Whirlwind Romance

A rush of emotion dropped a veil over all but the tiny world of the two people in seats 11A and 11B, in a jet plane floating somewhere over the Atlantic, in a still moment in time.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Backlist Bonanza Part 3: Losers Keepers

Crime and punishment, cops, detectives and correctional officers--strong arms of the law! You’ll find it all in Losers Keepers, the story of a romantic triangle enmeshed in murder, set on the Atlantic barrier island of Chincoteague.

Chincoteague is actually a small inhabited island nestled in the arms of Assateague, which protects it from the predations of the Atlantic Ocean. The famous ponies live on Assateague. Assateague is also home to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and a gorgeous beach. Wildlife abounds—migrating waterfowl like snow geese and marbled godwits, Sika elk, and the endangered Delmarva squirrel. My family has been visiting the island for several decades, and it was inevitable that I set one of my stories there. If you love marshes, bird watching, and beaches that stretch for miles, be sure to visit…after you read my book!
Dagne Lonegan, aka Dear Philomena, advice dispenser extraordinaire, hoped that spending a year on the Eastern Shore island of  Chincoteague to write her novel would clear her sinuses, if not her heart, of any feelings for Jack Andrews, erstwhile lover and long-time jerk.  It’s just her luck that her first week on the island she’s in the right place at the right time to be involved with a murder.  Only she doesn’t know it.  Unfortunately, the murderer doesn’t know she doesn’t know.  Strange and dangerous things begin happening to her, interfering with her new romance with Tom Ellis, the handsome manager of the National Wildlife Refuge.  Complications ensue when her Jack arrives to take charge of the murder investigation.

Will Dagne stick with the tall, cool glass of a Ranger or fall back into the arms of her first tempestuous passion?

EXCERPT ~ First Mating At Least in This Story (R)
A young woman shuffled toward them, stopping to pick up two large leather-bound menus. “Anywhere.”
They took that to mean they had a choice of seating and picked a table by the window. Dagne ordered the flounder and Jack chose crab cakes. They stared out at the choppy gray water, faces studiously averted from at each other. The waitress brought glasses of wine. Dagne took a large swig, but still couldn’t think of anything to say. She didn’t have a clue where they stood or what Jack was thinking, not to mention how she felt about things. His profile was, as usual, sphinx-like. Impassive. Unreadable. And so handsome. She could see his long black lashes and the glint of cyan from his eyes. She could smell his scent, always fresh and clean, from across the table. He turned to face her, and she felt the blood rise hotly to her cheeks.
He sipped his wine, studying her. “I’d forgotten how beautiful you are.” He said it simply.
Dagne waited for her heart to stop thumping and finally emitted a squirrely “Thank you.”
He continued to canvass her features.
“Jack…”
“Dagne…”
A broad face, heavily made up, came between them. The query “Crab cakes?” came out along with a puff of Marlborough.
Jack accepted his plate with a wry grin. The waitress set trenchers of coleslaw and hush puppies on the table, and slid a platter eclipsed by an enormous fish bulging with crabmeat under Dagne’s nose. It smelled wonderful.
An hour later, Jack paid and they walked arm in arm out to her car. Both Dagne’s stomach and heart were replete. Night had fallen. “The traffic should have cleared by now. Why don’t I give you a ride back to…I’ve forgotten where you’re staying?”
“It’s a B and B in New Church. Not far. Thanks.” They got in. As Dagne searched for her keys, Jack’s arm settled on her shoulder. She backed out of the parking lot and headed down the dirt road. His hand rubbed her neck gently. She pressed back. It felt so good. She didn’t even mind when his other hand began to wander down toward her breast but thought it prudent to suppress the urge to help him. His breath came huskily in her ear. “Dagne, I want you. Now.”
“Jack, we’re in a car!”
“On a deserted road. Out in the wilderness.”
“It’s a farm. Somebody’s farm.”
“Yeah, I know. Perfect. Pull over.”
Anticipation clouded her judgment. She could feel different parts of her body begin to tingle—whether at the secret thrill of the exotic location or the nearness of him, she couldn’t tell. He pulled her out of the car, opened the back door and pushed her onto the back seat. His hot breath seared her belly where he’d pulled up her sweatshirt. A tongue tickled her navel, then licked upwards till it reached her bra. His hand moved on her back and an instant later, she felt the sweet release of her breasts from the underwire. They weren’t free for long. His mouth fastened on her nipple and began to suckle. Dagne writhed in ecstasy. “Jack, no. You are too bad. No, don’t.”
For answer, he moved to the other nipple. When he lifted her skirt something cold and hard ground into her. The seat belt buckle gouged her naked thighs. Fortunately fingers distracted her from the pain as they pulled her silk panties aside—“Mmmm, silk. You know what that does to me, Dagne”—and pressed inside her. A second later, they were replaced by a mouth that began to massage her labia, blowing softly on the engorged lips. She felt his tongue dart inside, licking and sucking, setting the tender flesh on fire. Her orgasm crackled upward and sucked all the oxygen out of the tiny space.
“Jack…Jack…oh my God…Jack.” She fell to earth. As she lay panting she heard the sound of a zipper. Where his fingers had roamed there infiltrated a most welcome, rough, hard cock that beat up her thigh and entered her. It moved in and out, hardening with each thrust, faster and faster. She fell into the rhythm and they rocked, the car rocking in tandem with their motion.
Jack’s voice came urgently, muffled in her hair. “Dagne, come with me, come with me.”
“I will.” What else could she say? She rose to meet him and in a great whoosh they met and melded into one perfect creature, undivided. He let his body gently settle on hers and they lay quietly. Just as Dagne began to drift off to sleep, a light hit her eyes and the sound of a truck engine broke the stillness. “Jack, Jack, get off me! Quick! It’s the tow truck!”
Jack scrambled to the side, pulling his jeans up. He let out an oath and she heard a sucking sound. “Damned zipper.” Meanwhile she pulled both her sweatshirt and her skirt down, scrambled out the door and dove for the front seat. Just in time for the driver to pull off the road behind the Subaru.
“You the one needing a tow, Lady?”

