Articles

Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 34 (Final)

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1
Chapter 34 (Final)

The next morning Shelley woke to someone pounding on her front door. She groaned and just barely refrained from telling whoever it was to go away in rather colorful terms. She’d been up long past midnight shuttling her things in from the car and digging out necessities like blankets and the tea kettle, counting on the fact that she could set her own schedule now.

Or so she’d thought.

She sat up and shoved her feet into slippers, thankful she’d collapsed in her sweats and t-shirt so she didn’t have to try to find her robe. Whoever it was knocked again, and she stood up, yawned, and made her way to the front door, only stubbing her toe once on a box.

Pulling it open a crack, she peered out, squinting at the bright daylight. It took a few seconds to register the face peering back at her.

“Dillon?”

He smiled and held up both hands – a keyring with two keys on it in one, and a brown paper bag in the other. “I have gifts. Can I come in?”

Stepping back, she opened the door wide and wished like hell she’d taken a peek in the mirror. Or at least pulled her hair back. It was probably everywhere, and the thought of how she must look made her blush.

“Of course…please. I don’t have much furniture yet, but there’s a bench in the kitchen.”

She closed the door and followed as he zig-zagged through the boxes and piles until he found both the kitchen and the built-in breakfast nook. Sliding in on one side of the bench, he put the bag and keys on the table, then unzipped his jacket and pulled out two bottles of plain iced tea and set them out as well.

“Wow.” Shelley sat down on the bench opposite him. “Those are some big pockets to hold iced tea bottles. Thank you. I found the kettle last night, but haven’t unpacked the tea just yet.”

“I figured.” He opened the bag and pulled out two napkins, placing one in front of each of them, and then brought out two of the most delicious looking Danishes Shelley had ever seen. “Mom told me you stopped by yesterday, and said you’d bought this place. Said your car was full, but that you were alone. I thought I’d drop by and see if you needed help. And also give you these.” He pushed the keys toward her. “She told me what she said to you. I’m sorry. She shouldn’t have treated you like that, and I told her so. Those are for your new PO box. You can just leave the rent in the box, next time you go into town.”

“It’s okay – I understand.” Shelley took a bite of her Danish – possibly the best she’d ever tasted. “Dillon, I’m sorry–”

He shook his head, held up one hand while he finished his own bite. “No apologies necessary. Like I told Mom, you had a lot happen to you, and so did I, and you needed space to deal with that. It’s okay. I was angry at first, but I get it. I needed some space to work things out myself.”

“So you’re not mad?” Shelley didn’t know whether to believe him or not. He seemed fine, but it wasn’t a small thing she’d done. “I want to make things right between us. I…” She wasn’t sure how to say what she felt. “I mean, if you’re still–”

He reached across the table and took her hand. “I am. And I’m glad you are. But you didn’t have to move all the way out here – we could have figured something out if you wanted to stay in the city.” There was a teasing note in his voice, and she smiled, relieved on so many levels that she suddenly felt lighter than she had in weeks.

“I needed a change – a big one. I really didn’t like my old job, and I’m excited about freelancing and setting my own schedule. I was tired of all the people and bustle, and I’ve been wanting something quieter for awhile now. Tabitha moved back in with her mother for the time being, so she can finish her therapy, so she wasn’t coming back, and I figured this place would be as good as any to start a new life, so to speak.”

Dillon nodded, still holding her hand. “How is Tabitha? I take it she’s talking to you again?”

Shelley shrugged. “Sort of. She texts. Every week it gets a little longer, but she’s still cool. Maybe eventually we’ll be able to be friends again. She’s got a lot to deal with right now, and Jane still in her ear. But that seems to have less influence than it did at first, so there’s hope.”

“Good.” Dillon released her hand to pick up his danish, and Shelley missed his touch immediately. “Hope is good. You don’t deserve what Jane did to you. I hope Tabitha comes around eventually.” He finished off his danish and looked around, his gaze settling on a stack of boxes nearby. “So, what can I do to help?”

Shelley stood up and held a hand out to him, her heart pounding in her chest. “I can think of a few things,” she said as he took her hand and stood too. “But one thing first, if you don’t mind.”

He grinned as she moved closer and slid her hands up to circle his neck. Pulling her close, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her forehead, her nose, her lips.

“I don’t mind at all,” he murmured before he claimed her lips again.

The End


Thanks for reading along with the first draft of this story! I’ve got quite a few revisions I want to make, so it’ll be different by the time it comes out, but I’ve enjoyed the journey of discovering this story, and I’m glad you came along for the ride. 

Stay tuned…starting next week, I’ll be serializing one of my earlier novels. Anyone want to revisit the campy fun and romance of Fantasy Ranch? I hope you’ll join me! 

Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 33

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1
Chapter 33

One month later…

The town looked different, Shelley thought as she turned off the backroad into Rattlesnake Falls. Creeping down the main street, she passed the gas station – which looked open this time – and the general store, several houses with children playing in the yards and finally pulled up in front of the tiny post office. Turning off the engine she sat back in her seat for a minute and took it all in.

