Sneak Peek & a Giveaway!

Wanna read the first chapter of Two Feet Under?  That’s right, I’m giving you a sneak peek.  I’m so excited about this book.  I think I love this series so much because it reminds me of Shadow Falls.  Remember Kylie’s experiences with the ghosts? Well, Riley has her own unique problems with them.

Yes, I really believe you guys are going to love Two Feet Under.  Riley’s and Hayden’s story blew me away.  I swear it almost wrote itself.  The spookiness, the romance, the mystery, the danger, the emotion, it pulled me under.  And I can’t wait for it to pull you under, too.

You can preorder Two Feet Under now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.  Don’t wait.  Do it now.  You don’t want be disappointed.

Chapter One

They are everywhere.

I turn off my car, white-knuckle the steering wheel, and lean forward to look out the windshield. I’ve never been around more than two at a time. But I haven’t been to a hospital since I discovered my “gift,” either.

Most of them follow my dad, the local mortician, home from work. For a while I thought that was the only way I could connect to them.Now I know better.

Fear slithers up my spine. What if they all come at me at once?

The heater in the floor of my old Mustang hasn’t stopped pushing warmth out, yet I can already feel it: their special kind of cold, a bone kind of cold. And their emotion. Their regrets, their fear, their loneliness, it’s all soaked up into my skin like dry earth soaks up water. It’s probably their ploy to ensure I help them.

Who needs other people’s feelings and problems crowding your chest? Believe me, I have plenty of my own.

Part of me wants to restart the car and drive away. Stay warm.Stay safe. Stay alive.

But I can’t leave.

Hayden’s in there. Or maybe I should call him Carter now. My grip on the steering wheel tightens, emotion makes my breath shaky.

I’m thankful he’s alive, but at the same time, I’m ready to kill him. How could he do this to me? If he takes that leap into the light, I’ll be responsible, and I won’t be able to forgive myself.

But how was I supposed to know that this time the ghost visiting me wasn’t dead? He was just comatose.

I pick up my phone and check my time. I don’t have a lot of it. Jacob’s picking me up in an hour to go to his lake house for a party. Truth? I don’t want to go now. But it’s too late to cancel. It’d be rude, and for me, being rude is like wearing shoes on the wrong feet. It doesn’t feel or fit right.

I reach for the door handle and give the spirits a glance and plan my route to avoid them as much as possible.Then I force myself to step out of the car. In spite of the winter wind tossing the long blond strands of hair in my face, in spite of the deadly cold, I’m sweating.

My gaze falls on one male spirit holding a motorcycle helmet, sitting on a bench in front of the ER where the ambulances unload the patients. Blood streams down his face. He’s having a hard time holding his head up. It keeps freakishly falling to his shoulder.

He appears lost and confused. So many of them are. They don’t realize they are dead. I hate when I have to be the one to spill the news.

Another man, barrel-chested and in his mid-fifties, paces back and forth at the hospital entrance. He’s shirtless and has those heart monitoring pads stuck to him, with the attached cords dangling off his chest. He’s cursing at the top of his lungs.

Dying sometimes brings out the worst in someone. But for this man, maybe it was too much anger that killed him. The dead aren’t always innocent. I’m just now learning that.

My thoughts go to Dad’s newest client at the funeral home, the prisoner’s spirit who’s been hanging around. The one I’m hoping will just figure out things for himself and take a flying leap into the hereafter. I don’t know anything about him, but his bottled-up rage tells me he wasn’t doing time for jaywalking.

Another spirit peers out a window from the third floor. I swear they’re all looking right at me.

I should be used to this. For a year and a half now I’ve been a ghost magnet. A go-to person when the dead need something fixed, or just someone to break the bad news. I handled it pretty well at first. Finding a sweet elderly man’s cat a home so he could pass on, informing family of a life insurance policy so they afford a funeral. Small stuff.

That’s the way it started. But the last fix wasn’t so small.It put me in the direct path of a serial rapist and murderer. Scary shit.

It’d be better if I knew what the heck I was doing, but apparently dealing with the dead doesn’t come with a rule book or guidelines. I’m improvising as I go, and the whole Hayden issue is proof that I may not be the right person for the job. Problem is, I don’t know where to go to resign my position. It’s not like I asked for it. One day I just woke up and dead people were hanging around.

I take a few steps away from my car and I see another one, an elderly woman with painted-on eyebrows that give her a clownish appearance. She’s dressed in a bright Pepto-Bismol pink velvet sweat suit. And she’s power walking through the parking lot, zipping her way toward me. A dead woman with a death wish. And I’m supposed to grant it.

