Now is the winter of our discontent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unkept Promises

Book 4 in The Golden Redepennings series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements
Posted in Jude's Posts | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Beautiful People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming Out of Hiding

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in E.'s Posts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Summer is Upon Us

Here in Georgia, we’ve had drought, lots of rain, and now it’s humid. Melting in the heat as a snowman in the sun. I hope you are faring better!

We’re taking it a day at a time.

Here’s a peek at Choosing Ally.

Let me know what you think.

CHOOSING ALLY

Prologue
Love is more powerful than reason.
Tate Stone grew up chasing a dream. He was determined to rise above his family’s modest status in Marshville, Georgia.
Ally Matthews, who grew up privileged, chose to chase Tate Stone.
Since middle school, wealthy Lucas Marsh chose to befriend Tate Stone.
Both men disregarded a warning that one day their friendship would come home to bite them. Both were determined to guard their friendship, their bond against Lucas’s father, Judd Marsh, against all odds.
Ally and Tate disregarded speculation of a difficult involvement, and vowed to marry one day.
Lucas’s father, Judd Marsh, was a man who attained whatever he went after. And…he would do whatever it took to join Ally and Lucas, to bind their family’s bloodline.
Lucas hadn’t counted on falling for Ally, his best friend’s girl.
Tate hadn’t counted on Lucas as a bitter opponent for the love of his life.
Until Tate realized he and Lucas were in love with the same woman.
Tate would do anything to save his relationship with Ally. His dream. His future.
Until Judd Marsh dropped a secret in Tate’s lap.
Until Tate’s mother didn’t deny the secret.
Tate swore he’d get even with Judd Marsh if it was the last thing he did. Judd, with his high and mighty attitude, had glowered down that aristocratic nose at him for the last time.
A promise Tate made to himself. He always kept his promises.
Ally’s family was the second most wealthy family in Marsh County. Ally wanted Tate and a family, never mind how much her father protested.
Lucas wanted her because his father wanted the two together. He thought.
When Tate Stone’s mother lay dying of cancer, old man Marsh sent flowers, had even visited on one occasion. Oblivious to anyone else being in the house, twenty-two year old Tate overheard a discussion that changed his life forever.
Old man Marsh was his father. He was a slime-ball. Not once had he said anything to Tate about it. Heck, he barely knew Tate was alive.
Tate Stone grew up chasing his dreams on the wrong side of the tracks, while privileged Ally Matthews grew up chasing Tate Stone. They had each other in times of trouble and didn’t need, nor want, Lucas Marsh poking his nose in their business.
“Thinks he’s so high and mighty. Just because his old man, Judd Marsh, owns half the town doesn’t give him anymore rights than anyone else, to go around thumbing his nose at us,” Tate said. “We grew up being best friends. I guess that’s over now.”
“I don’t think he still feels that way, Tate. He’s changed, yes. You can’t hold a grudge against him forever, because of what his father is.”
“Yeah? Judd Marsh never once called me son or told me he loved me. He treated me as if I were dirt beneath his feet. The only time I remember him speaking to me, was the night I graduated Marsh High. Came over to shake my hand. Didn’t even put his hand on my shoulder. Some father. I want what’s rightfully mine, and I’ll see to it Lucas Marsh and everyone else in this town, knows I’m a Marsh. Not that being part of his family matters, or that I want to be his son, but Judd’s rubbed my nose in dirt long enough. He had to know I was his son years ago. It’s time he paid homage to the rest of his family.”

CHOOSING ALLY

CHAPTER ONE

Tate stepped onto Marshville’s cracked sidewalk. He felt home again. A home that he’d left to forget.
He wondered where Ally was these days. He hadn’t heard from her since he’d packed a duffle bag in the middle of the night, five months ago, and took off for Montana. Montana, where the skies were bigger than anything he’d ever seen before. Bluer than the open skies of his beloved Georgia.
Tate pushed open the door to the restaurant. Herrin’s. He closed his eyes and inhaled the scent. Fresh potato yeast rolls, creamy/cheesy seafood dish surrounded by mashed potatoes and baked on a wooden slab. He’d never forgotten that food. Too good.

