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Monday, December 17, 2012

An image poem

Here's another quick image. I seem to be in a melancholy mood just now:


Disconnect


She wants to share her loss
With friends from long ago
And so she calls their number,
Held in long-term memory.
“I’m widowed now,” she practices.
“My husband died in autumn.”
Recorded voices stop her:
The number’s disconnected.

Susan Aylworth's novels are available for digital readers at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other digital websites. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Two Poems

Any of you who have followed my blog know that I'm primarily committed to long fiction, by which I mean novels. Though I don't usually think of myself as a poet, now and then a poem gives itself up to me. Two did that last week, so I thought I'd share:


TEACUPS


Her teacups cover the room—
Étagère, sideboard, china cabinet.
She collected them carefully,
One tender purchase at a time
Over many decades and travels.
Each had a story she loved to tell.
Each was a keepsake and friend.

Today her granddaughter photographs a few,
Hoping to sell the lot on E-Bay.
The auction will last seven days. 


AT THE CORNER OF THIRD AND BROADWAY

He spied her as she squatted in a doorway
wielding a bit of canvas to keep the rain at bay.
She stared unseeing, eyes unfocused.
He wondered if she looked into the past.

He too looked back, seeing her as she was–
Clad in white satin,
Hair spread across his pillow,
Sweet voice murmuring his name.

If you enjoy them, please feel free to direct others to this blog, but please respect my copyright. Don't share them without my permission. Thanks much!


Susan's Aylworth's novels are all available in digital form at Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and other ebook sites.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Detail Dilemma

One of the common problems for authors well schooled in "Show, Don't Tell" is deciding how much to show: Which details matter and which are overload? I'm having that problem right now with a current WIP.

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about my visit to Butte County Jail. Main character Maggie is falsely accused of a crime and hauled off to jail awaiting formal charges and such. To get the details right, I arranged a tour with the jail director, Andy Duch.

Andy couldn't have been kinder, and Janice Young, the deputy who walked me through booking procedures for a female prisoner, was equally helpful. I walked away with five pages of single-spaced notes.

Now I'm writing the booking scene and I'm overwhelmed with details. Yes, it's important to show rather than merely telling. It's important to walk readers through the actual procedure so they can project themselves into Maggie's situation and empathize with what she's experiencing. But if I give them everything I have, they're going to be so bogged down in details, they'll lose the story line--or worse yet, give up reading.

So the trick is deciding how much is enough. Some details from the strip search are important, just so readers know how demeaning the whole process is, but there are other parts I didn't particularly want to know and would prefer not to repeat. Decision made. How about the rest?

Is it important to know that the bag of toiletries is called a "fish kit," that the roll calls only use last names, that the bedroll includes three sheets? I'm still deciding how much detail is enough and how much is too much.

I have already written the scene where Maggie's living nightmare begins. That part seems to have gone fairly well:

             “You have the right to remain silent,” Sergeant Russell was saying. We’d already gotten through the first part of the script, the part about how I was under arrest for murder. Now he was pulling out the handcuffs. “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”


“I didn’t . . . I didn’t kill anybody,” I said, but no one was listening to me anymore. I staggered through the procedure as my hands were fastened behind my back while the rest of my Miranda rights were read. My ears were buzzing and I thought there was a good chance I’d faint. The first time the lieutenant pulled me to my feet, my knees wouldn’t hold me and I dropped back into the chair. He gave me almost twenty seconds before pulling me to my feet again. He wasn’t rough, exactly—just insistent, and I knew I wasn’t going anywhere except where he said. 

             Maybe it was a weird reaction, but all I wanted was sleep. That’s the place for a nightmare, right? When you’re sleeping? 

Soon Maggie will tell me how much more to include. I'm counting on her. 



Susan Aylworth's first eight books are now available as digital downloads for Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and at other web sites.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Giving Thanks This Week

It's Thanksgiving Week and a cliche to give thanks in a blog, but all my characters are feeling thankful. Where else would I go? ;-)  At the risk of falling into the cliche, let me count some writer's blessings:

#1. I'm Writing Again. After nearly a decade of writer's burnout (not block, not for lack of trying, the ideas just wouldn't come!), I am writing again--filled with creative ideas and unable to keep up with the characters who are all chattering so fast, demanding attention for their stories.

#2. I'm Publishing Again. After four years without a new book, I just yesterday signed the addendum contract for my next paperback, A SECRET FAMILY RECIPE, to be published by Covenant Books next summer.

#3. I'm Making Time. During the period of burnout, I committed myself so fully to the "day job(s)" that I had little time to give to those yammering characters inside my head. I am now backing away from some "day job" assignments to spend time playing with my imaginary friends, and I'm grateful for the opportunity.

#4. I Have Support. My dh says he's starting a Fan Club. My sister says she will happily read anything I write. But it isn't just the folks who "have to" love me. I have new Twitter pals I've never met who have read and loved my work and now Re-Tweet everything I send them. A few folks who've read my books have listed me on Goodreads among their favorite authors (yes, right next to the review with 1 *. Sigh). Okay, I'm admitting to being insecure and needing the praise, but let's face it:  Most of us aren't like Emily Dickinson who wrote for her own enjoyment and put it under the bed. I write to be read, and it's rewarding when an author knows she has readers. (You feel that way too, right? Honestly. Tell me you do!)

#5. I Have a Great Agent. (Thank you, Jane!) She's known in the industry as a "shark" when it comes to getting the best deals for her people, and I'm grateful to have her on my side.

MOSTLY, I'm grateful to have a mind and a heart, financial well-being that allows me a little time to play, and the years of work with good people who have helped me to grow, learn and hone skills. Thank you to all who read, who write, who support literacy everywhere. May this be a great week of Thanksgiving for us all.


Susan Aylworth's first eight books are available in digital form at Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=susan+aylworth, at Barnes & Noble, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/susan-aylworth?store=allproducts&keyword=susan+aylworth, at Smashwords, http://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=susan+aylworth, and at other digital book outlets.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

New WIPs keep things exciting!

Taking Maggie (from MAGGIE RISING, my current Work in Progress) to the Butte County Jail last week got her rolling faster than ever. The ideas are flowing for the book I'm calling "not your typical reluctant psychic turned detective meets reluctant ghost turned witness story." I couldn't be happier with the progress.

Meanwhile Marcie Carmody is reappearing after some eleven years away in RETURN TO RAINBOW ROCK and that book is practically writing itself. Then, a couple of nights ago, when the beginning of some uninvited virus was keeping me from sleeping well, I thought through the whole plot for a sequel to Marcie's book. Who knows? There could be a whole new Rainbow Rock series!

Occasionally when I've done presentations to writing classes or library groups, people have asked, "You're a writer? Where do you get your ideas?" It's a question that baffles all the writers I know.

We may wonder how someone knows to wear X color with Y (a combination that looks terrific, but we would never have thought of it) or how a person did that calculation so quickly in his head (many writers are number-challenged), but we have no trouble coming up with ideas. Maybe that's part of what makes us writers. The ideas are there. It's making the time to try to get to them all that poses a challenge.

Just now I'm trying to make more time to play with all my imaginary friends. It's the only way I know to quiet the demanding voices of characters who wish to become. Stay tuned to hear how it goes!


Susan's first eight books are available at Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=susan+aylworth, at Barnes & Noble, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/susan-aylworth?store=allproducts&keyword=susan+aylworth, at Smashwords, http://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Susan+Aylworth, and many other online sites.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Spending the day in jail

My characters have taken me to some fascinating places: Florence, Italy; the top of Pico Espejo in Venezuela; the Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon. Last week a character in my new WIP took me to the Butte County Jail.

Captain Andy Duch, the jail commander, is a great guy I've met several times. When I called and told him I'm writing a novel that involves his jail, he was pleased to show me around. He invited Correctional Deputy Janice Young to accompany us, since he has never booked a woman.

What I learned was amazing, but mostly I learned there are all kinds of good reasons for staying on the right side of the law.

Of course my heroine, Maggie, is falsely accused, but it makes no difference to the people who do the booking. They don't even know what the charges are (or will be) for the people who come in. Every prisoner, no matter his or her alleged crime, is treated exactly the same.

It isn't pretty. The stuff you've heard about strip searches? All true--and necessary to try to keep dangerous contraband out of the facility. Deputies don't touch any more than needful, but there are ways . . .  Standing in the hallway, listening to the deputy describe how the patient is standing in front of the shower fully naked and vulnerable during an intense exam (mouth, between the toes, body orifices) made me feel pretty vulnerable myself. How can it not be demeaning?

