My books are on Kindle Unlimited and Shores of Mercy releases January 31


My blog is mainly for rambling (hence the title Boondock Ramblings) and not for promoting myself, but I decided to share today that all three books in the Spencer Valley Chronicles are on Kindle Unlimited or are available for purchase on Amazon (in ebook and paperback form).

Also, Shores of Mercy will be on sale on January 31, but you can pre-order it today, HERE for $1.99. Read below for descriptions of each book.

In addition, I am developing some paperback journals to sell and you can find links to them below:


Book Tracker and Book Reviews:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BSJHLR3Z

Sermon Notes:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BNV25Y84



Sketchnotes Sermon Notes:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BPGHZZRF

Reading journal for tracking what you are reading:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BRCXD1NK

Gratitude journal:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BPGMSSJW





A simple journal to list what books you’ve read:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BQNL7TWM



Upcoming will be a quote journal and a praise and prayer journal. I’m really having a lot of fun designing these.


If you have not read my fiction books or know what they are about, here are the descriptions of each of them and a link to them:

A Story to Tell

Can she find a new life of her own, without losing all that she already has?

Blanche Robbins is 17 in 1957 and feels like her life is going nowhere. It’s certainly nothing like the exciting lives of the characters in the books she reads.

When Hank Hakes begins paying attention to her and asks her to run away with him, she sees the offer as a ticket to a new, more exciting life away from her rural upbringing.

The decision sets into motion a life Blanche never expected or wanted.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Y2P819W

A New Beginning

Can Blanche open her heart again after it failed her once before?

Five years later Blanche Robbins could still vividly remember the moment she broke Hank Hakes’ nose with her foot after he broke hers’ with his fist. She could still hear the sick crunch of bones under her heel and still clearly see in her mind his glazed eyes before they closed.

Blanche knew if she didn’t remember how Hank had beat her, she might let her walls down, leaving her son and her vulnerable again. She wasn’t about to let that happen.
That’s why she didn’t like the idea that her best friend might be trying to set her up with J.T. Wainwright.
Blanche wasn’t about to let anyone break down the walls she had built around her life and heart, walls to protect her — but more importantly – her son.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088FBM7V3

Where the Wildflowers Grow

Two books in one. The story of a young girl and her tumultuous journey into adulthood. A journey mixed with heartache, hard lessons, but also faith and joy.

A Story to Tell

Blanche Robbins is 17 in 1957 and feels like her life is going nowhere. It’s certainly nothing like the exciting lives of the characters in the books she reads.

When Hank Hakes begins paying attention to her and asks her to run away with him, she sees the offer as a ticket to a new, more exciting life away from her rural upbringing.

The decision sets into motion a life Blanche never expected or wanted.

A New Beginning

Blanche doesn’t know how to let down the walls she built up during the mistakes of her past. As she forges a new life and looks back on heartache, now with her son, she bristles when her best friend, Emmy, suggests Blanche meet Emmy’s cousin J.T. Wainwright.

She isn’t interested in a romantic relationship, not after her last experience. She built walls around her heart for a reason. To protect herself and, more importantly, her son.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09FJ7K9QM

The Farmer’s Daughter

Will the desire to change their lives bring two people together and will the Tanner family be able to save their family farm?

Molly Tanner thought she’d be further in life by now, but, no. At the age of 26, still living on her parent’s dairy farm in rural Pennsylvania, wondering if there is a life for her somewhere other than little Spencer Valley. While wondering, though, her family faces financial struggles, her best friend falls into a deep depression, and her brother’s best friend starts acting weird around her. Weird as in — is attractive Alex Stone flirting with her?

Alex has his own challenges to face, mainly facing past demons that make him feel like he’s not worthy of the love the Tanner family has already shown him, let alone the love of the woman he’s fallen for while working side-by-side with her in the barn each day.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08TVHHL4B

Harvesting Hope

Can she forgive him for what he can’t forget?
The last year has been a whirlwind of trials and triumphs for the Tanner family.

With injuries, near foreclosures, and a family tragedy behind them, Jason Tanner, the oldest of the Tanner children is facing his own struggle after his longtime girlfriend, Ellie Lambert, overhears the secret he’d planned to tell her himself.
Now, in addition to trying to keep his family’s dairy farm sustainable during a hard economic season, Jason is dealing with the heartbreak of Ellie’s decision to end an almost 10-year relationship.

In an effort to bury his feelings, he throws himself into his work on the farm and into volunteering with Spencer Valley’s small volunteer fire company, where tragedy strikes the foundation of his faith during an already vulnerable time.

Ellie has her own challenges to face as she tries to navigate a time of life where her expectations have been turned upside down and shaken out. As she copes with the decision to walk away from her relationship with the man she saw as her best friend, her flighty, less responsible younger sister shows up to further complicate an already complicated situation.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B094M615GK

Beauty From Ashes

Can two women figure out their chaotic, confusing lives together? And how will the men in their lives fit in their journey?

Liz Cranmer feels trapped in a prison of shame. Now a single mother at 27 she feels like the whole town, especially her church-going parents, view her as a trashy woman with no morals. That’s not how she used to think of herself but — could they be right? And if they think that, then what does God think of her?

Ginny Jefferies, 53, has hit a few snags of her own in life. Her husband, Stan, barely acknowledges her, her job as the town’s library director has become mundane and stagnant, and her youngest daughter is having some kind of identity crisis. Pile on the return of a former boyfriend and you have the makings of a potential midlife crisis.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09T2P69XV

Shores of Mercy



There was a time in Ben Oliver’s life when his career was more important than anything — including his girlfriend, Angie, who he walked away from when she told him she was pregnant. Even before that night, he’d been drinking too much, but after that night, the drinking got worse.

That was four years ago. Now he’s sober and opened a law office half an hour from where he grew up. He’s stayed away from Angie and the little girl he never met because he believes their life will be better without him, but when her family moves back to the area and her parents ask him to be involved in his little girl’s life, his past catches up with him.

Judi Lambert has battled her own demons and is now fighting for her sobriety. She wants to kick her party-girl lifestyle to the curb and she’s well on her way. Not far into the journey to get her life back on track, though, she’s forced to relive a traumatic experience with a man she’d once thought was simply her ticket to a good time.

When Judi and Ben’s worlds collide, can they work together to get their lives back on track? And can Judi work to help Ben get Angie and his daughter back again?

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BK5CQDVZ



I also sell stock photography at Alamy and Lightstock. Links to my accounts on those sites, here:

Lightstock () and Alamy .

A Christmas in Spencer: Beyond the Season Chapter 11

We are almost to the final day of this story! Isn’t that crazy?! That means we are almost to Christmas too! So exciting. What do you think will happen in the last chapter? Let me know in the comments!

Welcome to the eleventh chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but it will be fully edited once it is complete.

You can catch up on chapters HERE.

If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,

The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.

Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.



Chapter 11

Chaos reigned in the Tanner household the day before Christmas and Robert couldn’t wait to escape it. Six women were laughing, mixing, baking, bumping into each other and when he’d come into the house for lunch, they’d asked him to taste test three different kinds of cookies, which wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t needed to get back to the shed to finish the swing.

“Which one, Dad? The gingerbread or the molasses?”

“Um.” He spoke with a mouthful of cookie. “They’re both really good. I think we should have both.”

Liz laughed. “We’re going to cook both. Molly and I just want to know which one you liked better.”

He raised an eyebrow and looked between the two young women. “Is this some kind of competition? Because I don’t want to be the judge of some kind of competition between you two.”

Liz looked at him with wide, innocent eyes. “Robert, of course, this isn’t some kind of compe—”

“It’s totally a competition,” Molly said quickly. “And I’m your daughter so you’d better pick my cookie.”

The other women, which included his mother, his wife, Annie’s mother, Ellie, and his sister all laughed and gathered behind Molly and Liz, pausing in their work.

Robert’s gaze slid to the women, then back to Molly who had leveled a steady gaze on him, a small smile pulling at her mouth. He swallowed the bite of cookie. “I like them both. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

He quickly excused himself to the sound of laughter before any of the women could stop him, snatched his coat off the hanger by the back door, and headed out the door.

Alex was on his way to the house from the barn. Robert grabbed his arm gently. “You don’t want to go in there. It’s a madhouse.”

Alex’s brow dipped in concern as he looked from Robert to the backdoor. “What do  you mean?”

“There are a lot of women in there and they’ll try to make you taste test their food and then make you choose sides by saying which recipe is better.”

Alex grinned and gently removed Robert’s hand from his arm. “That sounds like heaven. See you in an hour.”

Robert shook his head and turned back to the barn. That young man would change his mind when two women watched him intently and waited for an answer. No man wanted to tell a woman that their recipe wasn’t as good as someone else’s.  Not if they knew what was good for them.