***

Ally sat inside the cafe and stared out the window across the street. She couldn’t believe what she saw. Tate was back in town. Oh, Lord. Now what? As much as she’d cried and tried to reach him, he’d proven he could get lost and he’d done just that.
Okay, she could do this. If her legs would hold her up that is. What would she say to him? Would he even want to see or talk to her? She hadn’t been the one to leave, to break a heart. Tate had refused to believe she’d rather be with him more than Lucas.
Not in a million years would Lucas stand up to or would mean more to her than Tate. She hadn’t been able to convince Tate though. The Marsh’s had finally gotten to him. He’d given up. Given up on her and the life they’d planned.
She watched as Tate climbed back into his truck, then pull away.
Ally had a million questions for him and hoped he’d come into the café. When he didn’t, she paid her bill and slipped out the door, then headed back to her dress shop two doors down.
She called the one reliable person that kept up with everything and everyone in town. Flora, a cashier at Winston’s grocery store.

“Tate is staying in his family home. Won’t be here long though. He has to get back to Montana,” Flora revealed.

***

Tate had found work on a sprawling Montana ranch rounding up cattle. Not that he’d had to work, he’d saved more than enough to last until he could find something worthwhile. But it wasn’t in him to do nothing, to sit and simply fade away. For the first week, he’d done just that though. He’d fought off the bottle. Drinking his troubles away would do no good. Starting a bad habit wouldn’t change a thing.
He’d been determined to get his head on straight and keep it straight. Had to wrap his head around the fact that Ally and Lucas might eventually get together. He wasn’t going to stick around to watch that. Heck no. Not when she’d been the love of his life for better than seven years. Why would he go back? He had no reason to be back in Marsh, except to visit his mother’s gravesite, contract a renovation on the home he’d bought before leaving, then he’d head back to Montana. He’d made a new life. A life without Ally.
It hadn’t taken long for him to realize it would take a long time for this new place to feel like home. He had no friends and that, he supposed, would remain the same until he decided he could handle opening up to another set of friends. The other ranch hands had tried their best to befriend him. They’d shared their lives and asked questions of him. Questions for which he had no answer for them. He was a loner, and that’s the way he wanted to remain. He wasn’t ready. He worked long hard hours everyday. The ranch hands finally let him be.
He pushed aside the curtain and stared out the wide window of the motel at the vast land surrounding the small town of Deer Creek. He’d need to look for a more permanent place. One that would at least be better than the four walls he stared at everyday. The walls had begun to close in, even after a week. He was used to wide open spaces, thank goodness the motel was temporary.
It wasn’t home. The Georgia farm had been his life, though aspirations of a better life persisted.

CHAPTER TWO

 

