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Rainy Days & Fun Times: A Nanowrimo Update.

After 7 days of Nanowrimo, I’m coming on here with an update!

No, it is not going as well as I want on the word count goals. However, I’m happy to report that getting an outline together is proving a fruitful endeavor. I have clarity in the direction of the story now. So that’s a good thing. But, I think I should have done more for Preptober. I was engrossed in releasing Beyond The Storm then though. So I won’t complain.

November is usually a busy month anyway with a major holiday and then preparing for the Christmas rush. This year is no different for me. I’m excited because for the first time in 4 years, I get to be home in the mountains, at my grandparents’ for Christmas. With my mom, my brother, his wife, my three nieces and my grandparents. I also get to spend a little time with my best friend since high school that is long overdue. And there is a lot that needs to be done before we leave Texas for that.

I was out and about with my mom yesterday and snagged these awesome elf house shoes for making holiday memories. I think my nieces are going to love them. They’ll be a source of amusement for a while. I imagine that my grampa will eventually tire of the jingle bells ringing through the house but, it will be fun while it lasts.

We’re planning to do a holiday bazzaar on the 1st of December with our cookies and candies to sell. So, that’s going to be fun but a lot of work. Everything with Sambee’s is handmade from old recipes that have been passed down. Well, except our cake pops. Those are a fairly new invention. But, I’m sure it will be a success with our paint-your-own sugar cookies, and holiday gift boxes. I’m actually fairly excited about it. I mean who doesn’t love cookies and sweets?

After a day of being out and about, it is time for me to get back to the work of writing the next book. I still have a few things to map out though. There are a few new characters entering the series in this book. And writing sequels is a difficult task guys. So many details that you have to line up. I am definitely learning the importance of creating a “series bible”. So, making that is a big deal for me at this point. But, if you were a fan of The Fallen, you’ll be happy to know that the next installment of that series will be happening next year.

So just a quick little update before I dive in and get some words on the page. Fall has officially arrived here in East Texas though. I turned off the air conditioner and am donning the sweatpants and socks today. Comfy clothes for a cozy day of writing and working.

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At Last!

I’ve been more MIA than I intended to be in the past month. Why? Well, it was all to bring us to the announcement I have to make today. Whoever said writing a book wasn’t a hard job was lying. When you are an independent author, you wear too many hats to count. But now all the formatting, editing, and scrutinizing is done, and we can move on to the next fun part of the process; letting all of you read it!

That’s right!

Beyond The Storm is ready and available for purchase on Amazon.com!

Readers of The Secret of the Storm are all saying, “It’s about time!!”

Elora Castain is back, and her life is more complicated than when she first came to Slauson Cove.

From the back of the book: Returning to Slauson Cove changed Elora Castain’s life in more ways than she could have imagined. Just when she thought things were settling into something reasonable, her life was turned upside down a second time. Walsingham Manor was built for families even if the locals thought it to be the source of trouble in town. Now, on the cusp of settling into motherhood and bringing her own family to continue the legacy, a new and powerful storm is brewing. Elora, once again, finds herself in the middle of an investigation into the murders that are piling up on Detective John Erickson. What begins as a consultation turns into an interrogation as strange symbols and her name come up on the victim’s bodies. Can she stop another killer? Did Eric Aldred inflict an unbreakable curse on her before she was even born? Can she, or what family remains, survive what is brewing in Slauson Cove? Find out in Beyond the Storm; new fiction from Anne Belle. Don’t miss this long-anticipated sequel to her debut novel; The Secret of the Storm.

