It's time to Deck The Halls and shake those Jingle Bells because it's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas. That's right elves and elvettes, it's Christmas and that means Christmas stories. I'll feature a couple of my selections over the next few weeks. Here's the first and it's a collection of stories from Down Under authors.
Santa says this is a gift from him to you. This collection is free to download at Smashwords.
A Season to Remember
A Christmas anthology from four Australian authors
Eva Scott, Susanne Bellamy, Elizabeth Ellen Carter, and Noelle Clark
Release Date: November 17, 2014 - Available now
Free download from Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/493542
An adventure romance set in the early 19th century on the Devon Coast. Laura Winter lives on St Joseph’s Rock, a tidal island that is home to a lighthouse that protects Ashton-on-Sea. On a late November day a violent storm brings not only the handsome Lieutenant Michael Renten but also a clutch of pirates bent on wreaking mischief.
Excerpts from Three Ships
Laura’s father watched her shoulder the long coil of rope.
“I’m not happy, dear girl. I should be the one going down there, not you.”
She gave a pointed look at his injured foot. The way down to the beach was not sheer but it was no gentle slope either and the footing would be treacherous. “Well, needs must,” she replied firmly. “I’ll be back quickly.”
His response was a grimace. He secured the trailing end of the coiled rope to Acorn’s saddle.
“Watch your step, Laura,” he admonished.
Trailing the rope out as she went, Laura picked her way with caredown the side of the hill where the low-growing grass was slick. She grew up here and knew the cliffs well enough to treat them with respect. The saltiness from exploding waves filled her nostrils. She could even taste it on the back of her throat.
The beach filled and emptied as the waves churned in.
She scrambled over one rock, then around another to reach the man. The hem of her skirt darkened in the splashing water.
Still a few feet away, she called out.
“Sailor! Sailor, ahoy!”
The man remained still.
Laura looked back up the thirty feet to where her father peered back, concerned. He called to her but his words were ripped away by the wind.
Her only choice was to approach the man.
The sailor’s shirt was torn and shredded, the sodden fabric dark and clinging to the contours of his back. His black hair whipped in the wind like the damp grass around the chickens.
She touched his cheek. His skin was cold.
It might already be too late!
Laura drew a deep breath and grasped his shoulders.
“Come on sailor, time to wake up,” she said hopefully, shaking him.
The man obliged her with a groan; Laura matched it with a sigh of relief.
“Help is here,” she said.
The man raised himself to his elbows and looked blearily at her. It was hard to determine his age. He seemed much younger than her father but older than Dickie Wells.
“Where are you hurt? Your back? Your legs?”
The man sat up gingerly, shaking his head at each question.
“We’re going to haul you out,” she said.
The man looked her up and down and flashed her a quick smile, his pale blue eyes twinkling with sudden merriment.
“My guardian angel…” he rasped, interrupted by a hacking cough. “Where is the rest of your heavenly choir?”
‘Sands of Time’ by Noelle Clark
Kitty faces her first Christmas without the love of her life. She looks back with fondness on the memories of Christmases past and, with the love and support of her grandson Joe, finds inner strength to face the future with anticipation. Kitty realises that, as she gets older, time passes so quickly. Although sad and happy memories flood through her on this special Christmas day, she chooses to embrace every moment of life.
Excerpts: Sands of Time
They were nearing Kingfisher Island. Not a grain of the tract that joined the small sandy cay to the mainland was visible. A couple of small boats were moored along the deep channel on the southern side of the causeway, with people fishing from them. The boats bobbed up and down on the whitecaps, sometimes disappearing from view, then emerging again.
“Just over there, please, Joe. Near that clump of mangroves.”
Joe pulled on one oar, turning the bow of the boat towards where she pointed. Within a minute, she heard the sand scraping against the keel under the boat. Clamping her hand on the gunwale for support, she stood carefully and jumped over the side, landing in knee-deep water. Joe shipped the oars and joined her, the water not even reaching halfway to his knees. He grabbed the pointy prow and pulled the boat up onto the beach.
She gazed around her, the familiar sight of the few remaining stumpy mangrove trees, and the covering of pigface on the small dunes bringing a lump to her throat. The mauve star-shaped blossoms of the coastal succulent groundcover looked exactly as they had done for all these years. Nature’s legacy, constant and predictable, unlike humans, whose term on this planet was fleeting. For a moment she recalled the faint, salty perfume of the little dune succulents whose strong roots helped the sandy hillocks from washing away with each tide. When crushed, they emitted a soft waft of delicate scent. Not for the first time, she wondered why they’d been given the hideous name of pigface.
