Facing both ways at once

In ancient Greek mythology, the god Janus had two faces so he could look in both directions at once — into the past and into the future. He was the god of any transitional state, including beginnings and ending, gates, doorways, and passages. He may have given his name to January, which will be on us at any moment.

The new year, whenever your culture celebrates it, is a time for considering the past and making plans for the future. For me, it’s a time of transition in other ways. We’re looking at a major upheaval in where we live. We’re planning to retire from paid employment.

The writing is a given. The upheaval in our lives has meant I’ve not completed as many books this year as I hoped. Next year, perhaps, though I expect the upheaval to continue at least until we are moved and retired.

Still, I’m pleased with what I have done. Look for my story The Gingerbread Caper in Christmas Cookies on Main Street, as well as the novella prequel to a coming historical series, Paradise Regained, which was published a couple of weeks ago. I also have a novella in Fire & Frost with the Bluestocking Belles due out early in February.

If you need some holiday reading, go see my blog post that lists Christmas Cookies and Paradise Regained, as well as others. I’m also going to put one up with books from friends.

Every good wish for whatever festival you happen to be celebrating, or just in general if you’re not celebrating at the moment. May your days be merry and bright, and may we all enjoy every good thing in 2020.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

2019 is rapidly coming to an end. It’s Christmas Eve. Can you believe it?

I shake my head and take an appreciating glimpse back at the whirlwind days as the year mushroomed. There were good times and sad times. More good than sad, thank goodness.

The older you get, the faster the years pass. If you’re like me, there may be things you should’ve done, but didn’t. Maybe things done, that well…we won’t talk about! Don’t ask, and I won’t tell. Lol Okay, I’ll get over it and press onward to improve the next year.

Still, I’m reminded of another year I was blessed in which to participate. There were many who weren’t so blessed. May we remember to be kinder and more gentle to those less fortunate.

I’m grateful for time with family and friends. Grateful for sweet memories, celebrations and looking forward to new friends and what the future holds.

I’m also grateful for my reader friends who fill every day with joy. I appreciate each one of you so much, and thankful to have you in my life.

And…speaking of reading…

If you haven’t gotten your copy of Authors of Main Street’snewest book

Christmas Cookies on Main Street,

consider grabbing a copy. I have a feeling you’ll enjoy the stories. All authors share a favorite recipe for your enjoyment!

 

My story – Christmas BlessingsApple Lake series – Book 4 – is included in Christmas Cookies on Main Street. Christmas Blessings will be out shortly as a stand alone book.

Christmas Blessings (small)

 

Welcome to upcoming 2020!

May your Christmas be filled with warmth, good health and lots of love.

Until next time…I wish you Music, Butterflies and most of all…I  wish you Love.

The Intangible Gift

I don’t know about you, but each year I find myself searching for the fictitious ‘perfect gift.’ In the spirit of this hopeless pursuit I’m going to share a small story featuring myself as the main character and a special appearance of my son. I hope you enjoy this fictitious short story.

The Intangible Gift

Ashlyn let out a sigh as she studied yet another store shelf. She already had several wrapped boxes and the small items for her son’s stocking, but she hadn’t found that illusive ‘perfect gift.’

“Maybe it doesn’t exist.” Ashlyn muttered as she moved to the next collection of merchandise. It was silly searching for more when she had plenty. Even though she knew this, she still couldn’t let go of the possibility that this store would have what all the others hadn’t. She had searched all the chain stores before checking out the local boutiques and consignment shops along her travels up and down the Shore.

She was now in a small shop that had a variety of items that could only be described as eclectic. There didn’t appear to be a theme to the store. Two walls were covered in shelves that housed locally made jams and rubs alongside an odd assortment of books and games that no doubt had pieces missing. Tables were scattered around with different crafted items on them. A miniature tree had multiple homemade ornaments that ranged from cute to tacky.

The books held the most promise, so Ashlyn abandoned her polite perusal of beaded jewelry and crochet hats. The shelf had no obvious method of organization. Children books sat nestled between textbooks whose neighbors appeared to be both fiction and nonfiction.

Ashlyn fought not to let her eyes wander distractedly across the titles. She had looked at so many things already she had little expectation of finding anything worth buying. On her third sweep, she noticed a burgundy spine with faded gold letters. Pulling it out, she smiled at the cover photo before flipping through the pages. It was a collection of classic Christmas stories with illustrations. She took the book to the front counter and purchased it.

When she got home, Ashlyn contemplated hiding the book so she could wrap it but decided to just give it to her son. Bryson enjoyed reading and it would be strange giving him a book of Christmas stories on Christmas.

Bryson was already in bed when she entered his room to kiss him goodnight. His face lit up with excitement when he spotted the book. “Mommy, can we read it tonight?”

