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Missing from her mountain village

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Title: Milk Fever

Author Name: Lissa M. Cowan


Lissa M. Cowan is the author of Milk Fever and founder of Writing the Body. She speaks and writes about storytelling, creativity, work-life balance and creative spirituality. She is a Huffington Post blogger and writes regularly for Canadian and U.S. magazines and newspapers.

She is co-translator of Words that Walk in the Night by Pierre Morency, one of Québec’s most honoured poets. She has been writing and telling stories in one form or another since she was six years old and has received awards for her writing from the University of Victoria’s Writing Department and from The Banff Centre. She is an alumna of The Banff Centre and The Victoria School of Writing. She has had some wonderfully talented teachers along the way such as Nino Ricci, Jane Rule and Daphne Marlatt who have helped her hone her writing craft.

Lissa believes that inspiration for writing can come from anywhere and that lifelong creativity begins by cultivating a deep awareness of ourselves, and the world around us. She coaches her students to develop the skills to tune in—rather than wait for the muse—and to trust their intuition. She believes that true creative work begins with a loving relationship to self and spreads outwards to encompass all living beings.

When she’s not writing or teaching, you can most likely find her in a cafe working on one of her stories or book ideas. She just started work on a creative non-fiction book, though it’s too early right now to spill the beans on that one!

She holds a Master of Arts degree in English Studies from l’Université de Montréal and lives in Toronto, Canada.

Author Links –



Website: lissacowan.com

Book Genre: Historical fiction, literary suspense

Publisher: Demeter Press

Release Date: October 18, 2013

Book Description:

What if the only person you ever loved suddenly disappeared without a trace?

In 1789, Armande, a wet nurse who is known for the mystical qualities of her breast milk, goes missing from her mountain village.

Céleste, a cunning servant girl who Armande once saved from shame and starvation, sets out to find her. A snuffbox found in the snow, the unexpected arrival of a gentleman and the discovery of the wet nurse’s diary, deepen the mystery. Using Armande’s diary as a map to her secret past, Céleste fights to save her from those plotting to steal the wisdom of her milk.

Milk Fever is a rich and inspired tale set on the eve of the French Revolution–a delicious peek into this age’s history. The story explores the fight for women’s rights and the rise in clandestine literature laying bare sexuality, the nature of love and the magic of books to transform lives.

Excerpt:

My fever worsened. I don’t recall all who came to assist me on my sickbed during those few days of torment, but I know the village doctor was there for a time, along with a travelling barber-surgeon, an apothecary and a healer of the stone evil. One advised bleeding and another clysters. Still another insisted on purgatives in the way of small spoonfuls of cinnamon water. Margot applied compresses and told me to continue suckling even though the doctors warned

against it.

Eventually your body will rid itself of milk fever,” she said.

Heat consumed every part of me, setting my skin on fire. One night I didn’t sleep and hallucinated instead. In my half-mad vision, all the saints were there before me—Augustine, Teresa, Sebastian, Thomas, Francis, Cecilia—and many mortal beings who were now absent to me. Although I lay in bed amidst damp sheets, I saw my dear mother who died bringing me into the world, childhood playmates of mine who fell during the scourge and were buried together in one solitary grave. A neighbour who didn’t survive the birth of her second child, and yet another woman crying out as her son lay on his deathbed—all of them scaling the exterior walls of my house like red-eyed lepers seeking a crypt to hide their half-deadness. At first, I didn’t want to let these lost souls into my life. They were, after all, echoes of the past, wreckage from a sea-bound ship that never made it home. Although I am afraid of what they showed me, I was compelled to let them in. I awakened in a pool of water, nightshirt clinging to my hot, wet body. My child was no longer beside me. Did the lost souls take her, I wondered. Perhaps the flames licked her all away. Just when I had given up hope of ever seeing my darling baby again, Margot walked into the room. She passed a cool cloth over my forehead and cheeks. Its freshness soothed me.

Where is Rose-Marie? What happened to her?” I asked deliriously.

She is asleep in a basket by your bed. There, you see?”

I raised my head and glimpsed her round face peeking out from the covers. She batted the air with her fists, emitting rapid cries. Margot sat on the bed and looked upon me as a mother does a daughter.

You were burning up.”

Yes. I have spent the night watching saints and others battle the fires of Hades.”

Take the child. She needs your milk.” Margot handed her to me and I brought her to the spot of all my woes.

