Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Author Visits and Book Clubs

As an author, it's always a thrill to have your book chosen by a book club. Today, I was to speak to the Goleta Book Club about my novel, A Ghost of a Second Chance. I also had an appointment to tour a private school in Santa Barbara County. (My Canterbury Romance Series revolve around a private school in Santa Barbara, you can read more about this coincidence here.) Sadly--hopefully, not tragically--my tour of the school had to be canceled because they had to be evacuated because of potential mudslides. And given the spotty weather conditions, we decided it would be best if I stayed at home and meet with the Goleta Book Club via Skype.

Which seemed like the perfect solution, until due to difficulties on their end, they were able to see and hear me but not vice-a-versa. So, I talked and they sent me questions via text. This seemed less than optimal until I realized it gave me the unique opportunity to capture our conversation and share it. 

So, here are some snippets of my discussion with the Goleta Book Club. Of course, the questions will be different for every author and every book, but this might provide some insight on what to expect if you ever get the lucky opportunity to meet with a book club and discuss your book. (I took out the praise and boiled it down to just the questions.)

Do you have a set writing schedule?

Yes, I try to write/edit/market every day between ten a.m. and four p.m.

How long does it take you to write a book? This one in particular?

I published this book nearly five years ago, so I can't remember, but I do remember that I loved writing this story. It was the first book I wrote knowing I would self-publish it so it was like a free-fall of my imagination. I wasn't thinking of genre or publishing houses or agents. I just wrote the story I wanted to write. At about four hundred pages, it's the longest book I ever wrote. (That's not completely true, my first draft of The Rhyme's Library was more than 105,000 words, but it needed to be pared WAY back.) 

I've written a book, start to finish, in less than a month, but in general, it usually takes me about three months to write a book.

How many edits does your book go through? And do they look very different after you're finished? 

Typically, each book has about four to five revisions, but the basic plot of the story remains unchanged. I may add scenes to further illustrate a character's motivation or address a plot hole, but in general my stories end up pretty much how I envision them from the beginning.

Why did you decide to make Laine's father kind of creep? She seems so put together and kind--unlike her dad. And she doesn't ever really get mad at him, but just brushes him off.

This wasn't an intentional decision, but I do believe parents are human and they make mistakes. As adults, we make our choices that may or may not reflect our parents' and their values. 

Did you intentionally include your own beliefs in the afterlife?

Of course I didn't set out to preach a sermon on the afterlife, but to tell an entertaining story. Still, I'm not sad, unhappy, or apologetic with my choice. I personally believe our deceased ancestors are watching over us. And do I think the world would be a kinder, gentler place if everyone recognized this? Absolutely. But still, I didn't set out to write a story that reflected that belief. Also, I don't consider myself a great scriptorian. Even though I do have a daily habit of studying my scriptures, I do so for purely selfish reasons. I would be horrified if anyone wanted to use my works for spiritual guidance.

I loved when Sid told Laine that had he known he would be reunited with Madeline after this life he would have made better choices. I thought it was a powerful teaching moment. Was that intentional? 

No. It's usually during a rewrite when those ah-ha moments occur to me. The first draft is like the basic construction of a house. I'm building walls, installing windows, making sure the plumbing works, but it's in the rewrites where the epiphanies happen. That's where the house becomes a home.

You refer to your characters as if they are soooo real to you. Are they? Do you talk to them and see how they look?

I do love my characters, especially my heroes. The longer I spend with them, the more attached I become. When I had to kill a character in my book Seadrift, I was sent into a black place for about a week and was unable to write. Maybe that's why I stepped away from mysteries (that, and because they take a lot more mental acrobatics.)

Do you ever get writers' block?

When I get writers' block it's usually because my story has somehow gone off the rails. Either my characters are misbehaving or I've written them into an impossible situation. When this happens, I usually work on something else like my blog or another book. If I really need to get my book in motion, sometimes I'll brainstorm with a writer friend.

Do you aspire to have one of your books made into a movie?

I don't really see myself on that path so I don't give it a lot of thought. When I think about others reading and evaluating my books, it usually stymies me. I'm much better off to enjoy the writing process and forget about how the books will be received. If I had to think about the book being turned into a movie, I'd be terrified Hollywood would twist my book into something embarrassing. Mentally, I can't even go there or I'd never write a thing.

Who are some of your favorite authors that have influenced you?

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Emily Dickinson, Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, Wallace Stegner, Anne Tyler, Sarah Addison Allen, Alice Hoffman, Lauren Willig, Mary Stewart, Agatha Christie, Brene Brown, Malcolm Gladwell. I don't pretend to be in their company.

You obviously spend a lot of time writing, do you also spend a lot of time of reading?

I'm not sure if I spend more time reading than writing, but if not, it's probably close.

What book am I reading now?

Currently on my nightstand I have The Husband's Secret by Laine Moriarty, Emma by Alexander Mccall Smith,and The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. Also, by Thursday, I intend to read Newsletter Ninja, by Tammi Labrecque because my writing partner is going to help me revamp my newsletter.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I won't say that I like it, but I do exercise every day, mostly because if I don't I'll start to cry and have emotional break downs. Don't ask me why, but when I run everyday, I'm happier. I should probably be medicated, but since medicine frightens me, I deal with my depression by spending time outside with friends nearly every day. I also enjoy painting and making crafts, but since they tend to make a mess, I try not to indulge very often because I dislike the clutter. I'm lucky that I have a friend who hosts a monthly craft night where I can make crafts at her house. And then I generally give them away. (Again, clutter.)

