Say Hello to ONE SWEET MORNING

Happy book birthday to the authors of One Sweet Morning!

One Sweet Morning
A Sweet Romance Anthology
by Various Authors
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Release Date: April 9 2018
 
Spring Water
When Riley finds a way to meet the cute swan boat driver she has been admiring on the banks of a pond in the Boston Common she does it knowing it would be temporary. Her plans had always been to leave the city at
the end of the summer and even the cutest guy she has seen in forever wasn’t going to derail that. However she quickly finds that Graham calls to her as no other guy has ever done. She also finds that that he has a secret just as she does—he’s afraid of water.
Riley, a lifelong rower, is shocked by the revelation but it does not dim her attraction. After all, she is leaving so what difference does it make? However, as they get closer she finds it harder and harder to imagine leaving both the city and the man at the end of the summer. What seemed so far away at the beginning of spring now looms in front of her and the reality of leaving everything she loves tears at her. When near tragedy forces both of them to face their deepest secret will the truth pull them together or tear them apart once and for all?
Sparkage
Chris and Kirk have always had chemistry, but he was with someone, and then Chris moved across the country for a better position in the company they both work for. Five years later, she’s happy in her job and recently single, having broken up with someone rather than be in a relationship without any kind of spark. She’s resigned to waiting for the right guy rather than settling.
Enter Kirk, recently transferred and also recently broken up with his girlfriend. He’s interested in Chris, and she’s interested back, but his break with his girlfriend was sudden and his move across the country even more so. He may say it’s over, but his ex didn’t get the memo, and Chris suspects Kirk may need closure before he can move on.
She wants to believe in him—he’s always been honest with Chris and faithful to his girlfriend—and in what they could have together. Their chemistry is still there but it’s not just desire: she really likes this guy. But is she a fool to wait for something that may never be? Especially when her big sister is urging her to give the man she broke up with another chance before he finds someone else.
Only the Heart Knows
One dark spring morning, the man that Maddie loved was swept away in a tragic accident that left her alone and pregnant on their wedding day.
Exactly three years later she has built a new life with Troy, her best friend from childhood, and the sun is shining as she sets off down the aisle for a second chance at happiness.
But before she reaches the altar her plans and her heart are thrown into disarray by Jack’s well-timed return, re-igniting all the feelings she thought were dead and gone. Like him.
Can she forgive Jack for the lies that left her broken three years before? Or should she trust Troy and his promises, when he may not have been entirely honest with her either?
Only her heart knows the truth.
Spring into Action
by Theresa Kemble
Tamara Goode lives a privileged life, always trying to please others. Her fiancé is like her father—well-meaning but controlling, and Tamara soon realizes she needs her independence. Escaping to a new life, she becomes a
personal assistant to the handsome TV reality show star, Joe Campo. Fighting her attraction for him is a losing battle, for how could such a man possibly fall in love with a Rubenesque woman when model-types fall at his feet?
As a celebrity, Joe Campo has money and beautiful women clamoring for his attention, but he secretly fears losing himself to a shallow existence. Enter his new, competent assistant who seems to read his soul and understand his struggle to become a better person.
Joe’s attraction for Tamara grows and he hopes love will spring into action, but will her shyness and insecurity keep her from recognizing the connection between them?
 

PURCHASE LINKS

 

 

The Ins and Outs of Being a Substitute Teacher

On this Monday morning, the door to the classroom is open. The teacher I’m replacing is at her desk gathering some last minute items for the field trip she’s chaperoning today. She doesn’t make eye contact when she says, “Are you my sub?” and hands me the sheet of paper with the lesson plans typed on it.

As I’m scanning it, she mentions that I might get asked to cover some other classes since she has two periods when she only has “teacher’s assistants” in the room. I’d like to ask about this, but I don’t. Instead I’m thinking, “This is going to be a long day.”

What Adds Hours

I’ve worked in education long enough to know that plenty of substitute teachers bring a thick novel and hope they’ll get uninterrupted reading time during their day. I’m not one of those.

Sure, I have my tablet, and there are always books to be read on one of my digital reader apps. Most of the time, I plan to use the planning period (at least) to work on whatever project I’m writing that day. Or I might whip out a blog post or two (like this one).

But for the most part, a day where students aren’t going to be engaging with me tends to be a L-O-N-G one. Here are some things I might see in sub plans that tell me this eight hours is going to feel like sixteen:

  • A movie (that will be played for three or four different classes)
  • Ongoing work on a project (like the essay in the sophomore language arts class today)
  • Silent reading of a text and a corresponding worksheet
  • Traveling to the computer lab to work on something
  • An online assignment (because many of the students will head off to a fun place in cyberspace and will conveniently ignore me when I try to redirect them)

This last one is what the seniors in honors language arts are doing on the day I’m penning this. They’re honors students, so they might be more on-task than the average class, but they’re seniors too. And it is the week before spring break.