Losers Keepers, by M. S. Spencer
Secret Cravings Publishing, 2011
eBook: 72,000 words; Print: 200 pp.
Contemporary romantic suspense, M/F, 3 flames



Monday, October 28, 2013

Backlist Bonanza Round Two: Lost and Found

My second novel, Lost and Found, finds a desperate wife searching the wilds of Maine and Florida for the husband who disappeared. The excerpt here recounts another first mating--since readers seem to like that first rush of passion the best. Do let me know if you like it!


What do you do when David, your husband of a year, ups and disappears? If you’re Rose Culloden, a beautiful, wealthy woman in her forties who had despaired of finding happiness, you do anything to find him. The trail takes you first to the North Woods of Maine, then to Florida, and back again to western Maine. Along the way you meet James Stewart—a Maine guide—who vividly highlights the contrast between a real man and your delicate Harvard professor of a husband. Loyal to your marriage despite your powerful attraction to James, it takes the dramatic discovery that David is not just vicious and venal, but insane, to free your heart for true love.

Excerpt (R): First Mating

A strange racket disturbed her dreams. A crash, followed by a shuffling noise, brought her instantly awake. There—another thud. She sat bolt upright. It came from outside her window. It must be an animal eating the raspberries. For some reason this infuriated Rose. Those were her berries. She wasn’t going to let a nasty little raccoon gobble them up. She rose from the bed and moved quietly to the window, ready to shout abruptly and scare it away. Wait! What if it isn’t a raccoon? What if it’s a skunk? Now that would sure make my day. All right, just knock on the wall. Whatever it is will be frightened off by that.
She banged softly. Nothing happened. She banged harder. The scrunching stopped. Satisfied, she turned back to bed but halted at the sound of a very loud grunt, this time closer to her open window. One more bang should do it. But as she raised her hand to smack the paneling, a curious thing occurred. A pair of fuzzy black ears rose over the window sill. A second later, she found herself staring directly into the face of an enormous bear. An unhappy bear. A bear unaccustomed to being disturbed at its meal.
Rose screamed. Pandemonium erupted. James rushed in, followed by the professor and Harley. “What is it? Are you okay?” Everyone babbled, canceling each other out.
Rose was so frightened she fell into James’s arms. “A…b…b…”
“A bear?” He turned to the others. In a voice struggling to sound calm, he declared, “Everything’s fine. Go back to your rooms. And—” he looked pointedly at the open window, “be sure your windows are closed and latched.”
The others filed out, still chattering. James continued to hold Rose, waiting for the trembling to stop. He whispered nonsense syllables into her hair and rocked her. She clung to him, trying not to fall into hysterics. He sat down on the bed, still holding her. “It’s all right. You scared him off, you know. He’s just a big old black bear with a fondness for raspberries.”
“I…I…” She hiccupped. “I thought it was a raccoon. I…thought it would move off when I banged on the wall.”
James chuckled. “Well, he did move off, with a little help from us, but he’ll be back. As long as there’s a berry left on the bush.”
“Oh dear.” Rose moved closer to James. “Perhaps I should change rooms?”
“Not a bad idea. Not a good one either. The inn only has nine rooms. And we’re occupying them all. I don’t think you want to sleep in the living room.”
Rose felt another wave of hysteria threaten. James started to rise but she held him closer. “Not yet. Don’t go yet. I’m so frightened.”
