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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!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Katie Lost and Found--Preview #5

 Two people who never expected to see one another again, whose history can be read from two very different perspectives, suddenly find themselves face to face after sixteen years. Time stands still as reality takes hold. And in the next moment. . .

The spade fell to the ground as Tess took an unconscious step into his outstretched arms. He was warm, his T-shirt damp with sweat against her cheek. He smelled sweet and pungent, like sun-soaked earth. For just a moment, she acknowledged how good he felt, strong and solid and surprisingly familiar. He kept whispering over and over, “Katie,” until she pulled away.
“I go by Tess now.”
“Why?” She almost felt sorry for him. He seemed dazed, confused.
“K.T. was just a nickname.”
“I remember.” Still gripping her arms just above the elbow, he gave her a gentle shake. “I can’t believe it’s really you. I thought I’d lost you forever.”
She wanted to point out that he never had her in the first place. But that would be harsh, and he was a guest. “Small world, as they say.”
“Katie. . .Tess. How are you?” His gaze swept from the top of her head to her chin and back.
“Fine. And you?” How else did one answer that question after sixteen years?
“Good. Better now. We have a lot of catching up to do.”
She shrugged off his hands, unable to bear the contact any longer. “I suppose so.”
Pleasure faded to realization and he frowned. “Weldon. You’re married?”
“Widowed.” He started to offer his sympathy but she cut him off. “What about you? Married, children?”
“In the final stages of divorce. No children.” He continued to scan her face, making her skin tingle. Traitorous tears stung her eyes.
“I’m sorry. That must be hard.”
“It’s been coming for some time.”
They were standing virtually toe to toe. Tess wondered if he could smell her rising panic. Spying the spade, she bent to pick it up, forcing him to take a step back. “I really should get this done. And you have plans, you said.”
“Yes.” A sweet smile, one she remembered from long ago, lit his face as he shook his head slowly. “I think I must be dreaming. You can’t imagine how happy I am to see you.”
“Jan. . .Peter. I don’t quite know how to say this. I have a job to do here, a big job. And so do you. I don’t want you to expect. . .”
Finally, he seemed to see her discomfort. “No, of course not. I’m sorry. I was just so shocked. . .”
“I know. I feel the same way.”
“But while I was shocked in a pleasant way, you were not. Is that it?”
She wanted to scream, demand answers to a dozen angry questions, beat on his chest—the same strong, warm chest that felt so good just minutes ago—and curse him for being here. Instead, because they were standing in broad daylight on the lawn of the Lodge and he was a paying guest, she smiled slightly and nodded. “Shocked, in a shocking way. Give me some time, please, to get used to the idea that you’ll be staying here? Then maybe we can talk again.”
“Fair enough.” He reached up, tracing a fingertip along her cheek, and she realized he was wiping away a tear. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. Will you be here this evening?”
“I hope to see you then.” His hand dropped to her shoulder, lingering in a light caress. “Tess.”
She couldn’t watch him walk away. He was too real, still as tall and straight, as golden and gentle as he’d been before. To see him leave, even knowing he was only going as far as the carriage house, would undo her completely. She’d end up a sobbing heap there in the dirt, making it obvious to him and the entire world just what a fool she was. He’d probably come running back, gather her in his arms, and call her Katie again. And she’d probably let him.
With a vicious thrust, she plunged the spade into the ground.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Katie Lost and Found--Preview #4

