The weight of her heels carried on her fingertips grew exponentially with each step Samantha LeJeune took walking away from the only woman she ever loved. She wanted to turn back, take Rayne Storm into her arms and run away from everything that would keep them apart. The problem was Rayne wasn’t ready to give her what she needed to make a life with her. If she couldn’t run away with her, she would at least run away from her and all of the memories of Alabama. Without a clue as to her destination, she hit the road with nothing on her mind but healing her broken heart strong enough to never fall in love again.
Gentry Bell didn’t really have a home like others would describe. For her, home was a small town filled with suffocating memories of painful abuse and betrayal by those who were supposed to love her. There were only two woman who kept her from moving as far away as possible. The sudden passing of one of those women and a new job with the National Park Service, were her signs that it was time for her to move on. She’s never feared being on her own or venturing out into the unknown. Actually, it has always been her breath of life. But this time, she isn’t alone. Maybe the silence of the wilderness will have the answer she needs to decide what to do about the baby she is carrying.
An immediate connection develops when these two broken women meet on the road that carries them away from the life they were living. But will it be enough to open their hearts to trust again? And if so, will they be strong enough to hold onto that connection when an unborn child seems to be pointing them to return back to a home where memories of trauma and a first love are still ever so present in each of their hearts?
I’m super excited to reveal the cover for my third book in the Chambers of the Heart series, After the Storm. I believe this is going to be my favorite book of the series! My life has taken so many turns since the original release of When It Raynes and It Pours. I believe that journey has taken my writing to an all new level. It is with every hope that you all will see growth in my writing and character development, especially with the introduction of Gentry.
So, many readers have asked me, “What happened to Sam? Where did she go?” or have said, “We need more Sam.” Well, this book will answer those questions and be dedicated to her story. With the release of the official cover, I thought I would post an excerpt from the book. It took me a long time to decide the best scene. Initially, I considered the first chapter of the book but then I kept coming back to this scene…the Atlanta Nightclub. The infamous dance between Rayne and Mo. The surprised meeting of Sam after the dance. When all had aligned to find Sam and Rayne sitting together on a park bench under a fingernail moon. I do hope you will enjoy it and it give you just enough of a hint of the book to be released in December of 2019.
“TUCKER,” Sam yelled loudly over the crowd of women.
“What the fuck?” Tucker ducked under the bar and sprinted toward Sam. She quickly wrapped her in her arms and picked Sam up off her feet. “I don’t believe you’re here!” She set her back down.
Sam grabbed Tucker’s exposed bicep. “What the hell are you lifting these days? A freaking tank or something?”
Tucker smiled broadly. “Something like that.”
Sam shook her head. “Damn, girl, you’re cut.” She took a step back and ran her eyes over Tucker’s body. Her broad shoulders bulged from her tight black tank.
Tucker put her hands on the waistband of her camouflaged pants. “Yeah, well I was bored when you left so I had to find something to do with my time.”
Sam laughed loudly. “I’m sure the ladies like it.”
“Nah. They’re all still pining for you.”
“Ha!” Sam slapped her arm and then immediately began to rub the sting from her palm. “Don’t give me that shit. They hardly looked around you to see me standing behind you. And now, girl, they won’tbe able to look around you.” Sam pretended to have difficulty peering around Tucker.
“You’re so damn crazy. Come on. Come talk to me before the music starts. ‘Cause when it does, I won’t be able to hear shit. I’ll buy ya a drink.”
“You expecting more than this tonight?” Sam maneuvered herself through the women gathered at the bar.
“Hell yes. The lezzies will be insane tonight. Mo’s back for one night and one night only. If you book her, they will come.”
Sam stopped dead fast and turned to walk away.
Tucker grabbed her arm. “Hold up, sister. Don’t be like that.”
“Tuck, I’m not in the mood at allto see her. I’ve got absolutely no filter nor any patience for her.”
“Don’t think I remember you having much of either one of those before where she was concerned.” Tucker pulled her arm to guide her closer to the bar. “Come on. I’ve not seen you in what, two years? You owe me a drink,” she yelled over her shoulder.
Sam dragged her feet behind. “I thought you said you were buying.”
“In that case, make it a double.”
“Hold up one second. Sit here. Let me get my buddy over there to catch the bar so we can talk for a minute.” Tucker pointed to an empty stool for Sam. “What ya drinking these days?”
“Basically alcohol. Any and all kinds. Tonight, let’s do a rum and coke.” Sam sat on the stool against the wall of the far corner of the bar. This would be a good spot for the night. It was secluded and hidden enough not to be noticed. She didn’t want to see anyone from her past, especially Mo. “Of all nights, why tonight does she have to be here? I tell you, Tuck, I’m so over this visit.”
“Hey!” Tuck dumped several ice cubes into a drinking glass. “I take offense to that.”
Sam pinched the bridge of her nose. “Girl, I’m sorry. Of course I’m happy to see you. I came here the first chance I got. Skeletons, you know? I’ve got too many of them that keep trying to pull me back into a past I’m desperately trying to forget.”
Tuck set Sam’s drink in front of her. “Here’s to forgetting. This should help with that.” She tapped the lip of it with the bottom of her beer glass. “So, what’s new with you? Where you been hiding these days?”
“Lately? I’ve been in Maine.”
“Are you shitting me?”
“I shit you not.” Sam took a sip of her drink and smiled at her friend who apparently knew she needed it heavy on the rum. She winked over the top of her glass. “I’m practicing OB in a little clinic up there.”
“A clinic? What happened to the bad-ass surgeon who used to come in here telling me about all the blood and guts? I ain’t that good in my geography but I’m not thinking Maine has any booming metropolis cities. Thought you would never end up in a place like that, much less a clinic.”
“You and me both. Yet here I am.” Sam held her hands in the air.
“Do you like it?”
Sam smiled with thoughts of Gentry, her budding belly, and the warm welcome she received at Seasons. “Yes, I do.” She looked up at Tucker shyly. “A lot, actually.”
Tucker slapped Sam’s arm. “Oh hell, I know that look. Who is she?”
“Get out of here with that. You don’t know anything.”
“The fuck I don’t. You’ve got that shit-eating grin on your face. Only one thing puts that look on you and it’s a new girl. Who’s the fresh meat?”
Sam took a swallow of her drink. She twirled the glass on top of the bar and thought about the woman for whom Tucker was referring. She didn’t know her anymore. So much had changed from the days of when she frequented the bar. “It’s not like that. I’mnot like that anymore.”
“Seems that’s going around.” Tucker leaned in closer as it was starting to get harder to understand what Sam was saying. She looked out over the growing crowd of women. “Caught up with Mo earlier when she came in to do a sound check. She says she’s changing too. Done found her someone she’s got her eye on. Acting like she may settle down a bit.”
“If she said that, you know it’s a damn lie. Everything out of her mouth is a lie. She manipulates, Tuck, and you know it. She finds their weakness and attacks.”
“When you gonna let that shit go, Sam? How many years has that been? Look at you. You’re a freaking doctor now. Ain’t it time?”
“It wasn’t one girl or one instance. She went after every single woman she ever saw me with.” Sam tapped her finger on the bar. “Every. Single. One.”
“Don’t you think you’re exaggerating?”
“Nope. Not one bit. It got so bad that I couldn’t even dance with a woman without her spinning her way in between us. It was fucking ridiculous is what it was.” Sam was starting to get angry. She downed the last of her drink determined she was about to leave.
Tuck picked up her empty glass. “You know why she did that, don’t you?”
“Yep. Because she’s a manipulating, jealous, lying little bitch.”
Tucker tilted her head to Sam and pointed at her. “For a doc, you ain’t the brightest.” She stepped to the side to fill Sam’s glass with another rum and coke. “She looked up to you. She wanted to be like you. She did everything she could to try to get you to notice her.”
“Oh, I noticed alright. Saw right through her, unlike any of y’all. Remember, I was the one they would come running back to after they realized they had been used by her. I may have dated around but I never used lies to get them into bed with me. I didn’t have to.” Sam took a swallow of her drink. “I think I’m the only pants around here she didn’t get in.”
Tucker put both of her hands in the pockets of her pants and smiled an impish smile. “Too bad, honey, because it was one damn crazy ride.” Tucker laughed loudly.
