The Dog Days of Summer

The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.  

Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

It’s summer. And it’s hot. And I can’t seem to find my writing groove. Where did the term dog days of summer come from? I poked around the internet and found this:

Many people believe the phrase “dog days of summer” stems from the fact that dogs tend to be a bit on the lazy side during the hottest days of summer. Of course, who can blame them? With that much fur, dogs that exercise during the hot days of summer can overheat easily. 

However, the phrase doesn’t stem from lazy dogs lying around on hot and humid days. Instead, to find the answer, we only need to look to the summer sky. 

The ancient Romans called the hottest, most humid days of summer “diēs caniculārēs” or “dog days.” The name came about because they associated the hottest days of summer with the star Sirius. Sirius was known as the “Dog Star” because it was the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). Sirius also happens to be the brightest star in the night sky. 

Sirius is so bright that the ancient Romans thought it radiated extra heat toward Earth. During the summer, when Sirius rises and sets with the Sun, they thought Sirius added heat to the Sun’s heat to cause hotter summer temperatures.

But here on Main Street, we like to write about a different sort of heat–the warmth of a kiss, the flush of falling in love. But we also like dogs, and many of our books include our furry friends.

If you’re a writer and you have a book with a furry friend (it doesn’t have to be a dog) leave us a buy-link in the comments. If you want to include a 300 word or less excerpt where your furry friend plays a staring role, that would be great, too.

Here’s an excerpt from my yet-to-be-published, The Billionaire’s Beagle.

thumbnail_The billionare

“What do you know about beagles?” Grandfather steepled his fingers and gazed at Wes.

Wes’s thoughts scrambled. “They sniff out drugs at airports?”

“Yes. They have a powerful sense of smell.”

If that were true, Wes wondered how Betty, a fart factory, could stand being around herself.

“But there is so much more to them. Did you know beagles can be traced back to Ancient Greece? And it’s thought that in the 11th century, William the Conqueror brought the Talbot hound to Britain. The Talbot is the ancestor of the modern-day beagle which can run prey to ground. They’re hunting dogs, meant to roam free and wild.” Grandfather cocked his head. “Men are not meant to run free and wild. The animal-man is an enemy to God.”

What did that even mean? Was he referring to the work of Zoologist Desmond Morris who argued man was not a fallen angel, but a risen ape?

Grandfather must have read his mind because he answered the unspoken question. “My greatest wish is to see you settle down and shoulder responsibility. Get a wife! Father children! Teach them to love and serve God.”

Huh. Wes guessed that his grandfather hadn’t read Morris’s The Naked Ape. Which was disappointing since he would have liked to talk about it with him.

“But since I can’t force you to marry,” Grandfather continued, “I’m giving you my dog.” He wagged his finger in front of Wes’s face. “You two need each other.”

“I’m sure Betty would disagree.”

“She doesn’t have a choice!” Grandfather barked. “And neither do you! I’m going to Hacienda Hot Springs. It’s a healing and recovery center. My doctors think it best. Betty can’t come. They don’t allow pets.” His tone of voice told Wes that his grandfather had tried to persuade the hospital otherwise. “This, of course, is a short-term arrangement.”

“I hope so,” Wes breathed out. “For Betty’s sake,” he tacked on. “I’m sure she’ll miss you.”

“I don’t need to tell you that if anything should happen to Betty while she’s in your care, you will be immediately disinherited.”

If you’d like to be an early for The Billionaire’s Beagle, email me at kristyswords@yahoo.com and put beta-reader in the subject line.

 

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A Highwayman by Kristy Tate is Free Today Only – Pick Your Highwayman Up Now

I got the idea for this book one night while watching a documentary on the Salem Witch trials. There was speculation that the hysteria the Puritan girls experienced was caused by poisoned well water, which made me wonder what other mischief could come from tainted water. The Highwayman Incident wasn’t the only book inspired by a documentary. I also included Gregory Rasputin in my novel Beyond the Pale because of a documentary. I love history. Of course, it’s hard to know the truth of any situation–even when you’re in the thick of it–because it’s so hard to grasp all the perspectives. That’s why it’s so much more fun to write fiction. And the Highwayman Incident was a hoot to write.

Celia Quinn’s business lies in ruins at the hands of Jason West, the latest in a long line of scoundrels. As she seeks to restore her family’s livelihood, Celia stumbles upon lore about the local Witching Well, whose water is said to cause hysteria and psychosis. When a mysterious stranger slips Celia water from the well into her drink, she’s transported to Regency England. Her timeless adventure spans miles and centuries from modern-day New England to Merlin’s Cave in Cornwall, England. Only Jason West can save her.
But Celia and Jason must tread carefully, as what happens in the past can reverberate through the ages. Their lives, hearts and futures are caught in time’s slippery hands.

GET YOUR COPY HERE

Here’s an EXCERPT:

