Friday, July 31, 2015

Read A Romance Month 2015

Howdy ReaderFriends! Today’s entry is going to be a little different than the norm (shouts in Cheers voice “NORM!”), as it’s part of READ A ROMANCE MONTH 2015!

As a participating author (shout out to Lorelei of Lorelei's Lit Lair for recommending me and crafting a truly excellent kickoff post) I’ve been asked to talk about this year’s theme—the joy of romance—answer some fun questions, recommend some favorite books, and host a giveaway. How cool is that? And seeing that I’ve got a new book releasing on August 4, it’s perfect timing to give a shout out to COMING HOME TO MUSTANG RIDGE and the recently released long novella, STARTING OVER AT MUSTANG RIDGE (only $2.99!).

And now, without further ado …


When I sat down to write about the joy of romance, a new heroine popped into my head, in a little scene of her own, set at my Mustang Ridge Dude Ranch, high up in the hills of in gorgeous Wyoming. I thought I would share it with you! Here goes …

“So…” Anastasia leaned across the long indoor picnic table, nearly putting her elbow in a plate of fat, buttery biscuits in her hurry to get close enough to whisper without actually going to the trouble of coming around the table. “Which one is it going to be?”

Joy leaned in, partly to meet her best friend halfway, and partly because everything on the loaded table smelled so darned good. It better, seeing how Ana had used the luxury guest ranch’s reputation for top-notch country cooking to convince Joy to come with her on the week-long vacation … and conveniently “forgot” to mention that they were booked for Single’s Week.

“I’m going to try a little bit of everything,” she stage-whispered back. “Especially when we get to dessert.”

That got an eye roll. “I’m not talking about food. The men, Joy! What do you think?”

That I’m nowhere near ready for this. Two years ago, she had thrown herself into getting Joy Love Bakery off the ground, vowing she wouldn’t even think about another relationship until she had her life under control. Maybe the business was doing a decent hover these days, but that didn’t mean she was ready to move on. Still, vacation was vacation, and she figured she could tolerate the nametags and awkward getting-to-know-you conversations to get to the trail riding, roping and cattle drive promised in the glossy brochure.

She scanned the long dining hall, where exposed stone work and log beams gave a rustic feel while a well-stocked bar and stage area promised a good time, and pretended to consider the dozen or so wannabe cowboys scattered around the room, mixed with an unequal number of eager faux-cowgirls.

The men came in a wide range of shapes, sizes and coloring, suggesting there should be something for most any girl’s taste. She could almost imagine an auctioneer up there on stage, giving them an auction-worthy rundown: Do you like tall, dark and handsome? Then check out Taylor from Texas. He’s got a great smile, a bit of wear and tear on his jeans, and a good job in the oil fields. Want someone with more of an eco-conscience? What James lacks in height, he makes up for with a great smile and a company that builds zero-energy homes. And the list went on.

“Come on, Joy!” Anastasia pressed. Wearing stiff new boots, skintight jeans and a sparkly shirt that showed just enough of her curves, she fit right in with the other ladies. “Which one is it going to be?”

Wearing boots had some scuffs and her jeans had some wiggle room she thought she would appreciate when it came time to actually ride out on the trails, Joy was fine with being underdressed. It was vacation enough being a thousand miles away from her apron and hairnets—she loved the bakery, but she hadn’t done much else for too long. And this was going to be an adventure, regardless. “I’m going to take my time,” she said, “get to know them. You know, book, cover, that sort of thing.”

Ana made a face. “You’d better pick someone quick and introduce yourself before someone else gets her hooks into him. And don’t roll your eyes at me. That’s why we’re here!” She sighed happily and steepled her hands beneath her chin as she looked down the table. “To meet someone interesting and have a fling—or at least the potential for one. The kind that puts that swoopy rollercoaster feeling in your tummy and makes you feel like anything is possible!”

Was that what romance was like to Ana? Lucky girl. As far as Joy was concerned, romance wasn’t a rollercoaster so much as a steamroller that flattened you and left you behind. “Go on and mingle, already. I’ll be right behind you.” By way of the dessert table, because this called for fortification of the chocolate variety.