I look away, pretend I don’t see her. Pretend I’m like everyone else. Clueless to the dead who linger among us.

I walk right past her.

“Hey.” She swings around. “My name’s Ethel Burstein. I’m looking for Fred. Can you help me find him?”

I play deaf. I can’t deal with her now. She falls back, but not before I feel the freezer-burn sensation that comes from being too close to them. I tell myself not to feel guilty. I have to get to Hayden.

Ever since the dark-haired, blue-eyed high school senior followed me home, I’ve been pushing him toward the light and away from my heart. Oh, it hurt, but I thought that was what my job was.Getting him to cross over.

Sure, I knew he was different.Just not that different.

He was young. He was hot. Not as cold.Not as faded.

He could kiss like the devil, had a shoulder perfect for leaning on, a charm that melted my willpower, and a grin that made the air I breathed sweeter. All that time, I beat myself up for falling for a dead person when I didn’t have to.

Shouldn’t he have somehow mentioned it in one of our long conversations? “Hey by the way, I’m not dead?”

I push open the hospital doors and rush to the elevators to the ICU. As I push the button, I realize I don’t have a clue what I’m going to say.

As I get off on the fifth floor and start to look around,an elderly man standing there says, “It’s not visiting hours.”

“When is…” Crap!

“You can come back in ten minutes,” the spirit says. Or not a spirit. He’s like Hayden. He’s not completely faded, not cold, not dead.

Not yet.

He must also be unconscious in the ICU.“The family waiting room is right there.”He motions down the hallway.

I move that way. He follows me. “I can’t find Ethel,” he says. “Can’t understand why she’s not here visiting me.”

Ethel? From the parking lot? This must be her Fred. My heart suddenly feels too heavy for my chest. See why I don’t love this gig?

His sadness fills my pores, and I say, “I’m sure if she could be here, she would.”

He smiles.“You’re right. We’ve been married sixty years. Good years. ”He fades away, looking content. It only soothes my ache a little.

I go into the family room. There are about five people in there. I realize a problem. What if someone else here is also waiting to see Hayden?

Three of the people appear to be together and are speaking Spanish. That probably rules them out—Hayden doesn’t speak Spanish. There’s one woman, standing by the door, who looks the right age to possibly be his mom.If that’s her, I might not get to talk to Hayden. To tell him to fight to stay alive.T o tell him how angry I am at him.

Then an older lady, sitting in the corner fidgeting with her purse strap, stands and joins the woman who could be Mrs. Carter.

“You know he did this to himself,” the older women says in a voice ringing part angry, part hurt.“Doctors told him he was killing himself, but no, he loved whiskey more than us.”

“He’s an alcoholic, Mom.”

“Yeah, and a lot of alcoholics get help.”

“And a lot don’t,” the daughter says. “You should’ve gotten angry at him long before this, but not now.”

They’re clearly not connected to Hayden, but their conversation hurts like a paper cut across the heart. Will I be here one day, thinking that same thing about Dad? He swears he’s not an alcoholic. But that’s not what I read in my mom’s old diary. And it’s not what I believe after finding his alcohol bottles in the dirty clothes hamper.

A few minutes later, everyone starts moving into the hall. I go with them.I don’t know for sure, but I’m betting the hospital only allows family members to visit ICU patients. I’m hoping to just sneak in.

I move in behind the two women, close enough that people will think I’m with them. It’s a big room, with a nurses’ station in the middle and smaller rooms lining the walls. Patient names are on placards beside the open doors. I keep walking until I see one that has Carter on it. I remember Kelsey, the one friend I’ve made since I moved to Catwalk, Texas, telling me that everyone at school called Hayden by his last name, Carter. Why had he told me his last name was Parker?

I stiffen my spine and walk into the room.

I come to a quick stop when I see him. The boy who lies in that bed looks deader than the ghost who fooled me into thinking he was. He’s thinner, his dark hair is too long, and a machine making a swishing sound is pushing air into his lungs. I watch his chest rise and fall and recall seeing his stepdad at the funeral home making funeral arrangements, thinking the end was inevitable.

Forcing myself to move closer to the bed, I’m shaking as I touch the back of his hand.“Hayden?”

I don’t know what I expect. For him to open his eyes, or the ghost I know to suddenly appear beside his own body? Neither happens. The only things in this room with me are cold sadness and a shell of what once was Hayden.

A terrible question hits. Is Hayden already gone? A sad sound leaves my lips. I pull in a deep breath and tell myself it isn’t so. Then I look back at his face. Tears fill my eyes.

“I’m really mad at you right now. You know why, too, don’t you? Why didn’t you tell me?”

I stand there, forcing myself to breathe as if my body forgot it’s on autopilot. I hear footsteps. I look at the door, but no one comes in.