She almost told him that it was late but instead she settled beside him and opened it to the table of contents. “So, which story should we read?”

“Could we read two?” A hopeful expression filled his face and Ashlyn couldn’t help but smile as she flipped to the first story.

Ashlyn kept her tone casual as she replied, “You know what? How about we read the first three.”

Merry Christmas everyone, and remember, the perfect gift is something simple. It’s not bought with money, but time. It is simply the gift of love.

Don’t Delete That!

My full-length novel for the Christmas collection is titled Sugar Sprinkled Memories. But it didn’t start out with that title. It also didn’t start out with the same character names, locations, professions, or story line.

It started life as Books and Dreams. With Lyanne and Jake. In Wild Rose, California. With a used book store and a lawyer arguing over who owned the building. Okay, the arguing over the building stayed the same. LOL I know the basis of a romance novel when I see it.

Books and Dreams was my first completed manuscript. The one I used to get my PRO pin with Romance Writers of America (RWA). I shopped it around (in the days of trying to get an agent or editor.) And then it gathered mothballs on a floppy disk, and then a zip drive, and then a thumb drive. It moved with me from computer to computer to computer. Many times over the years (I wrote it in 2004) I was so determined to just delete it, reformat the thumb drive, wipe my computer clean. But something made me hold on to that first book I wrote.

Until The Authors of Main Street decided to do Christmas Cookies on Main Street.  It one of those light bulb moments that writers dream of, I realized that Books and Dreams was perfect for the set, I just had to rewrite it. No problem! Ha! I just had to change names and physical attributes. Check! Lyanne and Jake were now Maggie and Warren. I just had to change professions. Check! The used book store owner was now a bakery owner with a million changes to update running a business in 2019 instead of 2004, along with the differences of a bookstore and a bakery. hahahaha I just had to change locations because Wild Rose reminded me of  The Wild Rose Press and all my sweet romances for the boxed sets take place in Lake Willowbee. Check! And not quite as hard as deleting a subplot with actions not becoming of a sweet romance or being a heroic character. Hey, it was my first book and I didn’t know the rules yet! Rewriting the story itself was an amazing experience, to see where I got it right even as a newbie and to see where I was so wrong and had no idea what I was doing as a writer.

I’ve always believed that to move forward we have to look back and that is what I did with this book. The bones were all there, I just had to polish it up with the skill set I have now and make it shine. I had to see and believe that my first story was a diamond in the rough and I could make it a gem worthy of being in the Authors of Main Street Christmas collection. Fingers crossed!!!


Jill James, romance writer.

An Excerpt for Christmas Coins (a novella in the latest Authors of Main Street Christmas Boxed Set

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After Ethan put Misty to bed—something he hoped to only have to do once in his life—he returned home and found Zoe sitting on their front porch, clutching a Mason jar.

“What’s this?” he asked.

Zoe stood and held out the jar. “A thank-you token for being a hero.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Ethan said, but he took the jar anyway. “Are these cookies?” he asked hopefully.

“Lavender with lemon zest. I love them. I hope you will too.”

“Want to share?”

“Tonight?” Her voice squeaked with surprise.

“We could sit and watch the stars.” He dropped down on the step she’d just vacated.

“Okay,” she said in a small voice, joining him.

“I have a favor to ask,” he said, nerves hitching his voice.

“Yeah?”

“The gallery has an annual holiday party. Would you like to go with me?”

“Sure.”

“It’s stuffy and pretentious, and there’s usually cheap wine and smelly cheese.”

She leaned over and bumped him with her shoulder. “How can I resist cheap wine and smelly cheese?”

“Your being there will make it bearable for me.”

“I take it you would do things differently if you owned the gallery?”

He nodded. “Hannah thinks I should just open up my own, but it’s not that easy.” She waited for him to go on and after a moment, he did. “As it is, Oak Hollow can’t really have two galleries…well, maybe it could if the two galleries were radically different from each other. But as long as Dez has his gallery, I can’t open another.”

“You could somewhere else.”

“I want to be close to Hannah.”

“You are close to Hannah.”

“Geographically as well as emotionally.” He turned and looked into her eyes. “Does that make sense to you?”

“I’m all about emotional and geographical proximity.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” He set the jar on the porch, debating.

“Because?”

“So we could do this.” And this time he kissed her, only it wasn’t brief or tentative. It was the sort of kiss that burned through him, the sort of kiss he hadn’t had since Allison’s death. He broke away, not wanting to think about his late wife while kissing Zoe. It wasn’t fair to her.

And he wasn’t sure it was fair to Allison, either.

Zoe stared at him with wide eyes. Then she startled him by climbing onto his lap, wrapping her arms around him, and kissing him so deeply, he forgot about Allison, Hannah, or the neighbors who could be watching over the hedge. The only thing he could think of was the kiss searing through him and curling his toes with pleasure.

