What is Your Fear?

My dad was a farmer. He also worked alongside his dad and brother in their logging camp. They had Bee Hives, raised cattle and a few horses, among all else that entails farming.

I don’t recall ever seeing any of those men afraid of anything. They did what was necessary and never let anything get in their way. That I know of.

Who knows what fear lies in the hearts of men? Or women? Or children?

As a child, I was terrified of horses. Later, I overcame that fear and learned to love the beautiful animals.

I thought about how a young boy would fare if he were scared of horses too. That fear isn’t something easy to overcome.

This story came about thinking of how a young boy would deal with his fear of horses, and inspire other children. Or even a grown man.

I hope you enjoy this short excerpt.

 

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A COWBOY’S HERO
CHAPTER ONE

Why was he so scared of horses? But then he knew why. Horses were huge and from the ground up, in his eyes, they were as big as mountains. Whatever else the problem was, he couldn’t seem to get past the fear.

“Everyone’s here and waiting, Owen.”

Owen sneaked a fleeting peek out of the window at the crowd that had gathered outside the barn.

His heart lurched. Why today? Why, when the boys from school were here? Why did he want to throw up at the thought of riding? None of them knew how his stomach hurled thinking of getting up on that skyscraper of a horse. He bit back thoughts of telling his mom to go without him, but he couldn’t refuse to join everyone on his eleventh birthday.

Especially not in front of the other boys. His classmates. Boys he had to face every school day. He’d never live down the embarrassment.

“Okay, Mom. Be there in a sec.” He rubbed the sweat from his hands on his jeans and walked to the door.

Owen manned-up and walked out to the barn, then waited for his mom while she double checked Frost’s saddle. His Nana and Papa had named her Frost because she’d been born on the first frost a year ago. Today they’d given Frost to him as a birthday gift. Little did they know the dread in his heart as Papa had handed him Frost’s reins.

Wishing the world would stop its spin, Owen waited as his turn came to mount. What would he do? The bile rolled in his stomach and slowly rose up his throat. He took a deep breath and scanned his school mates. All but one was mounted and ready for the morning ride and a picnic.

The one unmounted rider was Owen.

In a panic he approached Frost, a gentle Tennessee Walker. She flicked her head and snorted, as if to say, ‘It’s okay, Owen. Come on. Give it a try. Come on. You can do it.’

Owen put one foot in front of the other. He stopped two feet by her side. While flies crawled over Frost, she reacted by twitching, and swishing her tail much the way his heart was beating at the moment.

Oh, I can’t do it. But he had to. Had to. His classmates were waiting. Watching. Expectant.

With a trembling hand, Owen reached out and first touched Frost, then the saddle. He took a deep breath and eased his booted foot inside a stirrup.

 

CHAPTER TWO

Maddy’s heart broke for her son. The struggle he lived was real. Wasn’t eleven a mixed up age for a boy? Especially one as bright as Owen.

A memory of Scott, her ex-husband, flashed inside her head. Darn him anyway.

Owen had several issues he struggled with, but none as much as horse-back riding, which was somewhat due to Scott’s inadequacies as a father. Never had she known him to consider how his actions and words would affect his son.

If she ever saw Scott again, it would be too soon.

 

Until next time, I wish you Butterflies and Music. Most of all…I wish you love…

Full Moon Blessings

full moonOn July 16th, this past Tuesday, there was a full moon. This July full moon is called the “BLESSING” moon. Alternatively, July’s full moon is called the “MEADOW” moon.

I have meadows in all of my WARRIOR books. This meadow, adjacent to a lovely pond, is featured in the home setting for Potters Woods in SPARRING PARTNERS.

meadowThis meadow, pond and many, many full moons were the setting of my childhood and early adulthood. I cannot think of this sacred space without feeling the joy of place; the budding of heart-stopping, earth-shattering romance – the kind you only let yourself feel once.

That meadow, that pond, the many full moons, shaped the woman I am today. A sentimental, soul-deep romantic. An elemental sensualist who enjoys being one with my environment. One who takes every full moon as a blessing to be danced under.

How could I not write about them?

