Friday, 28 December 2012

CANDY’S MAN - Short Prelude



Candy inhaled the fresh salty air and watched the throng of people on the deck of the cruise ship.  In a few minutes the ship would leave the Port of Miami and tour the Caribbean.
The ship’s horn sounded loudly and Candy put her hands over her ears.  A sudden breeze whipped the hat off her head.  “My hat!” she yelled above the din, as the hat swirled in the air.  She saw several hands reach out but the hat soared upwards and over the crowd.  “No!”
She pushed her way through the mass of people.  “Please!” 
The hat looked to be going overboard but a hand suddenly grasped it and her heart skipped a beat. 
For several moments she lost sight of her precious hat.  But then, there it was.  She watched as the hat moved through the horde.  Closer.  And then it stopped right before her.
It was in large hands.
Candy looked up over a muscular chest that was covered by a tight black t-shirt.  Her gaze moved to a strong, square, jawline and an arresting masculine face.  Dark sunglasses covered the man’s eyes but didn’t detract from his handsomeness.  He was all muscle and she felt a shiver course down her spine.  “My hat,” she stated, nervously.  
A small smile crossed the man’s mouth and he held it out to her.  “Thank you so much,” she gushed as she took hold of her prized possession.  The man merely nodded and stood there watching her.
The strong spicy scent of his cologne filled the air despite the choppy breeze.  She looked down and fumbled with the hat in her hands.  She was so out of practice.  What did one say to a man?  Was he even single?
As far as she could tell, no ring.  Now what?  When his boot-covered foot began to tap, she knew she should say something.  “Thank you,” she squeaked and then cleared her throat
Pathetic. 
He raked a hand through his thick, dark hair and nodded again before he began to walk away.
She stared at him.  She couldn’t let him leave like that but what else was there to say?  And then the moment was lost as his hulking figure became lost in the crowd. 
Damn!
“What a hunk,” a voice said, and Candy turned to face the blonde woman beside her.  “Did you catch his name?” she asked.
“No,” Candy replied.  “I...I was lost for words.”
The woman nodded in understanding.  “Yes, I guess he could take your breath away.  I’ve never seen a man like that.”
Candy chuckled.  “I know what you mean.”
“I’m Susan,” the woman said, smiling.
“Candace,” she replied.
“Are you here alone?”
“Yes.”
“Divorced?”
“Is it that obvious?”
“You look like a little lost sheep,” Susan told her with a laugh and Candy cringed.  “You’ll get over it,” Susan assured her.
“Hopefully.”
“Look over there,” Susan whispered, and Candy’s gaze moved to a group of men who were watching them.
She felt a flutter in her stomach and looked down.  Was she ever going to get used to being single again? 
“They seem okay,” Susan said quietly.  “The blonde one is cute.”
Candy briefly looked them over and felt the panic in her veins.  “I think I might go for a swim,” she remarked, and noted the surprised look on Susan’s face.  “I need to relax.”
Susan smiled.  “I could go with you.”
“Really?  I’d like that.”
“Let’s go and fetch our swimming gear,” Susan said, taking charge, and Candy was grateful for Susan’s confidence.
They reached Candy’s cabin.   “I’ll meet you back here.  My cabin’s a bit further up,” Susan said.
“Okay.”  Candy walked inside.
The cabin was decorated in cream and gold and looked every bit the stateroom.  It wasn’t a big cabin but it seemed a world away from her home in Sydney. 
She located her chocolate-brown ruffled bathers, quickly changed, and looked in the mirror.  Not too bad.
She ran a hand over her flat stomach.  In a perfect world she would have had babies by now.  She frowned and shook her head.  She was here to enjoy herself.   She wasn’t going to think about what might have been.    
One tug and her black, patterned sarong was tied around her hips.  There was a knock on the door and she quickly opened it.  Susan stood there.  “That was quick.”  She grabbed her things and closed the door behind her. 
“We won’t get much sun if we dawdle too long,” Susan remarked, and Candy nodded in agreement.
 On deck, the huge pool was surrounded by bright yellow umbrellas and blue-striped deck chairs, and there were people everywhere.  
The wind swept Candy’s hair into the air and she thought of the man who had rescued her hat.  ‘Hunk’ was an understatement.  
They moved closer to the smaller pool that was more secluded and near the bar.
