Mystery, suspense, thrillers, paranormal, horror & YA by "Cheryl Kaye Tardif" & romance by "Cherish D'Angelo". Cheryl is represented by Trident Media Group in NY.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Looking For UNIQUE Christmas Gifts?

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Whale Song ~ emotional, heartwrenching mystery for all generations. For ages 7-107; larger print for easy reading.

A shocking tragedy leaves Sarah Richardson with partial amnesia. Captivated by Native Indian legends told by a wise Nootka grandmother, Sarah begins her journey for the truth hidden amongst her lost memories. Torn by nightmares and visions of a yellow-eyed wolf, Sarah must come face to face with her fears and her memories. Aided by the creatures of the Earth and by the killer whales that call to her in the night, Sarah discovers that...'forgiveness sets you free'.

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Divine Intervention ~ psychic suspense for fans of 'Medium', Kathy Reichs or J.D. Robb. For adults or teens 14+

Jasi leads a psychically gifted team in the hunt for a serial arsonist--a murderer who has already taken the lives of three innocent people. Unleashing her gift as a Pyro-Psychic, Jasi is compelled toward smoldering ashes and enters the killer's mind. A mind bent on destruction and revenge. Jasi's team, consisting of Psychometric Empath and profiler, Ben Roberts, and Victim Empath, Natassia Prushenko, is led down a twisting path of dark, painful secrets. Brandon Walsh, the handsome, smooth-talking Chief of Arson Investigations joins them in a manhunt that takes them across British Columbia--from Vancouver to Kelowna, Penticton and Victoria. While impatiently sifting through the clues that were left behind, Jasi and her team realize that there is more to the third victim than meets the eye. Perhaps not all of the victims were that innocent. The hunt intensifies when they learn that someone they know is next on the arsonist's list.
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The River ~ action-packed thriller that's been compared to Crichton's Timeline. For adults or teens 14+; a great read for men and teen boys!

The South Nahanni River has a history of mysterious deaths, disappearances and headless corpses, but it may also hold the key to humanity's survival--or its destruction. Seven years ago, Del Hawthorne's father and three of his friends disappeared near the Nahanni River and were presumed dead. When one of the missing men stumbles onto the University grounds, alive but barely recognizable and aging before her eyes, Del is shocked. Especially when the man tells her something inconceivable. Her father is still alive! Gathering a group of volunteers, Del travels to the Nahanni River to rescue her father. There, she finds a secret river that plunges her into a technologically advanced world of nanobots and painful serums. Del uncovers a conspiracy of unimaginable horror, a plot that threatens to destroy us all. Will humanity be sacrificed for the taste of eternal life? And at what point have we become...God?

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Christmas orders must be processed by December 5th to guarantee delivery in time for Christmas Day.

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Wishing you and yours all the best this Christmas Season!

