A Peek at “Forget Me Not”

I thought I’d share the first chapter of my current book , which will be available mid-June, 2018.


Sometimes love needs a little push. Sarah needed to put some distance between her grief and the unbearable memories of the past. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, our past catches up with us.

Sarah and Ted dated their junior and senior years in high school and planned on marriage. One dreadful rainy night, Sarah picks up her nephew from a friend’s house. On the way home she has an accident. Her nephew almost dies, is hospitalized for two months and in physical therapy for a year.

Devastated, Sarah withdraws from everyone, including Ted, because she feels a heavy guilt that she hurt her nephew and is unworthy of love.

Heartbroken, Sarah moved on with her life and so did Ted.

Now, almost five years later, Ted is back and bringing with him all the memories Sarah thought she’d shoved aside. Sarah isn’t about to let him go again, but she wants more than passion.





Chapter 1

Had Sarah Hall experienced the tiniest inkling a simple mid-morning trip to the post office would spin her life into utter confusion, she’d have jumped back in bed and pulled the covers over her head.

The line inside the post office zigzagged from the first postal worker’s counter, all the way back to the entrance. A fleeting glimpse at various customers revealed not many were in a much better mood than she was. Their arms were laden with letters and packages, and as had she, they’d probably anticipated a lengthy wait, though from the look on their faces some had begun to lose their patience. Not a happy group this morning, and she was close to getting there herself.

Sarah studied the woman in front of her who showed signs of an elevated blood pressure as she wrestled an armload of mail, but that wasn’t her only dilemma. Her young son, who appeared to be about five, pitched whatever advertisements or other papers he could put his hands on, in the air and over the floor. She reached out and caught a handful of the woman’s letters, before they tumbled onto the young boy’s pile of paper, which he had promptly turned into a sliding racetrack.

After a ten-minute wait and with a groan, Sarah counted to fifteen. She was still sixteenth in line from attaining a get-a-way and on to the shop.

She’d promised her sister, Lisa, a Shrimp Po Boy from the Crab’s Head today. Now lunch was going to be late, and Nate had promised to open Crab’s Head early to prepare their lunch. A call to Nate was in order that she’d be late. It was hard enough working closely with Lisa without creating more issues, especially with a late lunch, since Lisa was a stickler and ate on schedule daily, which was related directly to her diabetes.

Working with Lisa shouldn’t, and wouldn’t have been an issue if her mother hadn’t passed on Creative Gifts to the both of them. Oh, they got along well enough most days, but the past had a way of rearing its head.

Five years ago on a rainy night, Sarah had picked up her nephew, Lisa’s son, fifteen-year-old Gavin, from ball practice. On the way home, she’d had an accident that had almost taken his life. That incident would forever remain the worst anguish Sarah had ever experienced and shaped a powerful wedge between herself and Lisa.

Thank God, Gavin had survived and had now fully recovered from his injuries, though it had taken a year and half for him to mend. Too, Gavin had forgiven Sarah and never let his mother forget that, or that the accident had been unavoidable.

If not for Gavin’s forgiveness and explaining over and over to his mother, that Sarah wasn’t to blame, Sarah would have without doubt lost her sister and Gavin. Family was all that mattered, they had to stick together and work out their differences.

Still, once in a while, she’d caught Lisa’s expression of suspicion and intentional glare before she’d lowered those hazel eyes of hers. Lisa and Gavin were all she had left of family, and she shuddered at the thought of losing touch with them. Sarah had always disregarded Lisa’s skepticisms, since every time she brought it up, Lisa restrained any uncertainty she may harbor, yet her expressions gave her inner thoughts away.

She understood Lisa’s moods, since she’d experienced some of the same reservations before she was finally able to forgive herself. Gavin had turned twenty this year, in college and doing great. Yet the nightmares of that night troubled her still. Complete forgiveness was a daily struggle.

Sarah glanced at the slow moving line and rolled her eyes. She and Lisa had orders to box and wrap for Mayor Conley’s daughter’s baby shower this afternoon. Every minute was crucial today.

She slipped off one of her shoes and pressed the ball of her foot against her opposite leg to ease the ache from standing too long in the heels she should have changed before walking to the post office, then to work…when she finally got out of there.

Sarah glanced at her watch, then reached inside her purse for her phone to call Nate. “Why does everyone choose to mail their letters at the same time?” she mumbled.

“The same reason we’re here,” a voice from behind confirmed.

Sarah’s breath caught while the color drained from her face. I know that voice. Oh, do I know that voice.

When she wrapped her hand around the phone, the purse strap slid down her shoulder, along with her purse, which tumbled with a thump against the man’s hands. The next thing she knew the box he’d held flipped over, tossed the letters and scattered them across the floor.

Wide-eyed, she peered up into his big brown eyes…and melted. As she always had, when Sarah laid eyes on the man, she’d of course, become an out of the blue klutz. She did her best not to stare, but this time instinct had her checking out his hand, more specifically his ring finger, which was now tangled in her purse straps. The man wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, and with another brief peek, the tan line she half expected to see wasn’t there.

Will I ever lose the ache in my heart at my rejection of this man, years ago? Okay. That is a no-brainer. I already know the answer to that one. The biggest mistake I ever made was when I’d cut off all contact with him, because I’d felt unworthy of his love. He’d tried to discourage my decision, but I was determined to ruin both our lives. And…I did. Huge mistake.

