It’s Time for a Divorce

Divorce? Yes! The time has come. The relationship has ended. There’s nothing left of what was once wonderful and beautiful. It’s over.

As an author, there comes a time when we must divorce our characters. It’s tough. We don’t want to do it. There’s all this emotional energy that has gone into them. Alas, we must leave them, fall in love with someone else, and write their story. No longer can we allow those characters to invade our sleep. They must leave. Once they are gone, we can still look back fondly on them and remember the way they were. Stolen kisses, passionate feelings, the quirky little things that they did.

Sound insane? Not at all. Authors must climb into their characters. They become them. I think within the romance genre the emotional connection is extreme. Writing can be emotionally draining. To write it we must feel it and than means feeling the pain, frustration, anger and all the negative things along with the thrill, excitement, and the love. It’s a roller coaster ride of highs and lows.

So as the edit process begins, the author has to pull away from the characters in order to look at the whole story. It’s important to become detached and remain unbiased. We must see them as our readers see them. We must see where we’ve failed to say what the character really is feeling and not let it slide with what we thought we said. Furthermore, when a manuscript comes back from an editor, we often discover that sometimes that character has totally failed to be that sexy wonderful guy and instead is a brazen, overly cocky mess that must be reined in and quickly repaired. Or his arms must have been made of very stretchy rubber for we left him in the living room yet he’s managing to open the refrigerator.

So we must divorce them by the time edits are done. Edits is discovering that the honeymoon has ended. And once a manuscript is sent for publication, we must be able to look back with only fond memories of what once was.  Most of us are monogamous. That means we need to sweep away the old so that we can embrace the new characters and fall in love again.

I’m in the process of divorcing myself from my Christmas story characters. I flipped the tables this time and created a heroine who has the power to make or break the top CEOs. But maybe the real heroine of this story is under the the age of twelve months. She doesn’t care about money and has no clue what it is. Her needs are simple and she loves everyone. Her hello-world attitude separates the wheat from the chuff as fast as a dirty diaper.

I know the day isn’t too far away that I will forever turn my back to these Christmas characters and give them away to my readers. The divorce has already begun – the separation agreement is in place. I’m looking at them from a distance. They are in edits.

When a review comes in that says the reader didn’t want it to end, I know why. The reader fell in love, too. To close a book, be it paper or electronic and end the relationship always hurts. The keeper shelf is a little like keeping that faded photo from the dance or whatever event from so many years ago. Maybe you didn’t marry him, but your heart will never forget.

It’s time for me to move on. I already know who I will become and maybe she’s a little more like me. Until then, there’s nothing like a book boyfriend. (Even if I’ve created him!)


The City by the Bay with Friends Along the Way

Recently, my family and I did something we’d never done before. We planned an actual vacation that didn’t revolve around travel baseball or returning home to visit with family and friends.

With three votes cast, a drive down California’s Pacific Coast Highway became the focus of our trip, which would start off with a visit to . . . “The City by the Bay.”

Quick, turn on your phone’s flashlight and cue Journey!
“When the lights
go down
in the city
and the sun shines on the bay…”



And now cue the sounds of a record needle being pulled violently across an album.


Highway 1 closures.



I read the news and stared at picture after picture of the massive mudslide that wiped out a huge section of the road. Thankfully no one was hurt. But the road closure was a sure sign our trip down Highway 1 wasn’t meant to be. However, there is always beauty to be found with a change of plans. And had heavy rains not pelted California over the winter, I most likely would not have gotten to meet an amazing author friend—Alison Henderson.

Unfortunately, because we were having such a lovely time, I didn’t stop to think about getting a picture. We’ll just have to meet up again and fix that!

And get her to sign a book for me since I love her stories. Today, I thought I’d share one of my favorites with you.



Boiling Point takes place in Chicagoland.

It’s the second book in the Phoenix, Ltd. female bodyguard series. And I can tell you this story is a fast-paced, fun contemporary romance, featuring a pair of undercover bodyguards working at cross purposes, a selection of unlikely suspects, and a robotic sous-chef named GRAMPA.

Genre: Romantic Mystery & Suspense with Humor

322 pages

I truly enjoyed this story, and I’m looking forward to the next in the series.


You can find out more about Boiling Point over at Amazon


About Alison Henderson

I haven’t always been a writer, but I have always embraced creativity and relished new experiences. Seeking to expand my horizons beyond Kansas City, I chose a college in upstate New York. By the time I was twenty-one I had traveled the world from Tunisia to Japan. Little did I suspect I was collecting material for future characters and stories along the way.
71Gv14nI3yL._SY200_I began writing when my daughter entered preschool (she’s now a full-fledged adult) and became addicted to the challenge of translating the living, breathing images in my mind into words. I write romance because that’s what I like to read. The world provides more than enough drama and tragedy. I want to give my readers the happily-ever-after we all crave.
I’ve been married to my personal hero for more than thirty years. After decades of living in the Midwest, we’ve recently heeded the siren call of sun and sea and moved to the most breathtakingly beautiful place imaginable – the gorgeous central coast of California. I look forward to the new stories this place inspires.

You can find out more about Alison and her books by visiting her website.


I have to agree with Alison. California is gorgeous!

Family vacations are fun. I highly recommend meeting up with friends along the way!




Are You A History Buff?

If you’re a history buff, this would be a perfect trip to make. I’d love to add photos here, but they are licensed. So, I’m adding links to some of the sites instead.

Margaret Mitchell visited her grandparents at their Fitzgerald Plantation during summers. She’d listen to them tell stories of the War Between the States. They’d also talk about Reconstruction of the South. Needless to say, she was undoubtedly fascinated and as her imagination grew, she wrote one of the most beloved books of our time.

Margaret Mitchell pulled information from stories she’d heard and her exceptional novel “Gone With the Wind” was born. It’s no wonder the area she chose for, Scarlett O’Hara’s beloved Tara, as the setting in Clayton County, Georgia.

If you visit The Road to Tara Museum, be prepared to view some exciting items and wonderful memories to take away.

A short drive from Clayton County, you’ll find Marietta, Georgia.

There, and only a few steps away from the quaint Marietta square, is the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square.

Many other areas have Gone With the Wind Museums. Check online for one near you!

There’s still time to visit before school begins! Take your kids along for a bit of Southern history.

Enjoy the rest of your Summer.

Please check out these links to my books, available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, and Apple.

I wish you Butterflies, Music and Love…

Mountain Time

Sometimes, all it takes to gain perspective is to get out of your own head. Sometimes, a trip to the Tetons and Rockies is in order.

2017-07-11 14.27.08I learned a very important lessen in perspective when my husband, son, and I went for dinner at a beautiful restaurant in the Tetons called: The Granary.

2017-07-11 20.43.23The setting was perfect – a glorious view of Grand Teton. The food – gourmet expensive and worth every penny. It was where we celebrated our 30th Anniversary.2017-07-11 19.58.57

In the lobby, on the way out, we met the manager, who looked harried and exuded tension. He was from Wisconsin, not far from our home. He was pleasant, as most people are from Wisconsin when we meet one another at a far-off locale. He said in a conspiratorial voice as he leaned in, “I’ve got a cabin in Northern Wisconsin. I can’t wait to get away from the rat-race and settle there.”

