Monday, December 29, 2014

Good Intentions

If you're like me, you have a freeway paved with good intentions, and this time of year can be a mixed blessing as you consider all the things you had hoped to accomplish and all the things you left undone, unsaid, and unclaimed. Before I actually write out my goals for 2015, I wanted to look over some of my past goals. And because I found this interesting, I decided to share them. Because there are so many, I may even compile a nonfiction book. (That sounds suspiciously like a goal, and I promised myself I wouldn't go there...yet.) Here are some past posts on all things goal related.
Me and Reality
Hatch or Go Bad

Fantasy Sale

My book, The Highwayman Incident, included. I'm about halfway done with the sequel, The Cowboy Encounter, and I have a rough outline for the third and final book, The Pirate Episode. Because I'm eager to start a teenage witch series, I hope to finish the Witching Well series by sometime this summer, so I can release the first book in my witch series before Halloween.

The witch series is little more than a few, vague ideas and a couple of half-hatched sentences, and yet I can feel the witch begging to be heard.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Yearly Round-up

As we draw to the end of the year, it’s bittersweet to reflect on 2014 and what I learned—where I was, and where I am now—and how I got to this place.
Before I begin, I have to stop and say how incredibly grateful I am for so many things—my faith, husband, children and home, of course, top that list. But I’m also deeply indebted to our extended families, friends—near and far, new and old—and the amazing network of my writing colleagues.
And to be honest, I haven’t accomplished all of my 2014 goals. I didn’t:
Lose weight (well, I did, but then I gained it back)
Finish reading the Old Testament (I’m slogging away in Jeremiah, but this doesn’t bother me since I’ll be reading the New Testament in 2015 and it’s much shorter, so by the end of 2015 I do expect to have read the entire Bible. Which, by the way, is not a first—but still a worthwhile goal.)
Organize my whole house. (But I did clean out the garage, my girls’ rooms and my closet, so it’s an improvement.)
On a personal level, 2014 was a bumper crop year.
Jared and Jen were married in the San Diego temple and all six of my children were able to attend.
Natalie left for a mission to Taiwan. One week later, Miranda left for a mission to Uruguay.
Nathan and Shirley welcomed baby Wrenn into the world.
Larry and I traveled to Boulder, Colorado. Stopped by the achingly beautiful Moab, Utah, and drove through the Rockies.
I went to Washington to visit my dad and family…more than once. And I went to Utah and Las Vegas…more than once. And China, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan (but just once.)
On the book front:
I published:
BEYOND THE HOLLOW and BEYOND THE PALE—books two and three of my Beyond series. Both have bounced off and on Amazon’s time-travel bestseller lists. As I’m writing, Beyond the Hollow is currently #25 on Amazon’s bestseller time-travel list. I believe that their success is largely due to fact that book one of the series is included in the Paranormal 13 anthology, which has been wildly successful. Here’s the stats as of right now:
#83 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Paranormal > Ghosts
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Paranormal > Psychics
#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Paranormal > Witches & Wizards
 For the most part, being included in anthologies has been great for me.
This year I also published STUCK WITH YOU, which was included in the Authors of Main Street Wedding anthology. But I also published THE WITCHING WELL in the Autumn's Kiss: Ten Contemporary & Historical Sweet Romances. This box set has languished from the beginning. I have my suspicions why, but since I’m only one of the ten authors in the set (and my book is the very last one) I haven’t had much sway.
My story, ANYWHERE ELSE, is in an awesome anthology of 101 stories written by bestselling indie authors, called 101 Stories, On the Go. This was an interesting challenge. The story had to be less than a thousand words. Mine is something like 997. I loved doing it, and I’m really grateful to have been included.
And just a few weeks ago, I published THE HIGHWAYMAN INCIDENT, the first book in my Witching Well series.
So, production-wise:
3 novels
One novella (and one novella that grew into a novel)
One short story
I found an editor that I love, and she is currently re-editing four of my books.
I discovered Draft2Digital, so I no longer have to pay for formatting.
I learned that anthologies can help sell my other books.
And getting picked up by Pixel of Ink is like having Heaven smiling down on you, and blessing you with enormous sales.
I also learned the awesome power of spreadsheets. I’ll admit that in the beginning, keeping track of my money versus man-hours was just depressing, but since I’ve started using spreadsheets and holding my feet to the fire and my fingers to the keyboard, it’s so much easier to see where I’ve been and where I’m going.
So, here’s my projections for 2015:
LOVE AT THE APPLE INN, a Rose Arbor novella to be included in the Authors of Main Street Love in Bloom boxed set. This is actually finished and with the editor. I’ll publish it on its own in early January, and it will come out in the boxed set in the spring. I hope to have its sequel, LOVE HITS THE ROAD finished close to the publication of the boxed set.
THE COWBOY ENCOUNTER, the second book in the Witching Well series. I’m about halfway through the first draft. I hope to have it published in March.
THE PIRATE EPISODE, the third book in the Witching Well series, is little more than an outline. I imagine a summer release.
Also, I have a teen-age witch who is whispering in my ear. I really want to tell her story…and I will. In time.
Wrap up
When Larry and I were first married, we owned a little pick-up truck and when we moved, and we moved a lot, everything we owned could fit in the back of the truck. And if it didn’t fit, then it couldn’t come. And then, like a snowball growing as it rolls downhill, we’ve grown. Our family went from two to eight to fourteen. We own stuff…way more than could ever fit into the back of Toyota pick-up truck. And we’ve learned stuff, made stuff, but I think underneath all that accumulation of snow and stuff, we’re still the same.

I don’t know where we’ll go in 2015. I bet we’ll go to Washington, Las Vegas, Utah and Colorado, because we love people who live in those places. I think I’ll publish at least four books, but I can’t be 100% positive. What I do know is that if 2015 is as kind as 2014, then I’ll be incredibly grateful…even more than I am now. 

