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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!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Lost in the Plains: Me and Teddy Roosevelt--We Go Way Back

Lost in the Plains: Me and Teddy Roosevelt--We Go Way Back: It's fair to say that in my family, we keep things. Not because they are of particular value. Not always because they have signif...

Me and Teddy Roosevelt--We Go Way Back

It's fair to say that in my family, we keep things. Not because they are of particular value. Not always because they have significant sentimental connections. Things of interest are kept because. . .well, they are interesting. It seems the right thing to do, keeping anything unusual, anything with an amusing story attached, or anything we aren't absolutely sure might not someday turn out to have real monetary value. Antiques Roadshow is loaded with folks like us, who keep things because.

That's how I became involved withTeddy Roosevelt. He's been around as long as I can remember. Legend has it he came to reside with my parents when I was still a baby. As closely as my mother could recall, he was discovered while clearing out the basement of a building chosen to house the vocational school where my father would be teaching. Someone in charge permitted my father to take him, hinting that someday this slightly damaged bronze casting of horse and rider might be worth a lot of money. My father, always in need of a lot more money than he had, brought it home, added a false mustache to compensate for the horse's missing tail, and for most of my childhood, Theodore Roosevelt served as an interesting doorstop in our living room. It's always been obvious that Teddy was intended for better things. While not an original bronze casting, this replica must at some point in time have held a more exalted position. But no one uncovered his origins, no one knew exactly where he resided before he came to us, and frankly, in the grand scheme of our lives, he wasn't a priority. He was just there, to earn the occasional comment from a visitor, and to be dusted.

Wish I was a better photographer!
Fast forward several decades. When I was packing up my mother's home in Virginia, preparing to move her into a senior apartment out here in Kansas where so many of those "kept" things couldn't be kept any longer, I discovered time had not treated Teddy kindly. Not only was his horse tailless, but Teddy himself had lost a foot, boot and all. I carefully packed up the remains and brought him to Kansas, because. . .well, Teddy was still interesting and something of a mystery, one I wanted to clear up if possible. I felt I owed it to Teddy, not to mention my parents, to finally uncover whatever history and value this thing might have. Surely with the wealth of information at my fingertips via the internet, I could dig up something. My mother still held out hope that Teddy represented that ship she'd been waiting for all those years. It would be wonderful to find out this thing we'd lugged around for decades was really a treasure, but it would also be nice to put the pipedream to rest.

Well, I pretty much failed at learning anything beyond the name of the artist who created our Teddy. Turns out all along, if anyone had looked closely enough, the signature was right there next to that poor lion. "Bofill" led me to Antoine Bofill, Spanish sculptor, 1875-1921, who apparently worked mostly in Paris around the turn of the 20th century. There are a few photos of his other works, mostly small bronzes, but nothing, absolutely nothing to tie him to the 26th President of the United States.
I did find a very skilled restorer to put Teddy and his horse to rights. The cost of the restoration probably far exceeds the market value of the piece, but it was well worth it to me to toss out that old mustache and proudly display Teddy on the mantel instead of hiding him behind a door.

I have pieced together a vague provenance for Teddy. Turns out that building where he came to my father's attention was once part of the Richmond public library system. Given the condition when found, Teddy was probably stuck in the basement after some unfortunate incident broke the tail off his horse. Since this is likely one of many such replicas of the original, it makes sense that someone deemed this representation of our 26th President suitable d├ęcor for a public library. In a time when big game hunting and a dead lion would not have offended anyone's sensibilities, the 26th President astride his horse astride his most recent kill would have been deemed a classical pose. I can imagine some wealthy donor of the day purchasing Teddy for the new branch of the library, where he would have held a place of honor--Teddy, not the donor. After a series of future presidents came and went, Teddy was probably delegated to a less prestigious spot where some clumsy person caused the aforementioned unfortunate incident. A tailless horse would no doubt have offended the sensibilities of any number of animal lovers, and thus Teddy was sent to ignominious exile in the basement, to be discovered by my father and rescued.

I do wish I could learn more about our Teddy. Where is the original, for starters? Why was he cast in bronze by a Spanish sculptor in Paris? Why that pose? What was the name of the horse? If anyone out there has any clues, please let me know. Meanwhile, President Theodore Roosevelt, known to me as Teddy from the time I could talk, resides on the mantel in our humble library here in Kansas. I'm really a little proud of myself for having saved him. He remains one of the "kept" things I treasure, not only for his "interesting" qualities, but because I feel he and I have shared a long and arduous journey. He's been with me all my life and when we part, I hope those who come after me will find him interesting enough to keep around.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hearts Unfold--Begin at the Beginning

 This weekend, Hearts Unfold, the first installment in the Miracle at Valley Rise series, is free for Kindle. I invite you to help yourself to a copy and discover the love story readers are calling "heartwarming," "inspiring" and "impossible to put down."

