I’m working on my next Better Late Romance–a holiday novella for the Authors of Main Street box set.

To get in the holiday spirit (which is tricky, because the temperature is hovering around 90 degrees here), I’ve marked down my Christmas Collection to only 0.99 cents. Hurry and get it quick before the price, like the temperature, rises.

Christmas collection
Only 0.99 for a few days. Get your copy now.

The First Chapter of:

The Billionaire Buys the Books

Lauren slipped on her shoes and slid away from the piano. Hardly anyone in the well-heeled crowd noticed the cessation of music. After silently closing the instrument’s lid, she stood, rolled her shoulders, and flexed her fingers. If she hurried, she’d be able to grab a bite to eat and peruse the book display tables.

LeAnne Gardener, the conference Grand Poohbah, bustled across the room, a tablet in her hand. The scowl hovering between her brows made Lauren worry that not everyone had noticed she’d stopped playing. Fortunately, LeAnne directed her scowl and energy at the caterers loitering near the refreshment table.

Lauren walked as fast as she could without actually breaking into a trot. Books first. Food second.

The book display had been set up in one of the hotel’s smallest conference rooms. The overstuffed chairs, end tables, tapestry rugs were striving to create a comfy-homey feel, but they were no match for the flickering overhead lighting, pale nondescript walls, and recycled air.

Lauren, like the rest of the staff, wore all black, but she because she was about thirty years older than most of the valets and caterers, she felt like an old crow in funeral garb. She would have liked to meet Sophia Lawson, her dream agent, in something not quite so severe and boring, but since the only way she’d been able to afford the conference was by agreeing to play the piano for the evening soiree reserved just for the literary professionals, she didn’t have a choice. But since she’d spent almost all of her adult life without a lot of options, she tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and bent over the artistically arranged piles of books, searching for The Polly the Pirate series.

She brightened when she spotted the brightly colored books stacked in a far corner. Lovingly, she picked one up and flipped it open. These books had been her refuge when she’d been a lonely-only child of a dying mother and a grieving father. And now, she had the chance to meet the author, Gloria Spicer, and, if she was very lucky, get a chance to try and sell her book to Gloria’s agent, Mimsy Wharton—the premier middle-grade literary agent at Wharton Literary Agency.

When raised voices interrupted Lauren, she glanced over her shoulder and made eye-contact with a man in an ill-fitting suit. His dark hair had a smattering of gray at the temples and lines crinkled around his eyes.

“I’m trying to find a gift for my mom,” he said. “Can you help me?”

Feeling the clock ticking down her minutes until she needed to return to her piano bench, Lauren hesitated. Social conditioning mingling with the sincere desire to engage in book talk kicked in. “Sure. What kind of books does your mom like?”

He tucked his hands into his pockets. “I have no idea. That’s why I’m asking you.”

Irritation flicked through her. “If you, her son, don’t know, why would you expect me to know?”

“Because you work here, don’t you?”

“Well, yes.” Technically, she’d been hired to play the piano, not help cranky book-buyers.

His brow furrowed and Lauren took compassion on him. “Does she like fiction or nonfiction?”

He blew out a breath.

Lauren fished around for more information. “What does she like to do?”

“She’s a real estate agent.” His expression turned hopeful. “Are there any books about houses?”

“Does she like decorating?” An idea hit Lauren and she strode toward the Greta Boris mystery series she’d spied early on a front table featuring an interior decorator amateur sleuth. She picked up The Color of Envy. Annie couldn’t get enough of these books.

The man’s eyebrows shot up. “I can’t give her a murder mystery.”

“Why not?” Maybe she was more a Hallmark sort of gal? Lauren got that. For almost a year after her ex-husband’s violent death, she could only read light and fluffy books. Even the Twilight books had been too heavy, even though they hadn’t bothered children in the least. Annie continued her obsession with Greta Boris and James had devoured a steady stream of Michael Creighton’s books at that bleak time.

“I don’t want to give her any ideas,” the man said.

“Oh, okay. How about a book of poems?” Lauren’s gaze landed on a book with a bouquet of roses on the cover. “These should be harmless enough.”

LeAnne marched into the room. The scowl between her brows deepened when she spotted Lauren. She pointed at the open door.

Sighing, Lauren glanced at her watch. She’d missed her food opportunity. “I have to get back to work.”

“But don’t you work here?” the man asked.

“I do. Just not in this room.”

He seemed genuinely perplexed.

“I should have made that clear,” Lauren said.

LeAnne cleared her throat.

“Excuse me,” Lauren said, brushing her hand on the man’s arm in an apology before heading for the door and the piano in the ballroom.

#

Ron watched the woman go. Had she been flirting with him? He was hopeless when it came to women. And men. The only people he really felt comfortable around were his co-workers—fellow engineers who got excited over numbers, charts, and graphs. He softened when he thought of Margo—she had helped him navigates his world his entire life and was especially good at handling their mother. So, why was he here and not Margo?

Ron picked up the book the woman in black had recommended and took it to the cashier. Along the way, his gaze landed on a book with the picture of a beagle on it. The Billionaire’s Beagle. If the sale of his patent went through, he’d make a billion dollars. The thought still made his breath catch. On a whim, he bought the book. His mother liked dogs and she loved money. A lot. That was part of the reason he hadn’t told her about the impending deal.

After making his purchase and waiting for the girl to gift wrap it, he headed back to the conference. Soiree, he reminded himself of his mother’s word for the event. What was Mom doing here? She was a realtor, not a bookish person. His gaze swept the room and his stomach sickened when he spotted his mom at a table with her best friend, Lois Hampton.