Free! 101 Stories

My story, Anywhere Else, is in this awesome anthology of 101 stories written by bestselling indie authors! And it’s free!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Time-travel Stories

I love time-travel stories and the what-if questions they carry. My husband feels differently. He once told me that he’s afraid that if he ever time-traveled that he would waste the experience just looking for me. I think it’s one of the sweetest things he’s ever said, and we’ve been married for a very long time, so he’s said plenty of sweet things.

The Highwayman Incident is the first book in the Witching Well series. I got the idea while watching a documentary about the Salem Witch trials. (Side note, documentaries are great for novel fodder. I got the idea for Beyond the Pale while watching a documentary about Rasputin.) Although I grew up in Washington State and have lived most of my adult life in California, I lived in Connecticut’s Fairfield County while my husband worked in Manhattan. I definitely have a tender place in my heart for Connecticut—despite its haunted past. Coincidentally, a whole host of my ancestors also lived in Fairfield County. I like to think of them whispering in my ear while I write this series.

I have three books planned for the Witching Well series, The Highwayman Incident, The Cowboy Encounter and The Pirate Episode. 

But then, I had three books planned for my Rose Arbor series, and in a few weeks I plan on publishing my fourth Rose Arbor novel, so you never know where my muse may take me!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The first chapter of Love at the Apple Inn

Here's the first chapter of Love at the Apple Inn. Depending on my editor, it should be live in early January. It's a Rose Arbor novella (about 80 pages) featuring Janey, a minor character from The Rhyme's Library. The novella will be included in the Authors of Main Street spring anthology.

I'm not sure where I got the idea for this book. I think I wanted to show a contrast between a simple, private life versus a very public life. It's interesting to me how, as a public, we tend to idolize celebrities, and in doing so, although we don't mean to, we make their lives miserable. We love them, but our love hurts them, and keeps them from leading a normal life or forming real relationships.

Obviously, I don't know what I'm taking about. I'm not famous, and I'm not even closely related to anyone famous. But I do watch the news. Although, I don't watch TMZ or read People magazine. Really, I don't know what it's like to be a Justin Bieber or a Lindsey Lohan. I just think a life in that sort of limelight would be really, really hard.

