Excerpt from Rocks and Flowers in a Box (Unpublished Book)

The first snow made its greeting just in time for Christmas. I stood on a stool, trying to place the star on top of the tree. Tristan sat in my dad’s old armchair, his nose buried in a book. Nearly toppling, I regained my balance and huffed, then pushed my hair out of my face.

“Some help wouldn’t be amiss,” I said. “You know, maybe a helping hand from a tall, strong man. Know anyone who meets that description?”

“Hmm?” Tristan raised his eyes. Seeing the look on my face, he said, “Oh, right.” Standing, the book dropped from his lap to the floor. He came to my aid, placing his hands on either side of my waist. “What seems to be the problem here?” He tried not to smile.

“Oh, wipe that silly grin off your face, Mr. Smarty Pants.”

“But I’m not smiling.” His tone failed to hide the smile in his voice.

I raised my eyebrows. “Oh, really? And what do you call that?” I pointed to the upturned edges of his mouth.

“That’s hardly a smile. Now, I can think of a better thing to do with my mouth than smile.” He lifted me off the stool, hoisting me over his shoulder, then flopped into the armchair.

“Oh!” I exclaimed, taken by surprise. I crashed into him, but Tristan caught my face and brought my lips to his.

After the kiss ended, I said, “You know you shouldn’t be doing any heavy lifting.”

“Are you saying something about your weight, my darling?”

I gently smacked his arm. “Hey, now.”

He chuckled. “You’re as light as a feather. Don’t worry about that. Your curves are…mmm, the perfect caress for my hands.”

“Hmm, well, perhaps those hands can be put to a different task.”

Tristan looked affronted. “What better use could there be than writing, perhaps?”

“Very funny. I meant putting the star on the tree.” I pointed to the top of our real tree. Yesterday, the Macy, John, and their kids had joined us in buying a tree. It was the first time in several years I had a Christmas tree, and I was more than ready to create some new memories.

“Oh, I see how it is. Priorities, huh?” Tristan eased me off him as he stood. He pecked me on the lips right before picking up the star.

He poised the star on the top of the tree and stepped back. “Well, what do you think?”

“Looks perfect.” I beamed. “Are you ready to turn the lights on and see how it looks all put together?”

Tristan flicked the light switch next to the front door. At the same time, a bundle of mail spilled in through the slit.

“Can you imagine walking around with a heavy sack on your back in this weather?” Tristan asked, picking up the pile. He rifled through it, then stopped, his eyes like saucers.

“What? What is it?”

He handed one of the envelopes to me. “It’s an early Christmas gift.”

My eyes fell on the envelope. When I saw who it was from, tears blurred my vision. “Oh, Tristan!” I tore open the envelope and held the letter, taking in every word like it was my last breath.

Dear Lorna,

I hope you get this. God above, I hope you get this. God alone knows how many times I have written to you and trusted that somehow you’ll receive word from me that I’m not dead.

I’m guessing you never received any of my letters because when I got yours, my heart nearly stopped. You made no indication you knew the truth, that yes, I’m alive.

To hear from you is a miracle. There, I’ll just say it. It’s a miracle! Words cannot say how sorry I am that you didn’t know sooner. So much is beyond our control, but I want you to know that I am as well as I can be. Don’t worry over me, please, but I know you, and I know you will worry. Please don’t. I know I’ll see you again one day.

How did this mess-up happen, you wonder? Because I’m a fool, that’s how. I had a friend, a good old boy named Fred. For good luck, some of the guys switched dog tags before going into battle. Fred and I did just that one fateful day back in May of ‘43. If I’d known he wouldn’t make it out alive, I’d never have be so stupid. Anyway, I was captured and taken prisoner, and they thought I was Fred. As I said, the truth didn’t come to light until much later. The Red Cross discovered I was alive at the camp, and then you must have gotten the news.

