Cicely’s Hats By Author Janet Chester Bly, THE END

Cicely's Hats

Here’s the rest of author Janet Chester Bly’s short story “Cecily’s Hats” to promote her newest book Wind in the Wires

Book blurb: Reba Cahill searches for her runaway mother as she hopes to find a rancher husband. A grieving old man seeks justice for his family. They take a journey together that exposes dark secrets. And several cold case murders. Will the truth be too tough for Reba to bear and ruin her chance for romance?

Short story  continued–

The marriage lasted seven months. A bed of bitter roses.
“He doesn’t know how to treat a woman,” Trish remarked.
“I can’t keep up with the credit card spending,” Davis retorted.
Trish announced she was pregnant and took Becky with her to St. Louis, no forwarding address. Neoma and Hank didn’t see Ned until he was three years old. Davis, meanwhile, moved to Las Vegas.
“Did you wear hats when you were my age?” Becky asked Cicely.
“Oh no, I was an old lady of forty-three when I put on my first one. A woman I worked for asked me to do modeling for a client of ours at a charity fashion show. I didn’t know until I got there that I would be modeling hats.  Every time I sauntered down that runway, I became a different woman. I believed I could charge the world. The client let me buy any hat I wanted at a discount rate. I bought them all, quit my job, and set up my own hat shop and made more money than I ever wanted.”
“But how did you get to Road’s End?” Neoma asked.
“One day I packed all my hats and aimed east. I wanted to see new sights. But my car heated up climbing the Winchester grade. I limped into Road’s End, saw this house for sale, and never got any further. It’s felt like home ever since.”
Becky twirled once in front of the mirror. She clutched the sides of the panama and made a slight bow, her face as rosy as her hair. “Mama likes hats. I wore one at her wedding.”
“Yes, I know. I was there,” Cicely reminded them.
“You were at Grandpa’s funeral too.”  Becky stole glances at the panama as Cicely tucked on a green band and bow. “He had a heart attack. I think Mamma did too, though she didn’t die. She ran away instead.”
Neoma’s pulse quickened at the first time she’d heard her talk that much about Trish and what she did.
Cicely untied the yellow hat and slid on a black one with yellow polka dots. “Your mamma couldn’t deal with her sorrow. And some people don’t know how to embrace joy.”  Cicely cocked her head toward Neoma. “In grief and in happiness, we’re often quite alone.”
“You’ve got a charmed kind of wisdom,” Neoma remarked.
“All the better to soar above this little scene of things,” Cicely replied.
Neoma was startled into a sudden grin. “You know the old poets.”
Cicely chuckled. “I’ve got lots of time for reading here at Road’s End. I’ve got lots of time for anything I want. And you can keep the hats. My present.”
That afternoon it seemed as though a herd of wild horses stampeded the roof. A white plague of hailstones salted the yard. Neoma groaned under the weight of a migraine and napped on the rec room couch. Cicely taught the kids to play Hearts and took them into the forest for mushroom hunting. They smelled of wet wood when they returned.
“Hank seemed so weary those last months.” Neoma pushed a broom around the kitchen floor after dinner. “He went to bed exhausted and woke up tired. The morning of the heart attack he was on his way to some kind of business meeting. He dreaded them. . .the friction, the controversies. Hank tried to be the peacemaker, but at a great price.” Neoma stopped to watch Cicely bang the dishwasher shut. “Hours later I was at his bedside when the deep lines in his face slowly etched out. He heaved a last shudder and was gone. A year ago tomorrow.”
Cicely lowered her head. The hat and its brim covered her face. “I was there when all three of my husbands left this earth. With my daughter too. Leukemia, you know, like her father.”  She raised up, a spunky look in her eye. “Some folks think I wear these hats to attract a man. They’re wrong. I wear them to declare my delight in living, my gumption. It’s who I am.”  She paused. “Who are you, Neoma?” She said it soft like a whispered prayer.
Neoma stared at this whimsical woman who resided in this conventional house in this curious little village. “No one has ever asked me that before. She cleared her raspy throat. “I don’t know. I can’t relax and just be the kids grandma. I’ve got to be both mother and father. I think I could have done it with Hank’s help.” She stopped a moment and then offered a half grin. “I used to paint, years ago.”
“Paint? What kind of painting?”
“Oils and water colors, mainly. I’ve got a dozen canvasses shut up in a storage shed. Bowls of waxy fruit. Sprays of brambly roses, that sort of thing. And one of Trish on her baptism day. That was the last painting I did.”
“Maybe you’ll paint again. Sometimes life is like a culdesac, the only way out of a tough situation is retracing the way you got in.” Cicely’s eyes clouded in deep thought.
“My way is to keep plodding forward, one foot in front of the other.” Neoma scanned the rec room. Two rapt faces stared at a video screen. Ned sucked his finger while Becky wound ringlets in her straight red hair. “The day of the funeral Trish divulged to one of her father’s longtime friends that she owed a score of debts. She said she wanted a fresh break for her and the kids. The man had some means. I’m sure he was caught up in the emotion of losing Hank and mindful of the Scriptures that say to give to those who ask. If he had come to me first, I would have warned him. However. . .”
Neoma stood very small in the room. She frowned as the pain shot through her, sharp, unrelenting. “He bailed her out. And I don’t blame him for it. But she took the money and we haven’t heard from her since.”
Cicely paced the room, her thin arm rubbing her chin. “Some children take a long time to grow up.”