During my visit, I learned a few fascinating facts:

  1. Our county jail dresses inmates in 14 different colored jumpsuits. Deputies can tell in an instant that the woman in the dark green quilted one-piece is threatening suicide and know not to mix colors X and Y or Y and Z, identifying members of rival gangs.
  2. Prisoners in single-cell housing (those considered most potentially dangerous) are inside their cells 23 hours out of every day. When they are allowed "yard time," they are out there totally alone except for guards.
  3. Every prisoner is required to do a census check twice a day. The guard walks down the hallway between cells and calls last name. Using a "headboard," or registration sheet, she checks each name as the correct prisoner answers.
  4. One of the major punishments to being in prison is the boredom--hours every day with little or nothing to do. Inmates may read (anything examined and approved by guards) and write (anything that can be produced in pencil) so long as they are not being disciplined. Under discipline, such privileges are removed.


One of the more chilling moments in my visit came when Deputy Young opened the heavy barred door to one single cell and pulled it shut, letting the CLANG ring through the hallway. "That's a pretty scary sound when you hear it behind you," she observed. I agreed. My character, Maggie, feels that way, too.

Most prisoners are cooperative once inside. "They just want to do their time and not have any trouble," Captain Duch told me. "We try not to hassle them and they try not to give us any reason to." It was heartening to see how he recognized several of the prisoners and spoke to them quite pleasantly, by name. With more than 600 at a time in his facility, that was pretty impressive.

It wasn't impressive enough, however, to make me want to stay. I'm just hoping my one tour was thorough enough that I won't need to go back there -- ever, ever again.

Susan's new Work-in-Progress is called MAGGIE RISING. Her first 8 books are available in digital form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo and other online sources.




 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Just Like Me -- Only Different

When people ask how I come up with different characters for multiple books, the anwer is always the same: I make them all just like me, only different.

I suspect it's the way most novelists work. The question "What if...?" motivates most fiction (as in "What if there were real vampires, only they were sexy and beautiful and one fell in love with a mortal he wanted to eat?" or "What if a futuristic central government used the old Roman style of putting down rebellion by taking the children from the tribute districts and requiring them to kill one another in an elaborate gladiatorial game?")

The natural spin-off question then becomes, "What would I do and how would I behave if I were that age and in that situation?" Of course it's an ideal "what if" situation, so Katniss is the perfect personality for an unwilling-volunteer gladiator and Bella is the ideal victim/love interest for Edward, but there remains some realistic motivation the author herself (or himself) would feel if he/she were that unreal person in that unreal situation ... if any of that makes sense.

Thus Meg (RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, Book 1 in the Rainbow Rock series) is just like me in the sense that she was the principal's daughter in the small town high school where she spent her teens, but she is unlike me in some critical ways. While Golden Weddings run in my family (my parents were married 63 years), Meg is the daughter of a serial-marrying mother who has grown up afraid of commitment. Naturally the guy who attracts her comes from a family like mine.

Alexa (AT THE RAINBOW'S END, Book 2) is just like me in her ambition to be a writer. Unlike me, she put the career ambition ahead of her dreams of home and family--at least until she meets a man who is all about family. Sarah (DON'T PROMISE ME RAINBOWS, Book 3) is a turn on Alexa: she married young, had her dreams shattered, and is skittish about ever committing again, especially with cute, younger Chris.

Cretia (Book 4, A LITTLE NIGHT RAINBOW), took it one step farther: she married too young, suffered as a result, and has finally gained some independence when Max comes into her life. Eden, from Book 5 (A RAINBOW IN PARADISE) faces a different quandary. Although she considers herself "allergic" to marriage, it's all she wants when she meets Logan, who is unwilling to be part of a cross-cultural romance.

I came back closer to me when I wrote Angelica (Book 6, THE TROUBLE WITH RAINBOWS). The only child of parents old enough to be her grandparents, Angelica has grown up completely out of touch with her peers and misunderstood by them. It's only after he returns to town widowed, with two young children, that Joe ever gives the high school Ice Queen a second look. My reasons were different, but I was as shy and out of place as she.

So how do I write the heroes? They are the perfect pairs for the women I create which, of course, means that all of them have some of my husband in them--different, but the same. It's just how we roll.


The six Rainbow Rock books, as well as Susan's other novels, are all available in e-book format for Kindle, Nook, and other e-readers, at the Apple I-Store for Apple devices, and at Smashwords and other sites for home computers.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How do you describe a character in her own POV?


One of the tricky challenges when writing in first person is describing the Main Character (MC). There's the old device of having MC look in a mirror, but it is ... well ... old. So how do you pull it off when you want your reader to be able to see your MC, but you're in that character's point of view?

In MAGGIE RISING, a current Work-in-Progress, I used the technique of comparison. By having Maggie describe the client she is just meeting and tossing in comparisons to herself along the way, I hope to give the reader a fair sense of Maggie's appearance.

Here are the opening lines from the manuscript of MAGGIE RISING. I'd like to hear what you think.


            “So, are you really a psychic?”

The girl at the counter looked just like so many I’d seen since hanging out my shingle last summer. I wanted to answer, Hey, look: You came here because the sign says Psychic Readings. What do you expect? Instead, I gave her my wisest, most knowing smile while sizing her up.

She was somewhat shorter than my five-feet-eight, but most women are, and she was fuller than I am, especially through her surgically augmented chest. Her blonde wasn’t natural, either, though her roots weren’t as dark as my near-black curls. Even her coloring, like mine, was more rubies-and-ivory than peaches-and-cream. The rest was easy: sorority chick; more money than brains, all of it Daddy’s; party girl looking for a thrill and probably trying to figure out whether Jason (or Fred or that guy from the fraternity mixer last night) was worth giving it all up for.
.

By the time a reader gets this far into the manuscript, I'm hoping she will have a pretty good idea of not only Maggie's appearance, but also what she does for a living, how she feels about it, as well as something of her voice and attitudes. The question now is: Does it work for you?

Susan Aylworth's books are available for digital download. Find them at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=susan+aylworth or http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=susan+aylworth.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Getting the end right

If you're a writer (or if you've ever written), you can probably appreciate the opening scene from "Romancing the Stone" where the author cries as she composes the final lines of her book. One sure clue that you've got the end "right" is that emotional surge, usually resulting in a tear and a sniffle, that says you're finally there.
By contrast the stories with incomplete or poor resolutions leave you feeling unsatisfied, like you want to go back to the manuscript and read it again hoping it might turn out right the second time.
I don't want to give away the endings of my novels by citing samples here, but I will show the end of a scene that I particularly liked. This comes from the conclusion of Chapter 1 in AT THE RAINBOW'S END, second book in the Rainbow Rock series. Alexa was on her way to Burbank to interview for a position as a screenwriter when her car broke down. She missed her opportunity and has just learned it will be several weeks before the studio can interview her again. Kurt McAllister is speaking as this scene begins:


"I own a business and we could use some help around the place—simple things, like answering phones and such. Since you're going to be looking for a job anyway, why don't you just stick around here until it's time to head for Burbank? Mom will enjoy your company out at the farm and I can use your help around the shop. What do you think?"

"What kind of shop?" Alexa asked, still wary.

"Rainbow Productions. My sister-in-law and I make instructional videotapes and documentaries."

Alexa smiled. To Kurt, it looked like dawn rising over the desert. "Really? You make movies out of Holbrook, Arizona?"

"Well, yeah." Kurt decided to play his trump card. "You're in movies too, aren't you?" She nodded. "You're an actress?"

Alexa felt her breath catch in her throat, then let it out in a surprised giggle. "Me? Acting? I'm scared to death of cameras!"

"Then..." The unspoken question sat between his eyebrows.

"I'm a writer," she said, tipping up her chin. "With a little luck, by mid-June I'll be a screenwriter."

Kurt blessed the Fates as he smiled back at her. "Alexa," he announced, "we do have something to talk about."
AT THE RAINBOW'S END, together with the other Rainbow Rock books, is now an e-book, currently available for Kindle, Nook (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/at-the-rainbows-end-susan-aylworth/1001096240?ean=2940014532761), and every other type of e-reader or computer. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Susan's Adventures in Twitter-Land

When I first became a published writer, publishers did publicity. Publishers arranged for interviews, advertised books, and saw to distribution. But the world has changed.

When I reentered the publishing field after a ten-year hiatus to raise a family and grow my "day job" career, everyone told me I needed a blog, a tribe and a Twitter account. I said something like "Huh?"

But I paid attention and tried to learn. I'm learning to Tweet. I have this blog that gets something on it every now and then, weekly or occasionally or whenever, and I'm trying to learn how to use Triberr, building a "platform" and "tribe" of my own. It isn't pretty.

