Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sometimes Heroes Fall and Take Their Loved Ones Down with Them #RomanceNovels

Welcome to the Scintillating Sunday Blog Hop where multiple authors share snippets from their novels--just a peek, a taste, a glimpse. 

An excerpt of my romantic suspense, Reckless Endangerment...



He kissed her, feeling as if he had truly come home.  Not to a house, but to a life. God, she felt good. Too good.  Too much like a dream.   

“On the helicopter, I prayed for the first time in years.” Her hands curled into the hair at his temple. “On my knees next to you, I prayed that you’d live and I didn’t give a damn how many of your friends heard me, I didn’t give a damn if I made a fool of myself. And I prayed and I prayed and I prayed for one more time, one more day with you.”

“But I’m not—”

“Do not ever tell me again what you are not.” Fingers pulled at his hair. “I know what you are.”

“I don’t want to disappoint you anymore.” The words scraped like fishhooks pulling on the inside of his throat.

“We can be whatever we want, do whatever we want, however we want.” She kissed him then as if the world were ending around them, as if the bombs were exploding again and they were hiding in the back of Marishka’s house shrouded in darkness and surrounded by chaos. 

His hands curved over her ass with a will of their own and pressed her close. He deepened the kiss, needing her warmth and passion more than he had needed any therapy—physical or otherwise. 

“Can you feel it, Michael? Can you feel that heat?”


Oh, he could feel the heat. 

From the back cover...


Sometimes heroes fall and take their loved ones down with them. Colonel Michael Cedars and reporter Hope Shane fell in love in a warzone, but then the world blew up and splintered their lives in two.

Coming home again isn't always easy. A Marine accustomed to giving orders, Michael struggles to find his role in civilian life. Wounded, he faces new battles as he learns to walk again, struggles with wartime ghosts, and questions his abilities as a husband.

Hope doesn't give up—not on the man she loves and not on her pursuit of justice. An investigative reporter, she's hot on the trail of a human trafficking ring. Danger intensifies as she gets closer to the truth, but the human traffickers know her weakness. Will Michael become her Achilles Heel? Is he still the hero she married or has he become a liability that could get them both killed?



Thursday, August 27, 2015

Forgotten Home Movies Initiate a Tsunami of Love #inspiration

If I could only hear your voice one more time, hear your laugh, hear your heartbeat under my ear as I snuggled against your side...
I found some old videos from when the kids were young. They, of course, wanted to see them. We laughed a lot but then a strange stillness came over the room. There was their dad--young and handsome, trapped forever on film.

Ben said, "I'd forgotten what he sounded like."

I remember not wanting to disconnect Sean's cell phone for the longest time. Sometimes late at night I'd call just to hear his voicemail message, hear that familiar baritone. I eventually disconnected the line, mainly because so many people around me were telling me to "snap out of it, move on, let go" even though it had only been months since his passing.

I often wonder if they would have done that if he had died of something other than suicide.

I doubt it.

Briahna had had a monkey where he'd recorded his voice in the palm for a Valentine's gift. She used to snuggle with it at night until it no longer made a sound.

It's both lovely and sad to hear someone's voice after it's been silent for a decade. See his smile. Hear his laugh. Remember the moment as if it were happening now.

Yes, we've moved on and succeeded in so many ways. Yet there are moments...these precious moments that filter into present day that take my breath away.

After the movies were put away, I went outside to watch the dogs play for a little while before bed. I stood on the patio Sean built, noticed his hand print in the concrete around the fire pit, and smiled. Despite his loss and the pain we've experienced, we have a good life built on the foundation that he and I built as a young couple. There are new dogs--two puppies in fact--because the ones we started out with have also passed on after growing with the children. The play set has been removed because the kids had outgrown it. A piñata once hung from the deck above me for my son's fifth birthday party where people had shown up despite a raging blizzard and we'd had that fire pit blazing while little kids threw snowballs and swung a broom handle at that horse-shaped piñata. As I stood there with my gaze locked on that hand print, I laughed at the memory and, for a moment, felt like he and I were reminiscing.

Life really is good, though. I've lived and loved. I've walked through the dark and into the light. I'm still here. I've come a long way--we all have.

Below is an expert from my memoir on surviving suicide and parenting through grief. The movies made me remember this particular passage so I looked at it again. And you know what? When I read it, I think of myself at that time with a great deal of compassion and wish I could go back as this future version of me to say, "keep believing...you make it...you really do."

Excerpt of Free Fall...

Being alone like this is more frightening than I ever anticipated. Grief isn't a 'condition' or an 'issue' to get over. It's the loneliest journey I've ever experienced.
Everyone leaves. Everyone who said "call me" doesn't answer the phone. This kind of alone is terrifying. It's different than being single, back when I had single friends who were available and plans were abundant. This is the absence of what was and what will never be. This is the realization my life plans have been thrown off course and I have no idea how to navigate this new path.
I feel almost desperate to connect with Sean. I wear his sweaters, look at photographs, watch our wedding video, wear his wedding ring on my thumb, and write him letters in my journal. I sit in my closet and talk to him out loud in the middle of the night. I ask him why he didn't choose us in the end. When I look at those pictures and videos, I stare at his face and wonder when he became so lost.
Bree has a stuffed monkey that she carries around. Sean bought it for her last Valentine's Day. When she presses the paw, a recording of Sean's voice says, "I love you, Breezy Bree." She's upset tonight because it stopped working. I thought it was a battery problem, but that didn't fix it. Another piece of him is gone.
"You can't do anything right!" She threw the monkey at me.
I'm holding it now as I sit in the closet where he died. Maybe I'm losing my mind. I tell him about my fears that I'm a horrible parent, my worry about letting everyone down, and tell him that I love him.
New Year's Eve is approaching. Normally, I look forward to the new year, but now all I see is a void of endless nights where I pace, scared to sleep for fear of seeing him in my dreams.
I ache, simply ache deep in my chest and I don't think it will ever go away.
He left us, damn it. He chose to go, yet here I am mourning him like a fool, pacing the house, wearing his sweaters, and holding a damn monkey while sitting on the floor where he died. There's not one thing that's right about this picture. Not one thing.
How do I get beyond this? What if I'm stuck here in this state of limbo, of not being able to think beyond the moment? How can I mesh the two parts of Sean? How do I make peace with any of this?
In DC, my family said they want the old Amber back, that they can't stand seeing me look so sad.
I don't think the old Amber exists anymore.