CHAPTER ONE

At any wedding, protocol demands that all attention should be focused on the bride, even if the bride happens to be your sister, and even if your sister designed a horrid dress. But Celia defied conventions and refused to look at Mia. Celia knew her funk bordered on lunacy, but she couldn’t shake it. Not even for her sister’s wedding.
The lone man sharing her table looked familiar, although she couldn’t say why. Like someone she knew from a long time ago—but a faded out version. Gray at his temples, thick head of hair, wrinkles around his eyes—handsome for his age—and yet, something tingled in the back of her mind, trying to tell her something.
Celia sat back with a humph and crossed her arms over her chest. The putrid pink dress had a bunchy bodice, giving her a va va voom that, when she first saw it, made her complain first to Mia and then to her grandmother.
“It’s her wedding,” Grandma Claudette had said. “If she wants you to dress like a cat, you better get used to whiskers.”
And in the interest of peace in the family and not wanting to upset her mom, Celia bit her lip about the dress and vowed that when it was her turn to marry, she would do it on the courthouse steps.
And Mia would have to wear a clown suit.
Complete with a red nose.
She caught the man looking at her. His glance slid away. Celia considered leaving, but where would she go? Join her friends on the dance floor? No, her shoes pinched her toes. The dessert table for more cake? No, her stomach was already churning. A drink from the bar? No, she needed to stay sober. She slumped back in her chair, wishing the stranger would leave or her friends would return.
As if he read her mind, the man pushed away from the table and left.
Perfect. Now she was alone. And this should have made her happy, because she wanted him to leave, but it didn’t. She sighed and used her fork to poke holes in the frosting roses on her slice of cake. The blush pink roses matched her dress, which matched her shoes, which matched the ribbon on the bridesmaid bouquets. Celia smashed the cake and watched the frosting ooze between the fork tines.
Beside her, someone chuckled. Looking up, she saw the man had returned. He carried a goblet and a slice of cake.
“I asked for a piece without icing,” he said as he sat in the chair beside her. He slid the cake toward her. “For you.”
She thought about refusing it, but instead said, “Thank you.”
Without saying a word, he placed the wine flute in front of her. “It’s just water,” he told her.
“Thanks. Too much—”
“Too much sugar makes your teeth hurt.” He finished her sentence with a smile that sent another warning jolt down Celia’s spine.
“How did you know I was going to say that?”
He lifted his shoulder in a shrug. “Just a guess. I could tell that you don’t like frosting by the way you were mutilating that cake.” He offered his hand. “My name is Jason.”
“Celia Quinn.” She put her hand in his, and a zing started in her fingers and spread to her center. She left her hand in his longer than necessary, before pulling away. She couldn’t be attracted to this man. He was older than her dad.
“I know a Jason.” She studied him for a moment before her gaze slid to the other Jason across the room. Dark hair, tall, lean—why were the hot guys the most lethal?
“And you dislike him.”
She met the older Jason’s warm gaze and sniffed. “I didn’t say that.”
“You don’t have to say something for it to be true.” He settled back in his chair. “Just like you didn’t say anything, but I can tell you don’t like your dress.”
Celia blew out a sigh.
“You probably think it’s a poor advertisement for your grandmother’s shop.”
Celia gave a defeated shrug. “It doesn’t matter. The store’s dying anyway.”
“Why do you say that?”
Celia shot the Jason across the room a glance. She hoped her look told him all the things she wished she could say to his face. He lounged against the wall between the wedding arch and an enormous swan ice sculpture. The black suit accentuated his blue eyes and dark hair. Even the hideous pink tie looked good on him. He caught her gaze and lifted his glass, acknowledging her.
She wished she had something other than her bouquet and a dirty look to throw at him.
“Just because you’re losing the lease doesn’t mean you’re losing the business, you know.”
Celia swiveled her attention back to Jason her tablemate and put puzzle pieces together. “Are you related to Jason West?”
“Why would you ask that?”
“You…look like him.”
The older Jason smiled. “I’m not his dad or uncle…”
He was probably too young to be his grandfather, and he couldn’t be his brother. “What do you know about my grandmother’s shop?”
“Delia’s Dressy Occasion? It’s a great shop.”
“It was a great shop.”
“But this dress…” He nodded at the sateen fabric bunched around her like a deflated balloon. “Pepto-Bismol Pink.”
“Mia calls it pearl pink.”
“And you call it putrid.”
She stared at him.
“Maybe not out-loud, but I bet it’s what you think.”
“How would you know that?”
He propped his elbows on the table. “Tell me, what are your plans for the store?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Well, since you lost your lease—”
“I didn’t lose the lease.” Her attention shifted back to the younger Jason. “Someone persuaded my grandmother it was time to leave.” She slumped back in her chair. “We were doing fine.”
“Maybe now you can do better.”
Celia picked up her fork and stabbed at the cake. She thought about joining her friends on the dance floor. Becca and Lacey had both kicked off their shoes. They bounced beneath the sparkly lights. Celia wanted to be happy, too, but she felt like she carried the weight of her grandmother’s store on her shoulders.
“You’re afraid that losing the store is like losing your mom.” The older Jason leaned close. “She’ll be fine.”
“How can you know that? Do you know my mom?”
He nodded.
“You’re a friend of my mom’s?” Celia blinked back a sudden tear.
Jason touched her hand, just briefly, and the tingle returned. “The cancer won’t last. She’ll beat it. She’s strong. Like you.”
“You don’t know me,” Celia said. “You might know my mom, but you don’t know me, and there’s no way you can know my mom is going to be okay.” She stood to leave. Her toes screamed in protest, but she pushed to her feet, ignoring the pain.
Unless. She turned back. “Are you a doctor?”
Jason looked down at the goblet. He picked it up and swirled the water. “I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m good at that…at offending people.”
The band began a slow song and couples formed. Lacey and Becca both found partners. Mia and Brad danced in the center, directly beneath the disco ball. Lights twinkled across the room. It would have been a perfect day, except for the putrid pink dress, and Jason West.
“Do you know my sister?” Celia considered him. She was sure they hadn’t met.
He nodded. “And the groom. He’s an…old family friend.”
“Are you from Stonington?”
“Not originally, although I lived here for many years.”
She waited for him to elaborate.
“I’m from Darien.”
“Oh. Is that how you know Jason West? He’s from there, too.”
“He’s a good guy, just doing his job.”
Celia couldn’t help it. She made a face.
“I know you don’t think so now, but you should forgive him.”
Celia held up her hand. “I don’t know who you are—”
Squealing cut her off. Becca and Lacey both ran to her side.
“Come on, Cee,” Becca said, taking her hand. “Mia’s going to throw the bouquet!”
Celia let her friends pull her away from the table and lead her across the room. Mia stood on the wide steps, several feet above the clustered bridesmaids and single women in the crowd. Celia’s mom sat in a chair at a table with Claudette, Celia’s grandmother. Both looked tired but happy. Celia edged toward the back, close enough to be a part, but too far to be in danger of actually catching anything.
Mia gave her a wicked smile, turned her back, and flung the bouquet straight at Celia. Flinging up her arms, Celia protected her face from the flying flowers.
People around her cheered, and Celia opened her eyes.
Becca, aloft in Jason West’s arms, clutched the bouquet. Becca wiggled as Jason set her down and turned to face him. Wrapping her arms around his neck, Becca kissed him full on the lips. She held the bouquet in her hand, and it poked above Jason’s head, looking like a large, floral hat.
“I owe you!” Becca said, pushing away from Jason.
He didn’t respond to Becca but met Celia’s gaze.
She felt shaken by him, although she couldn’t say why. She felt as if his look was trying to tell her something. Something he didn’t know how to say.
He’s a good guy. Just doing his job, the older Jason’s words floated back to her.
Becca disentangled herself from Jason and smiled into her bouquet. “I love weddings,” she said to no one in particular. “They’re such a happy beginning.”
Celia’s gaze wandered back to her mom and grandmother. A beginning always comes after an ending, she thought. Celia gave Becca a tight-lipped smile, ignored Jason, and headed back to her table. The older Jason had disappeared, and Celia gratefully sank into her chair. Swirling the wine flute, she watched the water form into a small tidal wave before she took a drink.
And the world turned dark.