And here we were, escaping “The Rat-Race” in the mountains. Funny. Ironic. And, strangely charming.2017-07-13 13.28.44

We love our time in the Tetons, at Yellowstone, and in Rocky Mountain National Park. It is an escape. A time to view our lives through a more pure and detached lens. A time to lose the daily clutter.

Then we came home.poster_8e88831e280e48a0bd553eef4b9c6ce5_62777729_ver1.0_640_480

The National Guard was called out to our area as a result of massive flooding (Note: not our home in the photo, we suffered a minor tree fall but no water damage). My son’s car needed to be towed as a result of a fluke breakage of a strut coil spring that rendered it in dire need of mechanical assistance. And, we had to purchase two new cell phones in as many days – the second one died this afternoon. That’s why this blog is being posted in the evening rather than my usual morning post.

Perspective and distance.2017-07-11 20.46.44

I’m learning that both are necessary when racing rats.

Here’s to rolling with what happens, enjoying the mountains when we can, and not caring overly much when you lose not only the phone it took you years to figure out, but all your contacts as well.2017-07-11 15.36.35

Small things…when you observe them from a mountain perspective.

Happy July,


The Things They Say

When my kids were born, I got baby books to store mementos and record their milestones. Later, I bought similar books to document their school years. For my oldest daughter, I recorded every lost tooth and immunization, taped in snippets of baby hair, and added pictures from holidays and special occasions. With the twins, I had the best intentions to do the same but … let’s just say there are gaps.

It gets a lot harder to stay on top of baby books when you have more than one little person to look after. I now understand why my parents took so many more pictures of my older sister as a toddler than me! But there is one thing I am good about recording – their cute quotes. Here are some that still make me chuckle.

“Banana broken!” – Mia, age 2, looking at a banana peel.

“I want my hair to go round and round.” – Sophie, age 3, asking for braids.

“I want to see the flat tiger.” – Emma, age 5, mishearing us talking about a flat tire on her sisters’ stroller.

“The wrist on my foot hurts.” – Sophie, age 5, complaining about her sore ankle.

Sophie, age 4, sees me reading my Kindle. “What are you doing?” Me: “I’m reading.” Sophie: “Why can’t I hear you?”

“Who’s that guy? He’s so handsome.” – Mia, age 4, spots a guy across the street in a black leather jacket mounting his motorcycle.

“Mom, we’re not nocturnal.” – Emma, age 7, protesting going to bed before sundown.

“I want my apple without the crust.” – Mia, age 4

“I love you so much that I have to think up another name for it.” – Sophie, age 6

Emma,  age 10, explains “sacrifice” to Sophie: “It’s when you give up your life to save someone else. Or something else like going to jail. You have to care more about other people than your own life.”

“You give presents to people you love. If you don’t love someone, you can give them a present, too. Then maybe they will love you. That’s how you make love.” – Mia, age 5

“Getting married involves kissing. On the lips. Which involves germs.” – Sophie, age 6

Mia’s fortune cookie says: “A pleasant surprise is in store for you soon.” Mia says: “I wonder what store it’s in!”

“I want to be good and listen to my parents, but I keep forgetting.” – Sophie, age 6

“Canada is not a country! Canada is any place in the world where there’s peace and joy. If you don’t live in Canada, you can’t have any friends.” – Mia, age 6

Sophie, age 6: “Sometimes when I’m at school, I imagine that you’re there with me.” Me: “How come?” Sophie: “Sometimes when I feel nervous, I pretend you’re there.” Me: “Why are you nervous?” Sophie: “Well I don’t really feel nervous. I just like being with you.”

I Need a Title!

Those words don’t usually come out of my mouth. When I settle down to write a story I almost always start with a title. The Authors of Main Street are working on Christmas stories for a new boxed set and I’m included…if I can come up with a title. LOL

It started as A Baby for Noel. But that just was not my heroine’s name. She told me so. 🙂 Now she is Krista and the story got deeper than expected. As the story changed I thought I wanted to go with Second Chance Christmas. But that just sounds overused. I’m sure without even checking Amazon that title is out there a dozen times at least.

So, I’m turning to the readers! I need a title for my Christmas novella!!

Krista Green is a godsend to Lake Willowbee’s foster child system. When an addicted baby needs a temporary home Krista is the first one called. She loves the babies in her care, but just once she would like to be chosen to become mom to one of these angels. Unable to have a child of her own, she dreams of becoming a mother to one of the babies in her charge.

Morgan Fieldcrest returns home to find he has a son he knew nothing about. With baby Max’s mother dead in a car accident, Morgan believes he is all the child has. Except, Child Protective Services has placed his addicted baby son with Krista, a woman who damaged his family and is the last woman he wants to care for his newly-found child.

Krista and Morgan will be forced to put the past behind them to care for Max and his special needs. They will need to face the lies of family and friends to give the little one a Christmas to remember and find out if they can be a family or maybe even more for each other.

Unedited excerpt:

“I’m sorry, Miss Green. There are no babies for fostering right now. With the holidays in a few weeks, that’s a good thing.”

Krista bit her lip. Of course it was a good thing there were no babies waiting for homes, but her house felt so empty without the cries and giggles of little ones, the scampering of tiny feet. Christmas was a bad enough time for her without the warmth and comfort of another to care for.

“What about an older child, Mrs. White? I know they are harder to place.”

The woman turned kind eyes her way, her glasses slipping down her nose to make her the spitting image of Mrs. Santa Claus; with her twinkling, blue eyes and snow-white hair.

“Miss Green…Krista. We need you available if any babies might come in this holiday season.”

“You mean addicted babies,” she said, a hitch in her voice at the lump in her throat.

Mrs. White reached across the desk and patted her hand. The scent of peppermint and pine trees wafted up from the older woman’s soft skin. It sent flashes of happy, childhood Christmases to her mind. Back when she’d been naïve and young and believed Santa Claus and Daddy could fix everything. Before she’d grown up and realized that miracles didn’t happen, Christmas or not.

“Krista, those babies are the hardest to place. We are so grateful for what you do for them…for us.

She looked behind the woman to the Happy Wall. The pictures of babies and children with their new parents in their Forever Homes. The images wavered through her unshed tears. For every success story there were hundreds, thousands of failures. Children who slipped through the cracks and disappeared into an unkind world.

Krista yanked back her hand, snatched up her purse, and stood. “Please let me know if you need me. Please.” She winced at the pleading in her voice.

“Of course, Krista. We need you. I hope you know that.”

She nodded as best she could and walked out of the office. Not sure how she’d made it to her car, she placed her head on the roof and let the tears come. The turmoil cleared her brain. A few sniffles and a swipe of her wet face helped her put things into perspective. She could do this. How many holidays had she’d spent alone? Too many to count. The thought shot through her head. She could do this.

Krista wrapped her coat around her and buttoned it up. Pulling on her gloves, she blinked as snowflakes wafted down to fall on her outstretched hand. She stared across the road to Lake Willowbee. The lake would be frozen by morning. Flashes of red and green showed through the trees as kids cheered and broke the thin ice at the edge of the water with their stamping feet.

