Thursday, October 7, 2021

How I Begin a New Book

 


I always start with the characters. Because I write romance, I generally have two point of view characters. They always have something they want and something they don't know that they need. Of course, it's more fun when all of those needs and wants are conflicting. Keep in mind, you can have a story without a plot, but you can't have a story without characters. I find my images in magazines and catalogs. Because this particular story revolves around a family, you'll notice that my "brothers" all look alike. I'm okay with that. No one but me, and now I guess all of you, ever look at this board. It's up to me to describe my characters. This helps a lot, because I can just look at the board when I forget if my character has blue or green eyes.
I spend way too much time in front of a computer, so I like enjoy this old school activity. This board is also pinned up on my writing room wall. You'll notice I have about 40 scenes. This will probably grow as I write. My goal for this particular story is about 80k words, or about 350 pages. If you do math, and I try to do as little as possible, that's about 2k words per scene. 


Wednesday's Words: The Rhyme's Library Do-Over

 I'm tidying up and republishing my novel, The Rhyme's Library. It'll get a new cover and a new title. If you have an input, I'd love to hear it. 

CHAPTER 1

 

brobdingnagian \ brob-ding-NAG-ee-uhn\ adjective:

of extraordinary size; gigantic; enormous.

 

Blair brought her finger down on a random word, brobdingnagian. She wrote the word and definition on the chalkboard above the circulation desk and came up with her own sample sentence. Drake Isling is a brobdingnagian twit. Because she gave each of her library patrons a chocolate for every sample sentence they gave, she took one for herself, even though Brobdingnagian was technically tomorrow’s word. Today’s word was tenebrous: dark; gloomy. Tenebrous describes both the weather and my mood, she thought and then realized that she deserved a chocolate for her second sample sentence. My thighs will be brobdingnagian if I don’t stop eating these chocolates. Another sentence— another chocolate.

Outside, the wind whistled and moaned around the library, tossing branches and bending trees. A near human-like scream tore Blair’s attention away from the open dictionary, but after a moment of wind listening, she returned to her work, collecting words and definitions for the upcoming week. Opprobrious, vitriolic, and vituperative—she looked for derogatory words that could easily be made into Drake-descriptive sentences.

If the storm knocked out the electricity, she would close the library early. Stop eating chocolates, she told herself, drive to the university and confront Drake in front of the students lingering after his American Lit class. She knew that there would be a handful of coeds hanging around Westchester Hall waiting to talk to him, hoping to walk with him to lunch. She knew that because she used to be one of them. Ten years ago when she was a freshman in college she waited after Professor Islington’s class with trumped-up questions.

Well, not anymore. She’d never wait for Drake again. After today, of course.

The lights flickered a warning. Wind storms and power outages were common in tiny Rose Arbor. Candlelight, a roaring fire, and a good book during a storm were enjoyable at home, but she wasn’t going home—or was she? Gathering up her things, she debated her plan. Confront Drake or wait out the storm in front of a fire with a Mary Stewart novel? Fight sluggish traffic, wind, and rain for the hour drive to Bellingham or cuddle under a quilt and read? With wavering resolve, she locked the front doors.

The door rattled. Was it someone knocking, or just the wind? Over her shoulder, she watched the doorknob rattle. It took a moment to unlock the heavy wooden doors. The storm’s cold wet wind flew in the library, and Blair peered into the driving rain. Gray skies cracked with lightning. She was about to go back inside when she saw a huddled figure at the side of the porch.

Dressed in a ratty brown coat and mud-caked jeans, Will Harris crouched in the flower bed, his head bent low to the ground. He appeared to be kneeling in prayer. Will, a regular attendee at the library’s story hours, lived on a farm just outside of town with his brother and grandmother. His rapt attention to her stories, his quiet lisp, and unkempt hair, made Blair both love and pity Will. Not even school age, he typically walked to the library unattended. She knew it was hard to live with an aging caregiver, and she guessed that Will’s older brother was his primary, albeit reluctant, babysitter.

Blair ran to the edge of the porch and yelled over the storm’s noise to him. Rain pelted his matted hair and rolled down his shoulders. He knelt between a rhododendron bush and the side of the library with his face inches from the mud and his hand inserted into a drain pipe.

Blair came around the porch, pulled her sweater tight across her chest, and ignoring the mud and weather, she knelt beside Will. A tiny, whining meow echoed inside the storm drain. Blair lowered her face toward Will and he gazed at her, his big brown eyes welling with tears.

“Miss Rhyme,” Will stuttered her name between gulping back sobs, “Bacon, Todd’s dog, killed all of Midge’s kittens but this one here and my grandma won’t let any of the cats in the house.”

Blair frowned at the rusted pipe. A sturdy pair of gardening shears could probably cut it, but she guessed that the easiest, quickest form of rescue would be to unclog the drain.

“Couldn’t you keep him? I can’t take him home. Bacon will get him, just like he got the rest,” Will said.

She wasn’t sure she wanted a kitten, but she did know she didn’t want to squat in the rain. After giving a Will a quick pat on the shoulder, she went to the office to fetch a shopping bag and umbrella.

