Thursday, November 27, 2014

December Rain by AL Goulden

Title: December Rain
Author: A.L. Goulden 
Series: August Fog #2 
Publication date: November 25th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica, Romance
Monica and Alex Waters have spent that last few months working to repair a broken marriage and rekindle their passion. Just as they start finding their spark, Quinn Matthews and his escalating career resurfaces, but this time Alex makes the decision to let Monica go.

The devastation of losing her high school sweetheart, her home, and even her dog twists Monica down a destructive path that alienates her from her closest friends and lands her on Quinn’s couch. Despite her efforts to resist jumping into his arms again, the spark between them reignites and sweeps her away on a whirlwind holiday adventure. She finds that falling in love with Quinn’s family and lifestyle is as easy as falling for his ocean colored eyes. The problem is that it’s all too easy, and when she sees that Quinn’s reinvented life has completely shifted towards her dreams, she starts to question whether he’s too good to be true.

Quinn has a secret that was never meant to be kept this long, but will Monica be able to trust another man who’s lied? And now that Quinn’s got his happily ever after in sight, he’s not about to let her go or share her with another man.

     The outdoor style shopping mall is bustling with tourist and local art lovers. Rows of art galleries surround the courtyard where a stage welcomes a local reggae band. Monica settles into a groove and starts dancing with the crowd. Alex tries to hang in for a couple of songs before he starts feeling claustrophobic and looks to the galleries and shops around them.
     “Go ahead,” she says with a loving smile. “I’ll meet you down there… after one more song.”
     He gives her a little kiss on the cheek and glides his hand across her behind before making his way out of the crowd. His attention is pulled by various pieces in gallery windows along the way. There’s a large glass sea turtle in shades of green and gold followed by a painting of an autumn forest with heavy texture. He stands daydreaming for a minute until he’s distracted by a reflection passing in the glass. It’s so brief he’s sure it’s his imagination. He barely catches a glimpse down the mall as the backside of the man disappears into another gallery.
     Alex follows the ghost, dodging through happy couples and pushy salespeople trying to get his attention. Before he can see inside the gallery, a painting that’s prominently displayed on a front wall stops him. A cold washes over as he stands there staring at it. He slowly moves inside, mesmerized by the familiar vibrant paint strokes until he sees a few people gathered in the back. A man talking to two smiling women stills himself as Alex’s eyes freeze on the back of his shaved head. No words were needed as the tropical air takes a chill. Even the women sense a showdown, and step back to give Quinn room.
     Quinn turns. What do I say? Fuck! I thought that was him. I hoped it wasn’t. Quinn moves very slowly towards Alex. Is he gonna hit me? I do deserve it. Might as well get it over with. “Hey.” Quinn pauses near the center of the room waiting.
     Alex swallows hard, his nostrils flaring and fist clenched. His jaw flexes as his breathing grows heavier, but the emotions just start to turn to mush. His eyes fill as thoughts of his new friend’s betrayal wash over and the painting draws his eyes again.
     “I’m sorry Alex,” Quinn says quietly.
     Monica nearly passes the gallery on her way to see their friends when Alex’s shirt first catches her eye. She halts and shifts backwards until she sees the painting and stops. It’s a female figure bent forward reaching for her toes. The abstract form of her body in swirls of orange and reds is cradled by a man swathed in blues and purple. Oh my God! That’s me. That’s us, stretching. It can’t be. He’s...
     She struggles for air as the tears swell, and she can already feel him. As she stands there, not crossing the threshold, the two men watch her. When her eyes finally land on Quinn, electricity fills the room. She can only see him and the deep tan that backdrops the pale oceany eyes reaching for her. A warm drop gently slides down her cheekbone as her breathing syncs with his. His lips move slightly hinting at words that he can’t find, and she struggles not to run into his arms.
     Alex’s discomfort is audible as he clears his clogged throat to rattle her attention to his worried eyes. She steps in and touches his hand briefly. “I’ll be outside,” she says, turning without another glance at Quinn.
     Her feet move quick as her thoughts try to keep up. What are they doing? Alex is gonna hit him. I can’t believe he’s here. What are the odds? Did he know we’d be here? No. Maybe he moved here. That painting was him and I together. Would Alex know that? It’s pretty abstract. Fuck! This can’t be happening. Before she knows it, she’s at the other end of the mall near the parking lot. She settles on a bench to wait for the world to stop crumbling around her. 