Nineteen-year-old Emily Haynes had lost almost everything she loved.  Relying on what seems to be guidance from her invalid father, she returns to her past in hopes of finding some sign toward the future.  What begins as a joyous homecoming quickly turns into a nightmare when a badly injured stranger stumbles on the scene, his brief presence threatening to alter everything she believes about herself and the plan for her life.  A less determined girl might have been shaken by such an experience, but not Emily.  She is certain she’s made the right choice, so certain that in the following three years, she almost convinces herself.
Super-star violinist Stani Moss appeared to have everything, fame, fortune and a career guaranteed to bring more of the same, until one hasty decision placed it all in jeopardy.  Terrified and confused, he struggles not only to recover his former skill, but to find answers to the questions which haunt him.  Throughout his slow journey back, one image lingers in his buried memories of that fateful night—the vision of a girl he’s never met.  The journey will eventually lead him to Emily, and beyond that day, everything about his life will be transformed.
Set in the years around 1970, Hearts Unfold begins the saga of two people whose paths should never have crossed, who defy the odds to create a life they can share.  The first of four volumes in the Miracle at Valley Rise Series, this novel could stand alone as a triumphant tale of romance, but there’s much more to the story, as Emily and Stani reveal their pasts and strive to bridge the distance between their worlds.  Follow their progress, be entertained by their adventures, and perhaps be inspired by their unwavering belief in the transforming power of love. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Little Something From Me to You

That's right--Hearts Unfold, the place it all begins, is currently FREE. Not just for KindleUnlimited or Amazon Prime members, but for EVERYONE who enjoys a heartwarming love story.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Silence is Golden? Not so Much.

You know that sound, the echo of your own thoughts bouncing off the infinite emptiness of the universe? Silence!

There were times as a young mother when I would probably have given my best pair of designer knock-off platform heels for a few moments of that silence. At the end of a day, when I left a classroom of preschoolers for my two under-the-age-of-seven offspring, I admit I wanted nothing so much as the silent solitude of my closet-sized kitchen. Parking my children in front of Halfpint and the gang at Little House on the Prairie in exchange for a few quiet minutes seemed a forgivable offense.

As the saying goes, it's all or nothing. Forty years ago, silence was indeed golden. Fast forward a few decades and all this silence can get downright depressing.

Now don't get me wrong. I appreciate quiet. As a writer, it's essential. What I'm talking about here is silence as a response. You know those Christmas cards you send to old friends, closing your note with "I'd love to hear how you're doing?" And the doubt you feel when nothing comes back--not a note, not a phone call, not even a card the next Christmas? Don't they like you anymore? Do they even remember who you are?

(I could mention here that blogging is much the same experience. I have very little success rousing any kind of response to my posts. I'm beginning to think the majority of my followers are bots, which is really kind of creepy. But that's another post.)

I write books, each of which is a labor of love. I get so involved in my characters that I go through a kind of grief/withdrawal when their story ends. Like sending your children off to kindergarten, I experience a mixture of proud expectation and panic after hitting that magical "Publish" button, sending my stories into the vast unknown. And then I wait. In silence. I watch the sales numbers creeping upward. Somewhere out there, my books are stored in a fair number of Kindles. Waiting to be read. Being read. Have been read. Finally, the silence is broken. Those first reviews are like the voices of a rescue party coming through the fog. Someone heard me after all!

A book is only words on paper until it touches a reader. For this writer, putting a face or at least a  voice to that reader is a priceless return on my heartfelt labor. When someone tells me they read my book, I'm thrilled! They don't even have to say they liked it!

Recently, things have been a bit slow. Summers are like that. There are so many things to do other than read. I don't begrudge folks their vacations, or all the other wonderful pastimes that fill the short months. Hearing from a reader means that much more when the silence drags on for weeks. . .and weeks. . .and weeks.
This morning at church two people told me they were reading my books. Last week, my grandson, who's on vacation, sent me this picture of one of my "children" residing in a home hundreds of miles across the country. My new release has five reviews already! That's all it takes. Just the validation--not a word I'm fond of, but it fits--that somewhere out there, those words I poured onto virtual paper are coming to life in the minds of readers.

Moral to this post--reward your authors by breaking the silence. Don't take it for granted that they know you like their work. Don't assume they won't care what you have to say. Write a review, or if you're not a reviewer, send them a message on Facebook or an email. Whether your favorites are household name bestsellers or yet to be heard of indies, if they're still breathing, they're waiting to hear from you.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Antsy August Giveaway

We haven't even reached the middle of August yet, and for some reason, I'm feeling restless. Not that I don't have plenty to do--there's the garden and that pesky reno of the dining room, not to mention any number of housekeeping projects. But the truth is, while I'm not writing another book just yet, I feel the need to do something at least a little bit writer-ish.
So here's what I'm thinking--why not have a little giveaway, or two or three? See if we can liven things up a little. I'll get to see who is or is not finding their way here, and some of you will get free books.

