Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Goals--Dreams into Reality


You hear lots of folks talking about turning your dreams into reality. And you wonder how to do that. Easy--set goals!


There's so many good articles about goals and goal setting that all you need do is Google, Bing, (or whatever search engine you use) and you'll be overwhelmed with great information. I don't profess to be an expert on goals or setting them. But I do love to cheer everyone on as they work toward their personal goals. That said, I'm not going to go into all the ins and outs of setting goals, but just give you a few brief thoughts and ideas.

So, what is the difference between dreams and goals? Dreams is what you yearn for--and goals are how we get there. Goals are more than just a list of resolutions like many of us make at the beginning of a new year. A good goal must be measurable and attainable. And to be a success at goals, you should combine both long term and short term goals.

The long term goal of completing a manuscript and submitting it can seem huge and perhaps impossible. However, if you break the goal down into smaller, short term goals, conquering each one will bring you one step closer. Such short term goals could include completing character studies, writing a synopsis, writing 10 pages a week, taking a class on a pertinent subject, querying editors and agents. Can you see how each one of these will bring you closer to your big goal? And can you see how each one is measurable? You'll know when you complete each step. Short term goals are often measured by output--like the number of pages per day or queries submitted. And they usually have a shorter time frame (for example, pages per week).

Now you're closer to completing your long term goal and achieving your dream. Yep, these are still two entirely different things. Your goal of completing a manuscript and submitting it are achieved. Strike up the band and have a party! A vast majority of folks never make it this far!

But publication is my goal, you say. Nope, that's still just a dream. Why? Because you have no control over what an editor thinks or what a publishing house is looking for. A long term goal usually ends in a result--such as publication.

One great thing about goals is that they are not set in stone. You're not gonna look like Marley from A Christmas Carol wrapped forever in chains of goals you don't meet. Heck, if you discover your short term goals aren't moving you toward results--change them! In fact, it's important to reevaluate your goals frequently. What you thought was important and achievable last month may not be today. Something you may not have considered part of your dream may suddenly seem attainable. So change your goals rather than dumping them into the river and watching them sink. Interests change, the market changes, dreams change, your skills change...get the idea?

Beyond finishing a manuscript and submitting it, what do I think would make a great goal for each and every one of you reading this?  Easy. Long term goal: Make writing a priority in your life. Take a long, hard look at how and  where you fit in writing. What can you do to improve in your craft? Cheryl St. John picks one writing related concept and works on that for a year. Measurable? Yes. Attainable? Yes. and moves her toward a long term goal of increased aptitude in the craft of writing. Be honest with yourself and make an advance plan on how you'll handle all those little things that get in the way. And there's gonna be a lot of them. Unless you live a charmed writer's life. If so... pass on the secret!

Now... fist bump and get goaling!

Goals? Get 'em. Got 'em. Good.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Party Pictures

Just wanted to post a few pictures from the Christmas Party.



As you can see we had a wonderful time. Mary Karen and the Captain enjoyed some fun in the sun.



Meg did a hula dance.

A great beach escape to party with friends.

HWG rocks!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Goals, Calendars and Dachshunds




I’ve served as the Goals Guru for HWG for a number of years. We’ve experienced a whole slew of ideas designed to help Heartlandians meet their writing goals. But even though the writing derbies, challenges, visual representations and bookshelves have gone through a variety of changes, one goals idea has remained constant.

The calendar.



I don’t remember how many years ago I first brought up the idea of using a desk calendar for keeping track of goals. The concept has been successful for some, and not so for others (like any writing tool!). Let me explain a bit about the Heartlandian calendar concept.

First…find a desk style or engagement calendar that shows one week per page. Find one that has pictures that are meaningful for you. Doesn’t matter what makes your smile, or dream, or encourages you…find that calendar. For me, it’s a dachshund calendar. My brother bought me my first one, and had provided most of them since then. Last year, neither of us got the calendar, so I thought I’d try a different design. Along came Paula Deen. Now, I love Paula, and the calendar was great with recipes, stories and pictures, but it wasn’t what my creative mind needed for writing. And, my writing suffered. This year with my doxies, I’m more on track.


Now that you have a calendar, what should you use it for? Anything you want to.


Donna says... “I use my calendar to record time spent writing, editing or researching. I also record my page counts with times to give myself an idea of the productivity level I can achieve when I sit my butt in the chair and work at it. I also record any contests judged or entered, critiques attended or given on-line, workshops attended or taken on-line, meetings attended, etc. In the back of my calendar I keep a list of all of the books that I've read during the year (recorded as I read them). In the front of my calendar I keep a list of my writing goals for reference. My calendar always sits on my desk by my monitor, as a silent reminder that I need to sit down and get to work."

That covers a lot, doesn’t it? In my calendar I have my goals broken down into different categories, lists of editing I’ve done, contests I’ve judged (It’s so great to see when one of your entries makes finals--or more), contests entered, contacts made AND the books I’ve read. This list helps me see how much I have read, I make notations for favorite authors to look for again and whether the book is fiction or non-fiction. So, use the calendar in whatever way it works for you. Oh, and use it ONLY for writing!


Besides having the pictures or quotes for inspiration, using the calendar can be a remarkably visual for your progress. Stickers are a popular way to show you’ve met your daily or weekly goals. Take a look at Cheryl St. John’s writing calendar.






One year we used colored sticky tags in a set of five colors. Each Heartlandian chose their favorite color and the least favorite. The fave color was obviously for achieving a goal. The least favorite--for those weeks when you didn’t quite reach that page or word count, or whatever your goal was for the week. Other colors of flags were designated for meetings, classes, any number of writing related things. Placed along the edge of the page, these flags show how consistent you are in meeting goals.


I encourage you to consider using a desk calendar for your writing. Post your own ideas here on the blog. Perhaps your idea will help another writer!


To close, Cheryl says…”My datebook is my lifeline. I keep track of deadlines, submissions, page progress, appointments, blog schedules, goals, my online class and just about everything. My goals are printed in the front, and the books I've read this year are listed in the back. I'm already out of sync because I don't have a 2010 datebook yet, and I have things scheduled into the new year. A new one is a must on my to-be-shopped-for list.”

Let’s go calendar shopping!




Monday, November 30, 2009

Another goal met!

Margie made her Minano goal
without hardly even looking!
Way to write, Margie!


Friday, November 27, 2009

Third Minanoan Success

I'm a few days late in posting this...



CONGRATULATIONS to Mary T. for making and surpassing her Minano goal! Way to write, Mary!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Released Today Black Dragon's Heart



Devoted chemist, Sarah VanHorn, lives for her research but fantasizes about loving Jake Ramsey. Her two worlds collide when the dragon center agent arrives to rescue her from the company suspected of producing chemicals dangerous to those with dragon blood.

Sarah's not the only one with fantasies. Jake wants Sarah as his mate and he's waited years to claim her. Now, under his protective custody--not to mention the influence of Syndetic's sexual stimulant scenting the air--he can't resist the fiery temptation to finally make her his.

