Comfort Creek Lawmen

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This February, the second book in my Comfort Creek Lawmen series will be released, and you can pick up a copy anywhere books are sold!

Comfort Creek, Colorada has a county-wide police sensitivity training course hosted by the local police department. This is the location where the stubborn cops being disciplined for various infractions come to “do their time.” And they generally have an option: cooperate with the Chief of Police’s unique methods and assignments, or do the book work about feelings and appropriate reactions to them in the basement. This is the best patrolled town in America!

THE LAWMAN’S RUNAWAY BRIDE comes out this February everywhere Harleqins are sold!

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Winning the Lawman’s Heart

Forced to work with the woman who left his brother at the altar five years ago, police chief Chance Morgan must also face his own guilt. Sadie Jenkins’s return to town stirs feelings he thought he’d buried along with his soldier brother, who died overseas. Almost kissing Sadie the night before her wedding was a mistake—one he won’t make again. For Sadie, planning a remembrance ceremony for the town’s military men will help build her event-planning business. But working with Chance is bringing up all the emotions she once ran from. Is she ready to finally take that leap into the future…with him?

You can pick up a copy early on the Harlequin site, or wait until it hits the shelves in your local bookstore, Walmart or anywhere else you buy your Harlequins. But I do think you’ll like this one! 🙂

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You can also pick up the first book in the series, if you’d like to collect them all.

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A Family for the Officer 

Officer Bryce Camden never expected his two-week stint in Comfort Creek, Colorado, would mean diaper duty. But that’s exactly what happens when he stays at the local bed-and-breakfast where Lily Ellison is fostering an abandoned baby girl. Bryce is drawn to the lovely B and B owner, but being a dad is not part of his plans. His troubled past has shown him that he’s not the nurturing type. But he soon finds himself wishing he didn’t have to leave. Because Lily and the baby have taken root in his heart and made him think that maybe he could be a family man after all…

 

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Surprisingly, I’m not alone in this

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I love Star Trek. A lot. I’m an absolute Trekkie, but I’m of the Star Trek: the next generation generation. I used to watch the new episodes as they came out with my dad as a kid, and now I’m introducing my own child to Star Trek because I think it’s good for him. Like a vitamin, but more entertaining. But I’m not alone in this. As I’ve connected with other writers (specifically writing romance), there are a lot of Star Trek fans in our ranks! And I think there might be a reason for this…

I can’t speak for everyone, but here is why I, as an optimistic romance writer, love Star Trek, and specifically Star Trek: the next generation so much:

  1. The Star Trek universe is just a happy place. The Federation is not only the strongest, but also determined to be moral and fair. They don’t interfere with other cultures and defend the under dog. Plus, they always win, and there is very little worry that they won’t. It’s just a question of how–and what personal lessons they’ll learn about humanity along the way. (A lot like the couples in romance novels always ending up together, might I add.) It’s soothing.

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  2. Every episode is character driven. Yes, they wrestle with bigger plot lines sometimes, but for the most part the show is driven by characters with their own quirks, insecurities, strengths and romantic interests. Like when Geordi fell in love with a computer simulated woman, or when Data wanted to be a father. There is also the relationship between the captain and the doctor (who really do belong together romantically, even though it never seems to happen). And there’s the counsellor and the first officer who had a relationship in the past, aren’t officially together, but are still tied with this undeniable bond.

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  3. Worf. He’s a Klingon, therefore filled with almost lethal doses of testosterone and one-liners about “human females” being too fragile for a Klingon’s… um… amorous advances. He is forced to tame himself, to be gentler than is his natural inclination and to learn about himself both as a Klingon and as a member of the Federation. And I developed a wild crush on him!

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    There was also an alternate timeline scenario where uber-masculine Worf ends up married to uber-feminine Deanna Troi. And of all the relationships (both hinted at and explored) in the show, this was my favorite! Worf was a much more interesting match than Riker, in my humble opinion, but alas, the show writers didn’t agree with me.

  4. Bright lighting and a minimalist set. I know that sounds like a dumb reason to like it, but those details are part of the cheeriness of the show. Everything is well lit, clean and optimistic. The Enterprise is filled with light. Even in the darkness of space, it glows a soothing blue. The Enterprise is like a light left in the window to call you home. It’s familiar, safe and clean.