Joe’s outstretched hand appeared before her eyes, inviting her to take it. She refocused her vision, reached out, grasped it, and took a few steps through the water and up towards the sandy beach. Joe tugged gently on her hand, helping her to stand upright in the choppy waters which made the little boat bob roughly. A cascade of spray caught them both in the face as it slapped against the side of the wooden boat with a thud. They laughed in unison, blinking at each other through salt-filled eyes.
“Gotcha, Nan.” Joe’s smile, always so generous, beamed at her. She smiled back, raised her arm, and wiped her face with the sleeve of her blouse.
He held on to her hand until she reached the dry beach, then he stretched into the prow of the dinghy and pulled out an anchor attached to a sturdy rope, walked further up the beach, and buried it firmly into the sand. When it was secured, Joe turned and retrieved the picnic basket and the rest of the things they needed for their visit to the island, and deposited them where the low dunes met the beach. She walked to the picnic basket, leaned over and opened it, took out an old blue blanket, and spread it down on the sparse tufts of grass. Ignoring her sand-encrusted feet, she stepped onto the blanket, sank back on her elbows and gazed dreamily up at the cobalt sky.
‘All That Glitters’ by Eva Scott
Molly is a modern day Cinderella, second best to her half-sister Aimee and never measuring up to her step-mother’s expectations. Now Aimee has the chance to marry an elderly millionaire and Molly is expected to keep the man’s grandson, Connor Rathmore, from sabotaging the event. Handsome, charismatic and very, very sexy - how is she going to keep him from sabotaging her heart?
Excerpt: All That Glitters
“Well, are you ready?” She sounded rude but it was all she could manage to say. On the way over to pick him up she’d been too preoccupied to consider him at all. Instead she replayed the conversation she’d had with her stepmother. After receiving a reprimand for arriving late, Maria had grilled her over Connor Rathmore and found her answers less than satisfactory. Then the lecture started on her appearance. Where were the shoes? She’d kicked off those horrible expensive shoes at the airport and hadn’t given them another thought. An unforgivable act in her stepmother’s eyes. It was impressed upon her that she must try harder and remember her sister’s happiness. Of course. Molly loved her half-sister, Aimee, despite the fact the girl was spoilt rotten. Underneath all the embellishments she really did have a good heart. It wasn’t Aimee’s fault she’d been raised to be a life-sized doll.
She appraised the man before her. She steeled herself not to react to him. When he’d opened the hotel room door, more primal male than any man she had ever encountered, something unexpected happened to her. Bam! Right to the heart. Very inconvenient and impossible, the idea could not be entertained. Not for a millisecond. The consequences would be devastating.
“Good evening to you too.” He bestowed what she assumed was his best killer smile. “Shall we go?”
He stepped through the door, so close the heat radiating off his body hit her like a furnace. Her natural reserve began to melt. The scent of him was so… masculine and her knees wobbled as she caught her breath. Moving away wasn’t an option, even if she tried.
He smiled as if aware of the effect he had on her. Without looking back he strode towards the elevator and pushed the button. They stood in silence side by side while they waited. The animal magnetism between them shimmered, increasing with every passing second.
Molly’s senses scrambled. She stumbled into the lift. This situation would need careful handling. The man beside her must not guess his presence caused a meltdown. Her attraction to him created a complication she did not need. Just one week. Please help me make it through this one week. If her stepmother suspected an attraction between Molly and Connor, all hell would break loose.
‘A Touch of Christmas’ by Susanne Bellamy
As Starship Bluefire settles into orbit around Earth, Captain Andra Veluthian anticipates meeting her favourite human, Colonel Nick Madigan. Have his efforts to save the planet succeeded? And if so, will she lose any chance to be with him?
Knowing Andra’s fascination with all things Terran, Nick has planned a surprise for her. After all, it is Christmas, the season of giving. But when Earth’s leader and the Gravlarian captain spend time planet side, the temperature soars.
Excerpts: A Touch of Christmas
Starship Bluefire – Log entry #1878 Orbit established around Planet Earth. Local time: 0715 - 22 December 2525 AD
Captain Andra Veluthian ordered her viewing screen to retract, rolled her shoulders then rested her head against the padded headrest of her Conforma-chair and looked at the view. Framed by a huge window on the bridge, planet Earth appeared close and surprisingly whiter than on her last stopover two years earlier. Through breaks in the dense cloud cover she could even discern the long coastline of what Earth dwellers used to call South America and, just appearing on the western edge across an expanse of ocean, was the island continent they called Australia. Home of the wombat, wallaroo and one handsome colonel.
