Author of the Series:
Baker City Hearts and Haunts
MY SWEET HAUNT
Release date: April 2019 – Publisher: Melange Satin Romance
Editor: Denise Meinstad – Cover Artist: Lynsee Lauritsen
Former Army Ranger, Rob Williams always planned to run the family guest ranch after completing his military service. Instead, he “bought the farm with his life” when he died in Vietnam but being dead doesn’t mean he’s going anywhere. Encountering someone who “sees” and “hears” him is a welcome change.
Cat’s determination leads her into danger, when they discover an adversary wants to turn the one-time dude ranch into a gravel pit.
Will a woman with a dream and a man who’s had his dreams cut short, manage to save a ranch and each other when the biggest surprise of all is love?
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Giving up their dreams when they don’t succeed immediately. Don’t quit! Everybody knows a ton of clichés on the subject from “You’re never given a dream, without being given the power to make it come true,” to “Write from the heart if you want it to work.” Okay, the last one is mine – I think I tweaked it from a country song. However, I really believe it. There are so many options now for writers and much fewer limits. If you are determined to be a writer, then write. Study your craft and rewrite. Do your best and you will sell as long as you don’t quit!
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Time management. It’s difficult to find time to write when I’m up to my eyeballs in working the family farm and looking after my senior mom and her disabled brother. However, since I do two series for Melange Satin Romance as well as a young adult series, I’m either writing, editing, promoting, or plotting a new project, so I don’t let myself stop regardless of how long it takes to get my proverbial “ducks in a row!” even when the little buggers keep swimming around.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
In 2010, I sold my first romance novel. Because I also write young adult novels, my pseudonym is a variation of my grandmother’s name, Josie Malone. Since 2010, I’ve sold 10 romances, 12 young adult novels, one novella and one short story. I always remember what Grandma said when we discussed writing. “Your words have power. Use it wisely. Don’t shout when a whisper will do.”
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I host a critique group once a week at a local Senior Center and those writers are a tremendous help when I’m working on a new book. They help me make my “kid characters” sound authentic. I have writing friends in the Evergreen Romance Writers Chapter in Everett, WA and the Greater Seattle Romance Writers chapter. Clare McKay always helps me with my titles, Sabrina York, Megan Chance and Alexis Morgan kindly read my Josie Malone books and offer “cover quotes” – I always take their classes when I get the chance because they help me improve my characterization, plotting and pacing.
If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be? Don’t quit and believe in yourself when nobody else does. I sold two books thirty+ years ago and then my publisher went out of business. I didn’t sell another book until 2010. If I’d listened to family, I would have given up instead of continuing to write and learn my craft and eventually selling 20+ books in the last nine years.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It made me take seriously the work of being a successful, published author. I’m always writing, even if it’s just thinking up what happens next when I’m mucking the barn or feeding 22 horses.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I am a writer. It’s a family tradition, learned from my grandmother, the queen of pithy comments who served putdowns at her Sunday dinners along with her pot roasts. Grandma never swore. It wasn’t ladylike, but she raised insulting someone’s intelligence, morality, behavior, manners and children or mate to an art form. My grandparents owned the Pine Tree Tavern below First Avenue in downtown Seattle. Grandma kept a “cuss jar” for her clientele who were not allowed to use inappropriate language in her presence, even if many of the “ladies” actually weren’t, and their “gentlemen” friends paid for the “pleasure” of their company.
How many hours a day do you write?
If I’m on deadline, I write from 9PM to 2AM when the house is quiet. I also try to write for an hour or two in the mornings when I don’t have to go to the barn or to a local school where I substitute teach.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Six months to a year or longer depending on the story.
(answer in ONE or TWO words)
Would you prefer living in the city or country?
What color best describes your personality?
What are you most passionate about? BESIDES family!
What do you consider your best attribute?
What’s your favorite beverage?
What song best sums you up?
I will survive!
What does your desk look like right now? Clean or messy?
Are you a night owl or an early bird?
What book are you reading at the moment?
The Moscow Deception by Karen Robards
What would you take with you to a desert island?
Chocolate, Coffee, Paper & Pen
If you could invite anyone, dead or alive, to dinner, who would it be?
What would be your ideal holiday destination?
What time in history would you have liked to be born in?
If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you? Maureen O’Hara
DIY or call an expert?
What is your favorite fruit?
What is your favorite thing to learn about in your free time?
What is your favorite time of day?
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Music or silence?
Let’s have an excerpt
MY SWEET HAUNT ~ PART ONE
“This is my home and no haunt is taking it away…”
Catriona O’Leary McTavish
“And now a human-interest story for all you dreamers who love to write.”
Cat cracked eggs into a bowl as she listened to the news anchors on the kitchen radio talk about two men determined to sell their dilapidated family farm in an unusual way. They wanted someone to restore it as a guest ranch, so they were running an essay contest.
“So, all you have to do is describe the way you’d save the place, toss in a hundred bucks for the entry fee and you’re good to go. You could be the new owner of Cedar Creek Guest Ranch. Of course, the catch is you can’t sell it.”
Cat froze, staring first at the bowl where she was supposed to be creating French toast batter for her eight-year-old daughters and then at the radio as the babbling continued.
