Category Archives: Writing Romance


ajtillock2013 012CLEO’S WEB

Chapter One

“Edgar Allen Poe. You come here. Ow! Dammit, Poe. Aunt Gertie will have my hide in a sling if something happens to you. Although, personally, I’ve always found you to be more trouble than you’re worth. Isn’t that right, kitty, kitty? Come on, now. Come here. Pretty please? Kitty, kitty? We’ll go inside. I’ll open one of those expensive tins of cat food for you. How about the one with the picture of the pretty white Persian on it? You’ve got a crush on her, don’t you, Edgar Allen. I know you do. I’ll open it and you can eat her—dammit, Poe! Owwwww!”
Daniel Webster shamelessly eavesdropped on the conversation between an unidentified woman and Gertie Petry’s tomcat, Poe. Daniel could hardly help it since the woman’s behind was sticking out of a circle of knockout roses Gertie’d planted two years ago, and he’d happened upon the scene purely by accident when he’d stopped his golf cart out front a minute ago.
Daniel happened to know that cluster of rosebushes was Edgar Allen Poe’s favorite place to hide each and every time he escaped the confines of Gertie’s two-bedroom, two-bath home. Gertie had called Daniel twice to help her corral the wayward cat, fretting the entire time until Poe was safely back inside.
Daniel also knew Poe wasn’t going anywhere. Not with a woman around to dote on him and cater to his every whim. Poe got two squares a day, his very own pristine litter box, scratching post and a basket full of catnip mice and assorted other playthings. At night, Daniel assumed, Poe curled up next to Gertie and slept the sleep of a cat who knows he’s king.
But this wasn’t Gertie’s behind peeking out from the bushes and it wasn’t Gertie’s voice alternately cursing and sweet talking the as-of-yet-unseen cat.
Daniel folded his arms across his chest, taking in the unexpected entertainment on what had so far been a fairly routine Wednesday here in the senior citizen manufactured housing community of Idlewood Estates. Oh, he’d had to settle a dispute between Don Clark and Buck Overly about whether the staghorn fern that had been living in the middle of the camphor tree that straddled their lots belonged to Don or to Buck. When Daniel, who’d mediated this exact same argument more times than he could count, suggested they cut the fern in half, they’d both looked horrified and once again agreed to shared custody.
That Solomon, Daniel thought, as he’d returned to his company-allotted cart, he knew a thing or two about keeping the peace. Don and Buck had been muttering together behind his back as he walked away about the craziness of the idea to kill such a majestic staghorn fern. Why it had been in that tree ever since Buck had bought his place from Myrtle MacCafferty four years ago. Long before that, Daniel could have told him. When Stella and Paul Sterling had sold their place to Don and his wife, the fern had been too massive to transport so they’d left it behind.
“Thanks a lot, Poe. You see this scratch on my arm? It’s bleeding. That’s what you made me do. I’ll be scarred for life and it will be all your fault. You are a worthless piece of poop, you know that? If I didn’t love Gertie so much, I’d leave you out here to fend for yourself. Serve you right, you spoiled, overgrown, sorry excuse for warm bloodedness.”
The bushes wiggled and so did the feminine rear end which was covered in a tent of pastel plaid housedress. Still, Daniel had seen an awful lot of fifty-five and over females from behind since he’d been managing Idlewood Estates. For that matter, he’d had the pleasure of seeing quite a few well under fifty-five year old feminine derrieres as well. This particular one, if he had to guess, was at least twenty-five years light on the age requirement for park residents. His day had become a whole lot more interesting.
Not to mention entertaining. The voice that floated out of the bushes had a soft Southern rhythm to it. Even when she was saying the most awful things to Poe she was using a sweet talking, coaxing tone, which apparently Poe wasn’t falling for. Probably that cat knew she’d insulted him whether he could understand the words or not. Daniel would not have been surprised to learn that Poe understood every word she’d spoken and had decided to teach her a lesson by retreating further and further into the circle of bushes until he came out on the other side.
More of her disappeared into the bushes. He could hear her murmuring softly to the cat. The oversized housedress had snagged on the branches and was not making the trip with her. Slowly the material lifted to reveal an inch of smooth thigh just above her bent knees. Definitely not the thighs of a senior citizen. Her feet were bare. Sadly, Daniel had seen a lot of elderly feet in his line of work as well. These feet were not a day over thirty-five. He’d bet his brand new circular saw on it.
“Aha! Gotcha!” she cried in triumph at the same time a massive yowl emitted from the edge of the bushes. There was a mighty rustle and every stem and branch in the circle trembled. A surprised “oomph” was followed by a black cat leaping out of the foliage and running straight at Daniel. When Poe leapt Daniel caught him, holding the cat securely close to his chest, although Poe seemed to have absolutely no inclination to go any further. He started to purr and they both watched and listened as a string of muttered unpleasantries issued from inside the circle and kept up as the body sporting that spectacular set of buns began to back out.
