WIP – I think I’ve GOT IT!

For those of you who have suffered through my previous two emails, I think I’ve finally created a first chapter like I want it. It still have some errors here and there, but the setup is what I have in mind.

Also one of the wonderful things about the research for this new novel is the language of flowers…so I’m going to share a few of those meanings over the next few weeks. The main flower for today is the purple hyacinth – which is the color and flower that says “I’m sorry” or “forgive me” 🙂

If you want, let me know what you think of my revisions so far?

“Two days?” Paige Emerson fought for control of her rising frustration. She hugged her cell between her shoulder and chin as she moved the last box of books from her parents’ house into the back of her car. “Please tell me you didn’t say two days, Aunt Marcie?”

“Now honey, it’s for your own good.”

Her aunt’s thick southern drawl tried to make the words sound nicer, but Paige knew the truth. Her aunt was being downright bossy, in the nicest possible way.

“The longer you hold onto this house, the harder it is to let it go. You needed this nudge to finishing emptying the place.”

Paige rolled her eyes to the ceiling and took another long breath. Her zealot realtor-aunt cared about her, even if she chose to show it in strange ways. “Marcie, I haven’t even gone through Mama’s jewelry, let along Daddy’s desk. And you’ve told the new owners I’ll be out of the house in two days? I was supposed to have two more weeks. Are you mad at Uncle Arnold again? Is that why you’re extra pushy?”

“Don’t you bring my stiff-necked husband into this, Paige.”

Ah, obviously Uncle Arnold was in the doghouse.

“I could have given you four more months and you wouldn’t have finished cleaning out that house. Admit it. They’ve been gone over a year and you still haven’t. You just have that one room left, Paige.” Silence softened her aunt’s words. “I miss them too. Heaven knows I do, but it’s time to let go of this house. You can’t keep paying for your apartment and this home’s maintenance on a teacher’s salary and you know it. Let it go, darlin’.”

Paige stepped through the threshold of the house and allowed the screen door to slam behind her. The living room stood barren except for her father’s leather recliner in the corner, a symbol so much of him she couldn’t seem to remove it from its spot. How on earth was  she going to erase a million memories by the weekend?

She’d worked so hard for months, repainting walls marked with years of height measurements and childhood art experiments. Diving into the renovations with every ounce of free time kept her mind busy and her heartache under amicable control. She’d carefully packed old photos in storage with a series of emotional outbursts for each one, and scrubbed the carpets until her mother’s rose-scent barely tinted the air.

All of the work in an effort to remain numb, but the hollowed out place in her heart only grew with each piece of furniture she sold. Each trinket tagged with a memory she held to like history facts for her high schoolers – and now, finally, the last large piece of her parents’ lives was slipping from her hands.

Just like her parents.

Just like the pedestal on which she’d always placed them.

“Paige.”

She squeezed her eyes closed at the gentle prodding of her aunt, urging her down a path she’d been fighting since the last time she’d closed her parents’ bedroom door – ten months before.

“If you want me to come help you, I can be there−”

“No thanks, Marcie.” Paige corrected the tinge of harshness to her voice. “Really, thank you. But I need to do this myself.”

And she knew it. The entire family knew it.

“I love you, girlie. If you need me, just call.”

Paige clipped the phone shut. Silence swelled around her – loud and unnerving, with loneliness following close behind. She’d come to expect it, the everpresent hole at their memory, but its presence loomed larger when she stood in her childhood home.

She’d run from the truth for months – tricking her heart into believing her parents were on one of the England trips and would be back soon. It seemed too impossible. They couldn’t have died – not with the last memories of them together being those of heartbreak and betrayal. It had to end better than this.

Her breaths whispered into the emptiness and she looked up to the ceiling. “Lord, I know you are with me always, but sometimes…” Thick emotion fought to eclipse her words. “Sometimes, I’d really like someone with hands and feet.”

The silence grew, almost taunting her with its comfortless emptiness. Her heart fought against the solitude with the same mantra she kept repeating over and over. Her parents were not gone forever. But those thoughts refused to settle the unrest of questions within her. Could she  and  wa

The doorbell peeled through the room pulling her out of her sea of doubt. She pushed her thoughts back into their hiding place along with those rebel emotions. And wlaked ot the door.

Tony Harmon from fourth period English Lit peered through the screen door, his ballcap turned affectionately sideways to taunt her. She’d never get used to staring up at kids who, only a year before, were at least two inches shorter than her. She reigned in her grin, but lost control of it when her gaze dropped to the bouquet in his hands. Was it the thirteenth already? As if in answer the usual purple hyacinth paired with two white tulips rose above the rest of the assorted bouquet. They were always a part of the arrangement. The other flowers might change, but the hyacinth and paired tulips remained the central part of each mystery spray.

On every thirteenth.

Warmth spilled through her, like the touch of sunlight after a storm. Someone was thinking of her on this day every month. Someone hadn’t quite moved on with his life and forgotten that the foundation of her world had been ripped out from underneath her over a year ago. Someone thought she was worth an extra moment of time and effort.

Whether the bouquet was from a secret admirer, anonymous family member, or stalker with excellent taste, the flowers always curbed the loneliness and reminded her someone else remembered.

She squelched the tingle of tears and offered the teen her brightest smile. “Tony, your hat’s on crooked.”

His eye twinkled at her reference to their usual repartee. “Nah, Ms. E. Just showin’ the world that I am comfortable with my way.”

She exaggerated her eye roll and opened the door for him. “As if anyone ever questioned that, Tony.”

His white grin stretched the width of his face. “I saw your car so I thought I’d drop these off here instead of your place.”

Paige collected the massive arrangement and buried her face in them. “That was thoughtful of you. Who’d have thought with your  a crooked cap like that?”

“Anything to keep above the curve with finals coming up.”

“You know, it’s amazing how many of my guys suddenly transform into these complimentary and helpful gentlemen around finals week. I should have exams more often if they bring out the best in you.”

“Ms. E.” Tony laughed through his mock-shock.

“So,” she leaned in closer to him and lowered her voice.  “Any news on your little investigation?”

Tony took off his cap and gave his head a shake, black dreds spilled down each side of his face. “No, ma’am. Whoever is sending these flowers don’t want to be found.”