He trusted Lois about as far as he could throw her, and if he’d ever be given the chance, he’d chuck Lois out of his mom’s life. The woman was a sponge. Why couldn’t mom see her for who she was?

Mom spotted him and lifted a bony arm to wave him over. With heavy feet, he navigated the room. Skirting past the tables where people in fancy clothes sat sipping wine and nibbling on pretentious pieces of food pretending to be art.

“Darling!” Mom stood to embrace him in a bony hug. Had she always been so brittle? He chided himself for not visiting more often.

She pulled away and laced her fingers through his. “I’m so glad we could connect.”

Ron pushed his fingers through his hair. “I wish I could stay longer.”

She reclaimed her chair and motioned for Ron to take the seat beside her. “I wish I hadn’t already committed to this conference.” She lowered her voice. “Thanks to Lois, we were able to smuggle you in.”

Ron sat beside Mom and wished, for not the first time, that his mom could be more like the seventy-five years old women who stayed at home to garden, knit, or bake cookies, and less like… Lois.

“You remember Lois, darling?” Mom laid her hand on Lois’s arm.

“Of course,” Ron said. “How are you, Lois?”

Lois’s smile didn’t reach her shrewd eyes. “I’m well.” Thanks to ample amounts of yoga sessions and plastic surgery, both Lois and Mom looked closer to his age than their own. Their Botox cheeks and bee-sting fat lips made him twitchy and uncomfortable.

Ron considered the plate before him. It held what looked like a scallop, topped with a cherry tomato and some sort of green and orange shoots. A puce colored sauce and been drizzled across the plate. His stomach, in want of a burger, growled.

Ron glanced around at their table mates—two women who each had two stacks of books at their elbows as if their towers were competing for height, a man lost in thought, scribbling on a notepad, another man in bottle-lens glasses with his nose buried in a book. These were the true bookworms. Mom and Loise didn’t fit at this table.

“I bought you something.” Ron put the gift-wrapped book on the table and slid it toward Mom.

Her eyes lit up. “Thanks, sweetie.” She turned to Lois. “He’s always so thoughtful. Never visits without bringing a gift.” She tore into the paper. The light in her eyes dimmed when she spotted the book. “A dog book?”

“You like dogs, right? This is a romantic comedy. And it takes place in Laguna Beach.” Why was he trying to sell this book?

Mom regained her composure. “Your company is a gift in and of itself,” she said in a high bright voice.

Music began to play. Most around him paid little attention to the swell of sound coming from the corner of the room, but Ron swiveled in the direction of the piano. The woman he’d met earlier in the book salon sat on the bench. Rachmaninoff, one of his favorite composers. One of his mentor professors had always listened to classical music at the lab while he worked, and Ron had carried on the tradition even after Joseph had retired.

He took in the woman at the piano. She really was lovely. Willowy, blonde, pink-cheeked. Her fingers stroked the keys with grace. Could he muster the nerve to talk to her again? No. What would be the point? His work was in Massachusetts, and she and her piano were in Orange County.

A middle-aged woman in a red dress stopped beside Lois. “I’m so excited about this,” she gushed. “I emailed you my manuscript immediately after our conversation. Did you get it?”

Lois plastered on a polite smile and winked at Mom. “Let me see.” Lois pulled her phone out of her Kate Spade bag and tapped on it. “Why, yes. Here it is. Hadley Brighton, right?”

The woman’s expression fell. “No, Mary Hadley. I sent you The Tales From the Edge.”

“That’s right.” Lois regained her composure. “Riveting.” Lois laid her hand on Mom’s arm. “Do you remember my telling you about it?” She turned back to the Mary. “This is @MOM. She’s the mastermind behind Cerealan Skye Publishing.”

“You’re a publisher?” Mary placed her hand on her heart as if to slow its beating.

Wait. What? Ron forgot all about Rachmaninoff and the lovely woman at the piano and he turned his attention to Mom. The realtor. Not publisher.

“She’s definitely someone to know,” Lois said.

Everyone else at the table lasered their attention on Mom. She flushed beneath their collective gazes.

“I’ve never heard of Cerealan Blue Publishing,” the woman with the tallest stack of books said.

Me neither, Ron thought.

“They’re very prestigious,” Lois said. “a discriminating boutique firm.”

“We’re still fairly new,” Mom said, sliding a Lois a conspiratorial glance.

When the soiree finally ended and the lovely woman at the piano slid off her bench and closed the piano lid, Ron hoped to have a moment alone with Mom.

“I’m sorry, sweetie,” Mom said. “But the evening has just started for me. Most of the deals are made at the bar.”

“The bar?” Ron echoed.

Mom plucked the linen napkin off her lap and laid it beside her the plate of her barely touched crème brulee. “You’re welcome to join us.”

The others at the table had taken their books and headed for where ever. Lois stood a few feet away, tapping her size-six foot.

Fighting the tension headache brewing beneath his brow, Ron scrunched his forehead. “What’s this publishing company?”

“Oh darling, it’s the most brilliant scheme,” Mom whispered.

Scheme? He didn’t like schemes. He liked numbers, graphs, formulas, mathematical equations. To him, schemes and Lois were synonymous and he wanted nothing to do with either. If only he could convince his mom to feel the same.

“I can’t wait to tell you all about it. You’ll be at the house tomorrow when I get home?”

“I’m catching a red-eye to Boston in the evening.”