Will trailed after her, still talking. “Everyone knows how you live alone and have nobody but your crazy aunt. And now they say she ain’t talking no more and of course, there’s only whispering at the library. No real talking going on ‘round here-”

Of course, people gossiped. They buzzed about anything and anyone, and Aunt Charlotte was interesting. Parading through town in her nightie, throwing apples at passing cars, spray painting neighborhood dogs, Charlotte provided entertainment the town couldn’t get on the local cable stations.

“Of course, cats can’t really talk,” Will said.

“And that’s a good thing,” Blair muttered, returning to the porch. Quickly, she explained her plan to Will. “I’m going to climb the trellis and muck out the storm drain.”

His wide eyes followed her outstretched finger to the roof, a window, and the trellis that ran up the wall.

“You need to catch the cat when the rain washes it out.”

Will scowled at the trellis and slowly shook his head.

“It’s like Incy Wincy Spider,” she told him. He still didn’t look convinced, but he did hold the bag. After giving his shoulders a quick reassuring squeeze, she ran up the stairs, threw open the second-story window, climbed out onto the ledge, and tentatively stuck the toe of her penny loafers onto the trellis.

Will watched and tightly held the bag. She waved at him. Grabbing the trellis with both hands, she gave it a tug to test its strength, and swung out into the storm. This is a brobdingnagian mistake, she thought, promising herself another chocolate.

Rain soaked her hair and trickled down her neck. Her straight skirt hampered her climb, and she pulled it up to increase her range of motion. Dormant rose vines plucked at her socks, snagged her sweater, and scratched her hands as she scaled the wall. When she reached the roof, she shot a jubilant smile at Will. But he wasn’t alone. Todd, Will’s brother, had the child by the arm and leered at her.

Suddenly aware of the skirt bunched around her hips and the red panties she was quite sure that Todd and Will could see, Blair waved to the boys. Todd grinned back.

“Nice seeing you, library lady,” Todd yelled at her, his tongue ring making his words slur. He pulled Will away.

Blair watched the two figures, one dressed completely in black leather, the other splattered in mud, disappear into the woods that edged the grounds of the library. The bag that Will was supposed to use to trap the kitten lay in the dirt like a deflated balloon.

Blair stuck her hand into the muck that clogged the drain and threw it at the retreating boys. The dead leaves, mud and sticks felt slimy and cold, but she hurriedly cleared the drain. A whoosh of water washed the kitten out into the garden bed. It stood on shaking stick legs—its fur matted to knobby, protruding bones. It stared, frozen in place, as Blair climbed down.

Blair jumped and landed hard on the grass, her hands breaking her fall. She stood in time to see the kitten tear into the library through the wide-open door.

At least it’s a smart cat, Blair thought as she went after it. She tried to brush the mud and leaves off her skirt, then slipped off her filthy shoes and soaking sweater and left them on the front porch.

Standing in the doorway, searching, she called, “Here kitty, kitty.” A tail, gray and rat-like stuck out from under a rack of books. Blair lunged toward the bookcase, and her stocking feet went out from under her.

Finding herself on the wooden floor, she turned to see the kitten watching her with one blue and one brown eye. Blair placed one hand in front for the cat to plainly see, and snaked her other hand behind the creature. The cat tried to dart away, but Blair grabbed it.

Rolling onto her back she held the squirming, skinny kitten in an outstretched hand in the air above her face. She considered the small, gray, rodent-like animal. “I’ll call you either Mouchard or Rat-Fink after my friend, Drake.”

Blair stood up, slipped her silver bookmark into her novel, gathered her raincoat and umbrella, and headed toward the basement in search of a box. She cradled Mouchard in her arms, and he held onto her sweater with tiny claws.

It had been less than a year since Blair had converted the turn of the century home that her grandparents had bequeathed to the town into a library. Her grandparents’ generosity had stopped at the bestowal of the house and property. Money for upkeep or improvements hadn’t been a part of the will so an outdated monster of a furnace that needed to be adjusted manually heated the house.

 A blast of cold air hit Blair when she opened the basement door. Somewhere an unlatched window thumped. Odd, she thought. Who would open a window down here? She made her way through the dank and dimly lit basement, maneuvering through stacks of books, magazines, and old newspapers.

Damp and moldy, the basement was a breeding ground for mildew and fungus that aggravated her allergies. She didn’t want to know who or what else might breed in the basement. Rodents, insects, small mammals? She looked at the shivering kitten cradled in her arms. “Are you a mouser?” she asked. “Because this basement might be a rodent smorgasbord.”

She usually avoided the basement. As a child she had been terrified of the roaring furnace, and nervous about the dark, cobwebbed corners. As an adult, the flotsam of a family she had never really known overwhelmed her. Blair sniffed and then sneezed. The basement really needed cleaning, but for the moment she was grateful for the clutter, because she soon found a fishing creel and an old towel. She dropped the towel in the creel, placed the kitten in the newly created cage and secured the lid with the leather strap. The kitten mewed pitifully at her.

“Sorry, but I can’t have you roaming free on the ride home,” she told it.

Clutching the basket she went to turn down the furnace. The natural gas furnace was almost her height, and many times her width. It coughed and burped as if it suffered from a digestion problem. Blair turned the heat down and then glanced around to find the open window.

