Monday, December 29, 2014

The Carny is on SALE!

Yes, it's true!

The Carny is on sale for just 99 cents today!

At a town fair on the coast of Oregon, handsome Native American carny, Vincent Youngblood, bestows an unforgettable kiss on shy, awkward teenager, Charlotte Davenport. Then disappears without another word, leaving her baffled and enamored. 

Ten years later, Charlotte is still living in the small fishing town of Astoria, while being trained to--reluctantly--take over for her philandering hotelier father when he retires. After all, who else will do it? Her two perfect sisters are busy being married to their flawless husbands and having cookie cutter children, while Charlotte remains single, childless, and every bit as mousy as she was a decade ago.

 As Charlotte struggles to climb out from underneath her judgmental parents thumb, the carnival rolls back into town, and Charlotte finds herself face to face with Vin again. He's back to run his father's carnival, walking away from a promising career in medicine he started in Chicago. Will her biased and judgmental family accept her relationship with a man who is not only a Native American, but works as a carny for a living? And what unsavory secrets bind the well-educated and seemingly superlative Vin to that ramshackle carnival? After all, you can t judge a carny by its cover.

Gratitude challenge, week 1...

The prompt for this week is....

Why Start This Challenge?

Well, I'll just be blunt... I've had a crap attitude lately.

Yeah. That's me, the Veruca Salt of Washington state.

I've been letting the behavior and decisions of other people bring me down, and I need an attitude adjustment. I needed a reason to focus on my blessings, rather than my downfalls or shortcomings.

After all.......look at the small people I need to inspire:

Yup. They're pretty fantastic. But I'm biased.

So that's why I am taking on the challenge.

Why are you?


Friday, December 26, 2014

My project for 2015...

So I decided to give this a try...

Mainly because I really need to work on my gratitude. I have to very much to be grateful, and I am well aware of that fact, and yet...I find myself letting a small handful of really insignificant people and things burrow their way into my brain. Those insignificants push my gratitude aside, and make me get a horrible case of tunnel vision: and all I can do is focus on the things that upset or hurt me.

No bueno.

I'm better than that.

And so.....I shall start a weekly blog theme. For 52 weeks, I will blog every Monday about the topic provided before, thus counting my blessings and thanking my Heavenly Father for giving me such a brilliant and beautiful life.

(Because, if I'm being honest, I really do have a brilliant and beautiful life. I can thank my husband and children for that. Oh, and my gorgeous readers, too.)

So there you go. Once a week for a year, I will post something I am grateful for. And I really hope all of you readers will consider posting something you're grateful for in the comments every week.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas to you all!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for a wonderful year! Thank you for your readership and support, and most of all...thank you for your love and friendship!

God bless you, every one.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

The decisions we make, individually and personally, become the fabric of our lives. That fabric will be beautiful or ugly according to the threads of which it is woven. I wish to say <particularly to the young men who are here> that you cannot indulge in any unbecoming behavior without injury to the beauty of the fabric of your lives."
--Gordon B. Hinkley

“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.”
– Moliere

“Living with integrity means: Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.” 
― Barbara De Angelis

“Manliness consists not in bluff, bravado or loneliness. It consists in daring to do the right thing and facing consequences whether it is in matters social, political or other. It consists in deeds not words.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

“Your children are the greatest gift God will give to you, and their souls the heaviest responsibility He will place in your hands. Take time with them, teach them to have faith in God. Be a person in whom they can have faith. When you are old, nothing else you've done will have mattered as much.” 
― Lisa Wingate

Sorry means you leave yourself open, to embrace or to ridicule or to revenge. Sorry is a question that begs forgiveness, because the metronome of a good heart won't settle until things are set right and true. Sorry doesn't take things back, but it pushes things forward. It bridges the gap. Sorry is a sacrament. It's an offering. A gift.” 
― Craig Silvey

Friday, December 12, 2014

Week of FIVE!

Today's excerpt is from my contemporary romance, The Carny!

If you like this excerpt, click HERE to go to my Facebook page, where you can comment and share a link to be entered to WIN a free copy of The Carny!

Here's what it's all about...

