Total Pageviews

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Strong Women!

I know, it was just Fathers Day, but I was reared by a single the 60s!
I'm in the middle, Mom and Grandma Bibb on my left.
The others are three of my five daughters.
My mother divorced in 1962, tried a stepfather for us, then when that ended horribly, decided she’d do it by herself. Now, that might not sound like such a big thing, but fifty years ago, it was.
And what a challenge! Even if there had been welfare (and there might have been), we weren’t on it. My mother groomed dogs, cleaned hotel rooms, did whatever she could to scrape together enough so we had food and a safe place to live.
Eventually, she got a job as an accounting clerk. She and a young man had identical job titles and responsibilities, but he made twice as much money. When she asked her boss about it, he said a man was the head of the family and needed it. She reminded him that the co-worker wasn’t even married and that she had four kids! “Well, he could have them one day…”
I can’t remember what she did at that point. She couldn’t leave until she had another job, so she probably sucked it down. I know she did wind up changing employers down the road. Still, she always earned less than men.
All four of us turned out fine, too. Even though my youngest brother was physically and mentally handicapped, he graduated from high school. Other brother served in the Army and Reserves and went to college on the GI Bill, graduating with a bachelor’s degree. Older sister married well and, after ten years of working and going to school part time while rearing two high-achieving children, also earned a bachelor’s degree. No trouble with the law for any of us or our kids, either!
Well, I didn’t graduate from college, but I did manage to get USA Today Bestselling Author status a couple times and establish a successful business, starting out with nothing but chutzpah and tenacity...and a great role model.
Not bad for kids of a divorced woman. Correction. A strong woman!

Do strong woman stories inspire you? Check out  Invincible – Strong and Fearless box set. Inspiring stories for women (and men) of all ages.
I'm not in this Invincible set, so if you want to read one of my stories about a strong woman, Kit Kringle: An Alaskan Tale is a warm happy ever after tale about a young entrepreneur who finds herself in a family way without a man.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Here come the Brides!

So, if June is the month for weddings, doesn’t that mean that May is the month of final (and frantic?) preparations? 
Do you know someone getting ready to get overwhelmed with photographers, floral arrangements, gowns and tuxes (or tuxi?), honeymoons and hairdressers? If it isn’t you, consider yourself lucky, grab your Kindle (or other reading device) and settle back and read one of The Authors’ Billboards Fabulous Wedding Box Sets. 
There are enough stories in these four sets to keep you busy reading into June! A great place to start is SWEET AND SASSY BRIDES.

One of the NINE stories in Sweet and Sassy Brides is THREE ARE ONE, my sweet story about a military wife with a scoundrel for a husband. Not your typical romance, this one has colorful threads of mystery, irony, and even unexpected humor in the morgue. How can that be? Start reading and find out. You’ll fall in love with Kizzie and her sweet special needs daughter just as quickly as the chaplain does.
Other stories in this set include Mimi Barbour’s TOGETHER AGAIN, a spirit travel story about unequal timelines and a romance writer. Hmm. Gotta love time travel stories, right?
Jacquie Biggar mixes two stubborn fools, a touch of fate, and a double dash of desire to get A CRAZY LITTLE THING CALLED LOVE.
Love lurks where you least expect it in Alicia Street’s THE LEFTOVER BRIDE.
You can run, but you can’t hide when Stephanie Queen and the SMALL TOWN SASSY BRIDE come to this small town.
Need a Bridezilla story? How about mixing it up with a hunk and a wedding planner? Sounds like the recipe for ROSES AND CHAMPAGNE KISSES by Stacy Eaton.
A whole Caribbean island has decided who Jane must marry in Rachelle Ayala’s BRIDE FOR BREAKFAST. Some neighbors, right?
Yearning for a Regency Romance? Check out this bright tale of the Duke and the devious ploys of his dowager mother who has decided she will choose his bride in THE DUKE NEEDS A WIFE.
And what’s a box set of romances without a cowboy? Check out and see if Aileen Fish needs some help WARMING THE COWBOY’S HEART.
FREE to Read with Kindle Unlimited, too!
Once you’re done with the nine stories in Sweet and Sassy Brides, check out the other wedding box sets by The Authors’ Billboard ladies and Chill Out! Books. Check out Sweet and Sassy Weddings, Unforgettable Weddings, and A Wedding She’ll Remember. That should be enough stories to keep you seeing tulle and lace for weeks!
Are you in the UK? Here are your links:
Sweet and Sassy Brides:
Unforgettable Weddings: 
Sweet and Sassy Weddings: 
A Wedding She'll Remember: 