Brad had pulled through much to his and Alex’s relief, despite a two-day snowstorm that had delayed his trip until two days before Christmas.

Robert had put the bolts on the swing early that morning and Bert was finishing up the engine. Alex had finished the paint job and planned to pick up the truck the next morning.

 After Robert hooked on the chains, he and Jason would load the swing onto the back of the truck and drive it down to the house covered with a tarp so he could install the swing early Christmas morning. He’d enlisted Molly to keep Annie busy in the kitchen while he installed it.

After chores were completed in the barn and dinner was eaten in a kitchen now emptied of the fairer sex, Robert and Annie showered and dressed and drove to town for the Christmas Eve service. Alex, Molly, Jason, Ellie, Liz, Isabella, and Matt met them there, along with Matt’s mother, brother and sister, and Liz’s parents. Liz’s sister and family also attended, which marked the first time since they’d moved back to Spencer that they’d been able to attend a service as a family.

Robert slid his hand over Annie’s as the music began. The church was lit with candles lining the aisles and spread across the stage and altar up front. Wreathes of pine decorated the wall along the stage and behind the choir and the pastor.

Rush had been the word of the day for the last few weeks and now the entire family seemed to be taking a collective breath and letting the peace of the season seep into their souls, soothe aching muscles physically and worried hearts spiritually.

When the music started to signal that the cantata would begin soon, Robert’s shoulders relaxed, he sat back in the pew, and he closed his eyes. He let the music wash over him and push away any thoughts about what needed to be done tomorrow — for Christmas day’s celebration and on the farm. Farmers never had holidays which meant the cows would still need to be milked and fed and stalls cleaned. Most of the day would be set aside for family time, though. Any repair projects could wait.

Muffled laughter caused him to open his eyes and look around for the source of amusement. Soon the laughing spread and he turned slightly in his pew just in time to see a black and white cat stroll nonchalantly down the center aisle toward the stage. He watched it, eyes narrowing.

Without looking away from the cat he reached over and tapped Annie’s arm.

“Hey, is that —“

“Yes, it is. Whose truck did she climb in the back of this time?”

Scout, one of their barn cats, had climbed in the back of a pickup at least twice before at the farm, once hitching a ride to Walt’s farm and another time to the farm store. This was the first time she’d made it to town, though.

The cat walked up the steps, stretched her long body out, and lay down on the top step as the congregation watched with smiles.

“I’d better go get her,” Robert whispered as the pastor stepped out on the stage.

Annie pulled her lower lip between her teeth briefly, then released it. “Yeah. Maybe you’d better.”

z“Well, I see even the domesticated pets are here tonight to worship the birth of our savior,” Pastor Joe said with a smile. “In Psalm 148 it says, ‘Wild animals and all cattle, small creatures, and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.”

Scout had curled up into a ball now, ready for a nap. “I think we’ll just let this visitor stay for now. There must be something comforting to him or her about our church and that, to me, is a very high compliment indeed.”

Robert sat back in the pew again, shaking his head and laughing. For the next hour and a half, the cat napped, waking up only when Robert scooped her up after the cantata was over. He placed her in the cab of the truck with him and Annie, both of them unable to stop laughing over her sudden appearance.

They’d been taught that God had a sense of humor, Robert thought as he drove home, the cat in Annie’s lap. Hopefully, he’d found the humor in Scout’s attendance at a service to honor him

***

The sun had just started to rise over the horizon when Alex left the barn after the morning chores to head for town.

“Hey! Where are you off to?” Molly called after him. “We’re going to have a full family breakfast soon.”

He glanced over his shoulder. “I’ll be back soon, don’t worry. I have something I need to grab in town.”

He left her standing outside the barn with confusion etched on her face. It couldn’t be helped, though. He’d agreed to meet Bert at the shop and pick up the truck and then they’d both drive back for breakfast and lunch at the Tanner’s for the day.

When he reached the shop Bert had already pulled the truck outside. The men stood and admired the new paint job on the truck, the shine on the bumpers, and even the new tires.

“It looks good, Alex it really does.” Bert smiled, eyes glistening. “My father-in-law would have been really proud to see it in such good shape.”

Alex stepped around to the front of the truck, hands at his waist as he admired the final product. “You had a lot to do with it, more than me even.”

“You did the paint job, shined it up. Reminds me of when I first saw Ned with it. Hannah was in the passenger seat next to him. She was the most beautiful creature I’d ever laid eyes on. I never thought she’d give me the time of day that day let alone let me marry her a decade later when we were both old enough to get married.” He winked. “We were only 15 when we first met.” He laughed, touching the back of a finger across the bottom of his eye, and turned away. He pulled a handkerchief from his coverall pocket. “Sorry, I got so emotional there. Didn’t expect that.”

Alex patted his shoulder. “Hey, no problem. Memories are powerful, especially when they are good ones.”

Bert blew his nose and wadded the handkerchief up, shoving it back in his pocket. “My marriage has been a good one, kid. I guess that’s why I keep pushing you to propose to Molly. I want you two to experience the happiness we have. Being married, making that commitment to be there for each other no matter what, in front of all your friends and family – I don’t know. There’s something fulfilling about it.”

Alex pulled his cowboy hat down low on his head and nodded. “I know, Bert, I appreciate it.”

Bert sniffed and tossed a set of keys to him. “Anyhow, here are the keys. I’ll follow you in your truck and meet you at the house.”

Alex slid behind the steering wheel of the 1976 Chevy, cranked the window down, and closed the door. “I have to take a detour, so I’ll meet you there.”

Bert grinned. “Another gift to pick up?”

Alex touched a finger to his hat. “I’m keeping that under my hat, but I’ll see you at Robert and Annie’s for breakfast. Don’t eat all the bacon on me.”

Alex started the truck and listened to it rumble for a few minutes, then slid his hand across the surface of the new red upholstery on the truck seat. He hadn’t thought they’d be able to replace that too, but in the end, Jason had helped and they’d pulled it off.

He took a deep breath and shifted the truck into gear, nodding to Bert again as he pulled the truck out of the parking lot. Turning the radio on, a favorite song came on and he hummed along, turning the truck toward the road that would lead him to Molly, but first her grandmother.

A Christmas in Spencer Valley: Beyond the Season Chapter 9

Welcome to the ninth chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but it will be fully edited once it is complete.

You can catch up on chapters HERE.

If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,

The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.

Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.

Chapter 9

“I wish I could tell you I have good news.”

Terry Harper’s expression already let Robert know the parts hadn’t arrived, even before he’d spoken.

“Couldn’t get them here in time?”

“Holiday shipping delays. It will be here the week after Christmas instead.”

Robert chewed on his bottom lip. “Where did you say the store is again?”

“Between Harrisburg and Lancaster. Maybe a three-hour drive.”

Robert nodded, rubbing his chin. “Give me the address. Maybe I’ll take a drive down.”

“I’d be glad to do it but there’s a storm coming in. You sure you can’t just show Annie what you’ve got so far and give it to her after Christmas?”

Robert shrugged a shoulder. “I could, but it wouldn’t be the same.”

Terry scribbled an address on a piece of paper. “Well, if you decide to go just be safe. I’ve heard another storm is coming in and PennDOT isn’t great about taking care of that lower stretch of the highway. There was a ten-car pile-up down that way three winters ago.”

Back in the truck, Robert dialed Bert’s number.

“Where did you say that part was for the engine?”

“York, Pa. Down below Harrisburg. Why?”

“I’m heading that way to pick up some bolts for the swing, why don’t I just grab it while I’m in the area. I’ll need some help making up an excuse for my absence, though.”

“That’ll be hard to do. How about I call Brad instead? He can run down, and everyone will think he’s picking up a delivery for the store.”

Brad Tanner was Robert and Bert’s sometimes-reliable-sometimes-not nephew.

“I don’t know. I need it back here as quick as possible and it would mean pulling another person into the secret. Brad’s not known for keeping secrets well.”

He wasn’t known for staying sober well, either, he thought but didn’t say out loud.

Still, Bert was right, Brad could slip away from the farm easier than him.

“Okay, I’ll give him a call and see if he can head down for me. Give me the address of your place.”

Luckily Brad seemed delighted at the prospect when he was asked. Standing in the upper barn at Walt’s farm, he nodded enthusiastically and promised he wouldn’t let the secret for either project slip.

“No problem, Uncle Rob.” He took the pieces of paper with the address. “It will be nice to get out of the area for a bit too.”

Robert hesitated before turning away. Last year Brad had been in a car accident with Jason’s wife Ellie. For several hours the family had feared the worst when her car was found, but Ellie wasn’t in it. Brad had been in the car with her but somehow he’d ended up back at Walt’s house without Ellie.

