I am a guest today on Sharon Lathan’s blog. Stop by to read an excerpt from a Thanksgiving scene and enter for a chance to win. http://sharonlathanauthor.com/lynette-endicott
“Are you as giddy as I am, Jen? I feel like a young lad with his first crush.”
“Yes, I am giddy. As much as we’ve talked, and as much as I’ve enjoyed our daily conversations, this is much, much nicer.” She took his arm and pulled him a little closer to her side. He put his arm around her waist, and she copied the gesture. They paced their steps to match.
“It is nicer, but I must admit I feel close to you whether we talk or not, walk or not. Since the first day we connected online I was drawn to you, you know.”
“You, too?” She stopped walking and he turned to look at her. Her face was radiant in the fading light.
He traced her jaw with one finger, needing to continue to touch her.
“Me, too. You captured my heart before we’d shared ten words.”
Was that a blush? Hard to tell between the naturally dark skin tone and the limited light.
“Is that a little crazy?”
He shook his head and attempted to explain. “I don’t think so. I think there are kindred souls in this world. People who know and understand each other instinctively, effortlessly. I suspect we are two such people. I marvel at the connection, the way I feel so comfortable and so at ease with you, the way you seem to understand what I try to say even if I stumble over my words.”
They stood a few inches apart. She stepped forward, closed the distance between them and placed her lips to his ear.
“And when you whisper in my ear, like this,” she murmured softly, “I get goosebumps — the good kind.”
He reached out with one hand firmly on her waist so she couldn’t lean away, and with the other, stroked her cheek. She leaned into his hand and looked into his eyes again, then closed her eyelids and parted her lips ever so slightly.
It was an unmistakable invitation, and he obliged very gently, dropped his mouth to hers, and moved lightly across. She increased the pressure ever so slightly, kissed him back. He was the one who pulled away. She opened her eyes and looked into his again.
Placing a hand on each side of her face, he stroked his thumbs over her high cheekbones. “Oh, Jen, luv, touching you is sweet. So sweet.”
She smiled ever so slightly and leaned in for another kiss. “Sweet indeed, sweet Michael,” she whispered and then kissed him again.
When it began to get dark Jen looked for a campsite. She didn’t want to hook things up in the dark if she found a site with electricity. If she didn’t, her generator would take care of them.
The campground wasn’t as empty as she’d thought it would be. More people must travel in the fall than she’d realized. Big RVs and Airstream trailers of all sizes shared the spaces with vans like hers. She signed in at the office, paid for her night in advance, then pulled into her spot.
Once she’d parked, she sat there a long time. She was really doing this. Was she a little nuts? A woman and a little dog, traveling alone. A shiver ran down her spine, and she shook off the fear. Ollie, anxious to get out and explore — or more likely relieve himself — gave a little whine and pawed at her arm.
“Let’s get a walk, then get a shower tonight, while it’s still light, and then we can lock things down tight for the night.”
She clipped his leash onto the harness, and they hopped out of the van. She locked the doors behind her and they set off to explore the campsite.
“Hey, neighbor, cute dog. What kind is he?” The voice came from the site two down from hers. An older woman, with grey curly hair, stepped out from behind a camp stove. The delicious smell indicated she was grilling burgers for dinner.
“I don’t know what breed his is, but people always ask. He’s cute, huh? He was a rescue, and his name is Ollie.”
If there were lots of women in these campsites, it might not be so bad.
“Hello, Ollie.” The woman leaned down to pat him, and Ollie pulled forward to meet her friendly touch. Well, he seemed to think she was safe enough.
She looked up at Jen and smiled. “I’m Lucille,” she offered. “My sister and I are headed to Northern California. Where are you headed?”
“I’m Jen. Not sure where Ollie and I will end up. We aren’t expected in Illinois for a few weeks, so I think we’ll see how many national parks and monuments we can find between here and there.”
“Sounds like fun, Jen. Just the two of you then?”
“Well, be sure to let me know if you need anything — forgot the butter, can’t get the electricity set up, or some creep bugs you — just call out, and we’ll come running.”
Lucille went back to her stove with a wave. Good. No long, nosy conversations, just enough chatting to be friendly.
And to know each other’s names if some kind of trouble came up for either of them. Smart.
“You know, Ollie, this might not be so bad.” The dog looked up at his name, but they kept walking. He trotted with his proud little strut, head up, tail curled, walking in his funny, not quite straight gait. Almost like he used to walk his happy little stride before. She wanted to get at least a mile in so that they both had a good stretch. It had been a long day buckled into the van.