Colonel Nicholas Madigan, political leader and guiding hand in Earth’s struggle against extinction.
Last visit, the fair-haired colonel had set more than a few hearts pounding among her crew. Including hers.
A future with words was always on the books for Elizabeth Ellen Carter who started writing her own stories when she ran out of Nancy Drew mysteries to read at the age of ten. Using her mother’s Olivetti typewriter with all italic keys, she spent endless school holidays making up her own (italicised) stories and then using the Dewey Decimal System to arrange and categorise her bookshelf.
Somewhere around the age of 13, she determined to become a journalist and at 17 was awarded a newspaper cadetship. She covered news, council, education and health but had the most fun as an entertainment and features reporter covering film, TV and music.
Best of all, she met her husband at the newspaper and, together, they started a small award-winning media, marketing and advertising agency. Today, she works as marketing manager for an international organic skin care company.
In 2012, Elizabeth also returned to the keyboard to write stories (and found laptops are so much better than manual typewriters).
Her debut novel, Moonstone Obsession, was shortlisted for the 2013 Romance Writers of Australia’s Emerald Awards for unpublished manuscripts.
Elizabeth is a member of the Romance Writers of Australia, the Australian Romance Readers Association and the Gold Coast Writers Association. She is currently published by Etopia Press.
Noelle Clark is an Australian author of contemporary romance and commercial historical fiction novels. Her books weave romance, intrigue, and adventure into colourful, exotic, and interesting locations around the world. Widely travelled, Noelle uses real life experience of places, culture, and people as a backdrop to her stories, giving the reader an authentic taste of the location. Her novels feature strong, mature heroines and heroes, who—often without knowing it—are ready for new beginnings.
She lives close to the sea and shares her home with two cats and two dogs. She has two grown up children, and five very small grandchildren. When Noelle's not writing and travelling, she plays guitar, tends her vegetable garden, enjoys the company of family and friends, and—of course—reading.
Noelle is a member of Queensland Writers Centre; YON Beyond Writing Group; Romance Writers of Australia; and Australian Romance Readers Association, and is currently published by Etopia Press and Secret Cravings Publishing.
Eva ScottEva Scott writes contemporary romance set in her homeland of Australia and historical fiction set in the Ancient World. Her books offer passion and adventure in some of the most beautiful and intriguing places in the world. Her heroes and heroines are strong, sassy and ready to rise to their challenges, and learn a little bit about themselves along the way.
Having lived overseas for several years, Eva returned to study Anthropology before heading off to live in Papua New Guinea for a year. There she met the love of her life, author G.W. Gibson, who was stationed there with the Australian Defence Force. The rest is history, romantic history.
She now lives on the Redcliffe peninsula with her husband, small son and an assortment of animals. When Eva is not writing she enjoys mentoring first-time authors, cooking up a story, practising yoga and getting out on the bay on her stand-up paddle board.
Eva is a member of Romance Writers of Australia; North Lakes Writers Group; Queensland Writers Centre and Australian Romance Readers Association. She is published by Musa Publishing and Harlequin Escape.
Susanne is an Australian author of contemporary and suspense romances set in exciting and often exotic locations. Her heroes have to be pretty special to live up to the real life one she married. He saved her life then married her. They live on the edge of bush land on a mountain in beautiful sunny Queensland, Australia with two children and their dog.
Paris will always be one of her top spots, and she fell in love with Scotland when they visited the west coast (nothing to do with fine single malts!), and recently had her first real trip to Italy--tick off one Bucket List item! She has enjoyed New Year in Kathmandu and trekked in the Annapurnas, sailed in Ha Long Bay on a junk, and stayed on a floating hotel beside a tethered elephant in Thailand. The Peak in Hong Kong and Mt Faber cable car ride in Singapore are favourite spots. Susanne loves travelling to new places and exploring the culture and history, and meeting new people. These experiences are gradually being incorporated into her stories.
Her as yet unrealised dream is a trip into Earth’s orbit.
Susanne is a member of RWA and enjoys mentoring new authors. She is published with Escape Publishing, and will be a 2015 release author with Entangled Publishing.