 

Now, I could say happy reading and leave you to it. However, I could use a little help in getting the word out there. So there are three things I would like to ask of all of you:

  1. Tell me about your favorite avenue for finding new books. Do you follow a book review blog? Is it through friends-only recommendations? Or do you find them on social media? I would love to get in touch with some blogs and other internet avenues to guest post or otherwise solicit reviews.
  2. Once you purchase and read it, leave an honest review on Amazon. Those reviews, searching for our books, sharing the links… these are simple things that can help indie authors like myself reach more readers who would enjoy our book babies. If you haven’t followed me on other social media like Facebook or Twitter, please do and help me out by sharing the good news.
  3. If you are part of a book club or associated with a library, feel free to get in touch with me by email. I’m happy to offer and/or coordinate group sales of all my books. Also, I’m keen to get involved in Q & A about them if your group would like. This can be accomplished with video chat or conference calling that I can arrange easily from my studio here in Texas.

All that being said, I am going to be posting a bit more about this but, I’m also gearing up for other projects as well. The next book is being researched, and I’m planning to relaunch Ether Realms Media in mid-November. So be looking for news about that soon!

We’re also closing in fast on the East Texas Booktacular event in Henderson, TX. Tickets are free but limited. You can find all the information here: Booktacular Event.

I hope to see you there! Stop by my table near the entrance and say hello. I am waiting anxiously for the arrival of paperback copies at this point, but I plan to have limited quantities available for purchase there.  Just in time for a good Halloween read! Who doesn’t love a good ghost story this time of year?

Minor Setbacks..

Well, then! Welcome to another episode of “Change Is The Only Constant” or, if you prefer, “Planning Is For the Weak” (insert sinister, maniacal laughter in the background here).

This blog is primarily a personal one. I strive to make it a window into my world rather than just another “writing blog”. However, being that I am a writer, there will always be an occasional industry related post that goes beyond the scope of “Hey I have a new book coming out.” It is time for one of those posts.

Many independent authors, including myself use Amazon’s Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP for short). Essentially this is who does our printing and fills orders when you order through Amazon or request it at a bookstore. For as long as I’ve been publishing books, this has been a very accessible way for writers of any genre to get stories into your hands. We all have developed systems for how to get the words on the page, formatted, create covers, upload files, and, of course release books. Then, we also publish to KDP to allow you to read on Kindle. While the format process is different, it has been a relatively short jump from one to the other to allow our readers to have a seemless experience.

In the past 6 months there have been all sorts of rumors floating in the community about Createspace becoming obsolete and KDP taking over the print version option as well. We all know that the kindle, and e-readers in general, have revolutionized the way people read books today. That this change would eventually happen was really not that far of a stretch. Change is a constant in this industry. You have to learn how to roll with the punches and adapt. It isn’t even limited in scope to what a publisher or printing-house is doing. From trends in what people are reading, styles, topics, and delivery methods to how we reach people in terms of marketing; it can be entirely overwhelming.

Two days ago, the official email came from Createspace. They are indeed merging with KDP. Surprise!! (or not…) The question becomes, how does that affect readers or potential readers? And how is that going to affect my current deadline and release?

This is where many authors are frustrated. Some are even in a bit of a panic about it. Which I find isn’t helpful at all. But, I digress.

There are many things happening behind the scenes with books that readers are never honestly aware of. For most readers, if you’re looking to buy a paperback in the next few weeks, then, your best bet is to buy direct from an author. The Amazon listings for print copies are likely to go down and be unavailable through the transition. Many of us will have to reformat or do new covers resulting in a second edition. Signed copies are great gifts or collectibles. Many authors have stock on hand, even if it is limited, to fill those orders. They’re usually very happy to do so. There is something fun for us about inscribing and signing a copy of a book we’ve written. Most of us dream of having a steady stream of readers who want those signed copies. So, by all means, buy direct from your favorite author’s website. That on hand stock may be your last chance to have the original cover on your shelf.

Yes, I have copies on hand to ship out. You can get them on my website at www.annebelleauthor.com where there is a red button that will change to blue when you hover taking you to a Square Shop where those can be purchased. Yes, you’ll pay shipping. But, if you’re ordering gifts for friends and more than one copy, contact me direct and I’ll give you a bulk ship rate as opposed to paying per book for shipping & handling.