So much had happened since she’d last sat in this very building, having dinner with Dillon’s mom and anticipating a fun week away in the wilderness. It felt like something that happened in another lifetime…and she guessed in many ways, that was true.

Grabbing her purse off the passenger seat of her new, packed-to-the-gills car, she got out and put her keys in her pocket, not bothering to lock the door. Ignoring the nerves dancing in her stomach, she pulled the post office door open and went inside, ringing the bell on the counter.

“I’ll be right there!” Diane Riley’s familiar voice made Shelley smile, and she was still smiling when the older woman came into view, leaning heavily on her walker.

The expression on Mrs. Riley’s face wasn’t so welcoming.

“Well, well,” she said, stopping before she reached the counter. “If it isn’t the woman who broke my son’s heart right after he lost his best friend. You should be ashamed to show your face around here, missy. You can just turn around and walk back out that door.”

Shelley’s smile faded. “I’m sorry Mrs. Riley. I didn’t mean to hurt your son, or anyone else for that matter. After everything that happened, I just needed some time to sort things out and get my head on straight.”

“And you couldn’t even pick up the phone to tell him that? Selfish girl. You’re not the only one who got hurt that week. But he tried to reach out to you. You couldn’t even give him the courtesy of a quick call. So why are you here then? What do you want? Trying to ease your conscience?”

Shelley sighed. Somehow she hadn’t thought it would be this hard, but in hindsight, she should have known. She did want to talk to Dillon, to try to explain why she’d needed so much space, but she felt like she should talk directly to him about that, not his mother.

“I actually need a post office box. I bought a house just outside of town, and the main post office web site says there’s no delivery out that way, but that there are plenty of boxes available here. I’d like to rent one, please.”

Dianne shook her head. “Nope. Nothing available, sorry. You’ll have to get one over at Meadowlark. It’s about an hour’s drive south, depending on how far out your new place is.” She looked at the clock. “Don’t think you’re gonna make it today – they close in twenty minutes.”

“So every single one of these boxes is rented.” Shelley looked pointedly at what must have been a hundred boxes lining the hall of the old lobby. “The web site says there are twenty available.”

Dianne shrugged. “Not for the likes of you. Now if you don’t mind, I’m closin’ up myself pretty soon, so you can see yourself out.”

Shelley nodded slowly. “Okay.” She pulled one of her new business cards out of her purse and slid it across the counter. “Here’s my new address, in case you or Dillon would like to stop by sometime. Obviously I didn’t handle things as well as I could have, but I can’t change that now. I am sorry for hurting both of you though, whether you believe it or not. I’d like to be friends someday, if that’s possible. If not, then cordial neighbors will have to do.”

Determined not to cry in front of Mrs. Riley, Shelley turned and quickly made her exit, managing to hold off the tears until she was seated in her car. Even then, she swiped angrily at her cheeks and pulled away from the building, knowing the propensity of small town people to snoop and gossip. It was time to check out her new home, and start getting settled in. Now that she was freelancing, time was money, and she needed a place to work.

And maybe someday she could convince Mrs. Riley to rent her a PO box. Baby steps.


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 34 – the final chapter!

Like this post? Support your author:

Sleep With Me  | MacKenzie Saves the World: A Comic Shop Romance | BeauTEAful Summer

Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 32

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1
Chapter 32

Dillon held her there on the sidewalk until she started to pull away. He reached up and gently wiped the tears from her cheeks.
“Ready to go upstairs?” At her nod, they went into the building and up to her apartment. She held out her keys, and he unlocked the door, ushering her inside.

“I’m sorry,” she said, kicking off her shoes and hanging up the scarf that she’d wrapped around her neck. “It’s just…everything feels like it’s changed, and I don’t know what to do about that. I’ve tried calling Tabby a million times, and she won’t pick up. Do I keep the apartment? Move? What do I do with her stuff? I just don’t know.”

He nodded, not really sure what to say, but wanting to ease her mind. “You might want to just give it some time. It’s only been a few days, and she’s been through a lot. We all have. It’s okay to just rest now. See how things look next week, or even the week after.”

“I know. It’s all just so overwhelming. And then the world just goes on like nothing happened. I was at work this afternoon, and no one knew what happened to me this past week, and I didn’t want to tell anyone because why would they care? But it was surreal, being there, and doing stuff and trying to talk to people like everything still makes sense. Because it doesn’t.” She hesitated for a moment, then walked past Dillon to the kitchen area. Filled the electric kettle and turned it on to boil. Got a mug out of the cupboard.
“Would you like some tea? Or you can have some of Tabby’s coffee, but I don’t have any idea how to work the coffee maker, so you’ll have to make it.”

Dillon smiled. “Tea is fine, as long as it’s strong and black.” He leaned against the counter, watching her get another mug and two teabags. “Can you take a few more days off? So you have a chance to ease back into things?”