But when tragedy strikes and their dreams are threatened, will Sarah sacrifice her career, Jake, and possibly her life to discover the answers? And will Jake let her?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Her Colorado Man in Stores Now

HER COLORADO MAN
Cheryl St.John
Harlequin Historical
Dec 2009
ISBN: 9780373295715(#971)



When eighteen-year-old Mariah found herself pregnant and unmarried in her small Colorado town, she disappeared. One year later, she returned with a baby—though minus the "husband" who had conveniently ventured off to Alaska's gold fields to seek his fortune….

But now, with handsome adventurer Wes Burrows turning up and claiming to be the husband she had invented, Mariah's lies become flesh and blood—and her wildest dreams a reality!


CLICK HERE TO READ AN EXCERPT

Check your local bookstore, Walmart, Kmart or order from amazon:

Second Heartlandian Achieves Minano

Congratulations to *lizzie for making her Minano goal! She wrote without checking the word count for a few days and look what happened! Now she's off adding words to finish NaNoWriMo's goal.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

25,000 words???

Birthday Clipart


Congratulations to Mary D--the first Minanoan to report making her 25,000 word goal! Mary's also doing NaNoWriMo...so keep cheering her on!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cheryl St.John: December Release

Silhouette Special Releases
**REISSUE**
Dec 2009
Montana Mavericks
Contemporary Romance
ISBN:9780373310692 (#47)
Available only from eHarlequin
While you're there, check out all the Montana Mavericks now available!


Marrying footloose cowboy Devlin "Devil" Holmes after their heart-stopping one-night stand was the most reckless thing Dr. Brynna Holmes had ever done. With one rough-and-tumble smile he'd lassoed her heart and promised forever. But Brynna was responsible—for her patients and her family—and trusting her fun-loving husband to take care of her didn't come easily…even after eight months of wedded bliss. Now, with their happily-ever-after jeopardized by painful mistakes and misgivings, could she vow to honor, cherish and love…again?



READ CHAPTER ONE

Chapter One
Eight months ago


"He's still looking this way," Emma Carlisle said from behind her third rum and Coke. The animated woman was married and had three teenaged children, but hearing her talk about the tall sandy-haired cowboy at the bar, anyone would think she was a teen herself. In fact, they'd have thought the entire group of nurses were high school sophomores at the mall.

Rae Ann Benton elbowed Brynna. "He's heading this way. Act like you didn't see him coming."

"I didn't see him coming," Brynna replied, but her heart had leapt into her throat at the news that the six-foot-something hunk in the slim-fitting jeans, worn cowboy boots and faded chambray shirt was walking toward them. He'd been the subject of their lively discussion and avid appreciation for the last half hour.

When he strolled up to their table and gave a disarming grin, Brynna already knew that his name was Devlin Holmes, that he was better known as Devil and that he worked as foreman at his cousin's ranch outside town. What she didn't know—and couldn't have predicted—was that his flirtatious green eyes would take her breath away when he acknowledged the gathering of women with a polite hello and then singled her out with a confident nod.

"Care to dance?" he asked, his voice a stirring deep baritone that reached her toes.

The jukebox had started a lively Dixie Chicks' number that did make a person want to get up and move. Brynna never usually drank. Tonight she'd had two drinks and would probably trip and embarrass herself, but what the heck. She couldn't recall the last time she'd danced. She wanted to dance with him. Her heart-pounding reaction to the guy was crazy.

Rae Ann's elbow dug into her side so sharply, Brynna practically leaped up out of her seat. If she fell and broke something, she was with the best nurses in the state of Montana, she thought giddily, catching her balance. The handsome fellow gestured toward the dance floor and she led the way across the wooden floor littered with peanut shells, conspicuously aware of his presence close behind her.

She'd showered at the hospital after her shift, changed into jeans and a sleeveless cotton top, and her shoulder-length hair had only begun to dry. She wasn't wearing a lick of makeup except lip gloss and a little blush she'd found on the top shelf of her locker. She couldn't imagine why the man of nurse dreams would look twice, let alone ask her to dance.

Dev thought the slender, fresh-faced beauty was the prettiest thing he'd seen in a long time, and she moved with a beguilingly natural sensuality that appealed to him on a purely masculine level. The single young women who normally came into Joe's Bar were made up for a manhunt—makeup, perfume, tiny T-shirts that bared their midriffs, low-slung jeans that usually revealed tattoos. There were also the older manhunters with more skin covered, but with smiles every bit as predatory.

This young woman's smile was a little nervous, a lot embarrassed, and even if he hadn't been coming here and knew she wasn't a regular, he'd have known just by observing her discomfort. "Name's Devlin Holmes," he said, leading her to the small dance floor, where several couples parted to make some space. "Call me Dev."

"Brynna Shaw," she said over the blare of the music.

He took her soft yet sturdy hand and led her through the dance steps, and, after a few minutes, she loosened up and seemed to enjoy herself. Her golden-blond hair bounced on her shoulders under the dim lighting. Her expressive brown eyes did something strange to his insides. She smelled like soap and shampoo, mingled with the faintest hint of almond. The alluring smell enticed his senses. The sight and scent of her hair had him wanting to touch it. It had been a long time since a woman had attracted him the way this one did.

Somehow, as soon as he'd seen her, he'd known she was special. Maybe it was the fact that she seemed out of place here or that she was obviously embarrassed and yet pleased by the fact that he'd singled her out that made him want to know her.

Being this close made him want a lot more.

After a line dance and another fast number, a slow Garth Brooks song played. Tentatively, Dev took her hand and drew her close, pleased that she didn't resist. She rested her other hand on his shoulder and glanced up. Looking into her eyes, his heart increased its speed. He suddenly felt like the luckiest man in Montana. How could he have missed her until now? "You live in town?" he asked.

She nodded. "I have an apartment down the street."

"I haven't seen you here before."

"I usually go straight home after work."

"Where's work?"

"The hospital in Whitehorn. I'm also on staff at the clinic here in Rumor."

"Nurse?"

"Third-year resident."

His eyebrows rose. "No wonder you're tired after work. I've seen ER, it looks exhausting."

The warmth of her genuine laugh wound its way around his heart. He definitely liked making her laugh.

"It's not quite that exciting," she denied. "We're a small town, you know."

"Just the same, you see all the interesting cases."

"Well, some." She shrugged. "I'm an OB/ GYN."

Dev laughed aloud. "I'm not going to comment."

"Thank you. I've heard them all."

Her body relaxed even more after their introductions, and within moments, she was leaning into him, her soft curves pressed against the planes of his chest and hips; she fitted there as if she was made for him. He couldn't believe his good fortune. What had he ever done to deserve this?

After another slow dance, he asked, "Would you like to get a fresh drink and talk for a while?"

To his delight, she agreed. Her friends smiled and waved with waggling eyebrows when he led her to a booth along the back, where the music wasn't so loud and the lighting was more intimate.

Ignoring them, Brynna tasted the drink the waitress sat on a napkin before her. She'd worked up a thirst. If someone had told her this morning that she'd be dancing with a handsome cowboy, let alone letting him buy her drinks, she'd have ordered them a psych exam. She was the most sensible, least impulsive person on the planet. She never did anything like this.

