Monday, February 27, 2017

A collection of twenty science fiction & fantasy short stories and novellas about experiencing the Unknown.

Including my short story, Return to Cinder

A number of years ago, my friend's family was on a road trip and their car broke down somewhere between Reno and Vegas. If you're at all familiar with that area, you know that there isn't much there other than dust, cacti, and tumbleweeds. And Area 51.
A Mormon bishop welcomed them into his home and they stayed there for several days waiting for their car to be repaired. After the family returned home, my friend's dad wrote the bishop and several other members of the town thank you notes for their hospitality and kindness.
I won't tell you what happened next because I want you to read the story.
I thought about changing the bishop to "minister" or "pastor" to make the story more universal, but decided against it. The man claimed to be a Mormon bishop. Besides, there is a (sometimes naive and undeserved) trusting steak in the Mormon culture. As a people, we tend to assume if someone is a "worthy priesthood holder" that person is deserving of our trust. I confess, if my car broke down in the middle of nowhere, if given the choice, I would pick to stay with a Mormon bishop and his wife over any other set of strangers. I'm sure my friend's family, also devote Mormons, felt the same.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sugar Fasting. How to Ween Yourself Off Sugar

Last night I went to a "favorite things"party. It's like a white elephant gift exchange, except that you're supposed to bring your favorite thing wrapped like a present. And another selects your wrapped present and you tell everyone in the crowd why it's one of your favorite things. When it was my turn to select a gift, I intentionally skipped the Sees Candies and the Sprinkles cupcake. Instead, I chose a large heavy present under the rational that it wouldn't be candy or a dessert.
It was a 5 lb. bag of chocolate chips. Probably the most sugar-laden thing in the room.

But I'm closing in my second month of my sugar fast, and honestly, sugar has little temptation for me know. Why? I really haven't lost weight, although I'm sure I would if I stopped eating empty carbs. I have gone down a pants size, but that isn't the incentive. Here it is: when I don't eat sugar, I sleep through the night. When I sleep through the night, life is good. When I eat sugar, I don't sleep through the night. When I don't sleep through the night life is BAD. That's right, all capitals BAD.

So, how do you ween yourself off sugar? Below is a blog post from three years ago. It's rather disheartening that I've been flirting with giving up sugar for more than three years, but since I've been living and eating for much longer than that, I shouldn't be surprised that sometimes, maybe even often, it takes a really long time to reset lifelong patterns. There are a few that can flip a switch and be forever changed, but I don't think most of us are wired that way. Since the New Year, I have been living with the motto, not even once. And so far, it's worked for me. But I also like to keep the teeth brushing analogy in my head, and that is this: if you skip brushing your teeth one night, you don't throw away your toothpaste and say, "well, I blew it. I guess I'm done with brushing my teeth." No, you just get back to teeth brushing. It can be the same way with healthy eating.

Here's my post on sugar fasting from three years ago:

Sugar Fasting

Day three of my sugar fast. Already, I'm sleeping through the night. (Hooray!) And I've lost a pound. I have friends that have been wildly successful with their sugar fasts.

Nancy: age 53. Lost 15 pounds
Claudia: age 75. Lost 20 pounds
Janet: age 52. Lost 50 pounds
Skeet: age 57. Lost 120 pounds

But weight loss shouldn't be the motivating factor. Each of my friends gave up sugar as a way to combat different health issues. I think it's interesting that three different health concerns were all addressed by this one (simple/ not so simple) remedy.

 Last year I went without sugar from my birthday in January until Valentine's Day, and I learned some things.

1. Going without sugar is actually easy if you can survive the first horrendous, no-good week. Why is the first week so hard? By about day three I went through withdrawal and had a massive headache, but if you can power through until about the fifth or fourth day, you should lose your craving for sugar.

Counter Attack: Plan a reward. On day 5 I'm going to buy a gizmo that will count how many calories I burn when I walk/run.

2. When I don't eat sugar, I sleep through the night. I can't tell you why I sleep better without sugar in my diet, all I know is that I do. It might be because I don't have that afternoon sugar crash around 2 or 3 p.m. where all I want to do is nap. Maybe because I don't need to nap, I sleep better at night. And I can't even begin to tell you how much better I feel after a good nights sleep.

Action Plan: Keep a journal of your sleep patterns and see if it works for you.

3. Without sugar, fruits and vegetables taste better and sweeter, and refined sweets lose their draw.

So, why did I quit my sugar fast last February? Because it was hard. Everyday something delicious comes my way. I'm confronted with birthday cakes, morning donuts, and treats at every writers' group meeting, every church social, and every get-together.

Counter Attack: I'm going to take a picture of the treat with my phone and use it as a symbol of the temptation I was able overcome--a trophy, if you will.

Is it reasonable to give up all treats, always? Probably not. But a warm peach sprinkled with cinnamon can satisfy even a raging sweet tooth.

Penny, my main character in Losing Penny, is a food blogger who struggled with weight issues her entire life, but finds life just as difficult after she loses the weight. Here's the blurb. 

A cooking show diva in hiding,
A literature professor writing genre fiction,
An admirer who wants more than the tasty morsels a cooking hostess is willing to share—
A dangerous recipe for romance in the town of Rose Arbor.

Cooking show diva, Penny Lee, loses fifty pounds, and gains a stalker. To avoid the attention of her most devoted follower, Penny concocts a plan: while pretending to take a culinary tour, traveling the world, collecting recipes and posting them on her blog, she hides at a remote beach house in Rose Arbor, Washington, where she spends the summer compiling her cookbook.

When English Literature professor Drake Islington is offered the chance to spend the summer at a remote beach house where he can write in peace he happily accepts, never dreaming that he is a pawn in a match making scheme. His encounter with Penny promises a delicious summer, until uninvited guests arrive forcing Penny and Drake to cook up a scheme of their own. When Drake’s mother, a stalker, and a donkey named Gertrude join the mix, the town of Rose Arbor sizzles with another tale of romance and suspense.

Losing Penny is free this weekend. GET YOURS HERE

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Life isn't Fair

I just wrote this poem for my current work in progress, Rewriting Rita. What do you think?

Life Isn’t Fair,
Fairs are for cows and pigs seeking the prize,
The blue go to those of the biggest size,
The heftiest cows, the piggiest pig,
The crown goes to the critters most big.
And if you’ll take a gander at the crowd gathered there,

You’ll always find a prize-winning bitch at the fair.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

When You Feel Stuck

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be stuck in an elevator. I say fortunate because that experience gave me the idea for one of my favorite novellas, Stuck With You. (It's free this weekend.)
Being trapped in an elevator was, at the time, terrifying. Partly because I was raised by a claustrophobic mother. In fact, I didn't ride in an elevator until I was old enough to navigate department stores on my own. So, one of my first thoughts when the elevator jammed was, My mom was right!