It turned out Ellie had decided to hike over the hill for help and had fallen into an abandoned well. It was like something out of a movie, but Jason and Alex had found her and were able to call for help to pull her out. Brad had been drunk at the time. Since then he had apologized more than once, but Jason was still struggling with forgiving him. Brad also seemed to be trying his best to be a better person by working hard for the family at the farms and the family farm store.

“Thanks, Brad. I appreciate you being willing to help out. If the roads get dicey, though, head back. This isn’t life or death. It’s just something nice we’re doing for Annie and Molly.”

Brad laughed and pushed a hand back through his red-blond hair, reminding Robert again how much he looked like his mom, Marcia. “No worries. I’m stupid, but not that stupid.” He winked and walked toward the house. “I’m going to give Dad a heads up on what I’ll be doing. I’ll just tell him it’s for a pickup and leave it at that. You know how bad he is at keeping secrets.”

Robert snorted a laugh. “Yeah, Brad, I know.”

On the way back to the farm, Robert took a detour, turning onto the road that led to an overlook on the hill where he could look down on most of Spencer Valley. His breath sparkled the air as he stepped out of the truck. Snow and branches crunched under his boots as he walked to an opening of tree branches that allowed him to look down on his farm and the rest of the snow covered Valley below him.

From there he could see his farm, his mom’s house where the original farm had been, his brother’s farm, which had once belonged to a neighbor of his great-grandfather’s, the Lambert’s farm, and other houses dotted in between.

When he’d been young, the Valley had been mainly open fields of farmland and while much of the area was still farmland, there were also spaces now being filled in with houses or other structures as farmers were forced to sell their land to try to make ends meet. Farming had never been easy but in recent years it had become even more of a struggle with rising costs and falling income.

Robert was grateful his family had been able to diversify with the farm storm and by bottling and selling A2 milk. He was grateful they were still able to do what they love. It was hard work, no doubt about it, but it was worth it to be able to put food on their tables and the tables of people all around the area and the country.

As the setting sun sent a splash of pink and orange along the horizon, his gaze fell on a star on the hill across from him. It was probably a three mile drive to reach it. He was amazed he could see it so well from where he was. He knew it was Jerry Franklin’s star, the one he’d built and put up every year on the hill behind his house to remind those who saw it of the real reason for the season, of a gift and a hope that was for any time of year – that stretched beyond the season of Christmas.

He swept snow off a log that had fallen and sat on it, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees and focused on the star.

“Thank you, Father, for the gifts you have given, for my family, my livelihood, my faith and for most of all your son.”

He closed his eyes against the tears, feeling the loss of his earthly father again this year but also the hope of a future in heaven when he would see him again, embrace him and thank him for all he’d done for his family here on this side of his everlasting home.

After several moments of praying and thanking God, he stood and drew in a ragged breath. It had felt good to take a few moments in the rush of finishing Annie’s gift and trying to stay on top of all the issues at the farm to just pause and be thankful; to remember that what really matters in life is not the gifts, not the busyness, not feeling like you have it altogether, but the presence of family and the ultimate offering of redemption from a creator to his creation.

As he walked back to the truck he spotted a section of Princess Pine and stooped to gather some as his father had used to do when they’d walked in these woods together. He’d use it to decorate the Bible, opened each year to Luke 2: 8-12 and the nativity scene, which is father had carved 40 years ago.

Inside the truck he flipped on the local Christian radio station and smiled as O Come, O Come Emmanuel played. It fit his mood perfectly and he hummed along as he drove home.

A Christmas in Spencer: Beyond the Season Chapter 8

Welcome to the eighth chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but will be fully edited once it is complete.

You can catch up on chapters HERE.

If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,

The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.

Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.

Chapter 8

Robert stood back and inspected his work.

His hands ached from the cold. Holding a paint brush wearing gloves had proved too difficult.

The swing itself was ready to go but there were still bolts to be added to attach the chain the swing would hang from. He planned to swing by the hardware store later in the day and see if they were in yet. For now, he had to swing by the house and grab the lunch that Annie had made for his mother and drive it down to her.

When the lunch was retrieved, along with a quick hug from Annie who was on her way to church to finish decorating for the Christmas Eve service, he drove up the hill to his mother’s house, shooing away chickens as he walked down her sidewalk. While the rest of the farm operation had gone to Robert and Walt, Franny had opted to keep a flock of chickens and dutifully fed them and collected their eggs each morning. She said it would give her something to do and a reason for the family to still come visit her if they knew she had all the fresh eggs.

Robert shook his head and laughed. As if they wouldn’t visit her if the chickens weren’t there.

He knocked gently on the front door before opening it. “Mom? I’ve got some lunch for you.”

“I know you do. Get on in here.”

The house was warm, cozy, and smelled of fresh bread – just like when he’d been growing up. A fire was roaring in the woodstove and Robert smiled, knowing she’d loaded it herself this morning from wood Alex and Jason had cut up for her. She was getting older, but she could still outwork most people half her age.

Across from the woodstove in the other corner was a small fake tree that he knew Molly and Alex had helped her decorate the week before. It was sitting in a stand his father had made for a real tree. Franny had said she didn’t have the energy or patience to clean up pine needles any more so she’d purchased the fake tree.

Family photos dotted the wall next to the tree and Robert let his gaze slide over them as he took off his coat and muddy boots. The photo of him, his dad, his brother Walt and his sister Hannah caught his attention as he pulled off his second boot. They were standing in front of the cow barn. He had been about 16, his brother 14 and Hannah 11.

The three of them had never known a life without hard work and determination, with a little bit of heartache thrown in. They’d never known a life without the joy of seeing the good results of all those aspects of life either. Farming wasn’t easy, but it was rewarding in more ways than providing a living.

The lessons Robert had learned and passed down to his children were more valuable than any check from the milking company or from the bottom line at the store. There were some days, however, he had to remind himself of that.

“You coming in or did you fall asleep standing up?”

His mother had stepped into the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, a small smile tugging at her mouth.

He closed the door behind him and headed toward the kitchen. “I’m guessing Annie called to let you know I was bringing you lunch.”

Franny set two plates on the table. “She did, and I made some biscuits to go with it. You’re eating with me, aren’t you?”

He laid the containers of food on the table. “I had planned on it, yes, and I’m even more willing now that I know you made biscuits. I hope you didn’t go to the trouble of homemade.”

Franny huffed out a breath. “Robert Theodore when have you ever known me to make biscuits out of a box or can?”

He laughed and held up a hand as if to defend her verbal blow. “Never.”

“Exactly. Now sit yourself down. I’m sure you’re more than ready to eat after the long days Annie says you’ve been pulling lately.”

He sat as she instructed, taking her hand as she sat to his right and said a quick blessing.

The interrogation began as he served her mashed potatoes and stew fried chicken.

“So what’s been keeping you out so late these days?”

He knew she was fishing for information on how the farm was doing. “This and that. Odds and ends. Like always.”

“Did you get the heat fixed in the barn?”

“We did. It took a bit but got it working before the temps dropped down this week.”

“Walt said it was the second time this month. Did you call the people who put it in and tell them?”

Robert smiled. “I did, yes. They’re coming out Friday to take a look.”

Franny gave a satisfied nod. “Good. They should fix it at no cost. It’s been nothing but trouble since they put it in.” She paused long enough to butter her biscuit and take a bite. “Now, I have something I want to talk to you about. I’d preferred if Annie was here too, but I think I’ll go ahead and take the opportunity since I actually have you in front of me.”

He nodded. “Go ahead.”

“I don’t know if Molly mentioned to you what I talked to her and Alex about last week.”

He shook his head and took another bite of chicken. “She didn’t.”

“I’m thinking of moving into Shady Pines next year.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You are? Why?”

“I think it’s time to pass this house on to someone else.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Molly and Alex.”

He coughed gently. “Excuse me?”

“Robert, don’t be naïve. You know that boy is going to eventually get up the courage and propose to your daughter and when he does and they finally get married, they’re going to need a place to stay. This house is perfect as a starter house. Somewhere for them to raise some children.”

He set his fork down on his plate. “But do you really want to move off the farm into town? The houses down there are pretty close together.”

“Well, yes, they are, but at my age it might be good to have people close by.”

“Mom, if you’re really determined to give this house to Molly, you know you’re welcome to come live with me and Annie.”

Franny made a face. “Oh, Robert, you know we’d never survive living together again. Plus, you and Annie are finally alone again. You don’t need your mother breaking in on kissing sessions.”

Robert laughed. “We’d adapt. We can make sure our kissing sessions only happen after you’ve gone to bed. Like when we were teenagers.”

Franny laughed with him. “Listen, it’s something to think about anyhow. I’ll think about your offer, but I really believe that moving into town will be good for me. It will be a change and I’ll be closer to Leon and Eleanor and we can play cards together without them having to worry about driving home from here late at night. Leon’s eyesight isn’t what it used to be.”