Things You Wouldn’t Think You’d Do

Babysitting students while they supposedly work on an ongoing assignment is expected. Teachers don’t know what sort of substitute will be filling in for them (unless they request a specific one), and maybe the substitute won’t know the first thing out the subject matter.
Thus, I tried not to feel offended during this conversation today:

Me: “So should I expect some students will want me to check off this sheet before they begin writing?”
Teacher: “I wouldn’t worry about that.” Pause. “Unless you feel comfortable identifying themes.”
Me: Stunned into silence.

Hello? I have an English literature degree. And I’m familiar with Bradbury’s classic FAHRENHEIT 451. Are you serious right now?
But worse than that expectation that I wouldn’t “get” what sophomores are doing is the drill that will be held during second period. The vice-principal came in first thing to hand me the “procedures.”
I’ve already been on a fire drill at this school. But today there will be a LOCK DOWN drill. This is preparatory for a “live shooter” or “other threat” on campus.
So, when the announcement comes on, I’ll get to pull the blinds, switch of the lights and huddle under my desk with a class full of teenagers. All of them will have their phones out, and I’m supposed to keep them off those.

Because in the event of an actual lock down, those lights would be an open invitation to the threat that the room was filled with innocents. Not really a message we want to give out.

As the VP explains things to me (and I’m not a novice to this, so he really didn’t have to), he ends the conversation with, “It’s unfortunate that we even have to practice this.”

Unfortunate might be an understatement. This is the world we live in where people won’t even let kids learn in peace at school.

And then they decide to have a fire drill on the back side of sitting on the floor in the dark for six minutes. I’m sure you can guess how engaged those sophomores were when we came back to class 20 minutes later.


What Adds Interest

I didn’t want to end this post with a negative tone, so let’s talk about things that add interest to my day of substitute teaching. There are a few. It’s not always glorified babysitting (with a WAY better paycheck than I ever earned back in the day).

I’m a writer. I love reading. You can imagine what sort of things I’d find interesting when in the same room with teenagers. Things like:

  • Reading and discussing an article
  • Reading and discussing a short story with a specific purpose (like writing a paragraph on some literary device or element afterward)
  • Reading and discussing poetry
  • Watching a video that will spark a conversation that segues into an assignment
  • Brainstorming ideas for stories (a rare joy these days)
  • Class discussion when students actually participate

There are probably other things that have made the hours slide by in a middle or high school classroom. In the end, it boils down to student engagement and teacher-student interaction.

What things have you done at work lately that were unexpected? What makes the day drag on and on for you?

Is Spring Finally Here?

A blue sky spreads to infinity. Glaring sunlight seeps into frost-bitten soil. The early spring bulbs raise their heads from slumber.

It’s Spring at last. The calendar says so. That would be March 20 at 9:15 am (PDT) for the Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere.

But some weather channels hint that another late blast of snow may blanket the ground again.

Could winter give up it’s hold already?

I’m sure all my friends in the northeastern United States are beyond sick of shoveling snow and hunkering down as another blizzard pounds them. So what if the groundhog saw his shadow? That was MORE than six weeks ago now, so enough!

In case winter is holding you hostage, I’m going to share some photos of spring on the blog today.

Crocuses are the early bloomers in my yard.


Tulips like to raise their heads, too, but since Easter came early this year, those Dutch tulips in my beds will wake up a little later.


Even with the blue sky, it’s still sweatshirt weather in my backyard.


People in my neighborhood are more than ready for the season of flowers.

This is the sight from my office window.

A picture popped up in my “memories” that made me realize one sign of springtime I’ve been missing for the past couple years.

The tree my mom gave us at our second home.

Maybe I’ll need to plant a flowering plum tree somewhere in our yard. If the HOA grants permission.

Our grass stays green most of the year (with watering in July and August), but the sound of mowers is a sure sign that spring has sprung.

This was titled “How to mow” but I would suggest wearing actual shoes.

What is the tell-tale sign of spring in your world? Is spring your favorite season?

7 Reasons to Read

I read because I love it. I’ve worked in education for about fifteen years, and it’s clear that passion is not strong with the younger generations. But there are plenty of other great reasons to read.

1. Knowledge

After learning most of the teachers I worked with for YEARS didn’t read a single textbook in college, I started contemplating this.

How much knowledge is attained through reading?

I’ll pick up facts without even trying when I read a book. I’ve heard people say they read historical fiction to learn about history rather than listening to dry lectures or reading a sleep-inducing text.

Not everyone learns visually. In that case, reading might not be the best source of knowledge for them. But in this era when there’s an app that will read a book for you, the audio learners don’t really have an excuse to avoid the textbooks anymore.

2. Information

Is this the same as knowledge?

I don’t think so.

Here’s the way I would distinguish between the two. I search Google for the phone number so I can make an appointment for a massage. I needed specific information.