Of all the people to run into, Tate hadn’t dreamed the man would be Lucas. He wasn’t about to back down. They both stood in Ally’s dress shop glaring at each other, while Ally grasped an armload of dresses, a frown on her face.
Ally had contacted him for help and he wouldn’t refuse his assistance. Whatever he could do to help her, he would. No matter what resentful memories the past held.
Tate’s temper reared, while battle-scars hammered in his taut stomach. “I don’t think you’re needed or wanted here, Lucas.”
“Stop, Tate.” Lucas said, with a sneer. “Nobody’s interested in your opinion. And as far as I’m concerned Ally’s fair game. Always has been.”
“Fine. Allow her to make the decision,” Tate said.
Lucas’ family had paid Tate good money while he worked for them over the years. He’d saved almost all, and that meant he could buy that little ranch, East of Marshville, he’d had his eye on.
Before Tate had taken off for Montana, the more Lucas had known about him, the worse he’d treated him. Tate hadn’t wanted Lucas to know his wants and desires. He’d kept them to himself.
Now, standing face with his old friend, and now the rival, Tate’s smoldering fuse was ready to ignite. He’d taken the brunt of Lucas’ verbal abuse more than once, and wished he’d never sacrificed his personal values for a fist full of Marsh dollars.
“Better get your priorities in order Lucas Marsh, and lock that temper of yours down. Not that it’s any of your business, but I’m here because Ally called me for help, and I won’t stand by and watch you use her again. By the way, she isn’t a game. Not someone to be won in a lottery. Better get used to it.”
“You left her, remember?” Lucas drawled.
“I’ll take care of Ally.” Tate studied Lucas with mild curiosity. Yes, he’d have to keep a close eye on Lucas. He’d seen the jealously brewing in Lucas over the years. He was an old friend, but the last two weeks before he’d left for Montana, their bickering over Ally had proven a flaming battle ground between the two of them.
“Keep in mind, Tate Stone, you were my employee. We’ll let Ally decide, when and what she wants to do.” Lucas threw Tate a sarcastic glance. “Who she wants to be with. I hardly think she’ll choose the wrong side of the tracks again.”
Tate felt the old chill spread across his chest. He wanted to kill Lucas. He clenched his teeth, and tightened his fists as he moved toward him.
Ally’s nerves bundled up around her shoulders, all the pent up anger exploded. The stack of dresses she’d thrown across the sofa, caught a cup handle, sending amber tea running onto the Persian rug—the one precious item she’d salvaged from the house. Another stain in her life.
“Stop it. What’s wrong with you two? My God, haven’t I enough to deal with without you acting like two juveniles in heat?”
Tate and Lucas exchanged murderous glances, each blaming the other for upsetting Ally.
Ally would rather have bitten off her tongue than ask. “Tate, mother’s plot is on the grounds, two-hundred yards east of the barn. I wonder if….”
“Use it, of course. I have no objections. Whatever you need,” Tate said.
Tate mentally kicked himself for not remembering before she was forced to ask. The graveyard was on the property, her family’s property, he’d purchased weeks before leaving for Montana. The oldest private graveyard in the county, of course she wanted to bury her Mom there. God, she was a proud one. He wanted to take her in his arms and kiss away the hurt. but he no longer had the right to do so.
“I’d like to buy back the house and land, Tate. Will you consider it?”
It probably wasn’t the house she wanted back but the memories. “Wha…what?” Tate’s heart jumped to his throat. No way was he selling. “Ally, you know I’ve already started renovation.” The plans, he’d waited for all these years. “Now Ally, honey. You know I said I’d help you out, but this is taking it too far. Besides, what would you buy it back with?”
“I’m not your honey any more. And who gave you privy to my financial status?” Ally seethed at his indiscretion. “Tate, please go, before we both say something we may regret. Is there nothing sacred in this town?” She turned to let both of them know their meeting was over, “Oh, Tate. I forgot. My lawyer called to say the papers I had him draw up on the house are ready to be signed. A little something we haven’t done yet and need to go over. When can you meet with me?”
Tate ran a hand down his face. “Ally. You had no right. You should’ve discussed your wishes to buy the house earlier. Before you went to the expense of hiring a lawyer.”
“Lucas tried to tell me how you were in the beginning. I should have listened, but I trusted you. I loved you. Now you’ve thrown my feelings back in my face. Because you lied, we fought. There’s no truth in you, you’ve always lied to me about him. I’m just sorry it took me this long to find out.”
“You’re wrong, Ally. I’ve never lied to you,” Tate said.
“You wouldn’t recognize the truth if it slapped you in the face, Tate. Why did you come back? You haven’t changed. You’re still the same rotten person you were when you left here five months ago. I’m warning you, don’t mess with me. You’ll be sorry you ever came back.”
Tate smiled, leaned over and nuzzled her ear. “I don’t think you’re in any position to be giving orders. Smile, Ally. Your peers are watching.”
In that moment Ally sent Tate an icy glare. “Play it for all it’s worth, Tate, because it’s the last time you’ll have the upper hand. I will get my family’s property back if it’s the last thing I do.”
Customers had gathered around the bottom of the stairs. All eyes focused on Tate holding Ally firmly by the elbow as he led her down the stairs.
Ally shook off Tate’s hold on her. “Everything’s fine folks. Let’s call it a night. Thank you all for coming. We’ll open again in the morning.”
Lucas glanced toward Tate’s thunderous glance in approval, taking the stairs two at a time chuckling to himself.
Tate smiled to himself. One down. Poor Lucas, he didn’t know he’d been suckered. Tate almost felt sorry for him. He must be getting soft in the head. But making the Marsh family suffer was part of why he came back wasn’t it? To suffer as he had? Each tick of the clock brought him closer to his revenge.

