Marrying Christopher Cover Reveal

Marrying Christopher EBOOK size (1)I’m just wrapping up the manuscript for the third book about the Thatcher siblings, and Christopher’s story has been a lot of fun. It’s a departure from the other two–literally, as very little of this story takes place in England–but I hope readers will enjoy it every bit as much as his sisters’ stories. And if you haven’t read those, no worries. Like Christopher, his story is independent of the others. I hope you enjoy this brief description. More details and teasers to come as the release date (July) grows closer.

Having seen his sisters Grace and Helen happily married, Christopher Thatcher is free to pursue his dream of life in America. With adventure in his heart and mind, he boards one of the first steamships set to cross the Atlantic in the record breaking time of only twenty-five days. Within the first two of those, his resolve—to avoid women and the complications they often bring to a man’s life—falters when he meets Marsali Abbott, a young woman with a past even more troubling than his own. Whether from years of habit protecting his sisters, or simply because he feels drawn to Marsali, Christopher chooses to help her and becomes her friend. As the truth about what awaits Marsali in America becomes evident, he is faced with a more difficult choice, one that will impact their lives far beyond four weeks together at sea.

Fifty Shades of Clean

With Valentines Day upon us and the much anticipated release of the movie, *Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m happy to offer an alternative for those of us here in Happy Valley and elsewhere who prefer our romance squeaky clean–as in I can read this story to my grandmother or teenage daughter and not blush fifty shades of red.

For those who enjoy clean romance but wonder if it is lacking the excitement and allure of its more steamy counterpart, this post is for you! Below you will find a comparison of some key components of FSOG (as gathered from Wikipedia and other internet sources) and an example of how those same elements are found in my latest novel, Loving Helen.

Mentally tortured Christian Grey has nothing on Mr. Samuel Preston, who still feels responsible for his wife’s death and whose attempt to find love again ended in rejection from Grace Thatcher in Saving Grace. Fortunately, he’s about to get another chance at love with Grace’s younger sister Helen, who has her own demons from the past to face.

A few things you will find in both novels–

ROPE

Fifty Shades–used to tie up the heroine of the story, so she cannot put her arms around the hero and offer him love and comfort. Unfortunate, as it seems he needs both pretty badly.

Loving Helen–Mr. Preston uses a rather long and sturdy piece of rope to make a swing for his daughter in a stately ash tree growing on his property in Yorkshire, England. Of course he offers Helen a turn on the swing as well–just one of many scenes that builds their relationship into something more.

“Higher?” Mr. Preston shouted behind her.

“Yes, please,” Helen said, then felt his hands upon her shoulders, pushing her forward. Her stomach fluttered again, which she could not credit entirely to the new height the swing had attained.

Beth was on her feet, clapping and shouting instructions. “Put your feet out more. Lean your head back.”

Helen tried this and for a second found herself looking up into Mr. Preston’s smiling, dirt-smudged face as he pushed her once more.

She laughed, partly at how amusing he looked and partly because she was having so much fun — more than she could ever recall. When, after a few more times, he grabbed the ropes and slowed the swing, she felt keen disappointment.

PASSIONATE MAKE OUT SCENE IN AN ELEVATOR

Fifty Shades–An intense first kiss with hands in places they shouldn’t be (how is having your hair pulled romantic?)  and in a setting that really isn’t at all lovely. Perhaps if they were headed to the top of the Empire State Building . . .

Loving Helen–no elevators in the English countryside in 1828, but a gazebo isn’t a bad location for a first kiss either. Of course there is a build up before–five months of build up, to be exact. And then there is the note Mr. Preston sends Helen, inviting her to meet him if she wishes to participate in said kiss. As for the kiss itself . . . it’s sweet, satisfying, sentimental. Oh, and Helen does put her hands on Mr. Preston. They start on his shoulders then slide to the back of his neck. Someone turn on the fan!

A SILK TIE

Fifty Shades–Because rope isn’t always available? And also because a grey silk tie can be a knock out for marketing.

Loving Helen–from the last scene of the book– Mr. Preston “pulled the previous night’s hastily discarded cravat from a chair and proceeded to wrap it around Helen’s eyes.” Never fear, those of you in the squeaky clean camp. You won’t need to blush. What you will do–hopefully–is sigh with contentment when you discover Mr. Preston’s surprise for Helen and finish this sweet romance.

