Sunday, October 31, 2004

Firefighter Under The Mistletoe Info and Excerpt

This title is part of my Hood Hamlet series featuring mountain rescuers on Mount Hood. Each book is stand-alone, but share the same setting and cast of characters. Firefighter Under the Mistletoe features paramedic Leanne Thomas who was first introduced in my November 2008 release Rescued by the Magic of Christmas. She also appeared in my free eHarlequin on-line read Snow-kissed Reunion. Both Leanne and firefighter Christian Welton appear in my 2011 RITA® finalist book Christmas Magic on the Mountain.

I'm so excited to finally have the chance to write about Leanne Thomas. She's been a character near and dear to my heart since I wrote the very first Hood Hamlet story. To figure out my "one of the guys" heroine, I spoke with women who climbed, a mountain rescuer and a paramedic to help me figure out my heroine, Leanne. They were big helps!

I also needed the right hero for her. Enter Christian Welton who appeared very briefly in another Hood Hamlet story. The paramedic who helped me with my research is also married to a fellow firefighter! I thought about the kind of hero Leanne might go for I realized it had to be another firefighter.

My working title was Christmas Magic in Hood Hamlet, but the editorial staff at Harlequin Mills & Boon decided to go more for the firefighter angle. But they used my title in the back cover copy!

The book is dedicated to a climbing forum I belong to. I've made some great friends there and found amazing research help over the years. I joined back in 2006! The members have been so awesome helping me with various stories. Hood Hamlet would not exist without them!

I usually have a couple of songs that I listen to while I work on a particular book. For this one the song was: Defying Gravity from Wicked.  I blogged about it and put YouTube videos of the song here.

If you want to know more about my writing this book, you can check my blog archives from January 2011 to April 2011.

You can find the opening of Chapter One posted on Amazon so I thought I'd give you a different excerpt here. Enjoy!


One of the backpacks fell away from the snow cave entrance. The other followed. A red helmet poked inside. OMSAR.

Relief flowed through Christian's cold, sore body. Time to get Owen out of here.

"Yes," Owen whispered.

The rescuer crawled into the snow cave. He held a red duffel bag with a white cross on it. Ice covered his helmet, ski mask, goggles and black parka. The word RESCUE was written in white down one sleeve. He removed his goggles and pulled down his ski mask to expose his mouth.

Not a he. Christian's dry lips curved upward. "Thomas."

Leanne Thomas was a paramedic at the station. Pretty with an athletic, hot body. He'd wanted to ask her out when he first started working at the station, but she wasn't his normal type. He'd decided not to pursue her. A good thing, he'd learned.

Tough as nails and all business, Thomas was like a drill sergeant on steroids when it came to being out on a call or breaking in a new rookie. She took her job seriously, expected others to do the same and never let her hair down. Christian wouldn't mind being around if she ever loosened that tight ponytail or those braids she wore.

Her face was pale except for her cheeks, flushed from the cold. She acknowledged him with a nod and sniffled. "Welton."

Surprising warmth flowed through him. His smile widened. "It's so good to see you."

"Good to see you, too, rookie." She removed her climbing gloves. "Paulson's outside. The chief's been letting us switch shifts so we could bring you home. No one wants to go back to eating Frank's Turkey Meatloaf Surprise for dinner."

Christian laughed. Something he hadn't done since yesterday. It really was good to see her. "I'll cook you whatever you want when we get down."

A smile tugged on the corners of her mouth. "Be careful, I might hold you to that."

She'd saved lives as a paramedic. She would help Owen. "Do."

Thomas pulled on exam gloves. "Injured? Feet?"

"Fine. Feet are cold, but I can feel my toes," he said quickly. "My partner—cousin—Owen fell skiing the face. He's twenty-six. No preexisting medical conditions. Looks like a broken ankle and arm. Some sort of knee injury."

"Hey, I'm right here." Owen sounded annoyed. That was much better than weak. "Conscious, in pain."

"I followed the NEXUS procedure to assess his spine before moving him in here," Christian added. "The threat of hypothermia and surviving the night outweighed spinal injury concerns."

"Good job, Welton," she said.

That was high praise coming from Thomas. He would gloat about it back at the station, but right now, he was relieved she hadn't spotted any problems with his care of his cousin.