The River by Cheryl Kaye Tardif


"She always leads with her heart," a voice croaked.
Startled by the interruption, Professor Del Hawthorne lifted her head and gasped, shocked.
What the--?
A man stood in the doorway to her classroom, panting for breath. He was in his late seventies and wore a grimy suede jacket over a once-pristine white dress shirt. The shirt was torn and stained with what looked suspiciously like dried blood. The man's tailored black pants were ripped from the knees down.
He stumbled inside and slammed the door.
Del threw a warning look at Peter Cavanaugh, her young anthropology protege. Rising slowly from her desk, she faced the old man.
"Can I help you, sir?"
His stringy gray hair covered part of his face and was in desperate need of a shampoo and cut. His mottled, creviced skin reminded her of weathered cedar bark. But it was the man's glazed yet vaguely familiar eyes that made her heart skip a beat.
Did she know him?
The man's eyes flashed dangerously. "She always leads with her heart!"
Del gulped in a breath.
It wasn't every day that she heard her father's favorite saying--especially when it wasn't her father saying it. Instead, the words were coming from a man who looked like he had escaped from the psych ward.
How the hell did he make it past security?
She looked at her watch. Damn!
After six o'clock, security was reduced to two men on the Anthropology wing. And they were probably on rounds or at the snack machine.
She glanced at Peter.
The young man was terrified. He stood motionless at the far end of the room, his head drooping against his chest.
"Campus security will be here soon," he said quietly.
The man turned half-closed eyes toward Peter. "Who's that?"
Del took a hesitant step forward. She rested her hands at the edge of her desk, careful not to draw the man's attention.
Where's the damn button?
Security had installed silent alarm buttons underneath the lip of every faculty member's desk. Times had changed. Schools, colleges and universities had become common targets of deranged psychopaths hell-bent on murder.
She pushed the button and drew in a breath, praying desperately that it wasn't the case today. "Security will be here any minute."
The old man's head whipped around, his eyes pleading. "Don't you recognize me?"
"Should I?"
Whatever reaction she was expecting to see, didn't prepare her for the one she got. Instead of answering her question, the man slumped to the floor, babbling incoherently. His right hand reached shakily into the folds of the jacket.
She stabbed repeatedly at the alarm button.
Where the hell is security?
Terrified, she saw the man pull something bulky from his jacket.
A gun?
Suddenly, two armed security guards rushed into the room.
Then all hell broke loose.
One minute, she was standing behind her desk. The next, she was on the floor--with Peter Cavanaugh on top of her.
She waited, holding her breath, expecting shots of gunfire. But there were none. Instead, she heard scuffling sounds and a few grunts.
Finally, one of the guards called out. "We got him, Professor."
She heaved a sigh of relief.
"You okay?" Peter asked, his boy-next-door face bare inches from hers.
She groaned. "Uh, Mr. Cavanaugh? Security has him under control, so you can get off me now. You're crushing me."
Peter turned a delicious shade of lobster red.
"Didn't want you to get shot," he mumbled, helping her to her feet.
She brushed herself off, then glanced toward the door.
The guards dragged the intruder out into the hall.
That's when she heard the man shout, "Delly! It's me!"
Only one person in the world had ever called her 'Delly'.
She ran toward the old man.
"I've seen it," he hissed, his eyes wild. "I've seen the future...not human...monsters!"
"Professor Schroeder?" she whispered. "Is that you?"
The old man's gaze locked on her. "You have to stop the Director, Delly!"
A shiver raced up her spine. "Director of what? Professor, we thought you were dead. You, my dad, the other men..."
Schroeder leaned closer, tears welling in his eyes. "They're going to kill your father, Delly."
"He-he's alive?"
"For now. The little bastards have him. You have to destroy the cell. I know how to get in. To the secret river. I know how to get in...and out."
"Professor Hawthorne," one of the guards said. "We have to take him downstairs."
Halfway down the hall, Schroeder's head whipped around.
"Follow your heart, Delly. And remember...only one!"
The guards half-dragged him into the elevator.
"Professor Schroeder!" she yelled. "What are you talking about?"
His dull brown eyes flared like a trapped fox, wild and feral.
"It's all in the book. Destroy the cell, Delly. Find the river and stop the Director before he destroys humanity."
The elevator doors hissed shut.
Del leaned against the wall outside her classroom. Her legs ached and vibrated. When her vision wavered, she closed her eyes and welcomed the darkness.
They're going to kill him, Delly.
Was her father really alive?
Someone called her name. Peter.
He stood beside her, clutching something to his chest. Whatever it was, he gripped it as though he were holding the treasures of the Egyptian Pharaohs.
"He dropped this," he said, handing her a book. "It's what the old guy was reaching for. You gonna be alright, Professor?"
She nodded. See you tomorrow, Peter.
Del returned to her empty classroom, firmly closing and locking the door behind her. She made it across the room before her legs gave out. Dropping into a chair, she took a few deep breaths, then she picked up the leather-bound book that Peter had given her.
The cover was stained, partially missing. There was nothing on it except for an embossed symbol that was hard to make out.
Perhaps a cross.
She traced what was left of it with one finger.
Professor Schroeder, what happened to you?
Arnold Schroeder was a renowned genius in anthropology. Whenever he had visited Del's father, which was often, he would take Del under his wing and teach her something new. He was the reason she was teaching anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Schroeder had been her idol.
Other than Dad, of course.
Del carefully opened the journal, her fingertips barely grazing it. She flipped the pages, reading sentences here and there, trying to make sense of Schroeder's notes. Most of the entries in the journal appeared to be written in some kind of code and they were next to impossible to decipher. She was about to put the book down when a name jumped from the page.
Dr. Lawrence V. Hawthorne.
Just below her father's name, a date was scribbled.
January 2001.
Her hand began to shake.
She yanked open a drawer and rifled through it.
Finally, she found what she was looking for--a photograph taken seven years ago. Back in 1998. In it, her father and Professor Schroeder stood side by side wearing jeans, t-shirts and silly fishing hats. They had infectious grins on their faces, probably laughing at some private joke. The photo had been taken the day that her father, Schroeder and two associates had left for 'the adventure of a lifetime'.
In the summer of '98, a new intern at Bio-Tec Canada, the company Del's father worked for, suggested a summer rafting excursion down the Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories. The intern seduced him with native legends about veins of undiscovered gold, and headless skeletons and corpses lining the banks of the river. Her father became consumed by the idea of exploring one of Canada's most spectacular sights, and he convinced Schroeder and his boss to accompany them.
The four men went missing three days later.
A search party was sent down the Nahanni, and the investigators discovered a headless skeleton a few miles downriver from Virginia Falls. Most of the flesh had been consumed by wild animals and the bones were badly decayed, but a forensics expert was able to identify the body.
It was Neil Parnitski, CEO of Bio-Tec Canada.
There was no sign of Del's father...or the other men.
A week later, the search party found a bloody shirt on the shore and scalp tissue embedded into a rock. DNA tests showed that most of the blood matched her father's, while the scalp tissue was Schroeder's. The investigators also said that based on the amount of blood found at the scene, even a doctor couldn't have survived without medical attention. Six months later, the investigation was closed, the missing men presumed dead.
Del stroked the photograph of her father.
He's a dead man.
Schroeder's words echoed in her mind, and she was unable to shake the doomed sensation that crept under her skin and invaded every pore.
She stared out the window into the darkening night sky, remembering the day her mother had told her that her father was presumed dead, months after his disappearance. She recalled the funeral a week later, and remembered standing in the pouring rain at the edge of the gaping hole as an empty casket was lowered into the muddy ground. The funeral had been three days before her twenty-fifth birthday--a birthday that came and went without any fanfare.
Del never celebrated her birthday anymore. Too many memories.
Now, staring at her father's picture, the overwhelming grief she had felt seven years ago came back with a vengeance.
They're going to kill him, Delly.