“Promise me…” But Ana’s eyes went past her to the door, then lit. “Aha! I knew they wouldn’t have an odd number of singles. And hel-lo, gorgeous! Ooh!” she squeaked, her hands doing a fluttery thing over the biscuits. “He’s coming this way!”

Joy turned, expecting to see the sort of guy who usually got Ana’s inner rollercoaster car starting up the long incline that inevitably led to a fall—six foot or so, broad shoulders, narrow hips, leather and/or ink a plus, along with an I-don’t-give-an-eff attitude that Ana interpreted as being an evolved human being, but almost always turned out to be a literal not giving of an eff.

Instead, she got a guy who was an inch or two under Ana’s magic number, with curly chestnut hair and the face of an imp all grown up, complete with a devilish sparkle in hazel eyes that were locked, not on Ana, but on Joy, with an intensity that said his being there was no accident.

“Aiden?” Her voice went up at the end, heading for dogs-and-bats territory.

The devilishness spread from his eyes to his lips, which curved in a smile that weakened her knees and almost sent her plopping into the mashed potatoes. “Joy. It’s good to see you.” He said it like he meant it, the bastard. Like he hadn’t promised he’d be back from his rainforest gig in six weeks, max, and that afterward they would make plans, make a life together.

This was the first time she had seen him in almost three years.

Ana whipped her head between them. “You two know each other?”

Joy’s insides gave the anticipatory shimmy-shimmy-shake that a rollercoaster car made as it started up the incline, and nerves wrapped her from head to toe. “We … um.”

“Need to talk,” Aiden filled in for her. He stretched out a hand—tanned, broad, capable, dusted across the back with masculine hair and a nick or two that said he still worked with his hands, still tended to forget his work gloves. “Can we take a walk?”

She was tempted to swat the potatoes into the towering stack of corn on the cob on the next table over, and escape in the ensuing melee. Instead, she took his hand and said, “This better be good.”


(And that, folks, is the joy of romance for me—the potential for a wonderful rollercoaster ride of emotions and an amped-up version of a question we ask ourselves every day: I wonder what’s going to happen next??)

(P.S.- Sorry for the cliffhanger. I meant to just have a cute little scene of two people meeting and riding off into the sunset of happily-ever-after, but I’m just not wired that way! If you want to follow this blog and/or sign up for my newsletter, I’ll finish Joy and Aiden’s story one of these days, and let you know how it turns out!)


1 - Tell us about a moment in your life when you experienced sheer joy.

The other day, Arizona and I took the baby for a nice, long walk to get ice cream and hit the beer store (as one does). We passed an older woman in her yard and exchanged waves and a “Hey, how are you? Nice night!”

We hadn’t met her before in the neighborhood, but I recognized her from the T-shirt she wore, advertising a local orchard up the road. I used to stop there sometimes for a cookie or muffin, back when I was living on a perpetually cash-strapped farm up north with my ex, and would pass the farm stand in my travels.

“What would it have been like,” I mused as we kept on going, “to be standing there back in the day, with her ringing up my morning glory muffin, to hear a little voice whisper from somewhere, ‘One day, you’re going to wave to this very same woman as she gets out of her car after work. You’re going to be walking with the love of your life and your son—a baby, at forty-two! The bills will be paid up, and when the cars come by, your man will put himself between you and them, not the other way around’.”

And that, my friends, was a moment of sheer joy.

2 - Tell us about a place that brings you joy, or is attached to a memory of joy.

Once upon a time (aka going on five years ago), I drove down to the ferry dock an hour or so south of the farm in the World’s Fugliest Truck to pick up my date, who was coming over from the island to meet me. As much as we had been emailing fast and furious in recent weeks, he was still a stranger with a computer and some blurry pictures. Would he be anywhere close to the six-four he claimed? Would he be as clever and kind as he seemed online? Would there be sparks?

The answers to those questions and others were yes to infinity and beyond. And these days, when we use that same ferry dock to take Wallaby to visit my in-laws on the island, I always feel that same joy and hear a whisper of This is where the fun began.

3 - Tell us about a sound that brings you joy (or a memory attached to sound — music, laughter, wind chimes… ?)

