Monday, April 20, 2020

Dear Lovelorn - NEW SERIES!

I'm excited to tell you about a new multi-author series coming at the end of this month - Yours Truly: The Lovelorn!!

Each book in this series will be about the hero or heroine writing a letter to The Lovelorn - and her response... and then how each character will go about following the advice given.

The first book in the series is "Dear Lovelorn". Here's the first chapter:

St. Louis, Missouri

Summer, 1880


Annette Baldwin hurried from one desk to the next, collecting articles from the journalists who worked in her father’s newspaper office. Each man glanced up at her, gave her a nod, and returned to typing their next article. Six men worked for her father, and not one of them noticed her swollen red eyes or the tears of rejection she couldn’t stop from running down her cheeks.

Taking a deep breath, she tried to compose herself before taking the articles to her father. Even if the others hadn’t noticed her solemn mood, her father would. Then again, since he was busy getting the weekly edition of the St. Louis Gazette ready for printing, perhaps he wouldn’t notice at all.

She wiped her eyes and dried her moist cheeks as she mentally reminded herself that this was not the end of the world. Discovering her beau didn’t love her – as much as he loved her father’s money – wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last time. Although she didn’t want to admit that she was a spinster, she was nearing her twenty-sixth birthday, so perhaps she shouldn’t worry about trying to find a husband. She’d do what her father had done to get over the loss of her mother. Annette would find a career and put her heart and soul into it.

Releasing a breath of frustration, she entered her father’s office. Just as she’d expected, he was busy arranging the articles on the front page of tomorrow’s issue before sending it to the press.

“Father, I’ve gathered the articles for next week.”

Malcolm Baldwin mumbled something and motioned his head toward the desk tray. She placed the papers in the tray and stepped back, watching her father at work. The newspaper had always fascinated her, especially seeing her father as he concentrated on getting the columns just right and making sure all the articles fit perfectly.

He was still a handsome man, and the silver streaks in his light brown hair only made him look more sophisticated. It was a shame he hadn’t remarried after her mother died ten years ago. Then again, he’d been so dedicated to the newspaper – and to his only child – that he probably didn’t have time to meet women.

As she turned away from the desk, her father’s assistant rushed in the room, knocking into her. She stumbled, and he quickly grasped her arm to keep her from falling.

“My apologies, Miss Baldwin.”

Peter Fletcher’s face was the one she’d seen every day when coming to the newspaper, and one of the last faces she looked at before retiring for bed. Peter spent just as much time at her house as he did at the newspaper office. Six years ago, when he first started working for the newspaper, she wanted to think of him as the brother she never had, but yet he was dedicated to helping her father and didn’t have time to be the big brother she’d always wanted. So, his position in her life was a friend… one that only talked to her whenever he and her father were in a heated conversation.

“There’s no need to apologize.” She smiled.

The man hurried to the desk and placed his palms down on the layout her father had been piecing together, stopping the process.

“I just discovered,” Peter said in a panic, “that Cooper’s article isn’t true.” He shook his head. “The woman was not accosted while taking the train.”

Her father’s forehead creased and his gaze narrowed. “That cannot be. Cooper assured me he had interviewed the woman.”

Releasing a heavy sigh, Peter pushed his fingers through his thick, black hair. “Cooper had assured me as well, but I just came from the train station. I talked to Mr. Hemsworth himself. No woman was attacked while on the train. Apparently, the attack didn’t happen until she was almost home.”

Her father slammed his fist down on the desk, and Annette jumped. Not often did she see her father this upset. She slowly walked into the adjoining room where she had a desk. Her job at the paper was minimal. She collected the articles so that her father could put the paper together, and she went through the mail when it came in since many readers enjoyed sending them suggestions on what type of issues to write about. Occasionally, a letter arrived from an angry customer, but she never took it personally.

“That’s the last straw.” Her father’s loud voice grumbled. “Cooper has written too many untrue articles in the last month. I had warned him to lay off his whiskey, but apparently, he didn’t take me seriously. It looks like I need to fire him.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Peter said, “however, that still leaves us without an article for tomorrow’s paper.”

Growling with frustration, her father paced the floor as he rubbed his forehead. After a few moments, he stopped and looked directly at Peter. “What about the articles that Annette has just gathered? Maybe one of them will work.”

Immediately, the two men started searching through the pile on the tray. Annette sat behind her desk and picked up the first letter, opening it as her mind started spinning with ideas. Although she wouldn’t mind being a journalist, her second love was to write stories. Her father had told her once how gifted she was, and yet… not once had he offered to make her a journalist at the paper. Her father didn’t believe women could handle such a task. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask him, but she didn’t dare for fear he’d shoot down her idea again.

“Augh! None of these will fit in the small space we have left for the article.” Her father groaned and moved to the window, pushing back the curtain and staring outside. “I’ll think of something. We have until six o’clock tonight to get this done. If I have to write something myself, I will.”

