Sneak Peek at a New Book

I’m sick of covid-19. Aren’t we all? When will it end?

I doubt it will end anytime soon. Maybe when we have a vaccine. Until then we will continue to wear masks and do the social distancing.

A friend and I often get together for a cup of coffee. My local Starbucks is open. We’ll grab a coffee and sit in the parking lot to chat. We even do tailgate meals in the parking lots. It gets us out of the house, and we can visit without being together. Yes, I know there is a certain danger even doing that, but it’s keeping us sane. Her birthday is Wednesday and there are no plans to go out for dinner or do anything special. She asked about my birthday in November. How are we supposed to know what life will be like in November? Will our favorite restaurants be open? Will they survive this pandemic? We hope they do.

July is a month filled with edits, and I thought I’d share the first chapter of my Christmas story for this year’s Authors of Main Street Boxed Set, Christmas Heroes on Main Street.  This story starts in the summer. Terry was in the Army and planned to retire until an IED put an end to his career. He came to help his older brother. Meredith is a widow with a daughter.  Her heart and head can’t seem to work together. Will these two people ever be able to put aside the past and find love?

Chapter 1

Meredith looked around the room at the other downtown merchants. The discussion was over Shop Local, the Saturday after Black Friday. Barely four months away, everyone wanted to do something special to encourage people to spend their holiday money in the cozy town of Ponds Corner.

“Meredith, do you have anything to say?” Tom asked.

“Yes. Doesn’t anyone see the elephant in this room?” She looked squarely at Tom, who was vice president of the group. “Cole Saunders. He needs our help. Yet most of you have blissfully ignored the plight of that family. He’s president of this organization, and he hasn’t been here in months. His store is closed, and his wife, Amanda is running ragged between the family and her job. He needs our help. I think we should redo his store so when he does come back, and that should be before Thanksgiving, he’s coming back to something special. He could do a grand re-opening on Shop Local. And if we all pitch in, his store can become the focal point, showing off what it means to shop here in our community.” She took a deep breath and continued. “Instead of using Ponds Paint as the hub. We can use Taste. It’s centrally located with plenty of parking. We can create a flyer that says what things came from where. I’ll do the design work. If we all pitch in, it’ll show off what our town can do. Let’s help Cole.”

There was some mumbling around the room.

And then Marcus spoke, “I don’t mind donating paint and supplies to Cole. He’s always been there for me when I needed help. And honestly, I think we should take turns being the hub.”

Ken jumped in. “We’ve always been able to count on Cole for anything.”

Tygeri nodded. “That’s right. Need something? Just ask Cole.”

“Did you know that he shovels my mom’s sidewalk and driveway when it snows.”

“He busted his butt to help me when my shed collapsed last year.”

Dan stood up. “I’m not part of this group. I’m only here to take notes for the newspaper, but I wanted to say that Meredith did our cabin last year, and she did a terrific job.”

Betsy told the group that she had hired Meredith to do her place before the bakery opened.

Raven put his palm out, hushing the group. “I’ll do anything for Cole.”

There was plenty of discussion and everyone praised Cole for his generous attitude. Finally, Ellie spoke up and proposed that everyone pitch in to help Cole. And Betsy quickly seconded it.

“Okay, let’s have a vote. All those in favor say, aye.”

It wasn’t as enthusiastic as Meredith had hoped, but it sounded like a majority.

“Those opposed say, nay.”

There were three nays.

Tygeri proposed that they conclude the meeting and there was a very vocal aye response.

Tom asked Marcus to say a prayer before he dismissed the meeting.

Marcus stood and said a brief prayer asking that the group be blessed and for their safe passage home. Then Tom dismissed the group.

She glanced at her wristband and it was almost eight o’clock. Everyone in the room had been up since the crack of dawn. They were all tired and eager to get out of there.

Meredith stopped her flight from the room when she heard her name being called by her friend, Betsy. “I can’t do much, but I don’t mind donating to his open house.”

“That would be great. I think this is the best project our association has ever had.” Meredith grinned.

Donald tapped Meredith on the shoulder. “Think we can just do this and surprise Cole? If he even gets wind of what we’re doing, he’ll protest and not because he doesn’t need the help.”

“You’re right,” Betsy said, and Meredith nodded.

Donald turned and in his big booming voice told everyone not to say a word to Cole or Amanda. “Let’s keep this a surprise.”

Dan shook his head. “There goes my article.”

Meredith giggled. “I’m sure you’ll manage to bury five hundred words on the bottom of the third page.”

“Thanks, Meredith. I give you a compliment and that’s what I get?”

Meredith laughed and then planted a kiss on his cheek. “I’ve got to run. My parents have Phoenix. I’ve got to get her home and in bed.”

