Of Serenity, Laughter, and Merry Widows

I know I haven’t been sharing much here on my blog over the past year and a half, and I want to apologize for that while I pass along a few quick updates.

First off, Love, Charlotte has been been delayed again, obviously. I know writers are supposed to draw from personal experience for our creations; I’ve always written as a way to work through traumas in my personal life. This time, however, there were a few passages in my book that hit a little too close to home while the pain was still too fresh. In short, I have to re-work some of it because real life bled into the pages and I’m not at a point yet where I can step back and look at it objectively.

It is coming. I promise, although I can’t say when.

Next, I have anther project in the works that I can’t really discuss just yet. I don’t want to jinx it. Hey, sue me for being superstitious! Trust me when I say this could be HUGE if it goes well. Cross your fingers for me, if you don’t mind.

I have also been working away on a little something I like to call The Wheels Fell off My Wagon. It’s part of my Goode For a Laugh collection, recounting some of the wild and crazy things that have taken place in my world since moving back out into the country and adjusting to life out here in the boonies.

In a way, it’s sort of a tribute to the Big Guy. It’s all about honoring his memory with laughter as big part of dealing with our grief.

Talk about bleeding on the pages, right? Maybe. Crying a bit, too, but not all tears are sad. He left us with so many good memories that it only seems right to remember him with laughter.

And speaking of Goode For a Laugh, I want to let everyone know that I’ve made the very difficult decision to pull the collection out of Kindle Unlimited so I can make the books available through more markets. I am truly sorry to do this for those of you who subscribe to KU, but there are a lot of behind-the-scenes problems with the program that have a huge impact on the amount being paid to authors. Until Amazon gets it straightened out, I need to explore all of my options.

For the time being, I will be leaving my Romances in KU. I promise to keep everyone updated if that changes in the future.

Last but not least, I want to share that my friend and I are about to embark on something she has dubbed The Merry Widows Tour. “Morrigan” and I are heading to Texas for nine days with no adult supervision because we are the adults. Frightening thought, that. The third adult, our friend who has always been there to keep us out of trouble, is not going with us.

I haven’t been on an airplane since the 1980s, and I’ve barely left my little town in several years. I’ve definitely never been away from my kids this long. It’s going to be hot and humid and far from home (and there will be wine tours–multiple wine tours), and I am going to be so far outside of my comfort zone that I’m not sure I’ll ever slide back into it.

That’s a good thing. My comfort zone has become way too small and restrictive lately.

Watch out, world.

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Six Months

Six months.

It’s been six months since I’ve posted here. Six months since I’ve written anything, to be totally honest. Six months since I’ve even been able to locate all the parts of the computer in order to set it up and even try to write.

Six months since the Big Guy died.

A lot has happened in those six months.

Like anyone who passes away so suddenly, so unexpectedly, he left behind a lot of unfinished business. It’s been an avalanche of cleaning up, signing off, sorting through and a whole lot of asking, “what the hell was he thinking here?”

A big part of that “unfinished business” was my fault as well. Ahem. Confession time.

The Big Guy and I never actually finalized our divorce. Oh, we filed. We split up and divided our belongings and set up a shared custody arrangement, complete with child support and all that stuff. But we never actually went before a judge and wrapped things up. We postponed the original hearing date and then the filing expired and we just never got around to re-filing.

It didn’t seem necessary. We both kept what seemed fair and we were better parents as a team that didn’t live under the same roof, so it seemed sort of silly to involve courts and judges and legalese when everything was going so smoothly without all of that.

And then he got sick.

Suddenly, there were decisions to be made and documents to be signed and a lot of hurt feelings all the way around as people in our lives realized that he and I were, in fact, still married. Only on paper, but definitely still married as far as hospitals and funeral homes and finances were concerned.

At the time of his death, my name was still on the deed to the house we once shared. When we split, we didn’t fight over the house; it was his, plain and simple. I didn’t want it because it was his dream home, not mine. He loved the country, the acreage, the trees, the ramshackle old farmhouse that he could repair and renovate and love.

And now it’s mine, as are the cats, the dog, and apparently a snake as well, although I’m still in serious denial about the snake.

I couldn’t bring the animals back to the apartment and I couldn’t abandon them, obviously. And I couldn’t afford to pay both the rent on the apartment and the mortgage on the house, so I cancelled my lease, put my belongings in storage, and moved back into the house I had left four years earlier.

Totally pissed off some folks by doing that.