The wind howled, and for a moment the lights flickered. She took a deep breath and followed the thumping noise. It came from a room behind a rough-hewn wooden door. Someone had locked it. Why? She fumbled for a moment with the outdated latch and then wrenched it. It broke into pieces, and the door swung open.

A window beat to its own erratic rhythm. Little more than an air vent, the window was scarcely six inches high and a foot wide. From the outside, it sat just above the soil and hid behind a lilac bush, but from the inside of the basement, it was high above Blair’s head. Standing on tiptoes, she secured the window at the same moment lightning flashed, a roll of thunder shook the house, and the electricity went out.

The meager light from the window filled the basement with a soupy darkness. Blair jumped and dropped everything except for the creel. Her spark of frustration matched a flash of lightning. Her books and rain gear lay at her feet, but not the keys. Squatting, she patted the dusty, cold cement with one hand. The basement floor sloped toward a center drain. Although she couldn’t imagine the keys rolling, she moved along the floor in that direction.

A crash of thunder, followed by another moment of lightning showed a gleam of something white wedged between stacks of boxesFeeling along the floor, Blair pushed against the clutter, hoping to find her keys, but instead found a white sock tucked into a familiar pair of Ked sneakers, a dark straight pant leg, and a man’s white shirt.

Aunt Charlotte. She lay on her side; her head lolled at an awkward angle. Blair touched her, and then peered into blank eyes. “Charlotte?” Gently, Blair picked up her aunt’s limp, cold hand. Blair began to shake. Putting down the creel, she knelt and tried to lift Charlotte into her arms. Her aunt remained wilted and unresponsive. Blair knew she was dead.

A rustling in the bushes outside distracted Blair. A rat? No, a human face with a sharp nose, barely distinguishable through the mud-splattered window. Rain slid off a black slicker, and the tears of rain on the window distorted the features.

Blair called for help and the person stood in a swirl of slicker and disappeared.


 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

St. George and the Sibling Sensation

 Have you ever been to St. George? Larry and I just spent five days there with my siblings and their spouses. We rented a house, complete with a pool and game room, about a quarter of a mile from Snow Canyon.

We had a great time. Of course, because we all live in different states and the travel restrictions, we haven't seen much of each other for a while.

My 98-year-old father died the October before the world closed. (I'm so grateful he died before the stay-at-home orders. It would have been tragic if we hadn't been able to spend time with him or celebrate his life at the end.) As siblings, we met fairly often during my dad's final years. Of course, at that time, all our get together were tinged with sadness as our dad's impending death hung over our heads. But this past week was just about fun.

Biking through Snow Canyon. Spelunking in lava tubes. Hiking in Zion's National Park. A night at the fabulous Tuacan Theater. Dinner at Magleby's restaurant (their chocolate cake with raspberry sauce is to die for.) Lounging at the pool; Shooting pool. Playing pickle ball and ping pong and lots of card games.

How about you? Are you able to spend time with your siblings? And if so, what sort of things do you like to do?

Are you looking for something to read? My Little White Christmas Lie is free.



Thursday, September 9, 2021

Heroes, Husbands, Hotheads, and Teddy Bears

The thing about Teddy Bears is they’ll always be Teddy Bears. They’re not going to rise up and become lions. They’re just not. It’s not fair to expect them to do so. Teddy Bears are soft, cuddly, and generally good-natured. If you push them, they’ll retreat. So, when it comes time to deal with an obnoxious teenager, a bullying sports coach, a cruel teacher, a smarmy attorney, or a conniving businessman, don’t expect your Teddy Bear to transform. In those situations, you need a Hot Head.


But here’s the thing about Hot Heads. They can be difficult to live with. They have opinions on just about everything, and they’re not easily swayed. Seeing things through a different lens is hard for them. Often, they’re bright, so they think they’re always right. (News flash, they make mistakes, too.) But in a pinch, having a Hot Head in your corner can be a lifesaver, especially if you happen to be on the Teddy Bear spectrum.


In fiction, we can create these multifaceted heroes, but the reality is a different story. Can two Hot Heads marry? Yes, but it may take them longer to find a rhythm and to learn how to compromise. Can two Teddy Bears marry? Again, problematic. In the long run, that combination may be even more disastrous than a pair of Hot Heads. But if the Hot Head and Teddy Bear marry, will the Hot Head completely dominate the Teddy Bear? Maybe. Maybe not.


My husband and I married almost 40 years ago. Because of him, I’m definitely a better person than I would have ever been on my own. (And I like to think I’ve been good for him, too.) It’s been a dance, and the tricky thing about a long marriage is the music keeps changing. We started out as college students, graduated, got jobs, had children, bought stuff. Now here we are all these years later, no jobs, grown children, and too much stuff…but we still have each other.


Real-life romance is so much better than the fictional kind because it takes work, heartbreaking emotional investments, and daily care. It’s hard to capture that in 300 pages, but it’s fun to try.

That’s what I love about a good romance. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara. Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox. Kate and Leopold. I love getting an intimate peek at two characters overcoming their differences and learning to love and appreciate the other’s talents and gifts.

How about you? Who are some of your favorite fictional couples? How about real-life examples? 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Wednesday's Words. The Rancher's Romance Chapter One

 Please keep in mind, the first chapter is the one that gets rewritten the most. It's also the most important, because it sells the book. The last chapter is the second most important because it sells the next book. Even though I know how important this chapter is, when I'm writing the first draft, I don't spend a lot of thought over this chapter--or any of the chapters, really--because I know the magic lies in the rewritting stage. And this first chapter gets the most of that secret sauce.