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  5. Everyone is either likable or redeemable. And this is important! There are no bad guys that are so bad that there is no compassion for them. The Borg are the baddest of the bad guys, assimilating whole civilizations into their machine-humanoid hybrid cube collective. (Shudder!) But even the Borg are made up of individuals who were kidnapped, and you find yourself softening along with the characters, trying to find a solution that redeems those poor souls.

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  6. There is no racism among humans. There might be some between literal different races–like the human race and the Ferengi race, for example. (And they  have to struggle to grow and be better in those ways.) But every human being from earth is bonded in a mutual “human” experience. I like that.

Today, as I write this (a Saturday), I’m already planning some weekend Star Trek watching. It’s cozy and optimistic. I know the real world is seldom so cheery, but I do think that our stubborn dedication to putting some light into the world counts for something.

I do that with writing romance. 🙂

… for my age

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This calendar year, I will turn 40. I’m still 39, and will be for another ten months. So don’t get me wrong–I’m not rushing this! But 40 has started to loom a little.

I never thought I’d care very much, quite honestly. When I was 35, I liked the idea of turning 40. I’d heard that a woman’s 40’s are fantastic–freeing and fun.  But then, I snuck up on 40, and I’m starting to have a few misgivings… Mostly, because between the ages of 35 and 39 a whole lot of aging happens. A LOT. At 35, I looked like a woman in her mid-thirties–maybe even a touch younger! But at 39, I’m starting to look the part of a 40-year-old woman. It was bound to happen, but I didn’t think it would happen so fast. Or to me. 

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There are a few things I’m looking forward to, though:

  1. When I gain weight, people’s first thought won’t be that they’re the first to notice an unannounced pregnancy. (Sigh!) Instead, they’ll recognize my age, be relatively confident that I’m not waiting the traditional 3 months to announce anything, and think, That woman has found something delicious. I probably want some of it. That’s right–I’m a little bit fat. I really like food. And I’m okay with it!800px-Marianne_Berg_2
  2. Enjoying the fruits of my labors. I worked HARD during my thirties, and I have no intention of slowing down, but after a decade of writing my heart out and climbing in my writing career, I’m finally at a place where I can start enjoying some of that success a little bit. And I like it! So if I can do more of that enjoying, I think my 40’s will be great.800px-PingFu_lg
  3. Looking good for my age. Seriously! I know most women take that as an insult, but I honestly don’t want to compete with 22-year-olds! First of all, I’m a married mother, and I have zero desire to attract younger men. Mr. Johns is all I want. Secondly, I used to be 22, and I remember how tight my skin was, how firm and pert everything was, how cute I was when I rolled out of bed. That’s youth! But more than that, I remember how vulnerable I was, even when I thought I knew it all. I remember how prone I was to choose the wrong kind of guy. I remember how I looked up to “older women” for some kind of guidance and support. I have no desire to compete with those 22-year-olds. I want to protect them, support them, stand up for them. It’s their turn to be young.

 

So those are the things I’m looking forward to. I think my 40’s will be fantastic, once I get over the hump of seeing myself as a woman in my 40’s. Give me time.  I have ten months to get there.

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My newest release!

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Next month, THE LAWMAN’S RUNAWAY BRIDE is officially released, but it’s already available on the Harlequin site!

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Forced to work with the woman who left his brother at the altar five years ago, police chief Chance Morgan must also face his own guilt. Sadie Jenkins’s return to town stirs feelings he thought he’d buried along with his soldier brother, who died overseas. Almost kissing Sadie the night before her wedding was a mistake—one he won’t make again. For Sadie, planning a remembrance ceremony for the town’s military men will help build her event-planning business. But working with Chance is bringing up all the emotions she once ran from. Is she ready to finally take that leap into the future…with him?

This is the last book in my Comfort Creek Lawmen series, and I really think you’ll like this one! 🙂

Pick it up here if you’d like to get it early!

A little open-ended wishing

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Back when I used to write in a diary, whenever I finished up a journal and would start a brand new one with all those milky, fresh pages, my first entry would be about what I imagined might come to pass in that journal. What surprises might be ahead? I have that same “new journal” feeling in the new year. So much is possible, and we can’t even imagine what will come our way!