This wasn't my worst elevator experience, though. That happened when I was fourteen and I went to visit my dying mother in the Veteran's Hospital in Seattle. A trip to the restroom separated me from my dad so I had to ride the elevator by myself. I got off on the wrong floor. The air was blue with smoke. The people on the chairs and sofas looked frozen and immobile. For a moment, I thought maybe I had come to the place where they kept the dead. A nurse hurried over and informed me I was on the floor for the alcoholics. She directed me where I could find my mom. All these years later, I can still see the blue air of that smoke-filled room.

And just like there was a blessing (a book idea) to my unfortunate time in the stuck elevator, I think there was a blessing that came from my trip to the alcoholic ward of the VA hospital. Drinking has had zero appeal to me. Ever. Once in high school a friend asked me to come and pick up a drunk friend and drive her home. We had to stop several times for her to vomit, and all I could think was "ick." Years later at social events for my husband's work when people would drink, laugh too hard, talk too loud, and stand too close, I again would think (but never say) "ick." My husband had a boss that I liked when he was sober, but when he'd been drinking he would put his face just inches from mine and talk to me with his reeking breath.

My point is this: sometimes being stuck can be a good thing. Just as long as you learn something and move on.

Here's an old post about my experience in the elevator. Following that is the first chapter of my novella, Stuck With You--Free this weekend.

 Do you ever feel stuck?

I listened to a great Ted talk the other day by a doctor who was paralyzed and went on to do great things despite his condition. The takeaway message for me was: we're all paralyzed at one time or another.

Which made me think. Not only are we sometimes paralyzed--there are probably whole areas of our lives where we're paralyzed. There are places we won't go. Things we won't do. Foods we won't eat. People we won't speak to. Ideas we won't consider. And sometimes this is wise and sometimes it's stupid.

The other day I was stuck in an elevator. I accidentally leaned against the alarm button and the elevator froze. I tried to pull the button that said, pull in case of an emergency. I tried to call the number on the elevator wall, but I didn't have cell service. I tried not to go insane while the alarm wailed.

I kicked the door. I beat against the wall with a teapot. (Who knew teapots could be useful for something other than making tea?) I pulled on the emergency knob until my hand turned blue (really, I bruised my hands.) Finally someone found me. And then they told me it would take 40 minutes for the elevator person to come to my rescue.

After 45 minutes, I decided I couldn't wait any longer, and I broke a pair of wire-rimmed glasses and used the arm to wedge under the emergency button. Using all my weight, I popped off the button and the elevator doors slid open.

While in the elevator, listening to the screaming alarm, I was fine. It wasn't until I was in my car and headed for home that I began shaking. It took a long time for me to feel "normal." (Whatever that is.)

The next day I received an email from a friend recounting her grandson's experience in the monster storm that devastated the Philippines. It made me stop and think about how I handled my adventure in the elevator and how this young missionary survived a deadly storm.

It made me think about fear and faith and patience. It gave me a great idea for a story.

What do you do when you feel stuck? Are there areas of your life where you refuse to budge? Old ideas that you refuse to let go? Relationships stuck in a rut? Habits and routines that could use some shaking up?