Fifteen minutes later, Meredith pulled onto her parents’ driveway and got out of her SUV about the same time as the sky flashed with lightning. By the time she made it to the portico and the back door, she was soaked.

“Mommy’s home!” Phoenix ran and gave her mother a hug. “You’re all wet.”

Meredith laughed and then shuddered. It was cold in the house.

“Come see what I made for dinner tonight. I helped Mee-maw make pisketti.

Meredith allowed the child to drag her into the kitchen.

“See?” Phoenix pulled a stool to the stove and stood on it.

“Be careful, it’s probably still hot.” Meredith raised the lid on the tall pot and sniffed. “Oh, that smells so good.”

“Now I get to make your noodles.” She reached for the box sitting next to the stove.

“Wash your hands first.” Meredith reminded her daughter.

Phoenix got down and hurried to the sink where her grandmother stood washing dishes. Then returned to the stove.

“You have to turn on the stove, Mommy, because I can’t reach.”

Meredith turned on the burner under the pot that was used for noodles. “Too many noodles. Only use half that amount, baby girl.”

“Mee-maw says that you shouldn’t call me that because I’m not a baby anymore.”

“But you’ll always be my baby.”

“How was the meeting?” Meredith’s mom asked.

“I’d say the usual, except this time I convinced everybody to help Cole. We will renovate his store and then use his store as the hub for the Shop Local event.

“What a wonderful idea. Let me guess, you will be the designer.”

“Of course, and oh does that store need it.”

“Is the water hot enough to put in the noodles, Mommy?”

Meredith peeked at the pan. “Yes, but don’t let it splash. That’s boiling water.”

“It’s okay, Mommy, I know what I’m doing. Mee-maw says I’m very good in the kitchen.”

Meredith turned and looked at her mother. “I really don’t like her working around the stove, and I guess you had her using a knife.”

“You were doing the same thing at her age, and yes, I let her cut up the tomatoes and the herbs.”

“Pee-paw even let me pick the tomatoes and all the things that we would need, and then I came in and washed everything, because the bugs crawl on them, and we don’t want to eat anything that had bugs feet on it.”

Meredith looked at her daughter, and her heart melted. Phoenix was growing up way too fast.

“I’m starved. I skipped lunch today because I had a client come in and wanted help with her dining room. She just wanted to give it a new fresh look for fall without screaming Halloween or Thanksgiving.”

The ping of the old timer caught Meredith’s attention, and she looked at her daughter. “Did you set that?”

Phoenix nodded. “Mee-maw showed me how to do it. I’m learning my way around the kitchen.”

Meredith tested a noodle and turned off the burner. By the time she grabbed a plate and the tongs, the noodles would be perfect. Phoenix got the cheese grater and stood ready to put the shredded cheese on her mother’s food.

“Thank you,” Meredith said as she sat at the table. She twirled a forkful and put it in her mouth. “Mmm!” she chewed and swallowed. “This is perfect.”

Phoenix’s face split with an enormous smile.

Meredith couldn’t help being proud of her daughter. “Will you go back to the den and clean up your things so that we can leave when I’m done eating? It’s already past your bedtime.”

Phoenix nodded and scampered away.

Meredith’s mom joined her at the table. “Remember when you said you would take Phoenix to see Martin’s parents in August, but you hated to close the shop for a week? Well, your father and I discussed it, and we’ve decided that we’d love to take her. We’ll make a real vacation out of it and make it educational for Phoenix. Your dad has lots of vacation time to use up. When we get to the ranch, we’ll get a hotel room nearby so Phoenix can visit without all of us intruding.”

“I hate to put that burden on you. I’ll just the close store and get a round trip flight.”

“This would be better. We can take our time and let her visit parks, museums…we’ll take her to the King ranch, and I think there’s a huge zoo out there. Plus, all the sights between here and there.”

“Mom, she’s four, and she’s a handful sometimes.”

“I’m fifty-four, not ninety-four, and we’re both in perfect health. Phoenix is a good child. We’re not going to have problems.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“There’s nothing that needs any deep contemplation. I’ve never been to that part of Texas, and when I mentioned it to Cindy and John, they were thrilled at the prospect of seeing us again.”

“You talked to my in-laws?”

“Oh, darling, we chat all the time on Facebook. They are wonderful people.”

Guilt washed through Meredith. “Sometimes I’m bad about staying in touch with them.”

“They know you stay busy, and you’ve had a difficult time after Martin died. They did, too.”

Meredith picked up her plate and took it to the sink.

Her mom instantly stood. “Don’t worry about that. It’s past Phoenix’s bedtime. I’ll take care of it.”

