Guest Post – Author Wendy May Andrews

Please welcome author Wendy May Andrews to The West Corner!

What I’ve learned since becoming an author

While I was writing my first book, I had no idea how much I didn’t know. I knew I had a lot to learn, but I thought it was all to do with craft – how to create more believable characters, deepen conflict, engage the reader. Yes, all that is, of course, very important, I would even say the most important, but after that book got a contract and I continued to write more books, I found out what else I needed to learn.

As an author, the writing is just the beginning. First there’s the editing. I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know what Track Changes was! My first set of edits had to be done twice because of that (sigh). It also turns out that I have a HUGE comma weakness. I have had to read scores of articles about the proper use of the comma. My first line editor nearly quit on me due to my lack of commas. Editors are a writer’s best ally.

I had also never been into social media before so figuring out Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tsu all posed various levels of frustration. Thankfully they are reasonably user friendly and I am slowly getting hooked on each and every one of them. Previously, I couldn’t understand articles I would read about the need to limit your time online chatting. Now I get it and am starting to look into various apps that will cut off your online access for predetermined lengths of time – another lovely invention for writers!

My most recent technological education was with Rafflecopter. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s a means for getting people to perform various tasks in order to be entered to win a prize. Tasks can be as simple as answering a poll or signing up to follow me on Twitter. Rafflecopter.com is remarkably user friendly, but unfortunately, while I was trying to set it up I was also dealing with computer problems (double sigh). But it is finally all set and ready to go. If you’d like to check it out and enter to win a $25 Amazon card, visit my website.

I never would have thought being an author would be so educational. But it really is the best job ever! I can’t wait to see what I’m going to learn tomorrow, next week, next month, next year…

About the Author

photo of author Wendy May AndrewsWendy May Andrews has been in love with the written word since she learned to read at the age of five. She has been writing for almost as long but hasn’t been sharing those stories with anyone but her mother until recently. This is Wendy’s third book with Clean Reads.

Wendy can be found with her nose in a book in a cozy corner of downtown Toronto. She is happily married to her own real-life hero, who is also her best friend and favorite travel companion.

Being a firm believer that every life experience contributes to the writing process, Wendy is off planning her next trip.

She loves to hear from her readers and can be found at her website, on twitter or Facebook.

Connect with Wendy Online

Website: www.wendymayandrews.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/WendyMayAndrews

Twitter: www.twitter.com/WendyMayAndrews

Instagram: @wendymayandrews

The Debutante Bride cover artBook Description

Miss Elizabeth Dunseith, Beth to her friends, grew up in genteel poverty, happy despite her abusive father and weak mother. When her father sells her to the highest bidder in order to pay off his gambling debts, she fears what her future will hold but is relieved to get away from home with her new, handsome husband.

Lord Justin Fulton, Earl of Westfield, is confused by the contradictory behavior of his purchased bride. One moment she is haughty and cool, the next she is warm and endearing. When his sister refuses to help establish his new bride in Society, Justin turns to a friend’s wife to show Beth the best way to navigate the politics of the ton.

Their growing attraction just seems to confuse matters even further. Will these two be able to see past their differences to make it to happily ever after?

The Debutante Bride is available from Amazon and other online retailers.

Guest Post – Author Anne Garboczi Evans

Please welcome author Anne Garboczi Evans to The West Corner!

5 Tips for Writing Christian Fiction Without Being Preachy

photo of Rocky Mountains

There’s nothing wrong with preachy Christian fiction. There’s certainly a market for it and I know some lovely readers who devour it as well as some talented authors who write it.

If your target audience isn’t people who have attended church for decades, making your Christian fiction preachy will drop your sales number faster than a lead balloon. My target audience is millennials and as a whole they never even flip the cover of Christian fiction. By using the strategies I’ve outlined below, I hope to change that.