The Rancher's Romance

Chapter One

Brad leaned against the bar, one ankle crossed over the other, surveying the gathering. How typical of the Fleurs to throw a wedding at a barn. Jason was as rich as Hades and Joel’s cosmetic company was an overnight sensation. Either one of them could have thrown a wedding worthy of the society pages and yet, here they were eating pigs in a blanket in a barn to celebrate their mom’s wedding. Ridiculous.

Jason caught his eye and strode his way. Brad tried to tamp down his rivalry toward his younger cousin. Their grandmother had always favored Jason, probably because with his dark Mediterranean coloring coupled with his startling blue eyes, he looked like the West side of the family. Brad, on the other hand, was more the color of dirt—brown eyes, brown hair. And now, thanks to a sad turn of fate, he was on the brink of becoming dirt poor. Jason not only had financial success, but he also had Celia, Mia's sister…Brad cut off his dark thoughts and plastered on a smile.

“You’re brave being here.” Jason pointed his glass at Brad. His tone carried wonderment tinged with a hint of admiration.

“What can I say? Claudette loves me.” Brad strove to sound nonchalant, even though the last few hours had greatly pained him. Watching Mia with that stuffed shirt Darrel Doyle had been like sitting through church with a burr stuck on his butt, an irritation it would have been rude to scratch or inspect. Not that he wanted to reflect on his relationship with Mia. He tried not to think of her, but that endeavor was going about as well as his failing business.

“Celia tells me you refuse to sign the divorce papers.” Jason sipped from a champagne flute and watched Brad over the rim.

“Is that the story Mia’s telling?” Brad pulled away from the bar and headed for a corner table near some stacked hay bales. Mason jars filled with sunflowers sat in a ring of strewn sawdust on each table. He didn’t know if Jason would follow him, or not, and he also didn’t care. He not only didn’t want to think about Mia, he also didn’t want to discuss her.

“Are you saying it’s not true?”

Jason must have followed, because his voice was at Brad’s back—hitting him squarely between the shoulder blades like a well-placed knife.

Brad sat at the table in the shadows. After the Clinton property debacle, Brad had one last scheme on how to save his company and it was not only a long shot but also just one brush away from hair-brained. He needed Jason’s help, but he didn’t want the request to get back to Mia. Just thinking of what she would say if she knew made him cringe.

He shouldn’t care what she thought. But he did.

Jason braced his hands on the back of a chair. “Look, I love you, but I’m also a member of this family—”

Brad cut off the lecture. “Claudette invited me, okay? I wouldn’t have come if she hadn’t. If Mia has an issue with my being here, she should bring it up with her grandmother.” Brad dropped his voice so it was barely audible above the sound of the string quartet playing across the barn floor. The quartet had stuck with classical music before the ceremony, but since then they’d abandoned pretentiousness and had been playing Blue Grass for the last twenty minutes. Brad wasn’t sure how much more he could take.

His gaze slid to Mia and Darrel. They sat on the other side of the barn, but despite the distance between them, the music, the clinking of forks against plates, and dozens of conversations flitting in the air, he could still hear her laughter. It pained him.

Brad straightened his shoulders and gave himself a mental pep talk. He would say what he needed to say and leave. “To be perfectly honest, I probably wouldn’t have come, but I’m worried about Sam. Have you heard from him lately?”

“Sam? No. You know he disappears for weeks on end.”

Brad bit his lip and tapped his fingers on the table. “Talk to me about the Witching Well.”

Jason blinked at the sudden change of subject and settled into a chair across the table from him. “What does that have to do with Sam?”

Brad tapped his fingers on the table. “I was just wondering the well might have something to do with Sam’s disappearances.”

“Oh, maybe.” A worried scowl formed on Jason’s forehead. “I told you what happened to me and Celia.”

Brad sipped his champagne and felt the tingles tickle his nose. His gaze kept slipping to Mia. When she wasn’t glaring at him, she was so beautiful it made him ache. He stared into his drink. “Do you think it could work for me?”

“What?”

Brad looked up and met his cousin’s concerned frown. “You heard me.”

“No,” Jason said without hesitation. He braced both hands on the table as if to push himself to his feet. “It won’t work for you.”

Brad grabbed Jason’s wrist. “Why do you say that?”

Jason shook him loose. “Because whatever you have planned, it’s a bad idea.”

Brad tried not to sound smug. “You don’t know what I’m planning.”

“I don’t have to. I know you. You’re infamous for your bad decisions.”

Brad dropped his hands. “That’s not fair.”

“You let Mia go.”

Brad let out a long breath. “My plans have nothing to do with Mia, by the way.”

Jason rocked back in his chair. “You’re not planning on going back in time and trying to salvage your marriage?”

“No. I won’t even see Mia. I’ll be far, far away and years before her birth.”

Jason brought the front legs of his chair to the earth, leaned forward, and studied Brad. “Why?”

Brad swirled his champaign flute and watched the bubbles turn into a mini whirlpool. “I’ll tell you if you’ll tell me how it can be done.”