For now, just knowing that you’re happy and married makes me happier than I could imagine. And for the record, yes, you took me quite by surprise when you said you were married. Who’s this lucky stiff, this Tristan fellow? I’d love to shake his hand one day and tell him he picked the cream of the crop.

I must end this, but know that not a day passes where I don’t think of you, of home. One day soon, dear sister, I promise, one day soon.


Chucky (I signed it this way just for you.)

I reread the letter three times, my heart hammering out of my chest.

“Oh, Tristan! This is truly the best Christmas gift I could ask for besides Chucky coming home!” My tears fell over my smile as I went to him.

He pulled me close. “Nothing makes me happier than to see your smile.”

“Do you think Chucky will come home soon?”

“The tide has been turning in the Allies’ favor for several months now. I believe you will see your brother next year.”

I stepped back enough to gaze into Tristan’s face. “It’s too bad Chucky can’t be home for Christmas.”

Something shifted in Tristan’s eyes. He released me abruptly and stepped away. “That reminds me.”

I furrowed my brow. “What are you up to?”

“Trust me.” He cast a smile back at me as he went to the record cabinet and retrieved a record. “I thought this would be the perfect touch for your sentiment.”

I approached him and looked at the album in his hands. The 78-RPM single of Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas (If Only in My Dreams)” rested in his grip. Tears formed and fell freely. “Yes, put it on.”

Tristan removed the record from the sleeve and placed it on the turntable. He set the needle on the record and turned the player on. Crosby’s gentle, crooning voice filled the room a moment later, accompanied by the John Trotter Scott Orchestra. My husband and I wore twin smiles, the sadness and the happiness mixed, the hope and the grief of the lyrics tugging on our emotions. He took me in his arms, and we danced to the music. I leaned into his sturdy chest and allowed the words to take me somewhere else and nowhere at all.

When the song ended, my ends slid open. Snow continued falling beyond the windows, but in our little living room with its old-lady furniture and my messy paintings, hope and love blossomed that one day soon, Chucky would be home for good. I meant to tell him as much when I wrote him a letter later that day.

* * *

When Christmas Eve arrived, Tristan drove our car to church that evening. The light from the passing streetlamps illuminated his face as he watched the road. He wore a smart suit and bowler hat. A trim beard lined his jaw against the chill of winter. Under the hat, his freshly cut hair was shorter than it had been in months.

“This holiday season is just full of miracles,” I said, clutching my purse in my lap.

“What do you mean?” Tristan’s eyes glanced at me for a second, then returned to the road. No snow pelted the windshield, but the forecast called for the white stuff before midnight.

“Well, first the letter from Chucky. Then you visited the barber’s, and now you’re going to church with me. Will wonders never cease?”

He chuckled. “Stranger things have happened. It’s Christmas. I figured I could go this once.”

“Besides our wedding, when’s the last time your were in a church?”

He shrugged. “I couldn’t say. Probably for your brother’s now-fake funeral or Angela’s wedding. My family wasn’t exactly the church-going type.”

Tristan pulled into the parking lot of the Methodist church I’d attended while growing up and now frequented again. When I first returned last year after a six-year absence, I thought poor old Pastor Wilson would have a heart attack. I pushed such thoughts from my mind now, wondering how much longer the dear pastor would work. And heart attacks were nothing to joke about.

“Well, you’re here. That’s what matters.”

Tristan killed the engine, the car’s rumbling dying. “Let’s go in, shall we?”

He exited and came around, opening the door for me. I took his arm and leaned into him, resting my opposite hand over our entwined arms.

* * *

We stepped into a winter wonderland after the service concluded. White dusted our shoulders as we made our way to the Speedster. When we reached the car, we stopped and looked at the heavens.

“This was always my favorite part of Christmas as a kid,” I said. “I hoped for snow to be falling when church let out at midnight.”

“That means it’s Christmas Day.” Tristan kissed me. “Merry Christmas, my darling.”

“Merry Christmas, my everything.”