“One assumes they will become adults.” Neoma leaned on the broom handle. “And care for their own. And give the older generation a break.”
“What will you do after your pilgrimage to the Pacific?”
“I’ve got to find a place big enough for me and the kids, a place we all like, and a place where. . .”  Trish could find us, if she wanted to.
“Wasn’t the house you had adequate?”
Neoma took a deep breath. “The friend who gave Trish the money found out he had cancer a month or two after. Medical bills were eating up their retirement savings. I sold the house to pay him back.”
Cicely frowned, closed her eyes, and spread her hands on top her hat.
Neoma tucked Ned in bed and read him a chapter from C. S. Lewis’ Narnia Tales. Becky covered her head and pretended not to listen. When Neoma turned out the light, Becky called out through the wispy darkness, “Maybe Mom called today.”
Neoma was glad Becky couldn’t see her face. The tears rose from a deep well within her. She closed the bedroom door and stole into the rec room. She listened for a long time in the lone silence, crouched on the floor, arms cradled around one of the black ottomans until her legs cramped beyond pain.
There had been no time to grieve Hank’s loss. No place alone to weep. No moments to deal with past memories and future lost dreams. There were the children and their constant needs along with long hours at the library job, working a full schedule instead of part-time.  Now, she felt nothing but acceptance of duty. She kept leaving the windows of her soul and hit a dead end. She imagined Trish in her white baptism dress, then in her wedding gown, full of hope, full of promise.
Some time later she slipped down the hall and picked up the receiver. She punched the numbers without hurry, her evening ritual. She listened to the rings, heard the click of the machine. It was Hank’s voice again:  “You have reached the Hocking residence. We cannot come to the phone right now. God bless you.” Then the beep.
Neoma placed the phone in its cradle. She sensed someone peering through the darkness. Neoma flipped on the light. She noticed them right away. Three paintings hung on the wall in front of her. In the center was Aunt Cicely’s house and fence. On the right was a close-up of the glass over the front doors with etched angels and ivy. The left painting wasn’t complete yet. The backyard was peopled but in a shaded, impressionist style. Cicely’s unmistakeable form stretched out on the wooden swing. Shadows ghosted the other shapes. Neoma recognized a touch of her own style, but also a flair of light all the painter’s own.
Cicely stood beside her dressed in red tights, barefoot, hands behind her back. “Look at the signature.”
Neoma stepped forward. She tried to read the scrawl of the autograph: Patricia Rebecca Hocking. Trish? “I don’t understand.”
“Before I explain, I must ask you a question.”  Cicely studied her niece’s face. Neoma felt faint. “Do you want contact with your daughter?”
“Of course. I call home every night in hopes of a message from her. The children need her.”
“But are you ready to see her, to talk to her?” Cicely prodded.
Neoma rubbed her pounding forehead. “She has disappointed me, humiliated me. She’s abandoned her marriage and her children. She’s abandoned me.” Yes, that’s it more than anything. “She left me when I needed her most, her caring and comfort, her love and honor as a daughter. She dumped me with her own added obligations.” Neoma studied the pictures again. The house with the backyard meant for playing and swinging. The lady of the house with her enthusiasm for life. The glass angels. A quiet rage began to grow. But before it could fully erupt, it slowly died. She felt spent, used up. “I didn’t know she could paint like this,” she commented.
“Neither did she, until a few months ago.”
“What do you mean? Did she send these to you?” Neoma stared hard again at the paintings.
“You haven’t answered my question.”
Neoma searched for some clear words through the fog of confusion. “I do want to know what she has to say. I want to listen to her explanations. Find out what she’s been doing.”
Cicely sat on one of the black ottomans and pulled Neoma down next to her. “Trish was here several months this spring, doing chores for me. She vacuumed your rooms and changed your beds. She left a week ago.”
“But why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you call right away?”
“She didn’t want me to. She’s so ashamed.”
“Where is she now?”
“In Reno. She found a job there through a friend of mine.” She paused. “I have her phone number.”
“Reno’s a few hours west of Winnemucca.”
“If you want me to, I’ll tell her to leave a message for you at the St. Joseph house. Perhaps you could all meet somewhere in Reno.”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I don’t expect her. . .”  Neoma’s voice trailed away as she chilled under the reality of facing her daughter.
“She’ll do it,” Cicely said.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because of the black beret she wore when she left.”
Neoma tossed and turned all night but finally drifted into dreamless peace.
The next morning the kids piled into the back of the truck, each wearing their Aunt Cicely hats. Neoma fondled the gardenia with its vintage blossom. She eased it on her head and tugged it into a snug fit. “They don’t wear these in St. Joe,” she told Cicely.
“You could wear that anywhere, anytime, if you really wanted to. Even in front of two easels out on a California beach. . . with Trish.”
They backed the trailer up the way they came in. Cicely waved and ran after them down the dirt road until the truck hit pavement. Neoma and her grandkids headed to Winnemucca and due west to Reno.

So hope you enjoyed this short story. If you did, drop by Janet’s

Free stuff, blog & store: http://BlyBooks.com
On A Western Trail Blog:
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and find out what else she has for you!–Lyn

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Come to the Santa’s Sweet Romance Reads Bash Today!