Divine Intervention by Cheryl Kaye Tardif


It always began with the dead girl in her closet.
Every night when little Jasmine opened that closet door she expected to see lovely dresses and hangers--not a child her age strung up by a pink skipping rope, her body dangling above the floor...unmoving.
The dead girl had long blond hair. Her blue eyes stared blindly and were surrounded by large black circles. Her mouth hung open in a soundless scream. The pink rope was tied tightly around her neck, a thick pink necklace of death. A purplish-black bruise was visible and ugly.
The most unusual thing about the girl, other than the fact that she was swinging from a rope in Jasmine's closet, was that her skin and clothing were scorched.
Gagging, little Jasmine stepped back in horror.
When the girl's lifeless body swayed gently from a sudden breeze Jasmine let loose a cry of terror and raced down the stairs, searching anxiously for her parents.
Her throat was constricted and dry.
Then she screamed. "Mommy, I need you! Help me!"
In the lower hallway, the shadows quickly surrounded her.
Then she saw them.
Red eyes flashing angrily at the end of the hall.
Jasmine took a hesitant step backward. She tried to run but her feet would not cooperate. Her small body began to shake while the eyes followed her.
Glancing over her shoulder, she noticed a listless form moving toward her, arms outstretched--pleading.
The girl from the closet wasn't dead anymore.
Blistered hands reached for Jasmine.
The girl's mouth yawned and a horrendous shriek emerged.
Trapped and terrified, Jasmine began to scream...


Monday, June 18, 2012
~ Vancouver, BC

Agent Jasi McLellan awoke from her nightmare screaming and drenched in sweat. Irritated by a piercing sound, she turned her pounding head and glanced at the wall beside her.
A technologically advanced video-screened wall, or vid-wall, had recently been added to her daunting security system. The wall was divided into four monitors--each coded for different activities.
The message screen flashed brightly.
Someone was trying to contact her.
"Receive message," she croaked.
She was rewarded with silence.
Jasi eyed the clock. 5:30 in the goddamn morning. Who the hell would be calling her this early on her day off?
Glaring words flashed across the monitor followed by a voice, deep and urgent. "Jasi, we need you! Ben."
She was suddenly wide awake.
"Message for Ben."
When the system connected with Ben's data-communicator, she said, "Give me fifteen minutes. End message."
She glanced at the words on the screen and realized her holiday was over. She wondered for a moment what was so important that Ben had to interrupt her downtime. With two days left, she had hoped to catch up on some much-needed rest.
Crawling from beneath the sweat-soaked sheets, she crouched on the edge of the bed and reached for her portable data-com.
She checked the calendar.
A black X was scribbled over the date.
"Oh God," she moaned.
Today was her twenty-sixth birthday.
Jasi hated birthdays.
She pushed herself off her bed. In the dark, her toe connected sharply with the corner of the dresser and she let out a startled yelp.
"Ensuite lights on, low!"
Her Home Security & Environmental Control System immediately raised the lighting to a soft muted glow. Some days she was very thankful she had allowed Ben to install H-SECS in her new apartment. Of course, on the days when she couldn't remember a command or the security code to her weapons safe, Ben would get an earful.
Limping to the bathroom, Jasi shook her head.
Could this day possibly get any worse? Maybe I should go back to bed...wake up tomorrow.
She hugged her arms close to her chest and stepped into the ensuite bathroom. Parking her butt on the toilet, she stared at her throbbing toe. Scowling, she stood up, leaned tiredly against the sink and examined her reflection.
That's when she remembered her recurring nightmare.
"Why can't you leave me alone?" she whispered to a dead girl who wasn't there.
Frowning at her puffy, shadowed green eyes, Jasi splashed cool water on her face and rested her elbows on the edge of the sink. She traced a finger over the small scar that ran down the left side of her chin. It was barely noticeable, except to her.
Spurring herself into action, she cast a self-deprecating glance at her hazy image and then headed for the shower.
"Shower on, massage, 110 degrees. Radio on, volume 7," she commanded as she removed her panties and nightshirt.
Music from her favorite rock station pounded in through the ceiling speakers as she stumbled into the large shower stall. Stretching hesitantly, she relaxed her tense muscles and breathed a sigh of relief when the steamy water sent thoughts of a dead girl swirling down the drain.
Jasi lathered her long auburn hair and stood under the spray, allowing the water to massage her scalp. Grimacing, she slid a wide-toothed comb through the tangled mess of wavy locks. Her hair had a mind of its own. More than once Jasi had threatened to chop it off but she was afraid she'd end up with a 'fro.
Couldn't have that. No one would take her seriously.
Her central data-com beeped suddenly.
Her fifteen minutes were up.
Cursing under her breath, she spit toothpaste into the sink, barely missing the soap dispenser.
"Data-com on!"
"Hey there, sunshine!" a male voice boomed. "You miss us?" Benjamin Roberts, her friend and partner, didn't wait for a response. "Divine has issued a Command Meet. He says he's sorry to cut your downtime short but we need you."
His voice followed Jasi as she returned to her bedroom and ordered the lights on full.
She sighed loudly. "It's not like I have anything better to do today. Like relax, go to a movie, or hook up with a handsome stranger for a night of passion."
She eyed the closet nervously, then whipped the door open and stepped back, unsure of what or who might emerge.
No one was there.
"Hey, am I interrupting something?"
She grabbed some clothes, slamming the door quickly.
"I wish! What's up, Ben?"
Stepping into a pair of casual slacks and a light blouse, she waited for her partner's answer.
"You still in the shower, Jasi? Maybe you should put up the vid-wall," she heard him snicker.
"Yeah right!"
"We caught a case near Kelowna--­­­­a fire." Ben's voice grew serious. "One victim, Dr. Norman Washburn, ER doc at Kelowna General."
Jasi frowned, and strapped on a shoulder harness.
She hadn't been there in years. Not since the disastrous Okanagan Mountain forest fires of 2003. Now, nine years later, she would be returning. She'd have to take some precautions, prepare herself.
"Why'd they call us?"
"Sorry, Jasi. I know you're still officially on downtime, but this one is bad. They found a link to another fire. Two victims--a mother and child in Victoria. Unsolved."
There was a long silence.
She heard a soft chuckle on the other end. "By the way, Jasi, Happy Birthday."
"How'd they link that one to the doctor?" she asked, ignoring the reference to her birthday.
When he told her what the crime scene investigators had found at the scene, Jasi grabbed her 9-millimeter Beretta, checked the safety and jammed it into the holster. Then she dashed from the apartment--a shadow hot on her heels.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Whale Song by Cheryl Kaye Tardif


