Nan Reinhardt, Author

Grown-up love stories, because we're never too old for a little sexy romance…
Browsing The Women of Willow Book

BookBub for the Win!

September15

My Bookbub ad posted exactly a week ago and the results were amazing! I had a very successful campaign and whole new crop of readers discovered the Women of Willow Bay, which makes me very happy. All in all, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Here’s the great news, the sale price on ONCE MORE FROM THE TOP is still in effect and will be until the end of September, so if you haven’t met the Women of Willow Bay, well, now’s the time. Head on over to Amazon or any other ebook outlet and grab the first book in the series. Hopefully, you’ll be captured by Carrie and Julie and want to continue on in the series, before you pick up Saving Sarah, either with a pre-order or when it releases on September 26.

I’m going to set the series on the back burner for now, while I work on a new book with entirely new characters and a brand-new setting. More on that later . . . meanwhile, enjoy the Women of Willow Bay and as always, thanks for your support!

BookBub!

September8

Today, ONCE MORE FROM THE TOP is a 99-cent deal on BookBub. If you’re an author trying to promote your books, you already know what a big deal this is and why I’m so jacked up about it. If you’re not, suffice to say, this is HUGE! BookBub reaches a lot of folks–like millions, so my name and my Women of Willow Bay series is in front of a whole bunch of new readers. They only accept about 15-20 percent of the ads submitted to them, so to get this one so close to releasing SAVING SARAH is a gift from promotion heaven.

Pop by BookBub and check out my deal and if you aren’t a subscriber, go ahead and become one. It only takes a sec to sign up and you’ll get an email every day telling you about great deals on e-books! Like this one!

Excerpt from SAVING SARAH

September4

Hey kids, Saving Sarah, Book 4 in the Women of Willow Bay series, is releasing in just 22 days! I’m so excited I can barely breathe because this book is one that tore at my heartstrings as I wrote it. Sarah’s character was vetted by a woman who graciously shared her story of domestic abuse with me (she is free of it now). Although this isn’t her story, it’s purely fiction as Sarah Bennett’s story, I am grateful for her checking me on details and feelings and fears. I hope you enjoy this little excerpt from Saving Sarah and that you fall in love with Sarah and Tony, just as I did. Thanks for reading!

 

ONE

A Lake Michigan breeze tugged Sarah Bennett’s auburn tresses from the tight clip at her neck as she stood on the ferry next to her friend Julie Miles. They had been more than halfway across before Sarah worked up the courage to leave the car that was parked in the belly of the huge vessel. Julie had brought her coffee and a muffin that Sarah had only nibbled on. The women sat together quietly until Sarah opened the car door and stepped out. Even now she couldn’t help scanning the area, peering into the tinted windows of the ferry cabin, searching…praying.

“He’s not here, you know,” Julie said, almost as if she could read Sarah’s thoughts.

“In the clear-thinking part of my brain, I know that.” Sarah stared out across the water, watching the breeze whip up tiny whitecaps on the surface. “But he’s still out there and he won’t give up.”

“You don’t know that.” Julie sipped her coffee. “You hit the son of a bitch on the head with a skillet, baby. If he’s smart, he’ll stay away from you.”

Sarah shivered in spite of the early May sunshine warming her bare arms. That awful night replayed in her head in an endless terrifying loop. After she’d bashed her ex-husband, she’d grabbed her emergency pack, shoved her laptop and wallet into it, and run down to check on Mack. The night watchman was groggy from being punched out and his lip was bleeding, but he was alive, thank God. Paul wasn’t stupid; he hadn’t hit Mack hard enough to really hurt him.

She turned to Julie. “I should’ve told the police about Paul when I used Mack’s phone to call the ambulance.” The horror of skulking around the alley behind the shelter, casting around for the long black Lincoln, and praying desperately that she wouldn’t be stopped by Paul’s driver sent another agonizing shiver through her.

“Sarah, come on, drink your coffee,” Julie urged. “You need the caffeine and the sugar.”

Sarah tried a small sip, but her heart rose to her throat as she remembered the scene she’d left behind three nights earlier. Maybe she should’ve stayed with Mack, but he was conscious and fully aware that she’d called for help. When he saw her backpack, he’d encouraged her to just go, so with a reassuring hug, she’d fled—straight to Julie and Will. And now she’d brought her dearest friend into this horrible mess.

Sarah pulled the clip out of her hair, raking shaky fingers through her unruly curls. “Jesus, Julie, what if I’d killed him? What if he’d died? How could I have lived with being a murderer?” She swallowed a sob, but gave it up and put her head down on the rail and wept.

Julie drew closer and wrapped her arms around Sarah, turning to allow her to rest her cheek against her friend’s strong shoulder. She patted her gently, whispering wordless comforts and finally reached in her pocket for a tissue. “Here, dry your eyes. That’s not what happened. When Will got there, Paul was gone and Mack was doing fine. We’ve got this. It’s going to be okay.”

Sarah pressed the tissue to her eyes, then she blew her nose and took a deep breath. She twisted the wet paper in her hand, searching for the words to describe the scene with Paul, still needing to process it. “So fucking typical of him to show up in a limo and lurk outside the shop.”

“I still don’t quite get why you didn’t just call the police when you saw the car?” Julie crossed her arms, her head tilted in a question, not a judgment.