She turned away with slumped shoulders and got into her car. Her teeth chattered as the heater fought against the frigid temperature in the vehicle. Krista hated the cold. It brought too many thoughts of kids on the streets, struggling to survive in killing cold nights.

“Don’t go there, Krista. You are warm in your car, going to your nice, warm house. Count your blessings.”

The daily mantra did its job as her shoulders loosened and a small smile curved her lips. A swipe of the windshield wipers cleared the glass and showcased a world of fluffy white. She put the car into gear. A shiver went down her spine. The weather in the Sierras could go from fluffy to whiteout within hours. She planned to be in front of a crackling fire before that happened.

*Readers: please help me with a title for Krista and Morgan’s story!!*

Jill James, romance author
currently working on Christmas novella and ghost paranormal romance

Welcome to Long Island!

I admit I couldn’t come up with a topic for this month’s blog post so I put it out to my Facebook friends/followers and one suggested I write about life on Long Island. See, that’s the first thing you have to know. Unlike people who live in Cincinnati or Wichita or even New York, we live on Long Island.

So, here are a few things I love about my home:

The food. You can’t get better pizza anywhere, and there is literally a pizzeria within walking distance of anywhere you live here. And I’m not talking about Domino’s or Pizza Hut or any of those other franchise chains. We’re all about the small business pizza owner here. I drive 2.5 miles to work every day, on one main road, and I pass three pizzerias on my way! I could probably give up everything else if I moved, but the pizza is a deal-breaker.

Transplanted Long Islanders tell me the must-have egg sandwiches are not available anywhere else. Luckily, I can make my own at home. Start with a seeded roll, layer on grilled ham or turkey or bacon or no meat, if that’s your preference (I usually go with the ham), two eggs prepared anyway you want (over easy, please – with the yolk still drippy), cheese if that’s your thing, and your favorite condiments (most people go with SPK: salt, pepper, ketchup. Ketchup on eggs is sacrilege, in my book.) Like pizza, you can find these delights at any bagel shop or delicatessen on your way to work. The good places will throw in a coffee and small orange juice for a great morning meal!


And don’t get me started on bagels. (Okay, fine.) Like our pizza, our bagels are the best and readily available. You want flavors? We got ‘em: egg, onion, sesame, everything, cinnamon raisin, French toast, blueberry, strawberry, even rainbow bagels, and the St. Patrick’s Day tradition of green bagels! Grab a dozen and some hand-whipped cream cheese for a feast that can’t be beat.

Location, location, location! If I drive west, I wind up in one of the most exciting cities in the world: New York. I’m an hour’s ride by train or car from Broadway plays, museums, zoos and aquariums, world-class shopping, or sightseeing. Driving east, I hit the Hamptons and Montauk (fun fact: Montauk is the inspiration fo my fictional town of Snug Harbor in my Calendar Girls series) for five-star beaches,DuetinSeptember 500x750 (1)fishing, summer fun, vineyards, microbreweries, farm fresh fruits and veggies, and quiet but lovely off-season getaways. In my own sleepy little town, I’m a five-minute drive from stunning sunsets at our local beach.



We’re quirky. We have buildings shaped like a giant duck, like castles, and like a pirate ship. We’re the home of the world-famous Grucci Fireworks family and the Amityville Horror House.



We’re historical. The first English-speaking settlement in New York was founded in Southold in the 17th century. During the Revolutionary War, our residents were spies who aided Washington’s forces in New York. America’s first poet, Walt Whitman, was a born-and-bred Long Islander. The first golf course was built here. Sorry, Texas, but we had the first cattle ranch. First lighthouse? Montauk Point. The first supermarket was our very own King Kullen. And our ancestors drove to it on the first parkway. We probably suffered through the first traffic jams, too. Charles Lindburgh’s famous transatlantic flight began here. President Theodore Roosevelt had his summer home here, as did the Vanderbilts, the Gettys, and other wealthy families of the late 19th century. In 1965, 7-11 introduced the first coffee-to-go on Long Island (you’re welcome, caffeine-aficionados!). The Apollo lunar module was built here. The science of DNA was started at Cold Spring Harbor Labs. The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind had its start here (and is still located here. Go to the local mall early on any morning and you can see the trainer volunteers walking new recruits).

Long Island is not, in actuality, an island; it’s a peninsula. Shaped like a fish, it’s 23 miles from north to south at its widest point and 118 miles long. We’re the most populated island in the U.S., and if we were a state, we’d be the 13th largest in the country. It’s not cheap to live here. In fact, we have some of the highest real estate prices, property taxes, and utility bills nationwide. But it’s the place that I (along with about 8 million other people) call home.


Here’s how one of my characters in DUET IN SEPTEMBER, Book I of the Calendar Girls Series describes her hometown:

After dropping Nia off at her store, I considered my options. Going back to bed was out of the question. But if I planned to forgo my usual Saturday morning routine in favor of an early start to the day, I would need coffee. Stat.

As I cruised down Main Street, I sought out a quick spot for a caffeine infusion. My mistake. This was the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, one of the peak times for tourists in Snug Harbor. I passed the block where Mama’s Hen House served breakfast and confirmed my worst fears. Crowds of tourists loitered outside the restaurant on the three park benches, window shopping at the realtor’s next door, or chatting with the others waiting for one of the two dozen tables inside. Their children zipped up and down the sidewalk or slouched beside their parents. Strollers, which were not allowed inside due to the cramped interior, sat parked in rows near the entrance. Strike one.

Two blocks later, the line at the local bakery snaked the length of a football field. Really? These people were willing to wait over an hour for a few Danish? Sorry, I didn’t have the kind of patience needed to infiltrate that mob scene. Strike two.

One last place to check. And I couldn’t even squeeze into the parking lot at our local convenience store, thanks to the multitude of beachgoers buying ice for their coolers, twelve packs of canned soda, a quick breakfast, or all of the above. So much for my getting coffee to go. I’d have to wait until I got home for my morning jolt. Which, when I took my sweatpants and giant t-shirt into account, was probably a very good idea.

I made a beeline for home and soon enough, sat at my kitchen table with a toasted English muffin and my longed-for coffee. Once I finished breakfast and washed my few dishes, I stared at the clock above my sink. Now what? It wasn’t ten o’clock yet, and I had an entire day stretched out in front of me with nothing to do. I couldn’t hit the beach for the same reason I had to come home for breakfast: the plethora of tourists. Ditto for the shops, which would be jam-packed with those seeking that last-minute souvenir of the summer they’d spent in Snug Harbor. I should probably throw some laundry into the washer, but I cringed at the idea of spending my day off doing housework. Besides, it was far too beautiful a day to stay cooped up indoors.

A bike ride might be nice. And…I sneaked a peek at my thighs in my shortie pajama bottoms…beneficial. Yes. A little fresh air and some cardiovascular exercise. This excursion would also serve as my “something different” today. Win/win/win.