The housedress had not got the memo that it was to reverse and Daniel watched with interest and no small amount of lust as the material floated up another couple of inches. Definitely not the thighs of a senior citizen, he assured himself once again.
He did some quiet cursing of his own when a slight breeze blew alerting her to the fact that a few adjustments were in order. She yanked the hem of the dress down where it draped to mid-calf as she continued to back out. “Damn cat,” was the last thing she said before she cleared the bushes and sat down hard on the velvety grass in defeat.
“Gertie’s going to kill me,” she said sadly to herself. She swiped delicately at her nose with the back of her hand. Surely she wasn’t going to start crying over Poe’s supposed disappearance. Was she? Daniel hoped not. Women in tears scared the hell out of him. Made him feel helpless. He didn’t like feeling helpless and went out of his way to avoid it at all costs.
“Gertie’s not going to kill you,” he said from behind her. “Poe’s right here.”
She gasped and turned around at the same time she stumbled to her feet, moving way too fast and almost losing her balance. She righted herself and stared at him through a pair of ridiculously old-fashioned cat-eye glasses with black rims. He was pretty sure her eyes narrowed in irritation when she saw Poe sitting contently in his arms.
On her head she wore one of those equally ridiculous turbans women of a certain age and stage seemed to favor. It had come askew and several strands of blond hair were trailing around her ears and temples. One fell across her face and she blew it aside in irritation.
“Who are you?”
“Daniel Webster. Most folks call me Web.”
She continued to stand and stare at him so he returned the favor. The longer he looked, the more he liked what he saw. Even behind the crazy disguise she was wearing, which, by the way, wouldn’t fool even the least discerning observer, he could see she wasn’t a day over thirty, thirty-five tops. The intermittent breeze continued to blow and every time it did, the tent of a housedress got caught on her curves. He didn’t know what she was hoping to hide beneath all that material but from what he could tell she had nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, she probably had a lot she could show off if she were so inclined.
Her gaze was lasering through the lenses of those glasses, which he sincerely doubted were prescription. That turban? Maybe she needed to wash her hair or something, but even slightly askew, it lent her a rather dashing air of mystery. He half-expected her to pull out a cigarette in one of those old-fashioned holders and start speaking with a French accent. The thought came to him that maybe he was being punked. Yet there was something very vaguely familiar about Poe’s nemesis.
“And you are?” he finally said.
“None of your business,” she said huffily, absently rubbing at a scratch on her arm, courtesy, no doubt, of her encounter with the rosebushes.
Daniel cocked his head to one side surprised by her response. Most folks here in Idlewood Estates were the friendly type, and the ones who weren’t were, at the very least, civil. He didn’t want to throw his weight around, but he would if she pushed him.
“You want your cat back?” he said with a smile, stroking Poe’s black head right between his ears the way he knew Poe liked.
She sniffed. “He’s not my cat,” she informed Daniel. “And frankly, if it were up to me, he’d never set foot inside again.”
“But it’s not up to you, is it?”
Her bottom lip trembled. A tear slid out from beneath the frames of her glasses. “No,” she said so softly he almost couldn’t hear her.
“Want me to bring the cat in?”
She took a deep breath and Daniel took note of what that did to the material covering her chest. Then she let it out with what sounded like a heartfelt sigh of resignation. “Sure. Why not.”
He followed her, assuring himself that her walk was not the walk of a woman who’d been on earth more than half a century. She held the door open to Gertie’s unit and Daniel walked through. The moment she closed it behind her Poe made a leap for freedom, darting into a bedroom. She walked past Daniel and firmly shut the door to the room as if she’d finally taught the cat a lesson. Daniel bit his lip to keep from smiling. He happened to know Poe’s favorite place in the world was underneath the guest bed.
She proceeded down the narrow hallway to the kitchen, so Daniel followed. She opened the refrigerator door and reached inside. “Want a beer?”
“It’s barely ten o’clock in the morning,” he pointed out.
“Yeah, well, I’m having a rough morning.” She unscrewed the cap and took a long draught from a Bud Light. “You in or out?”
Daniel had been so mesmerized by the movement of her throat as she swallowed, that long smooth column of throat without a line or wrinkle in sight, he barely registered her question. No way was he leaving now and he had the uncomfortable notion that she’d kick him out with pleasure if he didn’t agree to be her mid-morning drinking buddy. “In. I guess.”
She withdrew a second bottle, opened it and handed it to him. She tapped the neck of her bottle against his. “To new friends.”
“New friends,” he agreed, although he was becoming more uncertain by the minute if that’s what she was going to be to him.
When she yanked the turban off her head and sent it sailing toward the overstuffed recliner in the sitting area, he forgot all about the cat in the bedroom and the beer in his hand.