Meredith drove back downtown to her apartment she had over her shop. She worked hard to renovate the store and her apartment. Her grandfather owned the building and let her do whatever she wanted. Between finishing her degree in design and having a baby, she couldn’t do much other than plan. But when the time came, she was hands on. Her grandfather was a builder, and he taught her about the industry. When she started her renovations, he was at her side almost every day. Then he died. He left the building to her.

She unlocked the door to her apartment, and somehow, she carried Phoenix up the stairs and put the sleeping child in bed. When she put her phone on the charger, she realized she had missed calls and text messages. She picked up the phone and texted her friend Betsy. Still awake?

Betsy immediately called. “Hi, I have an idea. We’ve got to get the key to Cole’s store, and short of me taking baked goods to Amanda and stealing it if I even knew which key, I’ve got this great plan.”

“I was wondering about that. I thought maybe I could ask if I could store some things in there for the time being. We’ve got to get that key.” Meredith sorted through the laundry basket.

“Oh, that is a good one. I never thought about storing, but I think I have a better one. Did you know that Cole’s brother is staying there, and I bet I can get him to help us.”

“I didn’t even know Cole had a brother.”

“He’s slightly younger and even better looking and there’s no wedding band. Apparently, he’s there to help, and this will be a wonderful way of helping. And wait until you see him, he is gorgeous – positively lickable.”

“Betsy, you’re married. You shouldn’t be looking.”

“Oh, Gerry looks all the time, and I don’t care, as long as he doesn’t touch.”

Meredith laughed at her friend.

“I have the perfect way to get Terry to come to the bakery, and once he comes to my bakery, I can explain what we’re up to, and I know he will go along with it. I promise, he is s-s-so-o-o cute.

“That’s right. Betsy, you turn on the charm.” Meredith ended the conversation and gathered up the rest of the dark clothes and put them in the washer.

***

Amanda was getting the boys’ breakfast when her phone rang, and she picked it up. She looked at Terry. “It’s for you.”

Terry took the phone from her and wondered who would call him and why. A moment later, he smiled. It was Betsy. He had met her the other morning when she showed up with a half dozen Danish pastries and cupcakes for the boys. When she said she had more for them, he promised to come get them. “I’ve got to take Cole for his treatment, I can stop by after I drop him off. And by the way, those Danishes were delicious. I don’t think I’ve ever had any that good.”

“Well, if you’re trying to twist my arm, I’ll look and see if I have any to spare.”

He smiled at the thought. Thanked her again for her generosity and disconnected the call. “Betsy wants me to stop by today. She said she’s got cookies for us.”

Amanda put another bite of egg on William’s tray. “Any other time I would complain because I don’t want the boys eating a bunch of sweet stuff, but with the money being what it is, at least it’s food.”

“I told Cole I’m willing to pay rent and board, but he said I’m family, and he wasn’t charging me. Keep this between us.” He pulled his wallet from his back pocket and withdrew several large bills, dropped them on the table, and planted a kiss on the top of his sister-in-law’s head. “I’ll get you more.”

He left the kitchen and went to see if Cole was ready. His older brother was sitting on the side of the bed tying his shoes.

“I’m ready.” Cole stood.

“Let’s go.”

The two men walked out the front door and climbed into Terry’s Jeep. Terry looked at his brother and asked, “Are you nervous?”

“Remember, I’m a pro at this. I’ve got it.”

Terry grinned at his brother. His older brother never shirked at any adversity. He always was the kind to face it, no matter what it was. Even as kids, Cole believed he could do anything, and he did it. When he was ten, he wanted to take up tennis. He taught himself to play, practiced all winter long, and made the team that spring. Cole also had a ton of friends and always did. Terry admired his brother and wished he were as naturally outgoing. Even their career choices were different. Cole went to college to study journalism and Terry was the computer guy. But Terry never imagined his brother would open a gourmet shop.

“Turn left at the light. It’s the three-story glass building just past the hospital.”

“Got it.”

Terry pulled up by the front doors and his brother hopped out.

Cole had a half-hearted smile as he raised his hand in a wave. Terry was certain that this was going to be one tough battle. The doors to the building slid open as Cole approached them and then closed behind him.

Terry turned on his GPS and found the bakery. The aroma of baked goods hit his nose, and he thought he might salivate on the spot. It was set up like a quaint café with a few indoor tables and plenty of coffee to go with Betsy’s pastries. As his eyes adjusted, he spotted Betsy off to one side. Her light brown hair was pulled into a knot. She was very petite. He estimated that she was probably no more than five-one. He walked up to the counter. “Hi.”

She turned and gave him the biggest smile. “I’m so happy to see you. How do you like your coffee or do you want it iced?”

