I have Lux 2 finished. I’m just waiting for a good time to load it onto Amazon. First, I loaded the short fiction for Muddy River: Survival. Muddy River’s the series that I write because it’s quick and FUN. Then I finished the anthology I shared with 6 fellow authors. I’m inordinately proud of that. Every story they sent me was topnotch. On Sept. 22, my 5th Jazzi Zanders mystery becomes available. I have a soft spot for Jazzi and her crew. They remind me a bit of my own family. And maybe sometime after that, I can publish Lux: Heirlooms To Die For. I can hardly wait to get feedback on that. Lux let me spread my wings and try a few new things.

Anyway, Lux is still in the back of my mind, so I thought I’d share a bit of her story with you, so here’s a snippet to entice you:

Tyson, called.  Unusual during the day.  He was always busy at the community center where he worked, handing out lunches or driving people to free clinics, even tutoring them if needed.  “What’s up?” I asked.

“I only have a minute.  I’m at work, but I don’t have any plans tonight, and Mom and Dad are going to the monthly get-together for our condos, so I was wondering if you’d like to offer me a free supper.  I’d like to talk to you about something.”

Hmm.  Curious.  He’d turned his life around since moving to Summit City.  As far as I knew, everything was going smoothly for him now.  He didn’t intend to tell me any more at the moment, though.  He was going to make me wait.  “Keon works tonight, so I’d love company.  What are you in the mood for?”

“I never turn down a steak.”

My mouth watered.  I hadn’t had a ribeye for a long time.  “Does six work for you?”

“See you then.  And thanks, Lux.”…….

I was covering the steaks with foil to let them rest when Tyson beeped at the gate for me to let him in.  A few minutes later, he walked into the kitchen.

He sniffed the air and grinned.  “I smell garlic and beef.  No wonder you’re my favorite sister-in-law.”

“You say that to whichever sister-in-law you happen to be with.”  I moved the steak platter to the kitchen island and dished the spinach into a bowl.

He plopped onto one of the stools and reached for the bread.  I watched him smear it with butter.  “I hope I’m good company,” he told me when I joined him.  “Mom and Dad hit me with crappy news today.  That’s why I called you.”

I frowned.  “Are they all right?  They only retired and moved here a short while ago.”

“They’re fine, but they won’t be for long.  Dad’s mom fell and broke her hip.  Or else her hip gave and she fell.  No one knows for sure.  But whatever, Dad’s having her come to live with them.”

“Permanently?”  A knot formed in my stomach.  I’d heard horror stories about the boys’ grandma for years. 

Gloomy, Tyson nodded.  “I’m moving out.  I know a guy who rents a big apartment over a shop close to the community center.  That’s how we met.  At a nearby bar.  He’s been looking for a roommate, so I called and asked him if he’d found one yet.  His place has two big bedrooms and a big kitchen.  He’s happy to split the costs with me.”

My brain was trying to keep up with all of his news.  “But your parents loved having you in the basement of their condo.”

“I loved it, too, but I’m not staying in the same place as Grandma.  Dad isn’t too happy I’m leaving, and Mom’s broken up, but none of us liked that woman.  I’m not even sure Dad does, but you know how he is.”

I nodded.  Mr. Johnson is a generous, loving man.  How he got that way with the mother he had is beyond me.  I’d met his mother once when she came to stay for a holiday.  She was sourer than a lemon.  Bitter, too, always complaining.  Maybe that’s why Mr. Johnson married the most upbeat, positive woman he’d ever met.  Gabbie took after her mother. 

I shook my head.  “I feel sorry for your mom.”

“We’re all going to have to invite her over a lot.  Dad’s mother never has anything good to say to her.”

Or to anyone.  Keon wasn’t going to be thrilled to hear this news.  “Have you told your brothers and sister?”

He shook his head.  “You’re the first to know.  As soon as they told me, I called about the apartment and then came here for sympathy and food.”  He gave me his best poor me look.  “I thought I could count on you to call the others.”

“You just don’t want to be the bearer of bad news.”

His lips lifted into a naughty grin.  “That, too, but I really can use the time to start packing.  Grandma’s coming as soon as she’s released from the hospital.  I’m moving as soon as I can.”

“Can’t blame you.  I’ll pass on the word after you leave.  I’ll wait to tell Keon until he gets home.  I don’t want to ruin his night.”

“Smart decision.”  He used another slice of bread to clean the last of the juices off his plate.  Then his gaze shifted to the coconut cream cake I’d bought.  “Is that for me?”

Laughing, I got up to get dessert plates.  “Want coffee with it?”

“With cream and sugar.”  Tyson loved his sweets. 

We made small talk while he enjoyed the cake, and I sent a big slice home with him.  After he left, I called Cornelius, Terrance, and Gabbie to tell them the news.  They all took it badly.

Thanks Giving

I’m getting in gear for Thanksgiving.  My two sisters and cousin always come to our house.  I know–our family is pitifully small.  This year, my daughter Holly and her son Tyler can both make it, too.  Nate’s in the marines and can’t make it home until Christmas, but that’s not that far away.  So I feel especially blessed.

We’ve had so many wonderful times with friends and family this year.  Some of our dear, old friends who’d moved away have returned, and it’s like they never left.  The years didn’t diminish our friendship at all.  And as always, I have my writer friends–a true treasure–and today, I want to share my blog with a fellow writer I admire, Julia Donner.  I’ve yammered on and on about how much I love her Regency romances.  She just published a historical western romance, and I love it just as much, so I invited her here to showcase AVENUE TO HEAVEN.  Thanks for the wonderful excerpt, Julia!  I read this book and can’t recommend it enough.  (Jake is a love interest to remember).

