Tag: Victoria Bylin

Birthday Traditions

My birthday was last week.  I’m floating in Starbuck’s gift cards (hooray!) and the UPS guy will be delivering Amazon boxes for many weeks to come.  My family knows me–Starbuck’s and Amazon are my two favorite things and I like gift cards. Add in Half Price Books and I’m all set for a while. .

My family is pretty low key with birthdays. There’s an unofficial seven-day grace period for late cards, and we get together for cake on whatever day we can all manage.  This year I found myself wondering about some of these traditions.

The Happy Birthday Song–The tune was written in 1893 by two sisters–Mildred J. Hill and Patty Smith Hill. It was originally published in a book called Song Stories for the Kindergarten and was called “The Good Morning Song.” The original lyrics were “Good Morning to All . . .” These lyrics morphed into “Good Morning To You” and then to the birthday tune we all know.

Birthday Cakes–Birthday cakes go back to ancient Greece, but no butter cream roses! The Greeks celebrated with honey cakes or bread baked. So did the ancient Romans. The custom continued into the middle ages, particularly in Germany and England. In England, cakes were baked with small objects inside–things like coins and thimbles. The coin was considered lucky and a sign of future wealth. The thimble? Not so good . . . whoever found the thimble was destined to never marry. (I have to wonder how many people choked on coins and thimbles…)

Birthday candles–The Greeks decorated moon-shaped cakes with candles. It was believed the smoke carried messages to the god named Artemis. In Germany in the middle ages, the candle custom shifted a bit. Instead of many candles, one big candle stood in the center of the cake. It was marked with the years 1-12 to signify a child growing up, and the candle was saved and used every year.

That’s a lot nicer than the standard gag in our household . . . You know those candles that reignite after you blow them out?  You might get a whole cake covered with them, or there might be one or two mixed in with the regular candles. On top of the “eternal flame” motif, someone is usually ready to make a joke about the number of candles and the need for a fire extinguisher.

Birthday cards–If your family is like mine, it’s spread all over the country.  Cards and phone calls are as much a part of a birthday celebration as cake and candles. Greeting cards have a long history, but cards similar to the ones we know today were first produced in the 1870s by a German immigrant named Louis Prang. The industry started with Christmas cards, endured a slump in the 1880s and 1890s, and came back at the turn of the century.  Color was introduced to the printing process in the 1930s, and the “humor” angle became popular in the 1950s.

Who’s up for cyber cake and ice cream? What family traditions do you have?  What’s your best birthday ever?  Or the funniest? 

Vicki’s western romances are available at Amazon.

Rescuing Retired Racehorses

My husband and I live in Lexington, Kentucky–the Thoroughbred Capital of the World. You can’t drive down the street without seeing horses grazing in the bluegrass, or noticing a statue of a horse posed on a street corner. We’re particularly blessed to live next to a farm for retired thoroughbreds. These beautiful animals routinely come to our back fence for carrots and peppermints–an event that sends are little dog into raptures of joy. 

I didn’t realize it until we moved here, but there’s a sad side to the world of horseracing. When a horse says goodbye to its glory days, where does it go? Not all of them are big winners and famous like Secretariat. Some are mid-listers. They have some success but not enough to guarantee a plush retirement.

Then there’s the story of Ferdinand, the winner of the 1986 Kentucky Derby.  By all rights, Ferdinand was a success. He won close to $4 million and was the 1987 Eclipse Horse of the Year. He was retired to stud in 1989, sold to a breeding farm in Japan in 1994 and sadly met his end in a slaughterhouse in 2002. Not a very noble end for a horse with the heart of a champion, but Ferdinand’s demise led to the formation of Old Friends, a thoroughbred rescue program started in 2002. 

Old Friends is in Georgetown, Kentucky and  just up the road from where I live. It’s the only thoroughbred rescue operation that accepts stallions, and it’s supported solely by donations. The rescue farm behind my house belongs to a different organization, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation,  but the principles are the same. These amazing athletes are retired with dignity.  Some live out their days peacefully; others (though not many because of injuries) are retrained and adopted out to new owners.