Over the past six months, I’ve tried to clean out his house and prepare it for sale so I could move into something smaller, less expensive, and closer to civilization. It’s been overwhelming, to say the least. It’s as if the universe has lined up to throw obstacle after obstacle into my way.

I believe it’s what the Big Guy would have referred to as a Cluster Fuck, or at the very least, a Goat Rodeo.

The kids and I had a “family meeting” about a month ago and came to a decision: I’m staying. Rather than investing in a new house, I’m going to fix up this one. I’m going to keep their childhood home, and I’ve hired people to do the work that the Big Guy never got a chance to finish.

So.

Here I sit, at my husband’s old desk, wrapped in an afghan made for him by his great-aunt. Drinking coffee made in the coffeepot I gave him for Christmas a few years ago. There’s a huge eight-point buck’s head mounted on the wall above me, staring at me reproachfully, while three cats and a stressed-out Blue Heeler chase each other around my feet.

I really hope the snake isn’t down there with them, but I’m too afraid to look.

This is not the life the Big Guy and I imagined when we bought this house all those years ago. It’s definitely not what I imagined when I packed up my belongings and left the house behind four years ago. But it is what it is, and I am doing my best to make this home something he would have approved of.

Minus the snake, of course. If I ever find it.

I unpacked the computer and asked my son to set it up for me. I located my favorite coffee mug. I’ve opened up documents that have been gathering virtual dust for six months, and I’m on my way back to my little town of Serenity to get back to work.

I think I’m heading in the right direction, and I have a feeling the next part of my journey is going to be every bit as crazy, convoluted and downright strange as the last part was.

All I can do is fasten my seatbelt and hang on for dear life.

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Finally!

Well, after an unexpected delay that I still don’t understand, My Mirror Lies to Me is finally available on Amazon — only nine days later than the date I had promised. Better late than never, right?

Just to give you a little taste, I’m sharing a small sample of my new book. If you enjoy the sample, you can read the rest through Kindle Unlimited or buy it here for only $2.99.

My Mirror Lies to Me

My Aunt Marian always told people that when I was a small child I would wake up from naps, blink a few times, and say, “…and, um–” before launching into a story of some sort.

I’ve always been a talker. A storyteller. Most of my stories are true, or at the very least possess a small kernel of truth somewhere in either the exposition or fine details. What can I say? I like to make people smile. Maybe even make them laugh out loud. If I can make them laugh so hard they pee, that’s just a bonus.

“Amy stories” have prompted a lot of eye-rolling and grimacing over the years, along with polite suggestions that I write them down in a book someday. Suggestions which, let’s be honest, are less about encouraging me to share my tales than about asking me to please, for the love of God, shut up for five minutes.

“I know, Mom,” my kids will groan. “You’ve told this one, like, a thousand times.”

“Is this another one about your aunts? Yes, I’ve heard them all before,” a more polite co-worker might say. “You should really write a book, you know.”

I used to get embarrassed or offended when people said things like that. Now? Now, I just nod and smile and probably tell yet another story, perhaps about a time when I embarrassed myself by talking too much.

Like the time my soft-spoken, very intelligent sister took me to hear one of her favorite authors speak. She is the quintessential big sister, one of the most organized and efficient people I have ever met. On that particular night, she took care of everything, from getting the tickets to arranging a babysitter to driving us to the theater. In return, she asked for only one thing from me.

“Please let me go ahead of you in the line to meet him,” she asked. “Let me talk to him first and get his autograph. Please?”

Of course I agreed. In spirit, anyway. But as my sister, she should have known she was asking the impossible.

Several moments later, we stood at the table, looking down at David Sedaris. And let me just say here that he was an amiable gentleman who seemed to go out of his way to greet his fans in a friendly, conversational manner. He was all about putting us at ease. Just a very normal, ordinary, approachable man.

And luck was on our side that night. Out of all the people in that line, he turned to my sister with a very simple question.

“Where’s a good place around here to go for breakfast?”

She knew the answer. She knew that town inside and out, was familiar with most of the businesses. It was her job to know the answers to questions like that as part of her daily 9-5. She was perhaps the single best person in that room that he could have chosen for that question.

And what did she do?

She went full goldfish on him.

She blinked. She opened her mouth and closed it. And again. She gaped at him and blinked some more.

“Maybe a Denny’s?” he ventured.

Now, I’m told that I behaved in a perfectly composed and normal manner after that, but that’s not how I remember it. I remember shoving my dog-eared copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day in front of him and babbling something about never looking at Great Danes the same way again.