CHAPTER THREE

 

The emptiness mushroomed with each movement of the swing. She wished Tate had never come back. He’d only complicated matters, and she cursed him for arousing old feelings she’d rather have kept deep down inside. It was hard to hide her inner desire any more than she could forget the schoolgirl crush she’d had on him since the age of fifteen. Those burning kisses haunted her, so easily remembered, only heightened when she closed her eyes. The past wouldn’t let her go. Tate was trouble with a big T. Yet she couldn’t avoid drowning in those big blue eyes and wondering what it would be to feel those lips on hers again.
A week later Ally visited Tate. “We need to talk.”
Mistaking Ally’s mood, Tate decided to take matters in his own hands. He raked a big hand through his thick black hair shaking his head, in wonderment. He hadn’t come back to fall in love all over again. She sure was messing up his plans, still…She needed someone…and God help him he wanted to be that someone.
“I have an idea, Ally.” He flashed a smile and pushed a copper curl off her forehead. “I know a little place in San Francisco, where you can sink your teeth into the best Seafood ever. What do you say, ready to set the folks of Marshville on its heels?”
Ally cut her eyes up at him, holding back a smile. “It’s impossible, Tate. No. It’s too soon after mother. Besides, I have the shop to run, and you have a job on your hands, and…well, Tate…We aren’t on the best of terms.”
“Your assistant will take care of everything at the shop. You’ve already said Rona runs the shop as well as you. We’ll only be away for a couple of days, so what’s your next excuse?”

***

This would definitely stand the folks of Marshville on its ears. True, Ally had complete trust that her assistant at the dress shop could handle anything that came her way. Rona was her right arm at Matthews Real Estate. Extremely meticulous, on even terms with the clients–but the deal with Brian Associates…well, she was sure it would be cut and dried, but in the Real Estate business, it was a dog eat dog world, and she wasn’t about to throw away such a big deal. Her profit alone would amount to more than a years regular commission. Still, when she weighed her options, being with Tate won hands down.
It didn’t matter. The townspeople were going to gossip regardless, and since she had no one to answer to, she couldn’t think of any reason not to go. San Francisco, was a long way from here, but it might be what she needed to prove to herself there was nothing between them, and it would be good to get away.
“When do we leave?”
“I’ll make reservations out of Atlanta.” Tate’s cocky grin spread across his face. “Be ready in an hour.”

CHAPTER FOUR

Lucas pushed the old red truck as fast as he dared, hoping to reach Ally before someone else blurted out the news. First her mother, now Tate. He disapproved of their relationship, but she had to make her own mistakes. And as her friend, he’d be there when she needed him. Even if it included information about Tate.
The doorbell rang as Ally closed the last suitcase. “The door is open, Tate. You’re late.”
Lucas stepped over the suitcases, put two and two together and cursed. Tate’s suitcases were strewn over the road where he’d slammed into the tree.
“Lucas. Well…hi. What’re you doing here?
Lucas took both her hands in his. “Can we sit? I have some news,” he said, then pulled her toward the sofa.
One look at Lucas’s face, painted a picture that made her want to run. As blood drained from her face, her legs went weak. “What is it?”
“Ally, honey…there’s been an accident. It’s Tate. He’s been shot.”

 

I hope you have a wonderful July Fourth and Summer and hope the beach is calling you!

Sink your toes in the sand and rushing waves…

I wish you Butterflies and music. But most of all…Love.

Posted in Carol's Posts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Home Again

Happy June everyone!

We haven’t quite hit summer in Wisconsin yet – still cool here.

Normally I  post about my garden and the upcoming solstice – but I thought I’d share some of my work-in-progress instead.

At its heart, HOME AGAIN, is a romance. Big surprise. Yet the jumping in point – the inciting incident – is author, and relationship guru, Garrett Oakley’s estrangement from his father, Robert, and his being forced by circumstance to come home and confront it head-on.

