A Snippet of Book One of my new Wedding Party Quartet

Series sell. Readers get invested, and that can mean the world to an author. Personally, I prefer to write standalones. Maybe because for now, I prefer reading them, too. But I recognize the value in writing a series, and after writing three stand alones,  I planned out a four-book series consisting of full-length novels.

I’m going to write them, edit them, format them, design the covers and drop them all at once. Risky, perhaps. But there are authors who swear by rapid release, and for consistency reasons, I would finish them all before publishing them, anyway.

Because I said I would update you as I write them, here is the first couple scenes of the first book. This was originally the second book in the series, but I felt it was a stronger start. The second book will need a bit of fluffing up, but nothing too terrible, and I’m looking forward to adding to the plot as I learn more and more about my characters.

Book One is about Callie Carter and Mitch Sinclair. Mitch has been in a horrific accident that has left him scarred, both physically and mentally. Callie has been under her father’s thumb for many years and accepted an offer to be a bridesmaid for a chance to breathe and figure out her life. Little did Mitch and Callie know that Marnie Zimmerman and James Fox’s nuptials would be the catalyst for such significant change.

Enjoy this small, kind of edited, excerpt from the first book of the Wedding Party Quartet. It doesn’t have a title yet, but that’s just one more thing I’m working on as I write. 🙂


“You’re here!”

Callie Carter tugged her suitcase into the Rocky Point Resort’s lobby as Marnie Zimmerman’s shriek zinged across the room.

“I told you I would be, but my dad didn’t make it easy,” Callie said, easing her case to a stop in front of the registration desk.

Marnie frowned. “You deserve the break.”

Callie set her purse on the counter next to a display of resort brochures. “No one knows that more than me. I had the time, and there wasn’t anything he could do about it.”

Her father didn’t believe in taking a break. Horace “Ace” Carter didn’t believe in down time. Rest. Taking care of her emotional health, her physical health. He believed in getting the job done. And for the past ten years, she had. But rubber bands, stretched too tightly, eventually snap, and Callie was almost there.

“I’ll make sure you have fun . . .” Marnie said, linking her arm through hers while the agent ran her card and handed her a small stack of papers.

“Here’s your key, Miss Carter,” the desk agent—her nametag read Sophia—said, handing her an honest-to-goodness key attached to a maroon keychain with the gold Rocky Point Resort logo stamped into the plastic. “You’re in room two-thirty-one, next door to Marnie and James.”

“. . . Starting tonight.”

Callie pulled her suitcase behind her. She’d left a few dresses hanging in her car, and she’d have go to back for those later. “What’s tonight?”

“I planned a get-to-know-you dinner. Jared is picking up Leah in Marengo, and she’ll be here this afternoon. I can’t wait for you to meet her. Hell, I can’t wait to meet her!”

“You are positively giddy,” Callie said, laughing. She stopped at the base of the short set of stairs that would take them to second floor. Purse hanging from the crook of her elbow, she hugged Marnie. “I’m happy for you.”

Marnie hugged her back so hard her spine cracked. “I am happy, and I’m happy you could be here.”

“I wouldn’t have missed it.”

She’d been honored when Marnie asked her to be a bridesmaid, and hadn’t thought for a second about saying no.

Standing outside Callie’s door, Marnie said, “I know you want time for yourself after that long drive. Take a bath, order a bottle of champagne, whatever you want. We’re meeting downstairs for dinner, and you’ll meet everyone then. I’m so excited!”

Marnie’s platinum blonde hair shimmered in the fluorescent lights, her pin curls, thick red lipstick, and clear skin giving her a Marilyn Monroe glow. She even had the curves to go with it, and Callie had always envied Marnie her softness.

Callie worked out seven days a week, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year. She had to. It was part of her job. Speaking of . . . she might be on vacation, but she still needed to workout. “You said the resort has a workout facility?”

“Yep,” Marnie said. “It’s downstairs by the pool. It’s not as big as the set up in your basement, but it will work.”

“Thanks. I’ll see you tonight, then.”

Callie didn’t feel the need for a bath, but a light nap sounded divine.

She let herself into her room and tucked her suitcase into the closet. The room smelled like any hotel room she’d ever stayed in: air freshener and the scent of recycled air.

