I’ll Count My Blessings

While the weather in south central USA has produced flooding and so much of the south western USA is begging for such rain, my weather in Virginia has been about as perfect as it gets. Our reservoirs are filled from winter, the grass is green and lush, and I haven’t seen the old pecan tree look this healthy in twenty-years. The days are warm and the nights drop into the sixties (F) or upper teens in Celsius. (I never bother to convert – I just sort of know the break points between the two and go from there.)

Since I’m counting Nature’s blessings, I thought I’d share a few more. My wild bout with bronchitis this winter caused bronchial damage, but my pulmonologist put me on medication that seems to be helping tremendously. I consider breathing as an important function!  And often when I’m not writing I’m taking 154photos. I had to take the photos for a tractor and truck pull last weekend. I was slightly worried about being on my feet for hours, sniffing fumes, and doing a lot of walking. I did it! I was exhausted afterwards, but I managed to keep breathing without using an inhaler.  That means I’m getting my strength back and those bronchial tubes are doing better. Yippee!

I’ve managed to get two books out this week. To Have and To Hold is part of the boxed set Love Blooms on Main Street but it is now available by itself and will be part of Wedding Vows, my boxed set of wedding stories featuring Cody Montgomery and his daughters, which will be available in print. If you’ve read my other stories, you’ll discover that Melissa Montgomery is very different from her sister, Julia! Melissa is the more conservative sister.

 

The second book that managed to get out the door Blank white book w/pathis A Rancher’s Dream. Set in 1898, it goes from Texas to Creed’s Crossing, Wyoming. It’s my second western historical. She’s running for her life, and he’s the third son of a wealthy Spanish ranching family and wants to start a ranch of his own. Unlike my other books, there’s a bit of a mystery to this one. It will be available in print and in e-book.

My household bills are paid! I don’t know about you but that’s a big deal for me. There are too many months when I sit debating which ones not to pay. Maybe it was fortuitous that my internet went down last month when a storm knocked a phone wire loose a half mile away. The repair man fixed the phone, but couldn’t find the internet problem, which sent another man from our phone company to my house to find the problem. Oh he found it and he realized our internet speed so he suggested we ask for a higher speed since it was new and available. I did and it was cheaper, much cheaper! And I paid my car off this spring! Yes. Things are doing better at least for now.

Each little thing counts up and even though book sales have been less than exciting, they have remained steady and my reviews continue to be good. I’m trying to stay off my computer and clean my house. Let’s just say I can actually see the floor in half of my keeping room. (Substitute storage area for legitimate room) It’s a start and I have plenty more to do. As I told a friend, my cobwebs have become dusty. Chipping away at it every day will eventually return my house to normal. I’m making strides. I’m trying to devote several hours each day to cleaning.

Did I mention I hate to clean house? I never did like to clean house. It was one of those things that most adults must face. It’s not the dusting and vacuuming or file000138472429even the scrubbing that bothers me. It’s the sorting and finding places for the stuff that seems to gather. The actual cleaning doesn’t bother me. I like to see a room all pretty and spit shined.  It fosters a sense of pride.

So my professional life is in order. My health is getting there but far from perfect. My household bills are caught up. My house is starting to look like a home, and Mother Nature is being very kind. Book sales are steady. I have wonderful friends. And although I fuss about my family, I have good kids who don’t have to worry about their independent mother who manages through the good months and the bad ones.

And my worst weeks are still probably 100 times better than another person’s good one. I’m not starving. Medical help is a phone call away. I have lovely old home, a soft bed, a brand new computer, and a nice car in the driveway. I have all of my fingers and all of my toes, my senses are intact, and my muse is active. I have shoes on my feet, and clothes and coats in my closet.

My grandmother used to say ‘Count your blessings.’ So I am.

Please enjoy this little excerpt from my upcoming novel, A Rancher’s Dream, available for pre-order. An early review called it unique, poignant, and wonderful.

The carriage was still parked in front of the widow’s house. Tiago stepped inside of it and realized that Ingrid had removed her bags, along with Alma’s. They must be staying here.

He cursed the empty carriage. He wanted a pen so that he could write home. He stepped onto the widow’s porch and knocked on the front door.

When she opened the door, he asked for a pen. “Ingrid has several.”

