Summer is Upon Us

Here in Georgia, we’ve had drought, lots of rain, and now it’s humid. Melting in the heat as a snowman in the sun. I hope you are faring better!

We’re taking it a day at a time.

Here’s a peek at Choosing Ally.

Let me know what you think.

CHOOSING ALLY

Prologue
Love is more powerful than reason.
Tate Stone grew up chasing a dream. He was determined to rise above his family’s modest status in Marshville, Georgia.
Ally Matthews, who grew up privileged, chose to chase Tate Stone.
Since middle school, wealthy Lucas Marsh chose to befriend Tate Stone.
Both men disregarded a warning that one day their friendship would come home to bite them. Both were determined to guard their friendship, their bond against Lucas’s father, Judd Marsh, against all odds.
Ally and Tate disregarded speculation of a difficult involvement, and vowed to marry one day.
Lucas’s father, Judd Marsh, was a man who attained whatever he went after. And…he would do whatever it took to join Ally and Lucas, to bind their family’s bloodline.
Lucas hadn’t counted on falling for Ally, his best friend’s girl.
Tate hadn’t counted on Lucas as a bitter opponent for the love of his life.
Until Tate realized he and Lucas were in love with the same woman.
Tate would do anything to save his relationship with Ally. His dream. His future.
Until Judd Marsh dropped a secret in Tate’s lap.
Until Tate’s mother didn’t deny the secret.
Tate swore he’d get even with Judd Marsh if it was the last thing he did. Judd, with his high and mighty attitude, had glowered down that aristocratic nose at him for the last time.
A promise Tate made to himself. He always kept his promises.
Ally’s family was the second most wealthy family in Marsh County. Ally wanted Tate and a family, never mind how much her father protested.
Lucas wanted her because his father wanted the two together. He thought.
When Tate Stone’s mother lay dying of cancer, old man Marsh sent flowers, had even visited on one occasion. Oblivious to anyone else being in the house, twenty-two year old Tate overheard a discussion that changed his life forever.
Old man Marsh was his father. He was a slime-ball. Not once had he said anything to Tate about it. Heck, he barely knew Tate was alive.
Tate Stone grew up chasing his dreams on the wrong side of the tracks, while privileged Ally Matthews grew up chasing Tate Stone. They had each other in times of trouble and didn’t need, nor want, Lucas Marsh poking his nose in their business.
“Thinks he’s so high and mighty. Just because his old man, Judd Marsh, owns half the town doesn’t give him anymore rights than anyone else, to go around thumbing his nose at us,” Tate said. “We grew up being best friends. I guess that’s over now.”
“I don’t think he still feels that way, Tate. He’s changed, yes. You can’t hold a grudge against him forever, because of what his father is.”
“Yeah? Judd Marsh never once called me son or told me he loved me. He treated me as if I were dirt beneath his feet. The only time I remember him speaking to me, was the night I graduated Marsh High. Came over to shake my hand. Didn’t even put his hand on my shoulder. Some father. I want what’s rightfully mine, and I’ll see to it Lucas Marsh and everyone else in this town, knows I’m a Marsh. Not that being part of his family matters, or that I want to be his son, but Judd’s rubbed my nose in dirt long enough. He had to know I was his son years ago. It’s time he paid homage to the rest of his family.”

CHOOSING ALLY

CHAPTER ONE

Tate stepped onto Marshville’s cracked sidewalk. He felt home again. A home that he’d left to forget.
He wondered where Ally was these days. He hadn’t heard from her since he’d packed a duffle bag in the middle of the night, five months ago, and took off for Montana. Montana, where the skies were bigger than anything he’d ever seen before. Bluer than the open skies of his beloved Georgia.
Tate pushed open the door to the restaurant. Herrin’s. He closed his eyes and inhaled the scent. Fresh potato yeast rolls, creamy/cheesy seafood dish surrounded by mashed potatoes and baked on a wooden slab. He’d never forgotten that food. Too good.

***

Ally sat inside the cafe and stared out the window across the street. She couldn’t believe what she saw. Tate was back in town. Oh, Lord. Now what? As much as she’d cried and tried to reach him, he’d proven he could get lost and he’d done just that.
Okay, she could do this. If her legs would hold her up that is. What would she say to him? Would he even want to see or talk to her? She hadn’t been the one to leave, to break a heart. Tate had refused to believe she’d rather be with him more than Lucas.
Not in a million years would Lucas stand up to or would mean more to her than Tate. She hadn’t been able to convince Tate though. The Marsh’s had finally gotten to him. He’d given up. Given up on her and the life they’d planned.
She watched as Tate climbed back into his truck, then pull away.
Ally had a million questions for him and hoped he’d come into the café. When he didn’t, she paid her bill and slipped out the door, then headed back to her dress shop two doors down.
She called the one reliable person that kept up with everything and everyone in town. Flora, a cashier at Winston’s grocery store.

“Tate is staying in his family home. Won’t be here long though. He has to get back to Montana,” Flora revealed.

