Did you know I have a children’s book?! It’s about paying it forward, and it’s geared toward ages 3-8. You can find it in paperback on Amazon and in hardcover on Lulu. I've included the back cover summary below. Happy Reading! ♥ Laura
Nutsy the Squirrel needs help collecting nuts for the winter. Mama Bird can’t find Baby Bird. Brown Cow’s tail is stuck in the fence, and Scratch the Dog is lost! Who can help? And how will each repay the other? Follow these woodland and barnyard animals as they embark on an energetic and captivating journey of paying it forward through simple, everyday acts of kindness. And see how one, small deed can set off a chain of generosity.
We're getting so close! The Life We Almost Had will be here very soon! And today, I thought I'd share with you the prologue. Hope you enjoy! And remember, you can pre-order your e-book copy TODAY at its special price on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes and Noble!
My mother always said that a memory can get you through the rest of your life. So, that’s why I don’t know where to begin. Do I start at the beginning of my life or at the memory—where I believe my life might have actually begun?
It’s been years, but I still think of him—just like I still think of that sleepy, little ghost town we both call home. But just like a memory, I guess, both that little town and that boy are now really more like a dream—one that disappears as soon as the morning sun comes slithering through the blinds. But true to a dream, I suppose, it always leaves something behind. And this dream always leaves behind a longing—for Sweet Home, but mostly, for him.
I grew up in Sweet Home, Missouri. I don’t know if I’d call it sweet, necessarily, but it is home, to me. Today, it looks different than it used to. Today, grass grows up out of the cracks in the brittle sidewalks that line Market Street. A short twelve years ago, I used to wheel a roller dog my grandpa gave me down those same concrete walks with ease. And it’s not just the sidewalks. Tall water hemp covers the bases on the baseball diamond in the park. And now, nearly all the storefront windows have plywood boards covering up dark and dusty, empty rooms. And if that’s not enough, where there once were people from birth to ninety-nine spilling out of the old United Church of Christ every Sunday morning, now there’s a no trespassing sign on God’s big, wooden door.
But back in its namesake years, Sweet Home was pretty sweet, I think. I’ve seen old pictures. And people lived in Sweet Home at one time. Happy people. Proud people. There were cars at the filling station and women buying yards of fabric in the general store. There were men along the street, laughing next to big cars and holding wide-eyed toddlers. Every little front yard had bright green grass that was meticulously cut. And all that green grass was fenced in with wrought iron, all the way down the street, each yard just like the last. And every little home along Market had an American flag that jutted out from some part of the house. And every other house had a rocking chair on a little front porch. And in every rocking chair on Sunday, just when the sun was sinking back into the earth, there would be an old man smoking a corncob pipe or a young woman rocking a baby.
But I’m not too familiar with the Sweet Home of then or the one of today, really. The Sweet Home I knew wasn’t booming, but it wasn’t abandoned quite yet, either. The Sweet Home I knew was about the size of a tire valve cap, and all the people who lived inside that cap could be counted on three sets of fingers and toes. But people were happy, and the buildings still held some life.
When I lived there, there was a bar and a post office and a fire station that we’d take cookies to every Christmas Eve. And there were still lights that lined the streets. Some perpetually flickered, but there were lights, all the same. Nearly every summer night we would dance on the asphalt under their light shows and pretend we were rich Hollywood stars.
There weren’t many babies or kids, though. And except for me and the girl who lived across the street, there was no one else my age. The girl’s parents owned the only watering hole in town. She was quiet, and she mostly kept to herself, but we got along just fine. Her name was Angel. And I always thought it was a funny name. Angels glowed and wore halos. Angel did neither. But then there came a day when I changed my mind about that. Angel really was an angel—sent straight down from heaven above to save me—not once, but twice.
The first time was around the year that we both turned eleven. Angel and I were playing hopscotch outside her parents’ bar, and a dirty old Nova pulled up to us and asked for directions to the nearest grocery store. Angel was her usual self and didn’t say a word, so I decided I’d have to tell him myself. He had long, scraggly hair and a crooked nose, but his eyes were kind. I told him how to get to the IGA, but he craned his neck and said he couldn’t hear a word I was saying. He said I’d have to come closer. So, I took a step toward his car, and that’s when Angel grabbed my arm and screamed louder than I’ve ever heard anybody scream before. I flinched, and my ears cracked. Angel had never spoken more than maybe ten soft words at a time in front of me, and here she was screaming loud enough to shatter that old bar’s glass windows. Within seconds, her momma came running out, and the car with the man in it sped away. And all that remained from that quick moment was the red imprint of Angel’s fingers on my forearm.
Two days later, we heard through the grapevine that a guy in a dirty old Nova had tried to pull a young girl into his car in the next town over. She had managed to slink out of his grip—just about the same time that the man had slipped into the grip of the girl’s daddy. And that’s where that story ended—although, there are quite a few rumors that circulated, none of which ended too well for the man ... or his Nova.
