Read an Excerpt from A Romance Rekindled

romance-grows-in-arcadia-valley-cover

romance-grows-in-arcadia-valley-coverHere’s an excerpt from A Romance Rekindled, my novella in Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley. It releases January 10, 2017!

Kate Groves kept a tight grip on her dad’s hand and tried to keep her emotions in check. No easy task. She’d been an emotional basket case ever since she’d entered the Arcadia Valley city limits two weeks ago.

And who could blame her? Her track record in this town wasn’t exactly stellar.

Now, surrounded by the beeping and blinking machines that served as her dad’s lifelines, she willed herself to stay calm. Although if she were being honest with herself, she hadn’t been calm since she’d received the phone call telling her that her dad had been admitted to the Arcadia Valley Community Hospital.

“It’s okay, Katie Scarlett,” Dad murmured. “You don’t have to be tough on my account. I know what’s happening.”

Katie Scarlett. There was a blast from the past. Scarlett wasn’t even her middle name. He’d taken to calling her that one summer when she was in elementary school. They’d gone to visit her mother’s relatives in Atlanta and had toured a Gone with the Wind exhibit. She’d been ‘Katie Scarlett’ ever since, most of the time in his fake southern accent. She used to tease him that it was the worst fake accent she’d ever heard. “It’s going to be fine, Dad. They just gave you some more pain meds. You should be feeling better soon. We’ll have you home in no time,” she said in a voice that was far too chipper for the sterile hospital room, even to her own ears.

He shook his head. “I appreciate your attempt, but you never did have much of a poker face.” He took a ragged breath. “Times like this I wish your mother and I had decided to go ahead and have a second child. You’ve certainly dealt with your fair share of hard things alone.”

She managed a small smile. “And miss out on being the spoiled only child of the bunch? Never.” Her mom’s brother had three girls all near Kate’s age and through the years they’d often tried to label her as spoiled due to her status as an only, but it had mostly been in jest.

Dad patted her hand. “I need you to do some things.” He pulled her closer. “Important things.” His voice was weaker than it had been yesterday. After a lifetime of being larger than life, he suddenly seemed so very human and much smaller than she remembered.

“Anything.”

“Look in the bottom drawer of my desk when you go home. There’s a lock box there. Eugene Boyd will come for it. He has the key.” Mr. Boyd had been his lawyer for as long as Kate could remember. “There are some things in there you’re going to need.”

She frowned. “I really think this is unnecessary—”

Dad shook his head. “Stop.” He took another breath and the machine he was hooked to let out a stream of beeps. “The house.” He struggled to sit up. “The office at the farmers market.”

She cast a worried gaze at the blinking machine. “I think you should stop talking. Why don’t I call the nurse?”

He gripped her hand. “I’ve made arrangements for the house to be renovated. My office at the farmers market, too.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but he raised a hand to stop her. Even on his deathbed, Henry Groves was clearly still in charge. “You will be overseeing those renovations.”

Kate widened her eyes. “Me? I don’t know anything about renovations. I live in a tiny studio apartment two thousand miles from here. How am I possibly going to oversee anything?” Since she arrived in Arcadia Valley, she hadn’t even been to her childhood home. She’d come straight to the hospital and had been camped out here ever since. The thought of being in the empty house had been too much to take, and she’d preferred sleeping on the pull-out couch in her dad’s room.

He lifted his chin. Most men couldn’t pull off dignified when facing end stage liver failure and wearing a hospital gown, but her dad somehow managed to do so. “I’ve not asked much of you over the years. I’ve sent money when you required it and excused you from nearly all the family obligations that have come about. I’m asking you to live in the house and oversee the renovations. It may take a year. Your job is the kind that should let you freelance from here, am I right?”

If not for the circumstances, she would’ve been furious. As it was, she was only a bit miffed. It was so like him. “I’m not sure I can do that.” She’d thought about taking her skills as a web designer and trying to make it on her own, but she hadn’t planned on doing it now. It was one of those ‘someday’ plans that she’d never taken the time to think through.

