Winner of the 3 Million Pages Giveaway!

I’m so excited to announce that I have reached 3 million pages read in Kindle Unlimited! As promised, I put everyone’s names into a spinner and we have a winner.

Congratulations, Adriana! I will be emailing you with your prize book!

Thanks to everyone for entering! I got a great response for this, so I will try to have a giveaway for the next milestone I reach.


Giveaway: 3 million pages read on KU!

Wow! I just checked my Kindle Unlimited pages read on my first three books, and do you know what I realized?

They stand at 2,987,720!

It is so exciting to realize that between A Good Name, Beauty and Mr. Darcy, and Plots, Ploys, and the Art of Matchmaking, there are almost 3 million pages read!

To celebrate, I’d like to give away an ebook copy of one of my books. You can take your pick from the three listed above, or my newest, The Olive Branch. To win, all you need to do is comment on this post and make sure to include your email address (it doesn’t need to be public). When I hit 3 million pages read, I’ll do a drawing and randomly pick a winner!

Which book will you pick?

“The Best Christmas Ever,” a Christmas story for A Good Name

It was the Monday before Christmas, and George Wickham was troubled.

It was dusk in the park where he and Lizzy Bennet met almost every day. Lizzy had long since gone home, and the other kids in the park had disappeared, too. Through the bare trees he could see Christmas lights here and there in the distance. He had never stayed this late before, but it wasn’t like it mattered. His mom never noticed whether he was home or not, nor did her boyfriend, Mark. He could probably fall into a manhole and she wouldn’t notice for a few months. No, they wouldn’t care, and it was easier to think here on their favorite park bench.

Lizzy was going to buy him a Christmas present. She had last year—a bag of chocolates and a warm knit hat—and he knew she was going to again this year. That was who she was.

She had bought him a Christmas present, and of course he hadn’t had anything to give her. Not a single thing. It was just one more reminder of being poor and he hated it. Lizzy was his best friend, it was Christmas, and he didn’t even have the money to buy her a good present.

She hadn’t spent that much on the chocolates or hat, he knew. She didn’t get a lot of money for her allowance and she had four sisters, parents, and probably friends and other relatives to buy for. Still, even something like that cost money, and George really didn’t have any.

He wished it had snowed, as he might have been able to shovel some yards to earn money. He didn’t have a shovel, but unlike lawnmowers for cutting grass, people didn’t seem to mind loaning shovels. He had thought to try to earn some money mowing lawns last summer, but nobody seemed willing to let an eleven-year-old with no experience use their lawnmower. And the bit of money he’d earned last winter from shoveling had long since gone to supplement the grocery budget.

George sighed. What could he get Lizzy without money? The thought was the thing, and all that, but no nine-year-old really wanted a drawing on notebook paper or a cootie catcher or paper football for a Christmas present. He was way too old to make her some stupid popsicle stick craft in Sunday school.

The best thing would be a book, but he definitely did not have the money for that.

It was growing darker, and George got up from the bench and started his walk home, scuffing his feet as he thought.

Maybe he could make her something that was actually useful. She loved to play out stories from books. A bow, like Attean’s from The Sign of the Beaver? Maybe. A bow was just a tree branch with a string tied to it, right? He could probably find string somewhere. Arrows would be harder to make.

The Sign of the Beaver was the book that had started their fight last spring, though. He had wanted to play that book, and Elizabeth had wanted to play another; he didn’t remember which anymore. When they had fought over it and she had stalked off, he had thought their friendship was over. One fight hadn’t killed their friendship, but still, he didn’t think he wanted to remind her of that book. He’d have to come up with a better story to make something from.

There weren’t any Christmas lights in his apartment complex. It wasn’t that type of neighborhood. But as he passed the dumpster, there was enough illumination from the street light for him to see the ripped garbage bags that hadn’t quite made it into the dumpster and had been the targets of raccoons or dogs.

Suddenly, he stopped. Something was almost sparkling in the trash. He bent to see.

It was a tiny broken Christmas ornament—a little porcelain ballerina fairy with one leg and an arm broken off. The iridescent wings were so pretty that it seemed a shame to throw her away.

Could he fix her, for Lizzy’s present? He wasn’t sure that she had any particular interest in ballet, despite having read Ballet Shoes last year, but it was pretty anyway.

He dug through the bag he thought the fairy had come from, but there was no sign of the leg or arm. He didn’t have any superglue, anyway, and they might have been shattered instead of just broken off.

