Sizzling scenes and this latest book…

When I was very young and newly married the wonders of the physical relationship in marriage continually surprised and pleased me. And that is when I started writing The Return of Joy.

I mean, blushing newlyweds have very clear memories of the sizzle, right? And fantasies.

And frankly I enjoy reading sizzling scenes.

During this early period in our now almost 38 year old marriage I was trading books with one of my brothers. I often did this, for multiple genres. He surprised me by giving me a stack of thick, sexy romantic books by Kathlene Woodwiss. “What I like best,” he said at the time, “is that there is some great sex but it is only between people who are married to each other.”

That stuck with me, and so when I thought through this story of Joy and Mark I thought about that approach.

So warning — there are some sizzling scenes in this book. And (spoiler alert?) the characters are married when it happens.

Now they were married before, to different people, so they are also more experienced than the virgins in the first book of the series. That experience may show, too. But there are also other people in the house, so it’s not like they can be too consumed by their attraction to each other. But that makes the sizzle more fun.

I hope you enjoy this shift in the starting over stories. The third one is very different than either of the first two. Each story of starting over, each set of circumstances and characters are very different. Still, it is possible to find joy and love and life after something terrible has happened.

So if you want a little extra sizzle download The Return of Joy today. The Amazon link is here, and the link for my publisher is in the prior post.

All my life…the joy of reading

I believe that we are prepared to do whatever it is we decide to do in life, by the many events and circumstances of our lives.

I am one of the lucky people with a decent childhood memory, aided by the many photos my dad took as we were growing up. See if these are telling…

That is Mom reading to my sister Karen on the right. She directs a literacy center in Central California.

The two on the left, my brother Michael and I, are both authors.

Books were always a part of my life. I read voraciously — literally worked my way through series after series and read everything that I could lay my hands on. When my fifth grade teacher had us keep track she was amazed to learn that I read a couple of books a day most days. My parents encouraged this, allowing us to read as soon as our homework was done. We didn’t read at the table, but they were patient with us when we were slow to finish a chapter…

And we have passed that love of reading on. My dog Ollie goes to the library almost every week, where children read out loud to him.

Here is an excerpt from The Return Of Joy about reading dogs:

When Charity dropped to the floor next to Atlas and showed him one of the books, Mark laughed out loud.

“What’s so funny?”

“She’s reading to the dog,” he pointed out.

“She’s been doing that for a couple of weeks, Mark.” So proud of both the girl and the dog she could hardly stand it, Joy grinned. “Josie has a therapy dog who listens to kids read at a local library. She helped us make sure Atlas could do the same.” Joy pulled a paper out of the pile of presents on the table. “Atlas passed his test. All we need is your permission to send everything in, and he can be an official therapy dog, too.”

Looking confused, Mark scratched his head. “A therapy dog? He’s just… you know, a family dog.”

Joy smiled and stepped closer to Mark. She patted his chest.

“I know he is your dog. That’s why we won’t pursue this if you don’t want to.” She turned and slid an arm around his waist. “But look at them. They’re so happy reading together.”

Mark looked, shaking his head. “He’s just lying there. He isn’t even looking at the pictures.”

“That’s what Charity said the first time. Then Josie explained he likes to listen to her tell the story. Charity can’t actually read yet, of course, but she’s learning to share, to decipher from the pictures, and turn the pages. You should see Josie’s dog, Zoey, at the library, surrounded by children from toddlers through about second grade. They all crowd around and pet her, and take turns reading to her.”

“So if you send in Atlas’ paperwork and he becomes a therapy dog, what does that mean, exactly?”

“It means I can volunteer with him at a local school or library, where kids will do just what Charity’s doing now. Read out loud to the dog.”

“And they don’t realize he doesn’t understand?”

“Nope.” Joy chuckled. “You should have seen Atlas at his reading test. One little boy read a book about Little Pig Piglet, who couldn’t sleep. At the end of the story when he read that Little Pig Piglet finally fell asleep, Atlas flopped over on his side on top of the book as if he was falling asleep, too. So of course he must understand. He doesn’t really, of course, but the children are so excited about being the ones to read out loud, and the dogs are so non-judgmental, that they get better and better at reading when they read to a dog. And the dogs never correct them, I might add.”

Mark seemed skeptical.

“I guess you have to see it to understand.” She looked up into his eyes. “Josie had one boy who came in with his grandpa and told us he couldn’t read but would it be okay if he petted the dog? Josie said sure, of course, and he knelt down beside Zoey and began to talk to her, saying ‘Good dog. You’re a good dog.’ When we looked up at Grandpa he had tears in his eyes. I asked him if he was okay and he nodded and told us it was the first time his grandson had spoken in months – that he has autism and has difficulty talking to people. But not to the dog!”