Robert knew his father-in-law’s eyesight wasn’t as good as it had once been. He’d started saying so himself.

“Okay, let’s think on it, then. It’s not like we have to make a decision right away. We don’t even know if Alex is planning on proposing any time soon.”

Franny sipped from her glass of water. “I hope sooner.” She looked around the kitchen, letting her gaze drift into the living room. “The place will need some fixing up, but I think you’ve trained Alex enough over these last six years for him to be able to handle it.”

The idea of his mom no longer living up the road from him left a funny feeling in Robert’s chest – a feeling that was a mixture of sadness and fear. What if his mom needed him? It would take him 20 extra minutes to get to her instead of the five it took now. What if she developed health problems and what if –.  

He took a deep breath, held it a few seconds and let it out quietly. There would always be what ifs and they could address each of them as they each came up. Plus, moving her in with him and Annie was something he and Annie had already discussed in the last year or so. He knew Franny could be a challenge, but taking care of her in her later years would be something he’d be glad to do after all she’d done for him over the years.

***

It had been three days since the doctor had told him to rest and Alex couldn’t stay at the house any longer. For one, Matt had invited Liz over and Bella was with her grandparents. The couple probably wanted some time alone to watch a movie and snuggle together on the couch. More importantly, though, he had to finish the paint job on the truck.

Bert had already installed the engine and was finishing it up today – if a part he needed arrived that was.  

“It’s about time you got here,” Bert said as soon as he walked in the door. “I just had to have Troy chase off Molly by telling her that Hannah needed to talk to her about how they’re going to handle the situation at the store without the freezers for another week. It wasn’t a lie, but still – it was a close call. She almost walked back here.”

Alex worked to take off his coat, grimacing with each movement.  “Thanks for keeping her away. I appreciate it.”

Bert frowned. “What’s up with you? You look like you’ve been hit by a truck.”

“A concrete floor actually. I fell through the roof of the calving barn last week.”

“Oh man. So that was the accident you were talking about. I’m surprised you’re walking. How did the calves fare?”

“They’re completely fine. Little buggers just wanted to know what I was doing in their sleeping area.” He tossed his coat over a chair and reached for the spray paint can. “Now let’s get these doors painted so I can finish the rest of the truck in the next few days. How is it going with the engine?”

Bert winced. “Still need one part. A supplier about three hours away has it but doesn’t have a truck coming until the end of the week.”

Alex didn’t like the sound of that. “Maybe we’re not going to make it.”

Bert  slapped a hand hard on Alex’s back. “Now, now, my boy let’s not be negative.”

Alex groaned. “I could be more positive if you stop slamming your hand on my sore back.”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry about that.” Bert wiped some grease off a car part and laid down to slide under the truck. “So, have you thought anymore about that whole proposal thing?”

Alex placed a painting mask and respirator over his face. “You know, I’d like to talk about it but I don’t think you’ll be able to hear me well under this mask so I’m going to get to work.”

“What?” Bert called from under the truck.

“Exactly,” Alex mumbled glad to have avoided the topic again.

Sunday Bookends: Little white lies, Three Amigos, and it is time for Christmas books

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays, I ramble about what’s been going on, what I and the rest of the family have been reading and watching, and what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to.


What I/we’ve been Reading

I finished Love and A Little White Lie last night after working on it for a few weeks now. It didn’t take me this long because it was bad, but because I kept getting interrupted by writing projects, books, or just the everyday weirdness of life.

I will be honest that I almost bailed on this book part way through because the one character was so annoying to me and because the middle dragged a little bit. I really wanted to reach into the book and slap the one character. He was so whiney. Argh! But the book was really worth finishing because the writing was so good, the main character was so complex, and many of the supporting characters were loveable.

In case anyone reading this is interested, here is the description:

There’s a lot of irony in hitting rock bottom

After a heartbreak leaves her reeling, January Sanders is open to anything–including moving into a cabin on her aunt’s wedding-venue property and accepting a temporary position at her aunt’s church despite being a lifelong skeptic of faith. Choosing to keep her doubts to herself, she’s determined to give her all to supporting Grace Community’s overworked staff while helping herself move on.

What she doesn’t count on is meeting the church’s handsome and charming guitarist. It’s a match set for disaster, and yet January has no ability to stay away, even if it means pretending to have faith in a God she doesn’t believe in.

Only this time, keeping her secret isn’t as easy as she thought it would be. Especially when she’s constantly running into her aunt’s landscape architect, who seems to know everything about her past-and-present sins and makes no apologies about pushing her to deal with feelings she’d rather keep buried.

Torn between two worlds that can’t coexist, can January find the healing that’s eluded her, or will her resistance to the truth ruin any chance of happiness?

I am finishing a book for an author friend this week (By Broken Birch Bay by Jenny Knipfer) and then I plan to focus on Christmas books, including Shepherd’s Abiding by Jan Karon, America’s Favorite Christmastown by Dawn Klinge, and A Highland Christmas: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery by M.C. Beaton. If I can find a paperback copy, I’d also like to read some of Christmas with Anne by L.M. Montgomery, if it is a real book and not just some knock-off Amazon thing. Has anyone heard of it?

Little Miss and I are reading Paddington before bed and Children of the Longhouse by Joseph Bruchac during the day.

The Boy is reading Sea of Monsters, which is a Percy Jackson book and yes, during the week I am making him finish The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Husband is reading Kagan The Damned by Jonathan Maberry.

What’s Been Occurring

This past week we had a good school week during which I actually felt like I had fun, even if the children didn’t.

We didn’t do much else during the week, other than visit my mom on Thursday and grocery shop on Friday. Our shopping trip was delayed by an issue with the van that I thought was going to cost a lot, but turned out could be fixed by my dad dumping three quarts of oil in the engine. In other words, I don’t pay attention to the lights on the dash of my car.

This week’s weather was a mix of mess, wind, and cold. Still no snow, which was fine with me.  

This next week we don’t have a ton planned and if it’s going to be as cold as it has been, I am fine with that too.

What We watched/are Watching

Last Sunday, The Boy and I watched Planes, Trains, and Automobiles while The Husband took Little Miss to a train ride with Santa.

Later in the week we watched The Three Amigos, an old movie from the 80s with Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Chevy Chase.

It is a movie I used to watch with some friends of mine, probably when I was 9 or 10 and it was so weird and funny to watch it again all these years later. There was at least a couple of off-color moments, but for the most part the movie is clean.

The movie is about three actors who portray a trio of heroes called the Three Amigos in silent movies. A woman who is looking for someone to rescue her town from an evil man who is terrorizing it sees the movie, thinks it is a newsreel and sends them a telegram, asking them to come save her town. The telegraph operator decides to edit the telegram so she can afford to send it and, unfortunately, the actors think they are being hired for an acting job. Hilarity ensues from there as “they” say.

During the movie, there is a scene where Martin Short and Steve Martin sing a song called “My Little Buttercup,” which I had forgotten all about until it started. I used to sing the song to my mom and dad after my friends and I watched the movie and they would laugh so hard because I looked so ridiculous. I’m leaving it here for your viewing pleasure.

Little Miss’s impression of the movie: “Nope. Too much fantasy. Not enough reality.”

Sigh. If you knew what movies she watches, you’d really laugh at that comment.

There is a scene in the movie where the villain has a discussion about the word plethora and what it means. As I watched it I remembered that this is where I learned the word and from then on kept finding ways to use it in sentences. I still find a plethora of ways to use the word in sentences. Get it? I still find a plethora – yeah, okay. You get it.

Anyhow, later in the week, I started to watch You’ve Got Mail then realized that I don’t really like that movie because the two main characters are lying to their boyfriend and girlfriend and chatting to each other behind their backs. It is essentially a movie about cheaters, even if parts of it are cute.

I clicked off that and saw The Bookshop Around the Corner with Jimmy Stewart and then realized something I didn’t realize before. You’ve Got Mail is based on this 1940 movie.

As usual Hollywood is not original because I also started to watch A Man Called Ove this week and it is a Swedish movie that is being released in the U.S. under the title A Man Called Otto starring Tom Hanks. From what I can see, the American movie has been recreated frame for frame. I enjoyed what I did watch of A Man Called Ove, even though I would consider it a dark comedy and those aren’t usually my thing. I stopped it because I decided I should watch something a little happier since I was home by myself. I plan to finish the movie this week.

Anyhow, back to The Bookshop Around the Corner – it’s supposed to take place in Hungary, but only one person has a Hungarian accent. The rest either have New York accents or British ones. Besides that odd glitch, it is a very good movie about a man who is writing to a woman and later learns that the woman is someone he actually knows in real life.

