 most common piece of writing advice…

When I switched from avid reader to reader/writer 10+ years ago, I didn’t even know ‘genre’ was a thing. Mostly, because I was absolutely clueless about marketing. In my last post, I mentioned that my first book idea was born when I was only 17, but not yet hatched. It festered in my mind for years, warping, evolving, maturing and expanding. One book idea spread into a series with its own maps and timeline, all centered around this singular world, plot, and set of characters.

This is how my brain (aka my muse) works. Simple is a foreign concept we cannot comprehend. It took me 5 years to finish my very first novel at over 150,000 words. As you can see, I was just as clueless about word count limits. It also happens to take place in the middle of my massive series, not the beginning – please refer back to my explanation of simple.

I would classify the book as Fiction-Fantasy. It’s not epic and probably breaks every fantasy genre rule ever created. I couldn’t get it off the ground to anyone. No one wanted this ‘pretending to be fantasy’ novel, not literary agents, publishers or e-pubs. In not so many words, my friend gave me the advice: Write what you read. It was probably more like: “I love Nora Roberts, you should write a book like hers!”

In a weird, roundabout and completely self-serving way, she was right. It had been years since I’d actually read a fantasy novel. During the 5 years I’d been trying to write fantasy, I’d only been reading romance, erotic romance, crime/mystery and Anne Rice (yes, she’s her own genre).

Call me an overachiever. My 2nd novel only took 2 months to write from start to finish at a little over 100k words. I had taken my friend’s advice – and that turned out to be a major problem. Remember all the genres I listed in the last paragraph? Yeah, well… they all ended up in the same book. I don’t think that’s what ‘write what you read’ is meant to accomplish.

I never sat down to write with a particular genre in mind, I just wrote what I’d been reading. It wasn’t until I was asked to label my book’s genre in the submission form to my publisher that I even considered it. And I floundered.

Um…. Can’t it just be a good book about people and stuff? Whatever happened to creative freedom?!

So, there I was with this novel that takes place in the near future with advanced technology and some space travel, told mostly from the male POV, whose female love interest is mute, explicit sex scenes and dark, gritty crimes that needed to be solved – and they want me to put a genre-specific label on it? 😐 I didn’t even know where to start!

Anyone perusing my collection of books would call me genre ignorant. A genre floozy, if you will. I am unbiased of genre – at least, I used to be a lot less biased. This was the first of many lessons in my professional writing journey. I ended up slapping a multi-genre label on it to satisfy the masses. The Zen Lounge is listed as a Futuristic Erotic Romance with Crime/Detective elements. But, that’s a freaking mouthful!

I learned my lesson, mostly. I’m a bit more conscientious about genres and ‘reading what I write’ rather than trying to write one book about everything I’ve ever read. We shall call this Reading the Write Way. Authors should be reading, at any rate. It’s a great way to expand your vocabulary, find inspiration and keep up with what’s already being done to avoid cliches.

Personally, I’d rather not to be known as a copycat or a Bandwagon writer. You won’t ever catch me referencing or comparing myself to the most popular authors or their books in my genre. I don’t want to be known as being “like [insert author name here].” Our greatest achievement should be when our work and therefore name, stands on its own merit, because it is that good and that loved by readers. However, there are ‘genre specific’ elements that readers expect to get and those are important to know. At the end of the day, we’re still running a business, and if we hope to succeed, then we need to be mindful of our demographics.

There are many authors who decide to write different genres, typically under different pen names, so readers won’t get an unpleasant surprise. This is a good approach and one that I might put to use someday by returning to my long ago attempt at Fiction-Fantasy. This time, I’ll make sure I spend a lot of time brushing up on my fantasy reading first!

I’ll likely keep reading other genres for the pure enjoyment of it, and have a variety on my TBR list. But, I’ve noticed that since I started writing Erotic Romance, that’s definitely the first genre to grab my attention while looking for new reading material. How about you?

Do you Read What You Write? Do you find yourself drawn more to your own genre, or away from it?

#ReadWithMe ♥ Finding My Genre

readwithme3In celebration of National Reading Month, Ms. Felicia is hosting this amazing blog hop for all readers to spread the love and joy of this favorite pastime with the world. If you’d like to join in the fun, please click on the banner above to add your post to the linky list!

The Novel Brick Road

Every reader develops differently, but it seems that we eventually come to a specific genre that calls to us more than any other. Even if we take brief detours, we come back to the one genre that always puts a smile on our face.