Watch for more great themed sets or check out the dozens already available now!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

I did I did I did the Iditarod Trail! (vicariously)

I’m from Alaska and I love dog mushing! At least, watching it (I'm not a participant). The only sporting event I follow is the Iditarod Dog Race, the 1049-mile race from Anchorage(ish) to Nome run by sixteen or so dogs and their caretaker.
I took this photo of one of the teams running the race in 1999. In case you didn't know, this challenge is as much a head game as it is an endurance race. Mushers need to know how to read the trail, when to take breaks, when the weather’s too rough, how much and when to feed, when to send a dog home on the next plane and how to fix a broken sled. Oh, and they also need to be strong enough to go nine days or more with very little sleep. You see, the one thing these guys and gals depend on is their dogs. Every hound gets a hot meal, fresh water and bedding, a foot massage and change of booties, and anything else they need before the caregiver gets his or her food and a nap.
One of the great things about dog mushing is just about anyone can do it. There have been years that three generations of one family have run in the same race: grandpa, son, and grandson. Women run (and win!) the race, cancer survivors, and even a legally blind woman have made that long trip from the Anchorage area over windswept mountains and frozen seashores to Nome, the end of the trail. If you’ve ever watched these four-legged fuzzy fiends as they lug their food supplier and foot servant on a slick-runner sled, their smiles wide on their faces, you’ll know that they’re doing what they love to do: run!
The Polar Xpress is my novella about a woman who’s losing her vision but wants to run her dogs to Nome before she loses her sight completely. Wynter adopts dogs from other mushers, accepting the dogs that aren’t quite perfect, training and loving them despite their shortcomings. When she rescues Dr. Hernandez from his overturned snowmachine, she doesn’t expect him to stick around. Then again, she didn’t expect a winter storm to shut them in, either. Check out The Polar Xpress today.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Humbled by technology

Life was so simple when I was young. It was a basic, straightforward mechanical existence. Keys turned to open a car door, calls were made with a thunkety-thunk-thunk of a finger stuck in thick plastic disc, the caller's wanderings limited by the length of the cord stuck into the wall.
I only say this because I think growing up in the wires and gears era is why I’m so challenged when it comes to figuring out electronics, especially how to create a website. Tyler Moore and his YouTube tutorial on WordPress ( gave me the information I needed to put it together, but I was still perplexed.
I can sling words into a novel, wrangle a crochet hook around yarn to create a hat or scarf, and stitch together a coat from scraps of fabric, but that’s working with media I’m familiar with. Words, wool, and winter wear haven’t changed much over the years. Well, maybe words have, but I can Google those and figure out what a dongle is with an internet connection.

