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I'm most recently a writer.  In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot.  As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades.  An unwilling transplant from the South,  twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US.  Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect.  When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do.  Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Happy Birthday, Valley Rise!

Roughly a year ago, in October 2012, I remember feeling as though I'd given birth after weeks of torturous labor.  My triplets, the first three volumes in the Miracle at Valley Rise series, were finally published and for sale on Amazon.  I was braced for the unknown.  I remember saying to my editor/love of my life, as those first sales appeared on the reports page, "Let's see where we are a year from now," in a tone of extremely cautious optimism.

I'd already spent nine months attempting to push my first false starts out to the world.  I was premature in publishing a 600 page novel with a less than appealing cover but it still found a few readers who were kind enough to tell me they liked it.  The follow-up of a second volume went virtually unnoticed.  Nothing encouraging there beyond a couple of nice reviews, but somehow I hadn't completely lost faith yet, at least on my good days.  On my bad days, I tried to convince myself that it was time to cross off that "writer" square and move on to the next adventure.

With so many months of work and so much love already invested, we decided to regroup, my editor/love and I.  After seemingly endless back and forth on the wisdom of self-publishing at all, after a query to a carefully chosen agent whose response was positive but still negative, we finally put our new act together.  The plan was to separate the first book into two, put up a slightly revised version of the second, now third, complete a fourth, and wrap them all in new covers.  Simple, right?

A crisis over the covers almost brought on a nervous breakdown.  There were actually several days when I was convinced it was time to give up.  I just didn't have what it took to be a self-published author.  But I've never been a quitter, and after I put myself prayerfully back in front of the computer and made another run at the cover issue, things moved forward again with the aid of my son and his talent with Photoshop.  

Somewhere in the midst of  this process, it occurred to me that given the obvious popularity of series, it might pay to highlight the theme of the stories.  Call it inspired or not, but when I did a search through the books, the word "miracle" jumped off the pages.  After more back and forth with my "team," the series title was born.  Hard to recall how hesitant I was to use a "label" now that I've seen how effective it would be. 
Ready at last to try, try again, the three books were released within hours of each other in late September.  After single-digit sales for the past few months, my report pages sprang to renewed life.  I still hadn't learned to promote with much effectiveness, but somehow, readers were finding my books anyway!

Fast forward twelve months, one holiday novella and a fourth book in the series completed, and I'm pretty certain we're on to something.  In the past three months my readership has grown by leaps and bounds.  My promoting skills are still hit and miss, but I'm learning to accept the results for better or worse. Every book in every Kindle stands a chance of being read and judging by the numbers, if Hearts Unfold is read, the others stand a very good chance, too.

I now have FB pages, a blog and a little more confidence.  I still hope for more--more readers, more response, more books.  My current work in progress, a title related to the series in that it features one of the characters in an earlier time, is slowly but surely approaching publication. In my mind, there are numerous threads of future works waiting for that ever-elusive time to put them on paper.  I've finally decided I just might be a writer after all.  And I'm convinced the little story conceived over forty years ago was one ready to be told. 

For now, I plan to celebrate the small successes and the lessons learned.  I also plan to look forward to where we may be a year from now.  As Emerson said, "Life is a journey, not a destination."  Something tells me this journey to Valley Rise has only just begun.
 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Quick Update on Shannon's Daughter

You might think by now that I've given up on my WiP--Shannon's Daughter.  So not the case!  It's just that I hated to keep tossing up teasers when there was so much more work ahead.  I'm currently in the last quarter of the book, delving much deeper into the long-distance relationship between Peg Shannon and Kendall Gregg.  Let's just say things are complicated, not only by distance, but by the twists and turns of their individual lives and the secrets each must protect. But I'll save that for later. For now, here's another glimpse of the Summer of 1952, when their love was new and relatively innocent. In case you missed it the first time around, there's more from this section of the book in my post http://valleyrise.blogspot.com/2013/06/shannons-daughter-look-inside.html.  This section picks up a few days later, when things have really started to heat up between the struggling violinist and the millionaire's daughter.

No sooner had he stepped into the bedroom heading for the closet, than he heard something brush against his door.  “Kendall?  Can you let me in?  I have my hands full.”  She wasn’t precisely whispering, but he had to strain to understand her.
 
“No!  I’ll come out there.  Just give me a minute.”  Tossing aside the towel and grabbing for his clothes, he stumbled toward the door, intent on making sure she remained on the other side.  “Where are you planning to have this snack?  I’ll meet you there.”  There was no answer, only further unidentifiable sounds from the hallway.  With frantic alacrity, he hauled up his trousers and fastened the fly, shrugged on his shirt and clutched it across his still-dripping body just as the door swung open and Peg, tray in hand, backed in.  “What are you doing?” 
 
Obviously a foolish question, for which she had a breezy reply.  “What does it look like I’m doing?”  She turned and closed the door with one bare foot.  Peg too had changed, he noted with a jolt.  She stood before him in pajamas, her hair hanging loose over one shoulder and a loaded tray balanced on one hip as she shot the bolt on his door.  “Can you give me a hand, please?  I’m about to drop this.”