Mom wilted with relief. “Oh good. We’ll have lots of time to chat. Have you seen @SISTER?”

“We’re going to brunch tomorrow.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to miss that. But work is work. You know how it is.” She patted his chest before kissing his cheek. “Ta, darling. Can’t wait to have our gab-session.”

But Ron didn’t know how it was. His work he understood—although, granted, most of the world didn’t. Even though people were surrounded by micro-WHATEVERS, not very people had any interest in them. Until they got sick.

His app, if used, would help stop with the spread of disease.

Mom’s work, until a few months ago, had been selling houses. Before that, she’d been a make-up artist selling fifty-dollar tubes of lipstick. Before that, she’d been an organization guru. Mom had the ability to reinvent herself more than anyone he knew. Maybe that’s why his biologist father had fallen in love with her. She was more chameleon than human.

There were things about himself that Ron would like to change—like the ability to converse with pretty pianists—but he lacked the skill. He was more like his father than his mother in that regard.

Christmas in July

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Who doesn’t love thinking about snuggling in a warm blanket, drinking a hot beverage, staring at a roaring fire, and reading a sweet, romantic Christmas tale?

Okay, may be hard to contemplate while wiping the sweat off your brow in July, but imagine us writers conjuring up winter tales while perspiring in front of our laptop screens. LOL In July, we are working on our Christmas tales for the Authors of Main Street boxed set to come.

So, while you are waiting for Christmas Heroes on Main Street to become a reality, why don’t you enjoy our other boxed sets, all available in KindleUnlimited on Amazon.

Christmas at the Inn on Main Street

 

Christmas Babies on Main Street

 

Christmas Cookies on Main Street

 

Christmas Wishes on Main Street

 


Jill James, author of My Mistletoe Hero, coming in the Christmas Heroes of Main Street boxed set this Christmas!!

Sneak Peek at a New Book

I’m sick of covid-19. Aren’t we all? When will it end?

I doubt it will end anytime soon. Maybe when we have a vaccine. Until then we will continue to wear masks and do the social distancing.

A friend and I often get together for a cup of coffee. My local Starbucks is open. We’ll grab a coffee and sit in the parking lot to chat. We even do tailgate meals in the parking lots. It gets us out of the house, and we can visit without being together. Yes, I know there is a certain danger even doing that, but it’s keeping us sane. Her birthday is Wednesday and there are no plans to go out for dinner or do anything special. She asked about my birthday in November. How are we supposed to know what life will be like in November? Will our favorite restaurants be open? Will they survive this pandemic? We hope they do.

July is a month filled with edits, and I thought I’d share the first chapter of my Christmas story for this year’s Authors of Main Street Boxed Set, Christmas Heroes on Main Street.  This story starts in the summer. Terry was in the Army and planned to retire until an IED put an end to his career. He came to help his older brother. Meredith is a widow with a daughter.  Her heart and head can’t seem to work together. Will these two people ever be able to put aside the past and find love?

Chapter 1

Meredith looked around the room at the other downtown merchants. The discussion was over Shop Local, the Saturday after Black Friday. Barely four months away, everyone wanted to do something special to encourage people to spend their holiday money in the cozy town of Ponds Corner.

“Meredith, do you have anything to say?” Tom asked.

“Yes. Doesn’t anyone see the elephant in this room?” She looked squarely at Tom, who was vice president of the group. “Cole Saunders. He needs our help. Yet most of you have blissfully ignored the plight of that family. He’s president of this organization, and he hasn’t been here in months. His store is closed, and his wife, Amanda is running ragged between the family and her job. He needs our help. I think we should redo his store so when he does come back, and that should be before Thanksgiving, he’s coming back to something special. He could do a grand re-opening on Shop Local. And if we all pitch in, his store can become the focal point, showing off what it means to shop here in our community.” She took a deep breath and continued. “Instead of using Ponds Paint as the hub. We can use Taste. It’s centrally located with plenty of parking. We can create a flyer that says what things came from where. I’ll do the design work. If we all pitch in, it’ll show off what our town can do. Let’s help Cole.”

There was some mumbling around the room.

And then Marcus spoke, “I don’t mind donating paint and supplies to Cole. He’s always been there for me when I needed help. And honestly, I think we should take turns being the hub.”

Ken jumped in. “We’ve always been able to count on Cole for anything.”

Tygeri nodded. “That’s right. Need something? Just ask Cole.”

“Did you know that he shovels my mom’s sidewalk and driveway when it snows.”

“He busted his butt to help me when my shed collapsed last year.”

Dan stood up. “I’m not part of this group. I’m only here to take notes for the newspaper, but I wanted to say that Meredith did our cabin last year, and she did a terrific job.”

Betsy told the group that she had hired Meredith to do her place before the bakery opened.

Raven put his palm out, hushing the group. “I’ll do anything for Cole.”

There was plenty of discussion and everyone praised Cole for his generous attitude. Finally, Ellie spoke up and proposed that everyone pitch in to help Cole. And Betsy quickly seconded it.

“Okay, let’s have a vote. All those in favor say, aye.”

It wasn’t as enthusiastic as Meredith had hoped, but it sounded like a majority.

“Those opposed say, nay.”

There were three nays.

Tygeri proposed that they conclude the meeting and there was a very vocal aye response.

Tom asked Marcus to say a prayer before he dismissed the meeting.

Marcus stood and said a brief prayer asking that the group be blessed and for their safe passage home. Then Tom dismissed the group.