Derrick wanted to stand up and walk away from the girl leaning on his chest. She smelled of wine and her product-stiff hair tickled his chin. But when a waiter placed another drink in front of him, he picked up the glass. Even as his head told him he had had enough, his throat burned in anticipation. The cold glass felt good in his hand.
His gaze wandered around the room, taking in the hot-tarts as phony as their perky breasts, the guys, a few almost as plastered as himself, and rare breed that defied gender generalization.
Techno music blasted through the smoky air. He hated techno music, thought it sounded like a rumbly stomach felt. But it didn’t give him a stomach ache. It made his head hurt. And his heart. It also made him sad, because it was like music from a machine—not a person. Someone once told him that he would like it if he were drunk, but that person didn’t know shiest, because he was almost always drunk and he still hated techno music.
He glanced at the girl smiling up at him. Her features swam, and he couldn’t focus. Straight teeth? Brown eyes? Did he know her? She looked like Jen Lopez, and he’d always been blonde hound. Goose-bumps pimpled her arms. Weird. He was hot, and she was cold.
He pushed away from her, and swayed on his feet.
“Where you going, baby?” the Jen-girl slurred.
Derrick held up his finger, shushing her, and made his way through the crowded bar to the DJ behind the glass. He knocked until the moron wearing the headphones looked at him. Derrick slid his finger across his throat.
The DJ narrowed his eyes at him, before catching a glance at the manager, dressed in black and hiding near the bar. The manager gave a small nod.
The squeaky, thumping sounds stopped. No one other than Derrick seemed to notice, but he sighed in relief and let the tension between his shoulders ease. Unsure of what to do next, he stumbled onto the small stage, sat at the piano and played.
A hush fell over the room as he sang an old Irish ballad.
 The soft winds sing across the sea,
While here I sit all alone and cold.
Rapt in the rays of memory,
That flash from Golden days of old,
For oh, the oceans murmuring tune,
Speaks to my bosom of a time,
When life was as a harvest moon,
Or warbling of a sylvan rhyme.
The piano could never replace a fiddle, but since it was better than the techno-shiest, he continued until the Jen-girl put her hand on his shoulder.
“Baby, that song’s depressing,” she whined.
But Derrick ignored her and continued singing the song he remembered his grandfather singing.
“Whose eyes like Saint's from sculptured niche,
Look into mine for evermore
Full voices 'mid the garden flowers,
To soothe and sanctify the day,
These once were mine but frozen hours,
Have stolen them all to depts away”
“Let’s go, baby,” the Jen-girl said, pressing against him. “There’s a party at Mac’s in Brentwood.”
He lifted his fingers and a few of the half-sober people in the room booed, begging him to stay and play. Standing, he gave the crowd a smile and a half bow.
Brentwood. He lived in Brentwood. Maybe someone could drop him off, because even though he didn’t know the girl on his arm, or where he was, or what day it was, he did know he didn’t belong a wheelbarrow, let alone a steering wheel. He had drowned out the driver in him drinks ago. Killed him with a shot glass, which, as it turns out, can be as lethal as a shot gun. The Jen Lopez girl took his hand and led him out the door.
A car with leather seats that smelled of cigarettes and fried food careened down a canyon road. Derrick let the car’s swaying control his movements. It occurred to him that they weren’t heading for Brentwood, after all. Somehow they had left the city. Derrick didn’t recognize the guy in the driver’s seat, but he did know that whoever he was, he probably wasn’t any more sober than himself.
Rocking with each hair-pin turn, Derrick thought about death without fear or sadness. The alcohol and drugs had muted any panic, and he found he could consider his life from a spectator’s perspective. Curious. At that moment, he didn’t care whether he lived or died. He didn’t even have the emotional energy to muster a slow down or a hey, let’s call a taxi. It was almost as if he was already dead.
In the upper room of the Rhyme’s Library, the children sat transfixed as Janey read from The Velveteen Rabbit. The light from the window shone upon their rapt and upturned faces. Most sat cross legged on the rag rug, some leaned against their mothers, a couple fidgeted, unable to sit still, but there was a hush in the room as Janey read.
“‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real.”
 “’Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’”
Janey came to the end of Margery Williams’ story and slowly closed the book. The children began to reluctantly stir.
“Miss Janey,” Henry chirped, his blue eyes gazing at her from under a lock of shockingly white hair. “Do you think toys can really die?”
 “Not really, do you?” Janey stretched out her legs and wiggled her toes. She loved story-hour, and she was okay sitting on the floor with the kids, but somehow when she read, she would forget to move and her legs or feet would fall asleep. She thought it an okay occupational hazard to have.
Henry’s forehead crinkled as he thought.
“Maybe when toys die, they become zombies,” Brock said, as he pushed his glasses further up onto his nose.
Janey smiled. “I don’t think toys die, and I’m pretty sure they don’t become zombies.”
“But how can you know?” Brock stood up and straightened his shoulders, reminding Janey that Brock’s dad was an attorney. She wondered if a love for a good argument could be inherited.
“I’ve never seen a toy zombie, have you?” Janey stood and held the book to her chest. She loved lots of stories, but the Velveteen Rabbit was her favorite.
“Have you ever seen Jesus?” Brock asked.
“Hum, no,” Janey said.
“Do you believe in Jesus?”
Janey put her hand to her forehead. “What does Jesus have to do with toy zombies?” she asked, but she could guess where this line of questioning was headed.
“Just because you’ve never seen something doesn’t mean that it’s not real,” Brock told her.
“Right.” Janey looked around at the children staring at her with big, questioning eyes and worried about what they would say when they got home. Someone would tattle, and Janey knew the Friends of the Library would be talking about the Jesus and toy zombie debate if she didn’t change the subject soon.
Downstairs, someone screamed.
Now what? Janey wondered. As far as Janey knew, no one had screamed in the Rhyme Library since Charlotte Rhyme had been found dead in the basement last year.
Footsteps pounded up the stairs.
Emma, a volunteer, looking wild-eyed and grief stricken, motioned for her little sister, Gabby. “Let’s go.”
“Emma,” Janey said, using her hushed librarian tone, “what’s going on? Who’s screaming?”
“Jessie and Amber.” Emma twisted a lock of her dark curls around her finger, something she often did when stressed about the mis-filing of books, or a computer break-down. “They just heard about Derrick Cordell.” Emma’s voice cracked and her eyes welled with unshed tears.
“The singer?” Janey didn’t follow Derrick Cordell’s career, but she would have to be living in a cave in the hindermost part of the world—which, of course, some people argued was exactly where Rose Arbor was— to not to have heard of the heart-throb.