Tristan opened the door for me. I got in. He joined me a moment later. He didn’t turn the car on, and when the silence drew long, I cast a puzzled look at him.

“Is something wrong?” I asked.

A soft laugh escaped from his lips. “Nothing is wrong. Nothing at all.”

“Then why so quiet?”

“I was just thinking how much I enjoyed this evening.” His hand took mine over the shifter.

A smile eased onto my face, my worries evaporating. “I’m so happy to hear it.”

With a gentle smile on his face, Tristan started the car and drove home. The snow was still falling with the grace of angels singing. I imagined that first Christmas night when the baby Jesus lay wrapped in his mother’s arms in a manger as I stepped out of the car and gazed at the sky. The stars were obscured, but it was the same sky as nearly 2000 years ago. What amazement, what fear the shepherds must have experienced when the Heavenly Host appeared among the stars and proclaimed the birth of the Savior!

“Thank You,” I whispered to God, then withdrew my gaze and took my husband’s hand.

We entered through the side door, throwing on the light. After peeling off our coats, gloves, and hats and hanging them, Tristan said, “There’s something I want to share with you before we head to bed.”

“Oh?” I sent a puzzled look his way, but he was already leaving the kitchen.

I followed Tristan into the living room.

“Please, sit,” he said, gesturing toward my father’s armchair. He flipped on the switch, and the tree bloomed with light.

I eased into the comfort of the cushions. Tristan got down on one knee and reached under the tree among the few gifts. He withdrew one and set it on my lap.

“Go ahead. Open it.”

“Shouldn’t I wait until morning?”

“I want you to see it now.” His eyes danced in the low light.

Smiling, I ripped the edge of the paper, careful to keep it in good condition for the following year. A box about three inches thick stared up at me. I removed the lid and stared at a bound stack of paper, only it wasn’t just any stack of paper. On the first page were the words “A Flower Among Rocks.” Then “By B.R. Stevenson.”

My mouth hung open in awe as my eyes shifted from the manuscript to Tristan. “Is this—?”

Tristan covered my hands with his and squeezed. “It is. It needs to go to my agent and be edited, but this is the first draft of my next novel. I contacted Riggs two weeks ago—the day after you received your brother’s letter, in fact. He’s anxious to receive it. I mailed it to him the next day.”

“That’s wonderful, Tristan!” I took his face in my hands and kissed him. “You did it! You really wrote another book, and to think I’ll be the first to read it… Thank you so much!” I flung my arms around him.

He returned the hug, awkwardly leaning forward as he knelt in front of the chair. He laughed. “Let’s just say a certain someone was the inspiration.” He tapped my nose.

“You are the sweetest, most thoughtful man on the planet. I can’t wait to read it. And this copy…it’s mine?”

He nodded, chuckling more. “You may have wondered what took me so long. I had to type out another copy.”

“You could’ve used carbon paper.” I laughed.

“That would’ve been the sensible thing to do, and we know me and sensible don’t match.”

“Truer words were never said.” I lost myself in laughter and hugs.

When our chuckles subsided, Tristan said, “But seriously, Lorna, I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d be living a life like this. You have done more than you’ll ever know. When I told you I wrote when I was down and out in the past, that was true. Being married to you, though, sparked something new and alive in me. I found you were my inspiration to write now.”

He pulled me to standing and tucked me into the crook of his arms. “I’ll never, ever stop loving you.”

I cried happy tears into his shirt. “There you go, being all poetic with words again, reducing me to a blubbering, incoherent mess. How could I not love you?”

He chuckled, scooped me into his arms, and carried me into the bedroom.


My novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is available for $4.99 here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.


Excerpt from Rocks and Flowers in a Box (WIP)

When I rested a hand on his warm back, and a snore elicited from his mouth, my lips eased into a smile. Tristan shifted, then stirred. He blinked open his brilliant blue eyes and found me.

“Lorna.” He licked his lips, thirsty, unsure. He sat up.