Click. Click. Click.
Stainless steel and glistening marble. No family pictures or personal mementos. Emotionally dead. Like a zombie.
Andie pushed open the walk-in closet and tweaked her assessment. A zombie wearing Armani. She snapped a few photos of the shoes lined up like soldiers on the shelves and the shirts hung with every collar facing north. Tempted to grab a fistful of the pinpoint Oxford shirts and wrinkle the heavily starched fabric, she controlled herself and instead searched the floor and dark corners, hoping to find a stray jock-strap or a Twinkie wrapper—anything incriminating. But Grayson Dodd was too good. Or, more likely, he hired someone to make him look good. He probably had someone come in to keep the contents of his medicine cabinet in alphabetical order and his sock drawer color coordinated.
She snapped a few more shots of the bedroom before heading to the balcony. In a few more minutes, she would be rewarded with a view of Catalina lying in a blue, sparkling sea. The Newport shots required patience and perfect timing. The morning marine layer often wouldn’t burn off until noon, and by four p.m. it generally returned. This meant that she usually ate her lunch in a fast food parking lot, napkins carefully protecting her work uniform—a black linen skirt and creamy lace top.
Andie sat at the bistro table with the chairs strategically placed so that the balcony rail wouldn’t interfere with the view, and waited for the sun to work its magic. Far below her, the cars moved along the crowded parkway. Clients and sellers wanted to see Catalina Island—not Southern Orange County’s busy streets.
Andie scrolled through the photos on her camera, assuring herself that as soon as she had the ocean shots, she would have the bones of a decent flier. She let the sun warm her shoulders and closed her eyes, imagining Grayson Dodd’s reaction to her work… She knew it wasn’t fair to dislike him just because he was marrying her cousin, Kayla. Sure, he had an apartment with all the warmth and appeal of a Modani showroom, but maybe he was a decent guy. She had only met him a few times. It was nice of him to give her mom the listing.
Andie stood and rolled her shoulders. She knew that Kayla and Grayson were a set match. Everyone said so. And even if they had their flaws—Grayson’s million dollar view was perfect. When the sun finally overcame the fog, she snapped the photos, said goodbye to Catalina, tucked her camera into her case, locked all the doors, and headed for the elevator.
Verbiage ran through her head while she waited. Location, location, location! Ocean views from this cozy (aka small) Newport Coast charmer (aka last century condo.) Typically, she loved her job…well, she didn’t hate it…at least she was a photographer…but now as the elevator slid between floors, a funk she didn’t know how, or didn’t want to acknowledge, settled over her as heavy and dense as the Newport fog. She couldn’t look at it too closely because she knew if she did, she’d find the cause of her bad mood…Jeremy Zimmerman. And she didn’t want to find Jeremy Zimmerman anywhere, especially not inside her head. It was bad enough knowing that she would have to face him at Kayla’s wedding.
The doors slid open. Andie looked up from her camera’s display screen and saw Grayson Dodd leaning against the back wall, wearing a pair of khaki shorts, a Camp Pendleton Mud Run T-shirt and a pair of leather flip flops. Where were the pinpoint Oxford shirt and wingtip shoes? She nodded at him and pushed the elevator button.
“Hey,” he said as the doors closed.
“Hi.” She smiled and hoped it looked sincere and not as forced as it felt. “I just shot your condo.”
“That seems harsh.” He grinned. “Did it bleed?”
“Huh, no. Do you want to see? I got some pretty good shots of Catalina.”
“So—you’re not only a condo killer, but an island assassin.”
“I have a camera. I know how to use it.” She tried to read him.  His light gray eyes stared back at her from behind wire-rimmed glasses. She didn’t know this Grayson. He was different—and the difference extended beyond his wardrobe. “I can shoot you, too. Right here. Right now.”
He shuddered. “Scary.”
She shrugged and grinned. “I can plaster you all over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I even do LinkedIn.” Her voice caught as the elevator hiccupped and bounced. Andie stopped thinking of shooting Grayson when the elevator shuddered a mechanical sigh and stopped. The lights flickered and died.
“What the—?” Andie reached for the control panel and ran her fingers over the buttons. She blinked at them. Maybe her eyes would adjust to the perfect dark. But maybe not. She fumbled in her purse and pulled out her phone.
No service.
It provided a faint, milky light, and she used it to inspect the control panel. A red plaque had the words In case of an emergency, please call:1-800-555-help.
“Good to know,” Grayson said, as he pulled out his phone. “Assuming you had service.”
Andie spotted a large red button and pushed it. Almost immediately, an alarm wailed. It echoed through the tiny space and filled Andie’s head.
“Someone will come now right?” She had to yell to be heard over the alarm. “The alarm will tell someone that we’re stuck.”
But no one came. Time grounded to a halt.
 “Why don’t I lift you up?” Grayson suggested. “Maybe you can crawl through the roof.”
“And then what? I’m not Laura Croft. This isn’t an action movie.”
He laughed again, a soft sound, barely audible above the alarm. “I’m not looking for action.”
“Oh!” she harrumphed. She actually harrumphed. Little old ladies like Grammy Dean harrumphed and now she was harrumphing too. Next thing—knitting, canasta, and Bonanza reruns. “You are not picking me up.” She winced at the double entendre.
“Well, I would suggest you pick me up, but I don’t think you could…at least, not in the literal sense.”
Was he flirting with her? Eew. She tried to ignore him. Leaning against the far wall, as far as possible from Grayson, she was hypersensitive to him. He didn’t say anything, but she still felt him. She really couldn’t hear anything above the noise of the alarm, but she could swear she felt him breathe. His nearness crackled like electricity. Her skin prickled. He smelled like soap. A really nice, lavender sort of soap. Which made her wonder if males should use lavender soap. Maybe it was Kayla’s soap.
Which made her think of bathing, which led to bathrooms, and the absence of such an important necessity…Panic fluttered in Andie’s belly. She pounded on the door until her hands throbbed. She sat on the floor and used both of her feet to kick the door. Her screaming barely rose above the wailing alarm. Grayson remained in his corner, silent…other than the breathing.
 “Hello?” A voice from the outside. “Is someone in there?”
Finally! Andie gave a sigh of relief that all of her banging and yelling had actually been useful. “Yes!” she screamed.
“Are you hurt?” the voice asked.
“Only my feelings,” Grayson said.
“I’ll go and get security,” the voice said.
“It won’t be long now,” Grayson told her.
Andie harrumphed again. She was getting good at it.
Time stretched and slowed until it stood still.
“Security here,” said a new, deeper voice. “Are you still there?”
“Where did you think we would go?” Andie rolled her eyes for the benefit of no one. Eye rolling and harrumphing had become her fallback positions.
“Pull the emergency button!” the voice instructed.
“I did that!” Andie yelled.
A light flickered as Grayson used his phone to located the red knob. He tried pulling it. “It’s stuck,” he confirmed.
“Call the fire department!” Andie yelled.
“What are they going to do?” Grayson asked. “Use the jaws of life?”
“Why is that stupid?”
“Did I say it was stupid?”
“No, but you said it like you thought it was stupid.”
 Andie wasn’t sure, because she couldn’t hear or see him, but she thought Grayson rolled his eyes.
“Hello?” Andie pressed her nose against the heavy metal doors and tried calling through them.
“Hello,” Grayson said.
She rested her forehead on the doors. They felt smooth, cold and solid. “I’m not talking to you!”
“Too bad. We’ve been in here for almost a half hour, and I’m getting bored.”
They sat in silence for hours, or maybe a few minutes. Andie wasn’t sure which.
“Okay!” The security voice returned. “Just called the elevator guy. He can be here in forty minutes.”
“Forty minutes!” Andie and Grayson both said at the same time.
“I can’t stay here for another 40 minutes,” Andie complained.
“What’s the worst thing that can happen?”
She knew exactly what the worst thing that could happen was. She would have to designate a pee corner, and she would have to squat and pee in front of Grayson Dodd.
She fumbled in her purse for…anything. She pulled out her keys and tried wedging the skinniest one under the red knob. It didn’t budge. Using her phone for a light, she studied the control panel. It had four tiny holes probably for a screw driver. Knowing she didn’t have anything the right size, she swung the light at Grayson.
He blinked at her behind wire rimmed glasses.
Without thinking twice, she ripped the glasses off his face and broke off an arm.
“Do you want to stay in here?” Andie pointed the broken glasses at him with a shaky hand. “Do you want to pee in a corner?”
“Huh, no.”
“Me neither.” She tried poking the broken arm of the glasses into one of the tiny holes. Nothing.
“Here, give it to me.” Grayson held out his hand.
Sighing, she handed it over.
Grayson bent it to form a loop and eased it under the knob. Holding onto the broken eyeglass arm, he leaned back, using all of his weight. Nothing.
He turned to her. “Help me?”
Andie opened her mouth to complain, but quickly realized his plan and complied. She put her arms around his waist and tried to not stand too close.
“Better idea. Switch places.” He placed his hand on her shoulder and guided her so that she stood in front of him. Taking the newly created wire loop, he wrapped it beneath the red knob and held it tightly. “Lean against me,” he said.
She leaned.
Nothing. Well, something, but it was more an internal, zipping blood thing than a mechanical, fix the elevator sort of thing.
“On the count of three, jump backwards,” Grayson said. “Don’t be afraid to hurt me.”
Andie nodded. She felt dizzy standing in the circle of Grayson’s arms.
“One. Two. Three.”
The knob popped as they jumped away. Grayson tumbled to the floor, and Andie landed on top of him. The light sputtered on, and the alarm fell silent. The elevator lurched once before starting and grinding to a stop. The doors slid open.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Melange is Almost Here

I love this one so much…I had actually finished it before Thanksgiving. Because it was my first time placing a book on pre-order, I didn’t realize that the release date was pretty much set in stone. I knew that the Amazon frowned on being late publishing the book, but I hadn’t known that I also wasn’t able to publish earlier than the designated release date. So, I was stuck with February 15th. Which is fine. I’m not 100% sure what the pre-release orders will do for me, but I figured that it will capture those that first read Menagerie and want to read the sequel. Remember how we had to wait a year for the next installment of Harry Porter and the Hunger Games? So glad those days are over…
By Kristy Tate
Copyright 2017
Lizbet and Declan are on the brink of their lives. After graduation, Declan plans on leaving for college, but his world is turned upside down when his grandfather is attacked by wolves. Lizbet draws upon her ability to communicate with animals to try and find the wolves responsible, but she soon discovers the wolves have terrifying abilities of their own, capable of destroying not only Lizbet and Declan’s plans for their future but also their hearts.

