New Year, New You?

Happy New Year, y’all! It’s hard to believe the holidays are behind us and it’s time to turn our attention to 2019. This is the time of year that I usually ask you about your New Year’s resolutions, and I tell you all about mine. But this year, I have something new for you to consider.

This week I listened to a podcast with various people discussing their resolutions. There were the usual ones: lose weight, exercise more, spend less time on social media, etc. One of the guests (and I can’t remember who it was) had a different approach. She said her therapist told her to stop making New Year’s resolutions because she was setting herself up for failure. Not that the therapist thought she wouldn’t follow through with any of them, but that even if she slipped up on one, she would see that as failure.

Instead, the therapist suggested she make intentions. They are easier to follow and it isn’t a pass/fail situation. She said we beat ourselves up enough without setting up a list of things we can fail at, then feel guilty over. Now, while I believe in goals and resolutions, I admit that at times I feel a little guilty, too.  So, I’m not going to make resolutions this year, I’m going to make intentions. And while I intend to do these things, if I don’t, I won’t feel like a failure.

Her final piece of advice? Always give yourself a second chance. I like that, too.

So what are your intentions for 2019? What would you like to see happen?

Me.  I want to get healthier.  I want to slow down a little and do some of those crazy things on my I’d-like-to-do-that list.  Go to Scotland and Ireland.  Maybe a take a cooking class.  And always, spend more time with friends.

Pillow Talk

Can we talk bedroom stuff?

Calm down, I mean what’s on the bed and not what happens in the bed. I am a pillow connoisseur.  Hubby says he can’t find me for all the pillows I use.  I use one under my head, one under my knees.  One across my stomach and I love it when I can have one to my side so if I roll over I have a side pillow.  I know.  I know that’s a bit extreme.  But hey, sleep is important.

I love my down pillows. I was so proud when I found some down pillows at a discount outlet and I only paid in the $20s. It was a waste of money when I realized these had the stems of the feathers and during the night you can get pricked by your pillow. Then a couple of years ago, I went out and bought two $100 down pillows.  Then hearing all the talk about the memory-foam-stay-cool pillows I went out and brought one of those for another Benjamin bill.  Last year when I felt like my down pillows were going a little limp, I went and bought another one for $130. (I always buy at Bed, Bath & Beyond and use their 20% off coupons, but my point is I think a great pillow is worth digging deep in my wallet.)  But this year, I told hubby what I wanted for Christmas were some good pillows. He told me to go pick them out. I did. And WOW.  I got sticker shock.  For a king size down pillow—which is what I like—a good one starts at $189.00 and goes up to $269.00.

I stood there in a punch-drunk state, trying to justify spending $500 dollars for two pillows.  I couldn’t do it.  So . . . I got a saleswoman to show me some alternatives. They took me to the down-like pillows. None of them felt right, so I went with the newish shredded memory foam pillows with Viscose covers made from Bamboo. They were approximately $40 each. I like them—not as much as my down pillow—but I don’t dislike them enough to pay $130 more.

Now here’s my problem. These are my gift. But hubby thinks one is for him. You know I share, but I reserve the right to tease the heck out of him.  Why?  You see, in our early years, we had a pillow fight.  Not hitting each other with a pillow but fighting about pillows. When we were planning to get married, hubby and I went shopping for our new place together. He took me to Wal-Mart and while running the aisles he picked up two (the cheapest they had) $3.99 pillows.  That should have been a warning sign, but nope, I married him anyway.  However, in that Wal-Mart I looked him right in the eye and said, “Uh, no!”  His reply was, “Why not?  I could use anything for a pillow. Heck, when camping, I use a wet life jacket, and I could use that at home.”

In a firm voice, I told him, he was free to use a wet life jacket, but I refused to use that or a potato-sack of chunky foam that they claim is a pillow.  He bought the sack of foam, and I bought the nicer pillow, I think mine cost around $12 dollars. I seriously thought hubby was going to have a heart attack. Yeah, this does point to the fact that he has mellowed with age, and it’s also probably due to our better financial situation. But it’s not all age or finances. He just learned how wrong he was.  You see, within seven months of bringing home that nicer pillow, I bought another one.  One night, Hubby pulled one of my pillows over and used mine as we watched TV.  When we turned out the light, I asked for my pillow back and handed him his.  His reply was… “But can’t you use the cheaper one under your legs, and let me have this one?”

Yup, he was caving and discovering the benefits of good-pillow life.  But years later, in the month of September, something happened that really had him eating his words. We went camping.  When packing I grabbed two pillows and two blankets to take with me. Hubby shook his head. “No. You don’t take pillows or blankets camping.  You use a life jacket and your sleeping bag is all you need for cover.” My reply.  “Oh, yeah, I remember your wet life jacket point.  But my point is that I agree to sleep on the ground, pee in a dirty camping bathroom that I might have to walk blocks to get to, but I’ll be damned if I go without a pillow and a blanket”

So my pillows and blankets were packed. My hubby and son, both playing the macho card, refused to bring pillows or blankets.  That night while roughing it in a three-man tent, it got cold.  Yeah.  Really cold.  Then it started raining.  Hard.  The ground was so cold I used my unzipped sleeping bag so I wouldn’t feel the chill from the ground.  I was snuggled in, quite toasty with my blankets on top, one pillow under my legs and one under my head.

