Great Encounters with author Mary Vee

Here is another wonderful visit from an aspiring author…and another great blog-buddy from The Writers Alley. Please join me in welcoming Mary Vee.

Not only are Mary’s blog posts for The Writers Alley insightful, she also keeps a consistent blog of her own, filled with beautiful retellings of Bible stories for kids (and all other ages J) You can visit it at http://mimaryvee.blogspot.com

Now Mary, what do you think makes a great first encounter?

I’m no expert, but it seems to me great first encounters can be traced to something small or simple.  Think of the fruit of one tiny seed:  redwood trees, mustard, cumin, flowers, apples, onions and etc.  If I can thread a small enticement into my scene and water it with sensory responses, I should grow a great first encounter.

And what do you have for us today as an example?

 Set up:

YA fantasy.  Prince Marcus received word of his father’s death yesterday.  Becoming king was not on his to-do list for at least ten years.   For his protection, Marcus has been restricted to his chamber until the coronation hour.

 “What can I say, Matthias?  You’ve been father’s advisor all these years.  What am I suppose to do? My life is destroyed.”

 “Do try to stay in your apartment.” Matthias sighed. “Your kingdom is counting on you.”

“I know—I know.” 

 Matthias spoke with the guard outside the door then nodded back to me. “I’ll see you in an hour, my Lord.” 

I nodded. Great, one long hour before the coronation of all coronations designed to ruin my life. I was duty bound to stay in my chamber until servants arrived to dress me.  What was I saying? Duty didn’t matter.  The guard would never let me out of here, my one-hour prison, even for a breath of air.

If Father hadn’t died in yesterday’s battle, I wouldn’t be in this mess.   My life—every minute of every day, will be planned to the infinitesimal detail until the day I die.  “Oh, hang it all. Let someone else be king.” I grabbed the first object in reach and smashed it against the wall. I always hated that vase.

“Everything all right, my Lord?”  The guard sheathed his sword.

Normally I’d have answered him, but my attention swung to someone in the hall, sneaking passed my room.  I glanced a second time and realized a servant girl, no—wait, that was no ordinary servant girl—I’d seen her somewhere before–she served my mother, the queen—and she’s– 

“My Lord?”

“What? Yes, I’m—I’m fine.” I glanced back at the door.  She was gone.  “Guard, care for this mess.”

“Yes, my Lord. I’ll call for a servant.”  He turned to the right in the hall and rounded the first corner. 

“Perfect.” I looked to the left and caught wisps of her chestnut hair disappearing into a corridor.   Her scent of rose trailed behind in the air. 

Before I realized what I was doing, I found myself trailing her, or her delicious scent, or, well, let me simply say I wanted to know where she was going.

I ran down the hall, wondering why she came to this wing of the castle.  I’d never noticed her in this area before.  But, by the way she sneaked passed my apartment today, she knew where she wanted to go. How could I’ve missed seeing her sneak down these corridors in the past? I must have been blind.  But, that one glace back in my chamber—that one brief glance of her wavy hair draped down her back, those deep walnut eyes, her lips—.  Wait–there she is.

I ducked into a doorway to giver her a space. Her name.  Mother spoke her name. What was it?  Kathy, Karly—Katia, yes, Katia.  I leaned forward in time to see her turn another corner.  She weaved through chambers with exits into other rooms and down hallways I rarely visited. Did she know I was behind her?

Katia’s quiet bare feet sped her through a path she confidently traveled.  Her scent of rose begged me to keep up.  I stopped short of the next hallway to catch my breath.   After a few pants I listened. The patter of her feet had stopped. Should I look?  There was a click followed by a something scraping. 

What was that sound?  I couldn’t loose her now. I lunged around the corner and found her touching the wall. She looked back at me, smiled then disappeared—right through the wall.

“Wait!”  I raced to where she stood.  Katia?  She was gone. I pushed and pressed every inch of wall where she stood desperately searching for a hole, release, anything to let me through.  Nothing.  Not a single clue.  Where’d she go?  I had to find her.

I drew in my fingertips close and breathed her sweet scent.  Where are you?

Oh Mary, that was a wonderful scene. So perfect to set up a mystery. And I love YA books set in a medieval era (or fantasy). Thanks so much for sharing your writing with us.

Parting is such sweet sorrow – and I am sorry to see the end of Sizzling First Encounters.