CHAPTER TWO

Her body hummed with energy. She found the quiet dark relaxing and rhythmic motion hypnotic and soothing. Crickets chirped and a breeze stirred the trees. Somewhere, an owl called out. The clip-clop of the horses…
Wait.
Horses?
Celia’s eyes popped open. She sat in a carriage. An obese woman draped in satin and furs sat directly in front of her, snoring, her mouth ajar.
Celia’s own mouth dropped open. She sat up and took note. Same putrid pink dress. Same pinchy shoes. But the wedding, Mia, her mom and grandmother? All gone. Replaced by a grotesque snoring thing wearing a satin tent.
She ran her hands first over the velvet seat cushion, then the burnished wood walls, and finally the black, smooth drapes. It all felt real.
But she must be drunk. Or hallucinating. Had she had too much champagne? No. That drink! That Jason person! He must have put something in her water! But it had looked and tasted like water. Celia ran her tongue over her teeth, trying to find an aftertaste, or a hint of something dangerous.
She drew back the curtain and peered into the dark. A brilliant, star-studded sky gazed down on her. No street lights. No lights at all, except for the one bobbing on the front of the carriage. Leaning forward, she craned to see the driver, but saw nothing but a horse’s butt and its swishing tail. As if the animal knew she was watching and he didn’t appreciate her stare, he lifted his tail.
Celia sat back, closed her eyes, and let the cadence sway of the carriage lull her back to sleep. When she woke, she’d be at home in her bed, and she’d never have to wear this dress again.
Crack!
Celia’s eyes flew open. She sat up straight and glanced at the woman across from her. The woman snorted and nestled her double chin into her fur collar. What was that sound? Was the carriage breaking beneath the woman’s weight?
Crack!
Was it gun fire? The carriage lurched, stopping so quickly that the portly lady slid off the seat.
“What the devil?” the woman moaned, righting herself. She gave Celia a narrow-eyed look as if Celia had knocked her off the bench.
Crack!
“Gunshots!” the woman hissed. She pursed her full lips, yanked off an enormous emerald necklace and shoved it at Celia. “Hide this.”
Celia stared stupidly at the jewels. If they were real, she could use them to buy the shop! Wishing she had a pocket, her mind sought options. In her bra? No. The stones were too big and the bodice too tight. Not knowing what else to do, she lifted her skirts and tucked the necklace into the lace garter Mia had insisted all the bridesmaids wear. She patted her skirts back into place just before the door flew open.
“Stand and deliver!” A deep and somewhat familiar voice demanded.
Deliver what? And how could she stand inside of a carriage? Celia crouched on her seat. Slowly, she lifted her head and saw nothing but the silvery end of a gun pointing at her forehead. None of this is real, Celia told herself. It’s the champagne asking her to stand and deliver something.
“Come, come, ladies.” The familiar voice sent a tingle down her back.
The man stepped out of the shadows and his gaze met hers, but not an ounce of recognition glistened in his eyes. She thought she knew him, but since a black mask hid half his face, she couldn’t be sure.
“My lady.” He swept his arms in a low bow.
Celia gave the gun another glance. It looked real enough.
He lifted one eyebrow and the corner of his lips in a slow and lazy smile, but continued to point the gun at her forehead.
She tried not to think about the emeralds pinching her leg. She couldn’t look at them. She couldn’t adjust them. She couldn’t call his attention to them in any way.
His gaze traveled over her horrid dress and stopped at her mid-thigh as if he could see through the layers of sateen and frilly slip to the garter smashing the emeralds against her.
“Are you in need of assistance?” He held out his hand—the one not holding a gun—to help her out of the carriage. Again, that trill of recognition poured over Celia. She knew him. Somehow.
She shook her head, knowing she couldn’t touch him. If she touched him and he was real, tangible, then she would…well, she didn’t know what she would do. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before.
“Are you mute?” he asked, cocking his head. His grin deepened. “Or is my charm rendering you speechless?”
“Have you considered that maybe I’m put off by the gun you’re holding to my head?”
“Ah, so you can speak after all. Pity that. I do love a quiet woman.” He placed his hand on his heart. “Please, my dears, join me.”
But Celia refused to budge, and since her companion cowered behind her, they both stayed in the coach. She stared at his mouth—the only part of his face she could see—other than his eyes. She found both his eyes and lips hypnotizing. Her gaze traveled from one feature to the next, wondering which one she liked the most.
He’s a highwayman! Her inner voice of reason told her. And a figment of your imagination! Those are the best kind of men, she told her reasonable voice.
“I’m sure you understand this is not a social call.” His gaze flicked over Celia and rested on her va va voom bodice. “At least, not entirely, although I do enjoy mixing business and pleasure.”
“Where’s Eddie?” the woman barked over Celia’s shoulder. “What have you done with Eddie?”
As she leaned over Celia, Celia’s foot caught on the door’s lip. She would have tumbled and fell if the highwayman hadn’t shot out his arm to steady her. His hand tightened around her, and in one fluid movement, he lifted her out of the carriage and placed her on the ground.
She felt breathless and warm from his sudden, brief contact. Her breath came in ragged huffs. Not knowing whether she was grateful or disappointed when he stepped away, she hugged herself to keep warm.
A snapping twig drew her attention to three men in the shadows. They stood as silent and watchful as the trees. All three had weapons drawn.
“Where’s Eddie?” the woman barked out again.
“Have you hurt the driver?” Celia asked, with a hiccup catching in her throat.
The highwayman flicked his head toward a cluster of trees. “He’s unharmed, except for, perhaps, his sense of self-worth.”
“What is your name?” the woman whispered.
“My name?” Celia asked, her voice coming out in a surprised squeak.
“Not your name, you goat head! I know your name.”
Celia wondered what her name might be, or her role, or position. Was she a maid? A paid companion? A relation? She shivered, and told herself that she needed to wake. This dream had gone on way too long already. She should have come to as soon as she saw the gun. That’s what normally would have happened. Nightmares typically ended with a major scare.
She tried pinching herself. It hurt, but not enough to wake her.
The woman fixed her attention on the highwayman. “Who are you?”
“Why would he tell you that?” Celia asked, more than a little stung at being called a goat head.
The man chuckled. “You do not need my name, but I do need your valuables.”
Quiet descended, and Celia took note of the clamor of crickets, the hooting owl, and a nearby tumbling river. Country night sounds, usually masked by the roar of constant traffic on the parkway.
“Do you really need them, or do you just want them?” Celia asked.
“What difference should that make?” he asked.
“It makes a very big difference—it’s the difference between greed and—”
He waved his gun in her face, effectively silencing her. “That ring, if you please,” he said to the woman.
Celia watched, wondering what her companion would do.
Slowly, the woman climbed from the coach.
The horses stamped their feet impatiently and shook their reins. For a second, Celia thought about jumping on one and riding away. But then she remembered that she knew nothing about horses, their massive size terrified her, and getting one loose from the carriage might be tricky. Besides, even if it wasn’t real, that gun looked like an actual gun, which meant that the bullet might possibly feel real, and she didn’t like pain—real or imaginary.
The woman drew the ring off her finger. “I have a reticule in the carriage,” she told the man. “If you’d like, I’ll give it to you.”
The man barked a laugh. “Not likely.” He motioned to one of the henchmen, his gaze never leaving the two women. “Search the carriage. Tell me if you find any hidden pistols.”
Celia slid a quick glance at the woman, wondering if she was cunning or just stupid.
The second man passed by. He smelled unwashed and earthy. The woman reached out and shoved Celia into him. “Take her!”
The man stumbled under Celia’s sudden weight, but the highwayman reached out and caught her in his arms. He drew her to him and held her close. She felt safe there, although she knew that she shouldn’t.
“Hold her hostage! Kill her if you must!” The woman clambered into the coach and slammed the door.
Celia fought to breathe. She knew she had to leave, she knew that staying pressed up against the highwayman was stupid. He had his hand on her belly, his fingers splayed across her. He smelled of cloves, and when he spoke, his breath warmed her.
“That was most unkind.” He sounded surprised and disapproving.
The second man scrambled after the woman and flung open the door. Amid the screams, the carriage rocked back and forth.
“I won’t harm you,” the highwayman whispered, his lips brushing against her hair.
Celia glanced at the gun. In the moonlight, it looked very real and very lethal. Almost as devastating as the man holding her in his arms.
He shifted, bringing her in front of him. In one quick moment, he captured her lips.
Celia’s knees buckled. Her thoughts raced back to all those Regency romance novels of her grandmother’s that she had read as a girl. Georgette someone. Hideous, Horrendous, no, Heyer. Yes, that was it. Georgette Heyer. What would Georgette call this? A seduction? A ravishing? Oh my gosh! That was it! She was being ravished by a rake!
Wake up! her mind screamed. No more kissing!
Oh, but it felt so good. So very, very good.
Panic gripped her. Breaking loose, she ripped off his mask.
Jason West stood in a pool of moonlight, gun dangling at his side. Surprise filled his eyes. He touched his lips, clearly dazed. Taking two steps back, his gaze shifted to the dark, shadowy woods. “Forgive me,” he muttered. “I have erred.”
And with those parting words, he turned and disappeared into the dark.
#
Celia lifted her head off the table, dazed. She must have fallen asleep. How embarrassing. She checked the tablecloth to make sure she hadn’t been drooling. It felt dry. What if she had snored? She cast a nervous glance around.
The party continued as if she had never left/slept. She wasn’t sure, but it seemed as if the band was even playing the same song. That wasn’t possible. The dream seemed longer than a few seconds, more than a few minutes even. But no one was looking or staring at her.
Becca was chatting up some guy over by the bar. Lacey had her arms wrapped around someone wearing a purple bow-tie and they moved to the music. Celia twisted and caught the gaze of Jason West.
Flushing, she looked away. Touching her cheeks, she tried to quell the heat flaming her face. So grateful no one, and by no one she meant Jason West, could read her thoughts, Celia slipped off her pinchy shoes and fled.
Later, she would have to try to explain her sudden departure to her mom and sister. But there were some things she would never be able to explain. Or understand.
Like the garter pressing something sharp into her upper thigh.