“There are no guarantees, you know.” Jason’s gaze turned to suspicious slits. “What are you up to?”

Brad sipped his drink and swallowed before speaking. “This benefits you just as much it does me.”

Jason cocked his eyebrow but didn’t say a word.

Brad sucked in a deep breath. “Okay. You don’t have to tell me. In fact, please don’t. I’ll find a way to make it happen on my own, and then I won’t share the spoils.”

“Spoils?” Jason asked. “What sort of spoils?”

Brad tapped his fingers on the tablecloth. “The well is around here somewhere…I found it once before, you know.”

“I didn’t know. You never told me.”

“I didn’t tell anyone.”

“Where did you go?”

“The same place I want to go now.”

“What are you planning?” Jason put his hand flat on the table. “You know it can be dangerous, right?”

“How so?” Maybe if he could keep Jason engaged in the conversation, his cousin would slip up and offer a clue.

“You could end up anywhere,” Jason said. “Besides, Celia has a theory that it can only happen to members of the Fleur family.”

“Not all of the theories hold—pun intended—water.”

Brad scratched his chin, thinking. He’d really rather have Jason’s help than attempt this on his own, but, knowing his cousin, he had to spin it the right way. “Do you want in, or not?”

“What are you trying to do?” Jason asked. “I’m only asking because if something happens to you, I don’t want to face Aunt May’s wrath.”

“Mom will be fine.”

“You’re her only child.”

Brad rubbed his hands together. “Which makes it all the sweeter. We have less people who’ll want a cut.”

“A cut of what?”

Brad propped his elbows on the table and leaned forward. “You know Great Grandpa West owned a sheep ranch in the Big Horn Valley.”

“In Wyoming,” Jason said.

Brad nodded. “Today, that land is worth millions.”

“What?” Jason looked as if he couldn’t believe what Brad was telling him.

“Oil fields.” Brad steepled his fingers and tapped them together. “Do you see where I’m going with this?”

“Does this have anything to do with the Clinton property?”

Brad waved his hand as if he could make the Clinton’s disappear. “That’s old news.” Or so he hoped. “I’m going to convince Great, Great Grandpa West to sell that land to me.”

Jason let out a huff of disbelief and shook his head. “This isn’t going to work.”

“Why not?”

“Why would he sell you the land?”

“Why not? I’m going to offer him twice whatever he sold it for back in the thirties.”

“You know, Western Wyoming during the Great Depression wasn’t exactly a party place.”

Brad rubbed his forehead. “I’m not the partier Mia says I am.”

“That may or may not be true,” Jason said, “But never the less—”

“Come on, Jason. Don’t you see? That land could-have-should-have belonged to us.”

“We’re not entitled to anything—” Jason bit back his anger. “Listen, I’m not going to help you because I personally don’t believe in chasing the easy buck.”

“Oh, man. Can you listen to yourself? Can you get any more self-righteous?”

Jason stood and strode away from the table without saying another word.

Brad watched him go, his emotions waffling. Part of him knew he didn’t need Jason’s cooperation or his blessing. He’d find some way to get to 1932 Wyoming with or without his cousin’s help.

A hand fell on his shoulder. He looked up to see Lacey Harmon, one of Celia’s best friends. She gave him a friendly squeeze and offered him a smile. “It’s good to see you, Brad. I miss you seeing you in the studio.”

Before the split, Mia had routinely dragged him into Lacey’s Yoga Go Go. His willingness to follow Mia into the studio was evidence of his love—not for the practice, but for his wife. Not that he minded being surrounded by dozens of nimble yogis—most of them scantily clad females who were, for the most part, as lovely as Lacey—but he preferred to work out on the basketball court or the football field. Not that he hadn’t enjoyed yoga, but he’d gone mostly to be with Mia.

He gazed at Lacey. With her blonde hair, blue eyes, and rosebud lips, she was a pretty little thing, but she reminded him of a piece of dandelion fluff. Wispy, insubstantial, and about as deep as a mud puddle.

She dropped into a chair beside him and pinned him with her gaze. “How are you?” Her focus slid across the room to Mia before returning to him. “Is this hard for you? Seeing your ex with someone else?”

Brad swallowed. He wasn’t about to open himself up to Lacey, and he bit back the urge to tell her to go down-dog herself. “I’m fine.” The words sounded harsher than he’d intended. He softened his tone and tried to practice sincerity. “How are you?”

Lacey flushed and a light in her eyes lit. “I’m good, thanks for asking.” She reached out and fiddled with a piece of sawdust on the table. “I’m thinking of selling my studio.”

Aw. That was it. She wasn’t really interested in him. She just wanted him to list her property. Why did that hurt? He wasn’t interested in Lacey, either, so why would it wound him when she reached out with a business proposition?

Maybe because he wanted someone other than his mother to care about him.

“You know it used to be my grandfather’s cigar shop,” Lacey was saying. “And even after all these years, I can still smell the smoke. Could you come by and tell me what you think I could sell it for? I don’t know anything about real estate.”

“It’s a prime downtown Woodinville location.” He could sell it in a heartbeat, but what about Lacey? “But where would you go?”

Lacey nodded. “I’m thinking of—” She broke off her sentence, stood. “I’m sorry. I have to dash. Can I call you tomorrow?” Before he could answer, she scurried away without a backward glance.

