Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!


Just a quick note to wish you all a very happy new year!

Thank you so much to those of you who've started with me on my writing journey this year. I'm having so much fun writing these sweet romance fairy tales. I look forward to sharing more HEA stories going forward.

Here's what's on the slate for 2016 for me:

The Bee Charmer, Book 3 in The Chancellor Fairy Tales
The Chancellor Fairy Tales Box Set
Love & Chocolate, a stand alone contemporary romance
The first releases in my Love Beach series, another contemporary romance/chick lit/HEA series.

Looking forward to a wonderful year! Thank you.

Love,
Poppy



Monday, December 28, 2015

Last Chance Sale: Two Great Collections Just 99 Cents Each!

The Witching Hour Collection & The Falling in Deep Collection on sale this week!


We've come to the end of 2015. This means the witch and mermaid collecitons are about to sail away! We will be unpublishing The Witching Hour Collection & The Falling in Deep Collection at the end of the week. 

In the meantime, we've put both collections on sale for just 99 cents each this week only!

The Falling in Deep Collection contains over 900 pages of mermaid tales! The Witching Hour Collection weighed in with 10 witch novellas and over 400k words!


Last Chance!


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas Treats Giveaway Hop & Autographed Book Giveaway!


Love sweets? Me too! For this stop along the hop, let me give you a "sweet" excerpt from my new novella, The Cupcake Witch, a sweet romance/chick lit with a paranormal twist.