Shelley shrugged. “Maybe. I have the time, but they said they need me. I don’t know though…it might help to just jump back in. Get back to some sort of normal routine. Do something besides sit here and think about everything.” She gave him a sidelong glance as she poured water over the teabags. “When are you going back to the ranch?”

He shrugged. “I should probably head up there tomorrow. We have a big group coming in from out of state, and with Mike gone…” he swallowed hard at the thought of his buddy not being there. Blinked several times.

“I’m sorry.” Shelley left the mugs and came to him, putting her arms around him. “I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine, I mean…”

He hugged her tight, appreciating the sympathy but not wanting to add to her pain. “It’s okay. I’ll be okay, it’s just going to take some time.” He pulled back. Kissed her softly, and then took a full step back.

“I think I’m going to drive back and spend the night at Mom’s tonight, and then I’ll head out for the ranch tomorrow morning. Are you…will you be okay here, by yourself, I mean? I can come back in a few days, see how you’re doing…”

Shelley nodded, then shook her head, and then gave a half-hearted laugh. “I’ll be okay, Dillon – thanks. You don’t need to make a special trip, really. We can just get together the next time you’re in town, and talk then.”

There was something in her voice that worried Dillon – a non-committal tone he didn’t like. The evening was wearing on though, they were both tired, both heartbroken, both trying to figure out how to move on. Maybe this wasn’t the best time for the kind of talk they needed to have about their future together.

So he nodded. Smiled. Kissed her on the cheek, and then on the lips.

Felt like he was making a huge mistake as he walked out the door into the night.


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 33!

Like this post? Support your author:

Sleep With Me  | MacKenzie Saves the World: A Comic Shop Romance | BeauTEAful Summer

Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 31

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1
Chapter 31

Twenty-four long hours later, Shelley walked into her apartment and bolted the door behind her. Tossing her keys on the table beside the door, she kicked off her shoes, went to the couch and collapsed into the soft cushions.

It all seemed so surreal now – like she’d laid down for a nap and dreamed the whole crazy week, and now she was just waking up and waiting for the nightmare to fade. She glanced around the living room, saw bits and pieces of Tabby’s life strewn about, and almost thought maybe she’d just walk through the door any second, plop down on the couch beside her and hand her a cup of that too-expensive coffee-shop tea she brought home when she’d gotten herself a tall latte.

They’d talk about Shelley’s crazy dream, about meeting some hot guy speed-dating and how Tabby ran off up a mountain with another guy and ended up with her leg cut off and how Aunt Jane disowned Shelley and that hot guy’s ex was really a stalker who he’d ended up shooting in the end…

And then they’d laugh, and Tabby would punch her arm and tell her that she’d just this morning set up a speed-dating event for a local bar next week, and would Shelley please, please come with her because it would be so much fun and maybe Shelley would meet that hot guy after all?

Groaning, Shelley laid down on the couch. Her ribs still hurt, but now that she was sitting and alone, everything else was starting to hurt too. As much as she might want to, she couldn’t deny that everything she remembered had actually happened, and now she was alone, her body beaten up and her spirit not in much better shape.

Nothing would ever be the same again, and she was tired. So tired.

She’d just about drifted off to sleep when her phone rang. Jerking upright and then wincing from the pain, Shelley grabbed her cell off the coffee table and answered.

“Shelley – thank God! I wasn’t sure when you were getting back, but we could sure use you around here, if you’re up to coming back a day early.”

She sighed. “I guess I could do that.” She looked at the clock, tick-tocking at her from across the room. Life goes on. “Give me an hour – I need to clean up first.”

Disconnecting, she rubbed her face with her hands and forced herself to her feet. The warmth of the shower felt good sluicing over her body, and she lingered longer than she should have, but what the hell. She’d get there when she got there, and they’d be grateful. She was still technically on vacation, after all.

She did her hair and makeup and got dressed, all the while feeling like something wasn’t right. It was all just so…shallow. So mundane.

So lifeless.

Her phone rang – the ride service she’d ordered was waiting. She’d have to call the insurance company too, see what she could do about a new car. Tomorrow.

Four hours later, she was back in front of her apartment building, staring at the front door as if it was her arch-nemesis. She didn’t want to go in. Didn’t want to be reminded of everything she’d lost.

The door opened and Dillon came down the stairs toward her, slowly.

“I was hoping you’d be back soon,” he said, his lips quirking up in a small smile. “I was worried when you weren’t here, actually. Are you okay?”

She stared at him for a moment, and then shook her head, the tears starting to fall.

“No. I’m sorry. I’m trying, but I’m really…not.”

He nodded, took another couple steps forward and pulled her into his arms. She laid her head on his shoulder and let the tears fall.


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 32!

Like this post? Support your author:

Sleep With Me  | MacKenzie Saves the World: A Comic Shop Romance | BeauTEAful Summer

Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 30

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1
Chapter 30

It took every ounce of discipline Shelley had not to run to Dillon’s cabin after those shots. She forced herself to wait, pacing anxiously in front of the main building until the sheriff pulled up and parked his cruiser.

