Sunday, December 8, 2013

Leslie Garcia and Love, Loss and Kindness

Please welcome Leslie Garcia today...

Kind of Like a Hero

            When D’Ann kindly invited me to post a guest blog, and told me to do whatever I wanted, I knew almost immediately I didn’t just want to twist arms and try to sell Wildflower Redemption.  I’ll include an excerpt and blurb, and let it go at that, except in talking about literary kindness in passing.
            We’ve just passed Thanksgiving and are headed into Christmas.  Right before Thanksgiving, my only nephew, a Marine major, died when the plane he piloted crashed—on his way from North Carolina to Michigan for a fellow Marine’s plane.  He, obviously, is the kind of man heroes are made from—but more to the point, perhaps, was the outpouring of love and support that helped my sister cope with the loss of her only son.  Strangers who reached out, as they do so often during our separate lives, made a huge difference. 
            Aaron Estes, the hero in Wildflower Redemption, has to learn kindness towards animals—not because he’s indifferent or abusive, but because he simply doesn’t know anything about them.  I grew up with animals—including, incredibly, monkeys, snakes, an African lion and a jaguarondi—and while I knew nothing about caring for them, my siblings and I loved them.  We treated them kindly—in so far as ignorance allows kindness.
            In retrospect, the family, my whole family, deserves censure and scorn.  We kept the lion in a small, mesh cage that was not safe and didn’t meet any of his needs.  We tried to remember to let the milk snakes loose since we couldn’t get them to eat in captivity, but sometimes—we were too late in returning them to the pasture from whence they came.
            My sister and I were teenagers, and my other siblings much younger; we had no choice but to do what we were told.  We took the best care of the animals that we could, in times that didn’t frown on roadside amusement parks or kids who escaped the realities of a broken family by clinging to any critter that offered a moment’s salvation.
            We weren’t mean, but knowing now what I didn’t know—the fact that I loved those animals and would have kept them forever if I hadn’t been too young to stay behind when the family moved to Texas—makes me realize that sometimes, kindness is knowing enough not to be abusive.
            Now, I think of those on the right side of kindness—those who run shelters, who adopt animals, who share pictures of lost and homeless creatures—those are a special kind of hero, and they have both the privilege of knowing and loving animals with genuine passion, and the satisfaction that they do no harm, they only help.
            Many of D’Ann’s posts touch on kindness you find in many of her works. Her knowledge of horses (and Australian shepherds—don’t ask!) and the posts that she shares were part of the inspiration for this piece—when I think of her, I often think of her kindness first.  Sometimes her posts are not pleasant to deal with—I actually think I might have hidden one, once, because I couldn’t face it.
            But only when we learn about the horrors that exist, and the difference between coveting animals and loving them, caring about them and being kind to them, can we have clear consciences.
            The nephew I lost spent his childhood saving crows and other desert animals—but always turning them loose.  Since his mom used to keep a cage full of bats in our antebellum home, I dare say she learned from him what I have learned over the year—kindness is heroic.
            Anyone can be kind of like a hero.  It’s all just a matter of choice.

You can’t have it all. At least, not forever. Luz Wilkinson learned the hard way that balancing a career, marriage, and motherhood can end in absolute destruction of heart and soul. When the biological mother of her daughter tears the child away and ruins her reputation, Luz goes home to tiny Rose Creek to rethink life and ambition. She surrounds herself with discarded animals and plans never to care again.
Widower Aaron Estes lives for his daughter, Chloe. Fleeing from the horror of losing his wife in a school shooting, Aaron stops in Rose Creek on a whim and a random act of kindness from a gas station clerk - not a lot to build a life on, but a momentary redemption from his sorrow and fears for his daughter. Prompted by counselor Esmeralda Salinas, he takes Chloe to the Wilkinson place for therapeutic riding lessons, and finds Luz everything he wants in a mother for his daughter - but Esmeralda’s open pursuit is a problem. Burned by her divorce, Luz refuses any relationship involving another woman or a man with another woman’s child.
Unlimited love for their children comes easily - but will they ever be able to conquer past pain and love each other?
Sensuality Level: Behind Closed Doors