My path to Erotic Romance is paved like a game of hopscotch, jumping genres back and forth and crossing wide gaps in random patterns. I’m not counting all the books I read as a kid or had to read for school. I’m talking about when I started taking control of my own reading choices.

It started off innocent enough. The reading bug coming to nestle in my brain, demanding that I find something to entertain it. My mom had a wide variety of books to choose from. She was a fan of Stephen King, Terry Brooks, Ann Rule and V.C. Andrews – I didn’t understand these were all different genres. They were just books! I read Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always and wanted to live in his brain, but it was really V.C. Andrews I became addicted to for quite some time. Luckily, my mom had plenty of her books to feed my obsession.

I went through a phase following this that I call the researching years. I wanted to know things, so my dad and I started going to the library on a regular basis. I love ancient Egypt. I have books and then I have BOOKS, as in large Coffee Table hardcovers spanning every dynasty of Ancient Egypt. I was going to become the next Howard Carter. I was 14. I was also going to be a supermodel, fashion designer and a Marine Biologist. Not necessarily in that order.

Around the same time, I got my first taste of the paranormal from the (now famous) author L.J. Smith and her Night World series, which includes the well known Vampire Diaries and Secret Circle. This was the first author I ever purchased from a book store with my own money. It was a big accomplishment in my life as an avid reader. I had never heard of L.J. Smith before, but I suddenly had options. Lots and lots of options!

It led to more research. With the help of Francis Ford Coppola, I became extremely interested in reading everything I could get my hands on about the truth behind the myth of Dracula and the real life Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia. It eventually led to me learning about the medical condition of Porphyria, which disenchanted my research, so I returned to my fiction. I read Anno Dracula by Kim Newman. My dad never would’ve let me check it out from the library if he’d known what it entailed. A fanfiction sequel of sorts to Bram Stoker’s masterpiece with all of the dirty details a Victorian era Englishman would never dare to write.

On the hunt for new material, I found Anne Rice and never looked back. As much as I loved L.J. Smith, I couldn’t return to what I suddenly realized was very YA in comparison. More than that, Anne opened my mind up to the world at large, sating my inner traveler and historian simultaneously.

I became obsessed again, and only wanted to read Anne Rice… until I couldn’t find anymore of her books and needed another loan – mind you, this was before the wonderful invention of eBook retailers. Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey was placed in my hand with a “You have to read this,” and so I fell headlong into the mind-blowing world of epic fantasy. Now, I remembered, vaguely, The Hobbit from when I was younger and my favorite movie The Last Unicorn. It was a bit nostalgic diving back into this kind of world – only better, because it was at an adult level without losing any of the wonder of magic.

My first book idea was born on the cusp of my 18th birthday, but not yet hatched… more on this later.

Over my young adult years I read a wide variety, even some non-fiction, but mostly it was keeping up with authors I already knew, like Rice and Lackey. Then I ended up with a Nora Roberts book (honestly can’t recall how) and found myself obsessed yet again. I wasn’t alone this time, though. My friends got on the same kick and we had a grand time swapping books, buying new ones to share, putting them on our birthday and Christmas wish lists and discussing them like crazy. I think between just 3 of us we might own almost 75% of the books she’s ever written… okay, maybe 50%. Nora was my first true Romance author and not what I’d been expecting. I had never even glanced at the ‘obvious’ romance books on the shelves with the bare-chested buccaneers and Scarlett O’Hara wannabe’s.

Having children gave me the perfect excuse to return to YA with Harry Potter, Narnia and Eragon… yes, the books, not the movies (though, I love those, too). My oldest also has some of the Immortal Instruments novels, which I’m very tempted to read since watching City of Bones.

Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb unwittingly led me to my first erotica series, though it falls further under the Crime/Detective genre, the sex scenes are explicitly detailed, whereas Nora Roberts’ usually aren’t. I think she sneaks it in every once in awhile.

I went through a stint where I felt left out from a pop-culture standpoint, because I’d never read any of the ‘literary classics’. So, I attempted the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and found it far too dry and boring (don’t hurt me), so I moved onto The Catcher in the Rye, which was entertaining, yet 100% pointless (again no hitting). Of Mice and Men left me emotionally damaged and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a prophetic masterpiece that’s already coming true, therefore should be reclassified as non-fiction horror.