My son cratered first. “Uh, Mom. Can I have a pillow and blanket. This life jacket is wet and I’m cold.”

I muttered under my breath, but I’m a mom and relinquished my knee pillow. Hubby joined in with his pity request and tossed his wet life jacket to the side of the tent.  “Yeah, and you love me so we can share a pillow and the blanket.”

He knew he was toast and had given me lifetime bitching rights. But I still felt sorry for him, so I shared.  After that he gave up the notion that he didn’t need a nice pillow.  In fact, he started fighting for the better of the down pillows, claiming I could use the now-slightly-limp, cheaper down pillow under my legs since I use the memory foam pillow under my head.

And since I brought home my Christmas pillows, he’s already taken ownership of one. When I jabbed him about it he said, “You should be proud for me.  I’ve come to see your side of this issue.” I countered with, “You just need to invest in nicer life jackets.”

So, what kind of pillows do you like and why?  How many pillows do you sleep with?  Is a wet life jacket sufficient?  How much do you spend on pillows?  Am I the only one complaining about pillow inflation?

Winner!

The winner of last week’s giveaway is Vanessa. Congratulations! Please email me at cc@cchunterbooks.com to claim your Amazon gift card.

Happy New Year!!!

Holiday Giveaway!

I’m going to admit something.  More times than not, I don’t look forward to spending hours getting the house decorated for Christmas.  But after only a few minutes of opening up the storage boxes to pull out the decorations, I find myself in a warm cozy place where I’m swept away by all the memories from all the Christmases past.  It happens when I pull out the Santa pictures we take every year.

My favorite photo is this one where my grandmother, who passed away seven years ago, was with us.  She’s sitting on Santa’s lap. I remember we walked away from the Santa, she smiled at me and said.  “Well, that was a first.  I’ve never sat on Santa’s lap before.”

That happy feeling happens again when I start hanging Christmas ornaments.  Oh, the memories…  There are the ones the kids made when they were young.  Love those.  I laugh extra hard when I see demonic gingerbread men my son painted when he was six.  Or the falling apart ornament my daughter made in Brownies.

 

 

We have an ornament of E.T. that we got the first year hubby and I married.  We took my daughter to see the movie and to this day, she loves that ornament.  Every time I see it, I remember how excited my daughter was to get that ornament.

We have one ornament from my husband’s childhood that we don’t even hang on the tree, instead it sits on a special shelf.

I love the beautiful decorations that I buy every year, but it’s the old ones, the ones I’ve had for years that bring me the most holiday joy.  And after only a few minutes, I stop thinking of the decorating as a chore and it turns to a bunch of happy trips down memory lane.

When thinking about Christmas ornaments, did you know the modern day idea of a Christmas tree originated in 16th century Germany and the first ornaments were berries, nuts and apples?  Then, in the 1840’s, a published depiction of Queen Victoria celebrating Christmas with her family around a decorated evergreen tree resulted in Americans adopting the tradition. In short order, local businesses caught on to the ornament’s commercial potential, and by the 1890’s, 25 million dollars worth of ornaments were imported from Germany.

 

 

Giveaway!!

Tell me about your favorite ornament, the one that brings a smile to your face and I’ll give away a $10 Amazon gift card to one person who leaves a comment. (Sorry, but this giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only,)

Winners!!

The winners from last week’s giveaway are Alicia, Jennifer Prager and April Taylor. Congratulations! Please email me at cc@cchunterbooks.com to claim your books.

Newsletter Contest Winners!!

Do you subscribe to my newsletter? If you don’t you should. I have special giveaways just for my newsletter subscribers. In my last newsletter i gave away a snuggly, fuzzy wrap, soft, warm socks and one of the first ARCs (Advanced Reader’s Copy) of In Another Life. And the winner is Tanesha Johns. The two runners up who each won a CC Hunter t-shirt, are Brandy Klocko and Dottie Redmond.  Please email me with your postal address and t-shirt size to cc@cchunterbookscom. You can subscribe to my newsletter HERE.

 

Happy Holidays from the Craig Clan to you.  May you have lots of family time, good food and laughter.

 

Release Day for Two Feet Under & Giveaway!!!

