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?

Thank a Teacher

Writing is something I’ve always done. I could write my way out of a paper bag or so I was told as kid. Essay questions on tests meant I’d get an A.

Once I started working, I wrote. Often they were business letters. I had to write reports and other notes. Things change. Today my handwriting looks like slop. I never write by hand anymore and rarely write a check. Everything is electronic. At least I know how to form the letters, but I’m messy.  I didn’t used to be.  And I’ve always hated a typewriter. I use about six fingers when I type, but I managed to teach my daughters to type properly. Today the one daughter types like the wind and the other types like I do. She makes me laugh when I watch her typing. How did she manage to digress that much?

Yet my career means I must type on a computer. The keyboard on a computer is better than that typewriter that had to have each key pressed all the way down. So it’s easier, and it’s become the norm for me to use the keyboard.

I wasn’t always typing the next book. I’ve done newspaper articles on gardening. I’ve done articles in various gardening magazines. My daughter has a subscription to a particular bird and garden magazine. She was all excited to show me this great magazine subscription her mother-in-law gave her as a gift. I said, yes, I know about them. I used to write for them. My daughter looked at me as though I’d lost my mind. What did she think I was doing at the computer all the time? She didn’t care about gardening or feeding the birds when she was younger. She wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. I haven’t written for a magazine in ages. I’m also not in the garden anymore.

I like writing fiction. I love developing characters and bringing them to life in a story. There’s satisfaction in the creative process. The progression from writing essays for school, working on the school newspaper, and being part of the literary club was only a beginning. It was the foundation. Having the opportunity to excel and be rewarded spurred me onward. Writing articles for the newspaper was discipline. It was every week and I had a deadline. Now I write something that I love. I write the stories that I want to read. The fact that I can share them with the world is exciting.

This is to every teacher who has encouraged a child when the child shows interest or a gift. To every teacher who has taught a child to read and praised each new vocabulary word, you’ve given the child something very special that will last a lifetime. I was the math major, who would have thought I would have wound up writing books? Maybe Miss Crow knew I’d wind up writing in spite of my major. I can still remember her telling me that a soliloquy I had written was phenomenal and begged me to switch majors. She said I was a born writer. I laughed and thought writing was fun, like a hobby. Mathematics was serious, and I was a serious student. Coughing up a poem or a story was child’s play. Well, it’s not anymore. Writing is serious, and I love doing it.

Today, I use the calculator on my phone to figure out my gas mileage when I fill my car’s tank. Sorry, Prof. Braun, you trained me to do that simple stuff in my head, but I don’t have to think as hard when I use the calculator. Actually, I don’t have to think about it beyond miles divided by gallons. It’s so easy.

I saw writing as tool that got me through school with flying colors and also made me a valuable employee. Reading was a solitary pleasure that I craved. I still enjoy a really good book. Now I get to write books, and that is something I never thought would happen. That was something real authors did. Well, I guess I’m a real author. I’ve been on the best-seller lists in several countries and in the top 25 on Amazon.com with my name up there with those big name authors like Rowling, King, Patterson, Grisham, and Steel.

Miss Crow, I never changed my major, but I did wind up writing for a living. Thanks for having such faith in me and in my writing. Maybe someday, I’ll figure out how to use all the proper punctuation and that past perfect tense. In spite of my grammatical shortcomings, you’d be proud of me.  Thank you for being a great teacher!

Do you have a teacher who has made an impact on your life?  Someone you can thank?

 

What is Success?

Success is what you make it. But success will never happen if you don’t try or if you give up. Dreams will only be a dream until you put an engine to it. Once powered, a dream can become a reality, but only if you keep trying. Always find a reason to try again.

The number of times I felt like tossing in the towel and giving up writing have been more numerous than I’d prefer to admit. Frustration gets to everyone at some point, especially when we try and don’t succeed or fail to reach our desired goal. But so far I haven’t quit. Admit defeat? Never! Because I am an author and I do sell books. In fact, I’ve sold more books than most indie authors.

There are only a few elite authors who can honestly say they’ve had every book meet and exceed their expectations. Even if we expect a book to sell thousands of copies and it barely sells a few hundred copies doesn’t mean the book has failed. So what is failure? The answer is what we perceive. What I see as a failure might be another author’s highest expectation. What I see as success might be what someone else perceives as failure.