Sweet Romance Party

If you want to have some fun, don’t miss this party this afternoon! I’ll be the hostess around 5:30 to 6 p.m. Come play and have some fun!–Lyn

https://www.facebook.com/events/1571949716372626/

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Another Christmas Special-A Short Story by Author Janet Chester Bly

Cicely's Hats

Another Christmas Gift, the first part of a short story by my friend and author Janet Chester Bly. I will post the end of the story on Thursday. Enjoy!

Cicely’s Hats

by  Janet Chester Bly
copyright@2001

On the June morning Neoma Hocking and her grandchildren left St. Joseph, Missouri, no one saw them off. They loaded her late husband’s extended cab truck and fifth wheeler with vacation gear and drove a determined route up Highway 29 past twisted hollers, rocky terraces, and thick forest fences, lifetime familiar scenes. Now home was a retreating landscape in her rear view mirror. Home was a shell of a house with all the furniture stored and only a phone still hooked up.
Neoma resisted the strong urge to call one more time before crossing the Missouri border…to check for messages, just in case. She chewed antacid tablets and stole a glimpse at the kids in the back seat. Twelve-year-old Becky met her glance with a glazed and glum look. She crossed her eyes in that way of hers that meant, “Don’t dare ask what I’m thinking.” Her five-year-old brother, Ned, bounced like a caged puppy against every section of the seat belt. At least they’re not fighting yet.
Two thousand long miles of prairie, mountains, and desert to cross. The corn rows got smaller, dryer. The sky popped open to a full, blazing sweep. Neoma refereed spats and navigated highway signs. Two delays for pickup repairs. A blown out tire in Nebraska. Skies over Nebraska cornfield glowed red, thanks to volcanic particles from halfway around the world. Sunsets took on lustrous tones of red, orange, yellow. Beauty in the midst of chaos. A broken drive shaft in Wyoming when a semi sideswiped them.
They whizzed past Utah.
Nights she called the empty house to listen for a message that was never there, prayed for patience and guidance, then tossed and turned on a flat trailer bunk.
Neoma stalled at Winnemucca, Nevada, one day short of the California coast.
“I’m headed west,” Hank told Neoma and all their friends, two months before he was to retire. “I’m going to be the first descendent of Theodore Hocking to stick my bare feet in the Pacific.”
Hank packed Theodore’s gold panning supplies and Pony Express Bible in the fifth wheeler while Neoma imagined long visits with her college chum in Utah, a side trip to Aunt Cicely’s in Idaho, long novels to read, and lazy evenings of pulling out new sable brushes and an old easel on sunset California beaches. Now Neoma studied a soiled and tattered map at the Winnemucca campground. The closer they got to the California state line, the harder her head pounded.
“Make Ned sleep with you, Nana. It’s too crowded. I can hardly breathe.”  Becky kicked dirt devils, hair strung out over sullen face and freckles.
She so resembled daughter Trish at that age. Neoma shuddered. And just as prickly.
Ned rammed Matchbox cars down dirt lanes, his arms and legs caked with unbathed grime. “Are we almost to Disneyland?” he asked over and over.
Neoma pushed her hand across the map trying to press the crinkles into smooth paths. Fatigue seeped into her bones. The kids beyond restless, she should keep to the route. There were duties to perform. She glanced at the camper that held the urn. Ashes over the Pacific, that’s what Hank wanted.
“Aunt Cicely lives in Idaho,” she ventured with some hesitation. “A place called Road’s End. We might never get by this way again.”  She avoided the kids’ eyes and braced for the barrage of complaints. Just this once. Just for me. But Becky just shrugged and Ned kept playing.
Neoma roused them early the next morning and headed the truck for the minimum ten-hour trip north. She had Aunt Cicely strong on her mind when she edged up the rugged 4,000-foot grind of White Bird Grade. Aunt Cicely, her father’s youngest sister, a prominent guest from the west at all family funerals and weddings. She was a colorful memory in Neoma’s gray world.
“If Aunt Cicely comes, it’s party time,” Trish always said.
She had also lost a daughter. And three husbands. Aunt Cicely would understand.
When the truck grinded to the top of the mountain Neoma eased it across the rolling hills of the high Camas Prairie. Becky pushed her feet into the back of the driver’s seat, pounding against Neoma’s tense flesh.
Ned yelled, “Nana, Becky’s pinching me.”
Neoma squeezed down on the brakes. She pulled to the side of the road and ordered, “Becky, you sit up here with me.”
Ned, raccoon eyes wide, cheeks smudged, sat white faced and sucked his finger. When Becky finally got into the front, she slammed the door and cranked her arms tight across her flat chest, face rigid. Neoma didn’t know whether to try to hug the girl or slap her. Instead, she ran a loose hand down the tangle of red hair. Becky yanked her hair back, shaking it out.
By the time they reached the Road’s End turnoff, the June sky swelled gray and overcast. The rough pavement curved between stands of aspens and groves of evergreens. Sunflowers and Indian paintbrushes burst across a meadow.
Road’s End rambled like drifters had claimed temporary squatter’s rights and moved on. All the roads were dirt paths. Empty shacks marked nameless residents who left, taking their stories with them. Yet, it seemed every house lit up and inhabited proved Road’s End still had a reason to exist. Neoma thought it looked like the sort of place to hide, to be left alone to just exist or sort things out.
Or it could be a restful stop on the way to going somewhere else.
Neoma studied a handwritten chart of directions on the back of a Christmas card. She turned off on a dirt road and halted in front of an old two-story clapboard house. Six weathered steps led up to a large covered porch with wooden benches. The shades were all up. Angels and ivy etched the windows that topped the double front doors.
A breeze whipped around them as they eased out of the truck. Neoma inhaled sweet pine scents and stretched her stiff legs. She pulled jackets out of the trailer for the children.
“Does Aunt Cicely know we’re coming?” Becky whispered.
“I wrote her we were coming west. She invited us to stop by, but I didn’t promise anything. We’ll stay an hour or two and head on down the road.”
Dark clouds began to bunch up, like a flock of dirty sheep peering down. The door opened before they knocked.