“Iced with nothing added sounds delicious. It’s already roasting out there.”

“Grab a table. I’ll be right there.”

She came around the counter and put a large glass in front of him along with a blueberry cheese Danish. “I’ve got cookies for the kids, but honestly, they were a ploy to get you here. We need to talk.”

***

After taking her shower and fixing her hair, Meredith woke Phoenix, got her off to daycare, and back to her own store by nine o’clock. She wasn’t there long when the bell over her door jingled that someone had entered. The woman immediately came to her.

“I want you to make my living room as special as you did Joanne’s dining room yesterday. I just love the look, but I’m on a fixed income, and I don’t have much to spend. I haven’t done a thing in there in years. Oh, will you help me?”

“Certainly, that’s why I’m here. Were you looking for that same autumn theme?”

“Yes.”

“Since I’ve never seen your house, let’s start with what appeals to you. Let’s look around and pretend that money is no object.”

After browsing for a while, Meredith promised to take a few things to the woman’s house and let her see what fit and what looked best. It was just the sort of service that her clients loved and appreciated.

The woman left and when Meredith raised her gaze, she spotted a very tall man standing in her shop. “May I help you?” As soon as the words fell from her mouth, she recognized that the man had to be Cole’s brother. “You must be Terry. Did you talk to Betsy?”

“Yes. She sent me here.”

She watched him surveying the shop. As tall as he was, he probably could see everything. “So what do you think of our plan?”

“I told my brother I’m here to help. I’ll do anything, and that includes getting his store operating again. But I know nothing about retail and even less about cooking.”

He smiled, and Meredith could feel the butterflies in her stomach take flight. He was taller and had a lot more muscle than Cole. Chill. Chill. Oh yum. Yum, yum, yum. Be cool, we need his help.

She stood and came around the display to where he was standing. Her heart was playing leapfrog in her chest. “Care to sit, and I’ll try to answer any questions.”

The New Normal

Everyone is talking about the new normal as the various states attempt to open up from this strange lock-down that has been imposed on us. I’ll admit I’ve not exactly stayed inside twiddling my thumbs. I’ve been out daily, even if it is for a cup of coffee from the Starbucks drive-thru or tea and a sandwich from a favorite local restaurant’s curbside delivery.  I’ve tailgated with a few friends and tried to remain in-touch without touching or being too close.

Our governor has said we must wear masks in public or we can be arrested. Seriously? Apparently he can say it, but it’s not enforceable for several reasons.  Anyone who has a problem breathing wearing a mask is exempt. Here’s the catch, under the law it’s illegal to ask you if you have a medical problem. While rile people up over wearing a mask?  Why not appeal to people to do the right thing? Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it. And what about that person who is struggling financially and now has the burden of buying masks or cutting up their clothes to make them?

I had to talk to a friend and basically calm her down because she was certain she was going to die because she gets claustrophobic trying to use a mask. If she is trapped at home, how can she get to her 95 YO mom who lives alone and needs her daughter?  She was certain that our governor’s proclamation was going to kill her and her mom.

Then I talked to another friend who has had a very strange year because she now has an empty nest. She’s been a single mother for years and her daughter was accepted to a special program in California. It was a fantastic opportunity for her daughter who has a disability, But Mom being a mom was also scared to see her daughter go so far away and have to live on her own. Big brother came to the rescue! He, too, was living at home and had just graduated from college and was job hunting when his sister was accepted. He told his mom he’d go with his sister. They could get an apartment together and he’d find a job out there.  But that meant Mom suddenly joined the ranks of empty nesters.

Then the covid hit and she’s been trapped in the house and eventually working from home. But for the first three weeks while her job tried to figure out how to keep everyone working from home, she swears she did nothing but sleep, watch TV, nibble a little, and sleep some more. She said she had no idea she was that tired. She doesn’t want to return to the stress that once occupied her life. She likes this new normal.

She’s not alone. Another friend has virtually said the same thing. She and her husband are now working from home. The children are with them and the dog curls at their feet while they sit at their computers.  She says they’ve reconnected as a family and jobs are still getting done even if they are in their pajamas. But they don’t have the same stress as they did being in an office. They, too, said in the beginning they spent time unwinding, napping, and just decompressing.  They don’t want to go back to what they had. They like this new normal. They didn’t realize how stressed they were.

My one daughter has said her job is getting more difficult to do from home. It requires her presence and she occasionally must go out. For a few days, working from home is okay, but then she’s needed in the field. Now that requires her to call into the home office and get permission to go out.