I often see dog adoptions on facebook, and they always tug on the old heartstrings. Our little dog is a “rescue,” and I sometimes wonder if that’s why he goes so crazy for the horses. It’s like he’s saying, “Home! Home!  We have homes!”  He might also be saying, “Hey, I’ll get my mom.  She has carrots in the fridge.”

These thoroughbreds have truly inspired me. In “Josie’s Wedding Dress”, my novella in the  Brides of the West anthology, Ty Donner comes home to from prison to discover Josie Bright still owns Smoke, his beloved mustang stallion. In one of the final scenes, Ty and Smoke ride like the wind in a race for their lives. As I wrote that scene, I had my next door neighbors clearly in mind.

Here Come The Brides – Marriage of Convenience

Romance. Weddings. June has got it all. And as we kick off our special event week here at the Junction, we’d like to invite you to join us for some Filly wedding excerpts. No two weddings are alike, so all this week we will be featuring different themes. Vicki and I will start the ball rolling with two marriage of convenience scenes. One from Short-Straw Bride and the other from Marrying the Major.

Vicki and I will also be drawing winners from those who comment. So tell us something about your own wedding or one you attended to be entered to win a copy of either Short-Straw Bride or Marrying the Major!

Excerpt 1 – Short-Straw Bride

“It’s not too late to change your mind, you know.” Meredith’s husky whisper met Travis’s ears before he’d fully turned.

A gallant denial sprang to his lips, but the moment he saw her, his ability to speak vanished. She was a vision. Her honey-colored hair rolled against her head in thick, soft twists accented by loops of blue ribbon with long tails that draped along the side of her neck. His fingers itched to follow the trail of those ribbons, to brush the tender skin at her nape.

Her lashes were lowered, and he wondered at her shyness until he recalled that he hadn’t answered her comment. “Meri, look at me,” he murmured in a quiet tone that no one would overhear.

Those thick, dark lashes lifted slowly, and the blue of her eyes, made even more vibrant by the blue of her dress, pierced his heart. Her teeth nibbled her bottom lip as she forced her gaze to hold his.

“I’ll not be changing my mind.”

Her shoulders relaxed and a tentative smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. His own mouth curved in response. Then he remembered the awkward bouquet he’d brought. Feeling a little sheepish, he raised his arm and held it out to her.

“It’s not much, but I thought you might like them.”

Her breath caught and for a moment she did nothing but stare at the rustic offering. Unable to see her eyes, Travis’s doubts grew. “I know they’re just a bunch of weeds, so don’t feel like you have to carry them. It was probably a stupid idea anyway.” As his mumbled excuses tapered off, Meredith’s head snapped up.

“Don’t you dare call them weeds, Travis Archer. They’re glorious!” Her eyes glistened with a moisture he didn’t understand. “No bride could have a more beautiful bouquet. Thank you.”

The softness of her palm caressed his knuckles as her hand circled the stems, and the contact had an odd tightening effect on his chest. He offered her his arm and led her over to the parson.

To be honest, Travis didn’t remember much of what the preacher said during the brief ceremony. He supposed he answered at the appropriate times and vaguely recalled Meredith doing the same, but when the parson announced that he could kiss the bride, his senses came on high alert.

How did one kiss a bride he’d never expected to have, one he’d known less than a week? Thinking to buss her chastely on the cheek, he leaned forward. But somehow his mouth found her lips instead. The kiss was brief, gentle, but exquisitely sweet. If not for the hoot Neill let out, he would have returned for another.

A pretty blush colored Meredith’s face as she turned away to accept her cousin’s congratulations, and Travis had to fight the urge to swagger when he approached his brothers.

Excerpt 2 – Marrying the Major

Here comes the bride from Marrying the Major . . . Some of you will recognize Caroline Bradley. I just loved giving her a happy ending.  Caroline is a young widow who accepts a position as a governness because it’s the only way she can be part of a family. When a threat puts  the children in her care in danger, she makes a startling offer to her employer. A retired British army officer, Tristan Willoughby Smith is the third son of a duke, fighting malaria and raising horses in Wyoming. In the following scene, Caroline has just offered to marry him as a way to help protect the children from his evil father . . .

  “It’s a generous offer,” Tristan said to Caroline. “But I can’t take advantage of your good will.”

            “Why not?”

            He didn’t want admit to his potential feelings, but the possibility of affection, or the lack of it, had to be addressed. “You’ve been married before. I presume you loved your husband just as I loved Molly. A marriage in name only strikes me as . . . inadequate.”

            She stood straighter. “Women marry for all sorts of reasons.”

            “Of course.” In England men and women alike married for money and prestige. In America, women married for survival. He’d seen the advertisements for mail-order brides in cheaply bound catalogs. Those creatures struck him as pitiful. Caroline struck him as remarkable. He didn’t intend to accept her offer to marry him, but he wanted to know why she had made it. “If you’ll forgive my boldness, why would you settle for an arrangement of this nature?”

            Color stained her cheeks. “That should be obvious.”

            “It’s not.” At least not to him.

            She held out her arms in a manner that put her life on display. “Look at me, major. I’m almost thirty years old. It’s true I’m widowed, but my marriage was clandestine. In the eyes of society I’m on the shelf. I have no children, no family except for Bessie. My prospects for marriage are nil.”

            He couldn’t believe she thought so little of herself. “That’s simply not true.”

            “Forgive me,” she said with a touch of sarcasm. “But you’re either blind or an incurable optimist.”

            His gaze flicked from her face to her curves and back again. How this woman could believe she had no hope for a husband was beyond him. She was lovely, smart, brave and kind. She wasn’t a naïve girl anymore, but that hardly mattered to a mature man. Tristan preferred a woman whose character had been tested, someone who understood that life had ups and downs. He looked boldly into her eyes. “I assure you, Caroline. I’m not blind . . .”

If you’d like to read more about Caroline’s walk down the aisle, Marrying the Major is available on Amazon . . . I hope you all enjoy the story.

 

Rabbit Tales Redux

Vicki LogoThis little story may be familiar to some of our long time followers. It was first posted in June 2009 and I planned to keep going with it, but life intervened. I’ve got a deadline for a proposal, so I asked Miss Rabbit (you’ll meet her in a minute) to fill in for me today.  Here we go!

 

Writers have different ways of describing their muses. The muse is where we get our ideas, the part of us that comes up with the stuff that makes a story personal and fresh.  My muse happens to be a five-year-old girl with a purple crayon. When I’m starting a new manuscript (which I am now), I picture her doing what I did when I was five years old. With that purple crayon in hand, I stood on my bed and drew elephants on the wall. purple-crayon

 

It was great fun until my dad walked in.

 

“What are you doing?” he said in his “dad” voice.”

I told him I was drawing elephants.  Looking back, I’m sure had the tone only a five year old can get, the tone that says, “Can’t you see what I’m doing?”  

He probably couldn’t. My elephants were a tad bit primitive. They were also HUGE, and there were lots of them. I covered the entire wall and I did it with glee. That weekend my dad painted the wall pink again. 

Away wpurple-elephantent my elephants, but that little girl with the purple crayon lives on. I think of her every time I start a new manuscript. She didn’t overanalyze or plan a perfect drawing. She didn’t think about how to draw an elephant. She saw purple elephants and she drew them with all the joy in her heart.

 In her honor, I’m going to have a little fun today. The following story is an exercise I do to get out of “editing mode” and into “creative mode.”  It’s a children’s story.  Our heroine is Miss Rabbit.  She owns a cowgirl hat with holes for her ears, she likes glitter and her favorite color is pink. She writes cowboy stories and has a whole bunch of forest friends. Here we go . . .

 

 big-flop-eared-rabbit

Miss Rabbit Rides Again

      “Oh, no!” said Miss Rabbit. “What am I going to do?”

      “What’s the matter?” asked Gertie Goose, her very best friend.

      “I need a cowboy!” Miss Rabbit raised her front paws in exasperation. “And I need him right now!”

      “A cowboy?” Gertie squawked. “Why do you need a cowboy?”

      “For a hero, silly!”

      “I’m not silly!”gertie

      “Yes, you are,” Miss Rabbit insisted. “You’re a goose, and gooses are silly. I’m a rabbit, and we’re very busy. We hop and we bounce and we have our very own holiday. We also write books about cowboys and princesses, and that’s why I need a cowboy right now!

      Gertie twisted her long white neck. “But why?”

      “Because I have a deadline!” shrieked Miss Rabbit. 

      In a slightly calmer tone, Miss Rabbit told Gertie that Emily the Editor had asked her for a brand new story. Emily, a sleek and beautiful ermine from New York City, wanted another cowboy story and she wanted it soon. “That’s why I need a cowboy,” Miss Rabbit finished. “I just don’t know where to find one.”

      Gertie huffed like only a goose can huff. It came out in a honk worthy of a taxicab. “If you need a cowboy,” said Gertie, “we better go lookin’ for one.”

      “But where?” Miss Rabbit asked.

       “I know just the place!” Gertie winked. “Follow me!”

      Waddling on her huge orange feet (Gertie couldn’t wear high heels but she wished she could), she headed for the door to Miss Rabbit’s hutch.

      “Wait!” Miss Rabbit cried. “I have to put on my cowgirl writer outfit!”

pink-cowgirl-hat

      Gertie looked over her feathered shoulder and huffed. “And what might that be?”

      Miss Rabbit hopped to her old Victorian wardrobe. She’d bought it at a yard sale and it held her best writer outfits. Some days she bear2wore a feather boa and diamonds. Other days she wore her official Super Writer costume, a stunning combo of mismatched pajamas and a tiara. Today she needed something different, so she selected her red cowgirl boots, a black miniskirt with sequins, and a white leather vest with fringe and silver stars. She topped off the outfit with her pink Stetson and hopped after Gertie.

      “Where are we going?” Miss Rabbit asked.

     “To Dry Gulch Springs.”

      “Are there cowboys in Dry Gulch Springs?” Miss Rabbit decided not to point out to Gertie that “Dry Gulch Springs” was a silly name. How could a dry gulch have springs? If it had a spring, it wouldn’t be dry. She’d edit it later.

      “Oh yes!” said Gertie. “There are all sorts of manlywolf-sketch critters in Dry Gulch Springs.” She lifted her wing and counted off on her feathers. “Bart the Bear is the sheriff. He’s handsome with a chip on his shoulder.” She bent another feather. “Wyatt Wolf is wanted for murder, but he didn’t do it.” Gertie winked. “He’s tortured. You’ll like him.”

      Miss Rabbit thought so, too. Then again, she was a little tired of tortured heroes. Her last one drove her nuts. She’d almost let the bad guys lynch him. “Who else?” she asked. racoon

      Gertie made a humming sound. “Let’s see . . . There’s Rancher Rick the Raccoon. He’s got two black eyes and you can only imagine how he got them!”

      Miss Rabbit’s mind took off. Was he protecting the heroine? Or maybe he just liked to fight. “How did he get them?”

      “He’ll have to tell you,” Gertie replied, sounding smug.  “Mostly I want you to meet Big Buck.” 
     “Who’s Big Buck?”

      Gertie
nearly swooned. “Everyone knows Buck. He’s the king of the forest and he has a rack of antlers–” She spread her wings as far as they could reach– “Out. To. Here.”big-buck

 

      Miss Rabbit’s heart went pitter pat. Big antlers were a plus when it came to manly heroes. So were broad chests and wide shoulders, big brown eyes and muscular thighs. Oops. She forgot. Se writes inspirational now. She wouldn’t skip the muscular thighs. What’s a romance without that magic of attraction? But she wouldn’t dwell on them either.

      “Is he handsome?” she asked.

      “You bet!” Gertie winked at her. “Best of all, Buck’s got a story to tell you won’t believe . . .”

And so it goes . . . I’m not sure who Miss Rabbit will pick for the hero in her next book, but it’s fun to let her play. How about you?  Did you ever draw purple elephants on a wall? Or maybe you’ve had to paint a wall because someone else went nuts with a crayon?  My oldest son turned the flowered wall paper in his bedroom into a race track.  We never did get it all off!  

 

Working (And Laughing) With A Critique Partner

This post is for anyone who loves languarge–readers and writers alike. It’s also for anyone who’s jumped from the frying pan into the fire.  This  past year, I decided to stretch my wings with a completely new project. In addition to writing the proverbial “book of my heart” aka BOMH,  I started working with a critique partner. I’ve written fourteen books for Harlequin Historical and Love Inspired Historical, but I’ve always worked alone.

I thought I was an experienced writer.

I thought I knew how to plot a story.

I thought I had a good ear for language.

Oh. My. Goodness. When I finished the first draft of the BOMH, I shared a chapter with my best friend, an award winning author who really knows her stuff.  She had a few ideas.  Actually, more than a few. Every one of those ideas–from word choice to plot shifts–proved to be valuable.

I didn’t realize it, but I’d fallen into a rut. Mentally I had incorporated every writing rule I’ve ever read, and that obedience had limited my voice. As we worked on that first chapter, I realized that my sentences lacked variety, and my diction wasn’t as precise as I thought.  Adverbs? Nope. G.O.N.E.. But there were places were an adverb would have been stunningly useful. Use a semi-colon?  Maybe, but aren’t they considered distracting?  Not always. Sometimes they’re the perfect link between two ideas. (I used one somewhere in the blog. Can you find it?)

My CP and I have a lot of fun when we do a phone edit.  She’s big on strong verbs.  So am I, but my writing style is simpler. We had a good time playing with synonyms for “to walk.” This verb is particularly synonym-challenged. How many ways can you describe a person walking?  Here’s where my mind went in a moment of hair-pulling insanity:

            Annoyed, he walked to the sliding glass door and looked out.

            Annoyed, he scampered to the sliding glass door and looked out.

            Annoyed, he marched to the sliding glass door…

            Annoyed, he did the cha-cha to the sliding glass door . . .

            Annoyed, he sidled to the sliding glass door …

            Annoyed, he crawled to the sliding glass door …

            Annoyed, he bunny-hopped to the sliding glass door …

            Annoyed, he kicked like a Rockette to the sliding glass door …

            Annoyed, he said, “Forget it! I’m not getting off the couch!

My hero told me in no uncertain terms that if he wanted to walk, he’d walk. No way would he march, pace, amble, shamble, shuffle, waddle, toddle or kick like a Rockette.  He did consent to stride, but only after I convinced him I hadn’t used that word in the past two chapters.  At least he got off the couch! Now on to that happy ending . . .

 

Brides of the West is currently available at Amazon

What Are You Reading Right Now?

I’m smack in the middle of a deadline race, so this blog is going to be on the short side. And it’s going to be about what we all love–books, reading and romance. Leave a comment, and I’ll add your name to the hat for a drawing for a copy of “Brides of the West,” the April “spring wedding” anthology from Love Inspired Historicals. I’m in it with Janet Dean and Pamela Nissen.

Let’s get started:

Question: What are you reading right now? I just finished this month’s selection for the Flippin’ Pages Book Club. It’s called “Beaded Hope” and is about a group of women who travel to Africa on a mission trip to assist women with AIDS.  Thoroughly enjoyed the story. It’s women’s fiction rather than romance, but the story tugged at every heartstring.  It’s easy to take life for granted until you read about people coping with serious illness.

I also just finished a Kindle freebie about the Titanic:  Lifeboat 8: The Untold Story.  The tale of that great ship is always compelling. Hubris and heroism are an interesting mix. 

What about you? What’s are you reading at the moment?

Question: Kindle / Nook Time. What’s the last book you bought or downloaded?  I recently cleaned up on Filly freebies. I downloaded books by Margaret Brownley and Mary Connealy / Mary Nealy.  When I finish the current ms, guess what I’m going to do for two solid weeks?  I’m going to read nonstop. A blanket on the grass in the sun sounds really nice after months cooped up in the office.

What about you? What’s the latest book you purchased or downloaded?

Question:  What’s your all time favorite western romance?  It’s funny how a particular book will stay with you forever. For me, it’s The Outsider  by Penelope Williamson. I read it when it first came out, 1997 or so, and I still think back to the story and how it inspired me.  After all this time, it’s still my No. 1 favorite.

What about you? What’s your favorite western romance?

Leave a comment and I’ll add your name to the hat for the drawing. Now back to it . . . I’m on the very last chapter of the new ms. This is my favorite part of the whole process. Can’t wait to type “The End!”

Brides of the West . . . Available now at Amazon!

My Love-Hate Relationship with Zombies & American Idol

Halfway through this blog, it occured to me that I should have written about my current release. I have a novella in Brides of the West, the April anthology from Love Inspired Historical. You can check out the excerpt here.  I promise you, it’s not about zombies. But it does have a few hooks a la American Idol.

____________________________

This is an odd topic for a blog focused on western romance, but hang in there with me.  Thanks to my sister-in-law, I recently got hooked on AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” In case you haven’t seen it, it’s about a group of people fighting to survive in a world taken over by zombies aka “walkers.”

I am NOT a zombie fan. They gross me out. Totally. But I’ve got to say, this show hooked me.  And it hooked me because it has good guys and bad guys, moral questions and a lawman hero. The Walking Dead  isn’t a western, but it feels like one. The leader of the group, Rick, swaggers like a marshal in the Old West. He’s an alpha take-charge kind of guy. When hard decisions have to be made, he makes them. He also loves his wife and son, though I’ve got to say, she’s a piece of work.

So we have a western style hero fighting zombies . . . .  Maybe I’m just hungry for a good western on television and seeing what I want to see.

But there’s more. The survivors have taken refuge on a farm. Every day they fight for survival like Old West pioneers. Threats abound, but they keep going. Even when things get rough, these people fight for each other. They fight with each other, too. This show has tons of personal drama. That’s one of things that kept me tuning in each week: the choices between “me” and “group,” or “me” and “other.”

I love westerns, but I don’t quite get the zombie thing.  I definitely don’t like to be scared, and this show can be a nail biter.

Okay, I need a transition between zombies and American Idol . . . How about this: Both shows are nail biters? I know there’s a zombie joke to be made but I can’t bring myself to make it. I started watching American Idol in Season Three, and I blame Bo Bice for what turned into an addiction. It’s just plain fun to watch this show.

There aren’t any obvious ties to western romance, but there’s a big tie between Idol and writing. Talk about hooks!  Every week  I tune in to see who’s going to be eliminated. Every performance is a question: Will the singer “blow it out of the box ” or hear “dude, it wasn’t great.  Idol is one big hook, and I’m caught.

So what about you?  Which TV shows have you hooked? I hear Once Upon a Time is good.  Have you found anything with a western flavor?  Maybe an actor who should star in a western?  Or how about Idol?  I like Jessica and Phillip, but I’ve been known to change my mind as the season moves on.

Brides of the West: Something Old, Something New

That’s the theme for the upcoming Love Inspired Historical spring wedding anthology, Brides of the West.  It won’t be out until April, but my author copies arrived in a nice big box. Time for a giveaway!  Leave a comment and I’ll toss your name in the Stetson–a white one to honor weddings.  Sometime tonight I’ll pull out two names and post the winners.