Sarah drank the coffee, letting it warm her all the way down to her belly. “Really, Jules? Parking on the street isn’t a crime. What would I have said to the cops?”

“They could’ve at least checked it out, don’t you think?”

“You sound like Mack.” Sarah shook her head before she handed Julie her cup, gathered the tangled curls into a knot again, and clipped it in place.

“Mack’s a smart man.” Julie handed her coffee back before resting her elbows on the stainless steel railing. “Honey, you’ll be safe in Willow Bay. I rented the apartment in my name and Noah Dixon is the soul of discretion. Carrie and Sophie will take you in and nobody wants to cross those two anyway. We take care of our own in the village. So it’s going to be fine. Trust me.”

“I trust you.” Sarah met Julie’s steady blue gaze. And she did trust her…mostly.

* * * *

Sarah latched the deadbolt after Julie and Will left. No sooner had she walked away than she hurried back and double-checked it and the chain on the door of the apartment above the old boathouse at Dixon’s Marina. It was a charming place with deep-cushioned denim sofas facing each other in front of a huge picture window that overlooked Willow Bay. Julie’s friends, Carrie Reilly and Sophie Dugan, had cleaned thoroughly and the scent of lemon furniture polish blended with the fragrant piney air coming in through the open windows. Instinctively, Sarah hurried to the back of the apartment to shut the windows before reminding herself that someone would have to have a damn tall ladder to get to them.

She shook her head, left them open, but turned back and closed them part way, checking the screens to make sure they were securely latched, before she explored further. A small bedroom with a desk and a daybed under the loft stairs was decorated with amazing photos of the lake, vineyards, and a red-roofed lighthouse. An en-suite bathroom had a frosted window that she assured herself was latched tight and too small for an adult to get through anyway. The kitchen was sparkling white-painted cabinets and granite countertops with what appeared to be new stainless steel appliances.

She pulled open a cabinet and found cheerful flowered dishes, while another held glasses and stemware, and a bottom cupboard contained a set of high-end stainless steel pots and pans. Apparently, this kitchen was fully stocked. She could cook. She loved to cook and she’d done damn little of it in Chicago. There was always too much to be done at the shelter and in the shop. What a pleasure it would be to play with new recipes in this kitchen. A window above the stainless steel sink overlooked tall pines and a gravel parking area behind the boathouse. She reached up and checked the lock.

All good.

Open steps led to a huge master bedroom with a bathroom at least four times the size of her entire studio apartment in Chicago. And it had a big delicious shower with multiple showerheads. Nice. No window in that bathroom, thank God, and the bedroom windows looked out over the docks and the bay. They were cranked open and with an effort, Sarah left them that way. A ceiling fan circled lazily above a king-sized bed covered in a lovely pink-and-green quilt. Nothing here to be afraid of.

She was safe.

Back downstairs, she set her backpack on the white wicker desk at the bottom of the stairs, where she found a note from her landlord, Noah Dixon, welcoming her and giving her the Wi-Fi password and other incidentals about the apartment. When she went to the refrigerator for a drink of water, she found a casserole, a pie, fresh vegetables and fruit, eggs, milk, and a bottle of white wine. A note on the casserole let her know that Carrie and Sophie were only a phone call away.

Already, she was finding a small sense of safety here in this little town on the lake. Pulling out the casserole, she cut a serving, and discovered to her delight that it was chicken—her favorite. She put the square on a plate, covered it with a paper towel, and placed it in the microwave to reheat. Suddenly, she was famished, so she whipped up a salad with the veggies in the fridge. Someone, no doubt Carrie or Sophie, had even thoughtfully provided three different kinds of salad dressing. She chose the balsamic vinaigrette and even opened the wine—a crisp summer Riesling from a winery right there in Willow Bay—and poured a glass.

She sat on the high stool at the countertop, eating her lunch and watching the sailboats on the bay out the front window. After lunch, she would call Julie and talk to her about buying an inexpensive used car. She’d left hers in Chicago—abandoned it really. Maybe Will could go to the parking lot behind the shelter and get it and sell it for her.

No… Too dangerous. Paul probably had someone watching her car. It would just have to sit there until they towed it. It would go in the police impound auction, which was okay. That money went to a good cause.

She rinsed her dishes, stuck them in the dishwasher, and emptied her pack to take inventory—cell phone, wallet with a Michigan driver’s license, her passport, and a birth certificate. Everything made out in her new name.

“Sarah Jane Bennett.” She said the name out loud, trying it on for size. Miraculously, the shelter’s director had managed to get her new identity set up in just a matter of a few hours. Well, maybe not so miraculously—money talked even in these kinds of situations and Sarah had paid a pretty penny for the paperwork to escape.

She placed her laptop on the desk by the stairs and since the battery was low on her cell phone, she plugged it into the outlet by the kitchen bar. The rest of the things she packed carefully back into the pack, except for a framed picture that she set on the desk by her laptop. “Hey, baby,” she whispered to the photo of the young girl in the simple wood frame, “here we are, in a new place again.” She kissed her fingertips and touched the photo, tears welling up in her eyes.

Swallowing hard, she set the pack against the wall next to the front door before scooping up her purse and the suitcase that Will had packed for her when he went back to her apartment that night… That terrible night. Was it really only three days ago? A shudder wavered through her as she headed for the stairs.