“You’re not right,” Sam yelled. She turned around on her stool to see why all of a sudden it seemed louder. A woman trying to find her place along the side of the dance floor bumped into her.
Tucker slapped her hand on the bar. “Hold on to your panties. Show’s about to start.”
The lights dimmed to black as the masses of voices quieted. The music of a single violin began to play above the crowd. Sam could hear the strings as clear as if she was sitting right next to the violinist. She looked up at the speaker above her head. The notes streaming from it were a torturous song of shyness seduced by pain and sadness. She had been reminded of the woman she once was—of how she had viewed other woman she dated. She didn’t like it. Thankful she had been changing, she tried to think of Mo in the way Tucker had described her. She wondered if maybe she had misunderstood her all those years ago.
Tucker put her hand on Sam’s shoulder. “I’ll be back. Gotta help get some drinks out before there’s a riot.”
Sam patted her hand. “Sure thing. I’ll be right here.”
A soft, falling rain filled the wall-to-wall screen behind the deejay’s booth. The violin’s scream became stronger, confident, and powerful as the raindrops strengthened into a storm. A flash of lightning erupted across the wall. The lights above the dance floor flashed brightly as if the lightning had actually been in the room. The strings of the violin changed from sounds of an orchestra to a synthesized, electric beat. Sam felt the wall beneath the speaker vibrate with each thump of the bass. The intensity of the women’s dance in front of her grew. Another flash of light and lightning.
“Can you feel it?”
Sam recognized Mo’s voice immediately. It was that drawn-out sultry voice, deep and low that she used when she deejayed. She couldn’t fight the roll of her eyes.
“Come on, ladies. I said, can you feel it?” She held the last words to linger over the sound system before they faded into a song.
The lights lit up one by one over the dance floor. Sam turned back around to take a swallow of her drink but left it sitting on the bar for fear it would be knocked out of her hand by the gyrations of the women in front of her. A keyboard’s notes teased into a slow crescendo.
“Say my name and you can dance.”
The woman who had bumped into Sam earlier screamed as loud as she could, “MO!”
The bass exploded with one final lightning strike. The wall next to Sam shook even harder. Laser lights began to sway over the crowd of women jumping up and down on the dance floor. Strobe lights flashed until they centered on the female standing in the deejay box. The crowd screamed. Sam thought the woman in front of her would surely fall flat on her ass. Her footing was not so stable with the wild jumping up and down she was doing.
“Oh my God! Oh my God! She’s looks fucking amazing,” the woman screamed.
The crowd roared and sprang up and down on their feet. They all began to dance as if Mo had them under some type of trance or spell.
Mo held her hand up in the air as she danced with them to the music. She adjusted the oversized earphones until only one covered her ear. “The night is ours!” She moved her hands along the large instrument panel until the beat faded into an even faster-paced rhythmic collection of strings, keys, and beats. “Now dance your beautiful asses off.” Mo’s body flowed and became one with the music. She raised her hand in the air and swayed to the beat as the other hand deftly moved across the panel—pulling, pushing, or spinning the device to will her tunes. Her hands created their own rhythms as they moved from the panel board to adjust the headphones from her ears to her bare neck.
Sam didn’t feel the excitement or the urge to dance as the women around her apparently felt. She only saw Mo. How many times had this woman entered her life to basically screw it up? She was like static to a fall sweater. Nothing could shake her loose from Sam’s life. Even now when Sam was no longer in the scene to compete for women with her, she was still right here in front of her. She thought of Brantley, or was it Claire? Hell, she couldn’t remember her name. What she did remember was Mo spinning her way into her life to steal her away. She had that girl so twisted up in her web of lies, she couldn’t even see straight. Sam had genuinely liked her until Mo dug her claws into her. Poor girl was a mess after Mo moved on to her next conquest. A damn mess. All hopeful thoughts of Mo being a better person went right out the window. Sam picked her drink back up, raised it in the air toward the deejay’s booth, and said, “I see you alright. I’ve alwaysseen you.”
“Give yourselves to me tonight. Let go. I’m in control. I’ve got you,” Mo purred into her microphone.
The women shouted their submission to Mo as their bodies moved together. Heads bobbed to her cadences, toes bounced to her tempos, and hips swayed to her pulses. Sam sat still on her stool, drinking her cocktail. “I’ve got you.”She felt an immediate soothing to her building anger toward Mo with the sound of Gentry’s voice in her head.
The bar and dance floor were darkened except for the bright flashes of white of the strobe light. Sam looked around at the diversity of the women. Feminine. Androgynous. Casually dressed. Sporty dressed. All shapes, sizes, and races of women filled the dance floor. The lights flashed on and off to the beat. Sam tried to make out the faces to see if she recognized anyone else from her days of old. The lights flashed on again. She caught sight of a taller woman standing over those around her. What the hell is she doing here?she excitedly thought to herself as she set her drink down ready to make her way over. Recognition of another face stopped her suddenly. Rayne? Sam straightened her spine on the stool to look harder in that direction when the lights flashed back on. She darted her head around the dancing heads in front of her.
Is that Rayne?She had grown accustomed to seeing Rayne in the faces of strangers. It wasn’t anything new to her, but this woman was a dead ringer for her. The lights flashed on again. It is her.
Tucker’s hand on her shoulder stopped Sam’s bolt out into the crowd. “You about ready for a fresh one?”
Sam nodded but didn’t take her eyes from where she had seen Rayne. Her heart pounded with nervous anticipation. Her breath stolen by Rayne’s radiance. She swallowed the building waves deep in her belly. So much time had passed since she had seen her last. Maybe this was a sign? Maybe it was like Gentry had said—everything happens for a reason. This wasn’t Louisiana, nor was it Alabama. This was her home state of Georgia. A smile started to build within.Come on lights. Hurry up.
The music lowered. “Ladies. You’re killing me. You look too damn good for me to stand up here all night.” Sam looked up sharply toward Mo’s voice. Mo took her earphones off and walked down the stairs.
The woman in front of Sam bumped hard into her. “Oh my God. She’s coming.” She grabbed her friend next to her and shook her shoulders. “She’s coming this way,” she yelled. “I’m going home with her tonight. You wait and see.”
Sam rolled her eyes. She tried to find Rayne again in the crowd, but it was useless. The women were going wild as Mo maneuvered through them. Just then she saw Jazlyn swoop Mo up in her arms, lift her, and put her back down. The rolls of nervous anticipation violently turned to rolls of nausea when Sam saw Rayne and Mo looking at one another. They exchanged words with their bodies leaned in toward one another. The lean turned into a hug of a greeting held far too long.
“Who the fuck is that?” the woman in front of Sam screamed with a slightly drunken slur.
Obviously, Sam wasn’t the only one to notice the apparent attraction within their hug. The sting of tears she once believed would never stop began to resurface. The excitement of seeing Rayne’s face of having her near again was cascading like a waterfall back to heartache.
The music suddenly changed as another electric violin played, followed by the undeniable voice of Annie Lennox singing, “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This.” Rayne was smiling a genuine smile. The one Sam remembered she gave when she felt truly elevated. That was the one she wore as Mo shook her hair free from the newsboy cap she had been wearing. When Mo took Rayne’s hand to lead her out into the dancing crowd, it was as if she had grabbed the very core of Sam and pulled her right along with them. No matter how badly the scene before her hurt to see, she couldn’t take her eyes from them. Mo walked backward to lead Rayne further into the center of the dance floor. She rocked her hips to “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” as she mouthed the words to Rayne. Sam’s chest tightened as Mo slowly trailed her hands down Rayne’s arms to bring her hands to her hips. With hands on each other’s hips, they swayed together. Sam’s breath caught somewhere in between an inhale and exhale when Mo pulled Rayne closer. Their hips rubbed against one another’s to the rhythm. In a much different connotation to the song’s lyrics of the world stopping, Sam wanted nothing more than for the world to stop. To just stop the unfolding of the eroticism in the dance in front of her and cease the pain of watching Mo’s hands so effortlessly accepted upon Rayne’s body. For the first time, she let her eyes close to the sheer agony of the sight before her. Her Rayne.Except she wasn’t, was she? Her Rayne had been shy to an intimate touch. Her Rayne had responded with innocence in their attraction and arousal within her own timid touch. But this? This was on display for all to see, including her. Mo slid her hand underneath Rayne’s shirt at the small of her back and nestled her thigh in between her legs as she guided their hips together in a low, tortuous movement. Sam closed her eyes to see the Rayne she remembered. The one whose blush wasn’t hidden in the light of the moon out on the dock the night of their first kiss. The tears streamed freely down her cheek. Yes, so much had changed. The woman she loved and had given her heart to was being exposed for all to see as the next conquest on Mo’s list. She felt Rayne’s skin against hers as it had been the night in the on call room. Now Mo knew that touch. Mo. The woman who had chased after every woman she had ever been attracted to was touching…no, violating…the woman she loved to her core in front of everyone. She had her hand inside the waistband of Rayne’s jeans manipulating her body to do what she wished it to do. Bitterness coated her tongue like acid. The song ended with the women dispersing among the crowd. She glared at Rayne as she returned to stand next to Jazlyn. She couldn’t stomach looking at Mo again. She had felt Rayne’s body next to hers. Had molded it with her will against her.