 

HOME AGAIN: A Door County Novel

April 2019

Chapter One

     Robert Oakley was a kind of man who needed a woman, often many women, around him, to make his life complete. Unfortunately, everyone he loved, with the sole exception of his second grade crush, had up and died on him. Leaving him an empty core of the man he had been with them in his heart, his life, and his bed.

     Robert’s father had been the kind of man who worked hard, was often seen with his paper and his pipe, who loved his family in that quiet way of the men of his time—more hands off than openly supportive.

     Douglas James Oakley, veteran of the war to end all wars, Robert’s father, made a habit of kissing his wife on the cheek first thing when he came home from work. Before he’d even set his briefcase and lunch tin down on the kitchen table. He often ruffled Robert’s hair affectionately before making his way into his study for an evening cocktail before dinner. No one bothered Robert’s father as he sat alone in his study reviewing the days thoughts and actions. Robert certainly wouldn’t have dared to do so. Instead, Robert spent his time with his mother. He helped her make dinner. He helped her in the garden. And after school when he was done playing with his friends, it was his mother who helped him with his homework. It was his mother he told his hopes and dreams to. And, ultimately, it was his mother loved him more than anyone else in the world.

     Robert believed then, as he did now, that it only took one person to love you with their whole heart to elevate your soul and increase your capacity for love. Those changes to one’s spirit were indelible and lasted well beyond one lifetime.

     He hadn’t been that person for Garrett. And for that, he paid a heavy price. Garrett seemed determined to see to it. Rarely had he seen Garrett put more effort into anything, than he had in casually hating Robert.

     Garrett no longer spoke to him, and hadn’t about anything real, for nearly a decade. Robert regretted his role in making that reality. More than he regretted anything since missing his mother’s funeral. He’d been unconscious in a medivac unit at the time, so it couldn’t be helped, but sometimes things you couldn’t help, hurt nearly as much as those you could. Robert knew he’d let his long dead mother down with his treatment of his son. She’d be ashamed of Robert. Quietly ashamed, but ashamed no less, for his abdication of his parental duties following the death of his wife. And then, the death of his second wife whom Garrett had clung to after losing his own mother. She’d been like the only ship on a stormy sea that may never settle again for Garrett.

     Garrett was a man now. He no longer needed a father the way he had when he was young. Robert didn’t miss Garrett’s childhood, but he had missed most of his son’s adolescence. Now Garrett seemed determined to isolate himself from his father. Robert wasn’t going to let anyone, not even Garrett, rob him of knowing his son in whatever time Robert had left on this earth.

     Robert didn’t blame Garrett for sidelining him to the role of distance observer. Robert knew he’d earned that. Earned or not, Robert simply wasn’t willing to tolerate it any longer when he could do something to change his relationship with Garrett. What was the worst that could happen, he wondered?

     Perhaps he shouldn’t have asked.

     But he did ask and he did jump right in and it was a fault of his long dead mother appearing to him in a dream saying as clearly as she often did in their garden, “You can’t grow what you don’t plant, Robert. And you can’t harvest what you don’t tend.”

     Right on the heels of his mother’s unsolicited gardening advice, Astrid, the seven-year-old daughter of his manager, Poppy, came barreling into his office and asked him why his son wasn’t helping with the renovations at The Red Robin Inn. Robert told her he hadn’t spoken to Garrett in a long while and that Garrett lived far away and didn’t have time to visit. And he was way too busy writing books to help with building new cottages at the Red Robin.

     “Then you should put Garrett in a time out,” Astrid said emphatically. “A really, really, long time out.”

     Robert leaned down toward Astrid and said, “Garrett is a grown man. I can’t put him in timeout.”

     Astrid cocked her head at him and replied, “you should’ve put him in timeout before he got to be a grown man. Then maybe he’d come home now.”

     Robert had never put himself or Garrett in timeout. He probably should have done both long before he lost his first wife. He couldn’t change that, although he would certainly do so if he could.

     What he could do was actively plant and start tending the garden he wanted to flourish.

 

What themes intrigue you in your writing? What types of fiction are your favorites? Family ties always play a role in what I write, and I’m a fan of reading romance with strong family ties and over-arching friendships. How about you?

 

May your June be filled with love, adventure, and some really great summer reading.