She glanced at her wristband and it was almost eight o’clock. Everyone in the room had been up since the crack of dawn. They were all tired and eager to get out of there.

Meredith stopped her flight from the room when she heard her name being called by her friend, Betsy. “I can’t do much, but I don’t mind donating to his open house.”

“That would be great. I think this is the best project our association has ever had.” Meredith grinned.

Donald tapped Meredith on the shoulder. “Think we can just do this and surprise Cole? If he even gets wind of what we’re doing, he’ll protest and not because he doesn’t need the help.”

“You’re right,” Betsy said, and Meredith nodded.

Donald turned and in his big booming voice told everyone not to say a word to Cole or Amanda. “Let’s keep this a surprise.”

Dan shook his head. “There goes my article.”

Meredith giggled. “I’m sure you’ll manage to bury five hundred words on the bottom of the third page.”

“Thanks, Meredith. I give you a compliment and that’s what I get?”

Meredith laughed and then planted a kiss on his cheek. “I’ve got to run. My parents have Phoenix. I’ve got to get her home and in bed.”

Fifteen minutes later, Meredith pulled onto her parents’ driveway and got out of her SUV about the same time as the sky flashed with lightning. By the time she made it to the portico and the back door, she was soaked.

“Mommy’s home!” Phoenix ran and gave her mother a hug. “You’re all wet.”

Meredith laughed and then shuddered. It was cold in the house.

“Come see what I made for dinner tonight. I helped Mee-maw make pisketti.

Meredith allowed the child to drag her into the kitchen.

“See?” Phoenix pulled a stool to the stove and stood on it.

“Be careful, it’s probably still hot.” Meredith raised the lid on the tall pot and sniffed. “Oh, that smells so good.”

“Now I get to make your noodles.” She reached for the box sitting next to the stove.

“Wash your hands first.” Meredith reminded her daughter.

Phoenix got down and hurried to the sink where her grandmother stood washing dishes. Then returned to the stove.

“You have to turn on the stove, Mommy, because I can’t reach.”

Meredith turned on the burner under the pot that was used for noodles. “Too many noodles. Only use half that amount, baby girl.”

“Mee-maw says that you shouldn’t call me that because I’m not a baby anymore.”

“But you’ll always be my baby.”

“How was the meeting?” Meredith’s mom asked.

“I’d say the usual, except this time I convinced everybody to help Cole. We will renovate his store and then use his store as the hub for the Shop Local event.

“What a wonderful idea. Let me guess, you will be the designer.”

“Of course, and oh does that store need it.”

“Is the water hot enough to put in the noodles, Mommy?”

Meredith peeked at the pan. “Yes, but don’t let it splash. That’s boiling water.”

“It’s okay, Mommy, I know what I’m doing. Mee-maw says I’m very good in the kitchen.”

Meredith turned and looked at her mother. “I really don’t like her working around the stove, and I guess you had her using a knife.”

“You were doing the same thing at her age, and yes, I let her cut up the tomatoes and the herbs.”

“Pee-paw even let me pick the tomatoes and all the things that we would need, and then I came in and washed everything, because the bugs crawl on them, and we don’t want to eat anything that had bugs feet on it.”

Meredith looked at her daughter, and her heart melted. Phoenix was growing up way too fast.

“I’m starved. I skipped lunch today because I had a client come in and wanted help with her dining room. She just wanted to give it a new fresh look for fall without screaming Halloween or Thanksgiving.”

The ping of the old timer caught Meredith’s attention, and she looked at her daughter. “Did you set that?”

Phoenix nodded. “Mee-maw showed me how to do it. I’m learning my way around the kitchen.”

Meredith tested a noodle and turned off the burner. By the time she grabbed a plate and the tongs, the noodles would be perfect. Phoenix got the cheese grater and stood ready to put the shredded cheese on her mother’s food.

“Thank you,” Meredith said as she sat at the table. She twirled a forkful and put it in her mouth. “Mmm!” she chewed and swallowed. “This is perfect.”

Phoenix’s face split with an enormous smile.

Meredith couldn’t help being proud of her daughter. “Will you go back to the den and clean up your things so that we can leave when I’m done eating? It’s already past your bedtime.”

Phoenix nodded and scampered away.

Meredith’s mom joined her at the table. “Remember when you said you would take Phoenix to see Martin’s parents in August, but you hated to close the shop for a week? Well, your father and I discussed it, and we’ve decided that we’d love to take her. We’ll make a real vacation out of it and make it educational for Phoenix. Your dad has lots of vacation time to use up. When we get to the ranch, we’ll get a hotel room nearby so Phoenix can visit without all of us intruding.”

“I hate to put that burden on you. I’ll just the close store and get a round trip flight.”

“This would be better. We can take our time and let her visit parks, museums…we’ll take her to the King ranch, and I think there’s a huge zoo out there. Plus, all the sights between here and there.”

“Mom, she’s four, and she’s a handful sometimes.”

“I’m fifty-four, not ninety-four, and we’re both in perfect health. Phoenix is a good child. We’re not going to have problems.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“There’s nothing that needs any deep contemplation. I’ve never been to that part of Texas, and when I mentioned it to Cindy and John, they were thrilled at the prospect of seeing us again.”

“You talked to my in-laws?”

“Oh, darling, we chat all the time on Facebook. They are wonderful people.”

Guilt washed through Meredith. “Sometimes I’m bad about staying in touch with them.”

“They know you stay busy, and you’ve had a difficult time after Martin died. They did, too.”