“We don’t have to explain anything. We have neighbors willing to help, and we have the solitude of our cozy little home on wheels.” Best of all possible worlds — or as good as a world could be without Trudy.
Excerpt from Finding Her Voice:
After she and Ollie returned, she dried the dog off and settled into warm flannel jammies with some peppermint tea. Ollie burrowed into the covers on her bed, but she wasn’t tired enough to sleep yet. Jen turned back to her computer screen.
She clicked on the icon where she’d saved the grief group to her browser toolbar.
Couldn’t hurt to look in on the conversations. She didn’t have to write anything.
This time the front page held a picture of a young teenager — eleven years old, the caption said. A boy whose birthday was the same day as Trudy’s. His father had posted the story of his son sometime late the night before. The eyes of young Landon pulled at her. There was so much life in those eyes. So much wonder and fun. It was so brutal to see a life cut short.
She took a deep breath. Beth had been right — they knew better than most how precious life was.
Jen clicked the Comment box at the end of the post about Landon.
Your son shares my daughter’s birthday. I can see he was a very precious boy. You are in my thoughts and prayers tonight. Jen
She was startled when, with a ding, a reply popped up.
Thanks. I saw your pictures of Trudy and thought the same thing. I’m not sure about prayer. I gave it up a while back. But I am sending good thoughts your way. Michael.
Sometimes she wasn’t sure about prayer, either. Before she realized it she had replied with those very words. She elaborated.
I don’t understand how a God who cares can take away the one we love the most. And if God doesn’t care, just lets it happen, then He isn’t the God I thought I knew, either. Jen
Had she really written those words right out there where another person could read them? She gasped, a little shocked at her own daring. She had hardly admitted to herself, much less to someone else, that she was mad at God. She slammed the lid of her laptop down before she wrote something else she’d regret.
He hadn’t meant to scare her away, but it looked like he had. “Jen” was off-line.
Maybe she wasn’t ready to talk about God yet anyway. He wasn’t.
What faith he’d had was lost at the terrible death of his family.
Like Jen said, “How could a caring God allow it?” And if He didn’t care, what was the point?
There were lots of preachy people who came to his site. They came and went, because their too-rosy response wasn’t a good fit.
Those who continued to participate were grittier, realistic about their loss once they admitted to it.
Like Jen. He sensed a kindred spirit in the few words she’d shared.
He sighed and pushed away from the desk. He put a kettle on for a spot of tea and then added another layer of clothes for warmth. The wind whistled around the house. They were in for some weather.
Brian Van Pelt leaned a little closer, let the fragrance and warmth of the woman next to him encompass him in a cocoon of illusion. For a moment he could believe that there was still beauty and joy in the world. Even though the woman, a client, was almost a stranger, he was drawn to seek some kind of comfort, however broken and unreal it was. His sense of isolation and hopelessness was pushed away for that brief moment.
A movement just beyond them, in the hallway into his law office, drew his attention and the terrible, desperate truth slammed into him.
It was Jennifer, his soon to be ex-wife. He swallowed the breath of shock and shut his heart away. He couldn’t afford to let it crack open, not even a little, or he would shatter into fragments that could never be put together again. He raised his eyes to hers and stiffened his resolve, looked her up and down in what he hoped was a disinterested, dismissive gaze. He pushed away the wisps of emotions from their decade of marriage together.
She looked like he felt, and a little empathy pushed back. Her face was puffy and red from crying. Her brown eyes, always before so warm and clear and full of love for him, brimmed with tears and pain. She was dressed in jeans and a sloppy shirt, comfortable and homey, and an ache to hold her and be held by her threatened his resolve.
He curled his lip into a forced sneer.
She would not tolerate his scorn, even though it was a thin façade over what he really felt. She raised her chin, straightened her shoulders, and somewhere found some of the dignity her mother’s people were so famous for. Without a word, she fanned the papers in her hand, raised them high over her head, then let go. As they drifted toward the floor, they spread, going their separate ways. She turned on her heel and headed back the way she’d come. She didn’t say a word.
“How odd. Do you know her?”
Brian struggled to pull breath into his lungs, to steady his nerves so he could respond with the expected nonchalance. “A client — one who isn’t particularly pleased with her divorce settlement.” He stepped back with what he hoped was a light chuckle. “I’d better get them filed before she changes her mind.”
He started toward the drifted papers. He wanted to run from the building and find Jen, crush her to him, tell her he had been a fool and that this was all wrong.