I never thanked Angel for saving me. I never really had the chance. The bar closed down the next day, and Angel and her family moved somewhere far away from Sweet Home.
And that was not too long before the rest of the town left, too. Some said it was just time—time for everybody to go. But most said it was because the old hat factory had closed in Holstein, just east of town. It employed most of the people who were left in Sweet Home—those who didn’t make a living plowing dirt, like my daddy did.
As for me and my momma and daddy, we stayed, though. We stayed in our little ghost town, where daddy drove back and forth all day in the fields, planting money, as he called it. And momma kept working part-time collecting antiques and selling them in a little booth down the road.
And life was quiet—just like Angel had been—until the day that he showed up. And that’s actually the second time that Angel saved me. She moved out of that little house across the street, and he moved in. So, the way I see it, Angel gave me him.
From that day and for a while after that, you couldn’t hear the sound of the water dripping in the kitchen sink or the branches scraping across the tin roof above my room anymore. Those sounds were all drowned out by the crack of Clearly Canadian caps hitting the concrete and his laugh and the high-pitched hum of an engine, as his dirt bike made little circles in the bottom land.
That was all I heard, anyway.
But eventually, he left, too. Everyone always left. And we—we just stayed. And in time, it got quiet again—just like Angel. But I still remember that little piece of moonlight he brought into my life. And that’s where I really feel as if my story begins. It begins with that boy I fell in love with, nearly seven years ago, back in Sweet Home, Missouri.
In case you haven't heard, The Life We Almost Had will be here in a little more than two months! BUT you can pre-order the e-book now on Amazon and Barnes&Noble and have it delivered directly to your reading device Sept. 19!
I'm really excited about this one, and there are lot of reasons for that, but here are three!
One: This story shows glimpses into the past, so you not only get to see snapshots of just how these two fell in love, but you also get to grow up with these characters. They're happy. They're sad. They're embarrassed of their parents. They're embarrassed of themselves. They make the right decisions. They make the wrong decisions. But through it all, they love.
I look into his brown eyes, and I run my fingers through his long hair. He doesn’t fit in here; he never has. He doesn’t know anything about farming or small-town norms. He doesn’t know you don’t wear black everywhere you go. ...I think I love that about him best.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Daddy says. His voice is stern and kind of scary.
“Um, I was just returning the hammer, sir,” Berlin says, eyeing the hammer on the hall desk.
Daddy glances at the desk in the hall. “Then how come the hammer is there, and you’re upstairs?
Two: These characters grow up in a little ghost town that has a post office and a corner store and a restaurant called Victor's...and that's about it. But they make the most of it, and I especially love their little town because it reminds me of a place that's near and dear to my own heart.
And life was quiet...until the day that he showed up. ...From that day and for a while after that, you couldn’t hear the sound of the water dripping in the kitchen sink or the branches scraping across the tin roof above my room anymore. Those sounds were all drowned out by the crack of Clearly Canadian caps hitting the concrete and his laugh and the high-pitched hum of an engine, as his dirt bike made little circles in the bottom land.
Three: Lastly, I can't really promise you anything with this story. But I can tell you that where there is heartbreak, there's also a second chance. Now, what these two choose to do with that second chance AND just how fair life chooses to be with them, you'll have to see. But through it all, their journey is all their own, and it's one I'm hoping you'll be glad you took.
I cried for me. I cried for the little girl and the little boy who loved with everything they had in a little town that nobody cared about but them. I cried because I felt as if no one else would cry for them.
They say in every guy’s life, there’s a girl he’ll never forget and a summer where it all began. Well, 1999 is that summer, and Brooke Sommerfield is that girl. I’m convinced she was an angel. My grandma always used to say that angels come in blinks. Brooke was just like that. She flew into my life and then flew right back out again—almost as if she were never there at all. But she was definitely there. And I’ve got her invisible memory to remind me of it. But anyway, that was years ago and yesterday when she flew in by way of accident. At thirteen years old on that hot June day, I only had three things on my mind: Cooling off, girls...and girls. So, I’d have to say that June 22, 1999, was also the best day of my life.
See, there was a creek that ran through the back of our property when I was growing up. It stretched the entire length and then jutted north and disappeared behind old man Brandt’s land. I had followed it one day when I was bored. There’s not too much more to do in Detmold, Missouri. They say the town, or what’s left of it, is named after some big city in Germany somewhere. I’ve never been, but I hear they’ve got old castles and big museums over there. And while we don’t have old castles or big museums, we do have an old building with weeds growin’ in it that used to be a post office...and big fields. We’ve got lots of big fields.