But it had been a harrowing day at the hospital. She'd lost a mother with leukemia she'd been trying desperately to save. In order to protect her unborn child, the young woman had refused the chemotherapy she needed, so there had been little Brynna could do, except turn her over to the oncology team once the baby was safely delivered.

Even now, thinking about Heidi Price, regret washed over her. The sound of pool balls clacking together and muted cheers came from a side room, and she couldn't help thinking how odd it always seemed that lives went on unaffected when others were experiencing tragedies.

As though sensing the shift in her mood, Dev asked softly, "Something wrong?"

She drew a circle in the condensation her glass had left on the table and spoke the difficult words. "I lost a patient today."

"That must be tough."

Brynna agreed. "She was twenty-four. Had leukemia, but refused treatment because of her baby."

"I guess there wasn't much you could do."

"It was frustrating."

"What about the baby?"

Gauging his sincerity, she gazed into his eyes. His earnest tone and concerned expression showed he really cared. "She's four weeks early, but doing just fine."

"That's good."

His compassion touched her, and Brynna nodded. "I had to tell her husband that his wife didn't make it."

He studied her for a moment. "How do you do that?"

"Well…I've never had to do it before. I was taught to explain the facts. Answer the questions. But then you see the pain…the grief…and…." Brynna's throat tightened with the words and the remembrance. She had felt like crying all afternoon, but she hadn't allowed herself to let go. She was a professional.

"And what?" Dev asked, urging her to go on.

This man not only had her examining her inner feelings, but sharing them. She found herself saying things she didn't share with anyone else. "I don't know how to detach and be merely the doctor and not a caring person," she admitted.

"You are a caring person, or you probably wouldn't be a doctor. The two aren't separate, are they?"

With a lump in her throat, she shook her head.

His hand covered hers then, warm tactile comfort that sent an enticing shiver up her arm. Without conscious thought, Brynna turned over her hand and laced her fingers through his, their palms touching. His tanned hand was large, with long fingers and calluses she felt against her palm—so different from her own—so entirely masculine. It was an intimate touch. A sexy, familiar touch that set off a battery of butterflies in her chest and made her wonder how his hand would feel on other parts of her body.

She should have been ashamed of her thoughts, but the sensual contact released a deeply buried longing—a longing for something more than years of school and work and self-denial. His touch brought her single status sharply into focus.

Face warming uncomfortably, she glanced up to notice his thick blond hair with a ridge where his hat had been and his crescent-shaped eyebrows. Both hair and brows were bleached from the sun. He was strikingly handsome, but there was something even more attractive about him than those intriguing eyes and sexy mouth. The way he looked at her made her think of wet lingering kisses and the slide of bare skin.

The words to a song about slow hands registered in the background. A burning warmth that had begun in her chest flowed through her abdomen and pooled at the center of her femininity. This man's touch melted her insides. The way he gazed at her had her hot enough to combust. She swallowed and met his sparkling green gaze. Could he tell the effect he had on her?

He smiled, one side of his full lips drawn up in a secret grin that created a sexy dimple in his cheek. Surprising herself, she studied his mouth and wondered what it would feel like to kiss him. Would he be an aggressive kisser? Would his lips taste like the beer in the glass on the table? Would his tongue?

If she didn't know it was physically impossible, Brynna would have sworn her heart turned completely over in her chest at the thought. The temperature in the room seemed to double. She found it difficult to breathe and inhaled quickly through parted lips.

Dev obviously noted her sharp intake of breath, the parting of her lips, the rise of her chest, and his gaze, glittering with masculine interest, dropped to her breasts before he dragged it back to her mouth. The smile had disappeared from his lips, and his perusal was now surprisingly serious. Had he been imagining kissing her, too?

She didn't want to let go of his hand, and he didn't seem inclined to break the contact either. She felt like clinging to him, and it was a good thing the table was between them or she'd have embarrassed herself by pressing against his body and melding into him. Remembering the solid strength of his arms and chest as they'd danced that last dance made her head a little dizzy.

The waitress set down a full glass and a fresh pitcher of beer. Reluctantly, they broke the contact of their entwined fingers, and Dev placed money on the tray. The girl thanked him and picked up Brynna's empty glass.

Brynna glanced at the gimlet, a lime twist perched on the rim. No wonder she was feeling light-headed. She'd had too many drinks. Obviously the liquor had gone straight to her head for her to be having the dangerous and uncharacteristically erotic thoughts she'd been having about the man sitting across from her.

"I think I've had enough," she said.

When she looked up again, Dev's brows were drawn together in a question—or was that disappointment?

"Drinks," she clarified.

His expression smoothed into a lazy smile. "We could order coffee," he suggested. When she didn't readily agree, he added, "Or go outside for air."

As if only just noticing where they were, she glanced around.



Sunday, October 25, 2009

prepping for minano part deux



What else can we, as authors, do to get ready for a writing challenge? The pre-writing is done--so what else?

*Tell your family and friends. Don't keep the amount of time you'll need for intense writing a secret. You may have to negotiate with those you need to spend time with. Make sure they know that they are important, but your writing is too. Plan a celebration for the end of November. Make a promise for some special time.

*Get your writing area(s) in shape. I share one computer with others and always seem to be shoving their stuff out of the way. Heck, with my personal compute I'm always shoving stuff out of the way. Before Minano I will get both spaces workable so I don't have to face the frustration of a mess. My spaces won't be neat by some standards, but will be what is comfortable for me.

*Speaking of your writing space... if you enjoy writing to music, have the appropriate CDs nearby. Or better yet, create playlists in whatever program you use for music. I love creating 'A long afternoon' playlists. The music plays forever so I don't have to think about it. Hmm, guess I should create a Minano playlist! If a bowl of M&Ms sparks your creativity... you guessed it. Be prepared! Although, I would like to suggest that a healthier writing munchie like fresh veggies and fruit!

*And speaking of food--if you can in this next week, prep and freeze some meals to help get through the month. Plan great crock pot dishes or casseroles that come together quickly so you don't have to waste writing time on cooking. Better yet, let other household members take some of the meal prep responsibility. You may end up with peanut butter and jelly, but when made with love, what does that matter?

*Whatever you think might help you focus on intense writing--do it! There's always life outside of writing. Throughout November there will be a TON of distractions but if we have some plans in our arsenal, the distractions will be kept to a minimum and our wordcount at maximum!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A little motivation Pooh…

winne 2 Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up. 

A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Drawing for Autographed Books!


Cheryl St.John is holding a drawing for advance copies of her December book, HER COLORADO MAN at Petticoats and Pistols. CLICK HERE to gallop on over!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Minano--getting ready part one

Whenever facing an extended writing challenge--like NaNoWriMo or our own Minano--good preparation is essential. Here's a few thoughts to get you started.

**Make a daily goal. There's thirty days in November (If I remember the rhyme correctly). However, for numerous reasons, it's difficult for many of us to write every day. So take a good, honest look at the calendar. There are plenty of activites you might be able to put off, but some events demand that portion of your time. If you're cooking Thanksgiving dinner for family, you may not be able to squeeze in words to make your daily goal. So plan around those days.