Coyote is always out there waiting, and Coyote is always hungry. – Navajo

On the sort of spring evening that lasts forever, when the sun’s fading into blackness stretches for hours, Declan tried to convince himself that time really could be harnessed, and the simple pleasure he found walking beside Lizbet and listening to her laugh would last as long as they both lived. And yet his errand reminded him that bits and pieces of life could be fleeting, that nothing lasts forever, and things could change as quickly as the weather. But fortunately, at that moment, the finicky Pacific Northwest sky sported a few wispy clouds and a promise of a cool, clear night.
“Are you sure you want to wait?” Declan asked.
“What else am I going to do?” Lizbet asked. “Besides, hanging in a bookstore is one of my favorite things to do.”
“I feel weird having you walk me to my grandfather’s house.” He skated a glance at her, wondering what his grandfather would think of Lizbet’s curly hair, elfin features, tiny build, and bright green eyes. His mom called Lizbet a wild child, which was, given her strange upbringing, an apt description. “It’s supposed to go the other way, right?”
“What do you mean?” Lizbet turned to him.
He wanted to kiss her, but after a quick peek at his grandfather’s imposing brick mansion on the other side of the long stretch of lawn beyond the wrought-iron gate, he tucked his hands into his pockets to stop himself from reaching out to her. “I’m the guy,” he said. “I’m supposed to walk you home.”
“But neither of us are going home. I’m going to the bookstore, and you’re stalling.”
“I’m not stalling.”
She placed her hands on his chest to keep him away. “Yes, you are. We’ve been walking down this street at turtle speed…”
He wrapped his hands around her wrists, holding her close. “He’s going to think I’m hitting him up for money.”
“Why do you say that?”
Declan sucked in a breath. “He’s going to ask about college, so I’ll have to tell him about Duke, and that will lead to a conversation about money.”
“If I were you, I’d rather talk about money than your stepfather.”
“True that.” Declan didn’t like to think of, let alone speak about, his stepfather. Fortunately for him, although unfortunately for his stepfather’s business, Gaylord Godwin had been missing for weeks.
“But you’re not your stepfather, and you don’t have to talk about money. You can steer the conversation in any direction you wish.”
A rustling in the bushes caught Declan’s attention. The giant rhododendrons bordering the lawn shivered before falling still.
Lizbet followed his gaze, her expression curious and baffled.
“Probably a cat,” Declan said.
Lizbet shook herself and tucked her hands into her sweater pockets. “I don’t think so… It would have been a really big cat.”
“A dog then,” Declan said, dismissing it. “Are you going to be okay walking to the bookstore?”
Lizbet smirked. “I don’t know… This is a pretty sketchy neighborhood.” She waved at the turn-of-the-last-century mansions, tree-lined street, and manicured lawns before taking his hand in hers and squeezing it. “Visiting your grandfather is the kind thing to do. Remember, this is for him, not you. I’ll be fine and so will you. And more importantly, so will your grandfather.”
But Declan knew that wasn’t true. The whole reason he stood on the street outside his grandfather’s house was because the old man wasn’t fine. His days were numbered. According to his nurse, Frank Forsythe only continued to live because he was too ornery to die.
“He scares me,” Declan admitted.
“I think you could take him on,” Lizbet said with a grin.
“Physically, but probably not intellectually.”
“If he tries to play chess, just run.” Lizbet put her hands on Declan’s shoulders and turned him so he faced the front gate.
“That would be cowardly…” Declan shuffled his feet.
Lizbet gave his back a gentle push.
The bushes shook again and this time Declan caught sight of an enormous gray tail beating the bright red flowers before disappearing into the shrubs. “That’s a huge dog.”
“I’m not scared of a dog,” Lizbet assured him.
“What if my grandfather gets talking and I can’t get away before the bookstore closes? I can’t leave you in the dark by yourself while a giant dog runs loose, terrorizing the neighborhood.” Declan balked at the black wrought-iron gate that separated his grandfather’s house from the rest of the world.
“For one thing, no one is terrorized. And another, this is the Pacific Northwest. It’s June, the longest day of the year is only a few weeks away. We have another two hours, at least, of daylight. And if your grandfather gets extra chatty, I’ll take a bus home.” She reached around him and pushed open the gate. “Now, march up to that door and act chummy. He’s old, he’s sick, and he wants to meet you.”
Declan nodded, and after a quick backward glance at Lizbet, the girl who had become the center of his world, headed up the walkway.
As much as the bookstore tempted Lizbet, curiosity made her pause at the edge of Frank Forsythe’s property near the now-still rhododendrons. Cocking her head, she listened for the dog that belonged to the great furry tail she’d spotted earlier. She shot Declan a quick peep. He stood on the porch with his hands shoved into his pockets, his back to her.
“Hello?” Lizbet whispered into the bushes. Silence. She scanned the trees lining the property, expecting to catch the attention of a squirrel or even a bird, but couldn’t find a creature in sight. A chill crawled down her back. “Hello?” she called a smidge louder.
The bushes rustled again and Lizbet searched for the cause. A rabbit, a chipmunk, even a skunk—there had to be an animal around. Why wasn’t anyone responding? She gave the house another glance, but Declan had disappeared from the porch.
She hadn’t heard the front door open, but that must have been what had happened. The nurse, Teddy, had been expecting him. Lizbet let out a little sigh of relief, pulled her sweater a bit tighter, and headed for the Blarney Bookstore.
The University District was an eclectic mix of shops catering to the UW’s students, and the historic homes of the professors and Seattle’s business professionals. Lizbet’s sandals made a flopping sound as she walked and she told herself that the eerie echo wasn’t in any way sinister. But goosebumps rose on her skin as she scanned the yards, trees, and shrubbery for signs of life.
Where was everyone? The only reason she knew for the animals to desert an area was a forest fire, and the warm humidity held only a spark of the imagination. Unfortunately, Lizbet’s imagination was running wild. She tried to rein it in as she headed for the bookstore.
When only silence answered the door, Declan had stepped off the porch to peek in the window. He’d never been inside his grandfather’s house so he didn’t know what to expect. The Oriental rugs, wingback chairs, and pastoral paintings didn’t surprise him. The overturned table, shattered vase, and flowers strewn across the wood floor did. He rapped on the window. Just like when he’d knocked on the door, no one answered.
He cast another look around for Lizbet and spotted her at the intersection at the end of the street. Should he call out to her? What if someone had broken into his grandfather’s home? What if that someone was still in the house? The farther away Lizbet was, the safer she was. Squaring his shoulders and refusing to jump to conclusions, Declan jogged toward the back of the house. A shoulder-high brick wall enclosed the backyard. When he couldn’t find a gate, he scrambled over the wall and landed hard on his feet. His breathing accelerated as he picked up his pace. A quick peek in the windows told him the living and dining room were both empty. A motion–sensor light flicked on when he reached the patio. Everything in the backyard screamed quiet and peaceful elegance. It was hard to imagine his grandfather had met any violence. The windows were intact, but the back door hung ajar.
Declan reached into his pocket and fingered his phone, debating whether he should call the police. He poked his head through the door. The kitchen with its tall white cabinetry, scrubbed oak table, and gleaming stainless-steel appliances looked like it belonged in a magazine. But a large butcher knife lay on the floor, surrounded by a smattering of… What was that?
Declan pushed inside for a better look, then, with trembling fingers, he called his mom.
Lizbet finally spotted an owl perched on a branch of a giant maple tree. It was early for an owl, but that was only one of the things out of place on this strange evening. Lizbet glanced up and down the street, making sure that she and the owl were alone. “Where is everyone?” she asked.
The owl swiveled his head in her direction and blinked at her. “The wolves have returned,” he said with a hoot as if this should answer all her questions.
“The wolves? In the University District?” Her mind tripped back to the large gray tail she’d spotted in Frank Forsythe’s rhododendrons. Why would there be wolves close to the city center? Wolves belonged in the woods or near pastures where the slow and easy prey lived.
The owl blinked again and nodded.
“All the animals have disappeared because of the wolves?” Lizbet pressed.
“I suggest you do the same.”
“Why are you here?”
“I am a sentinel. We owls have always been so.”
“Admirable,” Lizbet murmured. She pressed her mouth closed when an elderly couple walking a Standard Poodle appeared at the end of the street. She watched as the poodle sat down and refused to budge. The woman tugged on the leash and reprimanded the stubborn dog. After a moment, the man took the lead, but the dog remained obstinate. The man pulled, but the poodle sat on his haunches while his collar threatened to pop off his furry head.
She turned back to the owl. “Do you know where the wolves are now?”
The owl lifted one wing and pointed at the Forsythe house.
Lizbet ran and her sandals slapped the sidewalk.
She stopped short when a giant gray wolf appeared on the sidewalk. His solid muscles rippled beneath silvery fur. His broad shoulders were powerful and his flanks sturdy. He lowered his head and emitted a low growl. “What…who are you?” she asked the wolf.
He didn’t answer but stared at her with blazing green eyes. It occurred to Lizbet that he was trying to scare her. She balled her fists and planted them on her hips. “Answer me!” She raised her voice and tried to infuse it with authority. “Who are you and what do you want?”
The creature flicked his tail before turning and sauntering into the shadowy twilight. She stared after him for half a second before opening the wrought-iron gate, rushing down the walkway, climbing the steps to the front porch, and rapping on the door.
Declan answered, his face pale. Silently, he widened the door to let her in. “I thought you were the police.” His voice wavered.
“Why? What happened?”
Declan nodded over his shoulder. A newscaster’s voice floated through an open door and light flickered from a TV screen in a room off the hall.
Lizbet started for it, but Declan put a warning hand on her arm, stopping her. “Don’t,” he said.
“Well, for one thing, I vomited in there. And another…”
“Your grandfather?”
“And Teddy, his nurse.”
“Are they dead?” Lizbet whispered, although she didn’t know why.