Her own gaze traveled down the length of the man and for the first time in her life, Sarah stuttered. “Ted. Ted W-West. W-what brings y-you b-back to Savannah?”

As her fingers tightened around the purse straps, she caught a quick, deep breath. Why someone hadn’t snagged him already was beyond her. Ted had matured over the past five years and was more handsome than ever.

When she’d last seen him, he’d jogged alongside her for a few minutes on the running track in E-Way Square Park. He’d made an effort at conversation, but Sarah wasn’t in the mood for chit-chat. So much for making amends.

Now, Ted made no secret of sizing her up either. His eyes found hers and held for a moment. “Visiting a friend.”

A friend. Okay, then. That was that. He wasn’t going to explain.

Sarah flipped her shoulder length dark auburn hair behind one ear and bent down. She hoped to refrain from stuttering again. “I-I’m so s-sorry. H-here. L-let me h-help you.” So much for not stuttering.

Ted chuckled and flashed a warm smile. “No problem,” he said, then set the empty box on the counter, while he sidestepped around the young boy and his makeshift racetrack to gather his mail. “I have it under control, Sarah.”

Aren’t I the klutz? And where did that stutter come from? Again.

“Okay, thanks.” She moved aside to give him room to gather his mail, then repressed a grimace and blurted out, “So you do remember me?”

He gaped at her as though she had two heads.

Of course he’d remember her. They’d been as fused as chocolate and warm milk.

“Remember you? Of course…my goodness, Sarah. How do you think I could ever forget you? It’s good to see you again. We have a history. The most exciting time I ever had was with you on the Ferris Wheel. Remember?” he asked. His eyes smoldered, yet appeared to question her sanity.

She couldn’t blame him. She waited while he stuffed the box with his letters, and assumed her brain had taken flight, then gained her composure. “Yes, I remember. It’s good to see you, too,” she commented, her eyes fixed firmly on his handsome face, butterflies airborne in her stomach.

Ted was as charming as ever, and even now, his appeal had the ability to captivate her. Not to mention his very presence launched her into teenage mode…stuttering, and temporarily asking awkward questions.

Ted pointed ahead of her. “You can move up. There are only nine more in front of you now.” His smile widened. “There’s no escaping now…unless you’d like to take a chance at waiting again later.”

“No way. I’m here now.” She shifted the packages in her arms, slow to move forward behind the little boy who was at this point lying on the floor, on his back, spinning in circles. As she moved forward, her foot slipped on scattered papers that were part of the little boy’s makeshift racetrack, and she all but fell on her face. Ted grabbed her by the arms before she hit the floor, then he picked up a package that had fallen from her grip.

Even if was for protection…he would have to touch me. Every muscle in her body tightened while her rattled brain flooded with many of the times they’d shared. Good and bad.

Sarah resisted the urge to run out the front door and never look back. “Thanks.” Great. Just great. I’ve made a fool of myself again.

“It seems I’m forever coming to your rescue.” He grinned. “Not that I minded. Ever. Remember when you almost fell backwards off the diving board?”

“Yes. I do. I also remember almost losing my bathing suit when you pulled me back.” I wonder how many shades of red my face is? “You were always there for me.”

Ted gave the impression of too many thoughts running through his head. Sarah didn’t need to wonder what some of his thoughts could be. Then his expression changed to normal and a warm smile spread while a twinkle lit up his eyes.

“Being there for you was all I ever wanted.”


He raised a palm-out hand. “Put your mind at ease. I’m not going to dredge up the past. It’s enough to see you and that you’re doing well.”

“Yes. We-we had some beautiful memories. Let’s not spoil them.” A sad smile crossed her lips. If only…if only fate hadn’t dropped down that night…that night long ago. Too many years, almost five to be exact, have passed for you to know how I’m doing though.

“I agree.” Ted stared off into the distance, then fastened a concentrated gaze on her. “The past is the past. Let’s leave it there.”

Beginning to feel ill at ease with discussing their past-history, Sarah moved closer to the long counter, set her armload of mail down, then changed the subject. “So, Ted. You didn’t tell me how long you’ll be in town, after your visit.”

He responded, with a challenge. “Interested in getting together?”

Sarah peered at him through squinted eyes, and swallowed back a sour taste, still wondering if he was married. “I don’t believe I insinuated any such thing, Ted.”

“Sorry.” He paused while his face softened. “At six tomorrow I have a birthday party dinner to attend. The rest of the week is filled with real estate agent meetings.”

“Really?” Sarah gulped. “Here? Here in town?”

His gaze flicked over her face. “Where else?”

Sarah all but choked. Why must he choose Savannah, of all places? “That means you’re relocating to…to Savannah?”

“The notion has been in the back of my mind for a long time. Now that college is over and done with, I chose to move back to my roots and open my own engineering firm. The offer I received from a reputable firm in Atlanta made my decision difficult, but my heart remains in Savannah. It’s home.”

“I’m sure you’ve made the right decision. Good luck locating a suitable building. If I can help, let me know.”

“The real estate agent has got this. She’s aware of the area I’m interested in and the office space the firm will require.” He reached over and pushed Sarah’s packages closer to making her second in line to the actual postal worker. “Actually you could point me in the direction of a shop that offers unusual gifts for a four-year-old little girl’s birthday.”