“She is not here. And why would you want a pen?”

He looked at the redheaded woman. “I’m sorry to disturb you. I forgot that many women are not properly educated and cannot read or write, much less do it in several languages. I shall be on my way. Obviously you are not aware that pens are used for writing. Forgive me for jumping to conclusions.”

He turned and walked off the porch. The door slammed behind him. He laughed as he continued towards the street.

At the far end of the street, he spotted Ingrid in her pale purple outfit. What a beauty.

She smiled and waved to him.

He walked to her and they met halfway, not far from the post office. “I need to borrow a pen.”

“No problem. They are in my room. I have also found a place where you can take the cattle and your men. The Coleman ranch. It is up the road. Frank Coleman will meet you in an hour in front of the post office. They have a bunkhouse and plenty of water. But I’ve yet to find you a place. Although you are welcome to stay with your men.”

She watched him make that face too many times. “Don’t spit. I know you are angry, but that is a terrible habit. You must stop it.”

“Right now I am hungry, and the most I can eat in this town is a plate served from the back door of the saloon.”

“That is insane.” She looked around. “But I did pick up some good news. Frank Coleman’s ranch backs up to the area that you wish to purchase. He took what he could under the Homestead Act, and the next checkerboard is railroad land. Adie Coleman said that it is excellent land, but there are some deep gullies on it, plenty of water, and good grazing areas.”

“Then why would the sheriff tell me otherwise?”

Rain, Rain, Go Away by Pepper Phillips

2015-04-16 04.01.12This is my back yard.

We’ve had so much rain last month and this month, with a week of rain ahead of us.  If you look at the photo, beyond the big tree in the center is a road that runs along the side of our property.  Needless to say, it’s flooded.

We have another road in the front of the house that is much higher and thankfully, doesn’t flood.  If it ever does, I’ll have several feet of water in my house.

We’re close to the Red River which hasn’t finished reaching it’s ‘high’ level…yet.

My daughter and her hubby have a hunting camp on a lake, the threat of water is very real right now.

I’ve seen the pictures of homes and cars floating by and know that some people have lost everything.  Worse still is the lives lost.

A daughter calls her father, begging for help…and it’s the last he’s heard from her.

So I say a prayer that everyone be safe…

Have a family emergency plan.  Google the internet and see what different people are doing.  Make copies of important papers and store them in a cloud or email them to yourself where you can retrieve them if necessary.  There are a lot of things you can do before tragedy strikes.  Hopefully, you’ll never need to use your emergency plan, but if something happens, you’ll be so glad that you’ve prepared for the worse.

In our area there is flooding, hurricanes, and tornadoes, just to mention a few.  Then there are house fires, burgularies, and other mayhem that can interfer with your daily life.

As I tell my husband whenever he leaves the house, “Be safe.”

 

 

TO TWEET OR NOT TO TWEET

The other night we watched a movie where a divorced father brought his children together for a family dinner. They talked for a while, some had their phone to an ear, others were keying on their phones. Some stared at their watches or out the window, obviously annoyed to be there.

None of them were connected to the ones they had resentfully agreed to attend the dinner. You could tell as soon as they could, they’d be out the door.

This photo shows how using your phone at times like this can harm families and the closeness they’re missing out on.

3 famiy

They’d taken time to have a family gathering, but none of them were connected. True the photo could show them after a long period of being together, but maybe not.

Back to the movie we watched. The one move toward progress the father made was to open a box and required everyone there to place their phone in the box. I salute the divorced father in the movie. He knew his children wouldn’t listen to a thing he had to say, or the other table discussion, if bells and whistles rang out during the meal.

Missing a phone call, tweet, or other media connection usually isn’t life threatening. I’m as guilty as anyone else at keeping my phone close by, but have tried to not let the phone interrupt special times with family and friends. Texting is a fabulous way to touch base quickly and easily too, but I love hearing my loved one’s voices.

I don’t think there is anything more discouraging, when we all have little time to spend with family and friends, than when ninety percent of them are on the phone. We gather to soak up memories of our loved ones, and that can’t happen when some are otherwise engaged. There’s a feeling of disturbing them from a game or other fixation they’re otherwise involved. So many wonderful memories are made around the family dinner table. I don’t want to miss a one.

xemenia and her mom 218..

