Thursday, December 19, 2013
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
When they sat at the little round table on the porch, they both noticed the shadowy figure poised at the edge of the woods.
“He’s been hanging around for the last hour or so,” Chris said. “I take it he’s not yours?”
“No, he’s just a stray.” Emily watched the gaunt husky slip back into the cover of the trees. She was glad he’d made it through the storm, but the poor thing was probably starved again.
It had been a while since anyone sat at the table with Emily. Usually, she propped a book up in front of her, but that would be unforgivably rude. She would just have to bury the tiny flutter of disquiet that threatened to balloon up inside of her. So she was sitting across the table from a nice-looking man. So he was going to sleep in her barn tonight. So she didn’t know him from Adam. She was used to dealing with older people so set in their ways they were practically concrete. Certainly she could manage to deal with a man nearly her own age.
Chris had washed in water from the creek and run wet fingers through his hair. When he sat across from her, Emily noticed the tiny drops of water sparkling against the rich cinnamon brown.
He ate with gusto, talking in between about the trip he was making across the country. “I’m just taking my time, wandering about. Going along the back roads.”
“Guess that’s how you happened by here.” Emily offered him another sandwich.
“He’ll be back,” she told Chris. “Sooner or later, he’ll trust me enough. I just have to give him some time.”
“I have to go to work now.” She turned back to the house. “You can just go ahead with the windows on the greenhouse. I’ll be home around six.”
Chris watched as she went into the house and came out with a black bag.
“In case you’re wondering, I’m a public-health nurse,” Emily said. “Home care visits are part of my job. I have some people to check up on after the storm. A lot of them…don’t have anybody else. If you get thirsty, help yourself to whatever you can find. I’ll try to pick up something cold on the way home.”
It seemed strange to have someone watching as she drove away and even stranger to have him waiting when she came home at half-past eight.
“I was getting worried,” Chris said when she slid down from the truck seat. He’d been sitting on the porch steps, but he came to meet her and took the bag of groceries and the six-pack of beer from her hand. “You look tired. I fixed some supper. Hope you don’t mind.”
She didn’t. In fact, it felt good to have someone taking care of her for a change, even if he was just a stranger who would be gone in a few weeks.
After they ate the meal cooked over Chris’s one-burner camp stove, they sat on the porch and drank the beer and watched purple evening shadows steal across the fields. Emily was tired, but it was nice to have someone to talk to instead of just the old dog.
“My parents lived on this farm all their married lives. I didn’t come along until they were both in their forties. I guess they’d just about given up on ever having a family. As it was, all they got was me.”
“Not such a bad deal.” Chris’s voice was nearly as soft as the country twilight. “I bet they were immensely proud.”
Emily shrugged, uncomfortable when the talk centered on her.
Chris let a space of silence lapse, as if he understood, then he asked, “Didn’t you ever feel trapped, living way out here with no one your own age around?”
Emily wanted to shout no, but if the truth were told, at 18 she had felt more than ready to get away from home. Her parents had sensed it and they hadn’t held her back. “They made sure I went to college. I lived away for five years, but then the farm got to be too much for Dad. Who else did they have to depend on but me?”
She smiled sleepily at Chris and tried to hold back a yawn, but her eyes simply wouldn’t stay focused. “Must be…the beer.”
Chris stood up and ‘rousted the bedroll he’d stashed in the corner of the porch. “Good night, Emily,” he said softly and ambled off to the barn.
It was surprising how quickly Emily got used to Chris being around. After so long living alone, she looked forward to pouring two cups of coffee in the morning. When she wasn’t making her nursing rounds, they worked outside together, and the farm began to take on a new spruced-up appearance. After five days the power came back on, and by the time one week turned into two, it was almost as if Chris had always been there. But when he tried to kiss her, she shied away like a wary doe.
They were in the orchard and had stopped to drink lemonade from a thermos. The next thing Emily knew, Chris brushed a stray wisp of hair back from her face and carelessly leaned toward her, but his lips only had a chance to graze her cheek before she turned away, her heart thudding in her ears.
She’d been wondering for days what it would be like to have Chris kiss her, but now that he almost had, fear and uncertainty plucked at her. For a man like Chris, it was no doubt just a moment’s pleasure, but for Emily…for Emily it could be the way to heartbreak.
