Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Slight Turn In My Writing--and An Excerpt from After You Were Gone

I've been away for a while. Okay, I've been gone for a long time. I discovered that maintaining a blog can be hard, especially when it's piled on top of work, life, and my more recent role as eldercare giver. That last one is ongoing. Believe me when I tell you that I've missed my readers so very much.

But here's some news! My latest Montlake title, After You Were Gone, is available for pre-order now at Amazon and will go on sale February 7, 2017. And even more exciting, this is my first contemporary. This story percolated in one form or another, one era and then another, for several years. Finally I settled on contemporary, small-town Texas.

Family secrets can alter or even destroy lives, and dark secrets abound in After You Were Gone.

Presidio County Courthouse
Marfa, Texas

Violence begets violence.

It was an old saying—maybe it was from the Bible. Maybe not. Julianne Emerson couldn’t remember. But she knew what it meant. More than that, she knew how it felt, because it was in her now. That hot, insistent desire for revenge.

She sat in the front row of the witness chairs, the ones right behind the railing, sensing the eyes of the other spectators ping-ponging between her, the judge, and him. Tension and anticipation filled the courtroom like a sickening green vapor.

Up front at a table off to her left sat the man who had been found guilty of killing her husband, Wes. The days of testimony, of watching the prosecution re-create the horrible event in excruciating detail, of sitting on the witness stand and facing him—she could barely think his name, much less say it to herself—had all come down to this moment. Julianne’s heart beat nearly as fast as the child’s she carried in her womb. The indecent irony of wanting to see a life ended while carrying another was not lost on her.

But she maintained her gaze on the partial profile of the man whose punishment was about to be announced. She wished she were sitting up there on the bench, instead of the Honorable Carlos Schmidt. She would sentence that guilty man to old-fashioned Texas justice. She’d do the same thing to him that he had done to Wes. She’d shut him in a tinder-dry barn, set it on fire, and watch the flames engulf him. The only mercy she would show him would be to make sure he was dead, and to not let him linger for two days of hell in an ICU, as charred as a hickory log in a barbecue pit.

The judge shuffled some papers, then looked over his black-rimmed reading glasses at the condemned man.

“The defendant will rise.”

The defendant pushed back his chair and stood there in his cheap, go-to-trial suit, probably the only one he’d ever worn in his life. His court-appointed lawyer rose with him. Deputies stood close by, as if expecting an eruption of chaos. They’d probably watched too many judicial dramas on Law & Order.

“In accordance with the laws of the State of Texas, you have asked that the court rather than the jury impose your sentence. You committed a grievous act, Mitchell Brett Tucker. You took a life. You might not have meant to, but you did. You deprived a woman of her husband, their unborn child of its daddy, and the town of Gila Rock of an upstanding citizen.” He paused and glanced at the rest of the Tucker clan across the aisle from Julianne. Everyone in Presidio County knew the Tuckers could be called a lot of things. Upstanding wasn’t one of them. “We just don’t tolerate that kind of business here.” Judge Schmidt tapped the edges of his papers on the desk. “But I am also taking into consideration the circumstances of your crime and your youth, although I’d expect a nineteen-year-old to know better. During testimony, you repeatedly stated that you had no idea Mr. Emerson was in the barn when you started that fire, and I believe you.”

The silence in the courtroom was a palpable thing, as if the world itself held its breath.

“In light of that, I’m sentencing you to seven years in the state prison in Amarillo. That should give you some time to think about how you want to lead the rest of your life. For your sake, and society’s, I hope you come to the right decision.”

Julianne let out an involuntary cry, and for a moment her vision seemed to narrow and darken like the picture tube in an old TV set. She felt as if she’d been punched in the head. Seven years? Seven? For killing a man? For burning down the barn? Drug dealers got worse for selling cocaine from the trunks of their cars.

The rest of the Tucker men lurched out of their chairs, voicing loud complaints. A buzz erupted among the onlookers and continued until the judge banged his gavel on its sound block, demanding order and threatening to clear the courtroom.

Only Mitchell was quiet. His jaw was clenched, and he said nothing.