That said, the media is a wonderful way to connect with loved ones and new friendships we’re lucky to have formed.

What are your thoughts on family and phone usage?

My books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Diesel, Apple and Smashwords.

You can find links on my website for all My Books

Tulip Time in Ottawa by Susan R. Hughes

Each May, tulips abound here in Ottawa. During the Canadian Tulip Festival, over a million bulbs bloom in more than a dozen varieties along the Tulip Route and at Commissioner’s Park beside Dow’s Lake and the Rideau Canal. It’s a stunning sight, but do you know the story behind the profusion of tulips in our capital city?

The festival traces its origins back to World War II. During the German occupation of the Netherlands, the Dutch royal family took refuge in Canada. When Princess Juliana gave birth to Princess Margriet in Ottawa in 1943, the maternity ward of the Civic Hospital (where I was born many years later) was declared to be extraterritorial by the Canadian government, so that the baby’s citizenship could be solely Dutch.

Two years later, Canadian forces led the liberation of the Netherlands from the Germans. Canadian troops brought desperately needed food supplies to the Dutch people, who had suffered terribly during the German occupation (this is how Canadian solider Adam and his Dutch bride Rianne met in my Music Box series). The Netherlands and Canada have had a special relationship ever since, and to this day Canadians are warmly welcomed when they visit there.

In appreciation, Princess Juliana presented 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa, to be planted on the grounds of the Civic Hospital. Juliana became Queen of the Netherlands in 1948, and continued to send thousands of bulbs to Canada each year until her abdication in 1980. In 1953, the Canadian Tulip Festival was created. The festival is the largest of its kind in the world, attracting over 500,000 visitors annually.

Is there a flower festival in your city or town?

If you’re crazy about spring flowers, sign up for our newsletter and see what’s blooming in our gardens this month.music box set-6-16

Curious to know more about Adam and Rianne? Check out my Music Box series.

One Week – A Microcosm of Life

Key-Lime-Pie-SliceThis week has been a small slice of my life:

I planted flowers in my garden, which brings me great joy.2015-05-13 18.46.14

I saw one child, a sophomore in High School, through a college level history class and the 3½ hour exam for college credit that followed. Much angst here, only a little of it mine.

ertI battled one French II neo-nazi teacher (oh the irony).

I solidified a summer in Scotland for two, then three, then four.scotland.aspx_

I saw my first born graduate from UW-Madison (Katie Couric was phenomenal by the way… probably the best commencement speech I’ve ever heard). The entire event left this, generally less than teary one, with rivers of tears staining her face.IMG_0410

I did brunch the Sunday following Saturday’s graduation which included a parent with dementia, potential future in-laws and my karate Sensei at the same table, followed by moving out of the Evans Scholars house on campus, Monday.

Ccnm AND early yesterday morning (Tuesday) left with said scholar for Toronto via Chicago and subsequently Detroit, which was a treat, so we can visit Canada’s only Naturopathic Medical school today, Wednesday.

Things that happened along the way? Another blog entirely, much of it over-the-top, forehead slapping frustrating.

Which is my point.

You can’t plan for what goes wrong.

You can’t plan for what goes incredibly right.

All you can do is take a breath…a deep breath…then, count to ten in as many languages as imagesyou know. When you’ve completed that task, open your eyes, look around and hug the ones nearest you, while saying a quick prayer of thanks that they are yours to love.

Then, wake up tomorrow and do it all again.o-WAKING-UP-IN-THE-MORNING-facebook

First, kiss the one beside you and tell that person how grateful you are to have him/her in your life.How-to-Kiss-3

Be well my friends and may you cherish the wonderful moments on your journey and leave all the crap behind.

Slainte! Happy Reading. Leigh.

Who am I?

HER FRENCH COUNT: A full-length romantic suspenseHer French Count - Copy

Cheryl Stewart: I’m worried about my mentor, Professor Howard. He went to lunch with a prospective graduate student, a man from Malaysia, but became sick during the lunch and was rushed to the hospital for food poisoning or heart attack.

Professor Howard asked me to go to France on his behalf and help a French count with the restoration of a chapel and the search for a valuable statue that had been missing since World War II.