“Thank God,” she mumbled, rushing to meet him as he opened the door. “I just heard shots from the cabin – Dillon went up there to confront his ex about ten minutes ago! Maybe fifteen!”

The sheriff nodded, reaching back instinctively to lay a hand on his holster. “I’ll go check it out, but I need you to stay put, okay? Don’t go up there. It’s not safe. Just wait.”

“I…” She wanted to argue, but he was right. “I’ll stay here.” There was no time to argue. Dillon could be laying up there bleeding to death for all she knew. But one way or another, he needed help and the sheriff needed to get there now. “Do you know the way?”
He nodded and then he was gone, jogging up through the trees. Shelley paced for another two minutes before she finally gave in and followed.

Careful to stay back in the brush, Shelley approached the cabin cautiously. The Sheriff knelt beside the stalker’s body, his fingers wrapped around her wrist.

But where was Dillon? Staying hidden, Shelley peered all around the clearing, but didn’t see him. Was he hurt? Had he run off for some reason?

The cabin door opened, and she let out the breath she’d been holding as he stepped onto the front porch. He was wrapping a bandage around his forearm, but he was on his feet and not dead and she ran out from the cover of the trees, her only thought to get to him.

Then she stopped short and raised her hands when the sheriff whipped around, his gun aimed square at her chest.

“You have no idea how close you were to getting shot, young lady.” He shook his head and lowered the weapon. “I thought I told you to stay back at the main office.”

Shelley lowered her hands and shrugged. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I just wanted…” she glanced at the woman on the ground, and then at Dillon before focusing on the sheriff again. “I needed to know Dillon was okay.”

The man in question had come down from the porch and was headed her way. She went to meet him, looking pointedly at his poorly-wrapped arm. “What happened? Did she shoot you? Are you okay?”

He chuckled. “I’m okay. She grazed me a little – nothing too bad. But I could use a little help getting it wrapped up, if you don’t mind.”

“I can do that.” She reached for his arm, but he turned so it was just out of reach. Looking up, she saw mischief in his eyes, and raised an eyebrow of her own.

“First, this,” he said. Pulling her close with his uninjured arm, he bent to meet her lips with his and she leaned in gladly, holding him close, celebrating that he was alive.

The sheriff cleared his throat behind them, and she pulled back as far as Dillon would let her, her face warm and probably beet red. Dillon grinned at her before he looked at the sheriff.

“I’ve got an ambulance on the way to pick up the body. I’m not a forensics expert and they’ll have to do an autopsy, but I’m not sure how she died considering your shot hit her so high up on the shoulder. I don’t suppose anyone else at all saw this go down, that you know of?”

Dillon shook his head, his expression serious. “No, but I do have a security camera recording from the porch. I’m not sure of the angle, but that might have caught something usable.”

The sheriff nodded. “That would really help a lot. If you tell me where the files are stored, I’ll retrieve them. You’re going to want to call your lawyer. And you’ll both need to come in to the station so we can get a statement on record.”

Dillon nodded. “Anything you need, Sheriff. I really didn’t mean to kill her. I just didn’t want her killing me.”


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 31!

Like this post? Support your author:

Sleep With Me  | MacKenzie Saves the World: A Comic Shop Romance | BeauTEAful Summer

Priorities & Forced Balance

Last week wasn’t nearly as bad as the week before in general, which is kind of odd since work was decidedly difficult. The difference is, I dealt with it much better, and while I didn’t stay caught up all the time, I did prioritize a lot better. It’s amazing how much just setting solid priorities can alleviate so much stress – and allow us to get more done than we might otherwise.

The poetry challenge was especially “challenging” this past week, but I managed to end Saturday caught up for the week (I’m behind a poem again as of right now, but I’ll catch up tonight). Poetry is all about “flow” and ironically, fitting it into my schedule has been exactly that. Looking for the proper flow, so I can slot it into each day at some point.

I think I mentioned that I was trying to use some of my nightly knitting/crochet/TV time to catch some of the overflow, and my body told me very quickly that it was just not going to happen. My eyes went downhill again, my brain refused to work, and pretty much every night sitting there with the computer on my lap, I eventually just gave up and shut it while I finished my hour-long TV show.

Incidentally, we’ve been watching Iron Fist and Wynonna Earp on Netflix. Iron Fist is entertaining, but I highly, highly recommend Wynonna Earp. So, so good!

In any case, that hour is very necessary down-time, and my body & brain were quick to correct me when I tried to use it for work. So…it would appear that time is just as sacrosanct as my writing time. This week, I’ll get the knitting back out while watching TV.

My neck is healing, but very slowly, and I’m kind of to the point where it feels like it just needs gentle stretching and then to build up the muscle around that nerve to protect it from being pinched again. I have to be careful, as it still won’t really “work” at several angles, but I’ve started doing light weight training in my shoulders/arms again. We’ll see how that goes, but hopefully it will be helpful. Stupid neck.

