Friday, July 3, 2009

Special Guest Liana Laverentz

Today I want to talk about freedom—and gratitude. As many of you know, I spent several years in prison ministry, and am still in contact with some of the inmates I met during those years. Each year, they would wish me a happy Fourth of July, and as I sat out in the open, enjoying the festival atmosphere of the annual fireworks show in my small town, my mind would wander—as it tends to do—and I would think about all they were missing and all they gave up when they committed their crimes against society.

I would sit on a blanket or in my lawn chair and watch the children, laughing and running and playing with their sparklers and glo-light necklaces, mothers, fathers, siblings, and grandparents alike pushing babies in strollers, people lined up at the concession stands, ordering their All-American soft drinks and hot dogs, chips or hot cheese pretzels, maybe a brain-freezing popsicle or snow-cone.

Some families would bring their own food and made a picnic of it, while others enjoyed their favorite alcoholic beverages. Music floated on the air, and friends and neighbors alike would stop to talk to each other in small groups and clusters. One year they passed out free American flags. Another year I went to a private party on a lake, catered with an enormous amount of food, and tasted my first Corona with lime in it.

Amid all of these simple pleasures are things so many of us take for granted. The ability to sit out in the open air after dark and see the stars, and to stay out there as long as we want to. The ability to move about freely, and visit and speak with anyone we choose to. The ability to enjoy the laughter of children and the smiles of babies. The ability to carry pointy objects like the flags they handed out that one year, and move about in relative safety. The ability to freely hug and kiss and show affection to anyone we choose to, friend or family. The freedom to eat and drink what we want to, when we want to. The freedom to leave if we so choose. Just get in the car and go.

Therefore on the Fourth of July, my thoughts always turn to my incarcerated friends, and how while the rest of the country celebrates our independence, they do not, because they can not. By their choices and actions, they have given up the freedom to do so. My friend Louis in particular is serving life, and may never again experience the simple joys of attending a small town fireworks display.

So even if your town’s display is dinky, and everyone laughs at it, be grateful that you can even attend. Be grateful for the ability to walk free in the night air, to visit freely with friends and enjoy the music on the wind, or to bring your own pair of earphones and listen to what you choose to listen to. Be grateful for the ability to walk up to a concession stand and order what your heart desires when the urge to eat or drink strikes. Be grateful for the ability to hug and kiss your friends and family members, as much or as little as you want to. Be grateful for the ability to drink responsibly if you so choose, and to stay up as late as you want to.

But most of all, be grateful to the men and women of our Armed Services who will not be able to celebrate our country’s Independence Day with us because they are in other countries, putting their lives on the line to preserve our ability to enjoy these simple freedoms.

Liana Laverentz is the author of three contemporary romances from The Wild Rose Press, the multi-award-winning Thin Ice and Jake’s Return, and Ashton’s Secret, a murder mystery romance which was released on June 26. All three feature small town bad boys, some who made good, some who still struggle. But in the end each is blessed enough to find a woman who will love him into eternity. For more information, please go to

Ashton’s Secret, Blurb and Excerpt

From the moment he'd caught her snooping in the loft of his barn-turned-garage, Meghan Edwards knew Nicholas Hawkinson was the man she’d been looking for. Given his unfriendly attitude, unshaven face and the Harley hidden in the shadows, she was willing to bet this was the man her sister Heather had referred to as Hawk. But would this dark, secretive stranger help her solve the mystery of her sister's death?

Nicholas Hawkinson wanted nothing to do with the city-girl photographer who asked too many questions. He'd had his share of trouble five years ago when the people of Ashton had been so quick to accuse him of murdering Heather. The townsfolk still considered him the town's black sheep, a bad boy at best and a killer who got away with it at most. Both he and Meghan would be better off if they went their separate ways and never spoke of Heather again.

All of Ashton saw Nick as a dangerous man. But Meghan was trained to observe, and it didn’t take long to find the pain of betrayal and unexpected gentleness he hid behind his hard stare. Her sister was dead, and Meghan knew it wasn't suicide. So did Nick. Whether he liked it or not, he was the only one who could help her now. And Meghan wasn't leaving Ashton until she'd unraveled this sleepy little town's secret--or died trying.


"I think you'd better leave."

"I think you're right. But first--"

"I meant leave Ashton."

She was stunned; he was serious. “Is that before sundown or after?”

“The sooner the better, since I’m sure you’ve collected enough shots for a magazine layout in the last week and you can’t take pictures here.”

Meghan didn’t take kindly to the word, “can’t.” It hadn’t been in her vocabulary for the past four years. “Excuse me, but what makes you think I can’t take pictures of this property?”

