Graduations!

On Memorial Day, a part of my family and I drove two hours up to Lake Nacona, TX to celebrate the high school graduation of our great niece and cousin. She is the first of her generation to graduate from high school. There will be two more in her family, and we’ll have three more, but not for quite a few years. 🙂

accomplishment ceremony education graduation

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The experience made me nostalgic about this event. You know your high school graduation is like no other. In college some people decide not to walk, and even if they do, they can have several college graduations, so they lose some of their significance.

I’ve been fortunate to take part in and attend a lot of high school graduations—literally too numerous to count. I was a high school teacher in a former life, and a school board member for eight years in another former life where I spoke and made presentations at graduations. Not to mention my own high school graduation and those of our daughters. I was on the stage for my oldest daughter’s ceremony and my husband was on the board of regents for the state college form which she graduated. (He actually handed her the diploma.)

sunset beach people sunrise

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So high school graduations have significance to me. “Bittersweet” was the word I heard mentioned today. My great niece and her friends have been together since early elementary school, and now they will be going their separate ways. Oh, a couple are going to several different colleges together, but it will never be the same.

I love the opportunities stretching ahead for these young people. They have their whole lives ahead of them. To quote Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the places they will go.”

Not only have the girls been long time good buds, but their moms have too. In their 40s and 50s they’ve juggled jobs, spouses, kids, volunteer activities, and older parents. Such a lot on their plate. Several moms are done now and are empty-nesters.  Others still have one or two more to graduate. What lies ahead for them? Who knows?

The heroine in many of my stories are like these women. They have children, parents, jobs, sometimes spouses, and then I throw in a bit of suspense, a murder or two, and the possibility of a new love. Stir until they can have a happily ever after. Check out my stand-alones and The Second Chances Series.

Second Act 200x300(1) Act of Trust 200x300 Act of Betrayal 200x300 Act of survival 200x300

What about you? Anyone graduating this year? Children, Grands, Nieces or nephews? Maybe yourself?

I love graduations from any perspective. Such joy, excitement and “bittersweetness.” Love to hear from you.

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Contact me at marsha@marsharwest.com , and follow me on my social media sites.

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Sneak Off and Read: Lines all about PLAN #RSsos #RomSuspense

#OneLineSunday by #RSsos Lines all about PLAN

Interested in reading more? Click on the book covers below for information about the novel and the author.


“I want,” said Callista, “you at my side while I give birth to our children if that’s in the cards for us, or standing strong with me while we make a new plan if it isn’t.”

Kathryn Jane


We need a plan in case this blows up in our faces. Whoever killed that poor woman understood what they were doing by pointing the cops in your direction.

Marian Lanouette


“Kim wants a divorce. I don’t plan to give her one. Mother would disown me. No way this can happen.”

Marsha West


Now all Sarah had to do was mail it without Nate finding out. It wasn’t a great plan, but forward movement nonetheless.

Sharon Wray


Her noble plan to rid the earth of the scum-sucking leeches ruining so many young girls lives seemed doomed to failure. She couldn’t even save herself.

Jacquie Biggar


There’s nothing simple about the wedding her family is planning. Last night after she spent two hours on the phone with her mother, I suggested we elope to Vegas and be married by an Elvis impersonator.

Sam Bradley w/a McKenna Sinclair


She scanned him up and down, as though it was the first she’d noticed his grimy condition. “Get yourself washed up, boy, if you plan on eatin’ lunch at the same table with me.”

Claire Gem


Was that Sarah’s email? I archived it along with the ever-growing batch I planned to peruse at the month’s end.

Joanne Guidoccio


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A perfect fit for Baci Perugina!

When a book blogger asked me to compare the Gilda Greco Mystery Series to chocolate, I had no problems coming up with the perfect answer: Baci Perguina, the most famous chocolate brand in Italy and popular with Italians worldwide.

Perugina’s signature recipe includes whipped milk chocolate, gianduia filling, and chopped hazelnuts all in bittersweet chocolate. Each bacio (kiss) comes individually wrapped in silver and blue packaging and hugged by a poetic love note.

The three books in the series—A Season for Killing Blondes, Too Many Women in the Room, A Different Kind of Reunion—contain romantic elements, humor, and bittersweet moments. A perfect fit for Baci Perugina!

While researching the history of this famous chocolate, I discovered an intriguing back-story.

In 1922, a young chocolatier named Luisa Spagnoli fell in love with Giovanni Buitoni, one of the founders of the Perugina Chocolate Company. He felt the same way but couldn’t pursue the relationship. Luisa’s husband was the other founder!