I love the sound of equine hooves thudding on the ramp of a trailer. Back when I had horses, it meant we were going on an adventure, or coming home from one. These days, I don’t have horses (thus why the bills are paid up, LOL), but I volunteer at an equine rescue, so the noise of hooves on a trailer ramp either means that one of our rescues is headed off to a new adoptive home, or a new rescue is arriving to begin rehabilitation. What joy!

4 - What recent book have you read that brought you joy. (Or a book you read in your life that brought you so much joy you’ve never forgotten it.) Why?

Codependent No More. I know it’s probably not the usual answer to this question, but when I first started reading it at a particularly low point in my life, it was like I had been wandering for a really long time (despite the best efforts of my friends and family) and I had finally found a path I could follow back to myself. That was a moment of joy in the darkness. Even today, with my life in a very different place, I refer back to it now and again when I find myself wanting to cling and control rather than going with the flow. And that brings me back to the joy of my present self.

5 - And for fun, the joy of choice ;o) ~ Pick your Chris! Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt, Chris Rock, Chris Evans or Christopher Plummer (circ. 1964 aka Capt. Von Trapp)?  

Sorry, I’m going to reject your Chrisses (Is that a proper plural?) and substitute my own geek love: Christopher Gorham, aka Auggie Anderson on Covert Affairs! Love, love, love him showing a blind man leading the rest of the CIA around by their computers, and when he’s shirtless … hello, HAWT!


Please sign up for my newsletter! All new sign-ups this month will be entered in a random drawing for a $50 gift certificate at Amazon or (winner’s choice). The winner will be announced here at my blog on Monday, 8/31.


I love books! Books, books and more books! So, in no particular order, I highly recommend Lois McMaster Bujold (space operas and fantasy), Linnea Sinclair (sci-fi romance), Samantha Cayto (sci fi erotica, etc.), Sherry Thomas (historical romance), Hannah Howell (historical romance), Gail Chianese (a debut contemporary romance author and buddy of mine), Kristan Higgins (contemporary romance and women’s fiction; a buddy, though far from a debut author), and JR Ward (who I suspect needs no introduction (but check out Bourbon Kings!!!) and is my partner in crime when it comes to mooning lake cops, which is a long story, and not yet past the statute of limitations …).


Jesse Hayworth (aka Jessica Andersen) is a farm girl from way back, complete with tractors and livestock. Now farmless and driving a Subaru named Roo, Jesse lives on the East Coast with three kitties she rescued from various bad situations, the husband who rescued her from, and the son who rescued them both from the bad habits of sleeping through the night and going mountain biking on a whim. She loves writing about wide-open spaces, animals, and true love, and she hopes you’ll come along for the ride!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Fruit, Flowers and Small Appliances (and a heads up!)

According to Google-Fu, Arizona and I should have celebrated this past weekend with fruit and flowers (if we're traditional), or an electrical appliance if we're a more modern couple (and I can get over my instinctive twitch where it comes to getting household gadgets as alleged gifts, because, really, our vacuum cleaner sucks, and not in a good way). 

We, however, eschewed the fruit, flowers and vacuum for steaks. And not just steaks, but drinks and dessert, at a sit-down restaurant (an old favorite) without a newly crawling six-month-old in my lap trying to "help" as we toasted each other with actual adult beverages and said, "Happy four years." 

Yes, folks, this past weekend marked our fourth wedding anniversary. Can you believe it? And despite the small appliances thing, I think four is a very nice number. So I've collected a few special fours that I'd like to share with you!

Four is:

The number of years Arizona and I have been married, the number of months we knew each other before we got engaged, and the number of months our engagement spanned before we were married.

The number of teeth Wallaby is currently sporting. Well, almost--he's got two on the bottom and one on the top, and another top one is going to come through any minute now. Which means we're going heavy on the ice cubes and chewy things today, and keeping a tight rein on BBIs (Boob Biting Incidents).

The number of burners on our stove. And, coincidentally, the number of objects I have melted because, even having lived in our little house in the trees for three years now (aka 36 months, which is divisible by four), I still get tripped up by the little diagram on the back of the stove and turn on the wrong burner. I mention this having melted the feet off my rice cooker last night. Because I rock.

And, most fun of all ….