Speaking of F-bombs...I have books that I have loved but can't recommend because of language, what can we do to let authors know we find bad language very distasteful? Is there any way to make a difference?

Personally, I think profanity is stupid. Swearing is just a way to emphasize strong emotions, and there are a million ways to do that without being crass or sacrilegious. Also, how sad is that we've taken the sex act and turned it into curse word? But to answer the question, what can we as readers do? Support authors who reflect your values. Leave reviews. Tweet reviews. Writers and publishers will notice.

You said you like self-publishing. What specifically do you like about it? What do you dislike about it?

What I love best about self-publishing is also what I dislike the most. I love the freedom to write what I want when I want. Conversely, I would love to be able to work with a team of editors who could elevate my work. (Not that I don't love my editor--she's wonderful and I consider myself blessed to have her in my camp.)

How do you get into self-publishing?

I have several blog posts on my decision to self-publish. You can read them here:

Win a Kindle Fire!

To celebrate my latest release and the introduction of my new pen name, I'm running a contest. Your chances of winning a Kindle Fire are pretty high!
Plus, you get my novella FREE! Here's how to win: (do any of these tasks to enter, the more tasks you complete, the greater your chances of winning.) The novella is free until March 8th.

Share the book's link on social media (and send me the links). https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07P9FHQ1N

Forward this email to readers of clean and wholesome romance. https://preview.mailerlite.com/m1a4o1

Read and catch typos (send me a list).

Be sure and send me an email to larry.kristy.tate@gmail.com with proof of your entries! Put the word CONTEST in the subject line.

Good luck!

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Music of You and Me

The Music of You and Me
Kristy Tate & Eloise Alden
Because of a medical condition, Tara believes she’ll never have a family of her own.
Travis has other plans.

Despite her musical abilities, Tara intends to live a sheltered life. Her goal--to become an online tutor where her interaction with the rest of the world is minimal and highly controlled.

Travis is a single father with a thriving veterinarian practice. He thinks he has everything he could ever want, and more than he can handle until he meets Tara. He suspects she harbors secret pain, but as a doctor, he considers himself a healer. But will he be the one who ends up getting hurt?
Poignant, witty, and sweet, this novella proves that love can be perfect even when situations are not ideal, and it only takes one person to pull you out of a self-imposed prison of doubt and fear.