Sam shot the rest of her drink back and slammed the glass down on the bar in front of Tucker. “Oh yeah, she’s fucking changed alright,” she yelled with venom in her voice. “You tell her if she ever crosses my path again, she’d be wise to keep walking.”
Tucker was shocked at the anger she saw in her friend. In all of the arguments between the two women, she had never witnessed Sam this angry. All she could do was nod her response.
Sam turned abruptly around on her stool and stormed through the crowd. Mo was perched like a vulture back on her post with the music and light show continuing. Sam’s resentment grew with each flash of the strobe light on Rayne’s face. She moved quickly toward her until she caught the surprise in Rayne’s expression as their eyes met. Rayne froze where she stood. Sam thought she detected a hint of a smile as she reached her. It angered her more. How dare she smile at her after practically having sex out on the dance floor with that bitch? Sam’s eyes were like daggers when they grabbed Rayne’s hand to pull her behind her. She raced toward the exit to leave all of it behind. All of those faces. All of those expressions who had seen Rayne and Mo together. She pushed open the metal door with such force that it slammed loudly behind them. As she led Rayne from the club into the alley and through the groups of women mingling outside, she realized she had no idea why she was doing it. Why was she bringing her with her and where in the hell was she taking her? She had walked nearly a block before she saw the entrance to Piedmont Park. Using muscle memory, she followed the path she used to take in medical school until she reached the park bench next to a small pond where she had spent hours studying. Thankfully, it was empty. She slowed as the tension in her body began to dissipate. She turned to face Rayne. There were no words that seemed fitting. No sentences or statements or expressions came to be shared. The warmth and softness of Rayne’s hand within hers began to further dampen the anger within her. She wasn’t ready to let the resentment go, so she released her finger’s grip from Rayne’s hand.
“No, don’t let go,” Rayne begged.
Sam bit the corner of her lip. Her Rayne stood right in front of her. The moonlight shone on the face she remembered from the dock. The lips of the kiss that had awakened her soul. “What are you doing here?” she asked.
“Jazlyn invited me.”
Sam stopped the roll of her eyes. She was not in a place to be blasé in their conversation. “I know the simplicity of what brought you here. I’m asking why you’re here.” She felt the sharpness in her words.
“I don’t know.”
“Figured you’d say that.” Sam saw this was going nowhere. She briskly pulled her hand from Rayne’s and turned to walk away. “No, goddammit, don’t you walk away from me.”
Sam’s spine stiffened. She hadn’t remembered Rayne’s voice with such assertiveness in it before. Neither had that particular profanity ever crossed her lips. She had no right to be angry with her. She wasn’t the one who was nearly fucking some bitch out on the dance floor. The fire of her anger returned from the smoldering ashes Rayne’s eyes had left. She turned to Rayne without hiding what she was feeling toward her. “Tell me one good reason why I should stay?” The tone of her voice was equal with her expression.
“Because I die a little every single time you walk away from me. And honestly, I’m not real sure how much of me is still alive at this point.”
Sam heard her words for the brief moment they passed over her. But she wouldn’t own them. She wouldn’t let them in as if they were truth. They were a trap. They were a means of igniting old feelings. Mo’s hands on Rayne’s body flashed in her mind. “You looked pretty alive a few minutes ago.” She just wanted to leave. She regretted letting Rayne see her or know she was there, much less bringing her along with her out here.
“Sam, please. Please don’t go. For some reason, you found me in that club tonight. For some reason, in the mass of all of those women, you saw me. Can’t we at least just acknowledge that?”
“We can acknowledge that I would’ve never imagined you’d dance like that with a woman. You’ve gone from not knowing who you wanted to be to practically making out with her in front of everyone. And with her. After everything, you get with someone like her.”
“I didn’t get with anyone. I’m not with Mo. We’re just friends.”
“That dance was anything but friendly.” Sam couldn’t look at Rayne any longer without envisioning Mo’s hands on her body. She shifted her weight onto one leg and looked away. “Whatever. What does it matter to me now anyway?”
“Don’t be like that, Sam. We’re just friends. Please, let’s sit down and talk.”
Exhausted from it all, Sam brushed the overgrown shrubbery off the back of the bench and sat down. “I really don’t think there’s much to say.” She had grown so tired of the pain from others—the heartache she had felt at the hands of Rayne many times now, the pain of watching her mother broken and needing her, and the pain of a taste of betrayal by Gentry. She had not told Sam of them knowing one another and for that, Sam felt for the first time she had been untruthful with her. After all, an omission is a lie.
“Can we try?” Rayne sat beside her and took her hand. Sam didn’t resist her touch or pull away her hand.
She watched as Rayne sat silent studying the fingernail moon above them. Initially, her body flinched as Rayne began to stroke her hand; but then, she let herself feel the touch of Rayne again. She looked down to watch Rayne’s thumb slowly slide around the tip of each finger. She was incredibly gentle with her touch. It was a gentleness she had not been given since last Rayne held her in some way. Sam had found herself over the months trying to determine what exactly it was about Rayne that had made her fall so exquisitely into her. Yes, true, she had many personality qualities that led Sam to her. Yet as she continued to lightly stroke Sam’s hand, she realized it was her tenderness upon all else that hooked her so deeply. The tenderness in the way she held her with her eyes or touched her skin with hers was unmatched to any she knew. Sam softened with the recollection that at no point had she seen that tenderness on the dance floor with Mo.
Rayne looked up and over her shoulder toward the rolling hills of the small park. “The noises.” She waved her hand. “Reminds me of being back home on the bayou with you.”
Until then, Sam hadn’t noticed the street noise being drowned out by the call of the insects. She looked up and around the park as she thought about the night on the dock with Rayne. “Yeah, but they sound different.” When she looked back at Rayne, the moonlight had caught the charms hanging at her neck to make them sparkle in its light. She was overwhelmed with the feeling of Rayne’s hand upon hers and the proximity of the woman who had sat next to her on the bayou’s dock. She swallowed hard. Since the engagement party, she hadn’t let herself think of the charm any longer. Gentry had asked her of the little white box, but she hadn’t talked of the charm. The last she thought of it was when she saw Rayne touch it at their goodbye. A part of her wished she would wear it daily as she had done the cross Memaw had given her. Seeing it at the base of her neck was physical proof that she too thought of Sam. She wondered how often in a day her hands found the cicada charm. Cicadas.
“The cicadas don’t sound the same here,” Sam said flatly.
“I think those are katydids.”
“There are a thousand different species of them. They say they’re named because they sound as if they’re saying ‘Katy-did.’” There was a nervousness to Rayne’s words. It was as if she couldn’t get them out fast enough for fear Sam would become frustrated with her rambling and yet again get up to leave. “Meems would tell me…” With the mention of Memaw’s name, Rayne’s eyes saddened. She took them from Sam and looked out at the small pond at their feet. Reflexively, Sam squeezed her hand. She didn’t know why. It was a natural response to seeing the sadness darken the green of Rayne’s eyes.