Now, go to your calendar and X out days you know you won't write. It doesnt' matter the reason. Then count up the days left for writing. Take your goal (for Minano it's 25,000 words) and divide it by the number of available days.

For instance--if you plan on writing 20 days, to reach the goal youll need to write 1,250 words per day. The satisfaction of continually meeting a daily goal will propel you forward, even after the challenge is done!

**Take a hint from Scouting and Be Prepared. NaNoWriMo encourages participants to work on a totally new novel. For Minano, we're simply going for word count--it doesn't matter if your words are on a new project or you're continuing your current work in progress. Either way do all of your normal pre-writing before November one. Know your characters and their inciting incidents. Plotter? Get your charts or notecards filled out. Write by the seat of your pants? There's always some pre-thinking that happens before you start a story--even if you only name your characters or title your story.

The point is--when November one rolls around, all you need to do is sit at the computer and begin.

**Is that all there is to it? Oh, of course not. Come back in a few days for more thoughts on surviving an extended writing challenge. And by all means, if you have tried and true suggestions or survival techniques (like the best chocolate to keep by the computer) please share them here!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Minano

Some Heartlandian authors have signed up for Nanowrimo--Thirty days of writing and literary abandon


And some Heartlandians realize that while a writing challenge with a significant word count goal is important, 50,000 words in 30 days is a bit much. To meet that need we've created our own MINANO or mini-NaNo. Each person accepts the challenge to write novella sized--to the tune of 25,000 words in 30 days.

Come back often to check how the Heartlandians are doing... or join us if you dare!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

SYTYCW...w...w Challenge 2 Top Competitor

Our guest choreographer, Mama Say Mama Saw, has chosen the scene that best showcased her challenge!

Congratulations to Scene Two and author, Patti L!


Query Letters--what not to do



Here's a great and entertaining post about query letters on Edittorrent. How not to be an amateur. And while you're there, read the sidebar-Pointless FTC disclosure statement. ::snort::
*Warning, some adult language*

Thursday, October 8, 2009

SYTYCW...w...w...Challenge 2 Scene 2

He turned and gave her a piercing stare. "Why didn't you tell me you couldn't ride?"


"You didn’t ask. I thought we were going to Eileen Donan by ship! I didn't know you meant for us to ride there! Why did you expect me to know how to ride? In London I did not need to."

"I am sorry, Kes, my mistake. But unless you want to walk to your uncle's, you’ll have to learn. 'Tis not difficult. I’ll show you." He turned toward the horse and began undoing the leather strap holding the saddle. He pulled it through the leathery mass and it slid to the ground. "You won't need that. I'll send Campbell back for it. Now, gather your skirts between your legs-"

"What? How-"

"Fold them somehow. I am going to teach you the astride way. Before you say it's improper, let me tell you Isobel rode this way all the time at Broadmoor. 'Tis the easiest way, since I'm going to be behind you. Now when I lift you over, grip the horse with your knees.."

"B-but what do I hold on to once I'm up there?" Kestrel interjected, staring at the horses’ broad neck.

"Hold onto his mane 'til I'm there. I won't let you fall, I promise."

Kestrel cast him a doubtful look. “Belike I should have kept on your breeches.”

A slow heat churned in Devon’s eyes and he shook his head. “Nay, my lady. Belike it would be easier, but I’ve seen your legs and I’d get fair tired of challenging every man who gazed at them.”

Heat flooded her face, and she bent to the embarrassing task of splitting her full skirts without letting any ankle show. Luckily, the material was light, and easy to wrap around her legs.

She stood in front of Devon with her left foot cradled in the palm of his hands ready to be hoisted onto a horse for the first time in her life. Cold fear slicked through her. Devon's golden gaze found hers and held. “You’re brave, Kestrel. I have faith in you.”

Her stomach bunched at his words. Determined to prove him right, she balanced herself against one of his strong shoulders.

"Grab the mane with your left hand and fling your right leg over. Remember to grip with your knees."

“Aye.” Kestrel nodded. It happened quickly. One good lift and Kestrel gripped the solid back of the horse as if her life depended on it. She buried her fingers in its coarse hair and held her breath. It seemed time stood still until Devon's steady form slid behind her. He placed an arm around her waist and urged the horse forward. The motion rocked Kestrel and she leaned into Devon as if his presence would keep her from falling.

"Relax, Kes. Look at the scenery." Devon's warm breath caressed her ear and she tried to focus on the beauty around her. They started down the steep incline into town. The grey roofs and weathered cottages sat against a backdrop of royal blue rippling with silver clouds. Far off in the distance, the shadow of Dunollie Castle sat like a silent observer.

Kestrel inhaled a deep breath of heather scented air and sighed, her happiness overshadowed by Devon's physical nearness. His manhood pressed intimately against her lower back reminding her of that night in Westleigh. She closed her eyes remembering its velvety length against her fingers. What would have happened if she'd done what he'd wanted her to? What if she had given in?
"And then you take them in your hand Kes, like this-" His long fingers entwined with hers and the reins. A hot flush crept up her cheeks, and she stared down at their hands in silent mortification. What had he said about the reins?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

SYTYCW...w...w... Challenge 2, Scene 1

The tiny flame flickered and nearly died. Tane blew softly across the dry tinder. The urge to ignite the campfire burned at the base of his throat. Before he fell prey to the urge, the flame caught, crackled then rose to cast shadows and brightness on the figure beside him.



“You don’t have any difficulty making fire, do you?”


Tane blinked at the soft question then sat back on his haunches and wrapped his flint and steel in a soft rag. The ordinary action provided a moment to consider the curious note in her tone before he answered. “Many years of practice have sharpened my skill.”


“Undoubtedly.” Charity twisted the thin cotton of her skirt between her fingers then studied him through long, pale lashes before staring into the clear night sky. “The way the sparks rise, it’s almost like flying.”


“Flying?” The burning settled in his chest.


She smiled at him. “Yes. I’d like to fly, though I don’t see how such a thing would ever be possible for a simple man. God did not form us with His angels’ wings.”


“No, God did not form us so.”


Her gaze did not leave the dark sky but her head turned as though she watched a shooting star. “Perhaps with different wings a man can find the ability to fly.”


“That would take unbelievable change, both for man and for the world around him. Change is not always welcomed, but is hated or feared. Mere battles, and the cruelty of civil wars have split nations, all in the name of change.” Tane angled to face her and shook his head. “Sometimes control is abandoned and the change is too great, a fire spreading across the land. No, some changes should never be.”


Charity’s gaze rested on him and anticipation shivered down his spine. The campfire sparkled in her eyes, reflecting honest determination. “In the past, I feared change. But I have never feared fire.”


His dragon essence roared. He squelched the need to add his voice to possession’s rising call. Mine.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Research Help at Your Fingertips

My Info Quest
Send a question using a cell phone via text messaging and, within 10 minutes, a research librarian will respond via text messaging. The service is staffed by librarians from across the country. Any random question of no particular genre will be answered.

To use the service, send a text message with the code WCC before the question to (309) 222-7740 weekdays from 6am to 8 pm and Saturday from 7am to 3pm.
More details here: http://www.myinfoquest.info/

Multnomah County Library's Research Line
Call or email any question, and they get back to you within a day or two.
http://www.multcolib.org/contact/

Sunday, September 27, 2009

So You Think You Can Write Challenge 2



Time to join in HWG's So You Think You Can Write ...write ...write challenge. The month's guest choreographer Mama Say Mama Saw has designed what could be a tough challenge. Take some time and practice before you bring your A game to this task! Then by October 7th  send your scene to *lizzie privately for posting here on the blog.

THE CHALLENGE:

What We Talk About When We Talk About Something Else

So many times when we speak, we use one topic, subject matter, or issue to stand for and illuminate what we feel about something else. Just like:

• When Jules tells Kim in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” that she’s crème brulee and she’s “never gonna be Jello.”


• When Carrie thinks of her own indiscretion in “Sex in the City” as her boyfriend Aiden talks about a piece of furniture he’s made. He points out the flaw in the wood and says the flaw is what makes the piece interesting.


• When, at the end of my all-time-favorite romance movie: “Love & Basketball,” Monica thinks she’s lost the man she loves, and he says [spoiler alert] “Hey . . . double or nothin.’”


• Or, how about the entire movie (or book)” Like Water for Chocolate.” The exquisite and painstaking preparation of food stands as a metaphor for love, especially making it? Simply delicious.


All right . . . your assignment is to write a scene between two people. Give these two people something physical to do: wash dishes by hand, paint a house, build a house, fix a car, take dragon-riding lessons, build a campfire, get corseted into dresses, etc. Have them discuss what’s going on, what they’re doing, their surroundings, but make what they’re discussing stand for something much more powerful and crucial in one or both of their lives.

Here’s an example of a scene I wrote in a workshop. It’s a short dialogue between two women, one of whom is sleeping with the other woman’s husband. They are in a kitchen making a salad together for a gathering of friends.

Melissa: You look like you really know what you’re doing.


Krista: Nah. It’s just a salad.


Melissa: No. I mean you’re really going at it. Those poor carrots.


Krista: It’s not really about the carrots.


Melissa: It’s not, huh?


Krista: No. It’s about the knife.


(Krista smiles, bounces a little. Rocks the knife through the next carrot.)


Melissa: So, who do you think you are over there, the Happy Chef?


Krista: Maybe.


Melissa: What’s so joyful about severing things?


Krista: Some things are just better in pieces.


Okay, we had two minutes and the emphasis was on dialogue, but I’m sure you get the gist. You have a lot more time for your exercise, so no shortcuts . . . only a fully written scene. Remember to keep your characters active, painting a picture of what they’re doing. Your characters don’t have to be adversarial, but it would be oh so fun if they were! If you choose to tell us what they’re really talking about, please hold your reveal until the end of the scene.



Happy subtexting!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

So You Think You Can Write September Winner Announced

HWG members reviewed and voted on the entries for the writing challenge of the month.
The results are in.

The Winner of September's So You Think You Can Write ::write::write::: Contest is....













wait...........




wait..........





wait.....





almost there.........






ths suspense is killing you, eh?









April Berry-Sanford! whoo hoo!

Congratulations, April!


Watch for October's challenge by the next gifted talented and extraordinary guest choreographer, and be sure to get your entry in.

Friday, September 11, 2009

SYTYCW First Challenge Second Entry

A dry spring breeze tossed the colorful bouquet of hothouse daisies Sapphire grasped in a tight fist. The browned edges of sod replaced over the fresh grave deepened her sorrow. But as much as she missed her friend, she couldn’t stay here. This visit was too soon, her sorrow too fresh.

After carefully placing the tattered flowers next to the headstone, she brushed away a few stray bits of grass. Too soon for the monument company to have carved the second date, the stone looked empty, and a bit sad. Nothing left of a life but dried grass and smooth stone.

She turned and walked aimlessly along the narrow, square-curbed roadway. Bits of gravel and a winter's gray debris collected against the curb and crunched under her feet. Ambling through the old cemetery often brought her calm, and now the first signs of spring brightened the grass. If she stopped to rest on one of the memorial benches or scrape away some of the thick, dead leaves from the base of a headstone, she might discover the first brave shoots of spring flowers. At some of the oldest graves, the peonies had spread, and when in bloom, obscured the barely readable markers.

She inhaled the end of winter dank air. Cemeteries no longer allowed planting lilac bushes or peonies in their family plots. Even the tiny, tight leaf buds of wide spreading shade trees were uncommon in newer 'places of rest'.

The curb ended and the road narrowed. The new cemetery. Unimpeded by trees, visitors could pull off the asphalt and park on the grass to leave their silk flowers or commercial 'mom' or 'dad' wreaths. Rather than the lush natural comfort of the old cemetery, this newer section had been designed as a caretaker's dream. Little existed there but modern remembrances, leaving a clear path for wide lawn mowers.

With slow steps, she crossed an empty plot and stood before a low, plain stone. No flowers would ever adorn this memorial, not from her anyway. She grinned at the bird blessings scattered over the mat-black stone. Blessings? No, more like just a taste of what the six-foot down occupant deserved...

“Our secret, right Faithie?”

When he was done, he held her head, and she wished he'd squeeze until her skull burst. Then she'd never have to do this again.

“Faithie? Our little secret?”

He wouldn't let her go until she said yes. Wouldn't let her brush her teeth and scrape the hard bristles over her tongue. “Yes.”

He shook her head then pressed her cheek against his thigh. “Yes what?”

“Yes, it's our secret...”

His fingers tightened and for a second she considered not answering.

“...Daddy.”

Anger held her as tightly as he had and she glared at the headstone. A gust of wind battered her back, angling her shoulders so her shadow darkened the deeply carved name. A tremor of dread coursed her spine.

A windchime's mellow tones flowed on the cool breeze. Sapphire relaxed and managed a weak smile. The chimes hanging from a shepherd's hook reminded her of music, music of the loss of her friend, Paul.

And Paul of his son, Jeffrey.

A crow added a harsh cry to the quiet day. Sapphire shaded her eyes and looked into the clear spring sky. The dark bird soared, dipped then landed a few feet away. Unconcerned, it returned her stare.

A crow in a graveyard. How appropriate. “Hey, was it you who decorated this grave?”

The bird preened one wing.

“Good job. Keep it up and before long no one will know who's here.” She hugged herself and grimaced, then spoke to the stone. “I buried the memories of what you did when Mom buried you. But now, I remember. I won't hide it any more. No more lies. No more secrets.”

At the dry crunch of footsteps behind her she backed away, turned and froze. Jeffery. What was he doing here?

He smiled and tiny cracks splintered the ice around her heart.

“I thought it was you. Did you leave the daisies at Dad's grave?”

She glanced toward the comfort of the older cemetery and nodded.

“Visiting someone over here? Family?”

Sapphire straighted her spine and shook her head. “Nope. Nobody here worth remembering.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

GREAT Resource for Work-At-Home Moms

I just had to spread the word to my writer friends about this new book from my friend Jill Hart! Jill knows what she is talking about because she’s run a successful business from home for almost a decade. HIGHLY recommended resource! : )

* * * * * * * *

Home-based businesses are estimated to be a $427 billion-a-year industry. In recent studies it was found that as many as 105 million people in North America alone were working at home. Considering this information, it is obvious that home-based businesses can be successful and authors Jill Hart and Diana Ennen will help you succeed with your own.