A huge gift basket sat on a table tucked under the window that overlooked a thick swatch of trees. A brochure said there were woods to the west, the lake to the north, ski slopes on the east side of the building, and the town of Rocky Point on the south side. The resort offered quite a few amenities, Callie noticed, skimming the resort’s brochure. Maybe she would try her hand at skiing while she stayed there.

Callie washed her face in the sink and dried her skin with the bleached white hand towel. She hung it on the bar over the toilet and frowned at the water pooling at bottom of the bowl. “That’s great,” she muttered.

She needed a working sink. If all the pipes were connected, the bathtub might be affected, too, and she wanted to be able to shower in the morning. Or tonight after dinner.

“I need maintenance,” Callie said, using the landline phone on the nightstand to call the front desk. It wasn’t that late in the day, and she hoped someone would be able to come by her room soon. “My sink is plugged and won’t drain.”

She recognized Sophia’s voice. “We’ll have Mitch up there right away.”

“Thank you.”

Callie should have asked to be transferred to room service but she didn’t want to call back. She could save her appetite for dinner, and even though she was on vacation, she shouldn’t give in to wanting to drink too much. Her father told her she needed to be in control at all times. What if someone needed her? He always had an example at the ready of a time when he’d been able to help someone.

Service was a calling.

Ace Carter spoke of their occupation as if they were ministers or missionaries.

And he expected her to behave as such.

But why did being responsible mean she couldn’t have fun?

Someone knocked on her door, and she pushed the thoughts away. This was supposed to be vacation. A break. She’d fought hard for it and won.

Callie opened the door expecting an older man, balding, wearing a t-shirt and stained overalls carrying a red battered toolbox, and she blinked in surprise at the man a few years older than she standing in the hallway.

Her gaze traveled from his dark brown hair to his green yes. Slim, but strong, with the way he carried an enormous toolbox.

He shifted slightly, and asked, “Did you need maintenance?”

The right side of his face and neck made her hide a gasp behind her hand.

Through the crackling of heat in her ears, her mind whispered, fire.

***

Mitch was used to the wide-eyed stares, the stunned silences, the pity and the sneers. He’d become numb to it, and he ignored the shocked gasp the woman emitted when she saw the right side of his face and the scar that started at the top of his hairline and rippled down his temple and cheek, across his jaw, and into the neckline of his work t-shirt. It spread farther than that, but besides doctors and nurses, few had seen it, and Mitch intended to keep it that way.

“Maintenance?” he asked again.

She moved her hand away from her mouth. “Y-yes. The sink in the bathroom won’t drain.”

“I’ll take a look.”

When she didn’t move, he reached out a hand to nudge her from the door, but she flinched away.

So this was the way it was going to be. When he’d taken the job, the manager of the resort, Desiree Arnold, told him not to put himself into situations that could cause trouble for either party. If he felt the need to have someone with him while he did repairs, then that’s the way it would be. When she offered him the job, Desiree hadn’t brought up his scars at all, but Mitch didn’t need her to point out the obvious. He looked a hell of a lot scarier with his scars than he’d look without them.

“Would you like me to call Sophia and ask her to sit with you while I fix your sink? Or would you like to go to the bar and have a drink while you wait? It’d be on the house.” He carried vouchers in his toolbox to offer guests who didn’t want to be alone with him. A free drink to get them out their room so he could work in peace.

No one turned down free drinks, and her refusal took him aback.

“No, it’s fine. I’m sorry. You took me off-guard.”

“I usually do that to people,” he said mildly, stepping into her room. Before he shut the door, he asked, “Are you sure?”

And that question took him back to the last time he’d tried to make love to a woman. She’d been adamant she could handle the scars.

But it turned out she couldn’t, and he’d never tried again. With anyone.

She nodded. “I’m fine. I, ah, washed my face, and the water didn’t go down.”

“Sounds like an easy fix.” And it did. He’d spent the past seven years as the resort’s maintenance man, drawing on his own experiences fixing things around the house with his dad. Desiree, being in a jam when the current maintenance man quit unexpectedly due to a heart attack, had hired him on the spot, making it clear it was probationary. But there hadn’t been anything in the resort he couldn’t repair. His three month tryout ended with a pay raise and a small room with a twin-sized bed. Mitch didn’t need to stay there, but Desiree liked having on-site maintenance twenty-four/seven, and he didn’t have anything else to do.