Luz headed after her. Aaron caught her before she got to the door. “Where are you going?” he demanded. “It’s late and it’s dark—”
“And something’s wrong!” she snapped. “Stay here with Chloe! I’m just checking for anything that might have set the dog off.” She bit back “again.” As she rushed outside, she couldn’t help wishing she’d had the dog on a leash— and her mother’s pistol in her hand.
She went around the side of the house, tripping once on a rock hidden in the shadow the house cast since the security light was on the other side. In the front yard, she stopped and peered out toward the road, where she could make out the shape of a dark car moving slowly along the fence line.
“What’s going on?” Aaron said from close by. “And don’t tell me to stay with Chloe, dammit! She’s asleep, and I’m not some panicked little kid afraid of the dark, even if it’s stupid to be out here—”
 Tires screeched and taillights glowed as the car suddenly accelerated and sped away.
Not Ross Thurmond’s truck. The thought surprised her. Worried her. How had his brief, strange, visits here unnerved her like this?And then sudden suspicion hit her. Hard.
“God, no.”  She thought she hadn’t spoken, but Aaron’s hand on her arm and the alarm in his face told her she had. “God, no, what?”
She thought of Chloe in bed asleep. Of Princess— where? At least she hadn’t heard yelping. But the pit bull hadn’t come back, either. Would Aaron leave when she told him? She really didn’t consider him a coward. He’d obviously gone through a lot without cracking. He just couldn’t bear to lose his precious daughter. She understood that. “What, Luz?”
She covered her face with her hands, and breathed a silent prayer that she was wrong. “I think,” she told him slowly, “that tomorrow we’ll find another dead dog.”

About Leslie
         Mention writing to most first grade students--or teachers--and everyone runs from the room, screaming or crying, respectively. I, however, love the challenge of convincing the technology kids of today that words create everything they use, everything they enjoy. Yes, even those horrible cartoons and video games that are so foreign to me now. And the songs.

         I, myself, was a published writer in first grade, first by the school principal, then by a novel but short-lived magazine written entirely by kids. I still remember the title: Kids. Paid me $1.50 for the last rhyming poem I ever wrote. "Dolphins are nice though they don't like ice" something something.

         Luckily, my poetry no longer rhymes, and my stories strive to portray the mishmash of cultures, events, characters, and times that are our lives--all our lives, even if not everyone had a lion or a roadside amusement park or hid in an arroyo on their wedding day.

         There's a circuitous route through most of our lives, and the publishing company that helped me learn to submit work for publication through their magazines and annual Writers Market, F&W Media, has published my three most recent works.

         A lifetime of words away from first grade, but hopefully, you'll enjoy my words. I love hearing from readers, and hope you'll visit me one of these days.

         Because words still have power, and always will.

Wildflower Redemption (Crimson Romance) by Leslie P. Garcia
Available at Barnes and Noble, Sony, iTunes and other distributors on Dec. 09th, 2013!

Also by Leslie P. García:

Website: Return to Rio

Social Media:
Twitter: @LesliePGarcia
Leslie P. García

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cover Reveal: The Saint's Devilish Deal

A billionaire surfer… A down-on-her-luck hotelier… One hot summer fling…

Blurb: Esmerelda Quinn has been looking for a place to belong since her parents were killed in a car crash when she was young. The closest thing to home has always been Aunt Constance's villa in Puerto Vallarta, so after a string of dead-end hotellier jobs, she's coming home to run the villa.
Santiago Cruz has called the villa home for as long as he can remember. In between surfing events, Constance has always had a room for him. Color him surprised when Constance decides to retire - and leaves a joint interest in the villa to both Santiago and Esme.
Esme isn't thrilled to share ownership of the villa with the the youngest Cruz brother - especially when she learns Santiago's brother has been after the villa for years. But Santiago has grown up while she's been away at school and soon she finds herself falling for the rich boy down the hall.