My first BDSM novel was Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. Again, by ignorance. I thought it was just a fantasy. I was deliciously wrong. Later, I found out that Anne Rice also had other pseudonyms… and why. Exit to Eden followed by the Sleeping Beauty Chronicles added to my Erotic-BDSM shelf, Belinda borders on taboo and I haven’t finished reading it, but I think it might be along the lines of Nabokov’s Lolita – don’t quote me on that.

The ability to read an eBook helped open up the Erotic Romance genre for me even further when I became a reviewer for a friend’s reviewing site. It wasn’t long, though, before a new bug burrowed into my brain demanding to be fed – and I started writing…

But, I will save that for the next post. 😉

Are you still reading the same genre you first fell in love with, or perhaps the second? How many genres span your most cherished collection?

Book Tag: My Life In Books

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I found this on Felicia’s page, who found it on Didi’s, but it appears to be an ongoing blog tag, and too fun to pass up. Make sure to visit the other sites to see their answers!

Find a book for each of your initials. I’ve chosen these books from my ‘Read’ list on Goodreads.

CoverMOTO M – Moto by M. Never
coverenslavemesweetly E – Enslave Me Sweetly by Gena Showalter
coverlasher L – Lasher (Lives of the Mayfair Witches #2) by Anne Rice
covermicemen O – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
coverdyingforaliving D – Dying For a Living by Kory M. Shrum

 

Y – I am now challenged to add a book beginning with Y to my ‘Read’ list!

Count your age along your bookshelf: What book is it?

The 39th book on my shelf is The Vampire Armand by Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles #6). It’s funny one of her books would come up in a post about my life in books, since I first discovered Anne Rice in a stack of old books when I was about 17. It was a dark green paperback with a small window showing a rundown Colonial mansion in NOLA. That was about 2 years before Interview With the Vampire hit the silver screen and by then, I was already fully invested in anything Anne Rice penned.

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Pick a book set in your city/country.

The closest major city to me is Seattle. Home to Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft and 2 absurdly popular book series I will not be naming. Therefore, I choose Possession by Ann Rule. Referred to by many as the ‘foremost true crime writer in America’, Ann Rule is a former Seattle policewoman and based this fiction novel on a real event/crime that she later wrote about in her True Crime (non-fiction) series. I was quite young and naïve when I stole this off my mom’s bookshelf and was completely unprepared for the explicit, graphic details. If you like crime-thrillers that leave you questioning the human psyche, though, you might like this.

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Pick a book that represents a destination you’d love to travel to.

Since Middle Earth, Narnia and Hogwarts probably don’t count, I chose The Right Path by Nora Roberts. Although, I would love to travel to many places, Greece and the Greek Isles are at the very top of my list, especially Santorini. Nora goes into beautiful scene setting with this novel, plus it’s full of suspense, action and one dangerously sexy Greek Tycoon, Nicholas Gregoras. Yum.

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Pick a book that’s your favorite color.

No matter how girly my mom tried to make me growing up, blue has always been my favorite color. To keep with the theme of ‘Shameless Self Promotion’ my predecessors have established, I chose my own book The Zen Lounge for this one. TZL is the first full-length, standalone (no cliffhangers) novel in the Matron City Trilogy. It’s a Futuristic Erotic Romance with heavy Crime/Detective influence. You can read the first chapter for free right here: Chapter One of The Zen Lounge

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Which book do you have the fondest memories of?

Dawn by V.C. Andrews. I read it when I was about 12 or 13 and it was my first real taste of a ‘grownup’ book, not to be confused with ‘adult novel’. It was my first non-YA fiction and I can still remember almost every detail – actually, of all the V.C. Andrews books I’ve ever read. She was another remarkable author that inspired me from a young age, especially in regards to character depth and development.

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Which book did you have the most difficulty reading?

The Day of the Dolphin by Robert Merle, because it had little to no punctuation marks – anywhere. It was like one long, run-on sentence. Maybe it happened when it was translated from French? It took me forever to read because of this, but I don’t often stop reading a book once I’ve started. Curiosity vs. Cat= I don’t have many lives left.

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Which book in your TBR pile will give you the biggest accomplishment when you finish it?

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, because I know it’s going to put me through the ringer on every level. Literary classics tend to do that to me, which is why there are so many still on my TBR list. I actually started studying the Russian language, because I was hoping to read the original, rather than a translation, but I’m not that ambitious anymore. Yet, 407 pages of emotional upheavals, dark satire and mind-altering perspectives will undoubtedly feel like a major accomplishment once I’m through… I just hope I survive the aftermath.

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If you enjoyed reading this consider yourself tagged 🙂

My Review ♥ In The Best Interest of The Child by: Felicia Denise!

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BLURB

Ten-year-old Olivia Chandler has a school she loves, good friends, a nice home, a talented mom, and a successful father she adores. Tragedy rips all of this away from her, and plunges Olivia into the foster care system, where for eight years she is neglected, humiliated, abused, and nearly raped.

Fate smiles on Olivia shortly before she ages out of the system, allowing her the means to attend college and law school.

Years later, Olivia is a successful child advocate attorney, giving a voice to children who are so easily ignored by those claiming to act in their best interest. She has little time for personal relationships, and her lifelong fear of abandonment reminds her never to get too close to anyone.

The successful attorney stumbles though when she’s assigned a case by the court that too closely mirrors her own haunted childhood. Olivia never gives her minor clients less than her all, and the only way she can help her eleven year old client is to face down and acknowledge her demons. This same case also brings a man into her life who sees her for who she truly is, and will not allow Olivia to push him away.

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My Review

Title: In The Best Interest of The Child
Author: Felicia Denise
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Psychological/Romance
Rating: 5 Wholehearted ‘s

I want my own Bellamy! Before you get any ideas, it’s not just for the man, himself – but his entire cray-cray, laugh-out-loud, we do everything with passion family! Grab your box of Kleenex, you’re going to cry, especially when you laugh. Grab your beverage of choice and a guilty pleasure kind of snack, because oh yeah…it’s that kind of book.

Olivia Chandler has been through more than any person should ever have to go through and all of it prior to her eighteenth birthday. As the product of a broken foster care system, Olivia has taken what precious knowledge and resources her late father has given her, her own brains and a spine of steel to forge a career for herself as a Child Advocate of the Court. An attorney who prides herself on specializing in keeping children out of foster care by any decent means necessary. Unfortunately, this has resulted in years of hard work as an excuse not to deal with her own childhood trauma and to keep people at arms length no matter what.

When she gets a new case that closely mimics the childhood tragedy that forever changed her life–too much for the worst–Olivia finds herself facing a frightened, abandoned, haunted and betrayed little girl whom no one seems to give two cares about–and it’s not her new client, Rena Averest. It’s Livvie Chandler, herself. That girl still thriving inside of her, unable to heal.

Bruce Bellamy knows all about abandonment, and not just his own. When his wife walked out on him and their young children it did a number on him in many ways, making it difficult to trust in second chances. The first time he lays eyes on Olivia Chandler, though, all that changes. He can see right through her professional facade and down into the sad, yet genuinely compassionate woman bound and determined to stand for Rena Averest–a little girl who means a lot to him and his family.

Let me tell you, Bruce is pure charm. I have never read a male lead with more sincere charm than this man and Felicia wrote him so well, that it doesn’t come across as pretentious or nauseating. Even his persistence is charming! He made me laugh–and swoon–right alongside Olivia. I won’t spoil anything, so you’ll have to read the book to know if all his fast-talking persuasion does him any good! “That man.”

Then you have the Bellamy family – strike that, they’re a clan. I think I counted no less than three or four generations of Bellamy under their roof at one time. They are the big, loud, boisterous and loving family taking care of Rena Averest, and as soon as they recognize Olivia’s intentions to do the same, they adopt her as one of their own. I can’t even begin to describe these characters, they’re the kind of relatives you’d love and dread having at the same time, because I doubt anything gets by them!

Most of the time during reading this book, I had tears in my eyes. From living through Olivia’s horrid past, the frustration over what Rena’s being put through due to sheer incompetence by so-called professionals, all of the amazing supporting characters and from the truly fantastic humor Felicia weaves into the plot in all the right places. The dialogue was a little confusing for me at first, having one person speak and another person react all in the same sentence could make it hard to tell who was doing the talking, but once I got used to that pattern, it became easy to read.

I loved how genuine all of these characters came across, whether they were good or bad, they were written wholeheartedly. I wasn’t left feeling any disappointment at all in the end. Even though this story is going to continue – (Yay! Does the happy dance) – everything that was a plot point in this book was tied up by the end, with the exception of what is to continue, but that’s explained immediately. I was very, very grateful for that! I can’t wait to read the next installment, and I highly recommend this book to everyone. I don’t care what your preferred genre is, read it. I also recommend that it be made into a movie, pronto. I want to curl up on my couch with my coffee, Kleenex and snacks and watch it asap.

Get this book for FREE right now during the #BigBookSale!

Connect with the Author, Felicia Denise

This is an Honest Review of a book that I purchased. I have not received anything in exchange for this review from the author, to include an ARC.

♥ Color of Love Blog Hop & #BigBookSale! ♥

It’s Black Friday, the biggest holiday shopping day of the year – so it’s no surprise that a lot of authors are hosting crazy good deals today. This is a multi-sale post, so bear with the length, but you’re only a click away from tons of deals & your chance at some major prizes!

Color of Love Blog Hop

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Hosted by Kiru Taye, Nana Prah and Empi Baryeh, this is a celebration of multicultural and interracial love, so if you enjoy romance novels featuring people of color, then keep reading. Below are the links to all of the blogs hosting this event and each will be promoting a different book or a post on why they love this genre so much.

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Kiru Taye Nana Prah Empi Baryeh RWOWA Sexy Romance Novels Kai Tyler Love Bites and Silk Felicia Denise Guinevere & Libertad G.L. Thomas Georgia Lyn Hunter Lea’s Crazy Nights Lily Harlem Kim Golden Ines Johnson Sharon C. Cooper Candace Shaw Natasha Blackthorne Sydney Aaliyah Michelle Kenya Wright Delaney Diamond LaVerne Thompson Tia Kelly Patience Saduwa Paulette Harper LENA HART S.W.Frank Reana Malori Rina Gray Joyfully Reviewed Synithia Williams L. Loren LaQuette Jamie Wesley A.J. Locke Kay Blake Sheena Binkley M.J. Kane The Reading Addict Reviews by Crystal Dionne Grace Nana Malone Inger Iversen

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This is also a Massive Giveaway Event! So, make sure you checkout the Rafflecopter Giveaway for all your chances to win.

Grand Prizes

1st prize $75 GC + 7 ebooks
2nd prize $50 GC + 7 ebooks
3rd prize $30 GC + 7 ebooks
4th prize $15 GC + 7 ebooks
5th prize $10 GC + 7 ebooks
6th prize $5 GC + 7 ebooks

I’m here to help promote the book I’m currently reading (and almost done with, I’m gobbling it up!), which is:

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Please make sure to stop by Felicia’s blog to get even more information on this truly heartfelt, inspiring and charmingly romantic Women’s Fiction novel. I can’t say anymore, you’ll have to wait for my review or better yet – go grab a FREE copy today at our next sale event…

#BigBookSale

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This event is hosted by Nicole R. Locker and features over 50 Indie Authors with books on sale for $1.99, $0.99 or Free starting today and running through Cyber Monday (Nov. 25-28). There you will find my book, Avarice and Felicia Denise’s book, In The Best Interest of The Child absolutely FREE! So hurry and load up your Kindles while the sales last!

BigBookSale

Join the #BigBookSale Facebook Party!

#BigBookSale Goodreads Event Page

Pre-Order & Giveaway ♥ In The Best Interest of The Child by: Felicia Denise!

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Preorder Blitz

ITBIOTC Front Cover

Book Title: In the Best Interest of the Child
Author: Felicia Denise
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Psychological
Release Date: September 30, 2016
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

Goodreads Button with Shadow

book blurb

Ten-year-old Olivia Chandler has a school she loves, good friends, a nice home, a talented mom, and a successful father she adores. Tragedy rips all of this away from her, and plunges Olivia into the foster care system, where for eight years she is neglected, humiliated, abused, and nearly raped.

Fate smiles on Olivia shortly before she ages out of the system, allowing her the means to attend college and law school.

Years later, Olivia is a successful child advocate attorney, giving a voice to children who are so easily ignored by those claiming to act in their best interest. She has little time for personal relationships, and her lifelong fear of abandonment reminds her never to get too close to anyone.