“Doesn’t want to be found, you mean.”

“He don’t and he doesn’t,” he corrected with a wink. “Dad tried all his usual sources and came up with nothin’.”

Paige stared down at the flowers, another month of uncertainty and unanswered questions about these mystery flowers. “No names? No places at all?”

“Nothin’. It seems like your secret admirer wants to remain a secret, Ms. E.”

“It’s seems so,” Paige whispered into the flowers and then offered Tony a smile along with a small tip. “You’re a doll, Tony. Thanks for checking on this for me.”

“No problem, Ms. E. See you in school tomorrow.”

Paige closed the door and opened the small card nestled within the floral folds. Two typed words blackened the paper: Take Courage.

Take courage? A slight chill spread down her neck and spine. Another note that fit her life much too well. Who could this generous benefactor be? It has to be someone who knew about her parents death, especially since the bouquet always came on the date of their deaths. The thirteenth. And she guessed the two white tulips were representative of her parents, because they remained constant in each arrangement.

Take courage? She looked toward her parents’ bedroom.

Yes, it was something else among a long list of things she had to do by herself. Alone.

The hyacinth scent reminded her. She wasn’t alone. Someone, somewhere thought of her and she’d take that strength along with her as she unearthed whatever memories lay inside her father’s desk. Once the path of comfort from scary monsters or broken hearts, the oak-floored hallway whispered of many more frightening and painful things now. An empty house. A tragedy. Broken promises and marriage vows. Would she find her letters in her father’s things?

Dust swirled in the late afternoon sunlight as she opened the door into the undisturbed room. All the fears she expected to crush her, never came. She’d removed the bedroom furniture a month after the funeral, carefully placing it in her overcrowded apartment for safe-keeping. The only pieces remaining were her mother’s small jewelry table, tucked in one far corner of the room, and her father’s family desk at the other. Sadly synonymous of her parents’ relationship at the end.  Or was it? Had their trip to England confirmed her worst fears or was their love strong enough to overcome betrayal? She’d never know –and that uncertainty ate away at her.

Few marriages survived unfaithfulness.

Her father’s desk lay buried under a mound of scattered papers and miscellaneous cards. It still smelled of him – hints of English leather and shoe polish. She’d shoved unneeded mail in the corner and addressed the urgent messages – stuffing unfamiliar handwritten envelopes in the top drawer. What if one of the letters was from her? Paige didn’t want to discover the woman who came between her mother and father. Ever.

Her aunt’s words came back to mind and she steadied her shallow breaths. This was no time for a coward. Take courage.  She looked to her flowers and touched a dark red flower-type she’d never seen before.  Its scarlet petals framed a center of muted gold, like a crown in the middle.

The first stack of landed in the trash, junk mail and credit card statements. The second stack was condolence letters she shoved into a small box to review later. Then she saw it. Hidden behind a pile of newspaper clippings and outdated magazines – a package with enough stamps on it to ensure it didn’t come from the U.S.

Her breath sped up to match the thumping in her chest. An unopened package from England? She flipped the package over to look for a date. A gasp slipped out. Two weeks after her parents’ death? A cool feeling slid down her neck and back, a sense of inexplicable knowing. This was meant for her.

Paige sucked in a quick breath and flipped the package over. Bakewell? Her mouth went dry. The place the accident happened. The place they’d spent their last evening together. The place where they took their last breaths.

Who could have sent this? Would she find out what happened to her parents the night they died? Her fingers trembled as the tape fastening the package together finally tore loose. Paige slid its contents into her lap. The first thing she saw was her mother’s handwriting.

Dearest Paige,

I have an adventure for you….

Take courage? She looked toward her parents’ bedroom.

Yes, it was something else among a long list of things she had to do by herself. Alone.

The hyacinth scent reminded her. She wasn’t alone. Someone, somewhere thought of her and she’d take that strength along with her as she unearthed whatever memories lay inside her father’s desk. Once the path of comfort from scary monsters or broken hearts, the oak-floored hallway whispered of many more frightening and painful things now. An empty house. A tragedy. Broken promises and marriage vows. Would she find letters from her in her father’s things?

REvised new opening

Okay -for those of you who gave me tips on my opening to my new WIP, here’s a quick attempt at revision. It’s a long excerpt from my VERY ROUGH first draft, but let’s see if you like this better (to figure out the ‘before’ just go back to the last post) Layering and editing will have to take place before this baby is ready for more – but for now I’m just trying to work on the beginning.

What do you think?

“You’ve done what?” Paige Emerson barely controlled the rise of her voice. She hugged her cell between her shoulder and chin as she moved the last box of books from her parents’ house into the back of her car.

“Oh Paige, this is the nudge you need to finish emptying that house. The longer you hold onto it, the harder it’s going to be.”

Paige rolled her eyes to the ceiling and took another long breath. Her crazy aunt-over-zealous-realtor cared about her. “Marcie, I haven’t even gone through Mama’s jewlrey, let along Daddy’s desk. And you’ve told the new owners I’ll be out of the house in two days? I was supposed to have two more weeks. Are you mad at Uncle Arnold again? Is that why you’re extra pushy?”

“Don’t you bring my stiff-necked husband into this, Paige.” Ah, obviously Uncle Arnold was in the doghouse. “I could have given you four more months and you wouldn’t have finished cleaning out that house. Admit it. They’ve been gone over a year and you still haven’t.” Silence softened her aunt’s words. “I miss them too. Heaven knows I do, but it’s time to let go of this house. You can’t keep paying for your apartment and this home’s maintenance on a teacher’s salary and you know it. It’s time, Paige.”

Paige stepped through the threshold of the house and let the screen door slam behind her. The living room stood barren except for her father’s leather recliner in the corner. How could she erase a million memories by the weekend? She’d worked so hard for months on the house, repainting walls marked with years of height measurements and childhood art experiments. She’d carefully packed old photos in storage and scrubbed the carpets until her mother’s rose-scent barely tinted the air. But the hollowed out place in her heart only grew with each piece of furniture she sold. Each trinket tagged with a memory she held to like history facts for her high schoolers – and now, finally, the one thing she held to most was slipping from her hands.

Just like her parents.

Just like the pedestal on which she’d always placed them.

“Paige.”

