I’m working on a new series. It’s a small town standalone series. In case you don’t know what a “standalone series” is, it’s a series of books that can be read out of order, with each book that can be read on its own. The series is tied in some way, by setting, family, a group of friends, a band of brothers, teammates, etc. But each couple gets their own story and their own HEA (happily ever after).
My new series is set in a fictional Northern California town near Mt. Shasta. You can see why I’m inspired.
The town plays a part in the series, the former mill town is experiencing growing pains as a tourist destination. The residents are struggling with accepting the much needed boost to the economy that an influx of visitors brings, but they fear losing the town’s character and becoming too big, too fast. Having grown up in Tahoe, I know that too many tourists can take away some of the joy in living in such a beautiful spot. I’ve also visited small towns where I couldn’t get a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning because the only coffee shop was closed. Shop owners complained of lack of business while posting signs such as “Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks” next to their limited store hours. The beauty of fiction is that you can have the best of both worlds.
There will be skiing.
Maybe kids and dogs. Colorful characters, run ins with wildlife, a snowstorm or two, family secrets, small town politics, enjoying the sunset, skinny-dipping… what else would you like to see in small town romance?
I write Romance. The tagline I’ve come up with for my books is “Adventure Sports Romance.” This describes both my baseball books and my whitewater rafting series.
I feel like I need to write a disclaimer about my rafting books. My books are more heartwarming than heart-stopping. Kind of like rafting in normal years, where you have a few exhilarating moments scattered along with stretches of beauty and peacefulness and fun.
Even though the first book in my Swift River Romance series opens with a rescue as the meet-cute, the creek Lily is plucked from is really just a small creek, swollen from normal runoff in mid-May. Other than a few bruises and adrenaline overload, she can laugh about the experience over a few beers afterwards.
This year, the river is different. Most years on the South Fork, the biggest risks are sunburn, dehydration, or bumps and bruises from hitting a rock when falling out. Oh, and rattlesnakes. After more than twenty-five years rafting with my husband (with a few years time-out when our kids were little) my only injury was a banged up tailbone from falling out on Troublemaker and hitting a rock ten days before my first RWA National Conference. I still can’t do sit-ups, but I’m okay with that.
This year the water levels are high. Very high.
Notice the helmets, wetsuits, and life jackets. Also, even though this was a private trip, we have two trained guides. My husband has thirty years experience, and my son has done several training trips this spring at high water. While many college kids spent their Spring Break on a beach somewhere slamming beers, my son did a refresher safety course and first aid. He also has a food handling card.
His safety training came in handy over the long weekend. On Saturday, we planned to do a full river trip, which would have taken about four hours at this water level. (I couldn’t tell you what it was running, I leave that to my guides). But the first few rapids were big. And in our old bucket boat, we took on a lot of water. There were no eddies to pull to the side to bail and catch our breath before the next rapid. Also, my husband gave our second bucket to some guys who thought they could just use their helmets to bail. Not a good idea.
Anyway, the river finally slowed enough for us to bail and have a picnic on our boat. The rocks we usually park on are underwater now. My oldest son, the guide, decided to boogie board on a smaller rapid so he put on his fins and got out ahead of us a little ways.
Downriver, on our right we saw some guys with a throw rope and at first thought they were training. Then we saw the bright yellow paddle jacket in the water where they were aiming the rope. My husband quickly rowed to the shore and grabbed his throw rope and ran back up the bank yelling for my son to avoid the bushes as he made his way to shore.
A kayaker had become snagged by her spray skirt on some bushes and couldn’t grab hold of the rope. It took a team of experienced guides, ex-guides, and kayakers to finally pull her free and into one of the other boats. Thankfully she was able to walk with assistance to meet the ambulance that met us at the campground downstream. Fortunately, someone had a satellite phone since cell coverage is limited along the river. Only one company has coverage and residents have fought any additional towers.
She was checked out by the emergency medical crew and as far as I know didn’t need transport to the hospital.
So if you are so inspired by reading my books, that you want to get out on the river, please use an experienced commercial company. I can recommend ARTA River Trips, but there are many other companies with experience and training.