At a town fair on the coast of Oregon, handsome Native American carny, Vincent Youngblood, bestows an unforgettable kiss on shy, awkward teenager, Charlotte Davenport. Then disappears without another word, leaving her baffled and enamored. 

Ten years later, Charlotte is still living in the small fishing town of Astoria, while being trained to--reluctantly--take over for her philandering hotelier father when he retires. After all, who else will do it? Her two perfect sisters are busy being married to their flawless husbands and having cookie cutter children, while Charlotte remains single, childless, and every bit as mousy as she was a decade ago.

 As Charlotte struggles to climb out from underneath her judgmental parents thumb, the carnival rolls back into town, and Charlotte finds herself face to face with Vin again. He's back to run his father's carnival, walking away from a promising career in medicine he started in Chicago. Will her biased and judgmental family accept her relationship with a man who is not only a Native American, but works as a carny for a living? And what unsavory secrets bind the well-educated and seemingly superlative Vin to that ramshackle carnival? After all, you can t judge a carny by its cover.

We arrived at the Column just as the sun was laying low in sky above the Pacific Ocean, its rays painting pink and orange streaks across the sky. Conversation between Vin and I flowed naturally, and I was surprised to learn that I could make him laugh easily. I almost forgot that I was on a date and incredibly self-conscious by nature. Vin made all of my insecurities melt away.
Instead of shifting in my seat, and adjusting my belt to make sure my stomach looked flat, I just rested my arm out the window and let my hand dance on the wind. Instead of choosing my words carefully and making sure that I said the right thing at the right time in order to ensure that I appeared well spoken and smart…I actually laughed and joked around.
Since the Column closed in a half an hour, the parking lot was empty and the groundskeeper just waved to us as we exited the car. We walked the circumference of the lot, taking in the stunning views and swapping horror stories from our younger days. Vin told me about the time he burned himself so badly climbing the rope in gym that he had to wear shorts for two weeks until his crotch area healed. In January. In Chicago.
I told him about the time I sneezed right as the camera went off when my sophomore school portraits were being taken, forever freezing my crumpled, and snot covered face in the yearbook. He explained that his first kiss happened in a broom closet at a Sadie Hawkins dance and that his braces sliced his date’s lips to bits, and I recalled the morning when I tripped on my way into science lab and chipped my tooth on the desk that belonged to the quarterback of the football team.
It was safe to say that we’d found a connection in our painful pasts as high school geeks. Talking to Vin made me feel comfortable with myself, which was a rarity for me. And it felt so good.
“You know, I have a confession.” He said as we approached the stairs in the Column. I gestured for him to climb first, as I was wearing a skirt, and also because I was completely terrified of the height.
“What’s that?” I tried not to look down, as the iron steps inside of the Column opened from top to bottom, and every time I spiraled around the long post in the middle I felt my stomach threatening to protest.
“I didn’t have high expectations for our date.”
I took a few more steps. “I’m not sure how to take that.”
Vin laughed heartily. “Well when I saw you at the carnival yesterday, I decided to ask you out mainly because it was my night off, and I thought it’d be fun to learn something about you besides your name.”
“Uh huh,” I huffed. “And now you know that I had to have dental surgery my freshman year of high school, and will forever be known as ‘booger face’ because of my yearbook picture.”
“At least you won’t be forever known as ‘hot rocks’ at your high school.” Vin climbed the stairs with ease. “What I’m trying to say is, when I asked you out, I didn’t expect to really like you.”
I looked up at him, and tried to keep my breathing even. We were only about a third of the way up, and I was already starting to pant. “But you do like me?”
Vin nodded happily. “You’re smart and funny. You’re easy to talk to, not to mention nice to look at.”
Well, he obviously needed to get his eyes checked, but I could forgive him of that.
“I like you, too,” I told him as we started climbing again, one hand grasping the railing, the other holding a fistful of skirt in a bunch between my knees. Wearing a skirt in the Column was a horrible mistake. If the groundskeeper walked under the stairs just then, he was going to see way more than he bargained for.
Vin beamed down at me. “Good. Then tell me we can go out again.”
“Isn’t the carnival leaving Astoria tomorrow?” I wheezed.
“We’re headed to Seaside next. But we’re based in Tillamook. It’s not like a traveling circus.” His eyes shone, and he took a few steps two at a time. “How many steps are in this thing?”
I looked down at the brochure we’d plucked from the visitor center. Catching a glimpse of the ground below us, my stomach roiled. “Um…one hundred sixty four.”
“You hangin’ in there?”
“Sure. Never better.” Good Lord, who did this on a first date? Whatever happened to a candle lit dinner and a walk on the beach? My lungs were starting to burn.
“Well, at least we’re walking off those deep fried crab legs.” Vin’s feet echoed on the iron steps, the sound bouncing around loudly in the giant cement tube we were climbing.
“That’s one way of looking at it.” I heard the pace of his steps increase for a moment, and then stop.
“Made it. Come on, Charlotte, you don’t want to miss this view.”
Since he couldn’t see me, I gripped the railing with both hands, threw a little prayer in God’s direction asking him not to let me plummet to my death, and hoisted myself the rest of the way up. My heart was beating in my ears, and sweat was pricking at my hairline, so I stood at the top of the stairs for a beat before joining Vin out on the small observation deck.
He looked so majestic, standing with both hands on the railing, his long braid making a shock of black down the back of his light shirt. It made me feel so frumpy, looking at him from behind. He was fit, and handsome, and not at all what one would expect from a carny. I wondered why he was running Young’s Blood entertainment, instead of doing whatever he’d gone to school for.
Note to self: ask Vin what he went to college for.
Right as my heart was slowing down to a normal pace, he turned and smiled at me. “You alright?”
Unable to think of a witty response due to the affect his deep voice had on my brain, I just nodded.
“Have you ever been up here before?”
I shook my head numbly. “My fifth grade class came here for a field trip once. I only made it halfway up, then chickened out.”
“And you haven’t come here since?” He left the railing and came over to the doorway. “Not even on a hot date in high school?”
“I didn’t have a lot of hot dates in high school.” I glanced downward and swayed in place. “It’s really high.”
“Come here.” He held a hand out to me. “Don’t be afraid. The railing is very strong, and you don’t want to miss this view.”
“Aren’t you supposed to tell me that you’ll rescue me if I fall?” I forced a fake laugh, and ignored the stitch in my side. Taking hold of his hand, I felt a spark of electricity dance up my arm. “Isn’t that how you impress the girls?”
“Unfortunately, if you fall from up here, I don’t think there is much I can do for you, except call 911. But, I promise to be very careful.” He carefully eased me through the doorway, and brought me to the edge of the observation deck. His hand stayed wrapped around mine, making my heart skitter.
“Wow…” I released a rush of air, and took in the startling view.