She squeezed her eyes closed at the gentle prodding of her aunt, urging her down a path she’d been fighting since the last time she’d closed her parents’ bedroom door – ten months before.

“If you want me to come help you, I can be there−”

“No thanks, Marcie.” Paige corrected the tinge of harshness to her voice. “Really, thank you. But I need to do this myself.”

And she knew it. The entire family knew it.

“I love you, girlie. If you need me, just call.”

Paige clipped the phone closed and the loneliness closed in with rapid speed. It was always worse here – but her parents’ deaths didn’t feel as permanent when she stood in this house. For months, she’d tricked her heart into believing her parents were just on one of the England trips and would be back soon. It made it easier to convince herself of the lie since they had died overseas. Even against the massive number of insurance calls and funeral expenses, she numbed to the idea of them suddenly being gone.

It seemed too impossible. They couldn’t have died – not with the last memories of them together being those of heartbreak and betrayal. It had to end better than this. She had always been a prince-charming-girl…until now.

Her aunt was right. It was time to let go – of her parents’ house, of her ridiculous notion that their marriage wasn’t in shambles, of the thought that happily-ever-after existed at all.

The hallway down which her parents’ bedroom stood loomed before her. Instead of being a path of comfort from scary monsters or broken hearts like it had years ago, the oak-floored hallway whispered of betrayal and faded promises. Of loneliness and lies. Of a life she’d never known belonged to her parents until a week before their trip to England.

She fisted her hands at her sides and forced away the fear chilling her pulse. Whatever truth or secret lay behind those walls, she had to face it. God, please help me.

The doorknob twisted cold and unfeeling in her hands. Dust swirled about the room at her disturbance. All the fears she expected to crush her, never came. She’d removed the bedroom furniture a month after the funeral, carefully placing it in her overcrowded apartment for safe-keeping. The only pieces remaining were her mother’s small jewelry table, tucked in one far corner of the room, and her father’s family desk at the other. Sadly synonymous of her parents’ relationship at the end.

There really wasn’t much to do about the jewlry except keep it all, eah piece an heirloom or memorable in its own way.

Then she sat down at her father’s desk. It still smelled of him – hints of English leather and shoe polish. She’d shoved unneeded mail in the corner and addressed the urgent messages – stuffing unfamiliar handwritten envelopes in the top drawer. What if one of the letters was from her? Paige didn’t want to discover the woman who came between her mother and father. Ever.

Her aunt’s words came back to mind and she steadied her shallow breaths. This was no time for a coward. She graded thousands of papers a year. Stacks of paper were a part of her life. She could take on a bunch of paper, right?

The first stack of landed in the trash, junkmail and credit card statements. The second stack was condolence letters she shoved into a small box to review later. Then she saw it. Hidden behind a pile of newspaper clippings and outdated magazines – a package with enough stamps on it to ensure it didn’t come from the U.S.

Her breath sped up to match the thumping in her chest. An unopened package from England? She flipped the package over to look for a date. A gasp slipped out. Two weeks after her parents’ death? A cool feeling slid down her neck and back, a sense of inexplicable knowing. This was meant for her.

The doorbell’s sudden gong broke through the tension. Paige sucked in a quick breath, stood, and flipped the package over. Bakewell? Her mouth went dry. The place the accident happened. The place they’d spent their last evening together. The place where they took their last breaths.

She pinched her eyes closed, but the doorbell shook them open again, reminder her of the reason she’d stood from the desk. She stepped from the room, package tucked beneath her arm, and met the child-like face of Anthony Harmon through the screen door. Nestled within his hands was a beautiful bouquet of assorted flowers, esquisite and delicate.

It was time for her flowers already? The thirteenth?

Whether the bouquet was from a secret admirer, anonymous family member, or stalker with excellent taste, the flowers always curbed the loneliness of the day. She expected them now – on the thirteenth of every month, and here they were, just in the nick of time to comfort her.

“Thanks, Tony.”

“No problem, Ms. E.” He touched the tip of his ballcap in salute. “I saw your car so I thought I’d drop ‘em off here instead of  your place.”

Paige touched the frail petal of a yellow tulip. “That was very thoughtful of you.”

The teenager grinned and shuffled his feet in embarrassed way.

She was such a softy for sweet kids, and Tony was one of the sweetest. She leaned in close, ignoring the prick of curiosity at the package beneath her arm. “Any news on your investigation?”

Tony took of his cap and gave his head a shake. “No, ma’am. Whoever is sending these flowers don’t want ot be found.”

“Doesn’t want to be found, you mean.”

“Nope, he doesn’t,” he corrected. “Dad tried all his usual sources and came up with nothin’.”

Paige pulled the bouquet close for a tantalizing refreshment to her senses. “No names? No places at all?”

“Nothin’. It seems like your secret admirer wants to remain a secret, Ms. E.”

“It’s seems so,” Paige whispered into the flowers and then offered Tony a smile along with a small tip. “You’re a doll, Tony. Thanks for checking on this for me.”

“No problem, Ms. E. See you in school tomorrow.”

Paige closed the door and retreated to her father’s recliner, flowers snug in one arm and package in the other. Someone she didn’t feel so alone with the bouquet near. At least someone was thinking of her right at that moment – and always did on the thirteenth. Her fingers trembled as she ripped through the tape around teh package and slid its contents into her lap. The first thing she saw was her mother’s handwriting.

Dearest Paige,

I have an adventure for you….

The Start of Something New

I LOVE starting new stories.

That’s probably the reason I have 12 started and only 4 finished.

Yep.

But I’ve made a new rule. I can’t start a new one until I finish an old one. So….I just got to type out the first page of my new WIP.

Here’s where you come in – which beginning sounds better to you?

(btw, I believe my new heroine looks a lot like Jennifer Connelly and… I think, my hero might be a Martin Henderson look-alike)

Here ya go:

First try

Whether the bouquet was from a secret admirer, anonymous family member, or stalker with excellent taste, the flowers always curbed the loneliness of the day. She expected them now – on the thirteenth of every month.

And today Paige Emerson needed them more than ever because her control-freak-realtor aunt had completely lost her mind. Paige gripped her cell tighter and repositioned the carnation in the bouquet so she wouldn’t damage it in her frustration.