The successful attorney stumbles though when she’s assigned a case by the court that too closely mirrors her own haunted childhood. Olivia never gives her minor clients less than her all, and the only way she can help her eleven year old client is to face down and acknowledge her demons. This same case also brings a man into her life who sees her for who she truly is, and will not allow Olivia to push him away.

excerpt

Making sure Rena was still sleeping, Olivia exited her vehicle, following the sidewalk to the driveway where a flatbed tow truck came fully into view. A large, burly, dark haired man was winching a late model Mercedes up onto the flatbed. Nearby, a far shorter man stood with his arms folded across his chest obviously not happy. As she got closer, Olivia believed the shorter man to be near her age, even though a head full of curly black hair gave him a more youthful appearance. Olivia smiled as she passed the tow truck driver, noticing how his eyes lingered on her hips. The shorter man didn’t seem to notice her until she was right in front of him, and he started as though coming out of a trance.

“Hello. Can I help you?” Olivia widened her smile.

“Hello. I’m looking for the Bellamy residence.” He regarded her warily.

“I’m Courtney Bellamy. What can I do for you?” She stuck out her right hand.

“Mr. Bellamy, I’m Olivia Chandler, Rena’s court-appointed attorney. It’s nice to meet you.” Courtney Bellamy visibly relaxed.

“Nice to meet you, Ms. Chandler. My wife, Marissa, mentioned you were meeting with Rena today. We can go inside and chat shortly, I just have to see when this guy will have my car up and running.” He spoke the last part of the sentence in a raised voice, making sure the tow truck driver heard him. The driver pulled a face in his direction.

“C’mon, Court! I don’t even know what’s wrong with it. How can I tell you when it will be fixed?”

“There is way too much going on in this family for us to depend on one car, Bruce. There will be whining, tears and harsh words…and my wife will be upset too!” Olivia and Bruce both laughed out loud at Courtney’s snarky comment.

“Let me get it back to the shop and find the problem. If it’s not a quick fix, I have a loaner vehicle you can use until yours is ready. Deal?” Courtney pumped his fist in the air.

“This is why you’re my favorite mechanic! I love you, man!” Bruce guffawed.

“No. I’m your favorite mechanic because I’m your cousin and give you family discounts!”

“Well, there’s that too,” Courtney quipped. Reaching for the side door entrance, Courtney Bellamy addressed Olivia.

“Forgive me, Ms. Chandler. Would you like to have a seat inside while I wrap this up?”

“Please, it’s Olivia. And actually, I have a sleeping Rena in my car out front.”

“Oh! I thought the medical shuttle was bringing her home. And call me Courtney.”

“That was the initial plan, but she was getting tired, and I didn’t want her to have to sit and wait not knowing how long the shuttle would take to get to her. Bringing her myself was easier.”

“How kind of you. Let me grab her chair, and I’ll meet you out front.”

“Sounds good.” Olivia turned and started back down the driveway.” Courtney threw one last taunt at his cousin.

“Bruce, if you put one scratch on my baby, I’m calling your mother!”

“And if you call my mother, I will call YOUR mother and tell her who really broke the garage window when we were kids.” Courtney gasped.

“You wouldn’t dare!” he countered.

“Stay away from my mother, and I’ll stay away from yours.” He caught Olivia’s eye as she passed and winked. She laughed at the easy banter of the cousins, and just for a second wondered what it was like to have someone in your life who had known you all of your life. She heard her name being called just as she reached the sidewalk. Olivia turned to see Bruce jogging towards her. He stopped only after he had more than invaded her personal space. He was taller than she first thought. Her three inch heels put her at an even five foot, ten inches, and she still had to take a step back and raise her head to fully see his face. His light brown eyes had an amused glint to match the devilish smirk on his clean shaven face. His collar length dark brown hair was curly, though not as much as Courtney’s, and had the beginnings of grey at the temples much like her own.

“Forgive me if I’m being forward, Ms. Chandler, but I wanted to give you my business card. I own Bellamy’s over on Mason. If you ever need anything…um, for your car…give me a call. She reached for the card. “Anything…at all.” The man was positively shameless. Olivia couldn’t help but grin.

“Call me Olivia, and thank you. That’s nice of you.” Glancing at the card in her hand, a realization suddenly dawned on her. “Wait. You’re that Bellamy? Bellamy Motorsports of “We have twelve locations to serve you in Hennepin and Olmstead counties?” His face took on the brightest shade of red as he blushed like a teenager.

“Guess you’ve seen our commercials, huh?” She laughed as she backed towards her car.

“Yes. A time or two…or twelve. The commercials never mentioned you were so…hands on.” His eyes widened, but she pointed at the tow truck and continued before he could respond. “The boss answering service calls?” He slid his hands into his back pockets and cocked his head to the side.