So You Want to Be a Work-at-Home Mom
details all the basics of starting a business in a spiritual, motivational, and comprehensive manner. From deciding what type of business to start to keeping your family and faith first, this helpful tool details every aspect of establishing a business. With proven success tips utilized by the authors and others who own work-at-home businesses, this inspiration approach will provide you with the resources you need to start your own home-based business.

So You Want to Be a Work-at-Home Mom includes:
* Detailed information on types of businesses to start
* Ideas and assistance for setting up, operating, and marketing your business
* Definitions and descriptions of work-at-home terminology and processes
* Help for developing your Website
* Explanations of the business nuts and bolts, including bookkeeping, taxes, and more

About the Authors
JILL HART is the founder of Christian Work at Home Moms, CWAHM.com. Jill is a co-author of So You Want To Be a Work-at-Home Mom. Jill has published many articles and is a contributing author in Laundry Tales, The Business Mom Guide Book, I'll Be Home for Christmas, and Faith Deployed. She holds a bachelor's degree in human development and family studies. Learn more about working from home at http://www.cwahm.com/work-at-home/ .

Remember the Magic of Your Dream

It’s September already. The stores are displaying pumpkins and next it will be Christmas trees. It seems impossible that the year 2009 is three quarters of the way over. During the year I often encourage you to check back over your goal list and see if you’re where you want to be. A lot of times when the excitement has drained from our writing or we’re bored with the tedium of work and responsibilities, it’s because we’ve forgotten our dreams.

There are mortgages to pay and kids to raise and groceries to buy and dinners to prepare. Tucking away our aspirations at the expense of our personal well-being isn’t healthy. Eventually we resent the things that are “robbing” us, instead of enjoying each facet for the richness it brings. Certainly there is joy to be found in the dream of your own home and in the treasure of children, but sometimes we pause in the midst of all that busyness to wonder, “Is this all there is?” There has to be more, and we yearn to find fulfillment within ourselves. That’s most often the time to reprioritize our busy schedules.

Look at the goals you set for this year. It’s not too late to get started on something. Take time now to make a list. Sit down and write five things that you dream of doing. Divide them into categories if you like: Family, Professionally, Writing, Spiritually, or Just for Me. Now select one that you will work on before the end of the year. Make another list of the steps you will take to see that accomplishment come to pass. Now take those steps. Recapture the joy. We need to be participants in our lives, not spectators. We need to be passionate about our dreams. Sometimes simply revisiting our dreams is the kick we need to change our thinking and get us out of a rut. So dream big and dream often.

SYTYCW First Challenge--First Entry

Avin crossed his arms as he leaned back against the black Bently, watching the wind play. At his feet the leaves scraped dryly across the pavement in little eddies, circling his boots before vanishing off into the darkness again. The wind was wild tonight. It whipped through the treetops, making the old oaks moan as it battled the thinnest branches against one another in civil war. Avin grit his teeth and his lips thinned into their familiar scowl. Even the trees were complaining. Forcing himself to relax, Avin shoved the burgeoning irritation away and finally lifted his eyes to what was across the street.

It was abysmal dark under the canopy of the lifeless branches. Not many would be able to make out what was hidden there at the edge of the road between him and the thick of the forest. The moon finally slipped from behind the cascade of clouds and light played across what was left of an aged sign. The words had long since vanished and he caught himself straining to read what was written. Disgusted Avin quickly looked away again. He had a bitter dryness in his throat as regret and anger threatened to bubble up and strangle him. Avin didn’t need to read it, he knew what the sign said.

Everdale Cemetery.

He hadn’t forgotten in one hundred and forty-five years, and it wasn’t likely he’d start now. With a little huff that couldn’t even be called a laugh Avin turned to the oncoming rush of the storm rumbling above him. Pressing himself into the wind in silent defiance, he let the storm’s sharp autumn chill consume his troubled senses.

He smelled rain. Moisture hung heavy in the air thick enough to taste. The damp clung to his skin and coated everything in its cloying embrace. The mist was the storms subtle precursor to the onslaught to come. His night’s work may prove messy if time turned against him too. Avin thought briefly of the Bently with its creamy leather seats, but it was a moot. What needed to be done, would be, and that was that. Avin chuckled lowly at himself. It was funny really, in a way.

All the other times he’d done this very same thing he’d never had a moment’s hesitation… until now. This was so unlike him. His thoughts of late had been troubling him and this was no different. Maybe he was growing melancholy in his age.
With a heavy sigh, Avin reached behind him, grabbed the shovel out of the convertibles backseat and strode across the street.

Dead leaves crunched under his passing as he waded through the tall grass and into the darkness between the massive trunks. The forest swallowed him in its primal presence just as it had the cemetery all those years ago. Walking deeper into the ancient grove his boots stirred up the deep earthy scent of the ground as he passed into Everdale. All about him the silver splashes of moonlight fell through the skeletal boughs above to find the stones, painting some into pale obelisks for their forgotten heroes where others remained simply shadows forever, their litanies faded smooth from time.

Avin’s steps slowed as he passed the marble markers. Resisting the urge to reach and touch them as he passed in a somber greeting. He knew each marker by heart and his memory was the only memorial for more than he wished to count, these men included. The small union cemetery was always this size, less than two dozen graves, but somehow over the years it always seemed to grow larger. As if each regret pushed its boundaries further every year he came here and the number of dead men multiplied. Blinking hard Avin stopped, and stood in the center of Everdale. Before him the broken flag pole had finally succumbed to time. The white oak shaft he had carved to stand for his fallen friends lay across the mausoleum door. Avin would never name the emotion that swam up into his throat and burned his eyes as he reached out lightly and grasped the pole. It disintegrated in his hand, the pieces of rotted oak falling away in splinters under his touch. Against his will his eyes blurred and his heart picked up pace as the pole crumbled.

Avin blinked away the wetness and pushed open the ornate iron door. The cold metal burned his palms. Avin gripped it tighter, relishing the pain it as the pattern scalded itself into his hands. The whorls and circles scarring his flesh as he sought his silent penance, just like he did every year. Finally Avin let go and the pain in his hands went away only to worm into his heart instead.

There it was. Joshua’s tomb.

Avin didn’t even remember pushing the center stone off carefully or digging down the several feet below the mausoleums floor, although he knew he did it. This whole night was only this moment. Avin was staring down at the lid of Joshua’s coffin.

Carefully he reached around the edge and lifted it.

Soft brown locks framed the boyish face of the man inside. A strong jaw and masculine beauty that always turned the ladies heads no matter where they traveled or how battle weary they were. Joshua Samuel Everdale looked exactly the same he had the night Avin buried him. The union uniform that never quite fit his broad six four frame had long since faded and turned to simple threads in spots.

“So my friend will you rise tonight?” Avin’s voice was a harsh plea.