“You’ve done what?” Paige barely controlled the rise of her voice.

“Oh Paige, this is the nudge you need to finish emptying that house. It only hurts you.”

Paige rolled her eyes to the ceiling and took another long breath. “Marcie, I haven’t even gone through Daddy’s desk, let along Mama’s jewelry. And you’ve told the new owners I’ll be out fo the house in two days? I was supposed to have two more weeks. Are you mad at Uncle Arnold again? Is that why you’re extra pushy?”

“Don’t you bring my stiff-necked husband into this, Paige.” Ah, obviously Uncle Arnold was in the doghouse. “I could have given you four more months and you wouldn’t have finished cleaning out that house. Admit it. They’ve been gone over a year and you still haven’t.” Silence softened her auunt’s words. “I miss them too. Heaven knows I do, but it’s time to let go of this house. You can’t keep paying for two on a teacher’s salary and you could use the money, darlin’. Let it go.”

Paige looked across the empty living room. How could she erase memories by the weekend? She’d worked so hard on her parents’ house, repainting walls marked with years of height measurements and childhood art experiments. She’d carefully packed old photos in storage and scrubbed the carpets until her mother’s rose-scent barely tinted the air. But the hollowed out place in her heart only grew with each piece of furniture she sold. Each trinket tagged with a memory she held to like history facts for her high schoolers – and now, finally, the one thing she held to most was slipping from her hands.

Just like her parents.

Just like the pedestal on which she’d always placed them

OR should I just start with the dialogue. Like this:

“You’ve done what?” Paige Emerson barely controlled the rise of her voice. What had her control-freak-realtor aunt done this time?

“Oh Paige, this is the nudge you need to finish emptying that house. It only hurts you.”

Paige rolled her eyes to the ceiling and took another long breath. “Marcie, I haven’t even gone through Daddy’s desk, let along Mama’s jewelry. And you’ve told the new owners I’ll be out fo the house in two days? I was supposed to have two more weeks. Are you mad at Uncle Arnold again? Is that why you’re extra pushy?”

“Don’t you bring my stiff-necked husband into this, Paige.” Ah, obviously Uncle Arnold was in the doghouse. “I could have given you four more months and you wouldn’t have finished cleaning out that house. Admit it. They’ve been gone over a year and you still haven’t.” Silence softened her auunt’s words. “I miss them too. Heaven knows I do, but it’s time to let go of this house. You can’t keep paying for two on a teacher’s salary and you could use the money, darlin’. Let it go.”

Paige looked across the empty living room. How could she erase memories by the weekend? She’d worked so hard on her parents’ house, repainting walls marked with years of height measurements and childhood art experiments. She’d carefully packed old photos in storage and scrubbed the carpets until her mother’s rose-scent barely tinted the air. But the hollowed out place in her heart only grew with each piece of furniture she sold. Each trinket tagged with a memory she held to like history facts for her high schoolers – and now, finally, the one thing she held to most was slipping from her hands.

Just like her parents.

Just like the pedestal on which she’d always placed them

Indiana Jones – Plotting like the Movies ;-)

I’m blogging at The Writers Alley today about plotting with Indiana Jones.

Stop by and have a little fun with me and our whip-weilding hero. And join The Writers Alley for the next two weeks as we talk about story structure by using some of our favorite movies.

It’s Summer at the Cinema

Meet Me at the Movies!

Daggling the Reader by a Cliff

One of the hallmarks of a great story is the ability to keep the reader engaged. Now, of course, fantastic characters and riveting plots are the main contributors to fantastic novels. Conflict is another thing. But something else to remember in the grand scheme of a story, is the element of cliffhanging.

What is a cliffhanger?

According to dictionary.com, a cliffhanger is:

  1. a melodramatic adventure serial in which each installment ends in suspense in order to interest the reader or viewer in the next installment.
  2. a situation or contest of which the outcome is suspensefully uncertain up to the very last moment.

 So, how do authors do this? Let’s take a look at a some examples for the next few days to get a ‘taste’ for how the experts do it.

 I’m going to start by introducing you all to one of my son’s favorite authors. He’s quickly becoming one of mine too. Stephen Lawhead writes epic fantasy with historical threads, with Celtic and Britain mythology braided throughout. In his book, Hood, he takes on the tale of Robin Hood and brings it to life.

Here are the last few paragraphs of chapter one:

 As he turned to take the third attacker, Iwan glimpsed his king struggling to keep his saddle. He saw Brychan lurch forward and topple from his horse into the water.

 The king struggled to his knees and beheld his champion fighting to reach him a short distance away. “Ride!” he shouted. “Flee! You must warn the people.”

 Rhi Brychan made one last attempt to rise, got his feet under him and took an unsteady step, then collapsed. The last thing Iwan saw was the body of his king floating facedown in the turgid, bloodstained waters of the Wye.

 Now, do you wanna turn the next page and see what happens? Sure. You’re left wondering what’s going to happen next. You can’t just go to sleep now?

 Okay – okay, for those of you with a more romantic leaning, let’s visit Denise Hunter’s newest novel, Driftwood Lane. Can ladies who write romance create cliffhangers too?

“The fact is, the children are in dire need of your assistance, Meridith. Since Mrs. Hubbard fell ill, members of the church have been taking shifts. Very kind of them, of course, but it can’t go on. If you don’t come quickly, I’m afraid I’ll have no choice but to alert Child Protective Services. I’d hate to see the children go to foster care, even temporarily. And there’s no assurance they’d be placed together.

Foster care! Meridith imagined suited men coming into their home, carrying them off. She imagined the littlest boy, screaming for his mommy.

From somewhere deep inside compassion swelled, followed quickly by a surge of protectiveness she didn’t know she was capable of. She had no doubt there were decent foster homes. But the thought of the children being separated seemed cruel when they’d just lost their parents. Besides that, they were orphans. And didn’t he Good Book admonish them to look after the orphans?

She had to do something. It was her responsibility, even if she’d never met them, because T.J. and Eva had named her the children’s guardian. And because, like it or not, she was their sister.

 Yep, I’d say Denise does a nice job of a cliffhanger here at the end of chapter one.

How about one more for today. Let’s try Deeanne Gist’s novel, A Bride Most Begrudging.