“You forget yourself, Esmerelda. You’re talking about making this simple for the staff, that doesn’t mean I need to come to you for every new guest registration or idea I have. Besides, we need this campaign.” Santiago waved his hand. “We need more guests of a certain means to make the villa stand out. Families are great, but they won’t make Casa Constance a go-to destination. These people will. So, we use our new guests as features in a new campaign for the high-end travel magazines. A few shots in the tabloids wouldn’t hurt, either.”
            “You weren’t even going to discuss this with me?”
            “I’m telling you now. While we’re on the subject—” he tossed a few magazines from his desktop onto her lap “—what do you see in these pictures?”
            Esme sent him a killing glance and then flipped through the pages. “Boring. Bland. Not home.”
            “Exactly. This isn’t a home, or it shouldn’t be a home first. If you want Casa Constance to succeed you need to treat it like a business. So, make-over, what do you like?”
            She tossed the magazines back onto the desktop. “Our guests love the color and textures of Old Mexico. They say so all the time.”
            “Your guests haven’t been in residence, at least not actively, in more than a year. We aren’t appealing to anyone right now and we need to. So, makeover starts this afternoon and your new training begins in the morning.”
            “I know what I need to know about running a vacation resort.”
            “You need to experience a vacation to sell it. We need day-trips, we need amenities. I’ll bet you’ve never gone para-sailing or sky diving, much less enjoyed a couple’s massage.” Her cheeks pinked at the last suggestion and Santiago smiled. “Celebrities visiting Casa, playing on our private beach, being featured in an advertising campaign—with a few pictures leaked to the tabloids to get the word out even sooner. Casa needs this.”
            Esme took a few breaths and then settled back into her chair. “I can’t afford to pay the salary of a New York advertising crew. Seriously, Santiago, you have to cancel.”
            “My three months, remember? It won’t cost you a thing. The photographer owes me a favor. The only cost will be the campaign copy, which will be negligible. I do know what I’m doing, Esmerelda.”
            “Okay, mail.” Esme shook her head as if clearing thoughts of the upcoming ad campaign from her head. “Marquez usually separates bills from letters—”
            “As the mail will be delivered to the front desk, I’m happy to see to it. And let’s cut to the chase.” He leaned back in the chair and clasped his hands behind his head. “I don’t want to be tied down to a vacation villa for the rest of my life. But if you really want this, there is something you have to do for me. First.”
            Esme swallowed, crossed and re-crossed her legs before clasping her hands in her lap. “What do you want? A payoff? You’ve seen the books, you know there isn’t much money. But if it’s money you want, I’ll agree to your price. I just need time to come up with the capital.”
            She really didn’t know him at all. He shouldn’t be surprised, but he was. Surprised and a bit disappointed. “I need your money like I need another surfing championship,” he said, sitting up straight. “No, what I want from you is a bit more. . . ephemeral. I want your time. For three hours each day, you belong to me. No villa work. No guest handholding.” He walked around the desk to rest his hip against one corner. “No conferences with staff. No following the maids on their routine cleanings and no visits to the kitchen to give Gloriana instructions. For three hours each day, your time is my time.”
            “You can’t be serious. That. . . that’s just. . .” She trailed off when his index finger traced the line of her jaw. He lowered his voice.
            “No work. No phones. No villa. You do what I say, what I want.”

Author Bio/Links:
Once upon a time, Kristina Knight spent her days running from car crash to fire to meetings with local police—no, she wasn't a troublemaker, she was a journalist. When the opportunity to focus a bit of energy on the stories in her head, she jumped at it. And she’s never looked back. Now she writes magazine articles by day and romance novels with spice by night. She lives on Lake Erie with her husband and daughter. Happily ever after.

Kristina's Links:
TW: @AuthorKristina