Her mind whispered one thing, yet her heart expressed another. She should have left well enough alone, but she couldn’t resist the urge to see him again.

“Why don’t you visit Creative Gifts when you finish up here? Here’s my card. If I don’t have what you want, I’ll find it for you.” She grinned. “You haven’t forgotten how to get to River Street, have you?”

“Certainly not. I can smell candies, nuts and desserts now that the fantastic shops offer.” Ted slid the card in his shirt pocket. “Thanks. I’ll see you as soon as I finish up here.”

I wish you Love, Butterflies and Music. 

Impatience? Learning Patience?

landscape-1457095032-woman-icing-inflamed-kneeI injured my knee in karate weapons class – not a bad injury, as injuries go. I won’t require surgery if I do what I’m told by my doctor. Still, I’m sidelined for awhile.

In karate, I can wait. I know a few weeks won’t change who I am and what I can do. I’ve been at it for 27 years. So, I’m looking at the big picture, not the inconvenient few weeks picture. Therefore, I am more patient and can wait.

promo251736008Dance is different.

I took Ballet in college because I had to. The karate classes were full and I needed art and activity credits to graduate.

I hated it.

It was one of those “beginners” classes where the stars of the class were taking it for the third or fourth time, and the rest of us simply didn’t measure up. Nonsense really, but graded nonsense.

My ballet class now isn’t that. It is filled with a mix of wonderful people who aren’t trying to show everyone else how great they are – they’re just dancing. Most of them are Latin dancers trying to improve their movement for their dance of choice.

Not me.Ballet San Jose School Student

I’m in it for the ballet. For the grace. For the strength. For the poise. Waiting and watching is making me itch – I want to get back even knowing how much catching -up I’ll need to do to be ready for our group performance.

youtube-red-karate-kidIn this, I’m like a kid. Impatient to be doing, not watching.

When it comes right down to it, I guess what I like most is being an active part of this community of dancers. They are focused on themselves – but also on the group.

Karate is an individual endeavor. Control of self is key.

1200px-Yin_yang_svgDance is collective. Many moving parts making a whole synchronized package.In dance, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

I love both – I’m just itching to get back, and realize that patience is not a disease inflicted only on the young.


Some thoughts about sex

It’s a bit of a conundrum.

On the one hand, I’ve had readers comment approvingly about a story of mine that has no sex in it. And I worry about whether they think that’s a promise for the next one, because it isn’t.

I write romances with happy endings. That means I write about people who are attracted to one another on a number of different levels. The ideal for a relationship that will last is sometimes called consummate love, where the lovers develop intimacy on four levels: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. And in my stories, I try to show that they have set out on that journey.

Sometimes — since I write mostly historicals and many of my heroines are as innocent as well-brought up girls were in the early nineteenth century — that means a few longing glances, an awareness of one another, maybe a slightly inappropriate thought by the hero (or entirely appropriate, depending on your point of view).

Sometimes, my character’s development or the needs of the plot has them in bed together, possibly before the wedding and definitely after.

On the other hand, I’ve also had readers pronounce my books boring because the sex is more hinted at than explicit. I’m far more interested in the relationship between them that in describing how tab A feels when inserted into slot B (or any other slot, for that matter).

As a reader, I skip long sex scenes that focus on the physical. Sex is more fun to do than to watch, or at least that’s my view. And as a writer, I let my characters tell me when sex needs to be on the page, and how much of it to show.

But how to warn a reader? I hate the term ‘clean’, which implies that sex is dirty. ‘Sweet’ has the same problem; I think my marriage night scene in Prisoners of Wyvern Castle, with two nervous virgins who met that day at their wedding, is very sweet. Rating systems are very open to interpretation.  Your two flames might be my four.  My passionate kiss in the garden might push my one flame novella into your ‘too much sex’ hot spot.

Maybe I should go for a general disclaimer. “I told the characters they had to behave, but they wouldn’t listen to me.”

Here’s a kiss from my current work in progress, House of Thorns. The year is 1816. Bear Gavenor has been boarding with Rosa Neatham and her elderly father, and the village is convinced she has been compromised. So he asks her to marry him.

He seemed to think he had won, for his grin was smug. “That would be true no matter who I married.”

“I need to think. May I give you my answer tomorrow?” Surely by tomorrow he would have changed his mind? For if he did not, the answer must be yes. For her father’s sake, if for no other reason; and there were a multitude of other reasons.

But a night’s council did not bring him to a different conclusion. He did not pester her for a decision in the early dawn, when she served him coffee and a plate loaded with food to fuel his morning’s work, but he returned early for lunch, driven home by a heavy shower.

“Have you had enough time to think, Miss Neatham?” he asked, as he came in through the kitchen door and interrupted her bread making.

“Yes, Mr Gavenor.”

He wouldn’t let the ambiguity stand. “Yes, you have had time to think? Or yes, you will marry me?”

He had stripped off his rainwear and was advancing on her with both hands out.

Rosa blushed, and allowed him to capture her own hands. “Yes, I will marry you, Mr Gavenor.”

He bent from his great height, brushing her lips with his own. “Then you had better call me Bear, as my friends do. Or Hugh, if you prefer. My great aunt used to call me Hugh.”

“Hugh, then. Thank you, Hugh. I shall try to be a good wife.”

He kissed her again, another butterfly touch of the lips, then put his hands on her waist and lifted her to sit on the dresser. Now her face was on a level with his.