Above is the start of an idea for a contemporary romance novel.  I wish I knew where it was going, but it’s all a bit muddled at the moment.  Look for more FIRST CHAPTERS posts in the future.  Meanwhile, visit me at

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Picky Reader Disappointed

ajtillock2013 012First on my list of disappointments were some of my recent library book selections.  I could only read two out of five.  One was a Lee Child Jack Reacher novel.  The other was Betrayal by John Patrick Hunter.  The rejected ones were, in no particular order:  an award winning (literary?) novel so bogged down in excessive description I’m not sure a story existed; a historical novel that looked intriguing but again was so bogged down by historical information that had nothing to do with the actual story I gave up.  Note to self:  beware of historical novels written by British history professors.  Number three was a British chick lit(?) book, again, bogged down in a slow- moving set-up and a heroine(?) so depressed and depressing I knew I wouldn’t be able to get interested.  Why do British authors take so long to get into the story????

Why do I choose at least five books on each library trip?  Because I hope I can get through at least two of them.  Sometimes it’s more.  Sometimes it’s less.

Now, for the even bigger disappointment:  I took a fellow author up on a free ebook offer I saw on Facebook for one of her mystery series books.

I’ve never read this author before and tend to think I won’t again.  It appears she indie published this mystery, which I would think would make a professional author even more vigilant about proofreading, but apparently that is not the case in this instance.   The misspellings, usage errors and repetitiveness nearly drove me insane.  Add to that a heroine who can’t get it through her head (even after the investigating police detective assures her numerous times) that she is a witness and not a suspect.  She’s convinced she’ll end up in the slammer facing the death penalty unless she solves the case on her own.  It’s like she has a mental block or something.  I wanted to smack her.

Many of us are doing indie publishing these days, myself included, with mixed results.  I applaud the effort, but I wish the standards were higher, because a book like this makes us look bad.  Or I thought it would at least make this particular author look bad.  But such is not the case.  This book has four plus stars as its average rating on  I wish I could figure out why something I think sucks garners rave reviews.  Are these the author’s friends and family posting such positive comments?  Or are they readers who honestly thought this was a great book?  I wish I knew and I wish I had as many reader fans willing to post wonderful reviews of my books.

I won’t even ask my friends and family to read my books any more or to post reviews for me.  If they are inclined to do so on their own (most of them aren’t) that’s great and I appreciate it.  But if they don’t like my books, I don’t want them to lie on my behalf.  (Actually I do but I would never ask them to!)

I should no longer be surprised by the number of traditionally published books that are essentially about nothing.  By page 163 of a recent read I still had no idea what the point of the story was or where it was going.  I didn’t care about the main character or anything else.  I wish I’d given up on this one much sooner.

I’ve decided the test of a “good” book is how long it takes me to read it.  If I can’t wait to pick it up again, if I read to the exclusion of other leisure time activities (and that includes watching Sex and the City or Castle reruns while playing Bejeweled Blitz), then I’ve picked a winner.  Sadly, this doesn’t happen often enough.nqh-small

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#picky reader



Zip Driving

Recently I discovered my external Zip drive no longer functioned.  The date on the back of the unit is 1/24/2006 which is either the date it was manufactured or possibly its expiration date.  I’m sure many of you tech-savvy individuals, depending on your age, might not even know what a Zip drive is.  A very young employee of Best Buy certainly didn’t.

I have been writing for twenty-five plus years and I have created a LOT of precious written words.  Story ideas, partial manuscripts, articles, essays, poetry, etc.  I saved everything I’d ever written because you never know when you can resurrect it and fix it and sell it. Proof of this is my first book with Samhain Publishing.  Published in 2009, the original manuscript for A MONTH FROM MIAMI dates back to 1998.Miami300dpiEDIT

But I had a problem.  I didn’t have hard copies of everything I’d written, although I do have boxes and boxes of printed matter stored under the guest room bed.  Most of those incomplete projects were backed up on Zip discs.  Uh oh.  I was dying to start work on something called Sara’s Silence (circa 1995).  A deaf mute falls in love with a rock musician.  Don’t laugh.  I’m pretty sure this is a viable story idea.  I looked at the stuff I’d written that I could access but I knew I’d done more on it.  It’s so frustrating to remember scenes you know you’ve written and not be able to find them.  I was never going to find them without a ZIP drive.  Which is such antiquated technology it isn’t manufactured or sold any more.  Except through obscure sites accessed through

Filled with trepidation I ordered a “new” unit from one of those vendors for about $65.  I am notoriously bad about reading the fine print.  When the unit arrived I discovered its birthdate.  Or expiration date.  2/23/2000.  Oh, well if it worked, I wouldn’t care.  If it didn’t, I was up the crick without a paddle.

It didn’t even have a USB port connection but instead the old whatever they’re called connectors.  Parallel ports?xmas2013 010

About this time I am thanking God that my husband didn’t listen to me when I told him we should replace our old desktop computer with a newer model.  If we had, I wouldn’t have been able to connect my “new” Zip drive at all.  I’d be completely screwed.  I never read directions and I’m the least techie person you will ever meet, but I knew enough to install the Zip program and after a few hiccups I could read the files on my precious discs.  I bought a brand new flash drive to transfer all those files onto and I spent two hours doing it.  Whew!  Mission accomplished. I was saved.

Hooray!  I can now access multiple file folders labeled “Sara’s Silence.”  Alas, they all appear to be empty.

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A short essay on marriage

ajtillock2013 012ESSAYS/Untitled/By Barbara Meyers ©2000

           Not all failed marriages end in divorce.  Some of them end in death.  Not necessarily the death of one of the partners.

          One of the great truths no one ever speaks about marriage is most of them die long before they’re over.  Husbands and wives are the silent killers.  No one knows why.  Perhaps that’s why it remains a secret, an unexplainable mystery.

          Men and women exist within the confines of deceased relationships.  Do they realize this while they’re smothering under the weight of a dead marriage?  Something’s not right.  They’ve been buried alive.  Divorce would be like driving a butcher knife into a corpse.  Redundant and pointless.  That much they know.

          A coffin should be a mandatory wedding gift for every couple.  Much like a hope chest.  Only in reverse.