My other daughter, the nurse, is out there coping like other health professionals. She’s dealt with covid patients and her routine to protect herself and her family has changed. She’s been around infectious diseases for over twenty years and she’s never caught anything yet.  But she’s very careful!

Her husband is also working from home. He’s anxious to get back to his office.  But he swears the dogs are now so spoiled, they are going to be heart-broken when things return to normal.

We’re not going to go back to what once was. Too many things have changed. Once you open some boxes, you can’t stuff everything back in again. It’s not going to happen. Companies are discovering that employees can work from home and get just as much accomplished. As for the expensive office space, it won’t be needed or at least not the same square footage.

But things last year weren’t the same as they were a few years before that.  Time keeps changing things. Once upon a time, a man could work in a shoe store selling shoes and make enough money to keep his wife home with the three children, and drive a nice car. They had a house with a picket fence and a color TV in the living room where the family would gather after dinner and watch the Ed Sullivan Show. It was the American dream.  It was real.

Things have changed.  That job selling shoes isn’t going to pay enough to buy groceries and pay the electric bill. What happened? Life changes and we change. Life has changed with Covid-19. Will we ever walk into a store again without wearing a mask? It’s possible that the mask is here to stay.

To all those who have suffered from job losses, domestic violence, or lost family members to suicides or acts of violence or unrest, my heart goes out to you.  Being trapped at home can make matters worse and feel overwhelming.  I wish I could somehow prevent all the atrocities that happen every day, but I can’t. That doesn’t mean I don’t care.

I send out a very special congratulations to the Graduating Class of 2020, that will never get to walk in a cap and gown. So many of these young people would have been the very first generation to ever graduate from high school and they didn’t get a chance to get that picture with their grandparent or mom at their side with them in a cap and gown and a diploma in their hand.  Some of us take for granted that our children will do certain things and then a child comes along and beats the odds. Here’ a special cheer to those who made it.

Life is different, the world is different, and normal will never be normal. What’s normal for me is not not normal for you. But maybe we can just keep going and try to find our way. Be kind, stay safe, please wear a mask if you can because we’re all in this together, and we want to return to the new normal.

 

 

Life Can Change in a Flash

I’m back home, but that doesn’t mean much. I went to San Antonio, Texas, for a conference and when I got there, the Covid 19 also arrived. A good portion of the IMG_20200304_160715presenters didn’t show or simply cancelled. I never bothered to attend the conference. What workshops were left weren’t ones that applied to me. Bummer!

But I had a wonderful time visiting with my fellow author and friend, Cynthia Woolf. Also Marjorie Jones was there and I haven’t seen her in years. So when the IMG_20200304_160922conference was over, Cynthia flew home, and I went with Marjorie to her home. We grabbed her mom who has been my best friend for a very long time. And we all went to the “hill country” of Texas. Everyone was talking about social distancing and hand washing. We had a wonderful time and did all those things. By the time we left to go back to their home, the tourist crowd had vanished. The little towns began to resemble ghost towns.

 

Fortunately the little town they call home is super small and they live in a historic gated community. Everyone is very spread out. The only thing around for miles and miles are major ranches.

Every area has its special beauty and this area was no different. But it rained most of the time, making it no fun to wander around and explore. Besides were being warned to stay home. So we did.

We had wonderful afternoons in her big porch. Yes, in. It’s a detached building with screened sides, and it’s huge. There’s even a refrigerator in there, a big screen TV, and two of the most comfortable, overgrown, wooden rockers, plus a lovely glass-topped table with matching chairs and other IMG_20200309_153040porch furniture. It’s the perfect place to while away an afternoon.

When it wasn’t raining, we got birdhouses up and several hanging plants scattered among the Texas live oaks and other trees that create a natural setting on a corner of her property and put in a few plants in the ground to add some color. Much of her garden is made up of colorful Mexican pottery filled with plants. I loved the look.

It was quiet. Often the only sounds were those of nature. White-tailed deer, axis deer, turkeys, raccoons, and dozens of birds I’d never seen before roaming around. Those deer weren’t the least bit concerned about humans sharing their space.  They weren’t tIMG_20200310_164527ame, but our presence doesn’t upset them. They merely look at you and go back to munching.  People often feed them deer corn and have large containers of water for them.

But the whole time I kept watching the reports of the Covid 19 pandemic. I almost hated the thought of taking my flight home, I was packed and ready to leave in the morning. It was so peaceful and serene there. My daughter called me and said you can’t fly. You are at risk. My other daughter said she wouldn’t pick me from the airport because of the Covid 19 risk. I’d be contaminated with it. What??

Then my daughter, the nurse, said I needed to drive home. Now!