“How dare you!” she cried. “You will not get away with this. Mark you, if you do not arrange an audience with the governor at once, I will create a commotion of such magnitude they will write legends about it.”

 The captain did not even bother to acknowledge her. “Throw her back in the hold, Cooper,” he said over his shoulder as he descended the steps.

 She filled her lungs with the intention of letting out a scream the likes of which would not be ignored. Before she could release it, the first mate squeezed a band of flesh between her neck and her shoulder.

Debilitating pain cut off her scream and buckled her knees. She crumpled to the ground. Cooper did not let go but followed her to the floor. She whimpered, trying to pull away from the torturous vice his fingers created.

     His hot, foul breath invaded her ear. “Not one sound, dovey. Not one.”

 What’dya think? The key element of the cliffhanger is creating a question in the reader’s mind. It’s an unsettling thing. That’s why snatching the reader’s emotions in the first chapter is so important. They HAVE to find out what’s going to happen to this character they ‘care’ about now.

 How have you created a cliffhanger in your WIP? Or novel? Is it a sufficient hook to make the reader HAVE to turn to chapter two?

Sizzling First Encounters with Siri Mitchell

I’ve been a fan of Siri Mitchell’s writing for years, and wait with anticipation for her next book. She writes in a mix of genres, but recently she’s been writing a lot of historicals – and her latest one, She Walks in Beauty, is one of  her best. The romantic tension is great and the hero – SUPERB. LOVE the hero.

Siri, I can’t decide if Harry DeVries matches the marvelous Adrien in your contemporary novel, Kissing Adrien, but he’s pretty close.

Another thing that makes Siri’s novels a little more unique is they are written in first person, sometimes from both hero and heroine’s pov, and other times only the heroine’s. A fantastic way to create intimacy.

To learn more about Siri’s books, visit her website at www.sirimitchell.com

Okay, Siri, what do you think makes for great romantic tension?

I think one of the often overlooked aspects of good tension is an element of fear in at least one of the characters. Fear of what other people will say, fear at losing all sense of propriety, fear of being made vulnerable, being made fun of, losing control, etc. Romantic tension is even more effective if the reader knows that this character senses the world sliding out from under their feet in the presence of the other person. If they understand that this character is fighting just as hard as they can not to fall under the spell of the other person. After all, we know that true love casts out all fear. The resolution of romantic tension comes when the characters decide to commit to each other because they’ve learned to trust each other.

The following is clipped from a scene in my Puritan-era novel, Love’s Pursuit. It’s the first time the hero/heroine have had a chance to truly interact. Susannah has twisted her ankle and tumbled down a hill. In the process, she believes she’s come upon one of the savages who have been stalking the villagers. The captain has been sent to the village in order to train up a militia to fight off these savages.

*******

 I tried to shout, to send up some warning, but my breath was expelled by the force of the savage as it pounced atop me.

I squeezed my eyes shut. Waited for death.

To my amazement, instead of words spoken in a heathen tongue, I heard laughter. “And here I was, waiting for savages!”

I opened my eyes and found myself looking straight into the captain’s.

“Are you all right?”

I gasped for air as I tried to speak. Finally succeeded in pushing the words from my throat. “I would be better if you would remove yourself from me.”

“I am certain you probably would.” With amusement flashing in his eyes, he rocked forward, off my stomach. Then he dropped a knee to the ground and extended a hand to me.

I ignored it and tried my best instead to sit. Successful, I took a careful deep breath. It caught. I coughed. Tried again. My chest trembled as it expanded.

The captain leaned close and began to pluck grasses from my sleeves. “Did all savages look like you, I would quit my worries and welcome them here without another thought.”

“You did not have to dive down upon me.”

“Neither did you have to roll yourself into me. Although I must say, it was completely unexpected and therefore tactically sound. Perhaps I should have the men at watch post themselves right there,” he gestured toward the ridge, “in preparation for launching themselves in a roll at the enemy. Tis as good a strategy as I have ever devised.”

I pushed his hand away from my sleeve.

His gaze left my eyes and came to rest at some point beyond my shoulder. “Tsk.” He leaned closer.

My breath caught once more.

He reached out behind me but then almost immediately straightened, putting distance between us. “Such a bad end to such a dreadful hat.” He handed it to me.

Streaks of dirt were smeared across the crown. The brim had been battered. “You do not like my hat?” Why did he not like it? It was just like everyone else’s.

“I could never look without prejudice upon anything that would hide your lovely locks from view.” He reached out a hand to capture a curl that spun in the breeze below my shoulder. It was then that I realized that my coif had disappeared as well.

I gathered up my hairs, spun them around my hand into a bundle and slapped my hat atop them. Then I scrambled to my feet, intending to start a search for the coif. As I gained my feet, however, my ankle buckled once more. I cried out in pain as I stumbled.

The captain, still on one knee, caught me as I fell. “I place my humble person at your service.”

I could only protest his falsehood. “You are not humble!”

He chortled as he gathered me to his chest and came to his feet. “Nay. I have been graced with many things, but that particular quality does not number itself among them.”

Had he no shame? No remorse? To clutch my person to his broad chest in the plain light of day? Such things were not done. And why was I so fixed upon his chest and his eyes?…those eyes that were as varied as the ocean, shifting from light blue to indigo with every glance.

With great effort, I brought my fascination with his person to a halt and concentrated upon his words instead. Had he not just recognized within himself a sin? But though recognized and identified, he appeared to suffer no guilt from it! What kind of man was he?

A shout from the ridge above us made the captain turn. As he did so, he wavered for an instant as if trying to keep his footing.

I threw my arms up around his neck.

“I wish I always had my arms filled with such a grasping woman! T’would be Paradise indeed.”

He made as if to drop me and when I screamed, he tossed me above his head instead. And then he caught me up close against his chest again. He smelt of tobacco and leather and…the wind.

“You must let me go!”

“Must I?” We both watched Mary as she appeared at the ridge. He called at her to come join us.

“Truly, you must.”

“But then how would you get home?”

“You cannot carry me.”

“I cannot? I think I can. I am.” He glanced at me. “Ah, I see. You mean I should not. Are you certain?”

“Tis not…seemly.”