 

Leigh

Posted in Leigh's Posts, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Family Ties

With the passing of my grandma-by-marriage this week, I’ve given lots of thought to family. My own and my fictional ones in the books I write.

At the age of 98, 99 if she had made it to September, Grandma Jane lead a filled, full life. She left her earthly bonds surrounded by her family. Her son and daughter. Two grandchildren with their spouses. A great-grandson. We sat with her as she struggled for each breath, her lungs full of pneumonia, her age against any chance of fighting it.

My husband and I are now three hours away from our family. My husband’s sister called us a few days ago and said Grandma was in the hospital. She was sent back to the nursing home. Two days later, she was back in the hospital fighting for her life with aspiration pneumonia. Sister called us at 9 pm. to say they were in the ER and they would keep us updated. At midnight, she called to say Grandma was not expected to survive the night.

We threw off our pjs and whipped into our clothes. We grabbed a duffel bag and threw enough in to it to go for a couple of days. (God forbid you are ever in this situation, have a go-bag) We reached the hospital at 3 am.

Grandma left this world at 11 am that morning.

Nurses are angels on this Earth and don’t let anyone tell you differently. They had to know it was hopeless, but they came in time and time again when we asked them to take blood pressure readings. They asked if we were okay numerous times. They brought us coffee, tea, and cookies as the sun rose and the darkness fled from the windows. They went above and beyond to give us comfort in a time that no comfort could help. They did all they could to make an impossible time bearable.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

I have a bad habit of erasing my characters’ families. It is easier to write if they are only children with deceased parents or only one or a grandmother raising them. I didn’t start out giving this much thought when building my stories, but…how our characters interact with their families says so much about them. The inside jokes. The teasing. The memories. The stories.

I didn’t plan on so much family when I started writing my story for the next Authors of Main Street anthology until I realized I could use my family history to give Maggie a family history and the legend of the traveling cinnamon cookies.

From me to you–hug your family, keep them close, hold them in your hearts forever.


Jill James, romance writer

Posted in Jill's Posts | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Where have all the good men gone?

Somewhere in the cusp between several writing projects, the evening news, and every day life, I’ve been pondering heroes.

In part, I’m trying not to repeat myself. Maybe it’s just that I like a challenge, or perhaps that I’m easily bored, but I want each hero to be a unique individual, with his own personality, his own traumas and motivations, his own unique way of responding to his heroine and to the world.

Some writers, I know, produce a series of heroes who change in mannerisms and appearance, but not in their essence. A well-written series is no less enjoyable for every hero being an alpha male: strong, confident, protective, even domineering; but putty in the hands of the woman who is their match.

The scarred hero is a common archetype with some writers: the wounded body reflecting deeper wounds in heart and soul that he will only address when the love of the heroine gives him a motive to heal.

Others love to write about the bad boy, constantly taking risks and pushing boundaries, until someone comes along who matters more to him than his desire to thumb his nose at society.

I wrote a blog post recently about hero archetypes, and the challenge each type faces in winning their heroine. King, ladies man, bad boy, swashbuckler, best friend, protector, recluse, professor — they can all be fun to write and fun to read.

But a person is more than their archetype. As my heroes and heroines reveal themselves, I’m asking what makes them happy? What do they laugh at? What hurts them or reminds them of past pain? What arouses their anger or their joy?

My own personal romantic hero and I had a conversation about fundamental masculine and feminine traits, in response to an article we read about a man who felt that when his beloved asked to share the driving on a long trip, she was really saying she did not believe he could protect her.

Modern psychology tells us that men and women are more alike than they are different, and that all personality traits are on a continuum. On the other hand, I’ve raised both boys and girls, and they’ve been different from the cradle. On the other other hand, I’ve no idea how much the difference has been subtly imposed by our culture. I’m now up to three hands, so had better stop.

The scientific truth is useful for building my heroes. I can give them a variety of traits that are a little out of the norms for the culture they live in, and let them be ashamed or defiant or amused; secretive or flamboyant; accepting or tortured. I can then let them spark off a heroine who complements or challenges them.

Each couple will be different. Each story will be different.

Just for fun, here are the heroes I’m currently living with.