Lizbet put her fingers to her lips, because she knew it wasn’t grizzly—not like a bear—but wolfish, like a giant gray wolf.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Write to Market...or Not

I’m in love with my current work in progress, but I’m also conflicted. There’s currently a phrase buzzing in the indie publishing world—write to market. This means, stick to writing in a popular genre and make sure your fantasy has a dragon to slay if all the bestselling fantasy books also have dragons who must die.
My work in progress has no dragons. Like some of my earlier, not-selling-so-well Women’s Fiction books, it’s not genre specific. It’s not a romance, not a mystery or thriller. No cowboys. No billionaires. No tortured anyone. It’s a marketing nightmare.
But I love it. So, I’m going to write it. I actually think it might help someone. And if I’m going to write it, I have to be comfortable with the fact that its sales will be piddling. As I’ve been grappling with this decision to write a book that may or may not sell, I came across some quotes that helped me, and may help others. Even if their decisions are different from mine, the application may be the same.
Discouragement and self-doubt. If I’m to write this book, I can’t be discouraged six months from now when it’s greeted by the world with an indifferent glance and a cold shoulder.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that “trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement—discouragement has a germ of its own, as different from trouble as arthritis is different from a stiff joint.” Really, if no one loves my book as much as I do, what pain does it cause me? Remove the discouragement and self-doubt and the answer is very little.
Money. Money is a double edged sword. It’s both a measuring stick (if people love my book, they buy it. Therefore, the more money it makes, the more people must love it.) and a hindrance. Hindrance how? After all, money is also an enabler. But if I bend my ideas to what I think will best sell, then some of my best ideas get shoved into a dark drawer and never see daylight. 
This happens all the time with TV shows. A new show will come on and because it’s new and making very little money, the creators are innovative, the writing is dynamic, the show sparkles. BUT once the show becomes popular, the producers start worrying about ratings, so creators have to knuckle under what they think their audience wants to see…and the show becomes “safe.” And it dies.
So, what is the answer? I can’t say what it should be for others, but for myself I need to come to grips with my own economic facts of life and establish personal fiscal priorities and decide what purpose I’m trying to fulfill. I need to get it down on paper and deal with it. And be at peace with my own economic realities.
 Thoreau said, “Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only dispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind (or stories).” This comes back to my television show analogy.
More Thoreau wisdom: “Love your life (story), poor as it is. . . . The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode.”
Does this mean I'm being noble and self-sacrificing by snubbing my nose at the "write to market" philosophy? No. In reality, it means I'm selfishly pursuing the story I want most to write.
Writing: I love this quote by Jeffery R. Holland, president of BYU when I attended there. In fact, this is from an address he gave at BYU back in the eighties. (Imagine a much younger me sitting in the audience, never realizing that thirty-seven years later, I would need these words.) “Prepare. Plan. Work. Sacrifice. Rework. (Edit) Spend cheerfully on matters of worth. (Write words that matter) Carry the calm, and wear the assurance of having done the best you could with what you had. If you work hard and prepare earnestly, it will be very difficult for you to give in or give up or wear down. If you labor with faith in God and in yourself and in your future (and your stories), you will have built upon a rock. Then, when the winds blow and the rains come—as surely they will—you shall not fall.”
So, what’s my story about? I’m reworking my previously published novella, Rescuing Rita, a sequel of sorts to Stealing Mercy, my first published book. Rita is a fast, action packed historical romance—a romaction. 
(No longer available)