In any case, my writing output increased again last week, and no matter how much this poetry thing stresses me out, I am *loving* what it’s doing as far as just getting me back in the daily writing habit. That right there was worth the cost of the workshop (though I’m obviously learning so much more…).

And for those who have been following along weekly – yes, my taxes are done and will be in the mail on April 18th. I’m not efiling because I owe the feds money, and they can just wait for my check to get there, thank you very much. This coming Friday night, I’m adding some dedicated bookkeeping time to my weekly business hours.

I’ve been thinking lately of pulling a couple of shelved drafts out and reworking them for publication. The basic plot is sound enough, but they need revision/additions to work. I do believe that might be something to work on after poetry month is over. I’m excited at the prospect, and I hate revising with a passion. So there’s gotta be something there, right? We’ll see.

Serial story chapter coming Friday, and another week’s worth of poems Saturday. Stay tuned!

Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Chapter 1

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing! 


Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 1

It’s not easy being right all the time.

Shelley Frank watched the fourth guy of the night walk away and for a second, pretended to wonder what would happen if she just played “normal” with the next one. But she already knew. Guys were so predictable. Which made them boring, which made this whole evening a complete waste of time.

Maybe not a complete waste, she thought as that annoying bell rang and the next speed-dater approached. He wasn’t particularly interesting at first glance, other than the fact that he didn’t actually seem interested at all. Well, that and the five-o-clock shadow that darkened his jawline with a perfect amount of shade. He sat down across from her with a bored look that probably matched her own.

He met Shelley’s gaze with two startlingly-green eyes and she was surprised at the confident dismissal reflecting back.

“I don’t mean any offense, but I’m only here ‘cause my buddy needed backup and you don’t look like you’re any more into this than I am. So if it’s okay with you, we’ll just skip the whole getting-to-know-you bit, and I’ll get a little work done before the next switch. Is that cool?”

Shelley nodded, but didn’t figure he even saw it considering his smartphone was already in hand and his thumbs were moving a mile a minute. The vibe he gave off was clearly a don’t-talk-to-me one, and Shelley pondered that for a minute.

Was it a ploy to catch her interest by appearing to be uninterested? Or was he really not into this whole thing — and if that was the case, why didn’t he just leave? Then again, she was still here too. The clock was ticking, and considering he was the only challenge she’d seen all night, she decided it was worth the risk.

“Let me guess,” she started as she had with all the others. He was wearing worn, comfy-looking jeans and a semi-wrinkled teal button-down shirt casually untucked with just a hint of curly chest-hair showing in the vee at the top. His black hair was a little long and naturally wavy, and a few errant strands kept falling across his eye.

With those looks and that always-on attitude, it was hard to draw conclusions without knowing more, but she’d give it a try.

“You’re an IT geek with a boner for the latest gaming system and a God complex. A programmer, maybe, which gives you a sense of purpose and at the same time, takes away your ability to connect with other humans on any meaningful level.” Okay, maybe not that last part, Shelley thought. But if it got his attention…

He didn’t even look up from the small screen and his fingers never stuttered. Shelley figured he hadn’t even been listening, so her assessment was just wasted breath. By the time the bell rang again, she’d decided to call it a night and move to the other side of the bar while her cousin finished running the event.

Her partner for that round got to his feet before she could, and finally looked at her, a sharp, appraising gaze that made her want to take a step back.

“Bored, smart woman who somehow got roped into attending this thing against your better judgement, and you’re trying to make the best of it, but you’d rather be at home curled up on a couch with a book and your beloved…leopard gecko or something. Maybe a glass of wine. But you definitely don’t want anyone here taking a liking to you, because that would make him ‘not boring’, and that might make you think you have a chance for half-a-second. Which you don’t, of course, because you always push people away before they have a chance to do the same to you.”

He paused for a minute, started to say something, and then appeared to change his mind. He reached into a back pocket and pulled out a card, dropping it on the table.

“Just for the record – your first assessment was a little off. Might want to brush up on those people-reading skills.”

Shelley watched him walk away and grabbed the card, moving away from the table to avoid yet another round. Holding his card under one of the dim bar lights, she peered closely at the tiny print.

“Dillon Riley — Outdoor Enthusiast/Tour Guide/Owner at Rattlesnake Falls Lodge and Resort.” There was a PO Box listed in Big Timber, and a cell phone number she assumed was his. She had never heard of Rattlesnake Falls, but there were a few different camps up that way and it was beautiful country for it.

Brow furrowed, she looked up and scanned the room, trying to spot Dillon again. Outdoor enthusiast? Really? He didn’t look even remotely outdoorsy with that pale skin and slender frame. Did he have enough muscle to lift a hiking pack?

She knew she was being both unfair and bitchy, but she couldn’t seem to stop, and that was as good a cue as any to leave.

Slipping the card into her purse, she searched the crowd again – this time finding her target, and pushed through the people to where her cousin was holding court from a bar stool.