Green. Green trees so thick it looked like the land below us was covered in lush carpeting. The land rolled down to the mouth of the river, where the waters of Young’s Bay fed into the Pacific Ocean, and barges that were ten times the size of the hotel glided slowly along the waves. The two-mile long, green Megler Bridge, rose up above the buildings of lower Astoria, then lowered to just above the water, closing the gap between Oregon and Washington State. Behind us, the peak of Mount Rainier rose above the vegetation like a cake topper, and Vin and I stood there taking in the view in awe. It was stunning.
“I can’t believe I’ve never been up here.” I breathed as Vin’s thumb traced a line along my knuckles over and over again. “You really can see forever.”
“I can see a few miles into Washington.” Vin used his free hand to point across the choppy waters of the Columbia. “It’s so beautiful here. So many mountains, trees, rivers, creeks, bays. It’s baffling, the natural beauty here.”
Though I in no way could take credit for the beauty of the Oregon coast, I found myself feeling proud that I’d grown up in such an amazing place. “Thank you. I think so, too.”
“Look down there.” He pointed to the south, where a couple of roofs were visible through the bountiful green foliage, about half a mile back down Coxcomb Hill. “What a stunning view those homes must have. That one with the widow’s walk must be amazing.”
The all too familiar self-consciousness I usually carried with me like a purse full of rocks returned. Did Vin realize who my family was? Everyone who lived between Astoria and Portland knew the Davenport family, and its prominence amongst the small towns dotting the coast. My grandfather had been mayor of Seaside for eight years, and my father had big plans to run for mayor of Astoria after his retirement. The very home Vin was gesturing at was the one I would go to bed in after the end of our date.
The way his thumb felt stroking my skin was sending shivers up the length of my arm. “I think they’re overrated.”
He looked at me through the corner of his eye. “That sounded bitter.”
“Well, it’s just that…” I hesitated, my mouth open. How exactly did I tell Vin that my family was wealthy, when he was working for a rag tag local carnival? In my meager experience with men up until now, men either glommed on to me because of the notoriety associated with my last name. Or they ran in the opposite direction under the assumption that I must be every bit as pretentious as my family. “That house, the one with the widow’s walk, is my house.”
He looked at the house and blinked a few times. “You own that house right there?”
“No. I mean, it’s my parent’s house.” I stared at the crisp white of the railing around the widow’s walk. “And I live there. With my parents. Now you know that I live at home, I can officially admit to being a loser.”
His white teeth shone in the dark when he grinned. “Charlotte, I live at my father’s place in Tillamook. If living with your parents makes you a loser, then I’m every bit as pathetic as you are.”
“I moved home after Lance and I broke up. I want to move to my own place, but…” My voice trailed off, and I looked down at Vin’s hands and mine. Our fingers laced together made such a pretty picture, with his bronzed fingers and my painfully white ones.
I frowned. “My mom is complex. And my dad is a big fish in a little pond. He’s sort of pompous, and he ignores my mom. A lot. She and my dad are dysfunctional, and she tends to depend on my sisters and me for support. I want to move out, but feel sort of responsible for my mom.”
The corners of his mouth turned downward. “I can relate more than you realize.”
We stood there for a spell, observing the view in silence. I wondered what he meant by that. Did he have a demanding mother, too? Or was he referring to his father, the man Adam had told me all about earlier? Was Vin responsible for his father?
Vin turned to me, resting his hip against the railing so that he was positioned between the one hundred twenty five foot drop off and me. He drew a breath, tucking a strand of my hair behind my ear with a mild expression.
“Charlotte?” He leaned close to me.
I swallowed. “What?”
“I want to kiss you.”
My heart leapt into my throat. “Then do it.”
“I think I’m out of practice.” His breath tickled my lips.
“So am I.”