***

Tate had found work on a sprawling Montana ranch rounding up cattle. Not that he’d had to work, he’d saved more than enough to last until he could find something worthwhile. But it wasn’t in him to do nothing, to sit and simply fade away. For the first week, he’d done just that though. He’d fought off the bottle. Drinking his troubles away would do no good. Starting a bad habit wouldn’t change a thing.
He’d been determined to get his head on straight and keep it straight. Had to wrap his head around the fact that Ally and Lucas might eventually get together. He wasn’t going to stick around to watch that. Heck no. Not when she’d been the love of his life for better than seven years. Why would he go back? He had no reason to be back in Marsh, except to visit his mother’s gravesite, contract a renovation on the home he’d bought before leaving, then he’d head back to Montana. He’d made a new life. A life without Ally.
It hadn’t taken long for him to realize it would take a long time for this new place to feel like home. He had no friends and that, he supposed, would remain the same until he decided he could handle opening up to another set of friends. The other ranch hands had tried their best to befriend him. They’d shared their lives and asked questions of him. Questions for which he had no answer for them. He was a loner, and that’s the way he wanted to remain. He wasn’t ready. He worked long hard hours everyday. The ranch hands finally let him be.
He pushed aside the curtain and stared out the wide window of the motel at the vast land surrounding the small town of Deer Creek. He’d need to look for a more permanent place. One that would at least be better than the four walls he stared at everyday. The walls had begun to close in, even after a week. He was used to wide open spaces, thank goodness the motel was temporary.
It wasn’t home. The Georgia farm had been his life, though aspirations of a better life persisted.

CHAPTER TWO

 

Of all the people to run into, Tate hadn’t dreamed the man would be Lucas. He wasn’t about to back down. They both stood in Ally’s dress shop glaring at each other, while Ally grasped an armload of dresses, a frown on her face.
Ally had contacted him for help and he wouldn’t refuse his assistance. Whatever he could do to help her, he would. No matter what resentful memories the past held.
Tate’s temper reared, while battle-scars hammered in his taut stomach. “I don’t think you’re needed or wanted here, Lucas.”
“Stop, Tate.” Lucas said, with a sneer. “Nobody’s interested in your opinion. And as far as I’m concerned Ally’s fair game. Always has been.”
“Fine. Allow her to make the decision,” Tate said.
Lucas’ family had paid Tate good money while he worked for them over the years. He’d saved almost all, and that meant he could buy that little ranch, East of Marshville, he’d had his eye on.
Before Tate had taken off for Montana, the more Lucas had known about him, the worse he’d treated him. Tate hadn’t wanted Lucas to know his wants and desires. He’d kept them to himself.
Now, standing face with his old friend, and now the rival, Tate’s smoldering fuse was ready to ignite. He’d taken the brunt of Lucas’ verbal abuse more than once, and wished he’d never sacrificed his personal values for a fist full of Marsh dollars.
“Better get your priorities in order Lucas Marsh, and lock that temper of yours down. Not that it’s any of your business, but I’m here because Ally called me for help, and I won’t stand by and watch you use her again. By the way, she isn’t a game. Not someone to be won in a lottery. Better get used to it.”
“You left her, remember?” Lucas drawled.
“I’ll take care of Ally.” Tate studied Lucas with mild curiosity. Yes, he’d have to keep a close eye on Lucas. He’d seen the jealously brewing in Lucas over the years. He was an old friend, but the last two weeks before he’d left for Montana, their bickering over Ally had proven a flaming battle ground between the two of them.
“Keep in mind, Tate Stone, you were my employee. We’ll let Ally decide, when and what she wants to do.” Lucas threw Tate a sarcastic glance. “Who she wants to be with. I hardly think she’ll choose the wrong side of the tracks again.”
Tate felt the old chill spread across his chest. He wanted to kill Lucas. He clenched his teeth, and tightened his fists as he moved toward him.
Ally’s nerves bundled up around her shoulders, all the pent up anger exploded. The stack of dresses she’d thrown across the sofa, caught a cup handle, sending amber tea running onto the Persian rug—the one precious item she’d salvaged from the house. Another stain in her life.
“Stop it. What’s wrong with you two? My God, haven’t I enough to deal with without you acting like two juveniles in heat?”
Tate and Lucas exchanged murderous glances, each blaming the other for upsetting Ally.
Ally would rather have bitten off her tongue than ask. “Tate, mother’s plot is on the grounds, two-hundred yards east of the barn. I wonder if….”
“Use it, of course. I have no objections. Whatever you need,” Tate said.
Tate mentally kicked himself for not remembering before she was forced to ask. The graveyard was on the property, her family’s property, he’d purchased weeks before leaving for Montana. The oldest private graveyard in the county, of course she wanted to bury her Mom there. God, she was a proud one. He wanted to take her in his arms and kiss away the hurt. but he no longer had the right to do so.
“I’d like to buy back the house and land, Tate. Will you consider it?”
It probably wasn’t the house she wanted back but the memories. “Wha…what?” Tate’s heart jumped to his throat. No way was he selling. “Ally, you know I’ve already started renovation.” The plans, he’d waited for all these years. “Now Ally, honey. You know I said I’d help you out, but this is taking it too far. Besides, what would you buy it back with?”
“I’m not your honey any more. And who gave you privy to my financial status?” Ally seethed at his indiscretion. “Tate, please go, before we both say something we may regret. Is there nothing sacred in this town?” She turned to let both of them know their meeting was over, “Oh, Tate. I forgot. My lawyer called to say the papers I had him draw up on the house are ready to be signed. A little something we haven’t done yet and need to go over. When can you meet with me?”
Tate ran a hand down his face. “Ally. You had no right. You should’ve discussed your wishes to buy the house earlier. Before you went to the expense of hiring a lawyer.”
“Lucas tried to tell me how you were in the beginning. I should have listened, but I trusted you. I loved you. Now you’ve thrown my feelings back in my face. Because you lied, we fought. There’s no truth in you, you’ve always lied to me about him. I’m just sorry it took me this long to find out.”
“You’re wrong, Ally. I’ve never lied to you,” Tate said.
“You wouldn’t recognize the truth if it slapped you in the face, Tate. Why did you come back? You haven’t changed. You’re still the same rotten person you were when you left here five months ago. I’m warning you, don’t mess with me. You’ll be sorry you ever came back.”
Tate smiled, leaned over and nuzzled her ear. “I don’t think you’re in any position to be giving orders. Smile, Ally. Your peers are watching.”
In that moment Ally sent Tate an icy glare. “Play it for all it’s worth, Tate, because it’s the last time you’ll have the upper hand. I will get my family’s property back if it’s the last thing I do.”
Customers had gathered around the bottom of the stairs. All eyes focused on Tate holding Ally firmly by the elbow as he led her down the stairs.
Ally shook off Tate’s hold on her. “Everything’s fine folks. Let’s call it a night. Thank you all for coming. We’ll open again in the morning.”
Lucas glanced toward Tate’s thunderous glance in approval, taking the stairs two at a time chuckling to himself.
Tate smiled to himself. One down. Poor Lucas, he didn’t know he’d been suckered. Tate almost felt sorry for him. He must be getting soft in the head. But making the Marsh family suffer was part of why he came back wasn’t it? To suffer as he had? Each tick of the clock brought him closer to his revenge.

