MYSTERY OF CHARACTER FEATURING SHANNON MUIR – Guest Post by Sheila Roberts

AT SHANNON-MUIR.COM

Every Monday through most of April 2018, MYSTERY OF CHARACTER FEATURING SHANNON MUIR focuses on the art and craft of writing, from Shannon’s perspective or that of guest authors.  To catch up on all posts, check out the MYSTERY OF CHARACTER FEATURING SHANNON MUIR portion of the website! Please note that the column will move to second and fourth Tuesdays beginning May 2018.

This week welcomes a guest post from author Sheila Roberts.

DISCLAIMER: This content has been provided to MYSTERY OF CHARACTER FEATURING SHANNON MUIR by YA Bound Book Tours. No compensation was received. This information required by the Federal Trade Commission.

 

Interview with the Author

 Can you give any insight to any specifics about the inspiration for your characters in Welcome to Moonlight Harbor, and how did it influence your plot?

  • This particular book is about re-building. My main character Jenna Jones is divorced and needs to rebuild her life. Her great aunt has a run-down motel in a beach town on the Washington Coast and needs help. A perfect match! I have wanted for some time to write about a woman restoring a little motel and getting a chance to create a cast of characters to visit her. Starting a new series was the perfect opportunity to do that. Real life is the best source of inspiration a writer can find, and we don’t have to look too far to see women hitting the restart button after a spouse departs. Such a hard thing to face, especially with the rising trend of men now asking for spousal support. I think losing someone you love, whether through death or divorce is one of the most difficult challenges we can face and, while I haven’t personally had to do so I’ve had plenty of friends who have. Strong women who refused to get taken down by their loss and have come out on top. I want to celebrate that and encourage women that no matter what, you can always find the rainbow in the storm.

What is your process for developing characters for your books?

  • I always start out with asking myself, “What’s this person’s problem?” and then I go from there. Ah, if only I could fix everyone’s problems in real life as well as I can in a story.

What do you enjoy most about writing books like this?

  • I love to write women’s fiction – novels dealing with things that are important to us women: our families and friendships, our challenges. And I hope, when I thread those stories with humor it not only encourages but has readers leaving with a smile on their face. I know it puts a smile on my face when I’m writing. (And now that edging into the wrinkle years I’d rather have smile wrinkles than frown ones!)

What made you decide to start writing books like this?

  • The decision probably wasn’t a conscious one. I’ve been writing stories since I was a child. I can tell you what keeps me going. I love to write, love to tell stories. And I want to encourage and uplift. I’m a big believer in happy endings. Life is hard enough. I don’t want to add to that by having people read my books and come away depressed.

What do you hope your readers take away from reading your books?

  • A smile.

 

About the Book

 

WELCOME TO MOONLIGHT HARBOR by Sheila Roberts, Women’s Fiction, 400 pp., $7.99 (Paperback) $6.99
(Kindle edition)

 

Welcome to Moonlight Harbor
Title: WELCOME TO MOONLIGHT HARBOR

Author: Sheila Roberts
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 400
Genre: Women’s Fiction

Once-happily married Jenna Jones is about to turn forty, and this
year for her birthday – lucky her – she’s getting a divorce. She’s
barely able to support herself and her teenage daughter, but now her
deadbeat artist ex is hitting her up for spousal support…and then
spending it on his “other” woman.
Still, Jenna is determined follow her mother’s philosophy – every
storm brings a rainbow. And when she gets a very unexpected gift from
her great Aunt Edie, things seem to be taking a turn for the better.
Aging aunt Edie is finding it difficult to keep up her business running
The Driftwood Inn, so she invites Jenna to come live with her and run
the place. It looks like Jenna’s financial problems are solved!Or not. The town is a little more run-down than Jenna remembered, but
that’s nothing compared to the ramshackle state of The Driftwood Inn.
Aunt Edie is confident they can return it to its former glory, though
Jenna feels like she’s jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the
beach fire.
But who knows? With the help of her new friends and a couple of
handsome citizens, perhaps that rainbow is on the horizon after all.
Because, no matter what, life is always good at the beach.