Luisa decided to create a special bonbon to honor her beloved. She came up with a rounded shape, an entire hazelnut in the center, covered by a dark chocolate exterior. She named it a cazzotto (punch) but Giovanni changed the name to bacio (kiss).

Each chocolate was wrapped in a billet-doux—a love note—that Luisa would send to Giovanni.

That simple gesture between the star-crossed lovers spread throughout Italy (and the world), continuing for decades afterward. In the 1960s, English and French translations were added to the original text in Italian. Today, more than 390 inspiring messages can be read in six languages: Italian, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, and Chinese.

Here are some examples:

In dreams as in love all is possible. (J. Arany)

I loved you at first sight. And you smile because you know it. (A. Boto)

Love is like luck: it doesn’t like to be chased. (T. Gautier)

Loves can live on kisses and water. (English proverb)

Till I loved I did not live enough. (Emily Dickinson)

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind. (William Shakespeare)

readers…What is your favorite chocolate?

 

About the Gilda Greco Mystery Series

A cross between Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher, and Cher (Moonstruck), protagonist Gilda Greco brings a unique perspective to the amateur female sleuth.

The teacher-turned-lottery winner returns to her hometown, only to find herself embroiled in a series of murder investigations. Before you start imaging thrillers with high stakes and police chases, pause and take a yoga breath. The three novels in the series—A Season for Killing Blondes, Too Many Women in the Room,  A Different Kind of Reunion—are cozy mysteries, written in the Agatha Christie tradition. All the crimes take place “off stage” with very few graphic details provided.

While the pace may be more relaxed than that of thrillers and police procedurals, there are no steaming cups of herbal teas, overstuffed chairs, or purring cats in these contemporary cozies. Prepare yourself for interfering relatives who don’t always respect boundaries, adult mean girls, deserving and undeserving men, multiple suspects, and lots of Italian food.

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

 

How to Write a Love Story

He wept.

Standing in my kitchen filled with the warmth of baking sugar cookies and the scent of a cinnamon candle, I pressed the phone harder against my ear. Every one of his ragged breaths spears my heart. His wife, my dearest friend, has died.

And I have no words.

How do you comfort a man who’s lost his wife, his best friend, the one person in this entire world he counted on always to be there, always to love him?

Deep in the hard pit that used to be my stomach I realize you don’t. I can’t.

I finish the call and six teenagers, some mine and some borrowed, race in to find the cookies. I hand them out, present in person but not in heart, as his last words swirls around me.

“Why is this so hard?”

My answer was, “I don’t know.”

Does anyone know how to say goodbye and survive?

I pour milk for the chattering masses worried about Fall Out Boy concerts and cross country rankings. Yet all I can think about is it’s not the letting go that’s hard, it’s the leaving behind.

While her struggle is over, his is just starting. The world will expect him to grieve quickly and properly, take care of his children, go to work, accomplish things. Face the world with courage and strength and a smile stretched across his unnaturally thin face. Yet some accommodation will be made since he is the widower.

For her friends, those who sent cards filled with love when they couldn’t send themselves, those who sat by her bed, read her books because she lost her vision, we said goodbye at the proper time and now struggle to move on.

But I’m afraid. Afraid when I do move on it will be as if she never existed, never counted.

Yet she did and she does.

With her middle-grade mysteries and women’s fiction novels, her great scarves, white flowers, and endless cups of grande lattes, she brought her warmth and light and laughter to a new home. An act that has left our home darker and colder and quieter.

And I will continue writing a novella that she loved and believed in yet is suffering under the weight of my sadness and loss. She was my critique partner and head cheerleader. Without her wisdom and wit, I’m desperately making deals with God.

I’m determined to finish my novella but I want to read it to her, let her know how much I valued her attention and insight, let her know she was loved. I’m struggling with the hard.

“More cookies?” my daughter mumbles with a mouth filled with sugar and pink frosting. “Peesh?”

Assuming that was a “please” surrounded by pink sprinkles, I hand her the second plate and take another tray out of the oven unaware of the imminent danger.

One of the cookies is crooked, a bit overdone, and the frosting is smeared. And for some reason the frosting looks more red than pink.

“Eww!” My son points at this anomaly. “It looks dead. It’s a bleeding heart! Gross!”

They are heart-shaped cookies because that was the only cookie-cutter I could find. The others are probably hiding in the piles of laundry or empty flower pots that have yet to be filled for the season.

“I’m not eating it,” the other boy says.

“I dare you!” My daughter, the fearless one who wants to attend Hogwarts, be picked as a Tribute, and join the Dauntless Faction all at the same time, waves it in front of her brother. “I’ll give you my time on the Xbox.”