CHAPTER THREE

 

The emptiness mushroomed with each movement of the swing. She wished Tate had never come back. He’d only complicated matters, and she cursed him for arousing old feelings she’d rather have kept deep down inside. It was hard to hide her inner desire any more than she could forget the schoolgirl crush she’d had on him since the age of fifteen. Those burning kisses haunted her, so easily remembered, only heightened when she closed her eyes. The past wouldn’t let her go. Tate was trouble with a big T. Yet she couldn’t avoid drowning in those big blue eyes and wondering what it would be to feel those lips on hers again.
A week later Ally visited Tate. “We need to talk.”
Mistaking Ally’s mood, Tate decided to take matters in his own hands. He raked a big hand through his thick black hair shaking his head, in wonderment. He hadn’t come back to fall in love all over again. She sure was messing up his plans, still…She needed someone…and God help him he wanted to be that someone.
“I have an idea, Ally.” He flashed a smile and pushed a copper curl off her forehead. “I know a little place in San Francisco, where you can sink your teeth into the best Seafood ever. What do you say, ready to set the folks of Marshville on its heels?”
Ally cut her eyes up at him, holding back a smile. “It’s impossible, Tate. No. It’s too soon after mother. Besides, I have the shop to run, and you have a job on your hands, and…well, Tate…We aren’t on the best of terms.”
“Your assistant will take care of everything at the shop. You’ve already said Rona runs the shop as well as you. We’ll only be away for a couple of days, so what’s your next excuse?”

***

This would definitely stand the folks of Marshville on its ears. True, Ally had complete trust that her assistant at the dress shop could handle anything that came her way. Rona was her right arm at Matthews Real Estate. Extremely meticulous, on even terms with the clients–but the deal with Brian Associates…well, she was sure it would be cut and dried, but in the Real Estate business, it was a dog eat dog world, and she wasn’t about to throw away such a big deal. Her profit alone would amount to more than a years regular commission. Still, when she weighed her options, being with Tate won hands down.
It didn’t matter. The townspeople were going to gossip regardless, and since she had no one to answer to, she couldn’t think of any reason not to go. San Francisco, was a long way from here, but it might be what she needed to prove to herself there was nothing between them, and it would be good to get away.
“When do we leave?”
“I’ll make reservations out of Atlanta.” Tate’s cocky grin spread across his face. “Be ready in an hour.”

CHAPTER FOUR

Lucas pushed the old red truck as fast as he dared, hoping to reach Ally before someone else blurted out the news. First her mother, now Tate. He disapproved of their relationship, but she had to make her own mistakes. And as her friend, he’d be there when she needed him. Even if it included information about Tate.
The doorbell rang as Ally closed the last suitcase. “The door is open, Tate. You’re late.”
Lucas stepped over the suitcases, put two and two together and cursed. Tate’s suitcases were strewn over the road where he’d slammed into the tree.
“Lucas. Well…hi. What’re you doing here?
Lucas took both her hands in his. “Can we sit? I have some news,” he said, then pulled her toward the sofa.
One look at Lucas’s face, painted a picture that made her want to run. As blood drained from her face, her legs went weak. “What is it?”
“Ally, honey…there’s been an accident. It’s Tate. He’s been shot.”

 

I hope you have a wonderful July Fourth and Summer and hope the beach is calling you!

Sink your toes in the sand and rushing waves…

I wish you Butterflies and music. But most of all…Love.

Home Again

Happy June everyone!

We haven’t quite hit summer in Wisconsin yet – still cool here.

Normally I  post about my garden and the upcoming solstice – but I thought I’d share some of my work-in-progress instead.

At its heart, HOME AGAIN, is a romance. Big surprise. Yet the jumping in point – the inciting incident – is author, and relationship guru, Garrett Oakley’s estrangement from his father, Robert, and his being forced by circumstance to come home and confront it head-on.