1. Show Don’t Tell Your Faith

Show don’t tell, it’s a classic writer admonition. Normally this admonition refers to using body language rather than telling the reader what the protagonist is feeling or other similar situations. The same caution applies though to the faith element of your stories. When your hero makes an ungodly choice, don’t let him monologue for a paragraph about his sins. Even better, allow your heroine to go for chapters on end without feeling repentant at all. Instead, use the progression of the chapters to show how that sinful choice didn’t work out so great for her. After all, isn’t that how things happen in real life? If I instantly felt repentant for every sinful choice I made, I’d be fully sanctified by now. Newsflash, I’m not.

2. Make Prayers Poignant

I’ve read a lot of preachy Christian fiction and thoroughly enjoyed quite a few of those novels. A recurring theme in preachy Christian fiction is prayer. A lot of prayer. Often times the heroine spends more time talking to God than to the hero.

Prayer is a crucial part of the Christian life since it is how we communicate with God. I certainly believe in the power of prayer, and every year I age, my prayer list expands. But there’s nothing to turn a novel preachy faster than page after page of prayers. I include prayer in all my Christian fiction, but I usually stick to one, maybe two in the entire novel. The prayer often isn’t longer than a sentence. Perhaps two sentences max. But I place that one short prayer in an epic moment where the reader will never forget it.

If you want to write non-preachy fiction that still contains a powerful Christian message, don’t make prayer the filler material in the dialogue of your book. Make prayer the climax, something that happens at a pivotal moment in your book. Your reader might not even believe in prayer, but they’re going to pay attention to that prayer.

3. Let Your Characters Sin

A lot. Don’t write an Elsie Dinsmore style heroine who’s worst failing is, just once, considering speaking in a curt voice to her friend. To avoid a preachy novel, let your characters manifest all the attitude, anger, jealousy and bad decision-making that fallen people do. No one can argue that protagonists sinning isn’t realistic. We all sin every day. Another advantage of heeding this advice is it leaves a lot of room for character growth. Letting your protagonist change throughout the novel rather than starting out in starched-white splendor, allows you to subtly show a lot of inspiring messages.

4. Make Your Protagonists’ View of God Change Throughout the Story.

Perhaps your heroine doesn’t believe in God, hates the idea of a Divine Being, or is a Wiccan? Maybe your hero thinks he doesn’t have time for God? The most natural way to introduce spiritual themes is by having your characters’ espouse beliefs contrary to Christianity. You can’t be considered preachy if your hero launches into an intellectual debate on why he’s a Buddhist. You can bring up some fascinating Christian points though as the hero struggles to defend that decision in his own mind. Using this technique also forces you as an author to defend why you believe what you believe and gives you the opportunity to read some awesome apologetics books.

5. Don’t Give Cookie Cutter Answers

Make the reader think. Don’t let your hero fix everything with a Sunday School answer such as “be more generous”, “don’t yell at people”, or “be more forgiving.” Let your heroine struggle and sweat through her decisions. Give him and her time to agonize over their decisions and show just how high the personal cost will be if they do choose to embrace change.

Even in the ending, don’t make your protagonists do the absolute perfect thing. Allow their weaknesses to shine through. Don’t make your protagonists angels just because they converted or had an encounter with God. Not only is such a radical flip of personality preachy, it’s not true to life. We all bring our own quirks, flaws, and failures into daily life.

On the other hand, don’t take this technique too far. The movie version of My Fair Lady is an example of taking this technique way too far. In the movie, Henry Higgins, a rich professor, is trying to teach Eliza Doolittle how to speak English like an elite lady rather than using the accent of the poorer classes. Throughout the movie, Professor Higgins is misogynistic and rude to Eliza. The ending suggests that Eliza and Professor Higgins marry. Yet, in the last line of the movie, Professor Higgins is still unbearably rude to Eliza.

Don’t end a novel like that. Rather, allow one of your protagonist’s more endearing weaknesses to shine through. Perhaps a character who overcame a social phobia in the climax of the novel, could still allow their introverted side to show in the ending. Or perhaps a crotchety protagonist who learns to love others throughout the novel could end the book with a self-deprecating joke that shows he still does have a snarky side.