The sun-bronzed, dark-haired barman smiled at her.  “Would you like a drink, Madam?”  His name tag said ‘Dominic’.  Definitely Latin.
“Ooh, yes.  Two of those,” Susan said and pointed to the cocktail glass of another passenger.  
Was it too early for alcohol?  Candy shrugged and sat on a barstool.  She watched as the barman concocted their drinks.  “He’s got talent,” Susan remarked, giving her a nudge, and Candy smiled at her exuberance.    
“With the ship’s compliments,” Dominic said smoothly, placing the drinks before them. 
Candy smiled nervously and quickly took a sip.  The fruity cocktail tingled on her tongue and she watched the barman serve another customer.  
“He’s cute,” Susan whispered.  Candy had to agree.
Dominic caught her looking at him and grinned.  She felt her stomach do a somersault.  Was he flirting with her?  He gave her a wink.  Oh, God, she needed a few more drinks before she could do this, and it was way too early for that.
“I think he likes you,” Susan said.
Candy gulped down her drink and placed the empty glass on the bar.  “I’m going for a swim.  I’ll see you later.”
Susan looked stunned.  “Okay.”  She turned her attention to the man beside her.
Candy walked quickly away from the bar. 
The sun was low in the sky but still shone brilliantly.  She glanced briefly at Susan who appeared at ease while conversing with a stranger, and she blew out a breath.  How was she ever going to meet anyone if she couldn’t even speak?  She was an intelligent woman.  A marketing consultant, for goodness sake, and her job was all about talking to clients.  What the hell was wrong with her?  She sighed, knowing the answer to that.  Her failed marriage had devastated her and erased her confidence. 
Well, she wasn’t going to sit around and waste her time on this glorious ship.  She untied her sarong, walked over to the pool’s edge, and jumped in
Oh! 
The water was colder than she expected but it still felt wonderful on her skin.  Exhilarating. 
When the sun dipped lower in the sky, Candy climbed out of the pool.  She squeezed her damp hair, made her way back to her chair, then dried herself.
A loud wolf-whistle resonated along the deck and she looked up to see a group of men.  As one of the men started walking in her direction, she quickly wrapped the towel around her.  What did he want?
He moved closer.  He was about six-feet tall, reasonably good-looking with blonde hair and light eyes.  “Excuse me,” he said, inching nearer.   
She took a step back.  “Can I help you?”  She held on tight to her towel.
“I was wondering if you’d like to have a drink with me.”
Oh, God.
She looked past him and saw his friends waiting and watching intently.  This had to be a set up.  She looked back toward the man and studied him.  He had to be in his early twenties.  “How old are you?” she asked, frowning.
He seemed taken aback by her question.  “Pardon?”
She moved past him and pointed to his friends.  “Why are they waiting there for you, is this a joke?”
“What?”  His brow puckered.  “No, I wanted to have a drink with you and they...they came with me for moral support.”
She stared at him.  He looked serious.  “Oh.” 
“Sorry, I’ll leave you alone,” he told her, the disappointment evident on his face.  He began to walk away.
Crap.
“Wait!” she said against her better judgement.  “I’m sorry.  Can we start again?”  The smile he gave her made her tremble inside.  She smiled back shyly. 
He held out a hand.  “I’m Sean.”
“Candace,” she replied, and quickly shook his hand.
“And to answer your previous question, I’m twenty-six,” he said with a laugh.
A younger man.
“Sorry.  I thought you were fooling around.”
“Why would I do that?”
Because my own husband didn’t want me, so why should you? 
Her voice was gone so she shrugged.
“Do you want to have that drink now or later?” he asked, his eyes an intense blue.
“I’d like to shower and change first,” she said, feeling nauseous.
“Sure,” he replied with a little too much enthusiasm for her liking.  “I could meet you at the Piano Bar in an hour?”
She needed more time.  “Um…how about we make that after dinner.”
“All right then, let’s say eight?”
She nodded.  Oh, God, she had a date.
“Great, see you at eight, Candace.”  He walked back to his waiting friends.  One of the men gave him a high-five and she grimaced. 
Was it all playacting?
She sighed inwardly, tied her sarong around her hips and picked up her things.  When she turned, she saw him.  He sat on a barstool, drink in hand.  Her stomach formed a knot.  He pushed his sunglasses onto the top of his head and she caught sight of his mesmerising eyes.
Crap!
She wasn’t used to all this attention.  She didn’t even know how to act anymore.