My hand flopped to my side. “Are you okay?”

“Is something burning?”

“What?” Then I smelled it. “The spaghetti!” I darted from the room and down the stairs to the kitchen. An over-boiling pot greeted me. I turned off the burner.

I groaned when I heard Tristan’s soft chuckle. “Was that dinner?” he asked.

“It was supposed to be. Maybe it still is.” I put on oven mitts and drained the water. “I think we can eat these. They’re not too ruined.”

Tristan peeked over my shoulder. “Just add the sauce. It’ll cover any burnt flavor.”

I pursed my lips, half-amused, half-annoyed, and retrieved the spaghetti sauce. After mixing it well, I grabbed a couple of dishes and heaped them with my attempt at dinner. When I set the plates on the table, Tristan already had the salad there, along with the utensils and cups of water.

“Thank you.”

We sat. I murmured a prayer and listened as Tristan gave his usual grunt of “Amen.”

The clang of forks on the edge of the plates and the setting of the cups on the table filled the silence that followed for the next few minutes. I was still picking away at my plate when Tristan finished and shoved his aside.

“As usual, delicious.”

My cheeks warmed pleasantly. “I know it’s your favorite.”

“It’s too bad meat is so expensive. That would be the perfect complement to the rest of the dish. One day, I imagine large meatballs covered with your famous sauce.”

I quirked my lips. “Famous sauce? My sauce is hardly that good.”

He chuckled. “Let me be the judge of that.”


My novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is available for $4.99 here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Excerpt from Rocks and Flowers in a Box (WIP)

I sighed, hating the stinging of tears in my eyes. I debated on whether to follow Tristan, but a moment later, the sound of his heavy footsteps up the stairs told me he was secluding himself and would likely bury himself in his writing for several hours, if not for the rest of the day and into the night. There were nights recently when he didn’t come to bed until I was asleep. Once I’d woken to find him upstairs, his shaggy head lying on the desktop, drool on a piece of paper. The moment I’d entered the room, the creaking of the floor woke him, and I was as much in the dark about his new novel as ever.

I stood and puttered around the kitchen for a while, cleaning some stray dishes and wiping down the counter and table, even though they didn’t need it. When Tristan didn’t return, I went for the ironing board cupboard. I retrieved the address book and took it outside, sitting under the shade of a tree in the back yard, where Tristan wouldn’t see me.

I knew I was being childish. I was playing the game of “If You’re Going to Hide Stuff from Me, I’m Going to Hide Stuff from You.” I tried to tell myself I was considering getting in touch with Tristan’s family because Tristan, for all his qualities, didn’t know what was best for him. That was an ugly thought, but I justified it with what he’d told me about his previous marriage. Hadn’t he locked himself in his typing room when he and Julie argued? Hadn’t she felt pushed away by his moods?

Just as soon as my eyes roamed over the names of his brothers, I snapped the book shut. I stood and paced.

“What are you doing?” I scolded myself. “Talk to him! He’s your husband.” Or did your vows of “for better or worse” mean nothing?

My face heated in shame, yet I couldn’t throw away the address book.


My novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is available for $4.99 here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Excerpt from Rocks and Flowers in a Box (WIP)

When Macy showed up at my side door with a large pot and an equally big smile, a subdued John standing behind her, I let them in graciously.

“What did you bring?” I asked. “It smells wonderful.”

Macy set the pot on my stove and turned on the burner. “Just some of my infamous vegetable soup, ingredients courtesy of my little garden. It needs a few minutes to reheat, but then I think we’ll be good to go.”

We hugged.

“Thank you. I’m sure Tristan will appreciate it. Your cooking was always better than mine.”

John, who stood just inside the door, smiled and patted his slight paunch. “She’s not too shabby.”

Macy and I exchanged amused looks, laughing.

“Thanks for coming over, John,” I said, giving him a quick hug.

