Thank you, Delilah, for hosting me on your blog today. I’m very excited to be here.
One question I get asked a lot is how I come up with my story ideas. Some are based on experiences, things I see or read, and some are based on my family.
I was so excited when my first book was published. I had worked hard on it with my editor. It was a very proud moment when I saw it on Amazon. It was a time travel romance with a handsome druid knight and modern history professor. Everyone loved the book except one reviewer. I read and re-read the critique and finally realized only a small part of the review was about the story, the rest was a personal attack. Devastated, I spoke to a good friend. A day later I had an email from a very well-published author who talked to me about reviews.
How did I turn that into a story? I used some of that review in the opening to my book Happily Ever After. Well-published author Beth Alexander has fallen off all the list and blames it on a bad review that has gone viral and the new author JD Watson, who has replaced her. She has no idea JD is the man romance covers are made of. He may have been the cause of her fall from literary stardom but only until he became her salvation!
One of my stories is about my brother and his wife. They had been married for ten years when they discovered their marriage had never been registered. Their second wedding was wonderful, but it got me thinking about what I could do with that storyline. You can find Alan and Eloise’s story—yes, I used their real first names—in How to Marry a Stuart Brother.
My most recent story, Heart of the Matter, also comes from a family incident. My mother left me her small bible that was handed down in the family. It had a beautiful mother of pearl cover. I was looking through it and found a letter. It was addressed to my mother but wasn’t in my father’s distinctive handwriting.
This was a story begging to be written. This is truly a love story that just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Heart of the Matter
Digging into the past can be murder…
Addison Moore, a well-known psychiatrist, is having difficulty coming to terms with the death of her grandmother Cookie. The woman was everything to her after her parents died in the plane crash over Lockerbie, Scotland. Little did Addy know that an old picture, tucked away in the family bible of Cookie with a handsome stranger would lead her to a discovery for which she is little prepared.
Ethan Taylor is an art historian. He’s lived with his Great Uncle Ben for a long time and would do anything for him. He never anticipated that Ben’s dying wish would introduce him to Ben’s biggest sacrifice.
Neither Addy nor Ethan are prepared for the lengths at which their families went through to keep Cookie and Ben apart. As they try to put the pieces together, they uncover a decade’s old unsolved murder implicating Cookie and Ben. Will Addy and Ethan’s blossoming love be able to stand the strain of finding the truth? Will they be able to overcome their own matters of the heart?
Excerpt from Heart of the Matter
Havenport, Rhode Island
The dull thud of earth hitting the casket again and again tore at Addy’s heart. Generations of Foxes filled the small family cemetery. Some died well into their old age while others died much before they ever lived, the youngest only nineteen days. Addison Moore looked out over the low wall surrounding the family graves, past the cliff, to the ocean beyond. The beauty of the day and the sailboats gliding across the water was lost on her. Addy gaped at the shovel in her hand then the half-covered casket. A movement to her right made her turn. She faced a lone man standing across the grave, bowed in reverence. She didn’t want to interrupt but couldn’t pull her gaze away. He straightened, raised his head, and she stared into the most compelling gray eyes she’d ever seen. The mingled expression of eagerness and tenderness momentarily blurred her pain, but nothing could ease her grief. Her chest tightened. She struggled for breath against lungs unwilling to operate. Beads of sweat dampened her forehead. Her pounding heart echoed in her ears. Again, she tried to take a breath. Nothing.
“Stay calm. Open your mouth,” the man demanded.
But nothing went in or came out. Breathe, damn it! The silent scream echoed in her head. Her lungs burned for air.
Her eyes flew open. Her breath stuttered. One gasp followed another. Addy gaped at the book in her hand, not quite comprehending what she held. A quick glance at the room and the cobwebs cleared. She was alone. Her body sank deeper into the overstuffed chair. Her tension eased. She took a calming breath and let the life-giving air fill her lungs. Home. Her panic subsided and details of the library came into view. The safety of her family’s old Victorian house, Fox Hole Manor, held her close.
The memory faded until it became a lost dream. Only fragments of the disconnected emotional panic permeated her psyche. She rose and put the psychology book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, in one of the many boxes scattered around the room. The bookcase with several empty shelves stared back at her like a boxer’s smile with several missing teeth. She made progress, slow, but progress nonetheless.
The hint of ginger floating on the dusty air made her turn toward the hall. A smile spread across her face. Her grandmother. Many people would expect a robust woman with gray hair, and perhaps an apron and the aroma of freshly baked apple pie coming from the kitchen. Not Addy’s grandmother, who stood tall, sleek, a well-dressed woman with short light auburn hair streaked with silver, and sporting only a touch of make-up.
“Make sure the shelves are dusted and the floor swept. I don’t want the historical society to think I didn’t keep a clean house. Besides, you never know when company may arrive.”
Everything had a place in Cookie’s house, including the twist ties lined up in the kitchen drawer. The woman kept every book, note, piece of paper, everything. Cookie considered herself organized, not compulsive. More often than not, their ongoing discussion, with examples, brought them both to tears.