One thing I've learned: the Brave New World of publishing may not require any more talent than the old world (and very possibly less), but it certainly requires plenty of bravery. ;-)


A Short Excerpt for the Week:
From Book 6 of the Rainbow Rock series, THE TROUBLE WITH RAINBOWS:

Cretia breathed deeply of the rain-laden air. "You know what the trouble with rainbows is?"
"Huh?" Joe furrowed his brow.
"The trouble with rainbows," she repeated airily.
"No, I guess I don't." He waited.
"You can't predict them." Cretia's eyes watched the bow of color in the sky. "We all know what causes them, and we can see the elements coming together and guess that maybe there'll be a rainbow soon, but nobody ever knows exactly when or where we'll see it."
Joe stared at his sister, wondering when she had lost her mind. She had seemed fairly sane this morning.
"They're kind of like love, really," Cretia went on.
Joe groaned. She hadn't changed the subject at all.
"No, really. Think about it, Joe. We can see two attractive people coming together and think, 'Hmm. Maybe there'll be a match soon,' but no one ever knows for sure until it happens." This time her eyes were following Angelica, whose silvery laughter wafted toward them on the breeze. "We can never predict when love will come into our lives—either the first or the second time."

The six books in the Rainbow Rock series are all available as ebooks at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and a half-dozen other ebook sites.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Setting as Character, Part II

Last week we looked at setting as character and I included passages from the first three Rainbow Rock novels, set in a fictional town near the Painted Desert, northeastern Arizona. Welcome back for the next three books.

From Book 4:  A LITTLE NIGHT RAINBOW

It was May twenty-ninth, almost summer, yet the blue-gray thunderheads that towered above the high plateaus of the Little Colorado River basin warned of a winter storm. Looks like it might snow, Cretia thought as she entered the offices of Rainbow Productions, the independent video company that had become her second home. The thought was not the least unsettling. It had snowed on the night she graduated high school some thirteen years before—the only graduate to go through ceremonies with a husband and three-month-old daughter in the audience. There was often a maverick storm late in the year before summer settled in.
From Book 5:  A RAINBOW IN PARADISE
Eden pulled up behind the yellow school bus, waiting while it disgorged a half-dozen bedraggled teens in blue jeans, T-shirts, and plaid flannel. When it moved on, she passed ,and  then turned on the gravel driveway that led to Rainbow Rock Farms. I'd forgotten how early school starts around here, she thought, or how hot the weather still is the first week or two.
In the few weeks since her last visit, the daily high temperatures had dropped by only a few degrees, but a shift in the direction of the afternoon breeze hinted at a turn in the weather. Within another month, they'd likely have their first snowfall.
Book 6,  THE TROUBLE WITH RAINBOWS, narrows its scope to one garden in this passage:
Joe had never been in the back of the Lunsford home. He had no idea what he'd been missing. While the front yard was a wide expanse of lawn, with a few leafy trees strategically planted for shade and privacy, the back was a paradise, a large and lovely garden of Eden. Comfortable pathways wound between raised and path-level planting beds, and decorative vegetables mingled with flowering plants—bean vines on six-foot trellises standing side by side with six-foot or taller hollyhocks.
Finally, a bonus. My first book, BENEATH SIERRA SKIES, is set in Chico, California. Here's how it begins:
       A breeze as soft and warm as an embrace carried the blossoms that fell from the almond trees. A preview of spring had come to the Sacramento Valley, and Robin reveled in it, lifting her chin into the breeze and tossing her red-gold hair. She’d lived in Chico long enough to know winter would return before spring finally came, but these lovely days in February gave her patience.
In case you're thinking it: You're right. I've always liked to think of the setting as another character in the story.
BENEATH SIERRA SKIES and all six Rainbow Rock books are now available as e-books for Kindle, Nook, Apple and other devices. During the Columbus Day weekend, the six Rainbow Rock books are on sale for 99 cents each. Enjoy!
 
 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Setting as Character

Think of any great novel you've loved and you'll think immediately of the setting. Would Cathy and Heathcliff be the same without the moors? Rhett and Scarlett without the Civil War South? Often the setting is as much a part of the story--almost a character in it--as your major characters are. It was with that in mind that I set my Rainbow Rock books in a tiny, fictional town near the Painted Desert in northeastern Arizona. Here are a few of the passages that hint at my setting as character:

From Book 1: RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME

"Oh!" Meg jumped as lightning crashed overhead. She swerved slightly, but fought her sports car back into her lane. July had come to the high plateau and with it, a typical afternoon thundershower. To Margaret Taylor, who hadn't seen the plateau for years, the storm was anything but typical. Lightning danced along the ridges and shimmered through the valley of the Little Colorado River, sending thunder rumbling in its wake. Giant thunderheads loomed thousands of feet above the red sandstone cliffs, pierced here and there by shafts of yellow light that brought heaven to earth.


From Book 2: AT THE RAINBOW'S END

A stiff breeze scoured the desert floor, catching powdery snowflakes and drifting them against the roots of the greasewood and creosote bushes. Kurt McAllister watched the would-be storm with tepid interest, idly reminded of the way his mother used to sift powdered sugar onto freshly baked gingerbread. 

From Book 3: DON'T PROMISE ME RAINBOWS
The farm lay quiet, fields worked and turned or hayed and mowed or resting fallow under a snowy blanket, animals anticipating their evening feed and a night's rest. High desert sunsets were almost always spectacular and now, during the dawn of the year, they came early, the sky often fully dark by five o'clock. Chris glimpsed the gathering sunset.

Next week I'll share glimpses from books 4, 5, and 6. Of course you can beat me to it. All six Rainbow Rock books are currently available for Kindle, Nook, Apple devices, other e-readers or your home computer. The first book is currently FREE.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Grow Old Along With Me

This past weekend created an interesting opportunity for the dh and me. We went to a small party, a quasi-reunion for members of his high school graduating class, at the home of one of his former classmates. It was eye-opening.

Before I continue, let me mention that I've attended ONE (and only one) reunion for my class.We raised our children a couple of states away from where I went to school and we seldom get back to the area. Not only that, but my parents had taken their family (the sibs and me) to that part of the world just as I started high school so I had only those few years in common with the other graduates. I've stayed in touch, or regained contact with a few close friends. 

For my dh, Roger, the circumstances are quite different. His parents lived in the same home in San Francisco from the time they brought him home from the hospital until well after he had graduated. And although he had I have moved around a little, we've been well settled for most of the last four decades in the same lovely town which is only a four-hour drive, depending on traffic, from his high school. We've seen these folks a few times. 

Still, it's unsettling. We walk into this group of Roger's high school pals and see . . . old people. Of course WE aren't old, but somehow, all those other people our same age have gotten to be quite ancient. 

There were four common topics where everyone seemed to find common ground: (1) The San Francisco 49ers, who were doing so well until they dropped this weekend's game to the Vikings. We're still counting on them to be championship material this season.  (2) Where is so-and-so and what have you heard of him/her lately? This topic largely left me out since I didn't know any of their high school friends. (3) How many children and grandchildren do you have? Do you see them often? Do you have pictures?  I did well here, since we have an impressively large family.

(4) The final topic was something I could reluctantly discuss with ease. Everyone seemed to be talking about aches and pains, anticipated surgeries, recent surgeries, loss of eyesight, loss of hearing, loss of friends who have already passed on too early. We limped up to one another, straightened our glasses and chatted, often loudly. 

It was enlightening. It was sad. It was a reminder that Roger and I planned to grow old together. It looks like we're doing fairly well. 

Susan's Ebooks are available for Kindle, Nook, Apple devices and for all other e-readers and computers at Kobo, OverDrive, and Smashwords. The first book in the six-book Rainbow Rock series is currently being offered FREE.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Start with the Change


A teacher in a writing class I took years ago (great teacher, great class) taught me to “start with the change,” to begin a story when the character’s life is shifting gears.  Today I’m looking at the first two books in the Rainbow Rock series to see how I did. First, here is the opening of Book 1: RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME.

"Oh!" Meg jumped as lightning crashed overhead. She swerved slightly, but fought her sports car back into her lane. July had come to the high plateau and with it, a typical afternoon thundershower. To Margaret Taylor, who hadn't seen the plateau for years, the storm was anything but typical. Lightning danced along the ridges and shimmered through the valley of the Little Colorado River, sending thunder rumbling in its wake. Giant thunderheads loomed thousands of feet above the red sandstone cliffs, pierced here and there by shafts of yellow light that brought heaven to earth. Meg watched in wonder as she pushed east along I-40, back to the land she had once called home.


