Monday, July 20, 2020

Walking Away from What You Outgrow #selflove


As I look back upon my life, I see clearly that most of my problems have stemmed from having certain expectations that imprisoned me in a moment in time--a moment that I outgrew, but could not release. Those illusions of what I thought was meant to be trapped me in a cycle of challenges. Over and over again, one crisis after another because I was not walking on my true path. 

I made mistakes. I lost sight of what was true as I fought to live a lie. 

The lie looked pretty to onlookers--handsome husband, mountain home, two cute little children, PTA board member, community volunteer, church goer, fancy vacations. Smiles all around. Eventually, though, those lies caused fractures in the facade. 

Handsome husband was like a Jekyl and Hyde because of his alcoholism, but I plastered on the smile and fought for the happily ever after. I refused to let people know how I walked on eggshells and fled with the kids in the middle of the night--frequently. Until he killed himself, that is, and suddenly the world started to question the pretty picture. The truth started cracking through the surface. 

Determined to prove that I still had it together, I fought even harder to maintain the facade of strength--I took over coaching the soccer team despite grief ripping my heart apart, smiled at all the people watching me for a sign of breakage, kept the kids busy, denied my struggle. 

Fight, fight, fight to keep the lifestyle that I never really wanted---but  lived because it was expected. I checked off the boxes that I thought I needed to check in life. Oh, how I fought to hang on. 

The mountain home was isolating as a widowed single mom, but I would be damned if I'd let go of that happily ever after--the one I never wanted as a twenty-something career woman. I had this idea in my head that leaving it would be a failure, an admission of not being good enough to make it all work after my husband's death. I saw the eyes on me from family and friends, all of whom had made it clear that they didn't expect me to survive at the mountain home on my own. So I fought to stay. 

I lost sight of what I really wanted as an individual and became caught up in sustaining the illusion of a life that no longer suited my needs. And the longer I stayed immersed in the illusion, the deeper I buried my authentic self. 

I hung onto friends who were not true when I needed them to be because they were familiar and I needed them to remain in my life because without them I would be unrooted. Or so I thought. 

The idea of outgrowing a dream or a way of life felt like a failure to me at the time. I had become so accustomed to fighting to hold on to it all--clinging to a dead dream in a place that never truly embraced me. I had convinced myself along the way that I needed to prove my worthiness or strength to others--which meant holding on long after I should have let go. The Universe gave me signals with one crisis after another, round and round it went, repeatedly beating me up until I finally surrendered. 

I see my daughter doing the same with her past as she moves into uncharted waters. She keeps looking toward the past, clinging to toxic relationships that are only holding her back, and longing for a place that does not fit her future. Despite seeing me move on now and come to these realizations, she fights to cling to the illusion of "what should be." 

Many people do this. It often takes big life shake-ups to jolt us free. Waking up can be frightening when we look around and realize that we're not living the life we are meant to be. It's sad, too. We mourn for abandoned dreams of "what should have been" or "what should be." For me, the process of ripping away from that old life caused a lot of pain. I had nightmares. I would curl up on the bed and sob. It was almost as if I was finally able to mourn my husband's death as well as the life we had once lived once I didn't have to plaster on the smiles anymore or stay in perpetual motion. I second-guessed everything from the choices I made in the past to the choices I made in the present. Hell, I'm not going to lie--it was torture. 

But, once I freed myself from the false illusions that had guided my life for so long, I reclaimed my power. Creativity flowed. Joy bubbled to the surface. I rediscovered the person I was before I got lost in the shuffle. I no longer compare myself or my life to others--in fact, I actively refuse to do so. I have embraced living in the moment and abandoning all expectations, especially those put on me by someone else. It is not easy to shed that skin, but is worth the struggle to finally be free. 

Here are a few signs that you have outgrown someone or something: 
  • There is a hollowness where once there was interest. 
  • Whether it is a place or a person or a situation, you will find yourself irritated for no apparent reason. 
  • Everything starts going wrong--this is the Universe trying to steer you in an alternate path. 
  • What you once enjoyed, you no longer do. If you still go through the motions because of habit only, then you need to recognize this and shake up your routine. 
  • There is an inner knowing that you are not in the right place or with the right person. Trust your intuition. This is the Universe trying to guide you. You may feel a strong sense of "go, go, go"--so go. Even if it scares you, trust that inner voice. 