At the bottom step, she paused, set the suitcase down, and went back to recheck the lock on the front door. It was bolted. She walked to the small mud room off the kitchen and verified the back door was locked, too, although she was dismayed to discover that it was a simple knob lock—no deadbolt. A trip to the hardware store in town just became the first item on her to-do list. For a moment, she debated wedging a chair under the knob, but with a deep breath, let it go. The door was locked, the window was too high to reach the lock from, so for now, it was okay.

The master bedroom welcomed her warmly with a shaft of afternoon light streaming in the windows opposite the French doors that opened off the loft. She dug into her purse and found her trusty old iPod, plugged it into the clock radio by the bed, and relaxed to Norah Jones as she emptied her suitcase onto the bed.

Bless Will’s heart. He had literally stuffed all her clothes into the big case. It was clear he’d scooped her few belongings out of the beat-up dresser and closet in the tiny apartment, because the zipper was straining and it weighed a ton. Shoes, tops, underwear, skirts, and jeans nearly burst out when she unzipped the bag. Her cosmetics and toothbrush were tucked into the pocket in the front, along with everything from her shower, which he’d thoughtfully wrapped in a towel so nothing had soaked through the canvas of the suitcase. With everything laid out on the bed, she scanned the room for a dresser, but didn’t see one.

She carried her toiletries into the bathroom and spotted two doors across from the shower. One revealed a fully stocked linen closet filled with towels, sheets, and everything she’d need in bathroom supplies for the next six months at least. She chuckled. “Thank you, Carrie and Sophie.”

The other door led into the most amazing walk-in closet she’d ever seen—even more elegant than the one she’d left behind in Atlanta so many years ago. All white-stained wood, one side was drawers, baskets, and shoe racks that her meager wardrobe wouldn’t begin to fill. A mirror on the back wall opened into a three-way and lighted up when she pressed the switch by the door to turn on the overhead lights. Sarah couldn’t help laughing out loud thinking about how her few articles of clothing would look hanging in this closet. Somebody, probably Noah Dixon, sure knew how to appeal to female renters, because this closet was great, and clearly it had been done recently, because it still smelled of fresh paint and there wasn’t a mark on any of the shoe racks.

Grinning for the first time in three days, she collected her shoes—all three pairs—and set them in the rack. Just as she placed her worn leather sandals, she heard a noise downstairs. She stood stock-still, listening. Yes. Someone had opened the back door and was clomping through the kitchen.

Oh holy shit!

Whoever it was hadn’t even bothered to knock. Her heart leaped to her throat as she tiptoed into the bedroom and rummaged among the clothes piled on the bed for her purse.

The footsteps were getting closer, so she dug in the purse for the little .22 pistol she’d acquired just the night before. Who knew she’d ever have need of it in this sleepy little town? But what if Paul had her followed? The tread was too heavy to be Paul’s, but maybe one of his gorillas…

She stepped to the French doors and peeked out, but wasn’t close enough to the loft rail to see over. She was going to know soon enough, because from the sound of it, the intruder was headed right for the stairs.

Sarah tucked in as close to the wall as she could, peering out through the crack by the door hinges. A huge man clambered up the stairs, whistling as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

What nerve! He’d broken into her apartment, but was acting as if he belonged here.

She squinted. Burly as a lumberjack, the guy’s salt-and-pepper hair was longish and curled over his collar, and he wore trendy dark-framed glasses. In one hand, he carried several wooden poles that he’d probably used to break into the back door and in the other, a shopping bag.

Pure red rage surged through her and she stepped into the opening with both arms raised, the pistol aimed directly at the bastard’s heart. “Stop right there!”

TWO

It never occurred to Tony Reynard that someone would be in the apartment over Noah’s old boathouse because no one was supposed to be there. Carrie had told him yesterday that Julie’s friend wasn’t due until the weekend. He’d been patting himself on the back for the last two days for getting the closet build-out done so quickly. All he had left to do was install the poles for the hanging clothes, which was where he was headed when a little redheaded spitfire stepped out of the bedroom with a damned gun in her hands. And, oh shit, those hands were shaking.

It took about ten seconds for him to assess the situation, slowly step down one step from the top, and hold his hands, full of closet poles and a shopping bag, up in the air.

“Hello,” he said, keeping his tone as even and measured as he could.

“Who are you?” Her voice trembled. Clearly, she was terrified, even though her crystal blue eyes were shooting angry sparks. She was tiny—not much over five feet—and if she weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet, he’d eat his favorite Chicago Cubs hat.

“I’m Tony Reynard.” He glanced over his shoulder and backed down another step.

“Don’t move.” She shook the gun at him and he realized it was a .22 semiautomatic, which could certainly be deadly, although by now he was fairly sure she wasn’t going to shoot him.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“I’m going to put my hands down now, okay?”

“I wouldn’t,” she advised, sounding a little bit braver. “Unless you want a bullet through your heart.”

“Hey, I’m just the local handyman.” Tony kept his hands up and moved down one more step so they were more eye-to-eye. He’d reached his full height by the age of sixteen, so he’d learned not to tower over people. He didn’t mean to be intimidating, but six feet three and two hundred and thirty pounds of bulky male tended to be daunting. “I’m here to install the poles in the new closet.” He peered around her. “Looks like you could use them.”

She eyed him suspiciously. “What’s in the bag?” She jerked the gun toward the sack in his right hand.