Chapter 1

This is my future. Tara set her suitcase on the porch of her Uncle’s craftsman style home and gazed at the front door. Her feet froze on the bottom step. Her knees locked. She tried to coax herself forward, but remained rooted in place.
“Darling,” her uncle Will called from inside the open doorway, “come on in! What’cha waiting for?”
After his urging, Tara planted a smile on her lips, picked up her suitcase, and pushed her way across the porch.
Uncle Will shuffled through the darkened foyer and opened the screen door to welcome her in. He took her bag before giving her a one-armed hug.
Tara pulled away as soon as it was polite to do so. “Where’s Auntie Darrel?” Her nose wrinkled from the cooked cabbage smell coming from the kitchen.
“Still at the dad-burned school. Since they started rehearsals for the fall play, I hardly see hide nor hair of her.” He nodded sagely. “She’ll be right glad to see you.”
“I’m not really sure how much help I can be,” Tara said, apprehension fluttering in her belly at the thought. She had been home-schooled so a ritzy private school like Canterbury Academy both fascinated and terrified her.
Uncle Will squeezed her arm reassuringly. “You’ll be fine. It’s more about herding cats than teaching music.”
Tara nodded and tried to look buoyed by his words. Uncle Will shared her disorder, so he should understand her concerns, but since he worked the farm for his living, his interaction with the outside world was very limited. Which was just the way he liked it.
And that was the just the way Tara planned on living, too. She followed Uncle Will up the stairs that led to the guest bedroom. He climbed slowly, his breathing labored, making her wonder how long he’d be able to dedicate the long hours the farm demanded. Auntie Darrel worked at the school both teaching music and serving as the nurse, but Tara didn’t know if that income alone could support her aunt and uncle. She felt a twinge of guilt and promised herself that she wouldn’t contribute to their financial burdens. She prayed that she’d be able to help rather than hurt them. But given her condition, she didn’t know if that was a prayer Heaven could answer. Especially since Heaven had ignored her prior pleas for help.
Uncle Will dropped her bag in the doorway of the guest bedroom. “Take all the time you need to settle in. I better get back to picking the apples. If I don’t, the deer will do it for me.”
“Thanks, Uncle Will, I’ll come and help you.” She looked longingly at the crazy quilt on the bed. “I don’t need to settle in.”
“Nope. I promised your aunt that I would get you behind the piano first thing. I’m under strict instructions that you’re not to be out in the yard with me. You’re to learn the music pronto.” He turned to leave. “The score is on the dresser,” he said over his shoulder.
Tara picked up the music and flipped through it. Much like her aunt, the songs were predictable and bordered on boring.
Tara lifted her bag onto the bed and opened it. Her case wasn’t very big—not because she didn’t plan on staying very long, but because she didn’t own a lot of clothes. It didn’t take her long to hang up her four dresses, and stow her three pairs of pants, five tops, and collection of underwear in the dresser. She placed her Bible and a framed photo of her mom on the nightstand. That done, she sat down on the bed, closed her eyes, and tucked her feet beneath her. As much as she wanted to, she didn’t allow herself to lie down. She breathed in through her nose, pushed away homesickness, and reminded herself of her plan.
Earn enough money working at her aunt’s school to buy her own laptop and then start teaching English to foreign students via the internet. She only hoped that the light from the computer wouldn’t trigger episodes.
Liam Grant pulled his Ford 150 down his gram’s bumpy drive. The scent of burning brush that always reminded him of this time of year hung in the air. He parked near the barn, shut off the engine and climbed out. The tinkling of a piano escaped the windows of the neighboring farmhouse. In the distance, a man in overalls pulling a wagon plucked apples from gnarled trees. Liam tried to place the music. It sounded like a familiar tune, but—like the trees—twisted somehow, as if the pianist had chosen a well-known tune and decided to change it.
He closed the truck’s door and went to find his gram and her cat, Ragamuffin. A once-white picket fence surrounded the gray-blue farmhouse and kept the daisies as well as the chickens in the yard. Ragamuffin perched on a branch of a maple tree and stared down her nose at him.
“You look fine to me,” Liam said. “What’s wrong with you now?”
Gram banged through the back door. “Don’t you be fooled by him,” she told Liam. “He might be acting all la-dee-da, but he’s not eating his kibble.”
Since Gram called him at least once a week to come out and check on Ragamuffin’s health. The cat’s lack of appetite didn’t worry Liam. He suspected the frequent house calls had more to do with his gram’s loneliness than the cat’s well-being.
A warm cinnamon smell wafted through the open door. Apple pie. If Liam wasn’t careful, Ragamuffin’s lack of appetite would make him fat.
Liam nodded at the neighbor’s house. “Sounds like a musician moved in.”
Gram huffed. “That racket has been going on day and night ever since that scrap of a girl got here.” She held the door open for Liam and he followed his gram through the mudroom to the kitchen. A pie sat on the counter. Steam escaped through the lattice crust. His stomach rumbled just from looking at it.
“Ragamuffin?” he asked in a strangled voice.
“He’ll come in when he’s done with his adventures,” Gram said. “We might as well enjoy ourselves until then.” She slid him a glance. “Do you want ice cream with your pie?”
Did she really need to ask? “Always. But here, let me get it.”
She pushed him aside before selecting a knife and slicing up the pie while Liam went to the freezer and pulled out a container. His shoulders screamed a complaint while he scooped up the ice cream.
Gram must have noticed, because she asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing much,” Liam said after he placed a scoop of ice cream in a bowl. “I helped deliver a colt this afternoon.” He had spent almost an hour with his arm inserted into the back-end of the mare and this hadn’t been pleasant for any of them. He flexed his hand, grateful it still worked.
“Where’s Teague today?” Gram asked as she took a seat in the ladderback kitchen chair and poised her spoon above the pie.
“With his mom.” Liam couldn’t help it, he moaned in pleasure as soon as the pie crossed his lips.
Gram made a noise that was a cross between a grunt and snort. “What about school?”
“He’s having a hard time,” Liam admitted. “Eva wants to send him to a private school, but—”
“And where would that be?” Gram huffed.
“Exactly,” Liam said. “I’m not willing to give up what little time I have with Teague just so he can attend—”
The sound of drums interrupted his sentence.
“What in the tarnation?” Gram bounced to her feet and went to the window. She pulled back the lace curtain and stared through the window at the neighboring farmhouse. “I have had just about enough of this!” She rested her ample butt against the kitchen counter and pushed her hand through her gray curls. “All this noise has upset my girls.”
“The chickens,” Liam murmured.
“They’re so distraught, they’re molting! The yard looks like there’s been a pillow fight and the pillows lost.”
“All chickens molt in the fall. Are they still laying?”
