Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Guest Post: A TIME FOR SINGING by Carol James

My guest today is Carol James who was raised as an Air Force brat. The longest Carol ever lived in one place was a year and a half. Maybe that’s why when she and her husband bought their first home forty-two years ago, they stayed.

Wife, mother, grandmother, and dog-mama, Carol loves writing stories of redemptive romance. When asked the difference between redemptive romance and standard romance, she replied, “A standard romance has two main characters––a hero and a heroine. A redemptive romance adds a third. God.”
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 Her newest novel, A Time for Singing, is a story based upon the Secret Drawer Society she stumbled across as she was visiting Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, MA.

That is interesting! Here's a little more about this new release.

Charlee Bennett is running from her past. Once deserted by her musician ex-fiancé, shes vowed to avoid anything that reminds her of the pain of his betrayal.

Chance Jackson is starting over. Hoping to redeem the mistakes of his earlier life, he wants to become the music and worship pastor of the largest church in Crescent Bluff.

Charlee tries to convince herself she should not be attracted to Chance. But then she discovers an old letter hidden in the secret drawer of an antique desk. The pain expressed by its author resonates deep within her.

Can the words of long ago soften Charlee's heart and help her to discover that there is a time for singing?   

Now for a sweet taste of this new book. Enjoy!

            So, who would it be tonight? 

            From her table in the back corner, Charlee Bennett surveyed the inns small dining room. The only empty chair sat across from her, a sure sign shed soon have a dinner companion. 

            She smoothed the white linen napkin in her lap and sipped her water. Over the past few years, these monthly weekends at the Wayfarer Inn had become her favorites, times of pampering among the plodding. 

            A tall man who definitely wasnt from Crescent Bluff stepped into the doorway and leaned on the old oak pulpit now serving as the hostess stand. Michael presented his best maître d’ smile and then consulted the reservations list. The new diner nodded. Michael gathered a menu and silverware and turned in her direction. 

            Perspiration prickled her face. Oh, no. Not this man. Anyone but him. Please…not a musician. She could spot them a mile away. After following Jake around for a year and then dating him for two more, she knew the look. PR. Painstakingly Relaxed.

            Last month, shed shared dinner with a trial judge from Amarillo, and the month before that, a retired humanitarian aid worker from Uganda. Not only had both men been fascinating, theyd also been safe. Both were old enough to be her grandfather. But as Michael led tonights guest toward her table, only one word resonated within her. 


            Taking a deep breath, she reached for her water glass and unsuccessfully attempted to swallow away the mass of nerves knotting her throat. She could do this. 

            Mr. PR turned his back and spoke to Michael. “When you said Charlie,’ I just assumed… I didnt realize Charlie was a woman.” 

            He probably thought she couldnt hear him…that he was speaking more quietly than he was. All those years of playing loud music had made Jake half deaf, too. 

            “You sure no other tables will be available soon?” the stranger continued. 

            “Theres no guarantee, sir,” Michael answered. “Friday nights are always busy.” 

            Mr. PR shook his head. “Ive got to be someplace in an hour. Cant take the chance.” 

            Michael gestured toward the chair opposite her. “Ms. Bennett is always happy to share her table when were busy. I assure you that youll find her excellent dinner company. Please have a seat, sir. Ill send Joe right over to take your order. Enjoy your meal.” Michael turned and walked away.

            Before her, he stood tall and lanky with black hair, his face covered with a stylish amount of dark stubble. Empty piercings dotted his ears and maybe even his left eyebrow. But that one might have been a scar. She couldnt tell. The candlelight softened his features, making it impossible to know for certain. 

            Frayed spots decorated his tight jeans, and a black leather jacket hid all but the central portion of a black t-shirt. His painstakingly meticulous hairstyle, which could only have been achieved by applying gallons of product while primping for half an hour in front of the mirror, failed to match his relaxed wardrobe. Even the ever-blowing Texas wind hadnt ruffled his style. PR, for sure. 

            While she wouldnt describe him as classically handsome, he was totally attractive. Obviously, shed failed to learn any kind of lesson from Jakes betrayal. 

            Despite her minds pleading for caution, she smiled and offered him her hand. She would do this. After all, he apparently didnt want to be dining with her any more than she did with him. “Hello, Im Charlee—with two esBennett.” 

            He grasped her hand and flashed a warm smile that grew until it almost covered his entire face. She couldnt help but grin back. 

            “Nice to meet you, Charlee with two es. Im Chance…with one e…Jackson. Thanks for offering to share your table with me.” 