You’re acting like a fool, for heaven’s sake. The man only tried to kiss you.
But it was hard to cope with feelings she had thought were left far behind, and she wasn’t prepared. Everything had been nice and predictable before that storm two weeks ago, nice and quiet with no surprises.
Why did Chris Carter, a most uncommon prince, have to come along? She had nothing to offer him. She was a plain woman. He must be at least five years younger. She was too old for him, too old for romantic love, but telling herself took all night and far into the early morning.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Monday, December 16, 2013
“Hi there,” she waved and called out merrily.
“Hi yourself.” He playfully tugged one of her twin ponytails.
“Where's your dog?”
“Afraid I had to leave him home today. I didn't think folks would appreciate him lumbering down the sidewalk or running through the store.”
Amy hung back when I tried to usher her out the door. “Are you going on a picnic?”
He let us go ahead of him. I noticed the bucket of takeout chicken under one arm and a six pack of pop under the other.
“Sort of. Well, I was really just going down to watch the boats on Lake Charleston and have my lunch.”
“Mmmm. I like chicken.” Amy's nose twitched at the enticing smell wafting from the cardboard bucket.
“Amy.” I gave her a prod.
“You and your mom are welcome to join me. I have plenty.”
Amy looked up at me eagerly. “Can we? Please?”
The man stopped walking and for some crazy reason so did I. We stood there in front of the Good Value market, the afternoon sun shining down on us.
He was a good head taller than I and perhaps three or four years older. His arms were nicely tanned below rolled-up shirtsleeves and he wore faded jeans. Under the blue gaze of his eyes, I flushed warmly and hugged my bag of groceries more tightly.
“If it's that we haven't been properly introduced, I'm Mike O'Brien.” He shifted the pop so he could stick out his hand.
I just looked at it a moment, then accepted the gesture. His hand was big and rough and warm.
“Katherine,” I said as his fingers closed briefly over mine. “Katherine Mitchell.”
“May I call you Kate? You look more like a Kate to me.”
Did I? With my plain brown hair pulled back I wasn't sure I looked like anyone. But I nodded.
“I take it you live in Charlevoix year-round?” He started walking again. Amy skipped alongside.
“How can you tell?” I gave him a sidelong glance.
I had to laugh. “That's funny. I just moved here six years ago. Where are you from?” In a small town, I was certain I would have seen him before.
“Actually, I just started working in this area a few weeks ago. I'm from Mackinaw City. Lived there most of my life, except for the years at Michigan State.
Most of my growing up years had been spent on a farm in southern Illinois. I suppose that was one reason why winter here stretched on interminably for me.
We reached the parking lot and stopped by my car. “So would you like to join me?” He nodded to the bucket of chicken.
Amy tugged on my arm. “Please, Mama? You said we might take a walk to the park today. I want to see the boats.”
“Come on, Kate Mitchell,” Mike O'Brien said. “It's a nice day. The boats are lovely on the lake. In the middle of winter you'll wish you had.”
“Okay,” I finally gave in. Amy whooped with glee.
“That was good.” I wiped my fingers on a paper napkin and stuffed the leftovers in the empty bucket. “Thank you for sharing with us.”
“You really did me a favor.” Mike leaned casually against a nearby oak tree. “I've gotten a little tired of eating meals alone lately.”
It was difficult to imagine him being alone. He was much too good-looking and friendly.
“You said you've only been working here a few weeks?” I curled my legs beneath me in the grass.
He continued to stare out at the water. He had a strong profile with a determined chin that jutted forward. I thought the he was a man who would never be dissuaded once he wanted something.
“That's right, since the day after Labor Day.”
It seemed an unusual time of year to be starting a job around here. “What sort of work do you do?” I asked.
“I'm with the state forestry service. I'll be heading up to the Upper Peninsula next month to winter at the Porcupine Mountains.”
“You're a ranger then?
I wasn't surprised to see him nod. With his tanned and rugged face, he certainly looked like a man who spent a great deal of time outdoors.
“I'll bet you love your work. Getting to be out in the woods all the time. I love the woods almost as much as the beach.”