Chapter 1

Holding the whisk tightly, I swirled the pale-yellow batter around the bowl, the sweet scents of vanilla, brown sugar, and bitter dark chocolate perfuming the air. Even though it was a cool autumn morning, the heat from the oven made the kitchen feel toasty warm. I’d been baking all morning: expresso mini cupcakes with cappuccino flavored frosting, matcha green tea macaroons, and strawberry rhubarb coffee cake. The kitchen smelled divine. Now, with a pot of coffee brewing and a batch of chocolate chip walnut cookies just about ready to go into the oven, I could almost relax.
“Here, taste this,” I said to Dad, scooping up a small bite of the dough with a spoon and sticking it into his mouth before he could protest.
“You’re going to give me salmonella poisoning,” he said then sighed deeply. “A little food poisoning is worth it. So good, but they taste…different.”
“Bad different?”
Dad shook his head. “Tasty different.”
“Organic brown sugar and sea salt.”
“I’m going to gain ten pounds before you go back to college next week,” he said with a laugh then turned back to his paperwork.
Sighing, I placed the cookie dough on the baking sheet and stuck it in the oven. How was I going to tell Dad I wasn’t planning on going back? With Mom gone…well, I just didn’t even know why I was there anymore. It wasn’t like I had ever wanted to go to college. I wanted to be a baker. But Mom wanted me to be a dentist, so I was studying pre-dentistry. Now, Mom was gone. The pain of her loss still felt like a huge lump in my chest.
I poured Dad and myself coffee and sat down at the table. He was thumbing through a heap of real estate briefs. Dayton Real Estate was busier than ever, and with Mom gone, an agent short. Dad was running himself ragged.
I spooned some raw sugar into my cup and tried to think of something to say other than the fact that I hated school. It was nearly the end of October and thus far junior year had been a bust. I told Dad I wasn’t ready. After losing Mom that summer, I just couldn’t get my head back into the game. I didn’t want to waste my life pursuing a career in dentistry just because everyone, but especially Mom, thought it would be a good move for a smart girl like me. Mom’s death had taught me many things, the most important being that life was short. Why was I working so hard for a future I felt pretty apathetic about?
“Here is the property in Chancellor I was telling you about,” Dad said, saving me from having the dreaded conversation once more, as he handed me an envelope. From inside, I pulled out a yellowed photograph of a tiny little Tudor-style cottage. Under the photo, the words Serendipity Gardens had been written in faded pencil.
“It looks like a witch’s cottage. Mrs. Aster, the woman who left us the building…how did you say we were related again?” I stared at the photograph as I twirled one red dreadlock around my finger. The little building was a mess, the glass nursery overgrown, but there was something quaint, almost fairy tale like, about it.
Dad was eyeing the table full of sweets, finally settling on one of the mini cupcakes, popping it into his mouth. “These are amazing, Julie. Seriously,” he said after a moment. “Mrs. Aster was Grandma Belle’s husband’s sister.”
“And how does that make her related to us?”
“Through marriage only, but we are her closest living relatives,” Dad said then shrugged. “I’ve got the property into the MLS system, but I need to run over to Chancellor this week and put up the signs. Probably won’t be hard to move the old place. I already have a message—which I haven’t even managed to return yet—from Blushing Grape Vineyards inquiring on the property. Need to get that sign up, see if I can fish any other bids out of the pond. Maybe the college will want the property, turn it into an office or something. On the corner of Main Street and Magnolia, the location is great. We’ll probably get a good price if we can get some competition,” Dad said then paused. He looked up at me, a serious expression on his face. “You know, Chancellor College offers science degrees. Jules, I know you aren’t happy…” he began then stopped. Trying again, he switched directions by saying, “Maybe if you were closer to home, things might be easier.”
Panicking, I picked up the envelope. “Chancellor, eh? Don’t they have a harvest festival at this time of year? Why don’t I take the signs over? I’ll grab a pumpkin spice latte or something.”
My dad pushed his glasses back up his nose then ran his hand through his hair. Was it my imagination or did his hair look whiter? His face was certainly more drawn. He must have shed twenty pounds from his already thin frame. Mom’s death had hit us both hard. It was just manifesting differently. Dad was running thin, and I was running scared. I didn’t want to waste my life following the dream Mom had lain out so neatly for me. My real passion had always lain in the kitchen. Fondant. Buttercream. Meringue. Ever since I got my first Easy-Bake Oven, I knew what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be. My dream, however, had never jelled with what Mom had wanted. And as much as it hurt, Mom was gone. I could keep going to college for her, but that didn’t feel right. I needed to do something. Something needed to change. And in the meantime, I was failing my classes.
“Walk around the campus while you’re there. Check out its vibe. See if you like it.”
“Or not,” I said absently. The last thing I wanted was more college: more homework I couldn’t get myself to complete, more classes I couldn’t get myself to go to, more anything.
“You know, they also have a culinary program,” my dad said carefully. “A letter came from your college’s advising office. It said you’re failing all—”
“I…I know,” I stammered, standing. “Can we talk about it tonight?”
He nodded. “I love you. We’re both just trying to manage here.” He lifted a macaroon then looked from it to me. “The culinary program. Mom and I always disagreed...tonight, let’s talk. But you’re making dinner.”
“Of course. It’s pizza night! I bought portabella mushrooms, arugula, and goat cheese.”
“You had me at portabella,” Dad said with a chuckle. “Anything would be better than those damned frozen dinners.”
“Dad! You can’t eat that garbage.”
He shrugged. “What can I say? I don’t have time to cook. Speaking of which, did you know it only takes five weeks to get a real estate license? Without your mom, I could use the extra help,” he said then patted the massive stack of inspection reports, loan documents, and other paperwork that was my dad’s—and had been my mom’s—life’s work, “and a home cooked meal, on occasion.”
I picked up the envelope then kissed my dad on his balding head. “Home cooked meals I can handle.”
My dad patted my hand.
“Take the cookies out when the timer goes off?”
“Of course. I’d never let a Julie Dayton cookie burn. Too precious a commodity.”
I wrapped my arms around my dad and hugged him tight.
“Love you,” I said.
“Love you too, Julie bean,” he replied.
Letting him go, I grabbed my purse and keys and headed off to the witch’s cottage.



Win a signed paperback copy of The Cupcake Witch!