 

HOME AGAIN: A Door County Novel

April 2019

Chapter One

     Robert Oakley was a kind of man who needed a woman, often many women, around him, to make his life complete. Unfortunately, everyone he loved, with the sole exception of his second grade crush, had up and died on him. Leaving him an empty core of the man he had been with them in his heart, his life, and his bed.

     Robert’s father had been the kind of man who worked hard, was often seen with his paper and his pipe, who loved his family in that quiet way of the men of his time—more hands off than openly supportive.

     Douglas James Oakley, veteran of the war to end all wars, Robert’s father, made a habit of kissing his wife on the cheek first thing when he came home from work. Before he’d even set his briefcase and lunch tin down on the kitchen table. He often ruffled Robert’s hair affectionately before making his way into his study for an evening cocktail before dinner. No one bothered Robert’s father as he sat alone in his study reviewing the days thoughts and actions. Robert certainly wouldn’t have dared to do so. Instead, Robert spent his time with his mother. He helped her make dinner. He helped her in the garden. And after school when he was done playing with his friends, it was his mother who helped him with his homework. It was his mother he told his hopes and dreams to. And, ultimately, it was his mother loved him more than anyone else in the world.

     Robert believed then, as he did now, that it only took one person to love you with their whole heart to elevate your soul and increase your capacity for love. Those changes to one’s spirit were indelible and lasted well beyond one lifetime.

     He hadn’t been that person for Garrett. And for that, he paid a heavy price. Garrett seemed determined to see to it. Rarely had he seen Garrett put more effort into anything, than he had in casually hating Robert.

     Garrett no longer spoke to him, and hadn’t about anything real, for nearly a decade. Robert regretted his role in making that reality. More than he regretted anything since missing his mother’s funeral. He’d been unconscious in a medivac unit at the time, so it couldn’t be helped, but sometimes things you couldn’t help, hurt nearly as much as those you could. Robert knew he’d let his long dead mother down with his treatment of his son. She’d be ashamed of Robert. Quietly ashamed, but ashamed no less, for his abdication of his parental duties following the death of his wife. And then, the death of his second wife whom Garrett had clung to after losing his own mother. She’d been like the only ship on a stormy sea that may never settle again for Garrett.

     Garrett was a man now. He no longer needed a father the way he had when he was young. Robert didn’t miss Garrett’s childhood, but he had missed most of his son’s adolescence. Now Garrett seemed determined to isolate himself from his father. Robert wasn’t going to let anyone, not even Garrett, rob him of knowing his son in whatever time Robert had left on this earth.

     Robert didn’t blame Garrett for sidelining him to the role of distance observer. Robert knew he’d earned that. Earned or not, Robert simply wasn’t willing to tolerate it any longer when he could do something to change his relationship with Garrett. What was the worst that could happen, he wondered?

     Perhaps he shouldn’t have asked.

     But he did ask and he did jump right in and it was a fault of his long dead mother appearing to him in a dream saying as clearly as she often did in their garden, “You can’t grow what you don’t plant, Robert. And you can’t harvest what you don’t tend.”

     Right on the heels of his mother’s unsolicited gardening advice, Astrid, the seven-year-old daughter of his manager, Poppy, came barreling into his office and asked him why his son wasn’t helping with the renovations at The Red Robin Inn. Robert told her he hadn’t spoken to Garrett in a long while and that Garrett lived far away and didn’t have time to visit. And he was way too busy writing books to help with building new cottages at the Red Robin.

     “Then you should put Garrett in a time out,” Astrid said emphatically. “A really, really, long time out.”

     Robert leaned down toward Astrid and said, “Garrett is a grown man. I can’t put him in timeout.”

     Astrid cocked her head at him and replied, “you should’ve put him in timeout before he got to be a grown man. Then maybe he’d come home now.”

     Robert had never put himself or Garrett in timeout. He probably should have done both long before he lost his first wife. He couldn’t change that, although he would certainly do so if he could.

     What he could do was actively plant and start tending the garden he wanted to flourish.

 

What themes intrigue you in your writing? What types of fiction are your favorites? Family ties always play a role in what I write, and I’m a fan of reading romance with strong family ties and over-arching friendships. How about you?

 

May your June be filled with love, adventure, and some really great summer reading.

 

Leigh

Family Ties

With the passing of my grandma-by-marriage this week, I’ve given lots of thought to family. My own and my fictional ones in the books I write.

At the age of 98, 99 if she had made it to September, Grandma Jane lead a filled, full life. She left her earthly bonds surrounded by her family. Her son and daughter. Two grandchildren with their spouses. A great-grandson. We sat with her as she struggled for each breath, her lungs full of pneumonia, her age against any chance of fighting it.

My husband and I are now three hours away from our family. My husband’s sister called us a few days ago and said Grandma was in the hospital. She was sent back to the nursing home. Two days later, she was back in the hospital fighting for her life with aspiration pneumonia. Sister called us at 9 pm. to say they were in the ER and they would keep us updated. At midnight, she called to say Grandma was not expected to survive the night.

We threw off our pjs and whipped into our clothes. We grabbed a duffel bag and threw enough in to it to go for a couple of days. (God forbid you are ever in this situation, have a go-bag) We reached the hospital at 3 am.

Grandma left this world at 11 am that morning.

