The Smile

Author’s Note:

This is just a short nibble I wrote several years ago. Thought I’d post it here, again. It was going to be a sweet, light, romantic moment.

Then it took a turn.


He saw her at nearly the same time every day.

The Smile pic for storyShe drove a BMW 335i, painted in a splashy red shade that shouted, “I am worth watching!” Most days, a boy was with her. The watcher judged the boy to be about nine or ten, and he wore a collared shirt. Probably, he guessed, a school uniform. The woman herself had hair the color of sunshine and small hands. That was all he ever really saw of her.

Excepting her smile. He saw her smile. Every day.

She and the boy — her son? likely — were always in the middle of a conversation whenever he saw them. Both of them had infectious grins and once, he had heard her laugh. Such a laugh. Enthusiastic, rich, vibrant. It was such a laugh! Almost enough for him to leave the comfortable anonymity of his bistro table in front of the coffee shop to jog to her car, offer his card, and just introduce himself before the light changed.

Once, the woman and her son were not laughing. Their faces were serious as they stopped at the traffic signal. Talking, yes, but serious. It was so rare that he noticed and wondered about it, making all kinds of stories in his head about them, as he often did. The next day, though, their usual hilarity had returned and he chuckled himself, into his coffee cup.

Thus it went for months. Through the holidays, when the sunshine-haired woman had piled presents behind her. Into spring, when her windows were rolled down and her laughter was audible once more.

One day in late April, he saw her car in a parking lot. The lot of the local hospital. He was going there himself to visit friends and their child, who had been injured in a crash. He wondered if the smiling woman was visiting friends, too, and he felt a strange anticipation that she might be, and he might get to introduce himself. In his mind, he tried out different ways of saying hello that would not make him sound like a stalker.

On the floor where his friends’ son was staying, he saw her. The hair, her hands. Walking into a room.


“I’m here, honey. Mom’s here.”

The voices were subdued. Low. Broken. Raspy.

The watcher’s eyes misted over all at once and he had to lean against the wall to compose himself before striding down the hall to see his friends and their injured son — they were expecting him. The son would be fine, the doctor had said, so the visit was pleasant. Just making sure, keeping him overnight. He’d be back home in forty-eight hours, tops.

Encouraged, he said all the right things and, at length, left the hospital room.

The door on the smiling woman’s son’s room was closed.

He didn’t see her again for a few weeks, though he did keep an eye open for the flashy red 335i from his usual table. May was in full swing and looking forward to June when he next saw the car.

But now, the passenger seat was empty. The sunshine-hair was laced with a black ribbon, and the woman’s smile was gone. Though he watched and waited, he never saw it again.

The End

© 2009 Sandi Layne

New Title from Jeanne McDonald

a2a header 2014





as part of Branded: A Bad Boys Anthology

available August 28th, 2014

A chance meeting between a rookie cop and a common criminal.  
An unforeseen circumstance.  An instant attraction.  A magnetic connection.
Tattooed, pierced, and foul-mouthed, she can’t help but be drawn to him.
Two people entirely wrong for one another, yet so perfectly right.
When their worlds collide, Lucy Diamond will learn the true meaning of love and sacrifice as she embarks on the road of no return with bad boy Jude Wallace.  
Like a thief in the night, love will take them both by surprise.


Jeanne McDonald began telling stories at the ripe young age of five, when her mother considered the truth to be a lie due to her extensive embellishment to the retelling of an event.  She wrote her first short story when she was twelve years old, and at the age of sixteen she tried her hand at poetry.  She reconnected with her love for writing in 2010 thanks to the encouragement of a dear friend. 

Her passions include a “mild” Starbucks addiction, music, reading, quotes, movies, and romance.  When she’s not spending time with her family, she can be found reading, writing, chatting with her friends or diligently working toward her bachelor’s degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology.  A proud Texan, Jeanne currently resides in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with her family.

Website   |   Facebook   |   Twitter
Goodreads   |   Amazon  |  Google+



Sunday Sneak Peek – Sherri Hayes


Available September 4, 2014
 from Sherri Hayes
The Line (Daniels Brothers #3)



