Win a free copy of Out of Agony in Paperback

OutOfAgonyCoverArtOut of Agony, Book 4 in the Starting Over Series, is now available in paperback.

Brian Van Pelt has barely survived an anguished year of loss, hiding his sorrows under the facade of a cool and uncaring attorney. Not able to deny his grief any longer, heartache drives him to collapse and his life takes an unexpected turn.

When Jessie Ingram comes to work at his law firm, she is intrigued by the conflicting darkness of Brian’s behavior and the tender inconsistencies that hint at something deeper within him.

Despite her interest, she has her own pain, supporting her niece Sara, who has a virulent cancer with aggressive treatments that take such a toll they wouldn’t be worth it — except they are Sara’s only hope of survival.

Will life’s hardships bring Brian and Jessie together? Will they be able to heal and possibly find love?

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OutOfAgonyCoverArtOut of Agony now available!

I am so excited about the release of Book Four in the Starting Over Series. I hope you are, too.

We are celebrating with some great prizes including an Amazon gift card, a Starbucks/Teavana Gift Card and a free download of one of the other books in this series.

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About this book: Brian Van Pelt has barely survived an anguished year of loss, hiding his sorrows under the facade of a cool and uncaring attorney. Not able to deny his grief any long, heartache drives him to collapse and his life takes an unexpected turn.

When Jessie Ingram comes to work at his law firm, she is intrigued by the conflicting darkness of Brian’s behavior and the tender inconsistencies that hint at something deeper within him.

Despite her interest, she has her own pain, supporting her niece Sara, who is has a virulent cancer with aggressive treatments that take such a toll they would not be worth it — except they are Sara’s only hope of survival.

Will life’s hardships bring Brian and Jessie together? Will they be able to heal and possibly find love?

Excerpt:

Will caught Jessie’s gaze. “Sorry that meltdown came now, of all times. Looks like you may be on your own with Adams, unless something changes very soon.” He bent down and picked up the papers on the floor. When he straightened he handed them to her.

“Sir, may I ask what that was all about?”

“You may, but it isn’t my story to tell. Let’s just say Brian had more than his share of personal sadness in the last year and it’s finally caught up with him.”

“Okay, I understand. But, sir, as I tried to tell Van Pelt, I can’t find the files and depositions from his earlier work. Would it be okay if I looked around in his office? If he isn’t here…”

“You’re right, we can’t wait much longer.” With a short nod, Will headed to Brian’s office, unlocked the main door, and another one in the back of the room — a storage closet?

“Thank you, sir.” Her boss left for his office and closed the door. She looked around the room. Sterile, too neat. Maybe the files in his desk drawers would reveal more.

Brian’s desk chair sat oddly positioned. Not to one side as one would leave it naturally after rising from it, but pushed back against the desk and perfectly centered in the opening. As she had done the day before, Jessie pulled it out and perched on the edge of the too-tall chair. She opened the file drawer on the left, and found it empty. How very strange. She turned to the other side of the desk, and opened the top utility drawer. Empty, too. The bottom drawer held only one thin file, unlabeled. She pulled it out and placed it on the desk. She opened it to find what she least expected.

The picture of a little girl smiled up at her. She was probably around kindergarten age, judging by the one missing front tooth. Was Brian Van Pelt a father? She turned to the next sheet and found a crayon picture of a house, three people and a dog. The people were labeled Mommy, Daddy and Trudy in a child’s crayoned letters. The dog was Ollie. Beside the house was a big tree with a swing hanging from it.

She put the folder back into the drawer and turned to the closet. She didn’t mean to be nosy about his personal life. Will said he’d recently divorced. All the personal connections were probably damaged or at least fragile, even with his little girl. Still, it was mind boggling that he didn’t have a single work paper in his desk. He must have work files somewhere.

She opened the closet door and gasped at the sight of open file drawers, some no longer in the frame but tipped on their sides against the marred walls as if someone had thrown them there. It would take great strength to throw a full file drawer. Papers spread everywhere. She looked over her shoulder at the compulsively neat office, and back at the devastation before her. Could these contrasting areas be the workspace of the same man? It was incomprehensible. How could the cold, calculating, maybe even mean man be the man who saved the kindergarten photo and drawing in the place closest to him?

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First Kiss – Brian and Jessie

“How about a walk now?” Jessie smiled up at him. “It is a beautiful evening. If you let me drop the food in my car and pick up my jacket, I’d love to walk around the plaza.”

“Perfect.” He claimed her free hand in his and they walked out into the gentle spring night.

After he settled the jacket around her shoulders, he buttoned the top button for her. He reached for one of the curls around her face. It was soft and springy to his touch, just as he’d imagined.

“Naturally curly or cuOutOfAgonyCoverArtrling iron?”

“Naturally curly.” She winked at him. “When you meet the rest of the family you will see it is definitely in the genes.”