Fox Hole Manor was one of the oldest homes on Manor Road, an area where the old guard lived in their grand mansions, an extension of the magnificent estates across the causeway in Newport. The children of each generation found a closeness and a tie that lasted a lifetime. They were civic-minded and politically active, with Havenport at the heart and soul of it all.
All those years ago, Edythe Emerson, of the annual Halloween Masquerade Ball fame, and Cookie rallied the other residents on Manor Road and established the Manor Road Christmas Cookie Exchange. One hundred percent of the proceeds went to the Havenport Historical Society.
Nothing was done small on Manor Road, not even the annual Christmas Cookie Exchange. Cookie and Edythe decided on the themes for their houses and each year added touches and refined the décor. The Emersons decided on an elegant Victorian Christmas. Her grandmother branded her event Cups and Cookies at Cookie’s, which brought peals of laughter from everyone. Her grandmother put her heart and soul into decorating the house and handled this event with the same attention. Each meticulously decorated room on the tour represented a different faith’s winter celebration.
Hot chocolate with a dash of cinnamon and pungent ginger cookies greeted each visitor entering the Garden Room. The cups and cookies were always arranged on the table with precision. Yes. Everything had its place. No one would ever accuse her grandmother of a messy house.
The outside of the house, with its welcoming front porch and strategically placed flowerpots in place of railings, was just as important to Cookie as the inside and made Fox Hole Manor at Christmas a mecca for tourists. A must-see stop during the holidays. People came to watch the live deer that magically stayed on the lawn, the 1936 red Cadillac convertible filled with wrapped gifts parked outside the front door in the circular drive, and hear holiday music playing from strategically hidden speakers.
“I’ll make sure everything is neat and clean,” Addy said. “Is there anything else?”
“Concerning yesterday,” Cookie said.
She gave her grandmother a withering glance.
“There’s a finality in shoveling dirt onto the casket. The task takes a lot of love. I’m proud of you. All-in-all, the funeral was well-attended.”
Addy shuddered and searched for her cup of tea without success. “Please find another topic. This one creeps me out.”
Cookie raised a finely shaped eyebrow. “Should we discuss you finding a husband?”
Addy’s eyes welled up.
“So you made a bad choice. Live and learn. I think you should have waited. Neither of you knew each other very long.”
“We lived together for two years. I thought we knew each other very well.”
Another of Cookie’s stares meant to intimidate almost comforted her.
“You came to your senses before the wedding.”
Addie came to her senses a year ago. Her grandmother had it right, as usual. Don’t settle. Wait for the right man.
“It’s time for you to move on. Find your destiny.” Cookie leaned against the door frame. “What’s-his-name was an okay guy. I even liked him until you rushed here and cried in my arms. Afterwards, I pretty much hated him. Has he stopped calling you?”
“Yes,” Addy lied.
Cookie gave her a stink eye.
“Why the evil eye?” she asked, sounding like a high school teenager.
“You are aware Kenneth doesn’t believe the two of you are over. He doesn’t think sleeping with his secretary for the last year of your relationship has anything to do with you. The very obtuse boy thinks you have cold feet, not a cold heart, and doesn’t believe you’ll ever find a better man than him.” Her grandmother’s voice was quiet, but deadly. “I’m holding you to your promise. You’ll wait for the right man. Are you listening to me? Not just any man, not an okay man. The right man. Your destiny.”
Addy nodded. The words were etched in her brain, Cookie said them so often, even well before Kenneth Kendall made it into her diary.
“Was Grandpa Sky the right man?” She could play the deflect game, too.
Cookie smiled one of those wistful smiles loaded with silent meaning, said nothing and headed down the hall.
Addy followed, intent on getting an answer. She entered the kitchen. Empty. Her heart sank. Last Friday’s paper sat on the table next to her cold half-empty cup of tea.
“This is the story of Dr. Jessica Fox Jordan. Jessica was a wonderful woman who was loved, is missed, and will always be cherished. Called “Cookie,” by her only granddaughter, Addison Moore and a privileged few close friends, “Honey,” by her husband Skylar, and Jessie to everyone else, was an amazing wife, mother, grandmother, psychiatrist, and baker of the most amazing cookies. No one could bake a better ginger cookie than Jessica. Attendance at Fox Hole Manor for the Manor Road Christmas Cookie Exchange proves my point. Jessica Fox Jordan was the only child of Madison and Mildred Fox. Madison Fox was the colorful and flamboyant founder of the privately-owned Fox Brewery. Jessica is predeceased by her husband, Skylar; her daughter, Agatha Jordan Moore; and son-in-law, Phillip Moore. She is survived by her granddaughter, Addison Moore.”
The sense of loss hit her hard all over again.
“I miss you, Cookie.” A nervous laugh sounding more like a croak escaped her lips. “I’m not ready to let you go.”
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