I very much enjoyed the movie and was glad I watched that instead of You’ve Got Mail.

Also this week I watched The Muppets Christmas Carol as part of the ‘Tis the Season Cinema with Erin from Still Life with Cracker Crumbs and Katja_137 from Breath of Hallelujah.

They both had such interesting posts about the movie. I loved how Katja_137 threw in so much trivia about it, including an edited scene I didn’t even know existed.

You can read her post here: https://breathofhallelujah.com/2022/12/02/the-muppet-christmas-carol-tis-the-season-cinema/comment-page-1/#comment-56

And Erin’s here: https://crackercrumblife.com/2022/12/01/tis-the-season-cinema-the-muppets-christmas-carol/



What I’m Writing

I’ve been working on a short story that I will start sharing on the blog Friday and run for 12 days after that. It will feature the characters from Spencer Valley, including Molly, Alex, Robert, Annie, Franny, and maybe a little bit of Jason and Ellie and Matt and Liz.

Here is a little sneak peek for those of you who might like to read along:

Cold bit at Robert Tanner’s skin, stung his lungs, and made him wish he could stay inside under a blanket with a warm cup of coffee. Instead, he stepped further into the cold, pulling his winter cap down further on his head.

Between the house and the barn snow swirled wildly, darkening the sky and making it feel like dusk instead of late afternoon.

Inside the barn it was warm, and he was grateful for it, even if his arrival did mean he’d have to start cleaning out the cows sleeping area and preparing the second milking of the day.

Truthfully, his mind was far away from the tasks of the day. His thoughts were consumed with another project he hoped to have complete by Christmas – a gift for his wife of 30 years.

On the blog this week I shared:

What I’m Listening To

I have not been slowing down and listening to anything except for some worship guitar music while I write. I hope to remedy that this week and listen to some more music. Some nights my daughter and I listen to the family hour on our local Christian radio station, which features Adventures in Odyssey and other Christian radio dramas from 7 to  8 p.m.

Now it’s your turn

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

Sunday Bookends: Pretty Christmas lights, making pies, and a lot of Christmas movies and shows

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays I ramble about what’s been going on, what I and the rest of the family have been reading and watching, what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to.

What’s Been Occurring

Last week we had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I was so glad to be there with my family after spending last year’s in a hospital room, alone, with a burly nurse who was really nice but not who I wanted to spend Thanksgiving with. The ambulance drivers and ER nurses and doctors were nice too, but again…not family. 

This year we had a small gathering at my parents and it was the best thing ever – for me at least. I couldn’t stop feeling giddy inside because I was simply there. Little things that usually annoy me – okay, fine. Some of those things still annoyed me but they annoyed me less because I was alive to be with my family! Whoot!

Earlier in the week we went over to help my mom make an apple pie for The Husband’s birthday (he’d rather have my mom’s apple pie than cake any day – the same as our son) and Thanksgiving. We made two apple pies and figured we’d have the second one for Thanksgiving and skip the pumpkin pie since there was only six of us. My husband is given one whole  pie for himself.

Dad decided we needed a pumpkin pie though and made one Thanksgiving morning.

On The Husband’s birthday we visited a local Festival of Lights, per his request. This is a light display set up at a golf course about a 35 minute drive from our house. We had visited it in 2020, missed it last year because we were sick and then recovering so this year The Husband said that’s what he wanted to do for his birthday.

The display is massive with trees wrapped in lights and various displays set up on the grounds. You drive through it slowly and take it all in. I wish it could be done twice but, alas, they charge $30 for one drive through. This year it was completely worth it as they had added even more to the display than when we visited in 2020.

I invited our neighbor and her granddaughters (friends of Little Miss) to come with us and it made the night even more rich and fun. The giggles and squeals of the little girls in the back was a little overwhelming at times but also wonderful to hear.

We encountered a dead deer in the road in the other lane on the way to the display. On the way back our neighbor, who is in her late 70s and gets up very early in the morning, dozed off as she said she probably would. She was maybe out for ten minutes but we thought she was still out when suddenly she said, “Don’t forget that dead deer up here!”

We all about wet ourselves because we thought she was asleep. Luckily, someone had already moved the dead deer out of the roadway because it was a large deer and missing it would have been hard to do.

Friday was a lounge-around-the-house day for the kids since they I had given them the rest of the week off school. Little Miss had a friend over. They decorated our tree for us, which we didn’t expect to happen but it was nice to have that job done for us.

Saturday The Husband and The Boy went to see Wakanda Forever (Black Panther 2) and Little Miss played with her friend again.

What I/we’ve been Reading

I haven’t been reading as much as I want to be so I am still – yes, still – on the same books I’ve been on for a month now.

I hope to finish Love and A Little White Lie by Tammy L. Gray this week so I can continue on some Christmas books, including Shepherd’s Abiding, which I am reading off and on.

I am taking a break from The Father Brown collection for now.

I’d like to read or finish the following books for December:

Shepherd’s Abiding by Jan Karon

By Broken Birch Bay by Jenny Knipfer

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Christmas in Absaroka County by Craig Johnson

And

America’s Favorite Christmastown by Dawn Klinge

Knowing what a slow reader I am, I doubt this list will be accomplished, but we shall see.

What We watched/are Watching

Last week I watched another Signed, Sealed, Delivered movie, White Christmas, Brokenwood Mysteries, a show called Still Standing, the movie Enchanted, and started the follow up movie to A Christmas Story on HBO Max.

What I’m Writing

I am working on a short story that I hope to share on the blog before Christmas. It will feature Alex and Molly, Robert and Anne especially, but also some of the other characters from Spencer Valley. That’s all I can tell you.

I’ve also started another book and would love to finish it in time for a spring release.

This week on the blog I shared:

What I’m Listening To


 I’m not actually listening to a lot right now. Anyone have any suggestions?

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

Special Fiction … Wednesday? Mercy’s Shore Final Chapters

Umm…whoops! I completely forgot I had promised to post the final chapters of the book Sunday night so here they are now.

As always, this is a continuing/serial story. I share a chapter a week and at the end of the story, after I edit and rewrite it, I self-publish it. To catch up with the story click HERE. To read the rest of the books in this series click HERE.

If you would prefer to read the book when it is all complete, you can pre-order a copy HERE on Amazon. It releases on January 31, 2023. There is also a link to the previous chapters HERE.

Chapter 36

Judi snatched the phone off her bedside table. So much for sleeping in this Saturday.

The caller ID said Evan, though, so she didn’t mind losing a couple hours of sleep.

“Hey, you.”

“Hey, you,” she said back, a broad smile tugging at her mouth at the sound of excitement in his voice.

“I’m back in town for a week, maybe more. I was wondering if you’d like to meet me out at the Tanner’s new pumpkin farm today. Maybe around noon?”

She rolled on her stomach, propping herself on her elbows. “That sounds very nice. I wasn’t sure you’d want to be around me again.”

Evan laughed. “You got all those flowers I sent, right? Of course I still want to be around you. I thought maybe I could buy you a donut and a cup of apple cider. Plus, it’d be somewhere  — um —neutral.”

She agreed to meet him at noon and spent the next two hours looking for the perfect autumn outfit. She spent another half an hour looking at herself in the mirror, adjusting her makeup, brushing her hair, then wiping some of the makeup off. Letting out a huff of breath she blew her bangs out of her eyes and shook her head in resignation.

“Don’t overthink it, Lambert. Just go.”

But she did overthink it. All the way to the pumpkin farm and in the parking lot, looking at herself in the rearview mirror. When a face appeared at her window out of the corner of her eye she screamed, then burst into laughter as she watched Evan lean back and laugh loudly.

“You jerk.” She laughed as she climbed out of the car and gently slapped his upper arm with the back of her hand.

“Sorry. That was just too funny.” His smile made her heart lurch. “You look beautiful, by the way. You don’t have to keep fixing your hair.”

Warmth spread up from her chest to her face. “Thank you.”

He tipped his head sideways to the entrance behind the store. “Care for a walk? I think the cider and donuts are back there.”

“Sure. That sounds nice.”

Leaves crunched under their feet as they walked. Judi slid her hands in her sweater pockets, her gaze drifting across a pumpkin field to her left, filled with pumpkins but also children swarming the pumpkins, loading them into carts, or carrying them to their parents. Beyond the pumpkin field were drying stalks of corn and a sign marking the entrance to the maze. Haybales were positioned at various places around the walkway, and she breathed in the scent of the drying hay, remembering her time growing up on the farm. During her teenage years, she avoided barn chores, using any excuse not to help with the milking, or shovel manure, or feed the calves. She was glad her dad had her sister and young men he’d hired to help him in the barn now, but a part of her did miss that time, a much more innocent time.  

“How’s work going?”