The date on which COMING HOME TO MUSTANG RIDGE will be in stores next week! August 4 is next Tuesday, and you can preorder now! This is a full-on paperback and digital release, and it's a story I adore. It follows on the heels of STARTING OVER AT MUSTANG RIDGE, so if you missed the novella, grab it now!

And tell me … What is your special four??

Monday, July 20, 2015

Kid v. Kitten: the Flowchart

As Wallaby celebrates his half birthday (six months, ermagherd!), he's working very hard on the crawling thing, up on his hands and knees and trying to figure out how to get in a forward-moving gear. So I've been putting a 'bait' toy a little ways ahead of him, to encourage him to reach forward.

All good stuff, right? But I've got a confession. His current bait of choice is a two-inch ball of tinfoil that I tossed on the floor for the kitten. He'll follow that sucker as long as I want to keep moving it … or until the kitten intercepts.

Obviously, there's this whole gazillion-dollar industry devoted to producing "child development aids" and another gazillion-dollars aimed at convincing parents like me that little poopsie will be doomed to a life of underperformance if he/she doesn't have several hundred dollars worth of new toys for each stage of his/her little life.

At the moment, my son is obsessed with shoes, curtains and cat toys. Which is fine by me, as we're using them to practice what he needs to practice. I do, however, keep a close eye on what's being played with, and by whom, and I run each toy decision through an advanced decision-making tree that I though I would share with you in the form of a flowchart. 


Monday, July 13, 2015

Network TV and the Little Blue Pill

I'll confess--one of the big reasons I haven't had any success cutting the cable and switching to streaming movies and TV shows is that I kind of like commercials. The good ones are like little miniature stories told in fifteen or thirty seconds, and from a storytelling perspective, it's fun to see what actually shows up on screen versus what my brain fills in. The bad ones can be just as entertaining, too, from a creative-mockery standpoint. 

For example, who really thinks those two guys in the car are funny, Sonic? Not me. And why do I find Hannah and her horse the slightest bit watchable? 

In addition, it can be fun thinking about why certain ads are run when they are. Okay, so I get the car and auto parts commercials during Top Gear, but the fourth "Enjoy the go" Charmin commercial in fifteen minutes during Rizzoli and Isles? Do they think those of us watching a female-centric crime drama have wiping issues?

It gets even more pronounced when Arizona and I watch programming On Demand, as our cable company (Commie-cast) sometimes takes one big sponsor per show. For Orphan Black, it was Subaru. Okay, I get that. But for The Last Ship, which we just recently got caught up on, it's Viagra.

All Viagra, all the time. If there's a commercial break, whoops, Viagra! Either the old Italian guy trying to chase down a pill while a much younger hottie waits for him back at the villa, or a different hottie telling us that half of men over fifty suffer from ED, blah, blah. Now, don't get me wrong--I'm all for the product. If you need it, have at it! But did the programming folks ever stop to think what kind of a message they were sending. To whit:

Me (groans): It's the Italian guy again. Bet he's going to lose his last pill down the drain, and the pharmacy will be closed.

Arizona: What does this say about the people watching this show?

Me: That they're missing the prized 18-49 demographic, maybe? Or hitting the upper end of it, at any rate.

Arizona: Or that watching it is the anti-aphrodesiac. 

Later that afternoon.

Me: You want to watch another episode?

Arizona: Bring on the Boner Death Show!

Monday, July 6, 2015

To My Sixteen-Year-Old Self

Ermagherd! Last night, you totes got into see Def Leppard for free, and it was da bomb! 

(Translation into 1989-speak for my back-then self: (in Boston-accented Valley-girl) Ohmigod, I, like, totally saw Def Lep live last night, freebie. It was wicked awesome pissah!)

Does anyone else out there do this? You get to a point in your life--maybe something happens, or maybe it's just a random Monday--and you look around and wish you could time travel, or send a note back or something, and talk to your younger self. Me? I do it lots. 

Not so much to warn myself against doing something--I figure I've learned more from my mistakes than the things that came easy. I wouldn't go back and tell then-me not to date my ex, or to get out far sooner than I did, because while that might have saved me from some very dark times, those experiences made me who I am today. 

Those dark days, though … I wish I could get a message through time to thirty-seven-year-old me. Back in July of 2010, my ex was suddenly an ex and I was clearing, repairing, repainting and landscaping an entire four-bedroom house for sale while keeping the horse farm going and trying to write a romance. I was sleeping a few hours a night, and had the TV playing Law and Order marathons damn near 24/7, trying not to think too much, and crying when I did--not so much for a relationship that hadn't been doing either of us any good for a while, but for the life I was saying goodbye to, and the background mantra that a woman is more likely to die in a plane crash than get married after thirty-five. I kept telling myself it was going to be okay, but in the wee hours, that sounded pretty hollow.

Now, I wish I could whisper back to that self of mine and say It's not just going to be okay, it's going to be amazing. Just hang in there. 

Five years later, I'm a wife and a mommy. Mr. Right and I have a cute little house in the trees, an awesome baby, an eleven-year-old car, and a list of fun things we want to do together. And, last night, I got to see my teen-self's all-time-favorite band perform live!

It went like this:

RescueDeb (president of Beech Brook Farm Equine Rescue): Hey, volunteers! We've been selected by an organization called Rock To The Rescue. We're going to be featured at the upcoming Styxx concert at Mohegan Sun, where we'll be selling tickets to raffle off a signed Fender guitar. Our rescue gets a quarter of the proceeds directly and the rest goes to their foundation, to be given out as grants. No admin fees, all proceeds to charity, all good stuff. Who wants to sell raffle tickets? You can stay after and see the show.

Me (former hair band junkie, though not a huge Styxx fan): Sure, I'll go.

RescueDeb: We need bodies. The more the merrier!

Me: (emails two friends who have supported the rescue in the past, and who I think might go for a hair-band night at the casino)

RhondaFriend: Drat! I'm out of town!

GailFriend: Hubby and I are in! We were talking about going to the concert. Styxx rocks. Love DL, too. 

Me (blinks): DL … DL … D … ERMAGHERD! Is Def Leppard going to be there????!!!??? SQUEEEEE!

See, back in the day, my then-bestie, KristinFriend and I were The Biggest Fangirls. We didn't just have every Def Leppard album ever made--on cassette first, then CD--we had VHS copies of every rockumentary, interview or video we could get our hands on, plus acid wash jeans and blue jean jackets lovingly decorated with their logos and lyrics in puffy washable paint, and we spent hours talking about … well, you get the picture. 

So, yeah. Def Leppard. And, it turns out, Tesla, as the warmup act. Can you say Hair Band Heaven? It was a total blast. Not only did the Beech Brook Farm team kick ass selling raffle tickets, making lots of $$ for the rescue, we were then given access to a little section of seats slightly behind the stage, to watch the show! The sound quality wasn't the greatest because we were behind the speakers, but who cared? I knew all the words and my brain filled in the music.

And, because I was up way too late and am a little scattered, here are a few impressions, in no particular order:

-The crowd was older than it would've been when I was sixteen, and the panties that got thrown on stage were a lot bigger. (Though, in fairness, the pink ones might have been a slipcover.)

-Old rockers may have to take it down an octave now and then, but they sure know how to work a crowd.

-There's no better text to get from hubby in response to 'I'm thinking of staying longer, everything okay?' than 'All good. Dealt with giant sh*t. Baby asleep now. I'm watching sharks.' 

-There was this one guy in the crowd I couldn't stop staring at. He was wearing all white, looked like Doc Brown from Back to the Future, and stood stock still the entire time, staring off into space. Everyone around him was moving and rocking and banging heads, and he just stood there. And no matter what the lighting, he seemed to glow. I don't know what his story was, but I was tempted to borrow a phone and take a picture to see if he would show up.

-If you would have asked me back when I was sixteen what it would take to get me to leave a Def Leppard concert before the last song, my answer would not have been: It's been six hours since I last nursed.

-Nothing says "boys' night at home" quite like looking this morning for the little mesh feeders that I'm using to introduce bits of banana or avocado into baby Wallaby's diet, and finding them under the coffee table, one lovingly filled with a teaspoon of enchilada, the other with the same amount of Hawaiian pizza. 

And so, I wish you good music, ReaderFriends, a blast from the past, and maybe a whisper from your future self on a dark day, saying, It's not just going to be okay, it's going to be awesome … with a side of enchiladas and Hawaiian pizza!