Readers, what situations or scenarios make you think a novel has turned too preachy for your tastes? Authors, what do you do to ensure you are making readers think about spiritual concepts rather than handing them cookie cutter solutions?

About the Author

photo of author Anne EvansAnne Garboczi Evans is a mental health counselor, military spouse, author, and mama to an opinionated little preschooler named “Joe-Joe.”

Find out more about Anne and her writing on her blog.

Guest Post – Author Dana Pratola

Please welcome author Dana Pratola to The West Corner!

photo of author Dana Pratola

Outstanding. Individual. Unique. One of a kind. Distinct. Different. Odd. Weird. …all words used to describe people, in some cases, us, and depending on which end of the spectrum we hear most often in relation to ourselves, words that help or hinder.

Growing up, I spent a great deal of time alone. By choice, mind you. I had a mob of friends — the neighborhood gang of fifteen or twenty who could always be seen together (much to the displeasure of our neighbors) — and I had a sister and three big brothers, so self-imposed solitary confinement was often not only enjoyable, but a necessity. But no one got it.

I remember days friends would knock on my door or yell out front of my house to get me to come out, when I was more interested in introspective daydreaming. Though I loved to write from an early age, I had no idea it was what God had planned for me, only that I knew this thinking and creating and pensive imagining was for me. I needed it like I needed the air, or my collection of Bee Gees tapes (before CDs, folks), and I didn’t care what anyone thought.

It troubles me when I see a young person being nudged into some little mold their friends, school officials, even parents have designed for them. They’re drawn away from the things that make them unique and outstanding into a flat, four-sided construct meant to hold the average and the bland. It’s tragic. Don’t get me wrong, a degree of conformity is a good thing. We can’t all run around naked shooting each other with paperclips and rubber bands (though it would be kinda cool if we could), but what of who we were created to be?

I think anyone who knows me will tell you, I don’t fit in a box, and I still don’t care if anyone thinks I’m weird, or not hooked up right. I don’t say that as a prideful thing, merely a fact. People have asked me, “What’s wrong with you?” and, “How does your mind work like that?” To answer both questions: Nothing, and God made me this way.

He made us all the way we are – maybe not the way some people have steered us – to be different, distinct. To shine. We are fearfully and WONDERFULLY made. God didn’t look at us and say, “Eh, she’ll do.” And neither should we, whether we’re looking at others or our reflections in the mirror.

I hope we all do some introspective daydreaming from time to time and perhaps rediscover that hidden spark we may have snuffed out because it was considered weird, or was easier than explaining it to someone who wouldn’t get it anyway. That spark may be the very one that ignites your life for the Kingdom and shows you who God intended you to be.

About the Author

God gave me a passion to write Christian Romance. These books don’t contain explicit sex scenes, but my characters have real desires, struggles and choices to make. A lot of the time they make the wrong ones. No subject is prohibited, but good always triumphs and God is glorified.

In my personal life, He has also blessed me with a wonderful husband and three dynamic children, all of whom are destined to make wide, colorful splashes in this world. We share our New Jersey home with three dogs. I have no hobbies to speak of, unless you include writing. I don’t.

Voice of Truth cover artBlurb

Sophia Gallo is celebrated and adored by millions, but in her meteoric rise to fame, it might appear she’s forgotten the One Who gave her the gift that made possible her life of wealth and glory. She hasn’t forgotten. She’s reminded every day as she endeavors to hide a secret that could change everything and expose her as the freak and outcast she always thought herself to be.

Cade Fioretti has never backed down from finding the truth, and he’s not about to start now. It’s his job and his passion. Sophia is beautiful, talented, and the subject of his next book; but she’s hiding something. No matter what it takes, he’s going to dig it up, and in the process learn all there is to know about this woman who’s stolen his heart.

Voice of Truth is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Pelican Book Group.

Guest Blogger – Author Krysten Lindsay Hager

True Colors cover art

Please welcome my fellow Astraea Press author Krysten Lindsay Hager! She’s here today to tell us about her book bucket list.