Whatever your romance preferences, happy reading and happy Valentines Day!

*Disclaimer: References to content in Fifty Shades of Grey are based entirely from media coverage and/or Wikipedia.

Work In Progress Wednesday

I’ve decided that once every month or so I’ll post about my work(s) in progress. Don’t ask me which Wednesday it will be, or even if it will be every month. I can’t commit to being that organized or consistent with this blog (or much else in my life, it seems), but I am trying!

And I am very excited about all of the great romances I’ve got in progress right now. These past two years have been the most fun I’ve ever had, in terms of really enjoying the writing and editing process. It is great to be at a point where some of those stories I’ve been working on are starting to be published. It is wonderful to hear from readers and know others are enjoying them too.

To those of you who have taken the time to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads, and/or who have posted a review of Saving Grace on your blogs or websites–a heartfelt thank you! Aside from the additional readers that reviews generate, it is the most gratifying reward for an author to learn that someone loved her story. It’s the motivation to keep plugging away, when a current work-in-progress has one pulling out her hair or otherwise feeling frustrated.

Next up for publication is a novella ( a longish one–very rarely do I write anything short) titled Loving Helen. It’s a companion to Saving Grace, and is the story of Grace’s younger sister Helen.

Helen’s story has been particularly enjoyable to work on because it takes place during the same time as Grace’s and includes some of the same scenes from Saving Grace, from a different (before unseen) point of view. The novella continues to the end of Grace’s story–and beyond. Already knowing the characters and bringing back favorites for their happy endings has been such a fun process, much like revisiting old friends and discovering new secrets about them.

I can’t wait for readers to enjoy it as well. To that end, here is the gorgeous cover and a few paragraphs from the very beginning of the story. Hope you enjoy.                 Publication date: February 9, 2015.

Chapter One                                                                                                               Yorkshire England, October 1827

Helen Thatcher gathered the voluminous skirts of her satin gown and tiptoed across the small foyer. Stopping outside the double doors that led to the sitting room of Mr. Preston’s guesthouse, she peered through the crack between the doors and spied her lady’s maid, Miranda, busily folding linens at the table. Like this room that filled so many purposes—they visited, dined, read, and sewed here—her maid had taken to doing many tasks outside her usual duties as well. Helen wished it might be otherwise, though it did seem that both her servants, Miranda and Harrison, were happier here than they had been since her grandfather, the late Duke of Salisbury, had died and the new duke summarily dismissed them from his residence.

We might all have stayed and continued on in comfort. The guilty thought plagued Helen, as it had every day the past several months. Had she only accepted the new duke’s proposal, she and her siblings, Grace and Christopher, along with Miranda and Harrison would still be at the grand estate, with everything they needed, even everything they desired, at their disposal.

Yet because I did not desire it, we’ve become little more than penniless outcasts.

Because of her cowardice and refusal to marry her distant cousin, Grandfather’s heir, her sister had been forced to meet with suitors of their father’s choosing, each of whom proved to be wretched, lecherous men. Until the last, Mr. Samuel Preston, had surprised Grace with genuine friendship and a concern that extended beyond her welfare to that of her siblings and servants. But by then Grace had taken drastic action, and her reputation had been ruined, by a most unfortunate middle-of-the-night mix up in the bedroom of Lord Nicholas Sutherland, Mr. Preston’s closest neighbor and former brother-in-law.

Even then, amidst the worst of circumstances, Grace had been concerned for her siblings. And so Mr. Preston had arranged for the four of them—Christopher and Helen, and their servants Miranda and Harrison—to reside at his guest house, until the matter of their inheritance was favorably settled.

Would that I had a shred of Grace’s courage or selflessness, Helen thought, frustrated with herself yet again. She smoothed the front of her gown, knowing that what she was about to undertake, while a small step, was going to require at least one of those valiant qualities. She desperately hoped she possessed courage somewhere.

On Having It All

The past few years have been tough for me in terms of anything to do with writing—time to pursue it, books published, finding an agent, blogging . . . The fledgling career I began in 2007 when Counting Stars was published seemed extinguished before it was even fully lit. I was sad about this, but life became so demanding there was little I could do.