What could be more exciting than spending a couple of months working in the plush Loire My book's   ChateauValley, in France? I will have to live in the count’s chateau. The same count I saw at Harvard three years ago. The handsome playboy was so busy entertaining gorgeous women he didn’t give me the time of the day back then. I bet he won’t remember me.

François de Valroux: I am searching for an invaluable statue of the Virgin Mary that used to adorn the chapel of my château. The statue disappeared during the war bombardments. Was it destroyed? Did my grandfather hide it?

I have been impatiently waiting for Professor Howard who did a lot of research on the subject. I can’t believe he skipped our appointment and sent his graduate student. On the other hand, Cheryl is such a lovely young woman I can’t say I am too disappointed. Between you and me, I can’t resist a pretty woman. What can I say, it’s in my genes. I come from a long line of glorious adulterers and fabulous lovers.

When the Boston Hospital calls to announce Cheryl’s mentor died, I do my best to console her with a hug and a kiss, and pledge to protect her. It’s my pleasure. Huh…I mean my duty.

For her own safety, I ask her to keep the search for my statue secret from the five other students training on the chapel reconstruction.

Edith Blaise: I consider myself François’ current girlfriend. I want him badly but I also have a weakness for his title, his fortune, his château and its treasures. I won’t let anyone interfere with my goal of becoming the next Countess of Valroux. Certainly not, the American student, a nerd who lives in a pair of blue jeans and finds her happiness in old stones and computers.

Adriaan Van Deem: I come from Amsterdam. I’m studying archeology and I can’t resist the appeal of old stones. Especially if they have a high monetary value. It wouldn’t hurt to befriend the American student who seems to know a lot about the missing statue.

Juan-Pablo Rodriguez: My correct title is Don Juan-Pablo. I hail from the Universidad de Madrid and I am preparing a doctorate in the history of Romanesque churches. I’m a gallant man who always compliments a beautiful woman. Of course, I also like artistic treasures.

Roberto Cantari: I live in Milan, but I was born in Sicily. Women love my dark looks and I love women. People often ask me if I have mafia blood in my veins. Who knows? My Nonna raised me and she doesn’t stop praying that I remain an honest man. I respect my Nonno, the most powerful and richest man in Palermo. I would do anything to please my grandparents. Anything…

Chuck Minho: I was born in London. I am a quiet man who doesn’t talk much, but I don’t miss anything going on around me. I don’t like the looks the American girl gives me. Dirty looks. As if she suspects me of killing someone, just because I look Chinese.

Karl Boderman: I’m studying art, painting and sculpting at the University of Berlin. I can’t believe the show these young studs put when a pretty face shows up. I don’t trust any of them. If you want my opinion, I don’t think they are who they say they are. But then…I’m not too.

Bernard: I am the old butler. I was raised in the château. My father served François’ grandfather. I love François as if he was my own son and I want to see him married with a good French woman. Mademoiselle Edith seems to love him. She’s always visiting and staying in the château , in the room next to his. But I think François is attracted to the American student. He asked me to put her in the room next to him, on the other side. I don’t like that. François sandwiched between the women’s rooms. I don’t like it at all. Especially when the rooms of this old château have secret communication doors.

My fondest dream is to find the statue and put it back on the altar of the reconstructed chapel. But someone hit me in the dark and asked me questions about the statue.

Cheryl: I pledge to go after Professor Howard’s killer and find the statue to honor my mentor’s memory. Things would be easier if I wasn’t so attracted to François.

François: Cheryl is careless and exposing herself to danger all the time. I’m constantly worried about her. She has turned my life upside down with her determination and bubbly laughter. I’m ready to give up the search for the statue to ensure Cheryl’s safety, but she won’t let me.

Together we need to find out:

Who poisoned Professor Howard?
Foreign Lovers Box2Who hit Bernard?
Who broke into Cheryl’s room?
Where is the statue?
Why is François jealous when the students flirt with Cheryl?

HER FRENCH COUNT is a full-length romantic suspense published as part of the FOREIGN LOVERS box

and my contribution to the Book Boyfriends Cafe Summer Lovin’ Anthology 2015.
Box released on May 19 for 99 cents for a limited time.