“One of the folklore stories is that there was a woman named Katy who was madly in love with this man. But he left her to marry another.” With those words, Sam loosened her grip on Rayne’s hand. Rayne continued her story but with a quieted tone to her voice. “They were found dead in their honeymoon bed the morning after they’d married. It was said they were poisoned but no one saw the crime. Well, no person saw the crime. They say the bugs saw what happened as they had been watching from the window. On hot summer nights, it’s said they shout from the trees to tell us who committed the crime. ‘Katy-did, Katy-did.’”
Sam stopped a smile that tried to curl the corners of her lips. “I should’ve known you’d have a story about them.”
Rayne shrugged. “Guess I’m weird like that.”
Sam had never considered Rayne weird. Different? Yes, but in a very good way. “Not weird. Different.” She faced the park. “So really, what are you doing here?” she asked much softer this time, as she truly wanted to know what had been happening in Rayne’s life to lead her here.
“Jazlyn invited me. Violet had to take call this weekend, so she asked me to come with her.”
The Universal signs Gentry spoke of seemed to be keeping Sam and Rayne’s life intertwined. Sam turned to look across the park. It seemed unimaginable that Rayne had become friends with the two people Sam considered to be her truest of friends. “And how’d you two become friends?”
“I met her when I went to the Pineapple Post.”
Sam snapped her head back toward Rayne. “Why were you there? Why did you even go there?”
“I overheard Kylie talking about it.”
“Oh? And what? You hear the Queen Lesbian Conqueror talking about a lesbian bar and you just had to go? Please tell me you didn’t get with her after I left.” As if a snap of a finger, Sam’s anger sparked by an ignitable jealousy returned.
“Why do you say that? Why do you keep assuming I’ve been with another woman?”
“I do believe lesbian bars are filled with lesbians. Why else go unless you’re looking for one?”
“I wasn’t looking for another woman when I went.” Rayne’s voice was filled with frustration. She looked down at the bench. “I was looking for myself.”
“It didn’t look that way to me. Looked like you were trying to sew some wild oats before the big wedding day. You were nearly making out with Mo on the dance floor. Geez, Rayne, why don’t you try to have some decorum and keep your little lesbian trysts discrete?” Sam’s words were overflowing with the jealousy that filled her. She couldn’t shake the image of Mo’s hands all over Rayne. Every single time it became present, it gave fresh momentum to her growing bitterness.
Rayne swallowed hard enough to be heard. She stared into the tiny moon’s reflection as it glowed a skinny line of sparkle across the small pond. She didn’t speak for several minutes. Sam watched as Rayne tried to regain composure. Regretful for her tone, sorrowful for the feelings she had expressed, Sam released her grip even more upon Rayne’s hand. This time, Rayne didn’t fight it. She let their embrace fade until they hardly held hands any longer.
“It’s not like that,” she finally said.
They sat in the immediate comfort of their silence. Rayne bent her knee between them to rest it on the bench. She turned to Sam. “Sam, I don’t know what all of this means. Why I’m here. I see these women being together so openly and yeah, it makes me know there is something beyond what I’ve always been taught it would be like. I understand why Jazlyn wanted me to come, but it doesn’t change what I feel.”
Rayne kept her eyes focused on anything but Sam and did everything she could not to make eye contact. Instinctively, Sam knew Rayne was hiding the emotions within her eyes. If she looked directly at her, everything she was trying to find the right words for would be freely shown. Sam began to feel uncomfortable as Rayne stared at her body. She felt her shirt hanging off of her shoulders and chest. She hadn’t noticed her weight loss until she tried on her once favorite shirt and jeans. The belt she used to tighten her jeans dug into the skin below her belly button. She shifted her position on the bench and brushed a strand of hair away from her eyelashes. The shortened length from her recent haircut by Gentry didn’t stay tucked behind her ear. In the continued silence from Rayne, Sam’s thoughts floated toward the night when Gentry cut her hair. Quickly they flowed past their escapade on the couch to the sound of Gentry’s voice in the tent as she told her of the scars left on both her body and her soul. She looked at the small pond and remembered watching Gentry for what seemed hours as she stood at the water’s edge.
“It doesn’t change that it’s still only you,” Rayne said softly.
Caught somewhere else and with surprise to her words, Sam’s mouth fell open. She let Rayne’s words fall over her. Could she say the same? Could she confess it was still only Rayne? The arch of her lips held the surprise and perhaps guilt in how easily she had drifted to think of Gentry.
“Among all of these women, it’s still only you.” Rayne picked up Sam’s hand and rubbed the back of it lightly across her face. Sam felt the tip of Rayne’s tongue as she brought it to her parted lips. The sensation sent a swarm of butterflies through her as Rayne searched her eyes. Rayne reached up, ran her thumb across Sam’s jawline, and continued along the side of her neck. Sam felt her fingers flow through her hair before her hand trailed along the back of her neck. Her eyes softened within Rayne’s touch. She gave in to the urging of Rayne’s hands to pull her closer to her lips. She felt Rayne’s breath upon her lips and watched as she closed her eyes to their proximity. Rayne’s heart beat fast and hard against Sam’s chest as her whole body hummed with the missing of Rayne’s lips. The softness of them against her own. Desperation to the point of sheer ache filled her with the hopes of feeling them again. This was followed quickly by another form of ache. Heartache. She felt the pain of the loss of her kiss deep within her. She had missed the softness of her lips and how her kiss had made her feel more alive than she had ever felt before. Suddenly, she began to fear the reliving of both the heaven and hell of kissing Rayne. She stopped the touch of their lips by placing her finger upon Rayne’s lips.
Sam let her forehead fall against Rayne’s. “I can’t,” she whispered.
“Why?” Rayne peppered Sam’s finger with kisses of urgency for more.
Sam dropped her finger from Rayne’s lips and inhaled deeply. “I barely survived our last kiss, Stormy. I dare not tempt fate and try again.”
“I’m so in love with you that I can’t breathe when you’re near me,” Rayne’s breath was warm against Sam as she pleaded and tried to pull her closer.
Sam scooted away from her and reached up to grab Rayne’s hand that she had resting on the back of the bench. She pulled it up into the air between them. “And this?” She tapped the ring on Rayne’s left finger. The ring that signified the end of their once hopeful relationship. It was the physical evidence to one of the insurmountable obstacles that had kept the two women apart.
Rayne’s facial expression began to change. Her eyebrows furrowed and her lips tightened. Sam noticed the clinch in Rayne’s jaw as her eyes narrowed to focus on the ring upon her finger. Her hand closed in a fist to whiten the skin over her knuckles. It held a forceful tremor with the tension in her arm.
“Aren’t you engaged to Grant?”
“Sam…don’t. Don’t bring that up right now.” Rayne’s voice held anger within it.
“Why not, Rayne?”
“Because,” Rayne paused as she looked up at the moon. She again clinched her jaw and left it tightened as she spoke, “because I know I’m not marrying him.”
“Does he know that?”
Rayne placed her hands across Sam’s face and urged her to look into her eyes. “I’m telling you I love you. Please don’t do this. I need time. We need time. Time to get it all worked out. It’s not easy for me and I know it’s not easy for you.”
“But you said yes. You didn’t have to say yes. I was there. I was in that room when he proposed. You had me but you let me go and you said yes.”
Rayne vigorously shook her head. “No, no. That’s not true and you know it. I didn’t let you go that night. You left. There’s a big difference. I know what I asked that night wasn’t right. I know my mistakes but I needed you to stay and help me work it all out. Be with me and support me while I did. But you said you couldn’t. It broke every single part of me when you left. Not a moment goes by that I don’t think about you.” Rayne reached up and rubbed the cicada charm. “I didn’t say yes. I didn’t say anything. He and Charlie Grace started planning things as if I had. I was just too broken and numb to argue.” She ran the charms along the chain which held them as she spoke.
“Rayne, you wanted me to fit into your perfect picture. You wanted me to guarantee you what it would be like so you could plan it out just like you plan everything in your life out. But life’s plan isn’t a guarantee. It’s ever changing and you have to be ready to make those changes. I couldn’t and wouldn’t be that for you. Don’t you get it?”
“No, not really. We could’ve been together while I made those changes.” Rayne grabbed Sam’s hands and squeezed them tighter with each word.
“But I needed you to make the changes on your own. I needed you to realize who you were without it being dependent on me.”