He moved like a man caught in a strong current, fully aware he was in danger of being towed under.  “Peg, this is not a good idea.  You shouldn’t be here.”
“Why not?  We’re just going to have a little carpet picnic and this is as good a place as any.  Over here by the windows, where we can get some air, I think.”  She placed the tray in his unconsciously outstretched hands and crossed the room.  Pushing aside a chair, she indicated the spot she’d chosen.  For the first time, she seemed to notice his clothes and raised her brows in a curious arch.  “Were you dressing or undressing?”

“What?”  He set down the tray and tried to cover himself.  “Dressing.  You should have waited in the hallway.”  His fingers fumbled the buttons, and Peg grinned. 

“Don’t do that on my account.  I’m sure you’ll be cooler like that.”  She sank to the floor on her knees and began to sort the fruit and sandwiches on the tray.  “I hope ginger ale is all right.  I thought we could share a bottle.” 

“That’s fine.  But I still think we should take this someplace else.”

“I suppose we could go to my room.”

No!” 

“Then we might as well stay here.  Sandwich?”  She held out a triangular wedge of bread and what appeared to be ham and cheese, and he sank to his knees, surrendering to the inevitable.

“Why not.  If you’re not worried about getting caught, I don’t suppose I should be.”

“Adamson and Mrs. Leary have both gone their rooms for the night.  I turned off my light, so if Simon is watching from over the garage, he’ll just assume I’ve gone to bed.”

He gasped, inhaling the first bite of his sandwich, “Simon lives over the garage!  What if he’d heard us the other night?” 

Doubling over, he coughed up bread crumbs as Peg went on calmly.  “He wasn’t there.  He goes to check on his mother on Sundays whenever we’re in for the night.  I knew that, silly.  There was nothing to worry about.”  She took a delicate bite of an apple and scowled at him.  “Relax, Kendall.  I would never risk getting you in trouble.  Besides, this is my house.  I can use any room I want for anything I want, can’t I?”

“If you say so.  Pass me that bottle, will you?”  He took a long drink of the lukewarm ginger ale and cleared his throat.  “I’m just thinking of how this would look to anyone who happened to find us here. . .like this.”  He again tried to close his shirt but found it had plastered to his skin. 

“You’re wet.  Why don’t you just take it off?”  She casually munched a grape, offering him the bunch with her free hand.  “I won’t mind.”

“Absolutely not.”  He got to his feet and headed for the bathroom where he snatched his dressing gown from the back of the door.  Making sure he was out of her line of sight, he peeled off the shirt, wiped his chest dry with it and shrugged on the robe, belting it snuggly closed.  When he returned to his place on the carpet, she grinned.

“Suit yourself.  You look very dapper in that.”

He knew she was playing with him, he just couldn’t quite make out her game.  Sitting across from him, the tray between them, she appeared completely innocent, almost childlike.  Had he not already seen that innocence mutate into passion in the blink of an eye, he might have enjoyed the sight of her.  Her pajamas, tailored shirt and baggy trousers of white satin with dark blue piping, were designed for practicality, but the way they clung to her body suggested an absence of anything beneath.  Unable to find a suitable place to rest his gaze, he tried to focus on her hair, waving softly around her shoulders, but that too led him into dangerous waters.

“Did you enjoy the movie?”  He blinked stupidly at her question.  “You know, Ivanhoe?” 

“Yes.  Did you?”

“Sure.  Elizabeth Taylor is so beautiful, don’t you think?”  Another grape, this one poised between her teeth for an instant.  “Or do you like the Joan Fontaine type better?”

He might be safe with this kind of chatter, he decided.  “Um.  I find Miss Taylor a bit too lush for my taste.  I prefer slender women, so I suppose Miss Fontaine is more my type.  Although I’ve always thought she was bit limp, if you know what I mean.  But I would have thought you’d have your eyes glued to Robert Taylor.  All that heroic masculinity.” 

“Not really.  He’s too old.  And if you really look at him, he’s not that handsome.  Although he does have nice blue eyes.”  She held out the grapes again.  “These are really sweet.  You should try some.”

He accepted the bunch and Peg brushed her hands together before running them up into her hair.  With an exaggerated stretch of her arms above her head, she yawned. 

“Getting sleepy?”  Was that hope or apprehension that caused his voice to catch?

“A little.  The breeze is wonderful in here.”  With one graceful move, she laid full length on the floor, spreading her hair on the carpet around her.  “This is nice, isn’t it?”

“Um.  Isn’t what nice?”  Impossible not to stare at the glory spread before him. 

“Just being together like this, eating and talking.  It’s kind of cozy, like a slumber party.”

He nearly choked again, this time on a grape.  “Good heavens, Peg!  I hope you haven’t been to any slumber parties in men’s bedrooms.  Really, brat, you’ve got no business being in here.”

She rolled on her side, raising herself on one elbow.  “You really want me to go?”  That innocence had shifted into flawless feminine allure.  Eyes reflecting the lamplight, hair cascading over one shoulder and lips curved in a half-smile of seductive perfection, she literally took his breath away. 

“No” he managed to gasp.  “But that’s beside the point.”

