Monday, August 20, 2012

ALL FOR LOVE

Whoohoo...it's here!  My newest novel, All For Love, was released in digital format today, August 23, 2012 from www.5Princebooks.com   

It is available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/cf6m3vg iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.  The print version will be available on August 27th.  To celebrate the launch, I'm running a month-long contest:

        CONTEST     CONTEST     CONTEST     CONTEST
 Send me a picture of yourself reading a copy of ALL FOR LOVE and be entered to win a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  You may photograph yourself reading either the digital or print copy.  Send pics to swannann76@yahoo.com and I will post them on the blog as well (unless you tell me otherwise).  The contest starts August 23rd and ends September 23rd.  Have fun ~ I can't wait to see you!  All names will be entered into the computer for a random drawing.  It will be available at Amazon, B & N, iTunes, and Smashwords.

Now, read on for a preview of the book!

Cover blurb:


Liz falls in love with Quinn the moment they meet in college.  He professes to love her, too.  She begins to think about the future, but his past rips them apart.  What Liz does next impacts the rest of their lives.  She feels it is the only way… she does it all for love.

And here is the beginning:

Part One—Now 

Chapter One

            We were drinking iced tea at our favorite sidewalk café when the plastics plant exploded.

            One moment Ronnie was checking my left hand to see if my wedding ring was still there, and the next thing I knew she was crawling across the blistered sidewalk in slow motion, reaching out for me.       

            Ronnie and I have been friends since college.  She and Carol were my dorm mates.  The best friends I’ve ever had.  But college was a long time ago.        

            “How long do you think it takes to fall out of love?”  I had just asked.
            Stalling for time, Ronnie gazed about The Sidewalk Café.  The strong breeze should’ve been cool, but it was dry and hot.  Instead of our usual twelve inches of rain for the year, we’d received just less than two.  The drought in our area of West Texas had been catastrophic; a simple spark from a piece of machinery could start a wildfire that might burn for days or even weeks. The weather channel delighted in telling us we were smack dab in the middle of the worst dry spell since the nineteen fifties.
            In a way, it was fitting.  I seemed to be smack dab in the middle of a drought myself.  My nest felt as empty as the prairie, and my husband, who could’ve been the spark to light my world, was also brittle and dry.  In fact, he was so dry he was practically nonexistent, like the prairie grass hiding in the earth, waiting for moisture.
            Ronnie swished a fly away from her drink.  “What’s going on, Lizzie?”
            I hesitated.  She was so good at taking the wind out of my sails.  In fact, I’d swear she was using “wait time” on me, a technique we had learned in our education classes at the university about a hundred years ago. 
            Shrugging nonchalantly, I forged ahead.  I really wanted her input.  I still valued it every bit as much as when we were nineteen.  “I think he’s screwing around again.”  I sipped my tea.  Mine was sweet, hers was not .  She was usually the sensible one—at least when she wasn’t toasted on Mexican red.
            She smoothed the shiny fall of hair off her face.  It was still the fresh reddish color of a blood orange. 
            “Are you sure?” she asked.  “Or is it just suspicion?”  She swirled her tea, giving me a moment to answer.  The amber liquid climbed the inside of her glass like a tiny tsunami.  She reached across the table to touch my hand.  We weren’t very demonstrative anymore, not like when we were in school.  I don’t know why, but I suspected it was my fault.  A hug upon meeting was the extent of our physical relationship.  Sometimes one of us would hug the other when we parted—it all depended upon our emotional altitude at the moment.  But this time, she wasn’t being demonstrative by clasping my hand, she was simply checking to see if my wedding ring was still in place.   She turned my hand over and pushed it flat down on the table.
            The emerald-cut diamond was in the same place it has resided—almost continuously—for over thirty years.
            “Well, I guess you’re still together, so either no proof or you want to stay.”  She was blunt, as always.
            I opened my mouth to explain, but my words were cut short by the tremendous explosion that blasted my streaky sienna hair into a halo, shivering the plate glass window behind us.  Ronnie was on her feet in an instant, her own heavy hair standing out from her head like a fright wig as she stared toward the southwest, toward the Pan-Tex Plastics plant that has crouched there for years.
            “Oh My God!”  Her voice, though it should have been loud, was dim, as though the blast had flattened her words.  Later, I realized it was my eardrums that were flattened, not her words.
            I tried to stand but my wits were scrambled.  My scarf, the one Quinn bought for me in Italy during our one and only European vacation, was hanging from the little teal-striped awning.  My eyes darted here and there, searching for something to label.  Searching for some cause.  Terrorist?  Yes, that must be it.  Terrorist.  My eyes continued searching high and low, but there was nothing out of the ordinary except for the staticky condition of my hair, the tingling of my skin, and that pesky scarf hanging inexplicably from the awning above us.  And then I realized my insides were vibrating, tingling just like my skin.  Breakers of air rolled in from the plant, thrashing me like the waves of tea had thrashed the inside of Ronnie’s glass.
            Up and down the street people poured onto the sidewalks, pointing southward.  That’s when I saw a great pillar of black smoke billowing from the place where there should have been only tall towers, slim columns, and fat boilers.  Inside the smoke, orange flames were eating the edges of the deceptively serene noontime sky.  Not many folks realized that raw plastic is made from natural gas.
             I shaded my eyes and looked away.  It was too much, too surreal.  But normalcy wasn’t found when I looked away.  On the ground, dozens of black smudges caught my eye, grackles knocked out of the air by the concussive blast; the smaller gray spots were undoubtedly sparrows.
            Sirens began to whoop—both the ones at the plant and the big one atop the nearby courthouse.  The only time I’d ever heard it go off before was during tornado season, and that was only from a distance.  Up close it was like being inside a disaster movie in surround sound.
            Central Fire Station, three blocks over, began to empty its wide bays of fire and rescue vehicles.  Police cars added their warbling wails to the cacophony.  We watched, dumbfounded, as the cruisers shot past the intersection in a hurry to join the maelstrom.  The visible sound of rushing flames perfectly matched the tremor inside my body.
            The second explosion knocked us to the ground.
            My head grazed a table as I fell.  I sensed the concrete rushing up to meet me, but there was no pain; instead, silence engulfed me like deep water.  Everything slowed.  After a moment, I became aware that my knees were bleeding inside my new white Capri’s, speckles of blood seeping through.  That’s when I spotted Ronnie crawling across the blistered sidewalk toward me.  Her face was dotted with red like a Botox-party nightmare.  Slivers of plate glass glittered brightly all across the patio and only then did I realize I was screaming.
            My husband of thirty-two years was at work in that plant.
“C’mon.”  Ronnie had my arm, attempting to pull me up.  My extremities seemed filled with sand.  “Let’s go,” she instructed.  “Who knows what will happen next!”
            I struggled to my feet catching a glimpse of my face in the one remaining section of the café’s plate glass window.  It looked like a full white moon staring back at me.  Touching the side of my head gingerly, I felt a lump rising where my skull had caught the table when I fell.  But Ronnie was the one who really needed help.  The second explosion had knocked her into the edge of the new brick flowerbed and as a result, she had a large leaking gash above one eye.  This is in addition to the dozens of pinprick-spots of blood dotting her face. 
            My own head was swimmy, my vision blurry.  Together, we were able to gain our feet, and I watched numbly as Ronnie swiped her hand across her bloody forehead. 
            Crumpled napkin still clutched in my fist, I reached out, blotting at her wounds randomly as we staggered across the street toward the courthouse like a couple of book clubbers after an afternoon meeting complete with wine.  
            A paramedic stopped us near an ambulance (when did they arrive?), handed Ronnie a thick square of cotton and instructed her to keep pressure on the gash.  He sat us down on the courthouse steps and told us to stay put until he came back.  Then he ran toward the knot of people gathered a little further down the street. Was someone injured there?  I couldn’t make out exactly what was going on.