James made an impatient movement. “You’ll be fine. He won’t come back tonight.”
Rose tried to loosen her grip. James got one arm free but used it to stroke her hair. “Really, you’re perfectly safe now.” He bent to brush his lips across her head. Then he lifted her chin. He looked at her, concerned. Suddenly, he bent and kissed her lightly. “Are you okay?”
Rose raised her face to his. Her heart constricted. He really is handsome, isn’t he? Especially when his usually stern expression softens. Before she could say anything, though, he kissed her again, this time a little harder. In her shaky state, it felt comforting. She kissed him back. In an instant, their arms were wrapped around each other and James’s tongue had slipped between her teeth to explore the inside of her mouth. She opened for him, falling back onto the bed. He followed her, bracing himself above her, his kisses now passionate. When they broke apart, they were both panting. A split second of decision, then his fingers went to the hem of her nightgown and lifted. Rose gazed into his eyes, willing him to continue. He put his other hand out and extinguished the light.
He tried to pull the nightgown over her head. She raised her arms, but it wouldn’t come. Foiled, he took hold of the collar, tore it in two and threw the pieces on the floor. She lay on the blanket, drained of all rational thought, watching and waiting. The moon bathed the room with a misty light. In the gloom, she hoped all James could make out would be a white form, obviously female. Her breasts gleamed palely, a dark spot in the center of each one. She lay very still.
He unbuttoned his jeans and let them drop. He was naked underneath. She thought fleetingly that he must have thrown them on when she screamed. That meant he slept in the nude. She smiled at the thought, but he gave her no time for reflection. He fell on her, the length of his body pressed to hers, his arousal obvious. He kissed her hungrily, and then brushed his lips down her neck. He followed her throat down to the right breast first. She arched her back to bring her nipple closer. Her chest heaved beneath his mouth. He moved to the left breast and began to suckle. She gasped, the sensation too pleasurable for words. He lifted his head, as though praying that the sound didn’t mean she wanted him to stop. Instead, her arms went round his neck and her legs around his back, pulling him closer. He had no choice: he had to enter her. He didn’t hesitate. Surprisingly, she was wet and ready for him. It didn’t take much, she reflected. Then she stopped thinking.
She moved under him. It felt to her as though they were on an escalator, one which changed direction every few seconds. Up, up, up. Then down. It began to roll faster. Now they were both steaming in the same direction, but, instead of flying off at the top of the stair, they met and came together. Rose let out a mewling sound like a baby eagle and went rigid in midair. James held her up, ignoring the laws of gravity for just long enough to reach the moment of pure ecstasy. Then they plummeted. Quiet. Peace. Comfort. It could not last long.
Rose’s eyes flew open. “What did we just do?” she whispered.
If James was wondering the same thing, he wouldn’t let on. “Do?”
“I mean…I mean…” She trailed off.
James gave her one more deep kiss before pushing himself off her. He shook his head. “I don’t know. It just happened. Sometimes it does. You were scared, you needed comfort. That’s all. Forget about it.” He looked out the window. She looked over his shoulder at the sky. The moon had gone down. It must be near dawn. He turned to her. “The bear is gone. I’ll take my leave as well.”