I wasn’t hanging out hoping the Internet would enlighten me on the different types of massage. That’s knowledge-seeking.

We read to obtain information dozens of times every day. This is why I believe schools should teach HOW to find information above trying to understand Shakespeare.

3. Entertainment

This is the major reason I pick up a fiction book. And I’m conscious of the entertainment value of the stories I write.

*The person who despises reading gapes* Yes, reading is highly entertaining if the writing and story are great. (No, writing is NOT the same as story.)

On the average day, I would rather read for entertainment than do most anything else. In our media-driven society, most people would prefer to watch TV or movies or play a video game. But those activities don’t stimulate your mind the same way reading does.

Which is why, when my brain is sore from the work of writing, I might choose to watch a movie or stream Arrow from Netflix.


4. Escape

Books offer a portal to places you could never dream. This is the reason I started reading fantasy when I was a kid.
Life was hard and ugly. I didn’t like the way my parents talked to each other. Then I didn’t like them getting divorced.

I would carry a book with me everywhere and read it whenever there was a spare minute. This way, I didn’t have to think about my own life. I could transport myself into someone else’s problems.

And even if they were worse (Hello? White Witch trapping everyone in winter?), they provided a break from what I was facing.

I don’t recommend using ANYTHING as an ongoing method of escape. But if you can’t afford a vacation or your world is tilting upside down, a book is a great way to escape long enough to regain your equilibrium.

5. Requirement

We’ll head back to school now, and talk about reading because you’re required to do it. And we’ll try not to think too deeply about teachers who didn’t do their required reading. (Yes, this bugs me.)

But in adulthood, you might be assigned reading, too. Your boss might give you a report and say, “Read this, then we’ll talk about how to deal with it.”

Or you might need to read trade magazines in order to keep up with changes in your field. If you’re buying a house, you ought to read the sales contract (and the mortgage documents).

What are some other things people are required to read?


6. Personal Growth

In the past, I haven’t been a fan of reading nonfiction books. I mean, there are only so many reading hours in a day, and I’d rather spend them in Fantasyland.

But beginning last year, I decided to read nonfiction before going to sleep. And not just any nonfiction book would do. I chose those focusing on personal or spiritual growth issues.

I’ve read books on building a business, loving my family more and appreciating my creativity. I don’t read related subjects back to back, and so far, I’ve been impressed with the books I’ve read.

Many of them came through personal recommendation. If you know of some I should add to my list, leave the titles in the comments.

7. Health

Some might argue that reading for your health is the same as personal growth or required reading tasks. I disagree.

Doing something to improve your health carries it’s own weight (even if you’re hoping for personal growth). And numerous studies reveal that reading helps improve memory and concentration, and relieves stress.

Those sound like three great reasons to pick up a book and read away.

Can you think of other great reasons to read? Let’s hear them!

Free Speech, but Who’s Listening?

It’s March 14. This is the one month anniversary of yet another school shooting in the United States. (It’s also Pi Day.) And a multitude of people exercised their freedom of speech in cities large and small across the country.

Free speech is important. It gives voice to every marginalized and under-served group. In this case, it even let the dead speak again.
But what good is free speech if no one is listening?


This is the thought that occurred to me while I watched the news and scanned videos people posted online.
I read the signs of protesters on the lawn of the U. S. Capitol. Some were catchy. Some were old news. Others made no sense to me at all.

Then I wondered, “Are any of the elected officials who represent the people flooding this grass watching this? Are they listening to what the citizens are saying?”

I had to smile a little at some people who were watching from the sidelines. Making a silent protest for oppositional views because it seemed to make more sense.

Silence as free speech?

Why not? They were likely heard as well as those hollering and shaking their signs.

Because to be heard, someone must listen.

So, America, who’s listening?

I don’t post political or argumentative blogs or memes or articles. Not because I don’t have opinions (uh, anyone who knows me, feel free to sound off about this in the comments). It’s not even because I don’t want to “offend” anyone (because I probably offend plenty of people by staying quiet).

My brand is one of encouragement and hope. I write stories where right wins in the end. Love prevails. Life isn’t perfect and all the pieces don’t fall into place, but there’s a happy ending.

Because there’s plenty of the unhappily-ever-after in real life. I don’t want to read about it, so I’m certainly not going to write about it.

That doesn’t mean I don’t tackle tough subjects. In LOVE’S LATE ARRIVAL, my characters face bullying, prejudice and actual assault. Things weren’t calm and easy for them. One reviewer even commented on this being the “gritty side of Sweet Grove.”
Guess what? The world is a gritty place. And the people with grit are the ones who’ll survive in the end.


That’s a common theme in my stories.

Of course, if you haven’t read them, you wouldn’t know. Because if you don’t listen to what I say, you can’t know what I think, how I feel or what’s important to me.