Scroll down to the next post for a picture of Atlas.

Buy The Return of Joy at:




About those therapy dogs…













I have a therapy dog named Ollie. He is a major character in my WIP (Work in Progress).

I used someone else’s dog for The Return of Joy, tomorrow’s release.

Both are therapy dogs, and specifically, reading dogs. They go to schools, libraries and public events and children read out loud to them.  We have an event this morning at Barnes and Noble with Ollie and Atlas (the model for Atlas in The Return of Joy) and some of their friends. A storyteller reads first with great drama (she is amazing) and then the children read to our dogs. That is what is happening in this picture — but I’ve remade the blond girl into Charity and the dark-headed one into Stacy, the daughter of Paige and Josh Robinson in the first book in this series.

You can download this latest book from my publisher at at midnight tonight — and maybe sooner. I will post links for B&N and Amazon tomorrow — but remember you can get those formats as well as iBooks and others, direct from Desert Breeze Publishing at this link.

Do you have to read a series in order?

Starting Over Book Two  – The Return of Joy – will be released Sunday, October 21.

While these books each stand alone, characters do overlap and so one book leads gently to the next.

If you have to read a series in order, you still have time to download More Than A Job and read it before Sunday.

At my publisher’s site:

Check out the reviews on Amazon — and leave one if you’ve read More Than A Job.

Here is a scene from The Return of Joy when the characters come together:

The day was perfect — sunny and cool, with gentle winds. Charity hadn’t ridden on a bicycle before. She laughed and chattered from her perch behind Mark. Her helmeted head bumped his back, and from her chatter he knew she was taking in the view from side to side, enjoying the sights and smells, especially since she could see nothing but Mark in front of her.

The paths were hilly, offering him a great workout. At the top of one of the hills, he stopped, got off, and locked the bike. Because he hadn’t brought the stroller, he held Charity’s hand and led her along a side path. When she grew tired, Mark carried her, holding her on his hip with one arm.

She patted his cheek and said, “I love you, Marky,” and his heart swelled.

He smiled at the little girl. “I love you, too, Charity.”

Then he found a bench in the shade and sat where they could enjoy the cool breeze, and she snuggled into his chest and fell asleep, snoring lightly as he patted her back. Mark bumped his nose against her forehead, and she rested her cheek against his neck.

Contentment. Holding the little girl caused contentment to settle into his heart and his very bones. He breathed deeply and stretched out his legs in front of him. Atlas, not satisfied to sit at his feet, jumped up onto the bench beside them. Mark draped his other arm over the faithful dog. Atlas sniffed at Charity’s feet, gave a little lick to her leg, and then dropped his head onto Mark’s thigh next to one of her feet.

Mark wasn’t sure how long they rested. A sudden tingle shot up his spine. His well-honed instincts told him someone was watching them. He kept his relaxed pose, even after Atlas shifted against his thigh and gave a quiet but definite woof. Acting as if he were dozing, he gazed through half opened eyes to see if he could spot anything.

He had his head down, so what he saw was feet. Little feet. About Charity’s size. He opened his eyes a little more and zeroed in on a sweet face, topped by dark brown eyes and tousled red hair. Stacey, Josh Robinson’s little girl and Charity’s playmate.

“He’s awake,” the little girl squealed, turning to run down the path to her daddy. Mark opened his eyes the rest of the way and sat up taller but didn’t stand, wanting to let Charity rest a little longer. He raised his free hand and gave Josh Robinson a little wave.

“Charity’s still napping, honey,” Josh said to Stacey as they approached Mark. “You can play with Atlas, though.”

At the sound of his name, Atlas dropped to the ground, stretched, and gave himself a little shake. Then he approached a giggling Stacey. The two were old friends, and he lay at her feet while she crouched beside him and patted his head.

“Thanks for coming, Josh. Glad you’re in town. I’m going to need some help with logistics.” He outlined their dilemma as he saw it. “Like I said in my email, I need a safe place for the women of the family until all this settles back down. Jonas is keeping an eye on the place while we’re gone, but I need to keep Joy and her family engaged and safe, away from the cabin, until I get this thing sorted out. Clearly, Joy’s husband left something before he died that will unravel this mystery, and I’m in a race with some unsavory folks to find it first. Having three extra women in my life is slowing me down.”

“Would that be so bad if you weren’t dealing with the other thing?” Josh cocked his head and gave his friend a long look. “Seems to me you might be interested in more than just keeping the Huffmans safe.”

