Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

The Bandbox Hat

Previously: SarahJane’s niece April is visiting. Jesse called and brought dinner over. After they ate, he told her it was time to tell her everything about why he left town after graduation and what’s going on with SarahJane’s sister Rachael.

Chapter Forty-Nine

Before Jesse could say another word, a soft knock sounded at my door.

“You’re not getting out of this.” I stepped to the door. “Who is it?”

“SarahJane?” The female voice sounded more familiar than my own.

I flung open the door. “Rachael?”

She shimmered under the porch light, blonde hair tumbling around her shoulders.

“Can I come in?”

“Oh, Rachael.” All the pent-up emotions of the last months spilled down my cheeks as I reached for my sister. My only sister. “Rachael.” I repeated her name as she hugged me with a fierceness that left me gasping.

“I’ve missed you so much.” She pulled away and searched my face, her gaze running up and down me. “You’ve changed.”

“So have you.” No wonder I didn’t recognize her at Daddy’s funeral until it was too late. The angles of her cheeks and chin had sharpened to a fine degree and her nose had a bit of a Bob Hope slope. “Did you get a nose job?” I clapped my hand over my mouth.

She burst into laughter. “Ten years and of course that’s the first thing you say to me.”

“Where have you been? What have you been doing? Did you have a nose job? How’s that?” I was mostly joking, but if pressed I would admit to also being frustrated with her. I guess some things never change.

She just smiled. “I missed you so.” She glanced past me, into the living room. “Hey, Jesse.”

He stood. “I should probably go. We can talk later SarahJane.”

“Wait.” My head cocked to the side. “You didn’t tell Rachael to come by? When you said you’d tell me everything and then Rachael knocked, I thought—”

He nodded and stuck his fists into his front pockets. “No. I think it’s better for you two to talk. I’ll call you tomorrow.” He slipped out the door.

I stared after him. “What’s going on?”

“He wanted to give us a moment to catch up. Like I’ve been catching up with Jake.”

“He told me.”

She pulled me to the couch and we sat, facing each other, arms along the back.

“Jesse told me you called Peter when you were in town. So you know he remarried.”

She nodded. “I shouldn’t have been surprised. I reacted badly. Running off again.”

“You think?” I tried to keep the judgment out of my voice but I don’t think I quite succeeded, given the flush that crept across her cheeks.

“I had that coming.”

“Ten years, Rachael. Mom…” My throat grew thick and I couldn’t get out the words of reproach.

Her eyes filled. “I know.”

“Then … why?”

“I was stupid. Immature. I thought she’d be angry and me visiting would be too emotional.”

“So you let your mother die without letting her tell you she loved you.” Frustration surged through me and made the hairs on my arm stand up.

“I know it doesn’t make sense. After I left, I was diagnosed with post-partum psychosis. I knew something was wrong with me and I knew I’d hurt the baby or myself if I stayed.”

I stared at her.

“I didn’t feel like I had a choice, SarahJane. Peter was working all the time. Mom wasn’t feeling well, so I didn’t have the usual support a new mom gets. All I could do all day was stare at this baby. Then I felt the neighbors staring at me, judging me. One of them dropped off a casserole one day and I knew when she got home she’d be calling CPS because of what a mess the apartment was in.”

“Oh, Rachael.” Sympathy welled inside me.

“I truly thought the best thing for to do was to leave. Daddy wouldn’t speak to me. I couldn’t count on anyone.”

I reached for her hand. “I’m so sorry, Rachael.”

“I came to L.A. Ran into Jesse the second week. That was a total God thing.”

“Wait.” I stood and looked at her. “Jesse knew where you were ten years ago? And he didn’t tell me?”

She nodded. “Don’t blame him. I made him promise. Actually, it’s a good thing. He said he wouldn’t tell the family if I would go get help. I might still be on the streets if he hadn’t made that deal with me.”

I sat again. “Jesse got you mental help?”

“He did. Then when we moved in together—”

“You what?” I shrieked a little at that.

“Auntie SJ?” April’s plaintive voice sounded from the next room.

“I’m okay, sweetie,” I called to her.

A shuffling noise preceded her entry into the living room. “Who are you?” She rubbed her eyes and stared at Rachael.

Woe! It’s Wednesday:

The American vs. War Horse

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We watched two movies back to back recently.