How to Promote Your Book: CONTESTS!

Contests are a great way to promote your writing. Also, having a Golden Spleen Winner stamped on the front cover of your book adds credibility to your work—some judge some where thought your book was the bomb (and just not your mom.) So, thanks to Stephie Smith, here’s a compilation of (mostly romance) contests.

And here’s a list by Poets & Writers

Be careful, though. Some are not worth the cost. But some are free to enter, so what’s the harm?

I’ve had good (mostly) experiences with contests. Many years ago, I entered the Writer’s Digest short story contest. My short story, Love Beneath the Huckleberries, placed in the top one hundred. At the time, I was really disappointed, but looking back, I realize I should have been thrilled. Magic is the first thing I ever self-published and I did it mostly to practice. It’s still available at Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. (It’s free.)

Years ago when my twin babies were 3 years old and starting preschool, I sat down to write my first novel. I didn’t know what to write so I did some research and came across a small, start up company that wanted to publish “wholesome romance.” I ordered a couple of their books, read them and thought piece of cake. Of course, the cake was much more difficult to digest than I had thought, but after many afternoon preschool writing sessions, I completed my first book and sent it off to Ponder Romance. The editor called me. She loved my book, but it wasn’t right for them. We talked for nearly ninety minutes and our conversation provided invaluable feedback. I’ve since published that book, The Light in the Christmas Cafe. (It’s $3.99)

In 2010, I entered my novel Hailey’s Comments in the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist contest (I’m pretty sure they don’t have these anymore, but they were at the time a big deal.) Here’s what I found:

The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) was a contest sponsored by Amazon.comPenguin GroupHewlett PackardCreateSpace and BookSurge to publish and promote a manuscript by an unknown or unpublished author.[1] The first award was given in 2008 and in 2015 Amazon announced that they would not be continuing the award and would instead focus on the Kindle Scout program.

Hailey’s Comment was a quarter-finalist. That  it was in the top one hundred (I believe) and it “won” a review by Publisher’s Weekly. I now wish I had kept the review.

hailey's comments copy

(Hailey’s Comments, currently $4.99, but will be FREE this weekend.)

My novel The Rhyme’s Library was a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review Awards in 2013.

rhyme

($4.99)

Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent was a semi-finalist in the I Heart Indie’s Contest.

big beyond the tent copy

(.99 cents)

And my last foray into contests was my 2015 Kindle Scout winner, Witch Ways.

Witch Ways copy (1)

(2.99)

You can read my previous posts on the Kindle Scout program:

http://kristystories.blogspot.com/2015/09/why-i-put-my-book-in-kindle-scout.html

http://kristystories.blogspot.com/2015/05/more-about-kindle-scout-program.html

http://kristystories.blogspot.com/2015/05/curious-about-kindle-scout-program.html

As I said, I haven’t entered a contest since, but now looking back, I’m wondering why not?

How about you? Have you found contests valuable?

Freebie Marketing Experiment

ford-quote

Last week, I decided to break out of my rut and try a marketing experiment. I mustered up some persistence  and engaged in some boring butt-in-the-chair type freebie marketing. Because in the past I’ve felt this sort of thing wasn’t worth my time, (I would much rather be writing) promised myself that anything my books earned over the previous week, I would spend….and so I did. Last week my books earned about 30% more than the week before.

So, here’s what I did. I contacted these free sites about promoting my perma-free, Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent. I have no idea how many will actually promote my book, or when, but all of these sites were free.

http://www.armadilloebooks.com/submit-free-ebooks/

 

http://awesomegang.com/submit-your-book/

 

http://www.bestebooksfree.com/Authors-eBook-Promotion.shtml

 

http://bookangel.co.uk/submit-your-book/

 

http://bookdealhunter.com/submit-free-book/

 

http://bookdealsdaily.com/promote/

 

 

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http://dealseekingmom.com/deals/book-magazine-deals/  email them the details at: media@dealseekingmom.com

 

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http://ebooksaddict.com/submissions/  FREE only. Scroll down on the site to see the form.

 

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http://ebookstage.com/publisher/promote-your-ebooks

 

http://ereadergirl.com/submit-your-ebook/  only non fiction, christian and children’s books.

 

http://ereaderlove.com/contact/   FREE only.  Put the promo details under ‘details’.

 

http://ereaderutopia.com/   click submit button to inform about promo. If you can’t see the ‘edit’ etc buttons, click X to delete the ad to the right!

 

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http://www.feedyourreader.com/submit-your-book-2/

 

http://www.freebookdude.com/2014/03/list-your-free-amazon-kindle-books.html

 

http://www.freebooks.com/submit/   Put in the ASIN and the dates and click submit.