In spite of my not liking the winters up here, I had truly enjoyed the camping Pete and I had done the first years of our marriage.
“There's a lot more to my work than just being in the forest.” Mike rubbed his hand over his chin. “Some of it can be pretty trying at times, like teaching folks to respect our natural resources, not to run rampant over them. They don't all value forests the way we do, but you're right, Kate.” He rested his blue gaze on me. “I do enjoy my work.”
“Pete did, too. He was a biology teacher.”
“How long has he been gone?”
I felt no hesitation in answering. “A little over a year.”
“You still miss him.”
I shrugged. “I suppose it gets easier as time goes on, and I do have Amy.”
We sat quietly for some moments and I found myself wondering how he had known. “What made you ask us to share your lunch? I mean, how did you happen to...”
“Just a hunch, but my hunches are usually right.” He smiled in a slow, persuasive way. “I have a hunch now that if I ask you to have dinner with me tomorrow night you'll accept.
Coming from another person, the remark might have been conceited, even arrogant. Coming from Mike O'Brien, it wasn't, and I had to admit it---I liked him.
“Bring Amy along. If we go early enough, we can take a ride. I'll show you some places where the trees are already starting to change.”
After a moment of thought, I agreed to go, and Mike smiled again.
When Amy and I walked back to our car, I felt a curious warmth inside that had nothing at all to do with the bright sunshine streaming down that afternoon.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Back in the farmhouse, Tessa busied herself feeding Shadow and Pandora. She'd adopted the black and white shepherd from the shelter when Phillip left on his first tour of duty, the calico cat at his second. They were her family now. The cat rubbed at her ankles before crouching at her dish. Too nervous to eat, Shadow watched from her den beneath the table, offering an occasional whine of concern about their precarious situation.
“Aren't we a sight?” Tessa's hand shook a little as she picked up the coffee pot. “A houseful of nervous females. What would Phillip have said?” He'd often teased Tessa about her penchant for adopting only female animals, grumbling good-naturedly that except for the rooster, he was outnumbered. If only things had been different, his dream of building a small herd of cattle and farming full-time might have come true, but war in some godforsaken land had taken him away....and left Tessa with the unfulfilled dream.
She dumped the untouched coffee in the sink and went upstairs to make her bed. From her window she could see the side of the mountain was shrouded in dense smoke. The fire must be moving across the plain to the west. Soon it would reach White Cloud, and after that where would it go? She had just smoothed the ivory crocheted coverlet over the bed when she heard Shadow's sharp staccato bark, followed by a pounding on the kitchen door. For a minute, fear like an icy finger trickled down Tessa's spine. She was alone except for her menagerie. Anyone could come in here and...
Before he'd left the first time, Phillip had taught her to shoot his shotgun. Unloaded, it sat in her closet, because she hated guns. She glanced toward that closet door now but didn't go there before heading downstairs.
At the door she gripped her rolling pin in one hand. Holding firmly to the doorknob she called out, “Who are you?” A tall figure moved on the porch. “Forest service, ma'am. We're advising everyone to evacuate. The fire's gotten out of control and is heading this way.” The man's voice sounded raspy and tired. Tessa's fear drained away. Pushing Shadow aside with her knee, she opened the door.
The man on her porch posed no threat, although he looked terrible. Streaks of soot ran down his face from beneath a battered yellow hard hat. Beard stubbled his square jaw and his eyes were rimmed in red. No doubt he'd been fighting the fire all night. His heavy jeans and denim shirt were stained with sweat and caked with black grime. She hoped he wouldn't just keel over.
Tessa stared up at him, not wanting to believe what he said was true. “Who sent you?” she demanded. He closed his bloodshot eyes and sighed deeply. When he opened them again, Tessa could see their normal color was a light teal blue.
“The sheriff, if it makes any difference. A new crew of firefighters came on this morning. I'm on break for a while but I told the sheriff I'd check out this area and make sure everyone had left.”
“And have they?” Tessa peered past him toward the now empty highway, praying that at any moment someone would waken her from this bad dream. But the weary man on her porch was all too real.
He nodded his head. “Yours is the only place where I found anyone at home. And I'm not fooling about leaving, ma'am. I've been on the fire line since yesterday. I know what I'm talking about. The fire is coming this way and you'd best get out now.”