I was not about to drive from the far end of Texas to Tidewater, Virginia. No way! Besides I was very safe there. We didn’t have to go to the store for a thing. Her son owns an Italian restaurant/pizza place so food and supplies are trucked directly to him. He was disinfecting everything and leaving it on our doorstep. (Talk about service.) He had just installed a drive-thru prior to all of this and it was working perfectly for him especially when they closed all the restaurants except for takeout. He’s a retired Marine and a super-compulsive germ freak. I was definitely safe there. He also used to be my neighbor and my one granddaughter and their two children used to play together. My husband worked with his wife’s sister. To say the two families are tangled is no joke.

I talked to the family and they said they wanted me to stay put where they could keep me safe through this. If I got sick they would take care of me, and if they got sick, I’d do the same for them. Our families are close. I say we get to pick our friends but not our family. They are the friends that I call family. But in the meantime, the pandemic was getting worse. My daughter was scared for me to be that far away.

Renting a car was super expensive. It would have cost me about $1500 for a one-way rental. No way was I going to put much money into a rental. My own car is older and I knew it needed to be replaced, but maybe not this year, maybe next. The thought of spending that much on a car that was not mine…I started looking online, besides all the car companies have these special deals right now.

I wound up chatting to David Garza at Hyundai of Del Rio, and lots of text messages and phone calls later; he found just what I wanted, a Kona that is adorable. (Hyundai calls it lime twist. I call it Shrek-green.) That was the best experience! No bait and switch, they were totally upfront and honest. Since when is a dealership honest? Well, they are! A few dealerships are honest, and this place was a real gem. I was shocked and ever so pleased. Maybe I’ll have to return to Texas to buy another car when I need one.

Being in the middle of the Covid 19 pandemic, that dealership was wiping and spraying everything. They were setting up appointments so that they didn’t have people just wandering around. They were doing an amazing job of keeping everyone safe. I came home with a car and I know I’ve made a few friends there. Seems they never met an author.

Then it was a matter of setting up a map of my trip home and Marjorie and I worked it out. Actually, it was Marjorie who worked it out. She’s brilliant and tech savvy. I stayed in towns that were showing they were Covid free. We checked every hotel because we did discover that certain hotels were being closed to the public and being held in case that area needed to house Covid patients. So finding a place to stay was different under the circumstances. I didn’t dare drive until had confirmed that I had a reservation at a hotel.

With the trip planned, I left Texas. To say I was nervous is a huge understatement. I was panicking. I’ve never driven that far all alone. And I’d be in a new car and what if… My heart was racing as I readied for the trip, but once I was on the road, I was fine. Face your fears or whatever. The fancy little computer that comes in all the new cars was programmed to get me from one place to the next.

The roads were empty except for tractor-trailers. The rest stops along the way were also IMG_20200409_125622rather empty. It was strange traveling on empty roads but it was also easy. Big overhead signs flashed warning like GO HOME STAY HOME or ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ONLY. I think if a cop and pulled me over I would have cried. Was I essential travel? Probably not. Maybe? I had animals that needed me. Aren’t they important, too?

I stayed away from the infected areas and drove straight through several large cities. I hit Atlanta during rush hour. Well I think there were eight lanes going in my direction but very few vehicles. My GPS told me which lanes to be in and I followed along. Never once did I make an error, except for one small town.

Somehow the hotel wasn’t programmed into it only the town and I wound up in the middle of the town and it’s telling me I’ve arrived. I called the hotel and the young woman at the desk stayed on the phone with me until I found my destination.

I missed a tornado! I came home and one ripped through the town where I had been less than 48 hours earlier. Thank goodness. If I had encountered that, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to keep driving.IMG_20200412_124329

I got awesome gas mileage in my new car. I averaged 45 MPG the whole way. I’m sure that was because it was rather flat and I could set cruise control and never touch a peddle for hours.

I got out of Texas, and two days later, they had a vicious hailstorm. In fact, according to David, it ruined every car on Hyundai of Del Rio’s car lot.

So now I’m home and life is boring. There’s no one to talk to except for my animals that were so happy to see me. I’ve tailgated a few times with my friend. We’ve stopped at a local restaurant picked up our curbside meal and sat in the parking lot with lawn chairs and hatchbacks open to hold our food. At least we get to chat and eat our meals together, keeping that safe distance.

Life is just weird, and it’s been super filled for me. But I’m home and I think I’m safe. Are we ever safe? I’ve had one tele-med meeting with a doctor and I’ve got another coming this week. That phone conference was interesting and meeting that doctor online was easy. I asked her if I could do it next year and she said it has to do with insurance. That particular visit was simple. But my upcoming visit with my GP isn’t. She’s very hands-on and I’m at a distance. She’s here in town but nothing is pressing. It’s all routine.