Rayne released her hold of Sam’s hands and let her own drop in her lap. “So, I’m to blame for losing us because I wasn’t ready or because I didn’t know who I was. I don’t think that’s fair. You showed me a life I’d never imagined. Loving you changed everything I had ever seen my future to be and you left because I didn’t accept all of those changes immediately. As if something like that wouldn’t take time to adjust to.”
In truth, Sam had not given thought to the what-ifs of what was to be after the proposal had Rayne chosen her instead. In her eyes, it was the natural choice of things. She had fallen in love with her. She hadn’t considered nor appreciated the consequences Rayne would have had to face with that choice. She was slowly starting to realize these with Rayne in front of her. The look in her eyes, the pain in her words, and the withdrawal in her mannerisms spoke far more to her than Rayne had ever done before. “No, it’s not fair and it’s not entirely you. I let you take the blame for it. I’m sorry for that.” Sam reached for Rayne’s hand. “Stormy, you changed me too. You changed everything I saw for my future too. I saw you. I saw us. I wanted us so bad. For as hard as it was for you, it was equally hard for me. I didn’t know who that person was or how to even be someone’s girlfriend. I ran.”
“But you’re here now. It’s not too late. We can have another chance. We can work it all out together.”
Sam thought of Gentry, the woman who had given her breath again. The woman who had shown her another life she could have as well as another side of herself. She thought of the taste of car exhaust on her tongue as she had walked the Atlanta streets and its contrast to the sea air blowing in through the patio doors of her condo. The life she had once pegged as her future was no more. She couldn’t go back. Although, she hadn’t quite yet figured out exactly where forward was either. “I can’t, Stormy. I’m not back.” She stuttered on her words as she thought of Gentry’s growing belly. She owed it to Gentry to return to help her through the pregnancy even if she still didn’t know what she wanted to become of it. More than owed, she wanted to return to help Gentry. She had been let down by so many in her life. Sam wouldn’t be another name on that list. “And…I’ve got someone I need to get back to.”
“Oh.” Rayne said flatly. She pulled her hand from Sam’s and tucked it between her thighs. “I see.”
“No, you don’t.” Sam pulled her knee up against her chest. “Because I still don’t fully see myself. I’m still trying to figure out me. In much the same way as you’ve been trying to find you, I’ve been trying to find myself. I didn’t know what I truly wanted until you showed me.” She pulled at the frayed strands of the hole in her jeans. “I didn’t tell you why I was here. My parents are getting a divorce. Mother finally asked the old bastard for a divorce. I’m here for her. See, Rayne, he had it all planned out too. His whole life, her, me. We were all according to his plan. And then one day we weren’t. I don’t want to be my mother. She stayed in his plan until the day she couldn’t breathe. I want my own plan. I want to know my own path. You showed me how much more of life I wanted. I fell so hard for you that I forgot the reality of the situation. I wanted the fairy tale.”
Sam turned on the bench to face Rayne fully. Remorsefully, she wiped the tear from Rayne’s cheek. “Falling in love with you made me realize I wanted more than sex, more than one-night stands. I want it all. I want love and sacrifice and commitment. I want the woman who loves me to fight against all consequences of what it means to do so. Maybe if you hadn’t changed that in me then I could be what you’re asking of me. But I can’t. I can’t wait on the sidelines or hide in the closet loving you in secret while you pretend we’re only friends. Even if it isn’t about just Grant. You’re not ready to live in anything but secret. I’m sorry. I want the fairy tale. But the truth is, the fairy tale is mine to make. To me, it’s all about timing. We weren’t ready for one another. We still aren’t.” Sam couldn’t take seeing the tears continue to fall from Rayne’s eyes. Nor could she continue to let her own fall. As she spoke, she knew the truth of her and Rayne. It hadn’t been their time before and it wasn’t their time now. They had to accept that and move on with their lives. The pain of sitting so close to one another, the continued fight against what was assuredly not going to happen in the immediate future, was nothing more than torture. It was time to end it—at least for now. Sam stood up, ran her fingertips underneath her eyes to dry them, and brushed the bench dust from her jeans. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I will alwayslove you.”
“So, this is goodbye again?” Rayne choked back the tears streaming through her words.
“I hope not.” Sam loved her too much to say goodbye to her again. It nearly killed her the last time. Filled with hope of another time for them, she turned and walked away. As she reached the light of the lamp beside the sidewalk, she stopped. The strength in her stride was stripped from her. She feared any attempts to further walk away from Rayne would cause her to tumble to the ground. She leaned against the pole to strengthen herself. The tickle of Rayne’s breath against her lips was felt in the breeze that gently blew against her. She looked back at the bench where Rayne still sat. She prayed for the strength not to run to her and take her in her arms. She wanted to pull her up off of the bench, fall helplessly into her, and kiss her until the answers as to how they could be together came. As if Rayne sensed everything her body questioned, she stood up from the bench. Sam inhaled deeply as she let her body imagine Rayne in her arms. As Rayne began to run to her, Sam realized that’s all they could do—run. Run from everything. Run from the truth of who they were to each other. Run from Grant. From Charlie Grace. From Gentry and the baby. They would run from it all. But then she felt the uncontrollable love they had for one another. The intense pureness of it from the very beginning of knowing one another. There was an innocence to how they had fallen in love with each other. Hurting all of those who they would run from would tarnish the pureness of it. It would shadow it perhaps to a degree which could not be healed. Sam couldn’t let that happen. The love she and Rayne had for one another was the most perfect thing in her life. She had to protect it. With all of the strength she had, she held up her hand to stop Rayne’s advance, pushed her back off of the post, and hurriedly walked from the park. She looked up into the fingernail moon and whispered, “Let her see how much I love her. Please just let her see.”
We love the “Keys” — Upper, Middle, Lower, it doesn’t matter. We’ve enjoyed them all. Each has its own unique characteristic. We’ve found our favorite RV parks in each. In the Middle Keys it’s Grassy Key RV Park & Resort
Grassy Key is in Marathon, Florida. It’s located on the right. Look for this sign when you see Dolphin Encounters coming up on your right. There is only one turn in as the park has a U-shape layout. Depending on the size of your RV or Tow Trailer, it can be a doozy finding a place to turn around on Overseas Hwy should you miss it. The miles in between locations in the Keys can seem short but the drive time can be rather long.
Here is my favorite little duo. Along the water’s edge, they have a great little wind-down area. The place is immaculate clean down to the point of raking the pebbly sand. They have cornhole and horseshoes as well as lounge chairs and tables.
Location, Location, Location — and more!
Some parks offer and are chosen only because of one maybe two features. Usually, it’s location, location, location. Right? If you’re going somewhere you want to be close to the very reason you are going. In this park, you’ll find fantastic location and more. Let’s get the negative downer points out of the way first, shall we? This is not a big point for me as I use the bathroom in my RV. But if you are traveling with a crew or like using the bathhouses, you won’t find one here. Grassy Key does not have a bathroom or bathhouse of any kind. It is a small campground with less than 35 sites. Personally I like this. Even though we were right in the middle of the action, we did not feel like we were in a crowd. The campground was very quiet and super friendly (as so many camper-folk are). Walking down the road in the pictures above was always with a stop at one or more RV’s or campers to say hello, share the adventures of the day, or even have a cocktail. The one super big downer of the park is this….
Check in is before 5:00pm. There is NO late arrival!
Never have I seen a campground that does not have a late check-in availability. But let me tell you when they say no late check-in, they mean it. You know the saying “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere”. In the Keys, at this particular resort, they MEAN it. At 5:05pm it is cocktail hour and no one is working. This is however the only one I have seen that does not allow you to pull in and check in the next morning. Cons are if you’re the one arriving late as you have no idea the traffic on your way. Pros are at 5:00 you are free to roam the road and know no big rigs are coming in. Adds to the quiet and seclusion of the sunset. There is an electric post on the side of the entrance as you pull in to the park where you can plug in and enjoy the campground should you be late. There is only one of these.