The superstars in this industry do sell a million books. But the average author will never sell that many. Selling a hundred thousand books is a huge milestone for a small group of authors, and a few will sustain an income of $50,000 a month USD for months. But the average indie author will never achieve that sort of success.

A friend wrote a book and did all the things that every indie author should do. I would say the book is a success with 100 paper copies sold since it was released this summer. That new author is furious because she didn’t make what she thought she should’ve made on her first book. Yes, there are those who put a book out and watch it skyrocket to the top. Today they still say if a book sells more than 250 copies, you’ve done well. So I won’t complain being I have two that have crossed the 100,000 mark. But my friend isn’t happy because hers hasn’t met her expectation of success.

That doesn’t mean we should give up. The trick is to keep trying and to write the next book.

The Authors of Main Street are getting ready to put out their annual Christmas boxed set. All the stories are on our publisher’s desk, and we’re waiting for our boxed set’s cover and a release date. These days we have lots of competition. Everyone seems to have a boxed set. We know that topping 56,000 copies on Amazon in a few weeks is less likely today than it was a few years ago when we were sitting in the top 100 books on Amazon, but still it’s very possible. Our heart-warming stories are simply that. Nothing you can’t read with a child hanging over your shoulder. And this year is Christmas Cookies on Main Street, and we’ve got lots of cookie recipes in this edition. So be prepared to bake mouth-watering cookies this holiday from your favorite authors.

I have another Joe Wags story and a great little recipe for dog cookies. It’s okay if someone eats the dog cookie. They’ll just think you forgot to add sugar. Dogs are smarter than us! They don’t need sugar or salt. Just remember that dog cookies are treats for them, too.

***

NEWS

We have two new Authors of Main Street and we’re excited for you to meet them this month. So stop by as they introduce themselves.

***

I’m getting a new website. After years of messing around and not getting what I want, along with my own failure to keep up with technology, I broke down and hired a professional agency to handle my website. Yippee! It’s about happen! It is going to be spectacular! (Yes, lots of exclamations points!)

***

Excerpt

This may contain typos and other errors as it’s not been through its final edit.

WITH ALL MY HEART

A Joe Wags Christmas book.

 

Bryan and Kari took off, and when they got to the track, she started to run.

“Pace yourself. It’s not a sprint.” Bryan warned. “Nice and easy. You can do it.”

She tried, but it felt as though her lungs might catch fire and something in her side already did. She slowed, held her side as she heaved breaths, and hoped she’d survive.

“Are you okay?”

Answering was beyond her ability. She looked at Bryan and continued to hold her side and try to catch her breath.

“Let’s walk.”

She shook her head, but he was already forcing her to take steps.

She walked for several minutes and then sat on a bench. Looking up at him, she whispered, “I hate you.”

***

Bryan smiled at Kari. “Why are you hating me? Because I’m making you get some exercise?”

Kari nodded.

“Okay, you sit, I’ll run. But consider getting up and walking the track, it’ll do you good.”

He watched as she stood and walked to the track. She walked the inner lane for several minutes and then began to jog, slowed, walked part of it, and again picked up her pace. She managed to do two laps. When she finished, he gave her a congratulatory kiss.

Breakfast at his house was simple. He made quiche. Then it was off to work. It was spay and neuter day. The local shelter brought in their animals and so did the general public. He took a break after the eighth animal, did another six, and still more to go. He didn’t feel much like eating lunch, so he grabbed a protein bar and kept going. He finished his last one at four in the afternoon. The whole day went without a hitch. When he checked his cell phone, there was a message from Kari.

Dinner tonight at my house.

He knew he wouldn’t get out until after seven so he texted her back.

She immediately responded. That’s fine. Come when you’re done.

At quarter to seven, he texted her. I won’t make it tonight. I’m still at the office.

That’s okay, come when you’re done.

At nine thirty, he texted her again. You might want to give me a rain check. Still tied up.

***

Kari fixed a bowl of cereal and went to bed. At five in the morning, she was ready, but there was no sign of Bryan. She went to text him and discovered he’d sent a message to her earlier. He had an emergency surgery and wouldn’t be running with her. Mentally ready for her morning outing, she stepped out into the cold air and walked to the track at Pandora’s Flask. She wasn’t comfortable running by herself, but she decided she could do it. She started slow, broke into a jog, slowed to a fast walk, and continued to switch it back and forth until she had looped the track several times. This time, there were no kisses.