My sister says he laughed. If there’s any truth to that, then I can die happily any time now, content in the knowledge that I once made David Sedaris laugh.

Have you ever shaken up a bottle of Diet Coke and then released the built-up pressure? That’s exactly what happens to my words when I try to hold them inside and behave myself. And it’s what happened that night, standing in front of David Sedaris.

The dam burst. I babbled. I giggled. I chattered like an idiot. Once I start, I don’t have an “off” switch.

Of course, Mr. Sedaris was very gracious about it. I can only assume someone got him some food at some point after we left. I’ll never know for sure, because my sister and I turned and fled, laughing like idiots.

That’s what My Mirror Lies to Me is all about: Finding the “funny” in an otherwise mortifying moment. Looking at myself and seeing only the best that I have to offer to the world. Instead of seeing a double chin or close-set eyes and a mouth that runs too much, I want to see a woman who is capable of always looking for the good where others see flaws.

If I’ve learned anything about life, it’s that it’s too short to waste time dwelling on the negative stuff. I always want to look past the lies my mirror tells me. I want to enjoy telling “Amy stories” that make people laugh. If I can make a few people pee or spray coffee out their noses, then I’ve done my job.

And David Sedaris, if you ever happen to read this book, the Kalamazoo Denny’s is on Cork Street, just off Sprinkle Road near I-94. Tell them A.J. and the Goldfish sent you.

 

 

 

Updates

Well, summer is almost over and it feels as though I’ve accomplished nothing. I’ve barely blogged at all, and my son and I never managed to make it to the zoo this summer. I only went swimming once, which is really unusual for me.

My older kids are heading back to college in a few days, while my youngest is preparing himself for the fourth grade. He’s worried because some of his best friends are going to be in the other fourth grade classroom, but he’s also happy that he got the teacher he had hoped for. And he’s also thrilled because he knows that fourth graders at his school get to go on the school’s most talked-about field trip in the spring: a day at the dunes in Saugatuck.

As for me, I made the monumental mistake of trying to work on two books simultaneously over the summer. Both are nearly complete and almost on schedule for their planned release dates at the end of September, but I never ever want to do this to myself again. Sure, My Mirror Lies to Me has been fun to write, and Love, Charlotte has veered off in directions I never anticipated, but my brain feels slightly fried.

However, I did manage to accomplish a few things this summer that had nothing to do with those two books, and I want to bring everyone up to date.

First of all, I want to let all of you know that Her House Divided is now available on Audible.com as an audiobook. I was lucky enough to be able to work with Wendy Almeida, who does a fabulous job of bringing my story to life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Audible offers a free trial of their service, including a credit to read any book of your choice at no cost. To learn more about Audible, click here.

This summer, I also combined the three books in my Beach Haven series (plus the short prequel) into a single volume at a money-saving cost of only $5.99.

And of course, as I mentioned before, I also took time this summer to revamp and re-release Have a Goode One as Faster Than a Whippoorwill’s Ass, and I’ve been very happy with the results of that. If you enjoyed that book, I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of My Mirror Lies to Me when it is released next month.

In short, it’s been a very busy summer here in Michigan, and I hope you’ll all forgive me for letting things slide on my blog for the past few months. I promise lots of good things coming in the near future!

Until then, I wish everyone a very happy autumn with a smooth and calm back-to-school time.

 

Trying Something New

Those of you  who have been following my blog for a while are probably aware of the struggle I have had with insecurity when it comes to showing pictures of myself. I am overweight and over fifty and would never have won a beauty contest even on my best days. And when you add in the fact that I am not even the slightest bit photogenic, I’m one of those people who would be a lot more comfortable using a picture of my cat as a profile picture.

It was a huge step for me to post my first selfie here a few years ago. And other than one slightly batty piece of fruitcake with over-the-top negative reaction, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Since then, I’ve gotten more comfortable about sharing pictures of myself. I still think my smile makes me look like a serial killer in pictures, but I guess I can learn to live with that. I can color the gray hairs and layer on the makeup to hid the wrinkles, but I have yet to discover a filter that shaves off eighty pounds or gives me better cleavage.

I am, however, working on what I call the Popeye chapter of my life. It’s the chapter where I look at myself, shrug, and say “I  yam what I yam.”

Of course, the thought of yams makes me hungry for sweet potato fries, which tempts me to make a run to Red’s Drive-in in Paw Paw for a double olive burger to go with the fries. And suddenly I am reminded of just why I have to worry about the extra eighty pounds (not to mention acne at the ripe old age of fifty-one).