Home? Rainbow Rock had never been home. The five years she'd spent there had been the worst of her life. The jeers she had suffered as stepdaughter to Lon Ramsdell, the high school principal, had been ravaging: "teacher's pet," "killjoy," "goody-goody," and so much worse. With relief she had grabbed her diploma and hit the road for UCLA, vowing never to return.


And she hadn't. Not for ten years, years she had spent putting adolescence behind her and building a career in management training. But time had softened the sting of those old wounds. Maybe it was time to make her peace.

Similarly, Book 2: AT THE RAINBOW’S END also starts with a main character driving.


A stiff breeze scoured the desert floor, catching powdery snowflakes and drifting them against the roots of the greasewood and creosote bushes. Kurt McAllister watched the would-be storm with tepid interest, idly reminded of the way his mother used to sift powdered sugar onto freshly baked gingerbread.


It had been a good meeting in Gallup that morning. If all went as planned, Rainbow Productions would soon have a contract for an exclusive series of educational videos. They had a funding proposal in for a documentary on Navajo weaving and were already paying their bills with pickup jobs for weddings, birthdays, graduations, and family reunions. In the four years since he had established his business with the woman who was now his sister-in-law, Kurt and Meg had built an inventory of successful management training programs that were bringing in steady income.


They were earning a strong reputation in the field and had recently moved into a larger storefront office in Holbrook. All was going splendidly, better than expected.


So why, Kurt wondered as he gunned the engine of his shiny new pickup and pulled into the I-40 fast lane, did he feel like chewing rails and spitting spikes? Frustration seemed to dog his heels these days, faithful as a bloodhound and not one bit prettier.


The road sign showed that Holbrook and his turnoff were still twenty-seven miles away as Kurt punched up the speed to pass a black touring car, but the added speed did nothing to decrease his restlessness. Neither did the fact that there was no apparent reason for it.  


Things were going splendidly in the business. The only weak area they'd had from the beginning had been scriptwriting. Meg wrote the basic script when they did a management training video, and his brother Jim, an expert in Navajo and Hopi art, wrote most of their documentary pieces. So far, there had always been someone at the community college in Holbrook who could refine their scripts. Though he and Meg had spoken of hiring a professional scriptwriter—and they'd have to get someone if they got the documentary on Navajo weaving—that seemed more an opportunity than a problem. So it had to be something else that was wringing his stomach.



As I look at those two excerpts, I get the feeling I listened to that great teacher.



All six books in the Rainbow Rock series are now available for E-readers: Kindle, Nook, Apple devices, and through Kobo, Smashwords and OverDrive for everything else. Presently the first book is being offered FREE.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fun with Dick and Jane

I started school in the DICK AND JANE days. Little sister Sally, a kitten named Puff... Oh yeah, good times. But the simple story doesn't do it for me anymore. In fact, I think my Muse has A.D.D. She and I seem to be rambling all over the spectrum of commercial fiction.

Case in point: After eight published romances (count 'em: one for Silhouette, six in the Rainbow Rock series, an inspirational for Covenant), my next book--the one due out next summer--is a family saga with only hints of romance. Called A SECRET FAMILY RECIPE, it's the story of a broken family trying to repair itself, not exactly what some might have considered my "brand," yet that was where my Muse wanted to go and that's where we went.

Just yesterday I finished a final edit of EASTWARD TO ZION, an historical set between 1852-1860 in Australia and the western United States. It was another venture into the previously unexplored. Okay then, Muse: Have it your way.

I'm already half-way into the next venture, a book I call "a paranormal detective story with a sassy, chick-lit voice." Called MAGGIE RISING, it's the story of a bright young woman who is working her way through California State University, Chico as a psychic reader. She readily claims not to believe in the paranormal and says folks just like to drop a few bucks on an evening's entertainment, so she tells them what they want to hear, yet it seems the paranormal believes in her. It's not your typical reluctant-psychic-turned-detective meets reluctant-ghost-turned-witness story.

Where might my Muse strike next? She's thinking about a sisters story set in beautiful Florence and a Renaissance-era historical set in the sample place but in the days of Lorenzo di Medici. She also has several other stories for Maggie to pursue.

So far I have yet to write a single character named Dick or Jane.



RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, the first book in the six-book Rainbow Rock romance series, is currently available FREE for E-book readers: Kindle, Nook, Apple devices, and at Smashwords for downloading to home computers.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Yes, People Change

When Meg Taylor was attending Rainbow Rock High School, Sally Williams and Little Jimmy McAllister were her two best buddies. Now, a decade later, Meg has returned to help Sally with her children: four of them aged three and under. Fascinated by a man she saw as she drove into town, Meg asks a loaded question. From the opening pages of RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, here is a snippet of their conversation.

"Any new men in town?" Meg kept the question casual as she stretched her legs on Sally's back lawn. It was the first time the women had sat down since the circus they called breakfast.

"Why? You meet somebody?"

"No, of course not." Meg didn't meet Sally's eyes. "I just wondered what the prospects were--you know, for the women here."

Sally moved one fussy infant into the shade of the mesquite tree and scolded her daughter. "Isabel, stop teasing the cat!" She turned back to Meg. "There are some interesting men around." She lifted her brows, her voice rich with meaning. "Danny Sherwood's still here."

Meg groaned. "Spare me."

"You had quite a crush once."

"That was a long time ago, when I was young and stupid. Besides, isn't he married? I heard he and Lucretia Vanetti--"

"Ancient history. You're right; he's a jerk. Cretia got smart last year. She went around telling everybody how he hit her when he-- Tommy, shame on you! Get that out of your mouth!" She wiped Tommy's face and sighed. "How he hit her when he came home drunk. He denied it, of course, but the divorce went through just the same. But there are other men." Sally lifted one eyebrow. "Little Jimmy McAllister's still here."

"That's good." Meg kept her voice neutral. "I hope to see him while I'm here, but you know that's not what I mean, Sally. I'm asking about interesting men."

Sally shrugged. "People change. Darn, Sammy's crying again."

Care to make any bets on what may happen next? RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME is now available as a FREE download for Kindle, Nook, and other platforms. Get your free copy today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Town Without Pity

Gene Pitney got it right: "It isn't very pretty what a town without pity can do." Meg Taylor suffered through her high school years in a town without pity. Now, a decade later, she is returning only to help a friend. From the opening pages of RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, here's a glimpse of her love/hate relationship with Rainbow Rock, Arizona.

Meg left the rain behind as she turned north from Holbrook toward Rainbow Rock, nervously drumming the dash. Would people even know her? The slim, poised businesswoman she saw in her mirror every morning was a far cry from the chubby, awkward teen known as Peggy Taylor, or behind her back, as Piggy. Her ivory skin was clear now, her figure trim, her glasses replaced by contacts that intensified the blue of her eyes, and her weight down by thirty pounds. She'd changed her long, limp hair to short, chic curls that had darkened almost to black, but none of that had quieted her insecurity.

Brooding thoughts evaporated like the summer rain as she crested the ridge. Rainbow Rock lay before her, nestled in the bowl of a desert valley. Thunderclouds still rolled along the layered sandstone bluffs that had given the town its name, freckling their vivid colors in light and shadow, but the sky above the valley floor was clearing. Meg pulled onto the overlook and sat staring down on the town. For years she'd struggled to forget everything about Rainbow Rock, fighting so hard she had even forgotten the good things, like the rugged spectacle of the painted hills and the peace that followed a summer storm.

Peggy Taylor, Sally Williams, and Little Jimmy McAllister had been "the three musketeers," indivisible against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or the barbed insults of the high school in-crowd. Meg's loyalty to those friendships had finally brought her back; it caused her to move forward now, nudging her car onto the highway. As she dropped into the valley, the clouds along the far ridge dropped a veil of shimmering rain. A shaft of sunlight struck it and burst into color, streaking the sky with a brilliant double rainbow that stretched above the distant hills like a welcome banner.

Meg shook herself to ward off a growing sense of awe. She prided herself on being sensible, not given to seeing signs and omens. It was merely a coincidence that she had returned during one of the summer's loveliest moments, and that was all it was.

Want to read more about Meg Taylor and Rainbow Rock. RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME is now available as a FREE download for Kindle, Nook, and most other platforms. You can even read it on your computer; just download at Smashwords or scribd.com. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"The Beautiful One"

For a couple of decades I taught the American Indian Literature course at California State University, Chico. One of the archetypes that frequently occurs in native tales is "the beautiful one," the exquisitely perfect person whose beauty allows him or her to achieve what ordinary souls cannot. When I decided to write a book set near the Navajo and Hopi Nations, I created a "beautiful one" of my own.

From the opening pages of RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, here is the first time our heroine, Meg Taylor, sees "the beautiful one." She has just arrived in the town of Rainbow Rock, Arizona, and has stopped for gas.