Peace.
ALE 










Friday, July 17, 2020

Love Found on the Backroads #newrelease #Romanticsuspense




New release time! Someone in her inner circle wants her dead. She retreats to the Colorado Rocky Mountains to heal and hide. Who knew she would find love on the Backroads? Read an excerpt and the back cover copy below.

Available at:

From the back cover...

Movie star Marlowe Madison needs a break from fame after surviving a near-death experience. She knows fame comes at a cost, but now she is reevaluating if she's willing to pay such an exorbitant fee. Wanting anonymity and sanctuary, she retreats to a small town in central Colorado to hide while the authorities track down the person who wants her dead. 

Sean Westbrook is intrigued by the mysterious neighbor who has disrupted the peaceful existence on his horse rescue ranch in the sleepy town of Jefferson, Colorado. Never one to mind his own business, his curiosity brings him face-to-face with his new neighbor. He has no idea that every interaction with her puts him directly in the crosshairs of the person hunting her. 

Danger has followed Marlowe to this paradise in the middle of nowhere. As far as the assassin is concerned, she has moved to the perfect place to die. 

Desire and curiosity override caution. Despite the danger, Sean and Marlowe embark on a relationship full of twists and turns and temptation. When danger finds them, will it unite them or rip them apart? Will the price of Marlowe’s fame end up costing her everything after all? 



An excerpt...