The question was one that used to cause her stomach to clench. In the last few weeks, though, she’d helped Ben draw up wills, help close sales for properties, and watched Ben calmly walk a woman through a divorce from an abusive husband.  Working for Ben gave her more of an opportunity to help others than any other job she’d ever had. She felt like she was actually contributing to society instead of floating through it.

“It’s going well, actually. I still don’t really know what I am doing, but Ben’s been patient with me.”

Evan ordered them apple cider and donuts at the small concession stand and motioned toward a wooden bench off to one side. “How are you doing otherwise?” he asked and she noticed he positioned himself a good distance from her as they sat, practically on the other end of the bench.

“I’m doing okay, really.” She sipped her cider. “I’m sure Ellie filled you in on some things.”

He shook his head once. “No. She said it wasn’t her place to and I respect that.”

She sipped more of the apple cider, enjoying the tartness on her tongue as she considered what to say next. “I’m sorry, Evan. I don’t know why I reacted that way. Well, I do, but I shouldn’t have with you.”

He laid an arm across the back of the bench, watching her as if waiting for her to continue. Concern etched his face.

She cleared her throat. “One night a year and a half ago, a little more, a guy tried to get further with me than I wanted. I was able to get away from him but another woman, a girl really, wasn’t as lucky.” Tears pricked at her eyes. “I don’t know why he let me go and not her and maybe other women, but he did.” She laughed softly, a tear slipping down her cheek. “Of course, my knee to his groin probably didn’t do much to make him want to try to keep me there.” She drew the back of a finger across the tear. “I guess I didn’t realize how much it had all affected me. I tried to laugh it off, drink it off, and run away but it seems like it all has been catching up with me lately and hit me full force that night with you.”

He winced and reached a hand toward her, but then pulled it back again, closing his fingers into a fist briefly before letting the hand drop to the back of the bench again. “Judi, I’m sorry. If I had known, I never would have been so forward.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong, Evan. It was me. I tried to move faster than I was ready that night. I wanted to forget everything, and I guess I thought I could erase all the memories of him by being with you. I’m the one that is sorry.” She pulled her lower lip between her teeth briefly. “And embarrassed.”

“There is nothing to be embarrassed about. You couldn’t control that reaction, as much as you wanted to. I understand.” A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “Well, I don’t totally understand, because I’m not you and didn’t experience what you did, but I can see how that could have triggered some negative memories.”

Judi reached out and laid her hand on his. “I just don’t want you to think that you somehow triggered anything negative. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Evan kept his arm over the back of the bench and sat the cup of cider on the seat next to him. “What happened to this guy? Did you report him or anything?”

She pushed a strand of hair back from her face and hooked it behind her ear. “No, I never did. He’s going to trial for the other woman he assaulted, though. He’s somehow out on bail and called me a few weeks ago.”

Evan’s eyebrows lifted. “He called you?”

“Yeah and he doesn’t want me to tell anyone what happened, but I’m going to. This girl’s lawyer called me a while ago. Ben and I talked to him yesterday.” She drew in a shaky breath, startled by the emotion gripping her. “I talked to the girl a few days ago. Her experience was so similar to mine, from everything he said to everything he did.” She closed her eyes briefly against the tears. “I knew she wasn’t lying.”

When she opened her eyes, Evan’s jaw had tightened, and he swallowed hard.

 “I’m scared,” she said, her voice dropping to a whisper. “But I’m going to be with her in the courtroom. I don’t want her to feel like it’s her against him. It will be us against him.”

Evan leaned toward her, then leaned back again. “I’ll be there for you if you want me to be. I really want to hold you right now, but I don’t want to touch you unless you want me to. I talked to a therapist friend of mine and she said I shouldn’t try to make the first move in any way. I should let you tell me when it is okay for me to physically be near you.”

A smile pulled at her mouth. “You talked to a therapist about me?”

Crimson colored his cheeks. “Yeah, but I mean, I didn’t tell her your name or anything. I just told her a little bit about the situation and asked how I should handle it because I care about you and — yeah —” He rubbed a hand across the back of his neck. “I just told her I want to pursue a relationship with you, so I want to know how to help you heal from all of this.” He cleared his throat. “That’s why I thought it might be good to meet here where it’s a little more neutral.”

He cared enough to talk to a therapist about how to talk to her? Was this for real?

A small laugh came from her throat. “Evan McGee, I think that you really are as sweet as I’ve heard your brother is.”

He made a face. “Ew. Don’t compare me to Saint Matt. I’m not that good.”

She moved closer to him on the bench, touching a hand to his cheek. “Well, you are very close and that’s not a bad thing.” Leaning closer she lightly touched her mouth to his. “Thank you.”

He grinned, tipping his head closer to hers. “You’re welcome. And listen, we can take this slow and just hang out. We can go out to public places, or have friends over when we watch movies, or —”

She slid her hand to the back of his neck and pulled his head down to hers, pressing her mouth to this.

“Thank you,” she whispered several seconds later, her lips grazing his. “All of that sounds really nice. I’m not used to men being so nice to me so it may take me a bit to get used to it.”

He smiled. “That’s fine by me. I’m a patient man.” He pressed his forehead against hers. “Is it okay if I kiss you again?”

She tilted her face toward his and they resumed their kiss, pulling apart a few minutes later when Judi heard a voice call out behind them.

“Oooh! Judi and Evan sitting on a bench, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.”

Judi glowered at Ben. “Bench doesn’t have the same ring to it, you know.”

Ben laughed. “Yeah, I know, but you’re not in a tree.”

Judi glanced at Angie beside Ben. “How about you two? Any k-i-s-s-i-n-ging between you two?”

Ben held up a hand. “That, ma’am, is privileged information.” He gestured toward a hay wagon to the right being pulled by a tractor being driven by Alex. “Anyone care for a hayride? I’m willing to ride with you two, as long as you can keep your hands off each other.”

Judi scoffed and folded her arms across her chest. “With Alex at the helm. I don’t know if I’d feel safe.”

Alex looked over his shoulder and scowled from under his hat. “I heard that, Lambert. Even over this tractor engine, which just shows everyone what a big mouth you have.”

Judi hooked her arm through Angie’s. “Come on, Angie, let’s go find the pumpkin cannons instead. We can pretend we’re shooting them at Ben and Alex.”

“Hey!” Ben cried. “What did I do?”

Evan laughed. “I don’t know, but I’m glad I wasn’t included in that list.”

Judi fell into step with Angie, glancing over her shoulder at Ben and Evan. “You think you two will be able to work things out?”

Angie smiled. “Yeah, I think so. I hope so anyhow. How about you? Will you be sticking around the area for a while?” She winked. “Maybe hanging out with Evan?”

The light feeling in her step and the way her muscles had lost their tension was a foreign, but welcome feeling to Judi.

“Yeah. I think so. I hope so anyhow.”

Epilogue

“Hey, you still coming to dinner tonight at mom’s?”

Judi paused at her car and looked up at Evan, smiling. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world. I can’t wait to taste her cooking again. I have to do something quick before then, though. Meet you there?”

 “How about I pick you up. Say 5:30?”

“Yeah. I’d like that.”

After years of being fiercely independent, she wasn’t lying when she said she would like to be picked up. She’d also been liking Evan being home more in the last two weeks as he started a job with a local construction company.

She turned the music up as she pulled away from her apartment building, wishing the cold temperatures didn’t preclude her from sliding the window down. Half an hour later she pulled into a parking space and checked her hair and make-up, then laughed at herself. She didn’t need to worry about her hair.

She had a feeling he wouldn’t care.

The sanitary smell and squeak of her soles on the newly mopped floor reminded her of where she was and where she was headed. Her chest tightened. Hospitals weren’t her favorite place, and she wasn’t sure what reaction she’d receive.

She asked for his room number and if visitors were allowed at the nurse’s station.

The shades were open. Sunlight poured across his bed. She took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders, trying to recapture the confidence she’d once possessed. She pulled a chair up to the side of the bed and sat quickly before she changed her mind.

“Hey, Jer. You’re not looking so great.”

Jerry blinked the one eye free of the bandages, grunted through bruised and scarred lips, and lifted one stitched-up hand. Judi was expecting a rude gesture, but instead, his thumb raised slowly. 

He pointed at the notepad on the small table by the bed. She handed it and a pen to him. After a few long minutes of scrawling, hampered by bandages and fingers that didn’t seem to want to bend, he pushed the pad toward her. The letters were shaky and a couple were missing, but she got the drift.

I owe you more than one. Not a beer. A soda. When I get out of here.

A smile pulled her mouth up and she looked up at him. “You definitely do. How about a root beer float down at that new ice cream place on Main? Be warned, though, I might look light a lightweight, but I can pack it away.”