It’s release day for Two Feet Under. I’m so freaking thrilled. I can’t wait for you to read this new edition of Riley and Hayden. You can order Two Feet Under now at AmazonBarnes & Noble and KoboBut I have another surprise for you.  Yup.  It’s a big one, too.  In the back of Two Feet Under you’ll get the first three chapters of my March 26th release, In Another Life.  You’ll meet Chloe and Cash.  And I have a feeling you are going to love them.  The chemistry between these two is hot, hot, hot.  The emotions in this book make it a real heart tugger, plus the mystery and suspense will keep you on the very edge of your seat. Now just for you, here’s a sneak peek of In Another Life.  

Giveaway!!

If you preorder In Another Life leave a comment here and I’ll enter you to win Two Feet Under playing cards and a memory stick for your computer. (Sorry, but this giveaway is limited to U.S.residents only.)

 

 

 

 

What would you do if your whole life was a lie and learning the truth could cost you your life?

Chloe was three years old when she became Chloe Holden, but her adoption didn’t scar her, and she’s had a great life. Now, fourteen years later, her loving parents’ marriage has fallen apart and her mom has moved them to Joyful, Texas. Starting twelfth grade as the new kid at school, everything Chloe loved about her life is gone. And feelings of déjà vu from her early childhood start haunting her.

When Chloe meets Cash Colton she feels drawn to him, as though they’re kindred spirits. Until Cash tells her the real reason he sought her out: Chloe looks exactly like the daughter his foster parents lost years ago, and he’s determined to figure out the truth.

As Chloe and Cash delve deeper into her adoption, the more things don’t add up, and the more strange things start happening. Why is Chloe’s adoption a secret that people would kill for?

You can preorder In Another Life now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Indie Books and Powells.

In Another Life Excerpt

Chapter One

“What are you doing?” I ask when Dad pulls over at a convenience store only a mile from where Mom and I are now living. My voice sounds rusty after not talking during the five-hour ride. But I was afraid that if I said anything, it would all spill out: My anger. My hurt. My disappointment in the man who used to be my superhero.

“I need gas and a bathroom,” he says.

“Bathroom? So you can’t even come in to see Mom when you drop me off?” My heart crinkles up like a used piece of aluminum foil.

He meets my eyes, ignores my questions, and says, “You want anything?”

“Yeah. My freaking life back!” I jump out of the car and slam the door so hard, the sound of the metal hitting metal cracks in the hot Texas air. I haul ass across the parking lot, watching my white sandals eat up the pavement, hiding the sheen of tears in my eyes.

“Chloe,” Dad calls out. I move faster.

Eyes still down, I yank open the door, bolt inside the store, and smack right into someone. Like, my boobs smash against someone’s chest.

“Crap,” a deep voice growls.

A Styrofoam cup hits the ground. Frozen red slushie explodes all over my white sandals. The cup lands on its side, bleeding red on the white tile.

I swallow the lump in my throat and jerk back, removing my B cup boobs from some guy’s chest.

“Sorry,” he mutters, even though it’s my fault.

I force myself to look up, seeing first his wide chest, then his eyes and the jet-black hair scattered across his brow. Great! Why couldn’t he be some old fart?

I return to his bright green eyes and watch as they shift from apologetic to shocked, then to angry.

I should say something—like, add my own apology—but the lump in my throat returns with a vengeance.

“Shit.” The word sneaks through his frown.

Yeah, all of this is shit! I hear Dad call my name again from outside.

My throat closes tighter and tears sting my eyes. Embarrassed to cry in front of a stranger, I snatch off my sandals and dart to a cooler.

Opening the glass door, I stick my head in needing a cooldown. I swat a few stray tears off my cheeks. Then I feel someone next to me. Dad’s not letting this go.

“Just admit you screwed up!” I look over and am swallowed by those same angry light green eyes from a minute ago. “I thought you were. . . Sorry,” I say, knowing it’s late for an apology. His look is unsettling.

He continues to glare. An all-in-my-face kind of glare. As if this is more than a spilled slushie to him.

“I’ll pay for it.” When he doesn’t even blink, I add another, “I’m sorry.”

His question seethes out. “Why are you here?”

“What?  Do I know you?” I know I was rude, but—hotness aside—this guy is freaking me out.

His eyes flash anger. “What do you want?” His tone carries an accusation I don’t understand.

“What do you mean?” I counter.

“Whatever you’re trying to pull, don’t do it.”

He’s still staring me down. And I feel like I’m shrinking in his glare.

“I’m not . . . You must have me mixed up with someone else.” I shake my head, unsure if this guy’s as crazy as he is sexy. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. But I said I’m sorry.” I grab a canned drink and barefoot, carrying sticky sandals, hurry to the front of the store.

Dad walks in, scowling.

“Careful,” a cashier says to Dad while mopping up the slushie just inside the door.

“Sorry,” I mutter to the worker, then point to Dad. “He’s paying for my Dr Pepper! And for that slushie.”

I storm off to the car, get in, and hold the cold Diet Dr Pepper can to my forehead. The hair on the back of my neck starts dancing. I look around, and the weird hot guy is standing outside the store, staring at me again.

