Thursday teaser: The Christmas Well

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Enjoy this seasonal treat

By J.L. Oakley

When the city pipes broke at four above zero, the water spread out across our road like the thick roots of a crystal Banyan tree and froze. We all came out to stare, our boots slipping on the remains of last week’s snow. It was three days before Christmas. Our trees and lights were up, our cookies in the canisters, and stockings on the mantle, but we had no water.

“Not until the twenty-eight,” the Forest Hills Water Department said and would have left it at that until someone got the brilliant idea of hauling up a water tank and putting it at the top of the hill.

“At least it’s something,” a neighbor said and went to organize her pots. Others weren’t so sure and said that the season was ruined.

Our community well arrived that afternoon. An old World War II water tankard bristling with spigots, its camouflage shell looked odd against the neat pre-war brick homes lined with hedges and crusted with old snow. Curious children and their parents watched a brief demonstration, and then were left to their imaginations how they would actually do it.  

I heard about the tankard after I came home from junior high school. Mom, Dad, and my brothers, John and Bruce, had already carried enough pots of water into the kitchen to make it look like a battlefield after a major roof leak. (There was a leak of some sort, a family member later recalled. A pipe had snapped from the cold.) We had water in stew pots, canning pots, sauce pans, and even a few tin cans for the powder room. A large boiler was on the stove for doing dishes and washing hands.

In the living room behind the swinging kitchen doors, Handel played on the radio. The windows were painted with angels and snowflakes. The tree was ready to trim. Christmas was not going to be delayed.

Photo by Євгенія Височина on Unsplash

Winters are cold and often snowy in Pittsburgh. Except for the hordes of children with whom I sledded in the open field below the alley, neighbors only glimpsed and waved at one another as they communally scrapped ice or snow off windshields on the way to work or to shop. Snowman-worthy snow might bring out a few townspeople for a moment’s divertissement, but that was usually reserved for the younger crowd. Most folks kept to their calendar of baking, Christmas card writing, and package sending-off. Visiting applied only to a few close friends and often it was by telephone to catch up on the day’s news. In winter we just stayed inside. The Christmas well changed that.

From morning to night we bundled up in our bright wool coats and scarves and rubber over-boots and trudged up the hill to the tankard with our pails and pots in hand, like ants making lines to a picnic. Neighbors that we hadn’t seen since summer or hardly knew at all tiptoed down their steep stairs or off their brick porches to go to the well. As we gathered at the spigots, conversations blossomed in the frigid air, puffing out like little smoke signals.

“What’s news, Mrs. Hanna? Did you get your tree?”

“My car didn’t start again.”

“My grandkids are coming for Christmas Eve.”

The pots and pans were filled, but so were the spaces between neighbors. Older times were recalled and strategies on hauling water offered. “When I was growing up on the farm we had a pump. Had to prime it every time. Mother always kept a can of water next to it just for that.”

“We had a well in Italy. The whole village used it.”

We stopped and listened to the stories. We filled and hauled and laughed at our communal inconvenience. Our own village was born right there in our neighborhood.

The Christmas Well

In this charming essay, a city street is without water three days before Christmas. All the families think Christmas was lost. Then the city brings in a water tank.

Going to get water from the “well” on Christmas Eve becomes a special childhood memory as neighbors young and old fill their buckets and pans and share their joys of the season despite a little more than inconvenience.

Find it on Amazon.

J.L. Oakley

J.L. Oakley, historical fiction

writes award-winning historical fiction that spans the mid-19th century to WW II. Her characters come from all walks of life, but all stand up for something in their own time and place.

Her books have been recognized with a 2013 Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award, the 2013 Chanticleer Grand Prize, the 2014 First Place Chaucer Award, 2015 WILLA Silver Award and the 2016 Goethe Grand Prise.

When not writing, Janet demonstrates 19th century folkways, including churning some pretty mean butter.

Her most recent historical novel, Mist-chi-mas: A Novel Of Captivity, launched in September 2017. It is set in 1860 on San Juan Island in Pacific NW during a time with the British Royal Marines and US Army jointly occupied the island—peacefully.

Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @JlOakley13.

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Seasons’ readings

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It’s holiday season at BestSelling Reads

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate and plenty of opportunities to give at this time of year.