 

http://freebooksy.com/editorial-submissions

 

http://www.freeebooksforme.com/authors-page/

 

http://freebies4mom.com/contact/   FREE & KCD. Send message to advise of promo.

 

http://www.free-kindle-books-4u.com/submit-your-kindle-book/ Sign on screen is a WordPress screen. Then ‘visit site’, then click ‘register’. Add promo details. FREE only.

 

http://www.freestufftimes.com/

 

http://www.frugal-freebies.com/p/submit-freebie.html     Go to ‘submit freebie’

 

http://www.genrepulse.com/   Recommended but there’s a fee.

 

http://www.getfreeebooks.com/?page_id=81     Choose category ‘free ebook updates’ and put promo dates on comments!

 

http://www.getfreeimebooks.com/submit-ebooks/   Choose category ‘ebooks’ and put promo dates on comments!

 

http://www.greatbooksgreatdeals.com/        Recommended but there’s a fee

 

http://support.hotzippy.net/?page_id=585  To guarantee a listing, use the paid option of hotzippy below.

 

http://hotzippy.net/feature-your-book.html hotzippy page that submits book to pixelscroll, bargain ebook hunter & romance ebook deals. There’s a fee.

 

http://hunt4freebies.com/submit-freebie/        FREE & KCD.  Add promo dates on ‘topic’.  

 

http://www.icravefreebies.com/contact/  FREE & KCD. Email icravefreebies@gmail.com to send promo details.

 

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http://indiebookoftheday.com/authors/free-on-kindle-listing/       FREE only

 

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http://jcphelps.blogspot.com/p/submit-content.html    Doesn’t accept submissions at the moment.

 

http://form.jotformpro.com/form/21078469493969     FREE only.

 

http://jungledealsandsteals.com/submit-your-kindle-freebie/     FREE only.

 

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http://kindlebookpromos.luckycinda.com/?page_id=283

 

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https://mybookcave.com/submit-book/

 

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http://pricedroppedbooks.com/author-promotions/  Same owner as GenrePulse. May be a fee.

 

http://readcheaply.com/partners/#guidelines    FREE & KCD  Can also submit a book for a new launch. Use a very short blurb.  Once in 4 months only.

 

http://www.readfree.ly/submityourfreebook/

 

http://readingdeals.com/submit-ebook   They send an email & you must click the link to finalize the submission.

 

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http://www.theereadercafe.com/p/authors.html      FREE only. Scroll down the page to see the form.

https://www.themidlist.com/submit

 

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http://zwoodlebooks.com/authors-and-publishers/  FREE & KCD. You’ll need to take the pledge first, before you can submit.

 

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http://freebookdeals.com/about/     leave a comment with free promo details.

Then I did something that I found really eye-opening and interesting. I went to my Amazon author page and looked up the information of readers who had in the past left positive reviews on my books. I was able to find, on average, contact information on about 20 percent of the reviewers. But even those who didn’t post contact info, left a trail, because I could see what else they had reviewed. Often, it was other books–which told me what they liked to read–but it was also other products, like anti-aging eye-cream, or diaper rash medicine, which provided clues to their age. I was surprised that most of the readers of my young adult books were retired. And the dudes! I have a number of stay at home dads and retired veterans who read and like my books! After compiling a list, I emailed them this:

Hi all,

Thanks for reading and reviewing MY OTHER BOOKS. Your kind words and reviews have inspired and lifted me. I want to offer a pay back: Every new release FREE.

 I’m sure you’ve seen this disclaimer before: “I received this ARC copy in exchange for my honest review.” 

Why do authors offer this?

Review street teams have been a standard practice used by the big publishing houses for decades to help launch a new title. Since I’m self-published, my readers are vital to helping people find my books. I don’t have the millions of dollars big publishing corporations have to put books on billboards, so I rely on my readers to help spread the word.

In a few weeks, my latest novel, Menagerie, will be available on Amazon. It’s currently up for pre-order for the discounted price of .99 cents. I’m offering it to a select few for FREE in exchange for an honest review. I’m sending the first two chapters of Menagerie to tempt you. If you’re interested, just email me at kristys50books@gmail.com and I’ll send an arc copy.

There’s no obligation or commitment. But I hope that if you do enjoy it, you’ll take the time to review it on Amazon or other online retailers and chat it up with your neighbors and friends.The nicest thing you can do for an author you like is to give a five star review and share that author’s name not just with your immediate circle of family and friends but also on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social media you use. Word of mouth is the most wonderful form of advertisement an author can have. And remember, a review doesn’t have to be a book report. It can be a simple, “Loved it!” “Made me laugh!” or “Couldn’t put it down!”

Thank you! I look forward to hearing from you.

I sent them my first chapter, cover image, and a buy link to the pre-order page.

Then I went to a New York Times Bestselling Author who writes in the same genre and looked up her reviewers. Interestingly, about 80% of her reviewers had contact information as most of hers were professional book bloggers (which suggested to me that her publisher most likely contacted them.) So, I also reached out to (some of) them. I sent this:

Hi,

I read and liked your review of BESTSELLER and wondered if you’d like to read and review my soon to be released novel, Menagerie.  You can see it here.

If interested, please contact me at kristys50books@gmail.com for a free copy.

Thanks!

I also sent them my first chapter, cover image, and a buy link to the pre-order page.

At the end of this week, I’ll be running a promotion on the third book in my Witch Ways series. I intend to contact all the free sites listed above, but this week, I’ll also include any sites that are less than $5. each. In the following weeks, I have lined up promotions with my favorites, Ereader News Today, Robin Reads, and Book Barbarian. Also, when Menagerie is released, my Bookbub and Amazon followers will be notified.

Why promote my perma-free, my Witch Ways book, and my soon to be released? Because I firmly believe that a rising tide lifts all ships. This means that if one book does well, the readers will spill over to my other books.

Since my book, Menagerie, will be released at the end of the month, I will email my own list (about 10,000) send out a Kindle Scout newsletter (where a bunch of other Kindle Scouters will also be promoting their books) and an Authors of Main Street newsletter (where anyone who would like to promote may do so. The more the merrier!) We’ve done this in the past with great success. The Authors of Main Street have a large following.

Want to participate? Just send your cover and buy link to:

authorsofmainstreetpromotions@gmail.com
by September 20th.
I’ll send out the email on September 28th, and ask everyone who participates to do the same.
Keep in mind, group promotions only work if everyone spreads the word through their own newsletter lists, blogs, and social media. Putting the newsletter together is a lot of work. If you want to thank me, please consider buying or sharing the link to my new release.
Thanks!

 

 

 

Menagerie

E came up with the brilliant idea of focusing our posts around our pets for the month of August. I love this not only because I love pets, but also I’ve been immersed in animism. Don’t know what that is? Animism (from Latin anima, “breath, spirit, life”) is the worldview that non-human entities—such as animals, plants, and inanimate objects—possess a spiritual essence.