Whatever you’re trying to pull, don’t do it.

Yup, crazy. I look away to escape his gaze. Dad climbs back in the car. He doesn’t start it, just sits there, eyeballing me. “You know this isn’t easy for me either.”

“Right.” So why did you leave?

He starts the car, but before we drive off, I look around again and see the dark-haired boy standing in the parking lot, writing on the palm of his hand.

Is he writing down Dad’s license plate number? He’s a freak. I almost say something to Dad but remember I’m pissed at him.

Dad pulls away. I focus on the rearview mirror. The hot guy stays there, eyes glued on Dad’s car, and I stay glued on him until he’s nothing but a speck in the mirror.

“I know this is hard,” Dad says. “I think about you every day.”

I nod, but don’t speak.

Minutes later, Dad pulls over in front of our mailbox. Or rather Mom’s and mine. Dad’s home isn’t with us anymore. “I’ll call you tomorrow to see how your first day of school was.”

My gut knots into a pretzel with the reminder that I’ll be starting as a senior at a new school. I stare out at the old house, in the old neighborhood. This house once belonged to my grandmother. Mom’s been renting it to an elderly couple for years. Now we live here. In a house that smells like old people . . . and sadness.

“Is she home?” Dad asks.

In the dusk of sunset, our house is dark. Gold light leaks out of next door, Lindsey’s house—she’s the one and only person I know my own age in town.

“Mom’s probably resting,” I answer.

There’s a pause. “How’s she doing?”

You finally ask? I look at him gripping the wheel and staring at the house. “Fine.” I open the car door, not wanting to draw out the goodbye. It hurts too much.

“Hey.” He smiles. “At least give me a hug?”

I don’t want to, but for some reason—because under all this anger, I still love him—I lean over the console and hug him. He doesn’t even smell like my dad. He’s wearing cologne that Darlene probably bought him. Tears sting my eyes.

“Bye.” I get one slushie-dyed foot out the car.

Before my butt’s off the seat, he says, “Is she going back to work soon?”

I swing around. “Is that why you asked about her? Because of money?”

“No.” But the lie is so clear in his voice, it hangs in the air.

Who is this man? He dyes the silver at his temples. He’s sporting a spiky haircut and wearing a T‑shirt with the name of a band he didn’t even know existed until Darlene.

Before I can stop myself, the words trip off my tongue. “Why? Does your girlfriend need a new pair of Jimmy Choos?”

“Don’t, Chloe,” he says sternly. “You sound like your mom.”

That hurt now knots in my throat. “Pleeease. If I sounded like my mom, I’d say, ‘Does the whore bitch need a new pair of Jimmy Choos!’” I swing back to the door.

He catches my arm. “Look, young lady, I can’t ask you to love her like I do, but I expect you to respect her.”

“Respect her? You have to earn respect, Dad! If I wore the clothes she wears, you’d ground me. In fact, I don’t even respect you anymore! You screwed up my life. You screwed up Mom’s life. And now you’re screwing someone eighteen years younger than yourself.” I bolt out and get halfway to the house when I hear his car door open and slam.

“Chloe. Your stuff.” He sounds angry, but he can just join the crowd, because I’m more than mad—I’m hurt.

If I weren’t afraid he’d follow me into the house all pissed off and start an argument with Mom, I’d just keep going. But I don’t have it in me to hear them fight again. And I’m not sure Mom’s up to it either. I don’t have an option but to do the right thing. It sucks when you’re the only person in the family acting like an adult.

I swing around, swat at my tears, and head back to the curb.

He’s standing beside his car, my backpack in one hand and a huge shopping bag with the new school clothes he bought me in the other. Great. Now I feel like an ungrateful bitch.

When I get to him, I mutter, “Thanks for the clothes.”

He says, “Why are you so mad at me?”

So many reasons. Which one do I pick? “You let Darlene turn my room into a gym.”

He shakes his head. “We moved your stuff into the other bedroom.”

“But that was my room, Dad.”

“Is that really why you’re mad or. . .? He pauses. “It’s not my fault that your mom got—”

“Keep thinking that,” I snap. “One of these days, you might even believe it!”

Hands full, chest heavy, I leave my onetime superhero and my broken heart scattered on the sidewalk. My tears are falling fast and hot by the time I shut the front door behind me.

Buttercup, a medium-sized yellow mutt of a dog, greets me with a wagging tail and a whimper. I ignore him. I drop my backpack, my shopping bag, and dart into the bathroom. Felix, my red tabby cat, darts in with me.

I attempt to shut the door in a normal way instead of an I’m-totally-pissed way. If Mom sees me like this, it’ll upset her. Even worse, it’ll fuel her anger.

“Chloe?” Mom calls. “Is that you?”

“Yeah. I’m in the bathroom.” I hope I don’t sound as emotionally ripped as I feel.