She pushed open the gate and walked aimlessly toward the forest. Pine needles crunched beneath her feet with every slow step she took. Birds chirped in the trees and squirrels darted in the shadows. The further she walked, the easier it became to breathe. Marlowe came to the edge of the property and leaned against a fence post. A lone white horse strolled up the hill toward her. She watched it approach, noticing its pink scars that slashed across its neck and across its chest. Its pure white mane tossed in the high-altitude wind as it approached, head held high. When it stopped in front of her, Marlowe laughed out loud. 
“Hey, beautiful, where’d you come from? Are you all alone?” She scanned the hillside looking for other horses but only saw rolling hills leading down to a ranch house at least a few miles away. 
The horse turned its head slightly to get a better look at Marlowe yet remained out of reach. From the scars, it was obvious to Marlowe that this beauty had seen more than its share of pain. 
“I’m not supposed to be here,” she whispered to the horse as she hugged her arms across her body to ward off the high-altitude chill. “I don’t know if I should have died two weeks ago or if I should still be in my home by the ocean, but I do know I am scared and uncertain.”
The horse lifted its snout at her words as if acknowledging the conversation. 
“Have you ever felt like you had no control over your own life?” She looked at a particularly jagged scar that marred the white fur and sighed. “Looks like you have. Sorry about that. People can be cruel. I don’t have any pets because I am usually traveling a lot, but I always wanted a dog.” She met the horse’s gaze and smiled. “Maybe we can be friends while I’m visiting? This was my grandpa’s house,” she motioned to the land behind her and winced at the stinging pain that pierced her shoulder at the sudden move. “I used to visit him in the summers until I was a teenager.” 
A glint of light off of a lens tucked against a tree trunk reminded her that cameras lined the perimeter and she was not as alone as she felt. Considering the circumstances, that should have reassured her, but at the moment, it annoyed her. 
“Know what I realized when I woke up in the hospital?” She asked the horse. “I may have fame, and I may love my career, and I may have millions of dollars, but I don’t have one person who loves me in this world. Or that I love, for that matter. I have plenty of people who need me, but that’s it. And someone is trying to kill me, and I have no idea why. I have made some poor life choices, White Horse, and I didn’t realize it until someone shot me.” 
The horse snorted and stepped closer. 
“Poor movie star,” she laughed at herself, “talking to a white horse on a beautiful day in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. Life could be worse…I could be dead.” She smiled at the animal who still stood out of arm’s reach. “Why are you all alone?” Again, she looked down the hill toward the ranch in the distance. She noticed a few other horses closer to the stables and what looked like quite a few cars driving down their long driveway. “I guess you want some peace, huh? Nothing wrong with being a loner.” 
The horse turned its head as if following her gaze. Its white ears twitched. 
“I’m kind of scared of horses,” she admitted. “I don’t know why; you seem perfectly nice to me.” 
Realizing that either Xavier or Holden probably watched a security screen and could see her talking to a horse, she cleared her throat and stepped back from the fence. Suddenly the shadows dancing along the forest floor behind her felt dangerous. 
No one is chasing me here, she reminded herself. I’m safe. The agents have the investigation under control. Relax. 
As if sensing the change in her demeanor, the horse broke into a trot and jogged away. Its mane and long tail billowed behind it like a dance as it pranced down the hill, backed by rugged peaks and wildflowers.
“A cinematographer’s perfect shot,” she whispered to the wind. Alone, Marlowe watched it depart with an odd sense of melancholy. “I think that’s the most meaningful conversation I’ve had in years.” 
Grinning, she turned and walked back to the house. Her energy was far from normal levels. The day had been stressful. It had started with a secret meeting with Abernathy and Allen in her hospital room where they had said they were looking into the finances of those closest to her, searching for any unusual large cash withdrawals that could have been used to hire a hitman. Doctor Fin had given her some pain pills and a long list of instructions on how to take care of her injuries in the coming weeks. Emily, who had been left out of the plan, had arranged a press conference for the fans gathered outside the hospital---but Marlowe had slipped out a side door to a waiting car that the FBI had arranged to take her to the private airfield. As instructed, she had left her cellphone and other electronics in the hospital to make it appear as if she had simply vanished. Unable to relax in the private jet, she had second-guessed her decision about looping Rich into the plot. By the time she had landed, she had heard the headlines on E! about “Marlowe Madison Missing from the Hospital.” The helicopter ride from Denver to Jefferson had been choppy, which had only aggravated her wounds. Now, all she wanted to do was curl up in the small bedroom in her grandfather’s old house and sleep undisturbed for days to come. 
She stopped at the edge of the clearing when she noticed Rich talking to a tall man wearing a big cowboy hat. The man wore a short-sleeved blue t-shirt and tight faded jeans that hugged his body like a glove. Based on Rich’s brief description, she knew this must be the infamous Sean Westbrook. For once, Rich hadn’t exaggerated the pure sexiness that exuded from the cowboy. She walked slowly from the protection of the trees, intrigued by how exasperated Rich appeared to be. 
“For the last time, we did not order three pounds of fudge,” Rich said, motioning to his own physique. “Do I look like someone who eats fudge? And who has ever heard of a fudge delivery service?”
“Lois is never wrong. We have fudge with nuts, some without, and some mixed with strawberry. One pound of each.” Sean held the bags out in front of him, his smile full of mischief. 
“You can’t bluff a bullshitter,” she said, shocking both men who turned abruptly to watch her approach. “You must be Sean Westbrook. Rich went on and on about how handsome and nosy you were.”
Rich looked like a guppy as he struggled to find words. 
Sean appraised her with an arched eyebrow, his smile turning from wicked to appreciative. “You are a step ahead of me then. You are?”
She squinted, unsure if pretending not to know her was part of his game. “Marlowe.”
Rich shoved a hand through his hair. “We are not accepting visitors.”
“Accepting visitors? Are you royalty or something?” Sean looked amused by how flustered Rich had become. 
“Or something.” Her gaze fell to the bags. She could smell the chocolatey sweetness even from several feet away. “I’ll take the fudge. I’ve always had a sweet tooth.”