Before her lay a stretch of red earth that reminded her just how lovely the desert could be. Dotted with sagebrush and greasewood, it lay perfect and timeless in the pure golden light of the afternoon, its plane broken only by the small, flat hill that stood a lone sentinel on the valley floor.

And that was when she saw him, the most beautiful man she had ever seen. He was climbing Valley Hill some forty yards away. His muscular upper body, bare and bronzed, was dappled by the spotty light as he worked his way up the bluff. He wore old, well-fitted jeans and climbing boots, and the light breeze riffled his leonine mane of thick blond hair. He seemed perfect, essential and ageless, at one with the bluff, the desert, and the endless sky.

Meg let out her breath, unaware she had been holding it, then stared in fascination. A shaft of light fell over the climber, making his tanned skin gleam like polished gold. "Who is he?" she whispered, not realizing she had spoken aloud until Kyle answered.

"He's a local guy. Name's Jim. Some kids spotted Indian relics and he's checking to see if there might be an old burial site."

Disappointment cut through Meg like summer lightning, leaving a flat taste. "A grave robber."

"No, ma'am, not Jim. He's not in it for the money. He locates burial sites and gets ‘em recognized by the state so nobody can mess with 'em."

"Oh." Meg turned her concentration to the man on the hill. He was beautiful, to be sure, but there was also something mystical about him--ageless and elemental, something that called out to her, drawing her to him. As she watched, he rounded the curve of the bluff and disappeared. Disappointment cut through her as she realized she had never seen his face.

Like to know more about Meg and Jim? It's easy. RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME is now available as a FREE download for Kindle and Nook and at most other e-book sites, including Smashwords, OverDrive, and scribd.com.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Hopi Snake Dances

When I was 11 years old, my dad arranged for our family to travel to Second Mesa on the lands of the Hopi Nation to see the annual Snake Dances. For a little girl with a snake phobia, this was a mixed blessing: the opportunity to witness a rare cultural event combined with a waking nightmare. Yet I'm so grateful I went and had the opportunity while this ceremony was relatively open.

In RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, Jim takes Meg to see the annual ceremony. She is like I was: uneasy (read, terrified) in the presence of snakes. Here is a little of what happens, just as the ceremony is about to begin.



It had been nearly two hours since their arrival at the pueblo. They'd walked down from the place designated for the off-mesa visitors to park through narrow alleyways between the walls of the first American apartment buildings, some of them nearly a millennium old. The pueblos rose two and three stories high, built of stone and adobe. People reached the upper levels by climbing handmade ladders, and even the oldest Hopis seemed comfortable scaling their way up and down.

Many doors had been open as they came through and Meg had seen into the Hopi homes, their floors hard- packed red earth, some flagged in stone; their walls whitewashed and sometimes painted in dark geometric shapes. Lines were strung across the walkways, some draped in drying laundry, others hung with strips of raw meat that would soon become jerky.

They had finally come to the flat surface near the pueblo where Hopi men—some in ceremonial dress, others in jeans and flannel shirts—had designated the area for the dances and had carefully warned each watcher that cameras or recorders would be confiscated. Jim explained that the snake dances had not been photographed since 1911 and surviving photographs were few.

“I wish I’d seen them,” Meg said. “That might have helped to prepare me for this.”

“You’ll be fine,” Jim assured again as he took her hand. “You’re stronger than you think, and besides, I’m here too—if you need me.”

“Thank you,” Meg whispered. She found a tender sweetness in both his confidence and his support.

Now they sat in the proscribed circle, waiting, Meg's stomach tensing more with each passing moment.

“You know you’re lucky to be able to see this,” Jim said, gently stroking her fingers.

“Lucky? How’s that?”

“Look around you. How many white faces do you see?”

She looked and counted. “Not many.”

“These dances used to be open to tourists, if they behaved themselves,” Jim explained. “Now they’re only open to outsiders who have been specifically invited. It’s a long, sad story why, but let’s just say that some visitors didn’t behave themselves very well. The Hopi take these ceremonies very seriously. Even those tribal members who don’t generally practice the Hopi religion see this as a primary way of holding onto their ancient culture—well, this and using the Hopi language.”

Then he added, “And before you ask, no. I don’t even dream of speaking Hopi. Navajo is an Athabascan language, Hopi a Shoshonean tongue.”

Meg smiled. “Not at all the same, I gather?”

Jim shook his head. “I’m glad you get that. Lots of people think that just because I can speak the one, I should automatically be fluent in the other. That’s a lot like saying that someone who can speak Korean should be fluent in Mongolian just because they’re both Asian languages.”

Meg laughed. “I’m glad I knew better than that. It sounds like you’ve been around that block before.”

“A few times,” Jim said, but his voice was calmer as he went on to tell her that the snake dances had been closed to most outsiders since a popular comic book had characterized their deities as “evil kachinas,” or avenging spirits back in 1992.



For a limited time, RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME is available as a FREE download for Nook, Apple and, soon, for Kindle. Also available at Smashwords, OverDrive and scribd.com.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

"Indian Burial Grounds" in Rainbow Rock books

Last week's entry introduced readers to a bit of the Navajo culture included in RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, a sweet contemporary romance now appearing as a FREE download. This week does a more realistic take on the old Hollywood concept of Indian burial grounds. Meg and Jim have taken a picnic to a nearby canyon filled with native petroglyphs. Burials like the one mentioned here are probably Anasazi.


For a time, they merely wandered along the creek, hand in hand, one and then the other pointing out sights worth noticing. After a time, they stopped beside another sheer wall of red, its last two feet mortared closed with gray cinder blocks.

"What's this?" Meg asked, leaning against the red as she examined the block wall.

"A burial."

Meg's hand came away as if she'd touched a hot iron.

"Some local kids crawled in there to check it out, found remains, and notified me. I called friends in the anthropology department at Northern Arizona University and they had a team out here from Flagstaff by the next weekend."

"I guess they must have authenticated the find," Meg said, inclining her head toward the wall.

"They authenticated it, examined and cataloged it, then reburied everything exactly as they believe it was in the beginning. After that, some Boy Scouts came in here and bricked it up as a service project, so nobody else would disturb the site."

Meg nodded understanding. Then she touched the rock again, this time almost reverently. "Who's in there?" she asked.

"They were children, three of them, apparently all from the same family."

"Oh." Meg felt the wind go out of her. "Three children in the same family. How old were they?"

"The eldest was about three, the youngest just an infant. The middle one was somewhere in between."

Meg thought instantly of Sally's beautiful children and felt a stab of pain for the unknown mother who had buried three children at once. If Jim had noticed the correspondence in ages, he was tactful enough not to mention it.

"My anthropologist friend dated the burial back to around the time Europeans first settled in this area. It's his guess that the whole family contracted one of the many diseases white men brought—smallpox, perhaps. Maybe typhoid or diphtheria. Apparently the adults survived, at least long enough to bury their children. There may have been older children who made it too."

"How sad." Meg's breath caught in her throat. "How very sad."

"Yes, it is." Jim paused. "Now let's find a way to get happy again." He grabbed her hand and ran, dragging her, splashing and protesting, into the creek.

RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME is now available as a download.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cultural Context in RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME

This week's sweet sample is from RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, which is now available as a FREE download (for a limited time) from Smashwords and scribd.com, and which will soon be available FREE from Kindle, Nook, and Apple as well. One reviewer said the overall quality of the book was "elevated by its cultural context." The book is set in northeastern Arizona and shares glimpses into Navajo and Hopi cultures, like this one.



Dawn crept over the eastern horizon as they made their way out of town toward the Navajo nation. The eastern sky was a rainbow of soft pastels, ribbons of pink, peach, and mauve mimicking the brighter layers of sandstone beneath them.

Meg quickly understood why Jim drove a pickup. By the time they crossed the borders onto the reservation, the roads had turned to barely paved trails. Later they became paths made by horses' hooves and wagon wheels, little more than ruts on the desert floor.

Their first stop was at a summer hogan some thirty miles inside the reservation. There Jim dickered for a magnificent squash-blossom necklace, got the price down so it sounded like a steal, then nonchalantly mentioned that he might consider the earrings too, and ended up paying as much as the artist had asked in the first place. All of it Meg followed through the men's body language, the items they picked up, and the dollar amounts they quoted.

"I didn't realize you speak Navajo," Meg observed with admiration as they started down the rutted path.

"Like a native, or so I'm told." He shrugged. "It makes sense. I learned it as a native language, right along with my English."

"How? Navajo is one of those languages nobody learns—except Navajos."