Meredith picked up her plate and took it to the sink.

Her mom instantly stood. “Don’t worry about that. It’s past Phoenix’s bedtime. I’ll take care of it.”

Meredith drove back downtown to her apartment she had over her shop. She worked hard to renovate the store and her apartment. Her grandfather owned the building and let her do whatever she wanted. Between finishing her degree in design and having a baby, she couldn’t do much other than plan. But when the time came, she was hands on. Her grandfather was a builder, and he taught her about the industry. When she started her renovations, he was at her side almost every day. Then he died. He left the building to her.

She unlocked the door to her apartment, and somehow, she carried Phoenix up the stairs and put the sleeping child in bed. When she put her phone on the charger, she realized she had missed calls and text messages. She picked up the phone and texted her friend Betsy. Still awake?

Betsy immediately called. “Hi, I have an idea. We’ve got to get the key to Cole’s store, and short of me taking baked goods to Amanda and stealing it if I even knew which key, I’ve got this great plan.”

“I was wondering about that. I thought maybe I could ask if I could store some things in there for the time being. We’ve got to get that key.” Meredith sorted through the laundry basket.

“Oh, that is a good one. I never thought about storing, but I think I have a better one. Did you know that Cole’s brother is staying there, and I bet I can get him to help us.”

“I didn’t even know Cole had a brother.”

“He’s slightly younger and even better looking and there’s no wedding band. Apparently, he’s there to help, and this will be a wonderful way of helping. And wait until you see him, he is gorgeous – positively lickable.”

“Betsy, you’re married. You shouldn’t be looking.”

“Oh, Gerry looks all the time, and I don’t care, as long as he doesn’t touch.”

Meredith laughed at her friend.

“I have the perfect way to get Terry to come to the bakery, and once he comes to my bakery, I can explain what we’re up to, and I know he will go along with it. I promise, he is s-s-so-o-o cute.

“That’s right. Betsy, you turn on the charm.” Meredith ended the conversation and gathered up the rest of the dark clothes and put them in the washer.

***

Amanda was getting the boys’ breakfast when her phone rang, and she picked it up. She looked at Terry. “It’s for you.”

Terry took the phone from her and wondered who would call him and why. A moment later, he smiled. It was Betsy. He had met her the other morning when she showed up with a half dozen Danish pastries and cupcakes for the boys. When she said she had more for them, he promised to come get them. “I’ve got to take Cole for his treatment, I can stop by after I drop him off. And by the way, those Danishes were delicious. I don’t think I’ve ever had any that good.”

“Well, if you’re trying to twist my arm, I’ll look and see if I have any to spare.”

He smiled at the thought. Thanked her again for her generosity and disconnected the call. “Betsy wants me to stop by today. She said she’s got cookies for us.”

Amanda put another bite of egg on William’s tray. “Any other time I would complain because I don’t want the boys eating a bunch of sweet stuff, but with the money being what it is, at least it’s food.”

“I told Cole I’m willing to pay rent and board, but he said I’m family, and he wasn’t charging me. Keep this between us.” He pulled his wallet from his back pocket and withdrew several large bills, dropped them on the table, and planted a kiss on the top of his sister-in-law’s head. “I’ll get you more.”

He left the kitchen and went to see if Cole was ready. His older brother was sitting on the side of the bed tying his shoes.

“I’m ready.” Cole stood.

“Let’s go.”

The two men walked out the front door and climbed into Terry’s Jeep. Terry looked at his brother and asked, “Are you nervous?”

“Remember, I’m a pro at this. I’ve got it.”

Terry grinned at his brother. His older brother never shirked at any adversity. He always was the kind to face it, no matter what it was. Even as kids, Cole believed he could do anything, and he did it. When he was ten, he wanted to take up tennis. He taught himself to play, practiced all winter long, and made the team that spring. Cole also had a ton of friends and always did. Terry admired his brother and wished he were as naturally outgoing. Even their career choices were different. Cole went to college to study journalism and Terry was the computer guy. But Terry never imagined his brother would open a gourmet shop.

“Turn left at the light. It’s the three-story glass building just past the hospital.”

“Got it.”

Terry pulled up by the front doors and his brother hopped out.

Cole had a half-hearted smile as he raised his hand in a wave. Terry was certain that this was going to be one tough battle. The doors to the building slid open as Cole approached them and then closed behind him.

Terry turned on his GPS and found the bakery. The aroma of baked goods hit his nose, and he thought he might salivate on the spot. It was set up like a quaint café with a few indoor tables and plenty of coffee to go with Betsy’s pastries. As his eyes adjusted, he spotted Betsy off to one side. Her light brown hair was pulled into a knot. She was very petite. He estimated that she was probably no more than five-one. He walked up to the counter. “Hi.”

She turned and gave him the biggest smile. “I’m so happy to see you. How do you like your coffee or do you want it iced?”

“Iced with nothing added sounds delicious. It’s already roasting out there.”

“Grab a table. I’ll be right there.”

She came around the counter and put a large glass in front of him along with a blueberry cheese Danish. “I’ve got cookies for the kids, but honestly, they were a ploy to get you here. We need to talk.”

***

After taking her shower and fixing her hair, Meredith woke Phoenix, got her off to daycare, and back to her own store by nine o’clock. She wasn’t there long when the bell over her door jingled that someone had entered. The woman immediately came to her.

“I want you to make my living room as special as you did Joanne’s dining room yesterday. I just love the look, but I’m on a fixed income, and I don’t have much to spend. I haven’t done a thing in there in years. Oh, will you help me?”