Otherwise, there isn’t much else to say on that except that there will likely be some changes in pricing as the migration happens. Yes The Secret of the Storm will have a new cover going forward, but, that won’t happen immediately. I’m still trying to finish its sequel to release in October and right now, my full attention needs to be on that manuscript and formatting etc. So, I’ve mad the decision to ride out the glitch-filled migration for now. I’ll finish and release this new book and then I will fix all of the transition-related necessities.

Now the GOOD NEWS is that we’re only two days away from the cover release for the new book! I am so excited about this one. Elora and crew really have their hands full in this new installment. So, I hope that you’re just as excited about all of the launch-related things as I am.

Cover reveal is happening on the 1st of September. The book will release in mid-October with some pre-order options available. And I’m scheduling events for online and offline launch celebrations. More news on that later! For now, just bear with me through this craziness.

In the long-run, I think this will be a good change and I hope that it will help to streamline the process of putting books out there.

In the meantime, I’m extending my e-book sale to help keep readers happy. Currently all of my e-book novels are available on kindle for $4.99. You can find those by shopping Amazon and my Amazon Author Page.

Thank you all for being so supportive and encouraging as I attempt to make all these things happen. I sincerely hope that you all enjoy Elora’s story and continue to follow along. I have so many things in the works for you. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us.

If you have questions or concerns you can always email me at annebellewrites over on gmail . Just allow me time to respond since I am in the middle of a tight deadline. It might take a me a bit to come out of the cave in order to answer but, I will.

Okay back to work for me.
Have a great day everyone!

And for my fellow indies… just breathe! Don’t panic. Let them sort it out and then make adjustments. This too shall pass and we shall overcome this hurdle just as we have all the others before it.

Ready? Set? …………Go!

We’re finally here! The week where everything starts for me.

It is surreal to me that so many things have begun to fall into place after years of working toward it. Yet, that is exactly what is happening. I could not be more excited about this or the fact that I get to share it with all of you.

So Saturday April 21st I am going to be in Conference Room 2 at 12:15pm CST to do a presentation called “Writing The Paranormal”. 

I am really excited to be attending my first convention. That it is close to home is a plus but, I see many more of these types of appearances in the future.

I have always loved having the opportunity to meet readers and fellow writers. Being able to talk about the books and upcoming releases is a highlight for anyone in the creative industry. We love to hear when you’re excited about something. It will be a fantastic event with a lot of really amazing opportunities. I hope that if you are in the area you’ll get your tickets and come see me at my booth.

So Click Here for all the details on the conference.

By the way…. SamBee’s will be supplying me with free cake pops so, you should come by and have one when you get your copy of The Secret of the Storm.

Don’t for get to go HERE and sign up for my newsletter to get your entry into the giveaway for the Collectible Print Edition of Exorcising The Past . I will also have tickets to fill out at the convention for an extra entry. Our first announcement of winners will be in my first newsletter on April 27th.

I am honestly thrilled and humbled by the opportunities coming up for me. This conference is a launch point for me. And there may just be some news about the next Slauson Cove installment so don’t miss the fun! I’ll be happy to sign a copy and take a picture with you if you come by.

 

Events & Other Writerly Things

Being a writer has perks.

Yes, it is a pretty solitary existence. We spend most of our time alone with a screen and a keyboard for company. However, there are the rare occasions when we get to step out and really enjoy the spotlight.

For me, I have always enjoyed the process surrounding a book signing event. I meet people who share a similar interest and have a chance to talk with them and sometimes it leads to friendships.  Now I haven’t done an event in, what feels like, forever. It’s been a few years. But, I’m excited to announce that I will be a vendor and attending at the Tyler Paranormal Conference. Click on the link and it will take you to the facebook page with all the information. And if you are in the East Texas area and can pop over to Tyler for one of the three days of the event, I would love to meet you. Maybe even sign a copy or two for you.

In other news, I’m entering the rewrite phase of the work on Slauson Cove Book Two. Second drafts are for working out plot holes and deepening the story. This one needs some TLC. That being said, it is time to really get to work on it. And I’m ready to get this one into the hands of all of you who enjoy my fiction work.