In my current story, which I’m calling, A Different You, Another Me, (title subject to change) my main character, Addison, had her faith in love shattered when she learned of her husband’s infidelity at his funeral. Years later, a stranger approaches her, hands her a manuscript (my novella, Rescuing Rita), and asks her to give it a happy ending. Much like Stealing Mercy, there is a back and forth of the modern day story and the historical, and just as Bette in Stealing Mercy is changed by Mercy’s story, Addison will learn to forgive her late husband and herself because of Rita.

I had some misgivings about expanding my novella and twisting its plot to conform to Addison’s. I have no idea how many people read Rita. She only had one (4 star) review and rarely ever sold. I doubt there will very many who will be angry about buying the new book and finding a retelling of a story they’ve read before, but there might be. My heartfelt apologies to them. But I my goal right now is to rise above self-doubt and write the book that's currently whispering in my ear, even though I’m pretty sure there will be discouragement in my future when the world doesn’t love it as much as I do.

Addison sat on the bench at Embarcadero and Powell unaware of the flotsam of people passing her by. Sounds of the noisy sea lions rose from the pier below. The creatures jostled and jockeyed for position, much like the pedestrians around her. A young man sitting at the adjacent café unbuckled his belt, pulled down his pants, and squeezed a hypodermic needle into his left buttock, but even this commotion barely roused her.
An elderly woman carrying a leather satchel with a large gold lock sat down beside her and kicked off her shoes. She let out a sigh, propped an ankle on her knee and massaged her toes.
“I can always tell when it’s about to rain,” she said. “Arthritis. Once, I didn’t believe in achy joints predicting the weather, just like I used to think that people claimed to have motion sickness just so they could sit in the front seat.” The woman slid Addison a glance from under her lashes, probably to see if she were paying attention.
Addison thought about moving to another bench, but that would take energy and gumption—two things she currently lacked.
“You’re probably too young to have arthritis. How about motion sickness?”
Addison pulled herself out of her funk long enough to glance at the elderly woman. She wore a velvet patchwork skirt, a silk blouse, and a string of pearls around her neck. The sharp sea-breeze toyed with her silver curls and had turned her pale cheeks pink. She exuded a friendly curiosity that made Addison want to crawl under the bench and roll into a ball. Still, it would be rude to say nothing. She could manage a syllable. “No.”
“No, what?”
Addison took a deep breath and blew it out through her nose. “No, I don’t get motion sickness.”
“That’s good.” The woman smiled as if Addison had just informed her the Dodgers had won the World Series. “Then perhaps you would like to go whale watching.” She fumbled in her satchel and pulled out two tickets. “I bought them for me and my grandson, but now he can’t go. Too busy.” She paused. He’s a lawyer,” she added with more exasperation than pride.
Addison opened her mouth to protest, but couldn’t find the words. After a moment, she came up with, “Isn’t there someone else you’d like to go with?”
“No. Landon is my only family, other than my sister Erma. No one likes her. And all my friends are dead.” She said this without a trace of sadness. “It’s nature’s way of punishing me for hanging around so long—I had to watch all my friends die.”
Addison’s lips twitched. An hour ago, she didn’t think she’d ever smile again, and here she was, chatting with a stranger. “I’ll go with you whale watching. When is it?”
The woman let out a long sigh. “You’re a lovely girl. I used to look like you once—long red hair and willowy. Now, of course, I’m gray and more Monterey pine than willow. No, I hope this won’t offend you, but I no longer wish to go.”
“I disagree, you look nothing like a Monterey pine. They’re all twisted and weather beaten.”
“My point.”
“It’s silly to compare yourself to a tree. Why not a cat?”
“I’m allergic.” The woman winked at her. “Would you like to go whale watching, or not?”
“Are you sure?” Addison took the proffered tickets and saw they were for tomorrow morning. She had thought to leave before then, but she’d already paid for the vacation rental for the weekend, so she might as well stay. “Would you like me to buy them off you?”
“Not with money.”
“Oh.” This sounded like a scary proposition.
“You can tell me a story. I collect stories, you know.”
“Really? So do I!” Addison perked up, but then remembered her sadness. “Or at least I did.”
“Once a writer, always a writer.”
“No…I am a writer, just not a very good one.”
The woman quirked an eyebrow.
“Not a successful one,” Addison amended. “I own a bookstore. Or I did.”
“What happened?”
“The economy.” A sick anger burned in her belly. “The ugly tide of indie publishing. I sold my bookstore last week. Soon, it’ll be a massage parlor.”
The woman chuckled.
“I’m glad someone can laugh about it.”
“Well, you have to admit, a bookstore and a massage parlor are both in the same business.”
“How’s that?”
“They’re both used to manipulate moods.”
“I suppose.”
“Is that it?” the woman asked.
“Is what it?”
“Is your bookstore the reason you look like someone had just drowned your cat and poisoned your dog?”
Addison thought about confessing to this woman her mistake, but she wasn’t ready to admit it, not even to herself. And especially not to others.
The woman patted Addison’s cheek. “It’s okay to be sad. Here, I have something that will cheer you.” She pushed her satchel toward Addison.
“What’s this?”
“It’s a story. I’ve been carrying it around, wondering what to do with it. I want you to have it.”
Addison opened it up and peeked inside at the hundreds of typewritten pages. “You don’t think your grandson will want it?”
“No, he only reads nonfiction.” She said this in the same sort of tone she would have said, he only eats fried liver and onions.
Addison smiled. “Thank you. This is…so kind.”
The woman slipped her feet back into her shoes. “No, thank you. It’s nice to see a story you love reach a happy ending. Now, how about you. You owe me a story.”
“You don’t want to hear my stories.”
The woman contemplated her. “Perhaps you’re right. How’s this? In payment for those tickets, you need to make sure that this weekend has a happy ending.”
Addison thought about the disappointing beginning of her weekend and bit her lower lip. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure I can promise you that.”
The woman leaned forward to peer into Addison’s face. “Will you try?”
“Huh. Sure. I’ll try.”
The woman pulled herself to her feet. “Goodbye, my dear. Promise me you’ll take good care of my story and write a happy ending for this weekend.”
“I promise,” Addison said, although she had no idea how to do that, or what the woman was asking of her. She glanced around, spotted a bookstore, and headed inside. Her only hope for a happy ending lay between the pages of a book.