I once feared death.
It is said that death begins with the absence of life. And life begins when death is no longer feared. I have stared death in the face and survived. I am a survivor who has learned about unfailing love and forgiveness.
I realize now that I am but a tiny fragment in an endless ocean of life, just as a killer whale is a speck in her immense underwater domain. I spent years fighting my fragmented memories, imprisoned by guilt and betrayal. Locked away in darkness, I learned lessons from Seagull, Whale and Wolf.
What I remember the most about my childhood are the happy times, the excursions in the schooner and the sunlight reflecting off deep blue water. I can still see in my mind the mist of water spouting from the surface and a ripple opening softly to release the dorsal fin of a killer whale.
Most of all I remember the eerie, plaintive song of the whale caught on the electronic equipment of the boat. Her song still echoes in my mind, like a long-forgotten memory...


Village of the Whales

Chapter One

In the summer of 1977, my parents and I moved to Vancouver Island, Canada, from our rambling ranch home in Wyoming. My father had been offered a position with Sea Corp, a company devoted to studying marine life. He would no longer be Dr. Jack Richardson, marine biology professor at the university; instead, Dr. Richardson would be studying killer whales and recording their vocalization.
My mother was ecstatic about the move. She couldn't wait to return to Canada where most of her family was living. She chatted nonstop about all the new things we would see and do. Both my parents promised me that I would make many new friends. And I, like most eleven-year-olds, hated them for making me leave the friends I already had.
My father rented out our ranch to a nice elderly couple, leaving our furniture behind. I was quite happy that no children were going to be living in my bedroom. Miserably I watched my mother pick through my belongings, deciding what I could and couldn't bring. Our new house was fully furnished, she had explained to me the week before. So I said goodbye to my little bed and mismatched dresser.
That night as we watched TV in a hotel room, my parents talked about our new home--our future in Canada.
"Sarah?" my father said after a while. "Time for bed. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow."
I lay on the bed staring at the ceiling, wondering what life would be like stuck on a tiny island. How boring my life was going to be! My best friend, Amber-Lynn MacDonald, was probably crying her eyes out. I missed her already. Who was I going to tell all my secrets to?
Life is so unfair.
Little did I know then, just how unfair life could be.
It felt like days later when we finally arrived in Vancouver. We drove to a ferry terminal and waited in a long lineup of vehicles. Finally we boarded a small ferry and I excitedly rushed up the stairs to the upper deck where I stood against the rails watching the mainland disappear. The water was choppy and the ferry swayed gently side to side. We could see Vancouver Island approaching and dismal gray clouds greeted us. I immediately missed the scorching dry heat of Wyoming.
The drive from the ferry terminal to our new house seemed relentlessly slow. Some of the roads were unpaved, bumpy and pitted. The main road up the east coast of the island was used mostly for huge logging trucks and we passed many on the way. I watched the intimidating trucks roll precariously close. I held my breath, waiting for the huge bands that held the logs tight to snap, releasing the lumber onto our car.
"Where's the ocean?" I demanded, leaning forward to nudge my mother's shoulder. My mother reached back from the front seat, lightly brushing her hand across my cheek.
"You just saw it," my father chuckled.
"No, I mean the ocean ocean," I whined. "That was just like a big lake. I want to see the real ocean, where it stretches out for miles and you can't see the end."
"You just wait. You'll see it soon enough," my mother laughed.
The trees that surrounded us were enormous and forbidding. Moss hung eerily from damp branches and a fog danced around the tree trunks. Then the sun broke out from behind a cloud, free at last from its dark imprisonment.
"Close your eyes, Sarah. Don't open them 'til I say," my father said suddenly.
I obeyed and held my breath in anticipation. The ocean! I'm finally going to see the ocean.
My dark brown hair hung limply to my waist from the humid dampness of the car, my bangs sticking uncomfortably to my forehead and, being a typical eleven-year old, I had to sneak a peak.
"Okay, now open!" my father said excitedly. He chuckled as he looked at me in the rear view mirror, catching me with my eyes already open.
Pushing my bangs from my eyes, I scrunched my face up close to the window. The ocean lay spread out before me, interrupted only by a tiny island here or there. The water was choppy with whitecaps, and looked dark and mysterious. The sun danced on the ocean's surface. I rolled down the window, listening to the sound of waves crashing along the shoreline.
Back in Wyoming, we saw endless stretches of green hills and grass, with mountains rising in the distance. That was all I had ever known. I could go horseback riding and never see water bigger than our pond. Now before me, the ocean seemed to go on endlessly.
"Well? What do you think?" my father asked. "This road winds all along the western coastline of the island, so we'll see the ocean almost all the way to Bamfield. Our house is just east of the town, right on the water." He reached over and tugged at a piece of my mother's long auburn hair.
"The house will be ours for the next three years," my mother said, smiling at me. "It belongs to an older couple so we'll have to take very good care of it. They've gone to Florida while we're here."
Twenty minutes later we saw a sign. Welcome to Bamfield. We had been driving for almost two days and I was tired of being cooped up in the car. I breathed in a sigh of relief – we were almost there. We passed unnoticed through the modest town of Bamfield. It was much smaller than Buffalo, the town nearest our ranch in Wyoming. After stopping at Myrtle’s Restaurant & Grill for a delicious supper of deep-fried halibut and greasy french-fries, we clambered back into the car and drove to our new home.
We reached a small, barely legible sign that read: 231 Bayview Lane. The gravel driveway curved and disappeared into the trees, away from the shoreline, and we were plunged into darkness. In some places branches reached out, caressing the roof of the car like a thousand hungry fingers. I hate to admit it but I felt restless and uneasy. I knew that my life would change the second we drove into the trees. Destiny or fate?
"The house is just up ahead," my father reassured us. Turning to my mother, he smiled, "I know you're going to love this house, Dani."