George sighed and was about to toss the fairy back into the garbage when he noticed her wings again. He tugged on them just a bit. Sure enough, they were just glued on. With a good yank—there!—now they were in his hand.

Sudden inspiration had him longing to dig through the garbage now, but he knew he would have better luck in the daytime. How was he supposed to sleep tonight with his plan in his mind? He could not wait to get back in daylight to see what else he might find.

One thing he had not considered was how short the days were. He had planned to leave early for school in the morning so that he could go through the trash first, but it was still dark when he awoke, and he remembered that it was usually still dark when he left for school. He groaned. There was nothing for it, then, but to go after school. He usually got to the park before Lizzy, but he might be a few minutes later today. He only hoped that she would not give up and go home when he wasn’t there at the usual time.

When school was out, he hurried to the dumpster as quick as he could. Fortunately, there were not many people around behind the complex at that time of day, so nobody was there to see him dig through the trash.

The ballerina was not the only Christmas ornament he found. There were no other fairies, nor was there conveniently any other little doll of the right size to which he could attach the wings. He saved a few cracked Christmas bulbs, though, although he had to be careful not to cut himself. He found a clean cardboard box to carry things in. It had been folded up, and he could not make the bottom stay closed without tape, but if he wedged it into his backpack just right, the bottom stayed closed.

One of the garbage bags even had a little string of lights. They were almost certainly broken, but that didn’t matter. They still looked like lights even though they were off, and it was not as if he planned to have anywhere to plug them in.

He collected aluminum foil, scraps of wrapping paper that weren’t completely dirty, and anything else that he could find that was bright and shiny or made of wood or metal. He waffled over a tin can, but could not determine a good way to use it and so tossed it into the recycling bin.

His best find was an entire length of twine from a Christmas tree. Excellent! It was just the thing.

He hurried upstairs to grab a pair of scissors from Mark’s apartment, then went to the park and hoped that Lizzy would not notice his distraction.

George spent every spare minute on Lizzy’s present that week. As soon as she left the park, he used any remaining daylight to sneak into the wooded area behind the playground for his project. The weekend before Christmas was especially useful, as Lizzy rarely appeared before lunch on those days, so he had the morning to work. He hit every dumpster between his apartment, school, and the park and collected any useful and reasonably clean piece of trash he could find.

The trickiest part was to decide the best day to present Lizzy with her gift. Surely she would not come to the park on Christmas Day, not with four sisters at home and presents to open. He had not thought to ask before the weekend whether she would be there on Monday, as it was Christmas Eve, but that afternoon she was there as usual.

“I have a present for you!” she said gleefully. “Open it!”

He grinned at the wrapping paper. It was silvery with little snowflakes on it . . . perfect for him to use for his present for her! He unwrapped it carefully to preserve the paper, despite her cries of, “Oh, come on, just tear it!”

Inside was a pack of little army men and a box of Nerds.

“Army men!” he exclaimed.

Lizzy shrugged shyly. “You love to play stuff like that, and I thought . . . with the woods and all . . .”

She couldn’t know how perfect it was. “I love them. Thank you, Lizzy. And Nerds!” He didn’t get candy very often, occasionally at school parties, so it was always a special treat. They lasted a long time, too, since you could eat just a nibble at a time.

“I can’t stay long today. Gotta get home to make cookies with Jane.”

He nodded. “I have a present for you, but . . . maybe we should wait until after Christmas, when there’s more time.”

“Okay.” She bit her lip, then stepped forward quickly and hugged him. “Merry Christmas, George!”

He awkwardly hugged her back. “Merry Christmas, Lizzy!”

Even though he knew she wouldn’t be at the park on Christmas, and it was rather cold on the bench alone, George went to the park anyway. Mark and his mother were at a “party,” or so they said. The apartment wasn’t all that warm, as Mark said they didn’t have enough money for any more heat until he got paid, but it was still warmer than outside because of their neighbors’ heat. Still, the park felt like Lizzy, so it was less lonely than being home.

He sat on the bench for a while reading The Lives of Christopher Chant until a shadow fell on his library book. He looked up and was surprised to see a tear-stained Lizzy.

“Lizzy!” He jumped to his feet. “What’s wrong?”

She shrugged and dropped to the bench next to where he’d been sitting. “Don’t wanna talk about it.” He winced, knowing that wasn’t good. Maybe her mom had just gotten her clothes again. She hated clothes, especially the fancy frilly dresses and pinchy shoes that her mother loved to buy her.

Lizzy leaned against him to look down at his book. “What are you reading?”