Nurses are angels on this Earth and don’t let anyone tell you differently. They had to know it was hopeless, but they came in time and time again when we asked them to take blood pressure readings. They asked if we were okay numerous times. They brought us coffee, tea, and cookies as the sun rose and the darkness fled from the windows. They went above and beyond to give us comfort in a time that no comfort could help. They did all they could to make an impossible time bearable.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

I have a bad habit of erasing my characters’ families. It is easier to write if they are only children with deceased parents or only one or a grandmother raising them. I didn’t start out giving this much thought when building my stories, but…how our characters interact with their families says so much about them. The inside jokes. The teasing. The memories. The stories.

I didn’t plan on so much family when I started writing my story for the next Authors of Main Street anthology until I realized I could use my family history to give Maggie a family history and the legend of the traveling cinnamon cookies.

From me to you–hug your family, keep them close, hold them in your hearts forever.


Jill James, romance writer

Where have all the good men gone?

Somewhere in the cusp between several writing projects, the evening news, and every day life, I’ve been pondering heroes.

In part, I’m trying not to repeat myself. Maybe it’s just that I like a challenge, or perhaps that I’m easily bored, but I want each hero to be a unique individual, with his own personality, his own traumas and motivations, his own unique way of responding to his heroine and to the world.

Some writers, I know, produce a series of heroes who change in mannerisms and appearance, but not in their essence. A well-written series is no less enjoyable for every hero being an alpha male: strong, confident, protective, even domineering; but putty in the hands of the woman who is their match.

The scarred hero is a common archetype with some writers: the wounded body reflecting deeper wounds in heart and soul that he will only address when the love of the heroine gives him a motive to heal.

Others love to write about the bad boy, constantly taking risks and pushing boundaries, until someone comes along who matters more to him than his desire to thumb his nose at society.

I wrote a blog post recently about hero archetypes, and the challenge each type faces in winning their heroine. King, ladies man, bad boy, swashbuckler, best friend, protector, recluse, professor — they can all be fun to write and fun to read.

But a person is more than their archetype. As my heroes and heroines reveal themselves, I’m asking what makes them happy? What do they laugh at? What hurts them or reminds them of past pain? What arouses their anger or their joy?

My own personal romantic hero and I had a conversation about fundamental masculine and feminine traits, in response to an article we read about a man who felt that when his beloved asked to share the driving on a long trip, she was really saying she did not believe he could protect her.

Modern psychology tells us that men and women are more alike than they are different, and that all personality traits are on a continuum. On the other hand, I’ve raised both boys and girls, and they’ve been different from the cradle. On the other other hand, I’ve no idea how much the difference has been subtly imposed by our culture. I’m now up to three hands, so had better stop.

The scientific truth is useful for building my heroes. I can give them a variety of traits that are a little out of the norms for the culture they live in, and let them be ashamed or defiant or amused; secretive or flamboyant; accepting or tortured. I can then let them spark off a heroine who complements or challenges them.

Each couple will be different. Each story will be different.

Just for fun, here are the heroes I’m currently living with.

Jules Redepenning is a bad boy, but also a protector. His book, Unkept Promises, is about to go to the proofreader. In it, the wife he hasn’t seen in seven years comes to meet him in Cape Town.

Dear Heavens. The man was gorgeous. Even grumpy; even with most of his attention on another woman, even with all that she’d heard about him to his discredit, she wanted him.

James Winderfield in To Wed a Proper Lady is quite a different fellow. His strongest archetype is king. In his book, almost finished (four scenes to go), he must marry a proper English lady for the sake of his family’s reputation. And then he falls in love.

He was drowning in a pair brown-gray eyes, like a pond in the deep shelter of a nurturing forest. Did she feel it too? The Greeks said that true lovers had one soul, split at birth and placed in two bodies. He had thought it a nice conceit, until now.

I’m a little over 10% of the way through the first draft of To Mend the Broken Hearted. Valentine Monforte is a recluse, nursing his wounded heart and mind in a remote country manor. Until a woman doctor battling a typhus epidemic takes over a wing of his house and refuses to be kept out. In the first scene, he steers his plough around the nest of a lapwing.

One more evidence of his madness, the tenants thought, and in his worst moments he thought they were right, when thunder set him shaking or nightmares woke him screaming defiance or approaching anywhere close to that cursed tower froze him in his tracks.

And I’m at the early stages of meeting three more heroes whose stories will find their way to paper before the end of the year:

The Earl of Hamner is a rules-bound gentleman. His archetype is best friend, but he’ll need to loosen up a bit.I have just the heroine for him.

Max, a former special forces assassin and most recently a gun for hire, is asked to investigate some disappearances in a cult. Serenity, his heroine, will touch a heart he thought long since calcified. He’s a swashbuckler.

And last, but not least, still unnamed and only just coming together, is my hero for this year’s Authors of Main Street anthology, which takes us back to Valentine Bay. He’s the professor type, this lad. He’ll find my lady baker worth studying.

The Power of the Ten-Minute Goal

I’m a big believer in the power of small and simple things. By the yard it’s hard, but by the inch it’s a cinch. A thousand mile journey begins with a single step. (You probably know some proverbs of your own. I bet your mother taught them to you.)