But anyway, after old man Brandt’s property, that winding, narrow stream crawled past a turn-of-the-century white farm house owned by a little old lady named Samantha Catcher. She doesn’t live there anymore. I guess that house eventually just got too big for her because not too long after Mr. Catcher passed, she moved to a tiny one-bedroom in the next township over. And now, she rents the old farm house out to people who are just passing through our little town. They stay a little while, and then soon enough, they’re on their way again. When I was young, kids would tell stories about why Mrs. Catcher kept the old place. Some said it was because it was haunted by her late husband. Some said she needed the money because Mr. Catcher gambled their life savings away before he died. But I know that Mr. Catcher wasn’t a gambler—well, beyond being a farmer—and I was pretty sure he wasn’t a ghost either. See, I was convinced that Mrs. Catcher kept that old place because it made her happy. I’d catch her in between renters plantin’ flowers in front of its porch or hangin’ a new welcome sign on the front door. She’d always be smilin’ then. See, Grandma also told me once that memories are invisible to everyone but the beholder. So I just assumed that Mrs. Catcher was looking at all her memories that nobody else could see when I would catch her smilin’ at that old house.
But all the same, that creek kept crawlin’. It kept on goin’ for miles after Mrs. Catcher’s place, but I didn’t. It was gettin’ close to supper time by then, and I was gettin’ awful hungry, so I turned around that day, and I walked back home. But the point here is that I knew that creek like the back of my hand, and I knew everyone who lived anywhere near it too. So that’s why June 22, 1999, was different. It started off normal. I baled hay. I got hot. I went to the creek. Believe it or not, I was on my summer vacation—right here at home, helpin’ my grandpa out around the farm. To me, it wasn’t much of a vacation, but my parents thought spendin’ some more time with Grandpa would do him and me some good. So, there I was on a Tuesday evening gettin’ ready to jump into that creek when I spotted somethin’—somethin’ that would stick with me for a really long time. And that day in the summer of ’99, I walked home with the best souvenir I ever got from a summer vacation—an invisible memory—of a shiny, little thing that would change my life forever.
But again, that was years ago. And now, I’m just left here smilin’ at this old creek just like Mrs. Catcher used to do at that old farm house. My mind just keeps replaying the little time I held Brooke Sommerfield. That beautiful girl is gone now, but I can still hear her in the wind. If I listen real hard, I can hear her laughter over the whip-poor-will, and I can hear her whisperin’ softly about the sky and its secrets and dreams and being happy. I close my eyes and breathe her in. She smells like daisies and fresh creek water—and summer. And all of a sudden, I hear a soft sigh rustlin’ through the trees, and I force my eyes open just in time to see a flock of geese—wings wide, toes spread—landing on the water.
“Life passes you by when your eyes are closed,” I whisper back to the wind. And then I smile wide, and I sit back against the grassy creek bank, and I watch my invisible memories play out just as if she had never left me.
That summer came slow, but it went so fast. Turns out, those endless days were never meant for the two of us. I never seemed to get enough time with her. Maybe it was because she taught me how to live. Maybe it was because she taught me how to love. Or maybe it was just simply because I loved her.
I sit back further into that grass, and I watch those geese float down the creek. All around me, the tree frogs are startin’ to call, singin’ back and forth about whatever it is frogs sing back and forth about. And I just sit there, and I think about that beautiful girl.
“I’ll find my way back to you, Brooke Sommerfield. As sure as the sun is gonna rise in the mornin’, I’ll find you,” I whisper to the wind. I tell it what I wish I could say to her. I tell it what I told her once before in a letter—a letter she would never receive until years later. See, that’s the funny thing about fate; it works around us, despite us, in spite of us, even. And it’s near impossible to figure out, until all the pages are in place. But all the same, that doesn’t stop me from prayin’. Every day, I pray that this wild ride fate’s got me on ends with her. I pray that you, Brooke Sommerfield, are on my last page. And I pray that page is a happy one. But whether it is or it isn’t, either way, I have to know what became of you. I have to know what became of the girl who stole my last perfect summer. And I have to know if she believes in second chances—because I do, even if they do come with good-byes.
But until then, Brooke Sommerfield, my summer angel, you and I will be what my grandpa always liked to call...unfinished business.
By Way of Accident Trailer
I write about rain on tin roofs, gravel roads, old trucks with holes in the floorboards and small-town summer nights. I grew up on a farm in a little Midwestern town. Now, I live in Kansas City, Mo., with my weatherman husband.
Laura Miller's first contemporary romance novel, Butterfly Weeds, hit the Amazon Best-Seller's List and Top 100 in October 2012. The sequel to Butterfly Weeds, My Butterfly, released in June 2013. For All You Have Left, By Way of Accident, When Cicadas Cry and A Bird on a Windowsill followed. Look for The Life We Almost Had, Laura's latest small-town romance, at book retailers now. And check out her children's book, Pay It Forward!