Jules Redepenning is a bad boy, but also a protector. His book, Unkept Promises, is about to go to the proofreader. In it, the wife he hasn’t seen in seven years comes to meet him in Cape Town.

Dear Heavens. The man was gorgeous. Even grumpy; even with most of his attention on another woman, even with all that she’d heard about him to his discredit, she wanted him.

James Winderfield in To Wed a Proper Lady is quite a different fellow. His strongest archetype is king. In his book, almost finished (four scenes to go), he must marry a proper English lady for the sake of his family’s reputation. And then he falls in love.

He was drowning in a pair brown-gray eyes, like a pond in the deep shelter of a nurturing forest. Did she feel it too? The Greeks said that true lovers had one soul, split at birth and placed in two bodies. He had thought it a nice conceit, until now.

I’m a little over 10% of the way through the first draft of To Mend the Broken Hearted. Valentine Monforte is a recluse, nursing his wounded heart and mind in a remote country manor. Until a woman doctor battling a typhus epidemic takes over a wing of his house and refuses to be kept out. In the first scene, he steers his plough around the nest of a lapwing.

One more evidence of his madness, the tenants thought, and in his worst moments he thought they were right, when thunder set him shaking or nightmares woke him screaming defiance or approaching anywhere close to that cursed tower froze him in his tracks.

And I’m at the early stages of meeting three more heroes whose stories will find their way to paper before the end of the year:

The Earl of Hamner is a rules-bound gentleman. His archetype is best friend, but he’ll need to loosen up a bit.I have just the heroine for him.

Max, a former special forces assassin and most recently a gun for hire, is asked to investigate some disappearances in a cult. Serenity, his heroine, will touch a heart he thought long since calcified. He’s a swashbuckler.

And last, but not least, still unnamed and only just coming together, is my hero for this year’s Authors of Main Street anthology, which takes us back to Valentine Bay. He’s the professor type, this lad. He’ll find my lady baker worth studying.

Posted in Jude's Posts | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

The Power of the Ten-Minute Goal

I’m a big believer in the power of small and simple things. By the yard it’s hard, but by the inch it’s a cinch. A thousand mile journey begins with a single step. (You probably know some proverbs of your own. I bet your mother taught them to you.)

I believe that small, simple goals are the steps to success and that great, big enormous goals are tools of Satan that we use to clobber out all the good feelings in our souls. Which may sound funny coming from a novelist and a marathon runner, but I didn’t sit down and write a novel in one breath and I didn’t run 26 miles the first time I put on my sneakers. As a writer, I got an idea which I nursed and then wrote about a few hundred words at a time. Nearly every day. And I took A LOT of classes and workshops. Same thing with the marathon (which, by the way, was ten years ago) I ran six days a week and every week I went a little further than the week before. It wasn’t easy. There wasn’t a short cut. I had giant blisters on my feet and lost all of my toenails. (What was I thinking? I’m deviating, back to my point…)

“There is an Indian proverb or axiom that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, physical, mental, social, and spiritual. Most of us tend to mainly live in one room but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.”

 Rumer Godden. A House with Four Rooms

Luke said it this way:

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.                                                                                                                                                             Luke 2:52

Consider the four rooms of your life. Take stock. Which rooms need airing the most? Is there a room that could use an overhaul? Maybe another could use a little polish and shine. Think in five to ten minute goals, the sort of goals that make you say, easy-peasy. Ten minutes out of a week of 10,080. Think of something small and simple and set a goal. (Remember, big, giant goals are Satan’s weapons used for beating yourself over the head and killing all your hope.)

Here are some examples of ten minute goals:

Physical

Ten minutes of weight lifting a day

Ten minutes of ab exercises

Ten minutes to massage your feet

Ten minutes to do your nails

Mental

Read a thought provoking book (for just ten minutes every day)

Spend ten minutes virtually traveling

Ten minutes of logic puzzles

Ten minutes of crossword puzzles

Social

Write a thank you note

Call a loved one you haven’t seen for a while

Start a gratitude journal

Take a gift to someone having a hard time

Spiritual

Pray

Study scripture

Journal

Listen to inspiring music

Probably after reading this list, you have thought of your own ten minute goals that can make a difference and change your life for good.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments