Lilac Bride Sale

 

I don’t know about you, but I love it when the lilacs bloom. I mean, really LOVE it!

The flowers, from the deep purples, to the creamiest whites, make me so happy. They make me think of spring, and bring to mind memories of picking them for my mom for Mother’s Day, and gathering them from my grandpa’s garden.

Their scent isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I find that fragrance to be glorious.

A few years ago, I wrote a story about a bride-to-be who wanted a spring wedding filled with lilacs in memory of her mother.

 

Then it seemed like nature and everything else conspired against her getting the wedding of her dreams.

Just when it looks like it will all fall apart, some meddling octogenarians (like fairy godmothers who need cholesterol meds and Aspercreme) come to the rescue.

For a limited time, you can get Lilac Bride for just 99 cents. If you haven’t read it yet, I hope you’ll give it a whirl!

When wedding plans go awry, wily matchmakers come to the rescue . . .

Katherine Kelly has been dreaming of her wedding since she was old enough to cut pictures out of magazines and glue them into her bridal binder. When Kaden, the handsome cowboy who holds her heart, proposes on a snowy Christmas Eve, she couldn’t envision anything more perfect or romantic. The spring date is set, all the nuptial details have been meticulously arranged, and she only has six weeks to go before the big day. Then, in a blink, her carefully formed plans begin to rapidly unravel. A freak snowstorm, rampaging rodents, and a lost wedding gown are only the beginning of the troubles they face.

Cowboy entrepreneur Kaden Ford still can’t quite believe Katherine Kelly agreed to marry him. She’s beautiful, elegant, intelligent, and the woman who fills his heart with joy. He doesn’t care if they get married in a cathedral or a cabin in the woods. All he wants is to spend his life loving Kat. But when faced with one overwhelming challenge after another, will love be enough to hold them together?

Find out in this sweet, charming, small-town romance full of laughter, love, and scheming octogenarian matchmakers.

What is your favorite flower fragrance?

Dreams of Love Unfurling Tomorrow

 

 

I’m excited to share a brand new series with you that will start releasing tomorrow!

Three sweet and wholesome historical novellas are set in my fictional town of Holiday.  If you haven’t read any of my other Holiday stories, start with Holiday Hope, which is the story of Jace and Cora Lee Coleman and the beginning of Holiday. After that check out Henley, and then you’ll be ready for this new series.

 

Each book can be read as a standalone, but it’s fun to read about the characters you meet in other books too.

DREAMS OF LOVE

 Release Date: March 21

Will dreams of love lead to an unexpected future?

Weathered from too many years of apprehending outlaws, Marshal Dillon Durant is resigned to a life of solitude. The small community of Holiday, Oregon, offers the opportunity for him to build lasting friendships while discovering a sense of belonging. Then he encounters an exasperatingly beautiful woman attempting to break into the local school, leaving him to contemplate the possibility of a new chapter in his life.

Desperate to escape the arranged marriage her father is attempting to foist upon her, Zara Wynn accepts a job as a schoolteacher in Holiday. Intent on a fresh start, she doesn’t want anyone to discover she’s a runaway bride. But concealing her past proves difficult, especially when the astute and handsome Marshal Durant captures her heart.

When her father and fiancé find her, will Zara be forced to abandon her dreams of love? Or will Dillon make them come true?

Amazon

DREAMS WITH FAITH

 Release Date: March 28

Can faith conquer their fears?

John Ryan is committed to his role as pastor in the quaint town of Holiday, Oregon. He values each member of his congregation, and aims to lead by example. However, his resolve is tested when a free-spirited woman arrives in town. John struggles with his growing attraction to her, determined to keep it from distracting him from his calling.

Following a devastating tragedy that leaves her isolated and shattered, Keeva Holt is eager for a new beginning. In need of consolation and clarity, she decides to seek refuge with her brother in Holiday. As she navigates through her grief and attempts to find direction for her future, Keeva’s vibrant spirit and exuberance challenge those around her, including the reserved Pastor Ryan. While logic tells her that John is beyond her reach, her heart urges her to pursue her dreams and embrace the possibilities of tomorrow.

Will John and Keeva learn to lean into their faith and let go of their fears?

Amazon

 DREAMS FOR COURAGE

 Release Date: April 4

Will two lonely hearts find the courage to love?

A loner for most of his life, Rowan Reed wants nothing more than to be left alone. He buys a run-down farm near Holiday, Oregon, intending to turn it into a successful ranch through hard work and determination. When a nosy, albeit beautiful, woman shows up on his doorstep, the instant attraction he feels to her sets off nearly as many warning bells as her barrage of probing questions.

Private detective Rhetta Wallace always unearths the truth. Involved in a lengthy investigation into a man suspected of killing a politician’s son, her pursuit leads her to the town of Holiday. Accompanied by her adopted son, Rhetta finds herself squaring off against the grumpy, growling rancher she believes is the suspect. Whether or not Rowan admits his true identity, Rhetta is sure of two things: his innocence of the crime, and the deep affection he awakens in her heart.

Will their dreams for courage help them release the past and embrace a future together?

Amazon

The heroines are all so different.

Which one would do you most relate to?

Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of Dreams of Love!

A Chef, a Cook, and a Sweet Romance

Tomorrow is the day!

Release day for Challenging the Chef!

I’m thrilled to share this book with you because it was such a joy to write Owen and Tawni’s story.

Owen had it all. A skyrocketing career as a celebrity chef, a life in New York many only dream of. But when his uncle needed him, Owen walked away from it all. After his uncle’s death, he stayed in Summer Creek, a small-town full of people who flock to Owen’s restaurant, and not just because it’s the only place open for dinner.

Tawni loves to cook, and is excited about learning from the celebrity chef she had a crush on during her enter last year of college.

But when these two meet, nothing is like their expectations.

 

When an interloper arrives in his kitchen, will romance start to simmer?

Chef Owen Thorpe left behind his celebrity status when he moved to Summer Creek. The quaint town and country atmosphere allow him to seek solace in his recipes. His peace and quiet is threatened when he’s coerced into being part of a big auction package that includes the winner spending a week cooking with him in his restaurant. The last thing he wants is some chef wannabe in his way. However, the real danger he faces is losing his heart when the winner turns out to be a beautiful woman who knows her way around a kitchen.

Burdened by the weight of her demanding career as a school psychologist, Tawni Young turns to cooking and gardening to escape from the never-ending stress of her work. When her aunt gifts her an auction package that includes cooking lessons in the small town of Summer Creek, Tawni realizes the chef she’ll be working with is none other than a celebrity she had a huge crush on during her college years. From the moment the two of them meet, an undeniable attraction sizzles while wits collide.

As they embark on a tantalizing journey of culinary delights, will Tawni and Owen discover the most important ingredient is love?

In this heartwarming and deliciously wholesome tale, Challenging the Chef takes readers on a savory adventure filled with sweet romance.

You can read the first chapter here!

Read the entire Summer Creek Series!

  • Catching the Cowboy
  • Rescuing the Rancher
  • Protecting the Princess
  • Distracting the Deputy
  • Guiding the Grouch
  • Challenging the Chef

What’s one thing you do to relax or unwind? 

Please share your answer in the comments.

I like to bake!

Also, if you haven’t yet, you can download a free Summer Creek themed bundle of goodies that includes a short story, printable bookmarks, a puzzle, coloring pages, and a recipe!

Challenging the Chef

Between our kitchen model and life in general, being able to have time and my mind in the right mental space for writing has been a bit of a challenge in recent months.

Finally, I finished the sweet and wholesome small-town contemporary romance I’d originally hoped to release in July.

Challenging the Chef will release October 19! I’m so thrilled to share this story with you!

I’m fortunate you can’t gain weight by drooling over Pinterest recipes because I sure found a lot of tasty ideas to include in this book. Writing it made me so hungry and eager to get in my kitchen and create something!

The book is about Owen Thorpe, a former celebrity chef who moved to a tiny little Eastern Oregon town to help his uncle during his last days before he passed away. Owen settled into the community of Summer Creek and decided to stay. He inherited his uncle’s dive bar and restaurant, and is working hard to change the reputation of the Broken Bucket to a destination for people who love good food. Owen gets coerced into contributing a week of cooking lessons to an auction package. He has visions of a middle-aged foodie winning the package and driving him nuts.

Tawni Young is a school psychologist. The demands of her job are stressful, so she uses cooking and gardening as her therapy to relax and unwind. When her aunt wins the Summer Creek auction package and gives it to Tawni as a gift, Tawni is shocked to realize the cooking lessons are with a celebrity chef she had a huge crush on in college.

When they meet, nothing is like either of them had expected.

 

When an interloper arrives in his kitchen, will romance start to simmer?

Chef Owen Thorpe left behind his celebrity status when he moved to Summer Creek. The quaint town and country atmosphere allow him to seek solace in his recipes. His peace and quiet is threatened when he’s coerced into being part of a big auction package that includes the winner spending a week cooking with him in his restaurant. The last thing he wants is some chef wannabe in his way. However, the real danger he faces is losing his heart when the winner turns out to be a beautiful woman who knows her way around a kitchen.

Burdened by the weight of her demanding career as a school psychologist, Tawni Young turns to cooking and gardening to escape from the never-ending stress of her work. When her aunt gifts her an auction package that includes cooking lessons in the small town of Summer Creek, Tawni realizes the chef she’ll be working with is none other than a celebrity she had a huge crush on during her college years. From the moment the two of them meet, an undeniable attraction sizzles while wits collide.

As they embark on a tantalizing journey of culinary delights, will Tawni and Owen discover the most important ingredient is love?

In this heartwarming and deliciously wholesome tale, Challenging the Chef takes readers on a savory adventure filled with sweet romance.

 

 

If you could win an experience with a celebrity,

who would you choose and what would the experience be? 

Share your answer for a chance to win an autographed copy of

Catching the Cowboy,

the first book in the Summer Creek series.

I’d love the chance to learn photography from someone who has great skill at it, especially for shooting live action (like rodeos). One of my favorites is Matt Cohen.

 

Love on Target Releases!

I’ve been looking forward to this day for months!

It’s release day for  Love on Target  book 2 in our new Pink Pistol Sisterhood series of sweet romances!

 

If you are someone who likes to “read before you buy,” you can check out the entire first chapter of the book on my blog here.

Rena, my heroine, is someone I’d call a survivor. She’s endured pain and come out on the other side of it. But she’s ready for a fresh start, and that is where her story begins. While she outwardly scoffs at the very notion of romance, she secretly longs to be loved.

The hero, Josh, has had his own share of heartbreak, including the death of his wife. But he has his little girl, Gabi, who is the light of his heart. When the two of them meet Rena, nothing will ever be the same.

Will romance hit its mark when true love is the target?

Desperate for a fresh start, Rena Burke journeys from Texas to Oregon with only her father’s pistol and a plodding old mule for company. She takes a job working with explosives at a mine, spends her free time emulating her hero Annie Oakley, and secretly longs to be loved.

Saddlemaker Josh Gatlin has one purpose in life and that is his daughter. Gabi is his joy and the sunshine in his days. Then he meets a trouser-wearing woman living life on her own terms. Rena is nothing like his perception of what he wants in a wife and mother for his child, but she might just prove to be everything he needs.

When tragedy strikes, will the two of them be able to release past wounds and embrace the possibilities tomorrow may bring? Find out in this sweet historical romance full of hope, humor, and love.

Order your copy of Love on Target  today!

You’ll find it in ebook, paperback, and hardback formats on Amazon, as well as enrolled in Kindle Unlimited!

Also, don’t miss out on Volume 3 of the Pink Pistol Magazine. It also releases today! You’ll find excerpts from Kari Trumbo, Winnie Griggs and Linda Broday as well as a short story from Karen Kay along with recipes, games, and more!

Get your FREE copy of the magazine here!

If you missed the first two magazines, here are the links:

Volume 1

Volume 2

Also, if you missed In Her Sights  by Karen Witemeyer, be sure you read it now!

It starts off the series and the journey of the pink pistol that passes from heroine to heroine in each story!

To celebrate Love on Target‘s release, I’m giving away a prize pack (with a $100+ value) that includes an autographed hardback of the book as well as some other fun goodies.

Enter my giveaway by clicking the button below!

If you could create your own magazine, like we did with our Pink Pistol Magazine,

what would you title it and what content would it include?

Love on Target – Pink Pistol Sisterhood Book 2

Years ago, when I first inquired about being a guest author on the Petticoats & Pistols blog, I had a fan-girl moment when Karen Witemeyer replied to me. I’ve been a fan of her books since I first discovered them!

She was so gracious and welcomed me with kindness. I admired the women who were part of this group and wished I could be one of their “Fillies” too.

Sometimes wishes do come true! In 2017, I was invited to join them as a regular author, and I’ve loved being one of the Fillies in their corral of western authors. So, when Pam and Karen started kicking around the idea of a legacy project for Petticoats & Pistols, something we could all participate in, I was excited at the prospect. Then the decision was made to tie the stories in our series to Annie Oakley, which made it even better.

In case you’ve missed all the announcements, our joint endeavor is called the Pink Pistol Sisterhood. Eleven of us have written sweet western romances, all tied to the journey of a pink-handled pistol that Annie passes on to the heroine in the first book, which just happens to be written by Karen. Make sure you read In Her Sights! It releases March 30!

Captain Cavedweller happened to be in an antique shop last fall and found a book about Annie Oakley that he knew I needed to have. Written in 1981 by Isabelle S. Sayers, Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West from Dover Publications features more than a hundred photos, illustrations, posters and advertisements. Being able to see so many visuals of Annie really helped not only clarify in my mind the hero she would be to Rena (my heroine), but also how her influence would help shape Rena’s character in my book (#2 in the series), Love on Target.

When I was thinking about my story and the characters, I knew I wanted it to be set in the town of Holiday, a place that exists only in my imagination, but it’s at the heart of several of my books, both historical and contemporary. (You can read the beginning of the town in Holiday Hope. )

My hero in Love on Target, Josh Gatlin, was a character who had a brief mention in my book Henley. I thought he’d be wonderful for the hero in this story. Since nine years had passed from then, though, I wanted him to have experienced love and loss, and it provided a perfect way to include the character of his five-year-old daughter, Gabi.

Rena is strong and courageous, but she’s also soft-hearted, and whether she admitted it or not, she really, really just wanted someone to accept her for who she was, scars and all, and love her.

Here’s one of my favorite scenes from the book!

~*~

“Laura has lost her mind if she believes all this romantic nonsense,” Rena groused as she returned the letter to the pocket in the case and set Laura’s letter aside to tuck into the packet of letters she’d kept from both of her cousins over the years.

“Of all the silly, pretentious …” A snort rolled out of her. “True love my foot. I’m more likely to lasso the moon than I am to fall in love because I held this gun. Although, it is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.”

She started to close the case, but changed her mind and lifted out the pistol. The thought that the gun had been in the possession of her hero, Annie Oakley, made her long to shoot it. Just once.

With a plan in mind, Rena set aside the case, tugged on her boots, and rushed down the ladder. She gathered a pocket full of cartridges and her pistol in the gun belt, which was the same caliber as the pink-handled weapon, and headed outside. She stopped by the woodpile and selected a large slab of bark that had fallen off a chunk of wood, then went to the barn where she painted a red heart on the bark, then added a white circle in the center of it.

She experienced an almost giddy sensation as she carried the bark and the pistols to what had once served as a corral. The whole thing needed to be rebuilt, which was on Theo’s long list of tasks he wanted to finish before summer arrived.

Rena knew he wouldn’t care if she practiced her shooting there since there was nothing behind the fence she could damage.

She used a nail to hang the bark on the fence, then retreated to the burn pile by the outhouse where she retrieved half a dozen tin cans that had once held peaches. It had been a while since she’d practiced shooting targets.

To make sure she hadn’t lost the skill, she lined up the cans on fence posts on either side of the heart she’d painted on the bark, took out her pistol, moved back several yards, and loaded rounds into the cylinder.

After widening her stance, she lined up her first shot, released a breath, and pulled the trigger.

The sound of the bullet pinging the target rang out as the can flew backward off the post. Rena shot the remaining cans, then smiled with satisfaction as she climbed over the fence to retrieve them. She set them back up on the posts, rested for a minute on the top pole of the fence, face turned to the sunshine as she soaked up the warmth. Then she hopped down and riddled the cans full of more holes before she stowed her gun in the gun belt and draped it over a fence post, then took the pistol with the delicate pink handle from where she’d set it on a stump.

“Promise of true love,” she whispered, rubbing her thumb over the handle before she loaded five shots in the revolver and took aim at the target she’d painted. “True love. What an absurd notion. Laura really should mind her own business and cease meddling in mine. If she thinks this gun will lead me to romance, she needs to have her thinker checked for defects. Instead of dreaming of true love, setting love on target seems like a much better idea.”

She blasted five holes in the middle of the white circle she’d painted inside the heart on the slab of bark, taking a great deal of satisfaction in blasting holes into something that represented romance and love, at least in her mind.

“Now that’s some fine shooting, Miss Burke.”

Rena yelped in surprise and spun around, pistol still in her hand as she pointed it at the intruder who dared to interrupt her target practice.

 

 

Will romance hit its mark when true love is the target?

Desperate for a fresh start, Rena Burke journeys from Texas to Oregon with only her father’s pistol and a plodding old mule for company. She takes a job working with explosives at a mine, spends her free time emulating her hero Annie Oakley, and secretly longs to be loved.

Saddle maker Josh Gatlin has one purpose in life and that is his daughter. Gabi is his joy and the sunshine in his days. Then he meets a trouser-wearing woman living life on her own terms. Rena is nothing like his perception of what he wants in a wife and mother for his child, but she might just prove to be everything he needs.

When tragedy strikes, will the two of them be able to release past wounds and embrace the possibilities tomorrow may bring? Find out in this sweet historical romance full of hope, humor, and love.

If you were in Rena’s shoes (or boots), what would you do? 

Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of Holiday Hope and Henley –

to get you ready to read Love on Target when it releases April 10!

Sleigh Bell Serenade

I’ve shared before how inspiration can strike from anywhere when it comes to me writing a story.

Two Christmas seasons ago, I was happily decking my halls for the holidays and listening to a traditional Christmas music station.

A song started to play—one I’d never heard—and I literally stopped in the midst of hanging a holly garland and listened to Bing Crosby croon about a “Sleigh Bell Serenade.” If you’ve never heard the song, it’s so cute and you can listen to it on YouTube.

Anyway,  by the time the song ended, I knew I wanted to write a story with that title and have one of the main characters do something with sleighs or sleigh bells.

It wasn’t until I started writing The Snowman’s Sweetheart, which released in January of last year, that I figured out how to run with the sleigh bell idea. In this book, the hero, Ky, has a best friend named Bo who is a rancher, but also runs a sleigh tour business during the winter months.

Sleigh Bell Serenade is book two in the Winter Wishes sweet romance series, and shares the story of Bowen Jensen and Juniper Haynes, a hot-shot real estate agent who is really ready from a break from her big-city, fast-paced life.

The book releases tomorrow!

He keeps his heart heavily guarded.

She meets everyone with a friendly smile.

Will the attraction sizzling between them pull them into the space between their two worlds?

Burdened by too many responsibilities, Bowen Jensen struggles beneath their overwhelming weight. Between raising his teenage sister, running their family ranch, and managing Sleigh Bell Tours, he barely has time to sleep let alone do something just for himself. He can’t even recall his last date. Then a chance encounter with a beguiling woman leaves him pondering if there isn’t more to life than trudging through one lonely day after another.

Juniper Haynes appears to have it all with a successful real estate career and a picture-perfect life. In reality, she’s tired of dealing with demanding clients, wary of her so-called friends, and secretly longs for the peace she finds at her sister’s mountain home. After a magical New Year’s Eve kiss with a cowboy she barely knows, she realizes true happiness might only be found outside her comfort zone.

Can Bo and Juniper find the courage to embrace change and explore the possibility of a future together?

Find out in this sweet winter romance full of small-town charm, memorable characters, laughter, hope, and love.

 

Annoyed by his infatuation with Juniper, he took a step back, uncertain what to say.

Words had never easily come to him. He was more of a doer than a talker. In his younger years, his best friend, Ky, had always filled the gap since he could talk to anyone, anytime, about anything. Ky had received the gift of gab, while Bo had been given the gift of brawn and endurance.

But at that moment, an idea or two of something witty to say would have been helpful.

“Do you live around here?” Sassy asked as Bo stood there like one of the snow carvings that would fill the town next month at the Winter Fest.

“Cedar lives in Faraday with her husband. I live in Portland,” Juniper said. “I’m just visiting through the holidays.”

“So you’ll be around for New Year’s Eve?” Sassy asked.

Heaven help him if the girl decided to take it upon herself to ask Juniper to go out with him to ring in the new year.

Juniper nodded uncertainly.

“We’re hosting a little gathering of friends that night. Would you like to join us?” Cedar asked, smiling at Bo and then Sassy in invitation. “It’s very casual and informal. We’ll have finger foods and things like pizza and jalapeno poppers, and family-friendly games.”

“Why is this the …” Juniper started to speak, but Cedar gave her a quelling look that made her snap her mouth shut.

Bo might have laughed if he hadn’t been certain there was matchmaking afoot. Under normal circumstances, he would have run in the opposite direction as fast as possible, but he really wanted to see Juniper again. A party with her sister and friends seemed harmless enough.

“We’d love to come,” Sassy said with enthusiasm before he could respond. “Thank you for inviting us.”

Do you have a favorite winter memory?

Sleigh ride? Sledding? Nailing a smug sibling with a snowball? 
Share your comment for a chance to win a digital copy of Sleigh Bell Serenade!

National Frontiers Trail Museum

My Day at the

National Frontier Trails Museum

This picture shows the trains vs the trails in 1880

First let me say that the Santa Fe Trail information was fascinating.

I went to the museum, in Independence, Missouri, to find out about the Oregon Trail.

But the Santa Fe Trail was so unexpected that I could fill a blog post with that.

I’m setting a book, partially, on a wagon train.

Different setting for me, and I’m a little nervous about making it interesting.

But I’ve got to get these folks from Chicago to the wild west somehow, so a wagon train it is.

As I wrote, I would have said I know tons about the Oregon Trail, the American frontier and wagon trains.

Turns out I didn’t.

So a trip to Independence was born.

I ended up talking to a museum guy for a long time and he really knew everything. Very interesting guy, Travis Boley.

Then after I quizzed him for a long time, I wandered for longer still.

The Oregon Trail was first passed by fur traders on foot or horseback as early as 1811. Less than ten years after Lewis and Clark.

The trail became passable by a wagon, such as the one above, in 1836. From the most heavily traveled years, 1846-1869 it’s estimated that 400,,000 people took that trail west, including those who turned onto the California Trail. The trail declined after the Transcontinental Railway opened in 1869. Train travel was faster, cheaper and safer than wagon train travel. But these wagon trains continued in a much reduced number until 1890.

Ignore my smiling face and look in the back of that wagon, Now imagine your home. All the stuff you own. Those wagons are TINY. And you had to fit everything you owned into them.

 

As a Nebraskan, I particularly enjoyed information that concerned Nebraska.

This is info about Scottsbluff, a town in Nebraska but an actual bluff, too. Huh, never gave that much thought. But duh.

Chimney Rock is also a Nebraska landmark.

For me, when I get out of a museum, I find I’ve taken more pictures of SIGNS than artifacts. I love to read about the objects and find snapping pictures of signs helps me to remember what I saw.

I LOVED this list of all you have to carry on the wagon train.

Some interesting points: Despite what looks like a high cost, many of the things you have to bring, like oxen or mules, the wagon, the supplies, the clothes, the guns, are things you already have. And also, when you get to your destination, those things you only needed for the trip, like a team of oxen, can be sold for a good price. Yes, you need to scrape the money together to go, but once you sell it all in the high frontier market, the trip becomes mostly free.

I liked the idea of ‘jumping off points.’

Travis said the Missouri River kept getting more and more navigable (that’s a word, right?) by steamboats. As the boats kept getting farther and farther upstream, the pioneers could ride the boat farther. The jumping off points went from St. Louis to Independence, Missouri. To St Joseph, Missouri then Omaha.

Wagon train riders had to haul practical things. It was expected that someone on the train, perhaps many people, would haul their own forge. the tools were practical.

There was no room for fussy fabric or glass dishes. They needed axes and pots and wheels and parts for a broken wagon. Many more frivolous things hauled along, ended up being left behind on the trail.

I highly enjoyed my trip to the National Frontiers Trail Museum and be on the lookout for a story in my future with a wagon train. Hopefully written with a lot of good information in it.

http://www.maryconnealy.com

 

 

10 Things to Do Before Summer Ends

I don’t know about you, but the summer days are flying past. I’m pretty sure they stir a breeze and make a whirring sound as they whiz past my head.

Before summer bliss turns to cozy days of autumn, I thought I’d share a list of ten things to do before summer winds to an end.

  1. Blow Bubbles. Doesn’t matter if you have kids or not, go blow a few bubbles and see if a few worries and cares don’t float away with the soapy orbs.
  2. Go on a Picnic. It doesn’t matter if you make something elaborate, run by the deli, or grab take-out, pack a blanket and your loved ones and head for a park or picnic area you haven’t visited this summer.

  3. Host a bonfire. Make sure you follow local ordinances and keep a hose handy. And don’t forget to have plenty of S’mores supplies on hand.

  4. Eat a popsicle. It’s cold and sweet and perfectly delightful. Indulge and enjoy. Have a contest to see who can make theirs last the longest.

  5. Pick fresh fruit. Scan the classified ads or ask around for the best “U-pick” fruit location and then go pick something. You’ll be glad you did when you bite into that fresh off-the-tree fruit!

  6. Take a hike or a bike ride. Go somewhere off the beaten path and really look around you. Take in the scenery, the smells, the sounds. It won’t be long until fall paints an entirely different canvas over nature.

  7. Take photos. Although the moments won’t last, the photos and memories will. Take photos of your family and friends enjoying the last days of summer in all their joy and silliness.

  8. Eat watermelon. Take it outside and let the kids munch to their heart’s content, with juice running down their chins and onto their toes. I dare you to join them! There is summer sweetness packed in every juicy sweet bite.

  9. Make homemade ice cream. There is nothing like making your own ice cream and enjoying each cool, creamy bite of frozen confection. Our favorite is banana ice cream.

  10. Enjoy a sunset. There is nothing quite as spectacular as watching the summer sun sink into the western horizon. The pinks, oranges and golds that fill the sky can be breathtaking. Go sit outside and watch nature’s beauty descend. If you are of a mind to keep up the gazing, throw down a blanket and watch the stars.

I’m going to see how many of these I can cross off the list before September arrives!

GIVEAWAY

For a chance to win a mystery prize,

post one thing you are looking forward to doing before summer ends. Or share something fun you’ve already done this summer!

Lake Bride

It’s funny how one thing leads to another and the next thing you know, you’re writing a book you hadn’t planned on writing.

My dad’s cousin, JJ, often sends him funny quotes or memes, or things to make him smile. He also shares interesting tidbits of information. Dad chooses the things he likes best and sends them on to me.

One of his “chosen favorites” from JJ was a lovely post written about the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at  Arlington National Cemetery.  I’d heard of the cemetery, had never visited it, and knew there were guards, but that was about the extent of my knowledge when I opened that email from dad.

After reading what was shared, I had to know more. I needed to know more about the soldiers who guard the Tomb and the cemetery. And that knowledge led to me writing a sweet contemporary romance about a Tomb Guard, a nurse, and an array of wacky wildlife.

 

In 1857, George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington and step-grandson of George Washington, willed an 1,100 acre property to his daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis, who was married to Robert E. Lee. The Lee family vacated the estate in 1861 at the onset of the Civil War, and federal troops soon occupied the property as a camp and headquarters.

In 1863, the government established Freedman’s Village, on the estate as a way to assist slaves transitioning to freedom. The village provided housing, education, training, and medical care. As the number of Civil War casualties grew faster than other local cemeteries could handle them, the property became a burial location. The first military burial took place on May 13, 1864, when Private William Christman was laid to rest there.

That June, the War Department officially set aside 200 acres of the property to use as a cemetery. By the end of the war, thousands of service members and former slaves were buried there.  Eventually, the Lee family received compensation for the property although the land remained with the War Department. Today, the cemetery has since grown to exceed 600 acres and is one of the oldest national cemeteries in America.

Evolving from a place of necessity to a national shrine to those who have served honorably in our Nation, the rolling hills have become the final resting place to more than 400,00 active duty service members, veterans, and their families. An average of 27-30 services are held each week day and more than 3,000 ceremonies and memorial services take place each year. Among the notable graves include presidents (President Kennedy and President Taft), astronauts (including John Glenn and Christa McAuliffe), and celebrities (such as Maureen O’Hara, Lee Marvin, and Audie Murphy).

At first, being buried at Arlington was not considered an honor, but it did ensure service members whose families couldn’t afford to bring them home for a funeral were given a proper burial. The first official Decoration Day (later renamed Memorial Day) was held at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868. The event was so popular, an amphitheater was constructed in 1873 to hold the official ceremonies. By the late 1870s, high-ranking veterans began requesting burial in the Officers’ Sections.

In 1899, the U.S. Government began, at its own expense, repatriating service members who died overseas during the Spanish-American War. The cemetery expanded to include Sections 21, 22, and 24. Congress authorized, in 1900, a designated section for Confederate soldiers. After World War I, more than 2,000 service members were repatriated and interred in Sections 18 and 19.

 

In October 1921, four bodies of unidentified U.S. military personnel were exhumed from various American military cemeteries in France. The four caskets were taken to the city hall of Châlons-sur-Marne (now called Châlons-en-Champagne), France. Town officials and members of the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps had prepared the city hall for the selection ceremony. Early on the morning of October 24, 1921, Maj. Robert P. Harbold of the  Quartermaster Corps oversaw the arrangement of the caskets so that each rested on a shipping case other than the one in which it had arrived. Major Harbold then chose Sgt. Edward F. Younger of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 50th Infantry, American Forces in Germany, to select the Unknown Soldier. Sgt. Younger selected the Unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets.  From Châlons-sur-Marne, the Unknown journeyed by caisson and rail to the port town of Le Havre, France. From Le Havre, the Unknown Soldier’s casket was transported to Washington, D.C.  on the USS Olympia. The Unknown Soldier arrived at the Washington Navy Yard on November 9, 1921, and was taken to the Capitol Rotund. The Unknown lay in state in there on November 10 with around 90,000 visitors paying their respects that day.

On November 11, 1921, the Unknown was placed on a horse-drawn caisson and carried in a procession through Washington, D.C. and across the Potomac River. A state funeral ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery’s amphitheater, and the Unknown was interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Nationwide, Americans observed two minutes of silence at the beginning of the ceremony. President Warren G. Harding officiated the ceremony and placed the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, on the casket. Additionally, numerous foreign dignitaries presented their nations’ highest awards.

Originally, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier consisted of a simple marble slab. Thousands of visitors came to Arlington National Cemetery to mourn at the Tomb and to pay their respects to the Unknown Soldier and the military personnel he represented. The tomb was unguarded, since most people were respectfully. But it became more popular with people to treat the tomb as a tourist attraction. It’s said some even picnicked on the tomb because of the grand view it provided.