I hope this week’s moon was visible to everyone – it will still be a spectacular sight throughout the weekend.thWherever you may be this week, wherever life circumstances and the moon find you, may you be blessed.

Leigh

Family Traditions

I love family traditions–what ornaments go where on the Christmas tree, the inside jokes that only the family understands, summer evenings with board games, photos, trips, memories.

Did you know that scents are the strongest memory makers we have? A whiff of cocoanut and you are back on your honeymoon in Hawaii. A scent of cinnamon and you are in your grandma’s kitchen helping her to make cookies. A favorite perfume and you are there with a favorite aunt or your mother, even when they are no longer with us.

When I went to write my story for the Authors of Main Street Christmas boxed set I decided to put a twist on a family legend and cookie.

So, the legend goes that the butter cookie recipe came from Ireland with the Redmond family and has been passed down generation to generation. I can’t say whether the legend is true, but the cookies are to die for. So I took the IDEA of a family tradition of a cookie recipe, hijacked a little of my family history, and came up with Sugar Sprinkled Memories.

Maggie Mason has dreamed her entire life of owning her own bakery and making the family-famous Traveling Cinnamon Cookies. The only thing standing in her way is tall, dark, and handsome Warren Kincaid who claims he owns the building where the bakery now sits and he wants it for his new law office. Tempers rise, misunderstandings get in the way, but just maybe–a sprinkle of sugar, a touch of Christmas magic, and life-long memories will be made for Maggie and Warren.

 

 

Chapter 1

Maggie, age 8

 “Mommy, tell me the story. My story, about Maggie the elder and Maggie the younger,” Maggie Mason pleaded as she snuggled deeper under the covers.

Her mother smoothed the covers as she sat on the edge of the bed. “I’ve told you this story a thousand times. You must know it by heart now.”

She nodded. “I do. But you tell it so well.”

Dimming the bedside light, her mother leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Okay,” she whispered. “The tale of Maggie the elder and Maggie the younger.”

She began, “In the wee village of Dunby, which no longer exists, if it ever did…”

Dunby, Ireland 1919 

Maggie McGill nee O’Shay rushed up the pebbled path to her home, her shawl wrapped tightly around herself on this blustery March day. Winter didn’t want to loosen its grasp this year.

Her fingers tingled from more than just the chilling breeze. Sean at the post office said her ma had received mail special delivery this afternoon while Maggie had been at work in the button factory.

She crossed herself. It had to be good news. The factory was closing next month and that would spell the end of Dunby. Her gaze swept over the cottages nearby. Two more had boarded-up windows and a board across the doors. The Great War had started the end of her hometown with the leaving of all the eligible men and the factory closing would end for those who were left.

“If only…” She sighed. Wishes were for the wee folk, not regular people. Wishing her John had returned from the war wouldn’t make it so. Crossing herself, she wiped her shoes on the doormat. Pity served no one when her John wasn’t the only husband who hadn’t returned.

The aroma of cinnamon wafted over her as she opened the door. She hadn’t dared hope, but her mother’s smile gave her the good news anyway. If the scent of the cinnamon buttons hadn’t proclaimed it before she’d opened the door.

“Mama, mama,” tiny voices cried as Virginia and Robert flung themselves at her legs, wrapping her in a warm muddle of boy and girl.

She hugged them back and then pushed them gently away. “Go clean up, I’m sure Granny will have dinner for us shortly.”

Her mother turned from pulling cookies from the oven. Tears flowed down Maggie the elder’s cheeks, threatening to ruin the precious cookies.

She looked away before she had tears to join her mother’s. Cinnamon was a luxury they hadn’t seen during the war and only had some since they’d had it before the war, hidden away in the back of the cupboard. Saved for only one thing. The traveling button cookies.

Setting down the cookies, her mother opened her arms and swept Maggie into a hug. Her body shook and tears dampened her hair. She clung to her mother. The familiar scents of flour, butter, and sugar painting a picture of her ma she would remember to her dying day.

Maggie stepped back, wiping the tears from her mother’s face. “I haven’t even opened the letter yet. How do you know it is good news?”