Nothing is as it should be. I’m okay with that. Life is changing. I’m healthy. That’s more than many people can say. This strange time has made me face a few fears. And I know that deep inside, I’m tough even if I don’t feel that way. But I am. Life will go on and I must go with it.

 

 

The Story Behind the Story

Everyone wants to know the story behind the stories that we write. To be honest, probably only half of my stories have any real inspiration. Most of the time I stare at a blank screen until something congeals.

Characters sometimes have a little more to them, but not exactly. That’s because I use this person’s looks and that person’s personality. So by the time I’m done, it’s a jumbled mess.

People who knew my husband swear I write him into every hero. I don’t see how that is possible. But maybe I like certain types of males. I like a man who is intelligent. One who will hold a real conversation on things from metaphysics to how buttercups got their name or why political systems get corrupted. I also like a man who knows the difference between a screwdriver and a hammer and when to use each one. A man who can watch something and then do it. But I also like a man who can be tough as nails and totally gentle, sweet, kind, and loving. If he knows how to cook, clean, and do laundry, that’s even better. So maybe I do write my heroes to be somewhat like the man I married.

Heroines are a little different. I like strong but not overbearing. I think most women possess an inner strength. Even the shyest and timid women often have a very strong interior, probably because women are wired to protect and nurture their young.

Women come in all sizes, shapes and colors, and with their own idea of fashion…then and now. There are so many things to pull together when writing about women. So creating characters is fun.

Anyone is apt to become a character in my stories. I’ll see somebody and their hairstyle or hair color will catch my attention. Young or old, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if I see someone in person, on a screen, or on paper. And beauty…they don’t have to be beautiful. Very few people are beautiful, but most people are attractive. Most people have something about them that makes them attractive. Maybe it’s those little things that makes a person do a double take – that something that makes him or her stand out from everyone else.

I was watching and not watching a TV show at my daughter’s house. She always has the TV on. Anyway it was live cop show and the cop wasn’t what I would have called good looking. But he had the most beautiful blue eyes, mesmerizing blue eyes. But after watching this man for a few minutes, my brain has that big hunky guy firmly implanted in it and he’ll probably wind up as a hero in one of my stories. Lots of women love those big guys. Or at least, his eyes will make it into a story.

Think of some of the people you know or know of that don’t fit the norm for beauty. Barbra Streisand instantly comes to my mind. I’m certain James Brolin might differ on my opinion of her, but Barbra isn’t pretty. What is she? Extremely attractive! She’s taken her looks and learned how to make herself stand out. She’s got an incredible voice and a little chutzpah. Her very unusual looks and amazing talent made her famous. I think that’s a great thing.

There are very few ugly people in this world. Birth defects, disease, injuries, etc. often change the way people look. Yet, some of those who lack any sort of beauty seem to make up for it in personality. My mom’s best friend from the time they were little children was homely. Yet she was the most wonderful person that I knew. She was a very talented artist, and she was kindest, nicest person. When I was with her, I never once thought about the way she looked. When we accept people, appearance no longer matters.

The Internet has been a great equalizer. We’ve gotten to know people without ever meeting them or even seeing what they look like, except that is changing with selfies and posting pics. Today certain things are handled with surgery. One friend was born with six fingers on each hand. The extra fingers were immediately removed. Another friend was extremely cross-eyed. He recently underwent surgery to correct the problem. It’s made a huge difference in his appearance.

Thank goodness we can correct so many things today. But it wasn’t always that way. When I wrote A Husband for Matilda, I wrote a mail order bride, Mrs. Ketchem, into it. Most mail-order brides were women who had a difficult time finding a husband close to home.

They had a house full of children, mostly girls, and it was obvious that Mrs. Ketchem was producing more yarn than she could use. But what really impressed him was the house. He’d never seen a log cabin quite like this one.

“Did you build the house?” Zeke asked between mouthfuls.

“Ay, I did. I bought my own saw and cut the lumber.” Mr. Ketchem motioned to his wife. “We managed to do it together, but putting the roof on required help which I didn’t have. I built it on the ground and used ropes and a couple of oxen to get it up there.” He grabbed a child’s slate and drew a picture of the situation. “You planning on building one?”

“If I obtain the land I want, I might not have enough leftover for a house, but I’ll need one.”

“I’m from the Adirondack Mountains, and this area called to my heart. Bet you never heard of the Adirondack Mountains.”

“I know where they are. Tucked in the northern portion of the state of New York. Not far from Canada.” Zeke laughed. “I happened to like geography.”

“So did I. I was topographer with the railroad as they began to survey and make decisions as to where to put the tracks. I thought drawing maps would be exciting. I wanted to do something special with my life. Instead, I discovered I was bored.”