#

“Okay, this time it is a date,” Zoe told Mildred. They both stood in front of Zoe’s open closet, but Mildred was much more interested in her bath than she was in Zoe’s wardrobe. Zoe rifled through the clothes on the hangers, considering. No, no, no, nope with an extra helping of nope sauce.

Her phone buzzed. Courtney.

“I need you,” Zoe said. “Bring cute outfits, preferably ones that will fit me.”

Moments later, Courtney and Laurel arrived, each bearing a laundry basket full of clothes. “You didn’t tell me the occasion,” Courtney said, sounding breathless.

“There’s a party at the gallery,” Zoe said, holding the door for her sister.

“Will the lush be there?” Courtney deposited the basket on the bed and motioned for Laurel to do the same.

Zoe closed the door, hoping Ethan hadn’t overheard the conversation. “Probably, but I’m not worried about her.”

“Mom, can I go and see if Hannah can play?” Laurel asked.

“Sure, sweetie,” Courtney said. She waited until Laurel had disappeared through the door before she continued. “Just because he’s not interested in her doesn’t mean she can’t cause problems.”

Zoe perched on the side of the bed and rifled through Courtney’s basket of clothes. “I’m not even sure he’s all that interested in me.”

Courtney began to pull clothes out of the basket and lay them out on the bed in ensembles. “Girl! Please! Has he kissed you?”

Zoe’s cheeks grew warm.

Courtney chortled. “Tell me! Tell me everything!”

#

Courtney had agreed to watch Hannah so Ethan and Zoe could go to the gallery gala. Before this night, every time that Ethan and Zoe had been together had felt natural—like two friends enjoying each other’s company. But tonight, as he held the door open to the gallery for Zoe to pass through, felt like a date.

Ethan hadn’t been on a first date in years. Maybe even decades.

He ran a finger around his collar, wondering what had made him include Zoe. She’d probably hate it. Even he had a hard time when artists started acting snooty—as if their art came from some woo-woo planet detached from their own imaginations. And a few of the artists who would be attending tonight were some of the worst. She’d probably be bored out of her mind. He knew if Misty started talking harmonious compositions he would be, too.

Zoe, wearing a curve-hugging black dress, stiletto heels, and long strand of pearls, looked better than the art on the walls—his included. He still tingled every time he thought of her kiss.

Oak Hollow Gallery sat on the corner of PCH and a tiny cross street that angled off toward the beach. The large plate-glass windows gaped at the busy sidewalk to the front and overlooked the seasonal creek in the back. White walls stretched up to twelve-foot ceilings. Everything looked pristine, avant-garde, and beautiful, but Ethan had misgivings. He didn’t know if Zoe was ready for the art crowd. And he wasn’t sure he was ready to show her this side of himself.

Not that he was embarrassed about being an artist. He’d fought long and hard to get to where he was…or had been. He knew better than anyone that if he didn’t start producing soon, his name and reputation would slide away into oblivion. And that would be okay, wouldn’t it? He liked teaching.

Ethan followed Zoe’s gaze as she surveyed the room.

“Your paintings,” she began.

A discussion on his work would lead to speculation on why he no  longer painted. Because he wasn’t ready for that conversation—and maybe he never would be—Ethan took Zoe’s hand and led her to the group gathered in the corner surrounding Desmond.

Tonight, Desmond looked especially debonair. De-boner, Allison used to say in a hillbilly’s voice. No one could make him feel more down-to-earth than Allison. But tonight, he didn’t want to think about Allie. He put his hand on the small of Zoe’s back and stepped close enough to smell her perfume. Typically, she smelled of the bakery—yeast, cinnamon, sugar. Tonight, she wore something else. He hadn’t decided if he liked the change, or not.

The crowd in the corner made way for him. “Desmond, Lance, and Leo, Mr. and Mrs. Greer —this is my friend, Zoe.”

They all shook Zoe’s hand. Lance and Leo—better known as the Gear Heads—eyed her. They were both stoned already. Their parents were only slightly steadier on their feet.

“Are you an artist, too?” Mrs. Greer asked.

Before Zoe could answer, Ethan cut in. “Culinary art,” he said.

“Ah,” Mr. Greer patted his stomach, “my favorite.”

“Daddy!” Mrs. Greer screeched and widened her eyes at her sons, trying to apologize for her husband without using words.

“It’s okay, mom,” Lance said. “I know our stuff takes some warming up to.”

Leo hooted as if Lance had said something hilarious. “Warming up,” he said between breaths, “because we’re machine artists.”

Zoe smiled politely and sent Ethan a questioning glance.