Keep Hopping:


Asleep on the Hay by Ben Sowards Tour & Review

Asleep on the Hay (1)

Asleep on the Hay

Asleep on the Hay: A Dust Bowl Christmas by Ben Sowards
It’s Christmas Eve when a knock comes at the door of Paul’s family farmhouse. A small family is stranded due to a broken-down truck and seeks shelter for the evening. Paul’s grandfather not only welcomes them in, but offers them dinner and a bed for the night. Even though it is a season of giving, Paul’s heart is not filled with charity. It’s the height of the Dust Bowl and food is scarce. Why should he share what little he has with strangers? Worse, in order to help the sick baby, Paul will have to sell his beloved calf to buy a part to fix the truck.
Angry, he retreats to the barn, where he sleeps and dreams of faraway Bethlehem. In his dream, he visits Mary and Joseph, and their newborn son, Jesus. The family offers Paul food and shelter and warmth—extending to him the love and charity he lacks and teaching him of the true meaning of Christmas.
Review:

5 Stars
What a charming Christmas-theme story! I read the story with my five year old daughter.  The book tells the story of a boy and his grandfather living on an impoverished farm in the dust bowl at Christmas time. They encounter strangers who need their help. The boy in the story must sacrifice something precious to him to help the strangers. The story shows how the boy comes to the right decision by having faith and understanding the value of giving. 
Below is my Q & A with my daughter after reading:
How did you like the story?: When it started, it sounded spooky. 
What did you think by the end of the story?: It was sad.
Why?: Because he gave up the cow. But it was good he helped the people.
Did you like the pictures?: Yes. They were romantic. (aka, she liked them)
What didn't you like about the story?: When the bad king said he would capture the baby.
What did you like about the story?: I liked how they talked about Christmas and when the boy shared his cow.
Overall, I thought it was a nice story that showed the importance of self-sacrifice and understanding that the world is ultimately abundant. The artwork was beautifully done. My one criticism was that the scene where King Herod calls for the death of baby Jesus was a bit much for my child. Perhaps she was a little too young for the story. Overall, I would recommend it!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Best of 2015 Giveaway Hop


I'm really excited to participate in the Best of 2015 Giveaway Hop! I've read a ton of great books this year and have some many to suggest, but for fun I thought it might be nice to show some children's authors some love. For this hop, I'm showcasing 3 of my favorite kids reads of this year:

1) The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep




Story Description:

The groundbreaking #1 bestseller is sure to turn nightly bedtime battles into a loving and special end-of-day ritual. This child-tested, parent-approved story uses an innovative technique that brings a calm end to any child’s day.
 
Do you struggle with getting your child to fall asleep?
 
Join parents all over the world who have embraced The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep as their new nightly routine.
 
When Roger can’t fall asleep, Mommy Rabbit takes him to see Uncle Yawn, who knows just what to do. Children will join Roger on his journey and be lulled to sleep alongside their new friend.
 
Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin’s simple story uses a unique and distinct language pattern that will help your child relax and fall asleep—at bedtime or naptime.
 
Reclaim bedtime today!


My mini review: This book uses progressive muscle relaxation, word therapy, and mildly hypnotic reading tones to help your children fall asleep faster. I really loved this book. It's one of my "hey, I had that idea books." If your child(ren) have trouble falling asleep, I strongly suggest giving it a look. My son is very energetic and it is effective on him (when the rest of the house is quiet). 


2) My Life as a Sixth Grade Super Zero





(The ebook is only 99 cents. One-click it! AMAZON)

Book description:

You’d think being a superhero would be cool. And you’re right. It would be cool, especially since the entire world is filled with plain old regular people. Superheroes and supervillains are kind of hard to find, but not as hard as some people like to think. So, anything would be better than being just a normal, everyday 6th grader, right? Wrong. The only thing worse than being an average kid would be what I am, and that is a hero with a totally useless, mega wonky, super power. I’m a dud—a zero. That’s me, Theo Perkins, a 6th grade super-freaking-zero.

My mini review: My son loves this book. He is a very bright child and he really got into the characters and asked us to read it every night until it was finished. He was later playing pretend, acting as the characters in the book. Family friendly and reluctant reader read!

3) Pinkalicious!


Book Description:

While waiting for the first snow to fall, Pinkalicious discovers her own winter wonderland with the help of a new friend in town!
#1 New York Times bestselling author Victoria Kann is back with a sweet winter story that's perfect for parents and kids to read together all year round! This storybook also includes winter-themed stickers.


My mini review: All the Pinkalicious books are a win in my house and this was no exception! If you have a little girl who likes girly things (as I do), then this is a great holiday book for you!