I still stand frozen, my hand on his, listening to the eerie sound of the monitor marking his heartbeats.Thu…thump.Thu…thump. The noise bounces off the white walls.

My heart suddenly skips a beat, then I feel my heart fall into rhythm with his. “Look, Hayden, I don’t know if you can hear me. But please try. You need to fight. Fight to live. You can’t give up. Stay away from the light. Run from it. Live, Hayden.  Please.Wake up. Open your eyes. At least show yourself to me. I want to see you.” My words shake. “I want to…dance with you again.”

“Who are you?” The voice comes from the doorway. The tone isn’t pure accusation, but suspicious enough that I want to scoot out the door.

Instead I get the feet-nailed-to-the-floor feeling. I can’t move.Footsteps enter.

Panic makes my mouth instantly dry. I turn and see a woman standing at my side, studying me…hard.

I know immediately that it’s Hayden’s mother. She has the dark chestnut hair and some of the same facial features as her son.

“Where do you know my son from?”

My tongue feels thick.

“Answer me.”

“I…I’m… My name’s Riley. I’m a friend from school.”

“I…I don’t recognize you,” she says.

“I’m…I’m sort of new.”

Mrs. Carter’s gaze falls to where I’m touching Hayden’s hand.

Afraid she thinks I’m crossing a line, I yank my hand away.

She blinks. Then her light green eyes get a teary sheen to them. “They only allow family in here.”

I don’t know what to say, so I don’t. Only when the silence grows louder than the hospital sounds do I force myself to speak. “I should…go.”

“No,” she says.“I didn’t mean…” She pulls in air, and even that sound expresses her pain. “He needs his friends.” There is so much love. Mother’s love in her voice, in her expression that a lump rises in my throat. Maybe because I no longer have a mom, seeing it, hearing it hurts twice as much.

My sinuses sting. I’m about to fall apart.

I run out of the room.

***

I’m crying by the time I reach my car.  Crawling in the driver’s seat, I shiver, start the engine, and turn up the car’s heater.It spurts out cold air. “Damn!” I thump my palm against the steering wheel, feeling angry, feeling helpless, feeling way too much rage. And just like that, I know it’s not just my emotion.

I see ice crystals form on the inside of my windshield.Then from the corner of my eye, I see someone sitting in my passenger seat. He’s wearing orange. Prison garb.

Crap. What’s he doing here? How did he find me at the hospital?

I want to turn to him, scream for him to get lost, but if I do, he’ll know I can see him and then he’ll never leave me alone.

So I pretend I’m not cold. I pretend I’m not afraid. I pretend I’m not dying inside for Hayden.

Blinking, staring out the windshield, I pretend tears aren’t freezing to my cheeks.

Shifting the car in reverse, I pull out of the hospital parking lot. My hands tremble, so I grip the steering wheel tighter.

“I need you to help me!” the ex-con yells.

I manage not to flinch, at least not on the outside. Go away.Go away. Go away.

“Look at me, damn it! Look at me!”

I keep my gaze locked on the road. He slams a fist on my dashboard. If he wasn’t dead that’d hurt like hell.

“It isn’t fair,” he yells. “Listen to me!”

No, it isn’t fair. But I’m remembering what Hayden looked like, so withered, so gaunt. So dead. Then I recall the desperate love in Mrs. Carter’s eyes.

I keep driving. I turn onto the major street heading to my house.

“I said listen!” He leans so close, yells so loud, his voice hurts my ears. His cold burns my skin and turns the air so arctic it stings my throat and lungs.

Just a few more miles. I can do this. I can. How long does it take to get frostbite?

He reaches over and yanks my steering wheel. What the…?

Ghost aren’t supposed to be able to move things, but this one can. As hard as I try to regain control of the wheel, I can’t. He’s yanking it back and forth. Cars dart out of my way. Horns are blaring. Luckily, I don’t think any of the cars actually crash.

I go to slam on the brakes, but dead-prisoner guy jumps the console, sits his cold butt on top of me, kicks my foot off the brakes, and slams his on the gas. I have freezing pain coursing through me, but I manage to look around him just in time to see my car race across the median and veer right into oncoming traffic.

And leading that traffic is an eighteen-wheeler.

I, Riley Smith, at only seventeen, am going to die.

Giveaway!

Let me know you preordered the book by leaving a comment.  One person who leaves a comment will win a C.C. Hunter tote bag filled with SWAG. (Sorry this giveaway is for U.S. residents only. If you’re reading this on Goodreads, you must comment on my actual blog to enter.)

 

 

Wanna Meet Me?