But be forewarned – authors and readers – I plan to have a new series in the works for September, just in time for ACFW.

Please stop by for devotional blogs and book reviews until then.

Blessings,

Sizzling First Encounters with Aspiring Author, Casey Herringshaw

Oh boy, oh boy. I’m so glad to have aspiring author and encourager-extraordinaire, Casey Herringshaw. Casey’s been a very big influence on the writing scene. As a ravenous reader, she gives loads of book reviews on her blog Writing For Christ and keeps busy authors encouraged and in prayer through her ministry blog, Operation: Encourage an Author.

Not only that, but she’s my buddy-blogger at The Writers Alley, providing great information for aspiring and published authors.

Casey has graciously given one of her excerpts from her wip. The story is about Jenna, a young woman who is in the middle of a terrible dilemma.  

A marriage on the brink, a love-child from another relationship, and a mysterious woman who binds all the secrets together.

Okay, Casey – let’s see what you have for us in this excerpt 🙂

*****

Oh, my heart cracked and I sank to my knees, legs as unsteady as my future. What was I going to do? I couldn’t lose my husband. What would I do without him? His love?

My life began the moment he walked into it, through the front door of Lawson and Benson, Attorneys at Law. Dark Levi jeans and his hair salted with sawdust, like he hadn’t brushed it all off after leaving the construction site.

He stood on the welcome mat and dusted his cowboy boots off against the back side of his pant legs. Those shoulders filled out every inch of his blue chambray, and his gaze filled up every inch of my heart. My pulse beat in my ears, drowning out my ragged breath – if I was even taking any breaths. They felt lodged in my throat.

I glanced at my blinking computer screen, the words a blur, trying to steady my nerves as he approached. When I looked up, captured again by his gaze and smile, I knew my heart would ever belong to a hunky cowboy with a slow smile and soulful eyes. Eyes that seemed to see right through me.

A tear rolled down my cheek at the perfect, unsullied memory, but I swiped the tear away. I loved Greg so much. Nothing like my mother’s love for my father – if you could even call it love. She abandoned him to temporarily lose all her feelings in the bottom of a liquor bottle. Leaving my father to fend for his own needs. I would not make the same mistake.

I wanted to supply my husband’s every need. Love him until his hair turned gray and hold his strong, callused hand for eternity.

But if he ever found out what I had done before we married, he would never be able to forgive me.

The doorknob on the apartment twisted and the door groaned open. I stood up, flinging the tears from my face, my heart in my throat. In one rush, I buried my face into Greg’s shoulder, determined to keep my secret as far away from my perfect life as I could.

*****

“Hey, babe.” His smile stretched wide and he welcomed me into his arms, holding me close. I wrapped my arms around him and clutched the fabric of his shirt. He smelled of the outdoors, grass and sunshine. And deer hide.

I wrinkled my nose and Greg laughed. “Don’t like my new cologne huh?” I shook my head, holding my lips up for his kiss. He obliged and tingles swept clear to my toes.

He deepened the kiss and caressed my back with his open palms. My hands moved with a power all their own to entwine themselves in his dark, sweat dampened hair. He broke for air and studied my face.

“How was the weekend with the folks?” His gaze swept over me, warming my skin as it went, and in my newlywed bliss I blushed

“Fine.”

He feathered my smile with kisses then drew me back into his arms to cuddle my neck.

“It’s been a long time since I held you woman.” He moved to cuddle my neck and I leaned into him. Oh how I had missed him.

“You were only gone three days, am I that invaluable?”

“HmmMmmm.” His lips hadn’t left my neck. “I don’t want to let you go.”

I pushed my hands against his chest and took a small step back.

“Well, you can get as close as you want after a shower.”

He let go of me and moved toward our bathroom. “All right, but I’m holding you to that and you better be waiting for me.” His smile was dangerous, but he kept moving toward the shower, untucking his shirt as he went.

The bathroom door clinked closed and a leaned against the wall. Greg was my life, had been since that first moment he asked me out for a date. I knew then that there was no one else for me. Why had I made the most fatal mistake of my life?

I shoved the thought from my mind. That was in the past, before I was married. It made no difference to my life now. Greg loved me for what I was.

Oh, who was I kidding? Maybe my mom was right. Maybe once you committed a heinous deed there was no going back. No rescue.

No! The word burst through my mind and surprised even me with its ferocity. My mom would not, could not be right. And I would do everything to prove her wrong. I would NOT lose my husband, no matter the cost.