As Thomas moved toward Owen, Christian tried to get out of her way. Not an easy feat in the cramped space.

She glanced around. "Did a hobbit design this place?"

"I was in a bit of a hurry," Christian admitted. "After two nights, the snow's settled a bit."

"Well, this cave kept you safe and warm. And you know what they say, size doesn't really matter." She winked at Christian, which caught him totally off guard, then she slid beside Owen. "Hello, Owen. Your cousin's been taking good care of you."

"You have such pretty brown eyes." Owen stared up at her as if she were Aphrodite. "Milk chocolate with a hint of cream."

Christian stiffened. Owen must be in shock if he thought compliments would have an effect on Thomas. She wasn't interested in her looks. Not the way other women were. Sweet words wouldn't sway Thomas, either. She wasn't the flirty type. Christian had never met a more challenging or unapproachable woman in his entire life. But she was strong and capable and here. That made her the most important person in the world at this moment. "My cousin is a chocolatier wannabe."

"I couldn't live without chocolate. Thank you, Owen." Thomas smiled softly, but her gaze focused in on his cuts and bruises. "I'm with OMSAR and a paramedic with Hood Hamlet Fire and Rescue. May I examine you?"

"Yeah." Owen glanced at Christian. "You never told me you worked with any women."

Christian tried hard not to think of her as a woman. "Thomas is one of the guys."

Owen scrunched his face. "You need your eyes examined, dude."

Thomas unzipped the sleeping bag, but kept Owen covered. "What your cousin means is all the men at the station consider me one of the guys. It's the same with the rescue unit."

Appreciation twinkled in Owen's eyes. "Idiots."

Thomas shrugged. "It's easier that way."

Christian found himself nodding, but he wondered if she meant easier on her or the men she worked with. He'd never given any thought to how being one of the guys might make Thomas feel. But then again, he'd never once seen her attempt to show her feminine side. She didn't fuss with makeup or jewelry.

As she examined his ankle, Owen winced. "Still idiots."

Christian stared at his cousin. "You realize you just called me an idiot."

"Yep," Owen said through clenched teeth. "Gotta side with the pretty paramedic in hopes she has pain meds in her bag."

Thomas's eyes twinkled, making her look prettier. "Oh, I have lots of good stuff in here."

"Knew it." Anticipation laced Owen's words.

Okay, so his cousin was flirting to get pain meds. Except…

Owen didn't need to charm medication out of Thomas. He would receive pain meds no matter what. He was flirting to flirt. Thomas didn't seem to mind, either. That was…strange.

Not that what his cousin did was any of his business. Thomas, either. But if anyone was going to get to flirt with her, it should be the guy still on his feet.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Christmas Magic on the Mountain

Before you read this story, you might want to check out Snow-Kissed Reunion, my free online read at eHarlequin where you can meet my hero Sean Hughes. Both stories stand alone, but the eight chapter short story is a nice lead-in to this one.

Sean and his dog Denali also make an appearance in Rescued by the Magic of Christmas which was a Harlequin Romance November 2008 release. Check my booklist for more info about that book!


The familiar sound of the crunch of traction tires against packed snow filled the cab of Sean Hughes's truck. He inhaled the crisp air laced with the scent of pine and the smell of wet dog. Denali, his Siberian husky, panted on the seat next to him.

Winter on Mount Hood was their favorite time of year—boarding, climbing and snowshoeing. Sean grimaced wryly. Too bad Thanksgiving and Christmas had to get in the way of all that fun.

A snowplow heading west passed him.

No doubt the early morning road crews working hard to clear the overnight snowfall from Highway 26. Portlanders would be driving up in throngs today to spend Thanksgiving on the slopes or eating turkey at Timberline Lodge's Cascade dining room.

Sean wished he could be one of them.

A well-cooked dinner served by an obliging wait staff at a nice restaurant where quiet conversation was de rigueur would be better than the chaotic holiday meal at his parents' house where everyone poked their noses into everybody's business. Especially his. No one listened to his "let's eat dinner out" suggestion—not even when he offered to pay for all thirty-eight of them. Make that thirty-nine. One of his cousins had given birth to another baby a couple of months ago.

"A good thing we don't have to be at Mom and Dad's until later." Sean glanced at Denali. "I'd rather spend this bluebird day on the mountain than be stuck inside listening to people tell me what's missing from my life is a wife."