“Not a problem.” He glanced toward the doorway to the dining and living rooms, where Tristan’s snores entered the kitchen. “If Macy keeps bringing your husband food, you might need to put him on a diet.”

Macy rolled her eyes. “You need to get back to playing on the men’s baseball league and not just coaching Johnny’s little league, dear. As for poor Tristan, I think he just needs to take it easy.”

I took some bowls out of the cupboards and set the table. “Sorry the kitchen’s such a mess.” I gestured at the stacks of boxes on the floor along the walls.

Macy waved me off. “Well, that’s why we’re here, darling–to help get your house set up. Just think, once all of Tristan’s stuff is moved in, you can start decorating and making it your own.”

“One thing at a time, Mace.” I grinned and went into the living room, where Tristan slumbered. I watched the steady rise and fall of his chest for several seconds, contemplating whether to wake him.

I returned to the kitchen. “I think we should eat and let Tristan grab a bowl when he’s ready. I’d hate to disturb him.”

“Fine by me,” John said, taking a bowl off the table and going to the stove to fill it.

Macy and I gave each other knowing looks that said the same thing: Men.


My novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is available for $4.99 here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Excerpt from Rocks and Flowers in a Box (WIP)

I filled two glasses and placed them on the table. We drew up mismatched chairs and drank. Tristan finished first and sighed with pleasure.

I eyed him over the top of my glass. He gazed out the back window toward his house, the line between his eyebrows deepening. I put my glass down and asked, “So?”

“So, what?”

“Really, Tristan? Do you enjoy playing these guessing games?” My mouth hitched up on one side.

“Maybe.” There was a teasing undertone in his voice, but the crease between his eyebrows was still present.

“We’re married now. I think you can tell me anything.”

He whisked his eyes away from the window and met mine. “There’s nothing I could tell you that you don’t know already.”

“I find that hard to believe,” I joked, then grew serious. “But something’s off about you today.” As happy as I was, doubt poked at me.

“To be honest, I never thought I’d be married again.”

I took his hands in mine. For a moment, I stared at his large, rough hands–hands that could fix anything, from a house to a car, but also had typed and penned thousands of poetic prose, weaving those threads into the fabric of three novels. I met his eyes. “I think this will taking adjusting on both of our parts. We weren’t exactly social butterflies before we met.” I laughed.

The line between Tristan’s eyebrows lessened, and crinkles formed around his eyes as he smiled. “That’s the understatement of the century.”

After the moment of levity passed, I said, “So, enlighten me, O Talkative One.”

“Going through all my things, it’s like digging through the past.” His eyes shifted to the box on the table. “Maybe it would be better if I got rid of most of these things and be more like you. You know, completely start over.”

The tea kettle whistled. I stood and went to the stove, turned off the burner, and added a teabag. I gave a little snort. “My house is filling up quickly, but throwing away everything from your past isn’t the answer, Tristan. You can see how well that served me.” I joined him at the table.

“My stuff is taking over in here. I’m letting go of the house. It’s time I let go of other reminders, too.”

“Of Julie?” I asked quietly.

“Yes, of Julie.” He stared out the window toward his house again, as if his wife’s ghost were looking back at him out one of the windows.

“Hey.” I placed my hand on his arm.

He slowly turned his head, but his eyes were on the table.

I moved my hand to his cheek. “You wouldn’t be forgetting her.”

Eyes so empty and so full lifted from staring at the tabletop. “I know that here.” He pointed to his head. “But here, well, that’s another matter.” He gestured toward his chest.  “Pain and pleasure mixed.”

My lips quirked. “We make quite the pair, don’t we? I can hear Macy asking now, ‘Why can’t you two just be happy? Why do you always have to complicate things?’”

Tristan half-smiled. “Your best friend doesn’t know the half of it. Messy people are like that…complicated.”

Note: Rocks and Flowers in a Box is the sequel to my second novel, Lorna versus Laura.


My novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is for $4.99 available here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Excerpt from Murder: It’s All in Your Head (WIP)

Matilda stared back for a while. The clock on the wall to their right ticked away the seconds. The murmur of the few other customers who occupied the teahouse faded into the background.

Finally, Matilda giggled, withdrawing her gaze. “I’m sorry. It’s so odd, but it feels like I know you better than could be possible.”

“Trust me. I know the feeling.” Helen couldn’t believe what she was saying, but it was like the words were forming of their own volition and releasing themselves from their cages after a long captivity.

Matilda’s smile widened. “Do you believe certain people share a sort of connection? Like they were meant to meet, to become friends?”

“I believe there are a lot of things we don’t understand or can’t explain.” Like my mind-switching ability.

“It’s like God Himself put all the pieces in place and intended it. My parents have been married for twenty-five years and have always believed they were destined for each other.”

Helen’s stomach tightened. “And what of people who don’t have such happy marriages? Does God intend for that, too?”

Matilda sighed into her cup, then met Helen’s eyes. “I wouldn’t know. I don’t presume to understand the will of God. What mortal can?”

“You sound like my father.” Disdain dripped from Helen’s words. “I’m not sure if I believe in fate. I’m not even sure if there’s a God.”


My new novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is now available for pre-order here.My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Excerpt from Murder: It’s All in Your Head (WIP)

On a late summer day, Helen walked through downtown Hurston. She sent a telegram to her aunt and uncle in Pennsylvania, updating them on her mother’s health. Her mother hadn’t been well even since coming down with a severe case of pneumonia back in the winter. She spent most of her time lying down these days, easily fatigued from her chores. Helen picked up the slack where she could, a pang shooting through her heart at seeing her mother’s decline. As much as she loathed her mother for her timidity, she was still her mother.

Just as Helen stepped out of the general store, she bumped into someone. The contact was enough to cause the other person to drop whatever she had been carrying.

“Pardon me,” Helen said, bending down to help the other woman pick up her bundle. Her fingers brushed against the other woman’s. When the other woman looked up, Helen’s heart sped up. “Oh, it’s you.”

Matilda Forkins smiled at her. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have been in such a hurry.”

Helen picked up a blackberry. “I’m sorry, too. It looks like these are ruined.”

Matilda shrugged. “It’s not a problem. There are plenty more where these came from. My parents have loads of bushes of them behind their house. I was just bringing some her to share with Mr. Horner.”

“Yes, I know.”

Matilda stopped mid-reach and furrowed her brow at Helen. “You know?”

Realizing her slip, Helen said, “I mean, I assumed that’s what you were doing with such a large bundle of berries.” She half-smiled, sweat beading along her forehead.

A man stepped up behind them and frowned at the pair.

“Um, maybe we’d better step aside and let him pass?” asked Helen.

Matilda glanced behind her and blushed, shooting to her feet. “I apologize, sir.” She stepped aside, as did Helen.

After the man passed, they pick up the rest of the berries.

“Well, thanks for your help,” Matilda said. “I suppose I ought to return home and get a new bundle if I want to get them to Mr. Horner before he closes shop for the day.” She made to leave, then stopped. “By the way, I don’t believe we’ve ever been formally introduced. I’m Matilda Forkins.” She held out her hand.

Helen shook it. “It’s nice to meet your properly, Miss Forkins. I’m Helen Hawkins.”

Matilda studied her. “You’re the minister’s daughter.”

Helen stiffened. “Yes, that is correct.”

“I’m sorry. Did I say something wrong?” Her brow furrowed.

“No, it’s nothing. I just… I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’m guessing we’re about the same age, but we never talked.”

Matilda pursed her lips, then smiled. “Say, would you like to get a cup of tea and perhaps some cakes at Ethel’s Teahouse?”

Every muscle in Helen’s body relaxed as the first true smile she’d known in a long time graced her face. “That would be lovely. Thank you.”



My new novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is now available for pre-order here.

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.