Lance must have noticed, because he asked, “Are you familiar with machine art?”

Zoe shook her head.

“It’s the combination of art and machines,” Lance said. Holding his hand in front of him with his fingers flexed, he mimicked a rotating device. “Cogs and wheels fused together into the fantastic that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery.”

Ethan was impressed. He didn’t know the Gearhead Brothers knew such big words.

“Let me show you,” Leo said, taking possession of Zoe’s arm and leading her across the room to a canvas that had been painted red and covered with bits of broken machinery.

Ethan felt naked without Zoe at his side, he moved to follow her and Leo but just then Misty clicked into the gallery on her Kate Spade shoes. Grabbing Ethan’s arm, she pulled him into a corner. “What are we going to do if Desmond sells the gallery to the potheads?” she whispering hissed.

Ethan tried not to be annoyed that Misty hadn’t even apologized for making him take her home from the bar. But maybe she’d been so soused, she hadn’t remembered. He shrugged and tried to look nonchalant. “I’m not sure what we can do.”

“We could pool our resources and buy it ourselves,” Misty suggested.

Could he live with a daily dose of Misty? He didn’t think so, but he wasn’t sure how to say this. Misty, although a talented artist, was probably the last person he’d want to go into business with. He sought out Zoe. Their gazes locked.

She was one of the few people who wasn’t interested in him because of his art. He liked that. He liked her. When was it too soon to tell her?Aof MS boxed set

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The New Content for Books

The new term is sensitivity, and we must content edit and write for sensitivity awareness.

HUH?

Yes. It’s the new thing, sort of like being politically correct but on steroids.  So what does this mean for the reader and the author.  It means stereotypes must be avoided all the time. If we create a character who is different from the hero and heroine in name or color and has any negative or apparently positive qualities, we’ve stereotyped.  What exactly does that mean? I’m not totally certain, but in theory I can’t create a homosexual male who loves to flame. (Is flame a universal term?) Because I’m stereotyping.

I was discussing this sensitivity issue with my friend who has taught college English in a predominately Black college.  She said if the character is well developed, the reader will accept almost anyone. But she did warn about doing certain things.  Not all cops are bad, not all Black boys play basketball, not all Asians eat rice, and list goes on.

Yes, but…

No buts. Can’t profile based on color, religion, clothing, etc.  And that discussion morphed into how we are dressed/look determines the way we are treated.  And that deteriorated into her rant about the way her aunt was treated at a local hospital.  Why? Because they figured this was just another dumb Black family. Wrong! There are more PhDs in that family than all my friends put together. There are medical doctors in that family, yet they were treated as though they didn’t have a brain cell.  So someone assumed, based on the color of their skin, that this was a poor, uneducated family.  (That’s not just being prejudice – it’s also stereotyping.) I guess by now you know my friend is Black.  I don’t think of her as being Black. She’s my friend. If you asked me to physically describe her, I’d probably say something along the lines that her skin is the color of black coffee. Her hair has those little braid-like things that are about five inches long and frame her face.

Her mom’s name is Mommy. And her dad is Dad, although most of the world refers to him as Doctor. I know her sister and her brother, her nephew, her niece, her daughter and her granddaughter.  I actually do know her dad’s first name but I have no idea what Mommy’s first name is.  But I do know that the family is loving, caring, gracious, and intelligent, and when I’m with them, I’m family. No one sees color. We see personalities. We see the people we are. We see love.

I know I often create characters who are not WASPs (white Anglo-Saxon Protestants).  Maybe I need to be very careful about my characters. I hope I never offend a reader. Maybe it does start in our writing. Maybe we need to be careful how we portray our characters.   Maybe we need to be more open and honest in our writing and make certain that we’ve created believable characters.  I don’t care what adult people do behind closed doors or who they worship. How they treat me means more to me than anything else. I’ve traveled the world and met all sorts of people. I’m no longer that little girl who was reprimanded by a stranger because I drank from the wrong water fountain. “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh?” Maybe Shakespeare  was a few hundred years ahead of his time.

I asked my friend who reads all my books, if she had any issues with  my characters, and she said  no. But maybe after this sensitivity episode, I’ll be even more aware and careful with my characters. I want people to accept all people and to accept the characters that I create. I happen to believe that the world is a very colorful place and the differences between people make things more interesting. If we all ate the same foods, or acted the same way, life would be boring.  We need to celebrate the differences and learn to accept.  There really is no stereotype of person. We are all different.

Maybe I’m not comfortable with this new sensitivity content thing. If I want to create a despicable character, I will.  If I want to create a loving, wonderful character, I will. If I make them a certain color or a certain nationality or whatever, they just are.

If you are an author, do you write diverse characters into your books? If you are a reader do you like reading about characters who are different?