            She returned his firm grip. “No problem.” 

            “Havent been here in a while, and I didnt realize the place would be this busy.” 

            She should let go, but for some reason, her fingers refused to obey. “Its always packed on Friday nights.” 

            “Great news for the owner.” Releasing her hand, he glanced back over his shoulder and rocked onto his toes and then back down. 

            “Please have a seat, Chance. With the kitchen as busy as it is tonight, youd better get your food ordered if youre going to make your appointment.” 

            A red flush crept up his neck and inched across his face. “I, uh, didnt know you could, I mean, I didnt intend…” He paused and took a deep breath. “Hey, Im sorry. Im sure I sounded petty and ungrateful, but Im not. Thanks for your generosity.” A softer smile warmed his face. 

            He pulled off his jacket and hung it on the back of the antique oak chair. A tattoo covered his left forearm—colorful scroll-work embellishing Greek characters. Just one more confirmation of his occupation in case she had the slightest doubt—which she didnt. 

            She pushed her words past the still-present lump in her throat. “Chance. Ive never met anyone with that name.” 

            Ignoring her comment about his name, he slid into the chair across from her. 

            “So, Chance, what brings you to the Wayfarer tonight?”

            “Business. Came to Crescent Bluff to help out a buddy of mine.” 

            “I see. And what do you do?” She held her breath, waiting to see if his reply would confirm what her intuition screamed was true. 

            Staring down toward the table, he fingered the folded napkin before him. “Im self-employed. Sales.” 

            A few years ago, she would have taken his words as truth. But no longer. His response screamed dishonesty. Or at least, a lack of transparency. For some reason, he was deliberately being elusive. 

            His gaze crept upward and found hers. “How about you? What do you do?” 

            Not shirking his scrutiny, she smiled her most innocent smile. “Im self-employed. Sales,” she poked back. 

            He raised his eyebrows in mock surprise, and then his grin teased. "Oh, really? What a coincidence. Imagine that.”

            “Yes. Imagine that. I own a little boutique on Main Street.‛"

            Joe materialized beside their table, a pitcher of water in one hand and a pitcher of tea in the other. “Good evening, sir.” He poured water into Chances glass. “Would you care for some sweet tea? Or perhaps youd like something else. A glass of wine? Something from the bar?”

            “No, thanks. Nothing from the bar. Water and tea are fine.” 

            Well, he was definitely from someplace around here. Hed requested the beverage of choice for central Texas. 

            As Joe left, Chance looked back toward her. “So, lets see. Where were we? Oh, yes, your store. Tell me, Charlee-with-two-es, why would someone who owns a business in Crescent Bluff, and lives here—I presume—be staying at the inn?” 

            Her gaze never wavering, she stared straight into his eyes. They were dove gray with amber flecks. “I think you may have jumped to an incorrect conclusion. I dont believe I ever said I was staying here. Maybe Im just having dinner.” 

            Holding her gaze, he placed his elbows on the table and leaned forward. “Well, maybe you are. Just having dinner.” As the corners of his mouth curved up, his eyes sparkled in the candlelight, and the needle on her attractiveness meter inched higher. 

            Refusing to surrender, she placed her elbows on the table and leaned in just close enough to enjoy the delicious earthiness of his cologne. “But Im not.” Her response was barely above a whisper. “I stay here one weekend a month when I balance the books for my boutique. I figure if I have to do something I hate so much, I may as well do it in the nicest possible setting. My own reward system.” 

            Holding up his hands in surrender, he chuckled, and the amber flecks danced. "I have to admit, I like the way you think.” 

            Her heart began to veer down a familiar road, one she could not permit herself to travel again, and she stomped on the brake. Easing back into her chair, she placed her hands in her lap. “Youd better order if you want to make that appointment.” 

            “Guess so, hadnt I? Excuse me a minute." He pushed the menu into the circle of candlelight in the center of the damask tablecloth. He studied the choices, the fingers of one hand tapping against the tabletop, drumming some rhythm to what could only be an imaginary melody. The fingernails of his right hand were longer than those of his left. A guitar player. 

            Breathing slowly and deeply, she looked away and glanced over his shoulder toward the dining room entrance. A man with blond hair and a warm, though not magnetic, smile waited as Michael approached an older couple who now had a seat available at their table under the front window. 