Her mother smiled, touching the side of her head. A dusting of flour added to the white strands in her dark hair. “I know you’ll be needing the cookies. You’ll be traveling far over the sea to America.”

Maggie’s fingers trembled as she tore open the envelope. She’d read the few pages in a moment. All she could do was stare at the three tickets for a ship to Baltimore, Maryland. One for her and each of her children. Unconsciously, her hand settled on her stomach.

Her mother placed a hand over her own. “This little one will be born where no one knows he doesn’t have the same father as the other little ones.”

She jumped, her face heating. “I didn’t know you knew,” she whispered, whipping her head around to see if the children were back.

Maggie the elder smiled, touching her head again. “I knew. I will always know how you are. Are you safe? Are you happy? Even when I’m an ocean away.”

She couldn’t stop the tears, even when Virginia came back into the room and wrapped her long arms around her mother and grandmother.

“Did someone die?” the eight-year-old whispered, her face blanching white with her freckles sticking out like the pox.

Maggie wrapped her arms around her. It had only been a year since the men had come and told them of John’s death in a nameless field in France. Her little boy had only been three and would never remember the devastating news or the father who would remain just a few pictures and stories and memories from his mother.

“Ginny, we’re going to America. Uncle Thomas has sent for us.”

The little girl’s face lit up, her green eyes sparkling with the idea of a grand adventure. Her red hair bouncing on her shoulders as she grabbed up Robert and danced around the room.

“Robby, we’re going to America,” she crowed as they spun across the wooden floor.

She started to speak up, but her mother’s hand on her shoulder stopped her.

“Let them have their fun. Time enough to hear the story of the traveling buttons before we get you packed and sent on your way.”

A week later and Maggie the younger stood among the bags and trunks of all her worldly goods. Her vision blurred but she refused to let tears fall down her face. Her last moments with her mother would find her with a smile on her face as she waved good-bye to the only family and home she’d ever known.

Virginia held the tin of cinnamon button cookies as her granny did up her coat.

“Ginny, this is why they are traveling cookies,” she explained as her fingers pushed the buttons into their buttonholes on the coat. “They are only to be made when someone is going away from home forever.”

The young girl sniffled as she put on a brave face. “But, we will have a new home? Mama and Robby will be there?”

“Of course,” Maggie the elder said, straightening Ginny’s collar made of a fox’s tail. “But the baker makes them to send a piece of themselves with the travelers and the travelers eat them, one each day, to remember the baker.”

Ginny wrapped her arms around her granny, cookie tin and all. “I’ll write to you all the time, Granny. And Robby too, as soon as I teach him how.”

Her comment set them all to laughing and put smiles on their faces as a truck horn beeped outside.

Maggie the elder scooted them around and had Maggie the younger, and the children, and all their belongings soon settled in the truck. She marched up to the driver and leaned in the window.

“Padraig, you take care of my babies. Don’t you leave until they are safely on their ship.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied, doffing his hat and pulling it back on as the truck slowly moved down the road.

Maggie the elder stood there until the truck turned a corner and disappeared from sight. Only then did she allow tears to flow into the cinnamon-scented hands covering her face.

*****

Since we only make our family’s butter cookies at Christmas I loved the idea of a cookie that was only for a certain occasion, in this case when a loved one is moving far away and never returning home. Now, in our connected global world today, that is usually not true anymore, but I liked the idea that you can return home but it isn’t the same when you make a new home and are just a visitor to your childhood home and memories.

Hope everyone will check out our new boxed set when it is released….Jill

Now is the winter of our discontent

Winter snow on the Tararua Ranges, which bound my valley on the west. Over the hills to the east is the coast on which I’ve set my fictional Valentine Bay

Here in New Zealand, we’re waking to frosty morning and chilly days. I’d like to hibernate my way through winter, but that’s not about to happen.

Instead, I’ve finished my novel Unkept Promises and put it up on preorder, nearly completed To Wed a Proper Lady, and made a good start on The Granite Earl and the Ice Princess.