            We sat like stone mice on the warm cement steps, Ronnie’s arm clasped around my shoulders, her other hand pressing the cotton to her forehead. The leaves of the live oaks trembled overhead and I recalled a squirrel we’d been watching from the café.  Glancing upward, I half-expected to see the little creature scampering to safety, surprised by all the noise and confusion.  But it was not there. 
            Then I spied my purse hanging on the back of my overturned chair across the street, and it dawned on me: my phone was probably still there, nestled in its little phone-pocket on the side.
            The gorgeous day was now filled with so much sound it was like white noise—there but not there.  I found it impossible to think, and as the cloud of smoke grew heavier and blacker, the notion of fire reminded me of the tinder-dry fields surrounding the plant.  The acrid smell of melting plastic was so strong it scratched my throat and stung my eyes, and that finally prodded me into action.
            I disentangled myself from Ronnie and headed back across the street. The owners of the café were standing on the sidewalk in shock.  The little tables and chairs that had seemed so cosmopolitan only moments earlier were now scattered across the patio like so much wrought-iron rubble.  The table umbrellas looked like giant turquoise tops upside down in the gutter.
            With great effort, I leaned down and prised my purse strap off the back of the chair where only moments earlier I’d been sitting, sipping tea, trying to decide whether my handsome husband was sleeping around—again. 
            Jana, one of the owners, hurried over.  “You all right, Liz?”
            Nodding, I dug out my cell phone and automatically dialed Quinn.  Nothing.  No ring, no voice mail, nothing.  It was as if I was dialing the very nothingness of the universe.
            I felt myself graying out, the world blowing away from me like the smoke rising from the plant.  My head throbbed, the ground wavered as if a giant was shrugging his shoulders just beneath the surface, and I felt myself sinking …
            When I came around I was vaguely aware of Ronnie and Jana lowering me into my now-upright chair.
            “Liz!” Ronnie was patting at my face as Jana rubbed an ice cube up and down my bare arms.  “Lizzie!  Can you hear me?” 
            I could feel my eyelids fluttering, but I was powerless to stop them.  Is that drool running from the corner of my mouth?  Maybe Jana rubbed the ice cube on my lips.  Then it hit me.  I must’ve fainted.
            “I’m okay,” I sputtered.  It came out more as, “I yuh-kay.”
            Inside my eyes I still saw black smoke tinged with fire.  Surprising tears welled up and spilled over my bottom lid—ahh, so that’s the moisture.  My eyes finally opened all the way (seemingly of their own accord) and I was staring into the bloodshot-blue peepers of my dearest friend.  So it’s true, I thought.  It really happened: the plant exploded.
            The look on her face told me I was neither dreaming, nor imagining.  That one look told me it wasn’t something that simply appeared in my head because I’d fainted; no, it was the other way around.  The realization that Quinn was in that explosion was the reason I fainted.

Hope you enjoyed chapter one...
The novel is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords



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