“Yes, but…you should see that child. Pale, skinny as a broomstick with a shock of bright red-hair. She looks like a walking cherry Tootsie Pop!”
Liam continued eating his pie, amused by the thought of a Tootsie Pop playing the drums.
“Will you go and talk to her?” Gram asked. “Tell her she has to take it down a notch or two?”
“Why me?” His gram had never been shy.
“You know Darrel hates me.”
“Mrs. Poole hates everyone,” Liam said.
“But she especially hates me, and if I tried to suggest that her niece stop her infernal noise, I just know the woman would urge the chit to ramp it up.”
“You’re being silly.” Liam licked his spoon, sad that he’d taken the last bite.
“No, I’m not. I need you to go over there and talk to her…the niece, not Darrel.”
Liam set down his spoon. “My visit had nothing to do with Ragamuffin, did it?”
Gram blushed. “Just go over there and speak to the girl. I’m sure she won’t be as difficult as her terrible aunt. Please ask her to close her windows when she practices.”
Liam rolled his eyes, but he didn’t dare say no. His endless supply of baked goods depended on his staying in his gram’s good graces.
A pasture and a couple of split rail fences separated Gram’s property from the neighbors. The music stopped before Liam even got halfway through the trees.
He knocked on the door and peered through the window. The piano stood in a shaft of sunlight. He couldn’t see the drums. Maybe they were set up in the barn. Thinking that that was where he’d put a set of drums, he went in search of them and the girl that may or may not look like a cherry Tootsie Pop.
“Can I help you?” The man he’d spied earlier in the apple trees stopped Liam and ran his gaze over him.
“I’m Dr. Grant.” Liam extended his hand and the man took it. His hands were calloused and his skin weather-beaten. What little hair he still possessed blew about in the breeze. “My grandmother sent me to ask if whoever is playing could turn down the volume. She and her chickens would really appreciate it.”
The man didn’t respond but stared at Liam with cold eyes, one of which wasn’t looking directly at him. “Her chickens?”
“Yes. They don’t like the noise. They’re molting.”
“All chickens molt this time of year.”
“Could I speak to your niece?”
“No.” The man turned on his heel and strode away.
Tara trailed after her aunt through the school’s parking lot.
“This is a very prestigious academy,” Auntie Darrel said over her shoulder. “These girls are all from very wealthy families.”
“All of them?” Tara tried to swallow down her fears.
“Well, there are a few here on scholarship,” Auntie Darrel admitted. “But my point is, our productions are always top-notch!” She sucked in a deep breath. “Or at least, they always were in the past.” She shook her head. “But now, we have a new English teacher.”
“You don’t like her?” Tara asked in a hushed tone.
“She’s just not cut out for the school! I honestly don’t know how she got this job!”
“If you don’t think she’s qualified, then what am I doing here?”
Auntie Darrel swiveled and pointed her finger at Tara’s thin chest. “You’re the finest pianist I know—and that’s saying a lot, because I know a lot of people! You don’t need a Ph.D. to accompany a children’s choir! You need musical talent and you have that in abundance. But—” Aunt Darrel hesitated.
Auntie Darrel wrinkled her nose. “I heard what you were doing to the songs. I think it’s best to keep them simple, don’t you?”
“It’s Alice in Wonderland. I thought the score could use some…jazzing up?”
Auntie Darrel shook her head. “With these girls, it’s best to keep things uncomplicated.” She dropped her voice to a whisper. “Believe me, they don’t want to think too hard.”
“It doesn’t necessarily need to be harder, just more fun.”
“No.” Auntie Darrel pushed her way through the wide double doors of the building bearing a sign that read Humanities Hall.
Hundreds of lockers lined the walls. Tara peeked in the small windows of the classroom doors at the students sitting at the desks as she trotted after her aunt. Tara had finished high school at sixteen and college, via the internet, at twenty. So, she’d be older than the girls, but she guessed she would be smaller than most of them.
She reminded herself that her brusque aunt would be issuing the orders and keeping the girls inline. If Tara kept her head down, no one need know she was hiding behind the piano.
“That went as well as could be expected,” Auntie Darrel said at the end of the day.
Tara, still rooted behind the piano, felt the tension between her shoulders begin to ease as the last of the girls filed from the auditorium. She envied them their giggles and whispers. She’d had a few friends from church, her choir, neighbors—but most had left Simi Valley for college or careers.
Darrel gathered up the sheet music and placed it in a plastic crate on top of the piano. Tara added the score to the collection. She caught the whispers of the owner of the school, a stunning middle-aged brunette, and the English teacher/play director, a tall, willowy blond coming from the orchestra pit. Darrel had introduced her to them earlier, but Tara had already forgotten their names.
As she followed her aunt down the now deserted hallway, her head swam with the music and the potential for change, even though Darrel had asked her not to modify or embellish it in any way. She couldn’t help herself. If the alterations were subtle, there was a good chance that Darrel wouldn’t even notice.
To get from Humanities Hall to the parking lot, they had to cross the quad. The fading sun hovered at the tops of the distant foothills. The giant oaks cast long shadows across their path. A man stepped out from behind a building. Even though he wore mud-caked jeans, boots, and a corduroy jacket, something about him told her he wasn’t a laborer, but because of his casual, and filthy appearance, she also knew he wasn’t a faculty member. He was Cary Grant-handsome and when his brown eyes met her gaze, she flushed.
He smiled as if he knew her.
Tara hurried after her aunt and slipped into the Dodge Stratus. “Who was that man?” Tara whispered as soon as Darrel got into the car. It smelled faintly of over-ripe apples despite the fact that Darrel kept her car spotless and bare.
“What man?”
“That man—” She nodded in his direction, but he had disappeared. “Never mind,” she said with a sigh, reminding herself of her vow.
Auntie Darrel cut her a sideways glance and put the car into gear.
“Auntie, how long after you met Uncle Will did he tell you about his epilepsy?”
Darrel pulled the car out of the school parking lot and headed for the road that led to the tiny town of Oak Hollow. “We grew up together. He didn’t have to tell me. I saw it for myself.”
“And it didn’t frighten you?”
“Of course, it did. It’s a terrifying thing.”
“But you still married him.”
Darrel rolled her eyes. “We’re all packages, girlie. Every one of us comes with good parts and bad. If I wanted the good parts of Will, I had to be okay with the parts that frighten me.”
“And you were okay with not having children?”
“I work with children all day long. It’s enough.”
“You’re special.” Tara knew that most people found her aunt difficult, but Tara’s heart warmed toward her.
“Someday, you’ll find someone special, too,” Darrel said.
“No,” Tara said with conviction. “I’m married to my music.” She smiled and echoed her aunt. “It’s enough.”
Darrel pinned Tara with a hard stare. “Now, girlie—”
A large brown bear wandered on to the road.
Tara screamed.
Darrel snapped her attention to the road and slammed on her brakes. The car skittered to the gravel shoulder and went into a tailspin. The bear yelped as the front bumper sent him flying.