Daniella Andria Rossetti was born and raised in San Diego, California. Her parents were immigrants from Italy who had moved to the United States after World War II. When she was eighteen, Daniella's parents moved again, this time to Vancouver, Canada. She took advantage of their move, left home and moved to Hollywood with hopes of becoming a famous actress. After numerous rejections and insulting offers from some sleazy directors, she gave up her stalled acting career to study art and oil painting instead.
Within a couple of months her work was shown at a popular art gallery, Visions, in San Francisco. It was there that she met Jack Richardson, a Canadian marine biology student. Within six months, Daniella had moved in with Jack--much to her parents' disapproval. Four months later they were married in a small church with Daniella's parents and a few friends present.
For the next three years, Jack and Daniella tried unsuccessfully to have a child. They had almost given up hope when they discovered that Daniella was finally pregnant. Six months into her pregnancy, Daniella miscarried. They were totally devastated.
Eight months later, Jack's stepfather and mother were killed in a car accident. During the reading of his stepfather's will, Jack discovered that he was the new owner of a rambling ranch home in Wyoming. Daniella was upset at leaving the bustling city of San Francisco for the wide-open plains near Buffalo until the curator of Visions, Simon McAllister, promised that she could courier her paintings to the gallery.
After a year on the ranch, Daniella couldn't imagine living anywhere else. Her work had thrived. Her paintings reflected images of country living, meadows and mountains. Then she was rewarded with unbelievable news. She was pregnant again! Nine months later, Sarah Maria Richardson weighed in at eight pounds, four ounces. At three months, I had thick black hair and dark brown eyes--and my parents doted on me.
When I was about six years old, my mother told me how she and my father had met. She told me how handsome he had looked the day he walked into the art gallery. She said she had fallen in love with him that very moment. It sounded like a fairytale. I knew my parents loved each other and that they would be married forever.