"Remember Franklin Nakai?"

She couldn't have forgotten. Nakai had been at the hub of too many jokes and pranks during her school years. "Didn't he work for your father?"

"That's right. He and his wife Ruth worked on our place from my earliest memory. Ruth helped Mom in the house. She understood English, but she never spoke anything but Navajo. I grew up speaking Navajo to Ruth and English to my mother. I learned both at the same time and never thought a thing about it."

"I've heard of that," Meg said. "We studied the concept in a language class in college. They say a child can learn any number of languages at once, so long as he always speaks the same language to the same person and never mixes them up. It's only when the same person speaks to the child in different languages that the kid gets confused, or worse yet, stammers."

"It worked that way for me," Jim answered. "When I got older, the Nakai boys were always around and we spoke only Navajo. When I'm with them, I think in Navajo. It's automatic."

"The only Navajo I ever learned was Yah-ta-hey."

"And that's only sort of Navajo," Jim said. When Meg looked confused, he told her of how a former tribal chairman had started a radio program for Navajo listeners and had created a greeting out of the Navajo words for "good" and "morning."

"So it's a translation?" Meg asked.

Jim nodded. “Sort of.”

"Then I promise I won't use it for the next two days."

“That’s a good idea,” he said, smiling wryly.

Their itinerary took them through Indian Wells and Ganado, as well as down a couple of rutted cow paths with the hogans or small homes of talented artisans at their end.
“I’ve noticed most of these little compounds have both a home and a Hogan,” Meg observed. “So where do they live?”

“Some of the Dineh still live year-round in hogans,” Jim answered, “but most have a more or less European style home they live in. Still they keep a Hogan for ceremonial purposes.” He grinned. “It can double as a guest house, too.”

Meg noticed how the hogans were all built in the same general pattern, mostly in hexagonal or octagonal shapes with an earthen ceiling. At each stop, Jim pulled into the door yard and waited patiently in his truck until the occupants came out to speak to him, explaining to Meg that Navajos considered it a sign of rudeness if a stranger walked up to their door. Whenever the people spoke English, Jim used it, trying to include Meg in their conversations, but many reservation-born artists spoke only their native tongue. Jim led those negotiations in rapid, easy Navajo, quickly concluding deals worth hundreds or many thousands of dollars and always paying in cash.
"Don't you worry about carrying so much money?" Meg asked as they loaded a beautiful hand-tooled saddle into the truck.

"Only when I'm off-rez," Jim said. "Things I take onto the reservation sometimes walk away by themselves, but I've never had anything stolen."

"What's the difference? Between walking away and thievery, I mean."

Jim frowned in concentration. "It's a little tricky to explain to someone who doesn't already understand the concepts, but the Indians have a communal sense of ownership unlike anything we know. If you leave a half-eaten plate of beans lying around, or a pair of still-serviceable work boots sitting outside your house trailer, they likely won't be there when you come back. They’re being used by someone else who has a need of them.”

“And people just accept that?” Meg felt her cultural norms doing a one-eighty.

“It’s what people grow up expecting,” he answered. “On the other hand, everyone here recognizes that money, being a European concept, is treated with a white or European kind of approach. It belongs to an individual. If it's mine, no one else will touch it."

"You sound like you have a real respect for these people."

"Where else in America could you drive around in a new truck with nearly thirty thousand dollars in your jeans and expect to come home alive?"

Check out RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME and the other Rainbow Rock books, available FREE (now or soon) at Kindle, Nook, Apple, Smashwords and scribd and soon at OverDrive.com.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I hope you have all taken advantage of the FREE download for RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, available from Kindle, Nook, Apple I-Store, Smashwords and scribd.com. If not, it will still be FREE for a limited time. Please take full advantage.

RIDE THE RAINBOW home tells the story of high school pals, Meg Taylor and Jim McAllister who rediscover one another ten years after graduation. One of the characters you'll meet in this story if Jim's brother, Kurt McAllister. This week's sweet sample is from AT THE RAINBOW'S END; it begins with Kurt's point of view.


A stiff breeze scoured the desert floor, catching powdery snowflakes and drifting them against the roots of the greasewood and creosote bushes. Kurt McAllister watched the would-be storm with tepid interest, idly reminded of the way his mother used to sift powdered sugar onto freshly baked gingerbread.

It had been a good meeting in Gallup that morning. If all went as planned, Rainbow Productions would soon have a contract for an exclusive series of educational videos. They had a funding proposal in for a documentary on Navajo weaving and were already paying their bills with pickup jobs for weddings, birthdays, graduations, and family reunions. In the four years since he had established his business with the woman who was now his sister-in-law, Kurt and Meg had built an inventory of successful management training programs that were bringing in steady income.

They were earning a strong reputation in the field and had recently moved into a larger storefront office in Holbrook. All was going splendidly, better than expected.
So why, Kurt wondered as he gunned the engine of his shiny new pickup and pulled into the I-40 fast lane, did he feel like chewing rails and spitting spikes? Frustration seemed to dog his heels these days, faithful as a bloodhound and not one bit prettier.
The road sign showed that Holbrook and his turnoff were still twenty-seven miles away as Kurt punched up the speed to pass a black touring car, but the added speed did nothing to decrease his restlessness. Neither did the fact that there was no apparent reason for it.

Things were going splendidly in the business. The only weak area they'd had from the beginning had been scriptwriting. Meg wrote the basic script when they did a management training video, and his brother Jim, an expert in Navajo and Hopi art, wrote most of their documentary pieces. So far, there had always been someone at the community college in Holbrook who could refine their scripts. Though he and Meg had spoken of hiring a professional scriptwriter—and they'd have to get someone if they got the documentary on Navajo weaving—that seemed more an opportunity than a problem. So it had to be something else that was wringing his stomach.

Whenever they had a problem in the business, Meg always sat down to analyze it. Maybe he should try... But thinking of Meg only made him more uneasy. Was it something about Meg that was bothering him? True, she hadn't been kicking in her usual full share in the business lately. Normally, she'd have been with him at that meeting in Gallup, but her burgeoning pregnancy was slowing her down. Kurt hadn't minded picking up the slack. Rainbow Productions was his dream, and he never would have been able to start it without his sister-in-law.

Besides, he was delighted to see Jim becoming a father. He loved Jim as he loved all the McAllister clan—fiercely, and Meg had made Jim happy. They were a dynamite couple and Kurt had no trouble imagining the beautiful, intelligent child that would result from combining those two gene pools. He fully expected to be an insufferable uncle, bragging to anyone who would listen. So the problem wasn't with Meg's contribution to the business, or with the pregnancy.

What was it then? He was thirty years old, well established in a growing business, and doing exactly what he'd always wanted to do, and still he couldn't help feeling that something important was missing from his life.

* * * *
The idiot light in the small compact flashed on for the fifth time in as many miles: Brakes, it said.

"Drat!" Alexa brought her fist down on the dash. "Now that's useful. Tell me something I don't know." She eased her foot onto the brake pedal and got mush, the same thing she'd been getting for the last twenty miles. "If I'd wanted oatmeal, I could have stopped at that greasy spoon," Alexa grumbled, pushing harder on the brake pedal and cutting back a little more on her speed. She had struggled for so long, wanting what no one from Henderson, Kentucky had ever dared to want, and promising herself she would have it. Now here she was, touching distance from the dream of her lifetime. No way was she going to let a set of bad brakes stop her!

The last road sign had said Holbrook was only twenty-seven miles away. It was probably a risk to drive that far on spongy brakes, but she figured they'd still stop her in a crisis, and risking it was probably wiser than stopping along the shoulder of Interstate 40 in the middle of nowhere at all. She glanced at the road atlas she kept open on the passenger seat.

Holbrook didn't look like much of a town, but even if the place was positively dead, it probably had a mechanic who could work on brakes, or the master cylinder, or whatever it was that was causing that accursed idiot light to make her feel like such an idiot.

"Okay," she said aloud, determined to strike a deal with the car. "I'll coax you into Holbrook if you promise not to break down on me before we get there, okay?" She cast a worried glance at the offending light, almost expecting it to answer.




I hope you enjoy reading RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, now available as a FREE download. If you do, perhaps you'll want to know more about Kurt and Alexa as well. Have a great week!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME: End Chapter 1

For the last two weeks, I've run samples from my sweet contemporary romance, RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME. I start this week with an exciting announcement: RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME is now available as an e-book and, within the next few days, you'll be able to get it as a FREE download for Kindle, Nook, and other e-readers. I hope you will take advantage.