Now the good stuff …
Every evening, campers would start to mingle down to the water to watch the sunset with conversations of wonder as to what the sunset would be like. I actually loved this time of the day so much. It was like a collective time of reflection and admiration for the beauty around us. I’m not sure why, but I loved the mermaid statue. I can’t tell you how many pictures I have of her. I didn’t ask if she had survived Irma because I rather enjoyed thinking of her overpowering the waves and water to stand her ground.
If you have a boat, BRING IT! You can dock it here. A short cruise away and you’re on the Atlantic ocean. In this pic is a small boat but there was some pretty large ones also docked. I just liked the view of the water in this shot. Don’t worry about the seagrass filling up the dock. They have a reverse current system in the entrance to keep it out.
If you have a kayak or paddle board, DEFINITELY bring it! You can set out right from the campground or take it anywhere along the Overseas Hwy. There are pull offs and beaches you can launch from. This picture is taken from the dock. Around the land mass in the right is the Dolphin Discover Center. If you kayak around it you can actually see their pools.
I failed in getting a picture of the pool. There is a small, very nice pool area. It is next to the office and hidden behind palm trees for seclusion. It is on the plain side but with the gorgeous waters of the Atlantic to compete with, how can it not be? See…I don’t even have a pic of it.
Even though it is a small park, the sites are not crammed up against one another. There is plenty of room for slides and awnings with walking space left over. You can see our neighbor off to the left. Do please notice my wife kicked back relaxing. Shhh don’t tell her I snapped a candid pic of her. It will be our secret. In upper right pic you see our neighbors picnic table and site space. Oh yes, I had to include my little red baby. She goes where she is towed. I might even take her around town a bit when we are home.
Bottom line, we will most definitely come back to Grassy Key RV Park & Resort. In fact, it will now be our go to spot when spending time in the Middle Keys. I’ll share a future post with activities we enjoyed around the area.
When you have a friend with power tools, this can happen.
For my entire adult life, I’ve wanted a garden. The apparent sad fact seemed to be that a garden didn’t want me. If I got past the planning, plotting and tilling up the yard to actually get to the planting, I didn’t seem to grow a darn thing. Well except for frustration in my wife with the square of dried dirt in the yard. I grew that pretty well. So, let’s say she was less than excited when I said I wanted to try it again. But this time I would do something different.
While strolling through Pinterest I saw a garden that caught my eye. It was an area for a container garden. This I had never tried before. I shared it with a friend in our day-dream conversations. Never did I imagine she would say, “Oh, I can build this.” From there the planning began. Much of this was on her part as I did have to verify at one point in time that she was still speaking English as I had absolutely no clue what she was talking about. One Friday morning, she came with a trunk full of power tools. She had me using power table saws and others that I can’t remember the name of. I joke with my wife that she fell in love with me all over again when she came home to see me using them.
By Sunday morning, we had this 12×12 foot enclosure. The fencing is 4-foot high. The posts are set with Quik-crete. The small pergola and trellis rail are 6-ft high.
The next weekend I hit Lowe’s and a local farming supply store. It was great timing as Lowe’s had their fertilizer and mulch on sale for 5 for $20. I used 15 bags of black mulch to fill the space. I purchased two 2x4x2 galvanized stock tanks, two whiskey barrel planters, painter’s tape and copper spray paint. I drilled drain holes in the bottom of the stock tanks to have well-drained soil for my plantings. (After a summer of heavy rain I did have to go back and put a few in the sides.) There was a plug that could be removed for draining. Keep this little sucker handy because I do many times plug it in as well as remove it dependent on the rain.
I like to upcycle as much as I can to reduce my footprint on this world so my other containers were ones I was already using around the home. I transplanted the salvageable herbs and painted them with the same copper paint.
These brick pavers were leftovers from a patio project we had done a couple of years before. WeedEx material was laid down prior to the black mulch for a nice ground covering.
I waited a full month to let the wood dry before staining. (Note the total photo bomb of Socks and the Who Dat flare!)
My little happy place has given me hours of peace and tranquility not to mention little nuggets of veggies and herbs. I tend to it nearly daily with bits of time to walk out and look over the day’s growth. Sometimes my wife and I even have a glass of wine while sitting on the bench I placed out by it. It’s a wonderful way to end the work day.
It wasn’t too bad of a harvest it’s first year. Although, it was not without lessons learned, ie: avoid overcrowding by only planting one plant per whiskey barrel. But in the end, this little weekend project has been a welcome edition to our home both aesthetically and in our tummies.
Please read if you have recently downloaded “It Pours”.
IT’S FIXED!!! Please update your Kindle to get the correct version!
There has been a mistake in the ebook manuscript with Amazon. The book currently being sent out to readers and those who ordered a pre-order copy is the working draft Word document that was submitted to Amazon for the purpose of posting pre-order availability. This was a working Word document draft copy and unfortunately this is the copy you may be currently reading.
You will recognize it as it has no copyright page, title page, table of contents, dedication or blurb for my next book at the end.
When the first reader contacted me, I immediately checked my account with Amazon. The finished final copy is the only one present in my account. Thus, the only one I can revise. Yet, it is not the one being sent. Eight emails and one phone call later, Amazon has accepted full responsibility and is working to correct the situation. Although, I think the best outcome they are pushing for is to send the corrected copy to readers, which will essentially be asking them to read a book twice. For this, I am truly sorry.
Beyond quality of the writing and professional appearance of the finished book, I do not think you as a reader will have too many differences in the story itself except for a small addition to the end and the blurb for “After the Storm“.
If you have received one of these unfinished copies, please do contact me. I am terribly sorry for this and would like to try to make it right. My proof of the print version is correct. So I am hoping those will be correct.
As of Thursday, May 16th, three weeks after I contacted Amazon about the incorrect push content for the book, I’ve heard back again. This time from the technical support team that is having trouble seeing the mistake. They have requested I list the location of each variation, change or difference between the version that is sadly still being sent to readers and the correct, current version I have uploaded into my Amazon bookshelf. As you can imagine this is virtually impossible! I did however send a detailed email of the forefront pages that are missing and the last pages. As for the inner content, I truly don’t know how to send every single change as the copy being sent out was a working copy and has been saved over many times since the pre-order posted. What I do have trouble understanding is that the print version is correct, yet the ebook is not. There is only one bookshelf where I can download the book. There is only one copy there, so how can the print and ebook differ? I have to admit I am terribly frustrated and disheartened at this point that it will ever be fixed and am helpless to do anything. I’ve contemplated deleting the whole book, waiting a week, and then republishing it. But as it is listed with Kindle Unlimited, I can not do any thing for 90 days.
So, for my readers, what possible solution can I offer you? That is what I keep trying to find the answer to. I considered emailing the ebook version to those who contacted me but yes, you guess it…this is against Amazon’s agreement with Kindle Unlimited. I can not offer the ebook version anywhere outside of their site for the 90 day period. I then thought about trying to find an affordable way to offer signed print copies to those readers who would like them but who wants to pay for a book twice? For the large majority, the biggest story addition is the end. The book you read was missing a small piece at the end. Small but big. Ha! I was contacted this morning by a reader who has both the Kindle ebook version and the corrected version. She recommended to post the ending on this post as the small addition at the end changed her entire feelings toward the ending of the story and anticipation for the upcoming books. As I do listen greatly to my readers and those who take the time to reach out or review, I am listening now. Please see the complete last chapter further down the post after the blurb for “After the Storm”.
In the meantime, one of the elements missing from that version is the blurb for After the Storm. I am going to post it below for those who did not see it.
After the Storm
The weight of her heels carried on her fingertips grew exponentially with each step Samantha LeJeune took walking away from the only woman she ever loved. She wanted to turn back, take Rayne Storm into her arms and run away from everything that would keep them apart. The problem was Rayne wasn’t ready to give her what she needed to make a life with her. If she couldn’t runaway with her, she would at least runaway from her and all of the memories of Alabama. Without a clue as to her destination, she hit the road with nothing on her mind but healing her broken heart strong enough to never fall in love again.
Gentry Bell didn’t really have a home like others would describe. For her, home was a small town filled with suffocating memories of painful abuse and betrayal by those who were supposed to love her. There were only two woman who kept her from moving as far away as possible. The sudden passing of one of those women and a new job with the National Park Service, were her signs that it’s time for her to move on. She’s never feared being on her own or venturing out into the unknown. Actually, it has always been her breath of life. But this time, she isn’t alone. Maybe the silence of the wilderness will have the answer she needs to decide what to do about the baby she is carrying.