I quickly dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, before my lazy side could convince me if God wanted us to exercise, He wouldn’t have invented the Lifetime Channel. In the garage, I found my bike penned in by my artificial Christmas tree, the snow blower, and my ski equipment. Okay, so it’d been a while since I’d opted for two-wheel transport rather than four. When I first came home from Albany, Daddy’s deteriorating health had kept Nia and me running back and forth to the hospital. After his death and the funeral, I’d invested all my time into becoming the new Wainwright at the helm of Wainwright Financial. Such a dismal time…

Enough. I shook off the memories and wrestled the poor bike free. Once I rolled it out, I checked the tires and noticed the front one was flat. I ventured back into the garage for my manual pump and filled the tire with air. Fifteen minutes later, I sailed down my driveway, aimed for the circular road that ran around the marina. A salty breeze kissed my cheeks as I rode leisurely through my neighborhood.

I waved to Mrs. Seifert as I pedaled by where she knelt, weeding the garden of red and white impatiens around her mailbox. “Good morning.”

“Morning, Paige,” she called after me. “Enjoy your ride.”

I would.

Snug Harbor earned its name because the town bordered large water on two sides. On the southern coast, the Atlantic Ocean offered miles of pristine beach with soft white sand, ideal for the tourist trade. The rocky northern coast sat at the edge of the Long Island Sound, creating a perfect waterway for fishermen. Whereas the south end of town prospered due to multi-million dollar properties, five star restaurants, and upscale boutiques, this side—the north crescent—catered to a very different clientele. No-frills motels, bars, delicatessens that opened at four in the morning to serve breakfast for early rising mariners, bait shops, and takeout restaurants ruled here.

The north side also had a wilder beauty than the south, thanks to less development and a more rural flavor. At least, that was my opinion. Buildings were erected farther apart, with lots of open space between. Bulrushes caught the breeze and rustled. Seagulls hovered, squawking as they sought leftover food to scavenge. Across the rocky inlet, the Coast Guard station stood sentry with its lighthouse and flapping flags.

The one exception to this pristine homage to Mother Nature was Coffield’s Wharf, a miniature version of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Our replica boasted a popular clam bar where tourists and locals could grab fresh-caught seafood and pitchers of frosty beer while dining outdoors at picnic tables. For higher end clientele, there was also one five-star restaurant with spectacular water views. The various outbuildings housed a few souvenir shops, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, an expensive toy store, and of course, a Coffield’s Bluff wine store that offered free tastings on weekends. When Nia and I were kids, our parents often took us to the wharf in the evenings for ice cream or fried clams, or just to walk over to the docks next door to see the party boats sailing back with the day’s catch. At ten on a Saturday morning, I figured most of the crowds would be elsewhere: the beach, breakfast (obviously), aboard party boats, or wherever else tourists went on beautiful sunny days.

The simple joys of childhood echoed around me as I cycled toward the wharf. I passed the old elementary school Nia and I had attended. Behind the school sat the playground where I’d had my first kiss from a boy. Darren Simmons had been eight and I was seven. His family moved to Texas a few weeks later and for a while, I thought my scandalous behavior was the cause of their abrupt departure from Snug Harbor. When I’d finally confessed my deep dark sin to my mother, she’d laughed and explained Darren’s father had been offered a transfer from his company. The peck on the lips I’d shared with Darren was probably his way of saying goodbye. Of course, only a year later, my mother became the poster child for “scandalous behavior,” but at the time, her comments made perfect sense.

On the next block, I rode past the public library, a frequent hangout in my school years—before the existence of the Internet.

Everywhere I looked along my route sparked a memory to make me smile.

Why hadn’t I done this before now? My legs pumped for an uphill climb, then relaxed my feet on the pedals as I coasted down the other side. I felt exhilarated, powerful, and a little bit sexy. No wonder people raved about the endorphin rush that came from exercising. This was amazing!

A higher hill came into view, and I shifted gears to prepare. I had to pedal a bit harder than I’d anticipated, but I pushed myself, knowing I could coast down the other side. Once I reached the other side. Funny how I never noticed how steep this road was when I drove it every day in my SUV. My thigh muscles ached, and I actually rose off the seat to get more power into my pedaling. Sweat broke out on my forehead. Still, the bike and I climbed. My pace slowed with my exertion, making every motion harder to complete. At last, I crested the hill, but only found a plateau. No downhill break to catch my breath. I had to push on.

A few yards ahead of me, a man walked a large, lean dog near the curb that ran along the shoreline. The man had a great build with broad shoulders packed into a tight t-shirt and long, muscular legs in khaki shorts. Nice buns, I contemplated as I drew closer. A good handful, but no excess.

Beeeeeeep! A car horn blared from behind me, and I swerved to keep the front tire straight. The bike veered onto the road’s shoulder and slid on a patch of sand, nearly upending me.

The expensive convertible roared past me at a speed I surmised was double the town’s limit. The blond driver, her long hair whipping with the wind, flipped me the bird as she sped on down the road.

“Nice,” I shouted after her. “I hope you get arrested!” Where was a cop when I needed one?

“Paige, is that you?”

Oh, good God. Mr. Yummybuns looked at me over his tasty shoulder, and I groaned. Why had I wished for a cop right now?

“Hey, Sam.” I tried to play nonchalant as I braked my bike next to him. “Did you see that moron?”

He shrugged. “Yeah, but I’m off-duty right now. If it makes you feel any better, though, Tonya’s at the top of the next ridge with a radar gun.”

Imagining the blonde’s upcoming surprise, I laughed. “No lie?”

“Nope.” Sam’s grin sparked fireworks in my belly.

In the dim hallway last night, I’d found his smile dazzling, but in the light of day, I could easily understand Nia’s attraction to the rest of him. He looked like a sun-bronzed god, all sinew and golden skin with eyes the color of honey and the lushest lashes I’d ever seen on a man.

If only he were mute…

As if to introduce itself, the fawn-colored dog suddenly lurched forward to sniff at my sneakers.

“Daisy, get down.” Sam yanked on the leash.

“Hi there, sweetheart. Aren’t you a love?” I bent to rub the pooch between its folded ears, then looked up at Sam again. “I didn’t know you had a dog.”

“Daisy won’t hurt you. She’s big but loveable.”

“Daisy?” I quirked my eyebrows. “You named this huge beast Daisy?”

“Not my choice. She’s a rescue from the Greyhound Liberation. Her full name is Daisy Chain of Love.”

“Wow.” I slipped my hand under Daisy’s angular jaw, and she snuffled. “I’m impressed.”

“Don’t be,” he replied. “All the racers get goofy names.”

Actually, I was referring to the fact that he had a softness for any living thing. But I wisely bit back the insult. “How long have you had her?” I asked instead.

“Two years.” Daisy licked his hand, and he patted her fondly. “If you’re thinking about a pet, I could probably hook you up with the rescue group. They’re always looking to place retired greyhounds.”

Me with a dog? I shook my head. I couldn’t even keep a houseplant thriving. “I don’t think I’d have the energy for a former racing star.”

“The keyword there is ‘former.’ They’re retired so they actually don’t do much running. And you’ve got a decent-sized yard for a dog to get out his ya-yas. Besides, you look like you could handle anything.” He glanced at my bike, then the road ahead, as if he didn’t want me to see the smirk on his face from his attempt to compliment me.

Yeah, sure. Suddenly he’s worried about hurting my feelings. Get a grip, Paige.

“Where you headed?” he asked, gaze still fixed on the horizon.

“The wharf, then home again.”

He whistled through his teeth. “Oh, right. But you don’t have the energy to keep up with a greyhound. That’s like…what? Eight miles round trip?”