The house reeked of popcorn and hot caramel and chocolate that covered a woodsy smell. Cicely Bowers swept long, thin arms around them. Bleached white hair swept up into a wide brimmed black hat, cocked to the side, and tied under the chin. A black velvet ribbon circled her neck, holding a white satin rose. Black leggings ended inches above 4-inch black spike heels. Cicely had the quick eyes of a canny mind, yellow cat eyes. Her words came fast, like skipped stones. “Neoma, how delightful. You and the children did come.”
“I’m sorry to intrude on you. . .” Neoma began.
“Nonsense. Your rooms are all ready. You can stay as long as you like.” She hugged each of them engulfing them in a heavenly scent of lilacs.
“We’ve got a trailer,” Neoma explained.
“We’re camping,” Ned added.
“There’s a squall coming in. It may even snow,” Cicely informed them. “It’s very warm and snuggy in here.”
Becky gave Neoma a look of panic. “But what is there to do?”
Cicely twirled as though waving a magic wand. “You must come to the rec room.” She fanned her fingers toward them, nails squared and red, all lacquered the same long length.
They followed her past a large kitchen. A pot of morel mushrooms soaked in salty water on the stove, floating like sea anemones. “Just picked them out of the forest,” she reported.
Becky gagged.
Cicely didn’t seem to notice as she led them to a room spilling over with books and games and black velvet ottomans. The walls were egg yolk yellow and blank, except for nails where something should be hanging. A window looked out on a large manicured yard with wooden seat and rope swings and a half basketball court. “The former owner had lots of children.”
“We’re going to Disneyland,” Ned announced as he danced around the room.
Becky glared at Neoma, her eyes scratching through to her heart, and bumped against a tower of blocks in the shape of a fortress. The pieces scattered across the shiny wood floor.
Neoma felt the emptiness of depression settling in. She sensed disaster. “You’ve got to think before you commit,” she could hear Hank say.
Becky picked at the mushroom fritters, fried chicken, and garlic mashed potatoes at dinner, but she relished the fudge sundaes for dessert. Cicely coaxed Becky to play with Ned in the rec room, throwing a rubber ball at ten plastic pins. She brought them homemade caramel corn mixed with peanuts in bright pink resin bowls.
“So, you’re moving.” Cicely wound her pencil thin legs around a stool in the kitchen.
“We have an option on an apartment. But, I don’t know for sure.”  Oh, why did I say that? Now she’ll want me to explain. She attempted to change the subject. “Why do they call this Road’s End?”
Cicely laughed. “Nothing tricky about it. It’s because the only way to get out is to go back the way you came in. It’s a culdesac.”
The guest rooms had double beds lapped with bright colored quilts. The mattress squeezed spongy soft under white cotton sheets. After Neoma tucked Ned in and muttered a prayer, she made her nightly call to St. Joe. No messages from her daughter. As usual.
Neoma slipped into sweat pants and t-shirt. She wadded her pillow into a soft ball and fussed it against her neck. She soon dreamed of climbing a hill to her favorite park above the Missouri River. Hank leaned into her, his skin warm and shower fresh, his eyes bright, his spicy shaving lotion strong. An old longing shivered through her. A silent waltz of memory.
A young woman stormed horseback up the hill with Trish’s flowing auburn tresses. She screamed something at them. Neoma couldn’t understand the words so she tried to rush toward her daughter. Hank shoved her away before she was crushed under the sharp hooves. Hank took the blow, bloody prints on his chest.
Neoma stirred awake, trembling, with Ned’s clean face peering over her. “Nana, get up.  We already ate breakfast.”
Neoma winced with pain as she rolled out of the bed. She took a quick shower and slipped into the same jeans and pullover she’d worn the day before. She could hear Becky and Ned squealing in the backyard. She peered out the window. Cicely Bowers swung high over them, dressed in bright yellow, her hat tight on top her head.
Neoma surrendered to a moment of release. She embraced the brief elation as she hurried through the house to the rec room door. She stepped out to enter in. Yellow daffodils and red tulips bordered the yard. The taunting scent of pines and raw earth reminded her of the day they moved into the first home of their own. The house had been like an old woman with arthritis, always cranky, always needing repair. And the yard was stingy small. “Trish needs room to run,” Neoma kept saying.
But Hank covered the yard of the new house with black plastic and gravel and lined it with evergreen bushes. “I just don’t have time,” his eyes penitent, full of workaholic guilt.
Cicely eased out of her flying swing, cherub cheeks flushed, and landed near Neoma.
“We’ve got to go,” Neoma said. “The kids are itching for Anaheim.”
“No, you don’t.” Her manner indicated that settled the matter. “We’re going to try on hats.”
Neoma followed the kids and Cicely upstairs to a dormer room, one huge walk-in closet filled with clothes in three colors:  black, yellow, and red. A long wall of rows of hooks hung with flowered hats, ribboned hats, and plain hats. In the middle of the room stood a large mahogany framed mirror.
Cicely studied the hats and pulled several down for Becky. She handed only one to Neoma, a satin floral jacquard brim and sisal crown trimmed with a gardenia blossom. Neoma could almost smell the gardenia fragrance, it looked so real. She imagined on the head of a stylish model in a Renoir painting.
Neoma eased the hat on and tillted it to the side. The grosgrain band felt soft, firm against her head. She expected the kids to laugh. But Becky was too busy trying on her own, a perky panama style held on with a chin strap. Ned climbed up on a dresser to reach for a cotton ducking cap with coffee colored long bill. Cicely pulled it down for him and he pranced around like a cocky young Hemingway.
Neoma peered back into the mirror, startled at the spectacle of grungy grandma at the hat shop. It had been so long since she did anything with her hair. She wondered what some auburn highlights and a little makeup would do. She reached up for the rim, tilted the hat and sighed. This would have been perfect for Trish’s wedding.
Everyone they knew in St. Joseph, especially in the church, looked forward to Trish’s marriage to Davis Stanton. The women sewed curtains for the social hall and cushioned the pews. The choir director wrote a song for the couple and sang it from the balcony. Trish Hocking, the unwed mother, finally settling down. Davis Stanton, new believer in Christ, formerly into drugs and hard living, now prepared to be a husband. Becky Hocking, six-years- old, ecstatic to have a father.