The same can be said of people who speak against guns, abortion, violence, discrimination, harassment or a multitude of other topics that have become “issues” in our world.

On the flip side, if we never listen to those who speak in favor of any of those topics, we won’t know why they think or feel as they do. What is their story? Why are they on the opposite side of the fence from me?

Maybe if we stopped thinking about our own argument and just heard what they said, we could find a middle ground. Or maybe not. Some things need extreme answers.

But there will never be answers as long as no one listens to the questions.

We’ve all had a conversation with that person who starts talking every time we take a breath. They don’t address anything we say or ask, but they do push forth their agenda, their ideas and their programs.

How do we feel during that conversation? Angry? Irritated? Frustrated?

Unheard? And thus unimportant?

It’s no wonder that their is so much division and arguing and discontent in our country. The majority of people are being ignored (or at least feel as if they are).

Sure, they speak. But no one listens. How do I know? Because the political, religious, economic and racial agendas keep being pushed forward. And no one addresses the concerns of the average person.

You can’t address what you don’t hear.

I applaud the founders of the U.S. for pushing for a Bill of Rights to protect free speech (as well a numerous other liberties). I wish they would have written in a clause mandating listening (with the intent of hearing and understanding not debating or rebutting).
Apparently, you can’t legislate listening any more than you can legislate morality.


Do you have a sure-fire way to be heard when you speak? Give it up. Let’s figure out a way to employ it with Congress.

A Test by any other Name

Assessments. I’m not sure we had these back when I was a kid. I mean, we had them but everyone called them tests.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel the new name (in use in the education system for a couple decades now) more accurately reflects the purpose of these “tests.” As an English major, concise and clear language appeals to me.

However, I suspect that was NOT the reasoning behind the change.

There’s this black hole called test anxiety. Therefore, if we don’t mention tests, the anxiety will be alleviated.

I’ve seen this hungry beast (test anxiety) in action. People forget everything they studied. Draw a blank after reading every question. Nervous fingers click the pen: out, in, out, in, out. Fingernails, erasers, collars become fodder for repetitive chewing.

It’s crazy. Once you finish your education, how often do you face tests? Okay, that will depend on your profession, but those with test phobias aren’t likely to even go there.

As an educator, assessments can be a valuable tool. They assess (thus the name) what a student knows before a unit of study and what they learned after one. Provided they don’t suffer from the dread of examinations.

Because, let’s face it, the name change isn’t fooling teenagers. Maybe the younger kids can be trained away from test anxiety with an array of assessments levied rather than sitting for tests.

Many secondary schools have begun basing grades exclusively on assessment scores. While I understand the mentality behind this ( they shouldn’t pass Algebra if they haven’t learned 60 percent of the objectives), it invites teenagers to fail.

Teenagers are generally opportunists, seeking the easiest way to get where they’re going. Why do you think all the video games have cheat guides and cheat codes? This isn’t a claim that teenagers cheat on test—I mean assessments—but that they will shirk the assignments leading to the assessment because “they don’t count toward the grade.”

Yes, I’ve actually had students tell me they weren’t doing the work I assigned because it wasn’t going to be graded.


“But it prepares you for the assessment, which is your grade.” I’m using a reasonable tone of voice as I say this.

Shrugs. “I know how to do it.”

“Then why not do it. Practice makes perfect. It can only help.”

Sometimes an argument ensues. Other times, the response is another shrug.

As a substitute teacher, what can I do?

“The expectation is that you’ll spend class time working on this.” Yes, I admit, the teacher voice is starting to leak out by this point.
Because the majority of teenagers don’t care about an absent teacher’s expectations. Even if they know you’re going to let the teacher know that they didn’t work on the assignment.

Nine chances out of ten, the student wouldn’t be any more productive for the regular teacher.

Which makes me wonder: what are they learning about following guidelines? Will they have a better work ethic for an employer since they’re working for a paycheck?

Is there a better way to encourage students to apply themselves to the assigned tasks? Many aren’t even concerned about their grades.

All of this came to mind today while a classroom full of freshmen took an assessment in their English/language arts class.
What are your thoughts on tests versus assessments? What should “count” toward high school grades? (Maybe we should do away with them altogether, but then colleges will have to change their admission standards.) What’s your brilliant idea for encouraging students to learn?

My Love-Hate Relationship with Travel

It’s been a mild winter. And except for the excess of gray days, I’m dealing with it rather than dreaming about escaping to a land of blue skies, tank tops and all natural Vitamin D. Still, there are travel plans in my winter.
This time, it’s a “work” trip. I’m attending my first ever writer’s retreat, and it just happens to be in Destin, Florida. (I know, how sad to travel to Florida in February).
A couple days before my departure, Old Man Winter decides to make a visit to the Pacific Northwest. That nice guy dumped several inches of snow on the ground after teasing us with the idea several times during January and February. This storm will blow over before my flights are affected.
Or an Arctic system will drop on top of the mass of moisture, depositing more snow on my front lawn.
My husband drove through sideways snowfall to take me to the airport. It wasn’t bad enough to cancel or delay my flight, was it?