“Certainly, that’s why I’m here. Were you looking for that same autumn theme?”

“Yes.”

“Since I’ve never seen your house, let’s start with what appeals to you. Let’s look around and pretend that money is no object.”

After browsing for a while, Meredith promised to take a few things to the woman’s house and let her see what fit and what looked best. It was just the sort of service that her clients loved and appreciated.

The woman left and when Meredith raised her gaze, she spotted a very tall man standing in her shop. “May I help you?” As soon as the words fell from her mouth, she recognized that the man had to be Cole’s brother. “You must be Terry. Did you talk to Betsy?”

“Yes. She sent me here.”

She watched him surveying the shop. As tall as he was, he probably could see everything. “So what do you think of our plan?”

“I told my brother I’m here to help. I’ll do anything, and that includes getting his store operating again. But I know nothing about retail and even less about cooking.”

He smiled, and Meredith could feel the butterflies in her stomach take flight. He was taller and had a lot more muscle than Cole. Chill. Chill. Oh yum. Yum, yum, yum. Be cool, we need his help.

She stood and came around the display to where he was standing. Her heart was playing leapfrog in her chest. “Care to sit, and I’ll try to answer any questions.”

GHOST TOWNS

Tennessee and several other states are known for Ghost Towns. I find them fascinating.

One eerie Ghost Town, particularly interesting, is located in the Great Smoky Mountains area of Elkmont, Tennessee.

Elkmont, founded in 1908 by the Little River Lumber Company was a logging community. In 1910, the logging company started selling off land to wealthy families, during the late 19th and early 20th century, who built dozens of log cabins as an enjoyable bustling resort get-a-way. Most were from around Knoxville and surrounding cities.

They also formed an Appalachian Club and constructed a 3000-foot structure as use for a clubhouse.

In 1912, The Wonderland Hotel, a 50-room rustic lodge, was constructed by several Knoxville businessmen.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Elkmont, in a particular section, became known as Daisy Town, was the foremost summer journey for Knoxville’s upper society.

In two other areas, owners built lavish log homes, one that became known as Millionaires’ Row and the other, Society Hill.

Two landowners campaigned for the creation of a national park in the Great Smoky Mountains.

1925 the State of Tennessee purchased 76,000 acres from Little River Lumber Company.

Residents around Elkwood were required to remove themselves from their property.

Elkmont property owners could sell their cabins to the state for half price. They then could expect to have lifetime leases. 1952 the leases were changed to a 20-year lease and again in 1972. In 1992, the owners lost their contracts by refusal to renew, by the National Park Service.

No privately owned land would be permitted in the park.

Sadly, the landowners removed themselves from their land. All cabins, cottages and other buildings were left abandoned.

In the 80s, the park decided to demolish all structures in the Elkmont area. But in1994 the Wonderland Hotel, among other noteworthy structures, were assigned to the National Register of Historic Places. Thus, the Elkmont Historic District remains today, though without proper care the buildings resulted in shambles.

In 2005, Wonderland Hotel collapsed.

In 2009 work began to restore some of the buildings, the first being The Appalachian Clubhouse. Due to, possibly, lack of funds, only a few of the cabins have been restored.

In 2017, in what was suspected as an arson attack, burned the remains of other buildings. Many of the cabins were also burned.

The Appalachian Clubhouse was rebuilt after burning down in 1934.

The Levi Trentham Cabin, the Avent Cabin, and the Spence Cabin the along with a couple other cabins were also restored.

You may contact the National Park Service for weddings and other events.

It is my hope they can restore other parts of the historical area.

Do you have a favorite Ghost Town to share with us? I’d love reading your favorite.

Until next time…I wish you Music, Butterflies 087d7f0069385dd543178c4c2fca3430--blue-butterfly-butterfly-wings and most of all…I wish you Love.

 

And Then…

Image by Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay

I know I’m supposed to write something inspiring for this blog post, but I just don’t have it right now.

My mom (now passed) had a favorite saying “and then…” At this point you had to add another thing to the dinner menu. She didn’t understand why we just had hamburgers or just had burritos. She wanted and then fries, and then salad, and then beans, and then rice, and then a dinner roll, and then whatever. It was exhausting. And so is this time.

I feel like we’ve had months of “and then…” My heart is breaking and I can’t take anymore.

So, I’m taking a mental health break. I’m writing my words. I’m escaping into other worlds in my own writing and my reading. I’ve had enough of “and then…” for a while.


Jill James, romance writer
author of My Mistletoe Hero, coming soon!

The Further Adventures of Jude and her Personal Romantic Hero

Lockdown ended at last on 14 May, and the movers arrived that afternoon. Our worldly possessions efficiently packed into a truck, we loaded the few things we needed to take with us (including our two cats) into a rental van and drove to Whanganui.

Our choice of temporary accommodation had been simple. I sent out four emails, and only one person replied, so we rented his place. I was excited to discover it was in Gloucester Street, where my uncle had lived through my entire childhood, and where I’d stayed numerous times; most recently in the late 1970s, with my PRH and the three children born to us.

We had the key code, so we let ourselves into the charming little cottage, where the gas fire was burning, the bed was made, and a white wine was chilling in the fridge.

The following day, the sense of deja vu increased as we looked around the place, especially when we offloaded several boxes into the garage. A drive along the street on the way to the supermarket confirmed that no other house matched my memories and a phone call to my sister confirmed it. She checked Mum’s old address book. I’d returned to my roots.