It’s life, guys. It is what it is. Like my mom used to say, there are better ways to go through life than to be dragged, kicking and screaming.

At any rate, I am slowly working up the nerve to do a video blog post someday. Eventually. Maybe to celebrate my 55th birthday. My older children both shook their heads and said, “no, Mother,” when I suggested it, but I rarely listen to their suggestions.

If I did listen to my daughter’s suggestions, I probably wouldn’t have worn the lavender t-shirt with the silver butterfly on the boobs that makes it look like I’m wearing a bustier. Pictures of me in that shirt should be in the back pages of Glamour magazine with a black bar across my eyes and a caption that says “Fashion DON’T.”

But I’m going to take a leap and put myself out there in a video this coming weekend. Sort of. I have decided to do a Facebook Live Q&A on Sunday, April 30, at 1 p.m. EST to help celebrate the release of my newest book. I don’t know if it will do anything for sales and I strongly doubt I’ll get enough viewers to even mildly dent the internet, but I think it will be fun.

I’ve got lots of coffee on hand for before, and lots of wine for after. If it doesn’t go well, I may hit some of the wine during.

I even did a little test run with Facebook Live last weekend to see how it works. For the record, I was wearing the lavender butterfly/bustier shirt that day, which is how I figured out how awful it is.  Check it out here.

So please stop by this coming Sunday and ask any questions you might have about my books or my blog, or even about those fabulous double olive burgers and sweet potato fries at Red’s Drive-In. Anyone who comments will be entered into a random drawing to win a free digital copy of Victoria’s Promise.

Click on the link below for more information. I hope to see you then!

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Facebook Live Q&A with A.J. Goode, April 30 2017 at 1:00 p.m. EST

Victoria’s Promise Pre-Order

I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that Victoria’s Promise is now available. The bad news is that it’s only available for pre-order at this time.

I really wanted to have the book ready to go by the end of March, but I don’t want to cheat anyone by pushing it out before it’s completely ready.  I learned that I had made a slight mistake about some of the history mentioned in my book, and I just wanted a couple of extra weeks to clean it up before I release it on April 30.

As a way of apologizing for keeping you all waiting, I’ve listed it at .99 cents during the pre-order and will keep it at that price for a limited time before bumping it up to its regular price of $2.99.

Thank you all for your patience. I’m doing everything in my power to make sure this book is worth the wait!

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Weekend Coffee Share: God?

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If we were having coffee this morning, I’d tell you that it’s been an ugly week here. On the positive side, I managed to pass my apartment inspection; on the negative side, I’ve been sort of stewing about something.

Grab yourself a fresh, hot cup, because we’re going to talk about God today and it may take a while.

About a year ago, I was approached by someone who was a friend a long, long time ago. Confronted, really. She said she sampled one of my books and was sad to see that God is not in my work. She wanted to know why I have turned away from my faith. I blogged about it at the time, and I felt pretty good about my response to her. I thought I did a good job of explaining that I haven’t turned away at all.

I spoke with her again this week. Again, she expressed sympathy for what she sees as my straying and turning away from God. She condemned me in the kindest, most condescending way possible, letting me know that she’ll pray for me to find my way back. She mourned my lost faith and told me how sad she is that I’ve become callous, that I’ve hardened my heart.

I’m not going to lie; that hurts. I feel judged.

I am a Christian. I do my best to be a good one, but I am human and therefore I am flawed. The fact that I see faith as a private and personal matter doesn’t make me any less of a Christian than those who are more vocal about it. I may not be able to quote random Bible passages at will or show up at every Sunday service like my friend, but that doesn’t mean I’m going straight to Hell.

Folks, Christianity is NOT a competition sport.

You see, God IS in my work, because He is the One who gave me this gift of storytelling. He is the One who changed my life and gave me this opportunity. I thank Him every time I pour a little bit of my heart and soul into a story.

God is in my work because God is in ME.

He is the One who gives me courage and strength on the bad days. I have leaned on Him through pain, through heartache, through everything. And you know what? He’s always there for me. He’s never shamed me for not living up to His standards. He loves me, no matter what, and He forgives me when I screw up.

My books aren’t Christian fiction, even though I like to think that my sweet historical romances are somewhat inspirational. People in my contemporary romances have sex before they are married and they swear once in a while. Some of the stuff I say in my humor collections can get pretty raunchy at times.

I’ll be the first to tell you that not everything I write is appropriate for every audience.