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 Chapter 1
To Do:
Clean office
Dentist at noon
Drop Sabrina off at Mom’s
Meet everyone at Casa Roja at 6
Or just tell them I’ve got bubonic plague and cancel
            The
four women seated at a corner booth in the Mexican restaurant were getting
increasingly noisier with each new round of drinks. Cinco de Mayo had come and
gone, but these ladies still had something to celebrate, as they were all
dressed in slinky tops over skinny jeans and body-con dresses, killer shoes,
and wearing boas. There were four of them, all pretty, all still in their
thirties. Except the guest of honor, who was wearing a black dress, a sombrero
and a frown. She was turning forty.
            It
was going to take a while for her to get as jovial as the others (like about a
million years) considering what she’d just gotten for her birthday. A divorce.
            “Here’s
to being free of rotten scum-sucking, cheating husbands,” toasted Celeste,
sister of the guest of honor. She was thirty-five, single, and always in a
party mood.
            The
birthday girl, Jenna Jones, formerly Jenna Petit, took another sip of her
mojito. She could get completely sloshed if she wanted. She wasn’t driving and
she didn’t have to worry about setting a good example for her daughter,
Sabrina, who was spending the night with Grandma. Later, if they could still
work their cell phones, the gang would be calling Uber and getting driven home
and poured into their houses or, in the case of sister Celeste, apartments, so
there was no need to worry about driving drunk. But Jenna wasn’t a big drinker,
even when she was in a party mood, and tonight she was as far from that as a
woman could get.
            What
was there to party about when you were getting divorced and turning (ick!)
forty? Still, that mojito was going down pretty easily. And she was inhaling
the chips and salsa. At the rate she was going she’d be getting five extra
pounds for her birthday as well as a divorce.
            “Just
think, you can make a whole new start,” said her best friend Brittany.
Brittany was happily married with three kids. What did she know
about new starts? Still, she was trying to put a positive spin on things.
            “And
who knows? Maybe the second time around you’ll meet a business tycoon” said
Jenna’s other bestie, Vanita.
            “Or
someone who works at Amazon and owns lots of stock,” put in Celeste.
            “I’d
take the stock in a heartbeat,” Jenna said, “but I’m so over men.” She’d given
up on love. Maybe, judging from the chewed fingernails and grown-out highlights
in her hair, she’d given up on herself, too. She felt shipwrecked. What was the
point of building a rescue fire? The next ship to come along would probably
also flounder.
            “No,
you’re over
man,” Brittany corrected. “You can’t
give up on the whole species because of one loser. You don’t want to go through
the rest of your life celibate.” She shuddered as if celibacy was akin to
leprosy.
            “Anyway,
there’s some good ones out there somewhere,” said Vanita, who, at thirty-six,
was still single and looking. “They’re just hiding,” she added with a guffaw,
and took another drink of her Margarita.
            “That’s
for sure,” Celeste agreed, who was also looking now that This-is-it
Relationship Number Three had died. With her green eyes, platinum hair, pouty
lips and perfect body, it probably wouldn’t take her long to find a replacement.
“Men. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t …” Her brows furrowed. “Live with ‘em.”
            Jenna
hadn’t been able to live with hers, that was for sure, not once she learned Mr.
Sensitive Artist had another muse on the side – a redhead who painted murals
and was equally sensitive. And had big boobs. That had nothing to do with why
they were together, Damien had insisted. They were soul mates.
            Funny,
he’d said the same thing to Jenna once. It looked like some souls could have as
many mates as they wanted.
            Damien
Petit, handsome, charming… rat. When they first got together Jenna had
thought he was brilliant. They’d met at a club in the U District. He’d been the
darling of the University of Washington Art Department. He’d looked like a work
of art, himself, with brooding eyes and the perfectly chiseled features of a
marble statue. She’d been going to school to become a massage therapist. She,
who had never gotten beyond painting tiles and decorating cakes, had been in
awe. A real artist. His medium was un-recyclable detritus. Junk.
            Too
bad she hadn’t seen the symbolism in that back when they first got together.
All she’d seen was his creativity.
            She
was seeing that in full bloom now. Damien had certainly found a creative way to
support himself and his new woman – on spousal support from Jenna.
            Seriously?
She’d barely be able to support herself and Sabrina once the dust settled.
            Nonetheless,
the court had deemed that she had been the main support of the family and poor,
struggling artist Damien needed transitional help while he readied himself to
get out there in the big, bad world and earn money on his own. Her reward for
being the responsible one in the marriage was to support the irresponsible one.
So now, he was living in the basement of his parent’s house, cozy as a
cockroach with the new woman, and Jenna was footing the bill for their art
supplies. Was this fair? Was this right? Was this any way to start off her
fortieth year?
            Her
sister nudged her. “Hey, smile. We’re having fun here.”
            Jenna
forced a smile. “Fun.”
            “You
can’t keep brooding about the junk jerk.”
            “I’m
not,” Jenna lied.
            “Yeah,
you are. I can see it in your eyes.”
            “I
know it’s not fair you have to pay him money,” put in
Brittany, “but that’s how things work today. You know, women’s
rights and all. If men can pay us spousal support we can pay them, too.”
            “Since
when does women’s rights give your ex the right to skip off like a fifteen-year
old with his new bimbo and you pay for the fun?” Jenna demanded.
            It
was sick and wrong. She’d carried him for years, working as a massage therapist
while he dabbled away, selling a piece of art here and there. They’d lived on