“Okay, you got me. But Court won’t let anyone else touch his Precious. I was with him the day he bought her, but I’m not sure who owns whom. Marissa always teases him by telling him she leaving and he can have the house, but she’s taking the kid and the car. He nearly has a heart attack.”

Olivia reached her car and noticed Rena was still sleeping. There was no sign of Courtney at the front door yet. She heard movement behind her and noticed Bruce had taken a couple of steps in her direction.

“I didn’t see a ring. Are you married?”

“No.”

“Involved?”

“No.”

“Do you wanna be?” Olivia laughed in spite of herself.

“You’re definitely not the shy type, are you Bruce?”

“Nope. But I’m usually not this forward either.” Suddenly serious, he continued. “It’s just not everyday I meet a woman I’m so drawn to.” The sincerity in his voice caused her pulse to race.

“I’m flattered, Bruce.” He started to say something else, but both their attention was drawn to the front door as Courtney backed the wheelchair down the one step entrance, then turned and headed towards Olivia’s car.

“Olivia?” She glanced in Bruce’s direction, but looked away quickly, unable to hold his intense gaze. “Olivia?” Taking a deep breath, she met his gaze. “Call me.” She smiled and gave him a single nod. His attention made her feel light-headed, but she knew she’d never call him. She couldn’t. He definitely seemed like the type of man who wanted all or nothing…and nothing was all she had.

Courtney brought the wheelchair to a stop in front of her. “Cinderella’s carriage has arrived. Shall we wake her?” Olivia moved to the car door as she unlocked it with the remote. She reached in to unfasten Rena’s seatbelt, but caught the banter between the cousins.

“Bruce, go fix my car.”

“Shut it, Court!”

“I’m nominating your house for Thanksgiving dinner this year!”

“And I’ll nominate yours for Christmas dinner! And I’ll insist great-aunt Mae bring her dogs…all four of them!”

“You’re an evil man, Bellamy.”

“We share DNA, Bellamy.”

If Olivia didn’t know they were grown men, she would have sworn they were seventh graders. Rena began to stir, and looked around, confused.

“Hey angel. You’re home.” Still disoriented, Rena tried to sit upright. She cried in obvious pain and gripped Olivia’s arm. “It’s okay, angel! It’s okay, I got you. Just breathe through it. C’mon, now. Breathe.” Olivia took her own advice and took a couple of deep breaths to calm herself. She couldn’t comfort the child if she needed comfort herself.

“Olivia?” She looked back at Courtney. “She’s as light as a feather, but that cast adds weight. Step back and I’ll transfer her to the chair.” Rena still held Olivia’s arm, but her grip was loosening.

“You okay, angel? Mr. Bellamy wants to transfer you to the chair. You’ll probably feel better once you can stretch out in your bed, okay?” Rena nodded, and Olivia stepped back out of the way to give Courtney room to transfer her to the chair. She could feel Bruce’s eyes on her but refused to look at him. Her face grew hot and she felt awkward and out of place. Her resolve was weakening and she was about to look in his direction, when a green minivan pulled up behind her car. Bruce clapped his hands together excitedly.

“Oh yeah! The fun is really about to start.” Olivia could tell he was enjoying the moment and glanced back to the minivan not knowing what to expect. A plump woman hurriedly exited the van and rushed towards them. She was short – maybe an even five feet in height – and African American with a mass of hair worn in a long, natural, wavy style. Though plump, her hourglass shape was more than obvious. She wore very little makeup, and she didn’t need too. Her full lips and smooth brown skin were enhanced by large expressive eyes that right now were filled with worry.

“What happened? Is everything alright?” Just as she reached Olivia’s car, Courtney raised Rena into his arms, pivoted, and placed her into the wheelchair. The woman glanced from face to face waiting for an answer. She threw a quick wave in Bruce’s direction, and he returned it. Olivia smiled at her while Courtney leaned over Rena’s chair and kissed the woman on the cheek.

“Hi, Honey. This is Rena’s attorney, Olivia Chandler, and she just brought the munchkin home. Olivia, this is my wife, Marissa.” She took Olivia’s outstretched hand in both of hers and squeezed.

“Oh yes. We spoke on the phone. So nice to meet you. And thank you for seeing her home.” She lightly patted Rena’s shoulder and kissed the top of her head. “Hey Munchkin. Did you hit all your markers in therapy today?” Rena nodded slightly.