Linky list:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Dragon's Heir by Kandi Wyatt & $50 Giveaway!

Dragon's Heir 

Dragon's Heir by Kandi J. Wyatt In the ten winters since Kyanos was defeated, Rider Braidyn and his dragon, Turqueso, have made a place for themselves in the sleepy Boeskay colony. But when two nestlings are stolen from the hatchling cave, Braidyn’s sense of justice leads him on a quest to find the person responsible. After recovering one nestling, Braidyn recruits his old friends Ruskya and Carryl to help. The friends travel to a faraway desert colony where they find a group of riders with different customs, and meet a beautiful young woman who could be the key to finding the missing nestling. Can Braidyn learn to temper justice with mercy, or will he risk losing everything? Journey along in this exciting fantasy world in the spellbinding second installment of the Dragon Courage series, Dragon’s Heir, by Kandi J Wyatt.

  amazon get it 



Excerpt Two hands gently lifted the hood off to reveal a beautiful young woman with almost black eyes. Her hands shook slightly as she let the hood fall back to reveal long, black locks of hair that cascaded down her back. The deed was done. She couldn’t go back on her decision now. It was out of her hands. Her father would have to accept her now. Even if he went back on his word again, she could provide the family with another dragon. She closed her eyes and imagined the look of surprise on his face. “Daughter, how did you do this?” he would say. She would reply, “It was simple really, Ahbah.” With amazement in his eyes, her father would take her and accept her as part of the clan. No longer would she be an outcast; she would truly be an Agamid.

  add to goodreads   KandiAuthor Kandi J. Wyatt Kandi J Wyatt is a wife, mother of five, teacher, artist, and author. In her free time, she enjoys writing fantasy stories and Christmas programs, and drawing with graphite and colored pencils. Portraits are her specialty. Kandi also enjoys photography, thanks to her photographer husband who has let her join his journey as both his model and apprentice, and she occasionally serves as his assistant when he needs a “light stand with feet.”  

50_Amazon_Paypal  

  $50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 12/29/15 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Witching Hour Collection & Giveaway


by Various Authors
Release Date: November 30th 2015

Summary from Goodreads:

Good witch. Bad witch. White magic. Black magic. Kitchen magic. Pick your potion. Ready for Halloween? The authors of the Blazing Indie Collective, who brought you the Falling in Deep Collection, are brewing up something new. Check out all the novellas in The Witching Hour Collection coming October 2015:

Melanie Karsak: Witch Wood
Claire C. Riley: Raven's Cove

Eli Constant: Sleeping in the Forest of Shadows
Elizabeth Watasin: Charm School: The Wrecking Faerie
Erin Hayes: I'd Rather be a Witch
Carrie Wells: Playing with Magic
Evan Winters: The Witch of Bracken’s Hollow
Minerva Lee: Spun Gold
Blaire Edens: The Witch of Roan Mountain
Poppy Lawless: The Cupcake Witch



Limited edition box set!
This collection will be available until the end of the year only!
Buy Links:


The Authors
 Melanie Karsak          Carrie Wells          Claire C. Riley          Elizabeth Watasin
    Eli Constant          Poppy Lawless          Blaire Edens          Erin Hayes
 Evan Winters          Minerva Lee

GIVEAWAY:

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Release Day for The Cupcake Witch, The Chancellor Fairy Tales, Book 2




It's release day for The Cupcake Witch! I'm very excited to bring you Julie and Horatio's story. I loved writing this little tale. As you know, I love writing about food so this book was so much fun for me. I got to imagine all the different kinds of cupcake Julie might prepare. I'll admit to being lost on Pinterest for hours. My pinterest boards are linked right if you want to take a look at some of my cupcake finds.

Julie and Horatio are a fun pair. Julie is a very bohemian, down to earth type. She's looking to do something more with her life. When she inherits Serendipity Gardens, she gets a new lease on life. Horatio works for his father's company and should be happy being a rich man's son, but he isn't. Fate throws the two together, and at odds, and it's up to a little magical to help them out.

For fans of The Glass Mermaid, we are back in Chancellor one more. You might recognize several faces in this book! 

