Weekend Excerpt – His Magical Bride/Talia: The Magical Bride

Mar 12, 2017

Well, I may have been a little lazy these past few days (everyone deserves some lazy now and then), but I’ve been busy behind the scenes! I have the first draft of His Magical Bride (steamy)/Talia: The Magical Bride (sweet), Book 10 of The Brides of Paradise Ranch out at the editors right now. It’ll be out in just one week! Woo hoo! Here’s a bit to whet you’re appetite…

Their whole crew started along Elizabeth Street toward the church. As soon as Trey was ten feet past the hotel, he felt as though he’d been hit by a wave of panic. It was really happening. He was really about to go and get himself hitched.

“Uh, Miss Lambert.” He stopped, reaching as gently as he could for Miss Lambert’s elbow to stop her as well.

She did stop. So did all of her friends. Trey was near to making a run for it, until she told her friends, “You go on ahead.”

The ladies nodded and hummed and gave them both knowing looks. At least they continued on without a fuss. Trey waited until they were a good, long distance away before taking a breath.

“You can call me Talia,” Miss Lambert said. “Since we’re about to be married and all.”

“Yeah, about that.” Trey rubbed a hand over the lower half of his face. Talia’s gentle smile faded. “See, the thing is, if I’m being honest, I’m kinda having, well, second thoughts about this whole marriage thing.”

Talia suddenly looked as tired as a young woman who’d ridden miles in the back of a peddler’s wagon would look. “I see.” She lowered her eyes.

Trey’s chest started to ache in a peculiar way that he wasn’t used to. “I’m not saying that I won’t marry you,” he rushed to tell her.

“You’re not?” She looked up at him with so much hope in her eyes that a lump formed in Trey’s throat.

“No, ma’am. I made a promise. And I know what kind of life it was you left behind.” He knew he was echoing everything Virginia had said to him at the train station, but the woman had spoken the truth. “I will most certainly marry you, it’s just…” He let his sentence trail away and let out a helpless breath through his nose. “It’s just that I’m thinking I might not be ready for all the things that come along with a real marriage.”

“Oh?” She blinked fast, her brow knitting in confusion.

“You know, things like children and intimacy and…and children.”

Talia’s face brightened inexplicably. “Oh, I see.” She was back to smiling again, although Trey had no idea why, considering everything he’d just said. “You want to have a marriage in name only to start with. Until we get to know each other better.”

Was that what he’d asked for? “Uh, yeah,” he answered.

Talia’s smile grew so big that she laughed lightly before saying, “I’m perfectly fine with that arrangement. It’s a sensible one. I always did wonder how a woman could jump into every aspect of marriage so suddenly when her whole world has changed.”

She’d taken all that from what he said? “I’m glad we see eye to eye on this.”

“We do. And thank you, Trey.” She reached out, and it was several seconds before Trey realized she wanted him to hold her hand.

Still feeling a half-step behind, he took her hand, and together they headed on to where the others were just approaching the church.

Trey had stood by George during his wedding, and he’d attended the weddings of more than a few of his friends in the last few years, but he had no idea how fast a marriage ceremony could feel when you were the one standing at the front of the church with a woman.

“Do you, Trey Alexander Knighton take this woman, Talia Lambert, to be your lawfully wedded wife?”

Trey almost answered, “Huh?” when George asked the question, a teasing twinkle in his eyes, but he managed to squeeze out, “I do,” without looking like too much of a numbskull.

“And do you, Talia Lambert, take this man, Trey Alexander Knighton, to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love, honor, and obey, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?”

“I do,” Talia answered with more certainty than Trey would ever be able to manage. She smiled up at him too with a look that said she was confident she’d done the right thing. How did she manage that?

“Then by the power invested in me by God and the Territory of Wyoming, I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

 

Status Update – Grow WHEN You’re Planted?

Mar 08, 2017

Steppin’ out in my city, London, in the 1890s

So on Monday I wrote about how there are times when I think that I was totally born on the wrong continent. Or at least that my heart feels like is should be in England. Well, I would like to add a little twist to that. Because after earning two degrees in History and spending a lifetime reading history books for fun, I am going to go out on a limb and say I would not have minded living in the last part of the 19th century at all.

When I say that, I’ll specify that I would have liked to be born in the 1860s so that I would be in the prime of my life in the 1880s – 1910s. There’s just something about that time period—whether you call it the Late Victorian and Edwardian Age or the Gilded Age—that I absolutely love. The fashions were beautiful, the architecture was stunning, and technology was way, way more advanced than you’re thinking right now.