Or if you really want to play it safe, get your thrills from the safety of your eReader.
I just typed “The End” on another school year. Wow. That one went by fast. It seems like we were just at our welcome back breakfast, and settling into the routine of the new year, with new teachers, new students, and new challenges.
Yesterday we said goodbye to our Fifth graders. This class will have a special place in my heart because I started as a staff member with them in Kindergarten. I’ve watched them grow up as a class and I’m proud to have worked with them from when they were just learning how to write their name, on through their state reports. I helped them sound out -at family words and listened to them read aloud from Old Yeller. One girl was so timid in first grade she wouldn’t read aloud or spell phonetic words until she watched what the others responded with. I had her in my small reading group again in second grade, and finally in third. But the end of third grade, she started reading with confidence and expression and by fifth grade she really shines, academically and as a kind, thoughtful person.
I can share similar stories about many of these kids, how they were quiet (or not), timid five and six year olds when they started, and are now confident, smart, funny, caring, and not so-quiet ten and eleven year olds.
I worked with a lot of third graders this year, too. For many of them, their biggest challenge is to not rush through and guess. I call them my auto-correctors. I tell them they are smarter than an iPhone, they don’t have to guess after the first two letters of a word. They can look at the whole word, break it down, using the tools we’ve been working on all year long. And slow down on the hard words.
I’ve got two more years with those kiddos.
We also said goodbye to our Principal. She was my sons’ teacher before leaving us and then coming back to replace our former beloved principal. Her son was also a teammate of my younger son’s in Little League, so we sat through many practices and games together rooting for that team that would not be named. As Giants fans, we just couldn’t say the team in blue’s name aloud, but we cheered like crazy for each kid on the team.
Now it’s time for summer. To rest. For me, I will work on my next book series, and hopefully get a few projects done around the house. And before I know it, it will be August, and the start of a new year, with a new Principal.
It’s my anniversary. My husband and and I are celebrating 24 years of happily ever after. When we were newlyweds I often joked that we would never make it as a Romance novel couple. Not enough conflict.
That is true some of the time. But trust me, we’ve had our share.
But we’ve also had our share of romantic moments. I’ll share the ones my kids won’t be embarrassed by.
Our first date was to the grocery store. No, really. We’d been hanging out, getting to know each other for about a month, but we always had at least one of his fraternity brothers around. And the fraternity’s dog Buttkiss. So the first time we were alone together was when we made a dash to Albertsons to grab some Diet Coke and ramen between our morning and afternoon classes. I left the soda in his room at the house, planning to go back for it later. And maybe a kiss.
Our first trip together was a long weekend of rafting on the Tuolumne River with his older brothers and their wives and friends. All three of the Mathews brothers were raft guides, and my then boyfriend was trying to impress me with his manliness. He was so cool, he didn’t even need a tent. Which was a problem when it rained the entire weekend. But it was still a lot of fun, and I quickly became hooked on the sport. So much so that he bought me a life jacket long before he bought me jewelry.
Actually, I can’t think of a more romantic gift. It showed he wanted to protect me and join him in an important part of his life. He bought me a new life jacket a couple of years ago, and we’ve been spending more time on the river now that our kids no longer have baseball games on the weekends.
Our oldest son is off on a training trip with ARTA, the company my husband and his brothers worked for. Several of the guides decided to raft a stretch of the American River that isn’t usually runnable, but with all the water this year, it’s got some big rapids. Really big rapids.
My husband wanted to go up and take pictures along the way. My son was annoyed that we were stalking him. No one else’s mom showed up. And I’m not sure he’s told everyone his dad was a legend in the 90s. So they went down the first run, I shot a short video, and they looked good. Then they hit a gnarly hole. My son is the one in blue.
We ended up taking the kayaks in our truck and making sure everyone made it the rest of the way down.
We’ve had our share of adventure together. Adventure, sports, and romance.