He looked startled for a second, as if he wasn’t used to having his orders questioned, then said evenly, “If I understand the law, you need permission from the owner when you photograph property for publication.”

There were loopholes in his knowledge, ones she didn’t care to point out. She nodded. “Go on.”

“I’m not giving my permission.”

She widened her eyes innocently. “You own the whole town?”

He was not amused. “I own this property, as you well know. And you, are trespassing.”

So they were back to that again. Reluctantly, she confirmed her first impression of Nicholas Hawkinson: When provoked, he could be a dangerous man. Clearly he ached to speed her on her way, preferably by tossing her through that set of double doors. But his obvious capacity for restraint told her she was safe—as long as she didn’t push him too hard.

She tried a different tack. “I understand how you feel. I wouldn’t like it either if I found some stranger poking around my home. With a camera, no less. All I can say is I thought the place was deserted, and I couldn’t resist taking a look around.”

“In spite of being warned against it.”

She offered her most disarming smile. “I’m stubborn that way sometimes. But I am sorry for trespassing." She held out a hand. "If you’ll accept my apology, maybe we can start over.”

He ignored her outstretched hand. “I’m not interested in starting anything with you. Now leave.”

Meghan felt her cheeks flame, but held her tongue. Stepping past him with all the dignity of a diplomat's daughter, she retrieved her camera equipment. As she hefted the bag onto her shoulder, her gaze touched on the hanging pitchfork. She pictured Nicholas Hawkinson standing under it, her hand on the rope that released it. The image soothed her bruised ego.

She turned, smiling sweetly. “Thank you for your time. I’m staying—”

His dark eyes narrowed. “Good bye.”

“Of course. Good bye.” Making her way across the loft, Meghan descended the narrow wood steps into the dry, dusty garage. At the bottom of the steps, she paused. Hidden in a corner stood a half-covered motorcycle. She’d missed seeing it earlier, her attention focused on the steps leading to the loft. Her heat beat faster as she recalled a line from Heather’s letter.

He has a Harley, and takes me riding.

“He” was Hawk, the man Meghan needed to find. The man who could answer her questions about what Meghan had believed until a week ago to be an open and shut case of suicide. Despite the coroner’s report and her mother’s firm conviction that her eldest daughter had killed herself, after reading Heather’s letter, Meghan couldn’t help but wonder if her sister’s death had been an accident.

Heather had mailed the letter from Ashton the day she’d disappeared. Three days later, she’d turned up dead. But by then Meghan had been on her honeymoon in Australia, too far away to make it back in time for the funeral. Her mother had collected her mail. Then deliberately kept Heather’s letter from her.

Why, Meghan intended to find out…in Ashton.

Slowly she drew back the motorcycle’s oilcloth cover and brushed away layers of grime obscuring the manufacturer’s name. Her heartbeat soared when she saw the distinctive back and orange bar and shield Harley Davison Emblem that appeared.

If Nicholas Hawkinson wasn’t Hawk, he knew who was.

Heart hammering, Meghan stared at the bike, torn between returning to the loft to demand information about its owner and letting common sense rule. The man was already angry with her. Approaching him now with a barrage of questions could only be a losing proposition. Her own state of mind wasn’t so hot, either. She might have more success if she gave them both time to calm down.

Forcing herself to leave the barn, she spied a battered pickup parked on the street. The license plate had been issued in Texas. The truck’s cooling engine pinged at her accusingly. She recalled Hawkinson’s unkempt appearance, the exhaustion she’d seen in his face. No wonder he’d been in no mood to entertain her curiosity. He’d obviously been on the road a few days.

Her timing stank. Meghan looked up and down the maple-and-oak-lined street, her disappointment at her latest failure to obtain information about Hawk leaving her feeling as wilted as an unwatered plant. The weather channel predicted another week of record high June temperatures for western New York. More bad timing. She sighed. At least the air wasn’t steaming with humidity, like it was in D.C. Just oven-hot and relentlessly dry.

The hairs on the back of her neck prickled. She knew without looking that Nicholas Hawkinson stood at the loft door, watching her. The sensation of dark eyes burning into her back made her want to turn around and wave out of spite, but she didn’t. She couldn’t antagonize the man, not when she needed his answers.

She broke into a smile, imagining the look on his face when he realized she was staying in the bungalow across the street.

Buy Link:

Liana Laverentz
Thin Ice (NJRW Golden Leaf and EPPIE Award Winner)
Jake's Return (NJRW Golden Leaf Award Winner)
Ashton's Secret (Available NOW)
Balance with Liana


Minx Malone said...

Happy Independence Day everyone!

Minx Malone

Tracy Preston - Romance Writer said...


Thanks for joining us at Inspiration, Ink today.

