Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Story

Mother had no idea what was in store.
I was baptized on Easter Sunday. Not sprinkled. Dunked. When you are raised Baptist, nothing short of the full-on emersion service will do. We'd been studying for weeks, memorizing Bible verses and creeds, learning all the things we needed to know about our church, its history and why being baptized was a good thing.

The Bible story is all about renewal and forgiveness, our sins being washed away and the fresh start to life that is promised for those who follow the Christian faith. I know there's a lot of pagan history surrounding Easter, but since I'm not a scholar, I'm going to limit my discussion to what I know.

The rest of the story, as they say, was that I had a terrible, hopeless crush on a boy who lived around the corner from the church. He was also  in the new membership class. We were both about ten years old. I had a hard time looking at him for fear of fainting. If he noticed me at all, I would be surprised.
He was tall, dark and handsome, just like the bad boys in my dreams who would steal me away. I imagined all sorts of miraculous things about him, but the truth was, I never really knew him. Years later I would run into him in the hallways of our different high schools and I would confess to having had a crush on him for three years running. His answer was simple, like it always was:  "I don't remember you."

That special Easter Sunday, we had to walk down the church aisle in our white robes, the girls with a small plastic daffodil, and the boys with a palm frond. We also carried our pristine white washcloth which would be used later on.

The choir sang as we lined up, and, sure enough, as the boys and girls converged at the back of the narthex, one by one we were paired and guess what? I was Richard's partner.

It was surreal. Even then I was a romantic. I held my yellow daffodil like it was a wedding bouquet and Richard was my groom. Our legs touched a couple of times. His shoulder rubbed mine. Did his body buzz like mine did? Probably not.

At the altar, we separated to go up and around the choir loft to enter the Baptistry. My father's cousin was the paster of our church, and the good Dr. had me say my name, and, after handing him my folded white washcloth, he placed it over my nose and mouth and bent me back, down into the water. Of course I lost my footing and splashed, and came up coughing, which caused a little ripple of laughter from the church. I was the girl who forgot her lines at Christmas when my job was to recite the Christmas story by candlelight. I was also the one who threw up in the choir loft because I sat next to Richard one Sunday and our thighs actually touched. I couldn't handle the excitement, so I threw up. I'm the one who gave my shiny silver dollar to the poor African kids we saw in that movie they played - the kids with the bloated bellies. My dad replaced it with a paper bill, and gave me back my silver dollar with, "It's nice to give the dollar, but you didn't have to give that special dollar." He had brought it back from Reno when he took the college kids skiing the weekend before.
My granddaughter takes after me, I'm sure.

Now you would think Richard would have remembered me. Or maybe he just tried to forget me, which is more likely the case. But each encounter was rather cathartic for me. It was, in many ways, a fresh beginning each time I went to church, as I learned to anticipate our meeting, learned to handle the proximity to him, and then deal with my blood pressure going back to normal.

Those were magical days. My parents had always said you "had babies with someone you really love." I used to go to bed at night dreaming I was pregnant - a testament to how much I loved him. My simplistic view of that whole thing was dashed one evening in my parent's kitchen and life was never the same afterwards. All because I came home and asked what that four-letter word beginning with a F was. My life was over as I knew it. Why would anyone let a boy pee on them, or inside them - wherever that place was. I didn't even know it was there! And I knew it was wrong to find out.

Many, many Easters have gone by as I've raised my own four children, and now watch my grandchildren. I couldn't convince any of them to get dunked, so I think I'm still the special one in the family. I had my third child on Easter Sunday. It was and always has been a day to mark a new milestone in an ordinary life filled with love and family and friends.

Princess in training is a good thing.
The message of new beginnings is just as timeless as it was way back then when I was so distracted. A friend once said I needed to put my arms around that little girl and just love her. There was never enough love. I was never confident enough. But there's satisfaction in remembering the cycles of life and how even an awkward girl of ten could grow up and tell love stories. I'm still walking down aisles with flower bouquets and my heart goes pitter-pat for all the heroes in my books.

Because true love does indeed heal in the gardens of the heart.

Happy Easter, everyone.

Monday, March 21, 2016


I'm doing it again this year. And this time, like I did in I think 2013 or 2012, 30 DAYS OF GRATITUDE. 

You have to understand I'll be posting other things too. but with this logo at the top, and with the label A-Z Blog Challenge, you should be able to pick it up on my site anytime.

I already know what April 1 will start out: 30 Days of Gratitude: Amore!

We need a little more love in this world, wouldn't you agree?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

WRITING ROMANCE IN A SERIES - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

My long dining room table is going to be filled today.
I'm energized by a little project I'm working on this weekend, taking a writing break. I'm doing a talk at Desert Dreams on Writing Series, Making Them Sizzle. I always love these projects because although I know the points I want to make, some of the results and demonstration are going to be surprises for me.

I've got all this office supply stuff (who else but me can spend too much in the office supply store, who covets paper and pens and stickers and stuff over clothes and jewelry I used to lust over?), and will be creating a banner to demonstrate what I mean at the class. I'm going to put all my series covers side by side and then identify the characters in that book, and then show other books that they show up in.

Now, believe me or not, even I forget sometimes, so there is this very handy feature in Word that allows me to search a term, a name, to find out all the references for it in the book. Easy peasy, right? Well then I thought I'd do tape to show where they completed a string, or an arc of the story.

I think one of the things that works in a series is when you connect them, like a quilt, putting pieces from other stories together, inserting them for extra color and texture. But you don't want to disorient a new reader and you don't want to bore an old reader. There is a right tipping point of information, just the right amount and not too much. I rely on my editors for some of this, because some I clearly don't see.
Okay, I'm a collector and couldn't help myself.

So, I'm anxious to see how it turns out. My mind works, like the creative place it is, now wondering if I could do it in a real fabric quilt, using different patterns for each book, and re-using those fabrics later to make a random, patchwork art piece of my series. I love "found" things and pieces that didn't go together before that make something new and beautiful. The elixir of creative life filled with passion and purpose.

By the way, will you be in Scottsdale April 7-10? The Desert Dreams Convention still has spaces. Or, if you're a reader in the area, want to get together for a coffee or some chow? Let me know. Would love to meet you, or see you again.

J.D. Hart, my pirate storyteller, who narrates all my books.
J.D. Hart and I are also doing a class on audio book production, and then a session afterwards for those who want more in-depth brainstorming. The Pirate Prince and I would love to see you there...

Friday, March 18, 2016

Zak and Amy's Proposal Scene

I'm participating in Tawny Weber's MARRY ME Facebook event on 3-21-16 to help promote her books and to celebrate National Proposal Day. Several authors are posting marriage proposals from our most recent books.

Here's my proposal scene from Zak and Amy:

Zak paused, stopped caressing her shoulder and upper arm, and patted her instead.
“Usually the drama surrounds some guys, like Joel, who get injured or never come back. That’s when the community closes ranks, comes together, and helps the spouse and family. It’s just what they do. And I’ll be honest and tell you, some guys, when they go overseas, are unfaithful. There can be drama there, too. The ladies stay close to home, form this network of strength. They usually can dig it out of anyone if something’s going on. There aren’t too many secrets. All the joys and pains are shared communally.”
“Okay. I can see that.”
“But as for Connie, I think she’s just a mental case. Maybe she was, maybe she wasn’t like this when they first got together, but she did demand Lucas leave the teams, and he’s not ready to.”
“That happens a lot, too? Wives beg their husbands to get off the Teams?”
“I don’t know. Not been around it enough to really know. That’s why I wanted you to come down here to meet everyone, to talk to whomever you wanted to talk to, answer all your questions. I want you walking into this thing with your eyes wide open.”  

“I think I do a pretty good job of that.”
He glanced at her face. “You do, honey. I think you have great instincts. You’re good under pressure. Remember, I’ve seen that.”
How could she forget the look on the terrorist’s face when his bloody handprint was left on the glass door of her office or later when she thought her life would end in that bomb blast?
But there was one lingering question she had to ask. “So, Zak, how often do SEALs get divorced? Is it a chronic problem?”
“What do you think?” Zak had pulled into the parking garage. Shutting the Hummer off, he turned in his seat to face her again. He focused on her hands folded neatly in her lap and gently covered them with his. His warm fingers wrapping around hers was comforting. She could see he was trying to formulate words for something difficult to say. He perused her chest, up her neck, and then met her face to face. “I think the statistic is better than sixty percent. That’s all military, too. Maybe the SEALs are a little higher, but I’m not sure.”
She broke eye contact and stared at the walls of the garage, swallowing hard.
“Thing is, Amy, it’s hard on the families when the guys go overseas. That stress takes several forms. I guess Connie went on a spending bender, and then they had money problems. I just think she was weak and decided she couldn’t handle it. We all wish she could have just been honest about that—she wasn’t made for this life. No harm in that. But the way she’s going about it is all wrong.”
“Terrible for the kids.”
“Tears Lucas up. It really does.”
“I won’t lie to you, Zak. I really don’t know how I’ll feel when you go overseas.”
“I know that. That’s being honest.”
“But I want to support you. I know this was what you were made to do.”
“That’s absolutely for certain. But I want to make one thing perfectly clear. My dedication to this job will always come first as long as I am a SEAL. If that changes, then I get out. You need to know that.”
It was one of the things that scared her the most. No matter how much he loved her, being a SEAL would always come first.
“And?” Amy knew there was something more he was leaving out.
“Let’s go inside.” He took her hand. She slid off the seat into his arms, and they walked hand in hand up to the elevator and to his apartment beyond.
He directed her to sit on the couch while he brought in some mineral water for both of them. Instead of taking his place beside her, he knelt in front of her. “Amy Dobson, you know me. You don’t know the community yet, but I do, and I think there is a place here for you. I’ve got the green light from your dad.”
Amy’s expression must have registered shock because Zak hurriedly explained how he’d called Chief Allister Dobson and her father had given him his approval.
“Kind of old fashioned, but I wanted to do it that way. I knew what your father thought was important to you, Amy.”
The tender expression on Zak’s face left her speechless. He’d planned this ahead of time. This was more than a just meet and greet with the other members of his SEAL Team; this was a planned course of action. Very intentional. She saw for the first time how he’d bared his soul to her. He’d set all this up.

“Marry me, Amy. You already said yes, but I wanted you to know that your dad is in agreement.” He took her hands in his. “I want to make it formal. I don’t want to wait for some day.”
She didn’t have to think about it. She went to bed every night and woke up every morning envisioning being his wife, sharing a life with this man. “Of course, just like I said before, I’ll marry you, Zak. And in time, I’ll learn how to support you the way I need to. I think I’m good with it all.”
Her smile would usually bring a kiss, but he was still hesitating.
“What is it?” Now she was getting worried.
“I want us to get married before I deploy.”
“Like when?”

“Soon. How about next weekend?”

I so enjoy bringing you these marriage proposals, as each one of my SEALs finds his happily ever after. In Zak's case, this is the most beautiful part of the story, the proposal and wedding. And then the strongest and most beautiful part of their love follows after his difficult tour. 


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Tucson Festival of Books and my new cowboy friend, Randall Dale!

Met this great guy, Randall Dale, who writes real cowboy stories. I'm going to interview him some day on this blog.  We shared a table, and he stood outside with his rope, and boy did the cowboys come. It was fascinating to watch the readers that flocked to him, as opposed to the women reading romance who came to mine. He's a talented writer, I can tell. I overheard the stories about his growing up, stories passed down by two generations of Arizona cowboys, and it was like vitamins for my soul. He won't be there today with his quiet ways, so I'll miss him terribly.

The Festival was wonderful. We had perfect weather...the fans were awesome, and got to see some superfans yesterday. Today, Kellie and Beth and several others are coming by. Kellie will help me from 12 to 2 and then during my talk in the tent (Yay! A Tent Talk - not to be confused with a Ted Talk, but some day - my first ever). I'm at Booth 108, and will be at Booth 178 for the Tent Talk and author's pavillion.
Isn't this the best tee shirt? His wife bought my vampires!

Leslie Jones was on the other side of me. We have gotten to know each other over the years of my attending Arizona Dreamin', along with my other pals Kris Tualla, Morgan Kearns and Deena Remiel. Always old home week when we get together, share war stories and just plane goof off. Leslie now has 3 books out. I'm so proud of how her career has gone.

Every place I go I learn something, see something that moves me, and I make friends I didn't know were friends before. I have way more to say, but I'm off again to the Faire, finishing breakfast, and thinking of all of you. Have a beautiful Sunday. And think about all those wonderful connections we make online and in person. What a small and beautiful world it is indeed. I'm getting to do what I absolutely love to do, and can do for the rest of my life.

Courtesy of Lindsay McKenna, another awesome military romantic suspense author!!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Band of Bachelors: Alex coming next!

Band of Bachelors: Alex, is Book 2 in the Band of Bachelors. Here's a little excerpt for you. Enjoy! Now on preorder with iBooks, and will be available June 14. You will remember Lucas, and the apartment he was sharing with the other SEAL bachelors? Alex was one of them. A Navy SEAL also wounded in the Canary Islands, he's healed, and back home, and looking for love in all the wrong places. Trust me. He's a piece of work!

          Jake and Thomas had set Alex up with a blind date. The timing for this was good. He would be leaving early Sunday morning to fly up with Lucas to Sonoma County to help Nick and Devon with the winery.  But this was going to be a Friday night blind date, which meant he could woo the little lady all night and all day Saturday if she was spectacular. And if not, well, he could get out of Dodge and wouldn’t be back for over a week. It also saved the hassle he knew they went through waiting for a call back from him. If he was leaving, there was no expectation of a call back. The pressure was off!
            They didn’t tell him anything about her, except for the fact that she was tall, really, really tall. They always said that with a smile when describing her to him, so he was prepared for a lady maybe 6’ in height. He loved tall, long-legged girls who liked to wear those Jesus sandals that laced nearly up to their Holy of Holies. He was praying for the chance, just once, to be able to untie one of those types of sandals, and have the tiny leather shoelace be so close to her crotch, the backs of his hands would be singed from the proximate distance to her heat. With an easy couple of millimeters to go and then he’d been in pay dirt. The angels would sing.

            He was getting hard just thinking about it. He woke up Friday morning with a boner, that interfered with his skydive done that morning to take the edge off his nerves.

You can preorder this book on iTunes here.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Writing With My Hair On Fire

Well, Alex has been having his way with me now for about a week. I've been dancing around him, hiding, and he's found me. It's all because my story has been supressed too long because I've been traveling, and doing other things.

I was answering some emails for my Newsletter (are you a subscriber yet???) and something hit me. I fall in love several times a year with new characters. I mean I do have a mental affair with them. Full on. Yup. And when the book is done, they have left me.

I'm very sensitive about the leaving part because I'm not a quitter. I hate people who quit. Sometimes I should do more of it, but I've been mourning the death of my last hero, and Alex has been bringing me flowers (mentally) and coming to bed with me in my dreams and dang it. SO THAT'S WHAT'S BEEN WRONG WITH ME.

I picked up this book about an erotic journal written that the heroine reads, and she is pulled into the journal-owner's story, until it abruptly ends. I'm not going to tell you the name of the book, because I can't recommend it - but I bought it because I have a story with some similar elements, Be With Me. It's about a woman who works in an antique bookstore and has an increasingly real encounter with a 19th Century British explorer. Oh those scenes at the Waterwheel Inn in Kenwood are so damned real, he comes to me, with his handlebar moustache, when I'm swimming nekked in the steamy pool at midnight.

And then it hit me. There is this character sneaking up on me, stalking me, and trying to get hold of my heart, and I've been shutting him out.

I love my rich fantasy life, because it's better than real life sometimes. I go there whenever I can. I like creating the stories as much as reading others, but since I'm a slow reader and a fast writer, it works better for me to make up my own stories.

So now I've got this Alex guy hanging around my desk, whispering in my ear, laughing at how manic I become sometimes. He has told me he'll help me get over the last hero who left me. Because that's what goes on in the heart and brain of this crazy writer. I fall in love, and they ALWAYS leave me.

But now I've discovered the cure: find another fantasy lover. And just like my original Date with Daniel some 6 years ago (an exercise to help me fall back in love with my first hero when I'd fallen for the bad guy), my time with Alex is promising. He's an adrenaline junkie. He likes strong coffee, loves to sky dive. Loves demolition derbys and loves working in the garden with me. In fact, we picked out two tomato plants, some broccoli, kale and some sweet peas. And he made me order Sweet Potatoes from the catalog along with red "sugar" cherry tomato seeds.

I'm listening to romantic Italian music from the 1930's and who knows, maybe I'll go back to that ship in India and go visit the Captain when he stops by the Waterwheel Inn to check on his journal. And then I hear the gypsy music in Prague and I'm all about the vampires again. Oh, what's a girl to do?