“Hey Tabby – I’m gonna head out. Do you need a ride?” She only asked to be polite. Her cousin never needed a ride, and rarely came home on nights like this anyway. Shelley wasn’t sure why Tabitha felt the need to drag her along. Tabby insisted it was to keep her company until the party ‘really got hoppin’, which took all of about ten minutes in any bar her cousin had ever set an insanely-high-heeled foot in.

Tabby shook her head. “You chased everyone off again, didn’t you?”

Shelley just shrugged and smiled. “I’ll see you in the morning,” she yelled over the jukebox and elbowed the ribs of a guy with roaming hands on her right. “Take care!”

“In the morning- sure…maybe!”

Tabby turned back to her adoring fans and Shelley pushed her way back through the crowd, somehow managing to find the door. A gust of cool air hit her face as she pushed it open, and she immediately lost her balance as the lower-but-still-substantial heel Tabitha had insisted Shelley borrow caught on a crack in the concrete just right.

Helpless against both gravity and momentum, she reached for the railing she knew was attached to each side of the three-steps down to the parking lot. Her fingers hit the cold metal and slid off just before her shoulder slammed into something warm and solid. She grabbed on for dear life, hoping whatever or whoever it was would at least slow her fall as the momentum kept carrying her sideways.

And right into a thick, steel band of an arm that encircled the center of her back as if she’d been meant to roll right there the whole time. Strong fingers wrapped around her ribs, and she gasped when the world finally stopped spinning and she found herself staring into the same startling green eyes she’d seen at the table inside.


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 2…

Like this post? Support your author (Amazon links):

Tempest | The Biker’s Wench (Fantasy Ranch Book 1) | MacKenzie Saves the World: A Comic Shop Romance

That Could Cause Cancer, You Know…

…and water is wet, and the sky is blue.

But we’ll get to my rant on supposedly well-intentioned cancer warnings in a minute. First, a bit of blog news:

If you were/are a fan of my blog serials, I have good news! I’m around 6 chapters into my next romantic suspense novel, and I’ve decided to serialize it again. One chapter every Friday, right here on the blog. Keeps me motivated and accountable, even if I know there are only two people reading. And since I rarely look at my stats (too lazy), I can pretend there are at least two people reading, which keeps me writing. Ignorance/fantasy is bliss, you know.

So, if you’re interested, stop back on Friday for Chapter 1 of…hmm. That’s a pickle. I should probably pick an actual title for this book, eh? I’ve been calling it Rattlesnake Falls Book 1, because the series will be Rattlesnake Falls, and this is the first one (I know, so logical). But I haven’t come up with an actual title for it yet. I’ll think on it, and hopefully have one by Friday.

I currently have subscription options for either “all posts” or “non-fiction only”. I’ll have a “fiction only” option as well by Friday, so those who prefer to get each chapter (but not these rambly weekly posts) via email can do so.


Alrighty then. Admin business done, now back to the rant o’ the week:

As I understand it, cancer isn’t really a disease so much as a cell mutation, and the things that turn it on/off are varied and individual to specific people depending on their own genetics and lifestyle. Cells mutate, and those mutated cells spread through the body and left unchecked, it will eventually kill us. Odds are incredibly good that a high percentage of us will eventually be killed by cell mutations (cancer) at some point (hopefully very late in life when our bodies are worn out, but that’s if we’re lucky).

Why am I thinking about this, you ask? Because I was challenged about my tattoos twice last week, and one of the arguments used was “tattoos can cause cancer, you know – and especially lymph node cancer”. The reason that last part was tacked on, obviously, is because Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma runs in my family, and it was an attempt at emotional manipulation. Scare tactics. Needless to say, I didn’t appreciate it, nor do I respond to such things all that well.

There are a *lot* of things out there that can cause (trigger, really) cancers. And we have a lot of warnings all over the place alerting us to that danger. The main cancer that runs in my family is genetic, and has a tendency to hit the same oldest (or only) child of the family in the same place on the body (lymph nodes at the side of the neck) at the same time in life (one week before a 50th birthday). It’s been very predictable for at least three generations on my dad’s side, and I’ve lived a great deal of my life knowing that one week before my 50th birthday, a lump will probably appear on the side of my neck, and it will be my turn to get radiated/chemo-ed/poisoned/whatever-the-current-treatment-happens-to-be in order to keep my body from killing me in the process of turning into a giant mass of monster-cells.

We humans are nothing if not hopeful, though, and to that end, I’ve done and continue to do a lot of things in order to reduce the risk of my genetic switch from “flipping”, or at least to prolong the process. With the occasional lapse, I workout fairly regularly and do my best to keep my weight under control (all previous generations where the cancer triggered, the “victims” were quite overweight). I eat as healthy as I can stand to, which is pretty healthy and includes a high-fiber, low carb diet, I stay away from most extra sugars, all artificial sweeteners, and I try to keep my indulgences to a minimum. I drink the equivalent of six cups of tea per day, no sugar added, and I do my best to get a proper amount of water for good hydration.