He showed her, and she gave him a ghost of a smile. “I love those. My favorite of hers is Howl’s Moving Castle, though.”

George nodded. “I like that one, too.” He had been so busy hiding his present for Lizzy this past week that he hadn’t had the chance to show her what books he’d gotten from the library. That gave him an idea.

“Wanna see your present?”

Her eyes lit up. “You have one for me? Really? Yes!”

She watched his backpack as he put it on, but gave him a puzzled glance when he made no effort to take a present out of it. Instead, he took her hand and led her into ‘their’ spot in the woods, near the little trickle of creek, the place where they liked to play Terabithia.

When they neared the right spot but before she could see anything, he spoke in a whisper.

“Shh,” he said. “Look.”

“Where?” He grinned when her line perfectly matched May Belle’s from the book Bridge to Terabithia, one of Lizzy’s favorites.

“Can’t you see them?” he whispered. “All the Terabithians standing on tiptoe to see you.”

Lizzy was grinning now. She knew what book he was playing and went along with it. “Me?”

“Shh, yes. There’s a rumor going around that the beautiful girl arriving today might be the queen they’ve been waiting for.”

George pulled her another step and crouched down, pulling her down with him.

Lizzy gasped and put her hands to her cheeks.

George had spent the last week making her a tiny fairy village among the old leaves and undergrowth of the forest. One small little pine sapling had become a Christmas tree, decorated with little colorful bits and pieces of packaging and even a few broken ornaments that he was able to attach to it.

He’d built little fairy houses out of sticks, bark, and anything wood that he’d been able to find in the trash. The fairies had all decorated their houses for Christmas just like the tree. He had even happened upon a tangle of tinsel and painstakingly untangled it to drape over the roofs.

The fairies had been the trickiest part. He had looked up books about how to make dolls out of corn husks and yarn. He didn’t have either of those things, but there were some places that still had very long grass along the fence line, and he had managed to fashion lots of little grass fairies with twine holding them together. His favorite had the wings from the fairy ballerina he had found, the others had wings of aluminum foil or even plastic wrap. Their clothes were made of wrapping paper, so they were colorful and Christmassy.

“It’s beautiful, George,” Lizzy breathed.

“It won’t survive out here all that long,” he felt he had to point out. “One good rain . . . I mean, we can try to protect it for a while, maybe, but it won’t last all that long.”

“The best things never do.” She had not taken her eyes off it since she had crouched down.

“There’s one more thing. You might hate this part.” George motioned for her to follow him a few feet over. There, just across the creek, were the army men she had given him yesterday. He had set them up as if they were planning an attack on the fairies. Some were standing in formation, ready to invade, others were getting into sniper position or setting up a bridge to ford the creek.

“Oh!” She laughed aloud. “I have to get the fairies ready for battle! Thank you for the warning, fairy scout!” With that, she leapt back over to the fairies and sounded the alarm. George stayed with his army men and worked on building a bridge across the creek to begin the invasion.

They played fairies vs. army men for an hour before cold drove them out of the woods and into the sunshine.

“Thanks for the best Christmas ever, George.” Lizzy squeezed his arm.

“It was my best Christmas ever, too.”

She waved as she jumped over the wood border between the playground and the grass and headed towards the path that would take her home.

George zipped his coat back up, pulled his hat from the pocket, and put it back on his head as he retook his seat on the bench. He had been warm enough in the woods, but it was chilly once you were sitting still. There was still a bit of light left before dusk, and he had no intention of going home before he had to. There was nothing there for him after all, nothing except reading alone and waiting for the next time he could see Lizzy.


The End.

I’d love to hear what you think in the comments! Criticism is fine as well!

If you want to read more about George and Lizzy, you can find their complete story in A Good Name on Amazon:
George Wickham is a significant and sympathetic character, but don’t worry, it has a happy Darcy and Elizabeth happily ever after in the end!

Excerpt from “A Good Name”

It was Saturday, and George Wickham was hungry again.

He was always hungry, really. Okay, maybe not starving like those children he sometimes saw in pictures, those hollow-eyed children in other parts of the world. But hungry.

He knew should be grateful that he got a free breakfast and lunch at school every weekday. It might not be great food, but it was food, and since his mother was usually too out of it in the evenings to make him dinner, it was nice to have two meals he could be sure of. At least on school days. Even when school was out, like it would be soon, kids could go by the school for breakfast and lunch, and nobody asked any particular questions.