There are things we know for sure:

My son will get another year older. But what will that be like? How will his personality develop? What will it be like to be the mother of a ten-year-old?

I’ll have another year of marriage with Mr. Johns. But every year we grow together in a different way that surprises me. I learn something about him, or we go through something together that sews us together a little more tightly. And that sort of thing can’t be planned or anticipated!

Last year as 2017 began, I had no idea I’d try for an agent. I had no idea I’d sign with an agent! At that point, all my hopes and dreams were pinned on Harlequin. And don’t get me wrong, I still have a significant portion of hopes and dreams pinned there, but my professional world got bigger. And that was both really exciting and totally unexpected. Every year holds a surprise, doesn’t it?

So here are my wild hopes for 2018:

–I turn forty in 2018, so I hope I discover a clothing style for my forties that doesn’t make me look like I’m trying too hard. Please!!

–My lovely agent sells my Amish book, and I start a whole, new exciting chapter in my writing career.

–I get a shocking phone call that changes my entire year for the better. ( I like a little open-ended wishing, too. )

–And to get very specific: Someone brings me an African Gray parrot that  needs a loving home, and it immediately bonds with us, so that Mr. Johns can see from the get-go that this parrot belongs in our family and he can’t say no. 😉

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May 2018 be filled wonderful, unexpected good things for all of us! 

Bounding toward you like an excited puppy

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Every once in a while I see something so dumb that I fume about it for days, and this time, I saw the dumbest “inspirational” line on Twitter, and I rolled my eyes so hard I nearly lost them! It was this:

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Ironically, this was on an entrepreneurial Twitter feed that someone else shared. I don’t get how an entrepreneur would get anywhere at all if they didn’t chase what they wanted! I mean, they might make it appear like buying their widget was your idea, but come on… they’re chasing it night and day!

Now, I understand why people WANT to believe this. It’s appealing, isn’t it? Don’t do anything, just “elevate your game” and whatever you want will come bounding toward you like an excited puppy. This is the sort of thing a fourteen-year-old will tell you because it works well for their social lives in middle school. Ignore your peers and they’ll like you more. But in the real world, no one is waiting to chase you down with good things. Unfortunately.

Sometimes life can be incredibly unfair. There are people who have to work way harder than others to get the same outcome. There IS such a thing as privilege. But if we take the cards we’re dealt, and we’re the hardest worker in the room and don’t get distracted, our chances of success go up exponentially. Shy of a rich daddy with influential friends, there isn’t an easier path. Just plain old hard work.

For me, the most important thing is to find joy in the process. I’m grateful when good things come my way and never take it for granted. Not quite so sexy, is it? It’s hard to say “Boom” after advice like mine, but in my humble opinion, it’s more reliable.

It also doesn’t fit onto a little meme square very well. What can I say? 😉

 

We need this!

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This time of year is dark.

I walk my son to school in the dim pre-sunrise gray, and I walk back home again after dropping him off as red starts to tint the sky in the east. By the time I pick him up again and he’s played outside with his friends for about an hour, the sun is already sinking in the west–day complete.

Living this far north, the days are incredibly short, the night is incredibly long, and winter tends to get incredibly cold. (This winter is the exception on the cold, though…) Going without much daylight can take a real toll on a person’s moods, and Christmas becomes more and more important. It’s a sparkle of light in the darkness.

Candle_light,_pillar_candleWe need this!

I look forward to soft glowing lights, the candles, the ornaments. It would all look rather gawdy if it took place in the middle of summer, but put it into the dead of winter with cold, short days, and it becomes magical. It fills our hearts with wonder and hope, and gives us something to look forward to.

Gifts, cookies, syrupy drinks and sparkling lights–it’s just what the doctor ordered for us light-starved northerners, and I feel a strange kinship to the pagans who celebrated yuletide at the very same time of year by burning their yule logs–light piercing through the darkness.

White_Christmas_Tree_Lights_at_NightI am a Christian–certainly not pagan–but there are some things that are just human. They span religion, time, even continents… There is a reason why people have clung to Christmas. We need this.

Light in darkness. Hope for something better. Love and community. Some dream of a white Christmas, others listen for the sleigh bells on Santa’s sled. I wait for the Christmas lights–the soft glow of tiny lights piercing the darkness.

Because in my heart, I’m thinking of a stable and a manger, when heaven touched earth with the Light of the World.