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Week of FOUR!

Today's excerpt is from my fantasy young adult novel, Underwater!

If you like the excerpt, click HERE to go to my Facebook page, where you can comment and share a link and be entered to WIN a free copy of Underwater!

Here's what it's all about...

The secrets of Pend Oreille are best left beneath the surface…

After being partially paralyzed in a car accident, wheelchair-bound Luna Prosser is struggling to keep her head above water. Fighting for independence from her over-protective parents and determined to seem normal as she wheels down the halls of her high school, Luna can’t believe the hot new guy on campus actually talks to her—and looks at her with more than just pity in his haunted, aquamarine eyes. 

But Luna has no idea how different Saxon really is, or what agonizing responsibilities he faces. He's been sneaking up and out of the dark waters of the Pend Oreille for a year now, slipping in and out of towns, local classes, and shops, in an attempt to learn more about the fascinating humans he was raised to stalk. But instead of watching them as prey, Saxon watches them with a yearning for normalcy, and to search for a way to aid his rapidly dying Mer clan from extinction.

Together he and Luna find a connection that can't be described. Like a key sliding into a lock, they've found their one mate, and once that has happened, the connection is permanent. But their bliss isn't meant to last, for there are secrets in the dark waters of Pend Oreille—secrets that could drown them both…

When I called my sister’s name into the darkness, my mother didn’t even peer through the kitchen window. She was too focused on being mad at my dad to concentrate on anything else. Besides, in her mind I was a thoughtless brat—which I was—and how would she know that there was a mermaid with a vendetta running around outside.
Except for the moonlight flickering on the choppy waves of the bay, the night was pitch black. I scanned the darkness, trying desperately to see something. Anything. The swish of Evey’s ponytail. The bright white of her softball practice shirt. The silvery glimmer of Isolde’s skin as she bolted through the trees. Surely I’d spot some of that…she had to be naked if she was in human form. Oh, great. This night just got better and better.
“Stay here,” Saxon said when we hit the bottom of the ramp.
“As if.” I yanked my gloves out of my pocket and jerked them on. “Is she going to hurt my sister? Be honest with me.”
He pulled his face into a grim scowl, and a small vertical line appeared between his eyebrows. He shook his head and lowered his voice. “I don’t know.”
“Then don’t tell me to wait here.” I rolled toward the tree line at the head of the trail. “Evey! If you’re out there, answer me!”
The sound of a twig breaking up the path halted my breath. Saxon was behind my chair in an instant. We sat motionless and perfectly quiet for one second, then two, then three, then…
A streak of silvery nakedness—all arms, legs, and a cape of long wavy hair—leapt from the brush and took off down the trail. Isolde’s voice filled my head, and by the way Saxon grit his teeth, he heard it too.
You’d better find her before I do.
Gasping, I shoved my wheels with every ounce of strength I had. I must have been running on adrenaline, because I hit the root in the ground with a slam and bounced right over it as if it were little more than a toothpick in the dirt. My wheels caught momentum quickly, thanks to the downward slope of the trail, and I was able to keep sight of Isolde’s hair flying out behind her running body.
Saxon’s voice screamed through my head. Luna, no! Wait!
“Evey, where are you!?” I shrieked, grunting as I pushed my wheels. I was about ten feet behind Isolde, and could see her silvery skin through the trees. My heart throbbed in my chest so hard, I was pretty sure my clavicle would splinter, but I didn’t stop to catch my breath. I just assaulted my wheels again and again, pushing myself further down the trail.
Evey. My sister was out in the woods because I’d run my mouth and embarrassed her, and now she had a lot more to worry about than a bruised ego. Letting my guilt propel me, I bound around a massive pine tree and made a grab for the end of Isolde’s hair.
“Dammit!” I hissed to myself when I missed, terrified tears stinging the insides of my eyelids. It was one thing to mess with me, to try to drown me, but threatening to hurt my sister? Now Isolde and I had a real problem. I was going to throttle her myself.
With a crunch and a rustle, Isolde jumped off of the trail and into the brush.
“Come back here and face me!” My voice came out rough and jagged. My lungs burned as I pushed forward, but I didn’t slow down. “Evey! This isn’t funny anymore! Where are you?”
“Geez, what?” Evey stepped out from behind a thick-trunked cedar tree. She was wiping tears off her face, and my already strained heart gave a squeeze. She turned in the direction of Isolde tearing through the bushes. “Who’s that?”
I’ll get her! Stay with your sister! Saxon jetted past me and sprinted into the dark thicket.
“OK!” I rolled to a stop at Evey’s feet and hunched over in my chair. My arms burned, and my fingers were stuck in their clenched position.
“What’s OK? What’s wrong? Where’s Saxon going? Was that Declan in the woods? Are you OK?” Evey’s questions were coming out like bullets, and I had to hold up one of my cramped hands to stop her.