A raspy laugh came from Jerry and to anyone else it might have been unnerving, but to Judi it was one of the best sounds in the world.

Fiction Friday: Mercy’s Shore Chapter 33

As always, this is a continuing/serial story. I share a chapter a week and at the end of the story, after I edit and rewrite it, I self-publish it. To catch up with the story click HERE. To read the rest of the books in this series click HERE.

Let me know in the comments what you think. Or don’t. That’s okay too. *wink*

If you would prefer to read the book when it is all complete, you can pre-order a copy HERE on Amazon. It releases January 31, 2023.

Chapter 33

Ben greeted Leona and Adam inside, offering a quick ‘hello’ to Angie and William as Amelia dragged him into the kitchen to show him the paints and doll. After a brief conversation with Leona about his parents and work, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Hey, want to come out to the barn and see the blueprints for the shop?” Adam grinned. “My brother dropped them off this morning.”

“Sure. That would be great.”

It would also him get out of the house and away from Angie and William who were sitting next to each other on the couch, talking in hushed tones. Probably wedding planning, which made his stomach turn.

Out in the barn, Adam led him to a small office built to one side, toward the back.

Ben rubbed his chin. “Hmmm. This wasn’t here the last time I was here. When did you have this built?”

“Built it myself,” Adam said with a shrug, opening the door. “Didn’t take much.”

“I thought you were supposed to be taking it easy.”

“Ah, no big deal. Few boards and some nails. The boys carried my dad’s old desk and a couple filing cabinets out and we were ready to go.”

“And you’re doing okay?”

“I am. Taking the medicine they gave me, plus taking more breaks has helped the blood pressure and the heartburn. My new cardiologist says my heart is looking good too. I hate that I scared the girls, though.”

Adam unfurled the blueprints and spread them out on the desktop. “This is the preliminary blueprint, but I like it so far. We’re going to have a showroom right up here in the front and in the back a workshop area. We’ll have storage in a separate area over here and hopefully a parking lot right here, if we can get the permits, which shouldn’t be a problem since it’s going to be right next to the Tanner’s Farm Store.”

“Oh wow. That’s a great idea. Their customers could potentially be your customers.”

“That’s what we’re thinking and Rob’s going to sell us the land at a discount. He’s excited to help us out and we’re excited to let him.”

Ben nodded, still looking at the blueprints. “Looks great. What’s the timeline?”

“Probably three months to clear the land and start construction and maybe another six months to complete the construction. Rob’s opening up a pumpkin farm this year and next year we’ll be able to market together to bring in more customers for us both.”

Ben studied the blueprints as Adam gestured. “These look great, Adam. This is really great for you.”

“It’s great for the entire family. We’re certainly excited.” Adam looked up from the prints. “Hey, I didn’t even think to ask you why you stopped by. Did you have something you wanted to talk to me about?”

“No. Not really. Honestly, I just wanted to see for myself how you were doing.”

Adam sat in the chair behind the desk. “That’s nice of you. As you can see, I’m doing well.” He leaned back in the chair, propping his arm on the desk. “I’m sure getting a glimpse of my daughter was a plus too.”

Ben held up a hand. “Adam, for one, she’s engaged and for two, she hates me.”

Adam cleared his throat. “Ben —”

“Hey boys!” Leona called from outside the barn. “Amelia wants a ride in that fancy car so William is going to give us a lift into town. Angie’s got a headache and staying home. There’s room for one more. One of you want to ride with us?”

Adam jumped up from the chair, stepped around the side of the desk, and teasingly pushed Ben aside. “Me! Me! Shotgun!”

Ben laughed as the man good-naturedly patted him on the chest on the way by.

“Have a nice ride, I’m going to head out actually. I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow.”

“Listen, though, I think we should talk first,” Adam said as they walked across the yard toward the driveway.

“Hurry, Pop-Pop! The train is leaving the station!”

Ben was surprised at how far Amelia’s little voice carried.

Adam snorted a laugh. “That’s what I always say to her when she’s taking too long to get ready. It’s not as funny when she turns it around on me.”

“Have fun,” Ben said. “I’ll stop by another time for that talk.”

Adam opened his mouth to say something, but Leona spoke instead. “I’ve got your coat, hon’. We better get going before the stand closes for the night.”

“Better head out,” Ben told him. “We’ll talk later.”

William held out a hand before sliding into the driver’s side of what Ben guessed was a very expensive sports car. “Ben, take care.”

“You too,” Ben said, shaking his hand.

He stood and watched the car disappear down the driveway then headed for his own car, feeling like there was a rock in his gut.

“Ben.” He turned his hand on the car door. Angie was standing on the top step of the porch. He allowed himself a quick glance at her tan capris and white v-neck shirt under a beige sweater before focusing on her eyes as she spoke. “You need to know something.”

He turned to face her, sliding his hands in his front jean pockets. “Okay.”

She folded her arms across her chest and took a deep breath, her voice calm. “I’m not who I was in high school or college. I’ve changed. I’m not the girl who falls all over the star baseball player anymore or thinks she has to sleep with someone to be worth something. I’ve grown up and I have someone else to think about now.”

He waited for her to continue, but when she didn’t he gave a quick nod. “Okay. Thank you for letting me know. Anything else?”

A breeze caught her hair, pushed strands into her face. She pushed it aside, hooking it behind her ear. “I just wanted you to know where I stand if you’re going to keep showing up here. I don’t mind you coming to see Amelia or her seeing you or your parents, but you need to know that I am not going to fall in love with you again.”

He tipped his head down and kicked at the dirt with the toe of his shoe, then looked back up at her. “Okay. I understand. Thank you for letting me and my parents see Amelia.”

He did wonder, though, how much longer they’d have that chance with Angie eventually marrying William and them all moving back to Lancaster.

She hugged her arms tighter around her. “You’re welcome.”

They stood in awkward silence for a few minutes before he finally said, “If that’s all, I’ll be heading out now.”

“That’s all you’re going to say?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know what else you want me to say. I mean are you telling me you’re not going to fall in love with me for my benefit or yours?”

“Excuse me?”

“Well, do you want me to know, or are you reminding yourself?”

Her nose wrinkled and she scoffed, waving a hand at him. “Go home, Ben.”

She turned to walk back into the house, and he stepped toward her, hands clenching at his side. “I’m just asking because if you don’t want to fall in love with me again then why even have this discussion? Why put up the disclaimer? Why not just yell at me and tell me to get lost and never come back?”

She turned back to face him, arms out to her sides. “Because Amelia loves you, okay? Because she’s your daughter and she should have some sort of relationship with you even if you are a jerk.”

“Was a jerk. I’ve changed too Angie.” He relaxed his hands, and took a deep breath. “The only thing that hasn’t changed is that I still love you. I have a feeling that maybe, deep down, you still love me.”

Her eyes flashed as her jaw tightened. “Do you really think I could still love someone who has never even apologized for walking away from me and our daughter?”

He snorted a small laugh. “How was I supposed to apologize?”

“Like how any human being apologizes when they screw up. A phone call, a visit, a carrier pigeon. Anything but cutting off all contact.”

“I didn’t cut off all contact. I sent money and gifts —”

“That’s not apologizing, Ben. There were no words exchanged, no —”

“How was I supposed to apologize for what I did, Angie? How?” Tears stung his eyes. “How do I say I’m sorry for walking away from you during one of the scariest times of your life? How do I say I’m sorry for —” His voice broke “God forgive me. For telling you to murder that beautiful baby girl before she was even born?” He looked at her, voice trembling, tears escaping down his cheeks. “I buried myself in work for almost five years, so I didn’t have to think about what a monster I was. So I didn’t have to remember everything I did wrong and how there was no way I could go back and ask you to forgive me.” He shook his head, dragging a hand across his cheek, and looked away from her. “I can’t even ask it now. I have absolutely no right to.”

A silence fell between them that only the breeze playing with the dying leaves above them filled. He stepped back, wiping the tears away with the back of his hand.

“I don’t even know why we’re talking about this anyhow. You’re engaged to William.”

Her gaze drifted across the yard, toward the faded blue hills in the distance. Her voice was barely audible. “I’m not engaged to William.”

“What do you mean? You said that day here at lunch —”

“I know what I said.” She looked at him again. “I’d broken it off with William but didn’t tell anyone and I certainly wasn’t going to tell them in front of you.”

“Then why is he here?”

“He only came up here to check on dad and so we could talk to Amelia about us not being together anymore.” She pulled a strand of hair away from her face again. “I couldn’t marry him. I seem to have lost trust in men along the way. Who knows why. Ha. Ha.”

Ben swallowed hard and raked a hand through his hair. “Listen, I should go. We’re not getting anywhere here. Exchanging insults isn’t going to help anything.”