In 1926, the Army assigned soldiers as guards. A sarcophagus was installed in 1932.  The Tomb sarcophagus is decorated with three wreaths on each side panel (north and south). On the front (east), three figures represent Peace, Victory and Valor. The back (west) features the inscription: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” (This inscription gets to me every time I read it.)

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill to select and pay tribute to the Unknowns of World War II and the Korean War in 1956. The selection ceremonies and the interment of these Unknowns took place in 1958. The caskets of the World War II and Korean Unknowns arrived in Washington on May 28, 1958, where they lay in the Capitol Rotunda until the morning of May 30. They were then carried on caissons to Arlington National Cemetery. President Eisenhower awarded each the Medal of Honor, and the Unknowns of World War II and the Korean War were interred in the plaza beside their World War I comrade. A Vietnam Unknown was added in 1984. An Army caisson carried the Vietnam Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided over the funeral, and presented the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam Unknown, and also acted as next of kin by accepting the interment flag at the end of the ceremony. With modern technology, the Vietnam Unknown was exhumed in 1998 and identified. His remains were transported to his family in St. Louis, where he was reinterred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. The slab over the empty crypt was since been replaced. The inscription of “Vietnam” has been changed to “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen 1958 – 1975” as a reminder of the commitment of the Armed Forces to the fullest possible accounting of missing service members.

Beginning in 1937, guards were stationed 24-hours a day to keep watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In 1948, the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), took over the prestigious duty and continue to guard the Tomb today. Known as sentinels, the soldiers provide security for the Tomb, lead ceremonies, and maintain the sanctity of the space. To them, they honor the Unknowns through the precision of their rituals.

The sentinels are amazing.

After digging into the research of this unique soldier, they have my highest respect and admiration for their service and dedication.

Soldiers who volunteer to become Tomb guards must go through a strict selection process and intensive training. Each element of their routine has meaning. The guard marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns and faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, and then takes 21 steps down the mat. Next, the Guard executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place his/her weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors, signifying that he or she stands between the Tomb and any possible threat. The number 21 symbolizes the highest symbolic military honor that can be bestowed: the 21-gun salute.

Now imagine doing that in searing summer heat (in a wool uniform), in pouring rain, or freezing snow. It’s what they do. Every single day.

The Sentinels have a creed they live by. One of my favorite lines is this one: And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection.

In my sweet romance Lake Bride (releasing June 23), the hero has spent the past two years of his life as a Sentinel. He’s at a crossroads in his life, trying to find himself and direction for his future. When his favorite relative, Uncle Wally, passes away and leaves him a cabin on a lake in Eastern Oregon, Bridger sees the perfect opportunity to get away and figure out what to do with the rest of his life.

If you read my book Henley that was part of the Love Train series, Bridger is a great-great-great-grandson to Evan and Henley Holt!

A solemn soldier.

A woman full of sunshine.

And the lake where they fall in love.

Twenty-one steps. The past two years of Bridger Holt’s life have centered on the twenty-one steps he repeatedly walks back and forth as one of the sentinels guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Now that his duty is coming to an end, Bridger has no idea what to do with the rest of his life. Guilt from his past and trepidation about his unknown future drive him to the mountain cabin he inherited from his beloved uncle to gain clarity and direction. The quirky residents in the nearby town of Holiday, the assortment of wildlife that adopts him, and the woman who shines a light into his tattered soul might be what Bridger needs to find the redemption he seeks.

Outgoing, upbeat Shayla Reeves spreads sunshine wherever she goes. Holiday has become her home, and she enjoys spending time in the mountains around town. She adores the patients in the dementia facility where she works as a nurse. But something is missing from her mostly joyful world. When she mistakenly camps on private land owned by the mysterious and brooding Bridger Holt, she realizes what her life is lacking isn’t adventure but love.

Will two opposite personalities overcome their challenges and figure out a way to build a future together?

Find out in this sweet love story full of hope, small-town humor, and the wonder of falling in love.

Pre-order your copy of Lake Bride today!

 

You can get a free Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Commemorative Guide to download at this link: https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Interactive/2021/10-tomb-of-the-unkown-soldier/TUS-Commemorative-Guide.pdf

To enter for a chance to win a Lake Bride postcard, bookmark, and some other fun goodies,

just share if you’ve ever been to Arlington National Cemetery.

If yes, what did you most enjoy there?

If no, share about a place you’ve visited that was special to you.