Author Interview:
How did you come up with the story?
There is a little bit of real life in the story. I was laid up on the couch for a summer, forced to quit my job, because of three stress fractures in my ankle that wouldn't heal. I was reading a lot to pass the time and eventually started writing. There really was a sexy neighbor, he really is an artist, but there was never really an affair. Luckily I'm married to a man that finds my overactive imagination amusing and he never once thought it was autobiographic.

So many of the books I was reading had a similar heroine who was "damaged" as well as the same alpha males. I wanted to build characters that were realistic and flawed to see if I could make them sexy as well. People you would know. Your best friend or coworker. Real life is complicated and real love is even worse. I knew Monica wasn't always going to be likable. As much as we'd like to deny it, most of us aren't when we're going through life changes or stressful events. But that wasn't a reason not to connect to her or even understand her. I didn't want a woman who just callously throws away her life-long commitment because she needs to have sex. Monica loves her husband. He's her best friend. But she realizes that she wants more than a friend and Quinn reminds her that she's more than just this wife.

I struggled with the premise of an artist, because it's been done so many times and is a little cliche. But I know a lot of real artists, painters, sculptors, whose lives are very free and I wanted Quinn to have that. It's an element in Monica's past that she let go of and forgot about. So, I looked at it like another opportunity to take a cliche and make it more realistic. There are secrets behind him that will eventually test her ideas of freedom and trust. It's all about her growing into who she is supposed to be and finding out in her mid-thirties that she hasn't been honest with herself.

I set out to create a story that touches on the complications of love and commitment. It's been an adventure and I've learned so much. I never thought it would be a finished novel, much less multiple, but once I got into it I didn't want to stop. I know I still have a ton to hone and learn, but I'm finding that the challenges of writing are so addictive that I can't imagine ever quitting now. It's become my vice I guess. The reality is that I have another career still as a Production Designer and Art Director in film and television so writing does tend to be crammed into my nights and weekends or between shows.

What led you into writing? Was it a lifelong ambition, or the result of some type of turning point in your life?
I've been writing casually since I was in fifth grade. My first story was about five fifth grade boys and an escaped con. Stories were the biggest reason I got into the film and television industry, but as a visual person I ended up in the art department. It's only been the last few years that I was provoked to push myself to write novels.

About Cover Design?
I love designing my own book covers and graphics. I chose the titles of each book based on the literal and emotional condition in Monica Waters' life. The element that links all three book covers together is the eye and the predominantly white background. I wanted to reflect the voyeurism that runs through Monica's world, as well as the intense effect Quinn's blue eyes have one her. Instead of going dark, as erotic covers tend to be, I wanted to connect to the comfort she finds in a white blanket of fog. I was warned that a white cover might not attract the right readers, but I'm not one to shy away from doing things differently.

Through the series each cover slips into a new shade of oceany color that works with the accent images. August Fog was all about San Francisco and the fog that took over when the complicated affair began. December Rain reflects the tears shed and washing away of everything she knew before Quinn. I don't want to spoil April Snow's cover yet, but I'll say that it reflects springing into a new beginning and her growth. Hopefully readers will see the transformation and get the undertones of the story in just a glance.

What are you working on now?
I'm writing the final book in the August Fog series titled April Snow as well as a stand alone novel called Chasing Swells. I'm really excited about Chasing Swells because it's so different from this series, but it will be a little sad to say goodbye those characters.

What are some of your likes and dislikes?
Likes (or LOVES): 
Chocolate - The darker the better!
Cooking - Anything I can do in a dutch oven or cast iron skillet.
Complicated characters with mystery. - Not all has to be unveiled to me.
Movies - I am a film-o-holic.
Laughter - Life is too short to live without it.

Instant Love in romance novels. (Lust is okay though.)
Assumptions (I'm guilty unfortunately.)
Chardonnay (One bad night can spoil it forever.)
Mean spirited people. (A no brainer though right?)

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn't know?
I love to build things. I built the decks in our backyard by myself. It started as a dare, but I did it.

If there was one thing you could tell your readers, what would it be?
Thank you. Thank you for giving some of your time to hang out with me and my characters.