Angie took a step forward, arms still folded across her chest. “You asked God to forgive you just now. Was that real? And you said you’d pray for my dad. Did you mean that too? Are you really praying to God? If so, which God?”

He let out a quick breath. “The God of Abraham. Elohim. Jireh. The God you and I were raised to believe in but ran away from for so many years.”

“You want me to believe that you suddenly turned over a new leaf and to God?”

A faint smile tugged at his mouth. “No, not suddenly. Gradually.” He tossed his hands out to his side and then dropped them again. “You don’t have to believe me. I know where my heart is. I know that God has been guiding me to peace in my life. I don’t have to prove that to you, even though I wish I could somehow.” He placed his hands at his waist. “I wish I could show you what God has come to mean to me. I wish I could show you how much I still love you in one big gesture, but I can’t. There will never be a gesture big enough to show you how much I’ve loved you all these years.”

She lifted her chin slightly. “Even when you slept with Bridgett?”

He made a face. “I never slept with Bridgett.”

“Your friend Sam told me you did.”

“That I did what? Stayed over at her house?”

“He said you spent the night with her. I know what that means.”

He laughed softly. “Yeah, that I spent the night with her. Asleep. On her couch. While she slept in her room. I was drunk. I showed up at her place, thinking I could forget you if I slept with someone else. She sent me to the couch, woke me up the next morning and told me to get out and get my act together. She also told me to go find you and apologize for being the worst boyfriend in the world because it was clear I was still in love with you.”

“She thought that?”

“She knew that.” He focused his gaze on her eyes. “I was still in love with you and I still am. How many times do I have to say it?”

“You’ve had a funny way of showing it,” she said, hugging her arms tighter around her.

He walked slowly toward her, closing the gap between them. “You would never have believed me if I’d come to you back then and told you anything that I’m telling you now and I doubt you even believe me now.” Standing a couple of inches from her, he reached up and cupped his hand against her face, taking in a sharp breath at the softness of her skin against his hand, at touching her for the first time in almost five years other than that day in the barn. “Do you believe me, Angie? Do you believe I still love you?”

Her gaze dropped to his mouth, and he took that as a sign that she was comfortable with him standing so close, maybe even with him kissing her. He wanted desperately to kiss her.

He moved his head slowly toward hers, testing the water. When she didn’t pull away but instead closed her eyes, he lowered his mouth to hers, capturing it gently, seeking her permission with his action. He expected her to pull away, maybe even slap him, but she didn’t. She let him kiss her and when he pulled back slightly, she opened her eyes, looked at him for a few seconds, then leaned forward again and pressed her mouth to his, sliding her arms around his neck.

He moved his hand to the back of her head, buried his fingers in her hair, and slid his arm around her lower back, pulling her against him. The second the kiss deepened, though, she pulled back, dropped her hands to his chest and pushed him gently away from her.

“No. I can’t do this. Not right now. I mean —” She shook her head slowly, looking at the ground, as if trying to wake up from a dream. “I need some time to think.”

He nodded once, sliding his hands into his jeans pockets again. “Do you want me to stay away?”

“No. You can come to see Amelia and my parents. Just — Just give me some time, okay?”

“Yeah. I can do that. I’m sorry — I shouldn’t have —”

She held her hand up, taking a couple steps back. “No. It’s okay. I just need some time to process.”

He watched her walk back into the house, fingertips to her lips, and wondered if the kiss had affected her as much as it had him.

Book review and giveaway: Dog Days of Summer

Book: Dog Days of Summer

Author: Kathleen Y’Barbo

Genre: Christian/Mystery/Romance Fiction

Release date: October 2022

Trina Potter, Nashville country music star, buys a ranch near her hometown in Brenham, Texas, to help her niece open a rescue facility for dogs. Her presence in town stirs up some old high school rivalries—and romance. Finding property to buy is a challenge, convincing her mother to move there with her is daunting, and navigating a string of strange accidents is perplexing. Sometimes Trina feels like she’s purchased her own three ring circus instead of a beautiful piece of land. But her first priority will be figuring out who wants Second Chance Ranch shut down before they even have the grand opening.

Click here to get your copy!






MY REVIEW

If you are looking for a cozy mystery with entertaining characters, then Dog Days of Summer is a good choice.

The book starts off pulling you into the story with characters who are downhome, even though one is a famous country singer.

This is the second book in the series, but you don’t have to read the first one to know what is happening in this one.

Y’Barbo writes characters who are very relatable.

A few sections dragged a little bit for me, but that’s merely my opinion. Other readers may not mind a little meandering. I felt that there could have been a bit more information about the main character’s singing career but that’s because I was interested, not because there was anything wrong with how it was written. I wasn’t a huge fan of how the love story was tossed in there as a plot point. It didn’t feel flushed out to me. The love story and the ending felt rushed to me but other readers may feel the pacing was just fine. Overall, this was a clean, cozy story that left me with a happy feeling at the end.

About the Author

Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee and bestselling author of more than one hundred books with over two million copies of her books in print in the US and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal, she is a member of the Texas Bar Association Paralegal Division, Texas A&M Association of Former Students and the Texas A&M Women Former Students (Aggie Women), Texas Historical Society, Novelists Inc., and American Christian Fiction Writers. She would also be a member of the Daughters of the American Republic, Daughters of the Republic of Texas and a few others if she would just remember to fill out the paperwork that Great Aunt Mary Beth has sent her more than once.

When she’s not spinning modern day tales about her wacky Southern relatives, Kathleen inserts an ancestor or two into her historical and mystery novels as well. Recent book releases include bestselling The Pirate Bride set in 1700s New Orleans and Galveston, its sequel The Alamo Bride set in 1836 Texas, which feature a few well-placed folks from history and a family tale of adventure on the high seas and on the coast of Texas. She also writes (mostly) relative-free cozy mystery novels for Guideposts Books.

Kathleen and her hero in combat boots husband have their own surprise love story that unfolded on social media a few years back. They make their home just north of Houston, Texas and are the parents and in-laws of a blended family of Texans, Okies, and one very adorable Londoner.

More from Kathleen

Do you love dogs…or cats…or both…? I’m firmly in the “both” category. Since childhood I’ve always lived in homes that had at least one or the other, usually several of each. With every dog or cat comes at least one good story. One of my favorites is the tale of Bandit, the inspiration for the cover of my cozy mystery DOG DAYS OF SUMMER.

Once upon a time there was a black and white dog named Bandit. He was an English Springer Spaniel by birth but was completely convinced he was human. Bandit loved his people—three growing boys and a baby girl—even more than he loved popcorn and playing keep away (his version of catch). After many years, Bandit’s people grew up and he grew old. Toward the end of his very long and pampered life, he was plagued by the unwanted and yet much appreciated friendship of an ornery orange-striped cat named Baby and a snooty pedigreed feline named Fifi.

Everyone loved Bandit…except the territorial squirrel who lived in a tree in our backyard in Southeast Texas. From the moment Bandit joined the family, the furry fellow was determined to rid himself and his backyard of the trespassing canine. The squirrel’s favorite tactic was to tease Bandit until the dog chased him up a tree. Once treed, the crafty critter would run around the trunk just out of Bandit’s reach. Once the squirrel tired of this, it would retreat to a limb. There, the battle of the backyard beasts would commence again but with the squirrel lobbing pinecones and the dog trying to catch them.

While every good story has a beginning, middle and end, unfortunately at the end of this one there was no winner in the dog vs. squirrel wars. A job transfer led us to Houston where squirrels were in abundance in our new neighborhood but none of them were nearly as much fun as the one Bandit left behind. The last time I spoke with the owners of our old house, they told the funniest story: they loved their new home, but there was this squirrel in the backyard that kept throwing pinecones at everyone.

In DOG DAYS OF SUMMER, I tell the story of another Texas backyard. This one is located in Brenham, Texas, and it is about to become a very special place for some very special dogs named Patsy and Cline. Have I mentioned these dogs belong to a country singer named Trina who has a mother named Mama Peach who happens to own a cat named Hector that dislikes almost everyone and can open doors? Then there’s the problem of the next door neighbor and his penchant to forget to close the lid on his grill when he’s cooking? Did I mention that Patsy and Cline enjoy nothing more than whatever they happen to find on an unguarded grill? While the two furry scoundrels are rounding up trouble next door, there is even more trouble happening at the building site for Second Chance Ranch Dog Rescue on the other side of the property. Apparently not everyone is happy about the new neighbors. The mystery is who that person might be. While you’ve got to read DOG DAYS OF SUMMER to find out, I can give you one hint: it’s not the squirrel!

I’ve told you mine; now tell me your favorite dog or cat story. I can’t wait to read them.

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Kathleen is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon e-gift card and a print copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/2244a/dog-days-of-summer-celebration-tour-giveaway