I’m delighted to be sharing the antho with two wonderful LIH authors, Janet Dean and Pamela Nissen.

Here’s our back cover copy:

Josie’s Wedding Dress by Victoria Bylin

Desperate for someone to help her save her ranch, Josie Bright makes a deal with Ty Donner. Now the man who left her waiting at the altar is making her hope for things she had long stopped wishing for.

Last Minute Bride by Janet Dean

Elise Langley was stung to the quick when her would-be suitor suddenly left town. But when David Wellman returns and they are thrown together organizing their friends’ wedding, can she open her heart again.

Her Ideal Husband by Pamela Nissen

As a girl, Lydia Townsend hoped to marry Jebediah Gentry–until his rejection spoiled her dreams. When family duty brings her home, it’s Jeb’s chance to show Lydia that now is the time for wedding dreams to come true.

Now here’s an excerpt from Josie’s Wedding Dress. It’s taken from the middle of the first scene. We’re in a church cemetery and in Ty’s point of view as he faces the woman he left at the altar…

 EXCERPT

The buggy halted, then creaked as the female climbed down. With his neck bent, Ty listened to the squeak of the gate as she opened it. He tried to follow her movements, but the grass muted her steps. He listened for the rustle of her skirt but heard nothing. Frozen and alert, he thought of the years he’d waited in a prison cell. He’d learned to be patient. He could be patient now. He wouldn’t budge until the woman went on her way. He thought of the graves he’d seen. Was she visiting the small one that belonged to a child? A newer one with a name he didn’t recognize?

A rose-like fragrance drifted on the air, becoming stronger as the woman approached. Josie liked fancy soaps. She also liked roses. A soft gasp confirmed his deepest fear. This woman knew him. This woman was Josie.

“Ty? is that you?”

He turned enough to see the hem of her skirt. It took him back to the day before the wedding and the banter about “something borrowed, something blue.” She’d whispered in his ear about a blue garter, and he’d loved her more than ever. Now he looked up slowly, taking in the hard line of her mouth. Gone was the cheerful girl who’d teased him with mischievous smiles. In her place he saw a woman burdened by life. Her eyes were still turquoise and her chestnut hair gleamed under a straw bonnet, but she’d lost her sparkle.

Ty had come home for this very moment, yet he felt unprepared as he matched her gaze. Instead of the words he’d practiced, he stared into her eyes, feasting on the past until he found his tongue. “Hello, Josie,” he said in a drawl. “I’m hoping we can talk.”

 Don’t forget to leave a comment to be eligible for the drawing.  For fun, let’s share our favorite wedding memories.  What made you smile or laugh?  Or do you tear up like I do?  My favorite part of any wedding is when the bride and groom exchange their vows.    

My Kindle and Me: Our One-Year Anniversary

I’ve owned my Kindle for just over a year now. I use it every day, though not quite like I expected when I found it under the Christmas tree.  I thought I’d buy lots of ebooks, and that my paperback shelves would be a thing of the past.  I’m sure my husband had that thought when he bought it for me. When we moved from Virginia to Kentucky, he loaded dozens of heavy boxes of books into the storage pod. By volume, the only thing outnumbering my book-boxes were the Christmas decorations.  By weight, the books won.

The Kindle was supposed to eliminate some of those books, but it hasn’t. Six months into owning it, I gravitated to buying paper again because I like to loan books.  I know you can loan Kindle-to-Kindle, but that’s not same as just handing someone a book and saying, “Here, take your time.”

Here’s what most surprises me . . . About 80% of the stuff on my Kindle consists of freebies.  I check out the Amazon giveaways almost every day, and definitely at the first of the month. I’ve downloaded tried-and-true authors, new-to-me authors, and self published authors.  Most recently I started reading a history of Alcatraz Island.  What a wild place!  I also read Water for Elephants, a book I’ve wanted to read for ages but  just never did.  Then there’s the Young Adult fiction that got my attention.  What fun to revisit the past with stories about girls and horses!