Author Bio:
I'm a designer, author, wife and dog-lover living in the South Pasadena area of California. I got my BFA in Film Production from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, but my love of a good story came way before college. I remember writing my first full story in fifth grade on a typewriter. I cut and pasted it into a book, complete with cardboard cover and taped binding. Things have changed a lot since then. With the magnificent digital age I can produce books and give them to the world without a sticky mess.

In college numerous instructors and peers praised my dialogue pushed me to hone my storytelling skills. Of course the need to cut and paste was still there, so I went into the world of Production Design and Art Direction for films and television. It gave me the ability to connect design to storytelling in a way that no other career can. The past 18 years have spun a unique perspective on visually emotional tales of relationships and the thread that ties all things together. Now I'm shifting focus on the driving force that brought me here... stories. I hope that I can share a unique perspective on life, love and the pursuit in all of the above.

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2 signed copied of December Rain
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Saving Charlie by Anne Conley

TITLE – Saving Charlie
SERIES – Stories of Serendipity
AUTHOR – Anne Conley
GENRE – Contemporary Romance
PUBLICATION DATE – Nov. 15, 2014
LENGTH (Pages/# Words) – 75K
PUBLISHER – Anne Conley
COVER ARTIST – Vanessa Booke

100,000 children are sexually trafficked every year in the US.  In the 1990s, Charlie was one of those children.  She’s spent her adult life getting past that, trying to become a successful business owner in Serendipity, TX.   Relationships are not goals for her.  In fact, she’s not even sure she has what it takes to be a part of one.

Les is a fool for love.  All he’s ever wanted was a girl.  Now that every last one of his friends are married, and in happy relationships with families, he can’t stop thinking about the sexy lady who sells house parts, even if everything about her screams at him to stay away.  He just can’t.

When they are thrown together on a cross-country road trip, Charlie’s past comes back to her full-force, long-buried memories inundating her.  Les seems to be the only thing grounding her to the present, when everything else seems to be trying to tear her apart.

While it has a HEA, the road getting there is long, rough, and dark.  Enjoy the ride.

     They were passing a sign for White Sands when Les tugged gently on a piece of her hair.  “Let’s stop here for a little bit and stretch.”
     She agreed and when they pulled into the national monument, Charlie was overwhelmed.  “Wow…It looks like a beach with no water.”
     Les climbed out of the truck and walked into a pristine patch of sand, unmarred by footsteps.  She laughed as he proceeded to mess up the unadulterated landscape by doing cartwheels and whooping.  She watched his transformation with blatant amusement and a little bit of jealousy.  He was so carefree in almost everything he did.  It was breathtaking to watch this grown man play in the desert like a child.
     “Hey, Charlie!  Come here!”  He called her over to where he was making a snow angel in the sand, flapping his arms and legs wildly.  She couldn’t help herself.  She stood next to him and fell back with a thud, making her own angel in the sand.
     She was close enough that her hand brushed Les’s when she flapped, and he grabbed it and clasped.  She turned her head to look at him and saw his face breaking into a smile that matched her own.
     They gallivanted around, Les piggy-backing her around the park, having sand fights, and stealing kisses.  Charlie couldn’t stop the giddy feeling erupting from her.  Her entire adult life, she’d tried to stay away from being a part of something like this, and now that she’d finally let herself do it, she felt like a teenager.  She wanted to touch Les all the time, walking hand in hand, or better yet, with her arm around his torso.  She stole looks at him, and the best were the kisses he pretended to steal from her when she wasn’t expecting them.  She was a part of something special with Les, a half of a whole, and the possibilities she allowed herself to ponder filled her with an unfamiliar longing.
     They snapped photos of each other clowning around, and themselves together.  Charlie couldn’t remember when she’d had more fun, just laughing at herself and someone else.
     Les deposited her on a hill, with her back to him and told her not to look until he said so.  She closed her eyes and nodded, then with a mysterious grunt, he was gone.  She waited, a small smile on her face, wondering what he was up to.  When he finally called to her from some distance, she looked.
     Les was at the bottom of a hill in an enormous heart he’d made by shuffling his feet in the sand.  Inside the heart were the initials, C + L.  It was an impossibly juvenile endeavor, and it brought a tear to Charlie’s eyes.  She pulled out her phone and snapped a picture.
     Back at the truck, she watched, amused, as Les tried to shake all of the sand out of his clothes before climbing into her truck.  He stripped off his shirt, socks and shoes before shaking everything out.  She ignored the flutter in her belly at the sight of his shirtless chest, and instead poked fun at him slapping at his jeans.
     “Are you always so anal about dirt in vehicles?”
     He looked at her, his eyebrows waggling, an impish smirk on his face.  “Why, Sweetness, did you just suggest Anal?”
     She blushed furiously, “No.”  Getting into the truck, she was suddenly worried.  Did he do that sort of stuff?  He seemed so sweet, like a missionary type guy, maybe doggy-style, but anal?  Was he into the hard-core stuff?  Would he want to tie her up?  Charlie didn’t do bondage, in any form.
     Back on the road, the silence was uncomfortable for Charlie as she tried to wrap her mind around the alarming thoughts racing through her head.  Finally, she decided to just put it out there.
     “Are you into stuff like that?  Anal?”
     He snapped his head around, shock evident on his face.  “It was a joke, Charlie.  I didn’t mean anything by it.”  His fingers reached over for a tendril of her hair, and she rested her cheek on his hand.
     “I was just checking.  I don’t...” she took a deep breath.  “I don’t like sex like that.”
     His hand drifted down to her leg.  “I just like sex, Charlie.  And I have an idea if it’s with you, it’ll be amazing, no matter what kind it is.”  He squeezed where his hand was on her thigh.  “I don’t need all that other stuff, blindfolds and toys and stuff.  I just like your basic sex.”  Just the image in her mind of the two of them together had a warm pool of moisture coating the inside of Charlie’s panties.
     “So, you’re a missionary man?”
     He chuckled and adjusted his crotch while an adorable blush crept up his neck.  Charlie liked that the conversation was getting to him, too.  “Missionary, cowgirl, doggy-style, I like it all, but I like using the correct holes, and have never felt the need for aids in the bedroom.”
      Charlie heard the exhale of relief from her mouth, as well as Les’s soft chuckle, but she couldn’t concentrate on the relief she felt, she was too busy tamping down the images of Les making love to her in ways she didn’t really want to think about right now.  Oh hell, who was she kidding?  She totally wanted to think about them.

