When I found the picture of the the "fancy woman" at a website I often buy pictures from, I knew I'd found my Lilah. As for the river picture, it took some time to choose from several available. The photo actually is of the Rio Grande, one of the adventure locations in Lilah's story. I chose this picture because the terrain best resembled what I described in my book.For those not having read the first book in the Finding Home Series: Cry of the West, which is Hallie's story, Lilah is her sister, whom she hasn't seen in twenty years. Hallie and her second husband, Cooper Jerome, have sent one of Cooper's old army buddies, Rush Garrett, to search for Lilah and deliver a letter from Hallie begging her to return to Oregon with him.Rush, indeed, finds Lilah in New Orleans, but the person she has portrayed in her sporadic letters to Hallie is not the same one he encounters.
She most definitely is not
a seamstress! Here is a short excerpt from chapter one. To read the entire excerpt, click here.Excerpt: Settling onto the settee in the sitting room of her two story townhouse, she reached for her book on a nearby table but ended up staring blankly into the empty hearth, fingering another tear. Just as she had anticipated, her fading beauty had brought her to a crossroads. Now, at the age of thirty-eight, threads of gray hair were making an appearance and tiny lines creased the sides of her mouth and eyes; her shapely figure carried a few extra pounds. To the casual observer, she was just as lovely as she had always been, but to her benefactor, she was his aging mistress. For the past fifteen years, Charles Karney had kept her in style, and she had been the envy of women in her profession. However, Charles had finally been charmed by another; a young, beautiful and vivacious courtesan with golden hair and burnished skin, possibly the most exotic woman in New Orleans, and coveted by all the wealthy gentlemen who supported mistresses, often with the approval of their wives.
Late 1800s steam engine.
I got to check out the interior by climbing the stairs.
Burner where the coal or wood was tossed.
Engineer's seat. The Fireman's seat looked just like it, and was opposite.
I guess you've figured out I'm researching trains. Well, steam trains during the 1870s, to be precise. After an internet search, I discovered a train museum in Chandler, Arizona, and I couldn't wait to check it out. I wasn't disappointed! The volunteers at the museum were super friendly and informative. They had a steam engine from around the era I was researching, which you can see in the above photos. Something I didn't know is that the engineer and the fireman were seated across from each other, and the burner was between them (third photo). Imagine the heat as the fireman loaded the burner right there. Also, there was no opening to see out the front of the train. In the last picture above you can see the engineer's seat and his window to the outside. Something else I discovered is that when the engineer was coming into a station, a worker would place torpedoes (basically small explosives) on the tracks. The loud popping noises as the train ran over the torpedoes would alert the engineer to slow down. Another misnomer is that the engineer was the person in charge. Nope, it was the conductor who oversaw everything and everyone.
Below, other than the trunk, the pictures are from eras later than what I'm writing about, but just as fascinating. The second picture displays different seats from different train companies in an early 1900s coach. The third picture is sleeping quarters with a hide-a-potty. The last is from a personalized car. Wealthy people bought their own cars and made them magnificent; kind of like we do nowadays with RVs.
Hopefully, I've gained enough information to keep from writing a serious error in my story with regard to travel via train in 1878.
At one time, a common trunk. Now a collectible antique.
Fascinating display of coach chairs from many train lines.
Beautiful place settings in a beautiful private coach.
I'm excited about interviewing Lorrie Struiff, author of A Heap of Trouble.
Before we begin, I must say that I love the cover of Lorrie's book! I'm kind of a book cover fanatic. The heart formed by the position of the H/h bodies is fantastic. The colors are outstanding, and the horse and cowboy in the background add balance and interest. I even noticed the cowboy is wearing a duster--love cowboys in dusters! I could go on about the heroine's hair, the fade through, and more, but let's go on to the interview.Welcome Lorrie. Thank you for joining me. Please tell readers about yourself.Where do you live? Have you always lived there? Have you traveled much?Well, I live in West Mifflin, very near Pittsburgh, PA. I’ve lived in the area all of my life. I’ve traveled a bit. I’ve been to almost every state in the U.S., and I’ve been to Mexico and Canada.Tell us your latest news?My # 3 Call on the Dead Club series was released this month. My main character Winnie is a hoot and a half.When and why did you begin writing?When I retired. Writing had always been my dream. Now that I have the time, here I am.