“No way,” he says, grabbing the milk container. “If I eat it, my heart might break too. And I haven’t even fallen in love yet!”

“You’re too scared to fall in love.” With a shrug, my daughter smiles, takes a bite, and leads her tribe of three girls back outside.

Left alone with my son and his friend, I say, “Don’t believe your sister. You’ll fall in love when the time is right. And when you do, you’ll feel no fear. All you’ll want to do is fly.”

He nods, but I realize I said the wrong thing. Where his twin would take off without wings, he would want to know ahead of time there was no risk. And he’d want that reassurance notarized and posted in public.

I apologize, but he just looks at his buddy and says, “It’s cool, Mom. But when I fall in love, I want it in writing that I won’t get hurt.”

He and his friend pack up the rest of the cooled cookies and leave for the part of the house as far away as possible from the girls.

And for the second time that day, I stand there with no words to offer.

If I can’t explain the benefits of love–and why it’s worth the risk–to my own son, what business do I have writing romance novels?

Suddenly, my daughter reappears. “Where is he?”

“Upstairs,” I say. “You hurt his feelings.”

“I know,” she says. “That’s why I’m giving him my Xbox time anyway. And tomorrow I’ll make his favorite pancakes.”

I am not surprised by her sudden reversal. It seems to be a teenage thing. But I am happy she’s making amends.

“And Mom?” She pops her head around the corner of the kitchen. “I’m also scared to fall in love. But don’t tell him. He’ll think I’m weak.”

She disappears, leaving me in the center of the kitchen with a dirty mixer, pink-stained cookie sheets, and a dog who would love to lick up all the dropped sprinkles.

Weak.

Is that how my children see falling in love? As a weakness?

My heart breaks a little. How can I prove to them that falling in love–and staying in love–takes a lifetime of compromise, kindness, and courage? That falling in love is the antithesis of weakness? If talking to teenagers has a fifty-percent chance of penetration, how do I explain that falling in love–in spite of the dangers–is the most important thing they will ever do?

I look over at my desk covered in manuscript pages, note cards, highlighters.

Why is this so hard?

Why did I have to say goodbye?

Why can’t I finish this novella?

The birds outside my window fight for seeds in the feeder, and I realize the truth. Life is hard because it’s a struggle to meet basic needs. Loving one another is hard because it counts on two people being vulnerable, taking risks, willing to lose the other to a breakup, debilitating disease, or death.

But writing about love? It’s more than hard. It’s devastating.

Love stories are written in the midst of the tears and suffering of real life. And while living through these emotions is difficult, reliving them through your characters is nothing more than a brutal reminder.

So why do I do it? Why do I force myself to sit down every day and throw words on the page? Because of the Happy Ending.

Yes, all romance novels have happily ever afters. And yes, I know, real life doesn’t. But that’s where the beautiful comes in.

Reading love stories, with their Happy Endings, allows us to revisit the most horrible of emotions in a safe, secure way. In a way that teaches us not just to survive, but to thrive. In a way that helps us heal, maybe even enough to try again.

And that means something.

Our words, our characters, our stories, mean something. This alone propels me back to my computer, my notes, my charts. If I finish this story with the care and passion it demands, I’ll find words of comfort for my friend and teach my children that love is not a sign of weakness.

That love, especially after a loss, takes enormous courage.

That love, if you’re willing to take the risk, allows us to fly.

All photographs courtesy of Sharon Wray.

_____________________________

Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beretdetermined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

EVERY DEEP DESIRE is available on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBoundKobo|  Google

Her second book ONE DARK WISH is available for pre-order here: Amazon

Is Your Story a Disaster? Should it be?

Something you don’t want to see out your window!

Well, not that I mean your story should be a disaster but maybe it can include one! I’m writing a class for the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA and thought it might be fun to share some of the intro with you.

Disasters come in all sizes, from the personal issue of losing a loved one to an event that gets worldwide attention. How would your characters respond to being in the middle of a disastrous event? A story with the backdrop of a natural disaster or (gasp) even a terrorist event can show what your characters are made of. Heroes are born from ordinary people in the midst of chaos. Like any complex story backdrop, the scenario and the facts within must be realistic.

In my twenty years with the American Red Cross Disaster Services in Southern California, we responded to house fires, earthquakes, floods and other events that displaced people from their homes. As a member of a federal medical disaster team, we deployed to tornados, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, ice storms and heat events. In September, 2011, our country was rocked with the terrorist event at the World Trade Center that changed all our lives. Our Disaster Medical Assistance Team was one of many federal assets assigned to do patient care for the responders at Ground Zero. It was a life changing experience. Today, man-made disasters like active shooter scenarios, apocalyptic human-caused wildfires and national security threats are almost as common as acts of nature. On that note, acts of nature have become record-setting in magnitude and damage to human lives.

