Eat Your Hearts Out, You Yankees!

In Book 3, Signs of Life, Asha Hamilton Hadley lives in Vermont for the first three-quarters of the story but Riverwood, an equestrian community in Tennessee, is too enticing and she moves her family halfway across the country.

With her first winter weather advisory of the season, she tells her brother Andy, in Boston, “Eat your hearts out, you Yankees!” She enjoys middle Tennessee’s four seasons but is especially gleeful when she watches it coming down outside the windows all day and ends up with a total accumulation of…don’t laugh…about an eighth of an inch.

Light snowfall

Her husband, Tim, appreciates having all of the beauty with none of the drawbacks…like seven loooong months of it, having the snow blower serviced, keeping a bag of ice melt by the back door, rotating snow tires, trying to prevent ice dams from forming on the roof, etc.

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Taking The High Road

Or not!

In every story, there’s a plot, some main characters and some minor characters, and some tension that keeps the plot moving forward until it’s resolved.

As in real life, characters can choose to take the high road or (as in real life), they can behave badly.

In Book 1, Fool Me Once, realtor Ronnie Chandler has made a new life for herself and she’s none too pleased when her ex-husband, now a U.S. senator, makes a fact-finding trip to Tennessee and his path crosses hers. He asks for a second chance and it’s up to Ronnie to decide if she can take the high road, can forgive and forget.

In Book 2, A Bitter Wind Blows, the tension occurs when an interloper drives a wedge between Ronnie and Mindy Morrison-Myers, her best friend/neighbor/riding buddy. When the friendship implodes, it’s Mindy who wants a second chance and it’s up to Ronnie, again, to take the high road or not.

In Book 3, Signs of Life, villainess Alix Hamilton wreaks enough havoc in several lives that none of her victims is willing to take the high road.

Low Road

And in Book 4, Ride A Pale Horse, there’s no high road to be taken when it’s discovered that Pete Becker, Dana Beaumont’s recently-hired barn manager, isn’t who he said he was.

These titles comprise the Riverwood series and readers will enjoy rooting for most of the characters as the story develops. Book 5, far And Away, is the current work in progress.

Tumbling Tumbleweeds

Sometimes people blow into your life from seemingly nowhere….and blow right out again. Knowing them can either enrich or impair. (Either way, it’s a good mechanism for advancing the plot).

Tumbleweed blocking the center of a residential street in Utah ValleyIn Book 2, A Bitter Wind Blows, the tumbleweed is Bernard Hyatt, a best-selling author of potboiler novels, each concerned with a particular sport. Through Horse Country Real Estate, he rents a cabin for a few months to immerse himself in the world of trailriding. And where better than Big South Fork,  considered the “trailriding capital of the southeast?

Better for him, that is. Not so good for Ronnie Deschaines when he worms his way into Mindy Morrison-Myer’s life. All of a sudden, Mindy isn’t spending time with Ronnie riding, shopping, sharing news of their respective days, because she’s always with Bernard.  At one point, Ronnie tells Mindy, “I feel like I’ve been replaced. You seem to have a new girlfriend!” And then one day, he’s gone….leaving the wreckage of Ronnie and Mindy’s once-close friendship in ruins. Is the damage done?

And in Book 4, Ride a Pale Horse, along comes Pete Becker, hired as her barn manager by Dana Beaumont, a wealthy woman from Connecticut who buys property at Riverwood, the equestrian development created by Ronnie and her partners at Horse Country Real Estate.  Trail riding and gaited horses are new to Dana and it’s all too easy for Pete to become her erstwhile mentor…and constant companion. The longer he works for her, the less work he seems to do. No one seems to like him, except the clueless Dana. Then one day, it all comes crashing down; Pete’s gone and Dana is left with…not much.

All’s Well That Ends Well

All's Well That Ends Well“Romance” is a fairly formulaic genre, with a hero and heroine, an obstacle that must be overcome and the obligatory happy ending (although with today’s mores, it’s now acceptable to have HEAFN (Happily Ever After For Now) instead of HEA (Happily Ever After), as long as the story does have a good outcome.

In Book 1, Fool Me Once, Luc Deschaines and Ronnie Chandler are the hero and heroine and it’s Ronnie’s ex-husband, powerful senator Evan Parker, who’s the obstacle to their relationship. But, love prevails in the end and all is well.