I will have paperback and audio versions of the novella available. There will be a third novella in this series coming in March!

The Cupcake Witch is part of 

The Witching Hour Collection 



Good witch. Bad witch. White magic. Black magic. Kitchen magic. Pick your potion. The authors of the Blazing Indie Collective, who brought you the Falling in Deep Collection, are brewing up something new. Check out all the novellas in The Witching Hour Collection.




Melanie Karsak: Witch Wood 



Claire C. Riley: Raven's Cove 



Eli Constant: Sleeping in the Forest of Shadows 



Elizabeth Watasin: Charm School: The Wrecking Faerie 



Erin Hayes: I'd Rather be a Witch 



Carrie Wells: Playing with Magic 



Evan Winters: The Witch of Bracken’s Hollow 



Minerva Lee: Spun Gold 



Blaire Edens: The Witch of Roan Mountain 


Poppy Lawless: The Cupcake Witch 


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thankful for you Blog Hop


This week we're letting everyone know just what we're thankful for. And that includes...YOU! There's a new giveaway at every single stop so be sure to hop around and visit your favorite blogs and find a few new ones to follow too!

I just released my first novella this year. You will be seeing a lot more from me in 2016, including my chocolate series! Thank you to those of you cheering me on from the start. I want to share something sweet with you! I have a great prize to one of my lucky fans!


Godiva Chocolate Flight

Roman's Holiday by Susan Aylworth & Giveaway

Roman's holiday cover 

Roman's Holiday by Susan Aylworth
Four years after Roman Kincaid was catapulted into stardom as a country-western singer and A-list movie star, he is burned out: exhausted by a grueling schedule, drained by the ceaseless demands of producers and managers, weary of meeting the needs of others at the expense of his own. Leaving a sold-out show in Phoenix, he rents a car and drives north and east, landing in the Painted Desert town of Rainbow Rock.
Nearly three years after leaving her old life behind, Lottie Beale is feeding people and baking pies, managing the Kachina Café and tending secrets of her own. When circumstances conspire to give two attractive people some time alone together amid the world-class vistas of the Four Corners, they discover more than either had bargained for.
  Excerpt “Ro-man! Ro-man!” A capacity crowd in the Ak-Chin Pavilion chanted his name under the starry desert sky, but Roman Kincaid barely heard it. He stood in the stage wings, gearing up for an encore and wondering when his dream had become a nightmare. “Okay, guys,” he said to his back-up band via their ear buds. “One encore only. Let’s do ‘Gamble.’ Start with the chorus.” He took two steps toward the stage entrance, swinging his guitar into playing position. Sam, his manager, caught his elbow. “Are you sure about this? That crowd adores you. You could probably play three encores, sell more CDs—” “No.” Roman left no room for argument. “One and done. And no backstage stuff, either. I’m outta here.” He took a deep breath, pasted on the same fake, crowd-pleasing smile he’d used in the last half-dozen shows, and jogged back onto the stage to the roar of twenty thousand excited voices. He strummed the intro and launched into the chorus of his first number-one hit: “Love is such a gamble. You break a new deck every time. Sometimes you’re dealt the aces; Others you draw to nines. But when I met you, I knew it was true. A winning hand you seemed. Now I have the rush of a royal flush. You are the gamble of my dreams.” The crowd cheered wildly as he played his way through the music he now sang in his sleep. In fact, he realized as he watched fans taking up the beat and clapping along, that was pretty much what he was doing now. He struggled to suppress a yawn during the guitar interlude as he turned to acknowledge his band. I spent my early life dreaming of a crowd like this. When did performing start to feel like a chore? He put the thought away. Lately he’d been thinking of times when he’d heard of some celebrity being hospitalized for exhaustion and assumed it was a euphemism for drug rehab. Now he wondered. When was the last time I felt truly rested? The question was an imponderable. Months, at least. He hit the last chord and took a deep bow, then shouted, “Thank you, Phoenix!” and dashed off-stage.

  add to goodreads
  Susan A
Author Susan Aylworth
Susan Aylworth started her first book when she was nine. "It was called Buff, The Proud Stallion. I wrote eight whole pages." For her fifth grade career day, she stated her ambition to become "a rich and famous author." Decades later, she is pleased to have achieved the 'author' part of that goal. A former university professor, she enjoys researching backgrounds and careers for her novels. "It's one way to live many lives at once." She lives in northern California with her husband of 45 years and two spoiled cats.