Last week's sample ended with Jim and Meg meeting again ten years after high school. Meg has returned only to help her friends, Frank and Sally Garcia, with their new twins. Jim asks if she's busy. Several of you have written to know more about what happens. Here is the end of Chapter 1, beginning just before last week's cut-off.


Moments and years yawned between them, reminders of differences too wide to span. Meg sighed. "So you're working on the farm again?"

Jim's features tensed, an expression so brief Meg wasn't sure she'd seen it. "No. I help out occasionally, but my brother Chris is the farmer, and Kurt helps too. I'm more into commerce, myself. And you? What are you up to these days?"

"Management training, a consultant with Montgomery Adams Seminars."

"Now that sounds like the Peggy Taylor I remember."

"I'm called Meg now."

"Meg?" He tasted the name. "That doesn't sound like you."

She smiled indulgently. "It's all that sounds like me anymore--to me, anyway."

Again the silence stretched. "Say, are you busy this evening?"

"Tonight?" Meg tried to concentrate. "I don't have any plans after the picnic. That is, unless you count Tommy's bath and Isabel's bedtime story."

"That's quite a domestic streak you're developing." His amused look did odd things to the pit of her stomach.

She smiled, forcing herself to relax. "I'm afraid this is a case of 'looks can be deceiving.' I can cope with the older two, but the babies still scare me half to death. I'm glad their mother is constantly within reach. I never tended anyone under five before."

"Sounds like you could use a break. Think you can sneak away for a couple of hours? Most of the town's driving into Holbrook to see the fireworks." As naturally as if he did it every day, he reached up and picked a bit of mulberry leaf from her hair. The action brought him close, close enough that Meg could feel his body heat. "I'd like to take you. To the fireworks, I mean. Maybe we could talk over old times."

Meg's stalled heart resumed beating and shifted into high gear. "I'd love to go, if Sally can spare me. She and Frank have taken the kids for watermelon. I'm supposed to be melting--uh, meeting them there about now."

"Why don't I meet you there? As soon as I put something on."

Meg resisted the impulse to tell him to come as he was. "That sounds fine," she managed.
"See you then," he said as he strode away.

Most of a minute passed before Meg remembered to blink, but then she forced her feet into action. Who would have thought Little Jimmy McAllister would turn into such a model for a new Michelangelo? Or that he'd still be in Rainbow Rock? Or that he'd exude such... such power? She drifted toward the watermelon booths, surprised to notice how low the sun had sunk.

Sally looked up as she approached. "Well, there you are! We'd about given you up."

"I bumped into 'Little Jimmy' McAllister." Meg couldn't resist the sarcasm.

Sally grinned mischievously. "Looks good, doesn't he?"

"Brad Pitt should look so good!" Meg collapsed on the bench.

"Brad Pitt isn’t here," Sally observed dryly. "Maybe the three of us could get together sometime, talk over old times."

"Jimmy, er, Jim said the same thing, except he suggested a twosome at the fireworks in Holbrook. Sally, would you mind?"

"Are you kidding? Go! Enjoy! Frank'll help me with the kids, won't you, sweetheart?"

"Sure, babe." Frank leaned over the table and kissed Sally soundly. "Go, Meg. I wouldn't mind having the evening alone with my wife." He wrapped her in a possessive bear-hug and Sally giggled.

"Looks like I'm interrupting something." Jim arrived looking splendid in white jeans and a turquoise polo shirt. "Don't mind me," he said as Sally turned to acknowledge him. "Just go on with, uh, whatever you two were doing." He grinned broadly as he sat beside Meg, easily slipping an arm behind her on the table.

Sally extricated herself from the clutches of her husband. "Meg tells me you're going to take her into Holbrook for the show tonight."

"If it's okay with you two."

"More than okay," Sally said.

"Sounds good to me," Frank added.

Jim looked to Meg, who smiled dreamily. "Me too." Was that her voice? It sounded like an infatuated teen’s, all giggly and breathless.

"That's settled then." Sally dismissed them with an easy gesture. "Go have fun at the fireworks. Then maybe we can all get together later this week."

"It's a date," Jim said. "You ready Peggy, er, Meg?"

"Sure Jimmy, er, Jim." Meg fell into step beside the golden man who had been her girlhood pal. She had never been so ready in her life.


Be sure to watch your favorite e-book store this week for RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, available as a FREE download.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

In RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, first book in my Rainbow Rock series, Meg Taylor returns to the town where she, her friend Sally, and their buddy Little Jimmy McAllister were high school buddies. She finds much has changed in ten years. This scene occurs at a local community fair, which Meg attends with Sally and her family, when she spots a man she has seen (she thinks) only once before.

She looked up...and saw him again.

He was in the dunk tank, his back to her, his impressive body bare except for swimming trunks and speckled by the spotty, late-afternoon light that filtered through the cottonwoods, his lion's mane wet and dripping behind him. Meg immediately recognized the man from the bluff; her breath caught in her throat as she turned in his direction. His golden skin was damp and glistening, his hair dark with moisture. Walking without feeling her feet, Meg approached from behind the cage, drawn inexplicably forward as if she knew him, as if she had always known him. Her lips parted and one hand rose involuntarily, as if to touch that warm, damp flesh.

"Meg!" Frank's voice startled her out of her spell. He was in the crowd just to the side of the tank.

Reluctantly Meg looked up.

"I thought we'd lost you!" Frank called, adding, "We're having some watermelon before we leave. Meet us there when you're ready."

Meg nodded as Frank disappeared into the crush. She looked quickly back at the golden man, fearing that Frank's shouted conversation had attracted his attention, fearing even more that he had simply vanished, a figment of her imagination. As she turned, he did vanish. She gasped, and then realized that the boy in front of the booth had struck a bull's-eye.

The crowd roared as the man's perfect form dropped from sight, raising a plume of water that overflowed the tank. He came up sputtering, taunting the crowd, and Meg caught a glimpse of his profile as he turned. I have to see his face. It was more a drive than a thought, and it propelled her between the booths to the front of the tank. She arrived just as he climbed out, his back to her, a towel thrown across his broad shoulders.

"Ya done good, Jim!" someone called.

"Thanks, Tom," he answered. The sound of his voice caused a warm curling in her belly. Astonished at herself, Meg pushed through the crowd, drawing near. Then there he was, an arm's reach away.

He was tall, with a face just as fascinating as the rest of him--a strong jawline, boldly chiseled cheekbones, and a straight, patrician nose leading to a shy, slightly crooked grin. His features were also strangely familiar, almost as if she did know him, and yet she couldn't--could she? And yet there was something about his eyes...
He looked up as she approached, smiling tentatively, then paused, studying her. "Peggy? Peggy Taylor?"

Meg gasped.

The man stepped toward her. "Peggy?" he asked again. "It is you, isn't it?"

She stared, sure she should know the face, but unable to fit it to the body, or the name. Then she knew.

"Jimmy? Little Jimmy McAllister?" She barely recognized her own voice as it poured out like honey.

He stepped forward, reaching as if to embrace her, but then he let his hands drop to his sides. "It's great to see you."

"I, uh . . ." Words eluded her. "You are Little Jimmy, aren't you?"

He grinned, absently toweling his splendid chest. "Yeah, but no one calls me little anymore."

"No." She couldn't stop her eyes from doing a thorough, appreciative inventory. "I can see why not. What happened?"

"I grew." He shrugged. "We McAllisters are late bloomers." He returned the scrutiny. "The years have been good to you, too." The moment thickened as the one-time friends studied each other. "What are you doing back in Rainbow Rock?" Jim asked as he toweled his arms, hands, and throat.

Meg followed his hands with her eyes, suddenly imagining the feel of that warm skin. She flushed. "I, uh, I came to help Sally with her babies. I'm staying with the Garcias."

"That's good," Jim said. "Sally can use the help. I can't understand why she didn't mention you, though."

Meg was wondering the same thing. "My plans were only certain a couple of days ago. I asked her not to tell anyone I was coming."

"Not even the third musketeer?" His look sizzled through her, warmer than the July afternoon.

Meg gulped to catch her breath. "I didn't realize you'd still be around. Didn't you go away to school?"

"Arizona State," he answered, nodding. "Tempe isn't that far away."

"Then you came back?" Meg looked around her. "To here?"

Jim's grin straightened. "I came home."

Moments and years yawned between them, reminders of differences too wide to span. Meg sighed. "So you're working on the farm again?"

Jim's features tensed, an expression so brief Meg wasn't sure she'd seen it. "No. I help out occasionally, but my brother Chris is the farmer, and Kurt helps too. I'm more into commerce, myself. And you? What are you up to these days?"

"Management training, a consultant with Montgomery Adams Seminars."

"Now that sounds like the Peggy Taylor I remember."

"I'm called Meg now."