More about Unkept Promises in a minute, but first, here’s the start of another project — next to get my full focus. It’s the as-yet-unnamed novella for the next Authors of Main Street Christmas project, due out in November. I’m returning to Valentines Bay for this one, in which a professor on sabbatical to finish writing up some important research finds himself intolerably distracted by the local baker, and an author who is helping out her injured aunt by looking after the bakery can’t get any of her real work done because of an irritating academic.

Patrick had read the same paragraph at least four times, and still could not make head nor tail of it. Worse, he’d written it himself, and reviewed it in the last two edits.

It was all Her fault. Even when She was being relatively quiet, as she was now, he was intolerably aware of Her. She irritated him so much, that even breathing the same air, She left him without enough to fill his lungs. And when She forgot herself and began singing to whatever infernal noise She had playing through Her headphones! Well! He’d defy a saint not to turn murderous.

When he found out that the nice old duck who owned the place was laid up with a broken hip, Patrick should have cancelled his booking. Or demanded his meals delivered to the little flat he’d rented above the bakery. Or any arrangement that would have allowed him to escape this torture.

He gave up on the page and took a sip of his tea. Cold. That was all of a piece, though — he looked at the clock above the bakery counter to check — it had been one hour since She bought it.

She was watching him. Glaring, really. Before glaring back, Patrick quickly checked his reflection in the shop window alongside. Hair tidy. Shirt collar and glasses straight. No. Nothing there to arouse Her animosity.

I’m trying for a romantic comedy this time, rather than romantic suspense. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Now. Unkept Promises. If you read historical, and like stories with slightly darker shadows than the frothy ball dress style of story, give my Golden Redepennings a try. Unkept Promises is the 4th book in the series.

Which brings me to the next part of the quote in the title of this post: Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer. That’s how I feel about finally getting Unkept Promises up on pre-release and away to the proofreader.

Unkept Promises

Book 4 in The Golden Redepennings series

She wants to negotiate a comfortable marriage; he wants her in his bed

… oaths and anchors equally will drag: naught else abides on fickle earth but unkept promises of joy.” Herman Melville

Naval captain Jules Redepenning has spent his adult life away from England, and at war. He rarely thinks of the bride he married for her own protection, and if he does, he remembers the child he left after their wedding seven years ago. He doesn’t expect to find her in his Cape Town home, a woman grown and a lovely one, too.

Mia Redepenning sails to Cape Town to nurse her husband’s dying mistress and adopt his children. She hopes to negotiate a comfortable married life with the man while she’s there. Falling in love is not on her to-do list.

Before they can do more than glimpse a possible future together, their duties force them apart. At home in England, Mia must fight for the safety of Jules’s children. Imprisoned in France, Jules must battle for his self-respect and his life.

Only by vanquishing their foes can they start to make their dreams come true.

Buy links:
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/947394
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07TXXK53N/

See my book page for the previous three books, and The Golden Redepennings web page for more about the series. And all my novels, including these, are on 50% discount at Smashwords this month.

Beautiful People

Why are characters in romance novels beautiful? Because we want to read about good-looking people. For a few hours we escape and become the characters. We want to be a pale blonde with big blue eyes, or maybe a dark-haired beauty with sun-kissed skin and eyes that that are the color of obsidian. We want the hero to be handsome and sexy. We want to fall in love!

Why? Probably the guy in real life is sound asleep and snoring. Maybe he was sexy at twenty-five, but thirty years later, he’s got a beer gut and life isn’t as exciting. That doesn’t mean you don’t love him, but a book boyfriend is a rather safe fantasy. And when you look in the mirror, your hips aren’t exactly what they were when you were teen. Time to escape into a book where everyone is perfect and you can be, too!

I write historical novels and I laugh about the mail-order brides. Those gals couldn’t get a guy back home. Chances are they were cross-eyed, bucked toothed, or even had extra fingers. Certainly not romance material, but people write the mail-order bride stories. and readers love them. Each heroine is beautiful and running from something silly. It’s today’s equivalent is online dating except without any safety net.

We all know a few of those internet dating horror stories. Yet I know several people who met online during the early days of the Internet when it was government or universities online and not the general public. A friend met the love of her life via the Internet. They conversed for months. Then she quit her job, packed everything she could fit in her car, and sold the rest. She drove 2000 miles to marry him. Last I heard, they were still married and pushing about forty years of happily-ever-after. That was before every kook had access to the Internet.