He shut his eyes. “Katie, please. Do this one thing. For me?” He sighed. “I know I haven’t always been the best father. I know that you and I have had some tough years. But I’m hopeful that you’ve moved past all of that stuff and can focus on things here in Arcadia Valley for a little while. Your cousins are here. Your grandmother. Your roots are here.” He reached up and stroked her cheek. “Live in the house. Renovate it to your liking. You can sell it when it’s completed if you wish. That’s fine. But live in it.” His eyes filled with tears. “It will do my heart good to think of you back there again in your childhood home. Your room is as you left it.” His voice broke. “Your mother’s things are still in our closet.”

At this admission, Kate felt the hot tears well up in her own eyes. She’d left town in such a hurry all those years ago, blinded by her own pain and anger, she had never stopped to consider that her dad may have had pain of his own. “I might be able to work out turning my position into a freelance kind of thing for a while, but I don’t know if I’d have enough work, especially until I am established.” She couldn’t believe she was even considering it.

“Run the farmers market.” He nodded. “When you oversee the renovation of my office there, have it redone to your liking. It’s just now March. Our busiest time is around the corner. You know you always loved it when you were younger. Riley and Brooke both have booths there. They can help show you the ropes.”

At the mention of her cousins, she nodded. They’d had some great times together growing up. But run the market herself? “I don’t know. I wouldn’t even know where to start.” The Arcadia Valley Farmers Market had been started by her grandfather, and her dad had continued to manage it even though he had plenty of other business opportunities around town. He’d always believed having a marketplace for small farmers was vital to their community. “Don’t you already have a manager in place?” She’d assumed her dad had all his business ventures covered. He’d always been such a workaholic.

“I worked as much as I could up until last week, but I never could make myself hire anyone for the farmers market. It hit me that you were the obvious choice.”

“But Dad, I haven’t even been to the market since I was in high school. And in case you don’t realize it, more than a decade has passed since then. Besides, I need a job that pays.” There. That was an excuse he could understand, she was sure of it.

 “Over the past weeks, I’ve made certain that Brooke knows where everything is that pertains to the business side of the market. I’ve given her some info to pass on to you. If you could step in and manage it at least for this season, it would be a real load off my mind.” He patted her hand. “Don’t worry about money. You’ll get paid for your time. The market is profitable. And maybe spruce up our webpage if you have the chance.” He gave her a knowing look.

He’d asked her before to help out with the site and she’d always had a million reasons why she didn’t have time. “I may be able to handle the website, but I certainly don’t know anything about managing a farmers market.”

“You’ll do fine.” He gripped her hand again. “And Katie Scarlett?”

She leaned down. “Yes, Daddy?”

“Please try to forgive me.” His voice was barely a whisper.

The machines began to beep again, and this time Katie found herself swept out of the room by a nurse.

***

Pre-order Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley here:

Amazon | Apple | Nook | Kobo

And Then BAM, You’re 40…

40

40I’ve put off writing this post because I knew it was going to be a challenge. But seeing as today is the last day of 2016, I guess I don’t have a choice.

2016 was the year I turned 40. (Note to self: The Year I Turned 40 would make a great book title.)

40 hasn’t been that easy. And not for the reasons you may think.

Sure, it’s not that fun to find the random gray hairs that have snuck in or to notice that it’s much harder to lose weight now. And don’t even get me started about those little wrinkles that have appeared around my eyes.

But coming to terms with 40 has been hard and it has nothing to do with the physical aspects of being four decades old.

Frankly, I’ve never felt better. In fact, I don’t feel 40. I feel like I should still be 25. Sometimes it shocks me to realize how old I am. I remember my parents at 40 and I thought they were super-old grownups who had it all figured out. Now I know the truth!

40 has been the year when I no longer care what people think. This year while my husband and I were in Mexico, I opted NOT to wear my swim skirt cover up over my bathing suit. That skirt has been a beach staple of mine since I was 25. Yep. You know what? It felt great. I spent years feeling self-conscious because shudder what if someone saw cellulite on my hips? HA.

At 40, I laugh in the face of cellulite.

It’s also been the year that I realized I’m more than my job. I’m a classic workaholic, I’ll admit it. I’ve let my career define me for the past decade or more. No more. This year, I’ve left work behind on multiple occasions without even a smidge of the guilt that would have plagued me before. Friday afternoon? I’m done. Vacation? Two vacations in 2016 and I didn’t log on to work once. That may seem silly to some, but it’s a big accomplishment for me.