Leaning back, she folded her arms behind her head.  “Until you want me to leave, or I’m ready to leave, I think I’ll stay.”  For a moment, she stared thoughtfully up at the ceiling.  “Kendall?”

“Yes?”  Wary, but warming to her game, he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees for a better view.  No harm in appreciating the beauty of her silhouette from afar.

“Have you ever been in love?”

He hesitated, trying to guess where she was leading.  “I thought so once.”

“What happened?”

“Things didn’t work out.”

When she turned her head, her expression was soft, sympathetic.  “Why not?”

“We weren’t suited, I suppose.”  She continued to stare expectantly and he felt compelled to go on.  Where was the harm, as long as he kept strictly to the admissible facts?  “You really want to hear this?” 

“Yes.  But come over here first.  Please.”  She held out a hand.  Helpless to resist, he moved aside the tray and slid closer, offering no resistance when she settled her head in his lap. 

He couldn’t look down into her face as he began, preferring to stare at the wall opposite.  “It was my first year at Oxford.  I met a girl, another music student, piano.  Things happened the way they do, you meet, you talk, you kiss and before you know it, you think you’ve found the love of your life.”  He stopped, the vision floating before his eyes unbearably clear.

“What happened to her?”  The question was too intuitive.  He looked down at her, saw the compassion in her eyes, and felt his chest tighten.

"She had a kind of emotional breakdown before the end of the term.  I suppose the pressure was too much, and apparently she’d never been very strong.  I heard from her father later that she’d gone into a private asylum for treatment.”

Reaching up, she pressed her hand against his cheek.  “That’s so sad.  You loved her very much, didn’t you?”

“I thought I did.”  He shook free of the memory.  “But that was a very long time ago.  I don’t know how you got me talking about it.”

She rose to her knees, turning to face him.  “I’m glad you told me.  It’s as if you gave me something of yourself, something important.”  Another instant passed, during which her eyes misted with tears, and she slid her arms around his shoulders, drawing him close. 

He didn’t question what happened next.  Once they were side by side on the carpet, clasped in each other’s arms, he had no doubt of what she wanted and what he could give.  It was enough at first to hold and be held, to kiss her gently and allow her to touch him with hands that comforted rather than aroused.  Unlike the night before, he had no thought of making love.  They lay together for long enough that he lost all sense of time or place, something he had not done with a woman in all the years since that first sweet winter of falling in love. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Come to Valley Rise, My Treat!

         Hearts Unfold will be FREE for Kindle

January 3-5

 

Now's the time to discover the series readers are calling "beautiful", heartwarming" and "impossible to put down."  Check out Book One of this "very special love story" FREE for three days only.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Love Story

Theirs was a pretty typical 1960's love story.  He was the class clown with a hidden heart of gold.  She was the intense honor roll student looking for love in all the wrong places.  They had absolutely nothing in common.  They were inseparable.

Their early days together were about sock-hops and junior proms, back seats and drive-in movies.  Later, things got tougher.  They clung to each other through accidents and loss, weathered family arguments and watched friends suffer.  They believed those times made them stronger, preparing them for the future they planned to share.

That future came too soon.  They married young, ahead of his call to service.  He never left the U.S., but he came home someone she couldn't quite recognize.  The obvious solution to the distance between them was to have a child.  When one didn't resolve things, they had a second.

Their final years were overwhelmed by ugly family issues, illness, debt and substance abuse.  They said they still loved each other.  There was never any talk of ending things.  But eventually lies and confusion took their toll.

When he left without warning, she fell apart.  Their divorce was long and nasty, followed by years of fighting over what each believed was best for the children.  Any semblance of love and respect vanished as each moved on to new relationships.

End of story?  I thought so.  As I'm sure you've guessed, it's my story.  Imagine my surprise to learn there's a prologue.  He's dying, and I have no idea how to deal with it.  I never anticipated the unresolved heartache, or the tears I thought long since cried out.

I decided years ago that divorce is the most unnatural of modern institutions.  The person who one day is your lover, your best friend, your partner in life, becomes in the next your sworn opponent in the dissolution of everything you built together.  The babies you created in passionate intimacy become trophies in a contest overseen by unfeeling strangers.  Whatever you felt for each other is now taboo, any mention forbidden lest it erode your arguments in court. 

When you fall in love again, you tell yourself that first time wasn't the real thing.  He was different then, you were different then, times were different then. Whatever it takes to maintain the denial.

The fact is, we loved.  We laughed, we cried, we celebrated and we mourned.  We grew up together, and grew apart, divided by forces beyond our control.  But we loved, and in the end I think my heart refuses to go on denying that.  I need to grieve, not so much for the man whose life is ending now, but for the things we shared, all too briefly, at the beginning.  I need to mourn the sweet, funny boy who made me laugh when I was far too serious, the power of a first kiss and the innocence of discovery.

Life is filled with unexpected, uncontrollable and at times unwelcome emotions we'd prefer to keep hidden.  There is apparently no term limit on such feelings.  Decades after convincing myself that boy was only a vague memory unworthy of my time, I'm forced to admit I will miss him.