Now, years later, the Richardson family was driving along the rustic coast of Vancouver Island, anticipating the reactions to our new home. The tall cedar trees surrounding the car finally opened to reveal a lush lawn carefully landscaped with small shrubs. The ocean was again visible along the line of trees and a deep sunset blazed across the water toward a two-story cedar house at the end of the gravel driveway.
The cedar house stood just beyond the lawn, on a small hill close to the rocky beach. The shingles on the roof gleamed in the reddening sunlight. From the back, the house seemed forlorn, empty. A screen door led to a small screened-in patio overlooking the yard. The main door into the house was solid wood, with no window. Only three small windows on the back of the house were visible from the car.
"Well…not much to look at from here but I'm sure it's much nicer inside," my mother mumbled, more to herself than to anyone in particular. "We could always punch out a window or two."
"Dani, my love? You wait until you see inside. Looks can be deceiving." My father grinned and kissed my mother's cheek. He pulled the car over until it was on a cement pad beside the house.
"The garage?" my mother asked with a smirk.
"You're so funny, Dani," my father replied sarcastically as he unfolded himself from the car. He threw me a quick wink when my mother wasn't looking and, leaving the suitcases in the trunk, we headed inside.
It was the brightness, the dazzling light that hit us first. We stood in the doorway, stunned to see large picture windows wrapping the entire front of the house facing the water. I ran to one of the windows, almost knocking over a potted plant that was in desperate need of watering. I stared, mesmerized, as the setting sun sparkled on the bay. The inside of the house glowed like the embers of a fire.
"Oh my!" my mother whispered breathlessly. "Jack, it's beautiful!"
"I agree," my father nodded. "And it's private. The nearest neighbor is about a fifteen-minute walk along the beach. Sarah? Do you want to check out the rest of the house?"
When I nodded, he tugged my jacket off, indicating a large closet by the door. Then leading me to the far side of the open room he said, "Over here is the living room. Check out the neat fireplace."
"What is that thing?" I asked, pointing to a large black monstrosity.
"That's a wood-burning stove!" my mother exclaimed behind me. "How charming! I love it, Jack. You were right about this house."
The main floor was open and airy with a living room to the left, decorated in bronze and copper tones. Two plaid couches framed an area mat. And then there was the wood-burning stove. A cedar shelf mounted onto the peach-colored wall above it displayed a collection of oddities. An eagle's feather, a fisherman's glass ball still wrapped with twine, a skull from a small animal and even a crab shell lined the shelf. Above the shelf was a painting that made me gasp.
"That's your painting, Mom!"
It was a painting of a mountain waterfall. My mother had painted it while she was pregnant with me. It was her very favorite…and mine also.
"I sent it on ahead, Dani, so it would be here when we arrived," my father explained. "I asked the caretaker to hang it for us. He also made sure we have lots of firewood, and he turned the electricity back on too. That's why the house is so warm."
A dining room table and four chairs claimed the area in front of one of the windows beside the living room, while the spacious kitchen, complete with wooden island, lined the back wall to the right. The walls of the kitchen were painted the palest teal color and along the ceiling edge ran a soft leafy border. Wrought iron stairs led from the kitchen to the upper floor.
Next to the stairs, a sliding glass door opened onto a cedar deck and I breathed in the salty air, while my father wandered outside. A large picnic table with two padded benches sat in one corner by the railing. From the deck we could walk down a few stairs, follow a short trail cut into the rocks and grass and we would be on the beach. It was mesmerizing listening to the waves lapping softly on the shore.
I was thrilled with my new home. It was much better than I had expected. I couldn't wait to see the upstairs so, grabbing my mother's hand, I urged her to follow me.
"Come on!" I shouted to my father, who merely smiled at us and stayed framed in the doorway to the deck.
Upstairs, I entered the first room on the right. It was a small sitting room with a large bookshelf. The walls were painted white but they looked like they had definitely seen better days. Dusty books inhabited the shelves and a rocking chair sat motionless near a large bay window.
"This room needs a good dusting," my mother muttered.
I looked at her suspiciously, positive that she had plans for me that included a dust rag in one hand and lemon Pledge in the other. "I want to see my room!" I demanded, changing the subject and barging past her out into the hall.
The next room I entered boasted a large brass bed with down-filled pillows and a flowered quilt, two white colonial dressers and a cedar bench-seat built into the bay window. I turned to my mother, fingers crossed behind my back.
"Is this your room?" I asked, fervently hoping it was not.
My mother looked around the room and pointed to the boxes stacked neatly in one corner. On the bottom box, the letter S had been scribbled in red marker.
"Looks like it's yours, Honey Bunny," she chuckled. My parents had been calling me that ridiculous nickname since I was a baby and I didn't have the heart to ask them to stop.
Looking around my new room, I was elated. This room was twice the size of the one back home, the bed was huge and I could see the ocean from my window. I loved it!
Stifling a yawn, I quickly checked out my parents' room, the large bathroom and the laundry room. Then I followed my mother downstairs to the dining room where I devoured my supper. I wrestled with exhaustion, afraid that I would miss something wonderful. My mother noticed and sent me off to bed anyway. That was probably the first time I didn't argue with her about going to bed early.
As the moon dipped lower behind tall cedar trees I climbed into my new bed, smelling the fresh sheets. Cranking open my window, I could hear the waves, soft and gentle. And in the distance I heard the lulling cry of a water bird searching for his home. I didn't know it then, but I had found mine.
Everything in the new house was perfect but I missed Amber-Lynn. I promised myself I would call her in the morning. After all, best friends were hard to find. Amber-Lynn and I had been best friends since we were two years old. Her parents and mine often got together to play cards while Amber-Lynn and I would stay up late, watching movies until we fell asleep.
That night I lay in my cozy bed hundreds of miles away from my friend and pledged my undying devotion to her. I missed her, and my only consolation was that in three years I would be returning to Wyoming, to my ranch and to Amber-Lynn.
Three years. To a child my age three years was a lifetime.
I snuggled deeply into the warmth of my bed and quickly fell asleep.