My Book Bucket List by Krysten Lindsay Hager

Every so often, I get tagged in one of those social media games where people ask you to check off how many classics you’ve actually read off some list of 100 of the great books of all time. I was an English major. I should have a perfect score—right? Not exactly. Well, if I’m honest, I can speed read, I have been known to dabble in Cliff Notes in a crunch (don’t judge me, you’ve seen your share of those bright yellow stripe-y books yourself), and I could always absorb just enough info about a book in a class to skim through and gain a basic understanding of a novel. To put it mildly, college was not always a place where you could take the time to enjoy a classic when you were just trying to get through it to pass an exam or write a paper. And don’t get me started on when the literature categories come up on Jeopardy! People expect me to know the answers and I get the snarky comments about it all the time. All. The. Time.

So I’ve decided that it’s time to put my money where my mouth is (that’s normally where chocolate goes) and create a book bucket list for myself. I’m going to just start with just five because that seems doable. And I’m not going to put on anything that seems like I should read it if it really doesn’t apply to me. Like my eighth grade character Landry, in True Colors, The Call of the Wild did/does nothing for me and therefore Jack London need not apply here.

Now before I start, please don’t judge me and say in disbelief, “You never read that? Really?” because there are some books that were assigned and I don’t know how to explain it other than to say that the story didn’t stick with me. I can’t remember the plot, characters, etc. I know I read it, I remember turning the pages, yet if you were to quiz me on it I’d fail. Yes, Persuasion, I’m looking in your direction.

So here, in no particular order is my Book Bucket List:

  1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. This one seems like I’m taking on too much, doesn’t it? You’re probably thinking, no, this is above her, but hear me out. I did love the movie and I got very into Anna Karenina and I do like Russian lit, so this might be doable. If nothing else the sheer size of it will come in handy should I need to kill a spider.
  2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Somewhere along the line I got the reputation for being a huge Jane Austen fan. I guess I must have made a comment or something that implied that over the years, but while I’ve had Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion assigned in class, I’m pretty sure this one never was. I know the basic idea of it, seen a few remakes of it, but read it? Nope.
  3. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I love Scott. LOVE him, but never finished this one. So if I’m going to call him my literary boyfriend then I better read it. Otherwise it’s like I’m cheating on him and I refuse to betray him that way.
  4. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. My main reason for putting this on the list is that my dad loved this book when he was assigned it in class years ago. In fact, he wanted to name me Eustacia Vye. My mom considered it thinking I could go by either, “Stacia,” or “Vye,” but in the end decided each roll call on the first day of school might be too much for me. I have the book sitting on my shelf upstairs and it’s about time to take it down and read it.
  5. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. See the movie and the remake, love the area and setting, so I feel this one should be included on the list. It sounds like the perfect cold weather, rainy day reading, doesn’t it?

And one bonus book, if I should find myself finishing those five. My good friend, David, who I lost almost three years ago, loved William Faulkner. He tried to get me to read, As I Lay Dying, for an online book club that we sadly never got to do. It was favorite, so I may tackle Faulkner in David’s honor.

So what are the books that would make it onto your book bucket list? I’d love to hear the titles, so please leave them in the comments!

True Colors cover artBlurb

Landry Albright just wants to be one of the interesting girls at school who always have exciting things going on in their lives. She wants to stand out, but also wants to fit in, so she gives in when her two best friends, Ericka and Tori, push her into trying out for a teen reality show modeling competition with them. Landry goes in nervous, but impresses the judges enough to make it to the next round. However, Ericka and Tori get cut and basically “unfriend” her on Monday at school. Landry tries to make new friends, but gets caught up between wanting to be herself and conforming to who her new friends want her to be. Along the way she learns that modeling is nowhere as glamorous as it seems, how to deal with frenemies, a new crush, and that true friends see you for who you really are and like you because of it.

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True Colors is available from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords. Check out the book trailer here.