Wind in the Wires, Book 1, A Trails of Reba Cahill Novel
Contemporary Western Mystery.
A road adventure with a touch of romance.
It’s Cowgirl Lit.

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Remember, the end will be posted on Thursday!–Lyn

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In the Mood for Christmas Music? Spirit of Christmas video by John Starley Allen

In the mood for some Christmas music? Here’s a bit of the Spirit of Christmas, a new Christmas song video. Hope you enjoy it!

QUESTION: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE CHRISTMAS CAROL AND WHY? REMEMBER I’M GIVING AWAY TWO EBOOKS OF WHERE HONOR BEGAN THIS MONTH. LEAVE A COMMENT TO BE ENTERED.–Lyn

For more about John Starley Allen’s music, click here.

PS- Sparksofember won S J MacIver’s EBOOK Ghost of a Chance!

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Lyn Interviews Author S J MacIver & Ghost of a Chance

S J MacIver

My guest today is S J MacIver. I think you’ll find her interview interesting and the premise of her latest book intriguing. S J is offering one E-copy of her book to a commenter so if you have an ereader or read books on your computer, be sure to leave a comment and be entered in the drawing. Here’s S J.
1- Tell us a little about your writing and your real life.

I write inspirational romance under my maiden name, S.J. MacIver. But I have been married to the man of my dreams for 50+ years, and yet it seems at times like we just became one last week. We spend a lot of our time driving around in the wildlife refuge that is only a couple of miles from our house in North Dakota. We’ve found an amazing number of critters to study, from all manner of birds, to deer and even mink. We are not allowed out of the house on these jaunts without our rescue dog, Lucy, who loves those drives as much as we do. When we came across Lucy, who was abandoned at a nearby farm, we had recently lost our golden retriever, Stella to old age. She was two months shy of 15 when she went to sit at God’s feet. Lucy filled a very big hole in our hearts, and we think we filled a hole in her heart as well.

2-Was there a time in your life when you think God challenged you to become stronger? Please share.

God challenged me big time in November of 2007 when I was diagnosed with stage three aggressive breast cancer. If not for the fact that I already belonged to a wonderful, bible-based church and had lots of family and friends praying over me on a daily basis, I’m not sure that I would have had the strength to endure the mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation that followed. That battle, one I’m still fighting to this day, has not defeated me, but made me a much stronger, God-loving woman.

Ghost of a Chance

To purchase this book, click here. Ghost of a Chance (Second Chance at Love Series, Book 2)

3-What is special about your most recent book to you?

Ghost of a Chance is the title of the novel, and this is a book that I’ve wanted to write for a very long time. It is set in my hometown of San Diego, in a small fictional city not far from the shores of La Jolla. During my childhood and even as an adult, I used to love visiting the curio shop near La Jolla that featured an underground stairwell carved out of sandstone which led to an open cave to the sea below. I’ve always wanted to write about that cave and the spooky sensations it evoked in me.

With Ghost of a Chance, Second Chance at Love Series, Book 2 I think I succeeded, mainly because the book opens with my hero and heroine dying on page one! The strength my heroine, Tori, displays is nothing short of courageous as she and Josh stumble through an afterlife that seems to have them stuck in some kind of holding pattern. This story is about their struggle to find a way back to the land of the living. It is during this period that the two discover a love they had long denied in the past.

Thanks, SJ. Your story sounds out of the ordinary and I like that! Remember leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for an Ebook of A Ghost of a Chance.