I feel like I'm in a soundproof booth, trapped behind glass. I see myself on the other side—a version of me that is happy, secure, and confident. I smack the glass with both hands in an attempt to break through to reach her, but the barrier won't yield. I'm trapped in this bubble of grief, nightmares, and regret.

From the back cover...
"Understanding suffering always helps the energy of compassion to be born."
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

In an instant my husband stripped away my identity as wife, stay-at-home mom, and best friend. With his suicide, our world changed forever. He'd been the center of our universe, but then he was gone.

Grief is a dark journey, one often tainted with judgment and false perceptions. Add the word 'suicide' to the mix and more complications arise. This memoir, Free Fall, is intended for those who may be facing their own tragedy and feeling alone, hopeless, confused, scared, and misunderstood.

Free Fall is the journey of piecing our lives back together—overcoming children's anxiety as we traversed the brutal grief and trauma process, learning to say the words 'widow' and 'single mom' without cringing, surviving the fall out with friends and family who simply couldn't understand our healing process, triumphing over the stigma of 'suicide', forgiving my husband, and finding peace after chaos.

Free Fall is for widows, widowers, parents, survivors of suicide, family members or friends of one who mourns. This story is for anyone who needs encouragement that there is another side to grief. There is. We're there now. We're looking back and holding our hands out to you saying, "hang in there, you're not alone, and you'll get here, too."



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sending a Letter to Heaven #motherhood

I saw a ghost today.

My son arrived home with his hair cut short--he's wanted to wear it long for years and I choose my battles so let it be. Today he decided to surprise me with it cut off and I nearly cried. Not because I thought it looked horrible, but because there stood my late husband in seventeen year-old boy form.

I knew it would happen one day. I knew I'd turn around and the little boy would have somehow turned into a man. And I also knew he'd look a lot like his dad.

My heart breaks for my son and for my late husband who never got to see him grow.

A note to Sean, my late husband...

Sean, 

You'd be so proud of our son. He tries hard to be the man of the house in your absence and is patient being the only boy surrounded by strong-willed women. He wants desperately to be like you, or I should say, to be like the idea he has of who you were. 

He never got the chance to really know you, did he? He only has pictures of a man that died when he was only seven. I tell him stories, but it's not the same. 

He is busy with his job at a nearby ranch and school--an incredibly strong work ethic, just like you had. But you can't take credit for that, only I can. He's watched me working into the wee hours of the night and again first thing in the morning. He's seen me edit during his lacrosse practices with manuscripts spread across the steering wheel. He's heard me grumbling about fixing leaking faucets and watched me fixing drywall. There's he's been with his helping hands and ready grin. 

He's learned to do manly things when only a boy. 

He's doing his best to fill the shoes that you left vacant. He and one of his buddies are cutting down trees and chopping wood. It's that time of year in the Rockies when we prepare for the winter ahead. When I see him smashing a branch with the axe, I can't help but feel mixed emotions because you should have been the one to teach him to run a chainsaw...not me. You should be the one caring about our family's wood supply, not him. You should have been his partner, not his buddy. 

But you've been gone a long time. We've adjusted and made it work. Yet, during certain moments, the ache for you is so strong I can barely stand it. 

I stopped thinking about should-haves and if-onlys long ago, though. There is only what is. And you're missing out, Sean. You've missed it all. The lacrosse games, the awards banquets, the vacations, the laughter, the grilling out, the stargazing, the teaching him to drive--all of it. 

You've missed it all. 

He's a skier, just like you were. I can only imagine the adventures the two of you would have had if only you'd held on just one more day. 

Just. One. More. Day. 

Didn't you see how much that little boy idolized you? Now here he is, nearly grown, and he still wants to be like you. Do you see that from where you are? Do you walk along side him and whisper words of encouragement when he feels lonely for a father? 

He's like you in so many ways--kind, creative, sensitive, tough, smart, adventurous, and handsome. I look at him and can't help but imagining you two standing side-by-side. My gorgeous men, I would have said, How lucky am I? 

I've fought hard to give him the stability you never had as a child, despite the loss of you in our lives. But it's been damn hard and I'm conscious of both the kids being older to witness the struggle. 

Do you remember the promises we made to these two children when they were born? We broke those, didn't we? We failed to shelter them from life's darkness and pain. 

Do you see us? Do you see the beautiful children we brought into this earth? Do you see how amazing they are? 

Today I turned around and there you stood in the form of Ben. I didn't tell him that he looked like you because I couldn't get the words out. He's had big shoes to fill, that little man of ours. Shoes he never should have needed to fill. 

We all miss you. The void you left is still very much present in our lives. 

The two of you--Ben and Sean standing side-by-side--would have been a beautiful sight to see. 
Sean with the seven year-old Ben in Cozumel, Mexico May 22, 2005--exactly one week before Sean committed suicide. I can't help but look at this picture, see the shoes, remember the love we shared, and wish...