He’d like to meet her family someday.

He stroked her cheek with one knuckle. She was so beautiful. She watched his eyes as he moved his hand down to her chin. He tipped her face a little closer to his. Her rosy pink lips parted slightly. They simply begged for a kiss and he couldn’t resist. He dropped his lips to hers, continuing the soft, gentle theme of their evening. Her lips were warm and smooth under his. He brushed them lightly and pulled back a bit so he could see her response.

She reached up to cradle his face between her hands, sinking her fingers into his beard, and pulled his face closer. She kissed him back, a sweet, warm, caring kiss.

Her touch soothed the pain in him somehow. She broke the kiss and looked at him. Tears swam in her eyes. “It’s today, isn’t it?”

For a heartbeat he wasn’t sure what she was asking, but connected the tears with his own grief and nodded.

“I thought so. Thank you for sharing this day with me. How difficult that must have been.”

“Not as much as you might think. Want to take a stroll while I tell you about it?”

Buy Out of Agony from Amazon.com or Dessert Breeze Publishing. Available July 21.

Animals help make the story – but Therapy Cats?

Excerpt from Out of Agony:IMG_0606

The World’s Best Cats and Kittens boasted long, screened enclosures with cats and kittens everywhere. An older woman greeted them at the office door. She was thin and spry with grey hair pulled back, and dangling earrings providing a splash of color. She tucked a yellow tabby under one arm and reached out to shake Jessie’s hand with a firm grip. A grey cat draped over her shoulders and peeked around at Jessie in curiosity.

“Lots of people bring us their kittens, and we work hard to place them all. Neutering and nursing the animals, and finding homes, is full-time work. I’m so glad you came here. I know we can find what you want.”

“We need a therapy cat,” Sara spoke up. “I have cancer and the nurses say a cat will help me get better.”

The woman reached out a hand to clasp Sara’s. “They will help, I promise. I am a cancer survivor myself, and I credit the cats with getting me well. Come on, let’s go see which ones you like.”

Ones? Oh-oh. If she thought they would take more than one cat…

“I have an idea. Let’s see what you think.” She led them, not to the enclosures, but into the house. “There is a little runt here. Some of the other cats picked on him, especially while he was recovering after his operation, and one of the mama cats adopted him. I keep them in here so she doesn’t have to defend him quite so fiercely.”

Curled up together on the top of a short platform lay a calico cat and a black kitten with white paws. When Sara approached, the kitten looked up at her, stood, stretched, and reached for her with one paw as if to say “pick me.” When she stroked his head, he leaned into her, pressing close and purring loud enough Jessie could hear him a few steps away.

“Oh, look Aunt Jessie, he loves me.” The calico cat looked on and nudged Sara’s other hand.

“Oh, and she loves me, too.” She had a cat under each hand and pure joy radiated across her face.

“Do you think he would adjust to a leash?”

“I’m sure of it. Watch.” The woman picked up two small harnesses. She stretched the first over the calico’s head, and the second over the black kitten’s. She buckled them both in place.

Sara kept petting them.

“I’ve already trained them to accept the harness. It’s the biggest step. Cats are so flexible, they can get away from any collar if they really want to, even if it means breaking the break-away latch.”

She eyed Sara for a second. “Why don’t you sit down and let’s see what they do.” Sara obeyed, perching on the edge of a chair. Immediately both cats hopped down from the platform and approached her. The little one meowed loudly and hopped up beside her. The older one, though quieter, acted just as determined to stay right beside Sara. How would she choose between the two?

“Good, they both are very interested in staying with you.” The woman clipped a short leash to each collar and let it dangle. So far so good. She handed the leash ends to Sara.

“Don’t get in a hurry, but when you are ready, hold one leash in each hand and stand up. If they stay calm, walk toward me and we’ll see what happens.”

Sara talked to the cats for another few moments, then stood. Both cats jumped down, one on each side of her. They didn’t seem bothered by the leashes at all. She looked up at the woman standing across the room. When she nodded, Sara began to walk slowly toward her.

The two cats fell in step beside her.

“Amazing!” Awe filled Jessie. She’d expected a real fight with the cats.

“Well, you can reinforce their good behavior.” The woman handed some treats to Sara, who in turn fed one to each cat.

“It also helps if they get to go somewhere interesting when they are on leash. I am sure their new home will be interesting to them.” She smiled benevolently at her little charges, like a proud grandma. “I thought these two would be naturals. Ready to write up the paperwork and adopt them?”

Them? She was trying to get them to take both cats. Jessie didn’t have the heart to make Sara choose. They were both so cute and so loving to Sara. Clearly the cats loved each other. It wouldn’t be fair to separate them.

“Sara?”

Her niece nodded happily, dropped into a seat, and gathered the two cats into her arms.