“That is better,” he murmured against her mouth. Then his lips met hers again, not mere brush this time, but a gentle and inexorable advance, setting her lips tingling and taking her breath. His hands had slid behind her, pulling her against his chest, so that he stood between her open knees his body pressed tightly to hers.

No, just one hand, for the other came up behind her head, and tipped it slightly, holding it in place as his lips moved against hers and his tongue swept the seam of her shut mouth once, twice, and again. He hummed with satisfaction when she parted her lips a little, letting his tongue dart inside, and her whole body hummed with pleasure.

Pelman had subjected her to a kiss once; an awkward, embarrassing thing, with her twisting to escape and him boxing her into a corner and pawing at her body while he slobbered on her face. The new Lord Hurley, who had also propositioned her when he first arrived at the Hall, had respected her refusal. In fact, he had rather avoided her, and had left again not long after the will was read.

But Pelman laughed when she said ‘no’, and waylaid her when she was alone. It had, until now, been her only experience of the pastime, and she had not seen the appeal.

It was very different being the focus of Hugh’s undivided attention, the recipient of his tender passion.

She lost herself in the new feelings, grasping his shoulders to bring herself even closer to his body, trying her best to imitate the movements of his mouth and tongue.

He pulled away, and rested his forehead on hers, still holding her close. “We had best stop, Rosabel. You are to be my wife, and worthy of all respect, and I have no intention of tupping you on the kitchen dresser. At least, not until we are wed.”

Rosa reluctantly let him go, and he moved back a little so he could lift her back down to the floor. She was pleased to see he looked almost as dazed as she felt. “Would you call me ‘Rosa’?” she asked.

“If you wish, though Rosabel suits you. Beautiful rose. My beautiful Rosa.” He still had his hands on her waist, and he leaned forward to drop a kiss on her hair. “I will move to the village this afternoon, Rosa, and will ask the rector to post the banns tomorrow.”

Book Bites

I’m considering starting a new blog–one where I combine two of my favorite loves–books and food. My characters are often sitting down to a great meal! (Maybe this is because I love them and I want them to be well-nourished?) My thought is to provide a recipe for some of the food my characters eat and an excerpt from the book. And, if it’s successful, I’d open it up to my writer friends and see if they’d also like to post their recipes and book excerpts. Here’s an example of what such a post would look like.

This is an excerpt from my novella, Stuck With You, which, by the way, is free for a few days. Get Your’s Here

stuck With You

At Grammy’s insistence, they had stopped at McDonalds on their way to Newport so that they wouldn’t be shamefully hungry at Kayla’s bridal shower. Andie climbed from the car and followed her mom and grandmother past the Mercedes and BMWs lining the street. She hung back when her mom pushed open the gate leading to a three story Colonial. Roses in every shape and color bordered the brick walk-way. She inhaled the warm ocean air laced with the smell citrus trees.

Andie reminded herself of the missionaries and the devastated homes in the Philippines. She imagined the grinding poverty of most of the world and compared it to the Dodd’s grandiose opulence. She decided that she hated the warm cranberry double doors with the brass lion-head knockers and, therefore, she must also hate all of the Dodd’s: Mrs. Dodd, Mr. Dodd and especially Grayson Dodd.

The bell chimed when Grammy Dean pushed it, and seconds later, Kayla, dressed in a green silk sheath, flung open the door. In her typical over-the-top exuberance, Kayla screamed when she saw them. She threw her arms around first her grandmother, then her aunt and finally Andie.

“I’m so glad you could come,” Kayla said, taking her grandmother’s hand and pulling her into the house. “I know it’s so far for you.”

She made it sound as if they lived in Kansas instead of the canyon twenty miles away.

“This is a really beautiful home,” Carol said.

Kayla flipped her long blonde hair over her shoulder and smiled at her aunt. “And the people that live here are just as beautiful on the inside as their house is on the outside.”

Andie frowned at the tapestry rugs on the wide planked wooden floors, the grand piano near the massive stone fireplace and the family portrait hanging above the mantle. She stopped in the hall, rooted to the carpet while her cousin, grandmother and mom passed through the dining room and a pair of open French doors.

Laughter floated from the conservatory. The smell of grilled shrimp mingled with fresh baked rolls hung in the air, beckoning her to the party, but Andie stood frozen in the hall, staring at the painting.

A beautiful woman with her blonde hair tucked into chignon and dressed in a lace dress sat in a chair. A man that looked like a young George Clooney in a dark suit with a maroon tie stood behind her, his hand on her shoulder. Two little blond, blue-eyed boys dressed in gray three-piece suits stood on either side of their mother. One wore glasses.

“Would you like to meet my family?” asked a familiar voice. “Or are you okay just studying them?”

Andie put out a hand to brace herself against the wall. She closed her eyes, took a steadying breath and turned to face the voice and face she thought she knew. She blinked at Grayson Dodd, or the Grayson Dodd clone.

“Are you Grayson?” she asked.

He shook his head and held out his hand. “I’m Whit.”

Andie swallowed and placed her hand in his. Warmth tingled up her arm, and she dropped his hand as if it were poisonous.  “Did I break your glasses?”

“Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

High heels clicked into the room, and Andie tore her gaze away from Whit’s blue eyes to watch his mother hurry toward them. Although at least fifteen years must have passed since the portraiture was taken, Mrs. Dodd hadn’t changed at all, other than trading the lace dress for a silk blue tunic that perfectly matched her eyes.

“Are you bushwhacking the guests?” Mrs. Dodd scolded her son. “You do know that boys are not welcome here, right?”

Whit gave his mom a tight smile. “Mom, this is Andie Hart. She’s Kayla’s cousin.”

Andie tried not to flinch under Mrs. Dodd’s scrutiny as she considered the fact that Whit Dodd knew not only her name, but also her parentage.

“Aside from your coloring, you look very much like her,” Mrs. Dodd said, after running her gaze up and down Andie, probably taking note of Andie’s Payless shoes and designer knock-off skirt and blouse. “Are you a model as well?”

“Andie is a photographer,” Whit said. “A very talented one.” He casually dropped his arm around Andie’s shoulders and pulled her against him, bumping his hip with hers. He leaned as if to nuzzle her ear and whispered, “Play along with me.”

She blinked up at him, puzzled by not only him but also the buzzing in her blood. Her stomach felt jumpy. Could she blame it on the McDonald’s snack-wrap?

“I have your camera.” His eyes locked with hers.

Sudden tears sprung in Andie’s eyes. “You do?”

He nodded.

“How do you two know each other?” Whit’s mom wagged her finger between the two of them.

Whit smiled a slow, shy grin. Andie couldn’t read his expression at all, but his mother seemed to.

More clicking high heels. “Is this where the real party starts?”

The woman had long, jet black hair and an Angelina Jolie figure draped in a silver, sparkly dress. Her red lips turned pouty when she took note of Whit’s arm around Andie’s shoulders. Andie tried to shrug him off, but he pulled her close.

“Nessa, this is Whit’s friend, Andie Hart,” Mrs. Dodd said.

Somehow she had graduated from Kayla’s cousin to Whit’s friend. The thought made her head feel light.

Vanessa turned to Andie with large, violet colored eyes that held a lot of questions and something else…something Andie didn’t know how to define. Andie took a deep breath, deciding that she couldn’t understand any of these people. There was an undercurrent of communication that was passing her by. And that was just as well.

“It’s nice to meet you, Andie. How did you and Whit meet?” Vanessa cocked her head and showed her teeth. Was that supposed to be a smile?

Andie touched her necklace as a bizarre image of Vanessa ripping into her throat crossed her mind.

“She’s Kayla’s cousin.” Whit tucked Andie a little tighter to his side.

He was warm. And he smelled really good.

She did not want to play along. She wanted to leave, but how? She couldn’t very well ditch her mom and grandmother, and she really needed her camera. She had spent a frantic evening searching and making phone calls… thinking it was lost. She had even called Grayson Dodd. He had told her he hadn’t seen it, but now that she thought about it, he had sounded…off. Like he was trying not to laugh. Andie narrowed her eyes, determined not to play along…as soon as she got her camera. She turned to Whit. “You have my camera?”

He smiled at her, and his eyes said he was glad that she was beginning to catch on. He touched her lips with his finger. Andie staggered from surprise, but Whit kept her upright. Not liking the way her knees sagged, she straightened her spine and resisted the temptation to bite him.

“You’re a photographer?” Vanessa asked.

“More of a photo journalist,” Whit said, removing his finger. “You should visit her blog.” He looked at his mom. “She’s very charitable. Like Mother Teresa with a camera.”

Whit Dodd had looked at her blog. Very few people looked at her blog. At least in the United States. For some reason she had a healthy readership from Russia. She was constantly getting comments from Omars and Vlads. Which she had always thought the weirdest thing…until now. This was definitely getting weirder.

Vanessa took Andie’s arm and pulled her away from Whit. “Come on, sweetie. The party has started, and if we don’t get in there, we’re going to miss all the chocolate.” She wrapped her arm around Andie’s waist and steered her away from Whit’s laughing eyes.

Andie glanced back at him, and he grinned. “I’ll bring your camera by tonight.”

“Tonight?” Mrs. Dodd raised her voice so Andie could still hear. “Why not just give it to her now?”

Good question. Andie wanted to stay and hear the answer, but Vanessa pulled her through the French doors and into the thick of the bridal shower.

The conservatory was probably the most beautiful room that Andie had ever seen. Beveled windows let in the early afternoon light. Ceiling fans gently blew a warm breeze around the women seated on the wrought iron chairs with cushions almost as colorful as the flowers growing in pots scattered throughout the room. Andie instinctively headed toward her mom and grandmother, both seated at a table slightly set apart from where Kayla and her friends sat. Carol had a phony smile stamped on her face, and Grammy Dean looked tired. Both of their face lit up when Andie entered the room. Vanessa tried to lead Andie to Kayla’s table, but Andie took the chair closest to her grandmother. Vanessa dropped into the chair beside her.

“Where have you been, sweetie?” Carol asked. “You missed the soup.”

“Lobster bask.”

“Bisque, mother,” Carol corrected. “It was lobster bisque.”

“Whatever it was, it had champagne in it!” Grammy ran a tongue over her upper lip. “It was so yummy. I can’t wait to see what they bring out next.”

Vanessa studied Carol and Grammy through narrowed eyes, measuring them against a standard Andie knew nothing about. Andie reached out and clasped Grammy’s hand. “Kayla looks happy, doesn’t she?”