The irony is that I’m also working on the final editing phases of a short novella that I will be formatting soon to put out. It isn’t related to the Slauson Cove story line but is something unique that could be a start to a sort of collection of stories based around a group of characters if the feedback indicates that there is a demand for it.

Sort of a short post today folks. I have a ton on my To-Do List. So keeping it short and sweet is practical for me. But, I’ll be back with more insights from the studio. Maybe even with a cover reveal for the novella later in the week. Guess you’ll have to subscribe to stay tuned and not miss that.

In the meantime, tell me what sort of book-related or fiction-related events you enjoy or would like to attend in the comments. I am curious about how I can make these sorts of appearances more appealing and give you all more than just me sitting at a table signing books. Would you enjoy a reading styled event? Maybe a Q & A would be better. You tell me!

Nightstand Reads #2 : The Folcroft Ghosts

I am a sucker for a good ghost story.  How else did I get started writing the sort of fiction I do?

That being said, among my Amazon recommendations was this author I had never read before or heard of. So, with a $3.99 price tag on the kindle version, I decided to give it a shot.

I have to say that I was delighted with this gem of a read. From start to finish, the whole book was engaging for the imagination. In fact, I would place this squarely in the mystery genre since you spent most of the book piecing together clues with the main characters, a brother and sister duo in tragic circumstances.

Written from the perspective of the older sibling,  Darcy Coates’s style was captivating as it provided a window into how she coped with the incapacitation of a single parent as well as how she unravels what to do when faced with dangerous circumstances. As an older sibling myself I could easily relate to the girl and the sense of duty that Coates easily portrayed.

Well written and engaging, I was pleased with the read. I found myself reading this one in a matter of a couple of days between work and my other obligations. It helps that I had some slow time to read at the office. I would recommend this to readers both in the adult and the young adult audience spectrum. I thought it was a fairly clean read with a well-developed plot that had plenty of twists and turns before it was concluded.

Over all, I give this one 4 stars on Amazon and GoodReads.

Be sure to follow me on GoodReads, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter for more reviews, releases, and news. Indie authors, keep watch for news on how you can have your book reviewed by me in upcoming Nightstand Reads Posts.

Trendy Things…

I am going to preface this entry with saying that I am aware that I am a minority in this matter.  This post is simply my way of expressing my own view points and a sense of nostalgia for something that I haven’t yet been able to experience as an adult. I’ve mentioned before that I had very different views of what being an adult was going to be like when I was young. The dream has never left me. In fact, it has shaped the person I have become today.  That being said, I’m going to talk about some recent trends that I am seeing in entertainment that bother me. Note that I said bother and not offend.

I’ve been a part of a good many creative writing and book groups over the last several years. And I am perplexed by how much emphasis is placed on erotica. Now, I’m not talking about a steamy scene in the typical romance novel where you usually expect to find one or two of these scenes. I’m talking about the sort of stuff that is so explicit it might as well be porn. In fact, in some cases, I find that it is porn trying to be passed off as mainstream fiction. There is no plot to speak of. Certainly there is no character development beyond chiseled abs and large breasts. The entire piece seems to be smut scenes strung together with very little action beyond that.

Now, I’ve been singled out on more than one occasion as not understanding the desires of today’s audience. (Couple this with being a prude and too old-fashioned, for the sake of transparency.) Apparently this stuff sells big time and we writers have to pay bills like everyone else. Some of them are willing to write whatever is selling at the time to make money. (Which I feel rather denotes a lack of integrity but, that’s another argument altogether.) If a person is compelled to write this material then by all means they have the right to do so. They even have a right to market it in my opinion. However, I think that putting out there among groups that are not age restricted is just irresponsible and adding to the problem of young writers looking for guidance being exposed to matters that they shouldn’t have to feel anymore pressured about than they already are by their peers.