QUESTION: Do you like a book that takes a little different approach to the usual love story such as S J’s does? Why or why not?–Lyn

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Twenty-two Love Inspired Authors = A Cookbook, a Gift for Someone?

LI-SHORT STORY
And here’s something new and different! Twenty-two Love Inspired Romance Authors (see cover) wrote brand new short stories and included a recipe with that story in a new cookbook. Need a gift for someone for Christmas?

A Recipe for Romance: 22 inspirational short stories and recipes
From our hearts to yours

Contributing authors Lenora Worth, Debra Ullrick, Janet Tronstad, Carolyne Aarsen, Dana Corbit, Lyn Cote, Debby Giusti, Winnie Griggs, Arlene James, Deb Kastner, Renee Ryan, Danica Favorite,Gail Gaymer Martin, Jill Kemerer, Jolene Navarro, Marta Perry, Terri Reed, Sherri Shackelford, Cami Tang, Missy Tippens, Pamela Tracy, and Cheryl Wyatt present an anthology of sweet and inspirational short stories and tasty recipes.

A sampling of the stories you’ll find inside:
— A young woman who uses Potato Salad to prove she’s still in love with her long-lost miner beau,
— A new stepdad who builds Chopped Tree Casserole to bond with his stepson,
— An Amish mother who finds a way to reconnect with her husband over her Chicken Potpie,
— A bank teller who brings Tomato Basil Soup and new hope for a relationship to her coworker.
— And many more

Divided into three sections – Salads/Sides/Soups, Main Dishes and Desserts/Treats –
A RECIPE FOR ROMANCE
features contemporary and historical stories as well as sweet tales with a touch of suspense.

Each author shares her personal favorite recipe and a related story in a collection that focuses on happy stomachs and Happily Ever Afters.

All proceeds from the sale of this book will benefit children’s charities.


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Where Honor Began

My historical romance, HONOR, debuted September 1st. I have just released. “Where Honor Began,” the novelette that is a prequel to this first book in my “Quaker Brides” series. (See the cover to the left under MY NEWEST TITLE.)

Here’s an excerpt. (This novelette is on sale online for 99 cents. Sorry it’s not available in print as yet.)

***********

She dropped to her knees beside his bed and gripped his limp hand with her bloodstained ones. She saw death in his eyes. Her pounding heart threatened to burst through her skin. How could events have led to this end? Two days earlier…

Chapter One

High Oaks Plantation

Tidewater, Maryland

August 1814

Her hands clasped together in her lap, Honor Penworthy sat in her place in the small sunlit morning room at the end of breakfast. A beribboned royal-blue velvet jeweler’s box sat in front of her. She’d have preferred a snake.

“Well, open it, child,” her grandfather urged gruffly. Why did he continue to test her like this? The intense scrutiny of the others at the table, not only her grandfather’s but her father’s and her cousin Darah’s, pressed in around her. Some quarrel lay between her father and her grandfather, unacknowledged but constant. This quarrel concerned her grandfather leaving the Society of Friends and joining the Episcopal Church when she was only a child. In some way this gift from grandfather was another visible part of their silent battle of wills which, it seemed, prompted her grandfather to tempt her to break her Quaker principles.

“Well, I’m opening mine,” Darah, a pretty brunette of sixteen, declared. She slipped off the pink satin ribbon and opened her box. “Oh, Mr. Charles,” she gasped. “Pearl earrings. How lovely.” Darah sprang up, setting her side curls bouncing, and hurried to hug Honor’s grandfather around the neck.

Honor heard the approach of hoofbeats on their drive at the front of the house. She must finish this embarrassing drama before anyone else witnessed it. She kept her gaze lowered and slipped the blue satin ribbon from her box and lifted the lid. A delicate necklace that matched Darah’s earrings lay nestled inside. She stared at the “gift” that wasn’t a gift. It was a sharp stick to poke at her father. She wished she could turn to her grandfather and ask him plainly why he always did this? Why must he stir the waters between himself and his son? Why must he place her in the middle?

Again, prompted by the sound of boots on the front porch and the brass knocker clapping, she took action. Mastering her feeling of betrayal, she gazed at her grandfather. “How very lovely, Grandfather.” Each word pierced her like a needle. “I thank thee for thinking of me, but thee knows that, as a Quaker, I never wear embellishments.”

As if he couldn’t have predicted the reply she always gave, he grumbled and glared at her from under his bushy gray eyebrows. “Foolishness. Just a bit of pearls.”

“I wish thee wouldn’t try Honor–” her father began.

Their silver-haired and liveried butler Thomas interrupted at just the right moment. “Master, two gentlemen, name of Carroll from Baltimore, are here to see you, sir. I have asked them to wait in your office.”

Honor could only be relieved at the interruption. Her stomach had tied itself into knots, and she couldn’t bear another icy staring contest between the two men she loved.

Rising, her grandfather hustled from the room. His sudden change of expression caught her just as he left. Grandfather appeared shocked and worried.

Honor looked across at her father, who was a foot taller than her grandfather, thin, and with thinning hair, now his expression drawn, his eyes troubled. “I’m sorry, daughter. He does this to jab more at me than thee.”

“Why?” she murmured, shutting the jeweler’s box.

“My compliments to the cook,” her father said to Thomas, ignoring Honor’s question. “I will be riding this morning but will be home by luncheon.”