Who responds to these incidents? Who are the agencies that respond on a local, regional, state and national level? Who’s in charge and how does it change if more agencies are added to an event? How well do they work together? Does the role of law enforcement and other emergency services change during disaster? Under what circumstances does the National Guard get involved? What’s the role of Homeland Security? What are the roles of nonprofit and volunteer agencies? Do the role of universities and hospitals change during disaster?

The main goal of all involved agencies is to prepare, save lives, mitigate the disaster as quickly as possible, then help with recovery efforts. There are also other issues that no one wants to think about: Who manages the dead? What happens to vandals and looters? What is the personal cost to the responders?

As you can see, there are countless opportunities to include a disaster in your story – as the main theme, a backdrop, or an opportunity for a hero to be born. Could your story include a grocery store clerk at a concert who foils an active shooter attempt? An off-duty firefighter trapped in a gas station when a tornado hits and needs to rescue a number of terrified people? An introverted teenager on her post-graduate vacation when a tsunami hits and she must choose to help the injured people around her. A new EMT is sent on a post-hurricane disaster response with her ambulance company. A nurse in the ER is faced with having to move and manage patients when flood waters overtake her hospital.

Is there opportunity for romance? Absolutely. What if a librarian (whose only adventures come only from books) is trapped after a tornado with a number of frightened children and a gorgeous off duty cop? What if a paramedic suffering from PTSD is suddenly faced with a number of injured people after a hurricane? What if your young lovers are separated after an earthquake and are trying to find their way back to each other? Then again, what if your protagonist (or antagonist) is a looter, arsonist or terrorist?

Just for fun … maybe add a little disaster to your book!

Sneak Off and Read: Lines all about TAKE #RSsos #RomSuspense

#OneLineSunday by #RSsos Lines all about TAKE

Interested in reading more? Click on the book covers below for information about the novel and the author.


A budding artist, she would take out her sketch pad and draw whenever she finished her work or needed to separate herself from the others.

Joanne Guidoccio


The boy buttoned his lip and appeared to reconsider an eye roll halfway through. Which made his expression darned comedic, but didn’t take away from the seriousness of the situation.

Kathryn Jane


He loved his rescue pup. It hadn’t taken long for them to bond when he first laid his eyes on Brigh, shaking in the corner of the vet’s office, afraid of the world as she scrunched down to make herself invisible.

Marian Lanouette


“I’m putting a bandage on it now, Kim, but I’ll be more comfortable if Jennifer takes a look. It appears you will require stitches.”

Marsha West


He ached to go to her, to take her in his arms, but she had to decide on her own if she trusted him. The next move had to be hers.

Sharon Wray


“That’ll take too long. I need to meet really, really new people now. I’ve rounded the bend and am headed over the hill.”

Vicki Batman


There was something eerie about watching a person take their last breath.

Jacquie Biggar


Sex for him had always been hard and fast – a means to an end – but Quin deserved so much more. Mostly, she deserved his respect,

Sam Bradley w/a McKenna Sinclair


“You’re testing my control, Ms. Larson,” he rasped into my ear. He apparently had no intention to take this to the bedroom just yet.

Claire Gem


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sneak Off and Read: Lines all about DESERVE #RSsos #RomSuspense

#OneLineSunday by #RSsos Lines all about DESERVE

Interested in reading more? Click on the book covers below for information about the novel and the author.


She reached up and cupped his face. “It’s okay. I don’t deserve you anyway. Not after running out on you yesterday.

Claire Gem


I felt happy for Adam, who deserved a break, one delayed unnecessarily in my opinion.

Joanne Guidoccio


She’d worked her ass off, and damned well deserved to be going into the field today, even if Broughton didn’t think she was capable.

Kathryn Jane


An idea had popped into her head when the commissioner’s wife had praised him more than Melinda thought Jake deserved.

Marian Lanouette


How could she possibly understand? Joe Sterling had been like a father. He didn’t deserve someone like Joe as a father figure, a mentor, a friend.

S.A. Taylor
Shutter (work-in-progress)


It’s like she thinks she doesn’t deserve the space she takes up in the world, so she doesn’t do anything to cause anyone extra trouble.

Marsha West


In their anger and frustration, they’d let their physical and operational security go. Since she deserved an answer, Nate offered, “We were Green Berets.”

Sharon Wray


“Map challenged?” He passed me his gadget of torture.

“Don’t know how since I earned a merit badge in map skills.”