Eight miles?! I swallowed a gasp and forced a casual smile. No way did I want him to know I had no idea how long a trek I’d planned for myself. “Yeah, something like that.”

“You training for some kind of marathon?”

“Sort of,” I lied. “The 10K Twin Fork Ride is next month. I figured I might as well start getting ready.” Wow. Could I get any more ridiculous? No way I had the slightest intention of participating in that torturefest.

“Where’s your water?” He gestured to my bike frame, then looked up at the sun and shielded his eyes with the flat of his hand.

Water? My gaze followed his to the empty wire rack where a water bottle should rest beneath my seat. Oops. I forgot about bringing something to drink on my morning trek. I wasn’t about to let him get the better of me, though.  “I’ll pick up a bottle when I get to the wharf,” I replied with a dismissive air.

His brows rose in twin arcs. “The wharf is still two miles from here. You’ll dehydrate long before you get there.” He jerked his head in the direction of the side street. “Come back to the house with Daisy and me, and I’ll grab you a coupla cold ones to go.”

If this were a movie, the creepy music would start building right now. What should the naïve heroine do? Go home with the monster so as not to hurt his feelings?

Lucky for me, this wasn’t a movie. I had no qualms about turning him down. “No, that’s okay. I’ll be fine.”

“Do I scare you, Paige?”

I snorted to hide my surprise. “Puh-leez.” He thought I was afraid of him? Or was he actually daring me to come to his house?

“Good. Then you’ve got no good reason to decline. And the break will give you time to reapply your sunscreen, too, since it looks like your face is starting to burn.”

“My…” Sunscreen. Of course. Something else I forgot. Jeez, I was a moron. But I’d committed to this stupidity and wouldn’t give Sam Dillon the satisfaction of catching me in my lies.

“Forgot that as well, huh?”

“I didn’t forget,” I retorted. “I just ran out and decided to pick up more when I got my water.”

“Uh-huh.” His knowing grin raised hackles on my nape. Note to self: don’t try to lie to a cop. “Come on. Let’s get you properly outfitted for your ‘training.’”

“It’s really not necessary,” I said lamely.

“Yeah, it is. Your sister would never forgive me if you wound up in the hospital and I could have prevented it.”

Nia. Again. I sighed my defeat and pushed my bike forward. “Then I guess I’ll take you up on your hospitality. Thanks, Sam.”

As I followed him and his dog, I had the uneasy feeling I’d just agreed to visit the devil in his private circle of hell.


Would You Like to Read Melee in Exchange for an Honest Review?

I’m excited because I’ll finish the third and final book in my Menagerie series this week–although I won’t be publishing it until August. It’s always a rush of accomplishment (although a little sad to say goodbye to my characters) when I finish a series. If you would like to read Melee in exchange for an honest review, please email me at and use the word REVIEW in the subject line.

Of course, you might be a little lost if you haven’t read the first two books in the series, but Menagerie, the first book, is only .99. You can get it here: MENAGERIE



It is during the wee hours when our most immense dreams come to us.

Jean Arp

From Lizbet’s Studies





As sunlight touched the eastern sky Declan sat up, shivering. Brushing twigs and leaves off his naked skin, he crawled to huddle behind a huckleberry bush to make sense of things. His whole world tilted as he tried to process what had happened. He had spent the night in the woods. Naked? How could he have forgotten something as important as his clothes?

Beyond the woods, Lizbet’s house. Only the barn stirred with life. Horses nickered, goats bleated, pigs snorted—all were waiting for their breakfast, and Declan knew who would provide it. Lizbet. He couldn’t face her. Not like this. After shooting a quick glance at the house, wondering if anyone was awake to witness his streaking, he ran for his car.

The keys. Where were they? In the pocket of his jeans. But where were his pants? Crouching behind the Mercedes, he spotted them—or what was left of them—at the edge of the woods. He commando crawled through the tall grass, snake-like, flinching as twigs and pebbles poked and pierced his skin. All his clothes had been ripped to shreds, but thankfully, his keys were still in the remains of his pocket. He scooped up the cottony threads of what had once been his clothes.

His shivering accelerated as he pressed the key fob, crawled back through the grass, avoiding anything sharp or dangerous looking, and lifted the car’s door handle. Inside the Mercedes, he started the engine and turned up the heater full blast. He glanced in the rearview mirror, half expecting to see a furry snout instead of his nose and unshaved chin. He looked exactly like himself, but…he gazed at his arms and chest…different. He studied the wolf bite on his hand. A few hours ago the puncture wounds had been a bloody mess, but it had since healed to a pink line. Strange.

By the time he arrived at his grandfather’s house in the University District, he had practically convinced himself that it had all been a bad dream.

But his shredded clothes told a different story.

He collapsed onto his bed just after dawn and fell into a restless sleep.


Lizbet addressed a crowd of gathered animals. “I really appreciate your willingness to put aside your animosity to fight our common enemy. As you know, a pack of wolves has been terrorizing our community. There have even been some deaths.”

Chattering, growling, and murmuring rippled through the crowd.

“It needs to stop,” Lizbet said. “And I believe it can. But only if we all work together.”

A crow fluttered to perch on Lizbet’s shoulder. It whispered in her ear and she stopped and slowly turned in Declan’s direction. He thought about hiding, but realized he could never do so from the birds.

“What are you doing here, Declan?” she asked, her voice hard.

He stepped out from behind the tree, amazed to find he was almost as scared of Lizbet as he was of the bear. “What—“ His voice cracked. He cleared his throat and tried again. “What are you doing?”

She twisted her lips together and scowled at him. He could tell she was battling between the truth and a lie. Finally, she said, “I’m going to catch a werewolf.”


Drenched in sweat, Declan bolted up, kicking the covers off his bed. He swung his legs off the side of the bed and sat with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. He willed his heart to stop racing. It’s only a dream, he told himself. But it was more than that. It was a memory. A painful one.

And if it was a memory, it meant that the other, more terrifying dreams could also be memories. He padded over to his computer, sat down in front of it, and turned it on. He typed “night terrors” into the search engine.

Episodes usually occur 1 to 2 hours after going to sleep and can last from 1 to 30 minutes. The victim will look like himself with open eyes but his expression will be vacant, if not horror-struck. Waking a victim will prove difficult, if not impossible. Upon waking, he or she won’t remember the incident, no matter what terror he has endured.

During an episode, it is typical for one to exhibit intense fear or agitation. They may be violent. They will not be cognizant of their surroundings. Their breathing may quicken and their heartrate increase. They may perspire profusely. They may scream and try to fight demons that only they can see.

Night terrors are different from nightmares. Nightmares are frightening dreams that can often be recalled the next morning in vivid detail. Night terrors leave no trace in the memory.


That was it. Night terrors. Although, according to this article, victims of night terrors were usually under the age of twelve. But Declan wrote off his experience in the woods as night terrors—a phenomenon brought on by the shock of Lizbet’s revelations. For that, of course, he couldn’t manufacture a rational explanation without engaging in a losing argument with her—and maybe a bear or a skunk. No sense in picking a fight he had no chance of winning. But as for his own personal nightmare—he didn’t need to revisit it.

He hoped.