Forget Breakfast in bed, flowers, or a card that costs more than all of my eBooks combined. I’ve never been one for traditional gifts. And the men (my kids are teenagers and bigger than me) in my life know that. Forget jewelry, sweet raspberry topped breakfast foods, flowers that will die and I’ll have to clean out the smelly water in a few weeks when I finally discover “what is that smell?”
Sleeping in, having the coffee ready when I finally decide to get out of bed, and letting me watch old movies while I sip such coffee and write are more my style. I wouldn’t mind if my boys plant the bulbs we bought for my youngest’s debate team fundraiser. I enjoy flowers in their natural habitat. My front yard is a nice little oasis, and when it warms up just a bit will be my summer office.
Motherhood is a job but it’s also an adventure. And the rewards can’t be put in a card. I’ve had many moments in my 19 years of motherhood that are more rewarding than jewelry, flowers, or even a good night’s sleep.
Here are a few photos to illustrate why every day is Mother’s Day.
I think this picture sums up this Spring in Northern California perfectly. After years of only getting winter from 6-10 am, this year’s winter is lingering. Yet, signs of spring are everywhere (especially my truck, it’s covered with pollen and tiny flowers that blew off my maple tree).
As an educator, I’m ready for a well-deserved and much-needed break. But I’m also a writer, so I’m hoping to make this a productive vacation. I have some research to conduct for a new series, and then I really need to make some progress in drafting the first book in the series.
You’d think that by my eighth book, drafting would become easier, or at least more efficient. Not so much. I’m trying to outline more, and in some ways it is easier. I know what needs to happen, but there’s still a lot of writing that needs to be done between plot points.
I took two days to go skiing with my family. I’m the last one to get into the sport, despite having gone to high school in Tahoe. The rest of them started young. I still remember taking my oldest up to Mt. Shasta when he was about three. At the time they still had a rope tow and he couldn’t get the hang of it, causing a major meltdown. Not good for the snow conditions. So my father-in-law took him back to our cabin and had him ski down the driveway. After a few runs, he was a skier. It’s taken me thirty years to get the hang of it. But if I’m going to spend time with my teenagers, I need to do what they enjoy. And trust me, I’m much better at skiing than video games.
This was from a few weeks ago. My kids don’t actually ski with me. But they’re more than happy to join us for lunch. If we’re buying.
This is the view from the top. You can see Lake Tahoe, always a beautiful sight, especially when the lake is full.
We’re expecting another storm later in the week. Which will make the last two weekends pretty spectacular.
Then we’ll look forward to spending the summer on the river. We’ll catch a few baseball games. Hopefully we’ll spend some time at our family cabin near Mt. Shasta. And the cool part, is that all of this can be considered research for my books.
You basketball fans think you have a lock on Madness in March? Try being a Little League parent. With two kids and two teams with practice or games on two different fields, life got pretty crazy. Throw in typical Spring weather, and the question of game or no game tonight? For eleven seasons, we spent from late February to mid-June schlepping our boys to baseball. Some weeks we had a practice or game every single day.
Until it stopped.
The kids grew up. Went on to high school and other sports.
No more mad dash to get the uniform clean. “Where’s my other sock? My hat? My cup?” No more scrambling to get from one game to the other on the other side of the county.
No more snack bar sign ups. Or dinner at the ballpark.
No more sunflower seeds in the laundry.
No more heart in throat when my son pitched. Or soaring above the ballpark when he got that hit. Scored that run. Won the game.
No more warm summer nights at Rotary Park, under the lights. No more freezing cold nights at that same park hoping the weather holds off one more inning.
No more picture day. No more double headers. Or post-game snacks.
I walked into Big 5, the sporting goods store where I bought numerous cleats, gloves, socks and belts. The baseball equipment was displayed up front and my heart did a funny little lurch as I walked right past it to look at shoes for myself.
Yeah. I miss it. Even the craziness of living in the car with the bat bags rolling around in the back. The cups under the seats, and no, not the ones that hold soda or sunflower seed shells. Those cups. The ones they would take out the minute they got into the car.
We spent some of the best springs and early summers as a family at the ballpark. Hopefully my boys will carry on the tradition when they have kids of their own. And you can bet their grandma will be at as many games as she can.