When did you first consider yourself a writer? With my first published short story. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the acceptance email. I must have stared at it for ten minutes. My mind kept saying, “Really? Really? Really?Do you have specific writing habits? What genre(s) do you write, and why?I wish I had habits. I hit the computer as time allows. I write in different genres. I don’t like the confinement of only writing in one. I want to spread my wings. Besides, I don’t want to bore myself or my readers. Lol. Many of the genres fascinate me, and I love to entertain readers. Why limit oneself?
How do you decide the titles for your book(s)?Sometimes the title comes to me before I start writing which helps with the story. Other times I have a heck of a time thinking up a title. I turn to my critique buddies for help. Are there messages in your novel(s) that you want readers to grasp?Nope. Unless it’s accidental. *smiles* I just want to write a rollicking good story for readers to sink into.How much of your current book is realistic?Well, it’s paranormal, so I’d have to say none. Honest, I don’t go around talking to corpses. Are experiences in your current book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?All of my stories are strictly from my imagination. I like to take odd characters, throw them together, sit back and watch what happens. Well, it’s a bit more complicated, but that’s the bottom line.If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?Nelson De Mille. I love the way he can take an extremely tense scene and still make you laugh in the middle of it.What book(s) are you reading now?None at the moment. Since I started writing, I find my time to read has flown out the window. I miss reading. After a full 7 or 8 hours on the computer, my eyes are kissing my cheeks and I can’t read anything. So I sit back and stare dumbly at the TV. What are your current projects?I am currently working on my next COD story to add to the series. I’d also like to start a sequel to my “Gypsy Blood.”
What s the hardest part of writing your book(s)?Finding the time. And writing the original draft. Since I’m a panster I have to form the story in my head first.What have you learned from your writing?That it’s not as easy as it looks. When I started, the authors I read made it look like a snap. Whoa, did I have a lot to learn.Do you have advice for other writers?Join a critique group. Develop very thick skin fast, and learn the basics.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?Just that I love them all, and thank them so much for choosing my books to read. "QUIRKY QUESTIONS
"Other than the present time era, which era would you choose to live in, and why?Oh, if I can’t live in the future—I’m nosy—I’ll stay in this one. I’m kind of used to the present.
Strangest thing you've ever seen.You know, I’m sure I’ve seen some strange things in life, but at the moment I can’t think of a one. I must have a bad memory.
Your most embarrassing moment.When I walked into the men’s room by mistake at a theater. Talk about red face. Eww.Best day of your life.How about best days, plural. When I worked at the ballroom dance studio. I had the best time of my life. Think “Dirty Dancing.” To me that’s a walk down memory lane.
Stupidest thing you've ever done.What? You want me to write another book?
Smartest thing you've ever done.*Laughing* Now that would be a flash fiction story.
Favorite coffee or tea frou-frou drink.Ooooh, gimme my cup of hot tea.Favorite food.Liver and onions. Mmmm. I can OD on the good stuff.Food that gags you.Sushi.Have you ever seen a UFO? Explain.No, darn it. I have friends that have, but I always miss out somehow. Thank you Lorrie for visiting my blog! In closing, please tell us more about A Heap of Trouble.I absolutely fell in love with all my characters. I’d say the genre is old west romance/action/mystery/humor.Here is a promo from MuseItUp Publishing:Sheriff Cole Walker is fearless, except when it comes to critters. When a runaway ringtail monkey decides to adopt Cole and won’t leave, he has more woes than he can handle. Cole has a powerful yen for the newly arrived Mattie Wells, the pretty woman who can jingle his spurs with just a smile. Mattie takes a shine to men who have pets, and she adores the monkey. So do all the town’s folk – until their valuables start coming up missing. But Cole has no choice but to put up with the thieving furball if he’s going to win Mattie’s heart. But Mattie is holding a dark secret and refuses to get married. Cole tries every which way to make her see that she’s the only woman he wants, but with cattle rustlers and a miniature thief on the loose, it’s all Cole can do to find time to take her to a picnic. Cole and his deputies, Wade and Sully, are given a month to find the thieves before Mayor Farley calls for outside gunslingers. Cole knows that’ll spell disaster for the town and likely unemployment for him. Can he overcome Mattie’s fears, bring the rustlers in, and teach his new unwanted furball sidekick a lesson about property rights before the town implodes? With the help of his deputies and his unwanted sidekick Beggar, Cole must find a way to win Mattie’s heart, bring the rustlers to justice, and bring peace once again to Cold Creek, Kansas. Yep. Cole has a heap of trouble on his hands. Click here to purchase on AmazonLorrie's Amazon PageLorrie's BlogLorrie's facebook PageLorrie's Pinterest Page
After some much needed R and R, I'm ready to roll my sleeves up and begin writing the second book in the Finding Home Series; the story of Hallie's sister, Lilah. Hallie is the heroine from Cry of the West who made the several months journey from St. Louis, MO to Oregon City, OR along the Oregon Trail.