Many avid readers are also looking forward to time to spend on their favorite activity: reading!

At BestSelling Reads, we’ve been hard at work providing you with plenty of choices for both giving and reading.

We’ve told you about the newest releases by members.

And we have some seasonal reads for you, as well.

Snogged: A Jenna Ray [Christmas] Story by Kayla Dawn Thomas

Jenna Ray is a vigilante who seeks justice for women whose men betray them—and gets it. In the third story in The Collection, Jenna finds a new client while Christmas shopping.

Nailing a philanderer gets complicated when Jenna also has to content with visiting relatives, unaccustomed holiday decorating and friends who are intent on pushing her into the arms of a certain someone named Thad.

Snogged is the third in the Jenna Ray series. You can get it free by subscribing to the BestSelling Reads email newsletter.

Don’t stop there: get the whole book for your Kindle or Kindle App today.

With a cast of quirky friends, clients, and family, the Jenna Ray Stories will have you laughing and cringing at Jenna’s predicament. Just one warning: think twice before you slip off that ring, boys.

Visit Kayla Dawn Thomas’ author page to see all her books.

The Christmas Well by J.L. Oakley

In this charming essay, a city street is without water three days before Christmas. All the families think Christmas was lost. Then the city brings in a water tank.

Going to get water from the “well” on Christmas Eve becomes a special childhood memory as neighbors young and old fill their buckets and pans and share their joys of the season despite a little more than inconvenience.

Get The Christmas Well on Amazon.

Visit J.L. Oakley’s author page to see all her books.

Palm Trees & Snowflakes by Scott Bury

In Honolulu, where the palm trees are strung with lights for the holidays, FBI Special Agents Vanessa Storm and Alan Terakawa have their hands full trying to stop the deadly flow of snowflake, the newest designer drug. Faulty intel brings the agents into a deadly firefight, which yields even more puzzles. Time is running out to stop this lethal flood.

Get Palm Trees & Snowflakes on Amazon.

Visit Scott Bury’s author page to see all his books.

Mistletoe Promises by Kayla Dawn Thomas

A Seasons of Love novella available exclusively through the author’s website.

Bert Gregory is about to make her fashion design debut, but unlike in her dreams, it’s not on the runway at Fashion Week. Instead, she’s commissioned to create bridesmaid gowns and a wedding dress for a friend. She never imagined enjoying such work, but could it be, she’s been chasing the wrong dream?

Meanwhile, Christine Eber finds herself falling in love with a cowboy. Having loved and lost years ago, Christine is afraid of making any permanent commitments. That fear of loss might make her miss out on the best life has to offer.

Is the Christmas magic in the air enough to help them let go of old dreams and forge ahead with new and better ones?

Sign up for Kayla Dawn Thomas’ newsletter and get your free copy of Mistletoe Promises.

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Christmas in paradise: Palm Trees & Snowflakes

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The holiday shopping season is officially on. From now till the end of the year, Teaser Thursday will feature holiday-themed books and novellas for your holiday entertainment.

A Hawaiian holiday season teaser

By Scott Bury

When she opened her apartment door, her reflection in the hall mirror shocked her. Her shoulder-length, light brown hair was tangled from the night’s activity and frizzy from Hawaii’s humidity. Her large green eyes were dark with fatigue, with semi-circular shadows under them. Blood smeared the sleeve of her overpriced jogging jacket. The little bump on her nose still frustrated her, as it did every time she looked in a mirror.

Her black-and-white cat wound around her ankles, making “Brrr-rp” sounds. She bent to pat him. “Hello, Tux. Did you miss me?”

Photo by Mel Gardner on Unsplash

Tux purred in answer. She carried him into the kitchen, where she saw her answering machine flashing. After filling Tux’s bowl, she hit the button. Her mother’s attenuated voice came out. “Hello, Honey. I was hoping it wasn’t too early when I called. I can never remember what the time difference is over there.” Vanessa could hear her father in the background, explaining it. Her eyes went to the photo of her parents that hung on her kitchen wall, taken on their thirtieth anniversary. A pang of guilt shot through her. “Oh dear, you’re probably asleep right now. Okay, I’ll just remind you to let us know when you’re arriving so we can pick you up at the airport. You know what the roads can be like at Christmastime. Call us. Love you.”