          For into it shortly after the honeymoon will go the shattered illusions.  Every year, as an anniversary celebration, destroyed dreams can be added.

          The traditional gift of paper for the tenth year can be replaced by disappointment.

          Instead of silver on the 25th, add bitterness and contempt.

          If it’s not full already, on the 50th, put all the tears inside.  Oh, wait we need another coffin.  This one’s full.

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Meet Cute?

In lieu of a May newsletter, below is an excerpt (Trey and Baylee’s first meeting) from THE FIRST TIME AGAIN, the third book in The Braddock Brotherhood series from Samhain Publishing.  The ebook release date is May 7, 2013.  For you series readers who feel you MUST read a series in order (it’s not necessary in this instance), these are all stand-alone books.  The connection is through the heroes.  Twin brothers Rick and Ray have their own stories in Books One and Two (A MONTH FROM MIAMI and A FOREVER KIND OF GUY).  THE FIRST TIME AGAIN features Trey who makes a brief appearance in Ray’s story.  Don’t ask me why, but the heroines (in order) are Kaylee, Hayley and Baylee.  Enjoy!

Buy links are on my web site:



Baylee’s grandparents’ best friends, Mike and Josephine Pritchard, had lived on Sycamore Road. During her youth she had occasionally visited the Pritchards with them.

She wouldn’t apologize for being late. Best to let T. C. know who was in charge. It had taken her a while, but she was learning. She wasn’t going to be a doormat for anyone. Not anymore. And certainly not for some overbearing guy who sounded like he was used to ruling the world and getting his own way.

The address on Sycamore Road turned out to be the Pritchards’ house. It didn’t look much different than Baylee remembered. Josephine, whom everyone called “J”, had passed within the last year. Baylee wasn’t surprised to see not much about the property had changed. There was a black Porsche Cayenne parked near the back porch. Turbo, she noted as she drove past and parked a few feet away. Money.

Yippee! Her heart did a little pitter-pat. She could name her own price.

She’d always liked the Pritchards’ place. It was nestled in the midst of some gently rolling hills with the Blue Ridge range as a backdrop. The house was set far enough back from the road to offer privacy, but not anonymity. The old barn was empty now, as was the feed lot and the chicken coop. A few other outbuildings were ready to tumble down, taking the rusting fences surrounding them along.

Trees dotted the yard and the pastures beyond. Birds chirped and flitted in the branches, and a couple of squirrels gallivanted underneath the big oak closest to the house.

Near the porch were flowerbeds badly in need of weeding. A twining rose climbed up a trellis. The old swing still hung at the end of the porch. Baylee could remember sitting there contentedly, swinging and daydreaming to the rhythmic squeak of the chain against the hooks while the adults gathered around the wicker table to drink glasses of sweet tea and chat amicably.

A pang of longing for those simpler times hit her. She hadn’t known then how many mistakes awaited her, how many difficult lessons she had to learn. But learn from them she would. Her new motto was a slightly amended version of “Been there; done that”. To which she had added “not doing it again”.

She got out, mentally debating about using the front door or the back when she noticed the Cayenne’s Florida vanity license plate. TC9. She stared at it while several possibilities she’d chosen to ignore clicked into place.

T. C. Trey Christopher? Nine. His number with the Jacksonville Jacks?

Could it possibly be? Of course it could. The Pritchards were Trey Christopher’s maternal grandparents. In fact, he’d been at their house on a few of those occasions when she’d visited as a child. He always seemed to have a pack of other boys with him, and she’d learned early on to avoid them because they’d do nothing but tease and torment her if she invaded their territory. Which seemed to be everywhere except the back porch where the adults lurked.

She had more memories of him than those from childhood, one in particular which had plagued her all through high school and beyond.

She hesitated a moment longer before she climbed the three stairs to the porch and realized she wasn’t alone. A man seated at one of the four chairs surrounding the table used another chair as a footstool. He had one leg outstretched on it, the other bent at the knee. An ice pack was balanced on the outstretched knee.

His arms crossed his chest, his thumbs tucked underneath his armpits. His head was down. There was a mug on the table. Was he asleep?

He had burnished blond, gold-tipped hair, and from what she could see from his seated position, he was tall and in good shape.

She cleared her throat and took a step toward him. When he didn’t move, she stepped closer and poked his upper arm. Beneath the long-sleeved jersey he wore, her finger met solid muscle. “Excuse—”

His head snapped up and a pair of stunning blue eyes lasered right through her. She sucked in a breath and stumbled back.

Trey Christopher!

She scrambled to get hold of herself. She was an adult woman of almost twenty-nine, not a naïve teenager of fifteen.

“Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to startle you.” He grinned, which turned his already handsome features into to-die-for good looks. She did nothing but stare even though she knew he was making a joke, since she had been the one to startle him.

“You okay?” he asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

I did. The ghost that’s haunted me for fourteen years.

“Want to do this another time?”

No. Been there. Done that. Not doing it again.

She got hold of herself. Finally. “No, it’s fine. I’m fine.”

He studied her for a few seconds. “I’m Trey, by the way. And you are?”

“Baylee. Baylee Westring.”