            The man wore dress pants with a shirt and tie, topped off with one of those old-fashioned tweed jackets with suede patches on the elbows. For some reason, that style always made her picture an English lord surveying his estate. But that was certainly where his resemblance to old-fashioned aristocracy stopped. This guy could have doubled for that model on the front of this monthDallas Style

            Michael motioned for him to follow. If only hed arrived a few minutes earlier, she could have been sharing her table with him. He certainly had to be more interesting, and less dangerous, than Chance-Jackson-Mr.-PR-The-Musician. As Lord Handsome pulled out the chair, she checked for a band on his left ring finger. Nothing. Her gaze climbed back to his face in time to see him returning her look, and he winked. 


            She turned back toward Chance. 

            He stared at her with raised eyebrows—obviously waiting for the response to a question she hadnt heard.

            Her cheeks burned, and she didnt need a mirror to tell her they were bright red. 

            He glanced over his shoulder toward Lord Handsome, and when he turned back, a smirk covered his face. 

            Busted again. She cleared her throat. “Im sorry. What did you say?” 

            He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “I asked what your favorite thing here is. Food-wise, I mean. Like I said, I havent been here in a few years.”

            The sarcasm in his voice set her whole face on fire, but the best move was to pretend she hadnt noticed it. “Im having pork roast. Its an excellent choice, if you like pork.” 

            “I do.” He motioned to Joe. “At Ms. Bennetts recommendation, Ill take the pork, please. Oh, and you can bring me a piece of carrot cake as an appetizer.” 

            “Ill have that right out for you, sir.” Joe took the menu and headed toward the kitchen. 

            Chance flashed his immense grin. “You know what they say. Lifes unpredictable. Eat dessert first.”

            His words hit her like a punch to the stomach. She couldnt breathe. The harder she tried, the more impossible it became. Clamminess crept across her face. Her heart pounded. 

            “Charlee? Are you OK?”

            She nodded. Hand shaking, she reached for her glass, only to knock it over. 

            Water streamed toward Chances lap. Attempting to stem the flow, she threw her napkin onto the puddle. But it only pushed the ice and water over the edge. 

            Chance jumped up. The entire dining room turned toward them. 

            “Im sorry,” she whispered, “so sorry.” 

            “Its OK.” He smiled and shook his leg. “No permanent damage.” He winked.

You can find A TIME FOR SINGING at the links below:

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Guest Post: MOON OVER MONTANA by Mary Marelli

My guest today is a writer of romance and young adult books. Mary Marelli brings the word of God and the love of animals through in her stories.  Her debut novel, MOON OVER MONTANA is packed with mystery, romance, and a young couple’s fight to save a herd of wild mustangs from rustlers.  Mary’s book is published by White Rose Publishing.  She is currently working on a young adult series, entitled Misty Rose, a story about a grief stricken young girl who forms a special bond with a traumatized horse.
            Mary believes a special bond exists between people and animals.  They possess a wonderful, magical way of reaching out to us when we need it most.  We talk to them and they never spill a secret.  We find solace in their presence and comfort in their loving demeanor.  In MOON OVER MONTANA, as well as Misty Rose, the heroines find a special bond with a horse.  Caring for them helps their grief to ebb and gives renewed purpose after suffering a sorrowful loss.  Animals can help us heal and Mary hopes to bring a sliver of their special world to her readers.      
            Mary lives with her husband and hound, Stacey, on a private lake nestled in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains.  Mother of two and grandmother to a teenage boy, her writing is inspired by a variety of true life experiences and a cause dear to her heart, the preservation of America’s wild horses.
            Long walks around the lake with Stacey lead to quiet times and talks with God.  Mary believes that prayer doesn’t always have to be formal.  It can come at any time and in any place.  Sitting on the shore of the lake with her dog, brings comfort.  Long talks with God bring peace.  Mary’s strength comes from the Lord and she hopes to share bring that out in her work.  
            Moon over Montana is scheduled for release on both Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook on June 17.  You can pre-order it now at Amazon.

Read what MOON OVER MONTANA is all about:

     What do you do with an inheritance that no one wants?

     Megan Donovan's broken engagement has left her aimless with only one place to go: Montana. Her estranged grandfather has left the broken-down ranch of her mother's youth. Trouble is, Mom's memories of that time are so tainted that Megan doesn't want anything to do with the place.

     The wild horses that David “Cam” Campbell protects from rustlers need a sanctuary to roam free. What better location than Old Man Jenkins' acreage adjacent to his own successful ranch? But Cam's gotten off on the wrong foot with Megan, and that gal's not selling—not unless Cam can convince her that it's best for everyone involved.

     But is giving Megan a reason to leave, really the best he can do?

Read an excerpt:

Cam grinned and nudged Ricochet forward.

Megan had no choice but to follow. 