Lost and Found
Red Rose Publishing (2010)
eBook, 69,000 words (254 p.),
Contemporary Romance, Action/Adventure; M/F; 3 flames

Available at:








Friday, October 25, 2013

Lost in His Arms--First Mating

My first novel, Lost in His Arms, is set in the spinning world of 1991 when countries fell like flies and a CIA fixer had his hands full.

Chloe Gray meets Michael Keller, CIA troubleshooter, in a world in chaos. Michael appears unpredictably, leaving Chloe limp and lovelorn. Looking for safe harbor, she yields to a dashing Frenchman. Will she embrace the luxury and comfort of Emile and his chateau or the romance of international intrigue with Michael?

EXCERPT (R)—First Mating
Chloe pulled his arm closer. "It is not just a cut. It's a gash. Look at all the blood you’ve dripped on my floor! Come here." She held his arm under the faucet and carefully washed the grit out of the wound. "Now just stay there. Press this paper towel against the cut. I'll go get some Neosporin and a bandage." She slipped up the stairs and through her bedroom to the bathroom. As she came out with the supplies she stopped short. He was sitting on her bed.

"I thought I would save you a trip." He spoke diffidently.

"Oh…that's…okay." Chloe willed herself not to touch his thigh as she sat down on the bed next to him (too close?). She applied the ointment and bandage, trying to keep her hands from trembling. He must have noticed anyway, because he put his larger one over hers and gently squeezed.

"Is the blood bothering you?"

She hesitated, breathless. He looked into her eyes, and before she knew it his arms went around her and she was kissing him. No, he was kissing her. She lost all sense of time and place and clung to his mouth as though she were drowning and it was a lifeboat. She felt herself falling, landing on his chest. He held her tightly, squeezing the life out of her. Or was it her soul he was drawing into his own? How could she tell him it was not his blood that bothered her but her own, boiling up in waves of desire?

He let her go reluctantly, but she held onto his buttons, tearing them off. She opened his shirt and buried her face in the soft black hairs of his chest. His hands went to her arms and gently moved her off him to the side. Slowly he undid her blouse, unhooked the bra and brushed each breast with his lips. She lay back, her eyes unfocussed, waiting for the touch, living for the scent of his hair. He looked up through his bangs and blasted her heart out with a glance of those azure eyes.

"May we?"

She did not need elaboration. She nodded mutely. He kissed her neck, her shoulders, her breasts, and down her stomach. A thousand butterflies fought to escape from her belly. He pulled down her zipper and tugged at the skirt. She still lay quietly, lost in pleasure. It all seemed to pass in slow motion. Everything felt perfect. Then he stopped. She opened her eyes. "What?"

His expression had altered. He was glaring at her, his face only inches away from hers. "What the Hell am I doing? This is nuts!" He sat up, facing away from her. She saw that she had taken his shirt off and his belt and zipper were undone. For some inexplicable reason his shoes were neatly arranged at the foot of the bed. She put a hand on his back. He stood up abruptly.

A sudden flash of panic hit her. He couldn't leave. Not now.

“Please don’t go.” Her voice stayed almost steady. “It’s…not exactly something we planned. Unexpected, unexplainable, maybe. But it’s also right. Don’t you see?”