He chewed on the inside of his lip as if contemplating something while he continued to peruse her from head to toe. She’d come dressed to work in a faded pink T-shirt, ancient jeans and sneakers. Over which she’d worn a hoodie she’d bought on sale at Walmart for five dollars last spring. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail to keep it out of her way. Makeup was nonexistent. She was the cleaning lady. She didn’t have to impress anyone, and she liked to be as comfortable as possible while she worked.

As if remembering his manners, Trey straightened in his chair and pulled his feet off the other one. The right one he helped along with both hands supporting his thigh after setting the ice pack on the table. “Please. Have a seat.” He indicated she was welcome to take any one of the four chairs. She opted for the one opposite him instead of the one next to him where his foot had been.

She sat, and he looked at her for a long moment before he spoke. “Have we met? You look awfully familiar for some reason.”

Baylee pushed her glasses up on her nose. He was fishing, so she decided to join him. “Maybe from high school.”

“Nope. That’s not it. Seems like somewhere more recent.”

Your grandmother’s funeral last year, maybe? Not that she had any intention of enlightening him about their past history if he couldn’t remember it. She’d seen him at the funeral, at a distance. They hadn’t spoken or touched. But she’d been haunted by that memory for months afterward. What, she’d wondered at the time, was it going to take to get him out of her head for good?

Certainly not this. Why was she still here? Why had she sat down as if she was seriously going to consider coming to work for him?

Apparently he was waiting for an answer, and she finally grasped the thread of the conversation. “I don’t know.”

He shrugged as if it wasn’t important.

“Can you start today?”

“I’m not sure.”

He cocked his head to one side. “Not sure because…?”

“Not sure if I want to work here. For you.”

“Ah, I see. My reputation precedes me. Tell me, other than Ryan Reagle, is there anyone in this county who doesn’t hate my guts?”

“I didn’t mean—”

“No, no. I get it. I’m the town hero, the golden boy who made it to the big time and threw it all away. I failed the town, I failed my team. I failed everybody, including myself, and now I can’t catch a goddamn break. I get it, okay? I’ll clean my own damn house. Sorry I wasted your time.”

Trey scooted back to brace his hands on the chair arms and shoved himself up to stand. He limped across the porch and opened the screen door and let it slam shut behind him.

Baylee tried to sort out how she felt. She knew there were quite a few locals who didn’t think too highly of him at the moment and would be happy to make sure he knew it. Yes, he’d been a high school hero, a local football legend who’d made it to the pros. He’d had some good seasons with the Jacksonville Jacks. He had at least one Super Bowl ring, possibly two to show for it. She knew he’d been injured and he’d sort of gone downhill afterward, but she hadn’t followed his fall from fame all that closely. She’d had too many of her own problems to worry about at the time. Trey Christopher had been on a far back burner until she’d seen him again last year. But he was so far outside her normal sphere of acquaintances, at the time she doubted she’d ever see him again.

She might hold a grudge against him. She might have some less than stellar memories of their one high school encounter. But he needed someone to clean his house, and she needed the work. Was she going to be stupid and stubborn and walk away from a job because of some ancient history he didn’t even remember?

No. She wasn’t. She’d charge him top dollar, and she’d do her best to keep a reasonable distance from him. But there was no good reason to walk away from this gig.

Irritated, she adjusted the glasses on her nose again. The frames were slightly bent and the prescription was four years old. If she took this job she might be able to afford another supply of contact lenses.

Decision made, she got up and tapped on the screen door’s wood frame. “Hello? Trey?”

Silence greeted her. Carefully she eased the door open and closed it softly behind her. The kitchen hadn’t changed much since the last time she’d set foot in it, except for appliance upgrades. She spotted dirty dishes in the sink and crumbs on the counter.

She crossed the kitchen and listened. From the bathroom near the back bedroom, she could hear a shower running. Fine. She’d start in here, and when Trey came out of the bathroom, they’d settle things between them. Like her hourly rate.

Trey turned the shower off and stood with his palms flat against the tile under the showerhead, staring at the water swirling down the drain. He’d have to take his licks, especially since he and the rest of the world had decided he deserved them. He struggled for a Zen moment, to put everything in balance, keep it in perspective. Honestly, he hadn’t thought he’d have to beg someone to clean his house. Not in this rural area and in the current economic climate.

Baylee Westring had turned him down, but he could find someone else. What was so great about her anyway? She certainly wasn’t blessed with the gift of sparkling conversational skills. Frankly, she came across as a bit of a space cadet the way she’d stumbled through their brief meeting.

His initial impression had been she looked like she had a bit too much on the ball to be cleaning houses. Even dressed as she was, she looked, if not exactly sophisticated, then smart and capable in some indefinable way.

He’d already been thinking maybe she could do more than clean house. Maybe she could be like his personal assistant or something. Keep track of stuff for him the way Hayley used to. He hadn’t realized how much he’d counted on Hayley, how much she did to keep things running smoothly for him, until he’d lost her.

While he used to spend hours wallowing in self-pity, he now allotted only five minutes per day. Usually in the morning after his shower. He refused to waste any more time beating himself up for things he couldn’t change.

“Onward and upward,” he muttered to himself as he stepped out of the shower with the towel wrapped around his waist. “Or at least forward.”

He opened the bathroom door, allowing the cloud of steam to escape into the hall. Usually, he’d turn right to step into the bedroom next to the bathroom. But he heard water running and dishes clinking from the direction of the kitchen and turned the other way.