By seven thirty, she unlocked the door to the bakery. Charlie’s crew was on the job. At the end of the day, the new building was partially framed. Somehow she had managed to fill the orders on all the breads and rolls. Selene Ortiz’s wedding cake and the Johnson’s fiftieth anniversary cake had been baked. Ellen Johnson-Williams didn’t have any preference; she just wanted a spectacular cake for her parents. With almost three hundred guests expected, she didn’t want a little cake. Kari was determined to create something worthy of a golden anniversary.

Kari watched the progress on the building next door. It had been four days since she’d seen Bryan, but he did text her every day. She didn’t bother to tell him that she was running each morning by herself. She just walked to Pandora’s Flask and started running the track. On day five, she spotted a police car in the parking lot. Nolan Craig had gone to school with her. He was waiting for her when she finished running.

“Hi.” She tried to sound normal, but she was still heaving breaths.

“Kari, how long have you been doing this?”

“Not long. Bryan Walhalla got me into it.”

“Do you always run at this hour?”

She nodded because it was easier than answering.

“Well, I don’t like you running alone. If I can, I’ll watch over you.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“No, I don’t, but crime can happen anywhere.”

Again she nodded. “What time do you get off?”

“About eight. Technically seven thirty but I never get out of the station before eight. Why?”

“Stop by the bakery and I’ll give you cookies. Just come to the back door.”

“Thanks.”

It didn’t take her long to shower and get to the bakery. She was just heating the chocolate for the anniversary cake when she heard a knock. The security camera revealed Nolan waiting patiently.

“Hi, come on in. What’s your favorite cookie?”

“You mean I have to pick a favorite? I’ve never had a cookie that I didn’t like. I’m an equal opportunity cookie lover with no prejudice whatsoever. I like all cookies.”

She motioned for him to follow her to where she had several jars of cookies sitting on a shelf. “I make extra when I have orders. On Friday afternoons, I send my extra cookies to the Star of Israel Synagogue and they distribute them during their Saturday morning food distribution to those in need.” She handed him some tongs and a white paper bag. “Take your pick and make sure you have enough for your children’s lunch or after school snack.”

“Thanks so much, the kids will be thrilled.”

They were clearly marked so she didn’t bother to hang out and watch him. She didn’t want to overheat her chocolate. But out of the corner of her eye, she saw him lift a green dog biscuit from a jar and pop it into his mouth.

“Hey, what’s this green cookie supposed to be? Is it some diet cookie?”

Do I tell him? “No. I’m experimenting with a new recipe.”

“It’s really minty.” He blew a breath out. “It’s that same mint feeling I get when I brush my teeth.”

She giggled. “It’s full of real mint. I used spearmint leaves and spearmint oil. You like them?”

“Um, they are interesting. They don’t taste much like a cookie. No offense.”

“None taken. I intended to send a bunch to Dr. Gleason’s office for a doggie tasting. I think I might have found a great dog cookie recipe. What do you think?”

“Dog cookie?”

She nodded. “Yes. We’re getting a Joe Wags next door and the owner, Flint Silverlake, wanted me to develop a cookie for his store. Everything is human grade and totally organic.”

She watched Nolan turn a shade of pale.

“I use the same ingredients as I use on all the other cookies, and I take the same care with them. The difference is sugar. Dogs don’t need sugar, nor do they crave it. They are smarter than us when it comes to sugar and salt. And yes, it should help their breath.”

He still looked a bit pale. “The rest are real cookies?”

“They are all real, but the others are for people.”

Watch for this year’s release of Christmas Cookies on Main Street. For 99c you can’t go wrong – great reads and great cookies! And if you haven’t read our other releases, check out Christmas Babies on Main Street and Christmas Wishes on Main Street. There’s a reason why we have the reputation for the best Christmas boxed sets. Here’s out latest review.

New! johanna chrich reviewed Christmas Babies on Main Street

Enjoyment 2 October 2019

I enjoyed it with tears and smiles. Lost some sleep but did not care. Had to finish reading. Late with meals too

Remember never to give up on your dreams. Make it happen, find a way. Our dreams are important to us. We encourage our children and friends but often forget to put the same effort into our own aspirations. We can make it happen. Even if your dream doesn’t involve writing. It doesn’t matter. What matters is giving it your best! Even if it takes more tries than you want to consider. Keep pushing for success.