Tessa stepped back from the door and looked around her kitchen, at the perky green and white gingham curtains she'd made, the solid oak table Phillip had refinished. How could she just leave it all? It seemed an act of cowardice to her. Her hand went to her throat and pressed the wildly beating pulse there. “I...can't. I can't leave it. My husband...”
“Your husband?” An angry frown cracked the grime on the man's face. “Where is he? Away?” She nodded. “Well, it's for damn sure he wouldn't expect you to risk your life by staying. It's not worth it.”
That's what everyone had said when she and Phillip bought the dilapidated homestead five years ago. No one understood their dreams. Maybe the place didn't look like much to this man, but it was all she had. And she wasn't about to leave it to the fire's hungry whim.
Please stop by tomorrow for another story excerpt, and don't forget to enter the Sweet Romance Christmas Giveaway by clicking the "Giveaway" button at the top of my facebook page at
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Sunday, October 27, 2013
I'm happy to announce that my second collection of short stories, Sky of Magic, is now available in the Amazon Kindle Store. The four stories in this e-book are:
Kiss Yesterday Goodbye, A Love That Blossoms, For Love of Joshua, and Sky of Magic.
The first two stories are about married couples discovering that the love they once knew is still alive and well. For Love of Joshua is about a teacher whose dedication to a small boy with learning disabilities leads to romance with his single dad. Sky of Magic, one of my favorite stories, tells of a man returning to the big sky country of Montana and the woman he once loved.
These stories were all previously published in Woman's World magazine but have been rewritten and updated for today's reader. It's been a real pleasure to revisit these stories and the characters that I created so many years ago, almost like getting reacquainted with old friends. I love the cover that reflects the cover story and the theme of the magic of love renewed.
Once again, I have to thank my daughter Emily and son-in-law Dan for their help with all the technical aspects of getting these stories published again. What a blessing it is to have family who can do this stuff!
To learn more about this book and others I've written, please visit the Amazon Kindle Store.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Friday, September 13, 2013
Happy Friday the 13th and good luck in the drawing!
Monday, July 22, 2013
I had always thought it would be nice to put the stories together in an anthology, but no print publisher seemed interested in that sort of thing. Now, with the advent of e-readers and digital publishing, it's possible to make that happen. Luckily, I kept all the copies of the magazine that featured my stories, because they were mostly written on a typewriter; a few of them on a computer but saved on floppy disks that have long since gone the way of the dinosaurs. So this publishing venture included sorting through the stories, deciding which ones had similar themes, updating, and ultimately retyping them all into Word documents that could be formatted for the digital world. Wow, what a project! But totally worth the effort.
Thanks to my son-in-law's help with the formatting (he wanted to learn the process as he's presenting a program on e-publishing at his library), and the magic of the digital age, the stories will now be available on Amazon and I'm hoping they will find a new audience.
So today I'm announcing the release of the first of my short story collections, An Uncommon Prince and Other Short Stories. It's been a fun and interesting venture and I can't wait to start on the next volume. How lucky we are to have the choices we do today for writers and readers, and I'm excited to be able to make the stories available once again.
To view An Uncommon Prince and Other Short Stories
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Eventually, the old building was demolished to be replaced by a new modern one. That meant more room for more books! I loved it. Years later, I took my children to that library for story hours and so they could borrow their own books. In the summers especially we were frequent visitors. My daughter grew up to work there as a page while in high school and is now a librarian at the much larger Macomb Clinton Township Public Library system. The Benton Harbor Library gave her a good start, as it did me when I was an aspiring writer.