RELEASE PARTY on Tuesday, May 19, at:

https://www.facebook.com/events/378702042312928/


Amazon   iTunes   Kobo  Google

A Tale of Two Box Sets by Joan Reeves

Love-Blooms_2D_03-31-2015It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was…

Ah, yes, Mr. Dickens knew exactly how to spin a few words into memorable lines. He could have been describing the situation in which I, and many other authors find ourselves, contributing to 2 box sets in the same time period.

What Was I Thinking?

What I learned from this challenging situation of writing and promoting for two box sets is that each box set, though sounding similar, has different personalities. The style or tone of the box set is determined from the title of the box set and by the authors and their content. Let’s compare the box sets I’ve been a part of this year.

Love Blooms on Main Street

This lovely romance collection is the latest offering by 10 of us Authors of Main Street. Each story is wonderfully romantic with most categorized as sweet romance. My contribution to this box set is Old Enough to Know Better which is definitely romantic, but much steamier than the other books in the set. My book is the romance between an older woman and a younger man.

LB_Meme-02The Love Blooms box set uses the symbolism of flowers to represent the premise of our stories. The set definitely comes off as romantic. For the most part, I think it’s safe to say this box set is not edgy or gritty.

The title of the box set, the box set conceit of flower symbolism, the art work, the books–titles, individual art cover, stories–descriptions, and the video I did, all represent this romantic, traditional concept. (Watch YouTube Video: https://youtu.be/Ar1xIipdK6o)

But, remember I said my book was steamier? Like most box sets, we want to appeal to a wide audience so we use the “something for everyone” concept with different kinds of stories offered so mine and a few of the others don’t toe that “sweet romance” line.

As I write this, Love Blooms on Main Street is on two bestseller lists in Japan. Since I lived in Japan for many years, I’m really psyched by this news. The Japanese, contrary to what many may think, are romantics. Japan is a huge reading market.

Love Blooms is doing well in the other markets also. If you haven’t got your copy yet, grab it quick while it remains priced at 99cents. Links are below.

Summer Fire: Love When It’s Hot

HL_SF_Meme-05My next box set is pictured here with my individual cover for my contribution to the set, Heat Lightning., a romantic suspense.

Immediately, you’ll see the difference between the two box sets. It begins with the title, Summer Fire, and even the title of my book in the box set, Heat Lightning, a romance that’s sexy and a bit edgy.

You immediately know the kind of romance novels you’ll find in the Summer Fire box set. Hot. With double the number of authors, these 21 novellas are contemporary and steamy.

Except

They’re not all that way. Again, like most box sets that try to appeal to a wide range of genre readers, Summer Fire has the soft and sweet as well as the edgy. Mona Risk of Authors of Main Street is in the Summer Fire set with me as well as Helen Scott Taylor and other authors noted for their sweet romance.

So even though the Summer Fire box set appeals greatly to the large audience wanting sexy, steamy romance, it too has something for everyone even though the artwork, the books themselves–titles, cover art, descriptions–and the video I did for this box set all say hot contemporary romance. (Click to see YouTube Video: https://youtu.be/SfQwk3iJ4yU)

Bottom Line

I think box sets represent a win-win situation for readers and authors.

Readers get great books for low prices and have the opportunity to read different authors and sub-genres they may not have tried before.

Authors get their work in front of new readers who may buy the box set because they love another author in the set.

Love Blooms_Final_03-20-2015_ 2500Buy LOVE BLOOMS on MAIN STREET

Amazon * Kobo * Nook * iBooks

 

SummerHeat_3D

Buy SUMMER FIRE: Love When It’s Hot

Amazon * B&N * Kobo * iBooks

 

Giveaway

Readers, what do you think about box sets? Leave a comment with your email address and be entered in a random drawing for a free copy of Love Blooms on Main Street AND a free copy of Summer Fire: Love When It’s Hot Contemporary Romance Collection. Giveaway is open until May 20 midnight. Winner will be chosen on May 21 by Random Name Picker and notified by email as well as in the Comments section of this blog.

Post Script

Joan Reeves is a bestselling author of Contemporary Romance. Available as ebooks and audiobooks, her romance novels all have the same underlying theme: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.” Joan lives her happily ever after with her husband in the Lone Star State. Sign up for WordPlay, Joan’s free email list for readers.