That was weird, but then, Lacey had always been a little off. He stared at her retreating back, puzzled.

Another hand dropped on his shoulder. He twisted to see Mia standing behind him. The late afternoon sun streaming through the barn’s massive doorway backlit her, giving her a halo around her beautiful strawberry blonde hair. Even when she scowled she was beautiful. “Hey,” he said softly.

“Did you sign the papers?” she asked without preamble.

“Yeah,” he lied. “They’re at my place.” That, at least, was true.

Her expression brightened and Brad’s heart twisted. Why was she so eager to end their marriage? To sever what little they had left together?

“I’ll be by tomorrow.”

“Sure.”

“What time works for you?”

“I’ll be out in the morning. Will the afternoon work?”

She gave him a rare, beaming smile. “Any time that’s best for you. Thanks, Brad.”

“Anything for you, sweetie,” he said.

Brad had no intention of being anywhere Mia could find him or the papers.

*MIA

Fireflies flitted through the warm night air. Now, some distance from the barn and the party noises, nature’s songs—the hooting owls, the chirping crickets and clacking cicadas, a breeze ruffling the leaves—could be heard.

Darrel squeezed Mia’s hand. “At one point do I become an adulterer?”

His tone carried a hint of laughter, but Mia also heard his impatience. She turned to face him. He really was a handsome man—tall, lean, angular jaw, straight nose and thin lips—but different from Bradley, who had a more teddy bear appearance. Softy, cuddly, warm brown eyes, thick softly curled hair, full lips. Sighing, she reprimanded herself comparing anyone, let alone Darrel, to Bradley.

Returning Darrel’s squeeze, she said, “He promised to sign the papers.”

Darrel swallowed and Mia watched his Adam’s apple bob up and down. “Do you believe him?”

“Why shouldn’t I?”

Darrel looked at something over her shoulder before saying, “I don’t blame the guy. If you were my wife, I wouldn’t want to let you go, either.”

Mia’s heart stuttered. She wasn’t ready to be anyone’s wife. Again. Maybe that had been the problem all along. This straddling act she’d been struggling to perform—half-married, half-single—wasn’t fair to anyone. Herself included.

The clouds shifted and the moonlight disappeared. The breeze turned cold, making Mia shiver. “I’ll call you as soon as pick up the papers.” It was more of a promise to herself than to Darrel.

Reaching up, she touched his cheek. He was a nice man. A solid man. A police detective who routinely saw people behaving their worst and yet still believed most people were kind and good. She owed him honesty. “Darrel, even after the divorce, I’ll still need time.”

He captured her hand, turned it over in his, and lifted it to his lips. His kiss was warm, sweet. Her heart melted towards him. Why couldn’t she love him? He was a good person. Honest. Stable.

“I’ll meet you for dinner.” Darrel lowered his forehead to meet hers. “We can celebrate.”

But Mia didn’t know if she’d be in a celebratory mood. Plus, she didn’t like the feel of his breath on her face.

#

Mia pulled up in front of the townhome on Arrington Heights Road. The daisies she’d planted three years ago still thrived. The grass—maintained by the homeowner’s association—sprouted sharp, pointy, and green. Only the dingy windows spoke of sadness and neglect.

Not my problem, Mia told herself. She rapped on the door that had once been hers.

Silence answered.

Mia debated for a moment before trying the doorknob. After all, could it really be called breaking and entering if her name was on the deed? Even if Bradly had been the one making the mortgage payments for the last three years? How would they divide the equity if Bradly ever decided to sell? What would be fair?

I don’t need to think about that right now.

But, if Mia was being honest with herself, something she wasn’t really very good at, she’d have to admit this I’ll deal with this tomorrow attitude was what had landed her in this position--married and separated for the past three years.

Enough is enough!

She pounded on the door so hard her knuckles hurt.

A dog barked. Mia turned to see Lacey, clad in her yoga uniform and carrying a gym bag standing across the lawn beside a mammoth dog.

The creature bounded toward Mia. Lacey tripped after her pet. “Mia! Hi!”

“Hi, Lacey.” Mia stooped to pet the dog. “Who’s this?”

“Harry. Like Harry Potter?”

“He’s so huge. Maybe you should have named him Hagrid.”

Lacey shrugged. “I like Harry, because it’s also like hairy, a double-entendre. Are you looking for Brad?”

Mia nodded.

“I don’t think he’s home. His car isn’t in his parking space.”

How did Lacey know which spot belonged to Bradley? An uncomfortable twitch made its way down Mia’s spine. And what was Lacey doing here? Shouldn’t she be at her studio by now?

“I teach a class at the rec center.” Lacey pointed her chin at the community room. “You should join us some time. It’s free, you know. Included in your HOA membership.”

“I didn’t know.”

Lacey shifted the bag on her shoulder. “I just picked up the gig a few weeks ago.”

Mia rocked her weight from one foot to the other. Going to the studio had been something she’d done with Bradley. Without him huffing and twisting and making witty comments beside her, yoga had lost its appeal and so she’d let her membership lapse. But, of course, she couldn’t say this to Lacey. Or to anyone, really. She even hated admitting it to herself.