It's really very simple. You're already here on the blog. There are seven previews of my new book, Katie Lost and Found, in the posts this month and last. Just go to the preview mentioned in the question, find the answer--I promise it's as obvious as the nose on your face--and post it in the comments along with your name. On the third day, I'll put the names in a hat and draw a winner, who will receive their choice of a download of any of my books. Then I'll post another question, and so on. Depending on how things go, we could do this for the rest of the month, right? That would add up to six questions and six winners.

So here we go. Question number one--winner to be announced on the evening of August 17.

In Preview #1, http://valleyrise.blogspot.com/2014/07/katie-lost-and-found-preview-1.html, Tess and Cami are discussing the guests expected to arrive at Walnut Lodge that evening. Name the guest booked into the carriage house and his occupation.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sitting at the Intersection of Should and Could

So my latest novel, Katie Lost and Found, is up and selling. I've spent the past seven months or so fabricating a 100 plus-year-old mansion in Middle of Nowhere, Kansas, filling it with all the furnishings and ambiance of a luxury inn, populating it with a crew of sympathetic characters, and telling the first of the stories in the series I plan to base around all of this. Done. Crossed off the list.

In the meantime, the dining room renovation in my own 100 plus-year-old house has been waiting patiently for the return of my attention. Stacks of paint cans, sacks of brushes and rollers, and the distinctive echo of an empty room remind me every time I pass through that it isn't going to paint and furnish itself. Undone. Still at the top of the list.

What do I do next? You'd think the answer would be as glaringly obvious as the bare windows and scarred walls of my dining room, wouldn't you? For the next month or two, I should devote every free hour and all my admittedly limited energy to making that room the beautiful centerpiece of our home it was meant to be. I should patch cracks, sand molding, spackle, paint, sew drapes, refinish a couple pieces of furniture, and hunt down a set of chairs before I even think of writing another book. Shouldn't I?

Or I could, maybe, start working, just a little bit, every now and then, on one of the three or four ideas grinding around in my writer's brain, couldn't I? I mean, it's not like I can spend all day climbing a ladder. And my aging joints would never stand for prolonged periods of hard labor without bitter complaint. Besides, part of the reward of putting together a room is seeing it slowly evolve, savoring each layer as it's completed to perfection. You can't just rush through these things!

So here's where I am right now. I'm going to get started in earnest on the dining room. Thanksgiving is getting closer, after all, and I promised jokingly back in May that I'd have it done at least by then. To keep myself honest, I'm going to post my progress here. But, I'm pretty sure I'm also going to start work on another book, which I'll also post about here as I get underway, just for variety's sake.

Here I go, easing away from this intersection. What I know for sure is not what I should or could be doing, but what I can do if I try. I love working on this old house, despite the sweat and dust and sore joints. And I have to write, as surely as I have to eat and sleep. Doing one or the other isn't really an option right now. Doing both should end up rewarding me in two very satisfying ways. I hope you'll join me! This should be fun!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Katie and Found--Preview #7

After their first reunion, Peter is determined to learn all he can about the woman Tess has become and her life at Walnut Lodge. If she isn't willing to tell him, he'll just have to find out some other way.

Peter watched out of the corner of his eye as Tess circled the dining room, pouring coffee and talking with patrons. She looked lovely, sleek and elegant in a classic black dress that suited her magnificent figure to perfection. Her hair was swept up a simple twist with a few errant curls framing her face and neck. This was not Katie Adams. This woman was the antithesis of the girl he remembered, as refined and restrained as Katie had been blunt and spontaneous. It was easier to think of her as Tess now that he watched her in action.
Earlier in the parking lot he’d fallen into conversation with a couple who’d apparently known Tess and her late husband for years. A few moments of allowing them to admire his car and they provided a wealth of information. From their comments he gathered that Jim Weldon had been liked and respected, that together he and Tess built Walnut Lodge into the business it was now. He learned that Tess’s husband died after an extended illness, and that Weldon’s ashes were scattered over the grounds of what had been his lifetime home. He also picked up on the fact that her friends worried Tess would bury herself here at Walnut Lodge in the effort to carry on her husband’s legacy. Watching her now, he felt certain she was doing what she loved. There was no hint of obligation in the easy way she went about her job.
He lingered as the dining room emptied, wondering if Tess would continue to ignore him. Not once had she paused at his table, as she had countless times at all the others. Clearly she was uncomfortable with his presence here. He wanted to know precisely why before he considered making other plans. Things might not have worked out for them all those years ago, but he had yet to understand exactly what had happened. Until he did, he was unwilling to accept sole responsibility or let Tess push him away.
He ordered a second brandy and settled in his chair, pretending to stare out the window, while in fact he observed Tess’s reflection. When the last group of diners wished her good night, she glanced around the room before going to the kitchen, still ignoring him. He wondered if that was his cue to leave until she reappeared, bottle and glass in hand, and headed straight for his table. Even in the distorted reflection, he could see the uncertainty in her eyes.
“May I join you? You look as though you’re in no hurry to leave.” Setting a bottle of the brandy he was drinking in the center of the table, she stood waiting. This was his chance. She’d come of her own volition. Surely that meant she wanted to have the same conversation he did.
“Please do. I’ve been waiting for you.”
 Click here for Katie Lost and Found--Available exclusively from Amazon.com