Denali nudged his arm with her nose.

"They don't seem to understand you're my number one girl." Sean patted the dog's head. He had nothing against marriage per se, but he didn't have the time necessary to make a relationship work. He had too many other things going on in his life to make any woman a priority. In the past, he'd somehow given women the wrong idea about his commitment level so now he only dated casually. Much to his family's dismay. "No worries. We'll make the most of the time we have on our own this morning."

The dog stared out the windshield and barked.

At the base of the road leading up to Timberline Lodge stood a snowboarder. A large, overstuffed backpack set at his feet along with a board.

Around here, no one thought twice about hitchhiking up to the ski area or giving a skier or snowboarder a lift.

Sean remembered hitching rides up the hill from locals and strangers when he'd been a teenager. Back then he'd worked all summer for his dad to pay for a season pass. He'd pack a lunch since he couldn't afford to buy a cup of hot chocolate, let alone food. Times and his circumstances sure had changed since then. But seeing the kid made Sean remember the joy and freedom of those days.

Flicking on his left turn signal, he tapped the brakes to slow down. The image of the kid hoping for a ride made a great visual. He would have to mention that to the advertising firm his snowboard manufacturing company used. They were already talking about next season's promo campaign.

He turned off the highway, pulled over to the right and rolled down the passenger window.

A burst of frigid air rushed in. Denali stuck her head out.

The snowboarder straightened. "Hi."

Not a kid. A woman. Even better.

"Hey," Sean said to her.

A wool beanie hid her hair. The fit of her jacket made him wonder what curves lay underneath.

"Beautiful dog," she said.

"Thanks." The woman was pretty herself with pink cheeks and glossed lips. Her outerwear coordinated with the graphics on her board. Not one of his snowboards, but she looked like the type of rider more interested in fashion than in function. He didn't mind. Sean had a soft spot for snow bunnies, especially ones who boarded. "Heading up for a taste of the fresh powder?"

"I hear it's light and fluffy. My favorite kind." Hopeful, clear blue eyes fringed with thick lashes met his. "Have room for one more?"

She was young. Early twenties, maybe. But cute. Very cute. She'd be turning some heads on the slopes today the way she had turned his.

He shifted the truck's gear stick into Park. "I'll put your stuff in the back."

A wide smile lit up her face. "Thanks, but I've got it."

Independent. Sean liked that. Much better than the women who wanted him to do everything for them.

In the rearview mirror, he watched as she put her things into the back. He appreciated how careful she was to avoid his splitboard and the prototype bindings he'd been working on. She kicked the snow from her boots, climbed in the cab and closed the door.

"I can't tell you how happy I am you stopped." She pulled off her mittens and wiggled her fingers in front of the dashboard vents. "Oh, the heat feels so good."

She smelled good. Like vanilla. He wouldn't mind seeing if she tasted as good as she smelled. "Been waiting long?"

"It felt like forever." Her fingers fumbled with the seat belt until she managed to fasten it. "But it was probably only twenty minutes or so. There isn't as much traffic as I thought there'd be this morning."

"Most people won't head up until later." He shifted gears, pressed on the gas pedal and drove up the curving road to Timberline Lodge. "The lifts don't open until nine."

"That explains it." She rubbed her hands together. "I'm Zoe."

"Sean Hughes." Walls of snow from the plow lined each side of the road. "This is Denali."

"Nice to meet both of you."

Denali rubbed her muzzle against Zoe's cheek.

"Off," Sean ordered, his gaze focusing for a moment on Zoe's high cheekbones. The dog obeyed. "She's very friendly."

"I see that." Zoe glanced at the window behind them. "I noticed an OMSAR sticker on the window."

"Oregon Mountain Search and Rescue."

She fiddled with her mittens on her lap. "You guys are on TV a lot."

"When something happens on the mountain, the media flock to Timberline, but otherwise they pretty much leave us alone."

"I suppose really bad things happen up there."

"Sometimes." He thought about fellow OMSAR member and good friend Nick Bishop who had died almost seven years ago climbing on the Reid Headwall. "Accidents can happen to the best climbers."

"I'd like to climb a mountain someday."

"There isn't much in this world that beats standing on a summit," he encouraged. "But it's all about getting to the top and back down safely. You need to be ready, prepared."