I believe that small, simple goals are the steps to success and that great, big enormous goals are tools of Satan that we use to clobber out all the good feelings in our souls. Which may sound funny coming from a novelist and a marathon runner, but I didn’t sit down and write a novel in one breath and I didn’t run 26 miles the first time I put on my sneakers. As a writer, I got an idea which I nursed and then wrote about a few hundred words at a time. Nearly every day. And I took A LOT of classes and workshops. Same thing with the marathon (which, by the way, was ten years ago) I ran six days a week and every week I went a little further than the week before. It wasn’t easy. There wasn’t a short cut. I had giant blisters on my feet and lost all of my toenails. (What was I thinking? I’m deviating, back to my point…)

“There is an Indian proverb or axiom that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, physical, mental, social, and spiritual. Most of us tend to mainly live in one room but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.”

 Rumer Godden. A House with Four Rooms

Luke said it this way:

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.                                                                                                                                                             Luke 2:52

Consider the four rooms of your life. Take stock. Which rooms need airing the most? Is there a room that could use an overhaul? Maybe another could use a little polish and shine. Think in five to ten minute goals, the sort of goals that make you say, easy-peasy. Ten minutes out of a week of 10,080. Think of something small and simple and set a goal. (Remember, big, giant goals are Satan’s weapons used for beating yourself over the head and killing all your hope.)

Here are some examples of ten minute goals:

Physical

Ten minutes of weight lifting a day

Ten minutes of ab exercises

Ten minutes to massage your feet

Ten minutes to do your nails

Mental

Read a thought provoking book (for just ten minutes every day)

Spend ten minutes virtually traveling

Ten minutes of logic puzzles

Ten minutes of crossword puzzles

Social

Write a thank you note

Call a loved one you haven’t seen for a while

Start a gratitude journal

Take a gift to someone having a hard time

Spiritual

Pray

Study scripture

Journal

Listen to inspiring music

Probably after reading this list, you have thought of your own ten minute goals that can make a difference and change your life for good.

The Long Trails Box Set is Finally OUT!

Hello! I hope your spring is coming in beautifully in the northern hemisphere and that those of you in the southern one have battened down the hatches! I’ve been busy doing just that down here in NZ, while preparing an equine vet dentistry course for next week, reloading all of my books with improved blurbs (have just finished reissuing them with new covers!) and soon to be starting to put them all out as AUDIOBOOKS! Equipment’s waiting!  And then to finish Tatiana I! And a vet book for horse owners. And the Scottish Highlands story… (I’d best stop before I get a heart attack…).

New Covers

I don’t think I’ve shown you all my new covers!  You can check them out on my website here but here they are in short form:

Lizzi Tremayne Sampler

Tatiana

So on to even more exciting things: as usual, Matt’s right again… my upcoming book Tatiana was meant to be a novel. Nothing too long, just a novel. He just laughed. And laughed.

“More like War and Peace, it’ll be,” he said, when he could breathe again.

“No, it won’t,” I muttered.

Well, he pegged it…  but it’ll be four volumes, not one.

So you see why it’s taking me so long?

And it’ll be its own series, too. Big sigh. 

Anyway, back to something that’s finished already: looking for some spring/summer time reading? Seek no more!

The Long Trails Box Set!

Binge reading time?

Can an orphan, with only her Mustang and a Cossack sword, survive alone on the frontier?

From the deserts of Utah, through the gold mines of California, to the turbulent wilderness of New Zealand, Aleksandra rides, loves, and fights—with only her Cossack skills to keep her alive.

** From multiple award winning author Lizzi Tremayne **

The Long Trails Box Set, comprising three full novels–over 1400 pages of historical fiction set in 1860s Utah, Nevada (which was still Utah Territory at the time of the stories), California, and Colonial New Zealand,  I hope you love it! And before you ask if it’ll be out in paper, sorry, no, it won’t.  Amazon won’t print more than just over 800 pages in each book and if I start splitting books in the middle, you might as well buy one of each! 🙂

The biggest complaint I’ve had is that people didn’t have the next book to hand… but this way, the first three books in The Long Trails series will be at your fingertips!

You can find it here!

Take good care all, and enjoy!

Let me know how you like it!  And as always, reviews are SO welcome.

xx

Lizzi Tremayne

June is the Month for Weddings

I write romance, not typical romances. I write that little slice of my characters’ lives where they fall in love. Because I don’t follow the standard rules for romance, my books often fall under the general literature category. But I happen to like a happily-ever-after sort of an ending. That kicks it back to  being a romance even if the romance is just minor portion of the story.

When someone says they love my writing, I want to leap for joy. Very rare do authors get any feedback on a story.

If you love a book, please leave a review. Share it with your friends on Facebook, or any social media. It doesn’t take much. If you go to the book on Amazon, they have some share buttons. Click it and the book will go straight to your Facebook page. You don’t need to write a book report. Three or four words are enough. I loved this book, or best book ever. And if you want to write a paragraph, do it. Just don’t give away the ending.

A local friend has a job that keeps her traveling. About a week ago, she stopped for late lunch in a small town. She was ahead of schedule so she brought her Kindle into the deli-style restaurant. After checking the menu and giving her order she proceeded to read one of my books. The waitress brought my friend her tea and noticed what was on the Kindle. The waitress made the comment that she loved my books and has read every one of them. Her comment spurred another customer to jump into the conversation and say that she too loved my books. I have fans in a small town in Virginia!

When my friend returned home that evening, she texted me, and told of her encounter during lunch. She made my day. Even now the thought of what transpired brings a smile to my face. I have two fans I didn’t know about!

Here’s a sample from the book my friend was reading. This is the first book in the Wedding Vows series. The next book to release in this family saga will be #5. It’s Sean Montgomery’s turn to fall in love being he’s all grown up. That book should be available this fall.