Those freebies have a strong appeal. I can’t say I’m as enamored with the price of regular ebooks. There are bargains to be had, but I get a little miffed when a bestseller in e-format costs almost as much as a hardcover at Sam’s Club. I thought ebooks were supposed to cost less…maybe not. The market’s still finding its footing.

Here’s another cool Kindle feature: I’ve used it to store and read unpublished mss, both my own and those from fellow authors. It’s handy for the last read-through. Typos show up, especially missing words. I tend to miss that stuff on the computer screen.

Right now, I have 105 items on my Kindle organized in Collections labeled: Historical Romance, Contemporary Romance, Mainstream, Series, YA, Non Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Classics, Reference, Book Club, and Hubby’s Books.  The romance categories have the most titles, of course. And that number is growing . . . One-click shopping is the easiest thing in the world.  

I also have a couple of games. Is anyone else hooked on Every Word?  My high score playing the timed version is 34,930. Just 70 points shy of 35K!  I like Scrabble, too.

Anyone else have thoughts on e-readers? Kindle vs. Nook?  They’re here to stay for sure.  

 

The Women of Swan’s Nest Series…Available in the Amazon Kindle store…

Christmas Cookies and Changed Lives

Have you ever been to a cookie exchange? I went to my first one last Sunday and had a blast. All those treats!  Even better, the exchange was part of a bigger program. The Women’s Ministry at Centerpointe Christian Church here in Lexington used their December event to support a ministry called the Refuge for Women. The Refuge is a safe place for women who want to leave the adult entertainment industry. It’s an awesome program and one that is much needed. Yesterday’s event was a combination of education for those of us attending, gift giving to the women and children at the Refuge, and . . . cookies.

I’ll get to the cookies, but they weren’t the best part of the day.  The best part was seeing changed lives. As the women spoke, I thought of the Old West, brothels and how few choices women had then and sometimes even now. Today we have many more options, but once a person goes down a rabbit hole of abuse, drugs and the allure of quick money, it’s as hard to get out as it was for a woman in the Old West who found herself alone and in need for whatever reason.

The subject’s been on my mind a lot lately.  My current project has an 1894 story line about a crusading young woman from Indiana who goes to Cheyenne, Wyoming to teach school. Her story isn’t pretty. The handsome outlaw she meets is alluring but not hero material. Not at all. She goes down that rabbit hole of abuse and is afraid to go home. She’s about as low as a woman can go when her father comes to her rescue. Things turn around for her, just as they are turning for the women at the Refuge. It was pure joy to share the holiday with a mom recently reunited with her son and another woman thriving in a new career. It was sweet indeed . . .

Which leads me to the cookies! There must have been 50 different kinds, everything from decorated sugar cookies to ooey-gooey concoctions of pecans, caramel, peanut butter, coconut and every other ingredient in the baking aisle at the grocery store. The cutest were the reindeer cookies. I brought Christmas Tree Spritz. They’re super easy. I had planned to bring something else, but I’ve been in the hurt locker with a tooth problem. If it weren’t for the tooth (which included a trip to the ER for pain meds and an antibiotic shot), I would have made “Nana Bylin’s Almond Crescents.”  Just for fun here are the recipes for both.

Super Quick Spritz Cookies

  • 1 lb. butter or margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 2-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4-1/2 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar.  Add beaten eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add flour.  Use a small cookie press on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes or until bottoms are just slightly brown. Makes about 10 dozen little cookies

Nana Bylin’s Almond Crescents

  • 1 lb. butter or margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 lb. raw almonds, ground fine in a food processor or blender
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Cream butter and sugar. Add almonds and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour. Shape into small crescents, about 2 inches long. Bake at 300 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar. Makes about 8 dozen cookies.

Merry Christmas to all! I hope your holidays are filled with bright lights, beautiful music, reindeer on your roof, cookies, love and good cheer.