Friday, February 22, 2019

#FOODFICTION Egg Casserole and The Cowboy Encounter

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

6 eggs, whisked
6 slices bacon, diced

2 slices bread, cubed
1/3 red bell pepper, diced
Red, Yellow & Orange  Peppers
2 green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, or to taste (optional)
salt and ground black pepper to taste
Add all ingredients to list
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
Stir Cheddar cheese, eggs, bacon, bread, red bell pepper, green onion, milk, garlic, salt, and black pepper together in a bowl until well-combined; pour into prepared baking dish.
Bake in the preheated oven until eggs are set, 20 to 25 minutes.


An Excerpt From The Cowboy Encounter

“Will you kiss me again?”
“Why not?”
“Because it’s time for breakfast.” He dropped her hand and strode into the house.
Feeling rebuffed, Becca followed.
Hilda fussed over the food: a mountain of hash browns, a tower of pancakes, long strips of bacon, and a slippery pile of fried eggs. Becca tried to smile at all the cholesterol as she settled into a chair.
Hilda sat in a chair beside her husband and reached for him. Leo took his wife’s hand before he picked up Becca’s. Warwick claimed her other hand. Everyone but Becca bowed their heads.
“Dear Lord,” Leo prayed. “Bless this food and bless our family and friends. Amen.”
Becca had never been religious, but Leo’s simple prayer tugged at her. She felt cold when both Leo and Warwick dropped her hands and picked up their forks.
No one spoke while they ate. Becca wasn’t hungry, and she stirred the food on her plate, trying to process her feelings.
She knew that she should want to leave for Denver as soon as possible so that she could rescue Joel, but if she was honest with herself, that’s not what she wanted at all.
She looked at Warwick. He caught her gaze and winked.
She wanted Warwick.
This wasn’t right. This wasn’t how the delusion was supposed to go.
“I hope you don’t mind,” Hilda said without looking up from her plate, “but I invited a few friends over tonight to celebrate your wedding.”
Becca opened her mouth to say that they were leaving, but Warwick spoke first.
“Now Hilda, how do you expect me to believe that in just a few short hours you got invitations to your neighbors? You didn’t even know we were coming. In fact, you didn’t even know I was married.”
Hilda met his gaze and blushed. “Well, they were all coming over anyway for a barbeque, but I thought that since you were here, a little celebration and an introduction to your wife would be nice.”
Warwick’s expression softened as he looked at his aunt. “It does sound nice, mighty nice, but Becca and I need to get on our way.”
Hilda put down her fork and frowned at Warwick. “Men! You are so selfish! I bet Becca could use an extra day for some rest after all that travel. Look at her! She’s as skinny as a wet cat, and she’s not even touching her food. Knowing you, she’s probably in the family way already.”
Warwick flushed and shook his head.
“How do you know she’s not?” Hilda demanded. “Men are clueless about these things.”
“Trust me, I would know,” Warwick said.
“I’m not,” Becca blurted, tired of being discussed as if she wasn’t sitting right there.
All heads swiveled her way.
“I know I’m not pregnant,” she repeated, before taking a big bite of her eggs just to prove that she didn’t have morning sickness.
“Well, even if you’re not now, you soon will be.”
“Now, Aunt Hilda, how can you know that?” Warwick asked. “You and Leo were never blessed with children.”
Hilda blinked back sudden tears. “That’s why you are our only hope!”
“Your only hope?” Warwick echoed.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Irish Wishes and Lori Herter's The Thin Place

Home-loving Gillian thinks she’s happy – she has a safe, reliable job working at her local library, good friends, and a sweet gig as the choir accompanist for her church. But her orderly life is turned upside down on her 25th birthday when she inherits the contents of a safety deposit box that will send her on a trip to Ireland.

Workaholic Pete has always done his billionaire-father’s bidding, so when his dad sends him to Ireland to fetch his little step-sister he can’t refuse.

But billionaire JW has a few tricks up his sleeve and the journey he’s planned takes Gillian and Pete on a trip they’ll never forget. Castles, boating on the River Liffey, the haunted ruins of the Hell’s Fire Club, and the breathtaking beauty of the Irish countryside—this is one journey that has more twists and turns than either of them could ever have imagined, and it leads the to difficult decisions. Will Gillian abandon her orderly life? Will Pete defy his father and give up his fortune for love?

In my efforts to write rapidly, which I wrote about in this post, I asked my friend, Lori Herter, if I could use her novel, The Thin Place, for a road map. She said yes.

Lori is a brilliant writer in my critique group and I really liked her novel but I'd always thought it a shame Glenna didn't end up with Doyle. So, that's what I started out to write. If you were to read Irish Wishes and The Thin Place, you would see they're wildly different books.
When I first started the book, I would read a chapter of Lori's then try to create my own. The problem was, Lori has a much more lyrical style that I really admire. In comparison, I felt like my sentences were choppy and simplistic. The entire exercise stymied me and my writing became sluggish, laborious, and--in general--not fun.
The entire point was to write rapidly, and if that was my goal, I was failing. It wasn't until I set Lori's book down and stopped comparing her writing style to mine that my characters came alive and I started to enjoy myself in the Irish countryside.