She had seen that stony look just one other time: the day she’d told him she was marrying Wes.

Big Bend Country
Gila Rock, Texas
Eight Years Later

Welcome to Gila Rock. The trucker nodded at a tourist-grabbing sign. “Looks like this is the place.”

“Thanks, man, I appreciate it.” Yeah, this was the place. Mitchell Tucker jumped down from the air-conditioned, long-nose Peterbilt that had brought him to the outskirts of a town he’d once known as well as he knew his own name. Dragging his duffel bag after him, he slammed the cranberry-red cab door, gave it a slap with his hand, and waved to the driver hauling a load of cattle feed. The man had picked him up about forty miles south of here, and not a moment too soon—he’d been walking and trying to hitch a ride since morning.

The driver gave a short blast of his horn and pulled out. The sound of crunching gravel and shifting gears faded slowly as the truck left Mitchell in a hot cloud of dust and diesel exhaust. When the air cleared, he looked around, through shimmering heat waves across the two-lane asphalt and to the emptiness beyond.

West Texas. Mitchell had once heard an old fart at Lupe’s Roadhouse say that it was so flat out here, a body could stand on a case of beer and see all the way to the next county. To prove his point, the guy had even gotten Lupe Mendoza herself to give him a case of Lone Star empties, which he lugged out to the bare dirt parking lot. With a group of the tavern’s noontime regulars tagging after him to watch, he climbed onto the cardboard and glass. Yup, he claimed, there was Jeff Davis County up there to the north. He added that he’d probably have been able to see past it to Culberson County if the bottles had been full. Mitchell almost believed it.

This was still the real West, a wild place where scrubs of creosote, sage, cactus, and an occasional patch of fading bluebonnets were all that relieved the endless vista of Big Bend Country. The far-off hills seemed so remote they might as well have been on the moon. Between here and those hills, it was flat, hot, and desolate, the kind of place that was only right for him to have come from. Given the events of his life, it was also the kind of place he had to come back to.

In the near distance, Gila Rock waited for him under a chrome-blue sky. Except for a few old brick buildings like the high school and the library that stood out, the main structures looked as bleached and weather-beaten as their surroundings. He could still picture most of them. After all, there wasn’t much more than a couple of silos, some taverns, and two churches, bracketed by sorghum fields, a hog farm or two, and miles of cattle range. This was the vast area where the movie Giant had been filmed back in the fifties, and rain was damn near a miracle. There was no Walmart here, no Kmart, no Valero gas station or H-E-B grocery store—none of the big chain businesses that Mitchell had seen in the past year, knocking around the state. Gila Rock probably hadn’t changed at all.

But Mitchell Tucker had.

Seven years in prison could do that to a man. It changed the way he walked and talked, how he looked at other people and the world in general. He had a whole new vocabulary that he’d acquired over time, one that most people on the outside heard as a foreign language. And he was about as different as he could be from the scared, angry . . . kid who’d been sent off to the state penitentiary eight years before.

Originally, he’d planned never to come back—there was nothing for him here but that crappy single-wide he’d shared with his brothers and his old man down by the slow, muddy creek. At least that’s what he’d thought.

There was more, though, something he needed to take care of. Some unfinished business that had nagged at him for more than two thousand days and nights.

He could still see her sitting in the Presidio County Courthouse during his trial, flinging daggers at him with her ice-cold stares. He could hear her voice as she’d testified against him on the witness stand, tear-choked and accusing. It still made his gut twist to think about it, even after all these years. Mitchell had taken his chances by letting the judge decide his sentence, and he’d lost.

Seven years.

Under the glare of the afternoon sun, sweat popped out on his forehead, and he rubbed at it with the sleeve of his T-shirt. Then he picked up his duffel bag and started walking toward town. His boot heels made a dull, rhythmic thud on the hot asphalt.




Oh yeah, he had business here, all right. He would finish that business, then move on again.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Giveaway! Enter Here!

I'm giving away an autographed trade paperback set of the Powell Springs series, Home By Morning and Home By Nightfall!