Friday, August 31, 2018

How a can of chili started a romance novel 

Writers tend to grab bits of life and use them as seeds for their literary gardens. I know I do. I took the true story about my husband and a can of chili and wove it into the opening scene of One Arctic Summer. Here’s the true story followed by the fictional tale of Alexandra Oppenheimer and the two guys she encountered at the Arctic village store.
My husband, Marty, is a mechanic. In Alaska, he’s what’s known as a bush mechanic, a guy who flies into remote areas in little puddle-jumper airplanes or by boat with a minimum of repair parts and tools, hired by local agencies or contractors to repair finnicky or broken generators or heavy equipment. In the late 90s, he was in Kotlik, a village of less than 600. His task was to repair the main power generator for the village.
There are no hotels or even bed and breakfasts in Alaska villages. Informed visitors (usually mechanics, contractors or government agents) know to bring their own food and a sleeping bag to lay out on the elementary school floor, the go-to inn.
Marty decided a can of chili sounded better than the granola bars he always packed, so he picked up a can at the little store. “Do you have a microwave?” he asked the clerk.
“Yup. Right over there.”
Marty paid the five dollars for the can of chili, popped the top on it, set it in the unit, and started pressing buttons. He checked the power cord (he is a mechanic, after all, and troubleshooting comes naturally), unplugged it and swapped it with the functional light cord but still no power.
“I thought you said you had a microwave?” he asked the clerk.
“We do. You didn’t ask if it worked or not, though,” the man replied.
I’m not sure if the clerk grinned or not, but I’m sure he was laughing deep down inside.
My husband, not to be deterred, took the can back to the powerhouse, set it on the shield above the exhaust manifold, and was able to eat hot chili less than a half hour later.
I love that guy. So adaptable!
Now, here’s the excerpt where I took a true life experience and incorporated it into my story. Oh, and just for the record, One Arctic Summer takes place in Barrow, Alaska in 1994. I really was there at the time of the story. When I find the pictures of me there, I’ll share. In the meantime, here’s your free fiction for the week:
Alexandra interrupted the two men, waving a can of chili in the air. “Are you kidding me? Five bucks for a can of chili? You have to be out of your ever-lovin’ mind!”
Q and Rocky looked at each other, their grins identical, their dark eyes dancing as they silently decided who was going to be the one to give this cheechako the lecture on the costs involved with bringing ‘Outside’ food into Barrow. Just as Q was ready to explain the economics behind his pricing, the base station radio crackled.
“Hey, Q. It’s me, Big Ben. We got another one. Over.”
“Roger that. Rocky’s here with me now. What’s your location and situation?”
“Half mile before you get to the polar bear sign. Make sure Rocky has lots of cat gut. Little Ben was showing off. The cut’s not deep, but it is long.”
Rocky reached beside the duct tape-patched kitchen chair he sat in and grabbed what looked like a plastic tackle box. He held it up for Q to see, then stood up and grabbed the hand-held radio from the charger.
“We’re on our way. Over and out,” Q said, then let his finger off the radio switch, following Rocky out the door before it shut.
Alexandra set the chili back on the shelf and raced outside, shouting after the pair, “So, does this mean I have to wait before I can buy anything?”
Q stuck his fist out the truck window and gave her a thumb’s up, then grabbed the steering wheel and shifted gears. Little Ben was big for an Inupiaq, but he was also diabetic. Even a minor wound could cause major problems. Rocky and Q didn’t have time for a prissy white woman and neither did Little Ben.
“Well, it’s about time!” X groused when the two men came in an hour and a half later. “What’d you do? Stop off for a beer?”
Q and Rocky shared that same brown-eyed twinkle of ‘should I tell her, or do you want to?’ This time, Rocky shrugged a shoulder to Q, accepting the task.
“Barrow is a damp town. There’s no place—bars or taverns—for us to drop in and have a beer. Besides, neither of us drink.” He looked around and saw the displays had been dusted and the cans and boxes straightened and brought forward so the shelves looked fuller than they actually were. “Thanks for sprucing up the place. Did you decide what you wanted?”
Alexandra huffed then slid the can of chili and a can of evaporated milk toward the vintage cash register. “Do you happen to have a can opener and a microwave here? I can use my pocketknife to punch a hole in the canned milk for my tea in the morning, but it won’t work for the chili.”
“Microwave’s right over there and the can opener is right next to it,” Rocky said.