  50_Amazon_Paypal   

  Book Blast Giveaway - $50 Amazon Gift Card or $50 in Paypal Cash Ends 12/11/15 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cover Reveal & Sneak Peek: The Cupcake Witch


I'm very excited to reveal the cover for my next novella in my series titled The Chancellor Fairy Tales. We are headed back to Chancellor, the small community along Lake Erie, where we met my mermaid, Kate, and Cooper in The Glass Mermaid. In this novella you will meet Julie and Horatio in the cupcake witch! The novel will release at the end of November!

Novel Description:


Julie

Buttercream. Vanilla. Fondant. Dark chocolate. Brown sugar. Molasses. Baking has always been my true love, but it wasn’t until my mother’s death, and the unexpected inheritance of Serendipity Gardens, that my bliss called me. Bittersweet. But Serendipity Gardens has more to offer than just a potential shopfront. An unusual recipe box left to me by a distant relative might be the key to unlocking my dreams.

Too bad the most powerful family in Chancellor has plans that could turn those dreams to ruins—literally.

Too bad the son of that powerful family is just the kind of guy I’ve been looking for.


Horatio


I suppose being heir to the Hunter family’s Blushing Grape Winery should make me happy, but nothing could be further from the truth. With my mother gone, my father has taken me under his wing, and I despise everything about the way he does business. Sour grapes, indeed. Instead of raising money for charitable causes, my true passion, I’m chasing my father’s manifest destiny.

Too bad his dream includes paving paradise.

Too bad the property owner is the sweetest woman I’ve ever met.


They say the course of true love never runs smooth.


But that’s nothing a magical cupcake can’t solve.


Add The Cupcake Witch on Goodreads!