The man took another bite of food, chewed, and swallowed. “I came from a farm. We had apple and chestnut orchards to go along with our farm. We worked hard.”

“I know about that. I came from a farm outside of Philadelphia. My father would go into Philadelphia several times a week to sell produce.”

“I went all the way to California and as I came back, I knew this was where I wanted to be.”

“Were you already married?”

Mr. Ketchem shook his head and Mrs. Ketchem answered. “He wrote his mother and asked for a bride. I was twenty-two at the time and still not married.” She held up her hands. “Six fingers on each hand. No one wanted me. But my grandmother insisted that I write to Henry.

He said he didn’t care that I had extra fingers. He was more worried about my being able to move out here and if I could cook. He promised that he was a good man and would treat me well.”

Mr. Ketchem chuckled. “I don’t mind those extra fingers. She’s a hard working woman, and I couldn’t ask for a better or prettier wife.”

Zeke looked at the dark-haired woman with crystal blue eyes and porcelain white skin and smiled. He wouldn’t have called her pretty. He finished his meal and thanked both Ketchums several times before leaving for Homestead Canyon.

A New Year A New Decade

Wow, it’s 2020, and it’s a new decade. As a little child, I tried to imagine myself far into the upcoming century like in the year 2020 and thinking I’d be really old. No idea why I chose that date. But it’s arrived – I’m looking at the calendar. It’s here and so am I. And I’m not that old.

Last year was a good year. Every year has its ups and downs. The year 2019 wasn’t marred with anything super horrible and actually it was filled with lots of good things that offset the sad things, such as losing a good friend. Unfortunately, it came with some frustrations and disappointments, but all of that is quite normal. Life isn’t a bowl of cherries. But when the lemons hit, I prefer to make lemon meringue pies or at least a good glass of iced tea with lemon.

I’m already looking forward to my trip to Texas in March to the national convention of the Association of Writers in San Antonio. After the convention, I’ll spend time with family who lives near there. Vacation! Yippee! Spending time with the people I love…I don’t think it gets much better than that.

My newest book,  A Sister’s Christmas Gift finally went live on Amazon on Christmas. It got hung-up in their system and didn’t publish when it was supposed to, but that’s fixed. Originally the book was in the boxed set Christmas Babies on Main Street.

My historical novel, Loving Matilda, is coming out this month. Then Loving Ellen will follow that in March. Loving Arabelle was published this past fall. Cynthia Woolf also has books set in Homestead Canyon, Thorpe’s Mail Order Bride, Kissed by a Stranger, and A Family for Christmas. Kissed by a Stranger is scheduled to release in February. We’ve had fun combining the stories of these early pioneers and placing them in Homestead Canyon.

I have a contemporary book with an older hero and heroine, Waverley Beach’s Bookstore, which will soon be available. I loved writing about these two people because they weren’t young, not that they are old, but they both have full lives. Plus they had young adult children. The heroine lived with her mom and grandmother. The multigenerational family, and the townspeople made for some interesting situations in the very small island town where everyone knows when you sneeze.

And I have another Wedding Vow book in my Montgomery family saga series. That will release this spring.

There’s a local group boxed set of beach reads that will be coming out before summer, and I have a book in that. Yes, it’s been a busy year. Isn’t that wonderful?

I took some time off this fall to do a few other things. I still don’t have those projects completed, but I am back to writing. I should have several more books finished and ready for release before the year is through.

People ask how long it takes me to write. I really don’t know. It depends on how much research goes into the book, how much time I actually spend typing, and the length of the book. That’s the simple easy part. Then it goes to editors who also have other commitments and often don’t get the book back to me for a few weeks. The editing process is the longest. I’m picky enough to want everything perfect so it takes extra time. Plus I’m not a speed demon on the keyboard! Actually I’m slow – three fingers on one hand and two on the other.

I’m very excited because my website might be live in the next week. You’ll be able to click on the book and read a chapter. How’s that for nifty? I’ll post a notice on this site and on Facebook when it goes live.

To some extent I feel as though life is tossing things at me at the speed of light. Then another part of me feels as though it’s all very normal. I think everyone goes through phases where life tosses the ball at them faster than they can react. Other times life just keeps moving in its normal pace. Maybe age says that I must keep up. I’ve started the New Year, healthy and happy. Maybe that’s all that really matters.

Please read the sample provided. In fact take a moment and read the sample that Amazon provides before you buy any book.

A Sister’s Christmas Gift

FREE SAMPLE

If you haven’t bought this year’s boxed set by the Authors of Main Street, you’re missing out on some great stories, and it’s only 99c.

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.