“You pay me,” Q said. “I’m the owner. He just hangs out here.”
“Hmph,” she remarked with one eyebrow raised, then took a twenty-dollar bill out of her Gucci shoulder bag and handed it to him. “And make sure you count back the change; don’t just dump it in my hand.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Q said, fighting back a full-blown laugh at her rudeness.
“I’m a miss!” she said, flipping her hair back.
“Yes, miss!” Q replied, fighting back the urge to salute her. Instead, he stuck his hands in the till and took out the change. “Ten, fifteen, twenty dollars. Thank you for your business, miss. Have a nice day.”
Alexandra grabbed her high-priced cans and strutted to the microwave next to the hallway. Grabbing the can opener with an exaggerated flourish, she spread its jaws and clamped down on the lid, squeezing the handle and twisting the knob with a vengeance. Once the lid was canted up, she held it by the edges and neatly dropped it into the waste basket next to the counter. It was then that she realized she didn’t have a bowl to put it into or a spoon to remove the contents.
“You can buy some paper plates or bowls,” Q offered, “or dump it into a coffee cup. I usually don’t let folks have a cup without buying coffee, but since you’re new around here, you can use the cup for free.” He reached under the counter and brought out a single porcelain cup, coffee-stained brown, the handle chipped but usable.
“Thanks,” she said, scowling at the marginally sanitary vessel. “How about a spoon? Is there a charge for that?”
“Not unless you take it outside the store.” Q took the spoon from beside the coffee pot that held an inch of overcooked java and wiped it with the red handkerchief from his back pocket. “Don’t forget to give it back when you’re done.”
“Yeah, it’s part of a set,” Rocky added with a chuckle, then went back to rolling the rest of the herbal blend in his mis-matched plastic container.
Alexandra took the spoon hesitantly, her stomach growling to hurry up and get it done. With her back to the men, she reached in her purse and removed a tissue from its small packet and re-wiped the spoon. She turned back and dumped half the food into the cup, covering the contents with the tissue so the chili didn’t splatter all over the inside of the microwave. When she opened the oven door, she gasped. “Oh, my goodness! When was the last time someone cleaned this?”
“Was it my turn this year?” Rocky quipped. “Or maybe that was last year, and I forgot…”
“Ergh! I guess it’ll have to do. At least with the tissue on top, the old baked-on crud won’t fall into it!”
Alexandra pushed the set-time and start buttons, but nothing happened. She pushed the quick cook for popcorn and nothing happened with that, either. “How do you get this thing to work?”
“Oh,” Q said with as straight a face as he could manage. “I told you we have a microwave. You never asked if it worked or not.”
“Now how am I supposed to eat this?” she screeched, waving the spoon in the air.
“With the spoon would probably be the least messy way,” Rocky said, then licked the paper on the last herbal smoke, looking down at his project to keep from laughing out loud.
“But it’s cold!”
“Yeah, and once it’s in your belly, it’ll be warm,” Q said. “What’s the problem? At least it’s not frozen. If it was, it might break your teeth.”
“Ergh!” Alexandra growled again, this time adding a hiking boot foot stomp for emphasis.
“You know, if you’re not going to eat that, I’ll need my cup and spoon back,” Q said. “If you don’t want it, my dog will get rid of it for you. He’s more of a fish-eater, but he’s been known to chow down on Mexican beef and chilis. The folks over at Pepe’s save their scraps for us who have dogs.”
“What’s Pepe’s?” she asked as she inspected the reddish-brown blob on her spoon.
“The Mexican restaurant at Cape Smythe. You don’t have much choice for cheechako food up here. It’s pretty much either Mexican or pizza. Oh, and I wouldn’t expect much in the way of salad or fresh fruits and vegetables if that’s what you’re looking for.”
Alexandra’s stomach roared again. It knew that even if she went somewhere else to eat, it would be at least an hour before she actually got to consuming the food off the end of a fork. “When in Rome,” she grumbled, and stabbed the spoon in the cup. She pulled out a lump of brown gravy-covered meat and took a bite. Chewing slowly, she realized it wasn’t as bad as she had feared.
“Would you like some chips with your chili?” Q asked, waving a small snack-sized bag of corn chips. “Only two bucks a bag.”
She swallowed the bite in her mouth before answering, her taste buds eager for a flavor other than straight red chili. “Are there any hidden costs?” she asked, setting the cup on the counter to get into her purse.
“Nope. I’ll even throw in a paper napkin since you’re a repeat customer.”
“Deal!” she said, handing him two one-dollar bills.