Next week, I'll be starting a new book and project. I'm calling it the Julia Quinn experiment. Because I don't know Ms. Quinn, (although I did meet her once at a book signing and thought she was as charming as her books. Although, fair warning, her books are VERY steaming. I skip over her sex scenes. That's a whole other blog post.) I don't have her permission. But because I'm so confident (especially after my Thin Place experiment) that my book will be totally different from hers, I'm pretty sure she won't mind...or sue...or win even if she did...which she won't because she's super smart.

Here's the first chapter of my novel, Irish Wishes. You can read the first chapter of Lori's The Thin Place here.


Gillian lacked faith in numbers. Of course, since she was a librarian and not a math teacher, this was to be expected. Words were to be trusted; numbers, especially when it came to predicting the future, were far less reliable.
Floe felt differently and she slammed her hand on the table to emphasize her words. “It’s the power of three!” Some people called them twins from different mothers, because in looks—moderate height, fair skin and hair, green eyed—they were similar. Even their staunch Christian values were the same, but when it came to numerology, they differed dramatically.
Why three had any more power than five or ten, Gillian didn’t know, but rather than point this out to her friend, she sipped her tea and glanced around the crowded and noisy sidewalk cafĂ© willing for someone to come and rescue her. Typically, she couldn’t go anywhere without someone she knew from the school or choir stopping for a chat, but not today.
“The whole thing…it’s suspicious, isn’t?” Gillian picked off a morsel of her donut and put it in her mouth. She andFlora were supposed to be celebrating the end of the school year—not arguing. She almost regretted ever tellingFlora about the mysterious safety deposit box. “I mean, why send did the attorney send the notification to the school and not the house? If it had gotten lost in the mail, there was a real chance I wouldn’t have even seen it until after the break.”
“It came at the perfect time,”Flora said.
“Well, it came on my twenty-fifth birthday, as my mom had arranged.”
“Probably because she didn’t want your gram to get a hold of it. Which is also why the letter was sent to the school instead of the house.”
Gillian frowned at her donut. It had turned her fingers sticky and somehow she’d managed to eat half of it without even noticing. “But my mom couldn’t know I would be working at the school.” Her voice cracked as it often did when she talked about her mom. In just five years, she’d be the same age as her mom had been when she’d died.
“But she might have known you’d be raised by your grandmother.”
Gillian held up her hand and twisted it so the emerald cut sapphire and surrounding diamonds caught the sun and sent shoots of light across the table.
“There were three things in the safety deposit box, right?”Flora asked.
“Yes, but I really don’t see—”
“Things come in threes! It’s a proven fact.”
“By who? As far as I know, only triplets come in threes.”
ButFlora was on a roll and didn’t want to listen. “First, you got the letter about the safety deposit box—which contained three things. Second, the offer from Traverse Magazine. And third, they both arrived right as school ended for the summer.”
Gillian pulled a face. “The summer was going to come no matter what. It always does.”
“But don’t you see? If the offer from Traverse Magazine had come at any other time of the year, you wouldn’t be able to go. And since you discovered all that money in the safety deposit box, you can afford to go.”
“Leslie Tremaine, that’s the editor of Traverse Magazine, offered to pay all my expenses.” Even she heard the touch of wonder in her voice. “Doesn’t that seem weird to you?”
“Why? You’re a gifted photographer and writer.”
“But there are thousands, maybe even millions of blogs. How did she find mine? I mean, very few people actually do.”
“Did you ask her?”
“No, I didn’t want to look a gift-horse in the mouth.”
“I never understood what that even means,”Flora muttered.
“It means if someone gives you a horse, don’t inspect its teeth. It’s rude. But I don’t want to get to Ireland and find the whole thing is some sort of ruse.”
Floe shook her donut in Gillian’s face. “That is exactly something your gram would say. Along with that whole gift-horse saying. Did you tell her about the safety deposit box?”
Gillian fought back a wave of guilt. “No. I’m not sure I’m going to.” She’d never been very good at keeping secrets, especially from Gram. Her grandmother had an eerie sixth sense that had terrified Gillian for years.
“You shouldn’t,”Flora said, her disdain for Gram dripping in her voice. “Have you had the chance to read the diary, yet?”
“Of course. I stayed up all night.” She smiled at the memory. “Reading her writing was like being introduced to someone I thought I knew, but didn’t. Someone witty and charming.”
“And probably beautiful.”
“I already knew that about her.” Memories of her Marilyn Monroe-beautiful mom flashed in Gillian’s head.
“Did the diary mention your father at all?”
Gillian shook her head. “But it does mention some of my mom’s friends.” She took a bite of her donut, chewed and swallowed before adding, “I’d like to meet them.”
“Another reason to go to Ireland.”
“I know, but…”
“But what?”Flora asked.
Gillian scrunched her nose. “It’s all too neat and tidy. Contrived, even.”
“You like neat and tidy! You thrive on neat and tidy! You’re a librarian, for Pete’s sake.”
A sudden vision of her stepbrother, Pete, flashed in her mind. Tall, lanky, honey blond hair falling across his forehead, baby blue eyes framed by surprisingly dark lashes. She banished his memory to the back of her mind…where he belonged.