And then he turned toward Susan who was flirting outrageously with him.  Candy chewed a fingernail, and felt strange.  Disappointment?  No.  Probably, relief. 
She began to walk away but took one last peek at him, the epitome of masculinity, and her whole body tingled.

~~~
                                                

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Candy’s Man
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Thursday, 20 December 2012

One Night by Malla Duncan

One night in a lonely cottage in the woods, and Casey Blaydon’s life is changed forever. When Casey is asked to spend one night looking after her friend’s dog, she has no idea that it will turn into a race for her life. An isolated cottage, mysterious visitors, madmen, thieves, murder and violence. But even surviving this is no guarantee of safety because the terror in the woods follows her home like a shadow, laying wait for her in the comforts of suburbia. 

~ ~ ~

‘One Night’ is my fifth thriller in my favourite genre Women’s Suspense Thrillers. I have been writing for many years, beginning with poetry when I was about 7 and graduating to short stories during my teens and early working years. Making the move to writing novels was very difficult. My preferred medium was the short story which I found more gripping – the perfect vehicle for the twist in the tale. But at a stage I realized I needed to ‘train’ myself to write novels because that’s what people preferred. I studied writers I admired to learn technique and form, then added my own style in pace, tension, dramatic scene and sense of visual reality.

It was important to me that the reader’s expectations were met while at the same time making them part of the story, ensuring that they were ‘there’ in the flow of events along with the characters. That’s why I chose the first person for my women’s thrillers – loosely based on the ilk of writers such as Nicci French and Minette Walters. I feel that the first person creates more immediacy and character identification. My books are not chick lit or detective novels. They are murder mysteries where the key characters are ordinary women who find themselves in extraordinary situations, finding all sorts of inner strength and self-reliance as they solve their problems. 

~ ~ ~
Excerpt
                                           
I no longer had the torch and the woods were pitch. Occasionally a splash of moonlight would drive me forward but I had no idea where I was going. Distance was key – as much of it between me and Matthew Bunting I could possibly gain. I was living on adrenalin, heart pumping like a machine, my breath harsh in my ears. Eventually the darkness forced me to slow. I’d smacked into one too many trees…and the last one had definitely left an imprint on my cheek. Blood was now running into my mouth. I could taste that salty intrusion but the rest of my body felt numb. I was moving stealthily and with some speed but an iron band had tightened around my chest and I knew I would have to stop to take a breath. Hoping on some kind of sixth sense for direction, I focused on finding the cottage.

I knew if I kept bearing west I should be somewhere within its vicinity. And all the lights were on. I just had to keep looking for any tiny chink of yellow between the trees. Except – bearing west in the confused dark jumble of the woods was almost impossible. The thought floated in my mind that Matthew Bunting must know the area very well. I had no idea how long the Buntings had lived there but they seemed well-entrenched. Perhaps they’d been there since childhood – and if that was the case then Matthew Bunting had a huge advantage over me. I didn’t have to speculate what he would do if he caught me. I knew what he would do.

I heard the faint run of a stream. If I could hear that then I was too far east. I eased to a complete halt and listened. The woods fell to a crackling silence. If somebody was close to me and sneaking up, they could be anywhere; sound was emphasized by the creaking quiet of the forest night. I stood a moment peering into the dark, my breathing ragged, trying to get my bearings. Fear prickled like a scattering of cold drops on my back. He was near. I was as sure of it as if I had absorbed all the wild history of the forest and become super-sensed. Danger was imminent. I could almost feel the heat of his body.

And then there…up ahead. Something ridged in a fall of moonlight, an alignment clear-cut against the undergrowth. The old ruined house that Mona had shown me all those months ago. My breath was shallow and too quick. I was struggling to focus. Could I hide there? I remembered the door in the floor to an underground room, the old cellar. Could I get there unseen? Could I hide until morning?

I edged forward. There was a rustling of leaves under my feet, the ripe scent of moist soil. I crossed a small dell which offered little camouflage but allowed me to move faster. Yes, I thought, hurrying, yes, I can get there!

I went up the slope of the dell on the opposite and saw the lumpy lines of the perimeter wall rising through the dead leaf ground. I forgot stealth and ran forwards – and into the arms of Matthew Bunting as he stepped out from behind a tree as though he’d been there for ages, just waiting for me.