“I’ll do that sometime. Thanks.” Was it ethical to take advantage of the HOA programs if she wasn’t paying the mortgage? My name is on the deed. But maybe she needed to rectify that. Ask Bradley to buy her out.

The thought gave her an ache in her gut.

“Does Harry attend your classes?” Mia stooped to ruffle the dog’s ears.

“He does. He’s my mascot. People love him, and I do, too. Most of the time.” A scowl flitted across Lacey’s face so quickly, Mia wondered if she’d imagined it. Lacey nodded at Brad’s townhome. “He left the front window open. You should tell him not to do that.”

Mia noted the half-opened window and the blinds clicking in the breeze.

“I better get going,” Lacey said with what sounded like genuine disappointment. “I don’t want my practitioners to realize they don’t need an instructor, or a mascot.”

Mia watched Lacey go before coming to a decision. Maybe Bradley had signed the papers and they were just on the other side of the door. She could crawl through the window, but why not try the back entrance? Bracing her shoulders, Mia strode around the building to the side gate and let herself into the small courtyard. Here where the groundskeepers weren’t invited, the true state of Bradley’s care—or lack thereof—was more obvious. Shoots of grass sprang through cracks in the patio’s cement. Weeds as tall as her knees filled the flower beds. The gardening tools piled beside the backdoor had spiderwebs threading the trowels. They looked like they hadn’t been used in the three years since she’d left them there. Mia nudged them with her toe and discovered her old green gloves—now black with mildew—lying beneath a soggy box of fertilizer.

Somehow, the sight of the ruined gloves made her both impossibly angry and sad. Mia marched to the glass sliding door and yanked on the handle. To her surprise, it squeaked open.

Mia hesitated for only a moment before entering the tiny kitchen. The curtains she’d sewn still hung above the sink, but the herbs she’d grown in an army of little pots on the window sill had long since shriveled to brown dry sticks.

“Good thing we didn’t have any kids,” Mia said to the empty room. Despite the dirty windows, dead plants, and dust gathering in the corners, the kitchen wasn’t in total disrepair. Dishes didn’t fill the sink. The trash can had a clean liner.

She had thought maybe she’d find the divorce papers lying on the kitchen table or counters, but the only thing on the table was an empty water bottle and an advertisement for a local gym. So, Bradley wasn’t going to the yoga studio anymore either. This made her feel better, although she couldn’t say why.

Mia marched into the living room. Her heart sped when she spied a pile of papers on the coffee table. She plunked herself on the sofa and picked them up. Not divorce papers. She scanned the first page.

A study conducted by the University of Connecticut links the hysterical symptoms of the young women that had spurred the Salem witch trials to the consumption of ergot-tainted rye—the same alkaloids that are used in LSD, but local legends claim the Witching Well has the ability to transport drinkers through time.

Mia’s heart sped, and she pressed the papers to her chest and closed her eyes. What was Bradley planning? Did he think he could disappear into the time realms?

If anyone should believe in the mysterious Witching Well, it was Mia. Her mother, her grandmother, her sister, brother, brother-in-law, her sister’s best friend—all these people who she loved and trusted had drank from the Witching Well and had life-changing experiences. Mia had more than once been tempted to try it herself—but Bradley? She couldn’t see him ever doing it.

A paper fell to the floor and landed near Mia’s feet. It looked like a copy from a page of a newspaper. Wyoming Black Gold Rush! The headline read.

Wyoming? Bradley had relatives from Wyoming. Sheep ranchers. They’d attended her wedding wearing cowboy boots, giant silver belt buckles, and ten gallon hats. Mia picked up the paper and read.

Oil found outside of Sweet Berry Ridge has turned local sheep rancher Edwin Shaw into an instant millionaire.

Edwin Shaw?

Bradley’s relatives were named Wests and Bairds. No Shaws that Mia knew of. She rifled through the papers. Some were maps. Others were pedigree charts. With some care, as if they might explode upon impact, Mia returned the papers to the table. She sat and contemplated her next move before bouncing to her feet and heading down the hall.

The bedroom stirred a lot of unwanted memories. Her gaze skittered past the bed, not wanting to revisit happier times when she hadn’t slept alone. Mia ignored the growing hollowness in her belly and went to the closet. She half expected to find a packed suitcase filled with cowboy boots and plaid button-down shirts somewhere, but the suitcases and carry-on bags were lined up on the top shelf. Mia sighed in relief and sat on the bed.

What was she doing? Other than invading Bradley’s privacy? How would she feel if he came into her room and began poking around? Of course, if he tried to do that, he’d have to face Grammy. She’d give him a talking-to. Or feed him pie. Probably both. Mia stood, but as she did, the Bible lying on the nightstand fell to the floor. A photo fluttered to the floor and landed facedown. The Bible fell open. Stooping, Mia froze half-bent.

What would Lacey and other yogis call this? Forward fold.

The Bible had fallen open at one of Grammy’s favorite passages. Proverbs 31. The virtuous woman.@

This meant nothing. Mia scooped up the Bible, closed it, and returned it to the nightstand. Then she picked up the photograph and turned it over. It was a picture of herself riding Bradley piggy back, her legs poking through his looped arms, her long hair blowing in the wind, both of them smiling as if laughing at a joke.