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Katie Lost and Found--It's Live!

Welcome to Walnut Lodge! I'm so proud to announce that Katie Lost and Found, the first book in this new series, is now available on Amazon.com for Kindle. (Yes, there will be a paperback edition, but due to technical difficulties beyond my control--my designer's computer is currently on the fritz--there will be slight delay.) In the meantime, click over to Amazon and help yourself to a copy of this sweet romance. Katie Lost and Found, as will be the case with all the Walnut Lodge books, is the story of lost love found, of second chances and old wrongs made right. I hope you enjoy your time at Walnut Lodge so much you'll want to come back soon!
Katie Lost and Found

Katie Lost and Found--Preview #6

Memories--finding Katie sent Peter's mind straight back to the time they shared. Even after so many years, the memories are fresh and sweet.

He’d fallen hard and fast, to the point that breaking his own rules, not to mention those of his employer, seemed more than worth the risk. By the time they reached Paris, he was scheming to lure her to his room, where he prayed she’d let down her hair, literally—that braid was driving him crazy with its teasing curls—and join him in his fantasies. As fate would have it, they were housed in separate hotels. The only time they saw each other was on the tour bus taking them around the city. Still, he made his move, slipping her his room number on a note suggesting they spend their one free afternoon together. “I dream of being with you, Katie. Will you make my dreams come true?” 

 Peter winced at the memory of that note. Had he ever been so young? And had the woman he’d just encountered really been the object of his reckless obsession? Rising, he went to the window in hopes of catching sight of her again. In his memory of Katie, her body had been soft and inviting, full breasts and rounded hips. The curves were still there, although she was thinner, but there was a strength about her that felt unyielding in his arms. He found himself wanting to explore this woman much as he had the girl he’d first made love to in Paris.
Katie had indeed shown up at his door that day, his note tucked in the pocket of her shirt. The afternoon was dull and rainy. At the sight of her, hair glistening with raindrops, her clothes damp and clinging, he’d forgotten to play the smooth seducer. Sweeping her into his arms, he’d swung her in a tight circle within the little room.
“I was praying you’d come!”
In his exhilaration, he’d moved too fast. By the time the second button of her shirt was undone, so was Katie. Squirming out of his embrace, she’d shoved him hard, hissing “What are you doing? You invited me here to. . .to. . .what? Attack me?”
“No! Oh, no, liefje. I invited you here to love you!” Stepping back, hands raised in surrender, he was terrified of what might come next. While losing his job would be catastrophic, having Katie angry with him for the duration of the tour would be almost as bad.
But Katie seemed pacified. “Well, that’s different I guess.” Advancing on him, she’d given him another shove, sending him sprawling across the narrow bed. “But first we’re going to talk.”
Their talk began with the details of his sexual history. When she was satisfied that he had adequate experience, she made her own disclosures. She was not a virgin, she wanted him to know, but she’d only been with two boys who hadn’t convinced her sex was worth the trouble. She was counting on him to prove otherwise. Furthermore, she wanted him to explain exactly what he was going to do, so there wouldn’t be any surprises.
“You want me to describe what I’m going to do before I do it?” Ever so subtly, he started unbraiding her hair, pretending a calm he was far from feeling.
“That would be the best way, don’t you think?”
“I suppose. What if you want me to stop? Will you tell me, liefje?” He spread her loosened hair around her shoulders, running his fingers through the heavy waves.
The motion seemed to relax her. Resting her head on his shoulder, she sighed. “Of course. What does that mean, what you keep calling me?”
Pressing a kiss to her forehead, he answered, “Sweetheart, liefje. And what will you be doing while I’m describing each step?” His hand moved to her shoulders, stroking slow circles down her back, confirming his suspicions that she wasn’t wearing a bra.
“I don’t know. What should I be doing?” She raised her head, her eyes heavy-lidded with desire as they met his.
“Whatever you like.” Drawing her into his arms, he chuckled. “And I won’t need any warning, unless you’re planning to shove me again.”