“What is it?”Flora asked, sitting up.
“What’s what?” Gillian asked, returning to the here and now. Rose Arbor. A tiny town in near the Washington coast, where she’d lived with her grandmother since her mother’s death ten years ago.
“That look!”
“What look?”
“You had a wistful sort of look on your face.”
Gillian schooled her expression and gave a half-hearted, I don’t know what you’re talking about sort of shrug. She had to be careful withFlora. They’d been friends since their senior year of high school. Both were new to Rose Arbor—making them outsiders in the small, tight-knit community. Gillian and her gram frequently moved, for no reason that Gillian could point to, during the first five years after Gillian’s mother’s death whileFlora had been a runaway taken in and nurtured by the Pastor’s wife. They’d banned together in choir, and after graduation, they’d both worked hard to put themselves through college.
It had surprised both of them when they ended up back in Rose Arbor working at the middle school, but they were practically sisters now. Flora could read Gillian like a book from Gillian’s library.
Floe sighed. “You’re hopeless. I’m telling you, if you don’t go, I will.”
Gillian cocked her head. “Would you come with me?”
“Serious?”Flora brightened.
“Sure. If you’ll come with me, I’ll go. I’ll even pay for your flight.”
“When would we go?”
Gillian shrugged. Now that she’d made the offer, she wasn’t sure she wanted to go through with it because there was still the matter of how in the world she’d explain it all to Gram.
As if bidden, Gillian’s phone buzzed with a text. She pulled it out of her cat shaped backpack and frowned at the text. “It’s from Gram. She needs me to pick up her hemorrhoid cream from the pharmacy.”
“Your gram texts?” Surprise flickered acrossFlora’s face.
“No, she gets Harold to do it.” Gillian texted a yes before dropping the phone back into her bag. She zipped it up as if that could keep her gram’s interruptions to a minimum.
“Who’s Harold?”
“The man next door. He pretty much does everything Gram tells him to do. She pays him with baked goods.”
“Interesting…”Flora murmured. “Let’s get back to planning our trip! I can’t go until after Sue’s wedding.”
“That works,” Gillian said. She polished off her donut, and her mood lifted. “Are we really doing this?”
“Absolutely! Why wouldn’t we?”
“What if it’s a scam?”
Floe laughed. “It’s an all expense paid trip to Ireland! What could go wrong?”
Gillian walked the few blocks from Olympic Avenue, Rose Arbor’s main street, to her gram’s house on the corner of Elm and Maple. Steam rose from the sidewalk, sending the scent of warm and wet cement into the air. Petrichor, the smell that lingers when rain falls after a prolonged dry spell, caused by a chemical reaction.
Where had she learned that word? From Pete. He had liked science and had majored in biology before getting his business degree. What was he doing now? Why would she care? He and her stepfather had abandoned her long ago. She didn’t need to spare either of them a thought.
Mrs. Pratchett, a gray-haired woman dressed in a floral housecoat and wearing fuzzy slippers on her feet, and her yappy Pekinese, Pansy, rounded the corner.
“Hello, dear,” Mrs. Pratchett called in her cultured British accent that always made Gillian think of a Master Piece theater production.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Pratchett.” She stooped to tickle Pansy between the ears. Pansy received the attention as if it was her due.
“Headed home, are you?”
Gillian stood and nodded.
Mrs. Pratchett leaned forward to whisper, “Well, I thought I’d give you a heads up. That Tod Bingham is parked in front of your grandmother’s house.” She winked conspiratorially. “Just in case you want to take another loop around the neighborhood.”
“Oh, thank you.” Gillian bit her lip. She didn’t mind Tod. They’d been friends in high school, but his over-eagerness wore on her. She knew that if she’d agree to it, he’d marry her in a second even though they’d never even been on a date.
“If you’d like,” Mrs. Pratchett said, “I could give you Pansy’s lead and you could take her to the park.”
“Oh, no. Thank you, though.” She’d rather face Tod than walk Pansy.
Mrs. Pratchett wilted with disappointment. “Well, maybe some other time.”
“Sure thing. Have a good day.”
When Gillian caught sight of the patrol car parked in front of her Gram’s bungalow, her steps faltered. What was Tod doing here? With her lips pressed into a straight line and feeling like she was walking before a firing squad, she passed through the front gate and climbed the steps up the porch. She listened to the murmured conversation for a moment, catching the words break-in and trespassers, before she pushed open the door.
The conversation halted as soon as she entered.
Her gram sat on the sofa holding a pair of knitting needles in her hands and a ball of yarn in her lap. Gram ordered her clothes from a catalog company that sold cardigans, floral blouses, and coordinating polyester pants in bright colors. Her sunny clothing usually sharply contrasted with her mood and facial expressions that ranged from distaste to dissatisfaction.
Tod stood in the center of the room, looking, as he always did, like a St. Bernard. He not only had the same build and fuzzy hair—albeit close-clipped—but he also always had a Dudley Do-Right, hopeful expression that Gillian found sweet but also annoying.
Chester, the cat, jumped off the sofa and came to rub himself against Gillian’s ankles.
“What’s going on?” Gillian asked, scooping up Chester and hugging him to her chest.
But then she spotted her mom’s diary on the coffee table and a terrible dread swept through her. She moved to snatch it up, but Gram dropped the needles, grabbed the book, and shook it in Gillian’s face.