It was only a little after six. He could sleep for another couple of hours. But could and would were two very different concepts. Silently, he crept from his room and down the hall and peeked through his mom’s ajar bedroom door. She slept curled in a ball in the middle of her king-size bed, the bedclothes wrapped around her legs, her arms tucked under her. He tiptoed across the long stretch of carpet, passing through a swath of early morning light streaming through the window. In her bathroom, he found her collection of medicine in the cabinet. He grabbed four bottles, and after another glance at his mom, he took them into her closet and closed the door before flipping on the light.

The sudden brightness stung his eyes. It took a moment for his vision to clear. Surrounded by his mom’s power suits, silky dresses, and shoes, he scanned the medicine labels before selecting the one that read, For relief of sleeplessness when associated with pain.

He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he rationalized away his guilt. He told himself emotional pain was just as real as physical pain. He swallowed the pills dry.




Elizabeth stood in the far corner of her garden waving her cane at a flock of sparrows.

“Something wrong, Grandma?” Lizbet asked, coming up behind her.

“These dad-gum birds are eating all of my grapes!” Elizabeth groused.

“They have to feed their families, too,” Lizbet said gently as she eyed the small, hard green balls that had weeks to go before being palatable to anyone other than the sparrows.

Elizabeth blew out a sigh. “You sound like you’re on their side!”

“I didn’t know there were any sides,” Lizbet said. “I’m just pointing out—”

“Ugh. You sound like Josie!” Elizabeth sloshed through the muddy garden patch. “She’s always trying to get me to sell this place.”

That was not only unfair, but it was also untrue. “I don’t want you to sell the ranch, and I know my mom doesn’t either.”

Elizabeth sniffed as she moved between the corn stalks. Some had already grown past her shoulders while others barely reached her waist. A few of the taller stalks had baby ears of corn and sported puffs of silk.

“This place is my life,” Elizabeth said. “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I had to vegetate in Josie’s condo all day.”

Lizbet trailed after her grandmother. Because she was a good five inches shorter than her grandmother, some of the stalks touched her hair and threatened to poke her in the eye with their floppy leaves. “No one is asking you to move in with Josie.”

Elizabeth made a harrumphing sound. “We’re going to have to make some salsa out of these tomatoes,” she said. “If we can keep the deer out of here.”

Lizbet took note of the hundreds of nearly ripe tomatoes. Only a few, that she could see, had deer bites in them. “I think the critters have shown a lot of self-restraint,” Lizbet said.

Elizabeth turned and gave her an are-you-insane look.

“Come on, Grandma,” Lizbet said, taking Elizabeth’s arm. “Let’s go and make some lunch.”




When an invitation to Nicole’s going away party coincided with the first night of August’s full moon, only a niggle of warning flashed in the back of Declan’s mind.

“Are you sure you want to go?” Declan asked Lizbet as they browsed the bookstore for used textbooks. He would be a freshman at the University of Washington at the end of September and Lizbet would start classes at Queen Anne Community College a couple of weeks before that.

“Sure, why not?” Lizbet flipped her curls over her shoulder and gave him a smile that sent him over the moon.

“Well, it’s not as if you’re friends…”

“But she’s your friend, right?”

“Yeah, but…”

“Come on, it’ll be good for me. I’m trying to be more social.” She bumped him with her hip before moving down the aisle. She glanced at her list of required books for the upcoming semester.

“You’re plenty social.” Declan trailed after her, but stopped as a title caught his eye.

The Meaning and Translation of Dreams. He pulled it off the shelf and flipped it open.

People who are anxious or overtired are more likely to sleepwalk or experience sleep terrors. A relaxing bedtime routine paired with an early bedtime can help prevent sleep disturbances.

Avoid sleepwalking injuries by making the bedroom and house as safe as possible. Consider the following precautions:

Make sure there are no sharp or breakable objects near the bed.

Install gates on stairways.

Lock doors and windows.

If psychological stress contributes to disordered sleep, counseling may help. Both children and adults may benefit from hypnosis or biofeedback.

In some cases, a doctor may prescribe short-acting sleep or antianxiety medications to reduce or eliminate episodes.

Seek professional help if:

Episodes are frequent or severe.

The sleepwalker gets injured during episodes.

The sleepwalker leaves the house.

Nighttime episodes are accompanied by daytime sleepiness.

Stress, anxiety or other psychological factors may be contributing to sleep disturbances.

Sleepwalkers occasionally injure themselves or others. But most episodes of sleepwalking and sleep terrors are brief and harmless.

Lizbet glanced over his shoulder. “What’s this?”

He slammed the book shut. “Nothing.”

“You having problems sleeping?”

“Not really. Just that one night.” He slipped the book back onto the shelf.

“What night?” she pressed.

He shrugged her question off. “Listen. It makes sense. Talking animals, werewolves, and were-Schnauzers. Anyone would have nightmares. It was a lot to process.” A sudden memory assaulted him and he closed his eyes, trying to tune it out.

Hunger burned the back of his throat and tightened his gut. He padded across the forest floor. A carpeting of pine needles and soft soil muffled his footfalls. Above the trees’ canopy, a smattering of stars glistened, pale against a cloud-filled night. Mist shrouded the round, full strawberry moon.

He sat back on his haunches and lifted his head toward the moon. Snatches of conversations drifted by. Apprehension surged through his blood. He gazed at his paw…so foreign. How had he transformed into this creature? Standing on all fours, he loped through the woods aimlessly, fighting the hunger that zinged through his veins.

“Of course.” Lizbet looped her arm around his and pulled him into a sideways hug and out of the memory. Hallucination. Nightmare…whatever it was.

“It’s amazing that we’re both not bonkers,” she said.

“Bonkers,” he murmured. His gaze landed on another book, Mental Health for Dummies.

He needed help.


Music thrummed through the open windows. Someone had hung a disco ball from the dining room chandelier and shafts of multicolored light sparkled on the dark lawn. Kids in jeans, T-shirts, and UW hoodies lounged on the front porch. Lizbet wanted to belong, but she still felt like a poser. This was Declan’s world, as foreign to her as the moon.

She picked out Baxter, Declan’s oversized friend, Maria, her friend and neighbor, and McNally, another friend of Declan’s from East End High’s basketball team all standing in a tight circle just inside the double-wide doors. She tightened her grip on Declan’s hand.

He wore jeans, flip-flops, and a Twenty One Pilots T-shirt. Trying to fit in, she’d chosen a nearly identical outfit, but her T-shirt and jeans couldn’t hide her curves…and nothing could tame her curls.

As if sensing her insecurity, Declan dropped a quick kiss on her temple.

“Who’s that with Nicole?” she asked, nodding at a guy with a Cross-Fitter’s build leaning against the porch railing, his eyes trained on Nicole, a lithe blonde with flushed cheeks.

“Jason Norbit. Her old squeeze. They broke up a while ago.”

“You mean when she applied to Duke?”

Declan dipped his chin. “He’s going to UW on a football scholarship.”

Lizbet bit her bottom lip as she followed Declan up the porch steps and through the doorway. She had her own theories about why Nicole had applied to Duke.

Nicole was beautiful in an ice-queen way. Her home had the same understated elegance—the disco ball being the notable exception. Someone had carried the dining room table out through the French doors to the back patio and people danced on the hardwood floor beneath the spinning lights.