Thomas nodded, turned, and pushed his way through the swinging door to the butler’s pantry.

Not meeting Honor’s gaze, her father nodded to both her and Darah and left, going out into the hall and walking swiftly to the rear door toward the stables, his boot steps echoing in the hallway. Would her father ever speak plainly and tell her what caused the trouble between him and Grandfather? Honor pushed the box across the table toward Darah. “Here. To match your earrings.” Here’s the necklace Grandfather knew you would be getting anyway.

Darah scowled but accepted the box. “I don’t know how you can be so rude. He brings you the most beautiful gifts every time he goes to the capital. Why not accept them?”

Honor sighed. It was useless to say, “Thee knows why—I am still a Friend.” Darah had gladly gone along to attend the Episcopal Church with Grandfather. Honor rose and turned toward the door to the hall.

“You should be more grateful.” Darah’s voice shook. “I’m an orphan, but you have a father and grandfather who love you.”

Honor turned back, startled. “Cousin, let it go. Didn’t thee want the necklace and earrings?”

Darah leaped to her feet. “I’m tired of getting what you don’t want.” Honor stared at her younger cousin’s sudden spurt of temper. Darah was the daughter of her mother’s sister.

“I fail to see why this upsets thee. Even though thee is not a Penworthy by blood, thee has been welcome here since being orphaned.” Why is thee so angry?

“It’s just not fair. I have nothing, and after your grandfather and then your father dies, you will inherit High Oaks.”

Disturbed by the outburst, Honor studied Darah. “Again, why does that concern thee? Does thee think to inherit instead of me?”

Before Darah could reply, Honor heard voices in the hall. One she easily recognized, her maid Royale. Honor hurried out of the dining room. In the hall, at the bottom of the staircase, she saw a stranger, a young good-looking dark-haired gentleman, boldly lifting Royale’s chin. Aghast at his effrontery, she covered the few steps to him. “May I help thee?” she asked in a tone that said “Unhand my maid.”

The stranger looked at her, actually let his eyes rove over her. Their gazes met almost at a level. He had what some called a weak chin.

She lifted her determined one, challenging him.

Finally he let his hand fall from Royale’s face. “We meet again. Kane Carroll of Baltimore. Your servant, Miss Honor.” He bowed with a flourish.

In contrast to custom, she did not curtsy in return. Quaker women did not curtsy, just as Quaker men never doffed their hats. But because of his forward behavior toward her maid, she did not want to offer her hand either. So she merely nodded. “Welcome to High Oaks.”

“Yes, welcome to High Oaks,” Darah parroted from just behind Honor. “I am Miss Darah Manning, Honor’s cousin.”

Kane Carroll performed another artful bow. “My pleasure, Miss Darah.” Then he looked at Honor. “I fear you do not remember making my acquaintance, Miss Honor. We met at the cotillion in Baltimore earlier this year. I could never forget your striking fair hair and complexion.”

With a jolt of remembrance, Honor recalled meeting him and that she hadn’t liked him. After she’d refused to dance, also according to Quaker custom, he’d tried to draw her into the darkened garden. She’d had to stomp on his toes to stop him. She recalled then that in doing so she’d torn the hem of her gown, and Royale had met her in the ladies’ withdrawing room to repair it. Had this man glimpsed her maid then?

“That was at my coming out,” Darah said, blushing.

“And a charming debutante you were, too,” Carroll said, smiling and bowing over Darah’s hand.

Royale remained where she was in obvious discomfort, her eyes lowered and her hands clasped.

“Thee may go about thy business, Royale,” Honor murmured, releasing her maid. Royale curtseyed and escaped toward the rear. Carroll’s gaze followed her as she left them.

This didn’t surprise Honor. Royale was beautiful. Light-skinned with a golden brown head of curls, she had also been blessed with unusual green eyes. The first time men saw her, most couldn’t stop themselves from staring. But rarely did any do more than look. This man had touched Royale. A warning bell sounded in Honor’s head. \

“What brings you to High Oaks?” Darah asked the question Honor most wanted answered.

“I’ve accompanied my grandfather, Major Bellamy Carroll. He is an old acquaintance of your grandfather, I believe.”

Honor sensed some undercurrent. This man’s visit presented some danger. She must investigate and find out who these Carrolls were and why they’d come. “Darah, why doesn’t thee show our guest around the garden? Everything is so lush right now, and it will be cooler out in the shade.”

Darah beamed. “Would you like to tour our gardens, sir?”

Carroll offered Darah his arm. “I’d be delighted. Won’t you join us, Miss Honor?”

“No, thee will excuse me. I have duties to attend to.” She wished she could shoo them away, far away. She must find Royale.

“Ah, yes, you are the lady of High Oaks, aren’t you?” He made the question sound insulting.

She merely nodded and watched them stroll out the front door and descend the steps toward the formal garden on the southern side of the house. She hurried toward the rear, seeking Royale. As she passed Grandfather’s office door, she heard the rumble of angry voices—not raised loud enough to be heard, but nevertheless worrying. Her grandfather and Kane Carroll’s grandfather were arguing, and evidently did not want to be overheard. She reached the rear of the house and went down the few steps to the kitchen garden on the way to the detached kitchen where Royale might have gone.