The sink sat inside the spacious white-tiled room that held the bathtub, shower stall, and toilet.

Last month, Desiree had warned him that several of his old classmates would be trickling in for Marnie Zimmerman’s wedding and they would be filling the resort for two weeks. At the time he’d wondered why she’d bothered to say anything. It wasn’t like he’d never worked with a full resort before. The resort brought in tourist dollars for Rocky Point, and Desiree and her sales manager worked harder than anyone he knew to keep the rooms full all year round.

It was only after, while he thought about their conversation over a tuna sandwich, that he realized what she’d been getting at.

He didn’t recognize this one though. She hadn’t graduated from Rocky Point. He would have remembered.

Mitch hunkered down onto the floor with his toolbox and removed the extra toilet paper, box of Kleenex, and a hair dryer from under the vanity to reach the pipes.

He didn’t bring  a bucket, and he shoved the wastebasket under the pipe to catch the water as he removed it.

The brunette disappeared, and he worked in silence.

The culprit of the clog was a wad of hair and dirt, and a small diamond ring.

Satisfied he’d fixed the problem, he cleaned up. Dirty water filled the wastebasket, forcing Mitch to take it with him. He couldn’t empty it into her bathtub or sink. Desiree hired only the best housekeepers and Sophia said this woman hadn’t been in her room long. Maybe if she would have gone to the bar he could have dumped the water and cleaned up after himself, but he wouldn’t try it now.

“I’ll have housekeeping bring you another wastebasket for the bathroom. I’m sorry I had to use this one.”

She lay on the kind-sized bed staring at the ceiling. “Did you find what was clogging the sink?”

“Yeah.” Free of dirt, the ring sparkled, a platinum setting hugging the modest diamond. “Did you lose a ring?”

“No. Can I see it?”

Mitch shrugged. He didn’t know why not. He’d only take it to the registration desk so they could research the history of the room and ask if anyone had lost a ring recently. If they couldn’t find anyone who had, the ring would sit in the safe as part of their lost and found.

She rolled off the bed and took the ring when he offered it to her.

“I would be freaked out if I lost something like this.”

“I wouldn’t buy something like this,” he said. He caught the bitterness in his tone and pursed his lips.

Startled, her gaze met his. “You don’t want to get married?”

Mitch took the ring from her fingers, his skin brushing hers.

The way she looked at him, like she didn’t see the scars, not once she moved past her initial reaction, made him think that one day maybe he could find a woman who could see through his injury.

He snorted.

Yeah, when pigs flew.

“I learned a long time ago women want Mr. Perfect, and I have never been, and never will be, that kind of man. Have a good afternoon, miss, and enjoy your stay.”

Mitch dropped his toolbox with a large clatter outside her room, and hugged the wastebasket stinking of dirty water close to his chest.

Closing his eyes, he tried to forget about hers.

Callie and Mitch blog graphic

Can Authors Write Characters They Dislike?

As readers, we read characters we dislike all the time. That’s what villains are for, after all. They are characters we love to hate. They create horrible problems for the characters we love.

We read characters we can’t identify with and that makes us dislike them. Or they make stupid choices we don’t understand. Whatever the reason, as readers, reading about characters we dislike is common. It makes it hard, sometimes, to get into the story because characters we don’t like or can’t understand pull us out of the story and leave us frustrated.

Sometimes this is because they aren’t written well and the author gives them negative character traits in an attempt to make them well-rounded. Other times we can’t identify with characters because they are too young or too old. Not many adults who read Twilight liked Bella Swan. She was a whiny, indecisive 17 year old girl.

So, as a reader, it can happen where you stumble upon a character who is too air-headed, too boring, or just all around unlikable.

As a writer, can this happen to a character in your own story?

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Usually, we love our characters. It’s why writers write series, so they don’t have to say goodbye. Or we edit the same piece over and over again because we don’t know how to let go. It’s common for sequels to be written without being planned because a secondary character steals every scene and demands their own story to be told.