Emma nodded and choked back a sob. Tears spilled down her face. “He’s dead.”
Henry turned to Janey. “Will he be a zombie, too?”
Janey put her hand on top of Henry’s brown curls. “I hope not,” she said.
3 Months Later
Eric Roudel sat on the edge of his bed gazing out at the Caribbean Sea. The sun glistened on the white sand. The trade winds blew through the window, ruffling the white curtains. Someone somewhere played reggae on a xylophone.
He had grown to hate the tediously, gloriously sunny weather. It was like that Clap Along Get Happy Song forever sounding over the airwaves. He wanted dark, brooding music. He longed for a riotous thunder storm. He wanted what he knew he could never have again.
He wanted to go home.
Standing, he faced north. Even if he stayed dry for decades, he couldn’t go back to Rosslare Harbour. According to his therapist, if he wanted to maintain his fragile sobriety, he needed to avoid alcohol. Forever. And trying to avoid whiskey in Ireland was like trying to avoid a Kardashian on TMZ.
He longed for the sharp, bone-chilling damp, the crash of waves, and the craggy shore. The calm, unruffled Caribbean endless blue was like an ocean on Prozac. Sure, the ocean was the ocean, but the Caribbean Sea was as unlike the wild Atlantic as a toy poodle was to a Doberman.
Rap, rap, rap.
“Come in,” Eric said, his gaze not leaving the window.
“Good day,” Lee said, as he pushed into the room with a tray full of food. “I see you’re wearing pants. Must be a good day. Got something special planned?”
Eric grunted and eyed the food. Sometimes he felt so much like a caged animal, like a parrot in a beautiful aviary that he resorted to guttural noises. Sitting at the table, he considered the grapefruit halves, the oatmeal topped with berries, and the turkey sausage links. Even this healthy breakfast should have made him put on weight, but Eric, already emaciated by his substance abuse, didn’t gain a pound. He had always seemed to float above the common problems plaguing everyone else. His life, overall, had been as sunny and easy as the Caribbean Sea.
So why had he destroyed it?
Why couldn’t he be as happy as Lee? Lee wore the same thing every day: a pair of cargo shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, flip flops, a red string tying back his dreadlocks, and a smile.
 It had taken Eric months to get used to eating three meals. Breakfast had always, until recently, made his stomach roll. When he had first arrived, he had flushed most of his breakfast down the toilet as soon as Lee left the room, rationalizing that that was the foods ultimate destination anyway. He was merely expediting the process. But Lee must have become suspicious, because he had since found a reason to stay until Eric finished his meals.
After setting the tray down, Lee settled into the chair in the corner, and propped his feet up on the ottoman. He generally liked to talk about his girlfriend, Marla, and today he announced, “Marla and I are done.”
So, maybe Lee wasn’t as happy as Eric had thought. “I’m sorry to hear that. What happened?”
Lee used a few colorful words to describe Marla.
“Then I guess you could come with me.”
 “Where you going?” Lee asked, faking an interest.
Eric knew Lee would never leave Marla. He might curse her, but he would never leave her.
“I’m not sure yet,” Eric said before he spooned oatmeal in his mouth.
“Then why would I join you?”
Eric swallowed a slug of orange juice before he said, “I’m giving you an out.”
Lee chuckled. “Your last way out landed you here. So, no thank you, sir. I be guessing I a’staying here. You should, too. This is a nice place.”
With a very nice price tag. But Eric knew that Lee didn’t expect him to stay on the island forever. “When you going to get me a guitar?”
Lee shrugged, reminding Eric that even though no one considered him a suicide risk, the center had strict “health and safety” policies. “If I wanted to off myself, don’t you think I would have been successful before now? Besides—who wants to die by way of a guitar string? If I wanted to, I’d drown myself. There’s plenty of water.”
Lee raised a bushy eyebrow. “But you already tried that. That’s why you’re here.”
“Different type of water,” Eric mumbled.
“Anything is deadly if you take it the wrong way,” Lee said.
Eric wiped his mouth and set down his napkin. “I’m serious, Lee. Why don’t you come with me?”
“Nah. You got to go and make yourself a new life.”
“I’ve got nothing.”
How many people had to scrap their old life and make a new one at only thirty? At his tri-life crisis, he had nothing to show for all his living.
“Now, Mr. Roudel, how be saying that? You know that’s not true.”
A voice in his head reminded him of the millions in the Caribbean banks, his sixteen thousand square foot Brentwood mansion, (what had he been thinking? He must have been drunk when he bought that mausoleum,) and his Tesla. Where had he left the car? Was it still in the garage? Shiest, good thing he didn’t own a cat.
“I don’t have a Marla.”
Lee burst out laughing. “You don’t want my Marla. She’s too fat for you.”
Eric bent over his breakfast. “If that’s what you think, she’s not good enough for you, and I’m going to tell her to whip your skinny—”
Footsteps pounded into the room, and Leslie burst through the door. Her dark hair looked while and her olive skin was pink and flushed. She paused to catch her breath before she said, “Mr. Cordell, you got to go!”
Lee bounced to his feet. “Who knows?”
Leslie pushed her hair off her face. “Everyone knows.”
“How?” Lee and Eric demanded at the same time.
“It doesn’t matter,” Eric threw down his napkin and climbed to his feet. “I knew I couldn’t hide out here forever. We all knew this day would come.”
“No,” Lee said, his voice turning steely. “You are not going back to your old life.”
“Then where do you suggest I go? I can’t go back to Ireland. I don’t want to go back to L.A.”
“Right now, you can hide out at Marla’s.” Lee stood and took hold of Eric’s arm. “Three months ago, you were as good as dead. That ain’t happening again. Not while I’m breathing.”
“It’s like Elvis sightings,” Janey told Emma as they worked together shelving books. “Everyone thinks they’ve spotted him. Next thing we know, they’ll be finding Eric Cordell’s face on potatoes.”
“It’s not like Elvis, at all. They’ve proven the…” Emma choked up, and then cleared her throat, "the body they thought was his, isn’t.”
“Because of the teeth?” Janey asked.
“That, and other things,” Emma said, her face stony.
Janey touched Emma’s arm. “I hope he is alive, but if he is—where is he?”
Emma sniffed and looked up at the ceiling. “I think if he was dead, I would know it.”
“Really?” Janey studied Emma. They were only five years apart, but sometimes she felt like Emma’s grandmother. Janey bit back a sigh. In some ways, living with an alcoholic mother had made her grow up too fast. But in other ways, it was like she was trapped in her childhood home, because she had to look out for her baby brother. When she had graduated from school she’d been offered a scholarship to Western Washington University, but the thought of leaving Noah alone with her mom kept her Rose Arbor.
Emma interrupted her thoughts. “We share a spiritual connection.”