Nope.

I arrived in San Francisco (I’m taking a circuitous route to the Emerald Coast, one of the things I don’t love about traveling) early. Excellent. Plenty of time to find breakfast and lunch to take on the next flight.
There’s a funny story here about a misplaced spoon for consuming the yogurt parfait I purchased for breakfast. Punch line: I found the plastic utensil in my purse after I’d finished eating the yogurt.
Everything’s on time as we travelers board the plane heading to Houston (this is the longest flight on my trip). “All systems are go,” says the pilot (okay, he didn’t say that but that’s what he meant).
Then we sit at the gate. Alas, the plane backs up. This false hope is followed by a brief respite a few feet away from the gate.

“Our runway assignment is changed,” the pilot informs us. (Yes, he actually said that.)

He taxis the 737 away from the gates. San Francisco Bay comes into view (I didn’t realize it was so large until we flew over it earlier) to the right of the plane. My window seat offers me an impressive view of flocks of waterbirds living large in the eddies along the edge of the runways.
Blue skies mean nothing. There are gusting winds in San Francisco, forcing the Air Travel Know-alls to require all flights into SFO to use the same runway as those departing.

For once I didn’t envision a mid-air crash. I have places to be.

At some point (about 40 minutes after the stated departure time), the plane picks up speed and we’re in the air.
I won’t bore you with the mundane details.
Suffice it to say that this flight landed at Houston about 30 minutes before my final flight was supposed to depart.
It landed in Terminal C. My next flight is on a small express shuttle, and those depart from Terminal B.
I’ve never been to Houston. I have no idea how near (or far) these terminals are. My husband is texting me with details about some Sky Tram, but I see no signs for it. I do see arrows pointing to Terminal B.
So I walk. Make that a power walk (which is about 1 mph faster than my normal walk, 4 mph. Let’s face it some people don’t even jog at 5 mph, so I’m rushing through the airport, dodging slow travelers, and trying not to bowl over those people who wander like sleepwalkers.)

When I make it to the B Terminal, they haven’t announced my flight. Whew!

My shoulder throbs from the pressure of my laptop bag. My feet flame like the friction of walking ignited them.
The flight is announced. We head down stairs into another tunnel of gates. Then we stand in our respective boarding group lines for close to 30 minutes.
Waiting on a crew.
I ran through the airport for this? I’m panicking about missing my shuttle to the retreat and the CREW OF ONE meant to serve us a drink and hand us a pack of ten mini pretzels hasn’t arrived?
There are a few bags that haven’t made it either. Other people’s connecting flights arrived late. As a woman on my previous flight informed me, “If you have checked luggage, they won’t leave without it.”
Eventually, I made it to my destination. I didn’t miss the shuttle. There were four other women waiting to catch it too.


But all this heart-pounding had me thinking about my love-hate relationship with travel. What do I love about it? What do I not like?

Things I love about traveling:

  • Seeing new places
  • Escaping rain to find sunshine
  • An excuse to eat trail mix
  • Trying new food
  • Experiencing new cultures

A list of hateful travel possibilities:

  • Crowds of people
  • Late flights
  • Traffic
  • Delayed flights
  • Screaming babies and small children
  • Chatty seat mates
  • Airplane restrooms

Don’t judge me for these short lists. I really do enjoy traveling. But I’m not a huge fan of traveling by myself.
This is why I’m married to Mr. World Traveler (aka Mr. Wonderful) because he always takes care of the headache-inducing aspects of travel. And if that isn’t wonderful, I don’t know what is.
Do you like to travel? What’s your favorite mode of travel? What don’t you like about that mode?

Love Summer Romance? Get ready for ONE SULTRY DAY

Another new book from me? Two in one week? Well, this one is in the early stages. This week my publisher is revealing the cover and blurb information.

I’ve always been a fan of summer romance. Last year, I got a great idea for a “meet cute” while I was hiking with my best friend from high school. She’ll be shocked to discover I’ve dedicated this story to her, I’m sure.

What? You don’t know what a meet cute is? That’s when the two individuals who will fall in love in the book (story) first meet.

If you’ve read my other stories, here are some examples. It’s when Ashlyn hit Dylan with her car (“Dream Architect” in the ACCIDENTAL VALENTINE anthology). For Marcus and Ronnie in the Virtual Match novellas, it’s when they first meet in the coffee shop. (“That geek is the one sending me those too hot to handle texts and emails?”)

Anyway, enough about this subject. You’re all here to see the amazing cover and hear about the new stories.