Baylee was at the sink, rinsing dishes and loading them into the dishwasher, her back to him. She was doing an odd little dance step while staying in one place, and she was humming along to an unseen music source. Near the door were a bucket and a canvas bag with rags and cleaning supplies. A broom and a mop leaned against the wall next to them.

Trey didn’t know why the entire scene amused him. Or why she was still there after she’d made it clear she didn’t want anything to do with him. Not even if she was getting paid for it. He crossed his arms and waited for her to notice him.

After a couple more minutes she closed the dishwasher. She turned and jumped when she saw him. She put one hand to her chest and yanked the ear buds out of her ears. She didn’t comment on him startling her, which intrigued him. Instead, she stared at him.

“What are you doing?” he asked, not bothering to hide his amusement.

“I—um—cleaning.” She gestured with one hand at the now empty sink.

“I don’t recall hiring you.” Trey had no idea why he had such a strong desire to toy with her, to keep her off balance. He only knew he enjoyed it.

“Oh, well, then, um—never mind, I guess. No charge for doing the dishes.”

“How much do you charge anyway?”

“It depends on what I’m expected to do.”

Behind the wire-framed glasses, she had light brown eyes almost the color of amber, he noted. “Cleaning house for starters. What’s the going rate?”

“Twenty-five dollars an hour.”

Trey snorted. He couldn’t help it. Maybe in a big city. But he knew good and well that no one, not in Hendersonville and certainly not in Edna Falls, would pay twenty-five an hour for housecleaning. He imagined most of the people around here cleaned their own houses or lived in their own filth. Maybe in an area closer to Cashiers or Highlands, or Asheville even, maybe she could find some sap to pay her twenty-five an hour. Maybe.

“Twenty-five an hour seems a little steep.”

“You can afford it.”

“I can. The question is, are you worth it?”

“I’m worth more, actually. But I’m running a one-day special.”

Chutzpah, Trey thought. She was blatantly trying to take advantage of him, and he should be bothered by it, but for some reason he wasn’t. He figured twenty-five dollars an hour was probably a small price to pay to have her clean his house and entertain him in the process. God knew he could use some diversion from his own dismal thoughts.

“For twenty-five an hour this place better be spotless when you get done with it.”

“It will be.”

“And I’ll need you to sign a confidentiality agreement.”

He could see in her eyes his statement amused her, though she schooled her features to remain neutral. “No problem.”

“Carry on, then.”

As soon as he disappeared down the hallway and she heard a door close, Baylee took a deep breath, trying to still her wildly beating heart and soothe her frazzled nerve endings.

Trey Christopher was a hunk, plain and simple. He looked good enough to eat, standing there with his hair wet while the towel around his waist threatened to slip down another notch. He hadn’t shaved, and he had that sexy two- or three-day beard stubble many male celebrities sported these days. Even though he was no longer a professional athlete, he obviously worked out. A lot. He had those well-defined muscles in his upper body guys get with weight training, and those abs of his had to be due to crunches. A whole lot of crunches.

He’d been a charming hunk in high school, too, but his behavior when he’d had too much to drink had been a definite turn-off for her. She knew better than to be fooled twice by any attention Trey Christopher sent her way, didn’t she?

Of course she did.

Copyright 2012 by Barbara Meyers


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Jelly Donuts: Priceless

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Bill brought me jelly donuts.

This sentence lacks context.  Posted as a Facebook status or a Tweet, it is meaningless to anyone but me.  But today Bill did indeed bring me two jelly donuts and it is a very big deal.  To me. 

Here’s the context: 

Since we relocated a few months ago the local Walmart is the nearest store to our home.  We shop there on a regular basis for staples.  I love their raspberry jelly-filled donuts.  But only the ones with the white frosting on top.  Not the red frosting, not the glaze, not the sprinkles.  They don’t always have the ones I like.  Sometimes they come in a box of six, which is too many.  Sometimes they have them in the case and you can box up however many you want yourself. 

Often we do our shopping together but today Bill went to Wal-Mart on his own.  I couldn’t think of anything I needed or wanted.  While Bill was gone I had a fleeting thought of those jelly donuts I like.  But Bill wouldn’t buy them unless I specifically requested them. 

When Bill returned he had a box containing two jelly donuts for me and an apple fritter for himself.  Had I telepathically communicated my desire for jelly donuts to him?  When I asked, “Why did you buy them?” he said, “Because I know you like them and I thought you might want some.” 

I’ve spent a lot of my married life exasperated with and frustrated by the man I married.  I’ve accused him of being selfish and thoughtless on numerous occasions over the years, and probably by now he might agree that he is or was at those times.  

Men simply don’t think like women.  Bill is OBLIVIOUS much of the time.  He admits to that and insists most men are.  He doesn’t think like I do, his priorities are different, and much of what he does and the way he does it simply makes no sense to me.  He’s a GUY.  I had to stop expecting him not to behave like one. 

For years I have tried to explain to him that it’s the little things that are important and memorable.  Grand gestures and expensive presents are nice, sure, but I can’t put a price on a back rub after a hard day at work or the fact that coffee is ready for me in the morning when I wake up. 

I know exactly how much those jelly donuts cost.  Fifty-eight cents a piece.  That he thought to buy them without me asking is worth so much more to me.