Blurb:    When a coffin arrives on Annie Corday’s doorstep she knows who sent it—her former husband, one of Chicago’s most vicious crime lords. Desperate, she decides on a radical solution. If a man can advertise for a wife, why can’t she arrange for a bodyguard and temporary husband?

Jake Williams isn’t looking for a wife when he comes to Chicago to buy cattle but ends up roped into a loco marriage contract. And worse, he can’t stop his headlong fall into love with a woman who will eventually leave.






By the time Jake returned from the barn, Annie was at the range. He quickly learned that she liked it quiet in the morning, a slow waker. He knew enough about women to not provoke her and quietly ate. The thin, fragile pancakes filled with blackberry preserves were worthy of reverent silence.

He put his plate in the dry sink and went to get his hat. He hesitated at the door, toying with the brim, while trying to judge if she was ready for conversation. He gave up worrying about it and went out.

She surprised him when she joined him on the porch. In the quiet, they watched morning’s shy light spread its warmth across the land. The sharp scents of ragweed and dew-drenched foliage permeated the air. Gentle lowing of cattle drifted up from the pastures below.

He looked over at Annie. She gazed out at the new day and glory of a Colorado summer sunrise. She no longer looked grumpy.

He tugged his hat into place and pulled a pair of gloves from his back pocket. “Thanks for breakfast, Annie. And last night. Your word is good. I haven’t eaten like that in a long time.”

Not since Mother, but he wouldn’t tell her that. No sense in giving her a swelled head.

She stared sleepily at the spectacular view. “Thank you. Will you buy a milk cow?”

“Sorry. I don’t milk cows. I can have the neighbors bring milk over twice a week.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to have a cow?”

“Are you willing to milk it every morning and night?”

That woke her up. He wisely swallowed a laugh when she scowled. He couldn’t tell if she was annoyed about his refusal to buy the cow or the idea of getting up early to milk it.

“Very well, sir. No cow, but I was accustomed to fresh milk every day and always kept a Jersey in the barn.”

“Small yield.”

“Plenty of cream,” she shot back.

“No cow, Annie. I spent enough years as a ranch hand to have developed a snobbish attitude about milking. Farmers milk cows. Ranchers breed’em.”

She gave up the argument with a sigh and turned back to the view. Jake started to leave, got half way to the barn and came back.

“Annie, do you know how to shoot?”

“Certainly not!”

“Can you drive a team or a single hitch buggy?”

“Yes, and I can ride.”

“Well, that’s something. But you’ll have to learn how to shoot.”

She made an owlish face. “I think not.”

“Annie,” he began, careful to remove all traces of condescension from his tone, “there’s no choice. You have to learn.”

“Give me one reason why.”

“First off, it’s August. The heat draws the rattlers to the water trough and the well out back. Come September, or when the weather turns wet, they won’t be a bother.”

“Are you speaking of rattlesnakes?”

“Yes. They like the water when the heat gets bad.”

“Very well, then. I shall learn.”

“Tomorrow,” he succinctly warned.

“Why so soon?”

“Because, Annie, it’s hot and likely to stay like this for another three weeks.”

She huffed a sigh, letting him know she would do as he asked but that he’d spoiled her morning.


She suffered through her first weaponry lesson the next day. Her target was a dead tree. Jake demonstrated with a pistol, showing how easy it was for him to shoot off tiny twigs she could barely see and certainly had no interest in killing.

She took the Colt.44 from him and managed to hit everything surrounding the tree but not the tree itself. The pistol weighed too much for her wrist. His army issue revolver wobbled in her feeble grip, even when she used both hands. By the time he told her to stop, she was ready to give up and happily set the pistol on a tree stump. She hadn’t counted on his annoying determination.

He withdrew a rifle from a fringed buckskin case. “Here. This is a Remington D-Ring.”

Exasperated by yet another weapon to fuss with, she made an impatient noise. “How many guns do you have?”

“This is a rifle, not a gun.” Before she could ask, he explained. “It has to do with the interior design of the barrel.”

She huffed an aggrieved sigh and confronted the rifle. Smooth brass pegs had been hammered into the stock for decoration. The unexpected weight of it almost slipped through her fingers and toppled her to the ground. She gamely hoisted it up.

He showed her how to fit it to her shoulder. Standing behind her, he reached around and adjusted the position. She instantly lost the ability to concentrate. His entire body was wrapped around hers, huge and enveloping her within his heat. His breath brushed her cheek. When he correctly positioned her hands, his fingers felt raspy yet gentle. The solid ridge of his thigh supported her hip. The implacable wall of his torso braced her back. She tried to think about what he was saying, but his scent and heat and presence were making her head spin.

She heard his patient directions from a distance and tried to focus on his deep, whispery voice. “Squeeze it, Annie. Slow and easy. Don’t jerk on it. Just slide your finger over it. Here. I’ll show you how.”

His finger covered hers against the trigger. An explosion slammed into her head, her body rammed backward into his chest. The spot where the rifle stock fit against her shoulder felt like she’d been kicked by a horse. But there was a hole in the center of the tree.

Stepping back, he said, sounding oddly hoarse, “Now you try it without me.”

And she did, many times. She listened, forcing attention and persistence, while he explained how to load and clean the rifle. He didn’t stand closely again, but stood a little behind her, ready to support or catch her after the impact of the recoil.

At bedtime, she used a hand mirror to study the bruises on her sore shoulder, quite proud of the smudges. She could barely lift her arm, but she knew how to shoot. Not that she could hit much. The only time the tree had anything to fear was when Jake helped her to aim, but he’d only done that once. She pretended not to feel any disappointment about that, nor about the fact that Harold had yet to wire her about what was happening in Chicago.

That night she dreamed that Charles had come to the peaceful valley, vowing to keep her there forever. Jake was in Chicago at the Clark Street house, happy as a lark, soaking in the black marble tub, fully clothed.


M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)