"Dad? Can I go outside?" I asked my father during breakfast. My mother was still sleeping.
"Sure thing, Sarah. Let's go for a walk."
My father and I strolled onto the deck, down the stairs and across the rocky trail to the beach. The sun gleamed off his blond hair, highlighting a few gray ones. At forty-one, my father was the most handsome man I knew. I loved him more than I loved anyone in the world--I idolized him.
He always made my mother and I laugh by imitating people at work. He often pretended he could understand the creatures of the sea and he would tell us what they thought of his co-workers. The whales didn't have many nice things to say about them sometimes.
I watched my father lean forward and pick up a rock. He examined it carefully with what my mother and I called his ‘scientific mind’. Then he skipped it across the water. I tried to mimic him, but my rock simply sank with a thud.
"Like this," he instructed, showing me how to select a flat stone and fling it towards the water's surface like a Frisbee. "You have to throw it hard but keep it flat."
I practiced skipping stones until I finally succeeded.
"There you go!" my father cheered, grinning proudly.
We followed the shoreline around a bend a few yards away from our house and I squealed with delight. The rocky shoreline disappeared and a sandy beach curved toward the water.
"A raft! Look, Dad!" I pointed to a floating raft anchored maybe fifteen yards out into the water. The bay widened and just beyond it, the ocean loomed.
"This is all part of our property," my father said. "It's safe to swim out to the raft, just don't go any further. Okay?" His eyes turned serious and dark.
I studied the raft and noticed a small island not too far from it. My father was staring at the island too and I wondered what he was thinking. It wasn't until after supper that he told my mother and me the story of Fallen Island.
"Last year the son of one of our neighbors tried swimming out to Fallen Island," he began quietly. "The story I heard was that the boy had challenged his sister to swim from the raft to the island but when she refused, he went anyway. Apparently he made it most of the way across." My father paused and I clung to my chair, waiting.
"No one knows if he got caught in an old fishing net that had been washed into the bay, or if he just got too tired. His sister tried swimming out to him but I guess she panicked and went back to the raft. Her parents found her an hour later, sitting on the raft, just staring at the island."
"Did they find him?" I asked hopefully.
My father shook his head and said, "Search teams dragged the bay but they never found his body. I heard that his sister went to the shoreline every day afterwards, hoping to catch sight of her brother because she believed that he was still alive. The boy was only fourteen years old."
"That's an awful story, Jack," my mother scolded. She turned to me, patting my back reassuringly. "Your dad never should have told you."
"There's a reason I did, Daniella," my father said seriously. He looked at me directly and said, "I want you to promise me that you'll never swim farther than that raft."
There were times when my father scared me. The intensity of his words combined with his piercing blue eyes made me swallow hard.
"Promise me," he repeated gently.
As I made that solemn vow, I reminded myself that promises were sacred, not to be broken. I knew that my father loved me and that he was only protecting me – or trying to. He would always be my protector.

The first week went by quickly. Our days were spent strolling along the rocky beach. My mother was happy because my father did not have to go to work for another week. I watched them take off their shoes and run along the water's edge, laughing like children and holding hands. If Amber-Lynn had been there I would have felt mortified by my parents' display but since I was the only witness, I just smiled and watched.
During the second week, my father often went into town to get supplies. I'm sure he just wanted to escape all the cleaning my mother had planned. While he was gone, I helped my mother clean the upstairs sitting room. We dusted the numerous books, washed the floor and stored all of the owners' boxes in the small basement beneath the house. The room was much larger than we had first thought and by the end of the day, my mother had completely emptied one side of it to make room for her easel and supply table.
"There!" I said, placing a blank canvas on the easel. "Now you're ready to paint."
"Not quite," my mother grinned, shaking her head slowly. "At least, not that kind of painting."
Then, to my dismay, she pulled out two cans of paint and two brushes. It appeared that the walls were going to get a new coat. Resigned to my fate, I grabbed a brush and started painting. Actually, looking back on that time, I realize now that it is one of my most favorite memories of my mother. She started on one side, I on the other, and we met in the middle. By the time the room was painted a rich amber color, we were covered in paint and giggling like small children.
Admiring the finished result, my mother and I shook hands, congratulating each other on a job well done. The room sparkled and a faint, lemony fragrance lingered in the air. We placed some candles and an oil lamp on the round table beside the rocking chair. I imagined sitting in this room, curled up in the rocker while my mother painted.
Closing the door behind us, my mother leaned against the wall.
"Okay, now I'm exhausted…and thirsty," she grinned breathlessly. "How about some ice tea on the deck?"
I laughed, racing down the stairs ahead of her. By the time she reached the deck, I had two tall glasses, complete with lemon slices and a pitcher of ice tea on the picnic table.
"Mom?" I asked hopefully. "Can I go swimming?"
My mother contemplated my request for a moment. The bay looked peaceful and inviting but I had never gone swimming unsupervised.
"I promise I'll just swim out to the raft. You know I'm a good swimmer."
I knew she was thinking of all those swimming lessons I had taken at the Buffalo Recreation Center. I was ahead of most kids my age--not many eleven-year-olds could swim as fast or as far as I could. In fact, the last class I had taken before we had moved was with kids two years older. I even had a badge for passing Intermediate Lifesaving.
Finally, my mother sighed and nodded. "I'm going to lie down anyway," she said. "Just for two hours though. Don't be gone longer than that. Your father will be home by five."
I gulped down my ice tea, blew my mother a kiss and then checked to make sure I had put on my watch. It was already two o'clock. I would be back by four. That was plenty of time for a swim.
I ran upstairs to change into a yellow, one-piece bathing suit. Catching my reflection in the dresser mirror, I stuck out my barely formed chest. One day, I sighed. One day they will grow. I pulled my thick mahogany-colored hair into a quick ponytail and secured it with an elastic band.
Grabbing a towel, I headed back downstairs. My mother was still outside finishing her ice tea. She waved to me and said, "Be back by four." Then as I reached the rocks I heard her yell after me, "No farther than the raft!" I rolled my eyes, shaking my head. Mothers!
When I arrived at the beach across from the raft, I flung my towel over a fallen log, removed my sandals and stepped into the warm water. A few pieces of seaweed swirled around my legs but other than that the water was clear. I laughed and plunged into the water, shocked by the salty taste in my mouth.
Swimming toward the raft, I glanced at the forbidden island across the bay. I floated on my back for a few minutes, staring up at the clouds, then turned over and dove below the surface. When I finally reached the raft, I pulled myself up the metal stepladder and onto the wooden deck.
Lying on my stomach, I traced the outlines of someone's initials carved deeply into the weathered wood--R.D. + M.C. forever! A few swear words had been scratched out with black marker, but I could still read them and I giggled to myself. I glanced at my watch. Lots of time. Propping my chin up in my hands, I admired the view. It was so peaceful.
I yawned loudly. Cleaning and painting the sitting room, combined with swimming, had made me more tired than I had realized. Resting my head on my arms, I dozed for a few moments under the warm rays of the sun.
All of a sudden, I heard a loud splash. At first, I thought maybe I was dreaming. Until I heard it again and looked up. Something was sticking out of the water about ten yards to my left.
I sat up, captivated by the strange spectacle. Seawater sprayed and foamed off something black and white, and then whatever it was sank underwater, out of sight. I waited for it to reappear and I admit I was a bit nervous about going back into the water.
What if it's a shark? I didn't even know if there were any sharks in the bay. My father had never said anything. However, I knew I could not stay on the raft all day.
Pushing myself up on my elbows, I strained my neck for a better view of the water. Staring out into the bay, I suddenly sensed something moving in the water behind me.
"That was my brother," a voice whispered.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Article: Creating an Internet Identity - For Authors