An immediate connection develops when these two broken women meet on the road that carries them away from the life they were living. But will it be enough to open their hearts to trust again? And if so, will they be strong enough to hold onto that connection when an unborn child seems to be pointing them to return back to a home where memories of trauma and a first love are still everso present in each of their hearts?
When two passionate hearts meet, wonderful things can happen.
That’s what happened when I met Kira. We both had a passion for writing and well…superheroes but that’s another story for another day. A couple of years ago, I lost my way with my writing. With the soon to be released revision of It Pours and blurb for After the Storm tucked nicely at the end of that revision, I wanted to take a minute to introduce one of the women who helped me find my way again. So, I asked her to write a little blog about herself and why she would spend the late hours of her day helping a little southern writer like me. I hope you enjoy her introduction and the stories she helps me put into your hands. Thank you Kira
My first editing experience was volunteer editing for Literotica.com. I was 20 years old. If you’ve never visited the site, I suggest it. Many stories are…graphic, to say the least, but if you enjoy erotica in any genre, you can find something to your liking. At that time in my life, I had just decided that I wanted my life-long career to be editing, but no one wanted to hire a woman without any ACTUAL editing experience. Even when I graduated with a bachelors degree that focused on publishing, I had no offers, no opportunities. Can you imagine approaching anyone with the knowledge that your only editing experience was for an erotic romance site? I did once; the look on the poor man’s face was something I’ll never forget.
For a couple of years after college, I went back to my roots of working fast food to pay my bills. I was, unfortunately, very good at working in a kitchen, coming home every night smelling like some kind of awful. I continued to edit for random strangers on the erotica site though, gaining quite a following of authors because of my attention to detail and my consistent, positive feedback. It was this experience that really cemented not just my love for editing, but my love for authors.
Most of these authors I worked with were “regular” people: husband/wife, kids, 9–5 job, etc. They just happened to write erotica in their spare time. They had no aspirations of making a career out of it; this was years before 50 Shades of Greyreared its ugly head and turned the publishing world upside-down. But more than the edits, more than the feedback on their stories, I got the sense that many of my author friends just wanted someone to talk to about their writing. It’s not every day that you get to talk “shop” with someone when your “shop” happens to be transexual BDSM. I learned to be objective, approaching each story with a blank slate frame of mind and putting in 100% effort. It didn’t pay, but it didn’t matter to me. I was helping, and that was good enough for me.
I finally got a breakthrough when I was invited to move to Chicago, IL, and stay with friends for cheap while I got on my feet. On a trip to Half Price Books (a place I’d never heard of, let alone been in), I fell in love with the place and applied to work there on a whim. I got the job a week later. I spent the next two years learning all about the other side of publishing: the selling. I shelved books, bought books from sellers, created marketing displays, and read everything I possibly could. If you had the chance to read everything you’ve always wanted to read, wouldn’t you do it too? I still edited for Literotica.com regularly at that point. It was always comforting to come home and edit a few chapters for a grateful author.
After two years at Half Price, an opportunity to work as a proofreader for an accounting firm popped up and I jumped at it. I, somehow, impressed them enough to give me a shot, despite not having any real-life experience. That job was difficult. Numbers people and word people don’t mesh well, as you can imagine. I received a lot of pushback at times, but I took it all in stride, just happy to have a job doing what I loved to do. It was at this accounting firm that I also found the first publisher that wanted to hire me on as a freelance proofreader. I read a book by Jake Bible about a giant killer shark (my favorite horror subgenre) and loved it, but I noticed there were typos, punctuation errors, and formatting mistakes. I reached out to him via his website and he directed me to his publisher, Severed Press. Not knowing what to say, I resorted to the crazy, passionate version of myself and wrote a long email that probably didn’t make much sense. Something I said worked though, and they offered me money to proofread their stories. I couldn’t believe my luck!
The way I approached Severed Press is how I approached other publishers, hoping to continue with the good luck. At one point, I had stories coming in from three publishers at once. It was chaotic, but it was fun and it was worth it. It was at that point that I finally stopped volunteer editing for the erotica site. I loved what I did, but I had to prioritize my editing for people that were paying me to do it. I had it made; I didn’t need the good karma as payment anymore.
Three years after starting at the accounting firm, I finally found my dream job: editorial and production assistant. It is higher level, better pay, and greater responsibility. To this day, it still tests all my skills and I’m learning something new every day. It’s the kind of job that every future editor wants because of the wealth of experience gained. I’m thankful every day to have such a great job that will undoubtedly point me in the right direction for future job options.
But, unfortunately, the side stories stopped coming in as much. I never completely understood why, but I accepted it as inevitable. Where I used to get 10–12 stories a month to edit, I started to only receive maybe 1–2. Money wasn’t an issue…but I was bored. Doing 9–5 work was fine, but I never considered my freelance work to be “work.” I mean, I got a chance to edit a book and read it first before anyone else. It was my dream come true, and I didn’t want to lose it. It kept me sane on my worst days and made my best days even better.
With a lack of paid freelance work, I started to re-evaluate my situation. I didn’t need the money but I missed the joy of editing fiction. Maybe that good karma editing that I so readily dismissed was something I need in my life after all. So, rather than advertising myself as a freelance editor looking for paid work, I took a different approach: I personally started reaching out to self-published authors and asking if I could edit their books for free. Like reaching out to publishers to ask for work, this approach missed the mark 98% of the time. I rarely received responses, even though I advertised myself as a free editor. Some authors already had a team of editors; some probably thought I was nuts. How do you explain my kind of passion?
I feel like authors and I share a kindred spirit. A goal for an author is to write something amazing and perfect that other people can enjoy. Similarly, my goal is to help mold that creative work into that amazing and perfect idea of what a book should be. I’m a self-described worker bee, helping the other bees make the best honey ever. I don’t care much for attention or limelight because I value self-satisfaction more than anything else. And the one thing that gives me the most pride is knowing that I did my best to make a book the best book it can be. If that’s just fixing typos and grammar, so be it. If it’s a detailed process from beginning to end—editing, copy-editing, proofreading, formatting, conversing, discussing, questioning—then I’m all about that too. If you need me for a little or a lot, I’ll take it all and be happy every day of the project to just be a part of the process.
What I’ve finally realized about myself and my career is that as long as I love what I do and I make a difference, no matter how big or small, it’s all worth it. Authors are always blown away when I offer to edit for free. Who would do something like that? Am I crazy? Iwould do something like that, and yes, I am probably crazy, but in the best way possible. I have the means to offer my editing skills to those who need them for free so I’m going to do it. It makes too much sense not to.
And, oddly enough, everything comes back to 20-year-old me, editing for people on Literotica.com. Those everyday people trusted me enough to share their stories and accept edits, good and bad. They put themselves out there, writing stories they weren’t sure anyone was going to like but hoping and praying they would…that somebody would read their story and love it enough to leave a comment, encouraging them to keep writing. Similarly, every step of my editing career has been about taking chances, putting myself out there, and doing what I love, even if no one else cares but me. At the end of the day, the pride I have in myself is worth more than anything money can buy.
So, if you need an editor, a commenter, good feedback, or just a sympathetic ear, I’m available. It’s why I’m here, and I’m happy to be here.
Each part of the writing process creates its own obstacle. Creating a cover image is definitely no exception. Not only must its image capture the attention of a would-be reader, but it must also tell something of the story within it. If you’re really successful, you’ll even have pieces visible to the reader only after reading the story. They finish the last page, hold the book or e-reader in their hands and think “Ah, that’s what the picture meant.” If you’re writing a series, such as Chambers of the Heart, this is even a tad more difficult as your covers must flow. Thankfully I’ve been able to work with a wonderful designer who helps me mold my story into an image.
If you’ve not yet read When It Raynes, please do not continue reading any further.
The cover for “When It Raynes” depicted a scene of Rayne’s life. Two canoes floated gently along a bayou. Its water was calm without ripple or wave. Their hulls were protected by a canopy of trees above. This was the essence of Rayne and her life. For those who purchased the print edition, there was foreshadowing on the back cover as one single canoe floated atop the water. In this book, Rayne is left to navigate alone after the vivacious Sam comes into her life to create anything but smooth waters. Her once certain path was left in disarray and her canopy of protection was gone.