By Geneva Leigh
Wanted: A nice, plump, healthy, good natured looking domestic and affectionate lady to correspond with. Object: matrimony. She must be a believer in God and immortality. She must not be a gad about or given to scandal, but willing to endeavor to create a happy home.
The Arizona Sentinel, 1875
Chapter 1
Poke was playing her song! White hot anger, as mind altering as any potion or aphrodisiac, flashed through Rita. Clarisse, a virginal vision clothed in white lace, opened her mouth to sing, and Rita grabbed the closest weapon she could find, an occupied wig stand, and headed for the stage.
     Clarisse’s high C turned to a squeak and her blond curls bobbed when she saw Rita flying up the stairs wielding the wooden head.
     “That’s my song, you little strumpet!” Rita took center stage and swung at Clarisse.
The wig hit Clarisse in the face, but she brushed it away as if it was a large, hairy fly. She straightened her dress and picked up her tune, leaving Poke, the pianist, a few stunned beats behind.
     With the wig stand braced in front of her like a battering ram, Rita charged. Clarisse jumped away, and Rita landed in the curtains. Clarisse climbed onto the piano bench, jostling Poke, who lifted his hands from the keyboard and flashed Rita a startled although amused look. Clarisse, balancing beside the pianist, nudged him with her tiny shoe. “Please continue, sir. This audition is not over.”
     “Oh, yes, it is!” Rita dropped the wig stand, which bounced around her feet as she lunged for Clarisse.
     “Now, Miss Clarisse, you know I can’t let you climb on the piano.” Poke, struggling not to laugh, reached for but missed Clarisse as she stepped onto the lid.
Clarisse inched across the lid of the upright piano as Rita scrambled onto the bench and, using Poke’s shoulder as a toehold, tried to join the music-thieving Clarisse on the top, but Poke grabbed Rita and hauled her to center stage. She kicked Poke’s legs and tried to pry his grip from her waist. Rita now had two people she needed to kill.
     “Can’t you see she’s a complete nutter, Ivan?” Clarisse said from her perch on top of the piano. “We simply cannot have her in the troupe.”
     Rita wriggled for a better look at Poke’s good-natured face. “I wrote that song. It’s mine. She stole it!”
     “I didn’t steal it. Besides, how can one steal a song?” Clarisse asked. “I simply heard it, learned it--”
     “Through the paper thin walls while I wrote it. Do you want to know what I heard through the walls?” Rita smacked her lips, making kissing noises. “If you get a spot in the troupe, we will all know why!”
Clarisse gasped in outrage, and Ivan, the director, laughed from his place in the dark auditorium.
“I got my position in the troupe because of my gifts and talent!” Clarisse said.
So Clarisse already had a role. Little wonder. “And your willingness to share and talents.” Rita wiggled, but Poke wouldn’t let her go.
“Would you like to sing, Miss Michaels?” Ivan’s disembodied voice spoke from the theater seats. Because of the dark house and the flickering glass lights lining the stage, Rita couldn’t see Ivan and wished she could. She needed to read his expression to gauge his response to her outburst.
     Poke didn’t seem in the least perturbed or unhappy about holding her. Of course, he was built like an ox. Rita knew he was not solely the troupe’s accompanist but also the “man at large” responsible for assembling and disassembling the heavy settings and scenery.
     “Set her down,” Ivan said. “Let’s hear her.”
     Clarisse put her balled fists on her hips. “We have heard quite enough from her!”
     Poke chuckled and set Rita down. Rita flashed Clarisse a warning glance. Rita worried that Clarisse might stomp the piano keys or kick at Poke, who was settling onto his bench, acting as if having a blond tart atop his piano was de rigueur.
     “You wrote this song?” Ivan said. “Then let’s hear it.”
     “Ivan,” Clarisse’s tone turned silky soft, reminding Rita of Clarisse’s many “private auditions,” when Ivan had undoubtedly seen and heard more than a song…or two.
     “I’ve heard you, Clarisse. I know what you can do,” Ivan said, confirming Rita’s suspicions that Clarisse had only gone through the formality of the audition for the prime purpose of killing Rita’s chances of joining the traveling troupe and escaping dreary Seattle.
     Poke played the opening bars while Rita stared into the lights. Blood pounded in her head and zinged through veins. Every nerve tingled, and goose-bumps rose on her arms. The Rose Arbor Traveling Troupe was her ticket back to New York, and she wasn’t about to let a trollop like Clarisse steal it from her.
     Rita came in right on cue, her voice steelier than her spine and almost as strong as her resolve.
     “Quite the show you put on tonight,” a voice sounded from the center of her dressing room, sending crawling worms down Rita’s back. She took a deep breath and threw a robe over her chemise. Boris Kidrick, a heavy drinker, tobacco chewer and black licorice sucker, carried his own unique odor—a smell that Rita easily recognized and did her best to avoid. She wondered when he had come in, because she hadn’t heard the door over the clatter of the dancers and the tinkling of the piano below. Not that an ox like Kidrick was capable of quietly slipping anywhere.
     Rita poked her head over the screen and saw Boris leering at her.
“I aim to amuse.” She kept her voice light. Her earlier outburst had left her tired and drained. She didn’t want another sparring match.
Her glance fell on the fire tools beside the mantel. She considered caning Boris and finishing him off. She’d be doing the world a favor, and then the world would be in her debt. She really would like to be in a position to call in favors, particularly instead of the awkward, semi-clothed position she currently found herself.
“And I could use a little entertainment.” He licked his lips. “How much for a private show?”
     The door flew open, and Matilda breezed in, but she stopped short when she spotted Boris standing bull-like amid the overflowing costume trunks and crates of props. Matilda took a step toward the screen, as if to protect Rita, and glared at Boris.
“Mr. Kidrick, you must know men aren’t allowed in the dressing room!” Matilda crossed her arms and drew herself up to her impressive full height, towering over the squatty Kidrick.
     Boris chuckled. “I now own this room and that fancy stage you’re so fond of parading on.”
     Surprise replaced Matilda’s haughty expression, and Boris rubbed his hands together. “Didn’t know that, did ya?” He chuckled at Matilda’s sagging shoulders. “Good things are coming my way,” he said, an unpleasant glint in his eye. “We will be having that show I mentioned. If not tonight—then soon. Maybe on this stage or maybe someplace more quiet. You may not know it yet, but when I bought this theater, I bought you too.”
He winked at Rita, who ducked behind the screen and tightened the belt on her robe. She waited for the sound of the door closing before she peeked out.