And the reason I’m neck deep into it is I’m a hair-breath away from finishing my latest book, Menagerie. It’s the story of seventeen-year old Lizbet Woods who has spent her life cloistered on an island in the Puget Sound with her mom and a menagerie of animals–some domesticated and some not. She talks to them, and they talk back. Sometimes this helps, but sometimes it hurts, too.

I hope to have it published sometime in September.

menagerie

CHAPTER ONE

Animism (from Latin anima, “breath, spirit, life”) is the worldview that non-human entities—such as animals, plants, and inanimate objects—possess a spiritual essence.

From Declan’s Research

The birds heralded the storm, as they always did. They liked to be the bearers of scuttlebutt although, as Lizbet had learned long ago, not all birds were created equal, and some species were much more reliable than others. Not that they lied, very few creatures had the ability or cunning, but rather in their haste to be the first in the know, some blurted out misconceptions and half-truths.

Not that Lizbet had much familiarity with liars—or people, in general—but she’d read of several, as Rose, her mother, had accumulated an impressive library over the years. Not that Lizbet was in any position to know what was and was not impressive library-wise, or any otherwise, since Lizbet herself had never been off the island she and Rose called home.

The howling wind drowned out the calls of birds, and the chatter of squirrels and chipmunks. Opossum, skunks, and fox sought shelter in the forest’s thickets. Rats and mice scurried to find hidey-holes. Lizbet fetched an armful of wood from the shed to stoke the fire while her mother gathered candles.

Wind rustled the tarp protecting the woodpile. The pine trees, used to standing straight and tall, moaned as the wind whipped through their canopy, and bent them in directions they didn’t wish to go.

“A man approaches,” Wordsworth whined, terror tainting his words.

Lizbet looked over the German Shepherd’s furry head to the storm-tossed sea. The Sound, normally a tranquil gray-blue slate, roiled as if shaken by an invisible hand. Lizbet couldn’t see anyone, but her heart quickened. “Are you sure?” She saw nothing but a curtain of rain, an angry sky, and churning tide. The gulls, who generally swooped above the bay, had wisely found shelter. The otters, too, had disappeared, and for once the noisy, boisterous sea lions, were silent.

The dog nodded. “He’s lost, but hopeful.”

“Hopeful? Of what?”

Wordsworth shook his head. His ears flattened and his tail drooped when another flash of lightening lit the sky. He cowered as the thunder boomed.

“Come,” Lizbet said, “let’s go inside. Only an idiot would be out on the water today.”

“He’s no longer on the water,” Wordsworth whined. “His boat has landed.”

Lizbet peered into the storm, saw nothing more than before, added another log to her collection. Their cottage was made of stone, but the adjacent shed which housed the woodpile, gardening tools, and bird seed, was constructed of recycled wood. Wind blew through the slats and rattled the shake roof. The cottage would be warm and dry in a way that the shed never could.

Wordsworth whimpered again. Lizbet knew he longed for the comforts of the house as much as she did, but she also understood Wordsworth had an important job to do, and he would never back away from protecting her from strangers.

“There’s no one there,” Lizbet said, stomping toward the cottage. She climbed the steps and pulled open the Dutch door. The warm comforting scent of the crackling fire mingled with the aroma of ginger cookies.

Rose stood at a large pine table, stacking the cookies onto a plate. Lizbet stared at the amount, knowing that she and her mother would never be able to eat so many. Her mother was waif-thin with flyaway blond hair as insubstantial as her slender frame.

“There’s a man in the cove,” Lizbet said, wondering if her mother already knew, and if so, why she hadn’t warned her.

Rose kept her gaze focused on the cookies and blushed the color of her namesake. Rose was as fair as Lizbet was dark. We are as night and day, her mother would say, together, we are all we need.

“Are you expecting someone?” Lizbet demanded.

“No, not really, but I…” Rose’s voice trailed away.

Lizbet clomped through the kitchen to the living room, weaving through the stacks of books to the fireplace. She dropped her logs onto the hearth, placed her hands on her hips, and marched back into the kitchen. She hated surprises, but she was also curious.

“Who is this man?” Not Leonard, the postman—her mother would never blush for the potato-shaped letter carrier. Besides, Leonard would never venture to the island in a storm. He only came every other Tuesday. Today was Saturday.

“You don’t need to worry about him,” Rose said without meeting Lizbet’s eye.

“Why is he coming? Will he bring books?”

Rose laughed, but it sounded strange—strained and nervous. Lizbet decided that she already disliked this man. She plucked a cookie off the plate.

Rose looked up sharply, an expectant look on her face.

Lizbet studied her cookie, suddenly suspicious. Her mother studied and experimented with herbs and she’d taught Lizbet a variety of recipes. Lilies to lighten the mood, lavender to soothe worries, chamomile to bring sleep, basil to stimulate energy, and gingerroot to make one forget. Lizbet sniffed the cookie and touched it with her tongue.

Her mother watched.

Lizbet smiled, took a big bite and left the kitchen. In the privacy of her own room, she went to the window and pulled it open. A cold breeze flew in, ruffling the drapes, and blowing about the papers on her desk. Ignoring the wind, Lizbet stuck her head outside and spat the cookie out into the storm. She slammed the window closed.

“What are you doing?” Rose asked.

Lizbet started. She hadn’t heard her mother come in. Wrapping her arms around herself, Lizbet said, “I was looking for the man.”

Rose’s lips lifted into a smile. “Please, don’t worry about him. Here, I’ve brought you some tea.” She set down a steaming mug on Lizbet’s bedside table. “Gingerroot, your favorite.”

“Thanks.”

“Want to come and read by the fire?” Rose asked.

Lizbet glanced back at the storm on the other side of the window. An idea tickled in the back of her mind. “In a second,” she said. After plopping down on her bed, Lizbet sipped from the teacup, but she didn’t swallow. Instead, she let the tea warm her tongue.

Rose lifted her own mug to her lips and watched Lizbet.

Lizbet set the mug back down and met her mother’s gaze. After an awkward moment, Rose lifted her shoulder in a half-hearted shrug and headed down the hall.

Lizbet bounced from the bed, closed the door, and spat the tea back into the mug. She poured the entire cup down the toilet in the adjacent restroom, flushed, and climbed back onto her bed. She lay perfectly still, waiting for her mom to re-enter the room. She didn’t have to wait long.

A few moments later, her bedroom door creaked open. With her eyes firmly closed, Lizbet practiced her corpse pose and didn’t even flinch as she heard her mother steal into the room. Rose tucked a quilt around Lizbet’s shoulders before creeping back out and closing the door with a whisper click.

Lizbet peeked open an eye and met Wordsworth’s steady, brown-eyed gaze. “Who is he?”

“I don’t know,” the dog whimpered, “but he isn’t scared.”

“How can you tell?” Lizbet asked.

“The smell. All emotions have a smell.”

“My mom—what’s her smell?”

Wordsworth jumped up on the bed beside Lizbet and nestled against her. “She loves you.”

“I know. But I don’t know what that has to do with anything.”