It's mere weeks before Christmas and the busiest season for anyone promoting their books. This is the time to schedule book signings at bookstores, readings at libraries and cafes, and it's also time to fork out some advertising dollars. Books don't sell themselves! Well, not unless you are Michael Crichton, Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. For the rest of us, we have to rely on smooth selling styles, setting up tables in our local bookstores, and finding unique and affordable ways to advertise our books. Affordable advertising can be difficult to come by for a self-published author. But there are ways around it. There is one thing you can do that will help to bring attention to you and your books. And that is to create an "internet identity".

Quick! Go to Google and do a vanity search. If you don't know what this means, it's simple. Type in your name. See how many direct hits to your site (or anything that pertains to you) come up. Two years ago I did this and was quite depressed to see that I was nowhere to be found. In the internet world, I simply did not exist. Since then, I have learned a few tricks of the trade, and I am now deeply entrenched into the top 10 pages (or more) in most search engines. What does this mean? It means that anyone, anywhere, can view information about my books and me.

Here are a few ways an author can build up an internet presence or identity:

* The first and most important tool you will need is a web site. If you have a published novel, this is a MUST! Go to and register a domain name. For authors, you should select your name or pen name. Choose .com's or .ca's only. Next, you need a host, a place to store your web site. You can purchase web hosting packages from a variety of sources, or you can use free web spaces that may come with existing internet accounts. If you use a free space, then you will definitely need to buy a domain name. With, you can then forward the domain name to the free web space. It keeps things looking professional.

* Once you have a web site, then comes the job of submitting it to search engines. There are a variety of tools and downloads that will assist you in submitting your site, or you can submit manually. I recommend that you submit once every three months, as most SE's may consider it spam if it is done too often. Look for "Add URL" or "Submit your site" on search engine home pages. Keep in mind that it can take months before your site shows up, and then most likely it will be many pages in. To increase ranking, make sure you swap links with other authors or sites that pertain to writing. Add a Resources page with links you've researched, links that other authors will find valuable. Get a Google AdSense account and place their ads at the top of your web pages. Remember, content is key on any web site!

* One of the best ways to establish a web presence is by writing Press Releases. A press release is a news article or announcement, usually averaging 400 words, that should be sent out a month prior to any event as it takes time for the release to be picked up by other media sources. Press releases can be written by professional companies or by the writer themselves, and you can send them out weekly. They should be sent to all local media sources (fax them to TV, radio, newspapers and magazines), and to PR feeds online. I highly recommend This is the company I use almost exclusively. Their rates are affordable, they have a more personal approach and they are extremely generous in cases of emergency. even sponsored a project I worked on, Project Drumheller, and became our official media sponsor for the duration of the campaign. I have used this press release service over PRWeb's service, and will continue to do so. is the crème de la crème of online PR services. There are also a number of free press release services that you can submit your news release to.,, and more. Your releases will get picked up by hundreds of RSS feeds and distributed internationally.

* You will also want to find places you can advertise your books. I highly recommend that you apply for a membership at The rates are very affordable and you can promote your books through BookAdz without having to give up a percentage of sales. Sales can be directed to any outlet, your publisher or yourself. You have a choice between three packages, but with a GoldAdz membership you can advertise an unlimited amount of book titles. You can also advertise through and many more membership sites.

The fact is, the more your name is out there in cyberspace, the more people who read about your exciting action-packed thriller or suspenseful murder mystery, the more people who see your name pop up when they search for Canadian mystery authors, then the more potential customers you have. People buy more of what they know, what they frequently see. Your job as a published writer is to "get known".