But my characters always find love. There is always a commitment that comes with the sex. I try to write them as basically good people who grow and become better people by the end of the book. It is my goal to inject at least a little bit of hope into everything I write.

A little bit of love.

A little bit of joy.

That’s my version of Happily Ever After, in romance novels and in real life.

If my friend insists that God is not in stories about hope, love, and joy, then one of us doesn’t understand Him at all.

Victoria’s Promise

Work is coming along nicely on Victoria’s Promise, the second book in my Brides of Serenity series. I am aiming for a Valentine’s Day release, but nothing is set in stone just yet.

Victoria’s Promise is the story of a grieving young widow who comes to Serenity to start a new life as the town rebuilds after the tragic fire that swept through the state the previous fall. She meets Will Baxter, the shopkeeper who is appalled to discover that the new schoolteacher is not at all what he was expecting.

If you’ve read Letters to Caroline, you’ll be happy to know that Caroline, Adam, and the others will be back for more adventures this time around. And if you haven’t read it yet, it’s only $2.99 on Amazon. (Hint, hint.)

Just to whet your appetite for my next book, here is a little preview of the opening chapter of Victoria’s Promise. I hope you all enjoy it!

 


“Promise, Victoria,” the man wheezed.

Victoria Dawson brushed her fingers across his warm face. “Shh, Matthew, I’m here. Everything is going to be all right. Just rest.”

Matthew turned his face toward her. His blue eyes were bright with fever, but she saw awareness in his gaze. For the moment, at least, he knew what was happening.

“Promise me,” he repeated.

“Anything,” she whispered.  “What do you need, my love?”

“Marry again . . . after. Find a man who will love you as much . . . as I did.”

“Don’t be silly, Matthew.” She laughed without a trace a humor in her voice. “You’re going to be just fine in a few days.”

“Victoria.”

“Stop it!” Victoria rose from her chair beside their bed and stalked to the window. The St. Clair River sparkled in the rising sun on what promised to be another hot, steamy day, and she ached for the touch of a cool breeze on her skin. She wondered idly if autumn was drawing near; she had lost count of how many days and weeks she had spent in this bedroom tending to her husband in his illness.

Dr. Winslow had told her that it was only a matter of days at this point. The disease that ravaged Matthew’s body was slowly taking his life, and there was nothing anyone could do to save him.

“I want you to leave Port Huron . . . start a new life away from . . . memories of me.”

She whirled and stared at him. Surely he was delirious again. No sane man would suggest that she leave the cozy little home they had made for themselves here.

But his eyes were still clear as he stared at her. “I wrote . . . letters,” he said, and began coughing.

She hurried back to his side and held him as the coughs racked his body. When the spasms finally eased, she wiped the flecks of blood from his lips and helped him take small sips of water. “Rest,” she whispered, kissing his cheek.

“I wrote letters,” he said again. “Forgive me.”

“What – what kind of letters, Matthew?”

“They need a teacher in Serenity,” he told her. “I said you’d . . . take the job. When I – when I am gone . . . sell the house and go. Start over.”

She gasped. She hadn’t taught since she married him nearly two years ago, and even then she’d been one of a handful of teachers at a big-city school. Serenity was a backwoods lumber town on the other side of the state. She wasn’t prepared to teach at under those conditions. Besides . . .

“But I want to stay and take care of you,” she protested.

“I’ll be gone soon,” her husband said. “Promise me, Victoria. . . you’ll start over in Serenity . . . you’ll marry again. Please. Give me your word.”

She opened her mouth to protest again, but stopped when she saw the haunted look in his eyes. In that moment, she realized that it was time to believe both her husband and the doctor. Matthew was not long for this world. He needed peace of mind in his final moments.

“I promise,” she said slowly, choking back tears.

He smiled and closed his eyes, drifting into a fitful sleep. Victoria stayed with him through the night, holding his hand and wiping his face with a damp cloth from time to time. And when he slipped away sometime near morning, she kissed his forehead one more time.

“I promise,” she told him again. “I promise to make a fresh start, and I promise to marry again. But I will never love anyone again, Matthew. Never.”

Of Quests and Walmart

Not too long ago, in the midst of an online discussion among writers, someone asked the question: “How do you define success as a writer?”

People came up with all kinds of wonderfully artsy-fartsy answers that ranged from heartfelt (“when I get my first nice review from a complete stranger”) to the practical (“when I can pay my rent on what I earn from writing”) to the downright silly (“When I can buy my own jet”).

My answer? “When I can see one of my books on the shelf at Walmart.”