“I’m your neighbor to the west. I saw the helicopter and all the commotion. I thought it would be best to introduce myself.” Sean handed the bags to her, his gaze roaming over her face as if trying to place where he had seen her. 
“I was just having a conversation with one of your horses,” she admitted with a smile. “She proved to be a good listener.”
“Which one?” He removed his hat before running a hand through his hair to smooth it into place. 
“White one.”
“Really?” Genuine surprise lit his blue eyes. “She’s a loner. I’m surprised she let you get close.”
“She came to me.” 
Curiosity changed to appreciation in his eyes. “Then you must be pretty special. She doesn’t come to anyone, not yet. I picked her up a few weeks ago from ranch in Oklahoma where she’d been abused and grossly neglected. I’ve managed to get some weight back on her, but she keeps her distance from the rest of the herd and me.”
She held the bags of fudge to her chest while she digested his words. “You rescue horses? Are all of your horses rescues?”
“Yes. I rescue them, rehab them, and then rehome them when they are ready—if they ever are. Some prefer to graze the land and that’s fine with me.” He shrugged his broad shoulders, drawing her attention to the lean muscles of his arms and the sweaty hair that stuck to his neck. 
“We didn’t order fudge,” Rich said to her as if warning her from the man. 
“I know we didn’t, and he knows we know. It’s a joke. Lighten up, Rich.” She opened a bag and grabbed out a bar loaded with walnuts. “Rich is my assistant. He takes his job very seriously.”
Rich gaped at her as if she had gone mad. From the way he stared at her, she knew he was trying to silently remind her that she is not to be seen by anyone. 
“Bill Tribedoe was my grandfather,” she said to Sean as she stepped between him and Rich. “I thought it was the perfect time to breathe some life back into the place.”
“And the security?” Sean moved his gaze from her face to the security shed to the trees towering behind them. 
“A single woman can never be too cautious these days,” she said, enjoying the fact that he hadn’t immediately recognized her. “I saw a line of cars headed to your house.”
“Not my house. My sister runs a camp on the opposite side of the property that backs up to the mountain. Those are families dropping off their kids—but don’t worry, all of the facilities and their activities remain far from you.” 
“What kind of camp? A summer camp kind of thing?”
“Grief camp for kids who have lost a parent.” 
“So, you and your sister are a pair of saints?”
“I am far from saint-like, Marlowe.” Desire darkened his blue eyes to indigo as his gaze locked onto hers. “Come over tomorrow, help me with Starlight if you want.”
Caution. Hit the brakes. You cannot get to know this man. Her gaze dipped to his lips. She shifted her weight from foot-to-foot. But, damn, I bet he tastes good and I am sure his body feels even better. Hard. Hot. She cleared her throat. 
“I’m not really a horse person,” she managed to say. 
“My horse must think otherwise.” His eyes held a challenge. “Think about it. You know where to find me—but when the driveway forks, take the right turn or else you’ll end up at the camp. My sister Zoe will be all over you to volunteer, she scoops people up when they least expect it. Stay safe and head my way.”
“Marlowe isn’t here to socialize. She needs to stay here,” Rich dropped a protective hand on her forearm before quickly releasing her. “She’s resting.”
“Resting?” Sean looked her up and down as if assessing her wellbeing.
“I was in an accident recently.” She automatically touched her chest where the bullet had pierced her lung. “I have been told to take it easy.”
“This is a good place for that.” Sean’s expression softened before he looked over her head toward the house. “I’m glad you’re here. This house has always looked so lonely sitting here abandoned.”
“She doesn’t want everyone knowing she’s here,” Rich said, looking more distressed by the minute. “Seriously, you can’t go back to the Moose Shack or wherever and tell anyone you met Marlowe.”
She jabbed her thumb against his ribs and shook her head no when he looked at her. His nervous behavior made him appear more suspicious than anything else he could do or say. 
“I’m sorry, Sean, Rich is just looking after my best interests.”
“I can keep a secret,” Sean said, putting his cowboy hat on his head and adjusting it low on his forehead. 
They made eye contact. She held her breath. 
Okay, so Rich’s description had been dead on. Sean Westbrook had box-office sex appeal and appeared not to realize it. 
“Enjoy the fudge. Lois is the best.” His gaze again sliding over her face before snapping up to her eyes. “If you ever need anything, let me know.”
 “I’ve had a long day with the traveling and other things. I need to take to soak in the tub and then get to bed. I don’t suppose you can help me with that?”
“I…uh…I should probably let you take care of that on your own.” His lips twitched and she got the distinct impression that he wanted to add the words, for now, to the end of that sentence. 
She flicked the cowboy hat with her finger as she walked past him and winked for the fun of flirting. It had been awhile... “What’s the horse’s name, by the way? The white one?”
“Starlight.”
“Starlight,” she repeated softly, “Good name.” She turned her back on both men and walked inside the gated yard to leave them be. 
“Nice to meet you, Marlowe Tribedoe,” Sean shouted, mistakenly assuming her last name was that of her grandfather. She liked the sound of it, though. 
Without turning around, she lifted her hand in acknowledgement before entering the house. Thankful for the quiet, she moved to the second bedroom where she had slept as a child, set the bags of fudge down on the dresser, and sat on the edge of the bed with a sigh. A curled up old fashioned window shade stuck out from behind the dresser. She smiled as she reached behind to pull it out. Carefully, she unfurled it across the bed and laughed at the words, ‘Marlie’s Show’, and recalled how she had carefully created the words with markers one summer so she could put on a show for her grandfather and his friends. She had draped the shade across the back porch and played all the characters herself to a round of applause from the locals. She had been eight at the time. 
“You were born to be a star,” her grandfather had used to say with that sparkle in her eye. “Give ‘em hell, Marlie May.” 
“I gave ‘em hell, Wild Bill,” she whispered with a smile as she traced the words on the dusty shade with a fingertip. “I won’t quit. I promise you.” 
With a sigh, she curled the plastic window shade up and tucked it behind the dresser. She had been blessed with knowing great men in her life—her grandfather and her father. They had loved her and believed in her and, because of them, she had always believed in herself enough to gamble everything for a dream. 
Lying on bed, she hugged a pillow to her chest, and she smiled at the memory of the sexy cowboy who had delivered fudge in a weak attempt at snooping. Perhaps hiding out and recuperating wouldn’t be such a sacrifice. 