Because here’s the thing… I’m going to go out on a limb and say that 99 out of 100 people in the 21st century have no idea what the late 19th century was like, and in fact, they probably have a very, very warped and flat-out wrong view of how advanced it was. You! You’re wrong! Those 40 years between 1880 and 1920 were NOT dark times of dirty people with no hygiene or technology when women were considered property! You’re wrong, wrong, wrong! (Those days that you’re thinking of are the 1820s – 1860s)

I would TOTALLY have worn this costume to ride my bicycle!

The fact of the matter is, while we think life has changed and technology has developed super fast from the 1980s until now, we ain’t got nuthin’ on the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. Within those 40 years I mentioned, civilization saw the development of electricity and plumbing in homes, public sanitation, public transportation (including subways), automobiles, steam ships, refrigeration, movies, and gramophones, not to mention the bicycle craze, women being admitted to universities, holding offices, and voting, the development of germ theory and sterilization for surgeries of all kinds, and the importation of food from all over the world, which drastically improved public health and nutrition. In fact, I had an interesting discussion with a doctor once in which he agreed that people at the end of the 19th century were probably far healthier than people nowadays, because there was more physical activity and less processed food.

But still, a lot of people balk and cringe and continue to operate on the mistaken assumption that just because a few things weren’t as advanced (penicillin hadn’t been invented yet, so yes, people died of infection more…but hey, they die of diabetes and weight-related illnesses in equally as great numbers today, I’ve seen the hard data that proves that) the whole era was a morass of backwardness. That phenomenon has always baffled me. It’s very black and white thinking. Just because the infant mortality rate (among the lower classes, not the middle or upper classes, mind you…I’ve seen the data on that too) was higher 125 years ago MUST mean that the entire era was gross and nasty and horrible. It just isn’t true.

Yep, this would totally have been my 1890s attitude!

Yes, there have been a lot of advances in the 20th century. There’ve been a lot in the 21st century too. But we’ve also lost things. To me, it’s not so much that life has gotten better as the years go by, it’s just that it’s changed. And I think I would have gotten along just fine 130 years ago. IF! And here’s my big, big, IF… IF I had the same family I do now and/or I had married a nice guy. Because the one thing that I can’t excuse away is that if I had lived 130 years ago, my brother Stewart would have been responsible for me if I’d never married. But Stewart would have been super cool about that, and I’m sure he wouldn’t have cared if I still wanted to be an author or live independently. Because by that era, women did. And I wouldn’t have been part of the upper classes anyhow, so who cares what the rules—which fewer and fewer people were following in that era—said.

 

(All images came from Pinterest and are public domain)

Status Update – Grow Where You’re Planted?

Mar 06, 2017

Me where I belong

Over the weekend, I had an interesting experience. I’ve been watching this amazing documentary series called Chef’s Table on Netflix, where they profile a big-time chef each episode. I was watching the one about Ivan Orkin, a gritty Jewish guy from Brooklyn…who runs a top-class ramen joint and has lived in Japan for 20 years. He talked about how the very first time he landed in Tokyo, he knew in his soul that he had come home.

Dude! That’s exactly how I felt about London! Well, I loved England when I went there in 2010, but when I spent 10 days in London last summer, I knew that London—specifically the Earl’s Court area of Kensington—was where my soul belonged. Something about it just sings to me. I feel completely comfortable there and at peace.

Now with me, I assumed it was because of the known ancestors I have who were from London. I have it in my DNA. But watching this show about Ivan Orkin…he’s Jewish. I don’t think he’s got Japanese ancestors. So to listen to him talking about how much his soul felt like it belonged in Japan really had me thinking.

This looks like a street where I should be spending more time!

What is it that makes us feel as though we belong in a place? Especially when it’s a place that is thousands of miles from where we were born and raised. Is it a DNA thing? Is it a spiritual thing or something that has to do with all of those layers and layers of stuff that I believe exists on some plane other than the physical/natural one for each of us? And have you ever felt as though you belonged in a place that was not where you were?

The other odd part of my weekend experience was that every time I told someone about how I feel about London, like at church, their initial reaction was to laugh. Yep, everyone. Not mean laughter, mind you, but the kind that suggests they think I’m joking or exaggerating. Actually, one woman, after laughing at first, then confessed to me that when she traveled to Europe for the first time, she absolutely loved it and felt as though it was incredibly special.

And that led me to wonder if this sense of displacement, of being born in the wrong place (or maybe the wrong time?) is much more universal than we think. Are we, perhaps, at least some of us, not born where we’re supposed to be? And is it then our life’s work to figure out a way to get ourselves to our true homes or to bring that essence to where we are?

I know there are some people who think exactly the opposite of the way I think. When I was living in Alabama, I had a co-worker/friend who I think was a little incredulous that I had moved down from the North in the first place. She called me out for being a Yankee all the time. And when I announced that I was moving back to Philly, she gave me a parting gift: a plaque painted with the words “Grow where you’re planted.” I found that plaque offensive, actually (though not the giving of it—that was done in good faith).