Vanessa did not have the energy to disappoint her mother by telling her she did not know whether she could come home to Vermont for the holidays. As she kicked off her running shoes, her mobile phone chimed. She looked at the screen and thought I’m even more tired than I thought.

No, her eyes weren’t playing tricks on her. Perry Boyd. I’m coming to Hawaii tomorrow. Wd lv 2 C U.

She hadn’t seen Perry for over two years, hadn’t even spoken to him or exchanged emails. Now he wanted to come all the way to Hawaii from Vermont, just to meet her?

Vanessa always found Alan King’s sad disappointment harder to take than the tough dressing-down her previous commanding officer had preferred. Sitting across his desk from King, she had to think about not fidgeting. She glanced at Alan Terakawa beside her, then focused on King’s receding hairline.

After two hours of sleep, Vanessa had returned to the FBI office dressed according to the Bureau dress code, plus a little added Vanessa Storm flair: grey linen pants, a silk blouse under a stylish cotton jacket that concealed her shoulder-holster yet didn’t get too hot in the tropical climate. Her moderate heels brought her almost to her partner’s height.

Terakawa was dressed, as always, in FBI standard dark suit, white shirt and perfectly knotted tie.

“How did this go so wrong?” King asked, his eyes filled with pain. “A body in the morgue, two people in the hospital with gunshot wounds, one of them a law enforcement officer. I have to make an official statement to the media. Of course, after a detailed report to Washington. So tell me everything you can. First, though …” King focused first on Terakawa until he shifted in his seat. Vanessa saw sweat on his brow. Then the SAIC turned to Vanessa. Time telescoped. Her mouth went dry. “Are you two all right?”

“We’re fine,” Vanessa stressed. “I’m anxious to question the suspect.”

King sat back in his chair. “What do we know about the snowflake case?”

“Not much more than before. We got a tip from an informant that a new shipment was coming in on 9 Pier, but they didn’t know which container. The pills we found were concealed in children’s toys that came from Shanghai via Manila. Which is baffling. Previous shipments of snowflake have come from other ports, including Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur. One came in a container from Seoul. The methods for smuggling are different every time, too. While this shipment was in a child’s toy, others have been in flat-screen TVs, tires, cutlery, you name it.”

“Maybe you can find some answers in Ferreira’s computer,” King said. “Thank you. That’s all for now.”

Alan left, but Vanessa waited for a moment. “There’s one more thing.” She took a deep breath. “I’d like to request some vacation time to visit my parents in Vermont at Christmas.”

Photo by Alasdair Elmes on Unsplash

King’s cheeks puffed out as he sighed. “Normally, I’d say no problem. But we’re up to our elbows with this flood of new drugs, plus we’re short-staffed .”

“I appreciate that, sir. But things slow down during the holidays, even for the FBI. I have more than a week of holidays coming to me. This would be the first year I’ll have been away from my parents for Christmas. I’m an only child—”

King’s tone changed. His posture straightened. “I can appreciate that, Special Agent Storm. But I need you to understand how critical the snowflake case is. It’s the newest designer drug, and it’s sweeping the mainland. There have been six snowflake-related deaths among teenagers in the past two months, and Washington has made it a priority. Our best intelligence shows Honolulu as its first point of entry into U.S. territory. I’m sorry, but we need you here.”

Son of a bitch. “All right. How about this—if I can make a breakthrough and an arrest in the snowflake case by the twenty-third, I can take a week off at Christmas.”

A tiny smile broke King’s command façade. “Okay, Vanessa. If you can make a significant arrest by the twenty-third, you can take time off. Consider it a reward for a job well done.”

Now you’ve done it, Storm.

Palm Trees & Snowflakes

In Honolulu, where the palm trees are strung with lights for the holidays, FBI Special Agents Vanessa Storm and Alan Terakawa have their hands full trying to stop the deadly flow of snowflake, the newest designer drug. Faulty intel brings the agents into a deadly firefight, which yields even more puzzles. Time is running out to stop this lethal flood.

Available exclusively in Kindle e-book format from Amazon.

Scott Bury

It turns out a farmers’ market is not the best place to sell books. Who knew?

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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Perfect gifts for the avid readers on your list

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BestSelling Reads is making life easier for you. We have the perfect books for the avid readers on gift list. Take a look at the books these fantastic authors have offered you in just the past year.