He’d long since stopped being embarrassed about getting free meals. Hunger would do that to you.

Sometimes his mom’s boyfriend, Mark, bought groceries. George was allowed to share, but it always went fast, and there were too many days between grocery trips. When that happened, it was always weekends that were the worst. He’d have no food but what he could scrounge up until Monday, unless Mom or Mark sobered up enough to get something. Sometimes George got so hungry that he’d sneak into a fast-food restaurant to take a ketchup package or two. He hoped that didn’t count as stealing since they gave them away for free.

His walks didn’t help his hunger, but he couldn’t resist. He hated Mark’s apartment complex. The kids there thought they were so tough, and they were always threatening him. There was a little playground, but the teenagers had taken it over and painted nasty stuff on the slide, and no younger kids ever played there anymore.

But if he could handle a mile of walking, he could hang out in a park with a pond. He liked to sit on a bench near the playground and watch the kids play. Or sometimes he would walk down the short path through the trees to the pond and watch the ducks. It was worth the long walk to be somewhere quiet and peaceful.

He passed the tattoo parlor, the auto shop where Mark worked, and the payday loan place that his mom sometimes dragged him to when she got desperate. She was sure that having a child along helped. He hated the next corner, where the cell phone store was. The men who liked to hang out there scared him.

Once he passed that corner, though, the road was wider and the stores nicer. Traffic was heavier, but he didn’t have to cross for several blocks and there was a traffic light. After he’d crossed and turned the corner again, he was on a street that had a pretty church and even trees in front of some of the stores. He enjoyed the hint of greenery as he approached the park.

The trees were full and provided plenty of shade once he’d crossed the parking lot and gone up the path to the playground. He took his usual seat at a bench overlooking the playground.

It was hard, though, to forget his hunger, when there was a girl eating a sandwich at the next bench. He couldn’t keep from glancing repeatedly in her direction. He could smell the peanut butter from where he sat, and it was torture.

She caught him looking at her, and he blushed and turned his head all the way to the side towards the kids on a set of monkey bars. He didn’t want her to think he was staring.

He yelped with surprise when he turned back to see her sitting right next to him on his bench.

“What are you, a ninja?” Up close, he could see every tiny freckle on her nose and cheeks.

She laughed and shook her head, brown braids flying. “What are you, deaf? I wasn’t even trying to be quiet. So, are you allergic to peanut butter?”

“Allergic to… why?”

She shrugged. “Well, I’ve got an extra sandwich. I don’t think I’ll eat it, and you looked like you forgot to bring lunch. You can have it if you want it. As long as you aren’t allergic.”

“How would I know if I was allergic?” he asked to hide the fact that he didn’t know exactly what “allergic” meant. He’d heard the word, of course, from grown-ups at school during lunch and sometimes Mark muttering about pollen, but how would he know if he was?

She flipped a braid behind her. “Have you ever eaten peanut stuff and stopped breathing and had to go to the hospital?”

He widened his eyes. “No.”

“Well, then.” She gave him a huge grin. “Here. Have a sandwich.”

He took it gingerly, but once he’d taken a bite, it was all he could do not to make a fool out of himself by eating like an animal.

“Thank you,” he gasped out between bites.

She popped the last bite of her own sandwich in her mouth, then leaned back on the bench and pulled out a book, with apparently no intention of going back to her own bench.

They sat quietly for a few minutes, her reading and him eating. Then she spoke again.

“My dad says I read aloud really well—for a kid, at least. I even do, you know, voices and all. Want me to read to you while you eat?”

He shrugged. “Dunno. You can if you want, I guess.”

“Okay!” she said brightly. She flipped back to the beginning of her book and started to read. “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”

He chuckled. “Is that supposed to be an English accent?”

“Why yes, yes, it is,” the girl said in the same accent, shaking her head and letting her braids fly.

“It’s awful,” he said. “Like, the worst ever. What are you, six?”

“I’m eight! I just had my birthday,” she exclaimed, frowning at him. “And I have a perfectly good English accent.”

He shook his head. “No, you don’t. Just read it like a normal person.”

She sighed. “Nobody ever appreciates my accent.”

“Because it’s bloody awful!” He was rather proud of himself for that, even though he wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. He’d heard the word on some show of Mark’s.

She stuck her tongue out and continued to read, in her regular voice now. “Mr. Dursley was the director of a firm called Grunnings, which made drills.”

George sat back in the bench and took another bite of his sandwich.

So she was eight. She really did read well for an eight-year-old. To be honest, she read a lot better than he did, especially considering she was reading aloud.