“Sorry about last night.”
Megan looked up from the stack of baby blankets she’d been perusing. Rebecca was holding a bottle with little yellow bears in her right hand, a sheepish look on her face.
“What are you apologizing for? Ditching me, or making so much noise I had to spend most of the evening in the basement?” Megan grinned to lessen the harsh impact of her words. She wasn’t mad at her sister, but she hadn’t relished spending three hours hiding in their basement either. It wouldn’t have been so bad had she been able to talk to Paul the entire time, but she hadn’t. As it was, she’d ended up watching reruns of CSI. It was the only thing decent she could find on television. 
Rebecca placed the bottle back on the shelf. “Both, I guess. I mean we didn’t mean . . .”
“You’re still newlyweds. I get it.”
Her sister rubbed a hand over her growing belly and smiled. “It’s just, ever since I entered my second trimester I can’t seem to control myself.”
Megan snorted. “And you could control yourself before?”
“Okay, you’re right. Gage has always been able to . . . well . . .” To Megan’s surprise, Rebecca giggled. It was weird, but good, too. Her sister was happy.
“Yeah, I get it.” And Megan did get it. Those two make-out sessions with Paul had her craving more of his kisses. She could only imagine what it would feel like to have him . . . surrounding her.
Check Out The Rest of the Daniels Brothers Series
Behind Closed Doors (Daniels Brothers #1)                                              Red Zone (Daniels Brothers #2)
About the Author
Sherri spent most of her childhood detesting English class.
It was one of her least favorite subjects because she never seemed to fit into
the standard mold. She wasn’t good at spelling or following grammar rules, and
outlines made her head spin. For that reason, Sherri never imagined becoming an
At the age of thirty, all that changed. After getting
frustrated with the direction a television show was taking two of its
characters, Sherri decided to try her hand at writing an alternate ending and
give the characters their happily ever after. By the time the story finished,
it was one of the top ten read stories on the site, and her readers were
encouraging her to write more.
Seven years later, Sherri is the author of seven full-length
novels and one short story. Writing has become a creative outlet that allows
her to explore a wide range of emotions, while having fun taking her characters
through all the twists and turns she can create.
Connect with Sherri


writer_at_workNow that Éire’s Devil King is with my editors, I am at work on deciding what to do next.

I have a couple of projects before me, both of which I want to do.

Today, I am taking time to research for one of them. Pre-writing research is different than how I research while I’m writing. In order to best establish my characters, their place in their society, their mode of living and expression, I have to do a lot of pre-writing research just to find out who they are.

I know what my heroine looks like already, for example, but what kind of household surrounded her as she grew? What sort of trades did she see every day? What kind of government held sway not only over her actions but the actions of those living at a distance from her? What prejudices beset her society? What prejudices might she have thus claimed herself? Was her family large? Did her mother have a lot of personal authority in the home or was that not normal?

And that’s just off the top of my head for one character!

I’m reading an article written in 1755. It’s a discussion of the “Conduct of the French in America” and so on. In this piece found in the Gentleman’s Magazine for January of that year, there is valuable information regarding not only the crops of the colonies extant at that time, but also the social prejudices about what constituted “population” and like that. There is more than just detail; there is psyche.


For this story, I have an idea of what I want to have happen, but I don’t know if it’s even feasible at this juncture—at least not in the way I pictured it. If I can contrive it to happen in a rational manner, then I can write it. If not, I have to decide what basic details needs adjusting so that my ideal can be created. I don’t mind writing something that would have been unusual in the time period, but I don’t want it to be insupportable.

So I research. And I place my notional hero (a good man, but a man of his time to be sure) into a pair of shoes that may or may not fit. I learn more about the life in the head of the Man about the Colony as well as what I can glean about those who lived on the fringes. What did the local Native American Nations think of what was happening? Which Nations were allied with France? England? Which chose to remain aloof?

And so on.

I have already spent time in a local library, taking actual notes with an actual notebook and pen. This was fun. I need to find a bigger library. Today, the research is online, for the most part.

Eventually, in the not too distant future, I will make decisions about this romance I’ve got in my head. When I have a better idea about it, I’ll let y’all know.

In the meanwhile, I’m writing a bit of Christian fiction, too. Not a romance, but a peek from an unusual perspective at an unusual time. I hope it works. That one is being outlined at present. There isn’t a question of feasibility on this one—the supernatural is a given as the story opens—but I need to make it relatable. That is a challenge. I just can’t tell you why, just yet. 😉

Soon, though, soon.

In the meantime, I’m reading old articles and studying old maps and having the best day. 🙂writingquill

Winners for my Summer Reads Giveaway

The winners have been chosen for the giveaway, courtesy of Rafflecopter!

Click on the image to go directly to the Rafflecopter page if you’re inclined. 🙂

rafflecopter winners

Congratulations to Marcie and Kathie! I hope you enjoy your books this summer!

Blog Tour – Michelle Birbeck

The-Stars-Are-Falling-Large-Blog-Tour-BannerToday is RELEASE DAY for Michelle Birbeck’s latest novel: The Stars Are Falling

It’s a Young Adult Sci-Fi adventure and it’s pleased I am to be able to be a part of her blog tour.


The_Stars_Are_Falling_Low-Res_CoverNineteen-year-old Jenny is more content staring at the night sky than joining her friends on a night on the town. She’s only known them two months, since classes began for her second year at university, but she’s already head over heels with one of her housemates, Dale. Every conversation she’s had with Dale has ended with her stuttering out an excuse to escape.


Then the first meteor blazes through the night, landing close enough to shake the house. Suddenly, she’s the one with all the answers, the one her friends and Dale turn to. Having spent so much time glued to a telescope, they expect her to know what’s happening. But Jenny’s never seen a meteor big enough to impact, and certainly never the thing that rises from the crater.


It’s a man who glows with a light so hot, everything in its path is disintegrated. Soon after, the night sky is turned to day, coming alive with hundreds more, all with one mission: rid Earth of that which is killing her.


Earth has been watched, and the things watching have decided that the human race’s time is up. Too much damage has been done, and they have decided that it’s time to let Earth recover, to start again. The only way they see that happening is by wiping out the human race.