Wordsworth whimpered again and snuggled closer. “You have to let me out so I can meet this man.”

“I can’t. If I do, she’ll know I’m awake. You’re on your own.”

Wordsworth blew out a breath, stood, shook himself, and jumped down. He went to the door to bark and whine. It didn’t do any good. Her mother ignored him, which told Lizbet two things. One: the potion Rose had given Lizbet must have been so strong that Rose didn’t worry about Wordsworth waking her. Two: Rose didn’t want to be interrupted.

Lizbet sat up as a thought assaulted her.

Wordsworth, as if reading her mind, jumped back up beside her and gazed into her eyes.

“This man is my father!” Lizbet blurted out.

“You cannot know this,” Wordsworth whimpered.

“She loves him enough to drug me just to spend time with him! Of course, he’s my father!”

Wordsworth moaned a disagreement.

Lizbet had a lot of questions—mostly because she was only twelve, but also because she lived a solitary life with her mother on an uninhabited island in the Puget Sound. She had faith that all of her questions would eventually be answered, but the biggest questions in her heart and mind all centered around her father.

Lizbet kicked off the quilt and crawled off the bed.

Wordsworth placed his nose against her thigh, stopping her. “There must be a good reason why your mother doesn’t want you to meet this man.”

“She never said she didn’t want me to meet him.”

Wordsworth snorted. “If she had wanted you to meet him, she wouldn’t have drugged you.”

Suddenly Lizbet hated her mother. “She can’t keep me from my own father.”

Wordsworth parked his butt against the door like a giant hairy roadblock. “You do not know he is your father.”

“Of course, he’s my father. Now move.” She grabbed Wordsworth’s collar to pull him away. His fur bunched up around his collar, but he wouldn’t budge.

Lizbet tried the doorknob, but since Wordsworth outweighed her by nearly fifty pounds the door wouldn’t open. Lizbet flounced to the window.

“Where are you going?” Wordsworth asked, his ears poking toward the ceiling.

“To meet my dad.” Lizbet threw open the window. The wind spat rain in her face and carried a breath of bone-chilling cold into the room.

Wordsworth stood, shook himself, but didn’t move away from the door.

Lizbet had one leg thrown over the sill, and her exposed foot was already soaking from the storm.

“You’ll look like a drowned cat if you go outside,” Wordsworth said.

She sent him a dirty look. He gazed back at her. She clambered out the window. The rain hit her like hundreds shards of ice. The cold stung her face and pierced her clothes. She ran around to the side of the house so she could look in the windows.

Inside, sitting side by side on the sofa amongst the towers of books, snuggled together in front of the fire was her mom and a man. Lizbet knew she’d never seen him before—not that she could remember, at least—but there was something in her that recognized him. She felt as drawn to him as a bird to a worm.

But as she watched him laughing with her mother, Lizbet had another realization. She knew that even if she introduced herself to this man, because of the cookies on the platter, in time, he would never remember her. She’d only be a vague recollection—a face he couldn’t place.

Lizbet never drank gingerroot tea again.

And the man returned, year after year.

 

CHAPTER TWO

“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”

― Francis of Assisi

From Declan’s Research

 

 

FIVE YEARS LATER

In mid-April when the crocus began to lift their heads from the ground and the daffodils unfurled toward the bleak but not yet warm sun, a pod of gray whales splashed past the western side of the island. Lizbet loved this time of year when the plants and animals roused themselves from winter’s frozen grasp. The garden, still crusty with ice, yielded beneath Lizbet’s hoe as she worked the compost into the soil. Lizbet longed to be out in the dingy to hear of the whales’ southern adventures, but Rose kept her in the garden.

Lizbet slid her mother a glance. Beneath the enormous straw hat Rose always wore, a worry line etched between Rose’s eyebrows, and her lips pulled into a thin, straight line. Tension radiated from her, and Lizbet felt powerless against it.

Wordsworth sat at the garden’s edge, his ears pricked, his eyes vigilant, despite the cataracts clouding his vision. Tennyson perched in the branches of the maple tree, flicking his tail and complaining about the birds swooping around him.

“A man comes,” Wordsworth whimpered.

Lizbet braced against her hoe and glanced out at the tranquil bay. Wispy clouds trailed across the robin’s egg blue sky. She couldn’t see an approaching boat. “Is it him?” she asked, referring to her mother’s secret lover, the man she suspected of being her father. He had come many times over the years, always following an offering of her mother’s ginger root tea.

“John? No. Someone else.”

“A postman?”

“No.”

Lizbet resumed hoeing when she caught her mother’s gaze. She’d learned long ago that her mother couldn’t hear or understand the animals the way she did. At first, this bothered her. For years, she had believed her mother to be all knowing and all-powerful, but in time, Lizbet grew to love that she had an ability her mother not only didn’t share but also discounted as a childish whim akin to make-believe friends and monsters beneath the bed.

“The whales dislike him. His boat is loud and he’s disrupting their path.”

Lizbet frowned against the sun.

“Tired already?” Rose asked without looking up from her work.

“No, I thought I heard an engine.”

Rose’s head jerked over her shoulder and her spine stiffened. She cocked her head, listening.

Gulls cried out as they wheeled overhead. “A man, a man, a man.”

“I don’t hear anything,” Rose said slowly, resuming her hoeing.

It had been months since John had been to visit, and Lizbet had yet to understand why he came and went as infrequently as a summer storm.

“A large boat, yet manned alone,” Wordsworth said.

Not quite,” Tennyson said, twitching his whiskers as he lounged in a nearby apple tree. The tree’s pinky blossoms offset his orange fur and Lizbet wondered if the cat knew this. He was so vain she thought he might. “He brings a creature.”

Creature was Tennyson’s word for dog.

Wordsworth’s ears pricked up. “I cannot smell him.”

Nor I, but the Albatross spotted him,” Tennyson said. “He’s wolfish.”

Wordsworth began to pace along the garden’s edge.

Rose lifted her face to the sun. Lizbet saw the questions in her mother’s sapphire eyes, but she didn’t know the answers. She wasn’t even sure of the questions.

“There’s something I need to tell you, Pet,” Rose began. “Not just one thing, actually…” She paused and twisted lips. “Things I should have told you a long time ago.”

Lizbet, of course, knew that her mother had secrets. The many books she read told her that very few lived in isolation the way that she and her mother did. There had to be a world beyond the island, a place peopled with more than friendly postmen and the occasional visitor.

An engine roared. A big beautiful boat slid into the cove. Sunlight sparkled off its shiny chrome and glass. This boat was bigger than anything Lizbet had ever seen.

“How?” Rose whispered, dropping her hoe. “He’s found me.”

“Who is it, Mama?” Lizbet asked.

Rose quickly bent and retrieved her hoe, but this time she carried it like a weapon. “No questions, love. I need you to run and hide.”

“Hide? Where? Why?”

Rose shook her hoe at Lizbet. “I said no questions! Go to the woods. There’s the old shack where Daugherty brewed her ale, go there.” Rose sucked in a deep breath. “No one can trespass the woods,” she muttered beneath her breath.