They reached a slope, and Cam motioned for her to stop. Megan reined in Sparkles and stood silently by Ricochet’s side. Cam pointed. Golden rays peaked the mountaintops driving away the shadow of night. Megan’s eyes grew wide, and she lifted her camera close to her face.

“A sunrise ride,” she muttered. “How beautiful.”

Cam leaned close and whispered in her ear. “It is, but that’s not the reason. Wait for it.”

Bright sunlight spread across the terrain, bathing the valley below in soft golden tones. Dew sparkled off the ends of tall grass. A golden eagle screeched and soared high into the morning sky. The sound of drumming broke out, and Megan captured a shot of a ruffed grouse beating its wings. A northern flicker pecked grubs from a nearby tree, and twittering black-capped chickadees flitted about. They dove to and fro pecking seeds and insects from the ground.

A soft whinny echoed across the valley. Megan gasped. Tears sprang to her eyes, and she turned her camera toward the sound. The thunder of hooves built slowly and then intensified as a herd of wild mustangs galloped through. A chestnut stallion stood watch over his domain, a sorrel mare by his side. The mighty leader whinnied and tossed his head. Majestic, devoted, and brave, he guarded his herd of mares and foals. 

Cam pointed. “This is what it’s all about. This is my passion. My crusade, if you wish. This is what I’m fighting to preserve.”

Megan’s bottom lip trembled, and she lowered her camera. “They’re beautiful.” She shook her head. “No. That doesn’t do them justice. They’re magnificent. So regal and loyal.” She turned toward Cam. “They are, you know. Loyal. They’re a family.”

Cam nodded. “That they are, and I wish more people saw it that way. Look at them. They’re not causing any harm. Cattle don’t graze down in that hollow. It’s too dangerous to drive them down. As long as the horses stay here, they’re safe. It’s when they stray onto the range we rode though, that they’re in danger.”

“Rustlers?” Megan asked.

“That’s what I think.” 

“What about my grandfather’s land?”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s a lot. More than I imagined,” Megan explained. “Will they be safe there? When you think about it, it’s my land now. Anyone who comes there after the horses will be trespassing.”

“That’s the way of things now, but it wasn’t always that way.”

Megan lowered her head. “I forgot. I guess they were open targets there.”

Cam scrutinized her closely. “What’s on your mind?”

Megan shook her head and picked up her camera. “Nothing. Just a thought.”

“Ah ha,” Cam said. “And that’s how a great plan begins.”

Megan continued to snap shot after shot of the horses as they grazed. The stallion stood at the head of his herd. A foal suckled its morning nourishment. More foals pranced around the tall grass and splashed in the stream running through. 

“It’s time,” Cam said, picking up the reins. 

“For what?” Megan asked.

“Stay here. Please,” Cam answered.

“I will. But will you please tell me why?”

“Because I’m going down to drive the herd deeper into the valley.”

“Isn’t that dangerous?” Megan gasped.

“It can be. That’s why I want you to wait here. I’ve done this before.” Cam nudged Ricochet forward. “I won’t be long.”

Cam pulled a bandana over his mouth and nose, and Megan held the camera close to her face. Cam guided Ricochet down the steep incline. His shrill whistle pierced the air, and he nudged Ricochet into a gallop. The stallion whinnied. Sounding the alarm, he led his family of mares and foals to safety. Dust rose from pounding hooves. Cam reined Ricochet to a stop as the last mare disappeared from sight. He sagged in the saddle, his head hanging low. Megan zoomed in catching the final shot. With a snap of reins, Cam guided Ricochet back up the steep incline. 

“They’re safe for now,” Cam declared as he drew close to Megan.

“I hope so,” she said, her voice a whisper.

“They are. Once we run them off, they don’t return for a while.”


“I’m not the only one,” Cam answered. “Along with Brandon and Bean, Colt and Avery also come out and monitor the herd.”

A lone tear broke loose and slid down Megan’s face. “Yet some of them still vanish.”

Cam reined in Ricochet toward the direction of home. “It’s an ongoing battle.” He elbowed Megan lightly. “What do you say we get these two home and raid the diner for breakfast? We’ll sure get people talking.”

A bright smile broke out. “You’re on.” Megan laughed. “As my mother always said, sometimes it’s fun to stir the pot.”

“Then let’s get stirring.” Cam nudged Ricochet and broke out in a gallop.

Megan stashed her camera in the saddlebag and, wind blowing through her hair, raced to catch up.

Also available at Pelican Book Group, Kobo, Apple, Barnes&Noble and other book distributors.