Jenny knows another way, one that will save both Earth and humanity. But it isn’t simply a case of finding the nearest official and explaining everything. No one wants to listen to a nineteen-year-old and her friends. They must take their idea directly to the Stars and somehow convince them to listen. But to get there they first have to survive, and survival comes at a price.

My Review:

First, check out this cover. It’s a great cover. Please note the falling stars in the black shadow of the person. And that white? It’s not what you might think! Read the book and draw your own conclusion. I did!

Second, this is a book set (mostly) in York and that vicinity. I have never been to England and am not always conversant with English terms, but this is a story written by an Englishwoman and once I remembered the American equivalents for “jumper” and “torch” and “boot” I did better.

Birbeck starts her readers off with a preface that is ominous but intriguing. A child’s view of her mother putting her to bed seems innocuous enough, but the line “I had never seen my mother cry before that night,” puts a bit of a spin on it.  The preface is important, of course, but it won’t really make sense for quite some time…and this is a good thing. The intrigue is important.

The descriptions of this book, given in the voice of our nineteen-year-old heroine, are fun and contemporary and eminently readable.

…her already tiny purple skirt riding up somewhere between too short and illegal.

…refers to one of Jennifer’s housemates, Alexis, who is a college student with an eye for bright fashion moments.

Another lovely image Birbeck gives us is this:

The night sky exploded to life with the absence of light. Stars greedily stole the light from the Earth and gave it back to us with a silvery hint.

This terrific image is especially effective becomes it comes after a terrifying shockwave has apparently taken out the power following what seems to have been a meteorite landing on the earth. There is fear, but there is also beauty in our heroine’s eyes and that’s a lovely sequence.

Birbeck’s story here is pretty basic. There’s a supernatural “bad thing” of sorts and a young human (Jennifer) knows how to make it better by virtue of both who she is and what she knows. Jennifer is joined by her housemates and the young man whom she fancies (surprise! it’s mutual!) and the four of them have to deal with a lot of heavy, earth-shaking stuff in a very short period of time. These things include the loss of Jennifer’s dad (he abandoned the family when she was little), the appearance of the glowing people mentioned in the blurb above, the very human reactions all over to the invasion of these people, and so on. There is violence (muted), terror, and suspense.

The author is also good about giving us some smiles, though, in the midst of all of this. The relationship between Jennifer and Dale is sweet. At times, it seems to move too fast, but I reminded myself that in times of stress, life is lived in large gulps and small moments and emotions can be forged into tight bonds in short order. There are also interesting characters we meet along the way, like the candy store owners, who remind us that a bright spot can always be found.

Jennifer had to learn these things, too, and also had to learn about herself.

[Dale] cut me off with a kiss. “It’s as good as family. We’re not blood, but blood counts for nothing when you abandon it.”

His words reminded me that as much as I wanted to be an island, my friends were the waves, caressing the edges of my life every day.

The story took an unusual turn that I won’t spoil for you here. But it put a different perspective on a lot of things, including cosmology, that I am not sure I personally could get behind. But, it is Science FICTION, after all, and that smooths a lot of wrinkles.

This was an entertaining read and suited the genre well. There’s romance, there’s unresolved sexual tension, there’s a carefully limited cast of characters that we need to keep track of while exploring the world the way Michelle Birbeck is presenting it, here. Will it end the way you expected? Probably not—I know I was surprised!

But being surprised is a good thing. I hope you’ll discover this, too. I thank the author and TWCS for giving me a complimentary copy for review.

This title is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and on Kobo.

About the Author:

mbirbeckMichelle is 28 and has been reading and writing her whole life. Her earliest memory of books was when she was five and decided to try and teach her fish how to read by putting her Beatrix Potter books in the fish tank with them.

Since then her love of books has grown, and now she is writing her own and looking forward to seeing them on her shelves, though they won’t be going anywhere near the fish tank.

When she’s not writing, she’s out and about on her motorbike or sitting with her head in a book.

You can find here on Facebook, Goodreads, and of course at her website.

Summer Giveaway!


It may be back to school time for my household, but it’s vacation season for most, and I’m having a giveaway to celebrate.

Tuesday Cover trial twoNot only to celebrate that, but to share my Kindled edition of my own Summer’s Music and the almost-anniversary of my title An Unexpected Woman which was published last July by TWCS.

So I’m having a giveaway that will last for just a few days and here’s what’s on offer: 

Justin's Second Cover***A paperback copy of Justin’s Second Chance, a short story. Originally published in the Romantic Interludes anthology, it was offered as a solo e-Book this year and I’ve got ONE copy in print that I can give away! Continental US only, but I will personalize and sign it for the winner.

***A Kindle copy of any one of my books that are available in that format. These titles also include the following:

ECM-3D-Paperback-eReaderAUW-3D-Paperback-eReader small



(If you do not have a Kindle, I will substitute that with one of my titles available from another source.)

To enter, click here for the Rafflecopter!

Click here to enter!

Click here to enter!


This giveaway will end on 7/7/14 (I am so mathematical!) so tell a friend! 🙂