This is just one of hundreds of pics I took of the architecture of Kensington, my favorite part of London.

Because as long as I can remember, I haven’t felt as though I belonged where I was born. In fact, my love of England and the yearning to go there (and stay) isn’t new. It didn’t suddenly sprout up during that first trip in 2010. I’ve had a fascination with England as long as I can remember. I mean, tiny, tiny Merry used to dream of it. Maybe it was because my grandparents did a lot of traveling when I was young. Or maybe it’s because they had guests come to stay with them from all over the world…. Like my friend Janina, who I remember staying with my grandparents when I was about 8. I thought she was amazing then, and I still think she’s amazing now (and not just because she takes care of my cats when I go away and I take care of hers when she does the same).

Anyhow, it makes me wonder about belonging and nationality and what might be happening with us on all those unseen levels. So do you feel deep in your heart like you belong somewhere else?

Status Update – Nerds: I love them!

Mar 05, 2017

So I bet you think I’m going to start off this post by talking all about how I decided to write a romance novel series about nerdy guys. But nope! I’m going to start off by talking about how I recently started watching The Big Bang Theory. I can’t believe I waited so long to watch that show! It totally cracks me up. Why? Because I think I’ve known just about all of those guys at some point.

I hung out with a lot of the nerdy guys in college…sort of. Let’s just say I was around them more than I was a part of them. Because like the show depicts, sometimes it’s really hard to break through the nerdy guy social wall, because they’re so focused on the things they love. That’s what I love so much about The Big Bang Theory. I know that nerdy guys have criticized the show for depicting stereotypes and appropriating nerd culture, but dude, I’ve heard those conversations. I know those people. And that’s what makes it so wonderful. (The nerdy guys I have known have also had a slightly hard time laughing at themselves, so I’m also not surprised by the criticism, but let’s face it, all TV makes fun of some stereotype or another.)

Anyhow, I am so incredibly grateful for this show, because I discovered it at a time when, frankly, I’ve been dealing with a lot of…well, I’m not sure I’d call it depression, but a lot of blue days. It’s been great to have something silly, goofy, and relatable to watch and laugh over. I think I’ve laughed out loud during just about every single episode.

And that loops back around to why I wanted to write a series with nerdy guys and girls as the heroes and heroines. Nerds of Paradise is sort of my tribute to all those college guys I hung around, all the guys I knew who played D&D and larped (Live Action Role Play) and had arguments about the merits of various super powers and who was the best superhero. It’s for the guys I knew who tried to build a catapult that would launch a water balloon from the center of the college campus where we went into the center of the high school campus that adjoined it. Did I say try? Because I’m pretty sure they succeeded…and got in trouble for it.

The reason I love nerds, even though they generally get a bad rap in American culture, is because they are so creative! They think beyond common boundaries. They always have some wild idea that they want to research and then make a reality. That’s what makes them so wonderful, even if their social skills aren’t top notch (although with some, they are, and a friend refers to those as “nerd adaptables”). I was recently reading a book about American cultures and values, and they mentioned that nerds are less appreciated in this country than in Asian or European cultures, and that just makes me sad. Because as far as I’m concerned, the nerds are what it’s all about!

Release Day – Chaos Theory

Mar 03, 2017

Whew! After delays and set-backs due to everything from illness to just plain bad luck, Chaos Theory, Book 2 in the Nerds of Paradise series, is finally here! And it’s just 99 cents, for this weekend only! Bright and early on Monday, it’ll be back to its regular price of $3.99, so scoop it up now! And to put you in the mood, here’s the beginning of Chapter One…

Will Darling was running late. Which meant he was only five minutes ahead of schedule. Late or early, it didn’t matter. If he wasn’t exactly where his daily schedule told him he was supposed to be, a deep-seated feeling of dread filled him. That’s what came from being raised in a military family.

He closed the spreadsheet he’d taken home from work, and pushed back from his desk. The clock on the wall above his workstation said 11:35. He checked his watch. 11:35. Yep, five minutes early. That gave him time to pop into the bathroom of his swanky, Paradise Space Flight-issued apartment to switch out his glasses for contacts. In theory, he could go around with his glasses and no one would think anything of it. It wasn’t like his father would find out. But he’d rather not risk it.

As soon as his eyeballs were taken care of, he headed across the apartment to the door, picking up his phone from where it was charging on an end table by the sofa and his wallet beside it. He tucked the wallet in his back pocket, and checked the phone. 11:37. He checked his watch to be sure everything was coordinated. Good. Perfect. Let others laugh at him, but there was something about keeping to a schedule, staying on course, that filled Will with contentment. It was why he had chosen to work for Paradise Space Flight in the first place. The company was new, innovative, and miles away from the distracting chaos of big cities and government bureaucracy. NASA might have been more prestigious, as his dad was constantly, constantly reminding him, but PSF was focused. It was comfortable.