Samreen Ahsan

Once Upon a [Fallen] Time: Stolen Series II follows model and actress Myra Farrow as she finds a portal to a dark and dangerous past in the cursed, lifeless Hue Castle—and discovers her unbreakable link to it.

Find out more on the author’s website.

Buy it from Amazon.

Scott Bury

The Eastern Front Trilogy comprises three best-selling, award-winning books that tell the true story of Maurice Bury, a Canadian citizen drafted into the Soviet Red Army in World War II.

Read about it on the author’s website.

Get it from Amazon.

M.L. Doyle

The second book in the Desert Goddess series, The Bonding Blade follows Sergeant Hester Trueblood’s struggle find the answers seven years after she’s bonded to the ancient Sumerian goddess of love and war, Inanna. A blend of fantasy, action adventure, mystery, and romance with a biting sense of humor.

Find out more on her website.

Buy it on Amazon.

Barb Drozdowich

The Author’s On-Line Presence: How to Find Readers was updated last month with the latest on social media, blogs and more Award-winning technical trainer Barb Drozdowich helps authors save time and achieve results.

Find out more on her website.

Buy it at your preferred e-tailer.

DelSheree Gladden

Shark in Troubled Waters is the latest in The Date Shark series. Sabine Saint Laurent, the Princess of Paris is always in control, until her life is upended by pregnancy.

Find more on her website.

Buy it on Amazon.

Sydney Landon

The Pierced/Lucian & Lia series continues in Marco. The top hitman of the Moretti Crime Family, he finds himself in a real bind when he falls for the step-daughter of one of his targets.

Find out more on the author’s website.

Buy it on Amazon.

Alan McDermott

Ex-CIA assassin Eva Driscoll is captured when the shadowy Executive Security Office, the most powerful and secretive organization on the planet, forces her into a high-risk mission. Can Eva finally defeat the ESO, or will this final installment really be her last?

Find out more on the author’s website.

Buy it on Amazon.

Toby Neal

Lei Texeira returns with her signature leap first, look later style in this taught thriller where pirates plunder the Hawaiian paradise in a bid to rule the sea: Razor Rocks.

Find out more on the author’s website.

Buy it from the e-tailer of your choice.

J.L. Oakley

Award-winning bestseller J.L. Oakley has united her three Hilo Bay mysteries: Coconut Island, Volcano House and Hilina Pali. Read about Auntie Bee Takahashi and her crime-reporter great niece Tawnie Takahashi as they solve mysteries that can stretch back for decades.

Find out more on the author’s website.

Buy it from Amazon.

Corinne O’Flynn

Wicked Truth: Cursed Coven: Ivy Winter is a Winter Witch, and it’s important for to marry well so as to preserve her family’s magical line. But she finds herself—and her cat—falling for Anton Stavros, risking everything in her past and her future.

Find out more on the author’s website.

Buy it on Amazon.

Caleb Pirtle III

In Lonely Night to Die, the multi-award-winning bestseller has brought his three noir thrillers, the Quiet Assassin series, into a single volume about the unstoppable, yet expendable assassin, Roland Sand: Lovely Night to Die, Rainy Night to Die and Lonely Night to Die.

Read more on the author’s website.

Buy it from Amazon.

Raine Thomas

Beautiful Finale is the fourth book in the House of Archer rock’n’roll romance series. Lily Montgomery’s whirlwind romance with the leader of The Void struggles to deal with life in the spotlight, while her assistant just might have her eye on the band’s guitarist.

Find out more from the author’s website.

Buy it from Amazon.

D.G. Torrens

Words are our most powerful tool. Midnight Musings, Book 4 of the Amelia Series, contains 300 thought-provoking quotes born through trial and tribulation, loss, pain, rejection, depression and so many other emotions. D.G. has called on her own life experiences to make sense of the things that go on around all of us.

Find out more on the author’s website.

Buy it from Amazon.

And don’t forget to check out all our authors for the reading for the holiday season and the whole year long!

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Beautiful Finale

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Enjoy this sample from the fourth House of Archer rock’n’roll romance novel

By Raine Thomas

Jada wished the evening would never end. It seemed all too soon that everyone walked out to their cars to head home.

She merely headed to her car.