Do you live in the Houston area? December 8, 2018, I’ll be at Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonet, Houston, TX at 1:00 PM. I’ll be joined by Gerry Bartlett, author of Texas Lightning. Come on by. It’s going to be a blast! For more information go to: https://www.murderbooks.com/hours-and-location.

WINNER!!!

The winner of last week’s giveaway is Wendy.  Congratulations! You’ve won a Mortician’s Daughter memory stick for your computer. Email me at cc@cchunterbooks.com with your postal address.

 

Family Secrets & a Giveaway!

I admit it. I’m a sucker for novels that are about family secrets.  The theme has popped up in both my Christie Craig books and my C.C. Hunter ones.  Remember the secret Kylie uncovered about her father and about her parent’s divorce?  Remember the huge family secret Della uncovered about her father’s sister and brother and even about her dad?  Now, that theme pops up in Two Feet Under.  To me there is just something about secrets that have been buried for a long time that intrigues me and calls for me to explore.  I think it might be because as a teen, I discovered a real family secret.

It enthralled me when I was young and even as an adult.  I was about seventeen when I discovered I had a half-brother I never knew about. One of Dad’s girlfriends got pregnant, but she didn’t tell him for a long time.  In fact, he was married to my mom when he finally learned the truth.  She lived thousands of miles away and other than sending one photograph of the boy, who did look my dad, he never heard from her again.

Recently, I got my DNA and my father’s DNA tested in hopes of finding this half sibling.  But so far, we haven’t connected.

Now, Riley’s secret in Two Feet Under is completely different from mine.  But that quest, the thirst to unearth long hidden truths, is the same.  Riley’s mother passed away when she was four, and she has very few memories of her.  But at seventeen, as Riley grows into a young woman, she starts wondering about her mom.  What was she really like?  How is Riley like her?  How is she different?  Recently, Riley found a diary written by her mom when she was younger, and Riley savors each and every word.  Discovering who her mom really was becomes a serious goal.

This new information unlocks a few memories long hidden in the back of her mind.  Like Riley, her mom loved art.  She even recalls seeing her mom painting and Riley decides to try her hand at oil painting, too.  As she strokes paint on the canvas she feels closer to her mom and even more curious.

But when she starts asking her dad questions about her mother, Riley senses it makes him very uncomfortable.  Why?  What is he hiding?  As she digs deeper into the mystery, she discovers some possibilities that aren’t pretty.  What if her mom turns out not be the woman Riley wants her to be?

You can preorder Two Feet Under now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

Is there a secret looming in your family? Do you like books with the hidden family secret theme?  This week, I’ll give away a One Foot in the Grave flash drive card to one person who posts a comment. (Sorry, but this giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only. If you’re reading this on Goodreads, you must leave a comment on my blog in order to enter this giveaway.)

Winner!

The winner of last week’s giveaway, an Amazon gift card is Alyssa Guyll. Congratulations! Alyssa, please email me a cc@cchunterbooks.com to claim your gift card.

Book Signing in Houston!

Want to meet me? I’d love to meet you? December 8, 2018, I’ll be at Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonet, Houston, TX at 1:00 PM. I’ll be joined by Gerry Bartlett, author of Texas Lightning.  Come join us. There will be cool giveaway! For more information go to: https://www.murderbooks.com/hours-and-location.

 

 

One Thing Writing Young Adult Taught Me & a Giveaway

“You just don’t understand!”

How many times have you heard that line from an unhappy teen?  As the mother of two grown kids, I’ve heard it plenty of times.  And for what’s it worth, many of those times, I heard it, but didn’t really hear it.

What I mean is, our teenagers have a point. We sometimes don’t understand.  Oh, we understood at one time, but as we grew into adults, as we became parents, protective beings out to assure our children avoid the pitfalls of life. I think we forgot.

We forget what it was like to be a teenager.  And I don’t just mean the surging hormones or peer pressure.  But yes, that is certainly a part of it.  What I mean is we forget that they are adults in the making.  They have their own personalities.  Their own goals.  Their own likes and dislikes.  That they have their own lessons to learn.

And yes, that last one is the hardest for us as parents.  We want to protect them from facing anything close to dire consequences.  And yet so many of the lessons we learned in our early years are the ones that helped shape us as human beings.

We often forget how hard it is be under the control of someone else.   We decide where they’ll live, if they move from state to state, and where they’ll go to school.  We decide if they’ll live with both parents or with only one.

Yes, so much of this is out of our control.  And yet we forget how those decisions can affect their lives.

We try to oversee who they are friends with.  What career path they’ll move into.  We try to dictate who they’ll love.  What clothes they’ll wear.  How they’ll wear their hair.