Janey loved Emma. No matter how dark her thoughts, Emma always managed to make her smile. “Does Matt know?”
Emma tossed her dark curls over her shoulder. “Why would Matt care?”
Janey stopped fighting her smile. “I think he would like to know.”
“I don’t care what Matt thinks.” Emma deliberately shifted her attention to the books on the cart.
“What I think about what?” Matt stepped out from behind a shelf, and tucked his earbuds in his pocket.
Emma flushed an interesting shade of pink. Janey envied Emma’s coloring—it was so dramatic and changed so rapidly. Janey, on the other hand, was blonde, pale and about as interesting as vanilla.
“About Derrick Cordell,” Janey said.
“That pretty boy?” Matt scoffed, and straightened his spine so he stood taller.
“You got something against pretty?” Emma asked.
“I like pretty women, not boys,” Matt said.
“Good to know,” Janey muttered.
Matt ignored her. “You need a ride home?” he asked Emma. “I brought my dad’s bike.” He showed her the helmet he had tucked behind his back. “I brought this for you.”
Emma’s cheeks flushed again.
Janey wanted to ask if Mr. Harnett knew Matt had his bike, but she bit her lip and went back to shelving books. She might feel like a grandma, but she didn’t need to act like one. “We’re almost done here,” she told Emma. “You should go.”
“Are you sure?” Emma asked, glancing around at the empty, but practically immaculate library.
“Absolutely,” Janey said. “I can finish here on my own.”
After locking up the library, Janey climbed in her truck and offered a silent prayer that it could take her home. The Toyota coughed a few times before roaring to life, and Janey sighed in relief as she pulled out of the parking lot and headed west.
Minutes later, she pulled into the parking lot of the Apple Inn. She loved the inn, she always had, even when it had been an old and abandoned ramshackle, Janey had loved coming there as a little girl. Even now after all these months, it was hard to believe that she got to live in it. So what if she got the attic room without air-conditioning or central air? She used a fan in the summer, and a space heater in the winter, and every day she got to walk through the cranberry red front doors like she owned the place.
Janey let herself in, and the bell chimed a welcome.
Victoria hustled through the spacious hall, wiping her hands on her apron. Most of her dark, curly hair had escaped its hair pins and it looked almost as frantic as Victoria’s face. “Oh, heavens, Janey, I’m so glad you’re home!” She dropped her voice to a whisper and motioned for Janey to follow her into the kitchen. “We’ve got cranksters staying! They were supposed to be in the Golden Delicious, but I had to move them out to the Granny Smith cottage because they didn’t like the birds in the trees outside their windows.”
Janey passed through the large kitchen and headed for the mud room where she hung up her coat on a hook beside a collection of aprons and traded her shoes for a pair of slippers she kept underneath a bench. “And there aren’t birds in the trees next to the cottage?”
“Well, of course there are! But I didn’t know what else to do!” Victoria rolled her eyes and went back to her rolling pin on the spacious butcher block counter. “They seem happy…well, at least not as cranky…there.” She covered her hands in butter and shaped the dough into a large circle.
Janey collected a paring knife, a cutting board and sat down at the table in front of a big bowl of apples. “Don’t we have someone renting the cottage?”
Victoria sighed and sprinkled brown sugar, allspice and cinnamon over the dough. “He’ll get here tomorrow.”
Janey peeled, cored and chopped apples. “And when do the cranksters leave?”
“Not soon enough.”
Janey nodded, understanding. “You want me to make up the Gala?”
“Or the Pink Lady? No wait—it’s just a man, staying alone.”
“Definitely not the Pink Lady, then.” Janey took her apple bits and dumped them on top of Victoria’s dough.
Victoria rolled the dough, forming an apple, cinnamon roll that, come morning, would warm the hearts of even the crankiest, crankster. “I don’t know what I would do without you,” Victoria said.
“You would hire someone else.” Janey leaned over the kissed the older woman’s cheek. “But I don’t know where I would be without you.”
With his hair dyed black and a UW baseball cap on his head, Eric pulled into the stadium’s crowded parking lot. He adjusted his glasses, and gave himself another critical glance in the rearview mirror before climbing out of his rented Subaru. All around him, other peoples’ families and friends milled. A few had portable barbecues set up, and the smell of roasting meat mingled with the sharp tangy odor of beer. He braced himself.
He could do this.
He had chosen Seattle for a number of reasons—the music, the vibe, the gloomy weather that matched his mood—but mostly because it reminded him of Ireland. Finding Rose Arbor on a map had been just a fluke, but he hoped a providential one, since he intended to make it his home. He knew that Rose Arbor could never replace his village, Rosslare Harbour, but since he couldn’t go home, he hoped to find a next best thing.
Eric tucked his hands into the pockets of his Levi jeans and made his way to the entrance. No one noticed him. The crowd in the stadium surged around him, reminding him that it really was much easier to get lost, and feel lonely, in a crowd than on an almost deserted island.
Janey pulled her battered Toyota pickup truck into the Husky Stadium parking lot. Beside her, Noah bounced in his seat, his excitement rolling off of him, making Janey smile.
“We’re going to get Husky-dogs, right? Uncle Ted promised me Husky-dogs.” Noah thought for a moment. “But did he give you money for lunch? Because if he didn’t, that’s okay.”
Janey checked her wallet for the tickets and cash. “No…he gave me money.” Which wasn’t true, but she knew from her own experience that Uncle Ted regularly made promises he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, keep. Noah would learn that disappointing lesson soon enough. He didn’t need to learn it on his birthday. At least Ted had given her the tickets.
As Noah hustled out the door, Janey disconnected her phone from the power cord. Before leaving home, Janey had downloaded her homework. She didn’t want to study per se during the game, but maybe when Noah wasn’t looking she could catch up on her reading for her online accounting class. She tucked her phone into her bag and followed Noah to the entrance.
Noah held onto her hand, and jumped more than walked up the concrete concourse. Janey glanced at the tickets—the seats on the fiftieth yard line made her happy and mad. Happy, because she knew that Noah would be thrilled, but mad, because she knew that the seats were outrageously expensive and Noah could have used the money for much more important things…like milk, socks, or underwear.
But knowing that Noah would gladly trade-in, or abandon altogether, his underwear for a chance to see the Huskies up-close and personal, Janey steered Noah to their seats.
“Can we get the Huskydogs now?” Noah asked.
“Now? You can’t be hungry. I just watched you eat five bowls of Captain Crunch!” Janey doubled checked the row numbers as they descended closer to the field where the cheerleaders shook their sparkly pompoms. “We’ll get the dogs at half time.”