Roane Publishing proudly presents:

ONE SULTRY DAY – A Sweet Romance Anthology

Featuring FOUR summer romances by FOUR different authors

Buy it at your favorite online retailer August 6, 2018

Blurbs

Escorts for Hire – Heartaches for Free by Deryn Pittar

University drop-out and current barista, Sandi Fletcher-Bain upgrades to a position as a quality controller for a new agency established by her friend Jess. An agency designed to provide escorts for discerning women.  Anything’s better than driving an espresso machine. Despite her shattered ego after a disastrous breakup, Sandi decides to try it for a month.

Sadly, the assessments aren’t any more fun than making espresso. The first subject, Jeremy Miller, gets the Aunt Freda special and Sandi manages to send him running for the last train back to the city.  Her second assessment is ruined by an accidental meeting with her ex-fiancé Simon.

Back at the cafe, things get more complicated when Jeremy looks her up wanting a do-over. When Jess says Simon has applied to be an escort, Sandi is forced to explain why she broke off their engagement and why Jess shouldn’t hire him.

The bigger question: why is Jeremy no longer available?

Ghosts of Summers Past by T.E. Hodden

For five years Bunny has never once felt alone. He has been haunted by the tragedy that stole Hanna, his first true love from him, and has always felt her presence on one shoulder, and blame on the other.

Now Alice, a minor star from the show he writes, is on the verge of becoming more than just a friend, and the sun-baked palm beaches are almost feeling like home.

Can Bunny face the ghosts of his past? Or is history about to repeat itself in the most terrible of ways?

Unexpected by Sharon Hughson

Grad student Ivory Konner relishes a summer of guiding rafts on the Wenatchee River far from the expectations of her parents and the reminders of her recent dumping. She isn’t looking for romance when a thin guy and his dog nearly send her plummeting off a hiking trail.

Cancer survivor Prescott Colyer drops out of college, escapes to his uncle’s photo gallery in Leavenworth, WA, and quietly pursues his art. But when a collision on a hike exposes him to pain-free physical contact, he risks everything for a girl who’s not interested in romance, not even for the summer.

Once Ivory connects with Prescott’s art, she offers to help him build a business. As they spend time together, her heart takes on its own mission.

Can their unexpected encounter urge Prescott out of isolation? Will Ivory include love in her long-term plan?

Second Chance Summer by Lily Carlyle

Twenty years ago, Summer and Jason’s summer romance seemed destined to last. Until Summer abruptly broke it off, with little explanation. Heartbroken, Jason leaves the Outer Banks—indeed, the entire East Coast—waiting two decades to return. When he comes home to settle his great-aunt’s estate, one of the first people he sees is Summer.

She’s ready to tell him the truth about that summer. But is he ready to listen?

A Sneak Peek Inside

Because this is my blog, and you are my favorite people in all of Readerville, I’m going to give you a glimpse inside this story.

This is from the submitted, unedited manuscript, so no guarantees that it will look precisely the same when you see it in print come August.

From chapter one of “Unexpected”:

A dog’s bark echoed from below. The portion of trail Ivory glimpsed seemed clear, but many people had brought their canine friends on the expedition. The deep tone of this bark reminded Ivory of her worst childhood memory, being chased down by a huge dog that bit her calf.

Her heart pounded as the recollection replayed. Or maybe it was from the pace she’d set, because she was practically jogging down the mountain.

The switchback disappeared around a corner of jutting rock and dirt. Ivory’s feet slid on loose pebbles. She threw her hands out for balance, glancing at the sheer edge only inches from her misbehaving hikers. When she glanced up again, a German Shepherd trotted around the bend, nearly slamming into her knees.

“Whoa.”

Her soles scrabbled on the lip of the trail, forward momentum careening her toward the drop. She thrust her shoulder toward the hillside and slammed into the lens of a camera. Pain spiked through her shoulder, but her racing mind screamed about the edge.

She lifted her gaze from the drop off only to headbutt the camera’s owner in the nose. He grunted and arms whipped around her waist. Together, they tumbled against the hillside. His head snapped back and his chin smacked her brow bone.

Ivory threw her hands up to stop another collision, placing them on shoulders barely wider than her own. Her stinging eyes riveted on a face inches away. A pointy chin tilted down and black hair, askew and sporting a dent from a hat, flipped in the wake of the abrupt halt.

Ivory stared into dark eyes, shocked by the striking amber ring around the iris. Something nudged against her legs, pinning her against the stranger. His camera dug into her collar bone.

“Sorry.” The word escaped on a wheezy breath.

“Rem, back up.” His tenor voice coughed out the command.

Ivory flattened her hands on his chest, noting slight definition beneath the breathable fabric. Pressure eased from her legs, but when she tried to inch backwards, her heel met resistance.

The stranger’s mouth puckered and Ivory leaned her head away, heart diving against her breastbone again. A sharp whistle pierced the air, and the block against her feet moved.