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About the Author

photo of author Krysten Lindsay Hager

Krysten Lindsay Hager is an author and book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and also writes middle grade, YA, humor essays, and adult fiction. TRUE COLORS is her bestselling debut novel from Astraea Press. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in South Dakota, Portugal, and currently resides in Southern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing. She received her master’s in American Culture from the University of Michigan-Flint.

Connect with Krysten:

Website: http://www.krystenlindsay.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KrystenLindsayHagerAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KrystenLindsay

New release – Three Wishes by Deborah Kreiser

Please welcome my fellow Astraea Press author Deborah Kreiser! She’s here today to celebrate the release of her new YA novel Three Wishes, and to talk about writing.

Leather and lace? Writers have it hard. And easy.

photo of author Deborah KreiserWe writers have it hard. There’s always other stuff demanding our attention, though we feel guilty when we don’t spend every spare minute on our book babies. It’s so hard to see a project through to the end. The odds of actually getting agented/published/purchased are slim. The level of competition is high, and yet we need to pour our hearts and souls into our writing in order to have even a chance of success.

We writers have it easy. We get to sip lattes and eat chocolate while making up things from our imaginations. We visit the library and read books for “research,” and troll the internet for insanely specific but often fun details for our stories. We commiserate with other writers via social networking, and get to call it “building our platforms.”

Yeah, I know it’s a contradiction. Writers have it both easy and hard. Sometimes the writing flows as smoothly as chocolate sauce on a sundae, and it seems like free time stretches endlessly before us. When that happens, writing is more like a destiny than an effort. It is an incredibly satisfying feeling.

But it’s hard when too much is going on all at once. It’s hard when writing starts to feel like work and less like pleasure. It’s tough to be creative on a schedule.

The only thing that works for me is a) taking advantage of the up times, and b) cutting myself a ton of slack when I’m having difficulty. If I pack my bags for too many consecutive guilt trips, I risk abandoning my laptop for good. It’s better, I reason, to ride the wave; go with the flow; not paddle against the current.

So, even though this month is a crazy one, and I’ve hardly spent any time editing my work-in-progress, I tell myself it will come. And it will be good. And I accept that and move on.

We writers have to coach ourselves through rough patches, because no one else is going to get us there.

About the Author

If Deborah Kreiser had three wishes, they would include: a lifetime supply of calorie-free chocolate, a self-cleaning house; and the ability to expand time as needed. When not dreaming of her next plot, she works as a school librarian in Massachusetts, where she lives with her husband and two young daughters.

Connect with Deborah online

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Three Wishes cover artBlurb

Tall and lanky, Genie Lowry is only noticed at academic awards assemblies—until the day she turns 17 1/2, when her body changes from Kate-Hudson-flat to Katy-Perry-curvy—and she finds out she’s a real, live genie. Suddenly, every guy at school is paying attention to her, including Pete Dillon, her never-in-a-million-years crush.

But to gain her full powers and keep her new body, Genie has to find a master, and she’s not sure if Pete’s Master (or Mr.) Right. With help from her dead mother’s interactive diary and an imposing mentor with questionable motives, Genie uncovers the family history and genie rules she never knew. She grapples with her new powers and searches for the perfect master as she tries to make her own wishes come true.

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Three Wishes is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Welcome Author Lillian Duncan plus a giveaway

Please welcome my fellow Pelican Book Group author Lillian Duncan! She’s here today with a guest post to help celebrate the release of her latest book Betrayed. Be sure to check out the giveaway details at the end!

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MORE TO LIFE THAN ROMANCE? REALLY?

by Lillian Duncan

There’s more to life than romance.

An odd statement coming from someone who writes romantic suspense novels, but the truth is the truth. We can’t survive on romance alone. We all need connection with other people in all sorts of different relationships—not just romantic relationships.

BETRAYED, the second in my Sisters by Choice series, just released.

So, why did I choose the name Sisters by Choice for the series, especially when they are romantic suspense? As in life, not everything is about the romance!

Friendships are important!

For many people, their friends are more important in their daily lives than their family. With families scattered from one end of the country to the other and even in other countries, the friendships we form often replace the family bonds from past eras.