“Before half time!” Noah shouted over his shoulder to be heard over the band. “If we wait until half time, then there will be a long line and they might run out.”
Janey put her hand on Noah’s shoulder to keep him from bumping into a man carrying a baby dressed in a dog suit. “I don’t think they’ll run out.”
“But there’s so many people here, they might, right? So, we need to get them before half time.”
Janey pointed at their seats in front of a couple of gray-haired men, and a woman with knitting needles and a ball of yarn. A family with several children who looked younger than Noah sat in front of them, and a group of students were beside them. The students wore purple Husky shirts and hats and seemed to shuffle seats a lot. Janey hoped they would be louder and noisier than Noah, because she worried about him bothering the senior citizens and the lady-knitter.
Noah wiggled in his seat, making it bounce up and down, but once the players ran on to the field, he focused. “See there, number 32. That’s Nolan Keener. He’s the first string quarter back.”
“Huh, huh.” Janey’s gaze followed Noah’ finger.
“And that guy, number 25, he’s the running back.”
Janey smiled as if she cared.
Beside her, one of the students chuckled.
A whistle blew, a horn blasted, and a Husky kicked the ball.
“Ugh!” Noah groaned with the crowd when the ball landed near the 30 yard line.
Janey nodded, tried to look somber, and tucked her hands in her pockets. Her fingers closed around her phone. Her thumb sought out the on button. While the teams faced off, Janey took a quick glance at her taxation preparation homework.
“First down!” Noah groaned.
Janey looked up, sent Noah and conciliatory smile, and went back to her phone.
The student beside her chuckled again.
Janey shot him a quick glance that turned into a stare. He looked slightly older than the other students, and oddly familiar. His blue eyes gazed back at her through dark rimmed glasses. His jet black hair didn’t match his skin, and while it wasn’t so unusual for a guy to dye his hair, it seemed off with this guy. He wore a purple University of Washington sweatshirt that looked way too big for him, no name jeans, and a pair of Ranger boots. Guys that died their hair black typically dressed Goth, or Emo. This guy didn’t fit a stereo-type. In fact, taking note of the wrinkles around his tired eyes, she wasn’t even sure he was a student.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to stare. You just…” Janey stuttered, “look weirdly familiar somehow.”
The guy’s face turned white and his hand trembled. “We haven’t met,” he said in an accent that Janey couldn’t place. “I would have remembered.”
Janey nodded, smiling. “You probably just look like someone on TV.”
“Hey,” one of the students leaned over, “what about me? Do you think I look like someone on TV?” He batted his long eyelashes at Janey, grinning and reminding her of a large Teddy Bear. But she couldn’t tell him that.
“Sure,” Noah said, “you look just like a wesen from Grimm.”
“What?” the student sputtered. “Well, you look like—”
The insult was lost in the crowd’s roar.
“Interception!” Noah yelled. He climbed onto his seat so he could see over the people standing in front of him.
While everyone else watched the Husky’s lineman carry the ball to the ten yard line, Janey checked her phone.
The guy in the black rimmed glasses chuckled again.
Janey frowned at him.
He leaned over and whispered in her ear. “You don’t really give a rip about the Husky’s, do you?”
Janey gave Noah a quick glance, before telling the non-student to hush.
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell.”
Noah perched on the edge of his seat. “We’ll get a touch down here, or at least a field goal.”
“So, who do you think I look like?” the nonstudent asked, leaning in so that his shoulder nearly touched hers.
“I’m sorry?” Janey sat back to see his face more clearly. She realized that if he didn’t look so tired, he would be incredibly handsome.
“You said I reminded you of someone. I want to know who.”
“Really? You might not like my answer.”
“What if I told you I think you look like a younger, prettier Nicole Kidman?”
“Do you want me to reciprocate and tell you that I think you look like a young George Clooney? Or be honest, and tell you that you look like Curious George?”
The non-student seemed satisfied with this, and leaned back in his chair just as everyone around them bounced to their feet. “I don’t look like Curious George.”
“Maybe not, but you’re kind of acting like him.”
“Ouch,” he said with a grin that let her know she hadn’t hurt his feelings.
“Touch down!” Noah screamed. “I knew it! I knew Nolan could do it!”
Janey clapped along with everyone else while Noah bellowed out the Husky fight song. He knew all the words, while Janey had to read the jumbo-tron to keep up.
The nonstudent kept his lips pressed together.
“You’re not a Husky die-hard?” Janey asked when the song ended and they settled back into their seats.
He shook his head. “I’m more a Rugby guy.”
“Yeah? Then why are you here?”
“It’s really hard to find a rugby in the States.”
“Where you from?”
He bit his lip and took a long time to answer. “The Caribbean.”
“Oh yeah.” She leaned away from him. “That’s it. You look like Johnny Dep! Captain Jack Sparrow!”
He seemed pleased. “Really?”
 “Sort of.” Janey shrugged. “Except your clothes aren’t so raggedy.”
“I’ll take Dep over Monkey George any day.”
Noah tugged on her hand. “Janey, do you think it’s time to get the dogs?”
“Um, sure. Do you want to come with me, or stay here?”
“Stay here!”
“Okay, but if I leave you here, you have to promise me you won’t move.”
Noah froze in place, and Janey laughed.
She turned to the guy next her. “Can you keep your eye on him?” she whispered.
He nodded. “Maybe you can read while you stand in line.”
“See, aren’t you glad you didn’t wait?” Noah asked thirty minutes later when the half time buzzer blew and thousands of people headed for the bathrooms and concession stands.
 “You were right. Again.” Janey nodded and bit into her hotdog.
“Besides, you want to be here for the camera contests,” Noah told her.
“Camera contests?”
“Heck yeah!” He pointed at the jumbo-tron. “See, they’re doing the Rock It Out contest now.” The camera flashed to a girl in the audience who pretended to beat a set of drums with imaginary sticks. Her hair whipped around her head, moving faster than her hands.
Noah climbed on his seat and rocked out. Janey watched, silently praying he wouldn’t fall onto the senior citizens or puncture himself with to the knitting needles.
“Yeah, dude,” the Teddy Bear student said. “They’ve moved onto the kiss-cam.”
Noah’s hand froze mid-air. “Ah, gross.” He climbed off his chair and settled back into his seat. “I hate this part.”
When the camera focused on a couple, the guy grabbed the girl and bent her over backwards in a Fred Astaire sweeping kiss. The second couple had more reservations, and did little more than peck at each other. The crowd booed.
Janey snuck her phone out of her pocket. She was reading about tax exemptions when Noah nudged her. “You’re on the camera!”
Janey dropped her phone back into her pocket, just as the Teddy Bear student grabbed her and planted his beer-stained lips on hers. He grinned as he pulled away.