Amazed to find that feeding her soothed the pain in my bosom, I felt my fever much less than before. A sensation that I cannot put my finger on took hold of me when my milk fever subsided and I became bright-eyed and shiny as a new coin. I am no more able to understand my transformation than I am able to blame Rose-Marie for taking me from intellectual pursuits. My melancholia vanished with the morning mist. My baby’s little mouth curled and eyelids like pea pods opened and closed. When she looked up at me with knowing eyes, I couldn’t help but think it was my milk that produced such a state. My heart was suddenly joyful and I reasoned that there was no better place to be. Her gurgles and chirps told me she was happy in my arms and I now sensed the same emotion holding her. Ten little fingers and ten little toes, she was built of the stuff that made a body unstoppable. I held her always, all day, bestowing kisses upon her downy head. I couldn’t believe that this little nut, this sleeping angel, was mine. I cried and laughed as I rocked her. My words were caresses for her, flowing and erupting. She drank in my sweet hums and coos, her mouth lingering at my every syllable.

After feeding, I wrapped Rose-Marie and myself in a blanket and madly raced down the stairs toward the door. As I combed the garden for a bit of wind to quell what was left of my fever, I sensed my present life slipping away. My head and heart informed me that mothering wasn’t contrary to learning, yet instead part of it. I can write and reflect and talk philosophy just as I can suckle a child. No one can tell me—not even my own father—that it is not a woman’s privilege to do both.


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The Marriage Pact

The-Marriage-Pact-Series

The Marriage Pact (2011), Regrets Only (2012), and Baggage Check (2013)

M.J. Pullen

Author Bio:1097681_561305840595913_1814024652_o

M.J. (Manda) Pullen studied English Literature and Business at the University of Georgia in Athens, and later Professional Counseling at Georgia State University in Atlanta. She practiced psychotherapy for five years before taking time off for writing and raising her two young boys. Since high school, she has also been an executive assistant, cashier, telemarketer, professional fundraiser, marketing guru, magazine writer, grant-writer, waitress, box-packer, HR person, and casual drifter.

She reads and writes across many genres, and learns something from everything she does. No matter what she’s writing, M.J. believes that love is the greatest adventure there is, and that hopeless romantics are never really hopeless.

She loves to hear from readers and other writers – so drop her a line!

Author Links –

Website: mjpullen.com

Twitter: @MJPullen

Giveaway –

One set of autographed paperback copies of the Marriage Pact trilogy (winner can choose a custom inscription for the first book). US Only, Ebook International

Book Description:

Marci Thompson always knew what life would be like by her 30th birthday. A large but cozy suburban home shared with a charming husband and two brilliant children. A celebrated career as an established writer, complete with wall-to-wall mahogany shelves and a summer book tour. A life full of adventure with her friends and family by her side.

Instead, Marci lives alone in 480 square feet of converted motel space next to a punk rock band, hundreds of miles from her friends and family. She works in a temporary accounting assignment that has somehow stretched from two weeks into nine months. And the only bright spot in her life, not to mention the only sex she’s had in two years, is an illicit affair with her married boss, Doug. Thirty is not at all what it is cracked up to be.

Then the reappearance of a cocktail napkin she hasn’t seen in a decade opens a long-forgotten door, and Marci’s life gets complicated, fast. The lines between right and wrong, fantasy and reality, heartache and happiness are all about to get very blurry, as Marci faces the most difficult choices of her life.

Excerpt:

Her Hotmail account had thirty-two new messages. At least half were automated e-mails from online retailers wishing her a happy birthday with 10% off and free shipping. There were a few e-cards from friends, which she decided to open later. A couple of notifications from writing listservs of which she was a member, but somehow never made time to read. A forward chain e-mail from Suzanne’s grandmother, alerting her that her UPS delivery driver might be a member of Al Qaeda. A sale on her favorite jeans at the Plus-Size outlet store. A happy birthday from her chiropractor.

As she neared the bottom of the highlighted portion of her inbox, she saw the first new message had been sent at 12:01 a.m. from Jake Stillwell, one of her best friends from college. Nothing was in the subject line, but she saw there was an attachment, and curiosity beat out her hesitance about the scary meeting with the IT guy. She clicked to open it, read the two short sentences Jake had included, and sat back while the image loaded on the screen. No. It couldn’t be. Had he really kept it?

The consternation must still have been visible on her face a few moments later when Doug’s head appeared around the side of her cubicle, because he stopped his momentum to ask, “Everything okay?” despite his obvious hurry. Startled, she lunged forward and clicked the windows closed, even though Doug certainly would not care that she was checking her e-mail from the office.

It’s fine. I’m…fine,” she said.

Okay, good. Listen, babe,” he began, and Marci looked around wide-eyed to make sure no one was around to hear the familiar term. He laughed at her panic, as usual. “I already checked—we’re alone, kiddo. “

Kiddo.

I just came by to say I can’t go to lunch today. There’s a meeting at Motorola this afternoon—a big project we might be doing for them. I have to be there. Frank’s been really riding my ass about bringing in new clients lately…hey, are you sure you’re okay?” He looked genuinely concerned.