The house has been built onto and extensively remodelled, but as successive cousins have confirmed during visits to check, the garage hasn’t much changed since the days that my cousins who boarded at school in Wanganui used to spend all their weekends there, working on cars with my mechanic uncle.

Any novelist using that in a plot would be accused of far too great a coincidence, but life really is stranger than fiction.

Anyway, after dozens of open homes and even more house visits, we’ve put in an offer on a house in nearby Marton. Watch this space.

None of this has been helping my writing, but I hope to be settled soon, and sharing more stories with you all.

Better Late Romance–Love to the Last Chapter

Do You Like Romantic Comedies? Would You Read One Featuring the Over-Fifty Set? Almost a year ago, a few members of my critique group, Orange County Fictionaires, came up with a plan to create a series of Better Late Romances featuring main characters over the age of fifty.  I’m so excited to bring my “Better Late Romance” to the world in a little less than a week!

So far, there are six books planned in the Better Late Romance world of Rancho Allegro, a Southern California fictional coastal town. All are family friendly, fast, and fun featuring the over fifty crowd. One is currently available, two are up for pre-order, and the other three are in the works.

Here’s mine.

thumbnail_half baked

Maggie Milne has everything she needs—a loving family, a delightful bakery, good books, and cat food.

But when Stephen Fox, a health food nut, opens a sporting goods store and café across the street and some of Maggie’s loyal customers begin to replace their morning donuts with gluten-free grub, Maggie’s ire, as well as her yeasty rolls, begins to rise.
Fresh off a heart attack and divorce, Stephen Fox needs to change his ways. Now it’s clean-eating and small-town-living for him. Since his relocation to Rancho Allegro, there’s only been one woman who has caught Stephen’s eye: a charming masked woman in a butterfly costume he met at a Mardi Gras party.
Imagine his horror when he learns Maggie, the obnoxious baker who has been trying to ruin his business from day one, is the masked woman he’s been searching for!
It’s double- chocolate donuts meets kefir. Can two people from separate grocery store aisles overcome their differences?

Pre-order price 0.99

But, if you don’t want to wait for a Better Late Romance, my friend Terry Black’s book is already available on Amazon.

Trash Romance (1)

Amiable librarian Kelly Sharpe is unlucky in love. After a series of near-misses, she’s surprised when romance blossoms from the unlikeliest of sources – Marty Brower, her trash man, a former stockbroker who left Wall Street for a simpler life of rustic bliss. But Marty’s got a troubling secret, which could trash their relationship – unless Kelly can help him to face his past, when disaster strikes the scenic enclave of Rancho Allegro.

Pick Up Your Trash Here!

And, if you’re really on a Better Late Romance roll, my friend Michelle Knowlden’s book, Her Last Mission, will be available on July 2nd.

Her Last Mission

In this fast-paced romantic comedy, Sandra Baak’s twin brother is missing and her handler has a secret mission for her. It involves mistaken identities, corporate spies, and a second chance with the man she’s secretly loved for decades—if she doesn’t have to unveil him as a traitor!
She might even find her brother. And that’s the tricky part, because when necessary, she’s been passing herself off as her male twin for years. Mark Orlando, the wealthy aerospace CEO she’s investigating—and trying to keep from falling for all over again—doesn’t know Sandra’s a woman.
Or does he?
There’s a touch of Mission: Impossible and even Twelfth Night in this delightful romance. You’ll love the surprise twists and turns, the memorable characters and the charm of Rancho Allegro, the small-town setting for the Better Late romances.

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It

The New Normal

Everyone is talking about the new normal as the various states attempt to open up from this strange lock-down that has been imposed on us. I’ll admit I’ve not exactly stayed inside twiddling my thumbs. I’ve been out daily, even if it is for a cup of coffee from the Starbucks drive-thru or tea and a sandwich from a favorite local restaurant’s curbside delivery.  I’ve tailgated with a few friends and tried to remain in-touch without touching or being too close.

Our governor has said we must wear masks in public or we can be arrested. Seriously? Apparently he can say it, but it’s not enforceable for several reasons.  Anyone who has a problem breathing wearing a mask is exempt. Here’s the catch, under the law it’s illegal to ask you if you have a medical problem. While rile people up over wearing a mask?  Why not appeal to people to do the right thing? Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it. And what about that person who is struggling financially and now has the burden of buying masks or cutting up their clothes to make them?

I had to talk to a friend and basically calm her down because she was certain she was going to die because she gets claustrophobic trying to use a mask. If she is trapped at home, how can she get to her 95 YO mom who lives alone and needs her daughter?  She was certain that our governor’s proclamation was going to kill her and her mom.

Then I talked to another friend who has had a very strange year because she now has an empty nest. She’s been a single mother for years and her daughter was accepted to a special program in California. It was a fantastic opportunity for her daughter who has a disability, But Mom being a mom was also scared to see her daughter go so far away and have to live on her own. Big brother came to the rescue! He, too, was living at home and had just graduated from college and was job hunting when his sister was accepted. He told his mom he’d go with his sister. They could get an apartment together and he’d find a job out there.  But that meant Mom suddenly joined the ranks of empty nesters.

Then the covid hit and she’s been trapped in the house and eventually working from home. But for the first three weeks while her job tried to figure out how to keep everyone working from home, she swears she did nothing but sleep, watch TV, nibble a little, and sleep some more. She said she had no idea she was that tired. She doesn’t want to return to the stress that once occupied her life. She likes this new normal.