What makes someone beautiful? Actually there have been studies done that say beauty is anything better looking than the way we perceive ourselves. And we choose mates accordingly.

I wrote a story about two people who are not beautiful. She’s a plain Jane. The kind of girl that might be your best friend and you know your boyfriend isn’t going to dump you for her. The hero was once very handsome, but when an IED went off, he was the only survivor, and he’s been badly burned. It’s probably the “hottest” story I’ve ever written because it openly deals with erectile dysfunction. It’s really not hot, but not something for the average reader. Yet erectile dysfunction affects a lot of men for various reasons and can unnecessarily kill a sexual relationship. Coming Out of Hiding is a must read for anyone who loves a man that has ED.

I wrote another book, A Son. The heroine is not the typical beauty queen. She’s short and chubby with red hair and freckles. He’s not exactly the body builder either. He meets her and he likes her. He’s looking for someone who will be a gym partner. He’s also one of those guys who doesn’t want a skinny female. He wants something he can hold onto. He’s a big guy! He’s never going to be slim – he’s got big bones and a large frame. Oh heck, he’s a big blond teddy bear, with the sweetest heart, and he’s wealthy! But the heroine has issues, serious issues, very misguided ones.

I guess I’ve always preferred to write about people who are seemingly real. We all want to escape, but we also want to be accepted for who we are. We want someone to appreciate us, no matter who is in that mirror! And we want a guy who loves us –flaws and all. A book boyfriend is the perfect way to escape.

Coming Out of Hiding

Max sat in his office for a few minutes taking care of some things that needed his attention before he retired for the evening. When he finished, he went to his own room and took a shower. He looked at his scarred body. A bittersweet feeling passed through him and stabbed at his heart. She thinks I’m handsome, if she saw me like this she wouldn’t say that.

He liked Tae. She was smart and funny, with a nice figure. Her mass of ringlets that she pulled into a ponytail caused him to smile. She needs a good hair stylist to tame those wild locks. She wasn’t a raving beauty, but that didn’t matter to him. Her upbeat personality and genuine friendship meant the world to him.

Ten years ago, he would have never given her a second glance. But life’s path had changed for him. Now, he could look at the photos of most beautiful naked women, and it did nothing to him. A form of self-preservation? He wasn’t certain.

He thought about Tae’s smile, her initial shock at seeing his hand, and how she had touched it. He rubbed his clawed hand with his good one as if it were possible to erase the caress of her touch, but the warmth spread up his arm and settled in his groin. He blew out a deep breath, but it didn’t stop the stirrings within him. He wanted to touch her, kiss her, and undress her. He imagined parting her lips with his tongue, her breasts pressed to his chest…The thought dissolved. There is no way I should even think about being involved with a woman. I’m hideous.

***

Randolph came into her room with tea. “I’m going to assume you haven’t taken any of your medicine today,” he said, while pouring her a cup from the small pot.

She looked at her watch. “No, I haven’t. I think I’m looking forward to it tonight. I’m not complaining, but I do hurt.”

Randolph handed her the medication bottle. She took one pill. “Randolph, will you sit with me for a few minutes? I have some questions.”

“I shall sit, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to answer your questions. I can tell by the look on your face that your questions have nothing to do with housekeeping.” Randolph sat in a chair next to the small table where he had placed her tea tray.

She took a deep breath knowing she was about to ask about things she shouldn’t. “I know about the explosion. Max said he had been burned on forty percent of his body. Does his body look like his hand?”

“He’s badly scarred. I’m very surprised he even showed you his hand.”

“He didn’t mean to show me, and then he tried to hide it again.” She looked down at her own hands and then back at Randolph. “I guess I forced him. It doesn’t bother me. At first it looked horrible, but after a few minutes it seemed a part of him.”

“I think, other than doctors and hospital personnel, you’re the only other living person, besides me, who has seen it.”

“Oh,” she said and sipped her tea. She pondered what Randolph told her.