At 40, I realize that work is not the most important thing. There can be other jobs, but you can’t get back the moments you’ve lost.

It’s been the year I’ve become comfortable in my own skin. I am who I am. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things I don’t want/need to improve on, but overall, I’m no longer apologetic for my “quirks.” I am introverted in a way many don’t understand. Large groups—even my family whom I love—give me anxiety. I have learned what I can and cannot handle. Sometimes that means I leave a family function early. I used to feel terrible about it. Now I realize that it’s better to just be me, even if it means I retreat to the silence of my own home after a few hours of togetherness.

At 40, I finally understand that sometimes I have to take care of myself and that makes it so that I’m better able to care for others.

1976
Me and my parents in 1976, the year I was born.

It’s been the year that I’ve had to face the idea of life without loved ones. For whatever reason, 40 has been the year when I’ve been gripped with the fear of losing my parents, husband, and family members. There are nights when I wake up and can’t go back to sleep because I’m terrified of what a life without them would be. There are no answers here—I suspect we all go through it. I may appear to be a grownup adult, but there are many moments DAILY when I need my mom or my dad.

At 40, I see that life is so short. When you’re young you think you have all the time in the world. At this point, I realize that time really is the most precious currency, and I have to make the most of it.

Here are a few other gems I’ve learned at 40:

Good and true friends are some of God’s biggest blessings.

So are good dogs.

High heels aren’t always worth it. Sometimes it’s more important to be comfortable.

Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep and a good cup of coffee.

A clean house really does make a difference in your quality of life.

Some days you need to call in sick and stay in bed and binge watch TV all day. It may not be productive but it is such a treat.

Spending time with people who make you laugh will make you feel at least ten years younger.

Prayer changes you. If you have an issue with someone, pray for them. Daily. It will make a difference.

If a movie, TV show, or book has something in it you don’t like or approve of, remove yourself. Walk out of the theater. Change the channel. Put it back on the shelf. Life is too short. I don’t like violence or bad language. I’ve finally, finally realized that It’s MY choice not to see or hear it.

Don’t compare yourself to other people. No good can come of it.

And there you have it. My “turning 40” post. I’ve watched my friends turn 40 this year and it’s been weird because when I see them, I still see cheerleaders and football players and people I laughed with in the dorm. Seeing them at 40, adults, parents, businesspeople…it’s kind of shocking. I spent a lot of time earlier in the year wondering where the time went.

But now that I’ve come to terms with 40, I know where the time went. We were all living life, experiencing moments both good and bad. That’s what brought us to now.

And I’m suddenly looking forward to 50 because I can look back and honestly say that life has gotten better with each passing year.

What a gift that is.

Happy 2017, friends!

Some “turning 40” photos:

 

 

Let’s Get Political

 

good-will-triumph-over-evilI never expected to put anything political on here because I’m one of the few who likes to keep that sort of thing private. Many of you may not know this, but I’m kind of a political junkie. I’ve often considered running for office, but chose instead to move my life into a different direction.

My social media feeds are filled with hate and judgment regarding the election. I’ve sat and watched a lot of name calling and I’ve seen people’s Christianity and/or character be attacked because they are voting for one or the other.

Guess what? If you vote for Hillary, I don’t think it makes you “not a Christian” and if you vote for Trump, I don’t think it means you’re “uneducated and ignorant.”

The right to vote is powerful. And we forget that because of the circus that is in the media. I fear that the media (liberal or not) causes far more problems in our country than we realize. Everyone has an agenda. Don’t ever forget that. We can claim “fair and balanced” news but really, that is hard (almost impossible) to come by.

I’ve seen people say they don’t like either candidate so they aren’t going to cast a vote. That makes me angry. Do you know how many people fought for your right to vote? For you to throw that away and sit home make me sick and sad.

I’ve seen people say that they’re leaving America if one candidate wins. If this is your attitude, I kind of think you should just pack your bags and go now, even before the ballots are in. America is so much more than who is in the White House.

