Thursday, October 07, 2010

Special Gifts by Linda Conrad

All of us have a few special gifts in our lives. Some of these gifts we might keep secret and some we like to shout from the rooftops. Wonderful gifts like a special talent, a most loved pet, a long-term romance. Special things or special times that make us happy.

One of those gifts for me is having a new book on the shelves. So indulge me for a second while I shout it from the rooftops! My October book is a novella called SECOND-CHANCE SHERIFF and it’s part of the three-author anthology Covert Christmas. I had done only one other online novella alone, so writing with the fabulous authors, Marilyn Pappano and Loreth Anne White was a great treat.

Covert Christmas has been getting terrific reviews. The RT Bookreviews reviewer gave it a 4 ½ star TOP PICK and said: “Each story has excellent writing and characterization. Romance needs more like these!”

We felt proud and humbled by those words.

When the editors asked us to write reunion stories that take place at Christmas, I was all for it. In the first place, Christmas is another one of my special things. And in the second, I had been secretly dreaming of a Christmas story for several years. But that story didn’t really match the requirements of a Silhouette Romantic Suspense. So I went to work and found a way to make my dream story work as a suspenseful reunion story (and still keep the Christmas angel that I had been dreaming about)

My hero in SECOND-CHANCE SHERIFF is so caught up with guilt from something he did in the past that he almost misses the possibility of recapturing his lost love. While the heroine of the story isn’t particularly ready to let go of her past in order to give him that chance. It takes a little girl and a Christmas angel to get these two to open their eyes.

Here’s an excerpt from SECOND-CHANCE SHERIFF:

“When I get back,” Cam began. “I want to hear all the details on this undercover operation of yours.” Shaking his head as though the idea of her being undercover was absolutely absurd, he disappeared around the corner.

Tara didn’t know whether to be insulted or scared. She’d been so sure that Cam’s whole family would be here for the holidays. It had never occurred to her that the two of them would become isolated together—alone.

Facing a hit-man might be preferable.

Needing to move around so she could think her predicament through, Tara tested her nearly frozen feet by placing one down on the hardwood floor. Man, that hurt like the devil. She was sure glad she’d thought to put on her padded socks under her boots and jeans before she’d left her apartment this morning and headed out for the governor’s vacation home in Aspen.

The idea gave her chills. She could be worrying about losing toes to frostbite instead of fussing about spending time alone with an old boyfriend.

An old married boyfriend.

The stabbing pain in the bottom of her foot became bearable so she put the other one down on the floor next to it. Yipes. She had to bite her lip to keep from screaming. But within minutes she felt stronger and more stable. Maybe she was going to live through the experience after all.

As she straightened and looked around the great-room, the lights came back on. She went to the fireplace, added a few more logs and stirred the fire. Soon it was blazing.

Looking around the room again, Tara finally realized what she was seeing. Or not seeing. She’d been to Cam’s home during the holidays many times growing up. Back then, the whole place had glowed with decorations, lovingly put up by Cam’s grandparents. Festive lights, wrapped packages and yummy smells coming from the kitchen. It was one of the clearest memories from her childhood.

Yet today, a few days before Christmas, this great-room was empty of everything but furniture. Except for the roaring fire, it might as well be August.

Where was the tree? Where were the wreaths and holly?

Wandering from room to room downstairs, she searched for anything that said Christmas. With no luck.

Tara easily climbed the stairs to the second floor bedrooms. Surely up here she would find some sign of holiday spirit.

She checked each room as she went down the hall. The first two were guest rooms, and bland. When she came to the room she’d used as a teenager, her hand hesitated on the door handle. Tara wasn’t sure she wanted to see this room again after all these years. Too many memories. Both good and bad.

But as the door creaked open, Tara was shocked to see a fantasyland in various shades of pink instead of the cool blues and greens of her youth. The bed was covered with stuffed animals. Yes, this room was most definitely being used by a little girl.

Cam must have a daughter. As Tara moved around the room, she lightly touched the toys and the music boxes. This could be her own little girl’s room. If only things had worked out differently.

On top of the dresser, she found several framed photos. A little girl with blonde pigtails, holding Cam’s hand. An older couple with the same girl at a birthday party. Tara looked around again, but couldn’t find any pictures of Cam’s wife.

In fact, Tara couldn’t remember seeing any pictures of a young woman anywhere in the house. She quickly walked out of the girl’s room and headed for the master bedroom. This was going to hurt, but now that she’d thought of it, she needed to see some evidence of the woman who currently owned this house and belonged to Cam.

Tara hesitated once again at the door, but then took a breath and pushed it open. The room that had once belonged to Cam’s grandparents had not changed much.

Still the same beige walls. The same heavy, wood-hewn furniture. Even the same king-sized bed with thick down-filled mattress.

But there were no photos. None at all that she could see. Not even of the pretty little girl.

Something was wrong in this house. Turning, she headed for the walk-in closet and threw open the doors.

Except for Cam’s clothes, the huge closet stood empty. Empty? Was Cam divorced?

“Find what you were looking for?” Cam’s voice spun her around.