On a more general note, I’m disturbed by how popular this sort of content is. It seems that most everyone out there is obsessed with sex. Personally, I don’t see the big draw. I am one of those rare few who value compatibility in intellect, humor, and interests over a physical connection. You can draw whatever conclusion you like about that. My interest in those matters went out the window long ago. There are reasons I am single after all. That’s likely one of the major ones. But, as a society it seems that we have lost interest in things that last and make an impact unless those things are used to make a physical connection with someone. That makes me incredibly sad.

As I said before, I know I’m a minority. But I also know that I am not alone in this.

Just today, a friend was commenting on not being able to find a decent book that didn’t contain a lot of profanity and vulgarity. She was looking for cleaner reads for adults. And I think there are many more adults looking for the same. So I’m looking for suggestions of authors and books that fit the bill. I’ll make a whole post on recommendations later as I amass them.

If you’re one of the minority on this matter. I’d love to connect. Leave a comment and follow the blog. I’ll be posting reviews as I find them and sharing some of my favorites. I grew up reading classics and I still love them. I will always want the world to be a bit more refined and polite. I will always want children to be children as long as they can. I’ll stick to being a minority for now. I’ve become accustomed to not fitting in for various reasons over thirty-eight years. I don’t see that changing any time soon. Maybe one day I’ll meet someone who shares that. Maybe not. Either way, I’m okay.

As always, you can find a cleaner read over on my Amazon Page, if you’re so inclined.

What’s on my nightstand?

There seems to always be an interest in what authors are reading. Make no mistake, most of us are always reading something. Some of our favorite places are bookstores after all. So, I’m going to do a recurring posting series talking about books I’m reading and what I think of them. Hopefully I’ll be able to promote some of my fellow independent authors in doing this too.

phone-1052023_960_720I admit that I’m a slow reader. Between a day job that consumes many of my waking hours and trying to write my own fiction, this blog, and market the whole, I don’t get a lot of time to read for pleasure. But there is always something on my Goodreads shelf, Kindle Fire, and bedside table.  In fact, I’m one of those people who start a lot of books and take forever to finish them. If you want to follow me or connect over on Goodreads, I welcome you to check out the profile by clicking here.

So, what am I reading?

Big Magic

BigMagicPB

Big Magic cover courtesy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s website. https://www.elizabethgilbert.com/

 Creative Living Beyond Fear – by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book is a great read for anyone who is ready to make the leap into a more creative lifestyle. I found it to be both inspiring and practical really. Gilbert doesn’t mince words when it comes to the valid fears that come up when you consider embracing your creativity.

She talks about various concepts that depict creativity as a series of experiences that are almost spiritual in nature. It is not a new concept. In fact, I find that the more creative people I talk to, the more I find most of us hold that belief about our own unique experiences in living this creative life. And there is something almost transcendental about bringing something to life on the page, easel, or whatever other media you choose to work in. What it definitely takes to do that is courage.

Big Magic is a huge pep talk for creatives. Wonderfully modern and frank in tone, Elizabeth Gilbert essentially tells creators to push aside the fear more often than they give into it. Reminders that while ideas are always out there, they may not all work out or be great ideas for a particular artist. The key is to step out and make the art instead of wishing we were or pining away for a life we aren’t willing to allow ourselves to lead.

I am definitely taking a page from her book of wisdom.  Realizing that life is about discovering what we are capable of.  I’m taking steps to write more and put myself out there more. Which is why you see me more often here and hopefully on the Amazon virtual book shelves in coming months.

What is your favorite book on creativity? I can always use more on my shelves.

Stop over and check out my Amazon Author Page for my latest work in print. All available in both Print and Kindle format. And don’t forget to subscribe so you can get the latest posts from yours truly.

Indiegogo Is A Go For Launch

TSOTS COVER ADIn May of 2013 I published my debut novel The Secret of the Storm. As a new author, I am excited at the response from my readers and that it has been so positive. I will admit that I was very surprised when I kept hearing the same feedback from readers; when is the sequel coming out?