I drop down on the toilet seat, press the backs of my hands against my forehead, and try to breathe.

Mom’s steps creak across the old wood floors. Her voice sounds behind the door. “You okay, hon?”

Felix is purring, rubbing his face on my leg. “Yeah. My stomach’s . . . I think the meat loaf I had at Dad’s was bad.”

“Did Darlene fix it?” Her tone’s rolled and deep-fried in hate.

I grit my teeth. “Yeah.”

“Please tell me your dad ate a second helping.”

I close my eyes, when what I really want to do is scream, Stop it! I get why Mom’s so angry. I get that my dad’s a piece of shit. I get that he refuses to take any blame, and that makes it worse. I get what she’s been through. I get all of it. But does she have a clue how much it hurts me to listen to her take potshots at someone I still sort of love?

“I’m going to sit out on the patio,” she says. “When you’re out, join me.”

“Uh-huh,” I say.

Mom’s steps creak away.

I stay seated and try not to think about what all hurts, and instead I pet Felix. His eyes, so green, take me back to the boy in the store. Whatever you’re trying to pull, don’t do it.

What the heck did he mean?

 

I leave the bathroom, but before I open the back door, I stare out the living room window at Mom reclined on a lawn chair. The sun’s setting and she’s bathed in gold light. Her eyes are closed, her chest moves up and down in slow breaths. She’s so thin. Too thin.

Her faded blue bandanna has slipped off her head. All I see is baldness. And—bam!—I’m mad at Dad again.

Maybe Dad’s right. Maybe I do blame him for Mom’s cancer.

It doesn’t even help to remember that three weeks ago, the doctor ruled her cancer-free. In fact, her breast cancer was found so early that the doctors insisted it was just a bump in the road.

I hate bumps.

My gaze shifts to her head again. The doctor claimed the short rounds of chemo were to make sure there weren’t any cancer cells floating around in her body. But until I see her hair grown back, and stop seeing her ribs, I won’t stop being afraid of losing her.

When she was diagnosed, I thought Dad would come back, that he’d realize he still loved her. What’s sad is that I think Mom thought he would, too. It didn’t happen.

Mom’s eyes open, she adjusts her bandanna, then stands up with open arms. “Come here. I missed you.”

“I was only gone three days,” I say. But it’s the first time I left her overnight since she got cancer. And I missed her, too.

We walk into each other’s arms. Her hugs started lasting longer since she and Dad separated. Mine got tighter when the big C stained our lives.

I pull out of her embrace. Buttercup is at my feet, his wagging tail hitting my leg.

“Has she redecorated the house?” Her tone is casual, but still loaded with animosity.

Just my room. Going for a conversational U‑turn, I ask, “What did you do while I was gone?”

“I read two books.” She grins.

“You didn’t pull up your manuscript and try to write?” Before Mom and Dad’s problems, Mom spent every free moment working on a book. She called it her passion. I suppose Dad killed that, too.

“No. Not feeling it,” she says. “Oh, look.” She pulls her bandanna off. “I got peach fuzz. I hear women pay big bucks to get this look.”

I laugh, not because it’s funny, but because she’s laughing. I don’t remember the last time Mom laughed. Are things getting better?

She moves over to the swing. “Sit down.”

It sinks with her weight. Mom’s shoulder bumps into mine.

She looks at me, really looks at me. Is she seeing my just-cried puffiness? “What’s wrong, baby?”

The concern in her voice, the love in her eyes, they remind me of when I could go to her with my problems. When I didn’t weigh every word to make sure it wouldn’t hurt her. Because she already has way too much hurt.

“Nothing,” I say.

Her mouth thins. “Did your dad upset you?”

“No,” I lie.

Her gaze stays locked on me as if she knows I’m not being honest. I throw something out there: “It’s Alex.”

“Did you see him while you were there?”

Another lump lodges in my throat—I guess this subject is too tender to touch on, too. “He came by and we talked in his car.”

“And?”

“And nothing.” I bundle up that pain for another time. “I told you he’s seeing someone else.”

“I’m sorry, baby. Do you hate me for moving you here?”

Duh, you can’t hate someone who has cancer. But now that the cancer is gone . . . ? Tempting, but I can’t. Just like I can’t hate Dad.

“I don’t hate you, Mom.”

“But you hate it here?” Guilt adds a sad note to her voice. It’s the first time she’s considered my feelings about this. I tried my damnedest to talk her out of moving—I even begged—but she didn’t give. So I gave. I’ve done a lot of giving.

My vision blurs with tears. “It’s just hard.”

My phone dings with a text. I don’t want to check it, thinking it’s Dad texting to say he’s sorry, and Mom might see it, then I’d have to explain. He is sorry, isn’t he? I want to believe he realized giving my room to Darlene was a mistake.

“Who’s that?” Mom asks.

“Don’t know.” My phone remains in my pocket.