 

So Much Excitement

Wow! It’s Labor Day. That’s the big end of summer celebration for Canada and the USA. Mexico celebrates Labor Day May 1. But for most of us in North America, it’s the last big picnic, BBQ, or vacation before the school year starts.

Unfortunately, some places have decided to start school earlier. That just fouls up vacation times for many families who have timeshares or long-standing vacation plans. Personally, I’m glad that my area doesn’t participate in earlier school starting dates. Tidewater, Virginia is a tourist area. That means many families have thirteen weeks to make a living. It’s an odd way to live, but so many people are dependent on summer vacationers. I’ve got an upcoming book set in an island town that depends on summer tourists.

In 114 days, it will be Christmas. Yikes! I’m not certain where this summer went or how it is possible that Christmas is around the corner. That also means that the Authors of Main Street will be putting out another Christmas boxed set. Most of us are putting the final edits on our books for that set.

I’ve written quite a few books for those boxed sets. In fact I’d have a difficult time deciding which books I like best. I guess my readers like A Snowy Christmas in Wyoming as it has sold over 100K and is still popular.

The other book that stands out is A Sister’s Christmas Gift. It will be released this fall as a single title. Both those books contain toddlers. Babies and Christmas just seem to go together.

What doesn’t seem normal is writing a Christmas story when it’s hot outside. So I try to imagine I’m sitting in front of the fireplace snuggled under a warm blanket. I might even listen to a little Christmas music. Every job as its idiosyncrasies. Writing Christmas stories in the summer is part of my job.

This year’s Christmas boxed set, Christmas Cookies on Main Street, features cookies and we’re including favorite cookie recipes.

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Loving Arabelle, a historical western, will be coming out this month. Cynthia Woolf’s book the first in this series, Thorpe’s Mail Order Bride, was just released.

Thorpe's Mail-Order Bride (The Brides of Homestead Canyon Book 1)

One more thing! (Yes, I’m liberally using exclamation points because all of it is exciting.) I’m getting a new website. I can’t wait. I’ve turned it over to an agency. Meeting with them was almost overwhelming as the number of things they say they will do makes my head spin. I’m sitting there thinking huh? I am the most techno-challenged person alive. Yet this company swears it will be a cakewalk for me when they are finished. I hope so.

My little website was fine in 2008. Eleven years later, it’s 2019, and it totally sucks. The website has been in severe need of updating for quite a few years. So I’m excited and hopeful. I can’t wait to see what this company will do to it.

Here’s the way it looks now. http://www.ayersbooks.com/ Before the end of the year, it should be spectacular.

With luck, I’ll being putting out the newsletter for the Authors of Main Street. I’m going to learn how to do that and tie it to Facebook. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/AuthorsofMainStreet/

Is marital bliss real?

Is marital bliss real?

 

Not really. But somehow some of us find a way to have strong happy marriages. That doesn’t they are perfect because whenever you live with someone, things just don’t always go perfectly. We’re all human. We all have faults and we also have bad days to go along with all the good ones.

I remember asking my husband if he could do it over again would he marry me. Bad question!

His answer was no.

“What? Don’t you love me?”

“Of course I love you. But you asked if I’d do it again knowing what I know now. That answer is no.”

Honestly, I dissolved into tears. He put his arm saround me and assured me that he was still very much in love with me.

But it did prompt a very long discussion about what goes into a marriage. From his perspective, marriage was a real sacrifice. The loss of independence, of giving up so much for me and for the children, the responsibility, and the commitment all takes it toll in so many ways.

Do I like housework?

“No!”

Do I like fixing meals and staying to a budget, walking the floors with a sick child, or vacuuming?

“No.”

So why did we do it?

We loved each other, the kind of love that would allow us to put aside our personal life for that other person or persons (children). I couldn’t imagine not fixing his dinner or packing his lunch. I couldn’t imagine not doing the things that I did for him because I did them out of love.

If the housekeeping fairies were to descend on the house and save me all those unwanted chores, I would have gladly allowed them to take over every disliked aspect of being a stay-at-home wife and mother.