Merry Christmas, everyone! May your holiday be filled all the beauty of the Christmas season.

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Problem Areas

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Bride,_mirror,_reflection_Fortepan_3785Every woman has something she isn’t crazy about when she looks in the mirror. Some rolls, a particular shape, something slackening over the years… No matter how liberated or empowered we are, we’re human, and there’s the tiniest bit of insecurity built into the human condition.

I read an advice column once that said if you weren’t happy with your body, think of it in terms of its function. Legs to carry you places, a heart to push blood through your veins, arms that can lift parcels and pots… And I thought that was terrible advice! Just terrible. When I look in the mirror and feel critical, if all I’ve got is function, then you aren’t comforting me a whole lot! I want beauty.

But then I got to thinking… and being the dramatic little thing that I am, I started thinking in terms of a story.

Let’s say that you go suddenly got incredibly ill and were about to die. Right now. A week before Christmas. This body that has been carrying you through life has succumbed to an infection, a heart condition, cancer, car accident–take your pick. And you are laying in that hospital bed considering your life and all the things you aren’t ready to let go of. For me, that would be my husband, my little boy, my parents… my career, even! I’d be thinking about my family having to move on without me, and the heartbreak that would follow them around this time of year for the rest of their lives.

But suddenly, you are offered a Christmas miracle–a second chance to continue your life in a different body. You don’t HAVE to say goodbye yet! You can keep living, keep loving, have another chance at life!

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You’re offered several different selections, none of which are considered classically beautiful. These are regular bodies–like everyone else’s. One might be overweight. One might be prone to putting weight onto legs, or stomach. One might be gangly and skinny. One might have a large nose, and another might have an  uneven skin tone. Take your pick, but you’re being offered a regular, human body. But this one is healthy!

800px-Mata_AmritanandamayiWhat would you be thinking about when making your choice? I know what I would consider. I’d no longer be judging that body on a cryptic, unfair scale put out there by the media. I would be looking at function! I’d want strong legs to take me where I wanted to go–right out of that hospital bed and back home where I belonged. And I’d want arms to hold my family close once more, and energy to face all the beautiful things in life I still hadn’t gotten to yet. I’d want health to last me the years I had left, and I’d want to be able to bend, lift, cook, eat, and laugh once more.

And I’d be so deeply grateful for that functional body, that when I looked in the mirror, I wouldn’t see flaws or “problem areas.” I’d see the beautiful gift of life, and I’d love those rolls and jiggles, the shape of that body that could carry me through my years.

So if I would lovingly embrace “imperfection” if I were given a second chance at life, then why not on my first pass through with the body I’ve got?  They say you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, but maybe I can skip the dramatic comeback, and appreciate it now for all it gives me.

Perfection was never offered anyway!

Brooding Cowboys

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My December release, MONTANA MISTLETOE BABY, wraps up my Hope, Montana series with Western Romance.

As you may know, the Western Romance line is being cancelled, so this will be my last book for the line, which leaves me a little emotional. I’ve loved writing brooding cowboys and the women who love them.

So, if you haven’t picked up my Hope, Montana series yet, now would be a great time to do it! It’s filled with stubborn cowboys with big hearts and the women who are tough enough to go toe-to-toe with them.

 

 

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Montana sheriff Mike Cruise never pictured himself as a father. But with temporary custody of a toddler, he has to learn the ropes fast. Thankfully, his sweet new nanny, Malory Smythe, fits right in, and Mike begins to believe he can make this family thing work. Although he knows it can’t last forever… 

After her cheating ex left her pregnant and alone, Malory could easily fall for a strong, protective man. But she can’t risk repeating past mistakes with men, especially with a child on the way. When their makeshift family is threatened, will it drive Malory and Mike apart…or will it bring them together for good? 

 

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Mackenzie Vaughn is determined to learn to run the Montana ranch she’s inherited—even if it means relying on Chet Granger. Years ago, the serious (and seriously handsome) cowboy broke up her relationship with his younger brother, and Mack doesn’t want to remember that heartache. 

Chet knows gorgeous, spunky Mack is off-limits. His brother would never forgive him, and Chet always puts family first…until he can no longer ignore his feelings. If Chet gives in to his heart, he’ll lose his brother and the ranch they share—if he doesn’t, he could lose Mackenzie forever.