“Mom…and Dad…are at…home.” I wheezed in between gulps of air. “I’m…so glad…I…found you.”
“Of course you found me. I wasn’t hiding from you.” She wrapped her arms around herself. “Well, maybe I was.”
“You need to go home.” I swallowed another pull of air and pushed my sweaty bangs back from my face. “It’s dangerous out here.”
She ignored me and peered into the trees. “Seriously, who was it? They weren’t wearing a shirt.” I saw slivers of Evey’s scandalized frown in the moonlight that cut through the trees. “Apparently people get naked a lot in Pend Oreille. Who knew?”
I widened my eyes at her. She had no concept of what was happening in Pend Oreille these days. “That was not Declan.”
“Why are you acting all cryptic? What’s your problem?” She tried to step around my chair. “Wait. Never mind. I’m mad at you—”
There was a thunderous crack of wood, followed by the crunching of branches falling to the ground. “What the heck was that?” Apparently Evey forgot that she was angry, because she knelt down next to me. “What’s going on?”
“There’s someone in the woods.” My voice shook. “She was going to hurt you.”
“Who’s going to hurt me?” There was a hysterical edge to Evey’s voice, so I put my hand over hers and squeezed.
I swallowed, and my throat stung. “Her name is Isolde. And she knows Saxon.”
“Saxon knows her? She’s friggin’ naked!” She pushed up her glasses with a trembling hand. “You’re OK with this?”
There was another crash, and the sound of rocks rolling into the water filled the air. “Seems pretty clear Saxon’s not OK with it either.” My stomach twisted around itself, and I winced. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if he got hurt trying to defend us. “Sax! You all right?”
“Holy crap, he isn’t hurting her, is he?” Evey raised her voice.
“It isn’t like that.” I bit my thumbnail. “You don’t understand.”
“Then why don’t you enlighten me?” Evey sat down on the leaves and pine needles. Wrapping her arms around her knees, she stared up at me and drew a shaky breath. “I want to know what’s going on. Right now.”
A million emotions bounced around in my head. Anger at my parents. Embarrassment that Saxon witnessed my family at its finest. Guilt for making my sister mad. And let us not forget the unadulterated fear that came with having Isolde running around in the woods outside my house. But despite all of that, and despite the fact that my heart was still hammering in my chest, guilt climbed to the top of the pile to rear its ugly head.
“Ev, I’m sorry.” My voice cracked, and I cleared my throat. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”
“You were a total witch. You know that, right?”
“I know.” I pet her tousled blonde hair. “I was just mad at Mom and Dad, and I—”
“It’s not my fault they act like that!” She pressed a hand to her chest. “You forget sometimes. I’m on your side!”
I looked down at my fists, just as a splash sounded at the bottom of the hill. “I’m sorry. I just… Everything spun out of control, and I lost my cool.”
Evey nodded. “I know. Was Saxon uncomfortable?”
I listened for a beat. Waiting to hear his voice in my mind, telling me that Isolde was gone and everything was OK. But maybe he was gone too. Maybe he’d had to shift to chase Isolde away. My skin suddenly felt too tight for my body, and I wanted to scream. I loathed being bound to this chair. If they ever found a way to correct spinal cord injuries and I walked again, I was going to smash it with a sledgehammer and burn it to ashes. I wanted to go after Saxon. I wanted to help so badly. Helplessness was hell.
“I’ll take that enraged expression as a yes.”
Shaking my head, I forced myself to calm down, breathing in and out slowly. “No. Saxon was fine. He’s very…understanding like that. Besides, we didn’t have much time to talk about it.”
“You’re lucky.” She rubbed her hands up and down her arms. “He seems really nice.”
That made me smile. “Hayden’s not too shabby either.”
My sister was the only person in the world who could blush in the woods at night and turn pink enough to be visible. “He’s not my boyfriend.”
“Not yet. But will be.”
She giggled. “Maybe.”
There was another splash below, and I squeezed my eyes shut. “If he drove you home, why didn’t you make him stay for dinner too? Then I wouldn’t have had to suffer alone.”
“He went hiking with his brother.” She shifted on the ground. “Ian wanted to take him to Gold Hill.” Her voice trailed off, and she tugged on the end of her ponytail.
“It’s too bad Ian’s such a tool.” I couldn’t help myself. It rotted my stomach the way that Ian’s thick-necked friends all treated Hayden like garbage at school. He considered it a hazing of sorts, as if being a colossal dick to your brother at school was some kind of rihte of passage.
“OK, enough McClendon bashing for one night. My negativity meter is on high.” She dropped her voice low. “Tell me what’s going on. Why did Saxon just chase someone into the woods? Someone who was, um, naked?”
I rested my elbows on my knees and leaned forward. “There are things in this lake that you have only ever dreamed about.”
She blinked. “You sound like a Disney movie.”
I rubbed my eyes, exasperated. “I need you to promise me you’ll stay away from the water and out of the woods for a while.”
“Just promise.” I didn’t hear any more noise coming from the woods, and I didn’t hear Saxon’s—or Isolde’s—voice anywhere.