Have you ever tucked a dream in the back of your mind as something you’ll do someday, but not today?
That was me with indie publishing. As you may know, I write for Harlequin Love Inspired. I enjoy it and intend to keep writing my series romances, but I have been envious of the indie authors that get to write whatever is on their heart without the rules that by necessity mark a Harlequin book.
I’ve wanted to dip my toes into the indie world for years, but frankly, fear has always held me back. There is so much to learn, not only about publishing, but about marketing. But when I got the opportunity to contribute to an indie boxed set with other Love Inspired authors–with the themes of Cowboys and Christmas–I knew my time had arrived. I plugged my nose, closed my eyes, and jumped in.
To my surprise, the water is warm. I actually enjoy absorbing the masterclasses that teach me about marketing. I get to make some of my own graphics for advertisements. I chose my own cover artist for my novella, currently exclusive to Cowboys Under the Mistletoe, and consequently I nearly swooned when I got the first look at my cover. Perfection!
Prologue: December 15th, 25 Years Ago
Being a flower girl was the best thing ever.
Three-year-old Riley Weaver loved getting to wear a frilly bright purple dress and carry a basket with matching ribbons down the aisle at her Auntie Heather’s wedding. Auntie Heather had let her choose her own dress, one that floated when she spun around.
Which she liked to do.
At the rehearsal, she didn’t get to toss any actual rose petals in the air, but now that the actual wedding was underway, her basket was full to the brim with pink, purple and white petals. Today, when she danced up the aisle, she would get to make the path pretty with all of the petals.
The only bad thing about Auntie Heather’s wedding to handsome Travis Wilde was the annoying ring bearer, Matthew. All he did was scowl and complain, and yesterday, when no one was watching him, he’d stuck his tongue out at her.
She’d stomped his foot in response, but she’d been caught and had been reprimanded for it.
It was all his fault she’d had to sit perfectly still on a chair in a corner for a whole five minutes, and not talk even once.
Worse, Riley didn’t think Matthew really felt the heel of her foot at all when she’d stomped on him, since he was wearing cowboy boots.
He wasn’t even a real cowboy. He was too young for that. She doubted he could even ride a horse.
Anyway, cowboys were yucky and smelly and lived all together in a messy barracks.
She should know. She lived on a big ranch. Her Daddy was the boss of a whole bunch of cowboys, but he made sure Riley stayed as far away from them as possible. Daddy said his little girl was too good for ranch living, and as soon as she was old enough to go to school, she would be attending a private, church-sponsored boarding school where she would have a proper upbringing.
Riley’s Mama said Daddy spoiled her too much.
But just now, Mama was the one spoiling her and fussing over her. Mama applied a hot iron to Riley’s hair, turning it into soft ringlets, and then pinned the long strands up on top of her head into cascades of curls.
Riley asked if she could wear makeup like the bridesmaids were doing. She was so excited when Mama said yes that she squealed and whirled around three times, admiring the way her dress spun high around her. Mama laughed and told her she had to remain perfectly still as she dabbed Riley’s eyelashes with black mascara. Then Mama brushed her cheeks with a rosy pink powder and finished with shiny lip gloss that matched the roses in her basket.
Riley stared at herself in the mirror, hardly believing what she saw. Mama had made her extra pretty for Auntie Heather’s special day. Riley almost felt like it was her special day, too.
There was a photographer in the room snapping pictures with a long-lensed camera. Riley beamed and posed when the photographer crouched to her level to take several pictures of her.
She held up her arms and twirled, enjoying the swish of the soft fabric as it floated around her. The bridesmaids laughed and clapped, telling her she was the most perfect flower girl ever.
Riley knew she wasn’t perfect. She got into trouble too often for that, and then she had to tell Jesus she was sorry.
But this day was going to be perfect, she just knew it.
A man Riley didn’t know knocked loudly on the door to the room the ladies were dressing in and stuck his head in to say it was time for them to line up for the wedding.
Riley’s heart was beating super-fast as Mama took her hand and led her out with the bridesmaids, while Auntie Heather lingered behind to make final touches on her veil.
Riley could already hear music playing inside the church by the time they stood in a nervous group just outside the door to the sanctuary, whispering excitedly and making finishing touches on each other’s gowns and hair.
Mama leaned down and kissed Riley’s cheek. “Don’t be nervous, honey. You’re going to be great out there.”
Riley wasn’t nervous. She was just antsy, ready to do her part and be the center of attention for a little while. She wanted everyone to see her beautiful dress.
Another man Riley didn’t recognize arrived with the naughty ring bearer, who was now dressed in a black tuxedo and shiny shoes.
Unlike Riley, Matthew looked miserable. He frowned so hard his dark eyebrows touched each other over his nose when the man pressed a frilly pillow with the wedding rings tied on them into his hands.
Somebody ought to say something to the boy. He was going to ruin everything if he kept frowning. No one would want to watch him act that way while he walked up the aisle. He was supposed to smile and make everybody happy.
He’d better not mess it up for Auntie Heather or Riley might just have to stomp on his foot again. She bet her shiny shoes with their square heels would cause more damage than the sneakers she’d been wearing yesterday.
Also, Matthew’s bow tie was crooked. Probably because he kept yanking at it and sending it all askew. But again, everyone seemed to be too busy to notice him.
Mama was still holding Riley’s basket of roses, so she decided to take matters into her own hands.
She marched up to Matthew and rolled her eyes when she met his gaze. He was taller than she was, but that was fine, because she could still reach high enough to do what needed doing.
Before Matthew could protest, she reached up and straightened his tie.
She didn’t even notice the wedding photographer was there until she heard the snap-click of the camera.
Riley didn’t understand why the photographer would want to take a picture of her straightening the stupid boy’s tie, but she didn’t have time to think about it, because just then the doors opened and Mama handed Riley her basketful of rose petals.
The wedding was starting.
I hope you’ll enjoyed this little snippet, and I encourage you to grab the boxed set, only $0.99!
Tell me–do you have a dream you’ve tabled, kept on the back burner for the future? What’s stopping you from making today the day? I will choose one random commenter to win a copy of the boxed set Cowboys Under the Mistletoe (in Kindle eBook only. Sorry!)
I also have a Harlequin Love Inspired, Texas Christmas Twins, out this month, available for preorder now and in stores November 21st.