Yes, I’m fine,” she said, pasting on a smile. “Just a weird e-mail from home.”

Oh.” He seemed to be debating whether to go on, or wait for her to explain further. Not knowing what to say, Marci remained silent.

Anyway, sweetheart, I’m sorry that I can’t go to lunch with you on your birthday. I promise I will make it up to you tonight. Cathy’s, um…” He hesitated, flustered, and then finished in a rush. Usually he avoided saying his wife’s name to Marci. “Well, I’m free for a while tonight.”

Without warning, he leaned down and kissed her. He had never so much as touched her hand in the office before, and her body tingled with the danger and excitement in response. Afterward, he kept his face close to hers. She smelled his clean skin, and somehow resisted the temptation to put her palm flat against the crisp white undershirt beneath the blue.

His voice in her ear was husky. “I really did want to take you to lunch.” His tone suggested eating lunch had probably not been on the agenda. Her heart pounded and she looked around wildly, expecting to see someone come around the corner at any second and find them in this pose, for which there was no feasible professional explanation. “I’ll find you later.” She closed her eyes, inhaling his scent. When she opened them, he was gone.

Book Description:

At thirty-three, Suzanne Hamilton has it all. A successful party-planning business with an elite client list. A swank condo in a hot Atlanta neighborhood and a close group of friends – especially her longtime best friend Marci. A list of men a mile long who have tried to win her heart and failed. Plus, she’s just landed the event that will take her career and social status to the next level. What could she possibly have to regret?

Then a freak accident changes everything, and Suzanne discovers that her near-perfect life is just a few steps away from total disaster. She is humiliated and at risk of losing it all… except the surprising support of her newest celebrity client. With nothing else to go on, Suzanne follows him into an unexpected job and unfamiliar territory. Soon she will question everything – her career, her past, her friendships, and even her own dating rules.

But when her catalog of past relationships turns into a list of criminal suspects, she is faced with the horrifying possibility that she may not live to regret any of it…

Excerpt:

A few hours later, Suzanne awoke suddenly, unable to breathe. She gasped for air in the darkness, desperately trying to move, to figure out where she was. There was no light anywhere. Her chest tightened painfully, heart pounding, lips dry. As she struggled to move, she heard Rick groan softly nearby and roll over, releasing her from his grasp. She was in his hotel room, she remembered, and relaxed a little. When his breathing was soft and steady she moved again to slide out from between the crisp sheets.

I can’t do it.

She found the clock face down on the floor. Almost four a.m. She crept into the bathroom and shut the door before finding the unpleasantly bright light. She splashed water on her face and breathed deeply. After a few moments with her hands steadying her against the sink, she looked in the mirror. Jesus, I look like crap. Mascara was smeared beneath her eyes, her formerly perfect hair was a rat’s nest behind her head, and the evening of cocktails had weathered her face like a sailor’s. Suzanne looked and felt much older than thirty-three. She made a mental note to have Chad schedule a facial before the benefit.

Silently, she began gathering her things. The hotel room was pitch black, so she scrounged in her purse for the tiny keychain light, shaped like a pig, which Marci had given her years ago. The expensive pumps had been kicked off near the door. Skirt and blouse were in a heap nearby. After a few moments of searching, she located her bra hanging off the desk lampshade across from the bed. Her panties, however, had gone completely missing.

She covered the room with the tiny pig several times, freezing periodically when she heard Rick shift or grunt in his sleep. Opening the blackout curtains a fraction gave her enough light to shimmy into the rest of her clothes and make one more sweep of the room. She kicked herself for wearing her favorite pair of La Perla underwear, as they were about to become a casualty to an early-morning getaway.

Sorry, girls.

She decided to add “Leave favorite underwear at home,” to her list of dating rules. The rules were sort of Suzanne’s cross between Emily Post and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, mostly resulting from her own bad experiences: Never bring a man back your place. No emotional talk during sex. Never get naked with the lights on. Always undress yourself. No dating guys with kids or dogs. No sex in cars. And so on. She thought one day she could publish these rules and make a fortune.

She closed the curtain and crept toward the door. She was nearly out of the room when she lost her balance and bumped against the closet door. It rattled loudly. Rick stirred behind her. “Suzanne? You okay?”

Damn.

Yes, I’m fine.” Her voice was sheepish despite her best efforts. “I just need to get an early start today.”

But,” his voice in the darkness was slow and softened by sleep, “it’s Saturday.”

Yeah, I just have so much going on with this benefit; I really need to get home. Thank you for dinner and…everything.”