     “He’s gone.” Matilda crossed the room, dropping clothing on her way to the dressing table. She sat before the mirror and rubbed her face with cream, leaving her stage makeup in runny smears. In the harsh light, she looked all of her forty years plus some.
     “I didn’t know Mr. Taylor had sold the theater,” Rita said, settling down on the bench beside the older woman.
     Matilda shrugged and frowned. “I heard Kidrick came into some money.”
     “Any chance he’ll lose it—and the theater?” Rita’s glance met Matilda’s in the glass.
     “It’s inevitable. But until that happy gambling match, we have to live with him.” Matilda scrubbed at her worn and tired face. Once she had been beautiful. Under the stage lights, she still moved like royalty. But here, in the quiet dressing room, after a long night of trying to carry a beauty she could no longer claim, Matilda appeared faded beside Rita’s pink skin and blue eyes. Rita, feeling apologetic for her youth, twisted her hair into a long thick braid.
Matilda patted Rita’s hand once. “Don’t worry, pet, you’ll be on your way to New York long before we get a new lock for the dressing room door.”
“Why do men like Boris consider actress synonymous with harlot?”
Matilda twitched a boney shoulder.
“King David liked to sing and dance. No one thought he was immoral.” Rita’s voice faltered. “Until Bathsheba came out on the roof. Maybe he’s not the best example—but he did sing and dance.”
Matilda laughed. “There are plenty of noble and worthy performers.”
 “Tell that to my father, my mother, my grandmother and my cousins.” Rita swallowed. “Tell that to men like Boris.”
“Your father and mother—although they might not have meant to—have hurt you far worse than the likes of Boris Kidrick.”
Rita had learned a lot from Matilda since she had joined the Rose Arbor Reparatory, but that particular lesson she had learned months earlier when her parents had shipped her to God-forsaken Seattle.
In fact, where they had sent her was far worse than Seattle. They had sent her to her grandmother’s horse ranch—seven long, bumpy, jaw-jarring and teeth-rattling miles from town. Had they really expected her to stay on a ranch surrounded by acres of pastures of horses, cattle and cow-pies? Did they really think she would learn to behave like her hick grandmother and shovel out stables?
As if reading her mind, Matilda said, “I don’t know why you’re so anxious to return to their company.”
Rita leaned against her friend. “I don’t want to go to New York to see my parents!”
Matilda’s lips twitched. “You want to be on the New York stage.”
“Of course!”
“Do you imagine that you will sing and dance right beneath your family’s nose and they will never notice?”
“I am an actress—and a wizard with makeup and design. They will never recognize me.”
Matilda lifted an eyebrow. “Your family has already summoned a posse to look for you.”
“Here. But they won’t think to look in their own backyard!”
Skepticism clouded Matilda’s expression. “If they are as influential and prominent as you say—”
Rita lifted her chin. “No one can stop a shooting star.”
Matilda smiled and wiped off her face cream. “Laws, child, have you no fear of heights?”
Addison put down the manuscript. It was silly…but compelling. The opening made her ill. So many women through so many generations saw marriage as the end-all. Her mother had taught her, “a man is not a financial plan.” And yet, Addison had still fallen for it. It was like she was programed to see a man as an answer to her problems. When would she finally grasp that a man wasn’t the answer, but, in her case, the problem?
Addison braced her shoulders. She had to solve her own problems now. But a tricky little voice in the back of her head whispered that even now she wouldn’t be standing on her own financial feet. Paul’s life insurance policy would always eclipse anything she could ever hope to earn at the bookshop. It had been tempting to continue on at the store, watching it lose money every month, but common sense and Mr. Patel had prevailed. She had tried to make a go of a business and she’d failed. Just like she’d failed her marriage. Even if she hadn’t known it.
She glanced around the Books and Bun Bookshop, what made this place successful? Who says it is? The voice in her head asked. All the people? But how many are actually buying anything?
Addison sank back in the upholstered chair and took note of her fellow bookstore patrons. The elderly man with his glasses perched on the end of his nose had a pile of historical fiction books on the ottoman in front of him. In the children’s section, a mother with a toddler on her lap was flipping through a picture book. Two chairs over, a nail-biting woman was lost in a romance. Dozens of people were parked at the tables, hiding behind laptops. She couldn’t see the check-out counter from where she sat, and, of course, she had no way of knowing the store’s financials, but if no one was actually buying anything, the store had to be suffering.
It was just like the indie publishing tidal wave. If everyone was going to give away books, how would any book business survive?
“Addison? What are you doing here?”
Too late to hide. She smiled up into his blue eyes. How could she have been so mistaken? Had she completely misread him? Had all those lunches and long conversation been nothing more than a pleasant way to spend the time?
“Checking out the competition?”
She swallowed. “A bookstore in Hampton could hardly compete with a shop in Frisco.” Especially if the Hampton shop closed its doors.
“That’s true.” He nodded. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to find you in here. But why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”
Not knowing what to say, she gave him a weak shrug. She’d wanted to surprise him. But he’d been the one to surprise her when she’d spotted him kissing that blonde on the pier.
“You’re a long way from home.” She heard the questions in his tone, but she didn’t feel the need to provide any answers.
Carey Grant handsome, she usually melted whenever James came in the shop, but now when she looked at him she couldn’t help seeing the Barbie hanging on his arm. Even if the blonde wasn’t there physically, in Addison’s head, she was.
“Even bookstore owners need a vacation,” she told him.
“How long are you in town?”
She had thought about leaving as soon as she’d seen him and Bimbo in action, but now she decided that she wasn’t going to let him run her off like a dog with a tail between her legs. “I’m here for the weekend.”
Trying to mask his surprise, he glanced at his watch. “That’s great. I have a commitment tonight.”
I bet you do, she thought.
“But how about tomorrow? Are you available?”
“No. I have plans.” It gave her a little surge of power to say that and like a sprinkle of candy on a cupcake, the disappointed look on his face only added to her pleasure.
“Sunday then?”
“I’m sorry, James,” Addison said, picking up the manuscript.
“Well, I can see you’re busy,” he said. “Maybe we can meet up next time I’m in Hamilton.”
“Mmm,” she murmured. She started reading and refused to watch him walk away.