“All except the steps. I could only do two.” Marissa stepped behind her chair and started towards the front door.

“That’s still good. Remember last week you could only do one? Progress, munchkin, progress.” She stopped suddenly and turned around. “Courtney, what are you doing here?”

He folded his arms across his chest defiantly.

“I live here.”

Bruce, Rena and Olivia all snickered. Marissa pursed her lips.

“It’s the middle of the day, Courtney.” He started.

“Oh! Geeze, yes. So much happening at once. The school called me. Brian has a low grade fever and an upset stomach. He’s up in his room. The school nurse said she called you first, but didn’t get an answer. I figured you were still with your mom at the dialysis center.”

“They were short staffed today for some reason, so Mom got a late start on her treatment.” She glanced up at the house. I told that boy to go easy on the chili con carne last night. He never listens and this always happens.” She nodded her head in Bruce’s direction. “And why is Bigfoot here?” The laugh escaped Olivia’s mouth before she could suppress it. These people were nuts…and she loved it. Bruce shot a glance at her and mouthed the word “traitor.”

“After I got Bri settled inside, I was going to return to the office, and my car wouldn’t start. I called Bruce to come over and diagnose the problem, but…she’s really sick. He has to take her in.” Courtney Bellamy looked as though tears might be a real possibility.

Marissa turned her head and covered her mouth to hide the grin. She looked back and addressed Olivia.

“Please excuse our family. We’re not usually this scatterbrained and dysfunctional. And we usually care more about our sick children than our sick cars.” Before Olivia could tell her they were all just fine, Bruce chimed in.

“Look up ‘dysfunctional’ in Webster’s and you’ll find our family portrait.” Marissa popped a clenched fist on one hip and shot back.

“Don’t you have little children to scare or people to annoy?”

“Yes, and here I am!”

“Problem child!”

“Diva!”

“Yeti!”

“Smurfette!”

Olivia heard someone join her in the laughter, but when she glanced at Courtney, his eyes were full of love and fixed on his wife. Olivia stepped around Marissa and looked down at Rena, who had dissolved into a fit of laughter. She clutched her bag of snacks with one hand and her stomach with the other. Olivia’s heart melted at the sight. She then noticed Courtney had stepped behind his wife, sliding his hand around her waist. Rena was still laughing when he softly said, “Once they get started, they won’t stop until Rena laughs.” He kissed his wife behind the ear while giving the thumbs up to his cousin.

Olivia was taken aback. Most of what she’d just witnessed was a performance purely for Rena’s benefit. She was so glad she had not prejudged these people and admonished herself for any negative thoughts she may have had about them. These were good, loving people who were just living life. Parents and kids get sick and cars break down, but it didn’t distract them enough that they didn’t have time for a little girl who was…at least temporarily…an orphan. Although Olivia was sure the Bellamys and Averests must have had a pretty strong friendship for Courtney and Marissa to take Rena in, she felt this family would probably help any child in need. Olivia followed as Marissa pushed Rena into the house, but something made her stop and look over in Bruce’s direction. He was still standing there, hands in pockets, focused on her. Shaking her head, she smiled at him, which caused him to throw a big toothy grin back at her.

Marissa had cleared the doorway and Courtney held the door for Olivia. When she walked past him, he touched her arm lightly and quietly said, “He’s a good guy.” Her face heated up again, but she was rescued when she heard Marissa call out to her to follow her voice to get to Rena’s room.

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meet the author

An avid reader from a very early age, Felicia would re-write the stories she read, making the women a little bit tougher. Not to outdo the men, but raised by parents who taught their six daughters to always stand up for themselves, and to always “be a lady”, Felicia has very little patience with ‘crybabies’ – female or male. Introduced to creative writing in grade school, Felicia amused herself by creating stories, poems, and song lyrics…that she never showed to anyone.

Now embracing the concept of sharing, Felicia’s first published novel, In The Best Interest of the Child” debuts in September 2016.

Felicia left the harsh winters of Michigan and now resides in Arizona with her husband of more than thirty years, who’s always trying to read over her shoulder. Their three adult children are scattered around Arizona. She is looking forward to having grandchildren, but feels she may win the lottery first…or get struck by lightning. Though she enjoys a good rain storm, Felicia no longer goes outside when it rains. She’s not taking any chances.

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