When I was writing book one of my series, Callie Carter started off as any of my female characters. She needed a change. Her backstory wasn’t as horrible as some other characters I’ve created, but she still was unhappy and she was using the two week vacation in Rocky Point to not only be a bridesmaid, but also to take a break from life and figure things out. She’s in-your-face and assertive. She goes after what she wants (unless it has to do with her job and her dad).

When she meets Mitch Sinclair, she knows she wants him. And when she sees how Mitch lives because of something that happened years ago, she promises fix it. Even if he doesn’t want her help–even if he doesn’t want to fix it.

She knows best.

Or she thinks she does.

Mitch falls for her quickly. He falls for her effervescence. He falls for her joy of life. And he falls for her because when she looks at him, she sees him, not the accident that scarred him. He’ll do anything for her.

She asks a lot of him because she wants to help him live a better life, and she pushes him out of his comfort zone.

I hated her for it.

She knew Mitch needed a change, and change can hurt. Bad. While trying to help him, defend him, as no one else had, she hurt him. And I couldn’t make her stop.

I cried for Mitch and what Callie was putting him through. But the story demanded it. Because while I hated Callie for hurting Mitch over and over, she was right, too. He couldn’t keep living that way. And slowly, he realized it, too.

But Mitch and his parents went through a lot to come to that point.

All while I was writing her and what she was doing, I hated her. I kept telling her to leave him alone, that if he was happy with the way things were, why was she picking on him? Making things worse for him?

Their story is done, and they both learned valuable lessons in life and love, but I still don’t like her very much. And I still don’t think she treated Mitch very well, even though he fell in love with her, and she was right about a lot of things in the end.

It made me wonder if other writers are sometimes in the same situation. Writing protagonists they dislike.

And it also made me wonder how that affected my writing. Will it show through that I hated how she treated him? After all, she loved Mitch. She wanted to help him. Everything she did was to help give him the life she thought he deserved to live.

Does her love for him show through? I hope so.

It was a different experience for me, to not be totally enamored by one of my characters. Usually, I love them all.

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As a reader, it also made me wonder about the female characters I’ve read and disliked. I don’t normally like characters who are pig-headed and stubborn. Or make wrongful judgments about people. That seems to be a common trope in romance: female characters jumping to wrongful conclusions about the heroes, and it sets off a chain reaction that doesn’t get resolved until the heroine is proven incorrect about the man she fell in love with despite her attitude. The whole premise of books like that wouldn’t even exist if the heroine hadn’t been so blind in the first place. Plots like that are frustrating.  I also don’t identify with characters who won’t listen to other people’s opinions because I’m open-minded.

Callie was stubborn. She thought she knew best. Even when everyone around her was telling her that she didn’t understand the situation.

Maybe my readers won’t feel the negative emotions I felt writing her. Maybe they’ll understand more where she’s coming from.

We all have good intentions and even the best of us have trouble with the executions of our actions that come from kindness.

“You were only trying to help.” We’ve all heard that a time or two and by the end of the book, Callie has, too.

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Callie is my first character I’ve written I don’t identify with. It’s not a bad thing. Maybe it means as a writer I’m moving out of my comfort zone and that can only help me stretch my wings. All of us writers put pieces of ourselves into our characters and with Callie’s stubbornness and shortsightedness, she’s nothing like me.

I would never ask someone to do things they didn’t want to do. She wasn’t manipulative, though, and she wasn’t using Mitch’s love for her to make him do things he didn’t want to do. She truly cared for him. But she could have gone about helping  him in a different way. But then the story would have been different, and Callie wouldn’t have learned the lessons she learned to help her stand up to her dad. In the end she was finally able living the life she wanted.

I’d like to think my story worked out exactly how it should have.

And I hope that does mean I’m growing as a writer. Callie was who the story needed her to be. I let it happen. I had faith in my writing ability. I had faith Callie would be the character she needed to be. Who Mitch needed her to be.

Had I tried to push her into a mold, maybe she would have read insincere, or maybe she would have read flatter because I would have diluted her spark.

Callie made me uncomfortable, but I hope readers can see the good she was trying to do–the good she did do.

I hope readers love Callie as much as Mitch does.

I’ll keep writing characters I may not like or agree with.

Because it’s not my story I’m writing.