I felt his shoulders shrug beneath my arms. “As you like. I suppose there are other ways of going about it.” He shifted me within his arms and then threw me over his shoulder. Gripping me at his chest about the knees with his arm, he let my own arms and head flop loose at his back.

Beating upon him with my fists did nothing but make him laugh. I doubted a hammer could knock a dent in that rigid back of his.

Mary was smiling long before she reached us.

“A new manner of transport, Susannah?”

I might have glared at her could I only have lifted my head high enough to see her.

“I would think walking more comfortable, if not more prudent.”

“She has turned an ankle.”

“And so you turned her over your shoulder?” There was a sauciness in Mary’s retort that ought to have shamed her. Indeed, it ought to have shamed me. But the thing of it was, she had me wishing that I were walking beside the captain, talking with him, looking into those changeable eyes instead of being flung over his shoulder like a sack of meal.

“What else was I to do when she eschewed my arms?”

“I did not—“

My words were jolted from of me, as the captain began the descent toward home. Mary walked beside him, keeping him in conversation as I tried to keep my hat on my head and clutch at the captain’s waist for security at the same time.

 Oh Siri, I loved that scene from Love’s Pursuit. You write heroes so well. The captain was a beautifully written hero, with a sound faith to dig at Susannah’s pretense. The ending was just so…well, I’ll let readers figure it out, but I wept. And then read it again.

Thanks so much for joining the series today, Siri, and I can’t wait to learn what’s coming next from you? Would you share? What’s in the works?

Up Next:  Grab a handful of southern hospitality as Love Inspired Author, Missy Tippens joins us tomorrow.

Sizzling First Encounters with Mary Connealy

Whether it’s a man-hating woman, an insecure china doll, an orphan-turned-school teacher, or a knife-slinging wildwoman, Mary Connealy knows how to write strong women.

Whether it’s a red-headed gentle-man, a rough and tumble man down on his luck, a big-hearted keeper of orphans, or a determined loner who knows how to dodge knives, Mary Connealy knows how to write strong men.

So – when  a strong woman meets a strong man emotional explosions are bound to occur…and Mary doesn’t disappoint. Her books are filled with adventure, danger, romantic conflict, and, of course, humor.

She’s also a writing-wildwoman herself. Already this year she had three new books in print and her fourth one is coming out NEXT MONTH. Wrangler in Petticoats comes next, followed by Sharpshooter in Petticoats. Those are a whole lot of petticoats 🙂

***But ONE lucky commenter today will win her new novel Doctors in Petticoats.

To learn more about Connealy Classics check out Mary’s website at www.maryconnealy.com

Now on to the questions and the ‘sneak peek’ into Doctors in Petticoats.

Mary, what do you think makes a great hero/heroine first encounter?

Pepper, What I like in a first meeting. One moment of attraction or connection or appreciation between them, even if it’s just a split second, then it alllllllllllll goes bad.
In this scene, thought I’ve sent it to you as the first meeting, they had one other ‘moment’ when Alex saved her life–but he did it to save his own life–or at least that’s the unflattering spin a very stressed out Beth puts on his help. He woke up, pulled a runaway stage to a stop when she didn’t have the strength to do it alone, then crawled off to be alone without saying a word.
.
Then she dived in to help the wounded.
 
She needs help. He’s not offering. That leads to this scene, their first real exchange.
 
Oh boy, let’s see what problems you’re going to cause with these ‘somewhat’ new characters! 🙂
 

Shuddering to think of the pain they’d soon cause the man, Beth was suddenly furious at the bum who sat there, not helping. True he’d come through and helped pull the stage to a stop. But that was to save his own pathetic, drunken life, wasn’t it? When it came to helping others, he was worthless.

She hadn’t actually seen him take a single drink on the whole trip. She suspected he’d drained his flask quite a while ago. In fact she’d never seen the flask, assuming he was sneaking nips on the sly at the beginning of the trip, then sleeping it off the rest of the way.

Beth surged to her feet. “We need help over here!”

The man didn’t even look up. He stared as if asleep with his eyes open.

Well, Beth wasn’t one to let a good temper tantrum go to waste and seriously, this afternoon had worn her out right to her last bit of restraint. . . and beyond.

Who better to punish?

Beth whirled and used the hundred foot downhill march to get her knees to stop shaking. Not because she was afraid of this man. She still had her gun butt, but because the afternoon had just been more than too much.

She stomped to the man’s side and, carefully considering her approach—or maybe not so carefully—she grabbed the man’s filthy flattened black Stetson off his head and swatted him with it.

“Hey!” He turned as if surprised to see her.

“I didn’t exactly sneak up on you, now did I?” She waled on him again.

He shielded his face. “Will you stop that?”

“Do I have your attention, you miserable worm?” Beth threw the hat at his head.

He held his arms over her face, the bedraggled white sleeves rolled up nearly to his elbows, and glared through his wrists at her. His eyes narrowed.

It occurred to Beth that the man might be dangerous. Well, she could be dangerous, too. If he was, she’d make him sorry he showed that side of himself.

Doing her very best to set his skin on fire with her eyes, she leaned down, hoping to find a balance where she could rage at him without Mrs. Armitage hearing her. The poor woman had been through enough.

You get up off the ground and help us, you worthless skunk.”

And wasn’t skunk just exactly the right word for the filthy pig?

“Get away from me.” The wormy, skunky pig’s eyes flashed like he had rabies.

Gritting her teeth so she could look fierce and still breathe through her mouth, she leaned closer. “You stand up right now.”

She hissed at him like a rattle snake, so she had a few animal attributes of her own. “I need help. I don’t care how hung over you are, how lazy you are or how stupid you are. Right now I need some muscle, and I know you’ve got it. Get on your feet and get over there and help us, or so help me I will rip your arm off and beat you to death with the bloody stump.”

The man’s eyes seemed to clear. Maybe she’d pierced the alcoholic fog. “I’m not drunk.”

Interesting that he hadn’t protested being called stupid or worthless or a skunk. . . what else had she called him? She’d lost track of her insults somewhere along the line.

“Oh, puhleeze, you expect me to believe you’re this worthless without the help of whiskey?”

LOL…there you have it. A first encounter with a bunch of fire. Love it, Mary and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the first book in this new series. Yipee!!