Lizbet’s memories of Daugherty were vague, but she knew the shack. “But what about you?”

Rose gripped her hoe like a weapon. “I’ll join you soon. Now go.”

Lizbet picked up her shovel for no other reason than her mom had a hoe and ran into the woods. Wordsworth loped beside her.

“Who is he?” Lizbet asked the birds flying above her.

“A big man,” a swallow answered.

“A wolf creature,” a robin put in.

“Hide in my tree,” a squirrel called out as Lizbet ran past. “It’s hollow inside. He’ll never find you.”

“Thank you, but no,” Lizbet said, her pace slowing. She wasn’t sure she wanted to hide from this man and his large boat. A wicked part of her wanted him to find her and take her to the cities where people and buildings resided. She had only read of cars, trucks, and helicopters. Occasionally, an airplane would fly overhead, so she knew—sort of—what a plane looked like from a great distance. But all other vehicles were nothing more than figments of her imagination. She had a bicycle, a rusted contraption, but had never seen a motorcycle. There was so very much that she’d never seen, and this man, this stranger, may have seen everything. Maybe he could show her—introduce her to this word beyond the island. Her thoughts ticked over cities she’d like to visit: London, Paris, Rome, New York, and Sherwood Forest.

“This man is not your friend,” Wordsworth warned her.

A friend. Lizbet ached for a friend, but even as she did so, a wave of guilt washed over her because she knew her mother should be enough. Her mother worked hard to keep them safe, to provide food and warmth, to supply the books for Lizbet’s entertainment and education. Lizbet knew her mother had sacrificed her own life—a life with John —to keep Lizbet sheltered from the world and its evil men and cunning women.

But what if I don’t want to be sheltered? The thought was so astounding it halted her. Lizbet froze on the path to Daugherty’s shack.

Wordsworth pressed his nose to the back of her leg, urging her to go on.

“I don’t want to be here anymore,” Liz thought.

“Hurry, hurry, hurry,” a friendly squirrel chattered.

“No!” Lizbet found her voice.

“Go! Go! Go!” The crows swooped around her.

“No! I don’t think so.”

“Not safe! Not safe! Not safe!” The crows contended.

Slowly, Lizbet began picking her way toward the shack because she knew and trusted the crows. They were much more clever than most of the animals and were almost never wrong. Although, unlike Wordsworth, they were self-serving.

“Why don’t you think it’s safe?” Lizbet asked the crows.

“A gun! A gun! A gun!” the birds responded.

“He has a gun?” Lizbet halted. She’d read about guns. They were mostly used and possessed by villains and soldiers, and as far as she knew, there weren’t any wars being waged on the island… which could only mean that this man meant them harm. “I have to warn my mom!”

“Go to Daugherty’s shack as your mom asked,” Wordsworth said. “I will protect your mom.”

Lizbet brushed past him, heading for her mother. Moments later, her knees buckled as a blinding pain slammed onto the top of her head.

Beginnings

Sometimes beginnings sneak up on us. A casual run-in with a stranger on the street can turn into a lifelong friendship. A conversation can change the way we look at our world. A remark can change our perception of our parents and help us see things in a new light. A hobby can grow into a passion and spark a career change.

Often, though, a beginning is marked by an ending. A death heralds widowhood just as a marriage ends singlehood. I think this is why wedding stories are so popular—a wedding is a celebration of a romance that, even in our day and age more often than not, lasts a life time—or if we’re blessed “happily ever after.”

One of the chief characteristics of a romance novel is the happily ever after. If a story doesn’t have a HEA, it isn’t a romance. Romeo and Juliet might be about a romance, but its ending securely grounds it in the depressing tragedy corner.aomsx-198-header.jpg

Here on Main Street, we have had many beginnings. We began this blog. We wrote a serial story. That had such a nice ending that we created our box Christmas set. Because that was such a hoot, we put together our wedding anthology. Each beginning came with a happy ending. We have more stories planned. Our happy endings are multiplying…as I hope yours are.

2D Boxed set

Please share the beginnings of your stories. And if you’re an author, please share the beginning paragraph of your favorite story. Feel free to post the buy link and a link to your website.

Here’s one of mine. This is the opening paragraph from my novel, The Rhyme’s Library.

The Rhyme’s Library

the rhyme's library

CHAPTER 1

brobdingnagian \ brob-ding-NAG-ee-uhn\  adjective:

of extraordinary size; gigantic; enormous.

                Blair brought her finger down on a random word, brobdingnagian. She wrote the word and definition on the chalkboard above the circulation desk and came up with her own sample sentence. Drake Isling is a brobdingnagian twit. Because she gave each of her library patrons a chocolate for every sample sentence they gave, she took one for herself, even though Brobdingnagian was technically tomorrow’s word. Today’s word was tenebrous: dark; gloomy. Tenebrous describes both the weather and my mood, she thought and then realized that she deserved a chocolate for her second sample sentence. My thighs will be brobdingnagian if I don’t stop eating these chocolates. Another sentence— another chocolate.

Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent is Now Available

big beyond the tent copy

Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent

When Petra Baron goes into the fortuneteller’s tent at a  Renaissance fair, she expects to leave with a date to prom. Instead, she walks  out into Elizabethan England, where she meets gypsies, a demon dog and a kindred  spirit in Emory Ravenswood.

 

Emory must thwart the plans of religious  zealots. His mission is dangerous, his enemies are fanatical, and Petra Baron is  a complication that Heaven only knows he does not need. Or does he? Although  Emory is on Heaven’s errand, he learned long ago that Heaven does not always  play fair.

 

As Petra slowly falls for Emory, she wonders if he really is  who he seems, or if he is just as lost as she is. How can they have a future  while trapped in the past? Or is anything possible Beyond the Fortuneteller’s  Tent?

I’m so excited about my new book! Although it’s actually not new to me, I wrote it about 5 years. I wrote it when I was working with a critique partner who assured me that Petra, my main character, didn’t sound like a teenager. Even though I lived in a house full of teenagers, I lost my confidence in being able to write for the YA market, until my teenage daughter stumbled across Beyond. She read it, loved it and wanted to know what happens next. She gave it to her friends, they loved it and wanted to know what happens next. With my confidence restored, I started the sequel.

This week I finished the first draft of Beyond the Sleepy Hollow, the sequel to Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent. I had to write the second one before I published the first so I could keep the storylines straight. I didn’t want to have a brilliant idea while writing the second book that would impact the first book.

Since I began the Beyond series with a trilogy in mind, maybe I should wait until I have the third book finished to publish. But I’m too excited to wait any longer.

Besides, I know how the book will go…unless, of course, I decide to write a fourth and fifth book. And then things could get messy.

But, honestly, sometimes I enjoy making a little mess. And I love writing these books.

My plan is to publish Beyond the Sleepy Hollow on my birthday in January. Beyond the River Styx, the maybe third and final book, will be published in the spring.