It dings again. Shit!

“You can check it,” Mom says.

I pull it out and hold it close. It’s not Dad. And now that stings, too.

“It’s Lindsey.” I read her text. Come over when you can.

“She called earlier to see if you were home. Why don’t you go see her? I’ll fix dinner.”

“I’ll just text her,” I say, knowing Lindsey will ask about my trip, and I don’t know her well enough to dump on her.

“Okay.” Mom pats my arm. “What do you want for dinner?”

“Pizza.” I’m starving. I barely touched my lunch before leaving Dad’s.

“Pizza? On an iffy stomach,” Mom says. “How about tomato soup and grilled cheese?”

I hate tomato soup. It’s sick food. Cancer food. We ate that every night of chemo. Then again, I suppose that’s what I get for lying. “Sure.”

 

Soup, a sandwich, and two sitcoms later, I hug Mom goodnight and head to bed. Both Buttercup and Felix follow me into my room. Or rather, the room I sleep in. My room doesn’t exist anymore.

I grab my phone to see if any of my old friends, or maybe Alex, has texted me. Nothing’s there except a message from Lindsey, reminding me to text her when I’m ready to leave for school.

I flop on my bed. Felix jumps up, snuggles beside me, and starts purring. Buttercup leaps up and lies at my feet. Phone still in hand, I swipe the screen to the selfies I took of me, Cara, and Sandy this weekend. We’re all smiling, but not that big, natural kind of smile. All of us look sort of posed. Like we’re faking something. Fake smiling. Faking friendship.

My finger keeps swiping until I find the older selfies with Cara and Sandy. We aren’t posed, or phony looking. We’re having fun. It shows in our expressions, our real smiles.

I keep going until I get to one of me and Alex. He’s kissing my cheek. His blue eyes are cut to the camera, and I can tell he’s laughing. I remember when it was taken. The first night we slept together. Tears fill my eyes, and my finger swipes faster. Images, snapshots of my life become nothing more than smears of color flying across my phone’s screen.

I wonder if that’s all life really is, just smears of color. A collage of sweeping moments in different shades and hues of emotions. Times when you’re happy, sad, angry, scared, and when you’re just faking it.

I toss my phone to the end of my bed and stare at the ceiling fan going around and round, and my emotions do the same. My eyes grow heavy, then—bam!—I’m not there staring at a fan. I’m trapped in a memory almost as old as I am.

I’m sitting on a brown sofa. My feet, buckled up in black patent leather shoes, dangle above dirty carpet. I’m wearing a pink frilly princess dress, but I’m not a happy princess. Deep heartfelt sobs, my sobs, echo around me. I’m a fish out of water. I can’t breathe.

I sit up so fast, Felix bolts off the bed.

It’s the only memory I have from before I became Chloe Holden. A few months before my third birthday. Before I was adopted.

Lately, the memory has jumped out at me. Haunting me, in a way. I know why, too. It’s the sensation. The one of being plucked out of my world and planted somewhere else.

Not that it didn’t work out. Back then, I lucked out and was adopted into perfection. I had a mom, a dad, got a cat I named Felix, and eventually we got a dog named Buttercup. We lived in a three-bedroom white brick house filled with lots of laughter. And love. I had friends I grew up with. A boyfriend I’d given my virginity to.

I had a life. I was happy. I smiled real smiles in photos.

Then came Dad working late.

Mom and Dad fighting.

Dad’s affair.

Mom’s depression.

The divorce.

The cancer.

And then the move from El Paso to Joyful, Texas. Which, by the way, isn’t joyful.

And here I am. Plucked again. So plucked.

But this time, I’m not feeling so lucky.

 

Chapter Two

 

Telling myself this first day of school won’t suck as bad as I think, I run my fingers through my thick dark hair that I spent half an hour straightening. After giving myself one last check in my dresser mirror, I text Lindsey and dart out.

Mom, swallowed in a too-big pink nubby robe, is sitting at the breakfast table and looks up. “I liked the red blouse.”

“Yeah. But I like this one for today.” I give her a hug. I looked good in the red, but it felt too showy, like, Look at me, I’m the new kid. So I went for beige instead.

“Wish me luck,” she says.

“Why? What are you doing? You going to start writing again?”

“No. I’m job hunting.”

My first thought is that she should wait until her hair grows out. “Do you feel like working?”

“Yeah. I’m tired of doing nothing.”

“Then good luck.” I snatch my backpack, give Felix and Buttercup a quick rub, and leave, trying not to think about Dad asking if Mom is working. Trying not to think that I never got an apology from him.

Lindsey, wearing black jeans, a black blouse, black nail polish, and red lipstick, is waiting beside the driveway. Her hair, sandy blond with highlights, hangs down past her shoulders. She looks like she walked off a magazine cover.

“Aren’t you stylin’?” I say.

She grins. “My plan is to make Jonathon sorry.”