I have to admit, I don't visit libraries as often as I used to. I love to own books and have a huge collection, and now I also use an e-reader. But I still know the importance of libraries, and sometimes I go there to remind myself that there is a whole world waiting for you within their doors. I hope we as communities will always value and support libraries, because that is where many writers are born.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Recently I attended the Romantic Times Book Lover’s Convention held this year in Kansas City. While I’ve been to a number of Romance Writers of America conferences, this was the first time at RT for me. What a great time I had! Rosanne and I arrived early on Wednesday morning and were greeted by 75 degree temperatures and a bustling convention hotel. The convention was held at the Sheraton Hotel Crown Center, but we were in the overflow hotel, the Westin Crown Plaza. It was a lovely hotel and our room overlooked Union Station. We also had a very good view of the quickly changing sky as the weather turned back to winter but more about that later. Workshops started that day, and I was able to attend two in the afternoon after getting settled in our room and getting some lunch. One was on Victorian Women’s Clothing from the Inside Out. Author Deeanne Gist showed us how a lady of Victorian times dressed from her bloomers and chemise to her corset, petticoats, hoops, skirt and jacket. I have to say that after seeing her laced into the corset, it’s no wonder ladies of that era often fainted. The second workshop was about merchandising in the Apple Ibookstore by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. He passed on some good information for anyone publishing digitally and how Apple works with authors to promote their work. I have to say I wish I’d been a little more alert for that workshop but after getting up at 3:00 a.m., riding the shuttle to O’Hare Airport for two hours and then flying down to Kansas City, I was a little bushed by 7 p.m.
The second day I went to three workshops that concentrated on self-publishing: Subsidiary Rights, Indie vs. Traditional, and Options in Self-Publishing. I did get some good information, and it was interesting to gain different perspectives on self-publishing. All the panelists had varying experiences and advice to share. That night the RT 30th Anniversary Ball was held and what a delight to see so many authors who are truly “Legends of Romance.” I met Kathryn Falk, founder of Romantic Times and a long-time supporter of the genre. Also authors Janelle Taylor, Shirl Henke, and Bobbi Smith as well as Rosanne, who were among those honored as legends. It was a beautiful setting, with ballroom dancers for our entertainment (Heather Graham was one of them!) before the dinner and introduction of the authors. One of the more hilarious highlights of the evening was having Larry Kirshbaum, vice-president of Amazon publishing, speak and then strip down to the reveal the romance t-shirt he was wearing (designed by our own chapter member, Jackie Braun!). While the evening was a wonderful look back, the future of romance was also celebrated with more than 50 authors from Entangled Publishing taking the stage.
Friday brought more workshops on Jumping Self-Publishing Hurdles, The Inspie Novel—More Than You Think, and From Self-Published to Montlake and Beyond. As always, romance authors are so willing to share their knowledge and experience. My only disappointment was that none of the workshops were taped, so it was very difficult to choose and I ended up missing some that I would love to have heard. But there was a huge selection and really something for everybody. RT is also geared toward romance readers and many workshops were just for them. It was encouraging to see so many readers, especially younger adults and teens, eager to learn more about their favorite authors. Don’t let anyone tell you that the younger generation doesn’t like to read. Anyone who thinks that should have been at RT.
Friday night we went to dinner at a restaurant in Union Station and a good time was had by all. Did you know Shirl Henke likes to drink Pink Squirrels? Eileen Dryer told a few of her famous tales and we invited her to come back to retreat soon. By this time we were glad to get to both hotels through covered skywalks, because winter had come back to KC with temperatures dipping into the 30s and snow making an appearance. Of course we hadn’t brought much in the way of warm clothes because the forecast had been for SUMMER temps. Fortunately, the gift shop sold some nice sweater shawls.
Saturday I was pretty much workshopped out and most of that day’s activities were for readers to meet authors. I did attend the Book Fair, and it was amazing how fans had driven many miles and lined up by 7:30 a.m., bringing their rolling suitcases with them to take home books signed by their favorite authors. Of course I bought my share and then had to figure out how to pack them for the trip home. I found several new authors (new to me anyway) and look forward to reading their books.
For a first time at RT, it was a fabulous time and the workshops well-worth attending. Next year it will be held in New Orleans, which I’m sure will provide a unique setting. It’s a great conference because the focus is so different from RWA, and I’m glad I decided to go.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
It was a great time Monday night at the 50 Years on the Carefree Highway concert, and as always it's exciting to be at a Gordon Lightfoot performance. He and the band sounded great, and the hall was packed with loyal fans who were lucky to hear a good mix of both older and newer songs, many of which I mentioned in my 50 Days blogs. We hummed and sang along, and at one point a group finished a song for him. Probably happens often. I couldn't even begin to say which ones were my favorites but the highlights of any GL concert are always The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and If You Could Read My Mind. We heard both. I also especially enjoyed Don Quixote, I'd Rather Press On, Beautiful and The Watchman's Gone.