 

With This Ring

Cody Montgomery shut down his computer and turned out the light in his office. His receptionist who also doubled as his secretary had left early to pick up her son from school. Now he was running late picking up his boys from the babysitter. He should have called Melissa and had her pick up Colin and Logan, but he didn’t think it was right to impose on her.

He cut across the alleyway, down two blocks and over one more. Two marriages had yielded seven children. At least they had each other.

“Hi Donna,” he called, as he pulled open the kitchen door of a brick house on a quiet street. “I know. It’s the third time I’ve been late this week. Carlie had to pick her son up from school after lunch. Apparently he had a stomachache. I needed to finish something before I left.”

The young mother walked out of the laundry room carrying a basket filled with whites and dumped them on the kitchen table. “There’s something going around. I’ve made Tommy stay in his room. He’s come home with a stomachache.”

“Oh, no.”

“I’ve kept the twins away from him, but they all rode the bus together.”

“Daddy!” Two little towheads grabbed his legs and almost knocked him off balance.

He grinned as he grabbed them into his arms and hoisted them to his hips. “Stop tackling me.”

“I need twenty-five dollars for our class trip and you’ve got to sign this.” Sean didn’t even look up from the game he was playing on his phone as he handed over the permission slip to Cody.

Donna sorted white socks and undies according to their size. “Ian isn’t here yet. He and Jimmy have basketball tryouts this afternoon and Barb Clayton was going to drop them here afterwards. Why don’t you let him stay for dinner and I’ll bring him to you after he’s eaten. I’ve got to go to the grocery store this evening anyway.”

“Thanks.” He lowered the twins to the floor. “Guys, go get your stuff. We need to get home.”

He and the twins walked the three blocks to their home, with Sean trailing behind, acting as though he didn’t know his stepfather or the twins. Cody knew part of it was Sean’s age, but that didn’t stop the worry that niggled inside of Cody. That boy lived to play computer games.

Quiet and introverted, Sean created his own world and lived within it. Cody saw himself at that age, the loner who didn’t get involved with other kids. But he wasn’t certain how to draw the young man out.

Cody knew he was still a loner. The difference was, he learned to live in a world with people.

He’d spent the last ten years working with Project Release, a nonprofit group that worked to protect and prove the innocence of convicted felons. He’d managed to prove the innocence of two men and one woman. Along the way, he’d stumbled upon countless violations of rights, which gave the inmates new trials and often reduced sentences. Most of the time, those serving time were guilty. His job was to search for the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Occasionally, he’d handle some private legal matter for a friend, but most of the time he pushed it off on the local law firm. He wasn’t interested in making money. He had money. Thankfully, he was in the position to give back to society.

Darkness was settling as he approached the front door of his home. His children were his first priority. He unlocked the door and keyed his entry on the small security pad in the foyer. It was important to keep the children safe. His clients weren’t exactly model citizens and they had plenty of family and friends that would do anything to free them.

“Melissa! Chelsea! We’re home.” He heard the car in the driveway and knew by the sound of the engine, it was Julia.

“Sean, do you have homework?”

“Yeah.”

“Were you planning to do it anytime soon?”

The boy shrugged.

“Please do it and get it out of the way. I want to talk to you about something tonight. I found a summer program that I think you might like.”

“Oh, spare me. I’m not going to sleep in a tent and sit around a campfire singing Kumbaya.”

A chuckle rose in Cody’s throat. “I’ll remember not to send you to Camp Granada.”

“Isn’t Granada in Nicaragua?”

“Never mind. I’ll talk to you later.”

Cody made his way to the kitchen, washed his hands, and began to prepare dinner. He was no chef, but he managed, and the kids didn’t complain too much. His next hurdle was getting them all to the table at the same time. Forbidding cell phones at the table was the only way to manage conversations with any of the children.

With Ian missing from dinner, it was a little less boisterous. That boy had enough energy for three kids and his mouth never stopped, but he wasn’t considered to be hyperactive, just active, and his grades were good. Julia struggled with schoolwork but managed to get average grades. Of all the children, Chelsea looked the most like him with her dark hair and blue eyes.

He looked at his second oldest daughter, Melissa. With dark brown curly hair that hung almost to her waist and dark eyes, she was a beauty. It was almost two years to the date that Melissa got sick.

Her right hand had cramped and curled her fingers. For almost six months she lived with pain. The doctors never did figure out what caused it, but they looked for everything and asked for DNA testing.

That opened the biggest can of worms he’d ever personally experienced.

He had been young when he married Julia’s mother. Julia wasn’t a year old when he met Jenna.

That marriage produced two girls before it ended. Then after several years, he married Patty. She had Ian and Sean from a previous marriage. That marriage produced a set a twins. He thought they were happy and mourned her death. The memory soured his stomach. He pushed his plate away and sat back.

“What’s wrong, Dad?” Melissa asked.

He grimaced. “Not very hungry tonight.”

He scraped his plate and added it to the dishwasher. “I want all of you on your homework as soon as you’re done eating.”

He cleaned up the kitchen, then called for Sean to meet with him.

The boy shuffled into Cody’s home office and plopped into a chair. “What?”

“Come here and look at this.”

“Email it to me.”

“No. I want you to actually look at it so we can discuss it.”

Sean tipped the monitor slightly and grabbed the mouse. “You’re joking? You’d let me do this?”

“I thought you’d like it.”

“How’d you find out about it?”