Vicki Batman


Sex for him had always been hard and fast – a means to an end – but Quin deserved so much more. Mostly, she deserved his respect

Sam Bradley w/a McKenna Sinclair


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I disagree!

by Kathryn Jane

 

I disagree with lots of what goes by me on FB.

But instead of lashing out, shaking a finger or fist, unfriending or blocking, I sit back and wonder…

Why is this person’s opinion so different from mine?

How can she not see what I see?

Why does she not think like I think?

How can she be so wrong?

 

That’s when I stop and regroup.

That’s when I suddenly wonder if that person has the same reaction to what I post?

What if she thinks my opinion is way off the wall. My beliefs are out in left field.

What if she decides to unfriend me because my view of the world is so obviously different than the view she has?

Then I smile, thinking about the things we have in common. Things that have nothing to do with our religious or political beliefs. Things as simple as recognizing that although we differ in some really important ways we are still able to be friends. To enjoy other parts of what make us who we are.

And there lies the beauty of being able to disagree, without it being earthshattering and friend ending.

I thoroughly enjoy much about the people in my life who I disagree with “emphatically” over several subjects, and that, my friends, is just way cool.

 

 

What about you? Do you have friends with whom you carefully avoid some subjects? Or friends you actively argue with?  I’d love to hear some of your stories, so please share!


Kathryn Jane, novelist, artist, educator.

Want to know what else I’m up to in my life? The books, the painted rocks, the workshops?  Click here to  visit my website.

Sneak Off and Read: Lines all about BELIEVE #RSsos #RomSuspense

#OneLineSunday by #RSsos Lines all about BELIEVE

Interested in reading more? Click on the book covers below for information about the novel and the author.


Believe it or not, I fell in love as I lay dying in the ICU. I was scared shitless. Then you were there.

Sam Bradley w/a McKenna Sinclair


Heath closed his eyes and shook his head. “I can’t believe I’m standing in the bedroom of a complete stranger in the middle of the night in my pajamas.”

Claire Gem


Leo Mulligan—who didn’t have an airy-fairy bone in his body—believed in her powers.

Joanne Guidoccio


Alex agreed the coincidence seemed suspicious, but she’d reached a point in her life where she believed the universe often put things right where they needed to be.

Kathryn Jane


It’d been hard to believe that skinny stick of a woman had it in her, until her fist landed in my face.

Marian Lanouette


“I don’t know what to believe right now,” she admitted. “A man you loathed is dead, and you were the last person to see him alive.”

S.A. Taylor
Shutter (work-in-progress)


“Yes, but he’s a friend of Hunter’s, and they both went on about how clumsy I was. After a time, I believed them.”

Marsha West


“I still can’t believe it.” Sarah’s voice was breathless with joy or wonder or awe. Nate wasn’t sure which, but it didn’t matter because now they had something to bargain with.

Sharon Wray


I cannot believe this is happening to me. For the fifth time, I pawed through my suitcase. Please.

Vicki Batman


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crash, Bang!

author 100 x 100   I love computers. I’m betting you do too.

I hate computer “problems.” I’m betting you do too.

Last year, my 1 ½ year old laptop—a first for me—crashed. Like I turned it on, and nothing happened crash. I panicked. My books! My stories! My life!!!

computer-smile[1]
I had a warranty on this laptop. I don’t buy warranties and a nice tech man put a new solid-state hard drive in. I sent the old hard drive off to have material retrieved (which, by the way, cost more to have done than the actual computer). Soon I was back in business.
But in the back of my head was “when is this going to happen again?”
Last week, my computer program was corrupted. I had everything saved, all was wiped, and restored. I had to spend several hours again to bring it up to speed.
Again, my brain went to the dark side— “when is this going to happen again?”
One week later, my laptop wasn’t running well. I determined to have the security software company run its scans. I’d paid for this premium service after the crash and could use as much as I wanted. Fortunately, what they found was no big deal (except in my head) and no virus had attacked it.
I’m still having thoughts of “when is this going to happen again?”
I don’t like living like that. Maybe that’s normal for laptop people. I’m not sure. I don’t watch movies, TV stuff, or do games. I write and buy handbags. So why me?
After a huge discussion with Handsome, I decided to buy a new laptop, but what kind?
question mark black So, I’m appealing to you and your computer knowledge…what kind of laptop do you like?

 

Just Desserts 400x600 72dpi

No problems here! Just lots and lots of laughs and happy every afters! “Some had me laughing out loud and others had me saying…awww. Quick little stories and a great way to escape from the stress of the day and just sit back and enjoy. Each story shows how two people meet. Sunshine, humor and heart all rolled into one enjoyable book.”

Find yours at:

Amazon    Amazon print Nook Other vendors