With a nod, she rested her left hand on a contented-looking Denali.

Sean noticed her bare ring finger. He'd bet she had a boyfriend. Still, awareness buzzed through him.

"Before I forget," she said. "Happy Thanksgiving."

"Same to you." At least Thanksgiving was only one day. That made the holiday a hundred percent better than Christmas, when the chorus of "When are you settling down?" questions drowned out the carols from the stereo. "You're not from around here."

She stiffened. "Why do you say that?"

"A local would know what time the lifts open."

"Oh, right."

Her cheeks remained pink, even though it wasn't cold in the truck. The women he went out with rarely blushed, but Sean found it charming.

"I got a ride up from Portland yesterday and spent the night at the Hood Hamlet Hostel. I wanted to get an early start this morning." She rubbed Denali. "Spending the day on the slopes before Thanksgiving dinner is a family tradition, but I think I may have started a little too early. I suppose getting up before the sun should have been a clue."

He smiled. "Are you meeting your family later?"

"No." She stared out the window. "I'm on my own this year."

Interesting. Maybe there wasn't a boyfriend in the picture. At least not a serious one.

"Lucky you." Sean negotiated the truck around a tight curve. "I wish I were on my own today."

Zoe turned toward him, her eyes wide. "But it's Thanksgiving."

He smiled. "Exactly."

"The holidays are a time to spend with family."

"I know," he admitted. "That's why I'll be at my parents' house this afternoon with more than three dozen extended family members. Picture total chaos with cooking in the kitchen, football blaring on the TV in the living room, kids running around screaming and my uncle Marty snoring in the recliner. It's so crazy, you can't keep track of the score of the game."

"It sounds wonderful to me."

Zoe sounded wistful, a little sad. Maybe she wasn't as keen on spending Thanksgiving by herself as he would be. Sean couldn't deny his attraction. Truth was, he wouldn't mind spending time with her. "You want to come?"

Uncertainty filled her eyes. "I don't know you."

"You want references? I can probably get 'em for you."

"I know."

He looked at her, not understanding what she meant.

"The OMSAR sticker," she explained. "And you gave me a lift. Obviously you're used to rescuing damsels in distress."

"Rescue is my specialty." That earned him a smile. "So dinner?"

She shook her head.

"Is it my family? Because my relatives make me nuts, but not in an ax-murderer kind of way. The rugrats are pretty cute, and the pies are really good. Ask anyone at the ski area about the Hughes family. We've lived in Hood Hamlet forever."

She laughed, as he hoped she would. "No, I meant… You can't spring an unexpected guest on your mother at the last minute."

Pretty and polite. Not too shabby. "My mom lives for holidays. She makes enough food to send leftovers home with everyone, including Denali."

"That's really kind of you, but—"

"You have other plans."

"No," she said. "I wouldn't want to impose."

"You wouldn't."

"Last-minute guests are always impositions."

Sean should let it go, except he didn't want to.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


Okay, I've been meaning to do this for months now and since I just received an email from my editor telling me that my AAs (author alterations aka galleys) for my April '05 book were on their way, I decided to just take the plunge and try this before I get swept up into a few days of puncuation, spelling and typo checks.

This is actually my first post. My webmistress, Barb, put up the first one. I don't know what I or my website or my books would do without her. So a big thanks for all she does! Now on to today's entry...

My latest obsession has been getting organized. I've been working with a professional organizer off and on since the summer. She was a birthday present to myself . So far we've made it through the attic and garage. My goal is to be done with the house by Thanksgiving so I'm ready for Christmas. I don't know if we'll make it. Clutter = my house. It's pretty said. That said, I am making progress. I've donated over seven minivan loads to charity, returned things to friends I'd forgotten I had, organized all the kids' clothes by sex and age and rummaged through 18 years worth of letters, postcards, cards and other memorabilia. Most of which, I'm sad to say even though my dh and Ellen applauded my efforts, ended up in the recycle bin.

It was hard (often, brutal) to throw things away but I've never felt so much freedom. Getting rid of stuff is almost liberating. And I know wish I would have kept up with flylady instead of turning off all her email reminders!

And even though my organizing is far from over, it's not only made me rethink what I buy, but how I write. Surely if I can organize my house, I can organize my life and writing, including my process of writing. That's the plan, at least. Now to see if I can do it!