“Want to dance?” Declan asked.

“No.” The thought horrified her. She’d never danced before in front of a crowd. Her thoughts flitted back to the first time she had ever danced…with Declan…in the moonlight. Dancing had turned to kissing. That had been a first for her, too. “Do you?”

He shook his head, grinned, and put his hand on her shoulder to steer her outside to his cluster of friends surrounding the food-piled dining room table.

Nicole waylaid them. “Hey, Declan. Any second thoughts about ditching Duke?”

Declan shook his head. “Sorry, Nicki, you’re on your own.”

Jason pulled himself away from the wall and draped his arm across Nicole’s shoulder. “Not quite on her own. There’s only about three thousand in the freshman class.”

Lizbet wasn’t sure, but she thought she saw a flicker of irritation in Nicole’s eyes.

McNally appeared at Declan’s side and elbowed him. “Yeah, now that you’re going to UW, have you thought about playing intermural basketball?”

“Basketball?” A girl Lizbet didn’t know broke into the conversation. “That’s no fun. What about ultimate frisbee?” She flashed Declan a smile full of perfectly straight, bright white teeth. “That’s co-ed.”

“How about you?” Jason nodded at Lizbet. “Where you headed?”

“Queen Anne Community,” Lizbet said. “Staying local.”

Jason’s gaze swept over her and lingered on her lips. “Me, too.” He lifted his soda bottle as if to clink her invisible goblet in a toast.

Lizbet sent Declan a quick glance, but he was lost in conversation with McNally and the unknown girl, debating the virtues of basketball and ultimate frisbee.

Jason leaned forward, placing his hand on the wall directly behind Lizbet and making her feel pinned. “What’s your story?”

Lizbet knew he wouldn’t believe her if she were stupid enough to tell him. She tested him. “Well, last month I killed a werewolf. How about you?”

He laughed as if she were joking. “So you’re like Buffy? A vampire slayer?”

“No vampires,” she said in all seriousness. “I tend to stick to creatures.”

He nodded and a glint she didn’t like filled his eyes.

“Seriously,” she said. “I’m auditing a mythology class from Professor Madison at the University of Washington right now.”

“What are you going to do with that? Kill more werewolves?”

“I’d rather just scare them away.”

He snorted. “You’re a tiny thing. It’s hard to believe you could scare anything.”

She blinked at him. “You’d be surprised.”

“You’re like a werewolf warrior?”

She wanted to smile to show him his invasion of her personal space wasn’t making her crazy, but the closer Jason pressed, the more uncomfortable she felt. She looked over his shoulder for Declan, but couldn’t see him. Everyone else had deserted the porch and gone inside. Annoyance flashed through her. She spotted a cat sitting on the windowsill, watching them with slit eyes. She crooked a finger at the animal. He responded by twitching his whiskers.

Jason flicked a glance over his shoulder before turning back to Lizbet. The cat stood, arched his back, and batted a dead moth out of the corner of the window toward Jason’s crotch. Surprised, Jason jumped out of the line of fire.

Lizbet’s lips twitched as she escaped. “Thanks,” she whispered to the cat as she went to find Declan. She didn’t see him with his friends in the backyard, in the mass of kids huddled in the kitchen, or in any of the circles of conversation in the living room. She thought she heard his laughter floating up the stairwell that led to the basement, but before she climbed halfway down, someone turned off the lights and plunged the basement into inky darkness.

“Everyone close your eyes,” a girl said.

Lizbet froze on the stairs, unsure where to go or what to do. She risked tripping in the dark in either direction.

“Vampire, open your eyes and select your victim.” Someone switched on a flashlight and a girl giggled.

Lizbet hurried down the stairs.

“Stop! Intruder!” Someone turned on the overhead light amidst groans.

Lizbet swallowed hard, suddenly aware that somehow she’d inadvertently pooped on the party.

The girl who seemed to be in charge pointed at Lizbet. “State your name and business.” She had a severe haircut and wore I-mean-business glasses, a black turtleneck despite the warm summer night, and a pair of painted-on jeans.

“She’s Lizbet and she’s with me.” Jason came up behind her and placed a heavy hand on her shoulder. “’Scuse us for interrupting. Mind if we join you?”

A couple of people made groaning sounds, but most murmured a welcome. The lights were doused before Lizbet even got a look around the room to see if Declan was in the crowd.

Jason tugged at her hand and she fell into a cross-legged position beside him. “I don’t know this game,” she whispered as she disentangled her fingers.

“It’s easy. You’ll catch on.” Jason’s warm breath fanned against her cheek. “As a werewolf warrior, you’ll be a natural.”

In the darkness, he seemed closer than she would have guessed. She inched away from him and bumped someone next to her. “Sorry,” she hissed and held herself very still so as not to touch anyone else.

“Night has fallen…again,” the game-master girl began. “While the villagers sleep, the vampire works the wages of death. Vampire, open your eyes and select your victim.”

“Keep your eyes closed,” Jason whispered, and he squeezed Lizbet’s knee.

Moments later, the game-master girl flipped on a flashlight. “Everyone open your eyes.” She flicked the flashlight at the faces of the twenty or so kids seated on the basement rug. When Lizbet saw Declan wasn’t in their number, she wanted to leave, but she’d already interrupted the game once and didn’t want to do it again.

“In the dark of night, a vampire stole into the home at twenty-eight Reynolds.”

“Yeah! That’s my house!” a redheaded kid with a smattering of freckles said.

The game-master girl slid him the evil eye.  “While Carl slept, the vampire sucked his blood and left his lifeless body on the library floor.”

“I have a library. Cool,” Carl said.

“Yeah, like that’s going to do you any good seeing as how you don’t read,” someone said.

“Hush!” a girl in a vintage Van Halen T-shirt hissed.

“You can’t talk,” a guy with hair like a hedgehog said. “You’re dead.”

Carl looked as if he wanted to argue, but he bit his tongue.

“I’m not sure I want to play this game,” Lizbet whispered to Jason.

“You better be quiet, or else the vampire will kill you, too,” Jason whispered.

“I’d be okay with that,” Lizbet returned, “seeing as how I don’t want to play.”

“Silence!” the game-master girl called out. “Villagers, who among you executed this dastardly deed?” she asked as she flashed the light into the blinking faces of her friends. “Who is the vampire?”

Speculations and laughter flew. Lizbet tried to be a good sport, but with Jason’s thigh pressing against hers, she felt increasingly uncomfortable. The guy sitting on her other side had excessive arm and leg hair so that every time she bumped into him she felt like she was touching a fur ball. Plus, he had onion breath.

“Okay! New round!” The game-master girl stood and flipped on the overhead light, illuminating the orange shag carpet and plaid sofas pushed up against the wood-paneled walls. “Everyone turn in your cards.”

Lizbet had missed something.

Declan, Baxter, and McNally followed by Nicole and a couple of girls trooped down the stairs.

“Hey, can we join in?” Baxter asked. Lizbet had observed that because Baxter was so big, people rarely told him no. The circle widened to let him in while Declan inserted himself next to Lizbet.

“What brought you down here?” Declan whispered in her ear.