Home, sweet home, she thought with a sigh as she settled into the driver’s seat. When she was sure the rest of the band had gone and no one else in the parking lot was paying her any attention, she lowered the sun visor and looked at her reflection in the vanity mirror.

“Great job,” she told herself. “You busted your ass for this. You deserve it. Now stick with it and don’t ever fucking give up.”

Once upon a time, she would have felt sorry for herself that she was the only one she could turn to for support and encouragement, especially for such a huge moment. Now she chose to look at the bright side. At least she wouldn’t ever let herself down.

The restaurant closed an hour later. When the night manager turned the lock and spotted her sitting in her car, he frowned and headed over to her. She obligingly rolled down her window.

“Hey, Nico,” she greeted him.

“Hi, J,” he said, stopping a few feet from her car. “Been awhile.”

“Yeah, it has. Listen, I need a favor.”

“J…”

“Please, Nico? I swear it’s just for tonight. I was here celebrating my new job.”

That had the discomfort easing from Nico’s expression. “Is that right?”

“It is. I’ll only be mobile another couple weeks until I get my first paycheck. ‘Til then I just want to make sure I’m somewhere safe to sleep at night. This is a well-lit parking lot and I know you won’t call the cops on me.”

“Well…”

The faint sound of a throat clearing had Nico glancing over the roof of her car. Jada looked out the passenger side window to see who had interrupted. When she saw a camo T-shirt tucked into a pair of khaki cargo pants, her spine stiffened. Xander was too tall for her to see his face but there was no mistaking that spectacular body.

Had he heard their conversation?

“Hey, man,” Xander said to Nico. “You work here?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I think I left my phone earlier. Can you help me out?”

“Of course.”

Nico immediately turned and walked back to the restaurant, fishing his keys out of his pocket as he went. Jada forced herself to stay calm. Xander had been standing on the far side of her car and that window hadn’t been open. He probably hadn’t heard anything, she assured herself.

She heard the sound of his heavy boots crunching gravel as he strolled over to her side of the car. It was impossible not to notice how gracefully he moved, like a powerful predator. Her hands gripped the steering wheel for no good reason other than she didn’t know what else to do with them. She swallowed audibly as Xander placed a hand on the roof of her car and leaned over so he was looking in her window. He was so close she could smell the mouth-watering scent of his aftershave.

“Hey there, Jada,” he said casually. “Or should I call you J?”

Fuck. He’d heard everything.

Beautiful Finale

A rock band. A reality show. A marriage on the rocks.

In the span of four months, Lily Montgomery has gone from touring with her best friend to marrying him. It feels like someone has stomped on the gas pedal that is her life. Right now she is more than ready to pump the brakes.

But that’s not how it works in the world of show business. Her new husband is off filming and recording more often than he is at home. He sees more of his beautiful co-star than his own wife. Lily is finding it harder and harder to distinguish between performing and reality, adding more stress to a marriage that the tabloids already wager won’t last the year.

Thank God for Jada Morgan.

Lily’s new assistant quickly becomes indispensable, covering The Void’s social media while Lily pursues her own writing. When Lily learns that Jada is temporarily rooming with Void guitarist, Xander Phillips, she isn’t concerned. Xander has hard-and-fast rules when it comes to relationships with women. The only way he’ll break Jada’s heart is if he breaks all of his rules.

Even with Jada’s support, Lily struggles to adjust to her new life. From her own personal stalker and ongoing family drama to the constant bombardment from the media, she’s quickly reaching her breaking point. She’s about to learn if marrying a rock star will result in a beautiful finale…or in absolute disaster.

Where you can get it:

Raine Thomas

Raine Thomas, new adult, young adult and romance

is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen.

Raine is a proud indie author who is living the dream. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Get to know more about Raine on

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Lest we forget

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On this day in 1918, the guns finally stopped at the end of the bloodiest war humankind had yet seen.

The First World War changed the way we think about war and the people who had to fight them. That meant it changed the way we talk and write about the experiences of the people in it.

In 1915, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a physician with the 1st Brigade of the Canadian Field Army wrote In Flanders Fields after the death of his friend at the Second Battle of Ypres. It has become the most quoted poem about war around the world.

For Remembrance Day, also called Armistice Day and Veterans Day, BestSelling Reads presents this poem.

Lest we forget.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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