You know that moment when everything in your universe shifts and life suddenly looks very different? That's what happened to Peter Kosten on his first morning at Walnut Lodge.
 With a glance at the sun, he slowed to a walk, surveying the house and surrounding buildings as he made his way back. Anchored by the imposing golden brick mansion, a hybrid of Prairie and Colonial Revival architecture, Walnut Lodge included four outlying structures in addition to the carriage house above which he would be residing. A long, low building, probably a stable at one time, had been subdivided into four rooms according to the brass numbers on the doors. Chairs and tables created casual seating across the wide porch, and baskets of bright flowers hung from the eaves. Further from the house, a pair of cottages nestled beneath ancient shade trees, each with a brick terrace leading to the entry. Further yet from the house, a gabled barn painted the same warm gold stood in a field of cultivated wild-flowers, suggesting it was used for something other than livestock. He made a note to compliment his hostess on the beauty of the place.
Following the walkway toward the carriage house, he spotted someone next to one of the many flower beds dotting the grounds; a tall woman, lowering a crate of blooming plants to the ground, displaying a nicely rounded derriere and long legs encased in faded jeans. Slowing his stride, he watched her straighten, place her hands at either side of her waist and heave a sigh. When she turned toward the open rear doors of the nearby van, he waved.
“Good morning! Need some help?”
The woman, her face shaded beneath the brim of a worn straw hat, appeared to take his full measure before answering. “No, thank you.” She continued to watch his approach, squaring her shoulders.
Holding out his hand, he smiled, discreetly making his own survey. “Peter Kosten.”
Pulling off a grimy glove, she extended her hand. “Tess Weldon. Welcome to Walnut Lodge.”
“Thank you. I was planning to look you up later.”
“Were you?” Was it his imagination, or was there an uneasy hitch in her voice?
“Your desk clerk, Cami, said I should.” He’d obviously caught her at a bad time. Her shuttered gaze made him feel awkward. “To discuss my plans with you. Please excuse me. I’ve interrupted your work.”
She seemed to shake herself back to the moment. “No. That’s all right. Cami mentioned you plan to stay with us for a while.” Turning her back to him, she hefted another crate from the van and started toward the flower bed.
“Here. Please let me.” When he stepped in her path, their eyes met. For just a moment, he thought she might refuse his help, but she muttered her thanks and turned away. “Do you do all the gardening yourself?”
“Only the flower beds and containers. Someone else takes care of the rest.”
He placed the crate beside its mate, brushing soil from his hands as he stood. “Still a big job. I gathered from Cami you are both owner and manager here.”
“That’s right.” She set to work, stabbing her spade into the dirt. “I hope the carriage house will meet your needs.”
“It will. It’s quite spacious. I plan to bring my drafting equipment when I come back from St. Louis. Other than a few personal items, I think I have everything I’ll need here. Is there a meal plan?”
Drawing a breath, she launched into what he realized must be a litany she’d repeated countless times. “Breakfast is included with your room, served from six to nine every day. The dining room is open for lunch Monday through Saturday from eleven to two. Dinner is by reservation, seven nights a week starting at five. Sundays we offer brunch and dinner. Maid service every day, laundry and dry cleaning as needed. There’s a business center with internet access in the library and a fitness room in the cellar.” She stopped digging and stared at the horizon. “I think that covers it. You’ll find a list of amenities, including a room service menu, in the desk drawer in your room.”
The breeze caught her hat, flipping it across the flower bed just out of reach. Her attention now on retrieving it, she turned away with an exasperated groan.
Feeling duly dismissed, Peter wondered what he’d done to offend this woman. “Thank you. I look forward to my time here.” He studied her profile as she prepared to go back to work, caught off-balance by something he hadn’t seen until now. Without the hat, her features came into sharper focus; deep blue eyes shaded by dark lashes, honey-colored hair, streaked with subtle highlights, twisted in a thick knot at the back of her head, a dusting of faded freckles on porcelain skin. Something warm and familiar washed over him before he shook free of the sensation. “I should clean up. I was planning to take a drive, check out the area.” Unaccountably breathless, his heart beginning to hammer, he turned toward the carriage house. Across his field of vision, broken images flashed like fireworks. He wondered vaguely if he was having some sort of attack.
Behind him, he heard her say, “Have a nice afternoon.” Why hadn’t he listened before? He would have known immediately if he’d paid attention to her voice. Slowly, as though wading into the surf, he returned to her side, peering down into her face. “Katie?”