Oh my Gawd. I remember that place. We visited every summer until it closed when I was fourteen. It was pure heaven.
Memories floated through Cat’s mind of camping trips on horseback, square dancing in the rec hall, movies shown on the barn wall, swimming in the mountain snow melt-off of the icy river and long cozy conversations with Aunt Rose over cups of hot cocoa.
It’s mine, she thought with staunch determination. Well, it will be when I write the winning essay. What can I say? How can I tell strangers how wonderful it was to have a perfect place, a place where nothing and no one could ever hurt me?
* * * *
Horse lunch fed, her collie-mix pup tagging behind, Catriona McTavish strolled toward the two-bedroom trailer, planning the rest of her day. She had three horses to work before her eight-year-old daughters arrived home from school and of course her intern had chosen today to do the ‘no-show’ routine which meant Cat had to groom and saddle for herself in addition to riding. Vestiges of the argument she’d had with her husband this morning still clouded her mind. She felt like one of the twins must feel when being dragged to a doctor’s appointment.
No, no, no! I don’t wanna go to Louisiana. Listen to me. I want to stay here where I have a great boss, friends, a job I love. I’m finally making it as a natural horse trainer. I’ve followed you for nine years. Why can’t our lives be about me for once?
She’d had to throttle down the impulse to yell at him this morning. Frazer claimed he couldn’t talk to her when she was angry. He’d fled to the ‘safety’ of the casino where he worked as a pit boss, knowing she had to get the twins off to school and wouldn’t stay up till the wee hours to confront him when he reluctantly returned home.
The landline rang, interrupting her silent rage. She hastily closed the door behind her before going to pick up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Is this Catriona O’Leary McTavish?”
“Oh, good. I’m Ed Williams. Did you enter an essay contest my brother and I held?”
“Yes.” Cat caught her breath, recalling the day last spring when she’d heard the announcement on the radio. “You were awarding your family dude ranch to the person who wrote the winning essay. Did I—?”
“Yes, we picked your essay. It stirred a lot of good memories.”
“I won?” Cat asked in a whisper. “I really won?”
“Yes. You still want the ranch, don’t you?”
“Oh, my Gawd. Yes! Of course, I want it.” She resisted the urge to dance around the kitchen. “Are you serious? Do you mean I have a home? I finally have a ‘real’ home – the perfect home.”
“It’s not perfect. The place needs a lot of work. The ranch is just a few miles outside of Baker City.”
“I know,” Cat said. “I used to visit my grandmother there.”
“We thought you might be one of those O’Leary women. Glad to hear it. Welcome home, Catriona. Do you have time to meet with my brother and me tonight so we can discuss the details?”
“Of course, I do. Thank you so much. You won’t regret this, Mr. Williams. I’ll make the Cedar Creek Guest Ranch shine again. I promise.”
“We’re counting on you. We’re so happy you entered our contest.”
“Me too. You don’t know what this means to me. I’m so lucky. I feel like I just won the lottery.”
He chuckled. “Actually, you don’t know how long the town and we’ve been looking for someone like you, Catriona O’Leary. We’re the lucky ones.”
Cedar Creek Guest Ranch, Baker Valley, Washington
“If a man’s been dead more than forty years, he ought to be able to enjoy peace and quiet.”
Hearing the crunch of tires on the gravel driveway, the spirit of Rob Williams floated toward the picture window to see who dared come onto his land. A battered pickup stopped in front of the house. An equally ancient horse-trailer was hitched to the four-wheel-drive. Two little girls got out and raced around the rigs followed by a young black and gold collie, not much more than a puppy.
Not again. What was it going to take for his family to stop renting out his home? This was his place. He’d died for it at Hamburger Hill back in ’69 during the height of the Vietnam Conflict. He bought the farm with his blood. Well, actually his parents had used the money from his military insurance to pay off the last of the mortgage on their home. Rob had no intention of passing on to what was considered a ‘better place.’ Now, he had a new bunch of strangers to haunt and send away. He supposed he could call it a favorite hobby in what was supposed to be his after-life.
Suddenly, a copper-haired woman strolled into view from the far side of the truck. As he watched, she knelt and caught both girls in a hug. The pup flopped down beside them in the dust, panting. Rob may have been dead, but nothing said he couldn’t enjoy the sight of a woman who looked like one, instead of a scrawny hippie with no bosom, no waist, no hips and flowers in her long hair. That was the fashion back in the 1960s, but he’d never cared for it. Besides, curiosity had always been his downfall.
Rob drifted through the window and out onto the rotted deck of the wrap-around porch. The woman glanced toward the house and he glimpsed the emerald green of her eyes, as green as the needles on hemlock trees. Her head would have just reached his shoulder when he was alive. For a moment, he admired the voluptuous curves that filled out her lacy white western shirt and faded tight-fitting Levi’s. He could have fit both hands around her waist if only he could touch her. Rob moved closer. What was he doing? This woman was nothing to him and she would have to go, taking those kids and the dog with her.
He’d send them away, but not just yet.
Where Can We Buy Sweet Haunt
Where Can We Find You