Nature’s Gifts

To celebrate Earth Day and the work of the Nature Conservancy Council, Vanilla Heart Publishing has released ‘Nature’s Gifts.’

More than twenty pieces, from haiku to villanelles, from essays to short stories, will delight nature lovers everywhere. Take a walk in a garden or hike in a national park. Reflect on the moon. Learn something new. Laugh—and cry—with our writers as they discover the beauty, the joys, and the raw power of nature.

The Nature Conservancy will receive a donation of 50 percent of the profits for every book sold in both print and e-book editions for one year. Dedicated to protecting our rapidly vanishing natural environment, The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 117 million acres of land in 28 countries.

The selected poets and authors are:

Kathi Anderson, Douglas G. Campbell, Malcolm Campbell, Sam Cash, Chelle Cordero, Helen Haught Fanick, jeglaze, S. Kelley Harrell, Robert Hays, Donna Henes, Lisa Mayers Houff, Victoria Howard, Leah Mooney, Thom Newnham, Deanne Quarrie, Connie Spittler, Smoky Trudeau, Kimberlee Williams , and Scott Zeidel

Nature’s gifts is available from Amazon.com and in e-bookformat from Smashwords.com

Here’s a short excerpt from my contribuition, ‘Man’s Complacency.’

A heavy sea fog rolled in along the Strait of Juan de Fuca catching everyone, including the weathermen, by surprise. By early evening it covered the coastline from Port Angeles in the west, to Seattle and Tacoma in the east, and as far north as Anacortes. Traffic on the freeway slowed to a crawl. Planes were grounded, and ships were confined to port or instructed by the Coast Guard to keep station and wait for the fog to disperse.

Most residents of the Pacific Northwest were used to the fogbanks that settled over their cities in spring and autumn, but this fog was different. Thick and cloying, it hung heavily in the air, covering everything in a fine mist and reducing visibility to a matter of yards. Formed when a warm air mass moved over a colder area, the fog hung around for days, and resulted in a backlog of shipping. Ships’ masters, desperate to keep to schedule to avoid lost revenue and additional operating costs, often became frustrated, over self-confident and complacent.

Joe McCabe, head of the department of Fish and Wildlife, had just finished breakfast the following morning when his cell phone rang.

“McCabe.”

“Hi Joe, it’s Steve Jones from the Department of Ecology. I hope I’m not disturbing you.”

“I was just about to leave for the office. What gives, Steve?”

“Just thought I’d give you a heads up. A seine netter out of Anacortes has reported seeing an oil slick in the Rosario Strait. The skipper was about to put his nets out when he spotted it. He thought it was fairly well localized, but I’ve asked the Coast Guard send up a spotter plane to check it out. But this darned fog is making things difficult. In the meantime, I want you to take charge of any cleanup operation.”

Joe rubbed his bald head. “Why not use someone from your department?”

“Because all I have is Bryant, who only joined us a couple of months ago, and I need someone with experience.”

“I see. With any luck the slick will be small enough to disperse, but better ask the Coast Guard to fax me a list of vessels that went through the Strait in the last forty-eight hours. While we wait for news, I’ll contact the oil spill team and have them standby. Have… what’s his name? Oh, yeah, Bryant. Have him meet me in my office in an hour.”

“Her. Bryant is a woman.”

“No kidding?”

“No kidding.”

McCabe hung up without another word. The last thing he needed was some namby-pamby woman traipsing around him in a day-glow survival suit.

Thanks to a jack-knifed truck on the I-90, the drive from his home on Mercer Island to downtown Seattle took nearly forty minutes. While he waited for the cops to clear the freeway, McCabe thought about the last major oil spill he’d been involved with. Twenty five years before, the Exxon Valdez had dumped approximately ten million gallons—one fifth of her cargo of crude oil in Prince William Sound, Alaska. He’d been part of one of the many cleanup crews tasked to remove the clumps of oil from the shoreline. The memory of the devastation had lived with him ever since, which was why he’d been a driving force behind the state’s oil spill contingency plan. He just hoped he wouldn’t have to implement it now.

When he reached his office, a slim young woman with her hair up in a silky blonde ponytail stood as he entered.

“Mr McCabe?” She extended a hand. “Faith Bryant, Department of Ecology.”

McCabe paused before he shook her hand, then stepped back from the door and motioned her to take a seat. “You’d better come in. Steve Jones tells me this is your first spill investigation.”

“That’s right. I studied marine biology and wrote my thesis on the challenges facing Puget Sound. Steve thought it would be good experience for me to be part of the investigation and cleanup process.”

McCabe thought about his friend, Jedediah Walker, another marine biologist. They’d worked together on a number of investigations and projects over the years. Right now he could do with Walker’s expertise rather than this pretty young woman straight out of college. But Walker and his wife, Skye, were in China helping the Chinese Government investigate the reason why the Yangtze River Dolphin had become extinct.