Sure, we still love our families but if they aren’t nearby, it can make for loneliness and feelings of isolation—if we let it! But we don’t have to let it and that’s what I wanted to show in the Sisters by Choice series. Family isn’t just blood, it’s about the bonds we form.

Those bonds are formed as we go through life together and help each other. We can be there to help others during their crises and as we do emotional bonds will form. Those bonds can take strangers, acquaintances, and even friends, and transform them into family.

That’s what I want to show in my Sisters by Choice series. Women who are willing to help others in their time of crisis. Women who will go the extra mile—take the extra time—use the extra energy to help another woman in need.

The first in the series was DECEPTION, which is about a pair of estranged twins. As Patti searches for her twin, she forges an unlikely bond with the wife of a terrorist.

BETRAYED features Maria, the wife of the terrorist in DECEPTION. She’s given up her life to enter into the Witness Protection program to ensure her daughter’s safety. Her new life begins to crumble when a child goes missing in her new home town of Sunberry, Ohio.

Not knowing who to trust, she trusts no one until her dead husband calls from the grave! Then, she has no choice. She enlists the help of a female police officer. As they work to find the missing child, they become family to each other.

And we all need family—whether it’s by birth or by choice.

Giveaway Details

To celebrate the release of BETRAYED, I’m giving away a virtual gift basket at Tiaras & Tennis Shoes at www.lillian-duncan.com. The virtual gift basket includes e-copies of all my books. Along with the books, a $25 Amazon gift card is included. To enter the contest, simply hop on over to Tiaras & Tennis Shoes at www.lillian-duncan.com, leave a comment on the post titled CELEBRATION! Winner will be chosen and announced on February 14.

About the Author

Lillian Duncan…Stories of faith mingled… with murder & mayhem.

Lillian is a multi-published writer who writes the type of books she loves to read—suspense with a touch of romance. Whether as an educator, a writer, or a speech pathologist, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.

To learn more about Lillian and her books, visit: www.lillianduncan.net.  She also has a devotional blog at: www.PowerUpWithGod.com  as well as her personal blog, Tiaras & Tennis Shoes at www.lillian-duncan.com

Betrayed cover artBook Description

Witness Protection Program claims they can keep anyone safe if only they follow the rules so Maria follows the rules–every rule. She’s given up everything–her friends, her family, her past, even her name to ensure her daughter has a future.

Reborn as Veronica Minor in the sleepy little town of Sunberry, Ohio, she struggles to rebuild their life amid the beauty of her flower shop. A life where her daughter can have a happy normal childhood. A life where her daughter will never know that her father was a monster.

When a child disappears, Veronica prays it has nothing to do with her past, but what if she’s wrong? Not knowing who to trust, she trusts no one…and that’s her first mistake.

Betrayed is available from Pelican Book Group.

Welcome author Liz Botts!

Please welcome my fellow Astraea Press author Liz Botts! She’s here today with her latest release, A Family Name (Wright Country #1). You can learn more about Liz and her books on her website http://www.lizbotts.com.

So where the heck is Mountain View, South Dakota?

For my latest release, A Family Name,I knew the story had to be set in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but where? There are so many great towns in the Black Hills, and I was tempted to borrow one to place my characters in. Places like Hot Springs, Custer, Hill City, and Spearfish would all have made amazing settings, each with its’ own personality.

However when I began writing I found that I had different needs than any town out there so I decided that I needed to create one. I knew the general area of the Hills where the town needed to be, but I didn’t want to replace any of the existing towns. (I’m odd like that.) Mountain View sits in the northern Hills off of I-90, slightly north of Spearfish, but south of Belle Fourche.  For me the geography was extremely important to me because each area of the Hills is different.  When I write the setting often becomes extremely important to me because that’s where the characters move and breathe.

Mountain View is a struggling town because tourists tend to favor other parts of the Hills. Homes are being foreclosed on, and people are packing up and moving out. The people sticking it out are doing their best to band together to keep the town strong, but it’s getting harder. Still, if you were to sit down in the café, you would be greeted warmly and served a piece of pie on the house. It’s a good place to raise a family.