Deep hazel eyes opened, and Joshua stared up at him. The pain of losing their troop still hot in his tear filed stare. Joshua’s voice was a whisper. “No.”

With a resigned nod, Avin closed the lid on his secret and wept.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Writing Challenges

There are tons of challenges when you make the decision to pursue a writing career. We all have them and face each one with varying degrees of success. Each challenge dealt with is a badge of honor for an author.

However, I'd like to talk about another kind of challenge.

Challenges of writing... not to writing.



Many author groups offer challenges for learning, fun and occasionally as contests. These challenges range from writing a high concept to a paragraph to a scene. Some will focus on one specific skill, while others may offer a scene set up or a list of words to include in your scene.



Why should I take part in these challenges? Why take time away from my current WIP and play around with a scene that won't fit anywhere? Why expose myself to more possible criticism...or ridicule?



Let me tell you why.



Short challenges such as these usually have a narrow focus. With a limited amount of words an author is asked to work on one aspect of their craft. Concentrating on a single requirement encourages an author to strive for understanding and take a step toward mastery.



And don't we all want to master our craft?



Cautious of presenting your challenge writing to others? Don't be! As authors our goal is publication. That means presenting our tales to the world. Perhaps this is a part of the challenge you need to conquor.


As for the argument of spending time on something different than your work in progress... A number of years ago I took part in a series of challenges with a group of authors. For each challenge we were given a list of words to be used. From these few scenes, a story was born. Beyond these original scenes, the worlds of Dancing the Stars came into being.


"If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be too cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.
~Ray Bradbury



Accept the call of a challenge. You'll never know how your wings are built until you fly!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Food Safety Education

September is National Food Safety Education Month.

Check out the first of four food safety related myths with mz *lizzie the lunch lady.


And in a not related, but interesting story...


PERU: Police seize cocaine inside live turkeys
27.aug.09
World PoultryThe Associated Press



Peruvian police were expecting to find a shipment of cocaine hidden in a crate holding two live turkeys. However, they were surprised to discover the drug surgically implanted inside the birds.

Acting on a tip, police officers in Peru were puzzled when they found the turkeys in the crate, but didn't find the cocaine, Tarapoto's anti-drug police chief Otero Gonzalez told The Associated Press. They then noticed that the 2 turkeys were bloated.

"Lifting up the feathers of the bird, in the chest area, police detected a handmade seam," he said.

A veterinarian extracted 11 oval-shaped plastic capsules containing 1.9 kg (4.2 pounds) of cocaine from one turkey and 17 capsules with 2.9 kg (6.4 pounds) from the other, he said.