* * *

Both Cam and Tara needed to stop their lives and figure out what they love the most. I believe we all need to stop occasionally and remind ourselves what we have that we love. The things we might take for granted but should be thankful for everyday. I have so many: My husband, my puppy dog KiKi, my writing ability.

So here (at last) is my question to you. What are a few of your special things? Do you do something very well: like bake or garden? Do you have a special pet you’d love to tell the world about? Have you recently found a new love or celebrated a long term anniversary that makes you grateful?

I’ll pick two winners at random to receive a copy of Covert Christmas from the comments.

To read more about Linda, her books, and enter her contest, go to :
Our winner is: Mary! Congrats! Email me your mailing address:
The rest of you might try my website contest! Have a great holiday!


host said...

Congrats on your new release!!! I love Christmas stories :)

One of my special things is 14 years relationshiop with my boyfriend, it's such a gift.

Linda Henderson said...

I always enjoy holiday stories, no matter what time of year. My grandchildren would be my special things. I have a new grandson this year and we were very happy to welcome him to the family. I love spending time with all of them. They are all special.

Alison said...

My mother taught me to knit when I was four - before I learned to read. May not seem very thrilling but it was one the best gifts ever as I've used it to make my own clothes when I was broke, to keep my hands occupied when my mind was racing, and to prevent me being lazy when watching TV. 25 blankets, unknown numbers of jumpers and cardigans, socks... I've knitted them all. Wonder how many stitches in total?

Linda Conrad said...

Tks for the congrats! This story was such a gift for me.

A fourteen year relationship is a rare gift. Glad you appreciate it!

Linda Conrad said...

Hey Linda (waving!)

Ah, grandbabies are the best things ever! I agree. And kids always make Christmas special. Enjoy them!

Linda Conrad said...

How original, Alison! But perfect! Thats exactly the kind of thing we all would take for granted and it sounds like for you it's truly a blessing. So glad you mentioned it! Thanks!

Pat Cochran said...

I include among my strong points
volunteerism ( 40 yrs/HS reunion committee, 35 yrs/parish, 25 yrs/
school district), friendship( 58
yr/school friends),& our almost
50 years of marriage. Oh,I'm also
a pretty good grandma to our ten
grandchildren! I am truly blessed!

Pat Cochran

Linda Conrad said...

Hi Pat,
Yes indeed, you have many reasons to be blessed. Thanks for sharing them with us!

Estella said...

I love holiday themed stories!
I am am an avid gardener. I can the produce so we can enjoy it through the winter.

Mary said...

Congrats on the new release! I love reading Christmas Stories and read them all year long just to get that Christmas-y feel they give you.

I taught myself how to make beaded jewelry because one year I didn't have the money to buy a lot of gifts for Christmas and wanted to be able to give everyone something. So for the women I made bracelets, necklaces and earrings and for the guys I made cookies. lol

Now I make myself beaded jewelry because I can make expensive looking earrings for just a few bucks. I made my daughter a halloween bracelet this week and she loved it.

Linda Conrad said...

Hi Estella!
Canning! How fabulous. I have a sister-in-law who cans. Wish I knew how. That's a terrific thing to be thankful for.

Linda Conrad said...

Thanks, Mary! I love holiday themed books too. :)) Makes me start dreaming of pine and wood smoke (and cookies!)
Making your own jewelry is a fabulous gift. Remind me to contact you if I need new errings.

Virginia said...

Congrats on your book, I love to read Christmas books, so I am sure I would enjoy this one.

My special thing is the quilts I make. I love to make baby quilts to give to the new little ones that come into the world. I hope to get back into making them this winter, I have been slacking during the summer months.


Christina Hollis said...

I love to make things with my hands, though I'm always short of time. That's why I tend to concentrate on cooking - it can be a communal family activity, and we get to eat the results. The best sort of multi-tasking!

Linda Conrad said...

Hi Virginia!
Baby quilts are so sweet! We have a new baby boy in our family and we've been thinking a lot about baby things. That's a wonderful gift to have.

Linda Conrad said...

I love to cook with the family too, Christina. We don't do it nearly enough because of time either. But feeding people with love is the best gift ever! Thank you for mentioning it!

Linda Conrad said...

Thanks everyone for a terrific blog! It's been such fun talking about things we love. Good way to get in the mood for Christmas. Hope you all have a terrific one!
I wish I could sent every one of you my Christmas book.

But my hubby just picked a random name and the winner is: Mary! Congratulations! Please send me your mailing address to:

Thanks again, all!

Mary said...

Oh my goodness! Thanks so much...sending email right now. :)

gigi said...

Congratulations on the new release. I missed the day this blog was written because the 7th was my birthday and My husband and I
went out of town.
I multitask very well. I love to bake.
I love my dog of 11 years. she is so smart.
Both my daughters are in college and my husband i think is just the best.
So I feel very lucky in that respect. I know I missed the drawing but I still wanted to comment.

Linda Conrad said...

Happy Belated Birthday, gigi!
So glad you commented. Sounds like you have a lot to be grateful for! Yay, you!
Me too. Most of all I'm grateful for you!