Monday, July 28, 2014

Katie Lost and Found--Preview #3

Welcome to Walnut Lodge, luxury accommodations, fine dining, and a cast of characters sure to remind you of the people in your own world. I think everyone needs a friend like Cami, someone who loves you unconditionally, wants only what she believes is best for you, and refuses to let you alone until you get off your duff and reach for that brass ring of happiness. Cami is a relentless matchmaker, a softhearted meddler, and a girl in search of happily ever after for everyone including herself.
 “So, did we win?” Cami hid a yawn behind her hand.
 “We did. And of course Chad scored the winning goal. You look beat, kiddo. Go home. Cyril and I can take it from here.” Kneeling by the little basket in the corner, she stroked the dog’s soft coat. In response, Cyril licked her hand before curling into a tighter ball and resuming his nap.
“Jeff called a minute ago. He’ll be a little late. He has to put Miss Mary to bed.”
“That sitter didn’t show up again?” Jeff Anders had returned to Walnut Springs to care for his aging parent, leaving behind a successful career as a journalist in Chicago. The night clerk’s position paid a fraction of his former salary, but allowed him to spend his days keeping an eye on his mother, and continue to freelance during the quiet hours at the Lodge. Tess and Cami had volunteered to help screen sitters to stay with Miss Mary at night, learning the hard way that good help can be nearly impossible to find.
“He said she has a cold and doesn’t want to expose Miss Mary.”
“Benefit of the doubt? I think we need to find someone more reliable.” With a respectful nod to the fact that life, at least for everyone who worked at the Lodge, seemed to pose one challenge after another, Tess turned her focus to the room roster. “The parking lot sure looks good.”
“Yeah. The Mulveney’s have a brand new Lincoln this year. And the Caddy belongs to two-ten. Nice couple celebrating their anniversary.”
“And the vintage Mercedes rag top?”
“That belongs to our architect who, by the way, will be staying all weekend. One taste of Lucas’s fine cuisine and he stopped by the desk to extend.”
Taking a slow, calming breath, Tess murmured, “That’s nice.”
He’s nice. I wouldn’t mind having him around for a few months, if you know what I mean.” Not too tired to haul up her best Mae West impression, Cami winked broadly and rocked her hips.
Tess snorted a laugh. “What would Lucas think if he heard you say that?”
“I wouldn’t say it to Lucas. Seriously, honey, wait until you see this man. Wavy blond hair, tall as in well over six feet, and very nicely put together. He says he's into running. Throw in a classy continental accent—I thought German, but it turns out he’s Dutch—anyway, add that sweet little car—which by the way matches his eyes—and some lucky lady would be getting a nice deal.”
“How do you know some lucky lady hasn’t already got him?”
“No wedding ring. And I asked if he’d be alone. He’s single, Tess. Good looking, professional, very friendly. Right age. You could do a lot worse.”
Despite the trouble she was having just breathing, Tess managed to fake a scandalized gasp. “Cami! You know the rules about fraternizing with guests.”
“You might want to make an exception with this one. I mean it, Tess. You can’t go on posing as a nun forever.”
“I’m pretty sure I can. Now will you go home? I have some book work to do and as soon as Jeff gets here, I’m turning in. The van is full of bedding plants which I intend to put in the ground tomorrow morning. Now scoot!”
She stood at the desk for a good ten minutes, staring at the registration card but unwilling to pick it up. Now, added to the name and profession, she had Cami’s description to think about. There had to be plenty of men with all those characteristics. Surely, tall, blue-eyed joggers who happened to have been born in the Netherlands couldn’t be that uncommon in this part of the country. And vintage Mercedes convertibles were a dime a dozen, weren’t they? Cautiously she took the card from its slot and turned it over in her hands. The neat script didn’t look familiar. The St. Louis P.O. box was no help.
Returning the card to its space, she took a deep breath. Tomorrow morning she’d wake up to find that the guest in her carriage house was just another random stranger. She’d feel foolish and relieved, and ashamed that memories had overtaken reason even for a few agonizing hours. But tonight, she knew without a doubt, she would lie awake reliving every one of those memories, just in case.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Katie Lost and Found--Preview #2

 Ready for another little scene from Katie Lost and Found? Last time you met Tess Weldon, the innkeeper at Walnut Lodge. Now let's look in on her soon-to-be guest, Peter Kosten.

    The more miles he put behind him, the better Peter felt about his decision. That he’d chosen the least likely option, that he’d bailed on much of what he’d built in St. Louis over the past twelve years, should at least make sense to those who knew the truth of his situation. Why waste time trying to salvage ruins, when he could move on immediately to rebuilding well out of Kara’s reach? Even Harry hadn’t seemed surprised at his announcement last week, but of course, he knew the reasons behind the divorce. If the truth were known, Peter’s boss and father-in-law likely had some regrets, but he was too loyal to his daughter to ever voice them. The severance package had been more than generous, a sign of Harry’s respect and good wishes. Words had been unnecessary.
    When the sun was high overhead, Peter stopped for gas and lowered the top on the car. With the wind in his face and the sun on his shoulders, he turned his thoughts ahead. The prospect of working in a new place—getting out of an office and a suit—fit with his desire to reinvent himself. From Walnut Springs he could explore his options, investigate the feasibility of starting his own firm. He could have taken some time off. Money wasn’t an issue and what he had now was his own. Kara had taken her share, granted the largest share of their combined assets, but she couldn’t take any more. He had everything he needed. The rest he doubted he’d miss.