It’s theirs, and I have to trust them to tell it.

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Tell me what you think! Have you written characters you haven’t necessarily identified with? How did it feel? How did you resist rewriting them to fit your preconceived mold?

Let me know!


My books are wide. Find them at your favorite retailer!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

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Weak writers, strong characters?

I am a part of a DM group on Twitter. We were talking about the weather where we live, and I live in Minnesota. I mentioned blizzards and the potential hazards. I said now that my husband has moved out, this winter may be a little nerve-racking as I’ll need to shovel and get my daughter to school by myself. I have to deal with maybe my car not starting or getting into an accident because some moron doesn’t know how to drive on the snow and ice.

I said, “I’m sorry. I know I sound weak. It’s just nice to have a man around sometimes.”

What exactly was I apologizing for? All the women in my group are married to men. They know it’s nice to have a partner, someone around to help.

In our society today, we encourage strong women. We have #GirlPower. Women are encouraged to raise their daughters to be strong and independent. We fight for equal pay. We fight the glass ceiling. We fight for our reproductive rights. We pay our own bills we make our own way.

glass ceiling

Women don’t need men.

I write romance. I make sure my heroines can take care of themselves. They have jobs; they pay their bills. Sometimes they’re searching for love, sometimes love finds them. My heroines don’t need a man.

But they want one.

Does that make them weak?

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Even in the comics, Diana Prince was paired with various men over the years. The epitome of a kick-ass woman, she still likes to snuggle at night.

I’ve been told, “Don’t make the man rescue the woman.” But isn’t that what a romance is? I mean, rescuing a woman because he has to. It’s part of a mission. She’s been kidnapped because her father is a billionaire. She needs a bodyguard. She’s cured cancer, and people want to kill her. She’s a rock star, and someone is out to get her. There are a million plots to go with that trope. The hero rescues the heroine, they fall in love. The end.

There’s a reason why that trope is popular.

Women take care of themselves (and their children) alone all the freaking time. Reading is an escape. We want our man to step in and say, “Let me take care of this because I’m falling in love with you.” My favorites, and hopefully the kind of books I write, is when they rescue each other. Maybe he can get her to the hospital for her life-saving surgery, but when she opens her eyes, he knows she really saved him, by repairing his broken heart and giving him his life back.

Most times after the “big fight” I have my man go to his woman first. Not because I want to put my woman in a position of power. Not because my heroine wants a man groveling at her feet. But because it’s romantic. It feeds into what women fantasize about. Men saying, “I was wrong. I can’t live without you. I’m sorry. Marry me.”

What I didn’t realize though, is that it takes a strong woman to give a man the space he needs to figure it out and admit that. For him to have time to see his mistakes and go to her.

It takes a lot of bravery for a woman to face heartbreak if the man she loves doesn’t come for her. For her to say, “If he can’t admit he was wrong and apologize and admit that he loves me, I can’t have the kind of relationship I need with him to be happy.”

Women in romance can be kick-ass and still want a man. I’ll never write a sniveling idiot as a female main character.  Men, characters or otherwise, don’t want a woman who acts like that. Women who act like that in real life never find true happiness or true love. 

So in my DM, what was I apologizing for? Because in my group, we are all writers and we all pride ourselves on writing kick-ass women characters. How can I write a strong woman character when I, myself, I am not a strong woman in real life?

kick ass woman

Maybe not this kind of kick-ass. 

I’ve been on my own now for two months, since my husband moved out. I pay my bills with my own money (and a little help from alimony and child support). I work full-time. I’ve always paid our bills so balancing a checkbook was nothing new, I just don’t have as much money to work with. I drive a dumpy car, and it’s not lost on me I’ll have to work a car payment into my budget at some point.

But guess what? I have written characters who have also live paycheck to paycheck. That’s real life.

I have good friends. My sister lives in the same town as me. Even my soon to be ex-husband would help me out if I ever find myself in serious trouble. I’m not alone, and I don’t feel like I am. Our split was amicable, and I haven’t been this happy in a long time.

I am a strong woman even if at times I don’t feel like it. We all need love, security. We all want love, someone to protect us, have our backs. That doesn’t make us weak.

I write romance.

My characters fall in love.

They aren’t weak, either.

They’re human.