“She always looks happy,” Grammy said. “That’s why she got those acting bits when she was so young.” Grammy turned her big, watery eyes to Andie. “You could have been an actress too if you had just smiled more.” Grammy sighed. “Old sober-sides, your grandfather always called you.”

Andie gave her grandmother a sober-sides smile and looked out the window at a cluster of citrus trees. White blossoms fluttered through the air while Andie tried to think of ways to escape. There had to be a hundred, if not a thousand, excuses she could offer for ditching Kayla’s shower, but she could think of only one surefire way of getting back her camera.

She had to talk to Whit. Again. And since talking to Whit was worse than eating a shrimp salad covered in a mint julep dressing and watching Kayla coo over her pile of ridiculously expensive and impractical gifts, suffering through the lunch with a smile seemed like the right thing to do. She would find Whit after the dessert, which, if she were lucky, would include raspberries.

“So, tell me how you and Whit met again,” Vanessa said, bracing her elbows on the table and leaning in.

Andie speared a spinach leaf and considered an appropriate answer that didn’t include the words “none of your beeswax.” What was there about Vanessa that made her belly twist? Was it fair to dislike someone just because she was beautiful, rich and wore too much perfume? The money and beauty were probably gifts she was born with—just like someone else was born with a gimpy leg or a speech impediment—and maybe the perfume was trying to compensate for something. Maybe she had halitosis or athletes foot. “Not long.” She chewed and swallowed a forkful of salad before she wiped her lips on a napkin and asked, “How about you? How long have you known Whit and Grayson?”

“Forever. Our daddies met at Harvard.” Vanessa paused and flashed Andie a bright smile. “I adore their family. Sophie is my girl crush.”

Andie nodded, guessing that Sophie had to be Mrs. Dodd since the family portrait didn’t have any other females.

Carol slipped back into her chair, her cheeks red and her eyes unusually bright—even her blond curls looked bouncier.

“Where did you go?” Grammy Dean demanded in a voice that shushed the babbling Kayla.

All the women at the bridal shower turned to hear the answer. Carol’s cheeks turned a deeper pink. “Just to the ladies room,” she said in a stage whisper. She nodded an apology to Kayla, who flashed her aunt a smile and picked up another present to unwrap.

“Well, you missed the bird costume,” Grammy huffed.

“The bird costume?” Carol and Andie asked at the same time.

Vanessa put down her fork. “It was a Fredericka negligee.”

“Looked more like a flamingo suit to me.” Grammy laughed and pointed her fork at Carol. “And you missed it. Which is a shame. You could use a little warbling and chirping.”

“Oh, mother. How many times do I have to tell you?” Carol rolled her eyes. “I don’t have any time or interest in warbling or chirping.”

“Warbling or chirping?” a male voice echoed.

Andie twisted in her chair to watch Whit saunter into the room with her camera case in his hand. Her stomach did a flippy-twist thing, because she was relieved to see her camera, and because it always did that when he was around.

“Weatherford!” his mother scolded. “You know this is no man territory.”

“Oh, he’s so cute,” Vanessa crowed, “let him stay.” She patted the empty chair beside her.

Andie’s heart did another somersault while she waited for his response.

“I can’t.” Whit smiled and came to Andie’s table. “I had to return this.” He put the camera case on the table, placed his finger under Andie’s chin and kissed her. “I’ll see you tonight.”

After he winked at Carol, he strolled out of the room.

Wait. What just happened? Andie jumped to her feet.

“Oh honey, never chase after a man,” Grammy Dean said.

Carol’s fingers wrapped around Andie’s wrist. “She’s right, sweetie. Let him go.”

“B-but—” Andie stuttered.

“You’ll see him tonight.” Carol tugged on her wrist.

Andie glanced into her mother’s eyes and settled back into her chair.

Dessert arrived while Andie fumed and tried to sort out all of her questions. The chocolate soufflé with raspberry sauce helped her mood. Some. But the tingling on her lips just wouldn’t go away.

chocolate souffle



Unsalted butter, room temperature, for baking dish

1/4 cup sugar, plus more for baking dish


8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or semisweet chocolate chips (1 cup)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten, plus 4 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 1 1/2-quart tall-sided baking dish. Coat with sugar, tapping out excess. Set dish on a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. In a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, combine chocolate, vanilla, and 1/4 cup water. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, 20 minutes.
  3. Stir egg yolks into cooled chocolate mixture until well combined. Set souffle base aside.
  4. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-high until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 5 minutes (do not overbeat).
  5. In two additions, fold egg-white mixture into souffle base: With a rubber spatula, gently cut down through center and lift up some base from bottom of bowl. Turning bowl, steadily continue to cut down and lift up base until just combined.
  6. Transfer mixture to dish, taking care not to get batter on top edge of dish; smooth top. Bake souffle until puffed and set, 30 to 35 minutes. (Do not open oven during first 25 minutes of baking.) Serve immediately.

As a reader and a writer, would this blog be interesting to you? Anybody else love chocolate and raspberries?