To learn more about Mountain View, and the people who live there, pick up a copy of A Family Name.

A Family Name cover artExcerpt:

Will moved to sit on the sofa beside Charlotte. He hovered a moment before easing himself onto a cushion at the opposite end. “What do you say to moving in here? You and Lexi. I’m sure the move will only be temporary. Just until I can get custody of Lexi, then you can go back to your own life.”

He watched as Charlotte clenched her jaw. He wondered what was going on in her head. Something told him to keep his mouth shut, which was proving far harder than he had ever imagined. Walker had always been more of the strong, silent type. Wyatt served in the role of family goofball. Will, on the other hand, had prided himself on being the serious one, the honest one, the shoot-from-the-hip one. Now he shut his mouth and decided to keep it shut until Charlotte answered him.

“That could take awhile.” Charlotte kept her eyes down, no matter how much he wished she would look up at him. “The courts can be so slow. I just don’t know how I feel about living here, just the three of us.”

“Sierra and Shane will be here too.”

The look on Charlotte’s face told him that he might have said the wrong thing. Or at the very least confused her. As he thought through the events of the past half hour it dawned on him why Charlotte’s brow was furrowed. In the shuffle of the news that he had a daughter Will had forgotten to mention his guardianship of Sierra and Shane.

Will took a deep breath. “My best friend and his wife named me temporary guardian of their children. They’ll be living with me until their grandparents come for them.”

“Oh.”

He watched as Charlotte pinched lumps of stuffing under the fabric of the throw pillow. She had long, graceful fingers, but short, unpolished nails. Refined, yet practical. The paradox of this woman intrigued him, and Will found himself mentally shaking himself to bring the conversation at hand back into focus.

“They’re great kids. Sierra’s five, and Shane is three.” Will felt a knot of emotion rise up in his throat, and he stopped talking. This grief he felt was so out of character for Will, and while he knew it was fine to feel it, he couldn’t stop himself from being embarrassed. He certainly didn’t’ want Charlotte to see this weakness.

To his surprise, a moment later Charlotte’s hand curled over the top of one of his fists. She didn’t say anything, simply held on to him. The connection Will felt to this virtual stranger nearly overpowered him. When he looked up and their eyes met in a gaze that caught something deep inside Will, he let go of Charlotte’s hand like it was on fire. Grief was making him soft.

“I just don’t know,” Charlotte said softly.

Silence settled over them as Will watched Charlotte. Her teeth caught at her bottom lip, and he could read her nervousness no matter how hard she was trying to hide it. Emulate Walker. That would be his new motto.

“I’d have to take a leave of absence from work, and I don’t think that’s even possible,” Charlotte continued after a few minutes. “And Lexi would have to leave her school. She just started there a few weeks ago. How would that make her feel?”

“We could ask her,” Will said, glad to hear his voice sounding even and like himself again.

“She’s thirteen and desperate for a relationship with her real parents. I can guarantee she’ll happily agree, but I can’t let her make this choice. She’s a child, and I’m still responsible for her well being.” Charlotte leaned back and crossed her arms.

“And I’m her father, so I think I should have some say in her well being.”

Charlotte laughed a short laugh. “You just found out that you are her father not even thirty minutes ago.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that she’s mine,” Will said, knowing that he meant it. “I can see my family in her.”

“But how does that qualify you to make decisions for her so soon?”

Irritation rankled Will. Many retorts came to mind, but he bit them back instead only shrugging. “I’m her father. That’s all the qualification I need, in my mind anyway.”

The look Charlotte gave him actually made Will shiver. Her eyes narrowed, and her mouth became a line so thin it appeared to disappear into her face.

“So… I’m guessing this isn’t something you’re really considering?” Will felt defeated, and confused. Defeat wasn’t in his nature, but he couldn’t very well bully Charlotte into moving to the ranch. He’d feel guilty even if it did mean having his daughter there with him. Still there had to be a way.

~~

A Family Name is available from Astraea Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.