Just as Honor passed the first old oak, Royale stepped out of its shadow. “You got to help me.” Honor halted, her breath caught by the urgency in her maid’s voice. “What is it?”

“He say…that man say he come to buy me.”

So the story begins. To purchase, click cover. It’s on sale for 99 cents!–Lyn

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Jenny L Cote, Another Author Named Cote!–Interview

Jenny L Cote

For some unknown reason, earlier this year I decided to google my late mother in law’s name and I discovered an author by the same name! And she’s a Christian author too! I have a guess where the idea  to google my mil’s name came from, do you? ;-)

Anyway Jenny L Cote agreed to be my guest. Jenny writes a mixture of Christian history and fantasy for children.(The fantasy comes from her animal characters.) And I fell in love with the cover of her latest book. So without further ado, here’s Jenny:

1-Share one fun or interesting fact about your life or books.

My children’s historical fiction books span from Noah’s Ark to World War II. The best thing about writing these books for me is the RESEARCH! I have a driving passion to go see where history happened in order to bring it to life in the pages of my books. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel and gain unprecedented access to places I never dreamed I could visit, and to meet people I never imagined meeting. Some highlights include: sitting in George F. Handel’s composing room in London to write the scene of him writing Messiah; staying in the Kilns-home of my writing hero C.S. Lewis in Oxford; sitting in the Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford with Walter Hooper (secretary to C.S. Lewis) where the “Inklings” Tolkien and Lewis met; having dinner in Paris with Comte Lafayette, sixth great grandson of the Marquis de Lafayette; and attending the 70th DDAY ceremonies in Normandy, France. I’ve also been to Israel, Egypt, Rome, and of course all over Virginia researching Patrick Henry and the Revolutionary War. So it should be obvious that I have to write books to support my research habit! ?

2-Why do you write?

I can’t help myself – I was wired to write! I love God, history and young people, and blending these loves together through my pen is pure joy. When I was eight years old I wrote stories about talking fruit, so I told Phil Vischer that I wrote “fruity tales” long before he wrote “Veggie Tales.” But I never thought of being a writer as a profession until I was an adult.  And this was after I already had a long career in marketing and strategic planning. So although it took me a while to discover what I was truly meant to do, I now never work a day in my life. It’s pure fun.

3-In what ways does your heroine show strength? And where does she draw this strength?

My heroine is a petite, intelligent French cat named Lizette Brillante (Liz). Her strength is her intellect, given by the Maker for her role on missions with the Epic Order of the Seven animal team.  Her intellectual prowess shines when she keeps it couched within faith. But her greatest strength can become her greatest weakness when it overshadows her faith. Liz sometimes struggles to “lean not onto her own understanding” and trust what she cannot explain or figure out. This makes her a teachable, lovable, relatable character for children and adults as well. –Jenny L

Learn more about Jenny L. Cote at www.epicorderoftheseven.com and Face Book Jenny L. Cote

The Wind, The Road, Thy Way

To purchase, click here. The Wind, the Road and the Way (The Epic Order of the Seven)

The Wind will change their hearts. The Road will change his direction. The Way will change the world. And the Order of the Seven will change the future for believers while the Enemy seeks their crushing defeat.?

This heart-gripping, action-packed adventure begins a two-book saga that brings to life the events of Acts and the birth of Christianity while showing how each book of the New Testament came to be. The Wind, the Road, and the Way covers Resurrection morning through Paul’s second missionary journey. The Fire, the Revelation and the Fall (March 2015) completes the events in Acts, Peter and Paul in Rome, Roman Christian persecution in the arena and John’s Revelation on Patmos. Watch the miraculous rise of the Church through the fiery trials sent by an Enemy who will stop at nothing to kill anyone who dares to be called Christian.

I’m so happy that I found Jenny! I think her books sound amazing. Maybe some of you are looking for good books to give special children as Christmas gifts. May I suggest these?

Also her black Angus Max (like the dog in her books) is suffering from cancer. Why not drop by her facebook page and leave a comment for Max. He could use some cheering up along with his owner Jenny L!

BTW, AmyC is the winner of my slightly used copy of A RUMORED ENGAGEMENT and I’m throwing in my copy of BEAGLEMANIA. Don’t forget to leave a comment even when I don’t mention a giveaway. You never know when I’ll be in a “giving” mood! –Lyn

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$2.99 Ebook Sale This Week Only!

Honor- ebook sale

Just click the cover to purchase!–Lyn

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Lyn Reviews Linda O Johnston’s Beaglemania

Beaglemania (Pet Rescue Mystery, #1)Beaglemania by Linda O. Johnston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beaglemania is the first mystery I’ve read by Linda O. Johnston. I confess I picked up at a rummage sale, but that’s a good way to try a new author. Or at the library. Anyway I love animals, especially dogs and cats so when I saw the cover with four adorable beagle puppies, I couldn’t resist.

As an author myself, I know that the publisher not the author controls the title and cover for a book so I shouldn’t have been surprised that the beagles were just mentioned in the beginning and never were a part of the story.

Someone in marketing said: “Cute beagles will sell, just think of Snoopy!” And that’s how the title and cover probably came about.

Fortunately I didn’t hold this against Linda O Johnston. I quite enjoyed her story and her main character and the way she handled the beginning romance.

So if you want a sweet cozy mystery with lots of pets, this is for you!

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