Yeah, they gave me a hard time about that. What can I say? I live in the middle of nowhere, and WalMart is about the only place around to buy books. We may be rednecks and hillbillies out here, but some of us are well read rednecks and hillbillies, and there just aren’t a lot of places around here to shop.

For anything.

Well, we have a Mr. Grocery and a Pick-A-Liquor nearby, but I strongly doubt I’m going to find any good reading material at either of those.

A great bottle of cheap wine, yes. The newest treasure from Shanna Hatfield? Not so much.

So now that I have a story appearing in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles®, I am on a quest.  It is my new goal in life to take a selfie standing in front of the bookshelves at the local Walmart with my edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul on the shelf beside me. Doesn’t seem like that should be such a difficult task, now does it?

But my local Walmart doesn’t have it.

Neither does the Walmart in Paw Paw. Or the Walmart on 9th Street in Kalamazoo. I’ve even expanded my quest a bit to the local Meijer’s, but no luck.  They all carry Chicken Soup for the Soul in all kinds of varieties, but none of my edition.

Think about it for a moment. What could possibly be more ridiculous than having a major quest in life that involves Walmart?

Not being able to fulfill that quest at Walmart.

I can see it now. I have a long future ahead of me as some sort of crazed creeper in book departments of Walmarts of the world. I’ll devote my days to searching out a copy of my edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul so I can take a selfie with it. By the time it finally happens (and it will happen eventually), I’ll be a gray-haired old crazy woman who runs around Walmart with my cell phone in hand, murmuring to myself about selfies and chicken soup.

Of course, since it’s Walmart, no one will notice.

On second thought, it might just be easier to find a different way of defining success for myself.

Then again, I’ve never been one to do anything the easy way.

 

 

 

History Nerd

My son recently had to study for his first really big test at school. It was all about Michigan history, and I’ll admit that helping him study was a lot more fun for me than it was for him.

He’s eight years old, so it’s all pretty boring to him. I am fifty and a certifiable nerd, so I enjoyed it. The experience reminded me of just why I minored in history in college for about two weeks in my Sophomore year, somewhere in the middle of minoring in Journalism, Theater, and Communications.

Okay, I’m an indecisive nerd.

I love history. Oh, not all the exact dates and numbers of famous battles in history or stuff like that. I’m more interested in how people lived ‘way back when. What they wore. What they ate. Who they married. What was it like to travel by covered wagon? And what did it take to make a journey like that, especially knowing that you might never come home to see your family ever again?

I want to read stories about people who lived during exciting times in history. I was amazed to learn that many of the women who traveled with their men on those wagon trains actually walked alongside the wagons for most of the journey. Walked. I could never have done that! Heck, I don’t even like walking to the convenience store.

When I made the decision to trying writing a historical romance, I put a lot of thought into choosing what era to write about and what part of the country to use as a setting. Michigan was a pretty easy choice because I’ve lived here all my life and I know the area. It wasn’t exactly the “Wild West” but it was definitely a frontier in its own right, complete with drama, adventure, and hardship.

And history.

One story that always fascinated me as a kid was the one about Old Lady Leary’s cow kicking over the lantern and starting the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Now, in reality, the fire had nothing to do with a cow, but it was a huge turning point in Michigan’s history. The lumber industry revved up into high gear to produce wood for rebuilding after the fire, which led to decimation of much of our forests here in the lower peninsula. There were boom towns that grew up around the increased need for lumber; towns that were left in ruins when the trees were gone. One such town was Singapore, which is now buried somewhere beneath the sand not far from modern-day Saugatuck.

Everyone knows about the Great Fire. But what most people don’t know is that Chicago wasn’t the only town that burned from October 8 – 10, 1871. Fires in Peshtigo, Wisconsin claimed anywhere from 1,200 to 2,400 lives. And in Michigan, towns like Holland, Port Huron, and Manistee suffered near-total devastation, while smaller towns were also damaged as well. There is no way of knowing just exactly how many lives were lost during the disaster.

I find it amazing that anything so huge has been basically forgotten in the 145 years since then. So I wanted to build my series around that event, featuring women who come to the town of Serenity for their own reasons– although each one comes because of a promise made in letters she has received. Letters to Caroline tells the story of the days leading up to the fire, while Victoria’s Lessons and Love, Charlotte are all set during the aftermath and rebuilding.

I know not everyone gets as excited about history as I do, but I hope some of you get excited about an adventure and love (of course!) set against a background of American history.

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