Tuesday, February 27, 2024

First Flash Fiction: Smoke and Embers: A BBQ Reconciliation

Last fall, I discovered flash fiction and it make me even more excited about all the wonderful possibilities of writing. It's short story of 1000 words or less where the writer still tries to convey character and plot development. Talk about challenging and tight writing. I realized how "wordy" I am as an author and had to cut out quite a lot of them. 

Up until this point, only my newsletter subscribers have had the chance to see my flash fiction work. However, I'm excited to share my first short story with all the readers of my blog, even though it makes me feel a bit more vulnerable, as now my entire blog audience will have access to it (but no pressure at all!). If you're interested in being among the first to read more of my flash fiction and fictional stories, you can sign up for my newsletter here. 

Smoke and Embers: A BBQ Reconciliation by Emilee Hill 

Ruby Beck two-stepped her way around the edge of the wooden dance floor in her mint green knee-high cowgirl boots. Nothing ever changed in this small sleepy town of Copper Creek Haven where she spent summers with her grandfather learning how to make finger-licking good BBQ. The Fall Harvest dance and BBQ competition were the town’s most celebrated events.

At the opposite corner of the room, she saw him. Elliot King. The man she’d been secretly carrying a torch for the past 20 years. Heart racing and knees knocking, her feet refused to move as if they were permanently glued to the floor. Elliot had seen her and was maneuvering through the maze of dancing couples to get to her.

He was by her side, crushing her in a bear hug, slightly lifting her off the ground. Breathless, she returned his embrace. He felt solid beneath her hands.

“Ruby! It’s great to see you!”

“Hi,” she stammered. So much for sounding like a confident woman.

“Care to dance?” Elliot held out his hand.

“Sure, but aren’t you afraid we’ll start World War III?” she asked, referring to their grandfathers’ decades long feud over the BBQ competition.

Their battle began when Ruby’s grandfather William accused Elliot’s grandfather Harvey of stealing his secret recipe and publishing it in the local newspaper. The lasting rivalry had trickled down to their children and grandchildren. Becks and Kings didn’t usually associate with one another.

“I’ll take my chances.” He winked at her and smoothly guided her onto the floor. “We’ll give this town something to talk about.” Double twirling, he dipped her in the middle of the dance floor as the final notes of the song ended.

Another song started and Elliot made no move to release her. “That was only half a dance. You owe me a few more dances,” he teased, referring to the time she stood him up at the same dance when they were just 18.

“I have no idea what you are referring to.” Ruby feigned an innocent expression, her flushed cheeks giving her away. She could never let Elliot know the reason she didn’t attend the dance was because it was the summer she realized she was in love with him and didn’t know what to do with her feelings or how to deal with her grandfather.

As they swayed to the music, Ruby couldn’t help but steal a glance at Elliot. His eyes twinkled in the dimly lit room, and he smelled faintly of the same cologne he used to wear in high school. She couldn’t resist the urge to bring up the one thing that had always connected them- the BBQ competition.

Ruby made the choice to steer the conversation in that direction while she was still in Elliot’s arms. “You know, Elliot, it’s been forever since we discussed the BBQ contest,” she remarked, leaning in.

“My grandpa Harvey adamantly denies having anything to do with selling your grandfather’s recipe to the paper.”

“Hmmm…And you believe him?”

“My grandfather’s character has always been one of honesty and helping his community. This town knows everything about everyone. Give me one other example of when my grandfather was ever involved in anything lacking integrity.”

Ruby sighed, “Maybe it’s time we put an end to it.”

Elliot raised his eyebrows and with a look of surprise said, “How do you propose we do that?”

“Well, everything we learned about BBQ was from our grandfathers…What if we swap sous chefs on the paperwork? I’ll be your grandpa Harvey’s assistant and you’ll be my grandpa Will’s.”

Elliot grinned; his gaze fixed on Ruby. “That just might work. Imagine the reaction of the citizens of Copper Creek Haven seeing the Becks and the Kings working together rather than against each other.”

“They’d probably think they were in an episode of The Twilight Zone,” Ruby chuckled.

Elliot and Ruby finished hatching the plan to end the decades-long contention between their families. It took some convincing from both Ruby and Elliot to persuade their grandfathers that this was a good idea, but they did, and Ruby and Elliot were positioned on opposite sides of the BBQ competition area. They exchanged a nervous glance before getting to work.

While the contest was still fierce, William and Harvey exchanged a nod of respect, silently acknowledging the significance of the day, and seemed to have a glint of pride in their eyes as they battled with their grandchildren.

And when the winner was finally announced, it was William Beck who emerged victorious with Elliot’s help. Ruby couldn’t help but smile and have hope fill her heart as she watched her grandfather and Elliot shake hands in victory.

When the competition was over, Ruby walked over to Elliot. She knew this was a moment she couldn’t let pass by. "Elliot, would you like to take a walk?” Shyness crept into her voice as the question left her mouth.

“That would be great.” He cupped her elbow and steered her towards the downtown square with country ballads playing on the speakers leading outside.

“Thanks for helping my grandfather win the competition.”

“It was a lot of fun.”

“Elliot, I…I…” It was now or never. “I’ve been in love with you since I was 18,” she blurted. So much for subtlety.

“What a coincidence, Ruby Beck. I’ve been in love with you since then too.”  Tenderly caressing her face, he slowly leaned in for a soft and gentle kiss that had the slight tang of BBQ in it. A kiss she’d been dreaming of for most of her life, and the wait had been so worth it.  