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Friday, 14 December 2012

Welcome Author Uvi Poznansky


Uvi Poznansky is an author, poet and artist. She earned her B. A. in Architecture and Town Planning from the Technion in Haifa, Israel. During her studies and in the years immediately following her graduation, she practiced with an innovative Architectural firm, taking a major part in the large-scale project, 'Home for the Soldier'; a controversial design that sparked fierce public debate.

At the age of 25 Uvi moved to Troy, N.Y. with her husband and two children. Before long, she received a Fellowship grant and a Teaching Assistantship from the Architecture department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she guided teams in a variety of design projects; and where she earned her M.A. in Architecture. Then, taking a sharp turn in her education, she earned her M.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of Michigan.

During the years she spent in advancing her career--first as an architect, and later as a software engineer, software team leader, software manager and a software consultant (with an emphasis on user interface for medical instruments devices)--she wrote and painted constantly, and exhibited in Israel and California. In addition, she taught art appreciation classes. Her versatile body of work can be seen online at uviart.com. It includes bronze and ceramic sculptures, oil and watercolor paintings, charcoal, pen and pencil drawings, and mixed media.

Uvi published two children books, Jess and Wiggle and Now I Am Paper. For each one of these books, she created an animation video (see Author Videos at the bottom of her Amazon author page.)

She won great acclaim for her novel, Apart From Love, published February 2012. Her poetry book, Home (in tribute to her father, the poet and writer Zeev Kachel) has been published September 2012.

Home (a poetry book)
Book synopsis:

Home. A simple word; a loaded one. You can say it in a whisper; you can say it in a cry. Expressed in the voices of father and daughter, you can hear a visceral longing for an ideal place, a place never to be found again.

Imagine the shock, imagine the sadness when a daughter discovers her father’s work, the poetry he had never shared with anyone during the last two decades of his life. Six years after that moment of discovery, which happened in her childhood home while mourning for his passing, Uvi Poznansky presents a tender tribute: a collection of poems and prose, half of which is written by her, and half—by her father, the author, poet and artist Zeev Kachel. She has been translating his poems for nearly a year, with careful attention to rhyme and rhythm, in an effort to remain faithful to the spirit of his words.

Zeev’s writing is always autobiographical in nature; you can view it as an ongoing diary of his life. Uvi’s writing is rarely so, especially when it comes to her prose. She is a storyteller who delights in conjuring up various figments of her imagination, and fleshing them out on paper. She sees herself chasing her characters with a pen, in an attempt to see the world from their point of view, and to capture their voices. But in some of her poems, she offers you a rare glimpse into her most guarded, intensely private moments, yearning for Home.

Excerpt:

“Here is the place—he can bring it back—his first home.

Straight ahead is the door with a big handle high above. He can easily reach it, standing on the tips of his toes and pushing, pushing forward. It opens! Here is the room, which he shares with his sister, Batia. He is three yours old; she is five. And somehow he knows: she will come in later, much later. He can climb into bed now. Sleep is coming; he can feel it. Sleep is almost here. 

It weighs heavily on his lids, but—for just a second—he can lift his dreamy gaze and look up at the painted ceiling. Half of it is night, with a large crescent moon surrounded by a swirl of stars, the other half—day, with a bright, yellow sun. He rubs his eyes, astonished. Nothing like this has ever happened before: They stir! The sun, the moon and the glowing stars—they all seem to move, seem to turn overhead... 

Then, all of the sudden, amidst the glow, he finds himself standing at the banks of a lake with his daddy. He lets go of his daddy’s hand, flings a stone and at once he can spot—right there, in the middle of the lake—a ripple taking shape. One circle rises magically inside another, widening, riding out farther and farther until at long last it fades out. White lilies can be seen floating all around. One of them is right here, at arms reach. Only a thin line, the line of illusion, separates the petal from its white reflection. And underneath it, schools of golden fish scurry in one direction, then take a sharp turn and flow elsewhere. 

And from somewhere in the distance he can hear a shrill sound: the whistle of a train. Soon, Zeev knows, it will go out of earshot again, as the train travels past the hills, going away on its mysterious journey, calling him to come, calling him to follow.”