Senator Parker is an obstacle in Book 2, A Bitter Wind Blows, as well when he does everything in his power to cause problems for Riverwood, Luc and Ronnie’s planned equestrian community. But Luc’s way ahead of him and, once again, things did end well.

Book 3, Signs of Life, is a bit of a departure with former Olympic competitor, Asha Hamilton, betrayed by her twin sister, Alix, five days before the start of the Games. Devastated by events in her personal life, Asha is forced to withdraw and it seems her life is in ruins. By the last chapter, she’s found happiness with someone new, and her new friends are happy when she buys property at Riverwood and moves to Tennessee.

And in Book 4, Ride a Pale Horse…holy moly!  Luc’s pretty happy when the story starts but he gets the surprise of his life halfway through. It takes some doing for him to come to terms with the new reality but, great guy that he is, he rises to the occasion and, indeed, “all’s well that ends well” after he endures a few sleepless nights (and he’s not the only one).

 

Can’t Please All Of The People…

…all of the time. And that is the truth!

Once a book is released and it’s available for sale, reviews start coming in. And sometimes they’re mixed. What one person sees as having little substance, another sees as convoluted. So, which is it?

Please all of the people

Actually, it’s neither and it’s both.  Authors have to be thick skinned, to accept the bad with the good. To revel in the five-star reviews, to be pleased that  readers enjoyed your book. But, also, to think about the occasional two-star review and learn from it.

Sometimes, the criticism is valid.  Sometimes it’s reader bias. And sometimes…when your editor suggests you add detail to flesh out the secondary characters and then you get a crummy review because a reader expected the story to be about a main character and found the lesser characters distracting…you just have to remind yourself that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Double Trouble

TwinsAfter interviewing several candidates for Riverwood, to create the master plan and act as project manager, Houston-based architect, Lily Montgomery is selected in Book 2, A Bitter Wind Blows. It was hard to choose between her and Aaron Marks,  but she’s ridden all her life and knows her way around a barn.

Lily becomes fast friends with the developers, Ronnie Deschaines, Rickie Ahlers and Andee Barton, and she discovers the pleasure of riding gaited horses in Tennessee. She has the excavators, the contractors and the construction crews eating out of her hand. So what could go wrong?

Two things, actually. First, Lily is ecstatic to learn she’s pregnant with her first child. Then, she sees her sonogram and realizes she’s having a high-risk pregnancy with twins; it’s clear she’s going to have to resign from the Riverwood project.

Handsome, competent, charismatic Aaron Marks arrives from Tulsa to step in and take over. He’s pleased to find Lily left things in good order…but far less so when he realizes he’s about to bear the brunt of Senator Evan Parker’s anger, as he calls in a few favors from his Capitol Hill cronies and causes Riverwood as much trouble as he can.

 

After Taking From You Everything He Could Steal…

StealThat’s a line from a Bob Dylan song, Like A Rolling Stone, circa 1965.

In Book 1, Fool Me Once, brilliant litigator, Evan Parker, steals his wife’s self confidence and her self respect, however unintentionally. “During the last few years of their marriage, Ronnie had given up trying to please him. Nothing she did, wore or cooked seemed to impress him, no matter how much time and effort she poured into it. She’d come to think of their house as The Dead Zone.”

Ronnie’s on the receiving end again in Book 2, A Bitter Wind Blows, when internationally-acclaimed author, Bernard Hyatt, rents the cabin directly behind her best friend, riding buddy and confidante, Mindy-Morrison-Myers. Little by little, Bernard intrudes, ultimately driving a wedge between the two women. “I don’t talk to her much myself,” Ronnie said. “I feel like I’m being replaced; she seems to have a new girlfriend.”

After personal tragedy, heartbreak and bitter betrayal tear her world apart, Olympic event rider Asha Hamilton falls apart in Book 3, Signs of Life, just days before the start of the Atlanta games when her identical twin sister Alix takes her husband, her innocence and her hope of a gold medal.

And in Book 4, Ride A Pale Horse, it’s handsome, charismatic venture capitalist, Luc Deschaines who realizes someone he least suspected has stolen his daughter Stephanie’s affections and her bright future at a prestigious New England college.