Thanks so much for being a part of this blog series.

Inspirational First Encounter

Well, Jesus seemed to make quite a first impression wherever he went. From a great host of angels to Magi from afar, even in infancy he caused a stir. Did it change as he grew up? Nope. At twelve years old, after his parents thought they’d lost him, they found him in the temple astounding the priests with his wisdom. It took Mary and Joseph three days to find him and for three days he’d been teaching from the Holy Scriptures.

And these are only the first small meetings. As we continue to look at Jesus’ first encounters, we’ll see miracles follow wherever he goes – miracles on the outside, but most importantly on the inside.

You see, God has always been much more concerned about our hearts than anything else. Because our hearts are the driving force behind who we are and what we do. Recognizing that a miracle has already happened within us, just because of Jesus’ love, is the most amazing first encounter of our existence.

NEXT UP- Tuesday is an ‘off day’, but we’ll pick things up on Wednesday with debut author, Melanie Dickerson. Another sneak peek is coming your way, so stop back by.

Sizzling First Encounters with Deeanne Gist

My.Oh.MY

I’m in the middle of reading Deeanne Gist’s newest book, Maid to Match and let me tell you…FABULOUS! I love the era (1898), the setting (Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC), and the characters. WONDERFUL!

And very fitting that Deeanne’s book just came out and has a brilliant FIRST ENCOUNTER – just for my blog. She planned it just for me, I know it 😉 And my favorite encounter among her characters, Tillie and Mack, is in the dark. (I’ll let that mystery float around on the screen so you HAVE to read the book 😉

Deeanne is best known for her historicals, which are packed with loads of humor and romantic tension. She’s a gifted writer of conflict, which is also one of the reasons why she’s a two-time Christy award winner. But don’t take my word for it. Check out her website at www.deeannegist.com and you can check out my reviews of some of her other books.

Deep in the Heart of Troublehttps://pepperbasham.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/deep-in-the-heart-of-trouble-by-deeanne-gist/

or A Bridge in the Bargain – https://pepperbasham.wordpress.com/2009/06/20/a-bride-in-the-bargain/

Okay, okay – now lets get on with the good stuff 🙂

Dee,

What do you think causes great romantic tension, especially for that first hero/heroine encounter?

A slow, slow build. I want the reader to feel exactly what the heroine is feeling. That means I need to engage her emotions one baby-step at a time. If I do my job, then the tension building between the hero and heroine will ultimately extract a visceral response from my reader.

And I’m so tickled you have an excerpt from Maid to Match. Woohoo! Let’s get our sneak preview.

Mack Danver stood stiffly beneath the archway in front of Biltmore House as its heavy wooden door creaked open. His chest tightened. It might as well have been the entrance to Central Prison in Raleigh.

A middle-aged man in a dark navy suit stepped onto the landing, his jowls slackening. “Earl! What are you doing out here? And dressed like that?”

“I’m not Earl. I’m his twin brother, Mack. Mrs.Vanderbilt told me to come.”

The man sniffed. “I think I’d know if you had an identical twin, Earl.”

“You must be Mr. Sterling, the butler.” Mack extended his hand. “Earl’s told me about you.”

Sterling slapped his hand away.

Mack didn’t so much as hesitate. Grabbing the butler by the shirtfront, he propelled him backwards. “Listen, mister. When I say I’m Mack Danver, I mean I’m Mack Danver. When I extend a hand in greeting, I expect it to be taken. When it’s not, I take offense.”

“Mr. Sterling? Is everything—” A young maid stepped to the door. “Earl! What’s the matter with you?”

Black hair peeked out from beneath her small white cap. The eastern sun had reduced her pupils to dots, leaving eyes so blue they appeared almost lavender. Rushing out the door, she jumped between them, squaring off with Mack. “Stop it! Stop it right this minute.”

 Releasing the man’s collar, Mack took a step back. Did she actually believe he was frightened of her? He felt a smile tug at his lips. “I’m not Earl, miss. I’m his brother, Mack.”

 The disapproval she’d shown before was nothing compared to the horror that filled her eyes now. She pressed a hand against her stiffly starched apron. “Oh, no. You’re the brother?”

 He nodded.

 “And you came to the front door? What possessed you to come to the front door?”

 “I was just looking.”

 Rolling her eyes, she turned to the butler. “He’s a mountain man. He was engaged in fisticuffs when Mrs. Vanderbilt first saw him. I’ll take him round back myself and make sure he doesn’t get into any more trouble.”

 Mack tucked his shirt into his trousers. “I can fight my own fights. You needn’t do it for me.”

 She seared him with her gaze. “Do not say another word.”

 He bristled and opened his mouth to argue.

 She lifted her index finger. “Not. Another. Word.” With her finger still in the air, she turned back to the butler. “May I take him round back, sir?”

 Tugging the hem of his jacket, Sterling tightened his lips. “Go ahead. I’ll talk with the housekeeper and tell you what we decide to do with him.”

 Mack took a step forward.

 The maid steepled one hand on his chest. With the other, she pointed toward the gate. “That way, Mr. Danver. The servants’ entrance is that way.”

Okay Dee,

Can I write like you someday? Just pass on the creative genuis through cyberspace and I’ll be a very happy lady What a wonderful excerpt, and great introduction into the world of Maid to Match.

Thanks so much for being a part of the blog series.

****WIN A COPY of Maid to Match********

Some commenter will win Dee’s new novel. A name will be drawn by Sunday, June 13 – so make sure you get your  name in for this opportunity.

If you guys could write a novel in any setting, what would you choose? or if you are writing one right now, what DID you choose and why?

And stop by the blog tomorrow to find out who’s visiting next week for the Sizzlin’ First Encounters Blog series. It starts and ends with a BANG, with lots of fireworks in between.

Sizzlin’ First Encounters with Linda Windsor

Welcome, welcome to the first post of Sizzlin’ First Encounters. For the next three weeks, get ready for some intense moments where the hero and heroine meet for the first time.

What makes for a fantastic first meeting? What grabs the reader’s attention between the first eye-gaze and forces us to keep turning the pages?

Award winning novelist, Linda Windsor, has captivated readers with her books spanning genres. From her historical Gleannmara series to her sassy contemporaries, Linda weaves tales filled with life-threatening circumstances or fun-loving humor all under the umbrella of spiritually-saturated storytelling.