Chapter Preview

Chapter 1: Julie


Holding the whisk tightly, I swirled the pale-yellow batter around the bowl, the sweet scents of vanilla, brown sugar, and bitter dark chocolate perfuming the air. Even though it was a cool autumn morning, the heat from the oven made the kitchen feel toasty warm. I’d been baking all morning: expresso mini cupcakes with cappuccino flavored frosting, matcha green tea macaroons, and strawberry rhubarb coffee cake. The kitchen smelled divine. Now, with a pot of coffee brewing and a batch of chocolate chip walnut cookies just about ready to go into the oven, I could almost relax.
“Here, taste this,” I said to Dad, scooping up a small bite of the dough with a spoon and sticking it into his mouth before he could protest.
“You’re going to give me salmonella poisoning,” he said then sighed deeply. “A little food poisoning is worth it. So good, but they taste…different.”
“Bad different?”
Dad shook his head. “Tasty different.”
“Organic brown sugar and sea salt.”
“I’m going to gain ten pounds before you go back to college next week,” he said with a laugh then turned back to his paperwork.
Sighing, I placed the cookie dough on the baking sheet and stuck it in the oven. How was I going to tell Dad I wasn’t planning on going back? With Mom gone…well, I just didn’t even know why I was there anymore. It wasn’t like I had ever wanted to go to college. I wanted to be a baker. But Mom wanted me to be a dentist, so I was studying pre-dentistry. Now, Mom was gone. The pain of her loss still felt like a huge lump in my chest.
I poured Dad and me coffee and sat down at the table. He was thumbing through a heap of real estate briefs. Bright Real Estate was busier than ever, and with Mom gone, an agent short. Dad was running himself ragged.
I spooned some raw sugar into my cup and tried to think of something to say other than the fact that I hated school. It was nearly the end of October and thus far junior year had been a bust. I told Dad I wasn’t ready. After losing Mom that summer, I just couldn’t get my head back into the game. I didn’t want to waste my life pursuing a career in dentistry just because everyone, but especially Mom, thought it would be a good move for a smart girl like me. Mom’s death had taught me many things, the most important being that life was short. Why was I working so hard for a future I felt pretty apathetic about?
“Here is the property in Chancellor I was telling you about,” Dad said, saving me from having the dreaded conversation once more, as he handed me an envelope. From inside, I pulled out a yellowed photograph of a tiny little Tudor-style cottage. Under the photo, the words Serendipity Gardens had been written in faded pencil.
 “It looks like a witch’s cottage. Mrs. Aster, the woman who left us the building…how did you say we were related again?” I stared at the photograph as I twirled one red dreadlock around my finger. The little building was a shamble, the glass nursery overgrown, but the there was something quaint, almost fairy tale like, about it.
Dad was eyeing the table full of sweets, finally settling on one of the mini cupcakes, popping it into his mouth. “These are amazing, Julie. Seriously,” he’d said after a moment. “Mrs. Aster was Grandma Belle’s husband’s sister.”
“And how does that make her related to us?”
“Through marriage only, but we are her closest living relatives,” Dad said then shrugged. “I’ve got the property into the MLS system, but I need to run over to Chancellor this week and put up the signs. Probably won’t be hard to move the old place. I already have a message—which I haven’t even managed to return yet—from Blushing Grape Vineyards inquiring on the property. Need to get that sign up, see if I can fish any other bids out of the pond. On the corner of Main Street and Magnolia, the location is great. We’ll probably get a good price if we can get some competition,” Dad said then paused. He looked up at me, a serious expression on his face. “You know, Chancellor College offers science degrees. Jules, I know you aren’t happy…” he began then stopped. Trying again, he switched directions by saying, “Maybe if you were closer to home, things might be easier.”
Panicking, I picked up the envelope. “Chancellor, eh? Don’t they have a harvest festival at this time of year? Why don’t I take the signs over? I’ll grab a pumpkin spice latte or something.”
My dad pushed his glasses back up his nose then ran his hand through his hair. Was it my imagination or did his hair look whiter? His face was certainly more drawn. He must have shed twenty pounds from his already thin frame. Mom’s death had hit us both hard. It was just manifesting differently. Dad was running thin, and I was running scared. I didn’t want to waste my life following the dream Mom had laid out so neatly for me. My real passion had always lay in the kitchen. Fondant. Buttercream. Meringue. Ever since I got my first Easy Bake Oven, I knew what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be. My dream, however, had never jelled with what Mom had wanted. And as much as it hurt, Mom was gone. I could keep going to college for her, but that didn’t feel right. I needed to do something. Something needed to change. And in the meantime, I was failing my classes.
“Walk around the campus while you’re there. Check out its vibe. See if you like it.”
“Or not,” I said absently. The last thing I wanted was more college: more homework I couldn’t get myself to complete, more classes I couldn’t get myself to go to, more anything.
“You know, they also have a culinary program,” my dad said carefully. “A letter came from your college’s advising office. It said you’re failing all—”
“I…I know,” I stammered, standing. “Can we talk about it tonight?”
He nodded. “I love you. We’re both just trying to manage here.” He lifted a macaroon then looked from it to me. “The culinary program. Mom and I always disagreed...tonight, let’s talk. But you’re making dinner.”
“Of course. It’s pizza night! I bought portabella mushrooms, arugula, and goat cheese.”
“You had me at portabella,” Dad said with a chuckle. “Anything would be better than those damned frozen dinners.”
“Dad! You can’t eat that garbage.”
He shrugged. “What can I say? I don’t have time to cook. Speaking of which, did you know it only takes five weeks to get a real estate license? Without your mom, I could use the extra help,” he said then patted the massive stack of inspection reports, loan documents, and other paperwork that was my dad’s—and had been my mom’s—life’s work, “and a home cooked meal, on occasion.”
I’d picked up the envelope then kissed my dad on his balding head. “Home cooked meals I can handle.”
My dad patted my hand.
“Take the cookies out when the timer goes off?”
“Of course. I’d never let a Julie Bright cookie burn. Too precious a commodity.”
I wrapped my arms around my dad and hugged him tight.
“Love you,” I said.
“Love you too, Julie bean,” he replied.
Letting him go, I grabbed my purse and keys and headed off to the witch’s cottage.