“Well, listen carefully and learn. Any news on the slick or what vessel might have caused it?”

“Unfortunately, yes. The McMinnville, a tanker headed for the refinery at Cherry Point, failed to pick up a pilot at Port Angeles. At the time, the Coast Guard tried to raise her on the radio, but got no response. Around midnight, the third mate reported that the engine had failed and the vessel was drifting out of control in the Rosario Strait.”

McCabe knew that hundreds of ships and ferries passed through Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Rosario Strait every day. Add commercial fishing boats and pleasure craft into the mix, and the fishing lanes of Puget Sound were the busiest in the nation. In good conditions it could take a tanker more than a mile to stop. But with no means of propulsion, the McMinnville was at the mercy wind and tide.

Valentine’s Day Release

What a busy three months! Life has been on big rush ever since Vanilla Heart accepted my submission for The House on the Shore. Not only did the cover and synopsis appear on Amazon.com and other online bookstores, but it will also be available in libraries in both the UK and USA. WooHoo!!!

The House on the Shore

Set in the Highlands of Scotland, this visually magical tale takes the reader on a journey from the remote shores of Loch Hourn to the singular beauty of Cape Cod.

And for those of you who might be considering buying a copy, here’s a short excerpt:

Her concentration was broken by the shriek of frantic barking. She tore her gaze away from the screen and looked out of the kitchen window. A tall, dark-haired man was making his way up the crescent-shaped beach, doing a weird twisting dance, holding his right arm above his head. With his left he pushed off the two boisterous, snapping collies.

“Oh hell,” she groaned. She threw open the door and shouted. “Ensay! Rhona! Heel!”

The dogs instantly stopped snapping at the stranger’s ankles and ran to their mistress. Anna leaned against the door frame and waited while the figure strode confidently across the grass towards her, his well-muscled body covering the rough ground with long, purposeful strides. His jet black hair showed a little grey at the temples, the cut slightly longer than was considered acceptable for a man she judged to be in his forties. But somehow it suited him.

He stopped a foot from her door, close enough for her to smell the lemon spice of his cologne. Now that she could see him more clearly, she noticed the laughter lines around his eyes and mouth, hinting at a softer side to his character. His body was lean, the outline of his muscles visible through the shirt he wore. A faint white scar creased his right cheek, and she thought it gave his face a handsome rugged look. He gazed at her with dark brown eyes and smiled, slow and warm, and for some reason her breathing quickened.

With just one look she knew he was trouble.

“Hi, there. I know I’m trespassing, but do you think you could ask your dogs not to rip off my thigh?”

Anna drew herself up to her full height, which was barely up to his shoulder. “They’re guard dogs and only doing their duty,” she said stiffly. The dogs sat at her silent signal, but their eyes remained fixed on the stranger.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m having engine trouble and I can’t get a signal.” He indicated his mobile phone.

“That’s because there are no transmitters.”

“Oh, then could I borrow your phone? I need to contact the nearest boatyard for some advice.”

“I don’t have a phone.”

He rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. “Look, I haven’t slept for twenty-four hours and I’m beat. Sandpiper, that’s my yacht, developed a problem soon after I left Stornaway.” He paused as her words registered. “Did I hear right? You don’t have a phone?”

“No, I don’t, so I’m afraid I can’t help you. I suggest you weigh anchor, turn your boat around, and head west out of the loch.”

“Perhaps I should’ve introduced myself. I’m Luke Tallantyre, from Cape Cod, Massachusetts.” He offered his hand. She didn’t take it.

“Anna, Anna MacDonald. Yachts are always straying into the loch at this time of year. Their crews seem to think this is some sort of hostel. Well, it’s not, and I still don’t have a phone.”

“Okay, so where do I catch the bus to town?” His eyes lingered on her face. “Oh, no. You’re about to tell me there isn’t a bus either. Aren’t you?”

Anna nodded. The motion sent sunlight gliding through her auburn hair. “That’s right. Welcome to Kinloch Hourn, otherwise known as the Loch of Hell.”

“The name fits,” Luke muttered. “What sort of place doesn’t have a phone or a bus service in this day and age?”

“How about the remotest glen in the Highlands? Up here, one man and his dog constitute a crowd. And before you ask, there are no shops either, unless you count Mrs McCloud in the village, but she only opens on alternate days. The butcher’s van calls every Thursday afternoon, and the library service visits once a month. I think that about covers all the local amenities. Oh yes, there’s a mobile bank too, but that only comes once a fortnight. The school closed last year. But you’re in luck…there’s a hotel and it has a phone.”

“So there is a God after all.”

“However, its twelve miles down the road in that direction,” she replied, pointing vaguely to some distant place.