Apart From Love (a novel)
Book synopsis:

Written with passionate conviction, this story is being told by two of its characters: Ben, a twenty-seven years old student, and Anita, a plain-spoken, spunky, uneducated redhead, freshly married to Lenny, his aging father. Behind his back, Ben and Anita find themselves increasingly drawn to each other. They take turns using an old tape recorder to express their most intimate thoughts, not realizing at first that their voices are being captured by him. 

Meanwhile, Lenny is trying to keep a secret from both of them: his ex-wife, Ben's mother, a talented pianist, has been stricken with an early-onset alzheimer. Taking care of her gradually weighs him down. What emerges in these characters is a struggle, a desperate, daring struggle to find a path out of conflicts, out of isolation, from guilt to forgiveness.

Excerpt:

“About a year ago I sifted through the contents of my suitcase, and was just about to discard a letter, which my father had written to me some time ago. Almost by accident my eye caught the line, I have no one to blame for all this but myself, which I had never noticed before, because it was written in an odd way, as if it were a secret code, almost: upside down, in the bottom margin of the page, with barely a space to allow any breathing.

The words left some impression in my memory. I almost wished he were next to me, so I could not only listen to him, but also record his voice saying that.

I imagined him back home, leaning over his desk, scrawling each letter with the finest of his pens with great care, as if focusing through a thick magnifying glass. The writing was truly minute, as if he had hated giving away even the slightest hint to a riddle I should have been able to solve on my own. I detested him for that. And so, thinking him unable to open his heart to me, I could never bring myself to write back. In hindsight, that may have been a mistake.

Even so, I am only too happy to agree with him: the blame for what happened in our family is his. Entirely his. If not for his actions ten years ago, I would never have run away to Firenze, to Rome, to Tel Aviv. And if not for his actions a couple of weeks ago, this frantic call for me to come back and see him would never have been made.

And so I find myself standing here, on the threshold of where I grew up, feeling utterly awkward. I knock, and a stranger opens the door. The first thing that comes to mind: what is she doing here? The second thing: she is young, much too young for him. The third: her hair. Red.”

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Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Heart's Promise Spotlight


This book is a work of fiction set in the small, rural town of Waroona in the 1970’s.  The story follows the experiences of the main character, Emilia (Milly) Garcia, and her best friend, Patricia (Patty) Brennan.  Milly is trying to come to terms with her Italian heritage, the unfamiliar emotions of adolescence, and her attraction to Patty’s brother, Flynn. Should she let her feelings for Flynn be known and risk rejection?  Or should she keep the attraction a secret and suffer in silence?

Meanwhile, Milly discovers some of the secrets hidden behind closed doors, and realises that not all families are happy ones.

With a succession of worrying events, she struggles to find answers.  It doesn’t help when she receives messages from the ‘other-side’ but can’t stop the bad things happening.

Whilst coming to terms with loss and attempting to release the past, Milly finds she is bound by promises of the heart. 

Excerpts

Milly chewed her nails as she looked over the Brennan’s large mish-mash of a house on the corner of McLarty Street. There were bits added on here and there from asbestos cut-outs to accommodate the ever-growing family. She had heard it said that the Brennans were a true, Irish-Catholic family, whatever that meant.

His hair was blonde, strawberry blonde, she had heard it called, and it was thick and wavy like his mother’s had been. There was a spattering of freckles across his nose and a show of fine hair on his upper lip, and Milly felt a strange sensation in her chest because she had never really looked at him before.

The children pushed themselves up from the floor and Flynn held his hand out to her. Milly could not even think of a word to describe the feeling in her chest. Slowly, she put out her hand and he pulled her to her feet. His smile dazzled its way to her soul. “I better go,” she said quietly.

Frowning, Flynn turned back. “Sorry,” he said, remorsefully. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. Let me see.” With her heart thumping against her chest, Milly tried to straighten her fingers as she moved her hand closer to Flynn’s. Gently, he took her hand in his, and stroked her little finger which was red and sore. “I don’t think it’s broken,” he said as he moved it slowly. “Does it hurt?”

Flynn walked across to the other side of the verandah. Milly reluctantly followed him, the chilly wind encircling her as she noticed how Flynn’s dark jumper emphasised his wide shoulders. Turning, Flynn looked at her intently. “Milly, can you come over? Patty’s acting crazy and she’s locked herself in her room and throwing everything around. I don’t know what’s wrong with her,” he blurted, the raw emotion making his voice shake.

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