The American stars George Clooney and was well reviewed with an average rating of three stars. We figured it would be a winner.

We were … wrong.

It was slow. Boring. We were never sure if Clooney was a good guy or a bad guy. Graphic sex and violence. Little to no plot. Did I mention boring?

images2 We followed that up with War Horse. Neither movie was very recent but we had missed them in theaters and on DVD. After The American our standards for what we’d consider good were pretty low. But no worries, War Horse far exceeded even our modest hopes.

Plot: check

Good guys horses: check

Violence and sex: Violence check, no sex

Action: check

What a difference. Characters, including horses, you cared about as well as an engrossing story.

Just for kicks I checked out the IMDb profiles of both movies. The American had one familiar name in the cast and crew credits. Our friend George.

War Horse had several familiar names. Stephen Spielberg. Kathleen Kennedy. Richard Curtis co-wrote the screenplay and I’m a big fan of his intelligent movies. I mean, his movies are intelligent. Not that he makes intelligent and dumb movies and I only like the smart ones.

Where was I?

Oh, yes.

My takeaway from these two movies is that sometimes you can take a chance on a tried and true favorite like George Clooney and be bitterly disappointed. You can also take a chance on a seemingly random opportunity, like a movie about a horse, and be pleasantly surprised.

It’s good to keep an open mind. You just may be surprised at what you learn.

 

Book Talk Tuesday: Just One Kiss

cv_kiss  I want to know where Fool’s Gold, California is and how soon I can move there. Like the romantic fiction I love best, Just One Kiss is set in an idyllic small town populated by some quirky characters but where everyone knows and loves everyone else and accepts them as they are, foibles and all.

Patience had a crush on her best friend when they were in high school. Just as she worked up the nerve to tell him how she felt, Justice disappeared from her life and from Fool’s Gold.

Fifteen years have passed and Justice is back. Patience and Justice have both changed. He’s finally free to tell her that he was part of the Witness Security Program and he had to leave town because his father, who had threatened to kill him, had been seen in the area. Patience was married briefly and she’s now a single mom, living with her mother. Patience dreams of opening a local coffee shop in Fool’s Gold. An unexpected bequest makes her dream possible.

Justice and Patience find that their feelings for each other haven’t lessened through the years.

Patience is dealing with opening her new shop, her mother’s health and new boyfriend, her daughter’s grandfather returns to town, and Justice … well, it can’t be safe for Patience’s heart, or her daughter’s stability, to let Justice back into her life.

Justice has spent years in the military and doing private security. He’s decided to settle down in Fool’s Gold-the town he never forgot.

Yes, it’s a romance, so you can figure out where the story is going. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. I liked Patience and Justice, although I found his reluctance to form an emotional attachment to Patience a bit thin. It worked, but don’t examine it too closely, is all I’m saying.

The secondary characters, Patience’s girlfriends, all have unique personalities and I’m sure we’ll be getting their stories in future novels.

I like my romance novels to close the door when the couple starts to have sex. This one does not close any doors. Although it’s not porn, it’s definitely more sensual than my usual fare. I always debate how highly to recommend the books that stretch my boundaries. I know some people love this genre and feel the hotter, the better. Others are uncomfortable with even a passionate kiss so it’s a definite tightrope for me to walk. In this case, I believe the fun story outweighs the sex. The sex scenes make up a small percentage of the book and are easily skipped if they make you uncomfortable.

There’s a bit of suspense, a lot of romance, some sex, and a totally fun package. Just One Kiss is worth a visit to Fool’s Gold, California.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

The Bandbox Hat

Previously: SarahJane was given the heave-ho from the Date My Son! reality dating show. She spent a couple of days depressed. Her niece April called and asked to come visit SarahJane in Glendale. SarahJane met her brother in Grapevine to pick up April. The also ran into Jesse who was heading back to Pasadena after a Rosedale visit. He asked if he could call SarahJane. She agreed.

Chapter Forty-Eight

 

My apartment door had just clicked shut behind me and April when my phone rang.

“Where’s the bathroom, Auntie SJ?” April hopped from foot to foot looking from one end of the apartment to the other.

“Through that hall.” I pointed her in the right direction and snagged the phone from my purse. “Hello.”

“I couldn’t wait.”

“Jesse?”

“I really want to talk to you, SarahJane. Can I come over?”