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Barbara Meyers, Author – April 2013 Newsletter

No, no, it can’t be April already, can it?  The days zip by so fast I am constantly checking the calendar for the correct date. 

Writing news?  Efforts for THE FIRST TIME AGAIN shift into marketing/publicizing.  The local newspaper features local writers, at least a cover and publication information, so that’s on the list.  Novelists, Inc. has Next Page and also NincBlast which are good venues for new books.  FirstTimeAgain,The72lg[1]FINAL

There’s always blogging, here, guest blogging on other author sites, review sites, Novelists, Inc. and Samhain Publishing.  I do love the essayist/opinion/sharing aspect of blogging. 

I’m not a natural book marketer, but I’ve become acquainted with a friend who sews and we’ve decided to rent tables at a craft fair in my neighborhood clubhouse in November.  I’ll have my books there and she’ll have her wares displayed and we’ll see what happens.  We’ve got lots of planning time! 

In the past I’ve described myself as a “slow” writer, but I realize now I’m an inefficient writer.  A writer friend posted on FB about her struggle with a current wip, “The next time I decide to write without an outline, shoot me.”  I thought, “You start with an outline?  What a novel idea.”  Pun intended.  

I start with the characters and a fuzzy idea for a plot, write a few scenes, see what a mess it is and THEN I attempt a synopsis.  THEN I discover what a REAL mess it is, which is where I’m at with my current wip RICH WOMAN.  My solution is usually to bundle up everything I’ve written in some semblance of order and give it to a trusted reader, my daughter or one of my close friends and say, “Read this and I’ll buy you dinner if you’ll let me brainstorm with you.”  Usually, that kickstarts my brain into figuring out where to go and what to do with the story. 

The real news of late is that my songwriting partner Carlene and I have been Skyping weekly and e-mailing in between Skype sessions.  We are pretty excited about the song we’ve been working on called Roses in the Sand.  Our third partner, Martha, is a wonderful musician.  She and Carlene work on the melody.  I focus on lyrics because other than years of guitar lessons in my youth, my musical background is zilch.  

Carlene goes to open mic nights and plays and gets feedback about what we’ve done.  I can’t wait until Kelly Clarkson or Faith Hill record Roses in the Sand and it’s playing on the radio non-stop. 

Recently I came across an author blog with recommendations and examples of what makes a good author blog.  Don’t talk about yourself and don’t just hype your latest book, seem to be the bulk of the advice.  Talk about other authors and their books.  I am not sure I agree.  Who’s more interesting than me?  That’s why I started this blog.  It’s about me! 

I used to do periodic blogs called “Picky Reader” (check my blog archives maybe they’re still there) where I did blurbs of books I read and authors I liked, just so I could keep track for myself.  Once I discovered Goodreads, however, there seemed to be no point.  Anyone can join Goodreads and read (mine as well as others) recommendations and reviews of books.  But maybe I’ll start including an author recommendation each month starting now.  

I’ve recently discovered and greatly enjoy British author Ruth Rendell who also writes as Barbara Vine.  She’s written a series of Chief Inspector Wexford novels which I am reading my way through. 

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If I Only Had a Plot

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Lighting a candle is not helping me come up with one for my current wip.

I have several scenes written. I know the characters fairly well, especially the hero. But I’m in that “what is this book about?” stage because I don’t exactly have a plot. I have a blurry idea of a plot that won’t come together in my head or anywhere else. Certainly not on the page.

As part of my novel-writing process, for every book I have a file entitled “notes” usually attached to a character’s name, in this case, the hero, Niko. My earliest entry in “Notes Niko Morales” is 6/28/10 which is probably when I first had the idea that Niko, who appears in A FOREVER KIND OF GUY could have his own story.

Why, you may wonder can’t I come up with a plot? Contemplate this gem of an entry from my notes file:

7/18/10 OR…

She keeps the kid because the child’s mother is actually her half-sister, although maybe she doesn’t know it at the time. Maybe her father had an affair with this woman’s mother (history repeats itself) who was a maid in their house 20 years ago…and his wife found out??? And sent the woman back to whence she came, but the woman was pregnant with his child and he knew it but before he could make other arrangements his wife got rid of her. So then he tracked her down and maybe has been sending her money all these years to help support his child and he’s the one who got her into the States and got her work in his household? But she doesn’t know he’s her father? Or does she? But he encourages the heroine to keep the child. I think maybe he’s had a stroke or somehow been disabled and the heroine is like his voice. Or he can instruct her to do as he wishes but is somehow impaired and needs her to carry out his wishes. So maybe he knows the woman is his child. Maybe he tells the heroine? Or she has suspected and he confirms it? And neither of them knew about the affair between his daughter and her husband.

So…internal conflict, loyalty to her father, hatred of her ex, responsibility to an innocent child who’s actually her father’s grandchild. Where is mother in all of this? Bitchy and oblivious? She can’t know and never wanted let’s just call her Leslie to keep the kid.

So there’s a parallel here. Leslie’s father had an affair with a maid which produced a child and then Leslie’s husband did the same thing. Only she ends up with the child even though she has mixed feelings. Maybe she tries to love the kid, but isn’t quite there. Maybe she’s afraid to be free or to let her guard down. In her experience, men are not to be trusted. Somehow through Niko she will learn to trust and to love and be herself. She’s tightly wound and holds herself inside. A control freak.