If you want this for your library, here's your chance. Enter now at

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Titles are Going International

I have some good news for Spanish-speaking/reading romance fans! Harper's Bride, or La SeƱora Harper is now available in the US, Spain, Brazil, and all countries where Kindle books can be purchased. Right now, A Taste of Heaven (El Sabor Del Cielo) is being formatted and a cover will follow soon.

On April 2, Home By Morning or Morgen zu Hause will be available in German. I haven't seen a cover for that yet but as soon as I do, I'll post it.

All of these titles have been extremely popular with my readers. In fact, Home By Morning has sold more than 100,000 copies and in celebration of that, Amazon presented me with a beautiful shadow box copy of the book. I see it as kind of like a gold record.

I am so grateful to my readers who have allowed me to sweep them away to a different time and place for a few hours. I hope that you will continue to follow me on upcoming adventures!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Looking Back at 2012

What a wonderful year 2012 has been for me! Despite my struggles and those of so many others here and around the world, good fortune also sent smiles my way.

Home By Morning was released on Christmas Eve in 2011, so most of its sales took place in 2012. In fact, thanks to my wonderful readers, it sold so well that by March the figure exceeded 100,000 copies! I knew nothing about this. Although I watch daily sales, I'm not very good at keeping track on spreadsheets, etc., so it wasn't until last month that I learned of its success when Amazon named me among twelve other authors who had achieved the same level of distinction. I discovered it when I received this handsome award from them--I think of it as a literary gold record. I am honored and grateful.

In July, the next book in the series, Home By Nightfall, hit the cyber shelves  and my readers embraced it as well. However, there was some confusion among those who didn't realize it was part of a series. Each book stands on its own, but of course for the full experience I guess, it would be best to read Home By Morning first. Readers will learn why some characters from the first novel had to be dispensed with in the second.

Now I'm hard at work on my next project. I'll have more news about that in the months to come. And I'm pleased to announce that Home By Morning is being translated into German and will be released in Germany this spring. Amazon Publishing has been busy developing their presence in Europe, which is really exciting.

In addition, the first title of my backlist to be translated into Spanish will be making its appearance in the next few weeks. I just received the file last night. I need to arrange for e-pub formatting and having a cover designed. So Harper's Bride will now also be available as La Senora Harper through all my usual outlets. As soon as I have a cover I'll post it here and on Facebook.

Now I'm off to make cookies--yes, I actually bake sometimes--and put the cat's new furniture together. We'll talk again soon!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What A Summer, Good and Bad

I know I've been MIA for a while. It was a busy summer, with highlights and lowlights. First, my trip to Book Expo America at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York took place in June. A reader's and writer's paradise! Thousands of square feet of books and more books on the Hudson River. In July, the second book in my Home series, Home By Nightfall, was released by Amazon and my readers' response has been thrilling! I am honored by all of your kind words and kind reviews.

In August, I planned a trip to Seattle to meet with my author team. It would be a long weekend and because I love the city, I'd planned to do other fun things too. The weather was beautiful. I checked into the hotel on a Sunday night--and never left that room again until Tuesday morning. At first I thought I just had a cranky stomach. But the problem didn't go away and all I had to eat in those two-and-a-half days was a little water and a cup of soup from Kell's (Irish penicillin). Finally, I decided I needed to check out and come back to Portland. I wasn't getting better and I figured I could suffer at home in my own bed as well as I could up there. It's a three-hour trip back and by the time I got here, I passed my own freeway exit and continued to a hospital about 15 miles south.

Well. I got to the hospital at about 2:00 pm and was in surgery around 4:00 for an emergency appendectomy. Bummer, right? It was the last thing I expected. But what with complications and a post-op infection, I was in and out of the hospital three times, and spent a total of nine days there over the course of about three weeks. During most of September, I couldn't make my tired brain think about anything except getting well. I'm just now finishing the last course of antibiotics I was given, and I think I'm pretty much mended, but not 100%. I'll get there yet! And now I'm back at my desk, working on the third Home book, which will be out in 2013.