She’s not alone. Another friend has virtually said the same thing. She and her husband are now working from home. The children are with them and the dog curls at their feet while they sit at their computers.  She says they’ve reconnected as a family and jobs are still getting done even if they are in their pajamas. But they don’t have the same stress as they did being in an office. They, too, said in the beginning they spent time unwinding, napping, and just decompressing.  They don’t want to go back to what they had. They like this new normal. They didn’t realize how stressed they were.

My one daughter has said her job is getting more difficult to do from home. It requires her presence and she occasionally must go out. For a few days, working from home is okay, but then she’s needed in the field. Now that requires her to call into the home office and get permission to go out.

My other daughter, the nurse, is out there coping like other health professionals. She’s dealt with covid patients and her routine to protect herself and her family has changed. She’s been around infectious diseases for over twenty years and she’s never caught anything yet.  But she’s very careful!

Her husband is also working from home. He’s anxious to get back to his office.  But he swears the dogs are now so spoiled, they are going to be heart-broken when things return to normal.

We’re not going to go back to what once was. Too many things have changed. Once you open some boxes, you can’t stuff everything back in again. It’s not going to happen. Companies are discovering that employees can work from home and get just as much accomplished. As for the expensive office space, it won’t be needed or at least not the same square footage.

But things last year weren’t the same as they were a few years before that.  Time keeps changing things. Once upon a time, a man could work in a shoe store selling shoes and make enough money to keep his wife home with the three children, and drive a nice car. They had a house with a picket fence and a color TV in the living room where the family would gather after dinner and watch the Ed Sullivan Show. It was the American dream.  It was real.

Things have changed.  That job selling shoes isn’t going to pay enough to buy groceries and pay the electric bill. What happened? Life changes and we change. Life has changed with Covid-19. Will we ever walk into a store again without wearing a mask? It’s possible that the mask is here to stay.

To all those who have suffered from job losses, domestic violence, or lost family members to suicides or acts of violence or unrest, my heart goes out to you.  Being trapped at home can make matters worse and feel overwhelming.  I wish I could somehow prevent all the atrocities that happen every day, but I can’t. That doesn’t mean I don’t care.

I send out a very special congratulations to the Graduating Class of 2020, that will never get to walk in a cap and gown. So many of these young people would have been the very first generation to ever graduate from high school and they didn’t get a chance to get that picture with their grandparent or mom at their side with them in a cap and gown and a diploma in their hand.  Some of us take for granted that our children will do certain things and then a child comes along and beats the odds. Here’ a special cheer to those who made it.

Life is different, the world is different, and normal will never be normal. What’s normal for me is not not normal for you. But maybe we can just keep going and try to find our way. Be kind, stay safe, please wear a mask if you can because we’re all in this together, and we want to return to the new normal.

 

 

Thinking Out Loud

A short mention of a song I heard yesterday.

I heard Archie Williams sing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” yesterday. He’s a wonderful singer. He also has quite the story to tell. If you care to read it, google his name. Sad, but uplifting.

It’s been rainy here for a few days. Good for my plants. We have Tomato, Sweet Banana Pepper, Cilantro, Sweet Basil, Dill Weed, Marigolds and Shasta daisies. My neighbor gave us a beautiful red Amaryllis from her yard. I can’t wait to get it planted. I’d love to plant more vegetables,  but not this year.

Did any of you get sick in November or December 2019? Maybe January or February before news of the Covid-19 hit our country?

A couple of weeks before Christmas, 2019, my hubby came down with what we thought was the Flu, or a terrible sinus infection, since he’s prone to getting sinus problems every year. But it was much worse than any he’d ever experienced. It lasted about three weeks and the coughing and a few other issues continued another couple of weeks.

About two weeks into his issue, I came down with the same thing. I lost a good bit of sense of smell. We both had the worst cough we’d ever had, and it simply wouldn’t go away no matter what we took.

There were no Covid-19 tests and the Flu test would have most likely come back negative anyway. We chalked it up to a serious upper respiratory infection.

Then, my daughter-in-law couldn’t make our New Year’s dinner celebration, she was so sick. Then my son came down with similar symptoms. Grandson had been around us and was with the kids, but didn’t get ill.

Symptoms were hard to determine, but toward the end of February, we took into consideration we’d possibly all had the coronavirus. And…more importantly, our cases weren’t as bad as they could have been.

Though it’s a bit late, I’m going to get an anti-body test and suggest hubby and the kids involved do the same.

I hope all of you are well and haven’t contracted the dreaded Covid-19.

Be safe and take all precautions suggested we all do.

May God keep you all.

Until next time…I wish you Music, Butterflies   087d7f0069385dd543178c4c2fca3430--blue-butterfly-butterfly-wings   and most of all…I wish you Love

Spring is Finally Here

It’s a beautiful Victoria Day here in Ottawa. Going outside to bask in the warm sunshine makes this weird and scary time seem a little more tolerable. A day like today has a way of bolstering my hope for a better tomorrow.  I’ve been in the yard preparing my little garden for planting with a nice layer of compost. The tomato and sweet pepper plants that I planted from seed indoors are readytomato to go. periwinkle

It’s always a thrill when the first flowers of spring appear. Usually my irises are in bloom by now, but they are late this year. I’ve got peonies, hostas, lilies, roses and hydrangea emerging from their winter slumber in my front yard, but nothing blooming yet.

 

But I went around the side of the house today and discovered these lovely little flowers, which I think are periwinkle. I love them.

I hope the day is beautiful wherever you are.