     The shed at the end of the row held all of her molding and some of her flooring.  Filled with stacks of old wood, it was a critter haven.
     “Watch out for snakes.  ‘Tis the season.”  In fact, it was unseasonably warm and dry this year, which had the snakes out and looking for water in unlikely places.  “The molding is all over against this wall back here.”  She picked her way through the piles of wood, watching where she stepped, leading the way to where Les needed to look.
      A low whistle came from Les.  “This is some pretty nice stuff.  Where’d you get it?”
     “Um, some of it came from a remodel Mr. Burt did last winter, some of it came from an auction in Jacksonville, and some of it came from the old Lancaster place on Serendipity Road when they tore it down.  I made a deal with those folks.  They let me come in and take what I wanted for a small fee.”
     “Cool,” Les murmured as he pulled pieces away from the wall, choosing what he wanted to take with him.  Suddenly, he dropped everything with a girlish shriek and jumped back.  Charlie was at his side in an instant, gun drawn.  
     Sure enough, a copperhead about two feet long lay there, coiled up and looking deceptively innocent.
     “Good eye, Les.  Those things are bad news.”  Carefully, she aimed at the head, and as soon as she drew a bead on it, the head disintegrated with a loud bang.  Smoke hung in the air along with the gunpowder’s acrid smell.
     “My hero.  I hate snakes.”  Les tried to chuckle good-naturedly, but Charlie could see he was shaken up.  “They don’t travel in pairs, do they?”  He was looking around them, eyes wild while he shoved his shaking hands in his pockets.  Charlie suppressed her giggle.  He probably hated clowns, too.
     “No, that’s water moccasins.   At least, that’s what I’ve heard, anyway.”  She picked up the pieces of molding he’d dropped and led the way out the shed, lithely dancing between piles of wood.
     “You always packing out here?”
     “Yeah, it’s snake shot in a .22 revolver.  Won’t really hurt a man, but it’ll blow off a snake’s head in a heartbeat.”  This was her home now, and as distasteful as snakes were, she’d learned to co-exist with the non-poisonous ones and she had a bullet for every poisonous one she ran across.
     “I feel so safe with you.”  The teasing lilt in his voice brought a smile to her face.
     “I aim to please,” she drawled.