I heard all about Jonathon. Mostly referred to as “the no-good cheating dog.” I saw him once or twice when we first moved here. It wasn’t until they broke up that Lindsey and I started talking. I only recently told her about Alex, but we haven’t come up with the perfect nickname for him yet.

If Mom hadn’t dragged me across Texas, Alex and I’d still be together. I’m not sure I would’ve called it love, but I think I was bumping shoulders with it. When I left, we agreed we were going to do the whole long-distance-relationship thing.

That lasted four weeks.

“How was your visit with your dad and his live-in toy?” she asks as we walk to my car.

“Hell,” I say, then change the subject. “You have a new guy picked out?” We get into my white Chevy Cruze.

“Yeah, David Drake. He asked me out last year right after I started dating Jonathon. He’s funny, cute, and sweet.”

On the ride, Lindsey talks about her class schedule and how she has three classes with Jamie. Jamie is her best friend, and was away over the summer. I worry now that since her BFF is back, Lindsey will drop me in a hot minute.

“I hope we have classes together,” Lindsey says.

Most everyone had their class schedule emailed to them. I’ll get mine after I visit the counselor. But since Lindsey isn’t in honors classes, I doubt we’ll have any together.

I pull into the school parking lot and hang the permit on the mirror. Mom guilted Dad into paying for the parking pass. My stomach starts cramping at the sight of strangers.

I look at Lindsey.

She’s staring at me oddly. “Damn! You’re nervous.”

“A little, why?”

She makes a funny face. “I don’t know. I thought you were fearless.”

“Me? When?”

“Your mom has cancer. You had to move in twelfth grade, and you’re, like, fine with it. I’d be a hot mess.”

I tell her the truth. “I am. I just fake it.” We jump out and grab our backpacks.

Only a few feet from my car, I feel people staring at me and waving to Lindsey. I lift my chin and pretend I don’t care. Lindsey starts talking about where we’ll meet up after school and tells me to text her when I know my schedule.

We’re almost out of the parking lot when shouting erupts. We stop.

There’s a big guy with light brown hair laughing at a younger sophomore-looking guy. The bully is holding a backpack up and making some wisecracks to the kid about being short.

The boy’s face is red, like he’s embarrassed and mad.

My heart goes out to the sophomore, who looks about as comfortable to be here as I am. I consider stepping in when someone else does. Someone with jet-black hair and shoulders a mile wide. I think he’s a teacher; then—crap!—I recognize him. It’s the weird psycho guy I rubbed my boobs on at the convenience store.

“Stop being an ass!” The psycho guy yanks the backpack from the jerk and tosses it to the younger boy. The kid catches the bag and runs for it.

“Look at him run,” the jerk says, laughing. But damn—I hate bullies.

The weird guy mouths out something I can’t hear. I take a step closer. Lindsey moves with me.

The jerk blows up. “Who the hell do you think you are?”

Lindsey leans in. “This is going to get interesting.”

I don’t look at her. My eyes are locked on the scene.

“Paul’s the guy who took the kid’s backpack,” Lindsey continues. “He’s a football player. The other guy is Cash. Cash came here only halfway through the last school year. He used to attend Westwood Academy, a private school where all the rich kids go. But rumor has it, he grew up in foster care and is a real badass.”

“Paul is the one acting like an asshole.” I try to mesh the guy who’s standing up for the underdog with the lunatic I met yesterday.

“Yeah. Paul’s a bit of a bully,” she admits.

Paul edges closer to Cash. In spite of yesterday’s encounter, I’m rooting for Cash. I guess I dislike bullies more than I do psychos.

Cash doesn’t move, but his shoulders widen. Paul doesn’t appear scared, but he should be. Cash is a good two inches taller than Paul. But it’s not his height that makes him so intimidating. It’s his body language. He does look like a badass. Even more of a badass now than he did yesterday.

“I asked you a question!” Paul yells. “Who do you think you are, Foster Boy?”

Cash’s shoulders snap back. “I’m the one who doesn’t have to pick on someone smaller than myself to feel important.”

Paul moves in, puts his face in Cash’s.

Cash speaks up. “Walk away while you can.” His tone is dead serious.

“You walk away!” Paul says.

I think for sure Cash is about to draw his fist back. He surprises me when he says, “You’re not worth the trouble.” He turns to leave.

I don’t know if I’m disappointed he didn’t teach Paul a lesson, or impressed Cash took the high road.

He gets a few steps away when Paul lunges forward and shoves Cash’s shoulder. “Coward,” Paul accuses.

Cash swings around. “You’re the coward for waiting until I turned my back.”

“Well, I’m facing you now.” Paul takes a swing.

Cash swoops to the left. Paul’s fist hits air.

Everyone laughs. That fuels Paul on. He raises his fists to his face and starts dancing from foot to foot, like he’s some professional boxer.