I read labels religiously, do my best to avoid potentially harmful chemicals in skin care, makeup, soaps/cleaners, household cleaning products, and personal care items. I use herbal-only hair dyes, and my nail polish is all “big-three-free” (which means it has less toxic chemicals, but it’s still not perfect). I don’t use plastic water bottles or storage containers if I can help it – everything is metal, glass or ceramic. I stay away from commercial drugs as much as possible, and use herbal/holistic remedies whenever I can.

You’d think I’d be confident in my ability to prolong or circumvent my family’s genetic curse, but honestly? I have no idea whether or not any of it will even help. And there’s a very good possibility that nothing I can do will stop that genetic mutation from triggering in my body in exactly the same way, at exactly the same time as my dad, and his mom, and her dad before that. Even if I can prolong it, there’s no guarantee that it won’t trigger differently, maybe at some other time, in some other place. That’s the thing about cancer. If the genetics are there, there’s no guarantee that anything we do differently will ever be able to stop it from actually manifesting.

I have tattoos. One of the few things I indulge in knowing full well that it isn’t the healthiest thing for my body, and that some of the pigment particles *will* settle in my lymph nodes. And I fully plan on getting more tattoos. Because I love them, and because no one can guarantee me that any of the things I do to keep my cells in line is actually going to work against my base genetics. I could live as pristine a life as possible, and still end up with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma one week before my 50th birthday. Or, the curse could mutate differently in me, and manifest as some different sort of cancer at some different time of my life too. Earlier, later…impossible to say. The potential is there, dormant (hopefully) for now. The possibility that something will eventually trigger it is high. If not my tattoos, it will be something else.

At some point, you have to just stop worrying so much, live your life, and deal with things as they come.

Well, you don’t have to, I guess, but it’s sure a lot more fun/less stressful than constantly worrying about every single thing that could go wrong and trying to control things that really are pretty much out of your control.

I’m keeping the tattoos and nail polish, thanks. My two main unhealthy vices, and the nail polish has been one since I was a young kid, way before they thought about things like avoiding toxic chemicals (nail polish is derived from automobile paint, you know, and then there’s polish remover, of course…), so I’ve certainly absorbed my fair share of those along with all the tattoo pigments.

Yes, I know tattoos could/may trigger cancer, thanks. I’ll take my chances.

2015 in Review

Normally today’s post is when I’d go back to my 2015 resolutions and see how I did (okay, normally I’d have done that Monday, but last weekend got away from me yet again – funny how they do that). I’m posting the link there so you can go back if you want, but the year got derailed almost as quickly as it started, and just spiraled right out of control from then on out. I had challenges in pretty much every part of my life, and I’m annoyed but not too proud to admit that I didn’t deal with them nearly as well as I should have. In any case, I’m not going to go back point by point on last year’s resolutions, because it seems…pointless, given the year I’ve had.

But, water under the bridge. I learned a lot, made some pretty significant changes, and kept going, which is ultimately all any of us can really do.

I also started three serial novels in newsletters that are not, and will not be finished. To those who may have actually been reading along, I apologize for that. It was a great idea, poorly timed, that got caught up in an existential writing crisis of sorts, and while I could go ahead and force myself to finish those stories, I’m not going to. In fact, I’m leaving behind serialization altogether in the new year, as well as several other writing projects that I was working on for the wrong reasons.

As a matter of fact, I don’t plan to publish any of the stories I wrote in 2015. They weren’t wasted, by any means – in fact, all three are very significant in the fact that each of them revealed something very important to me about myself as a writer and the direction I want to move in as far as storytelling goes. Some hard decisions came with those realizations, but I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

I kicked off last year with a new tattoo – my first in 13 yrs or so. You wouldn’t think you could learn much from getting an image inked into your skin, but I got two more tattoos as the year went on, and I actually did learn a lot about myself, and who I have been vs. who I want to be in the process. The last one especially was very…defining for me, and even a relief, in a way.

My job has changed over the past year too – “evolved”, if you will. I make a point not to talk much about specifics of my job or the people I work with online (for obvious reasons), but as difficult as it was there for awhile, I end the year very contented/satisfied with what I’m doing and the environment I’m in.

In my personal life, I did a lot of things wrong last year. But the biggest “sin” was putting my obligations (most often self-appointed) above my personal needs. I spent a lot of time resenting all sorts of different things, and way too much time trying to decide how to deal with it all rather than just…well, dealing with it all. It took a week-long “vacation” just this past month to get my head screwed back on straight, and as annoyingly enlightening as it was, it really clarified things for me and allowed me the “reset” I desperately needed. Hopefully I can carry those lessons through the next year and not let things get so mentally “out of hand” again.

Surprisingly, the key to prioritizing/managing my personal life has simplified itself through the menu “plan/system” I adopted this past fall (the only one I’ve ever managed to follow for more than a week or so). Odd how inspiration comes from the strangest of places, isn’t it?

In any case, the year is basically over, and I’m ready for the new one to start. Onward to 2016!