Lilah's story takes place twelve years after Hallie's arrival in Oregon, and it's been twenty years since the sisters parted ways. Cooper Jerome, Hallie's husband, hires his friend, Rush Garrett, to find Lilah and deliver a letter from Hallie, in the hope that it will persuade her to allow him to accompany her to Oregon
I'm sure you can see where this is going. Rush and Lilah are the H/h and I have entitled this book Rescue on the Rio. Because the first book, Cry of the West, was full of western history, I've got my work cut out for me in researching the Rio Grande River and surrounding lands. Hopefully, there will be plenty of action, especially when Lilah gets abducted by bandits bound for Mexico. Luckily, Rush will be tracking them, determined to save her. Not so lucky for the bandits, Lilah is a woman with a strong will and cunning mind. Because the story unfolds as I write, there are many unknowns I can't wait to discover.
I'm having fun just contemplating all the trouble I can get Lilah into. However, there is a vulnerable side to our heroine that few are allowed to see. I have a feeling that Rush, strong and cunning in his own right, may just see beyond Lilah's facade and recognize the longing in her heart for a family and home of her own. Hence, the name of the series, Finding Home.
On another note, the above picture was taken during my vacation in Hawaii. It was my first visit and I marvel at the beauty of the islands. My husband and I rented scooters for a few days and had a blast discovering the Big Island. We went snorkeling and below is a picture of me in my gear. I think I scared the fish. Actually, the colorful array of aquatic friends, and even a sea turtle, made for a wonderful day. Oh, and I also had to upload a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Chicken strutting their stuff. As for the flower, I took more photos of flowers than anything. Every few paces I made my husband stop so I could snap a shot. Such a patient man.
Gary and I sometimes make unusual friends during our travels. We met this guy in Arizona, and although you can't tell from the photo, we were surrounded by his companions. After our new found friends lost interest in us, we were allowed to proceed onward to another adventure. Since visiting Arizona, we have been immersed in the Old West--love the ghost towns! It's a writer's paradise.
Speaking of writing, today I just put the finishing touches on the fourth book in my contemporary romance series: Romance on the Ranch. It's ready for release; however, with a name like Candy Kisses, I have a feeling that if I upload it now, it will become available on Valentine's Day, and readers will get the impression it's a Valentine's story. Nope! The name and completion date are just coincidence. To waylay confusion, I'm aiming for a release date of February 16th.
For the past four months I have been writing daily for hours each day. Only about six weeks ago I released Cry of the West: Hallie, the first book in the Finding Home Series. I had intended to immediately begin writing the second book, Rescue on the Rio: Lilah, but a wonderful email from a reader requesting a continuation of the Romance on the Ranch Series, prompted me to postpone my current project, and I'm so glad I did because it resulted in Candy Kisses.
So, now it's time to begin writing Lilah's story and I've been waking up nights listening to her tale. I must confess, however, that I won't begin her story for a couple of weeks. I've never been to Hawaii and when the opportunity arose, did I have to think twice about going? No way! As much as I love writing, I'm looking forward to some down time. Over the years, I've discovered that writing a story is not the difficult part--it's the editing that's difficult. Sometimes it drives me bonkers and I doubt that whatever I'm working on will ever be ready for release.
Okay, since this is just musings, it's time to sign off because the mountain outside my window is looking fabulous in the evening light and I just want to soak it in. After the sun goes down, I'll put on a travel video and get lost in the beauty of Hawaii.
For my next series, I have set rigid writing requirements in order to have the first book released by February. The series is titled, Finding Home,
and the first book is Cry of the West,
which tells the tale and romance of Hallie Wells.
Of course, I can always fudge my writing requirements if something interesting comes along...like today! To really get into my heroine's head, I'm enjoying the adventure of riding a (replica) steamboat.