her salary supplemented by an annual check at Christmas from his folks, who
wanted to encourage him to pursue his dream of artistic success, and grocery
care packages from her mom, who worked as a checker at the local Safeway. And
the grandparents, God bless them, had always given her a nice, fat check for
her birthday. Shocking how quickly those fat checks always shrank. Damien drank
up money like a thirsty plant, investing it in his art … and certain
substances to help him with his creative process.
            Maybe
everyone shouldn’t have helped them so much. Maybe they should have let Damien
become a starving artist, literally. Then he might have grown up and manned up
and gotten a job.
            They’d
had more than one discussion about that. “And when,” he’d demanded, “am I
supposed to do my art?” 
            “Evenings?
Weekends?”
            He’d
looked heavenward and shaken his head. “As if you can just turn on creativity
like a faucet.”
            One
of Jenna’s clients was an aspiring writer with a family, who worked thirty
hours a week. She managed to turn on the faucet every Saturday morning.
There
was obviously something wrong with Damien’s pipes. “I need time to think, time
for things to come together.”
            Something
had come together all right. With Aurora Ansel, whose mother had obviously
watched one too many Disney movies.
            Jenna
probably should have packed it in long before Aurora came slinking along,
admitted what she’d known after only a couple of years into the marriage that
it had been a mistake. But after she’d gotten pregnant she’d wanted desperately
to make things work, so she’d kept her head down and kept ploughing forward
through rough waters.
Now
she and Damien were through and it still didn’t look like clear sailing ahead.
Sigh.
            “Game
time,” Celeste announced. We are going to see who can wish the worst fate on
the scum-sucking cheater. I have a prize for the winner.” She dug in her
capacious Michael Kors purse and pulled out a Seattle Chocolates chocolate bar
and everyone, including the birthday girl let out an “ooh.”
            “Okay,
I’ll go first,”
Brittany said. “May he fall in a dumpster looking for junk and not
be able to climb out.”
            “I’ll
drink to that,” Jenna said, and did.
            “Oh,
that’s lame,” scoffed Vanita.
            “So,
you think you can do better?”
Brittany challenged.
            “Absolutely,”
she said, flipping her long, black hair. “May he wind up in the
Museum of Bad Art.”
            “There
is such a thing?” Jenna asked.
            “Oh,
yeah.” Vanita grinned.
            “Ha!”
Celeste crowed. “That would serve him right.”
            Jenna
shook her head. “That will never be happen. To be fair, he is good.”
            “Good
at being a cheating scum sucker,” Celeste said and took a drink.
            Vanita
tried again. “Okay, then, how about this one? May a thousand camels spit on his
work.”
            “Or
a thousand first-graders,” added Celeste, who taught first grade.
            “How
about this one? May the ghost of Van Gogh haunt him and cut off his ear,”
Brittany offered.
            Vanita
made a face and set down the chip she was about to bite into. “Eeew.”
“Eew
is right,” Jenna agreed. “But I’m feeling bloodthirsty tonight so I’ll drink to
that. I think that one’s your winner,” she said to her sister.
Celeste
shook her head. “Oh, no. I can do better than that.”
            “Go
for it,” urged
Brittany.
            Celeste’s
smile turned wicked. “May his ‘paint brush’ shrivel and fall off.”
            “And
to think you teach children,” Jenna said, rolling her eyes.
            Nonetheless,
the double entendre had them all laughing uproariously.
            “Okay,
I win the chocolate,” Celeste said.
            “You
haven’t given Jenna a chance,” pointed out
Brittany.
            “Go
ahead, try and beat that,” Celeste said, waving the chocolate bar in front of
Jenna.
            “I
can’t. It’s yours.”
            Their
waiter, a cute twenty-something Latino, came over. “Are you ladies ready for
another drink?”
            “We’d
better eat,” Jenna said. Her mojito was going to her head.
            Celeste
overrode her. “We’ve got plenty of night left. Bring us more drinks,” she told
the waiter. “And more chips.” She held up the empty bowl.
            “Anything
you ladies want,” he said, and smiled at Jenna.
            Celeste
nudged her as he walked away. “Did you hear that? Anything you want.”
            “Not
in the market,” Jenna said firmly, shaking her head and making the sombrero
wobble. Tonight she hated men.
            But,
she decided, she did like mojitos, and her second one went down just fine.
            So
did the third. Ol
é.
            Saturday
morning, she woke up with gremlins sandblasting her brain and her mouth tasting
like she’d feasted on cat litter instead of enchiladas. She rolled out of bed
and staggered to the bathroom where she tried to silence the gremlins with
aspirin and a huge glass of water. Then she made the mistake of looking in the
mirror.
            Ugh.
Who was that woman with the ratty, long, blond-gone hair? Her bloodshot eyes
were more red than blue and the circles under them made her look a decade older
than what she’d just turned. Well, she felt a decade older than what she’d just
turned.
            A
shower would help. Maybe.
            Or
maybe not. She still didn’t look so hot, even after she’d blown out her hair
and put on some make-up. But oh, well. At least the gremlins had taken a lunch
break.
            She
got in her ten-year-old
Toyota (thank God they made those cars to run forever – this one
would have to) and drove to her mother’s house to pick up her daughter. 
            She
found her mother stretched out on the couch with a romance novel. Unlike her
daughter, she looked rested, refreshed, and ready for a new day. In her early
sixties, she was still an attractive woman, slender with a youthful face and
the gray hairs well hidden under a sandy brown that was only slightly lighter
than her original color.
“Hello,
birthday girl,” Mom greeted her. “Did you have fun last night?”
            As
the night wore on she’d been distracted from her misery. That probably counted
as fun, so she said, “Yes.”
            “Looks
like you could use some coffee,” Mom said, and led her into the kitchen.