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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Embracing My Weird #selflove #inspiration


I hate to admit it, but most of my life was spent trying to please others. I suppressed my creativity when I was young because my mother thought it was weird--so I hid in my room writing stories in notebooks and stuffing them under my bed. I chose a college major based on what was acceptable to my parents--and still they acted ashamed of my choice. When I started training to be a triathlete, my dad laughed and said, "you?" So I stopped. When my husband died and I got job writing a weekly article on single mothers, my mom said, "I don't believe it. You?" When I published my first novel with an actual publisher, they said again, "I don't believe it. They chose you?"  

I lived with the "who do you think you are" question thrown at me for as long as I can remember. When I would be upset, I was labeled dramatic and dismissed. Who do you think you are...that's such a horrible phrase when you think about it. It makes the recipient of those words start questioning their true nature. You just want to think you're special...that's another phrase I've heard that made me feel the need to disappear into the wall or play small. 

Because I had these beliefs stuffed into my subconscious, I tended to attract friends who also treated me like a joke--as if my work was frivolous and my dreams 'far out.' I still do, at times, find people around me who try to make me doubt my right to deserve success and happiness. I know I'm around that type when I start defending myself--defending my life story, defending my over forty published novels, defending my happiness. It wasn't until I started respecting myself and standing my ground that the blinders disintegrated--and I found myself recognizing toxicity. 

I am not sure how I persisted in my creative endeavors, but I did. I kept writing. I kept trying, but still there was this gnawing doubt in my mind of "who do you think you are". How did I continue with the faith to embrace my weirdness when my circle of immediate family and friends wanted me to conform? Something inside me refused to surrender. 

When I moved to Santa Fe, I noticed women walking in town with cool hats and a confident stride. I thought, I want to be like them. They were/are artists, scientists, teachers, and explorers. I took a class that first two months of my move about embracing female creativity--and it all came out. All my pain. All the wounds I had tried to hide. When asked why we were in the class, I told the instructor then that I wanted to be like the powerful women I noticed walking on the streets here--because I had come here damaged and uncertain with the phrases, 'who do you think you are' and 'you're so stupid' and 'you just want to think you're special' thumping around in my exhausted brain. 

The instructor became my friend and, recently, she said out of the blue, "you did it, you've become." She did not need to elaborate further because I immediately understood. I walk different. I laugh all the time. I wear cool hats. (I wear what I want.) I introduce myself as a creative professional with my chin high and my focus clear. I don't tolerate anyone who treats me like a joke or asks me to defend my way of being. I don't think twice about anyone who has ever treated me as disposable. My adult kids have noticed and sometimes look at me with narrowed eyes saying, "you're different." I like being different. I like not caring what anyone thinks. I am attracted to people who are interesting and diverse. 

We are all special. Our quirks make us whole. We all deserve to be treated as such--and, more importantly, to treat ourselves as such and accept nothing less. 

Who do you think you are? Hopefully, if anyone asks you that question, you can look them in the eye and tell them to fuck off. You are born knowing who you are! Your soul knows. Your heart knows. Somewhere along the line we can lose touch with that if we are not surrounded by those who embrace our uniqueness. 

I may not have a lot of years left on this planet. None of us knows when our time will be up. But I am grateful for the journey that led me to this point--and I am blessed to have finally embraced my weirdness. It's so much more freeing to live authentically me than to pretend to fit into a mold that never fit. 

You are you in all your spectacular strangeness. Good for you. Keep it up. Never let someone make you question yourself or your right to deserve your dreams. 

Peace.

ALE