She pulled on the sides of the bag, trying to open in, then tugged harder, the bag exploding and scattering its contents all over the floor.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!”
Rocky set down his empty herb container and ran to her side, stopping short of touching her. “Don’t worry. Today’s your lucky day. It’s not often we have a money-back guarantee. Q, get me another bag.”
“It’s covered by the dinner you owe me,” Rocky said, and grabbed the chips from Q’s hand. He pulled the Leatherman tool out of his front pocket and slit the top open.
“Here,” he said and offered it to her. “Sometimes it’s safer to use a knife. Or at least, there’s less food wasted.”
“I’ll take care of the mess,” Q said. He walked to the back door. “Come on in, Fish Face,” he called to his dog. “I got another floor cleaning job for you.”
Alexandra looked around the store again. Other than the stool behind the cash register and the old kitchen chair her knife-toting new acquaintance had been in, there was no place to sit.
Rocky saw the search for a seat and took the lead. “Here, let me get my stuff out of the way. You can set your cup in the window while you eat your chips. You might want to buy a bottle of water or soda, too. There aren’t any drinking fountains around here.”
Her resolve to stay strong in the strange new land was wearing thin. Between delayed flights, lost luggage and the hotel reservation that the university had never made, Alexandra was spent—depleted and depressed and without a place to stay for the night. Her head shook back and forth slowly as she made her way to the duct-taped chair.
“Are you going to be all right?” Rocky asked.
“I don’t know,” she said, sniffing back the tears. “I thought it was because I was so hungry. I haven’t eaten anything for,” she looked at her watch. “What day is it?”
“Saturday,” Rocky said and crossed his arms across his chest, stuffing his hands under his armpits, making sure he didn’t reach out to comfort her.
Q and Rocky looked at her but didn’t say a word.
“Well, at least I didn’t say ‘shit.’”
Both men nodded minimally in agreement.
“You save that for spilled food, I guess,” Rocky said, and winked at her.
Alexandra’s mouth twitched as she tried to contain her smile. She had worked so hard for her degree, to get those letters after her name so she’d be respected, and now what happens? She melts down in front of a couple of locals who probably don’t own a spare shirt between the two of them.
“What’s the matter?” Rocky prompted, watching her waver between letting her human side out and continuing with the proper and uptight college snob facade. “Did you lose a day, your job, luggage, resolve…”
“Yes, I did. Or at least, most of the above. That idiot at the university didn’t make my hotel reservation, I guess. At least, they can’t find it. I thought today was Friday and I could call and get the name they reserved the room under, but that isn’t going to happen since today’s tomorrow and no one is in the offices on the weekend. Yes, on the luggage, too. The airlines told me to check back tomorrow. That is, if the plane comes in. They said something about scheduled maintenance or something. My job? I’m an intern. I don’t get paid. I’m slave labor, working for the experience. I need a certain number of hours in the field before they’ll even consider me for an appointment where I want to be. Resolve…”
Alexandra took a big bite of the chili, then shoved three chips in her mouth and chewed thoroughly, wishing she had something to wash it down with. Since she was scraping by on what was in her wallet, she worked up some spit and swallowed.  “I’m tougher than I look.”
“Well, I don’t know…” Q said. “You got mighty upset about spilled chips…”
“I think you look very tough,” Rocky said, turning his flirtatious wink into a blink hidden by a feigned cough. “You’re probably thousands of miles from home, no place to stay, limited funds, eating canned chili and chips in a convenience store at the northernmost city in America…”
Alexandra dropped the spoon before it got to her mouth, spilling its contents down the front of her raincoat. “Shit! Yes, right now my life sucks! Thanks for spelling it out for me!”
Rocky grabbed the handkerchief out of Q’s hip pocket and made a hasty clean-up of the chili on the front of her clothes, backing off on wiping up the smaller smears left behind. He stood back, shook out the contents on the floor, called, “Fish Face, food!” and stood back.
The three-legged black dog came running from the back of the store and quickly licked up all traces of the spill.
“I can fix you up with a place to stay for the night,” Rocky said. “No charge. As far as everything else, I’m sure it’ll work out.”
She looked up and saw he was serious—a genuinely concerned person. It didn’t matter whether he was male or female, young or old, all she saw was sincerity and willingness to help a fellow human being in distress. Try finding that at an east coast university!