Hands rested on her hips, hot even through the layers under her sweatshirt. Ivory slithered backward, sighing once her body was free from the agony of the camera’s press.

“Are you okay?” His eyes stared into hers, the corona of light in their depths snaring her attention. “I should have had Rem heeling.”

Help Spread the News

There will be a blog tour and a release blitz for this title. If you want to get a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review, that’s also an option.

Click on the button below to fill out the form. Someone from Roane Publishing will get back to you with details and all the information you need.

Who’s ready for summer? ME! And that includes a little (fictional) summer romance, too.

Back to Sweet Grove: LOVE’S LITTLE SECRETS

Today the second Sweet Grove Romance is born into the world of published books. You can snap Love’s Little Secrets up on Amazon, and check in with Kyanna and Roth while discovering the truth about Norma and Herman Wells.

The idea for this story was born as I drafted and revised Love’s Late Arrival. I really liked the high school secretary, Norma Wells, and I kept wondering why she stayed with that chauvinistic husband of hers.

It’s been five years since my own silver anniversary party, but the question that really got me going was: what if Herman had a son who crashed Norma’s anniversary party? All the other questions that helped formulate the plot sprung from that one.

Synopsis

Norma Wells is having a silver anniversary party under duress. Tabitha Olsen and the ladies of First Street Church won’t let such an important anniversary slide by, but Norma isn’t sure there’s much to celebrate. For the past several years, she and Herman have drifted further apart, and she wonders if she even loves him anymore.

Herman’s been wrestling with a lot of changes at work. But he doesn’t talk about that with Norma. It’s his job to take care of her and protect her from the harsh realities of life. Besides, who wants to talk about demotions and pay cuts?

When Herman’s well-hidden secret crashes the silver anniversary party, everything changes. This is only the first wall to crumble in Herman’s life.

Will he finally treat Norma as a partner? Or is Norma finished with him now that she knows he betrayed her in the worst possible way?
Romance shouldn’t end after the wedding and honeymoon. This story focuses on the struggles of marriage between Christian and non-Christian and the truth about real love and forgiveness.

Read an Excerpt

From chapter two:

Norma addressed everyone by first name, smiled, touched them with warm hands. She asked them about pets, children, gardens, and their health. It struck him that she belonged in Sweet Grove, but most of the faces were only vaguely familiar to him since he’d been on the road for so many years.

Herman stood beside her, munching on a generous slice of cake. Everyone loved her. A stirring in his chest reminded him of his affection, dampened by time and distance, and the bitterness of her broken dreams and his unfulfilled plans. He’d never stopped loving her, even when his duty kept them apart.

If the gem on her finger didn’t prove his love, certainly the four-bedroom farmhouse on twenty acres must do the trick. Every anniversary and birthday, he brought rose bushes and flowers, which she loved planting. And that darned gazebo she’d wanted a few years back, situated just so beneath the arching shade of pecan trees, had been a special addition.

Norma’s hand stayed on his arm as she led him through the crowd. Herman spoke a few words to everyone, nodding in acceptance of their well wishes. Talk of the Apple Blossom festival circulated, smothering him. Finally, a woman hugged his wife and her hand dropped away from him. He sidled toward the door.

A motor revved, roaring nearby before cutting off. Many heads turned toward it. Herman stepped closer, yearning for fresh air and space without clingy near-strangers.

A dark-haired young man in a black leather jacket swished through the doors. His fawn-colored skin contrasted with the white walls. Tousled curls flopped nearly to his shoulders, and he glanced around the room. White teeth flashed when he answered a query from one of the men clutching a cup of coffee near the door.

Herman glanced toward Norma, meeting her questioning gaze. He jerked his head toward the door. It was too soon to expect they could leave, but surely she wouldn’t begrudge him a few moments away from the crush.

He shuffled toward the door in time to hear the coffee man growl, “Don’t know no Manny Wells.”

The sound of the name anchored his feet in place. Only one person called him Manny Wells. One person he never wanted to see in his hometown.

“Do you mean Herman Wells?” Summer Davis slipped beside the older man, a carafe of water in her hand. “This is his anniversary party.”

“Can you point him out?” The younger man’s voice was smooth but unfamiliar.

All three of them turned, and Summer’s finger pointed directly to him. Her lips moved, but Herman heard nothing above the slamming of his heart against his eardrums.

The handsome stranger’s amber-flecked brown eyes fixed on Herman’s pale ones. His square jaw and wide nose were twins of Herman’s while the rest of him reflected the Hispanic beauty of his mother.

“Dad.” Fire lit the boy’s eyes, and his full lips didn’t smile.

Herman stiffened. Questions swirled through his mind at dizzying speed, and the sinking sensation in his stomach turned the spice cake to gravel.

What’s Next

You’ll meet some new characters in this story. I intend for you to like them enough you’ll want to read their stories in a few months.