Maybe taking a very honest look at our lives and what it meant to be married made us both understand and respect the other for what we did. And the day that he decided that he was going to clean the bathroom for me because I’d had surgery and couldn’t do it… I handed him all the cleaning products that he would need. I told him what to use on what and what order to do it. (Am I compulsive? Maybe.) He vanished into the bathroom. Hours later he reappeared informing me that he had completed the task. He also said, “I never realized what a horrible job that was or how long it took.”

What could I say other than thank you?

He never helped around the house. There was a line drawn in some sand that said the house was my job and his was to earn the money to keep the house. I knew when he came home totally wiped out and I did whatever I could to pamper him. Okay, quite simply I spoiled him. So for thirty-six years he had no idea what it took to clean the bathroom. But flip that and it would have been impossible for me to do his job.

I believe that marriage is like a porcupine ball. It’s not a single-sided thing. All those points mean something. To make a marriage work takes work and respect. Without communication there’s nothing. There has to be the ability to talk and see what the other thinks. It’s not just a matter of chatting about the Red Socks or even the moon phase. Sometimes it’s a matter of saying marriage sucks and it isn’t the bliss perpetuated in fairy tales. Sometimes it’s hearing bad news and trying to figure out how to overcome it. But at the bottom of our marriage was love. And I’m one of those romantics who believe that love can conquer everything.

We had highs and lows. Every couple encounters those speed bumps in life. Stuff happens! It’s not a matter of if but rather when. Living paycheck to paycheck? That’s when the contract comes to an end and there’s a layoff! NO!! I can’t pay the bills without an income. I can’t fix dinner without money for the food shopping. Yes, stuff happens but what we do and how we manage to get through those hard times keeps the marriage intact.

The other big problem seems to be fidelity. I never had to face it, but I had plenty of friends and a daughter who did. In my family we used to joke that my dad was very faithful. He kept the same mistress from the time he was nineteen until the day he died. I believe he married the wrong woman. But what he did was not right, and I saw my mom suffer from it.

It colored my attitude on marriage. It was the topic of discussion many times between my husband and me. I didn’t want to go through what my mom did. I told my husband from the start, if you find someone else, I’ll help you pack your bags because I’m not going to accept it. I had a few things that planted my feet firmly into the ground, and my husband knew it.

But I’ve also seen marriages break over what I considered stupid stuff. Talk! Communicate. Let him know what you think and get him to tell you. (Or vice versa.)

Just remember there is no perfect marriage. Cinderella might have suddenly found herself in a castle with a few pretty dresses, but her mother-in-law ruled the roost, her father-in-law called the shots, and she was expected to provide a ton of heirs. Women had no rights, and were considered worthless.

I’m content to know that I had something wonderful for a very long time. No, it wasn’t always perfect, but life isn’t perfect. What we had was love and that made everything possible.

Curling up at night into the arms of a lover is special. When that lover happens to be your best friend, it’s even better. But remembering that no matter what happens to separate the anger from the love is special. It allows us to continue.

“Do I get a kiss?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I’m still angry.”

“Still?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.” Snuggle tight. “I love you.”

“I love you, too, but I’m still upset.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know, but I’m still angry.”

“I said I was sorry.”

“I know you did.”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too. I’ll take that kiss, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not upset.”

“I know.”

It’s been twelve long years. I’ve never even dated. Am I looking? Not exactly. I figure that most people go their whole life without finding that love and I had it for almost thirty-seven years. I’m alone with only memories – memories of a man who gave up so many things to be a father and a husband. But he left behind a family who loved him.

But packed in probably every story I’ve written is a little piece of him. He wasn’t perfect nor was I. But he was honest, intelligent, and very much in love with his family and life. I made a country boy out of a city boy. He could spot and identify a bird in a tree. He could identify trees and dozens of other things that boys raised in the city never know.

Twelve long years, without him, yet he lives forever inside my head and in my heroes. I’m thrilled I had someone in my life who made life worth living. He taught me so much and stayed with me when things weren’t so great.

We talked. We talked about life. We talked about everything from quantum physics to breakfast. And we talked about writing. I miss him but he also gave me the strength to keep going. Had our roles been reversed, he’d be remarried. He’d need someone to clean that bathroom and pack his lunch.

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.

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.