“Did you hear? Blackie, you and your mama get to come home with me. Mama, you can take care of your baby in your new home. And take care of me, too.”

John and Phyllis would probably kill her. Not one cat, but two, added to their already hectic household.

Out of Agony is available July 21 from Desert Breeze Publishing and Amazon.com.

When the first meeting is off to a bad start — Brian and Jessie

Excerpt from Out of Agony:brew-coffee-substitute

Jessie Ingram watched the self-important guy in the grey suit. He was so obnoxious. He butted into the line, and didn’t even look at the woman with a child when he cut them off. He leaned in toward the person behind the cash register. When he slammed his drink onto the counter some sloshed over the top. As if that wasn’t satisfying enough he gave it another shove and the drink toppled over, spilling the hot coffee. The young man jumped at the jerky, angry movements of the suit. He grabbed at the cup to right it and began to mop up the spill.

“This drink is all wrong.” Voice strident, the man continued in an over-loud, angry tone. “It’s too sweet. I wanted one pump of hazelnut. There have to be at least four.” She glanced behind them. Everyone in the place listened in.

“Obviously you are an idiot who can’t count. You are incompetent. I will see you don’t work here after today. There is no excuse…”

That was enough. She could take no more. To pull his attention away from the young man, who was almost in tears, she grasped the customer’s forearm and made him face her instead. “Hey, mister, what is wrong with you? It’s a cup of coffee.”

He turned his frosty blue gaze to meet hers and said brusquely, “This is not your business.” He turned back to the barista and leaned in, opened his mouth to continue his tirade.

Not on her watch. She grabbed his arm again, gripped it hard this time, so he couldn’t ignore her. “So what has your pants in such a wad, mister?”

Surprise crossed his face for a second, before irritation won the day. He opened his mouth but she wasn’t about to let him speak. She stepped into his personal space, right up close. She kept her voice even and clear, but didn’t raise it. “There is a place and time to insist on customer service, but you crossed the line with this public dressing down. Are you just having a bad day or are you always such a jerk? Get out of here. The rest of us would like a chance to get a cup before the day is out.”

He stiffened, looked like he might say more, then closed his mouth into a tight line. Cheeks flaming, he turned without a word and pushed through the crowd to the door. The other patrons broke into scattered applause. Jessie turned to the guy who took the orders and placed her own. “Your largest Earl Grey tea, please. Three pumps vanilla, two percent milk, and extra foam.” When she tried to pay, the harried young man shook his head.

“No charge for you, ma’am. On the house.”

Now that was nice. A perfect way to start her first day at her new job as one of the associates with Barnes and Associates.

Out of Agony is available July 21 from Desert Breeze Publishing or Amazon.com

About disability…

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Because much of my professional life is lived in the disability rights and justice community, some of the characters in my books, including main ones, have disabilities. Here are some examples.

In More Than a Job, Paige and Joshua work for a company that provides small, personalized and respectful living settings for people with cognitive disabilities, in contrast to the institution where some of her family once resided. The book addresses some of the problems with institutions and the very controversial topic of parents who have a cognitive disability.

In Out of Agony, Brian works through the depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that result from the death of his daughter. One of his clients is a man with MS who loses his job in what appears to be discrimination because of his disability, but becomes something more when his employer attempts to steal his patent for a new pain medication that will mean relief without liver damage for people with chronic pain.

In the next release, next January, the heroine is a blind single mom, loosely based on someone I know, and explores the prejudice in society against people with disabilities being parents. It is especially challenging when her ex attempts to gain full custody of their child.

You can find all my books, paperbacks and eBooks on Amazon or eBooks only on my publisher’s page, Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc..

Work in Process…Out of Agony

When Jen and Brian lost their daughter Trudy in a tragic accident, their marriage fell apart. Jen’s story is told in Finding Her Voice. That book left Brian in bitter denial. Frankly I didn’t like him ver36451078204185961_HMZmvGgi_by much. He left Jen when she was most vulnerable and returned to the careless and arrogant man he had been before Jen’s warmth and love changed him. The family man turned cold, uncaring attorney. My readers felt there was more to know about his journey. And as his story unfolded, they were right to want to hear it.

Out of Agony is Brian’s story of grief that would not be denied, and pain that took root in a way that put his life on a completely unexpected road. When Jessie came to work at his firm, she instantly disliked the man and yet was intrigued by inconsistencies that hinted at  something more to know about her co-worker. But she didn’t have time to explore those thoughts — she was deep in her own pain as she  supported her niece Sara, who was struggling with a virulent cancer and the aggressive treatments that took such a toll they would not be worth it — except they are her only hope to save her life.

Coming July 21 from Dessert Breeze Publishing, Out of Agony is the fourth book in the Starting Over Series and like the prior volume, is inspirational romance. Starting Over Book Five, will be released in January, 2015. While each book stands alone, some of our favorite characters cross over from book to book.