That brings me to the next topic of our meeting here. Some people read Home By Nightfall without knowing about the first book, Home By Morning. Each book stands on its own, but there are characters who appear in both books and it might be more illuminating to read them in the correct order. So . . . I'm giving away three sets of both books to the first people to respond to this offer. In paper or Kindle format, your choice! Send me an e-mail at, and be sure to tell me which format you'd like.

Now get ready for Halloween--and don't forget, there are only 87 shopping days until Christmas!

Friday, July 20, 2012

An Exciting Giveaway!

Heads up, friends! Here's a chance to own these two books in your choice of formats.

Home By NightfallI'll give the first ten people who email me at a set of these books, Home By Morning and Home By Nightfall, in either paperback or Kindle format. Just be sure to tell me which you want. This is your chance to get wrapped up in the stories of two women, both facing life-altering, heartbreaking dilemmas, and those who either love them or want to see them fail.

Again, this offer is limited to the first ten people who e-mail me, so don't let the dust gather on your keyboard.

"Alexis Harrington has the incredible ability to turn dusty, destitute locales into lush gardens with her beautiful prose and heart-grabbing stories."   
---Romantic Times Book Reviews

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

An Old Character is Unearthed

Flavel House Museum
Way back in 1994, I wrote a book titled A Light For My Love. I spent months researching the topic of the book, the shanghaiing of men (kidnapping, really) to fill out crews on sailing vessels before the advent of steam-powered ships. It was a worldwide practice, but two of the worst cities in the US where this occurred were Portland and Astoria, Oregon. Men were drugged in saloons, barrooms, and boardinghouses, then often dropped through trap doors in the floors of these establishments and taken to ship captains via a series of underground tunnels that led to the seawalls. By the time the victims sobered up or came to, they discovered themselves to be far out at sea with no way back, and no option but to work their way to another port and try to get home again. No one was exempt--plowboys and cowboys who found themselves in the wrong dockside bar were just as prone to the danger as anyone else. No sailing experience was necessary. There was good money in it for the procurers; even a cigar store Indian wrapped in a tarp was sold once, as were bodies stolen from a mortician's backroom. Since this activity occurred under cover of darkness, captains might not find out what they'd gotten until it was too late to do anything about it. Although there were a vocal few protesting the crime, the law tended to look the other way.

It's an obscure subject, but a fascinating one. Those tunnels still exist beneath the streets in both Portland and Astoria. Here in Portland, they have even been the subject of supernatural ghost hunts on TV shows, and tours are available.

In my book, the heroine, China Sullivan is working with Dalton Williams, a shanghai survivor himself and a radical reformer working to end this practice, when an old friend of her brother's returns to Astoria on his own merchant vessel. Jake Chastaine, who grew up wild in a poor section of town, is back to prove to those who had no faith in him (especially China) that he has succeeded far beyond all their predictions of his failure.

Flavel family mystery unsealed
The other Flavel house, built in 1901. Photo by Daily Astorian

(I'm getting to the point of this story, honest.) China's work with Dalton includes fund-raising to open a safe boarding house where sailors can stay when in port to avoid the dangers of being shanghaied. While I was in Astoria doing research, I came across a once-beautiful house that had fallen into dilapidation through neglect by the bizarre owners. I envisioned China living in what is The Flavel House Museum (see above). It has been lovingly restored to its past glory by the Clatsop County Historical Society. The other mansion, which in my book I called Harbor House, is owned--for the time being, anyway--by Flavel descendants, only one of whom might still be alive. No one is sure. This mess is what I pictured China and Dalton dealing with to create Harbor House. None of the owners have been near the place since 1990 as far as it is known. The first week of July, the City of Astoria invoked its derelict building ordinance, and the house was finally entered and inspected by city officials. According to The Daily Astorian, they found a hoarders paradise: stacks of newspapers going back 100 years, all kinds of assorted junk, a dead dog in the refrigerator, and beneath it all, what was once beautiful architecture. The details are truly amazing, and even though I've tried to keep up with that house's events over the years, I learned things I didn't know about. If you're curious, take a look. There's also a slide show of the house's interior, plus a chronology of the peculiar family's life on the lam with their 90-year-old mother and two dogs.