She waited as she heard him fumble for the lamp and got it turned on. “Um, sure. You’re welcome?” he said, looking around, befuddled. In the sudden light, his bare chest looked a little pudgier, and furrier, than she remembered. He ran his hand through the thick brown hair standing up all over his head.

Okay, well…bye, Rick,” she said, as sweetly as she could. She turned back toward the door.

Wait,” he said softly.

Please don’t make an ass of yourself, she willed him. Please just hate me and let’s be done with it.

She didn’t have to worry. As much as he liked her, Rick the Salesman knew a simple, cardinal rule of all relationships: never beg. He simply asked the exact question to which he wanted the answer. “This is ending right now, isn’t it?”

Suzanne noticed that there was neither hope nor despair in his tone. Obviously, he genuinely liked her, and yet the question only sought to confirm, rather than to convince or retaliate. She hesitated only for a split second. “Yes.”

She hovered there momentarily, waiting for the usual barrage of questions or arguments to commence, but Rick just nodded slowly and said, “I’m sorry to hear that. It really was very nice to meet you, Suzanne.”

Her face flushed. The stark contrast between this courteous ending and last night’s very primitive activities embarrassed her, as did standing in her professional clothes and heels with no underwear. “You, too, Rick. Take care, okay?”

She hurried out, made her way down the stairs, and exited the side door. She had the phone number to the cab company on speed dial.

Baggage Check

Book Genre: Women’s Fiction/Romance

Publisher: Flourish Publications (Self)

Release Date: November 2013

Buy Link(s):

Book Description:

At thirty-five, Rebecca Williamson is surrounded by happy endings. Her friends Suzanne and Marci are living out their own personal fairy tales in Atlanta, Georgia. But despite Rebecca’s best efforts four years ago, her adorable college friend Jake Stillwell has officially slipped through her fingers and broken her heart. Even though her job as a flight attendant fits perfectly with her orderly nature, and brings her into contact with lots of eligible men, she can’t seem to find a man who is Jake’s equal.

Then a frantic phone call from her mother in Oreville, Alabama turns Rebecca’s structured life on its ear. She will find herself back in the tiny town she worked so hard to leave behind, and thrown together with Deputy Alex Chen, a face from the past who’s made it clear he thinks of Rebecca as more than just an old friend’s kid sister.

But Alex is nothing like what Rebecca had in mind; and in the meantime, she has other battles to fight, including her painful family history. Can she navigate the chaos and get her life back to normal? Will Alex prove himself to be the friend she’s always needed? Or will she discover that the door to Jake is not as tightly closed as she thought?

Excerpt

What the hell was that?” Valerie asked, sliding into the booth across from Rebecca. “He was a nice-looking kid. You don’t like foreign guys?”

That’s not it,” Rebecca said.

Well, I had that one primed for you. Such a waste.”

Thanks, Val, but I don’t need you to find guys for me. And I’m sure he won’t go to waste. Look, he’s talking to that girl at the bar already.”

I didn’t mean him,” Val said. “I meant you. You’re such a beautiful girl: educated, nice nose, and that pretty brown hair is your real color as far as I can tell. We’ve flown together three years and I never hear about you dating anyone.”

Well, maybe I—”

Valerie leaned across the table with a loud whisper. “Are you a lesbian?”

What? No!”

Because I’m okay with it, really. I’m very hip about this stuff. I even have a lesbian niece. Very attractive, if she would just let her hair grow out. Of course, she’s younger than you, but…”

Valerie!” Rebecca said too loudly. Then softer, “I am not a lesbian. I used to date men all the time. I just haven’t lately.”

Why not?”

I don’t know. The hours?”

Bullshit.”

Come on, Val. Why the sudden interest in my love life? Can we talk about something else?”

No.”

Rebecca knew from experience Valerie had no intention of letting up. She took a sip of her drink, not terribly helpful since it was mostly melted ice. A long sigh under Valerie’s unwavering stare. “I guess you could say I got my heart broken a few years ago, and I just haven’t gotten over it yet.”

Really? Who was this? How come I haven’t heard about him?”

Rebecca sighed. In for a penny… “You have heard of him. It was my friend Jake.”

Jake?” Valerie furrowed her brow. “You mean…your friend, the girl with the blog, what’s her name—Marci? That Jake?”

Yes. That Jake.”

Valerie whistled. “So how long ago was this?”

How long ago was what? They got married four years ago. And they have Bonnie now.”

Yeah, but when did you stop…” Valerie trailed off.

Rebecca shook her head. “I don’t think I have stopped. I know that’s ridiculous, but I-I loved him for so long. It’s like I don’t know any other way to be.”

Val looked down at the table for a minute, and slid the rest of her neat Scotch across to Rebecca. “Here, kid. I think you need this a hell of a lot more than I do.”

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