“My father sent it to me. He’s on the board of the University.”

“Whoa. You think he can get me in?”

“No. You have to qualify. I can fill out all the forms, but you’ve got to write the essay and show them why you deserve to go.”

“Six weeks – and I get to stay in a dorm and everything?”

“Yes. Now finish your homework so you can start planning your essay. You don’t have much time.”

“Six weeks of intense programming so I can write games!”

“Certain you don’t want to go camping?”

Sean held up his middle finger.

“Behave.” He waited until Sean had left before allowing his laughter to surface.

As he was about to turn out the light and leave, his phone rang. Looking at the Caller ID, he hesitated. Had someone gotten wind of his idea to decorate his home for Christmas with a few million lights timed to music? Prepared to use his most professional voice, he picked up the receiver on his landline. “Hello.”

“Hi, it’s Elizabeth. Have I caught you at a bad time? I have this incredible idea.”

He slumped his shoulders into the padded chair. “I’ve got to get the twins in bed in a few minutes and the older ones are finishing up their homework.”

“Okay, I’ll be quick.” There was the sound of an inhale. “You are going to the Downtown Business Association Christmas Dinner, right?”

“Yes.”

“Great. Please tell me you do not have a date for it.”

“A date?”

“A woman.”

“No. And if I really needed a date, I’d ask Julia to accompany me.”

“She’d probably be pleased to think you’d ask her and bored to tears the entire time. I have a better idea.”

“What?”

“Trust me. I’ve been on this earth a lot longer than you have. I’ve got the perfect date for you, and you won’t be disappointed.”

“Who?”

“I’m not telling. Besides it’s just an association dinner and hardly intimate. If things click between you, that’s great! If they don’t, you’ll tell her goodnight and that you’ll see her at the meeting in January.”

“Who are you talking about, Grace Bickers?”

“Grace is almost old enough to be your mother. I already said I’m not telling.”

“Whatever. I’ve got to put the boys in bed.”

“Tell Ian I said congratulations on making the team. I’m sure he’s busting his buttons.”

Why am I the last person to know about my son? “Thanks. I’ll tell him.”

“You can pick your date up at the coffee shop. Night”

The following morning he got a call from the middle school to come get Chelsea. He had no sooner settled her in at home with a bucket, clear sports drink, and plenty of tissues when he got called to the high school to get Ian. But when the elementary school called for Colin, he said he’d take Logan, too.

Logan managed to get all the way home, but as soon as he opened the car door, the child tossed up his breakfast and probably everything he’d eaten for the last week. Over the course of three days, Cody had picked up every one of the children, except for Melissa, who swore she wasn’t even nauseated.

Whatever the children had, it was short lived. At least they all had it out of their systems before they flew home to Utah for Thanksgiving. His parents loved his large brood.

Forty-six family members gathered for dinner. It was wonderful, chaotic, and exactly what a family Thanksgiving was supposed to be. The next day Cody and his sister took all the children skiing.

Strangely enough, it was Ian who loved the ranch. The boy followed Cody’s oldest brother like a glued shadow.

But it was while watching the gaggle of young female family members that Cody’s sister roped him into a disturbing conversation.

Barbara gripped his shoulder. “How much have you talked to the girls about sex?”

“I-I’ve given them the pamphlets and I’ve told them they can come to me with any questions they might have.”

“You dumb jerk. Just talk to them. They are your children.”

They’re my life. “What am I supposed to say?”

“What did you tell the boys? Or did you skip that too?”

“No, I talked to them.”

“Well, talk to the girls.”

“What am I supposed to say? I’d like to discuss your vagina? I’d rather not think that my girls have such parts or even intend to use them until they are thirty.”

“Do you realize that Julia has a boyfriend and is sexually active?”

“Whatever gave you that impression?”

“When was the last time you checked up on her? Looked in her room, her computer, read her text messages, or even looked in her purse?”

“I’m not doing that to my daughter! That’s a violation of her privacy!”

“You’d better talk to those girls before you’ve found out that one has had an abortion or is pregnant.”

“What am I supposed to say, it’s time to discuss the birds and the bees?”

“No. Julia isn’t actually doing anything at the moment. Grab your coat and hers and tell her you are taking her for a walk. Then just talk to her like a grown woman.”

“Now?” His guts twisted into a knot.

“It’s as good a time as any.”

He turned away from his sister and found the coats. His skin prickled as he walked up to the oldest of his brood. “Put your coat on; we’re going for a walk.”

In silence, they walked down the fence-lined driveway as he tried to pull together what he was supposed to say to Julia. Plowed snow lay in dirty rows on each side of the asphalt. A steer mooed.

His stomach knotted. “We need to talk.”

“Is something wrong?”

“Maybe. Maybe I should have told you a few things when you were younger. Now you’re grown and…” He held his hand out to her and she took it. Cold stung his eyes.

“And what?”

“When you needed a mother, you didn’t have one.”

“Obviously, my mother didn’t care to stick around, and I didn’t like Patty.”

“I know.” He walked a few more steps. “There were things I should have told you, but I didn’t know how. I’m still not sure I know what to say.”

They walked for two hours. He gave her his opinions and listened to hers. He heard things that, as a father, he didn’t want to hear. And as dusk settled, they sat on the back patio and talked some more.

Maybe it was the best conversation he’d ever had with Julia. In the end, he knew he’d raised a sensible young woman in spite of having no idea how to raise a child.