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Five in Five: Heroine Edition

Strong literary heroines stay with the reader long after the book has been closed. These heroines are strong female characters who embody characteristics which the reader seeks to emulate.

It is hard to pick only a select few, but I'm going to try to narrow down the list to my personal top five favorite literary heroines. Although you may not agree with my list, here are my top five favorite (although not all famous) literary heroines.

5) Molly from Gene Stratton-Porter's Keeper of the Bees

4) Josephine "Jo" March from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women

3) Valancy Sterling from L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle. This is one of Montgomery's lesser-known works and one of her few 'adult' works of fiction. Written in 1926, set in the early 1920's in Ontario, Canada. Most of Montgomery's books were written on Prince Edward Island. While Montgomery typically writes about heroines who are young girls, Valancy's character is 29.

2) Elizabeth Bennett from Jane Auten's Pride and Prejudice. No favorite literary heroine list would be complete without at least one Austen heroine on the list. I would argue that Elizabeth "Lizzy" Bennett is one of Austen's most well-known and beloved literary heroines. She is a very complex character. She is intelligent and independent thinker. In Austen's time, women were not known for these qualities.

1) Anne Shirley from L.M. Montogomery's Anne of Green Gables. The reader is first introduced to Anne, the spunky, red-headed orphan when she is adopted by older, spinster siblings- Marilla and Mathew Cuthbert. She is continually getting into scrapes but learns lessons along the way. Part of what makes Anne so appealing to readers is her outlook on life. She doesn't see things the way an ordinary person does, rather she has a fanciful and fun imagination. And because Montgomery wrote 8 books in the Anne series the reader is allowed into Anne's world. She grows up, goes to college, gets married, becomes a mother, but through all these wonderful changes in her life she still reminds the skinny, freckle-faced, red-headed orphan that readers fell in love when Montgomery published Anne of Green Gables in 1908.

I'd love to hear your list of top five favorite literary heroines! I would love to know your favorites and we can discuss them further in the comments! 

Reading is an Adventure,


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

The Year of Goodbyes and Hellos is Powerful and Emotional

    The Year of Goodbyes and Hellos needs to come with a PSA label that you are going to need lots of Kleenex. Also, don't read this story in public if you're prone to waterworks, aka crying. I was crying by chapter two and ugly crying the last few chapters. That being said, I'm so glad I picked this book up on a friend's recommendation and read it. 

Oncologist Kristine Tremaine has built a reputation for being one of the best cancer doctors in Texas. When her older sister Sherri Reynolds is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she pours all her knowledge into helping her sister.

The bond between the sisters was my favorite part of the story. I loved how they quoted from favorite movies and had this us against the world mentality. It reminded me of how powerful the connection we can have with our brothers and sisters. Siblings see you at your best and worst, but they still love you and sometimes know you better than you know yourself. A quote I read about the relationship we have with our siblings summed it up. " Siblings are like branches of a tree. We grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one." 

The theme of the book was how do you hold onto your faith when your prayers seem to go unanswered? This book just made me reflect on my trials in a different light. Although we may not know why God brings various tribulations in our lives, He will never give us more than we can bear, and God is good! 

Having lost loved ones to cancer, I feel like the author took every emotion I ever had about losing friends and family and put it into this story.  The Year of Goodbyes and Hellos was such a cathartic book for me to read. So much so, that I had some trouble moving on to read other books. 

Thank you so much Kelly Irvin for penning this beautiful story of family, loss, and forgiveness. 

Reading is an adventure,



Thursday, February 1, 2024

Of Love and Treason is a Moving Debut

 Debut author Jamie Ogle's Of Love and Treason is an emotional and moving read. One I won't soon forget. To be honest, I'm still trying to process my feelings and emotions after reading the last page. 

Years ago, I remember my violin teacher Mrs. Klotz giving us a one-page sheet on the origins of Valentine's Day and the story stayed with me all these years. A man named Valentine who doesn't agree with the emperor's marriage ban continues to marry couples in secret.  He's arrested for treason and ends up falling in love with the jailor's blind daughter, he prays for her, and her sight is restored. Before his execution, he left a love letter for her that was signed from your Valentine.  The origins of Valentine's Day is tragically romantic.  Nowadays Valentine's Day is so commercialized I don't think people even know or give a thought to how it began. When I saw that Of Love and Treason was an origin story of February 14th, I knew I had to read it! 
One aspect of this story that I appreciated was how passionate and steadfast Valentine and the other Christians were in their faith. It made me want to have the same zeal and fervor for the Lord. I also loved how despite the dangers of being in Christian in 3rd century Rome they still boldly proclaimed Christ and the gospel to others. 

Ms. Ogle's question and thread throughout Of Love and Treason was will we trust Him even when things don't turn out the way we want? And this was so exceptionally and beautifully told. When I really love a book it's sometimes hard for me to put into words my reasons why. 

I was cheering when I got to a certain scene on page 301, and I shed some tears in the last couple of chapters of this book. I don't want to give any spoilers, but if you read Of Love and Treason, I would love to hear your thoughts on that certain scene on page 301 : ) 

If you've read and loved Francine River's Mark of the Lion series, you need to put Of Love and Treason on your list. This book is definitely on my 'to keep' shelf. All I can say is Jamie Ogle please write faster because I can't wait to read your other books. 

Reading is an Adventure,


~~I purchased a paperback copy of  Of Love and Treason from Baker Book House in order to review. In no way has this influenced my review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.~~