Thank you Gordon Lightfoot for your music, your songs, and the 50 years you've been writing and singing for us on the Carefree Highway.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
I made it and didn’t miss a day, in spite of just getting back from a four day trip to a writers’ convention in Kansas City, MO. It’s been fun taking a 50 day trip through Gordon Lightfoot land and revisiting many of his songs that are longtime favorites but that I hadn’t listened to in awhile. I’m looking forward to seeing what songs he’ll sing at the concert tomorrow night at Devos Center in Grand Rapids, MI. I hope some of the old favorites I’ve mentioned here. I’m sure one of them will be this cut from the Sundown album, 1973.
Picking up the pieces of my sweet shattered dream
I wonder how the old folks are tonight
Her name was Ann and I’ll be damned if I recall her face
She left me not knowing what to do
Carefree Highway, let me slip away on you
Carefree Highway, Gordon Lightfoot
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Almost there!! A song that is just what Gordon Lightfoot is all about. From If You Could Read My Mind album, 1969.
The minstrel of the dawn is here
To make you laugh and bend your ear
Up the steps you'll hear him climb
All full of thought, all full of rhymes
Listen to the pictures flow
Across the room into your mind they go
Listen to the strings
They jangle and dangle while the old guitar rings
Minstrel of the Dawn, Gordon Lightfoot
Friday, May 3, 2013
A little sadder song but another favorite from the Sundown album, 1974.
Is there anyone home in this house made of stone
Anyone inside know my name
I’ve been around for a half a hundred days
Never saw a door shut so tight
Turn around, don’t look down
There’s a man behind you with a gun
Is There Anyone Home, Gordon Lightfoot
Thursday, May 2, 2013
A more upbeat song from the 1982 Shadows album.
There’s a south wind risin’ and the moon shines on my window sill
I’ve a got a feelin’ I might walk on over the hill
I’m bent but not broken, all I need is some rest
And a bottle of your very best
Blackberry Wine, Gordon Lightfoot
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
From Endless Wire, 1978.
There’s a love I hold dear
And it shines through each year
And it makes things seem different somehow
It’s for better or worse
It’s for people who thirst
For a love that burns brighter right now
And it shines on and on till all sadness is gone
And if children had wings I would sing them their song
With a smile on my face and a tear in my eye
Everything will be fine by and by
If Children Had Wings, Gordon Lightfoot
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
From the 1975 album, Cold on the Shoulder.
Rain Day people always seem to know when it’s time to call
Rainy day people don’t talk
They just listen till they’ve heard it all
Rainy day lovers don’t lie when they tell you
They’ve been down like you
Rainy day people don’t mind if you’re crying a tear or two
Rainy Day People, Gordon Lightfoot
Monday, April 29, 2013
Only one week to go! This song is a more recent one (1998) and makes me think of where the singer is at this time in his life. I’m hoping it will be part of the concert line-up next week.
Once upon a time, I was on my own
Once upon a time, like you’ve never known
Once upon a time, I would be impressed
Once upon a time, my life would be obsessed
Once upon a time, once upon a day when
I was in my prime, once along the way
If you want to know my secret
Don’t come running after me
For I am just a painter
Passing through in history
A Painter Passing Through, Gordon Lightfoot
Sunday, April 28, 2013
From the Shadows album, 1982. Love the lyrics.
All I’m after is to be the flame in your tattoo
Be the one girl who can thrill me through and through
This is just a guess but I must confess
It feels better being certain
Please excuse my truthfulness
What I see is worth believing
When you thrill me like you do
So you wonder why my feelings never change
I think I’ve got it made
All I’m After, Gordon Lightfoot
Saturday, April 27, 2013
This is another of my favorites from the Sundown album, 1973.
Seven islands to the high side of the bay, ‘cross the bay
To the sunset through the blue light of a fiery autumn haze
We went walking on the high side of the bay on a chilly morn
And we saw how leaves had fallen on the beds where trees are born
Any man in his right mind could not fail to be made aware
Any woman with a gift of wisdom could not seek her answers there
Seven Island Suite, Gordon Lightfoot