I think my mother let me watch way too many soap operas when I was a kid.

Apparently I started thinking about and making notes about this book three years ago.

I hope if I keep writing this story will straighten itself out and all will become clear. That’s what happened with THE FIRST TIME AGAIN. That’s what happened with all of them, I suppose but it’s a frustrating process, which leads me to wonder once again why more writers aren’t bald.

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Barbara Meyers, Author – March 2013 Newsletter

ajtillock2013 012First off, right after I posted the February newsletter, The Ledger published one of my Dr. Suess-like poems in its “Write-On” section. The link is below if you want to read it. I have to say I like a local newspaper interested in the happenings and talents of the local citizens.

My Husband the Car

I’ve been reading Twitter for Dummies by Laura Fitton, M. Gruen and L. Poston. I feel like I owe an apology to all of my Twitter followers. I encourage you to follow my infrequent posts, but I don’t really understand how Twitter works. I am not techie at all and probably don’t have to be to use Twitter appropriately, but just know I’m trying to understand it and be more involved. I’m also reading WordPress for Dummies, so you might see improvements to my blog as well. Although I have a feeling many of those will be due to my friend Ryan, a former IT guy who has been helping me with all things computer related. (Right now the blog is sort of a mess, but we’re working on it.)

I successfully used Skype for the first time. After much nudging from my song-writing partner Carlene, I invested in a camera, got my husband to install it and followed instructions from the Skype program and with Carlene’s help, we interacted face-to-face.
We always tend to write sad songs even though we are not sad people. But this is good for us because supposedly nine out of ten hit songs are sad!

Have I mentioned my propensity to be a day late and a dollar short in nearly every aspect of my life? That goes double for anything computer-internet-techie related! Funny that I write for an eBook publisher, isn’t it?

Speaking of…the eBook version of THE FIRST TIME AGAIN is available for pre-order and at a discounted price. FirstTimeAgain,The72lg[1]FINAL
Here’s the link on Amazon.
Here’s the link for Barnes and Noble:

I sent my short story “Katy’s Place” to Lou Aronica, ( the editor of the 2013 Novelists Inc. Anthology. I couldn’t think of anything else to do to it or another way to rearrange it, so it’s done. Lou replied, “I love it. Thanks so much for contributing it.” Bet he says that to all the contributors.  The theme of the anthology is “I never thought I’d see you again.”

My day job is…what can I say? Too much. Too many hours. Too stressful. Combine that with my new propensity for waking up at 5 a.m. and it’s no wonder why I haven’t written much of anything the past few weeks. I’m even late with my newsletter. How can it be March 4th already?????

What I have been doing a lot of is thinking/pondering about the book I want to finish, which is the fourth in The Braddock Brotherhood series. The working title is Rich Woman. Mostly the pondering stage is an attempt to answer the question, “What is this book about?” After I’ve had enough of this thinking period, I get to the part where I say to myself, “Maybe I should just write it.” Which means I haven’t got the entire book worked out in my head but if I start writing it will all come together. Of course it will.

I would hate to tell you how much of THE FIRST TIME AGAIN I had written (about 160 pages) and how long I sat on it (two years?) while I asked myself the question “what is this book about?” I had the characters and the basic premise. All I needed was a story.

It has been said that when you start talking about the weather, you’ve run out of things to say, but I think it’s worth noting temps are in the mid-thirties here in Central Florida this morning. I love my fuzzy pink robe!

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Thanks for reading!

I’ll Call You

“I’ll call you” is what “friends” might say right before you never hear from them again. What you may expect is that said friend will call you later the same day, or once they’re free from whatever kept them from talking to you. But “I’ll call you” is open-ended. There’s no pressure. No deadline. No meaning. It could mean I’ll call you back as soon as I leave the doctor’s office, or I’ll call you in ten years. It means nothing. So why do we say it?
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We say “I’ll call you” because we don’t want to talk to someone right at that moment because it’s inconvenient or we are simply not in the mood for a conversation with that particular individual. So we offer to call back at a later unspecified time to escape. It might also be the politically correct way of saying, “I don’t care if I to talk to you…ever again.”

Back in the old days, “I’ll call you” meant a call could be expected within a reasonable time frame, say twenty-four hours. But today it means that call could occur any time from ten minutes later to never.

I can’t say I’ve never told a friend “I’ll call you” and then didn’t. But these days I try not to because I know how much it bugs me. Even if I have to write myself a reminder note to return a call at a specific time, I will make that call. I cherish those who say “I’ll call you” and do.

My question for my “I’ll call you” friends is, if you can’t talk to me, why not send my call directly to voice mail? You know I’ve called. Maybe I’ll leave a message. Either way you can avoid fibbing to me by saying “I’ll call you.” Like you I have the benefit/detriment of a cell phone. I can tell if someone called me (back) and when. Or if they didn’t.

I wish my “friends” would stop saying “I’ll call you.” I actually still expect them to follow through in a timely manner. As you can imagine, I am often disappointed.
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THE FIRST TIME AGAIN, Book Three in The Braddock Brotherhood series from Samhain Publishing eBook release May 7, 2013. ISBN # 978-1-61921-532-0

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