    On his one brief visit to Kansas, to assess the CentAir site and meet with the clients, he’d been unimpressed with the area. Early spring, he’d been told, was typically a cold, gray time. He hoped there would be enough Indian summer weather in the next few weeks to allow him to explore. He’d do some research, play tourist in his free time. Find the best places to run. Search for himself.

    His brother Klaus had been appalled at his choice. Why not come home? Their parents would be thrilled. He had family in Holland, including a niece and nephews he’d never met. The kids would love to get to know their Oom Jan Pieter. How could he explain that seeing his brother’s brood would only remind him of what he’d never have? That sounded appallingly self-centered, even to Peter. But the other truth, which he tried to explain to Klaus, was there were things he wanted to do with the rest of his life, things he meant to do before he’d met Kara and been swept into her world. All those years ago, he’d planned to join forces with a girl who shared his ideals, who wanted the same simple life dedicated to making some kind of difference. He might have lost the girl forever, but there was still time enough to find the path he’d once been so certain led to fulfillment. What he hoped to do in the next few months was shrug off his failures and set his feet in that direction again, even if he had to do it alone.

    Idealistic clap-trap? That’s what Kara called it when he told her his plans. She’d accused him of running away, of being afraid to face their friends without her beside him. He’d resisted the urge to tell her he never considered them his friends, only hers. He had no problem facing them, even less turning his back on them. Maybe his plans were idealistic, but hadn’t he once taken pride in his idealism? He’d been surprised and pleased to discover Kara hadn’t stripped him of that along with his sense of self and his manhood.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Katie Lost and Found--Preview #1