My heroine, Hallie Wells, is a grieving widow traveling with her young son to the Willamette Valley in Oregon on the famous Oregon Trail that begins in Missouri. Part of her journey includes traveling by Steamboat from St. Louis to Westport Landing, a jumping off point for the trail. So, although the steamboat I'm going to ride today is much smaller, it will allow me to partake of some of the emotions Hallie feels during her journey (I really get into my characters).
I have set quite a task for myself in writing this series. It's intimidating to incorporate factual events, places, and sometimes people into fictional stories. It's so much easier writing about the familiar or even writing fantasy where you can create your own history. In dealing with history, there is always a margin for error in relating what has been researched. Here are some examples: What staples did the pioneers bring on their wagons. How did they cook their meals? What supplies did they include on their journey? How much was the cost of such items? What landmarks did they pass during their journey? What was the most difficult part of their travels? What kinds of animals pulled their wagons (or prairie schooners)? As I have discovered, sometimes what seems to be an obvious answer, is not, and the truth is far different that I thought.
As you can see, there is much to be researched, but, oops, I almost forgot, I have a steamship to catch. I'll have to continue the research part later. If you would like to read an excerpt from Cry of the West: Hallie,
please go to the books page or click here.
This past summer has been a busy one for me. I began a new project in the spring--an historical romance series entitled the "Unconventional Series" because the romances are unusual. The first is the story of widower (Brant Samson) who advertises for a mail order bride. The second is his son's romance with a heartbroken woman. The third is his daughter's love for a reclusive artist who tragically lost his right arm in a carriage accident.
After completing the third book, I put the stories into a collection. I have now done this with two other series (Romance on the Ranch and Shapeling Trilogy). This seems to work well and I will probably follow this same pattern for future series.
As for my next project, I have an ongoing sci-fi fantasy entitled, The Ordinaries, that I work on intermittently. I am also considering my next major project. I truly enjoy writing western romance so I may continue with the descendants of the Samson family from the Unconventional Series. It would be fun writing a contemporary romance about them. Decisions...decisions.
It usually takes awhile for reviews to start showing up on a new release and the first one for Abby is from an Amazon UK reader. It's 5 stars and made me so happy I just had to post it here! I have copied it word-for-word.Venra's books are always beautiful romanaces (I loved the kisses series) but this is on a whole new level and you will definetley need the tissues handy. Both Abby and Brant are amazing strong, passionate characters, but it is their insecurities and weaknesses that make you bond with them, and love them, and the further into the book you get you more you fall for them. As always there is a tragedy which acts as a wake up call - for Brant especially. But in no other book has the tragedy and its fall out ever lead me to tears, moving does not even begin to come close. And yes you know its a romance and there has to be a HEA, but that doesn't stop you willing it with every fiber of your heart. Cannot wait for the next one, can we have a release date please? The review can be seen by clicking this link.
As for a release date for the next book in the Unconventional Series: Broken Angel,
I'm well into the writing of it and expect it to be released early fall (or sooner).Thank you Amazon UK Reader!!!!!
I thought it would be fun to post another excerpt from my current project, Abby: Mail Order Bride. I'm aiming for release sometime in July. In this excerpt, Abby gets her first look at Brant Samson. Needless to say, he's way more than she expected.
For the remaining hour of her trip, Abigail tried to calm the butterflies in her stomach. She was a sensible woman, but her stomach was acting like that of a young girl. Smoothing a hand over that wayward part of her body, she willed it to settle down, but her thoughts just stirred the butterflies again. Perhaps she would regret her hasty decision to become a mail order bride when she met Mr. Samson. Maybe he'd be as homely as a toad and his children impossible. If so, she could catch the next stagecoach and return home. Home? What do you have waiting there besides endless days of loneliness? You've always dreamed of having a family of your own. So what if he's ugly? He certainly sounds intelligent. And children can be taught manners.
Mrs. Willowood spoke, "Abigail, dear, you shouldn't chew your nails. You'll have them down to the quick."
Abigail jerked her hand back into her lap like an errant schoolgirl.
"So, you said you're visiting family?" Mr. Willowood prodded.
Mrs. Willowood interjected, "My husband can sometimes be nosy. You don't have to answer his questions, if you don't want to."