It took him several minutes to figure out that she was reading him Harry Potter. He’d heard of it, of course. Kids at school were always pretending to cast spells on each other or playing with sticks as wands. But without a library card or money for books, he’d never read it himself. He wasn’t really much of a reader, anyway. Slogging through the stories in his school reading book was enough for him. Reading was too hard to do it for fun.

But this Harry Potter was good stuff. He finished his sandwich and kept listening. And the girl kept reading. She took drinks from a water bottle every so often and glanced at him to see his reaction sometimes when something particularly funny or interesting happened, but otherwise she read without comment.

Finally she closed the book and looked at her watch. “I gotta get home, or Mom’ll get mad,” she said.

He nodded, but he wished she didn’t have to go. It was like coming out of a dream somehow, to close the book and go back to real life. He felt let down. Going home, going to bed, lying there hungry—well, maybe he’d be a little less hungry tonight—while waiting for sleep to come . . . how could he go back to that now that he had been on a train to magic school? Maybe he could imagine he was Harry Potter still in his cupboard. Harry was probably hungry and lonely sometimes, too.

“Okay,” was all he said.

“Wanna read some more tomorrow?” she asked. “I can come in the afternoon sometime.”

Did he ever! “Yeah, okay,” he said. “Will you . . . will you bring the book?”


He watched as she put her water bottle and the book into a backpack that appeared full of books. Awfully full, really, for a kid who had to be in, what, like, third grade? She had more schoolbooks than he did, and he was in fifth!

“Oh,” she said, turning, “I never asked your name. I’m Elizabeth Bennet.”

“George Wickham,” he said.

He watched until she was out of sight.

Want to read more? A Good Name is available now on Amazon! Buy now, or read on Kindle Unlimited! And please, consider leaving a review! They help authors tremendously.

Books referenced in “A Good Name”

“A Good Name” is, in many ways, a book of books. The story starts with a young Elizabeth Bennet winning George Wickham over to the joy of reading, a love that will transform his life.

There are many books referenced, either directly or indirectly, in “A Good Name.” Want to see the complete list?

Books that Lizzy reads aloud:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Rowling)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Lewis)
Prince Caspian (Lewis)
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Lewis)
The Silver Chair (Lewis)
The Horse and His Boy (Lewis)
The Magician’s Nephew (Lewis)
The Last Battle (Lewis) 
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Baum)
Caddie Woodlawn (Brink)

Books that George reads:
The Boxcar Children (Warner)
Henry and Ribsy (Cleary)
I Want To Go Home! (Korman)
The Sign of the Beaver (Speare)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
Captain Nobody (Pitchford)
Around the World in 80 Days (Verne)
The Hobbit (Tolkien)
The Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
The Two Towers (Tolkien)
The Return of the King (Tolkien)
My Side of the Mountain (George)
The Story About Ping (Flack)
George Shrinks (Joyce)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Rowling)
The Law (Bastiat)
Exodus (Leon Uris)

Other books that are referenced:
No Coins, Please! (Korman)
The Incredible Journey (Burnford)
Lassie (Knight)
Misty of Chincoteague (Henry)
Ella Enchanted (Levine)
Bridge to Terabithia (Paterson)
The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas)
Gulliver’s Travels (Swift)
Stealth Warrior (Checketts)
The House of the Seven Gables (Hawthorne)

Books read or talked about at the shelter:
Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Atwater)
My Father’s Dragon (Gannett)
Babe: The Gallant Pig (King-Smith)
Tuesdays at the Castle (George)
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (Burton)
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (Willems)
Ramona the Pest (Cleary)
The Boxcar Children (Warner)

Have you read any of these books? Have your children? Some of these are absolute favorites of mine or my children.

A Good Name

My first Pride and Prejudice variation, the modern story A Good Name, is now available! You can buy it now on Amazon: It’s available both for purchase and on Kindle Unlimited. I hope you enjoy!

This book starts with a childhood friendship between Elizabeth Bennet and George Wickham. Elizabeth and George bond over a shared love of reading, a bond that changes the course of both of their lives.

Don’t worry, while George is a significant and sympathetic character in this story, it is ultimately a Darcy and Elizabeth story. I like to think that everybody gets their happy ending, though. I’m a big fan of happy endings!

A Good Name was featured on Diary of an Eccentric blog on Friday, a post you can see here: There’s a giveaway for an ebook copy of A Good Name, so if you’re interested in the book, go there to enter!