From his vantage point, Tony could see that the safety was off and her finger was inside the trigger guard.

Shit.

He was fairly sure the damn thing was loaded—she seemed too serious to be trying to frighten him with an unloaded weapon. She was afraid, but she meant business. He wasn’t interested in getting shot by a crazy-scared female, so he gave her his best charming smile even though sweat ran down his sides.

Just act calm. Show her you mean her no harm. That was the key.

“Hangers. I bought some of those velvet hanger things at the Target in Traverse City. Julie said you were arriving with only your clothes and nothing else from your place in Chicago, so I thought you might be able to use some hangers. I’ve also got some drawer liner here. Package says it smells like lavender.”

She stared at him for what seemed like an eternity, but he didn’t let his gaze waver…or his smile. Finally, she took a deep, shaky breath and slowly dropped her arms, still holding the gun in both hands.

“Maybe you could, um, take your finger out of the trigger guard and put the safety on before you shoot yourself in the foot,” Tony suggested. “And I’m going to lower my arms now.” When she didn’t object and did as he recommended, he sagged against the stairwell wall for a moment before he said, “You must be Sarah, Julie’s friend from Chicago.”

 

posted under The Women of Willow Book, Writer's moments | Comments Off on Excerpt from SAVING SARAH

Pre-Orders Rock!

August5

Hey, gang, great news! Saving Sarah, book 4 in the Women of Willow Bay series is now available for pre-order from Amazon. I’m so excited! This is my first pre-order, so man, I’d love it if you all would light up Amazon with pre-orders for Saving Sarah. Here’s the blurb for the story, which will appear on your Kindle on September 26. Enjoy!

When Sarah Bennett’s abusive ex hunts her down in Chicago, her friends spirit her away to Willow Bay, where she hopes to begin again with a different identity. But terror keeps her holed up, unable to start her new life.

Deputy sheriff Tony Reynard never expected to be staring down the barrel of a gun when he enters Sarah’s apartment to finish up some handyman work, but that’s how the fiery little redhead greets him, and he’s beyond intrigued.

After an intervention by her loving friends, Sarah becomes involved in a project to turn an old mansion into a battered women’s shelter. The women work together to renovate the house, along with the help of the townspeople and the delectably handsome Tony, who is a true renaissance man. Tony vows to bring Sarah back to life and love, but knows he needs to move slowly to win her heart.

When her ex tracks her down once more, Sarah must find the courage to protect her friends and her new love from his wrath.

Author Event!

August3

I’m so excited to be doing an author panel/book signing with three other fabulous writer on Saturday, August 5. Kathleen Thompson, Liz Flaherty, and Cheryl Brooks and I are going to be there talking about writing romance and taking your questions. Then afterward, we’ll all be available to chat and sign books. If you happen to be in the Logansport, Indiana, area, we’d love to have you stop by the Logansport Library and join us for a lively discussion about writing and publishing and romance.

Cover Reveal!

July19

My brilliant and wonderful cover designer, Lani Diane Rich over at Chipperish Media, has been hard at work coming up with a cover for Saving Sarah, Book 4 in the Women of Willow Bay series. I had a hard time figuring out which direction to go the on cover for Sarah’s book because it’s kind of an angsty book, and I couldn’t decide whether I wanted the angst portrayed in the cover art or not. But, I also wanted the cover to complement the other covers in the series–consistency is important to marketing.

When I found this couple–several different shots of them on the stock photo website–I knew I’d found Sarah and Tony. All their shots were happy and peaceful–which of course is the ultimate goal of any romance novel. Their faces made the decision for me, and Lani’s tag line says it all. Son and I wrangled in a cheerful manner over whether or not the tag line created any kind of tension about the story, but the image is perfect, and the fact is Saving Sarah is a romance novel. Readers expect an HEA, so telling them on the cover that Sarah ends up happy is just fine. Readers are here for the journey; we know the story will end up happy–we just want to go along on the ride. So, here’s the cover. Tell me what you think.  Saving Sarah releases on September 26, which happens to be my birthday, so the book will have the same birthday as me–fun! Check out the blurb for Saving Sarah below.

Blurb for Saving Sarah:

When Sarah Reynolds’ abusive ex hunts her down in Chicago, her friends spirit her away to Willow Bay, where she hopes to begin again with a different identity. But terror keeps her holed up, unable to start her new life.

Deputy sheriff Tony Reynard never expected to be staring down the barrel of a gun when he enters Sarah’s apartment to finish up some handyman work, but that’s how the fiery little redhead greets him, and he’s beyond intrigued.

After an intervention by her loving friends, Sarah becomes involved in a project to turn an old mansion into a battered women’s shelter. The women work together to renovate the house, along with the help of the townspeople and the delectably handsome Tony, who is a true renaissance man. Tony vows to bring Sarah back to life and love, but knows he needs to move slowly to win her heart.

When her ex tracks her down once more, Sarah must find the courage to protect her friends and her new love from his wrath.

Life Is . . . Settling Down . . .

July13

. . . a little bit. Summer is nearly half over. Can you believe it? I really thought that after Dee’s memorial service, life would settle back into normal, but you know, I think that I’ve lost “normal.” Or maybe I never had it in the first place. I’m not sure anymore. Is there normal?

If anyone figures that one out, let me know.