The chipped corner of my laminate kitchen corner became ultra-interesting. I had to stick my hand in my pocket to keep from chipping at it. “I don’t know, Jesse. I just got home. April’s here.”

“I’m not even home yet. I can swing by for a minute.”

“I don’t know.”

“I’ll bring dinner. Tacos?”

“No fair, you know I can’t say no to Mexican.”

“I’ll be there in ten.”

I disconnected and tossed the phone onto the faded chintz sofa. “That man…”

“What man?” April popped out of the bathroom.

“Jesse’s bringing dinner.” I pulled plates and glasses from the cupboard and pointed at the flatware drawer. “Can you get some knives and forks?”

April and I set the table. She chattered the whole time about how much fun we were going to have and could I fix kuchen for her in the morning. I agreed to that and I’m pretty sure I also said okay to a trip to Disneyland before I tuned into her words.

“Mom said that my being here is going to cramp your style, Auntie SJ. What’s your style? How can I cramp it?” Her brow furrowed and she bit her lower lip.

I tossed a stack of napkins on the table and sank onto the nearest chair. Anna had to get in her digs at me, I got that, but to use her daughter to deliver her spiteful messages just curdled my soul. “Oh, sweetie, trust me, I don’t have a style and even if I did, you wouldn’t cramp it. I love having you visit. You give me style.”

A tremulous smile inched across her lips. “Really? ‘cause it sounded like a bad thing.”

“I promise you, you’re the best roommate I could ever want.”

A knock at the door broke up the conversation and April scampered over to let Jesse in. “What’d you bring us?” she asked.

“Ernesto’s tacos and burritos. The best in town.” He set three Styrofoam boxes on the table. “Who’s hungry?”

“I am!” April slid into a chair and wiggled.

“Me, too.” I flashed Jesse a smile of welcome.

We passed around the food and I asked Jesse to say the blessing. We ate and chatted, with Jesse making me laugh and April studied us like we were her latest science project.

After dinner I passed out ice-cream sandwiches. I’d licked the last bit of chocolate goo from my fingers when April yawned.

“Bed time, missy.” I gathered up the paper wrappers and tossed them into the trash. “Go brush your teeth and get into my bed. I’ll come tuck you in.”

April nodded and left the table.

Jesse turned to me. “This is nice.”

I had to agree. “I missed you.” The words popped out before I could second-guess them or myself. It was true. He used to be my best friend. I missed his crazy jokes and how he sighed before putting on his seatbelt. I missed the dimple in his chin.

He reached for my hand. “So … I need to explain some things. Why I left.”

“Rachael.” I spoke the name that had hovered between us all night.

He nodded. “It’s time to tell you everything.”

Woe! It’s Wednesday

So many cuddles, so little time.

We attended a birthday party last weekend for our little grand-niece. She’s just about the cutest one-year old ever. I can say that because my grand-daughters are eight and two.

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   We seem to have entered the stage of life when most family reunions take place at funerals, so the chance to see some family and talk and laugh and eat was a time to be savored.

Red hair runs in both her daddy and mommy’s families. We’re hoping her hair at least keeps its strawberry hues.

Our country seems to have lost its moral underpinnings. Politics is a brutal business. Cheating, drugs, gang wars, all make life seem bleak.

Babies and birthdays are a precious reminder of our potential and that God hasn’t given up on us.

Book Talk Tuesday: Chasing Fire

Book Cover

I love Nora Roberts when she writes as J.D. Robb. I read one of Roberts’s traditional romance years ago and, while it was a good book, I didn’t put her none Robb stuff on the top of my TBR mountain. A friend read this one and recommended it so I did put it on the stack.

It’s really good.

Rowan Tripp is a fire jumper, like her father before her. She’s still having nightmares about the jumper who died last season.

Gulliver Curry is a hot shot fire fighter, and a rookie in his first season jumping fire.

The whole team is still recovering from Jim’s death last year and it doesn’t help when the woman he was sleeping with shows up with a baby she claims is Jim’s and looking for a job. She blames Rowan for Jim’s death and sets out for revenge. Soon, several other deaths follow and fires are when the bodies are dumped.

Parts of Chasing Fire are predictable. Rowan and Gull end up in bed. (But the sex wasn’t overly graphic.) I thought I knew who the bad guy was but I wasn’t completely sure until he revealed himself. I love when an author can stump me and they’ve played fair with the clues.

