The books in Tule Publishing’s Summer Fair series are amongst some of my favorites and I’m especially excited about Barbara Ankrum‘s A Fair To Remember! I think Tule is really lucky to have Barbara writing a story for us. She’s an incredible author with a wonderfully talented voice. One of my favorite authors to read and an amazing person too, with some very cool author friends (like Beth Kendrick!).
I had to invite Barbara to chat with her about her story and so without further delay, please help me welcome Barbara Ankrum!
Thanks, Jane, for inviting me to blog here today! I’m honored to share this space with you.
Like most of you, I’m a reader from way back. As a kid, I’d read cereal boxes, newspapers, books, whatever I could get my hands on. All that voracious reading translated into my becoming a writer, eventually, but that hasn’t diminished my joy of reading a great story. I love the great unknown of starting a new book.
But as a writer, I get to control the world!
Uh… not really. I just like to delude myself that way. But I do love the possibilities that come with opening doors in my stories to find characters I didn’t expect behind them.
In my latest book, “A Fair To Remember” from the Marietta Fair Series, my hero and heroine, Jake and Olivia, surprised me most of the way through. Best friends in high school, they’d made this dumb, pinky-swear promise to meet up at the fair when Olivia turned thirty to be each other’s fall back person in case they were both still single. And guess what? They were, with complications of course, but that’s where the fun begins.
I’ve always been a fan of friends to lovers stories and these two took me for a ride. But as I discovered their stories, I also discovered their supporting cast, which inspired me to contemplate what really made this heroine tick.
(Don’t you just love this cover?)
Two such characters who wandered into my story were Kate and Eve Canaday, the younger step-sisters of my heroine, Olivia. (They let me know that the ‘step-sister’ part was a mere formality, as they all considered themselves blood kin.) That one insight opened the door into my heroine’s past, her way of being in the world and her relationship with her family. And it reminded me of how randomly the universe chooses our family and how we sometimes, choose our own.
Being lucky enough to have two sisters of my own, I know there is nothing like having two women who know you inside and out, all the good bits and the bad—and who love you anyway. You share memories no one else shares and can still laugh about them. Kate and Eve love Olivia this way and the three of them are always ready to go to the mattresses for each other. (In a Mario Puzzo kind of way!)
I had so much fun writing them that I think they each deserve a story of their own. I’m working on that.
Those two reminded me, not only how lucky I am to have sisters, and now a grown daughter whom I adore, but to have women friends who I’ve known forever and who always have my back. And I have theirs.
Recently, I met up with my best friend from childhood with whom I reconnected on Facebook. (Has that happened to you?) We had lunch with our husbands when we happened to intersect in the same city after living across the world from each other for the past forty-four years. Yet, it was like none of those years had passed between us. It was great to see her. She reminded me of how we used to climb a neighborhood willow tree and imagine (elaborately) that we were orphans—most certainly the beginning of my wild writer’s imagination! We promised each other it wouldn’t be another forty-four years until we met again.
Then, last week, I had a reunion with a group of writer friends I’ve known for twenty years. Though it had been a few years since we’d met in person (we’re all scattered to the four winds now) seeing them again reminded me of how much I enjoy the company of women and how I miss it when I’m alone in my writer’s cave. There was plenty of talk about families and catching up, but there was also support, as writers, for each other. It’s hard to beat friends who have become sisters.
Simply put, women need other women. It’s in our DNA. And despite the way the world keeps trying to pit us against each other, women will always find ways to create sisterhood from friendship.
Being part of this amazing group of writers at Tule Publishing, led by the ever generous and amazing Jane Porter, is yet another such example and I’m saying it right here on her wonderful blog, “Thank you, Jane, for your heart and your generosity and your wisdom. Thanks for inviting me in. I’ve got your back.”
Excerpt from A Fair To Remember:
“You scared of me, Liv?”
“What? No.” She gave a laugh like scared was the last thing she could possibly be.
He sighed, then reached down to pull off a boot.
“What are you doing?” she inquired.
“Take off your clothes.”
Instinctively, she clamped her hands across her chest. “What?”
“C’mon. Not all your clothes. Just your dress. Your boots. Let’s go swimming.”
“We’ve done it a million times here.” Off came his other boot. “C’mon.”
Off came the black T-shirt over the holy-crikee ripped muscles of his torso. She inhaled at the sight of the new-to-her tats that covered one shoulder and forearm.
He followed her gaze and grinned. “Or are you scared of that, too?”
Oh, no. Not the tattoo. What was under the tattoo. She was definitely, definitely scared of the carnal thoughts his sleek, beautiful physique inspired.
The owl they’d been listening to flapped across the water with low, swooping beats of its huge wings, barely skimming the surface of the river.
“I-I’m still a little drunk,” she said, “and, obviously, I-I don’t have a bathing suit.”
“When did you get so prissy? Underwear always sufficed before. When naked wasn’t appropriate.” He grinned and loosened the button on the top of his jeans and she heard the toe-curling sound of his zipper sliding down.
“We only skinny dipped once and we were fourteen and it was pitch black.” She watched the smooth, thick muscles of his back bunch and move beneath his skin like quicksilver as he slid off his jeans. He was wearing boxer briefs which outlined his taut thighs and backside, a view that made her mouth go dry.
He gestured at the dark night with one hand. “C’mon. It’s hot. And since you’ve put the nix on discussing what’s got you so spooked, what’s a little swim between friends? We’ll never get this place to ourselves again.” Jake waded in a few steps then dove underwater.
Grown men and women cannot be friends, her sister Kate had declared when Olivia had mentioned her onetime friendship with Jake as a perfect example of male-female friendship, Because in the sage words of Billy Crystal’s Harry to Meg Ryan’s Sally, ‘the sex part always gets in the way.’
A warm rush of longing shuddered through her as Jake shimmered under the surface of the water. Kate was right.
The sex part was a problem.
He shot straight up out of the water and gasped, the water sparkling in his hair.
Definitely a problem.
Thank you, Barbara, for sharing with us today! Friends, please be sure to download your copy of A Fair To Remember soon. You’re in for a real treat! And as always, I have another treat in store for you. I’m going to give away, to one lucky winner, a special Montana Born prize that I personally carried home from Kalispell, Montana with extra gift cards and wonderful treats thrown in! For a chance to win, leave a comment and tell me which of the Summer Fair series books you’ve read and what do you think of the stories? Winner will be announce on Wednesday. Have a great weekend!