Truth is, I hadn’t planned to make a return trip to Slauson Cove. When I finished The Secret of the Storm, I didn’t exactly think that people would want to hear more about Elora and the Walsingham family. I even moved on to new projects including a major series. How wrong I was though. Nearly everyone who has read the book has been calling me out for another book about Elora and the Walsingham family. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I wouldn’t mind going back to the sleepy little seaside town and telling more about what happens after the prophecy seems to be fulfilled.

People want to hear more about Elora and her family and friends. This is great for me. It means that I did something right in crafting that story. Producing another book is definitely on the to do list but, as I said previously, I did move on to other large scale projects that are eating a great deal of my time. One of those is nearly ready to hit the press. Taking the time to write another impromptu book is going to take resources that I don’t have.

old file case Family Secrets#2I’ve started an Indiegogo project to fund what I need to get another Slauson Cove book in the works. There are so many things that go into producing a book. I want to do this right and I want to be able to pay other indie-artists and freelancers to help me make it the best it can be. That means I need funds to work with. Not only will I need those to pay the people helping but, I’ll need money to help me promote it once it does come out.

I’m trying to raise $4,000.00 through Indiegogo. The campaign will last 60 days starting August 1st. I’ve chosen to go with the flexible funding option so that if we don’t reach the total goal I can still keep working on a more limited budget for those who do want to see the book come out.

Donating is simple and can be done via the campaign site using your Paypal account or a major credit card. Simply choose your level of support. Many of the levels include a tangible copy of the book sent to you when it is completed. The details of each level are there for you to see. Donors will be featured in a post here on the blog and will also have a special place on the main header as soon as the campaign ends and I receive the list of donors. This will likely be in early to mid October.

Work will be starting on the book in September. But books won’t be mailed until all is finished sometime in April or May of 2014. Writing a book takes time and I’m wearing a lot of hats. I’m a mom, a teacher, a writer, a publicist, a homemaker, and I am trying to market with social media and promotion tours here in East Texas.

For the next few weeks, you’ll see posts here about the upcoming release and the perks that I’m offering and why I’ve chosen them at various levels. If you can support the cause, please know that you’re not just helping me take some luxury vacation or buy some sort of trinket. You’re helping me get my career and life on track. You’re helping put a little girl in dance classes, paying for education costs, and helping enable me to stay home so I can focus on the two things I love most my family and my stories.

So please, at least read the campaign here. I know that times are tough and everyone else is struggling just as we are here. But there are other ways that you can help. Boost the signal and send it out to your social media. Tell people why you’d support it if you could. You never know, it may inspire someone else to contribute where you couldn’t. I will also be posting a flyer for you print off. You can post it wherever businesses will allow you to do so. Public bulletin boards are great places for this. You can also ask your local librarian, post it in your dorm, pass it around your reading and writing circles. There are any number of ways to get people to notice the project. The more people do, the more likely I am to reach my goal. And I can’t do that without all your support.

Thanks in advance for all the support you’re showing me. As a special celebration to get things kicked off, I’ve been able to lower the price on my Kindle Edition of The Secret of the Storm to $2.99. That will last through August 10th. So, it is a chance to get the original story at nearly half price. If you haven’t already read it. I suggest picking it up and getting to know Elora Castain and the Walsinghams.

The Secret of the Storm: An Excerpt

I am adding a treat for you this weekend. As I’m prepping for some pretty big changes, I’m hoping that you’ll enjoy an excerpt from my debut novel The Secret of the Storm. Remember that it is available for purchase on Kindle and in print through Createspace and Amazon.com.