Of ALL of her books (so far) her contemporary novel For Pete’s Sake is my favorite and is on my keeper shelf. I have a soft spot for Aspies (kids with Asperger syndrome – love them).

But her Gleannmara series is fascinating, really – and right now I’m reading her new release Healer, which gripped me on page one. Whew…

To learn more about all of Linda’s great books, check out her website at www.lindawindsor.com

Well, now let’s get to the point here, shall we?

Linda, what do you think is one element of great romantic tension?

                 Believable, palpable conflict. They should be set up like steaming freight trains about to collide.

Wowzers! Steaming freight trains ready to collide? Okay, let’s see it happen.      Would you please provide an excerpt of one of your most dazzling first encounters between hero & heroine?  

This is difficult because in HEALER, the hero is unconscious for their first meeting and Brenna doesn’t know who he is, much less that he witnessed the slaying of her clan. So this is their first interaction after he is ambushed while on his father Tarlach’s vengeful hunt for her, the heir prophesied by her dying mother to his murderous father to divide the O’Byrne house and bring about a peace beyond his wicked ken.

“Who are you, fair stranger? Friend, foe, or innocent?”

The question haunted Brenna through the next week as her patient battled for his life against the burning possession of fever. It attacked his lungs, making him struggle for every breath. Yet when he coughed the yellow drowning up, the effort tore at his wounds. Brenna sang to him or soothed him with the psalms and Scripture she’d committed to memory while at Avalon. The voice had as much healing quality as the hands, her nurse had said.

When delirious nightmares punished him, she held him, talked him through his imagined travails, praying all the while that these dream demons were imagined. Yet the way he cringed in her arms and cursed vehemently at blood and gore, at murdering women and children, and at madmen and witches made them seem real. Too real … and familiar.

Her only consolation came in his equal denouncement of the O’Byrnes and Gowrys.“’Twas foolrede! Neither side deserved to win.

“Tarlach claimed the victory, but he lost as much as the Gowrys.”

“How could Tarlach lose more than his life?” Brenna ventured during one of the deliriums. Her blood ran cold with dread. Had the man in her arms been there? Had he seen her parents’ massacre? Surely he’d been no more than a child at the time. “Was it his soul?”

The stranger looked at her as if she were an apparition and not what he saw in his tortured dementia. “His mind, lassie,” he railed at her, his voice dry and cracking. “He lost his mind … his honor. He had no right!”

“No right to what, sir?” Ealga never dwelled much on the night of Brenna’s parents’ death, except to say that it was a bloody massacre, done in the dark and shame of night.

“The children, lassie. There was no need to kill children.”

Aye, everyone had been murdered. All except for her and Ealga. The nurse had bundled Brenna off to the safety of the hills. Joanna of Gowrys had foreseen the event and made certain her daughter would be spared.

“God save the innocents! Would that I’d joined them, for they are surely better off than the likes of me now.”

“What did you see? Did you see Lady Joanna … the witch?” If the stranger believed her mother was a witch, then he was Brenna’s enemy to be sure.

He shook his head, clasping Brenna to him with his good arm. “Only if beauty and kindness be witchery. The dagger that killed her killed me as well. I am dead, but trapped in a living body, not much better off than Tarlach himself. I am too old to live and too young to die. ’Tis a damnable curse, worse than the one she put upon us.”

Brenna’s heart shuddered to a stop. “You’re an O’Byrne.” It was a statement, not a question. Her patient could be no other.

“Nay, never! I only go through the motions.”

Relief washed over her, leaving confusion in its wake. If he was not an O’Byrne, who was he? Did she want to know? Could she ever close an eye again without fearing for her life? “What motions, sir?”

“Life, milady. Better you should let me die.”

The sheer force of his words shook her to the core. His was a torment that reached into the very recesses of his mind, far worse than what she’d battled thus far. His utter hopelessness explained why his improvement had been so slow. How tragic to possess cherished youth and wish it away for death! His despair seeped into her, overwhelming her. Despite her closed eyes, she saw a young boy with burnished auburn hair, blood seeping down his cheek. But it was the horror in his eyes that riveted her, made her hold the man in her arms even tighter. No child should see what he had seen.

A sob wrenched free of her patient’s throat, only to be caught and muffled against her as she cradled his head. “Hush, a stór,” she cooed, bestowing without second thought the endearment that Eagla lavished upon her when the affairs of childhood—a skinned knee, a pet that died, or one that had to be let go—grew too great for Brenna to bear. Another and yet another sob shook the body of the man, but they poured from the heart of that boy. That poor, frightened child. And as Brenna held him now, understanding dawned.

That boy had never smiled again. Never laughed or loved. The blackness that had enshrouded his heart that night of terror wouldn’t allow it. Brenna couldn’t see the blackness, but somehow she knew it. This was what needed healing. His body was strong, but as long as this darkness imprisoned the spirit of the child he’d been, the man could not survive.

 Whew…

Who wants to read more? Well, The Healer just came out June 1, so make sure you find a copy and discover the mysteries of what’s happening between hero and heroine.

Thanks so much for the peek, Linda. Wonderful story. Powerful! And thank you for being a part of this blog series. What fun!

Inspirational First Meeting

You want conflict? I’ll give you conflict – well actually the Bible will. The night Jesus was born, the ‘first meeting’ of the Messiah to the world, amazing things happened. Things that had never happened before and never would again.

Things to shake the foundations of a world that would be forever changed from that moment.

The Virgin Mary held her son, The Christ. A star lit the heavens with such light, Magi followed it for months (if not longer) to find the place where the king was born. A host of angels danced through the sky proclaiming the birth of a Savior to a bunch of hapless shepherds.

All the while – in the shadows of Herod’s castle – death loomed nearby. Death of infants, death of prophets, and death to the Son of Man.

But wait…shadows cannot wound us, only darken our paths. Out of this darkness came the death of DEATH.

Again, as in the very beginning of all things, God brought light into the darkness. A first encounter that changed eternity. Praise GOD!

Next Up!

On Wednesday, welcome Seeker Extraordinairre, Myra Johnson. Stop by and find out what her ‘first encounter’ is like.