Instead he bent and shuffled the pages into a stack, slanted a wry smile at his co-worker and headed to his office. He closed the door…
…and sank back against it, closed his eyes against the pain. He rubbed his hand over his face before he straightened and went to his desk, where the check and envelop to file the divorce papers were the top thing on the stack of work to do. He pulled the envelop toward him, dropped everything inside, sealed it shut.
Sealed the coffin that held the remains of his marriage.
Out of Agony picks up where Finding Her Voice left off, and tells the story of the other parent devastated by the loss of their daughter. Available soon. Check out my author page for more Starting Over stories.
Only one disappointment for me was in not finding out what happened to a very important character in the story who could not bear the tragedy of a lost child.
I recommend this book to readers who enjoy contemporary fiction with real life circumstances.
Shirley Kiger Connolly,
award winning author of both historical romance and nonfiction books of reflection
No Easy Answers
Posted by Natalie Chamberlain on 16th Jul 2013
I don’t usually read this genre of literature but I really enjoyed this book. As a pastor, I especially appreciated the fact that Lynette Endicott not only chose not to give easy, pat answers to difficult questions, she even confronted those easy answers, showing them to be more harmful than helpful.
The happily ever after ending was expected but the journey there wasn’t. The story is well written and engaging. The characters are true to life as are their situations. I found it to be a very hopeful book and well worth the time to read it.
Oliver Twist is my personal dog, a therapy dog like Atlas in The Return of Joy.
I didn’t own pets until after my 50th birthday, so they mean a lot to me. (I didn’t engage with the ones in the household as I was growing up — they belonged to other people.)
When I walked into the pet store to get something for the cats that my daughter convinced me we needed, I saw Ollie in a cage with the other rescues. He was looking right at me, and I knew if I looked back I would bring him home, and I did.
So I had to include Ollie as a character in my latest release, Finding Her Voice.
A remarkably talented artist has just finished a statue of him for me to use in promoting Finding Her Voice when he can’t come along in person. And here it is with his actual photo for comparison.
Check out more of Jennifer Rudkin’s art at:
The Pain will never go away — but Love Helps Jen Cope
Jennifer had the perfect life. A loving husband, a beautiful daughter, a flexible job in the family business. When it was all taken from her, Jen struggled to move through her days with the help of friends and family — but they couldn’t understand, and somehow expected her to get over her grief. Even her twin brother, Joshua, was unable to help her heal.
Ollie, her daughter’s rescued dog, was the only one who seemed to share her grief and understand her pain in losing her daughter. When the divorce ended in the sale of their home, she and Ollie set out on a road trip of discovery. She needed time and the care of an old friend, and along the way met others who had lost a child or a marriage or both. None of them expected her to get over it, but they did help her go on living.
Her old friend listened, and with love guided her to an outlet for her feeling through music — and she found comfort through on-line contact with other bereaved parents, including Michael.
Life would never be the same, but maybe she could find the music, find her voice, find her own path to living after her loss. And if she was lucky, find love along the way.
Time to get this show on the road. She typed out a text and sent it in a blast to her whole family.
I’m packed and headed out. Thanks for understanding. I’ll update you from time to time.
Then she gave a little whistle and commanded Ollie to get up. He clambered into the seat where she belted him in.
“Well, boy, here we go. Off on an adventure.”
They called every ride an adventure. He had no idea how long a trip he was in for. Or that he would never come back to the place they’d called home. But then, she wasn’t certain how long it would be either.
Jen went around to the driver’s side, climbed in, and dropped her phone into the sound system so she could take or make phone calls if she wanted.
She started the van and, out of habit, started the tunes saved to her phone.
The song that came up was one she and Trudy sang together, a fun, silly song. She couldn’t bear it. She shut down the music. It was too hard. She couldn’t sing. Not anymore. She took one last look at the house that had been home to her now-destroyed family, then threw the van into reverse and turned so she could steer out of the driveway and onto the road. She didn’t look back. Her goal today was to drive as fast as the law allowed, and as far as her energy would support. She needed distance between her wrecked life and whatever was ahead.
When one of my cyber friends asked if I wanted to participate in a Blog Hop — well, it sounds fun, huh? Like a dance. Go see her blog at http://francespauli.blogspot.com/ and check out her recommended authors.
As she led the first step Frances Pauli asked me about the working title of my current book.
My current work in progress is Starting Over Book Three: Finding Her Voice. The link to this book on my blog is http://www.lynetteendicott.com/?page_id=107. This is also my primary project for NANOWRITMO, for those of you who can empathize with the long hours of writing this month! (While this is third in a series of three, each book stands alone.)
Where did the idea for the book come from?