Abigail wasn't sure how to respond and thankfully didn't have to. The driver called, "Twin Rivers!" and guided the team of horses to the front of a rundown hotel with hand painted lettering proclaiming, Mayflower Hotel. The lead driver jumped down and swiftly opened the stagecoach door to help the occupants out. Abigail waited for Mrs. Willowood to exit and then Mr. Willowood waited for her to exit.
Inhaling sharply, Abigail got her land legs and glanced around the dozen or so buildings. Pitiful looking town. Scanning the hotel porch, she saw a middle-aged man sitting on the railing. His smile showcased missing teeth. Remember, he's intelligent. Hesitantly, she smiled back. Another man exited the hotel with a gun holstered to his hip. He tipped his hat and reached to adjust his gun belt around his expanding waistline.
The second driver handed her trunk down to the first driver and it thunked to the ground. "Here ya go, ma'am."
"Thank you." Abigail looked past the driver and noticed a long-legged man across the street leaning against the side of the blacksmith's shop. He held his cowboy hat in one hand and lazily watched the stagecoach occupants. Even from a distance, she could see he was lean and muscular, with black hair that brushed the collar of his denim shirt. Too young, too handsome.
Abigail turned her attention to another man walking along the wooden planks from the general store next door. Maybe that's him. He looked distinguished in a countrified way and wore a suit that was a decade out of style. Although short, he carried himself well and had a pleasant boyish countenance for a man probably in his forties. Please God, let this be him and not the one with the missing teeth or the one with the gun.
A voice spoke from behind her, "Miz Vaughn?"
Abigail turned and stumbled backwards. The lean cowboy from across the street--with eyes she could now see were the color of a cloudless summer sky--reached out and caught her by the shoulders before she fell on her backside.
"Ma'am, I'm Brant Samson."
The butterflies in Abigail's stomach fluttered into her throat and she couldn't squeeze a word out.
In the midst of writing a sci-fi futuristic romance called, The Ordinaries, I had a sudden inclination to start another project, a Western Romance. However, unlike the Kisses series, this is a period story set in the late 1800s. I've always found the practice of finding your spouse through "mail order" during that era to be quite fascinating. Of course, this storyline has been written numerous times, but that fact has not quenched my desire to write about Abby and Brant Samson, characters that keep popping into my mind.
My heroine is Abigail Mary Vaughn, a thirty-eight year old school teacher, who finds herself alone in the world after the death of her parents. Since her heart's desire has always been to have a family of her own, but life's circumstances have kept her from fulfilling that dream, she is now considered an old maid. Nowadays, her subsequent actions would be termed a midlife crises, but boredom and loneliness motivate her to do something absolutely, unbelievably crazy--answer an ad by a rancher seeking a wife and mother for his three children.
In writing this story, I am attempting to convey the loneliness and despair of not only Abigail, but the rancher and his children. These are sad souls trying to find happiness again. I'm also trying to create funny situations that a city girl could be thrust into on a farm. Having never lived on a farm, I have my research cut out for me. Mostly, I want to explore the relationship between Brant and his three children as they grow in their relationship with Abby and each other.
Here is an excerpt from Chapter One (could be changed as the story progresses):
Abigail picked up the newspaper advertisement for the hundredth time, read it again, reread it, and tossed it back on the desk in her library. Smoothing her hand over the sides of her auburn hair and the bun at the nape of her neck, she pushed her chair back and walked from the library to the parlor. Pacing the length of the lovely room, she stopped occasionally to straighten a vase or lift a family photo, all the while contemplating something so crazy it made her heart pound.
After an hour, she squared her shoulders, returned to the library, sat at her desk, slipped a piece of stationary from the drawer, reached for her ink quill, and wrote:
March 18, 1870
Dear Mr. Samson,
I am writing to introduce myself. My name is Abigail Mary Vaughn and I read your classified advertisement in the Philadelphia Gazette seeking a wife to help raise your three children. I would like to apply. By trade, I am a teacher and that would benefit your children.
I have never been married and I am thirty-eight years old. I have lived in Philadelphia all my life and taught school for the past eighteen years. I am an only child and my parents died a year ago. I have no responsibilities keeping me here. I have always desired my own family, but circumstances of caring for my elderly parents prevented that.
I do not believe in withholding information, so I have been candid in my response to your advertisement. I hope to hear from you.