Everybody is probably out grilling hamburgers and watching fireworks, so I'd be watching for comments after the weekend.

Thanks again!

Tracy Preston

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Liana and the Pink ladies

A great post Liana, and thanks for the timely reminder. It's all to easy to forget how lucky we are to be able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Reading your 'Letters To Laura' on your blog has made me more aware of people like Louis who may never, as you say, experience the things the rest of us take for granted.

It's a beautiful day here in the UK. I'm hoping to go to a village fete this afternoon, which is celebrating the 4th July with an American theme. Should be fun.

Happy 4th July everyone!

Pat McDermott said...

Great food for thought, Liana. I enjoyed the excerpt and wish you all the best with your small town bad boys.

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi Liana, I teach college English 101 to the male inmates of the 3 local prisons here in Mansfield, Ohio. People seem to think that because they've broken the law and are in prison these men cease being human and should be treated like animals. Once in awhile, I get negative comments from people about my work and I shoot back the fact that I do it for the prisoners' families as much as the prisoners. The families of those men are doing time with them, facing the stigma, heartache, and huge financial strain having someone they love in prison causes. When the family doesn't care about the prisoner it's no loss to them to have that son or husband inside. But the mother, father, brother, or sister who loved and still loves that man it is hell on Earth. Having the son call them and say, "Hey, Mom, I got an A on an English test," or "My English teacher says I'm a good writer," has to make that family member feel like their struggle is worth it. I've heard more than one of my students say that very thing has happened. The look on the men's faces when they get an A, B, or even a C in a class they never did well in or never had before is worth every bit of the many hours I put into working with them.
Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter

Liana Laverentz said...

Thank you everyone, for stopping by. Happy Independence Day to you, too, Minx, and I hear you about people out grilling, Tracy. I'll be sure to check back for a few days. Busy, busy weekend for all of us. Hywela, I'm so glad you're enjoying the Letters to Laura segment on my blog. For those who don't know, I blog about Louis and his life and the differences between his world and mine on Fridays. It's a real eye-opener.

Pat, thanks for stopping by and I wish you tons of sales in return, and Sandy, God Bless You for what you do, teaching the inmates. I, too, get the feeling most people think they should be out of sight, out of mind, but I've never met anyone more grateful for the simple pleasures in life than the ones I know. A cup of real coffee. A candy bar from commissary. Clean sheets. A peaceful morning. The list goes on and on, and really helps me to keep my life and it's little dramas in perspective.

Happy Fourth of July to all of you!


Teresa Reasor said...

Thanks so much for joining us on Inspiration-Ink. I too am a teacher, primary, which probably isn't as rewarding as your calling. And it is a calling.
And I have some wonderful memories of sparklers and firecrackers on the fourth with family and friends and my own children, I wouldn't take a million dollars for.
Your excerpt is intriquing and the book sounds really good.
I hope you sell a million copies!!!

Write on,
Teresa Reasor

Mona Risk said...

Happy Fourth of July to the Pink ladies.

Liana what a poweful post. I read your posts about Louis every Friday but I didn't know you've been a prison minister. You are such a compassionate person. Thank you for reminding us not to take for granted our freedom and comfort. Ashton's Secrets is on my list to buy.

Unknown said...

LIANA--these are such beautiful sentiments, all told in a simple way, making us actually wake up and see how free we are. I'm heart-broken over hearing about the inmates, because I never really stop and think how much they really did give up. It sickens me to hear horrible, negative slurs against members of our military. In our paper the other day, a soldier dressed in his dress blues for a ceremony was spat upon and yelled at--the guy screamed--"stop killing children!!!" My word, I couldn't believe it. The man was too ignorant to know he could spit on someone and get by with it because of soldiers. Celia

Liana Laverentz said...

Teresa, I would say your job is absolutely as rewarding as any other. Yours are the hands that guide our future. Hands that guide the future of those you teach as well. You never know when you'll be making a difference in someone's life and it's so much easier to make a difference when they are younger than later on.

Mona and Celia, thank you for stopping by. You're such good friends. It breaks my heart to hear how badly that soldier was treated, for putting his life on the line for our country. No matter what anyone feels about the war (and I do not support it--how can I, and be an advocate of kindness and compassion?) the people who are over there deserve our respect and gratitude for the sacrifices they have made, and will continue to make, some for the rest of their lives, because of the time they spent doing what they had to do.

Mary Ricksen said...

You never know what you have until you lose it. Especially simple rights. How sad for those who lost it and their way.

Unknown said...

Thought provoking post, Liana. Happy Fourth. :)

Sheryl Browne said...

Doesn't that tell us how we should not imprison ourselves spiritually when we have the freedom to make choices. Or it should.

Well done, Liana. Reminders are always timely.

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