“How’s
my baby?” Jenna asked.
            “She’s
good. She just got in the shower. We stayed up late last night.”
            Jenna
settled at the kitchen table. “What did she think of your taste in movies?”
            “She
was impressed, naturally. Every girl should have to watch
Pretty in Pink and Jane Eyre.”
            “And?” Jenna prompted.
            “Okay,
so I showed her
Grease. It’s a classic.”
            “About
hoods and ho’s.”
            “I
don’t know how you can say that about an iconic movie,” Mom said. “Anyway, I
explained a few things to her, so it came with a moral.”
            “What?
You, too, can look like Olivia Newton John?”
            Mom
shrugged. “Something like that. Now, tell me. What all did you girls do?”
            “Not
much. We just went out for dinner.”
            “Dinner
is nice,” Mom said, and set a cup of coffee in front of Jenna. She pulled a
bottle of Jenna’s favorite caramel flavored creamer from the fridge and set it
on the table and watched while Jenna poured in a generous slosh. “I know this
is going to be the beginning of a wonderful new year for you.”
            “I
have no way to go but up.”
            “That’s
right. And you know…”
            “Every
storm brings a rainbow,” Jenna finished with her.
            “I
firmly believe that.”
            And
Mom should know. She’d had her share of storms. “I don’t know how you did it,”
Jenna said. “Surviving losing dad when we were so young, raising us
single-handedly.”
            “Hardly
single-handedly. I had Gram and Gramps and Grandma and Grandpa Jones, as well. Yes,
we each have to fight our own fight, but God always puts someone in our corner
to help us.”
            “I’m
glad you’re in my corner,” Jenna said. “You’re my hero.”
            Jenna
had been almost five and Celeste a baby when their father had been killed in a
car accident. Sudden, no chance for her mom to say good-bye. There was little
that Jenna remembered about her father beyond sitting on his shoulders when
they milled with the crowd at the Puyallup Fair or stood watching the Seafair
parade in downtown Seattle, that and the scrape of his five o’clock shadow when
he kissed her goodnight.
            What
stuck in her mind most was her mom, holding her on her lap, sitting at this
very kitchen table and saying to Gram, “He was my everything.”
            That
read well in books, but maybe in real life it wasn’t good to make a man your
everything. Even the good ones left you.
            At
least her dad hadn’t left voluntarily. Her mom had chosen a good man. So had
Gram, whose husband was also gone now. Both women had picked wisely and knew
what good looked like.
            Too
bad Jenna hadn’t listened to them when they tried to warn her about Damien.
“Honey, there’s no hurry,” Mom had said.
            Yes,
there was. She’d wanted to be with him NOW.
            “Are
you sure he’s what you really want?” Gram had asked. “He seems a little…”
            “What?”
Jenna had prompted.
            “Egotistical,”
Gram had ventured.
            “He’s
confident,” Jenna had replied. “There’s a difference.”
            “Yes,
there is,” Gram had said. “Are you sure you know what it is?” she’d added,
making Jenna scowl.
            “I’m
just not sure he’s the right man for you,” Mom had worried.
            “Of
course, he is,” Jenna had insisted, because at twenty-three she knew it all.
And Damien had been so glamorous, so exciting. Look how well their names went
together – Damien and Jenna, Jenna and Damien. Oh, yes, perfect.
            And
so it was for a time… until she began to see the flaws. Gram had been right,
he was egotistical. Narcissistic. Irresponsible. Those flaws she could live
with. Those she did live with. But then came the one flaw she couldn’t accept. Unfaithful.
            Not
that he’d asked her to accept it. Not that he’d asked her to keep him. Or even
to forgive him. “I can’t help how I feel,” he’d said.
            That
was it. Harsh reality came in like a strong wind and blew away the last of the
fantasy.
But,
here was Mom, living proof that a woman could survive the loss of her love,
could climb out of the rubble after all her dreams collapsed and rebuild. She’d
worked hard at a job that kept her on her feet all day and had still managed to
make PTA meetings. She’d hosted tea parties when her girls were little and
sleepovers when they became teenagers. And, in between all that, she’d managed
to make time for herself, starting a book club with some of the neighbors. That
book club still met every month. And Mom still found time for sleepovers, now
with her granddaughter.
Surely,
if her mom could overcome the loss of her man, Jenna could overcome the loss of
what she’d thought her man was.
            Mom
smiled at her and slid a card-sized envelope across the table. “Happy birthday.”
            “You
already gave me my birthday present,” Jenna said. Mom had given her a
motivational book about new beginnings by Muriel Sterling with a fifty-dollar
bill tucked inside. Jenna would read the book (once she was ready to face the
fact that she did, indeed, have to make a new beginning) and she planned to
hoard the fifty like a miser. You could buy a lot of lentils and beans with
fifty bucks.
            “This
isn’t from me. It’s from your Aunt Edie.”
            “Aunt
Edie?”
            She
hadn’t seen her great aunt in years, but she had fond memories of those
childhood summer visits with her at Moonlight Harbor – beach combing for
agates, baking cookies with Aunt Edie while her parrot Jolly Roger squawked all
the silly things Uncle Ralph had taught him, listening to the waves crash as
she lay in the old antique bed in the guest room at night with her sister. She
remembered digging clams with Uncle Ralph, sitting next to her mother in front
of a roaring beach fire, using her arm to shield her face from the heat of the
flame as she roasted a hot dog. Those visits had been as golden as the sunsets.
            But
after getting together with Damien, life had filled with drama and
responsibilities, and, after one quick visit, the beach town on the
Washington
Coast had faded into a memory. Maybe she’d spend that birthday
money Mom had given her and go see Aunt Edie.
            She
pulled the card out of the envelope. All pastel flowers and birds, the outside
read
For
a Lovely Niece.