On Newsletters, Concerts, & Rolling With It…

So…my newsletters are late this month (they’re supposed to be out today). All of them (four – me, my two alter-egos, and BSB). Because the serial story installments aren’t finished (one is, two are not). And the reason the one that is done hasn’t been sent out yet is because I have a mental quirk about doing things in groups, if they belong to a group. Like the newsletters. I do them all at the same time and then schedule them to send and that’s that for another month. Then again, I normally have the serial installments done close to the first part of each month, so I don’t have to worry about finishing them close to the newsletter deadline…

This month, we had some holidays, some family stuff, and a lot of unexpected dog health stuff to deal with all in the first two weeks of the month. Needless to say, when I had the time to write, I often didn’t feel like it, and when I finally forced myself, it was to get my weekly blog serials done.

Yes, I’m overbooked, and yes, I did it to myself. I do this *every single year* with the writing…and then I get behind, and I kick myself for doing it, and I swear I won’t do it again next year. And I begin the year with good intentions, and then I get an idea (or three), and it all just spirals downhill yet again.

Planning ahead would probably help this considerably, and I am a planner, which is what’s so weird about it. I am ultra-organized in pretty much every aspect of my life – except writing. I’m not really sure how to fix that, since I do *try* to organize that, and always end up just throwing my beautiful organization out the window…

The artsy side of me isn’t all that responsible, apparently. It really bugs the intellectual side of me, but reasoning with the artsy side is just…pointless, really. Which is also annoying.

Some of you may have noticed that this blog post is also late. The reason for that is far simpler – well, somewhat simpler, anyways. I could have written it Saturday, but I was having a bit of a “reflect and regroup” day. Sunday was crazy-busy, because hubby and I went to the Alice Cooper/Motley Crue concert here in town, so I had about four hours less than normal to get all of my normal Sunday housework done.

A few notes from the concert, including about a hour in line (it was sold out):

– “Oh my God – we forgot glitter!” (overheard in line…amusing, since I spent most of the day just waffling on whether or not to shower and put makeup on for the concert…I did, but it was a close call)

– “I was smart – brought my own beer.” (from a man in line a couple feet ahead of us, who promptly dropped his plastic cup and spilled all but the couple of sips he’d taken off the top before the line even started to move)
Our main entertainment venue has about the worst sound ever on a good day, but it was actually worse than usual last night, which sucks. The last time Alice was here, he played the Alberta Bair, a smaller local theater where our symphony performs, and it was spectacular. This time…the stage show was awesome, as always, but the sound wasn’t even close to what it should have been. I should note that I’ve heard it sound just fine on very rare occasions under the hands of master mixers – the Volbeat/Five Finger Death Punch concert was absolutely awesome, and the only different was the sound techs (and maybe their equipment?).
Alice Cooper’s stage show is never disappointing. I just wanted more (and better sound). And I wanted the girls in front of us to stop blocking my view, dammit.
Motley Crue’s sound was even worse – the mic (or the lead singer’s voice, not sure which) kept cutting out every third or forth word), for very muddled lyrics. Not that it mattered much – the music was mixed poorly and there really was no balance between the lyrics and music, so if you didn’t know the songs, it’s not like you were going to really “hear” them.
The drum-kit roller coaster was incredibly cool. So was the light show.
The pyrotechnics were…really loud, really bright, and made me feel old for wishing they would just stop already. My ears have since recovered (more or less), my eyes, not so much. Extra eye drops today, thankyouverymuch.
Skunky weed is so…not cool. Whoever was toking up near us last night had some of the nastiest smelling weed ever. Seriously, dude…if you’re gonna bring it out in public, splurge for something more mellow to share with the group. No one wants to smell that cheap (I assume/hope) crap at a concert.

On a possibly related last note: The Taco Bell nearest the concert venue was hoppin’ afterwards…

So…that was…well, it was fun, but not as much fun as I’d have liked it to be. And we had to adjust Lucy’s dinner/insulin schedule just a bit, which seems to have screwed with her blood sugar a little. Just gotta wait and see if it was actually the schedule change, or just her body still adjusting to the insulin. Either way, the hubby’s off work this week, so that will make a difference too. It’s pretty amazing how even the slightest thing can make a huge difference in blood sugar (rarely thought about unless diabetes is in the picture).

As for rollin’ with it…that’s exactly what I’m trying to do at the moment. There are a lot of changes that come with having a diabetic dog, and a lot of routines that have to be added and adjusted for. Hubby and I are also making changes in our workout/evening habits, which are good, but still create stress during the initial break-in period. There are changes afoot in my professional sphere (good changes, just…changes) as well, so among all of those, life has been pretty topsy-turvy lately, and I’m really not fond of topsy-turvy, overall. This past Saturday I was attempting to make some sense out of things, but didn’t get much farther than realizing it was going to be awhile before that could logically happen. And reminding myself that it hasn’t been topsy-turvy for all that long, and I can roll with the changing tides a while longer.

It seems so simple in theory, doesn’t it?


Enjoy this post? Support your author:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | All Romance eBooks | Smashwords
Audible | iTunes