This started out a very different book, about a woman whose husband left her. To my amazement, as sometimes happens, as Jen developed in my mind I realized she is a woman who loses her child. The story had been incubating somewhere deep inside me, and comes from my observations of people close to me who have had this crushing, sad and life changing experience and somehow still manage to go on living.
What genres does the book fall under?
The book is contemporary romance, the third in a series about starting over. As you can imagine, though, there are elements of women’s fiction in the first part of the book especially, as Jen somehow gets through the days and nights after her daughter’s death. She builds a group of cyber-friends who have shared her experience, and one day out of that unlikely source she finds a man she can trust, who is willing to walk with her in her grief and rebuilding.
What actors would you choose to play in the movie rendition?
The heroine is part Native American, so someone tall, willowy, with strong facial features. Hmm. Maybe Q’orianka Waira Qoiana Kilcher, the woman who played Pocahontas in The New World. The hero could be played by Johnny Depp. Definitely a kindof quirky character with a bit of an accent from somewhere in the UK.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When she lost her precious daughter, Jennifer Robinson knew her life would never be the same, but maybe she and her daughter’s little dog could travel together to find the music, find her voice, find their own path to living after their loss.
I am an author with Desert Breeze Publishing, which has also published the first two books in this series.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Since I’m not quite done yet I have to guess — three months?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Maybe some of Nicholas Sparks’ sad but loving books like A Walk to Remember or The Notebook or others. The difference is that the loss comes at the beginning of this book.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My brother and his wife lost a daughter when she was very young. Other close friends lost children and whether it was at age 8 months or 17 years or 30 years, the loss changes everything. Nothing is ever the same again, but somehow these parents have managed to keep on living and to keep on making an impact in the world, even with their tremendous pain. That is a story that needs to be told.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Because no person can really fully share such a loss, my little terrier mix named Oliver found his way into the book to grieve with and love Jen. If you are an animal lover I think you will find that Ollie brings a very special warmth to the book.
And Steppenia McGee’s Legacy of Lies is what she calls Christian Fiction with a flair – a modern cowboy story that will keep you turning those pages. http://www.stepheniamcgee.com/ (Not a blog but great posts there.)
If historical romance is your favorite try Shirley Kiger Connolly’s Say Goodbye to Yesterday http://shirleykigerconnolly.com/ This is an inspirational book with a twist of a dark past to keep you guessing.
All of my growing up years we made every vacation into a road trip.
For one thing, Dad had quite a bit of vacation time, we kids were out of school, Mom didn’t work outside the home.
For another, the trip planner (usually Dad) had an insatiable curiosity about history, and wanted to see where it was made.
So we popped popcorn (to help the driver stay awake) and packed suitcases and got into the van — which had been made over to include enough beds for everyone but the driver to sleep (back before seatbelts were much in use) — and Dad would put on his music and away we would go.
We stopped a lot. You would think that was related to four kids and two adults having differing bathroom schedules, and that was probably one aspect. It was more likely, though, that Dad spotted a roadside historical marker, and we pulled over to see what it said. We would troop out onto the roadside and someone who could read would tell what the marker said. We’d look over whatever else was there — sometimes the foundation of an old building or the ruts from a long ago trail — before we got back on the road.
I remember one especially long hitch. There was a campsite that Mom had located in one of the brochures. We were somewhere in the hills of — I don’t remember, Ohio maybe, or Tennesee or Kentucky? It got dark before we got the the area. Dad followed the map and one little sign and wound up and around and deep into these hills.
It was a little creepy. Not another vehicle in site. We didn’t have GPS in those days so we weren’t sure exactly where we were. And we never did find the expected hookups and bathrooms that usually signified our camp sites. It was really dark and we were really alone in the middle of nowhere.
The next morning we found a river, waterfalls, cliffs — a gorgeous backroad scenic spot. We never did find the campsite (so we didn’t have to pay the fees!) but my Mom, always the optimist pointed out the treasure of a spot we’d found and we enjoyed it for a couple of hours before we wound back down (which took much less time) and got back on the road.
Mom was constantly challenged to keep kids occupied and safe while we trekked across the country. She came up with games, we read books, and sometimes she fixed our sandwiches or snacks from the little portable fridge and the supplied she’d brought along. People didn’t eat in restaurants much in those days, either.
The Heroine in Starting Over Book Three: Finding Her Voice decides to take a roadtrip – just her and her daughter’s little dog, a terrier mix named Ollie and named after my own dog.
CONTEST: Looking for funny road trip stories to include in my upcoming book, Finding Her Voice. The winner will have their story included AND will get a free copy of their choice of the other two books in the Starting Over Series.