Plotting and Planning

There are two schools of thought for writing a book; plotting and pantsing (writing by the seat of your pants). I’m very much a Type A personality. Hence, lots of plotting. When I go to plot a story, it looks something like this:

That being said, I can plot all I want and the story still doesn’t always go according to plan. Characters show up that I didn’t know existed. In my first manuscript I completed, Books and Dreams, I had a young lady start her own used bookstore (my childhood dream) and everything is going wrong, from the electricity not turned on to a clogged toilet. Dealing with the toilet, water sloshed over her new shoes. A voice calls from the doorway. “Ah, the glamorous life of a business owner. Toilet cleaning is so not in my job description.” Who was this voice? It was the heroine’s cousin who is helping her run the bookstore. Who knew? I didn’t know she had a cousin. And one with a snarky voice as well. The cousin turned out to be a shoulder to cry on, a shove in the right direction when the heroine needed it, and a woman worthy of her own story some day.

As writers write, we discover things about ourselves we never knew. I would have thought I was a planner, a plotter, through and through. When I went to write my first novella, Divorce, Interrupted, I discovered I could pantser with the rest of them. I sat down at the computer and that story wrote itself. Whoosh! 20,000 words in no time at all. From then on, I’ve been pantsing my shorter works and just plotting the full-length novels. It is my system and it seems to be working. Except…

When it does not. For the Summertime on Main Street boxed set I had no idea of who my characters were, the plot of the story, a title, nothing. Then I was lucky enough to go back to my old hometown and see my writing ladies. They let me brainstorm my story over lunch. It reminded me of how much I missed that connection and them. I can’t use all the ideas they had that day, but it was an enormous step in the right direction to get started on Retreat, Interrupted.

Do you plot and plan or go with the flow?

Jill James, plotter and planner…sometimes.

You Can’t Edit a Blank Page

Have you ever looked at a brand new blank page and told yourself you have to write. Probably not, but too often that happens to authors. Faced with three novellas for boxed sets that need to be completed this summer, I’m staring at blank pages and asking myself what to write.

To make matters worse, I just completed a full-length contemporary novel. Divorcing our characters is the most difficult thing. But my characters from that story are fading. I must move on.

People ask where I get my characters. Sometimes I wonder when I’m looking at that blank page. Well Friday night I  decided my brain was no longer capable of creating characters and stories. I was certain I was mentally slipping away ready to toss my author pen in the trash. That’s when I decided to take my own advice and just start writing. You can’t edit a blank page. Start with some action. Guess what? A story formed.

Grabbing mail from the mailbox isn’t very exciting unless something in there might change the course of someone’s life. Do I know where this story is going? Not yet. Will I toss it aside? Maybe. I’ve done that twice in the last couple of months because I knew those stories would grow too long. Oh, I’ve not thrown them out, but merely placed them in a holding pattern. Never toss a story! No matter what, it can always be edited.

So I have started on the Authors of Main Street next boxed set, a story of love for a summer romance. I don’t have much of a start on this novella – just a few hundred words. Maybe writing a blog post is easier.  🙂

But to some extent as I was doing the laundry Saturday afternoon, I began to feel more confident about the story. It began to take shape in my mind with some forward movement. I still haven’t decided what exactly is in that envelope. What will be earth shattering? Umm… Darn it, I don’t write that. No deep mystery, no freaky stuff, no aliens, no zombies, nothing that will scare you, just a solid story for your enjoyment.

I did a little brainstorming while I ate dinner with a friend who is wonderful at helping me get the kinks out of my stories. Yet we don’t write the same things. We are about as different as they come. But sometimes she will kick up an idea that triggers another in my mind and my story takes off. Not in the direction that either one of us had planned, but as a result of her bouncing ideas. She’s my number one plot partner when I need help.

On my computer is another unfinished novel and I’m not certain I will release it. It’s a little dark with a very disturbed villain. We were kicking around some plot ideas at a coffee shop one night for that one. I guess we had forgotten that other people eavesdrop on our conversations. One man turned to us with a very strange expression on his face when we were plotting a great way to kill this deranged character. With a very polite ‘excuse me’ he asked if we were authors. I should have told him no, except I suspect he would have walked outside with his coffee and called the police. I’d hate to have to talk my way out of that one, and I didn’t feel like spending the night in jail.

Sometimes a story needs a bunch of what-ifs tossed at it and that’s what my friend and I did over dinner Saturday. A few what-if scenarios and the story started forming. Now I know a lot more about my characters and where it’s going.

That blank page has a few paragraphs. I figure it needs about a thousand more to grow to the proper size. That’s not too many. I can do that. And I can do it two more times for the Christmas novellas. It’s not impossible. Just break the job or any job into bite-sized pieces, right? It’s amazing how quickly things work out.

I no longer need to worry about editing a blank page. By the end of the month, I should have a novella. I know, most people can type more than that in a day. But I can’t! I’m not exactly a two-finger typist. I think I’m five-fingered, three on one hand and two on the other. And I use my left thumb on the space bar. Does that count as a finger? If so make it six fingers.

I need to think about what I’m typing. I sort of spell each word as a type, find the proper key for that letter, and press. And depending on whose point-of-view I’m in, I must climb into that character. I become her as she steps through her front floor and sorts the mail in her hand. What exactly is her feeling as she spots the envelope? Where does she put it? What does she do next? How does she feel about the unopened envelope as she starts to do her normal after work routine? Is it a scam, a hoax, or worse…an unpaid bill? And I just lost twenty minutes running those thoughts through my mind as I type words at a snail’s pace.