Bailey Travers, the Wells’ neighbor, is the hero in the next book in the series. Love’s Lingering Doubts is scheduled to release on July 3, 2018.

I’m planning Ariel Stryker’s story for September 10, when the new young adult sub-line of First Street Church romances debuts. Adonis will play a role in that story, too, but my brain is churning up ideas for a romance all his own. If anyone deserves it, I’d say it’s Adonis.

With all the changes Kindle Direct Publishing is making to the Kindle World system, I don’t know if there will be more than these four books. But I’m committed to finishing out the 2018 projects I’ve planned.

What other characters would you like to know more about? Would you like to see me continue with the Sweet Grove Romances?

THE GREAT GATSBY

The Great Gatsby stalks me from one high school language arts class to the next. In St. Helens, he prowls through the junior classrooms and in Scappoose, his story resounds with the freshmen.

This disparity in curriculum gave me pause.

After all, I’ve taught students between the ages of twelve and eighteen for many years. There is a huge difference in the analytical abilities of freshmen (fourteen or fifteen-year-olds) and juniors (sixteen and seventeen-year-olds). Can Gatsby’s theme and content bridge this gap? Will freshmen understand the depth of Fitzgerald’s message in the same way juniors do?

The proof is in the pudding. And I won’t be around to see the end product.


Freshmen

In the freshmen classroom, the project due at the end of the reading is a theme timeline.

This is an art-heavy project. Students will identify the (a) theme of the book and create a timeline of events that support that theme. As I talked about in a recent post about theme, it must be evidence-based using words from the text rather than experience-based.

If these students can prove their interpretation with sufficient text examples, they will have nailed a theme. I believe there are many, but Nick Carroway does a fair job of stating an obvious one in the first paragraph of the novel.

You can’t judge a person because you don’t know what they’ve been through.

Everyone judges Gatsby as a successful and wealthy man who loves throwing parties. He’s affable and generous, and everyone is happy to take part in his excess but none of them show up to pay respects at his funeral.

So what sort of person was Jay Gatsby really? I’m not sure we really know. A poor man who sought his big break and found it, but all the success in the world couldn’t overcome his insecurities. His life ended before he could reap the benefit of finding true love with Daisy.

Juniors

The juniors are focusing on the symbolism in Fitzgerald’s classic novel. There is plenty to be found.

The one chapter I read with these students had several symbolic things in it, but many of the students missed their significance. Even when I stopped and asked leading questions, they blanked out.

I fear the teachers will be disappointed at the outcome of this assignment.

Like theme, symbolism is one of those things that gets emphasized in high school (and college) literature classes. Symbols can be subject to interpretation. I spoke more about that in this post about Blue Being Blue.

In my mind, symbols take more time to recognize. The harder you have to look for one, the more unlikely it is to be one. When analyzing a novel, only obvious symbols should be considered (as far as I’m concerned).

I believe symbolisim requires deeper reflection on a text, so perhaps the varied focus of the curricula explains things. The choice of this text for students at different intellectual stages of development might make sense in this case.

Literary Takeaways

No one argues the state of The Great Gatsby as a classic. It should certainly be part of a robust literary education.
Or should it?

As an author, I rarely give thought to symbolism in my writing and thought of theme is something done during revisions. Since I write genre fiction, that’s to be expected. Nothing I write will be considered a classic. No one will teach my short stories or novellas in their English class.

I’m sort of glad about this. Even speaking to readers about my books can be disheartening if they don’t “get” what I wanted to say. The thought of some English teacher claiming the technology in the follow up novel to “The Demon Was Me” represented evil as much as the demons makes me cringe.

Mostly because I didn’t even want my demons to represent evil. They were being trying to survive, and the way they did it destroyed regular people. Can you see a deeper truth in this? One that might be important for young adults (the intended audience) to understand?

I think students in today’s classrooms would be more engaged if more contemporary novels were taught in classrooms. My experience teaching a group of middle school students Hunger Games proves this point. They were low readers, many with language disabilities, so they missed much about theme and symbolism, but they could plot out the story and relate the character arc of Katniss Everdeen. Doesn’t appreciation of story have a place in a language arts classroom?

Fitzgerald is a notable wordsmith. His descriptions are lovely and borderline purple prose. Since he puts so much of himself into a story, readers feel intimate with the characters. But most of his stories are lacking on plot.

Maybe teaching one literary classic per year would suffice in high school English classes. Introduce reluctant readers (which most young people are these days because…technology) to a few masters. Let the assignments practice important life skills: like disseminating essential information and conveying ideas with clarity.

Because how often have you needed to identify a theme or recognize symbolism in your day-to-day life? It’s nice to want kids to broaden their horizons and look outside the box for beauty, but if they can’t balance their checkbook or hold down a job, does that truly matter?
What classics do you believe are essential for every young American to read? What skills should be taught in language arts classes?