Okay, I’ve bragged about her before, but I love getting the opportunity to do it again. I met Deb Raney 3 years ago at my first visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains Writers Conference. From that point on, I’ve made a point of going to at least one of her lectures each conference. Not only is she an emotionally gripping writer, a down-to-earth presenter, but she’s a marvelous encourager.
I had to include this photo of Deb and me again. I’m so proud of it, so I hope Deb doesn’t mind sharing the on-screen space with me 😉
She’s working on her nineteenth or twentieth novel. Which one is it, Deb? And her newest series is called The Hanover Falls Novels, with the first book, Almost Forever, just out in May. You can learn more about her books at www.debraney.com
Oh I’m so glad to have you on here, Deb.
What do you think makes for a great meet cute?
When hero and heroine meet on the first page, the reader is already at a disadvantage because he/she doesn’t know either character yet. So a good meet-cute––especially if it happens very early in the book––needs to show us something about each character’s personality. A lot depends on the genre. A first encounter will usually look very different in a drama than it does in a romantic comedy, but every drama could benefit from an injection of humor.
The circumstances under which two characters meet will vary greatly depending on whether they are meeting on a blind date with hopes of finding true love, literally bump into each other on the street, or are thrust together at a time when neither of them is the least interested in finding love. That’s what happens to my characters in Almost Forever, the first book in my new Hanover Falls Novels series (from Howard/Simon & Schuster). Bryn and Garrett have known each other socially when they were each married to firefighters. After the tragic deaths of their spouses in the same fire at a homeless shelter, they meet again, not looking for love, but surprised when love finds them unexpectedly––with a little help from a four-legged friend.
The runaway dog came closer and Garrett shut his mouth, hoping the woman hadn’t heard him laughing at her expense. Wait a minute. He took a closer look. Wasn’t that Bryn Hennesey? Adam’s wife?
When the dog approached, Garrett bent and coaxed the animal to come to him. “Here, boy. Come here…” Thankfully, the dog obeyed, yapping and yanking at the leash, then putting its paws on his shoulders and trying to dance with him. He drew the line when the brute tried to lick his face. Molly would have been delighted. She’d been begging him for a dog since before they were married.
“Who’s walking who here?” Garrett looked up at Bryn and smiled. “Ah. It is you. I thought I recognized you.”
Bryn Hennesey stood in front of him, drawing in hard breaths.
“You’ve got a frisky one here.”
She looked up at him from under the fluffy stocking cap she wore. “Thank you for rescuing me.” Her shoulders hunched in relief. “I was beginning to think I was going to have to let go of him.”
Garrett patted the dog’s head. “Settle down, boy.” He turned to Bryn again. “What’s his name?”
“Sparky. But I’m thinking of changing it to Killer,” she deadpanned. She turned to shake an index finger at the animal. “Bad dog, Sparky.”
“I noticed he wasn’t paying much attention to the ‘heel’ command. Obedience school dropout?”
“Apparently.” She rolled her eyes, but a hint of a smile hid behind them.
His mind raced. He should say something about Adam. How sorry he was. How terrible it all was. But then she’d feel obligated to say something about Molly and he’d be right back to where he was when he left the house to escape all that. So he said instead, “How old is Sparkles?”
“Sparky,” she corrected, a wry smile tilting her mouth. She shrugged. “I really don’t know. He belonged to one of the guys at the shelter. You probably heard they relocated everybody to Springfield? Anyway, Charlie couldn’t keep Sparky, so I volunteered. Temporarily.”
Garrett knelt in the grass beside the sidewalk and stroked the Lab’s thick black coat, surprised at the calming effect his affection seemed to have on the dog. “I’d guess he’s still got some puppy in him.”
“Well, he’d better grow out of it in a hurry because I can’t take these so-called ‘walks’ much longer.”
Garrett laughed, then turned serious. “So…how are you doing?”
She looked at him, and he felt something pass between them. They were members of a survivors’ club. He had a pretty good idea what her life had been like these last two weeks.
“I’m hanging in there,” she said. “How about you?”
“The same.” He looked out over the water, fighting off a new swell of grief. “It…feels good to get out of the house.”
“Yeah, it does.”
He glanced up at her, methodically stroking the dog. “This your first time out?”
“Monday. That’s when I got Sparky.”
“Ah…you’re a couple days ahead of me, then.”
“Today’s your first day to get out?”
He nodded and rose, brushing shreds of brown grass off the knees of his warm-ups. He reached for the leash. “Can I help you handle this beast?”
“That would be wonderful.” She turned the leash over to him, her smile making him glad he’d offered.
Sparky pranced around the two of them until Garrett started walking. Bryn fell in step beside them. He had to keep a tight rein on the leash to keep Sparky from racing ahead, but when the dog figured out that Garrett wasn’t going to give an inch, it seemed to accept that and trotted happily ahead of them.
The smooth surface of the water reflected blue-gray sky and against it, the tracery of naked tree branches that hung over the banks of the river. A skein of geese trailed overhead, their distant honk honk honk taking up the silence.
He and Molly had hung out with Adam and Bryn a couple of times last summer––and sometimes with the Morgans, Jenna and Zach. Now Zach was gone, too. It was surreal.
He had a feeling Bryn was having some of the same thoughts beside him, and he scuffled to land on a lighter topic.
She saved him the trouble, looking up at him with affected exasperation on her pretty face. “Why is it this stupid dog is being an absolute angel for you, but he’s Satan incarnate when I’m holding the leash?”
Wonderful! Wonderful, scene Deb. What intensity. I was immediately drawn in. And leave it to a dog to bring to hurting people together, right? 🙂
Thanks for visiting today.
Next week’s lineup will be posted this weekend, so be sure to check in.
The winner of Julie Lessman’s book from last Friday is Sherrinda. Congrats!