Cash brings his fists up to his chin. Everyone starts shouting. “Beat his ass! Teach him a lesson!”

Somehow, I know they aren’t cheering for Cash. I’m not going to like this school.

I’m thinking we should leave, but like Lindsey, I’m glued to the scene. The two guys move in a circle. Paul swings again; Cash ducks. Paul growls.

I wait for Cash to make some smart-ass comment, but he doesn’t. I get the feeling he doesn’t want to fight.

Suddenly they’re positioned so that Cash is facing me. Those liquid green eyes lift and meet my brown ones. He freezes.

That’s when Paul takes another swing. His fist slams into Cash’s eye. He almost falls, but looking furious, he punches Paul—once in the gut, once on the nose. Paul falls down, gasping, and holds a hand over his nose. Blood oozes between his fingers.

“Stop!” someone yells. A man runs toward the group. This one really is a teacher. People start scattering.

“Let’s go.” Lindsey pulls me away. Right before I turn, Cash’s gaze finds me again. His left eye is already swelling. I turn and follow Lindsey.

“That was weird as shit.” Lindsey hurries toward the front of the school.

“The fight?” I ask.

“No. Him staring at you. Do you know him?”

“No,” I say, and don’t explain any further.

“Well, something about you stopped him in his tracks.”

“I probably look like someone he knows.” I recall telling him that at the store.

“Or he’s got the hots for you. Every girl in school has tried to get his attention and failed. You get here, and he gets punched while he’s checking you out.”

“Maybe he wasn’t staring at me,” I say even though I don’t believe it.

“Right.” Lindsey rolls her eyes.

I glance at the school looming before me, and I want nothing more than to turn around and go home.

Winner!!!

Last week’s winner of a $15 Amazon gift card is Taylor Thomason. Congratulations! Email me at cc@cchunterbooks.com to claim your prize.

 

Do You Have a Little Ghost Whisperer in You?

I admit it.  I think I have a little clairvoyance in me.  I’ve had dreams of past loved ones that really felt real.  And I’ve felt them at times when I’m alone.  I’ve felt things in cemeteries and funeral homes, too.  I’ve even known things that I shouldn’t know.  It freaks me out sometimes.

I remember when my grandfather died and my grandmother asked me to deliver his eulogy.  I was honored, but it also scared the bejeebies out of me.  The thought of talking in front the family had me very nervous. What if I messed up or if what I said wasn’t good enough?  I loved my grandfather.

A few days before the funeral I was in bookstore and my eyes just went to a poster on the wall that read: The number three top-rated fear in life is death.  The number one is public speaking.  So if you’re giving someone’s eulogy you’re actually worse off than the person in the casket.

Right then I could swear I heard my grandfather laugh.  He had this unique laugh, a belly kind of laugh, the kind you expect from Santa Claus.  It was so clear and so real that I actually looked around for the man who had laughed.

No one was there.  It was just me with my memories or maybe me with the spirit of my grandfather.

Then there was a crazy dream about a neighbor who had passed away about five years earlier.  In the dream she knocked on my door and when I got there, she was walking down the street with a redheaded little boy who looked about three.

She’d had a grandson with red hair named Reagan, but he was seventeen by then. She glanced back at me and said she’d been waiting for the boy so she could leave.  It was a strange dream, so real, so otherworldly.  But dreams are crazy and I pushed it to the back of my mind.  Imagine my surprise when two days later my son told me he’d seen on Facebook that Reagan’s little brother had died.  It quickly went from being a strange dream to a scary one.

Riley in Two Feet Under is a ghost whisperer or as she sometimes calls herself a ghost fixer because they expect her to fix their problems.  And in this book the fix is a hard one.  The spirit she’s dealing with is prisoner.  And he didn’t go to jail for jaywalking either.  We’re talking murder.

And his fix isn’t easy.  She has to face and convince a gang leader that he needs to donate part of his liver to a niece he never knew he had.

It’s dangerous and you can imagine that Hayden, her comatose boyfriend isn’t happy about her putting herself in danger.  Can he protect her?  Will the few tricks up his sleeve as a spirit be enough to save her?

Do you think you have a little ghost whisperer in you?   Have you ever felt as if you weren’t alone, that a spirit was with you?  Have you ever felt as if a loved one who had passed had stop by for a visit?

Preorder Two Feet Under at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

Giveaway!

Do you think you have a little ghost whisperer in you?   Have you ever felt as if you weren’t alone, that a spirit was with you?  Have you ever felt a loved one who had passed stop by for visit?

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

For My Houston Fans

Have a question for me? Want to get one of your books signed? You’re in luck! 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 by and hang out with us! There will be giveaways! For more information go to: https://www.murderbooks.com/hours-and-location.

Winner!

The winner of last week’s giveaway is Kate C. Congratulations, Kate! You’ve won a cute tote filled with swag. Please email me at cc@cchunterbooks.com and give me your postal address.

 

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?