In the meantime, here’s a scene from Saving Sarah–Book 4 in the Women of Willow Bay series. It’s currently with my editor and hopefully, very soon, we’ll have a cover to show you and a release date. This scene takes place about a week and half after she’s moved to Willow Bay. Her friends Carrie and Julie have come to her apartment because they haven’t been able to get a hold of her and they’re worried. Rightfully so. Sarah’s been holed up, but her friends have come to rescue her. Hold tight and let me know what you think, okay?

“Okay, let me look at you.” Julie closed the gap between them with three long strides. “Jesus, Sarah Jane, you look like hell. When’s the last time you ate a decent meal? Or had a shower?”

“I showered a couple of days ago, I think,” Sarah muttered, heat rising in her cheeks. Dammit, what did it matter to Julie how often she showered? Resentment flashed through her. She sure as hell didn’t need Julie and Carrie poking in, dragging strangers into her house. How often she showered was none of their affair. Neither was how much she’d been eating for that matter. “And I’ve been eating. I finished that casserole and ate the pie and salad you left me.” She gave them a nod, shoving down the anger her reasonable mind told her was silly. “Thanks, all of you, by the way.”

Julie put a finger under Sarah’s chin, gently insisting she meet her gaze. “Baby, you’ve been holed up for over a week. You’ve answered our texts, but put us off and put us off, claiming you were exhausted or had a headache or some other nonsense. I’m fairly sure you haven’t opened the door once because Noah and Margie said the place has been shut up tight since you arrived.” She didn’t even have the grace to look sheepish for having checked up on her with the Dixons. “The shutters were all closed when we got here, all the blinds are drawn—”

“And what’s the deal with the chair wedged under the back door?” Carrie called from the mudroom. She appeared in the doorway, a new bottle of laundry detergent still dangling from her fingers.

“So what’s going on? Did something else happen?” Julie led Sarah to a bar stool and practically shoved her onto it. “It’s obvious you’re frightened out of your wits, and now, you’re scaring us, too. Jesus, Sarah! Tony said you pulled a gun on him last week when he came to finish up the closet.” She peered into Sarah’s face and enunciated firmly, “Paul’s not here. He doesn’t know where you are. You’re safe.”

Sarah folded her hands on the bar, opened her mouth to speak, and shut it again. She was a mess, Julie was absolutely right, but the terror was real and she had no idea how to express it without sounding like she’d completely slipped a cog. Perhaps she had. Maybe Paul had finally sent her ’round the bend. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate in irony? She finally fought back, but lost her mind in the aftermath. She glanced around at the four women, who were all staring at her with various levels of sympathy and curiosity. “I-I . . .” The words clogged up in her throat.

How could she confess she’d spent the past few days curled up in the armchair in the bedroom because it was in the corner that faced the door so she would see anyone coming up the stairs? How did she admit that hourly she’d made the rounds of the windows and doors, assuring herself each one was securely locked? That she’d finally turned off the ringer on her cell phone because every time it rang, she nearly jumped out of her skin? That the sound of gravel crunching under car tires in the parking lot at the top of the hill sent her flying to the window to peer out between the slats of the shutters to make certain it wasn’t a black Town Car with dark-tinted windows?

Libby held up a bottle she’d pulled from a six-bottle cloth carrier. “I think we need wine. I mean it’s almost two. The sun is definitely over the yardarm somewhere.” She yanked open a drawer and took out a corkscrew. “Soph, grab some glasses.” She stopped for a moment to give Sarah a concerned smile. “Unless . . . I mean, unless you need Sophie and me to leave . . .”

Sarah gazed around for a moment before closing her eyes and pressing her fist to her mouth—the only way she could hold back a wail of anguish. These women had no idea. Just looking at them, she knew. They were clueless. They’d never known the cold brick of fear that she’d carried in her belly for so many years. Not a single one of them had ever hidden in a closet from a ranting maniac or been kicked in the ribs as she cleaned up an entire pot of hot spaghetti sauce that had been swept from the stove because it didn’t have enough basil in it; or re-ironed a shirt nine times while a monster stood behind her tightening an extension cord he’d wrapped around her neck.

So–a little peek into Sarah’s head . . .

Gratitude list:

  1. Husband, Son, Grandboy, DIL, Sister–my family. How grateful I am for them!
  2. My denomination just elected the first black woman General Minister–man I love being a part of the Disciples of Christ.
  3. The lake–always a place of peace and comfort.
  4. Richie came through his cancer surgery well and is home safe and sound.
  5. Made the decision to go indie with Saving Sarah. Big load off my mind, so now I can focus on new stories.

 

 

posted under The Women of Willow Book, This Life..., Writer's moments | Comments Off on Life Is . . . Settling Down . . .

Done . . . Begin Again

June3

Saving Sarah is with my editor, which means it’s out of my hands for a few weeks, which also means it needs to be out of my mind for the next few weeks. Honestly, that’s a really hard thing to do–release a book. I keep going back through it . . . but it’s time to stop because until I get the edits back from Lani, it’s pointless to make changes. I’m fairly certain that she’ll have plenty for me to do on the manuscript when she returns it. My challenge is to let go and start something new.

To that end, I’m working on a new story that I started last summer when Liz and I went to Michigan for a week. I really like these characters–Hallie and Tim and Aunt Bette. They’re all talking like crazy in my head. I just need to sort them out and get their story down. The big news is they’re not a part of the Women of Willow Bay series–this story takes place in Indiana, and that means Husband and I will be taking a day trip north to Indiana Dunes State Park (you knew I couldn’t resist using Lake Michigan as a setting, right?) and scope out the area. The town is fictional and sits right at the edge of park, so Hallie and Tim get long walks on the beach.

There is another WOWB story brewing–Libby, the vintner from Saving Sarah, has a story and there may even be a holiday novella for Carrie and Liam’s son, Jack, but I need a break from Willow Bay. I’ve been there for five years and even though I love those stories, it’s time to let some of the rest of the people in my head have a chance.

So here’s just a tiny taste of Hallie’s story–as yet untitled. Let me know if you’re in, okay?

It was all Millie’s fault. The roadside sign—Millie’s Pie Emporium—had enticed Hallie Nelson off the interstate and onto the little road where she was now stranded. In spite of the flat tire and the pouring rain, Hallie smiled, remembering the delicious slice of pecan pie she’d had at Millie’s, along with amazing chicken and dumplings, fresh peas, and biscuits that were pure poetry. Even though her stomach was past full, her mouth watered at the thought of the take-out biscuits, butter and honey, and the Dutch apple pie stowed in her cooler in the backseat. Comfort food to share with Aunt Bette when she finally got to Primrose.

Her father would scoff at taking a detour for something as mundane as food, but then he’d never been a foodie like Hallie. Dad ate for fuel, nothing more, while she ate purely for pleasure. Her best friend Suz hated the fact that Hallie could eat like a trucker and remain slim, warning her since eighth grade that one day her hummingbird metabolism would give out.

Just last week at their farewell lunch, she shook her head as Hallie scarfed down a double-fudge chocolate shake while Suz primly spooned up a single scoop of low-fat vanilla. “Just you wait until menopause. It’s gonna getcha, girl, and all that sugar and fat will land right on your tiny behind.”

Hallie wasn’t worried. She came from a long line of hardy Nelson women, who ate whatever they wanted and lived to be lean, wiry senior citizens. Just look at Aunt Bette. Besides, menopause was still years away. She gave a quick glance in the rearview mirror. Worried dark brown eyes under a thick fringe of auburn hair looked back at her. Thirty-two didn’t look bad at all; her skin was still smooth and soft. High cheekbones emphasized the fact that somewhere in the distant past one of her Irish ancestors had taken a Shawnee bride.

However, none of that changed the fact that she was still stuck on the side of a two-lane highway. Rain pounded on the roof and drizzled down the windshield while the swipe, swish, swipe, swish of the wipers gave her brief views of the spring landscape. Trees budded out with soft green leaves and wildflowers were starting to bloom in the grass along the shoulder. The air smelled fresh and newly washed, although a chill still lingered. She glanced behind her, but there was nothing to see except the U-Haul trailer looming over her little sedan. Flicking on her hazard lights, she rested her forehead on the steering wheel and moaned out loud.

The sun had been shining across the Ohio River when she’d left Evansville that morning. Karl, her mechanic, had promised the car would be fine. Hadn’t he spent an entire day going over every inch of the darn thing? Hadn’t he changed the oil, replaced the spark plugs, and every filter and belt under the hood? And the tires were less than a year old. He’d assured her it was in tip-top shape for a road trip. Well, as much as a ten-year-old Toyota with two hundred and thirty—Hallie squinted at the odometer—two hundred and thirty-seven thousand miles could be in tip-top shape.

It had been her first brand-new car—a gift from her parents when she graduated from college. For nearly ten years, she’d treated it as lovingly as a mother treats a child. And how did the silly thing repay all her years of careful maintenance? By getting a flat in the middle of some dismal road, two towns away from Aunt Bette’s.

And in the rain.

A semi sped by, splashing water all over the side of the car and drawing Hallie’s attention back to her situation. Time to focus and figure out what she was going to do. The rain pelting down showed no sign of letting up any time soon and even though it was still early afternoon, she longed to be warm and snug in Aunt Bette’s cozy house—there would be tea and pie. She found her umbrella in the console and got out, sending up a little prayer that the tire might be drivable.

Apparently, the angels were busy elsewhere because the right front tire wasn’t just flat, it was shredded. With a sigh, Hallie climbed back in, took up her cell phone, and gazed at the screen. At least she had a couple of bars of service and the 4G seemed to be working. Great news if she had even a clue who to call. A touch of the screen brought the GPS to life and showed her exactly where she was, only twenty miles from Primrose, so she asked the phone to find her a garage or gas station nearby.

Gus’s Service Station was in Cedar Hill, the next town north. She dialed the number and was greeted with a gruff, “Garage.”

When Hallie explained her dilemma, the man on the other end of the line guffawed. “Lady, I got six calls ahead of you and only two tow trucks. I can get there in mebbe two, three hours. You’re gonna have to sit tight.”

“Is there anyone else I can call?” Hallie chewed her lower lip. She could feel the temperature dropping.

“Nope. Even if you got Triple A, I’m the one they call around here.”

“But I’ve got to get to Primrose and—”

“Lady, we all gotta get somewhere. Now, my tale of woe is that my nephew took off last night with the mayor’s daughter and my sister’s brand new Land Rover. The only other guys I got to drive tow trucks for me are a sixteen-year-old who doesn’t know one end of a wrench from the other and my worthless brother-in-law, who ain’t no mechanic either, but he can probably change a tire.” He gave a disgusted snort of laughter. “He’s out on a call west o’ town and the kid’s down to McHenryville pulling a tractor outta the mud.”

“I’m really sorry, but I’m all alone out here and I’ve got everything I own in the world in a trailer behind the car.” Hallie tried to sound as defenseless as she could, hoping to elicit some sympathy from Gus. A cheap tactic, but one she wasn’t above using at this point.

“You’re hauling a trailer? Sheesh.” Gus’s disgust came through loud and clear, even with only two bars. It was looking very likely she was going to be changing her own tire in the rain.

“Yes, I’m moving to Primrose. You see I’m going to live with my aunt and—”

“Look, I don’t need your life history, just tell me again where you are and I’ll get someone out there soon as I can.”

Hallie went ahead gave him the information from her GPS, managing to be halfway polite when once again he ordered her to “sit tight.” It was a wretched day weather-wise and that wasn’t his fault. Neither was her flat tire. Gus sounded as overwhelmed as she felt. She clicked off and dialed Aunt Bette to let her know she was going to be late, but got no answer, so she left a message. She debated for about three minutes before reaching into the backseat for her raincoat. She may as well get out and fix the darn tire. She’d been changing tires since she’d gotten her license at sixteen, so she had no excuse except her own unwillingness to get wet.

Okay . . . so there it is . . .

Gratitude list for today:

  1. The lake–the only place I seem to be able to take a deep breath right now.
  2. Time with Dee on Tuesday, although she slept through most of the hours I was there, she squeezed my hand and opened her eyes at one point and knew me.
  3. Dee’s cousin Darhius and Dee’s sons are such good caretakers–exactly what she needs.
  4. Gorgeous, sunny summer days here at the lake–it’s been lovely.
  5. A boat ride yesterday–the lake was quiet with no traffic.

The Last 4,000 Words

May26

I’m in the home stretch with Saving Sarah, book 4 of the Women of Willow Bay series. I can’t wait to finish it, but there is a little bit of bittersweet involved, too. I’m not positive, but I think this will be the last WOWB book. I have another woman in the village who could have a story, but I’m pretty sure it’s time to close this one out. I have a new book already started and I like the characters and the setting, which is Indiana, not Michigan. Of course, we’re up in northern Indiana near the dunes and Lake Michigan because I can’t imagine a story without a lake. But that’s the only thing that is the same.

So, I’m counting on writing the last few thousand words over the holiday weekend and then it goes to my editor, the incredible Lani Diane Rich, who will edit, while I work on a tag line and back cover blurb. Tag lines are so hard for me because I think I’m a naturally wordy person and tag lines are, by their very nature, not at all wordy. Lani is great tag line writer and so is my crit partner, Cheryl Brooks, so I may have to turn to them for ideas. I’m thinking it needs to have something to do with running away from bad and running to good, but I’m dammed if I have the first idea how to start.

It’s a sad time right now–my oldest and dearest friend Dee is dying–her cancer has become aggressive and is simply eating her alive. (See this post.) It’s probably only a matter of days now and she has so many people who love and care about her, both here and in heaven, so I know her passing will be eased by that. I spent some time with her yesterday–sweet time where we simply sat and held hands, cried a little together, and I watched while she slept.  But oh, my heart aches with a sadness so deep, I hurt in my bones.

When sister Kate died, it was different–no less sad and my heart aches still for her, but it was so fast, we barely had time to take a breath before she was gone. This has been five years of awful and I hate that Dee has had to suffer with not only cancer, but also with the deaths of her husband and mother in the midst of the cancer. But you know, I’m heartbroken for me, too–Dee and I always teased that when we got to be old ladies, we’d sit in our rocking chairs on the front porch, sip wine, and shout “F@*# you!” at the cars driving by. I hate that we won’t get to do that . . . we’d have been fun old biddies together.

Okay, so time for gratitude, although I don’t feel very grateful today. But I am so blessed, I have to remember that even though my heart is breaking.

  1. Husband, Son, Grandboy, DIL, Sister PJ–my close family and how they always support me.
  2. My BFFs–how blessed I am to have an awesome group of women friends I can depend on: Liz, Di, Moe, Harlene, Patt, Connie, Cheryl, Mary, to name a few . . . the list is way longer than this, but I hope they all know how much I cherish them.
  3. Pastor Diane at ACC–thanks for prayers and always being there.
  4. The lake–if there’s peace to be found anywhere, it’s there.
  5. Work and writing–I can lose the real world in the pretend ones (mine and other writers’) and sometimes, that’s a very good thing.

Saturday Is Sunny

March11

It’s sunny today–cold, but sunny. We’ve been spoiled by spring weather in winter this year, so this sudden switch to normal temperatures is making us all a little whiny. But you know, I don’t mind the cold so much. The air is crisp and clean–with the sun shining, the chill isn’t quite so biting.

I’m deep into the second week of being off social media and I’m still alive. Actually, being away from Facebook and Twitter is much lonelier than I ever imagined it would be. I’m not sure why, but in my head, the hiatus would mean that people would email and text me and check in here. But they’re not. I’m rather silly to expect that. Facebook is an easy check-in–just click Like and friends know you’re there and that you’re okay with whatever they’ve posted. Comments are even nicer unless someone is trashing you, but even so, it’s acknowledgement, right? Apparently, I’m more of an attention junkie than I believed myself to be. Who knew?

Writing goes along–I’m working with my crit partners on Sarah’s story and I think I may be figuring out where to go next. I toyed with the idea of not having any sex in this book and I confess the reason was I’m not crazy about writing those scenes. I thought I could maybe get away with it because of Sarah’s aversion to all things physical–she was abused in every way by her ex-husband. But the amazing Cheryl Brooks, who is one of my critique partners, pointed out that I would disappoint my readers if I didn’t have Tony and Sarah make love. Fans of the Women of Willow Bay books have come to expect some level of sensuality, so I’m going to put in a love scene . . . She’s right of course–my WOWB happily-ever-afters depend on sensual loves scenes. But I need to be very aware of Sarah’s issues when I write it.

In the meantime, here’s a taste of Tony and Sarah’s budding romance. Their first date is dinner, a walk along the jetty, and then a trip to the shooting range so Sarah can learn to use her new pistol–what Julie later refers to as a “cop date.” 😉 Sarah revealed some of what happened to her when she was married, and Tony can’t hide his fury at her ex-husband. She interprets his anger as judgement of her and tells him to go screw himself, but he chases after her to explain that he’s not judging her–that he never would.

Tony dug his toes into the sand, his heart heavy as he imagined a defeated, grieving Sarah fleeing the home that had turned into her worst nightmare.

Dear God in heaven.

Now he’d blown it. He’d be lucky if she ever spoke to him again. She’d probably leave Willow Bay and he’d never see her after tonight. “I didn’t mean to hurt you or frighten you . . .” He hung his head. “Jesus. Those are the very words I never ever wanted to have to say to you, and here I am saying them on our first date. I like you. I like you so much and . . . God, I’m a jerk.” He put one hand out. “Here, let me take you home.”

Silence stretched between them, widening the gulf he was sure was getting bigger with every word he uttered. At last she sighed. “I believe you’re not judging me, Tony. I-I’m not used to normal men, to normal male reactions.” She stepped closer to him, reaching out to touch his arm before snapping her hand back. “And I’m prickly, especially when I talk about . . . then. I struggle everyday with the fact that I’m a victim. I hate it.”

Were a victim,” he corrected, longing to tug her into his arms or at the very least, take her hand. “You are a strong woman, Sarah Reynolds.”

“Not so much.” She gave him the faintest of smiles. “I’m mostly a basket case—hopped up on mood-enhancing drugs and just trying to make it through each day without screaming like a banshee.”

Encouraged by the smile, however faint, Tony extended his arms toward the sky. Time to bring in some levity. If he was emotionally exhausted, poor Sarah had to be drained. “You feeling the need to scream right now? I’ve been told I can sometimes incite that urge. Hey, we can stand here and howl at that puny-ass moon if you want.” He threw his head back and let out a low coyote yowl, side-eyeing Sarah the entire time and praying he hadn’t ruined their tentative friendship.

* * * *

Sarah stared in disbelief as Tony took a deep breath and let out another howl that echoed over the bay. The silver threads in his salt-and-pepper hair shone in the lights the lined the sidewalk to the beach and she clenched her fists to keep from stroking the strands that curled over his shirt collar. Inanely, the thought occurred to her that he could use a haircut. Dimples bracketed his grin when he glanced over at her and nodded.

Dammit, he was handsome. Not suave, sophisticated handsome, but good-looking in a rugged, plaid-flannel-and-denim kind of way. He exuded gentleness, and even at his angriest, he would never hurt a living soul. She realized that now as she studied him standing there at the edge of the water yipping at the moon. Tony Reynard was the kind of man you instinctively trusted even if you were a woman who’d never consider trusting any man again . . . ever.

“Come on, join in,” he said. “It’s very cathartic . . . and kinda fun.”

“Um, I’m not all that much of a howler,” she said, even though the idea was intriguing. How many times in her life had she wished she could let go and wail? She’d never done it—not once in all the years of her marriage . . . or after.

Maintaining an iron clamp on her emotions was what kept her sane. If she let herself howl, she might not ever be able to stop, and then they’d surely lock her up in a rubber room forever. “Besides, there are people down there.” With a little jerk of her head, she indicated a group gathered around a beach fire in the distance.

“Nobody cares. Hell, I’m surprised they haven’t already joined in.” The words were barely out of his mouth when a yowl that sounded like a wounded hyena, followed by laughter came from the direction of the bonfire.

He chuckled. “See?” He howled again, grinning as several of the beach partiers responded in kind.

“I seriously wonder about this town.” Ambling closer to Tony, she put her head back and let out quiet yelp. She sounded pretty pitiful, so she took a deep breath, opened her arms, and gave it another try. This one came out more like an owl’s hoot, however her effort got an answering cheer from the group in the distance, most of whom were on their feet, dancing, yowling, and whooping. When she glanced at Tony, he was beaming at her like a proud father whose kid had just hit a home run in the little league championship game. She faced him, turning her palms up in a self-conscious shrug. “I imagine I’ll learn to howl better.”

“You howl just fine, Sarah Reynolds.” Tony extended his hand. “Come on, wanna go shoot some bad guys?”

Let me know what you think . . .

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