I'm almost ready to hit "Publish" on Katie Lost and Found, but in the meantime, I thought a little flip through the book might be fun. Ulterior motive--my publisher, LilyBear House,will be hosting a Facebook launch party in a couple of weeks. If you'd like to win some cool prizes, these previews will give you a distinct advantage! You can sign up to attend the party here, and I really look forward to seeing some of you there!
So, here we go--Katie Lost and Found (Welcome to Walnut Lodge Book One)
 The day had been uneventful, the morning cool enough to work in the garden, the afternoon warm without too much wind, a rare thing in this part of the country. The kitchen and housekeeping staff arrived on time to perform their tasks efficiently and without complaint. Even the cluster of aging buildings comprising the Walnut Lodge Inn and Suites held off any sort of emergency for another day.
As she stood behind the registration desk—an imposing example of fine woodworking salvaged from an older and grander hotel—scanning the evening’s reservations, Tess Weldon almost breathed a sigh of contentment—almost because too often letting down her guard provided an irresistible opportunity for the fates to throw her a curve. And the day wasn’t over yet.
“Can you handle this?” she asked the desk clerk on duty, a woman as small and dark as Tess was tall and fair. Tess and Cami Mitchell, her closest friend as well as the Lodge’s assistant manager, were opposites in temperament as well as looks. While Tess took every aspect of her job, which was her life, far too seriously, Cami approached both work and life with a unique blend of quirky humor and intense passion. Together, they were the ideal combination to meet the challenges of operating a bed and breakfast filled with character, charm and, on occasion, chaos. 
“Why? You looking for some way to get out of your date?”
“Are you kidding? You know I wouldn’t stand Chad up. I hear I’m in the lead for Soccer Aunt of the Year.” Running a fingertip down the list of dinner reservations, she faked a worried scowl. “I just don’t want to come home to find you raiding the wine cellar. Or in the pantry with Lucas.”
“You stay out of our therapy sessions. We’re making great progress.” Cami’s brown eyes twinkled and a grin spread its way across her heart-shaped face.
“Is that what they’re calling it these days?” Moving on to the row of guest reservation cards on the desk, Tess threw a little smirk over her shoulder. “Just do us all a favor. Try to confine those sessions to after-hours, please.”
Ten out of sixteen rooms booked, most for the weekend. Fridays, gateway to the weekend getaway, were normally busier in the fall. Cooler weather, kids in school, the promise of a romantic fire in the elegant bedrooms and wine on the torch-lit terrace lured more couples her way to fill the rooms vacated by weeknight business travelers. Tess examined each card, studying the names. “The Mulveneys. Is it that time again already?”
“Yep. She said they couldn’t wait for fall so they could come back. Cute couple.”
“In their sixties by now, aren’t they? Texas cattle ranch? Nice big Lincoln?”
“That’s them. He’s a sweetie, very romantic, I remember.”
“Right. What’s this one? The one nighter?”  She picked up the card, reading under her breath, “Direct bill to CentAir?”
“Oh, yeah. I meant to mention that to you. Ariel asked specifically for the carriage house. This guy may be staying long term and she thinks he might like something more private.”
Tess mouthed the name, a frown drawing down her finely arched brows. “Peter Kosten.”
“Ariel said he’s the architect who designed the new terminal and office complex.”
Turning the card over, she studied it more closely. “Did she say anything else about him?”
“Like what?”
“Where he’s from. If he’ll be bringing a wife with him.” She tucked the card carefully back in its place, hoping Cami hadn’t heard the catch in her voice. “If he’ll pay full rate for long term.”
“No. Just that he’d be here tonight, might want to extend a day or two and might be back in a few weeks for as long as six months. Oh, and that we’re going to love him, of course.” Cami reached to answer the switchboard, giving Tess a hard stare.
Coincidence. Cruel coincidence, but surely nothing more. Forcing down the flutter of panicked butterflies, Tess tucked her hands in the pockets of her jeans. Cami’s sharp eyes and sharper tongue wouldn’t let it pass if she noticed they were trembling.
As soon as Cami ended her call, Tess backed toward the door leading to her office. “So, I’ll hit the road if you’re sure you’ll be okay. I’ll probably have a bite to eat with the team after the game, and I may stop at the garden center in Andover. I should be back by nine.” Tess knelt to stroke the graying Pomeranian who’d been watching expectantly from his basket behind the desk. “Sorry, Cyril old man, you can’t come this time,” she said softly.
Catching her arm, Cami halted her escape. “You okay?”
“Of course I am. But I need to get going. I don’t want to disappoint Chad by showing up after he scores the first goal.”
“Right. And you don’t want me to guess what’s got you going all pale one minute and blushing like a guilty teenager the next, either.”
“You spend too much time analyzing people, you know that?” Resting her hands on Cami’s slender shoulders, she buzzed her cheek. “I’ll see you later. Don’t forget to let Cyril out. And keep your hands off my chef, okay?”
That wouldn’t be the end of it, but the last thing Tess wanted was a forced heart-to-heart with Cami while her defenses were so shaky. Who’d have thought the sight of a name could rattle her so thoroughly? Ridiculous, since it wasn’t remotely possible that CentAir hired a Dutch architect to design its corporate headquarters in Middle of Nowhere, Kansas. It wasn’t possible that he was headed for her B and B at the same moment she was jumping in her aged van and rattling down the driveway in a cloud of dust as if the hounds of hell were nipping at her tires.

Monday, July 21, 2014

And Now for the Dreaded Blurb

If you've been here before, you probably know how I feel about writing blurbs. I'd much rather write the 130K novel than try to reduce it to three paragraphs. Add in the need to make those paragraphs say just enough to tempt a potential reader, and I'm looking around for anything to save me from the task--take out the garbage, mow the yard, clean out the litter box. In fact, a root canal sounds like fun compared to writing blurbs.
Every writer feels that way, I'm sure. Blurbs, like so much of the stuff we do to get the attention of readers, are a necessary evil. They do, however, challenge us as writers to the ultimate in "less is more," which is not a bad thing at all.
So, after hours of writing, rewriting, and groaning over the keyboard, here's what I've come up with for Katie Lost and Found. There will very likely be more revisions before it's released next month, but you gotta start somewhere!
Feel free to tell me what you think.

Peter Kosten is starting over. Leaving behind a successful career and a failed marriage, his vision for the future is colored by disappointment. During his time at Walnut Lodge, he hopes to reinvent himself, to recover the ideals and dreams he shared with the one real love of his life, the girl who vanished without a trace sixteen years earlier.

Walnut Lodge is Tess Weldon’s life. The grand old house is her business, her home and her safe haven, its staff her friends and family. Her secrets are safe within its walls. Guided by the vision she shared with her late husband, her future finally seems secure, until her past checks into the Lodge. 

Fate may have brought Peter and Tess full circle, but lost love found doesn’t necessarily lead to a second chance.