So was his apartment. Another awesome perk of working for Howie Haskell. Like most of the rest of the young, single engineers and scientists who had come to Wyoming to build the space flight company from the ground up, Will had taken advantage of the special employee housing. His apartment stood in the center of town, on the third floor above a clothing boutique. It was newly renovated and ran on renewable energy sources. But what Will loved most about it was the clean, streamlined design. He headed out the door, locking it with the fancy, high-security, electronic key all of the apartments had, and made his way down the airy, white-painted stairway to the ground floor and the front door. Even though the building had been constructed in the nineteenth century, it wasn’t frilly and crowded. It got the job done, and that’s all he had ever asked of anything.

“Hey, Will.”

Will glanced up as he stepped out into the balmy, spring air and found his team member, Laura Kincade, waving to him from across the street.

“Laura.” He waved back with a nod, lips twitching to what, for him, counted as a smile.

“Are you heading over to PSF for the big luncheon?”

“In a minute,” he called back to her, then nodded to the General Store one building over from his. “I need to pick up a few things first.” He didn’t really want to have a shouted conversation across a street packed with pedestrians, but it was Laura, so he’d make an exception. Besides, everyone looked as though they were heading up the street toward the PSF building instead of browsing through the shops anyhow.

“Okay,” Laura called back with another wave. “I’ll save you a seat.”

“Thanks.” He raised his hand in goodbye, then strode a few yards down to the General Store’s entrance. The advantage of being slightly ahead of schedule, he guessed, was that he could take time to interact with his friends without tensing up. Although, if he was keeping track, he’d been much less tense since moving to Haskell than he’d been for most of his life.

The General Store was another part of the reason he loved his new hometown. It was the perfect size for dropping in to pick up a few essentials in a hurry. On top of that, whoever had built it had a keen eye for ergonomics. He could make one efficient pass from the toiletries section where he picked up shaving gel—which he would need in exactly two days—to the stationary section for pens—because he was not one of those people who took pens from the office to use at home like they were perks of the job—to the snack food section for a large bag of unsalted nuts—because you had to live a little sometimes.

Yep. Everything was just where it needed to be. Everything was in precise order. Everything was—

“Whoops!”

He rounded the corner and nearly crashed right into a splash of color and brightness and wild blond curls. His heart thumped against his ribs, like someone was punching him from the inside, and his groin tightened.

“Sorry.” Melody Clutterbuck laughed as she made her apology. Her blue eyes sparkled with happiness and light. She wore a long wrap-around skirt printed with an Indian pattern and a white peasant blouse decorated with embroidery that matched the colors in her skirt. Her arms were filled with items from around the store, otherwise Will would have had a big glimpse of the creamy skin of her shoulders and chest.

It took his brain far too long to catch up enough to say, “No, I’m sorry. I should have looked where I was going.”

“You always look where you’re going.” She continued to smile as they headed to the counter at the front of the store. “I’m the one who was floating around like a leaf on the wind.”

Prickles of pleasure filled Will at the image. Melody was a leaf on the wind. He’d seen that the first time he met her, at the winter mixer Howie had held for his employees and the citizens of Haskell after Christmas. She’d been there with a group of her friends, looking just as amazing as she did now. His friends talked about that event as the day his supervisor, Scott Martin, had met the girl he was now engaged to, Casey Flint, but secretly, Will marked it as the night Melody had blown into his world.

He blinked himself out of thoughts that were, frankly, disturbing. He had a schedule to stick to, a routine. “Why don’t you have a basket?” He lifted his own blue plastic shopping basket.

Melody giggled, her face going pink. “I didn’t realize I was going to need one.”

They reached the register, and she spilled her purchases across the counter. Will did a double-take, brow sinking into a frown of confusion. Baby oil, sandpaper, latex gloves, and an enema.

“Hey Bernie,” Melody greeted the cashier, an white-haired guy who Will figured had been working there forever.

“Hey, Melody,” Bernie answered. “This everything?”

“Oh! I’ll take one of these too,” Melody added, face growing even pinker and her giggle more pronounced as she plucked a small jar of cherry lip balm from a display and popped it on the counter.

Will’s blood rushed to all the wrong places. Cherry lip balm? Baby oil? An enema? Why, why, why did that selection of items turn him on? And sandpaper? He swallowed hard, trying to rein in his imagination, and ran a hand over the bottom half of his face.

 

So are you ready to read? Chaos Theory is currently available at Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble, and will be up on Google Play (as soon as they process it).