Both turkeys reportedly survived the removal.

~~~ hopefully not to be stuffed another way!~~~

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tip for Historical Writers

I always print out a calendar for the year of my story and then use blank monthly pages to cover each month. I just found two sites even better than the ones I used previously.

Here, simply enter your year and print a calendar:

http://kalender-365.de/calendar.php?yy=1863

And this one does all the work for you. You enter a starting date, like January 1, 1850 and click for it to open, (not download) and print a month at a time. It only takes a couple minutes to get a complete year's calendar (or however many months you need). I punch holes, slide them into my binder and choreograph my storyline with ease.

http://www.calendarsthatwork.com/calendar.php?calendarId=monthPSf2

Friday, August 28, 2009

Member Release: The Magnificent Seven


The Magnificent Seven
Silhouette Special Releases
Sep 2009
Miniseries: Montana Mavericks
ISBN:9780373310524 (#30)

Heather Johnson had never intended to return to Whitehorn, Montana. But restoring an inherited ranch seemed the perfect way to pass the summer with her three kids. The moment she hired carpenter Mitch Fielding, though, his motherless twin daughters in tow, those short-term plans suddenly went awry. Mitch was the first man in her life who truly seemed to notice her. And as his skillful hands restored the ranch and ignited a passion she'd never known, her fragile heart began to heal, as well. For once in Heather's life everything seemed magnificent. And that scared her. Because the future she wanted—and the past she'd run from—were forever in Whitehorn….


The Magnificent Seven

READ AN EXCERPT
Chapter One

Mitch led his twin six-year-olds, Taylor and Ashley, through the lunch crowd at the Hip Hop Café as though he were guiding them through a minefield. Taylor narrowly missed knocking over a gray-haired gent's cane that was leaning against a table edge, and Mitch clamped his hand firmly over Ashley's mouth as soon as he noticed an overweight woman shoveling chocolate-cream pie between her lips.

He got them settled into a booth and released his breath. "There." He picked up the plastic-coated menu and scanned for something nourishing the twins would eat without pitching a fit. "They have hamburgers and chicken fingers."

"Yuck. I want a chocolate malt and a pickle," Ashley pronounced.

"I want skettios," Taylor said.

"They don't have skettios," he replied to one daughter, then turned to the other. "And you can have a chocolate malt if you eat a hamburger."

"Gross. I don't want a hamburger." She folded her arms over the front of her Teletubbie T-shirt. "I want a pickle."

"You can have a pickle with your hamburger. Taylor, they have spaghetti."

"Don't like spaghetti."

"Of course you do. It's the same stuff that comes out of the cans, only real."

"Uh-uh-uh," she said in a singsongy voice with a shake of her head. "It doesn't taste the same."

He resisted the urge to argue or bargain in public, which always made him feel as if his daughters were getting the upper hand anyway. How long could a child survive on pickles, malts and canned spaghetti? It was his job as a parent to see that they were well nourished, but how did he go about it? Some nights he dropped into bed mentally exhausted, feeling lucky to have gotten several bites of anything into them.

A waitress appeared at his elbow, and Mitch glanced up to see the slim blonde in a blue T-shirt proclaiming Breakfast Served All Day give him a curious once-over. Everyone in Whitehorn, Montana, seemed to know each other, and he obviously stuck out as a newcomer. A quick scan confirmed that a dozen eyes had zeroed in on him and his daughters.

"Afternoon," she said pleasantly. "I'm Janie Austin. Which one of Garrett Kincaid's grandsons are you?"

"Mitch Fielding," he replied self-consciously. "How did you know?"

She cast him a friendly smile. "In Whitehorn everybody knows everybody else's business. Anticipating each grandson's arrival has been the hot topic for quite a while."

He didn't know how well he liked being the subject of gossip, but this young woman seemed friendly and accepting enough. Apparently everyone already knew he was one of six illegitimate grandsons the old man had summoned to his ranch. Garrett was still searching for a seventh.

She touched his shoulder in a brief gesture of greeting that put him at ease. "Nice to meet you, Mitch."

He returned her neighborly smile. "These are my daughters, Taylor and Ashley."

"Look at that pretty blond hair. What'll you have, girls?"

He gave her their orders, amid objections from his daughters. Taylor waved her arm to get his attention and knocked the ketchup bottle into the salt and pepper shakers. Pepper spilled on the laminate tabletop, and she promptly blew it into her sister's face.

Ashley sneezed and her eyes watered. She grabbed for the rolled paper napkin that held her silverware and sent the metal utensils flying across the table and onto the floor.

Mitch picked up the utensils, handed them to the astonished waitress and admonished the girls to sit on their behinds.

By the time their food arrived, everyone in the room knew Taylor had to go to the bathroom. He took them to the women's room, standing outside until their food was cold. Finally he rapped on the door.

Thank God it was a one-seater, because he had to go in to dry their hands and pull them out. So that the next person wouldn't slip and break her neck, he mentioned to the waitress that the rest room floor was flooded.

"My spaghetti's cold," Taylor complained loudly.

"So's everything else." With a sigh, Mitch picked up his cold burger and took a bite, just as Ashley knocked over her malt.

Twenty minutes later he released their hands to get his wallet and pay the cashier. He ran back to leave a generous tip at the table for the patient waitress.

A bulletin board on the wall by the cash register caught his attention and, ignoring the yanks on his hands, he scanned the notices of cars and household items for sale. He was particularly looking for someone to watch the girls for him so he could line up a few jobs. Most of the Want Ads had been placed by junior and high school students; the twins needed someone more experienced. Much more experienced. A warden, perhaps.

One notice caught his eye. Handyman Wanted. He released a small hand to tap the card with his forefinger.

"Know anything about this one?" He directed his question to the gray-haired waitress in orthopedic shoes standing near the cash register.

"That's Pete Bolton's ranch," she replied. "His daughter was in here a couple of weeks ago, looking for someone to help her fix up the place to sell."

That sounded like just the job for him. A couple of months back he'd had to sell all of his contracts, to take care of the girls. His mother had been caring for them, but one calamity after another had pulled him from work sites, until it wasn't fair to his customers or his subcontractors for him to continue. While trying to figure out what to do, he'd decided that Garrett Kincaid's invitation was just the solution.

This had been the perfect time to do some traveling, and he'd been eager to spend more time with, and get to know, this grandfather he'd never known existed until last May.

"Do you have some paper I can write the number on?" he asked.

"Sure, sugar." She fished in her pocket, came out with her order tablet and a pen, and scribbled the phone number, tearing off the sheet and handing it to him.

The bell over the door clanged and he turned to see one of his daughters dash outside.

"Thanks." He stuffed the paper into his shirt pocket and pulled the other child out the door behind him.

Lily Mae Wheeler got up out of her permanent seat in the first booth and walked over to Charlene, her gaudy jewelry clanking at her wrists and weighing down her bony chest.

"Heard he was at Garrett's ranch," she said to let Charlene know she'd been the first to hear. "Nobody knows much about him yet, 'cept his wife died when those two were just babies. Those children are holy terrors, have you ever seen the likes?"

"Must be difficult for a young father to raise two girls alone," Janie said sympathetically, coming up beside them.

"They need a good paddling, if you ask me," Lily Mae scoffed.

"Be interesting to see what happens at the Bolton ranch this afternoon, wouldn't it?" Charlene said with a devilish smile.

The three exchanged amused glances.

Engaging her ten-year-old daughter's help, Heather Johnson tackled the stack of dishes from lunch and breakfast.

"We need a dishwasher, Mom." Jessica dried a chipped plate and stood on tiptoe to place it in the cupboard.

"I didn't think we were going to be here long enough to need one," Heather replied with a regretful sigh. She turned and glanced at her sons who sat on the worn linoleum floor with coloring books. With his tongue angled out the side of his mouth, five-year-old Patrick studiously labored to keep the purple crayon inside the lines on the page. Two-year-old Andrew spent more time chasing the crayons under the table and tasting them than he did coloring, but at least her boys were temporarily occupied.

When she'd brought her children to the ranch after her father's death, she'd planned to take a two-week vacation, go through her father's personal belongings, and sell the property. A neat-and-tidy plan, something that should have gone smoothly.

Now, two and a half weeks later, she still hadn't been able to make any progress on selling. She hadn't planned on all the repairs that the real estate lady had suggested be made to get a decent price. Heather hadn't been back to Whitehorn in years, and the property had deteriorated more than she'd imagined. Her father obviously hadn't paid any more attention to the house than he ever had to her.

She shrugged off the depressing thought and gave Jessica a smile. "Thank you, angel. You are a big help to me, you know that?"

Wiping another plate, her daughter nodded in a grown-up manner. "Can we do something fun after this, Mom?"

A little pang of regret snagged Heather. She knew it hadn't been much fun for Jess to help with the boys all morning while Heather went through boxes and trunks and years' worth of accumulated junk. "What would you like to do?"

"Catch turtles in the pond?"

Heather wrinkled her nose. "Who's going to wade out there with the net?"

"You'll help, won't you?"

Heather had to admit she'd been appreciating this much-needed time with her kids. She loved her public relations job in San Francisco, and the sense of self-worth it had always brought, but she often felt guilty about the time she missed with her children. This time with them had been enjoyable, even though it had to be spent here—the last place on earth she'd choose to vacation.

She tapped Jessica on the nose with a sudsy finger. "Okay, I'll help you catch a turtle."

Jessica grinned that knockout smile, revealing dimples that would one day drive young men crazy. Heather's heart gave a sad twinge at the thought. She wasn't too concerned about her daughter's future.

She'd tried her best to ensure Jessica wouldn't make the same mistakes Heather had made.

Patrick jumped up and ran to the screen door that overlooked the long gravel drive. "Somebody's coming! It's a way cool truck!"

Andrew got up, crunching crayons beneath his red-and-blue tennis shoes in the process, and followed his brother. "Thumbody coming!" he mimicked.

Heather dried her hands and moved to the door. She'd been expecting the man who had called earlier about interviewing for the handyman job. The blue-and-silver duel cab Silverado pickup leaving a dust trail must belong to him.

"This is the appointment I was expecting." She hung up the towel. "We'll be discussing business in the other room. I want all of you to play quietly in here until we're finished."

She waited for the children's nods of understanding, then stepped back to the door.

The driver parked in the gravel area behind the house, but instead of getting out right away he turned toward the back seat. Heather noticed a couple of heads she hadn't seen at first. He'd brought children to a job interview? One big strike against him.

She stepped out onto the back porch, the age-splintered boards creaking precariously beneath her feet.

He exited the truck at last, closing the door and glancing over his shoulder.

He was tall, she noticed right away. Maybe thirty, with sandy-brown hair and a golden tan attesting to hours working in the sun.

The jeans he wore encased long legs and slim hips. A navy-blue, button-down knit shirt, work boots, and a slim black folder with a clipboard completed the classically sexy look of a handyman. Heather could picture him with a tool belt around his hips and smiled to herself. Certainly nothing wrong with his appearance.

He neared the porch. "Mrs. Johnson?"

She composed her face and nodded.

"Mitch Fielding."

She reached to shake his hand. He had calluses on his palms. Hardworking. Steadfast. Where had that come from? It had been a long time since she'd noticed a man the way she noticed this one. Perturbed, she released his hand. "We can talk inside."

He glanced uncomfortably over his shoulder.

"Your children?" she asked.

He nodded. "They're supposed to sit there until I get back."

She wondered again why he'd brought them along. It was completely unprofessional. "Would you like to let them come in and color at the kitchen table?"

"No," he said immediately with a shake of his head. "I don't think so."





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