I’ve seen a lot of people who want to support a third party. They don’t like Hillary and they don’t like Trump, so they’re supporting a different party or writing someone in. If your conscience tells you that’s what you should do, then I don’t begrudge you that. My opinion though, for what it’s worth, is that until we have a true 3 party kind of system where there are 3 solid candidates who have a legitimate shot and are included in the debates, etc., I would never do it. We all know at the end of the day either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be elected. If you don’t like either of them, I think looking past the presidency to the vice presidency is a great plan.

If you’re still undecided, that’s fine. Do some research. If you don’t like either candidate, look to their VP choices. Are you comfortable with either of them being President should something happen? Look toward the Supreme Court. This is what I am basing my vote on this year.

If we elect Donald Trump or if we elect Hillary Clinton…they could have 4 years in office and be gone. But the Supreme Court Justice(s) that get appointed, and at least 1 will…their average length of service is 16 years, with some service much longer. This is huge, y’all! I implore you at this point to think long and hard about that. Where do you stand when it comes to things like abortion, gun control, healthcare, and immigration? Consider that when you vote, and remember that the candidate who takes office will have a hand in shaping those things for the future simply based on the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice.

Are you happy with the way the last 8 years have gone? I’m not. I see one candidate who promises more of the same, but on steroids. The other is a loose cannon, I’ll give you that, but has a history of surrounding himself with highly successful people who are good at their jobs.

Some of us are going to be very upset later today. There will be words said that shouldn’t. You may get into a political argument with a loved one or co-worker. And that makes me sad. Sad because in the end, we know the outcome of ALL OF THIS. In the end, good will triumph over evil. And I’m not talking about at the polls.

God is so much bigger than a political race. He can handle this. Regardless of who takes the oath, I beg you to PRAY for that person. Even if it isn’t who you voted for. Even if they make your stomach turn. Even if you secretly are one of the people researching a move to Canada or Brazil. Pray for the person who is elected and for our country. No President can heal our country. Only God can do that. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that our country needs some major healing.

 

New Book! Head Back to Amish Country in Kelly’s Charm!

Seasons of Charm SpringSo I’ve been keeping a secret. A pretty big secret.

My readers know that I took some time off from writing to fall in love and get married… (shout out to my super supportive husband, Johnny!)

Several months ago, I signed a new contract with Guideposts, but the first of those books won’t release for many more months.

In the meantime, I thought it was time for some new material from me! So I’m thrilled to announce that today (premiere day for Love Finds You in Charm!) the first novella in the Seasons of Charm Novella Collection is available to pre-order!

Kelly’s Charm will officially release on June 25, but you can order now and it will go straight to your Kindle on the 25th. There will be 3 more in the series that will release over the next few months!

I loved revisiting the characters of Emma and Noah–and especially loved giving Kelly Bennett her very own story.

I love novellas–they are perfect short reads for summer! I am so excited about this collection! I think you’ll love visiting Charm in each of the seasons.

Here’s a little blurb about Kelly’s Charm:

Spring is in full bloom in Charm, Ohio, but will love bloom there for Kelly Bennett?

Two years ago, Kelly Bennett fled her fast-paced life for picturesque Charm, Ohio. She and her Amish best friend, Emma (Miller) Weaver, operate a growing part-time business, and she lives and works at her Aunt Irene’s bed and breakfast. When she learns that Aunt Irene plans to sell the inn and travel the world, Kelly has some hard choices to make. Should she leave the comforts of Charm and take a job offer in New York?

Jason Thompson knows a good opportunity when he sees one. When he learns of an inn going up for sale in the heart of Amish country, he can’t pass it up. But the innkeeper’s beautiful niece stands in the way of Jason’s deal. Does Jason possess the charm to win Kelly’s trust? Or will her past hurts come back to haunt her–and put him out of business?

I’m hopeful my readers will enjoy revisiting some previous characters and locations. And in case you can’t tell from the cover, there’s even a cute dog in the story–and his name is Charm!

Pre-order your copy of Kelly’s Charm today! (Kindle only.. .if you don’t have a Kindle, you can read on any of the Kindle apps for phones, tablets or computer–all you need is a free Amazon account!)