“True.” He stared at his hands, sorted out his thoughts, and let out a puff of frustration. “But I don’t think Joy’s ready to think about my other motives.”

Josh gave a snort of laughter. “Then you’re blind, brother. I’ve seen the way she looks at you. She’s head over heels in love with you, whether either of you realize it or not.”

Mark ran a hand over his eyes. If only…

Charity stirred and blinked up at him, widening her eyes as she woke in the unfamiliar place. She didn’t think of him as unfamiliar, though. She snuggled into him, then gave him a hug and a big smile.

“Hey, Charity, you’re awake. Guess who came to visit while you were taking a nap?”

Charity looked around, swiveling her head as far as she could one direction, and then the other, not looking low enough to see her friend.

She saw Josh, though, and knew what that meant.

“Down!” She wiggled free of Mark’s grasp.

She and Stacey stared at each other, then started a conversation of sorts over the back of the dog, both petting Atlas with increasing enthusiasm. He lay patiently between them, rolling his brown eyes to check in with Mark as if to say, “Don’t leave me here all day. These girls are wearing me out.”

The Return of Joy releases Sunday October 21

Available October 21, 2012 When Joy Huffman’s recurring dreams of the husband she lost become urgent she is convinced to go to the cabin, their project of love, in New Mexico. With her daughter and mother-in-law, they set out to learn what Steve wants them to know – that his death was no accident, but murder. Their investigation stirs up the evil that ended his life, and puts them all at risk. The caretaker at the cabin, Mark Stone, is challenged to keep them safe while he unravels the mystery of why Steve died. Along the way he falls in love with Joy — but will she be open to loving again?

 EXCERPT “The last thing Steve said to me,” Evelyn had told Joy, “must have been a premonition.” Joy had looked up from her tears, from the bed where she had just given birth to Charity, with confusion in her eyes. “‘Take care of Joy’,” he said to me. “‘If anything happens, you’ll take care of my Joy, won’t you?’ And I will.”

I’m still taking care of her. Joy had needed Evelyn then, and she needed her now. A new mother couldn’t deal with planning a funeral. Evelyn had picked out the casket and planned the service. She got Joy through the condolences and the days and weeks after the funeral. She pushed down her own pain at losing her son so that she could support his little family. She’d handled everything — everything — and given Joy time to heal. Her new job was to protect and care for Joy and Charity. She had been there when Joy struggled to move from one day to the next. Evelyn had helped Joy get back into her business — now home-based, because of the baby. Who else could call clients and make appointments, prod Joy to move back into the world, and cover for her when she couldn’t work? Moving in with Joy had come naturally. After all, living with her was much more convenient, and during months of lower productivity, sharing costs would help them both. Joy needed so much from Evelyn. The older woman had given up her privacy and independence because she wanted to take care of her new granddaughter and the woman who’d given the child life. She’d promised Steve. Besides, they were family.

Evelyn was there this morning, ready to listen, as always. She finished cooking breakfast and set plates of steaming food on the table. She’d never been good at staying still. She refilled Charity’s cup with juice, encouraged the little girl to wipe her mouth, and then pulled her chair up beside Joy to eat her own meal.

When Joy set down her mug and sighed, Evelyn turned to her and asked, “Long night?”

Joy nodded and ran a hand through her dark curls as she stared at her plate. Smudges under her eyes and the tightness of strain around her mouth made her look older than her thirty-three years. “I had the dream again.” She shook her head and toyed with her food, pushing the eggs around on her plate. Evelyn wished Joy had more of an appetite. “Evelyn, I can’t take it anymore.”

“The dream at the cabin where Steve calls out to you?” She poured Joy a second cup of tea.

At her daughter-in-law’s nod, she asked, “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to face my demons.” Joy looked at her over her mug and attempted a smile. Then she winced. She’d told Evelyn more than once she didn’t have the heart to go to the cabin, so she’d never seen the dream house they’d designed, that Steve had given her and their unborn child. Evelyn had found someone to care for the place, so it hadn’t been abandoned, and yet Joy seemed content to forget about it. Perhaps she’d found her destroyed hopes too much to bear. Now, however…

Joy took a tentative bite of toast. “I’m already packed. I hope you’ll come with us.” She took another bite, and then another. Evelyn was pleased to see her eating so well. Maybe this decision was what she’d needed. Of course she would go. Joy and Charity were her responsibility. She wouldn’t think of staying behind. “How long will we be gone?”

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While this is Book Two of Three in the Starting Over series, each book stands alone. To check out Book One, More Than A Job, go to