 

Christmas Bride

Hope, Montana, is no longer home to Andy Granger, who sold his piece of the family ranch to developers. He’s only back to run a cattle drive in his brother’s stead. But the community can’t forgive him for selling out. And Dakota Mason, the beautiful cowgirl he hired, has every reason to hate him… 

Ranching is in Dakota’s blood. And now the developers have cut off water her neighboring ranch desperately needs. She’s only on the ride for a paycheck—not to turn her back on her community. And definitely not to fall for some overly protective urban cowboy. But Andy may surprise everyone…including himself.

 

Valentine Bride

Brody Mason needs a nurse. As soon as he can walk again, he’ll leave Hope, Montana, and go straight back to the army. But Kaitlyn Harpe? That’s adding insult to injury. Not just because she’s a daily reminder that Brody’s fiancée, Kate’s sister, married his best friend while he was fighting in Afghanistan. But because Kaitlyn had kept the truth from him. 

The Kaitlyn he knew before he deployed would never have perpetuated a lie like that. But this new person—the confident, beautiful woman with hidden depths in her eyes—is nothing like the shy, serious girl he knew. This Kaitlyn troubles him. Because Brody is starting to wonder if he proposed to the wrong sister… 

 

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When Nora Carpenter becomes sole guardian of her triplet goddaughters, she needs backup—fast. So she heads home to the family ranch in Hope, Montana. But when she arrives, Nora learns that her great-grandparents’ house now belongs to Easton Ross. 

Easton and Nora used to be friends, back when Easton was a lanky ranch hand who was always there for her. Now he’s a rugged cowboy who hasn’t forgiven her for leaving town. Easton lets Nora and the triplets bunk with him and can’t help falling head over heels for the adorable babies. But Nora can’t stay. For the triplets, living in Hope would mean a lifetime of gossip. And Nora has to put her new daughters first, even if it breaks her own heart.

 

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Avery Southerly has finally met her biological father…sort of. Instead of properly introducing herself, she took a job as cook at her dad’s ranch in Hope, Montana. There’s just one problem: Avery can’t cook! Luckily ranch manager Hank Granger agrees to help, and things quickly begin heating up in the kitchen. 

But romance is not on the menu—Hank could be fired for fraternizing with an employee, and Avery is only in town to get answers. Then she’s headed home to Kansas, where she truly belongs. Hank is determined to help Avery discover the truth about her past. Yet the more time they spend together, all he can see is the future. He just needs to help Avery do the same!

 

Montana Mistletoe Baby

Barrie Jones needs a Christmas miracle. Five months pregnant, she’s already the talk of Hope, Montana, because she won’t tell anyone who the father is. And now her ex, Curtis Porter, is back in town, throwing her life into chaos.

Curtis is about to retire from bull riding, which means selling the building that houses Barrie’s veterinary practice—essentially putting her out of business—so he’ll have enough money to start over. He’s the bad guy, right? And Barrie should know better than to give him a second chance, but Curtis seems different… He’s talking about settling down, maybe becoming a family man. Has Curtis really changed? And can Barrie change, too, and trust Curtis to do right by her and her baby?

 

These seven books will bring you to the small ranching community of Hope, Montana. Cowboys, meddling family, a gossiping small town and women who are just too stubborn to put up with anything less than true love.

I hope you’ll love these stories as much as I loved writing them!

 

Christmas Crackers

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I never grew up with Christmas crackers. They’re more British than North American, I think. Basically, a cracker is a tube with a little fire cracker inside that snaps and pops when you pull it apart. And inside the tube there is a little paper hat to wear and a little toy of some sort.

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Photo by Amelia Wells

One year, my son saw Christmas crackers on a British TV show (Mr. Bean), and he decided that we must have them for our Christmas, too. So that year, we bought them. They have them in the stores here in Canada, I’d just never bought them before!

And a tradition was born. 🙂

So my last shopping trip, I made sure to pick up some Christmas crackers, just to make sure we’d have them for Christmas dinner.

I’m normally a big fan of traditions that go way back in our family, like opening gifts on Christmas Eve, eating mandarin oranges, watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas… But I also love the new ones that sprung up with our own little family.

Do any of you use Christmas crackers for your festivities?