     When the crowd began to disperse, there was a small torrent of people standing and walking past her chair, just before someone whispered in her ear.  The voice froze her in time, and she closed her eyes as it grated across her skin.
     “You are my diamond in the rough.”  Not someone.  Him.  His voice sounded weaker than she remembered, but it was unmistakable.
     Her head and body spun around to see The Man while her heart stopped.  There was nobody behind her, where the voice had come from.  
     Les asked her, “What’s wrong, Charlie?”  When she turned back to her front to face him, her eyes caught on her empty place setting, where the servers had cleared everything away.
     The raccoon was sitting on the table in front of her.  He’d left it for her.
     “He’s here…”  She whispered it to herself, but Les heard her.
     “Who?  Charlie, you’re so pale.”  He grabbed her hand and saw the small child’s meal toy on the table.  “What’s this?”  He picked it up, and she smacked it out of his hands.  It bounced across the table, where Les’s friends were all looking at her, mouths in various stages of openness, silently staring at her outburst.  Charlie didn’t care.
     “Don’t touch it.  It’s evil.  He put it there.”  She wasn’t making any sense, but didn’t see how she could.  Her vision was tunneled on the innocent looking creature, lying on its side on the other side of the table, a child’s toy that represented a childhood she’d never had.
     Her heart pounded in her ears, a loud whooshing sound that wiped out all ambient noises.  Her bowels loosened and she could feel the blood drain from her face.  She knew she would pass out if she couldn’t get her body under control.
     Charlie stood, her entire body shaking, as she spun around, trying to find The Man.  She knew he was here, and she was angry that he had reduced her to a trembling mass of fear.  She suddenly wanted to kill him.
     If she could find him.
     “Charlie, what’s wrong?”  Les’s arms were around her.  “Oh God.  You’re shaking like a leaf. Let’s get out of here.”  He tried to turn her, to lead her away, but Charlie resisted.
     “Find him, Les.”  Black started creeping around the edges of her vision, and she knew the night wasn’t going to end well for her and Les.
     “The Man.”
     Les’s face was fading away into a fog, but she saw concern clearly etched on his features, as he asked the final question of the night.  “What man?  Charlie?”
     Holding her limp body in his arms, Les felt impotent.  Frantically looking around, he found Rachel’s astute gaze on them.  
     “You know something about this?”  She shook her head.
     “Not really, but I think I can find out.  Let me go make some calls.”  Rachel stood and stoically left the table, while her husband, Sam, came around to take Charlie’s pulse.
     “She’s okay,” Sam said after a quick examination.  “She’s just fainted.  She might need some oxygen, and I’ve got a tank in my Jeep, but other than that, she’ll be fine.”
     Les scooped her up in his arms and started carrying her out of the crowd.  “Move back, please.  I just need to get her some fresh air.”  He heard the command in his voice and honestly had no clue where it was coming from.  He was scared shitless.  Somebody had come into his function and scared the life out of his girl, and he was going to find out who it was, and what had her so terrified.  
     Renae followed him to Sam’s Jeep while Sam unlocked it.  Rachel had disappeared when he’d given his instructions to find out what Charlie was talking about, and Les knew she was on the job.  Her tireless efficiency and endless resources were a boon to the Refuge, and Les would use them to his advantage.
     Renae’s voice broke through his fog.  “I saw who it was, Les.  I mean… I didn’t know him, I’ve never seen him before, but I got a look at the man who was talking to her when she… reacted.”
     Sam had the Jeep door open and Les deposited Charlie on the seat.  “Get with Rachel.  She may want you with one of the composite artists to get a picture.  I want this guy.”
     Putting the oxygen mask over her face, Sam asked, “Who do you think it is?”
     Les raked his hand through his hair in a gesture of complete and utter frustration.  “I have no fucking clue, but he’s the key I need to unlock what the hell has happened to her. And I’m going to find him.”

Author Bio:
Anne has written her entire life and has the boxes of angst-filled journals and poetry to prove it. She's been writing for public consumption for the last four years. Currently she is writing two romance series. In Stories of Serendipity, she explores real people living real lives in small town Texas in a contemporary romance setting. In The Four Winds, she chronicles God's four closest archangels, Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael, falling in love and becoming human. She lives in rural East Texas with her husband and children in her own private oasis, where she prides herself in her complete lack of social skills, choosing instead to live with the people inside her head.

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Ebook of Saving Charlie
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