Janey smiled politely and looked over his shoulder to watch the man in the black rimmed glasses walk away with shaking hands.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Some Random Thoughts on Why We Love Who We Love

I can’t speak for everyone, only myself. And please know that I’m not a therapist, or a scientist, or a doctor of any kind.
I’m a writer.
Aside from letters and this blog, I write fiction, which means I make stuff up and write it down. But everything I write comes from somewhere—some dark and shadowy parts of my mind.
Today at my critique group, I read a few pages from my novella in progress, Love at the Apple Cheek Inn, and it made me look into those aforementioned shadowy corners of myself…something I don’t often do.
In my story, after a near fatal car accident, Eric Roudel, a mega-rock star disappears into first rehab and then, with a false identity, hides himself in the tiny town of Rose Arbor where he meets and falls in love with Janey. (Janey is a minor character in The Rhyme’s Library. You can read that book, but not Love at the Apple Cheek Inn, because it’s not finished yet.) In this scene, Janey takes on the paparazzi.

Standing, she shoved her feet into a pair of wooly slippers and threw a nubby sweater around her shoulders. Padding down the stairs, she stopped by the cleaning closet and got out the fire-extinguisher.
Creeping down the hall, she headed for the back door.
Who’s the ninja now? she thought.
The cold air took her breath away. The pale moonlight had turned the yard and grounds to gray. The whole world slept, while Janey hung out in the dark. Was she crazy? Had she seen someone? She walked out into the middle of the lawn, letting the heavy dew soak her slippers. Slowly, she turned and saw no one and nothing. Behind her, a twig snapped, and Janey whirled—her extinguisher raised.
A rabbit darted out of the bushes. Feeling stupid, Janey blew out a breath. She let her weapon dangle at her side and headed back for her room.
Light flashed in her eyes, blinding her. Janey hoisted the extinguisher, pointed and aimed. She still couldn’t see, but she could shoot. White foam sprayed. Not really caring what or who she hit, Janey slowly circled, sending the foam in all directions while cameras clicked and lights flashed.
A window opened. “Janey—what’s going on?” Victoria sounded more sleepy than mad or curious.
“Burglers!”Janey cried.
“Burglers?” Victoria asked. “Are you sure, dear?”
The Masons stuck their head out their bedroom window.
“There they go!” Mr.  Mason yelled, his finger pointing to the commotion in the parking lot.
“Goodness!” Mrs. Mason said, “Call the police!”
“No!” Janey cried.
“No?” Victoria and the Masons echoed.
Janey took a long shuddering breath. “No. Just no.”
“Why not?” Victoria asked.
“Yeah, why not?” Mr. Mason said. “I don’t want some punks hanging out around here.”
Janey sent Victoria a pleading look. “I’ll explain.”
Victoria’s lips lifted in a kind, amused smile. “Why don’t you come inside, dear. I’m thinking that by tomorrow, you’ll wish you had taken the time to fix your hair…and changed your clothes.”
Eric slid away from the window and sat down on his bed. She knows, he thought. But for how long? Had she known when they were at the lake? No. And if she had known—why would she face the photographers dressed in plaid boxers, an oversized T-shirt and elephant slippers?
Eric rubbed his hand over his stubbly chin. After a moment of thought, he slipped on his jeans and headed for the attic.
He met Janey on the stairs. Her blonde hair stood up in strange places, foam spattered her clothes, bare arms and legs, and mascara smudges stained her eyes. He thought she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
“Thanks,” he said, leaning against the wall so she could pass him.
“You’re welcome,” she replied.
“That’s it? No questions? Just you’re welcome?”
Janey sniffed. “No. That’s not it.” She thought for a long moment, then added, “Call your mom.”
Eric burst out laughing.
She turned to him, concern puckering her brow. “It’s not funny. Your mom has probably been dying inside with worry for the last six months.”
“You don’t know my mom.” Eric’s voice sounded hard.
“But I know moms.” Janey paused. “Look—I hate my mom and I’m sure the feeling is mutual—but if I was missing…well, she would want to know where I was.”
Eric lifted an eyebrow. “Even if she hates you?”
Janey nodded. “She’s your mom.”
“Do you hate me?”
Janey shook her head. “But we’re not talking about me.”
“I love that you charged after the press dressed in…that.”
Janey straightened her shoulders and grinned. “You don’t like my clothes?”
Eric pulled away from the wall and stepped inches away from her. “You are, I think, the bravest, stupidest person I know.”
He slowly shook his head. “You don’t even know.”
“Know what?”
“If not tomorrow, then soon, your picture is going to be all over the news.”
She shrugged.
Eric lifted his lips into a slow grin. “Because you’re with me.”
“I am?”
He nodded. “This is going to be way bigger than it ever was before.”
Janey lifted her hand as if stopping traffic. “Okay, let’s think about this. Right now, you need to disappear.”
“It’s too late.”
“No, it doesn’t have to be.”
“In a few hours, the press will be swarming.”
Janey lifted her shoulders. “Let them swarm. You can stay in my room.”
Eric’s grin deepened and his eyebrows rose another mili-inch.
“Not with me. I’ll stay in a different room.”
“I liked my idea better.”
Janey put her hand on his chest and pushed him away. “Sorry, Romeo.”
Eric grabbed her wrist and pulled her against him. “When did you know?”
“About twenty minutes ago.”
“You know there’s a reward.”
“I know.”
“You could have made a lot of money. I would have forgiven you.”
“But I wouldn’t have forgiven myself.”
Eric lowered his lips so that they were inches above hers. “Did you really want to kiss me when you thought I was just Eric?”
“I liked Eric.” Janey swallowed. “I’m not sure if I like Derrick.”
“Why’s that?”
“I could see myself with Eric the music teacher.” Janey blinked long and slow. “I don’t think I can be with Derrick the rockstar.”
“That makes two of us.”
“Why do you think I’m hiding in Rose freaking Harbor?”
“We should go to bed,” Janey said.
When Eric lowered his head to kiss her, she placed her hand on his forehead stopping him. “But not together. I might have let Eric kiss me, but I just met Derrick.” She tapped his head with her finger. “Go hide in my attic. We’ll deal tomorrow.”