In “It Pours”, we see a silhouette of a woman walking along the shore. She’s alone in the setting sun. The footsteps of where she has been have been washed away from the waves as they roll upon the shore. Above her is a flock of seagulls flying overhead. Their shadows surround her steps. In this book, Rayne has to find who she truly is among the shadows of who she was. It’s her time to stand alone in her own waters. The sun sets on a life she knew with hopes of rising on a life where she is free to fly in her own direction. If she can heal the heartbreak left by Sam’s leaving, she may find her life to be filled with new friends and loves. But as with any tide, the rising waters will leave Rayne to face the pending confrontations from Grant and Charlie Grace.
“Isn’t it romantic?” would probably not be the phrase those looking outside in the Cain household would’ve said about this Valentine’s Day but it actually was probably one of the most romantic we have had as a couple. I know this would be true as a married couple as it’s our first together since our wedding in August. After twenty-five Valentine’s Days together, we had slowly fallen out of truly celebrating the day of love. This year we had both secretly decided to surprise the other with a little gift. I always carry my laptop with me in case I find some time to write. Most of the time this is at a local little coffee shop for an Americana and quiet time to write. Yet you may find me pecking away in between clinic patients or during lunch. My wife (boy, do I still get all giggly inside when I call her that) had noticed my latch had broken on my messenger bag so for the Day of Love she ordered me a new Kenneth Cole one. As if that didn’t blow me away, she had a fleu-de-lis painted with Who Dat and Geaux Tigers on it to hang in my office. Yes, as with any true Who Dat fan, my heart was a wee bit deflated with the end of our football season. Speaking of…”How ’bout ‘dem Saints!” As for me, I surprised her with a pair of Brooks tennis shoes. Oh wait, I think I just lost you. No seriously! You just have to know me and us to know that was extremely romantic on my part. I never…shall I repeat…NEVER buy her Brooks. I wear tennis shoes if there is a purpose for them, ie: I’m playing a sport. Geanie wears them as her preference in footwear and she loves the not-so-inexpensive Brooks. They are her favorite. Generally on Valentine’s Day I would buy her the traditional “romantic” gift. When she opened this year’s, she kept saying over and over “I can’t believe you got me Brooks!” As if I hadn’t knocked it out of the park with the shoes, her card had a picture of a slice of bacon and an egg on it with the inscription of “We go together like bacon and eggs”. Ok so maybe I definitely just lost you with that one. Guess what though? It played our wedding recessional song, Happy Together by The Turtles, when you opened it. Come on now–that is romantic! Speaking of our wedding day and Valentine’s, here’s a few pics that show why that song fit us. It truly is romantic.
“Happy Together” by The Turtles
“Imagine me and you, I do I think about you day and night, it’s only right To think about the girl you love and hold her tight So happy together”
“If I should call you up, invest a dime And you say you belong to me and ease my mind Imagine how the world could be, so very fine So happy together
“I can’t see me lovin’ nobody but you For all my life When you’re with me, baby the skies’ll be blue Me and you and you and me No matter how they toss the dice, it had to be The only one for me is you, and you for me”
My New Year’s Resolution for 2015 was to write the story that was swirling around in my head and submit if for publication. I didn’t really know where I would go from there but I knew I had to get it down on paper. When I finished the first draft, I reached out to a publisher I knew about from my circle of writer friends. I contacted them for a description of their publication guidelines but instead they picked up the story to publish. They were patient and kind with the lack of knowledge I had toward anything writing or publishing. See, I’m a science brain. My education was in medicine. Let’s just say there was a learning curve. But again, it was something I was drawn to do. My first book received more positive recognition than I ever dreamed would happen. It was an incredible feeling. Yet what I enjoyed most were the readers who contacted me to say how the book touched them. How it brought out so many emotions for them. They relived memories of their own personal strength or perhaps read their own life’s struggles to realize they weren’t alone in choices they did or didn’t make. Those emails and messages were the best part of writing.
Shortly after my second book was published, my life started to see changes. Those changes continued in a downward spiral until New Year’s of 2018. Boy, I have something about New Year’s, don’t I? Anyway, it was then I relinquished the misconception of control of my life and started the path of another journey. This one opened my eyes more than any in my life before. It was a long two years or more of heartbreak, struggle, loss, surrender, strength, joy and “knowing”. On the other side of all of it, I’m a different person. I’m on my path of what I call the mind, body and soul. When the clouds cleared and the sun broke through, I wanted to return to my writing. The problem was…I wasn’t the same person which meant I wasn’t the same writer. The resistance from this was so powerful that I couldn’t find the keys when I sat down to write “After the Storm”. I no longer wanted to take the story where I had told the publisher it was going. I wanted something different for all of us: me, Rayne, Sam. So, my publisher and I negotiated a closure of my contract which freed me to take the story where I wanted it to go. I started at the beginning and took my new tone back to the pages. The revised edition of When It Raynes was released the last weekend of January 2019. I have again been humbled and thrilled with the responses I have received. I am currently revising “It Pours” for publication with “After the Storm” to follow.
Now that you know all of that…who the heck am I? Well, that’s a tough question to answer in a short blog but I’ll sum it up the best I can. I’m a south Georgia transplant with strong Louisiana roots. I’m a wife, a mom, a PA and some say writer. I grew up fishing the bayou, picking the garden and riding three-wheelers. Oh yeah, total tomboy! If I wasn’t outside I wasn’t happy. Come to think of it, I’ve not changed much at all. When I’m not trying to find little hidden pieces of time to write around my busy family and work life, I’m outdoors. This may be piddling in my garden, kayaking, hiking, camping or maybe just sipping a glass of red wine on my porch.
I am very grateful to previous readers who have stuck by me and those new readers who have invested in the series to join along with me. So, please do not hesitate to contact me!
Cover photo Underneath a Louisiana Bridge taken and given to me by Jamie Gray
Around this time last year, we bought a RV. It had always been my retirement dream but as I watched how incredibly fast my son was growing, I realized I wanted to experience these things with him before he moved off to college. I have not regretted it for one minute. Okay, that’s not entirely true. The first few weeks after purchase I woke up with two am buyer’s anxiety that was pretty wicked.
Let me tell you–camping is not for the faint of heart!
There is a huge learning curve to everything camping. Did I mention huge? Think back to the infamous scene from the movie “RV”. You remember the one…the septic hose one. Yeah, that one. I will proudly admit I have never come close to anything like that (thank goodness!) but somehow in the delegating of duties, I became “septic girl”. As of yet, I’ve been unable to renegotiate the terms of this arrangement with my wife and my son has shown no interest in learning the skill.
With our lessons somewhat learned, we set out on our first long distance adventure.
In June of last year, we left Georgia with South Dakota and Wyoming in our sites. Eighteen days and over five-thousand miles later we returned. The time in between by far has become one of my most fondest memories. I was most surprised by the difference of terrain between the regions as we drove through. That and well, corn. We should never ever run out of corn! If I had to narrow down a favorite place, I would say it was the Grand Tetons National Park. The wildlife, trails and sheer beauty were unmatched. We happened to drive up on a mama bear and three cubs. For several long minutes, we were the only vehicle on the road. Watching them was pretty darn amazing! Second was South Dakota. We loved the Badlands, Custer State Park and the Black Hills. This one was a shock to us. Things happen for a reason, you know? If it hadn’t been for the conference I attended I do not think South Dakota would’ve been on our radar for the near future. Yet all three of us want to go back! And third, I would have to say was Yellowstone National Park. I know…I know. It’s crazy. Seeing Yellowstone was my childhood dream and it falls last on the list. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly beautiful and interesting with it’s volatile terrain but the other’s touched a place in my soul.
The trip was better than my expectations have ever taken it. The closeness of our family was more than we had experienced before. I think of our trip every time I see the commercial of the family taking off in the SUV with the aunt on the phone saying to give her flying over driving any day. Yep “what can I say, we like to drive”. The next adventure awaits…Georgia to the New England states in just a few short months. I’ve gotta get to planning!