“No, I don’t.” His voice slurred with anger as he slapped the words down. “This is neither the time nor the place. I can’t afford to do this now.”

“To do what? Make love?”

He looked down at her, his face softening. “It’s more than that. I don’t know why. But you know it too.”

Chloe gazed at him. It was true. She knew that first day, when he stood on her front step in his white uniform, the sun glinting off his dark head and his eyes flashing blue in the heat. Her heart flip-flopped. She had never wanted a man so much before. She didn’t want to ask any questions; she didn‘t even want to ask about protection. Mentioning condoms could be so...well...deflating. She rose and put her arms around him. Standing on tiptoe, she kissed him softly. His arms went slowly, inevitably, around her and they drifted into their own world.

When she opened her eyes she found him calmly pulling off the rest of her clothes. She appeared to be doing the same for him. He stopped and took a condom out of his wallet. Good. Now she could relax.

His pants flew across the room and she fell on his naked, beautiful body. He pulled her under him and moved, hard and swift, up her body and then down. Everything moved, as though they rode on the sea, in a great harmony of tides. She felt him press inside her, so deep it almost touched her heart. She moved with him, accepting the throbbing energy and meeting it. Faster he went, closer she came to her climax, her hands clutching, drawing him toward her. She dimly heard herself crying and calling him all sorts of names.

Relentless, entering and leaving, driving her to the brink, he murmured, “Love me. Oh God, love me.” Then the world stopped. They looked into each other’s eyes and collapsed.

Red Rose Publishing (9/10/2009)
eBook, 61,000 words; Print (2012):189 p.
Contemporary Romance, Action/Adventure; M/F; 3 flames

For more romance and suspense, you can get the book here:

Buy links:
http://redrosepublishing.com/books/product_info.php?products_id=17

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lost-In-His-Arms-ebook/dp/B002T0HZVQ/

Amazon Print:
http://www.amazon.com/Lost-His-Arms-M-S-Spencer/dp/1454399163/

All Romance E books: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-lostinhisarms-401729-149.html

BookStrand: http://www.bookstrand.com/lost-in-his-arms

Fictionwise: http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/b106692/Lost-In-His-Arms/MS-Spencer/?si=0

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Backlist Bonanza!


Now that my latest manuscript has sailed off into cyberspace, I thought it would be grand to revisit my last seven romantic suspense novels. By way of introduction, I'll present the blurbs for all seven, then over the next week you'll be able to taste juicy excerpts from each one.

My very first, Lost in His Arms, is set in the spinning world of 1991 when countries fell like flies and a CIA fixer had his hands full.
In an era electric with possibility and peril Chloe Gray, political writer, and Michael Keller, CIA troubleshooter, meet under curiously conventional circumstances. Despite the instantaneous sparks, they both sense there is more between them than physical attraction. Their love affair intensifies against a backdrop of the dramatic world events of the 1990s—a disintegrating USSR, Middle East peace talks, and Vietnam's reemergence on the world stage.

Michael appears and disappears at unpredictable moments, leaving her limp and lovelorn. Is he using her or protecting her? In her quest for answers, she is yanked into the dangerous world of Michael's work—in Washington, DC, in France, and in Spain. Looking for safe harbor, she submits to the advances of a dashing French diplomat. Will she embrace the luxury and comfort of Émile and his chateau or the romance of international intrigue with Michael?

Buy links:


Amazon Print:




My second novel, Lost and Found, finds a desperate wife searching the wilds of Maine and Florida for the husband who disappeared.

What do you do when David, your husband of a year, ups and disappears? If you’re Rose Culloden, a beautiful, wealthy woman in her forties who had despaired of finding happiness, you do anything to find him. The trail takes you first to the North Woods of Maine, then to Florida, and back again to western Maine. Along the way you meet James Stewart—a Maine guide—who vividly highlights the contrast between a real man and your delicate Harvard professor of a husband. Loyal to your marriage despite your powerful attraction to James, it takes the dramatic discovery that David is not just vicious and venal, but insane, to free your heart for true love.