BookCoverPreview1Parkside Brew House, the local coffeehouse, seemed to be a vintage favorite; with its café tables, large windows, and counters full of petit-fours and pastries. It was  picturesque. Richard Wheadon was oblivious to this part of his surroundings. He saw it daily. He was lost to a momentary obsession. In the quiet corner beyond the pastry case, a table played host to a woman who was reading a brown paper-covered book. She sat alone; with curly auburn hair that was twisted over her shoulder, thick eyelashes, and a seeming perfectly shaped mouth. Her eyes rarely left the print. A silver necklace held a charm that centered on her chest and her glasses rested on her nose. A long jacket  was draped over a chair beside her. A notebook and pen accompanied her ceramic coffee cup bearing the logo of the place on the dark wood table in front of her.

Richard had been sitting at the opposite end of the lounge watching her for the past few minutes. He watched her making notes in the notebook. He drank in her careful consideration of the text she was reading. He had been intrigued at her expressions and the way her brow furled as she read from time to time. He’d spent the past ten minutes talking himself up for rejection and arguing that he quite likely, stood no chance with such a beautiful creature. After all, he wasn’t the epitome of masculinity. Being such a bookish person, he wasn’t prone to long hours at the gym. Nor was he the athletic sort to take up jogging or biking. He walked a college campus on a daily basis out of sheer necessity, not to impress women. In truth if he had been able to afford one of those Segway devices, he would have been thrilled to use it to get about the campus.

Rick, as he was known to his friends and colleagues, had always had to rely on his knowledge of poetry, literature, films, and the arts to get women. Dating was something, unlike his career as an English professor, that he had never been a success at. Granted he was not without companions, but dating was not nearly as exciting, in his opinion, as people made it out to be. He preferred to get to know someone. Not spend a thousand dollars on a meal trying to overcompensate for his lack of fashion sense and physique. He liked to think that this was a conscious choice, but the fact was, he was an English professor. Along with that lack of fashion sense and physique, came the English professor’s salary; that had little chance of impressing anyone.

He didn’t think he was bad-looking. He wasn’t lean precisely, but he wasn’t stocky or well-built. Rick was just not a typical guy. When he looked in the mirror in the mornings he saw a bumbling schmuck just trying to make it through the day. And every morning he considered what would happen if he just stopped shaving and grew a beard. He thought that it might make him seem more mature to some women. But, the reality was that he would sink into the job and forget about the idea of women until moments like this – when he saw one who simply captivated him.

Having gathered his courage, he gathered up his books and his own paper cup and started over to her table. He paused just a moment when he reached what he thought of as her personal space. Thankfully, she didn’t seem to notice his hesitation. “Hi,” he said.

“Hello,” she replied, as she looked up at him with captivating hazel eyes. She offered him a warm smile.

“Is this seat taken?” He indicated the opposite seat with a nod and smile. For a moment, it crossed his mind that she may have thought that he wanted to take the chair for another table. This had happened to him before. But then, she told him to have a seat.

He extended his hand. “Rick Wheadon, and you are?”

“Elora, Elora Castain, nice to meet you Mr. Wheadon.”

“Call me Rick,” he said, pausing again as he sat down. Rick suddenly felt at a loss for conversation. He could start rattling off poetry, but that seemed too forward. It likely didn’t matter to Ms. Castain that he could recite a number of romantic poems by Shakespeare or Mr. Poe. In fact, it crossed his mind that the exhibition of his literary knowledge would only serve to put her off. No, Rick thought it best to stick to small talk and so opted for a clichéd remark. “So, I haven’t seen you in here before.”

Her smile broadened and when she spoke, there was a chuckle beneath her words. Her amusement was something Rick found instantly soothing. That small laugh was like music to his ears and he couldn’t help but let his own match hers. At least, it seemed to help lessen his fear of being completely inadequate.

“I’m new in town. I’ve only just arrived actually.”

“Well, I’m glad you decided to stop in our little port-side town. We certainly have a lot to offer here. Museums, fishing, sailing, arts, you name it we can get it within an hour’s drive or so.” Oh my God, he thought. Why would you ask this beautiful woman to go fishing you idiot? You don’t even like to fish. Maybe dad is right. Maybe I am gay. Hoping that she didn’t notice his internal chastising, he tried to steer the conversation toward her. “So where are you from?”