In 2009 we were finally blessed with our fifth child—nine long years after his closest sibling. He was a hard-earned gift, and I intended to cherish every minute with him. For the most part, I feel confident I’ve done that. I’m known for telling everyone I can that they should have a baby at forty. What joy, what fun, what a miracle he is. How awesome it has been to have another round of toddler time at the library, more trips to the zoo and children’s museums, more Disney movies and music playing, more Legos strewn everywhere in our house, more tucking in at night and snuggling, more magic.

Along with all of that—how exhausting, how crazy, how nuts is it to be raising children whose ages span eighteen years and who seem to be at just about every stage in life. Young married? Got one of those. College students. Five, if you count my daughter’s husband and my son’s fiancée. High schooler. We’ve had that one covered for the past several years. I’m still patiently waiting to graduate myself—from algebra and term papers, especially. And finally, this year, we’ve got a kindergartener. Our miracle baby is no longer a baby, but an exuberant little boy, so excited his turn to go to school has finally arrived.

Along with the busyness of starting parenthood over, while in the midst of surviving the teen years with our older children, Dixon and I became grandparents a couple of years ago, a scant eight months after our daughter’s wedding. Her miracle was that her firstborn survived—after arriving three months early. His sudden appearance caused a ripple effect of financial and other stresses on our still newlywed daughter and her husband, and as a result our basement is used for a lot more than ping pong tournaments these days.

Along with living with us, our grandson spends mornings with me, driving children to school and then driving me a bit crazy as he gets into everything he can in our very unchildproof house. It’s impossible to be upset with him—the memories of his fragile two pound self are still too fresh, and I can only feel grateful that he is both curious and fast, with both a mind and legs that work quite well. So easily it could have been otherwise. We are truly blessed to have this little boy tearing around our house.

Still, writing time continues to be at a premium and a minimum. I haven’t had time to mourn my youngest going off to school, because I don’t come home to an empty house. There are eight of us currently living here, five of those students, which makes for a lot of insanity. And a lot of good times too. I worried that Andrew would grow up alone, since his siblings are so much older. Instead, it feels like he’s got a little brother to pal around with, and he knows not only his oldest sister, but her husband as well. They all share a bathroom, and it doesn’t get much closer than that!

So while I may not be able to devote much time to that fledgling career just yet, I still do feel like I have it all. Or the all that I’ve chosen, at least.

I don’t have to look any farther than my critique group to see others enjoying/enduring a similar phenomenon. Our group meets regularly these days—maybe ten times a year if the fates align! Somewhere along the way our lives all became too complicated, our houses too far apart, our schedules too different, for the consistent weekly meetings we used to have. Some have to travel a lot, some are dealing with serious health crises, some support their families financially, and all of us have families. And those families have always come first. It’s a universal rule that we all understand and respect. And at the end of the day, or the year, and eventually our lives, I don’t think any of us will feel too much regret that we never had enough time to write.

Fellow critique group member and dear friend, Lu Ann Staheli gets this perhaps more than any of us. Lu Ann married later in life and then opened her heart and her home to foster children, five of whom she adopted. It hasn’t been smooth sailing with her five boys—far from it—but she has been and is the mother they needed, all during years when she might have been having great successes with her writing—because she is an amazingly talented author. Over these years Lu Ann has also been a teacher, nurturing talent in others and watching as many of those students went on to their own successes, sometimes achieving the dreams she’d set for herself and not yet had time to reach for. But her generosity has continued. I am just one of many benefactors.

Last summer Lu Ann learned she has stage IV cancer and has since entered into a determined fight for her life. During her treatment she continues to write—letters to her missionary son and then her novellas and novels and non fiction as she has time and feels well enough. She is upbeat and positive, and has exhibited quite an amazing peace about her situation and a readiness to do what must be done to beat the cancer. In this too she is a wonderful example, as she has been an example of having it all, or the all that matters.

So if you happen to be at a point in your life (middle age, anyone?) where you feel your goals are lagging, and you just haven’t accomplished all you hoped you would, I hope you’ll think of Lu Ann and others like her. I do believe that we can have it all, in terms of families and careers. The caveat is that we cannot have it all at once. Our challenge is to choose wisely that which comes first. For me that will always be my family. Any hero I may write will never be as great as the guy in the other room folding a mountain of laundry right now. A paycheck in my purse will never mean more than sticky hands and slobbery kisses on my cheeks. How blessed I am to have to have those, even if it means my writing career remains fledgling a little longer.