Peter moved to her father and stood beside him. “Let me know if you need any help. I can look back through some of the things I’ve written—”

“No, Peter. I don’t want something that has been printed before. Our readers like the fact that we give them new information to read. They enjoy reading about the events happening in our great city or in the United States. I don’t want to break their confidence and give them yesterday’s news.”

“Yes, I understand.” Peter nodded.

“But plan on working late tonight. With this interruption in our schedule, it’s going to push back the printing.”

“I will.” Peter turned and walked toward the door. He peered toward Annette. “Good day, Miss Baldwin.”

“Good day.” She raised her hand in a small wave.

Peter was another man she couldn’t figure out. Of course, since she still wasn’t married, it was obvious that understanding men wasn’t one of her God-given gifts. But she had wondered why Peter had never married. Then again, he was married to the newspaper, just as her father.

Her father stood by the window, peering outside. The urge to ask him for permission to write an article overwhelmed her, but once again, she pushed it aside, not wanting to feel that kind of rejection two times in one day. Seeing the man who’d been courting her for a month as he intimately held another woman was heartbreak enough.

She focused on the letter in her hand. She skimmed the contents. It was from Mrs. Selmer. The older woman complained about everything. Annette expected to read a letter from that old biddy at least twice a month. In this letter, she focused on politics and how women needed more to read about than government topics.

Annette opened the next letter and read it. Apparently, Mrs. White and Mrs. Selmer shared the same thoughts.

After reading ten more letters – most of them written by women – Annette felt encouraged that this time when she asked her father’s permission to become a journalist, it just might work. Because now she had the fuel that would support her cause.

Breathing deeply, she slowly built up the courage needed to confront her father. She prayed this would work.

She moved away from her desk and into the adjoining office. Her father had returned to the layout, but his forehead was still marked with worry lines.

“Father,” she began in a tight voice, “I believe I have a solution to your problem.”

He straightened and met her stare. “You do?”

“I do, but first let me ask… how many women read the Gazette?”

He shrugged. “We probably have more men than women. Why do you ask?”

“Since you’ve put me in charge of going through the mail, I’ve come to realize that I receive more complaints from women than I do from men. The newspaper has more articles about politics and laborious work in the job market.”

He sat behind his desk and folded his arms. “Get to the point.”

“If you had more articles in the newspaper that women would enjoy reading, then I’m sure we’ll get more subscribers, especially if those women have husbands who are too busy working to read, so they don’t have a newspaper.”

He slowly nodded. “Go on.”

“I think that you should allow at least one article each week that will focus mainly on women’s issues such as taking care of their families, running a household, and perhaps… love.”

Her father’s big brown-eyed gaze widened as a chuckle released from his throat. “Women? You cannot be serious. Why would they read the newspaper?”

“Father,” she moved closer to him, touching his arm, “most of the letters that are mailed to us are from women. If the newspaper wants to sell more papers, I honestly believe the way to do that is to bring in women readers. Don’t you realize how much women like to gossip? Well, can you imagine that if one lady says something to her friend or neighbor about the great article they’d read in the St. Louis Gazette, then word will spread quickly and we’ll have more people buying the paper.”

Her father kept quiet for a few very uncomfortable seconds as he tapped a finger on his chin. “How much room would this article take on the page?”

“Not very much room at all. In fact, I suspect it wouldn’t have to be more than three or four paragraphs.”

“Are you thinking a woman should write this?”

“Well, I was hoping—”

He shook his head. “I’m not sure men would appreciate that.”

“The men won’t have to know. We could give the writer a pseudonym so that nobody will know the gender. Perhaps we’ll even get more male readers if the topic is right.”

Her father’s tight-lips made her nervous. She’d seen that expression before. He was pondering over the suggestion, but she figured he’d reject it, just as he’d always done. She continued to say a prayer in her mind that her father would be reasonable about this.

“Father, we could try it for two weeks, and if it doesn’t work, then no harm would be done.”

“I’m assuming,” he finally said, “that you want to write this?”

She swallowed the lump in her throat. “You know I can do it. You’ve read my stories.”

“True, but writing articles and silly stories are two different things.”

Clenching her jaw, she wanted to snap at him for thinking that her stories were silly. Didn’t he understand how committed she was to her writing?

She clasped his hand, pleading with her gaze. “Please, Father. Give me this chance to show you what I can do.” She took an unsteady breath. “You probably haven’t noticed, but I’ve passed the age of marriage.” Her voice cracked. “Since I won’t have a husband and children, I need a career, and what better career could there be for me than following in the footsteps of my hard-working father?”

Releasing a heavy breath, he patted her hand. “Two weeks. That’s all you get. And you must have an article ready to go in tomorrow’s paper.”

Excitement rose inside of her and she gasped.

“However,” he said quickly, pointing his finger at her, “the article had better blow those female readers away, yet at the same time, not offend the male readers.”

Her heartbeat tripped and her knees weakened. Could she do as her father had requested? Part of her mind told her she couldn’t do it, but she chose to listen to the positive voices in her head, instead.

Smiling wide, she nodded. “I’ll get right on it.”

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