It wasn’t easy to finish Storm Watch, which completed the Unfinished Business paranormal series. The novel was essentially done and just needed editing. Or so I thought. I realized the pacing was off and some scenes were not fully developed. It was a struggle to stay focused and progress was very slow. At one point, I believed it would be my last novel, but working with Laurie Sanders, a truly wonderful developmental editor, kept me going until I got enough momentum to get to The End.
True, I was bogged down with the ever challenging day job and family issues, but that had never stopped me from writing before. In fact, writing helped me get through some tough times because I could immerse myself in a make believe world instead of languish in the real one. I thought it was because I was writing the last book in the series and needed to leave a world behind and enter another. Nope. The last time I worked on the second novel in my urban fantasy series was during NaNoWriMo. There has been no motivation to do the research or to write it. It’s like the characters moved away.
Just after the winter holidays, I read a Western Romance. The book was very enjoyable, nothing like anything I have ever written, but reminiscent of the Westerns I used to read as a child–and the movies I used to go see with my father and my grandparents. I’d never had any desire to write a Western but, as is typical for me, when I stop thinking about writing, an idea drops out of the sky and lands in my brain.
While visiting my son who is in graduate school in Northern California, I was struck by the landscape of the foothills and mountains, particularly the gates and fences surrounding the ranches. Driving past the grasslands with grazing cattle, sheep, and horses I recalled scenes from some of my favorite Westerns. The Ponderosa from Bonanza was too far away to visit, but a nature hike along a muddy creek, a sign explaining how to deal with mountain lions, an overturned canoe, and a trestle sparked a slow burn in my mind. The cool mist collected under the trestle and raindrops shimmered on the long grasses. Purple and yellow wildflowers and plenty of poppies, dotted the landscape.
I took a horseback ride with my daughter, and still remembered how to hold the reins in my left hand so I could shoot with my right (just kidding). I could still sit in a saddle, post when trotting, roll my hips on a canter, and how knew to use my knees and feet to guide my horse. Okay, the wrangler did explain all that but, for me, it was just a reminder of some of my most beloved reads. I still want a horse, and seriously considered moving to California because New York City isn’t the best place to build a barn and a corral.
I snapped lots of pictures during the trip to help me capture the scenery, and got to writing the as yet untitled novella featuring a heroine returning to her family’s California hacienda after many years. Roberto isn’t the hero who is not who Cara believes he is, and she is expecting to fulfill her duty as the executor of her father’s estate and return to her accounting job in New York. She hasn’t seen her family in twenty years, and the terrible memories of being whisked away by her mother from the ranch as a a young child come rushing back. Despite the time capsule of her still intact room, family secrets rips apart the remnants of the life she once knew and forever alter the relationships with family members and ranch hands she’d hoped to rekindle.
Yes, there are horses, and an upside down canoe, and a mountain lion, and a train trestle. And rain. And an unlikely, quirky romance. And a tree. I hope it will find a home in the Under the Soulmate Tree anthology.
An untitled Western Romance Novella… (any ideas?)
The plane touched down hard and rumbled to a stop. Cara gathered her belongings and unhooked the seatbelt. Her heart thumped like it was coming out of her chest. Twenty years was a long time. Would she recognize Roberto? Would seeing the ranch bring back happy memories–or the reopen old wounds scarred over by time?
It’s just a business trip. Just another accounting job. Attend the service, scatter the ashes, meet with the lawyer, sign what I need to sign, and go home. There can’t be anyone or anything there I recognize or remember–or who will remember me. Still the thought of her pony, long dead for sure, conjured the suppressed grief of her seven-year-old self.
She’d believed Mama’s lies that they were just taking a vacation, now every airline flight reminded her of her first plane ride, and the last time she’d seen the pony, her room, her father, her brother, and all the ranch hands standing in a row as she turned to wave at them though the back of the taxi. Before Mama pulled her down, smacked her across the face and put on the seatbelt so she couldn’t throw them one last kiss. Oh yeah, she’d learned to be a good little girl, to never cry, to never ask Mama why, or to take her back to visit.
Seated by the window, there was no need to hurry. She waited until almost everyone was off the plane, dragged her carry out of the bin, and almost broke a finger when it slipped out of her hands. Biting her lip, she battled back tears of pain, range, and fear and wheeled it up the jetway and out into San Francisco International Airport.
There were no cowboy hats or boots to be seen. Frisco was cosmopolitan now, overpriced, and always freezing. She’d been here for business once or twice and only went back and forth from the hotel to the office, trying to forget the ranch lay just a few miles away. Cara emerged into the baggage claim. The carousel was rumbling and her suitcase was one of the few still left. She grabbed it with the uninjured hand and looked around for someone that she imagined would look like her father, not the ten-year-old brother now all grown up.
There was one burly guy, a cowboy hat on his head, Western boots on his feet, at least a foot taller than Papa had been, standing near the barricade, holding a sign “Welcome Home, Cara.” Roberto looked surprised when he saw her, removed his hat, pressed it against his chest, grinned and waved.
Tears ran down her face as she hurried toward him as fast as the suitcases would allow. . Roberto dropped his hat and the sign and grabbed Cara in a bear hug, lifting her off her feet.
She’d wondered what to say, how to act, but he’d made it easy. They both sobbed until their noses were snotty and searched their pockets for tissues. He didn’t have one, but she found the little travel packet in a pocket.
“Thanks,” Roberto’s voice was gruff with emotion as he mopped his face.
“Thank you for picking me up.” She cleared her throat and dabbed at her eyes, which must look like a raccoon’s by now but who the hell cared. She was going home, and even though this hunky cowboy looked nothing like the skinny kid she remembered, this was all the family she had left and that had to mean something.