Buy links:





Losers Keepers is my bestselling novel of a romantic triangle enmeshed in murder set on the Atlantic barrier island of Chincoteague.

Dagne Lonegan, aka Dear Philomena, advice dispenser extraordinaire, hoped that spending a year on the Eastern Shore island of  Chincoteague to write her novel would clear her sinuses, if not her heart, of any feelings for Jack Andrews, erstwhile lover and long-time jerk.  It’s just her luck that her first week on the island she’s in the right place at the right time to be involved with a murder.  Only she doesn’t know it.  Unfortunately, the murderer doesn’t know she doesn’t know.  Strange and dangerous things begin happening to her, interfering with her new romance with Tom Ellis, the handsome manager of the National Wildlife Refuge.  To complicate matters further, her Jack arrives to take charge of the murder investigation.
Will Dagne stick with the tall, cool glass of a Ranger or fall back into the arms of her first tempestuous passion?

Buy Links:



Triptych, my fourth novel, is a tale of lost artworks, jealousy, sex, larceny and genius set high on the cliffs over the Potomac River.

            Miranda Cabot lost all interest in love after her husband Edward crashed into the Potomac River rocks called the Three Sisters. Her sister Honor likewise prefers her tower and her writing.  Not so the third sister Sybil, who longs for romance with a dashing Frenchman.  She advertises for said hero on Craig’s List and is rewarded with the Chevalier du Bon Arnaque, who comes to Washington from Strasbourg on mysterious business.
            Miranda and Honor believe the Chevalier is a crook and ask their neighbors Dieter Heiliger and his grandson Corey, to act as chaperones. With three beautiful, strong-willed women in a house filled with three handsome, virile men, the inevitable result is an intricate web of jealousy, sex, and intrigue. Who will end up with whom, and will the Three Sisters take another life as the legend calls for?

Buy Links:




Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders: Murders, misdirection, misfits, and miscreants—needlepoint artist Milo Everhart has her hands full. Can love blossom amidst the chaos?
Waiting out the rain, Milo Everhart takes stock of her widowhood and the handsome man standing in the door to the bar.  Little does she know she will meet that man again and again under both passionate and terrifying circumstances.
Tristram Brody waits for his date, too conscious of the beautiful woman sitting by the door. Little does he know that she will hate him for trying to destroy her beloved art center, and even suspect him of murder. Nor that she will be drawn inevitably into his arms.
Little does either of them suspect they will be embroiled in not one, but two murders, in which the fate of the Torpedo Factory, an art center housed in an old munitions factory on the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria, will be decided.
Buy Links:

So many romances, so many crooks: can Tessa Diamond, turtle protector and amateur sleuth, keep them straight and still find true love? Find out in my sixth romantic suspense/mystery, Mai Tais & Mayhem: Murder at Mote Marine (a Sarasota Romance)
When Tessa Diamond rescues a baby pufferfish from a hungry gull, her good deed leads her into a shady world of smuggling, Russian gangsters, and coded messages. She confronts murder, attempted ravishment, parrots, sea turtles and big fish, only to encounter blossoming romances at every turn, including one of her own.
She is torn between Cameron Mason, tiger-eyed and handsome, and Dugan Trevally, sexy and dangerous, but before she can drop her longstanding opposition to marriage and accept her true love, she must face the possibility that one of them could be a thief, and even a murderer.









My latest, Lapses of Memory, is a novel in which two romances intertwine as a mother recounts her life-long love affair while her daughter juggles two lovers.  
The story follows the exploits of rival journalists Sydney Bellek and Elian Davies as they travel the globe reporting on world catastrophes. Their love is reignited each time they meet, but in the long years following each encounter Sydney forgets him. For his part, Elian knows from the age of seven that they are meant for each other. Only after surviving wars, revolutions, and years of separation does she realize they are meant for each other, but in a twist of fate it is now Elian who has forgotten her. Will he regain his memory and remember her or will their new love be enough to replace the old one?
Meanwhile,  their daughter Olivia must deal with her own dilemma—how to choose between the rich and dashing Frenchman Rémy de Beaumec who wants to take her around the world, and the steady, quiet American Benjamin Knox who only wants to make her happy. Sydney watches, waits, and hopes her daughter will make the right choice.
Buy Links:

Now that you've been introduced, your first date with romance starts tomorrow, with a hot excerpt from Lost in His Arms. Of course, if you just want to buy it and get the full Monty, by all means be my guest!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Four Stars for Lapses of Memory



Wow! Layna Pimentel gave Lapses of Memory four stars! Here’s a taste of her
glowing review: “Mark my words, you will laugh, grumble, and then laugh some more. This book was memorable, and I'm not likely to forget about it anytime soon.” Read more here:



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Embarrassing Moments and How To Avoid Them

Today at Romance Books 4 Us I’ll be discussing how to use your personal memories wisely and effectively in your prose—without getting in major
trouble with a friend or relative. I even confess one of my most embarrassing moments! Check it out here:
http://www.romancebooks4us.blogspot.com/2013/10/guest-blog-ms-spencer-relax-memories.html

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Book Goodies Interview

Book Goodies has published a rather entertaining interview with me here: http://bookgoodies.com/interview-with-author-m-s-spencer/. Here’s a snippet:
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I’d talk to them if they’d ever listen, but nooo. Do they ever ask for my advice? Do they ever call? Ever write? Once I’ve named them (a long complex process that usually isn’t complete until the third chapter) they’re off and running. Sometimes they even bring their little friends into the story without my permission.”

Do drop by and leave a comment! 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Welcome to the End of Summer Blog Hop

Autumn was always my favorite season—primarily because I hate being hot. Once I got a swimming pool (a lap pool, courtesy of my mother) all that changed, however. Still, the musty smell of damp leaves, the deep blue sky, the weeks of pulling out boxes and airing sweaters, the seemingly constant parade of holidays that all need decorating for, and the sense of a fresh start caused by cold air making your heart beat faster—all make autumn very special indeed. That’s for all you Erma Bombeck fans.

Seriously, of my seven books, I only find one—Losers Keepers—my Chincoteague romance, set in the golden days of an Eastern Shore fall. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge sits smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic flyway (there are four in the continental United States) so every fall finds it literally inundated with snowbirds—migrating waterfowl like snow geese, pintails, northern shovelers, mergansers, and other beautiful birds. It is the dry season and the great water impoundments that make up the refuge are often reduced to mud flats with shallow sloughs scattered about, providing the perfect habitat for the thousands of transient animals.

In Losers Keepers, Dagne Lonegan has come to spend the year on Chincoteague, hoping to write a novel. Instead she finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery, caught between an old lover and a new one. In this scene, the newly arrived Dagne enjoys a quiet sunset before all the excitement starts. This is what Chincoteague is like and why I love it so:



Dagne watched the evening slowly move into place. She sat on the little balcony off her upstairs bedroom, not so chilled that she couldn’t feel the splinter from the weathered Adirondack chair working its way through her khakis and into her underwear. The daylight had just begun to fade to that dun-colored pallor that always depressed her when, without warning, the sun exploded in its last throes, bathing the grasses and water in crimson dye.
     Her legs ached from the day's hike. Not as much as they had last Friday, the day before yesterday, after that panicky twilight sprint on the Woodland Trail. She cringed, remembering how frightened she'd felt. The day was exceptionally sunny for September and the refuge had beckoned, drawing her from her writing. On the spur of the moment she decided to take a quick hike, a last bit of exercise before supper. She should have checked the map, but the Woodland Trail had always seemed so short--maybe because before she'd always done it on a bike.
     She rubbed her sore calves, pressing her thumbs deep into the muscles and rotating them. Ouch. One of these days she would stop herself from slogging that extra mile on the off chance she’d catch a glimpse of the elusive “what’s-it” flitting from bough to bough in the next pine tree. One of these days. Of course the muscles that still ached from the other night weren’t suffering on account of a fast-moving warbler but unreasoning fear of the dark. She thought back, remembering her panic.
     The path twisted and turned, first left, then right, each time giving her the false hope that she had reached the halfway point and was on the return stretch. Her watch read five o'clock. Although the thick pines obscured the sun, the light had already embarked on the twilight descent into gray that told her she only only had a few minutes before darkness dropped over the forest. She hadn't seen anyone after that middle-aged couple passed her maybe twenty minutes before. Silence smothered the woods like a goose down pillow over a victim's face. Not a whisper of air rattled the tops of the tall loblolly pines.
 A scrabbling sound in the leaves had caught her attention. A Delmarva squirrel scurried across the path and jumped onto a branch. He swished his long bushy tail, chattering in anger at the intrusion. For some reason his agitation had infected her and she began to walk a little faster. Her breath came in puffs, her heart rattled against her chest.
“You were being silly, mon ange,” her mother had told her. Dagne had stupidly related her fright to her mother earlier that day when they were chatting on skype. If she didn’t know better, she’d swear her mother lived online. Every time she logged on she’d see the blinking icon at the bottom of the screen. “Piaf chatting,” Piaf being her mother’s screen name. Too too apt. Her mother idolized the late great torch singer and resembled her a little too closely for comfort. A tiny pixie of a woman, she still smoked like a fiend and drank absinthe on her birthday, singing along to Non Je Ne Regrette Rien and cursing Dagne’s father in remarkably inventive slang.
“Yes, Mother, I know. I’m a wuss. It’s not like Chincoteague isn’t perfectly safe—nothing even remotely dangerous for a woman alone here.”
“Except maybe those snapping turtles.”
“They live in the drainage canals, not the woods, Mother. I’ve never seen anything but squirrels and deer on the Woodland Trail.”
“How long is that trail anyhow?”
“I don’t know. I wish I’d checked the map at the entrance.”
“You really shouldn’t have started that late in the afternoon anyway.”
“Yes, Mother. Won’t do that again, Mother. Good night, Mother.”
Yup, another lesson learned. Her shoulders sagged with fatigue and the unwanted memory of Jack her thoughts dredged up. If only she followed every rule she set for herself. If only she stuck to every principle ever taught. If only she stuck to the truth, to reality, to practical, positive things. If only—but she was a romantic, a little less than an idealist, a little more than a wishful thinker, and real life only intruded on that pretty scene.
Actually, she thought, as the last rays of the autumn sun burned its way through the cumulus, I’m not that romantic. She only wanted what most women want. Oysters. Sex. Flowers, flowers, flowers. A man who recognized when he was wrong and let his woman know it without apologizing. Simple things.
The breeze picked up. A mass of Canada geese convened on the mud flats left exposed by the retreat of the tide. Somewhere out in the pine woods a salt hay stallion whinnied his commands to his mares. The schluck schluck of a clammer penetrated the quiet. She watched the old man as he wrenched each boot from the muck with an oath and a whooshing sound, his full pail bobbling dangerously. Clams. Yuck. Coriaceous muscles with the texture of rubber balls. Inedible. Now, take oysters—a good candidate for “God’s Greatest Invention.” Exceedingly ugly, exceedingly delicious, and here in Chincoteague, hers for the asking. She counted on her fingers—three dozen in the five days since she arrived. She rubbed her tummy contentedly. A dozen yesterday alone.

The opposite shore had by now disappeared into blackness. Tiny lights sprang up out on the salt flats. Phosphorus, perhaps? More likely the reflection from floodlights on the buildings along the shore. She shivered in the cold. It was so beautiful. It should be so peaceful. If only Jack’s image didn’t keep popping up like an annoying Internet ad. Let me go, Jack, please. Let me enjoy my new world. Why must you foist your unavailable person on the stretcher of my fragile heart? Dagne smirked. She liked to smash Jack to bits with words. Satisfying. No feedback, sure, but who needs criticism? She picked up her toys and went to bed.

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