"Meg?" He tasted the name. "That doesn't sound like you."

She smiled indulgently. "It's all that sounds like me anymore--to me, anyway."

Again the silence stretched. "Say, are you busy this evening?"


RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME is now available as an e-boook for Kindle, Nook, Apple, Smashwords and scribd.com.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Excerpt from RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME

Today's excerpt is from the opening of RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, the first book in my six-book Rainbow Rock series. Enjoy!


Chapter One

"Oh!" Meg jumped as lightning crashed overhead. She swerved slightly, but fought her sports car back into her lane. July had come to the high plateau and with it, a typical afternoon thundershower. To Margaret Taylor, who hadn't seen the plateau for years, the storm was anything but typical. Lightning danced along the ridges and shimmered through the valley of the Little Colorado River, sending thunder rumbling in its wake. Giant thunderheads loomed thousands of feet above the red sandstone cliffs, pierced here and there by shafts of yellow light that brought heaven to earth. Meg watched in wonder as she pushed east along I-40, back to the land she had once called home.

Home? Rainbow Rock had never been home. The five years she'd spent there had been the worst of her life. The jeers she had suffered as stepdaughter to Lon Ramsdell, the high school principal, had been ravaging: "teacher's pet," "killjoy," "goody-goody," and so much worse. With relief she had grabbed her diploma and hit the road for UCLA, vowing never to return.

And she hadn't. Not for ten years, years she had spent putting adolescence behind her and building a career in management training. But time had softened the sting of those old wounds. Maybe it was time to make her peace.

A phone call had begun this adventure, interrupting one of her busiest mornings. She had known the voice instantly. "Meg, I had twins! Sammy and Serena."

"Congratulations, Sally." Meg had covered the phone while she mouthed to her secretary to hold all calls. "You have your hands full, don't you?"

"No kidding! That's why I called. Can you come help?"

"You're kidding, right?" She pulled the Sky Tech file as she mimicked the line from Gone with the Wind. "I don't know nothin' 'bout tendin' no babies, Miz Scarlett."
But Sally had always been persuasive, and her arguments--a recent cesarean, an absent family, and four babies under four--were convincing. Add to that their ten-year high school reunion later in the month and Meg was hooked. "Okay, I'll come," she'd said, wondering why she'd ever fought it, "but I'll only help with the housework. You can take care of the babies!" She had finished some pressing business and arranged for her colleague, Allen, to cover her next six-week training tour. Then she had started for Arizona.

Meg left the rain behind as she turned north from Holbrook toward Rainbow Rock, nervously drumming the dash. Would people even know her? The slim, poised businesswoman she saw in her mirror every morning was a far cry from the chubby, awkward teen known as Peggy Taylor, or behind her back, as Piggy. Her ivory skin was clear now, her figure trim, her glasses replaced by contacts that intensified the blue of her eyes, and her weight down by thirty pounds. She'd changed her long, limp hair to short, chic curls that had darkened almost to black, but none of that had quieted her insecurity.

Brooding thoughts evaporated like the summer rain as she crested the ridge. Rainbow Rock lay before her, nestled in the bowl of a desert valley. Thunderclouds still rolled along the layered sandstone bluffs that had given the town its name, freckling their vivid colors in light and shadow, but the sky above the valley floor was clearing. Meg pulled onto the overlook and sat staring down on the town. For years she'd struggled to forget everything about Rainbow Rock, fighting so hard she had even forgotten the good things, like the rugged spectacle of the painted hills and the peace that followed a summer storm.

Peggy Taylor, Sally Williams, and Little Jimmy McAllister had been "the three musketeers," indivisible against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or the barbed insults of the high school in-crowd. Meg's loyalty to those friendships had finally brought her back; it caused her to move forward now, nudging her car onto the highway. As she dropped into the valley, the clouds along the far ridge dropped a veil of shimmering rain. A shaft of sunlight struck it and burst into color, streaking the sky with a brilliant double rainbow that stretched above the distant hills like a welcome banner.

Meg shook herself to ward off a growing sense of awe. She prided herself on being sensible, not given to seeing signs and omens. It was merely a coincidence that she had returned during one of the summer's loveliest moments, and that was all it was.
A beep sounded and a light on her dashboard advised Meg to check her fuel. She grumbled, muttering a word her mother would not have approved. She'd probably have to stop before driving to Frank and Sally's. Sighing with frustration, she scanned the horizon for a gas station.

The first signs were for tourist traps, like Thunderbird Indian Trading Post and Fort Huachuca Gifts and Curios. Tourists, blindsided by such signs, believed they could get a crack at real Native American crafts. Meg knew better. One summer it had been her job to peel "Made in Korea" stickers off the cheap kachinas and tipi trinkets at Fort Huachuca (she hadn't discovered it was illegal until she started business school in L.A.), and no one told the tourists that the Indians of northern Arizona had never lived in tipis, or that the real Fort Huachuca was on the Mexican border, having nothing to do with Navajos, Hopis, or any other Native North Americans. Meg smirked as she drove by; tourists who bought such trash got just what they deserved.

She passed the Eagle Wing Lodge with its cabins in the shape of cement wigwams so unlike local hogans and pueblos, and then she spotted Kirby's Shell. She looked for a self-serve pump, then remembered that small-town Arizona seldom offered one, and stopped beside the only unleaded pump that didn't wear an "Out of Order" sign. A nice-looking towheaded teenager jumped to her service, his friendly smile turning wolfish when he spotted Meg behind the wheel.

"What can I do for ya, little lady?" he drawled in a creditable imitation of John Wayne.

"Just fill it, please." She flashed the boy a no-nonsense look that said, Whatever your line is, I'm not biting.

Not the least discouraged, the boy leaned near her window as the pump rang her total. "What brings you to town?"

Meg ran one manicured hand through her short, sassy curls. "Do you have a drinking fountain?" she asked, then noted the name on his uniform and added, "Kyle?"

The boy flushed slightly. "No, ma'am, but there are paper cups by the sink in the ladies' room, 'round back." He opened her door.

Something about the boy's face seemed familiar. "Kyle what?"

He grinned, the wolf on the prowl again. "Willard, ma'am. Kyle Willard at your service."
Meg opened her mouth in surprise, and quickly closed it again. No need to blow her cover by telling Kyle she had once been his baby-sitter. "Check the oil, please," she tossed over her shoulder as she rounded the building. She heard the boy whistling tunelessly as she rounded the corner--and caught her breath.

Before her lay a stretch of red earth that reminded her just how lovely the desert could be. Dotted with sagebrush and greasewood, it lay perfect and timeless in the pure golden light of the afternoon, its plane broken only by the small, flat hill that stood a lone sentinel on the valley floor.

And that was when she saw him, the most beautiful man she had ever seen. He was climbing Valley Hill some forty yards away. His muscular upper body, bare and bronzed, was dappled by the spotty light as he worked his way up the bluff. He wore old, well-fitted jeans and climbing boots, and the light breeze riffled his leonine mane of thick blond hair. He seemed perfect, essential and ageless, at one with the bluff, the desert, and the endless sky.

Meg let out her breath, unaware she had been holding it, then stared in fascination. A shaft of light fell over the climber, making his tanned skin gleam like polished gold. "Who is he?" she whispered, not realizing she had spoken aloud until Kyle answered.

"He's a local guy. Name's Jim. Some kids spotted Indian relics and he's checking to see if there might be an old burial site."

Disappointment cut through Meg like summer lightning, leaving a flat taste. "A grave robber."

"No, ma'am, not Jim. He's not in it for the money. He locates burial sites and gets ‘em recognized by the state so nobody can mess with 'em."

"Oh." Meg turned her concentration to the man on the hill. He was beautiful, to be sure, but there was also something mystical about him--ageless and elemental, something that called out to her, drawing her to him. As she watched, he rounded the curve of the bluff and disappeared. Disappointment cut through her as she realized she had never seen his face.

Kyle shifted uneasily.

"Well." Meg shook herself back to reality. "What do I owe you for the gas?"

"It needed oil too." Kyle began an itemized list of charges as they rounded the building.

Meg followed reluctantly, looking back to see if the man was really gone or if he had ever really been there at all. For a fleeting moment Meg wondered if he'd been nothing but a mirage, or a wish. She forced her attention back to the boy, pulling bills out of her wallet.

It had been the moment, she told herself as she left Kirby's. The moment, not the man, had caused her sudden fascination, her trembling hands, her rapid heartbeat. It was the magic of the storm and the mystery of the desert that had caused her to lose her head, a quirk of timing, a trick of fate. She smiled, almost believing. She was halfway through town before she realized she'd never gotten that drink of water.