Why did he have this picture of her in his Bible? She knew he read his scriptures every morning before he got out of bed and every evening before retiring. She had found it endearing, at first. After their argument—the one they had right before she left—she found it hypocritical. How could someone so devout be such a liar? And so mean?

He was the one who had lied. Not her. He was the one who owed her an apology. If he wasn’t going to apologize, he should just get on with his life. Without her. And Mia was going to tell him so. Her fingers curled around the photo. She thought about crumpling it, or burning it, or tearing it to shreds. Instead, she tucked it in her pocket.

The Rancher's Romance is available for pre-order on Amazon.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

How Not to Panic

 

Here we are on one of the hottest, driest days of the year dreaming of falling leaves and temperatures and pumpkin spice everything. Sweater weather still seems like it's a long ways away, but hopefully, it'll get here soon.

We had a glorious, but also a sort of sad and scary August.

Glorious: we had a wonderful time at Bass Lake. We rented a ten-bedroom house with three gathering rooms, two kitchens, and a yard. There were goats, chickens, and horses next door. But the best part was the lake. Because there were beaches surrounding the lake, every family could bring their own car (and yes, we took our fifteen-year-old suburban, and yes, by some miracle, it ran just fine) to the beach so if kids or grownups got fussy and tired, they could go back to the house without us all having to jump ship. The lake is much smaller than Meade or Powel, (our lakes of choice for the past 20 years) of course, but so pretty in its own way.

I'd debated on whether or not to go to my sister’s reunion because I'd have to leave almost as soon as I got home, and that's pretty contradictory from my homebody nature. Before leaving for Bass Lake, I folded up all of the clothes I'd take to my sister’s reunion and put them on my bathroom counter so if I decided to go, I could easily empty out my suitcase and repack. (In case you didn't know, lake attire--shorts, t-shirts, and swim suits--is vastly different from the reunion wear, which always includes theater and restaurant going.) Once I got to Bass Lake, my daughter came up with the brilliant idea that instead of driving all the way home and then driving to Provo, I take her car directly to my sisters' and her family would then drive home with Larry. But what about my clothes? My son-in-law, who had stayed to work and was flying up the next day, intruded on our dog-sitter, packed up my clothes, and brought them for me. The 12-hour drive was hard, but thanks to audiobooks, completely doable. I had an amazing time (as always) and made it home in time for my grandson’s 2nd birthday party.

Once home, I quickly/gratefully fell back into my daily life routine. It was a little different, because my daughter went to Utah, so she wasn't here to do yoga with me. The same day she returned, her sister flew to Wisconsin, so now I don't have anyone to watch Teen Wolf with, and I feel silly watching it by myself.

The sad and scary part happened about ten days ago. (Although, sad and scary could also describe the last season of Teen Wolf.) I had a panic attack. It seemed so unnecessary, but if it’s true, as I’ve been told, panic attacks are induced by prolonged stress (hello, pandemic) maybe it makes more sense than I’d thought. Even though many of my family members suffer with them, I'd had just one about 4 years before. At that time, I'd been in the hospital suffering from horrific pain and waiting for surgery to remove a uterine cyst. When I had the panic attack, I'd thought I was having a heart attack, but they ran tests and told me it had been a panic attack, which feels like a heart attack. (I assume, since I haven't actually had a heart attack.) Looking back, I'm super glad I'd had that earlier experience, (I wish I could have done without all that pain, though) otherwise I would have absolutely thought I'd had a heart attack that night. It’s sad. I’ve had to cut back on anything that makes my heart race. I’m still writing, but I’ve cut out any sort of deadlines. I don’t make commitments I don’t feel I can keep. I didn’t send out the ARC copies to my read and review team, and I apologize for that (but that doesn’t mean I’ll send them out.) Anything that requires effort I don’t have to spend has been put on the chopping block until further notice.

With my daughter in Wisconsin, I'm on puppy patrol. Billie, and I are doing great. I've been taking her on my long walks, and I love having her scaring away all the bunnies and lizards. Everyone needs a Billie. Do you have someone to keep the scaries at bay? 

Do you have something to read?

To celebrate the release of my latest book in the Witching Well series (clean and wholesome time travel romance) my first in the series is only .99 cents and the second book is free. The Witching Well series is a little like Outlander, minus the outlandishness, and my characters go to different times and places. Why did I make the second book free and not the first? Simple, the books can be read in any order, but mostly because I prefer it. Here's what readers like you are saying about The Cowboy Encounter.

               

5.0 out of 5 stars magical fantastical

Reviewed in the United States on September 1, 2021

I can’t wait to read the entire series. Fantasy come true as those who drink from the witching well find themselves in a different place in a different time.

 

5.0 out of 5 stars The Cowboy Encounter

Reviewed in the United States on September 1, 2021

Verified Purchase

It was an interesting book. It was light reading and kept my attention. I would like to read more of Kristy Tate. Eloise Alden. It was intriguing to figure out who the man was in the black hat.

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting time travel with an HEA

Reviewed in the United States on August 31, 2021

Verified Purchase

Dr. Becca Martin falls into the Witching well and finds herself in Everwood, CO in 1870. She soon finds herself treating a handsome man with a gunshot wound. They travel to his ranch and then to Denver, back to CT in the 21st century and from there back to his ranch which she now inherits from her father.

Take care and thanks for hanging in there with me,

Kristy