Writing is a slow process for me. But it’s also the most fun. And when I’m done, there is very little that I ever change other than a word or two or six to create a better way to express it. Or I find a duplicated sentence. I do read through it at least two times before I send it to my editor. Of course when my editor gets it, she probably freaks at the number of mistakes I have. But she points them out with her red ink (track changes in MS Word) and sets me straight. I get it back, fix those errors, and muck up another area because I notice something, read it entirely a few times, and send it on to my next editor. I repeat that process a few more times. Until it goes to my last editor and she doesn’t let me touch it when she’s done with it because I’ll just mess it up again. I’ll check the format and send it to a few eagle-eyed friends. Then I can tell my formatter, page 125, second paragraph, missing quote marks at the end of line… They don’t let me touch it! And I almost hate to read it that time because I know I’ll want to change at least 5 lines. But at that point, it is too late. So before it goes for that final edit, and to be formatted, I must be certain it is purr-fect! Then I hold my breath and push send.

From the moment I type that final sentence, it takes about two months to get through edits. And I dread edits. That’s where I bang my head against the desk and wonder how I could have written something so stupid.

It’s all part of the process. I write full time. This is my career. Each step is taken seriously because I don’t want to disappoint my readers. They expect the best from me, and I try to give it them. Is it easy? NO! It might look as though I can scribble some words and turn it into a book. It’s not that simple. And when I’m not writing, I’m looking for stock photos for my book covers. My life circulates around my writing. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. It’s also the hardest and requires the most hours. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

“But why do you write about history?” They Ask….

Many have asked why I write about history.

“Writing about history takes so much time, you know, all that research!” they say.

Let me introduce some of my history… about history.

I love the Old West. I love New Zealand. I love stories of “the old countries”.  I have relatives from Denmark, Scotland, Russia, and the American South, all of which interest me no end. My genealogy charts are getting more branched as I continue to delve!

  • I grew up on Highway 84 in La Honda, CA…
  • where the Younger Brothers used to hang out after big heists…
  • where the Stage ran through…
  • and the Peek-a Boo Inn (yes, it was what it sounds like), the eleven bars, three churches and one store were the standard, back in the day. La Honda and some of its history is now featured in the third story of The Long Trails series, in  A Sea of Green Unfolding)history

Then I went away to university, finished veterinary school…(had to be a hoss-doc, didn’t I?)…

  • and lived in Placerville, CA on the Pony Express Trail.history

So, I was rather steeped in the Old West from a very young age.

Well, things led to things and I made my way to New Zealand, where I’ve lived for the past 27 years and have just published my fourth book. They comprise three 1860’s historical fictions in The Long Trails series and the newest, a contemporary novella, placed in the middle of the new Once Upon a Vet School series.

“But I hate reading about history,” some others say.

I love and write history, but rather than vomiting facts and figures all over the pages in what authors call “info-dumps”,  I offer it in a palatable way, by letting my fictitious characters interact with real historical ones in real historical settings. In essence, offering history in a tasty mix. It might just make history buffs of some people who didn’t think they’d ever go there!

History is good, but what about Food?

Recipes, oh yes, did I mention recipes? history Each of my books contain a recipe, pertinent to the story and time. Food. Always important, but I digress…

In case you were wondering what my historicals are about, have a read!

The Long Trails Series

Tales of factual fiction, adventure stories rich in historical detail, following the escapades of Aleksandra, Xavier, and Tatiana as they travel across continents and seas through the 1860’s.

Book One: A Long Trail Rolling history

She didn’t expect to become a target…but she is one now.

Aleksandra is alone and running to prevent her father’s killer from discovering their family secret. Disguised as a Pony Express rider in 1860’s Utah, Aleksandra winds up in even deeper trouble when she rides full speed into the Paiute Indian War. With Xavier, her compelling Californio boss, can she escape the Indians on the warpath and evade the man who’s already killed her father—and set his sights on her?

Book Two: The Hills of Gold Unchanginghistory

No one will stand in their way—and live.

As the Civil War rages, secessionists menace California. Aleksandra and Xavier are trying to get back home—through the oncoming Civil War, the mining camps of 1860’s Nevada and California, and the Sacramento floods—to Xavier’s Californio Rancho de las Pulgas. Embroiled in the Confederate’s fight to drag the new state from the Union and make it their own, can Aleks and Xavier survive?

Book Three: A Sea of Green Unfoldinghistory

When you’ve lost everything, the only way to go is up—isn’t it?

Follow the young couple’s journey to adventure in the turbulent wilderness of 1861 New Zealand. Tragedy strikes in Aleksandra and Xavier’s newly found paradise on their California Rancho and von Tempsky’s invitation draws them to a new life in New Zealand—where the land wars between the European settlers and the local Maori have only just begun.

Book Four: Tatiana   Due out 2018!history

When the tsar holds the reins, nothing is certain—even life itself.

Stableman’s daughter Tatiana rises to glamorous heights by her equestrienne abilities—but the tsar’s glittering attention is not always gold. She and her husband Vladimir become pawns in the emperor’s pursuit of a coveted secret weapon. While Tatiana and their infant son are placed under house arrest, Vladimir must recover the weapon, or risk losing his wife and young son. With the odds mounting against them, can they find each other again—half a world away?

Find my books here!

Tatiana is my WIP (Work In Progress) right now. Does anyone have anything they’d especially like to see in the story? 

Can’t wait to hear from you!

Take care,