And yes, as parents this is our job.  We are meant to lead. To guide.  And yet so often our guidance is directed by our own beacons and sometimes even our own prejudices.  We neglect to remember how our own paths led us away from that of our parents.  That an essential part of growing up is discovering who we are and how we differ from those around us.

Sometimes I think we forget a valuable tool we have as parents is the one to step back and not to crowd, to listen and not command, to advise and not rule.  Yet sometimes even though stepping back is exactly what we need to do, we overlook that option.  And yes, knowing the when it’s right and when it’s wrong sometimes feels impossible.

I think as parents we often forget that our children are not immune to our mistakes, our missteps, the consequences of our bad choices, and even the bad luck we encounter.  Even when we have no fault, when life hits us hard, it hits them, too.

In my young adult books I plagiarize from real life and often from my own teen years.  In my novel that releases March 26th, In Another Life, a young adult thriller, I write about how Chloe’s life is turned upside down by her parent’s bitter divorce and her father’s adultery.  Add her mom’s cancer and depression and you have a girl who is more emotionally stable than her own parents.

In Two Feet Under, the second book in my Mortician’s Daughter series that releases in December, Riley lost her mother when she was young and is being raised by her father who is an alcoholic.  A man who drinks to hide the pain of his past.  A past that Riley senses holds secrets about her own life and now she’s determined to unearth them.

When I was asked to write young adult, I questioned my ability to do it.  Could I crawl into the skin of teenager and relate?  I believe I accomplished this by taking a long stroll down memory lane.  Amazingly, I discovered that teens today deal with most of the same issues I dealt with as a teen.  Yes, they have social media and it makes it’s harder, but the underlining issues are the same:  parents, peer pressure, drugs, alcohol and sex.

I wish I’d have gotten into writing young adult books sooner, when my children were younger. I think it would have made me a better parent to them as teenagers.

And just as writing these books opened my eyes as to how I could have been a better parent, I believe reading them can offer the same benefit to others.

Do you look back at your own coming-of-age time?  Do you remember one thing in which you wish your parents had given you a little more leeway?  Do you recall something that your parents did that felt so unfair and yet, now you see they were right?  If you are a teen, is there something that you feel your parents just don’t understand?

One person who leaves a comment will win a $15 Amazon card.

Happy Reading!

Movie Favorites

I love going to the movies. I don’t go as often as I  like because, well, I’m a writer, so I spend a lot of my time writing. So, often I end up watching a movie on Netflix or Amazon. But I still enjoy seeing them. I have some old favorites, ones that I’m always ready to watch, and I have a few newer movies I love. I thought I’d share my favorites with you.

Here are a few older movies I love:

While You Were Sleeping

A hopeless romantic Chicago Transit Authority token collector is mistaken for the fiancé of a coma patient.

This is such a great movie. Some of you younger readers probably haven’t seen it, but if you’re a romantic, you MUST watch this movie. Sandra Bullock is adorable! Get your tissues ready.

Bird on a Wire

An old flame discovers her ex-boyfriend from the past is a relocated FBI informant out to stop the bad guys.

This is another romantic movie, but with a lot of action. I love Goldie Hawn (for you youngster, that’s Kate Hudson’s  mom). She and Mel Gibson are great on screen together.

Lethal Weapon

Two newly paired cops who are complete opposites must put aside their differences in order to catch a gang of drug smugglers.

Another Mel Gibson movie with loads of action, but a lot of laughs, too.

Die Hard

John McClane, officer of the NYPD, tries to save his wife Holly Gennaro and several others that were taken hostage by German terrorist Hans Gruber during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.

This is more of an action movie than a love story, but I enjoy how McClane will stop at nothing to save his estranged wife. An added bonus is seeing the talented Alan Rickman play a bad guy. He’s amazing!

 

 

And yes, I do like some newer movies, too. Here are a few:

Collateral Beauty

Retreating from life after a tragedy, a man questions the universe by writing to Love, Time and Death. Receiving unexpected answers, he begins to see how these things interlock and how even loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.

This is a movie with a message. Wil Smith shows another side to his acting in this movie as he struggles with a loss.

I Feel Pretty

A woman struggling with insecurity wakes from a fall believing she is the most beautiful and capable woman on the planet. Her new confidence empowers her to live fearlessly, but what happens when she realizes her appearance never changed?

Another movie with a message, especially for women. I feel really great every time I watch this movie. All women really should take the time to see this one!

Okay, so most of my favorite movies have a romantic theme. What did you expect? I write romance into all my books. My Christie Craig books are all romantic suspense, and my YA novels have a romance and some danger, too.

So, what are some of your favorite movies? And why?