The inside had a sappy poem telling her she was special and wishing her joy in everything
she did, and was signed, Love, Aunt
Edie.
No Uncle Ralph. He’d been gone for several years.
            Aunt
Edie had stuffed a letter inside the card. The writing was small, like her
aunt. But firm, in spite of her age.
            Dear Jenna,
            I
know you’ve gone through some very hard times, but I also know that like all
the women in our family, you are strong and you’ll come through just fine.
            Your
grandmother told me you could use a new start and I would like to give it to
you. I want you to come to
Moonlight Harbor and help me revamp and run The Driftwood Inn. Like me, it’s
getting old and it needs some help. I plan to bequeath it to you on my death.
The will is already drawn up, signed and witnessed, so I hope you won’t refuse
my offer.
            Of
course, I know your cousin Winston would love to get his grubby mitts on it,
but he won’t. The boy is useless. And besides, you know I’ve always had a soft
spot for you in my heart. You’re a good girl who’s always been kind enough to
send Christmas cards and homemade fudge for my birthday. Uncle Ralph loved you
like a daughter. So do I, and since we never had children of our own you’re the
closest thing I have to one. I know your mother and grandmother won’t mind
sharing.
            Please
say you’ll come.
            Love,
Aunt Edie
            Jenna hardly knew what
to say. “She wants to leave me the motel.” She had to be misreading.
            She
checked again. No, there it was, in Aunt Edie’s tight little scrawl.
            Mom
smiled. “I think this could be your rainbow.”
            Not
just the rainbow, the pot of gold as well!
Sheila Roberts lives on the water in the Pacific Northwest. Her books
have been printed in several different languages and have been chosen
for book clubs such as Doubleday as well as for Readers Digest Condensed
books. Her best-selling novel ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS was made into a
movie and appeared on the Lifetime Movie Network, and her novel THE NINE
LIVES OF CHRISTMAS was made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel.When she’s not making public appearances or playing with her friends,
she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s
hearts: family, friends, and chocolate.

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