For me, this book worked on several levels. It’s a good romance. Even though hero and heroine fall into bed pretty quickly, it was believable. There was none of that instant hatred of each other, then jumping into bed when lust gets the better of them. I like that Roberts respects her readers enough to not use that tired plot. It’s a crackling good mystery. There are clues but they’re not obvious. There are subplots and layers to the story that made a compelling read. I don’t know much about fire jumping but I feel like I do now. The fire fighting scenes were well placed and so hot, my fingers felt singed.

This is a definite winner!

Author Spotlight Thursday: Susan May Warren

Susie answered some questions for her readers. I’ve already reviewed (and loved) her latest, Take a Chance on Me.

Here are a few questions for inquiring minds:

From Susan Gibson Snodgrass: Where do you get your inspiration?

Great question!  I get inspiration everywhere – the news, facebook posts, sermons, radio talk shows, conversations.  It’s always about a question, something that makes me think…what if?

I got the story about Izzy, (My Foolish Heart) the talk show host to the lovelorn from a Brad Paisely song, Online, about a guy who lives in his parent’s basement, but online he’s awesome (because he’s created that persona).  I added to that the idea of falling in love over the airwaves, and voila! Izzy’s story was germinated.

I got the idea for You Don’t Know Me while sitting on a plane to Seattle. The woman next to me was openly agitated, and when I talked to

TakeAChanceOnMe_COV_FINAL

her (during the food and beverage service!), she told me was flying to Seattle to put her daughter into the witness protection program. Forever. The daughter was 21.  The questions surrounding that situation birthed the story.

I got the idea for Take a Chance on Me from an event that happened in our town – an accident that killed a well-regarded man. In the aftermath the town took sides for or against the person who hit him, and it birthed a slew of ideas about blame and forgiveness.

I always look at the idea and see if I can ask a big spiritual question about it, or touch an emotional issue, or even raise a social question. Then I start exploring the characters interacting with the question, and how they might find answers.

From Stacey Pope Dale: If you were to cast the movie based on your book, who would you choose to play the key roles?

Take a Chance on Me? I have a key list of actors I used as prototypes:

  • John would be played by Tom Selleck
  • Ingrid would be played by Bonnie Hunt
  • Darek would be played by (Thor) Chris Hemsworth
  • Ivy would be played by Emma Stone
  • Jenson would be played by Scott Speedman
  • Claire would be played by (90210) Arielle Kibbel

From Laura Vernet Price Hilton: Why do you think Deep Haven scores a touchdown with your readers?

I love the way you phrased that question!  I think it is the small town where everyone knows your name, the family connections, the beauty of the north shore, and the sense of Mayberry or maybe Mitford set in the north woods.  I think reader like to escape with people they know, and learn more about their lives.

Check back next week for a few more questions and answers from Susan May Warren.

Woe! It’s Wednesday: An idea, an idea, my kingdom for an idea!

That’s a bit of an exaggeration. But not much. Sometimes I’m just not sure what’s going to happen next in a story.

Some writers say they get their best ideas in the shower or driving. I’ve gotten a few behind the wheel. But my best ideas come when I’m walking. Something about the rhythmic fwap-fwap of my heels on asphalt unlocks the right side of my brain where my ideas like to congregate in a small dark compartment. Then I drag them out into the sunlight to see if they still gleam as brightly as they did back in my brain.

Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

I once got an idea for a plot twist in a dream. That’s the only time that’s ever happened to me and I loved it. I still think it’s the most brilliant idea I’ve ever had.

Solomon, considered the wisest man who ever lived said it well in Ecclesiastes 1:9: What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 

Which makes writing stories seem a bit useless. If there’s nothing new under sun, what’s the point?

The point is, there’s always a new perspective to share or a new spin.

After all, aren’t West Side Story and Titantic retreads of Romeo and Juliet?

They’re the same but different.

Like many of my ideas.

I’ve had an idea incubating for over a year now. I’ve written a few chapters of an opening. It’s not ready to be birthed yet so I tucked it back inside. I’m wrapping up two projects and I think it’s time to pull that one out again and see if it’s ready to stretch and unfurl and allow me water and fertilize it and coax it into putting down roots.