Thursday, July 19, 2018

What is RWA and why should you care?

In case you didn’t know, RWA stands for Romance Writers of America. I’m a member and right now (July 19, 2018), we’re halfway through our annual conference. This year it’s being held in Denver, Colorado. Talk about a tremendous number of folks gathered with the same goal in mind!
Nearly two thousand women and a few men are here to find out how (or to share how) to make a writer’s HEA (happy ever after) story become a hit with readers, whether through fine-tuning the craft of writing or exploring the best ways to promote the works.
One of the nice things about this group is that there isn’t a lot of ego-fueled competition. Even at the Golden Hearts Award ceremony today, the women (all were women this year) were saying how they felt like sisters and honored to be nominated. It sure looked like they were truth-telling, too.

Snowflakes & Christmas Kisses
Sweet & Sassy Valentines
What’s your favorite flavor of romance? Are you into romantic suspense, sweet and/or sassy, how about a little rom com (romantic comedy)? Would you like to know what it feels like to fall in love with a prince or duke, either now or in the past? How about lovin’ on a vampire or a werewolf in a paranormal adventure?
Sweet & Sassy Brides
Unforgettable Suspense
They may all be considered ‘romance,’ but there are so many sub-categories, there’s never a reason to be bored. Loads of diversity here!
My author friends and I have put together a huge variety of box sets for you to enjoy, all available for only 99 cents each or free to read if you have a Kindle Unlimited account. (Search my name or some of the other authors to find more of these sets)

Click on some of the links and find out why I finally gave in and admitted that I am a romance writer — and proud of it.
Coming July 31!
Enchanted Romances

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Is a sense of humor hereditary?
I know a person’s general body shape and coloring is hereditary, but is the compulsion to bring levity to a conversation or situation caused by genetics or environment? After spending just a few minutes with the half-sister I had never met, I’m beginning to believe it’s genetic.
We were reared by different people, had different colors of eyes and body shapes because we had different mothers, but we both had a boisterous silliness that our mutual friend spotted right off the bat. My second daughter doesn’t look a thing like me, but the same situation occurred when we met new people who only knew me. “She has to be your daughter. You don’t look anything alike, but that sense of humor…”
I really don’t see any reason to suppress it. Even when I’m writing romance novellas, the urgency to give a situation a humorous spin is unstoppable. Here’s an excerpt from Three Are One, part of Sweet and Sassy Brides box set, released today. The mother of a deceased (and very dishonorable) soldier is in complete denial that her son has died.
Forsythe pulled the sheet back, exposing the head and shoulders of the corpse, the cloth bandage disguising the fact that the back of the soldier’s skull had been blasted away by his 9 mm service revolver.
Heath and the corporal were at her heels, ready to catch her when she passed out, but they weren’t needed. She did grasp the edge of the table, though, her knees buckling briefly.
“He did such a good job of finding a doppelganger. This man looks so much like my Butch.”
“Ma’am,” Forsythe said, “they matched the fingerprints, too. This is your son.”
“Hmph! If it was my son, he’d have six toes on his right foot. I seriously doubt any body double would be able to duplicate that!”
She stepped to the end of the table and grasped the end of the sheet.
Heath and the corporal rushed to either side of her.
She pulled the shroud off dramatically, took one look, then said, “Oh, shit!” and fainted.
“Some people just won’t believe what you say, no matter what,” the corporal said. “Now what’ll we do?”
“I have smelling salts right here,” Forsythe said, patting his chest pocket. “Do you want to give her a minute?”
Heath looked side to side, lips pursed in frustration, hoping for inspiration. “Yes, wait a minute. Cover him up again, then let’s get her out of here before we rouse her. I don’t want her fainting all over again.”
“Ma’am. Ma’am,” Forsythe said, wafting the ammonia-filled snifter under her nose. “You have to wake up now.”
Her eyes fluttered, then popped open and shut again, squeezed tight against reality.
“Mrs. Wadsworth,” Heath said, his voice stern and uncompromising. “You have to get up. We’ll have a driver take you to your hotel. I just talked to your husband. He’s expecting you.”
The woman was feigning unconsciousness, her eyes and lips wrinkled as she forced them closed.
“Well, then, I guess I’ll just have to take you to the post medical center. Or would you rather go to the hospital in Anchorage?”
Still no reply.
“All right, then,” Heath said. “Post medical center it is. They don’t have any private rooms, and you’ll probably have to wait in the lobby for a couple hours before the medic can see you. Still, it’s clean and better than spending the rest of the afternoon in a mortuary. Come on, Corporal—you grab her legs and I’ll get her shoulders.”
“Don’t you dare!” she screeched, sitting up like someone had poured ice water on her head.
“Sorry about that, ma’am,” Heath said. “I couldn’t let you stay lying out here. And I truly am sorry for your loss…”
“Oh, shut up.”

(Read more in the box set of nine stories in Sweet and Sassy Brides or as a single in Three Are One)

A good sense of humor will get you through tough times better than a bucket of beer. And there's no chance of a DUI with it, either! Dani Haviland