“Do you want to tell me about this?” Gram’s face flushed an angry red and the whites of her eyes took on a yellow hue.
“It’s my mother’s diary,” Gillian said in a strangled voice.
Gram’s tight gray curls shook with fury. “How did it get in the house?”
“I brought it here.” Gillian skated Tod a curious glance. “Why did you call the police?”
“When I found it in your room,” Gram straightened her spine and squared her shoulders, “I thought for sure someone had broken in.”
Gillian edged closer, hoping to get her fingers on the diary. If she needed to, she could take on her gram. “What were you doing in my room?”
“Just tidying up.”
Tidying up? Her room was as clean and sterile as the library. “You don’t need to tidy up my room.”
“It’s my house, isn’t it? I can go in any room I like.”
Gillian blinked as a sudden thought rocked through her. With the money from the safety deposit box, she could afford to move out.
As if she could Gillian’s thoughts, Gram snorted, horse-like. “This is a lie! I knew your mother much better than you ever will and this did not belong to her. Where did it come from?”
“An attorney notified me of a safety deposit box.”
“An attorney?” Gram’s eyes narrowed with suspicions. “What attorney? Where’s his office?”
Doubts tickled in the back of Gillian’s mind. Of course, if her mom had taken out a safety deposit box, it would have been in a bank in New York—not Portland. But that diary…it had to belong to her mother, she was sure of it. “Give it back!”
Gram stood and moved to the fireplace where flames blazed.
Horror swept through Gillian. “Don’t you dare!” She darted in front of her Gram. “Tod! Do something!”
“Now, Mrs. O’Hare,” Tod lumbered toward the crackling fire, “don’t do anything you’ll regret.”
“I can’t have this trash in my home!” Gram announced.
Gillian darted forward and plucked the book from grandmother’s fingers.
Gram froze. “Where’d you get that ring?”
Gillian held out her hand, admiring once again the sparkling stone and intricate gold setting. “In the safety deposit box.”
Gram clutched her heart, staggered back to the sofa, and fell onto it. A puff of dust settled around her.
“Gram? Are you okay?” Gillian asked, worry replacing anger.
“Mrs. O’Hare? Would you like me to call an ambulance?” Tod asked.
Gram pinned Gillian with a steely gaze. “Get that book out of this house!”
“Gram,” Gillian began.
“Get out! Get out!” Gram shrieked. “This is my house and I can say who and what belongs here and what doesn’t.” She pointed a wavering finger at Gillian. “GET OUT!”
Gillian stared at her grandmother with an open mouth.
Tod took Gillian’s elbow and steered her from the room and out onto the porch.
“She doesn’t mean it,” Gillian said in a shocked whisper. “She can’t really mean it.”
Tod gave her a sympathetic glance and rubbed her back. She eased away from his touch.
“Do you have somewhere to go?” he asked.
She nodded. “Floe, Jessie, or Cynthia.” She had lots of friends who would probably be happy to share a sofa for a few nights.
Tod shuffled his feet. “I was going to say, you’re always welcome to stay with me. It’s not much, and I’d have to tidy up…bachelor, you know?”
“That’s sweet, Tod, but not necessary.”
Gram appeared in the doorway with a shotgun in her hand. She cocked it. “Are you still here? I want you off my property immediately!”
“Gram!” Gillian gasped. “She’s lost it!” she said to Tod.
“Give me the gun, Mrs. O’Hare,” Tod said, looking, for once, officious. He tossed the words, “Get out of here, Gillian,” over his shoulder. “Go somewhere safe!”
Gillian sat on the edge ofFlora’s bed with her hands between her knees.Flora sat beside her with a comforting arm around Gillian’s shoulder.
“You have to go,”Flora said.
“No, I can’t go,” Gillian insisted.
“It’s another sign.”
“This—according to your scorekeeping—makes four signs, and there’s nothing magical about four.”
Floe shook her head. “You were right before. Summer comes no matter what, so that wasn’t a sign. But this is.”
“I can’t leave her!”
“You don’t have a choice,”Flora insisted.
“She needs help!”
“Of course, she does. But you don’t have to be the one who provides it. Have you called her sisters?”
“Yes, but you know they’re all as crazy as she is.” Gillian sucked in a deep breath. Just thinking of her great aunts gave her a panic attack. The last time the three sisters had been together, they’d watched Fox news and gotten in a shouting matching over political issues that they all agreed with. It was craziness that they could scream at each other even when they all shared the same opinions. “Auntie Mae and Auntie Sarah said they would be here tomorrow.”
“Just another reason for you to leave.”
“I don’t have a suitcase. I don’t have any clothes.” Gillian bit her lip, immediately recognizing her mistake and wishing she could take back her words.
Floe grinned and bounced off the bed. “You, my sister, have come to the right place!” She disappeared out the door. “Come and see what I just found!”Flora called from the next room.
“I can’t pillage your stash!” Gillian said, not moving.
Floe returned with her arms full of clothes. “You can and you will!”
Floe ran an online clothes business where she found clothes at local thrift stores and garage sales, dollied them up and resold them at outrageous prices. Even though she’d dreamed of being a fashion designer, she’d chosen to get a degree in math because she considered it practical and she liked a teacher’s lifestyle and benefits. But her online business was quickly outperforming her teacher’s salary.
Gillian wasn’t about to take her inventory. “I can buy my own clothes,” Gillian said.
Floe, ever the savvy business-woman, rubbed her hands together in glee. “Did someone just say shopping?”