“I was looking for you.”

“Hmm, I was looking for you, too.” He kissed her lightly on the lips.

“Not yet, Lamb.”

“Sorry,” Declan said, sounding not in the least repentant.

Nicole, who had wedged herself on the other side of Jason, rolled her eyes.

The game-master girl hit the lights. “Villagers, close your eyes! Night has fallen in the village of the doomed. While the villagers slumber, the vampire stalks his prey.”

Someone dropped in front of Lizbet and planted a sloppy wet kiss on her lips. She struggled and pushed him off.

“Yeah! That’s the game!” Jason said.

“Sorry, I…” Lizbet jumped to her feet. “I told you I didn’t want to play.” Embarrassed, she crawled over people in the dark until she found the stairs and felt her way out of the basement. In the kitchen, she realized that Declan had followed her.

“Ugh.” She covered her face with her hands. “That was awful.”

He laughed. “Don’t let Jason hear you say that.”

She shuddered. “Can we go?”

“Sure.” He draped his arm around her shoulder. “It was just a game.”

“I know. It wasn’t a big deal.” But it felt like it was.


I did, for years and years…and then I discovered SCA, the Society for Creative Anachronism, where others who sometime wish they lived in other times and I get together to play, learn and teach others the skills you’ve learned! I didn’t think you blog readers would be interested until someone out there told me they’d love to see a post about it, so here goes!


I grew up in the California redwoods, helping around our little lifestyle block, riding my horse,         and pony broncs!  with my best friend Leslie and my sister    







cooking, working with leather,

doing 4-H in a major way,

cheerleading, and generally having a pretty wonderful time.



One of my favorite pastimes, when I had the chance, was hiding in the tall field of wild oats at a neighbor’s place with my pony’s lead in one hand and a book in the other, reading about other faraway places and times past…especially Dark Ages British Isles in general and Arthurian legends, in Mary Stewart’s Crystal Cave, in particular. J


Then I went off to university and studied my little brains out until I graduated from veterinary school at UC Davis in the Equine Track. It was a long ride, but it was worth it.  Life stayed busy for many years. I moved to New Zealand, raised a family, farmed and I rode and drove riding and carriage horses.  But always, in the back of my mind, was that little idea that I was born in the wrong time.


Driving Blue Mist Shemaya with youngest son Elliot grooming, and with Jason, my navigator for the roads and tracks portion…Elliot was too little, he wasn’t allowed.


I’d always liked archery, since I’d been little, and when the opportunity to shoot returned to my life, I grabbed it. I attended an archery event in New Zealand:  

and shortly


afterward, I found out about a medieval re-enactment event called Abbey Medieval Festival, in Australia. Well, it seems I was heading over there anyway, to speak at a veterinary dental conference, and the dates coincided nicely! I sorted out all sorts of things, like authentic costume, etc. for my son and I, and we went. It was fantastic, all I could have ever dreamed.



While we were there, I looked up a Kiwi whose name I’d been given at that original archery event, found him, and he told me about SCA…in New Zealand!

SO what’s SCA? It’s a worldwide organisation that re-enacts the middle ages… ‘as is should have been’, says my partner…ie: without getting killed when you fight with swords, without the plague, and with indoor plumbing and cooking with gas. In short, all the best parts, pageantry and fun without the serious danger. Cheating a bit (well, a lot?), but it’s awfully fun. “Scadians”, or those who participate in SCA, aim for varying degrees of authenticity in their clothing, weaponry, food, crafts, in the creation of their SCA persona, but all with an overlying concept of chivalry and courtesy. In New Zealand, we seem to go for a higher level of authenticity than some other parts of the organisation. This past year, I was recognised by the Crown with an Award of Arms. That meant I could create a device (coat of arms) for myself and call myself a Lady, even if no one else does.  LOL

The name I’ve applied for is: Lisebet Skinkel van Egeskow.


Here’s a bit about the Skinkels and Egeskow (Egeskov currently, though was spelled Egeskow historically). My mother is Danish, so it fits.


Equestrian  skill at arms:   My first try on a lovely, borrowed horse in Australia. 🙂


Martial Arts  archery,

fencing, heavy fighting, (not steel in SCA)

Sewing: making our own clothing, using lovely, natural fibres: linen, wool, fur and silk, primarily…learning and teaching others…



authentic, natural fabrics, dyeing, spinning, weaving, nalbinding, lucet braiding,


Cooking:  here’s me doing Medieval Masterchef, or at least the food I cooked. It’s being judged.

Playing Medieval Music and Dancing:







If you’ve ever wanted to live in another time, go out and find your local SCA group, they’re all over the world now, and…get this…The group was formed less than half an hour from where I grew up…I went away to university and missed it…how’s that for timing?

I had to go halfway around the world to find it.

Hope you don’t have to.

Come on out and play!



Once Upon a Time…in Serendipity

Happy_Birthday_Taylor_smSince last time I wrote a blog here, a “book birthday” has come and gone.

Taylor Kincaid’s story, Once Upon a Time, released on June 8th. Most of this year’s deadlines have been related to group projects, and Taylor’s story got sidelined several times. So I was super excited to get this book out into the world for readers.

Taylor and her twin sister, Hannah, were introduced in Serendipity, Indiana Book Two–Emily’s Dreams. Emily wasn’t the most lovable chick on the planet at the beginning of that story, but her teenage sisters were beyond obnoxious!

A few years later (in Serendipity time), Taylor and Hannah have grown up a little bit. In fact, they’re out of college! But as you might expect, Taylor has some emotional growing up to do.

OnceUponaTime-MagdalenaScott-MediumHere’s the blurb for Once Upon a Time:

From the USA Today Bestselling author of Small Town Christmas, another heartwarming romance set in the beautiful, rolling hills of Southern Indiana. Follow your heart, and believe in the powerful magic of Love…

Taylor Kincaid has big plans for her life. Falling in love with the mysterious new shop owner in town isn’t one of them.

Taylor and her twin, Hannah, have graduated from college and are ready to leave Serendipity forever. The only problem is an absence of jobs in their fields.

They decide to move back home temporarily, living with their parents again, and taking a little sabbatical from all the hard work (and partying) of college.

But Marcus Kincaid has different expectations of his daughters. The free ride is at an end, and they have to find work in Serendipity if they expect to live at home.

Hannah accidentally volunteers to work at the Standish Family Christmas Tree Farm with their sister Emily (Kincaid) Standish. But Taylor will float resumes in the little town, and find a job that will pad her bank account, and be easy to leave when the right employment opportunity comes along.

It’s a great plan, until she steps into the antiques shop on the town square, and meets its handsome, enigmatic new owner. Now leaving may be more complicated than staying.

Sweet romance, “coincidences” that might be more than that, and a love that survives the unthinkable come together in this new Serendipity, Indiana tale.


Writing Once Upon a Time was a joyful experience, and I hope that reading it is, too.

Hannah will get her own romance this autumn. In Once Upon a Time, you’ll get some hints as to where Hannah finds her guy. But if you’ve read any of the Serendipity books, you know there are surprises in store for her.

A reviewer touched my heart recently when she said that reading the Serendipity, Indiana series makes her happy. These days, that’s some pretty awesome validation.

Happy summer reading to you!