--Miss Abigail Mary Vaughn
Before she could react and change her mind, Abigail enclosed it in an envelope and asked, Harry, her old servant, to walk it to the post office not far from her home built near the city's center.
* * *
Brant removed his cowboy hat and ran a hand through hair as black as coal. The town needed a spring rain to clear the air. He stood in front of the blacksmith's where he'd just gotten his horse shod and heard his daughter calling from the entrance to Clyde Jenkins General Store across the street. Clyde was also the postmaster for the dusty town of Two Rivers. She held her baby brother in one arm and waved letters in the other. "Hey Pa, you got more mail. Maybe you'll find us a Ma in this bunch."
Brant paused while a buckboard pulled by a swayback horse rambled past. He waved at old Mr. and Mrs. Snodgrass and then crossed to the warped planks that ran in front of a dozen businesses. "Jenny, did you give Mr. Jenkins that list of staples so we can pick them up next trip to town?"
"Sure did." She shifted two year old Ty to her other hip. "One of the letters came all the way from Philadelphia."
"I'll read them tonight. Where's Luke?"
"He's still talking to Mr. Jenkins about ordering some more dime novels."
Brant bent and kissed his baby's forehead. "Well, run in and tell him it's time to go while I bring the buckboard around. We've got chores to finish up."
Several minutes after Brant had the wagon in front of the store, his fourteen year old son sauntered out. Inhaling a calming breath, Brant said, "It's nice you could join us, Luke. I'd sure like to get home before nightfall. If not, you'll be mucking the barn in the dark."
With a sullen look, Luke hopped onto the back of the wagon and sat on a sack of grain. Jenny snickered and Ty scrambled to sit on his big brother's lap. Brant flicked the reins. "Giddy-up."
After a long evening of chores, Brant finally collapsed into his favorite chair and propped his feet on the hearth. He could hear Jenny telling Ty a bedtime story in the room she shared with her baby brother. No doubt Luke was in the loft devouring another cheap novel.
Leaning his head back, he surveyed his cabin. Besides his bedroom and Jenny's room, there was an additional bedroom that his mail order bride would stay in until they got to know each other. His plan to marry scared the bejesus out of him, but he was dead set to find a ma for his children. He closed his eyes and saw Molly's laughing face. God, he missed her. How he'd loved her. His eyes stung and he opened them again, glancing around the large combined living, dining, and cooking area that still held her touch in the faded curtains and small knickknacks. Although modest, the cabin was sturdily built from the labor of his own hands.
Unable to put it off any longer, he unfolded his lanky frame and reached for the letters he'd tossed on the mantel. Sighing, he read more responses to his advertisement. Damn, but the thought of marrying someone he'd meet through a newspaper ad irked him. However, his children needed a mother. Jenny did the best she could caring for Ty, but she was only ten years old. Guilt plagued him at the responsibility that had been forced on her. As for Luke, Brant hadn't been able to bond with his son since Molly's death, and now the boy lost himself in dime store novels. And Ty, his baby, God help him, needed a mother's care.
Brant fingered the letter from Philadelphia. He'd placed ads in newspapers, local and cross country, and wondered if the call of the West would provoke responses from city girls. He'd received a few, but from the tone of the letters, they'd seemed to high and mighty to live in a simple cabin on a small ranch. He slipped a thumb under the envelope flap and ripped it open. The letter was short and written on quality stationary in neat printing. He read it a couple of times.
Going to his room, he retrieved a paper and his quill, and returned to the dining table. Tapping his jaw, he thought about his response.
May 1, 1970
Dear Miss Vaughn,
Thank you for your letter and also your forthrightness. Please tell me more about yourself and why you would want to marry someone you have never met and mother children that are not your own.
As for myself, I will also be forthcoming. I am solely seeking a mother for my children. If you have romantic notions, I am not the husband for you. My wife died two years ago after complications from childbirth. I have two sons, a fourteen year old and a two year old, and a ten year old daughter. My ranch is small, as is my cabin, so if you are looking for anything else, I suggest you not respond to this letter.
As for your qualifications, they are excellent. My eldest son loves reading. I can hardly get him to complete his chores without a book in hand. My daughter is very smart and an avid learner. Both my elder children attend school whenever there is a teacher available and I am the son of a teacher.
Two Rivers is a small town that does not have much in the way of diversion to keep folks interested.
So, as you can see, I have not painted a pretty picture. I have written the truth so as to not waste my time or yours.