“Oh here and there,” she said. “I was born here actually. However, my family moved away when I was about five.”

“What brings you back here; work, love?” He wanted to wince as that last overly inquisitive word flew from his mouth like an unexpected bat from an old attic window. Somehow, he held it back.

“Neither, my grandmother passed away actually. I am seeing to her remains and taking possession of the house she left to me.” Her smile that had previously shadowed the light on her face, now fell into a line. Only the flimsiest curves at the edges of her mouth, provided any clue that it had been there at all.

“You’re Alice Walsingham’s heir then?” Rick asked in disbelief.

“I’m afraid I am,” she smiled her half smile.

“You’ve my sincerest condolences for your loss.” Rick could feel a mask of incredulity creeping up onto his face. He did his best to shake it off. “So, you are staying at Walsingham Manor?” he asked, perhaps more quickly and sharply than he had intended to.

“Yes.”

Rick sat back in his seat and cocked his head with the best smirk he could muster. “For as long as I can remember there have been stories about that house and your family. Especially about your grandmother,” he said.

“Stories? What sort of stories?” she leaned on the table with her elbows propping her chin up. A curious grin forming on her lips.

Rick was happy to see it – proud even. However, the cost of that pride had painted him into a corner. Now, he would have to speak, which might prove difficult with both feet in his mouth. “I don’t know that I’m the one whom you should hear them from. I mean I only know the stories, I didn’t personally know your grandmother. I don’t want you to think that I’m the type of person who bases an opinion of someone on the town gossip.”

“You don’t have to give me details. Honestly, I had only met the woman twice that I can recall. My parents kept me away from her for reasons unbeknownst to me. I’m quite sure my mother will go ballistic when I tell her I’ve decided to stay at the house.”

“Why are you staying if it will cause that big of a stir?” he asked, hoping that the awkwardness of the moment had passed. He watched her expression change to puzzlement as she considered the question. After a long pause, she drew in a deep breath and answered.

“In all honesty, I don’t know, it just feels like I’ve come home. I can’t explain it any other way. It feels like I belong there; if that makes any sense at all.”

Rick watched her shoulders rise and fall as she sat back. It did make sense, and he said so. Then he took another drink of his coffee and returned the cup to the table, watching it settle back into the ring he had spilled upon sitting down. He didn’t know what to tell her and what to keep his mouth shut about. He figured that it would do no harm to tell some of the things he had heard. As long as she understood that they were gossip as far as he knew. “I will tell you that many said she was an oddball. Very rarely was she ever seen in town. She was like the town’s hermit. Then, on stormy nights, if you were driving down the road you would see her on that balcony, her arms outstretched. It was an eerie sight. I saw her like that myself once.”

“So she was a bit eccentric. My whole family is like that. I’m sure I have a few eccentricities myself. So often people judge others before they get to really know them,” Elora said. “It’s a shame really. She was quite a generous soul, as I knew her. But then I’m sure I was family as well.”

“True, and I’m sure you were the apple of her eye,” Rick said with a wink. He thought that it may have been the smoothest thing he had done all afternoon.

There was that laugh again as she looked at her watch. Then she tipped her mug up one last time and smiled. “Rick, it’s been a pleasure, and I’d love to stay and chat but I’m due at an appointment.”

Rick stood with her and smiled as she gathered her things from the table. “I hope I’ll see you around town. Maybe we could have lunch?” he asked, knowing full well that the day-date had been the touch of death to similar situations in the past. But, somehow it rolled off his tongue like an old song he had been rehearsing it in the shower.

She said nothing; snatched his smooth, brown cardboard cup from his hand and her ink pen from her purse. She scribbled something on the side and handed it back to him. She smiled and backed away.

His eyes stayed fixed on hers, only losing their grasp as she turned and walked away. He watched as her shape fell from sight. He looked down at the cup, and smiled. It was a telephone number. And below, a simple, one-word note that made his heart nearly burst. It read, “Dinner!!!”