Why do I love this scene? Why do I love that Janey grabs a fire extinguisher and goes on the attack? I think it’s because Janey demonstrated strength when Eric needed someone to be strong.
And I think that for me, falling in love was like that. When I was young, I needed someone strong. The people who were supposed to be strong, the people who were supposed to love me the most, fell down on the job (and one of them died.) I can look at the situation with a lot more compassion now than I could then—but the gut-wrenchingly honest truth—I had a need and I found someone who filled that need.
Maybe it wasn't the ideal basis for a marriage, but every day, I thank God that I married someone who would pick up a fire extinguisher and go to battle for me, someone who gets up, puts on his shoes and goes to work to support our family, who puts on his tie and goes to church meetings when he'd rather be out boating, who is willing and able to have hard conversations with troubled children, someone who is strong when I'm weak--and gets that I'm weak, and loves me anyway.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Highwayman Incident

Celia Quinn's business lies in ruins at the hands of Jason West, the latest in a long line of scoundrels. As she seeks to restore her family's livelihood, Celia stumbles upon lore about the local Witching Well, whose water is said to cause hysteria and psychosis. When a mysterious stranger slips Celia water from the well into her drink, she’s transported to Regency England. Her timeless adventure spans miles and centuries from modern-day New England to Merlin's Cave in Cornwall, England. Only Jason West can save her.

But Celia and Jason must tread carefully, as what happens in the past can reverberate through the ages. Their lives, hearts and futures are caught in time’s slippery hands.

Available now on Amazon and most e-book retailers, only .99 cents for a  limited time.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving Tomorrow, Now and Then

As a kid, our family always spent Thanksgiving with a collection of aunts, uncles and cousins. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, but my parents belonged to a large tribe of displaced Wyomingites. They congregated for feasting on Thanksgiving Day—usually in my aunt’s basement. I remember the basement being unfinished—cement floors, wood beams with exposed electrical wires. We ate on paper covered long, folding tables borrowed from the church and cold metal chairs. Once, I remember my mom saying that there was over 80 people there. To me, it seemed like a sea of people.
We stopped attending after my mom died. That first holiday, my dad and I went and left after five minutes. By the next Thanksgiving, my dad had married my stepmother Marie, and we celebrated with just my siblings and new step-siblings.
When I went college, I didn’t come home for Thanksgiving, Instead, I spent the long weekend my sister, her husband and children in Boise, Idaho.
After I married, I spent the holiday with my husband’s family. My mother-in-law always made a lovely meal, and typically, the four of the Tate children who lived in Southern California would come to Lake Arrowhead. Although, only 90 minutes from Orange, County, Lake Arrowhead is high in the San Bernardino Mountains and often there would be snow.

When we lived in Connecticut, we took our children, including baby Nathan, to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and had dinner in a Korean restaurant in New York City.
Eventually, Grandpa Tate’s memory began to slip and living in the mountains became increasingly difficult for my in-laws. They moved to St. George, Utah about the time my children began attending school at Brigham Young University. This worked out perfectly for us. For many years, we would drive to north to St. George, and our children would drive south, and we’d meet at Grandma’s. We would hike in Zion National Park in the morning, eat in the afternoon, and play games all evening.

But Grandpa’s health declined, and my in-laws moved to Salt Lake City to be closer to my husband’s sisters. My daughter married and she and her husband moved to Las Vegas. So, my children attending BYU would drive south to Bethany’s and Larry and I would drive north. We would hike in the morning at Red Rock Canyon and eat in the afternoon and play games all evening.

This year, two of my daughters are on missions. Natalie is in Houston waiting for her visa to Taiwan. Miranda is in Uruguay. My son, Nathan and his wife and baby are in Peru. We had Bethany’s family, my oldest son, and my youngest son and his wife for dinner. We made a turkey, ate a lot of food, and played a lot of games. On Friday, we went shopping at IKEA and bought a lot of stuffed animals. We hiked in the canyon and tried to teach the dogs how to skateboard. Adam bought everything to make turkey pizzas and we each created our own with peppers, pepperoni and pineapples. On Saturday, we went to Oceanside and rented six people bikes and cruised up and down the strand. After church on Sunday, we decorated the house with Christmas garb, and cookies with frosting and sprinkles to deliver the elderly families who attend our church.
My sister-in-law once said of the holidays, it’s not always the same, but it can still be very nice. Sometimes, I miss the years in Lake Arrowhead with my fun-loving in-laws. I miss my young children with a gentle ache. But I find that my grandchildren have come to fill in all the empty spaces. My husband once said that as time passes, we have more and more people to love.  I doubt that we’ll ever recreate the Thanksgivings of my childhood with 80 people in an unfinished basement, or that we’ll have a house in Lake Arrowhead like my in-laws. I don’t see us going back to New York City. I don’t think my daughter will live in Las Vegas for much longer. Eventually, my children will all graduate from BYU. I hope they’ll each marry and have children of their own. In time, they will host their own Thanksgivings, and Larry and I may, or may not, be their guests. The challenge will be to make every holiday special in and of itself.

And that’s true of not just the holidays, but every day.