Time will tell.

Book Talk Tuesday: The Apple Orchard

I just finished The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs. Like Wiggs’s other books it chockfull of great story and characters and heartfelt emotion.

Tess is an adrenaline junkie. She lives, works, drinks, and smokes in San Francisco. She’s a treasure hunter. Not the kind who scavenge shipwrecks, but the kind who sort through papers searching for provenance of antiques and fine art and collectables. She’s about to be offered a dream job when a different kind of dream knocks on her door.

Dominic Rossi changes Tess’s life with his news. She has family. Besides her absentee mother, that is. Tess travels to Sonoma County with Dominic and almost against her will she learns what she’s been missing. When she has to choose between Dominic and love and saving her family, the decision tears her apart.

Without giving too much away, I loved the way Wiggs layered the plots in this story. Tess really changes and grows up during the story arc. The plot is complex without being convoluted. I followed it and was often half a step ahead of Tess, but that didn’t dampen my enjoyment.

I’ve read several of Wiggs’s standalone books as well as some of the Willow Lake series. The Apple Orchard is set in California which only added to my regard. Wiggs captured the northern California apple and wine region perfectly. She promises that The Apple Orchard is the first in a series and I will definitely read the next one. I hope it’s Isabel’s story!

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

We’re back! After an extended hiatus for holidays, vacations, and lifestyle changes, SarahJane and I picked up her story. Part of the delay was this whole writing on the seat of my pants. I just didn’t know what should happen next. But I took a long walk this morning and got some ideas. We’ll be wrapping up SarahJane’s story in the next month or so. It’s been a fun ride and I’ve gotten some ideas for some other projects too.

Thanks for reading!

The Bandbox Hat

Previously: SarahJane was given the heave-ho from the Date My Son! reality dating show. She spent a couple of days depressed. Her niece April called and asked to come visit SarahJane in Glendale.

Chapter Forty-Seven

With a last glance around my apartment, I hiked my bag up on my shoulder and picked out my car keys. I was meeting Jake and April at the bottom of their side of the grapevine and bringing April home for a few days.

Although my time on Date My Son! seemed to last months, in reality I’d only been gone a few weeks and there was plenty of summer left to relax and visit with my favorite niece.

My fingers grew tired gripping the steering wheel as I drove through the pass over the Tehachapi mountains. The wind whipped my little car from side to side and it took all I had to keep it in my lane. I was exhausted by the time I climbed out at the Starbucks at the bottom of the hill.

“Auntie SJ!”

I turned toward April’s voice and caught her as she launched herself at me. “April! Here you are.”

“We’ve been waiting forever for you to get here. Jesse said you’d be late.”

Jesse? Dread settled in my stomach and snaked around my chest.

“Hey.”

I turned toward the voice and managed to answer as casually. “Hey. What’s up?”

Jake pushed through the Starbucks doors and strode to us in the parking lot. He gave a shoulder hug. “We wondered how late you’d be. Ten minutes isn’t bad.”

“What’s going on?” The wind was whipping through the area and I had to hold my hair out of my eyes.

April hopped up and down like a spring time bunny. “Jesse just got here. He’s on his way—”

Jake covered her mouth with a gentle hand. “Let Jesse talk for himself.”

I moved my gaze from April to Jesse. “I’ve been visiting Rosedale and am headed back to Pasadena. Made a pit stop here and ran into Jake and April. End of story.”

The grip of dread around my heart loosened, shaking its fingers loose like a ballplayer flexing his hand. “Oh. How’s your mom?” That seemed like a nice polite thing to say.

“She’s good …”

The silence stretched until I widened my eyes at my brother in a silent plea for him to let April talk. Anything would be better than this awkwardness.

He chuckled and patted April’s back. “Let’s get your stuff out of the car and loaded into Auntie SJ’s.”

She scampered away followed by her treacherous father.

“Listen—”

“Well, it’s been—”

Jesse and I spoke at the same time and stalled in unison. Then stared at each other again.

“No, you go—”

“You were saying?”

Snap. We did it again.

Jesse grinned at me and I caught a glimpse of the old Jesse, my first love, and my heart did that silly leaping thing.

“I was going to say, can I call you?” he asked. “I’d like to catch up and maybe explain some things.”

I considered for a moment then slowly nodded. “I’d like that.”