I grabbed the wash cloth hanging on the drain board and scrubbed at an invisible stain on the stove.

Whew, Case, poor Jenna is in quite a predicament. I’m curious how you’re going to get her out of this with her marriage intact. Conflict oozes from this. Love it.

Thanks for being willing to share.

Check out Mary Vee’s excerpt on Thursday – for the last week of Sizzling First Encounters.

Sizzling First Encounters from the Amateur ;-)

Well, I’m still trying to get some other newbies to post their first encounters, but I think they’re a bit shy (SHERRINDA) and Casey’s not back from vacating yet. So no worries, I’ll keep bugging people to see who my next vict…er…guests will be.

Announcement!! – Miss Kallie won Jamie Carie’s novella, The Snowflake. Congrats, Kallie. Please email me at pepperbasham(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Okay – my turn. (gulp)

So what do I think makes a great first encounter?

One word:

Explosions. (With three boys in my house, it’s a very common word too)

Explosions of wit, anger, attraction, danger…oh about any kind that automatically puts the hero and heroine into discomfort 🙂 Even though most of my guests didn’t use the word ‘explosion’, it’s really what many of them meant. Something between the characters ignites! Fireworks are going off externally, but definitely internally.

Now, I’m always incredibly nervous when I post my own writing for the world to see, especially among such wonderful authors as the ones who have stopped by, but here’s a try

From a BRAND NEW BOOK – Heartless

And it’s my first attempt at a Christian Supernatural – so here ya go. I envision Rachel McAdams as my heroine and Ethan Hawke as the hero (I didn’t mean for the names to match so well 😉 The heroine has just come from rescuing a teen in the forest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Something…er…someone was chasing her.

******

Rose had been gone half an hour. Too long.

Sophia closed her eyes, allowing her senses to reach beyond the bookshop to locate Rose, but another feeling sliced into her thoughts with sickening familiarity. Black. The soul of her purpose. His scent clawed the shadows of her mind like a foggy dream.

Why would a Forsaken come so close?

She raced down the stairway and into the front room, the jingling of bells pulling her attention to the front door. The full aroma of his essence breathed through her, igniting fire in her chest. One look solidified her assumptions. He was perfect. His honey-colored hair fell over his forehead in waves, his skin glimmered too pale in the afternoon sunlight, and his eyes… Blue? Pale blue, even, almost taunting the soulless black she’d expected. How was that possible?

“Afternoon,” he said, closing the door behind him, his stance relaxed – almost friendly.

Friendly? Her voice lodged in her throat. Friendly? When had a Forsaken ever been friendly?

He quirked a honey colored brow. “You’re not exactly what I expected.”

“No?” She fingered her cross necklace and steadied her breathing, waiting for the opportune moment to strike. She didn’t like games, especially this kind.

“When the others mentioned you were coming, I thought you’d be older.”

Sophia stared at him, trying to make him out. His gaze trailed the room and finally came to rest back on hers, a distracting blue. Unearthly.

“I didn’t expect to be chosen, but I told them I’d make sure to take care of you.”

She stepped back and lifted to her full height. “That won’t be necessary.” Her voice vibrated in the back of her throat like a growl, every muscle tensed to alert. “I can take care of myself.”

Heat radiated from underneath her skin, pulsing through her as rapidly as her heartbeat. The change of his expression cleared any confusion his behavior might have caused her. He was a Forsaken.

His pale eyes darkened, slowly, like light fading at dusk, moving from baby blue to aqua and ending in a navy. He gravitated forward, almost robotic, his gaze glazed like a drug induced stare. “What are you doing?”

His raspy voice secured her power. Her gift. The scent of her pure blood captured him and with one taste would burn through him, slowly killing him. The same desire he used to prey upon the innocent would destroy him. Watching him writhe would be a benefit.

Sophia’s nails bit into the palms of her hands, gaze locked with his, willing him forward. Closer. He took two steps.

“Don’t. Do. This.”

His request shook her. Her skin cooled a few degrees. “What are you?

His darkening gaze intensified. “I’m not your enemy.”

Not her enemy? His words seared any confusion or mercy she might have felt a few seconds before. She had been born to rid the world of his kind, of his evil. His kind had taken enough from her. Not her enemy? Liar.

He was within touching distance now, eyes half-glazed, almost black, and unblinking. She pushed back her hair from her neck and felt her pulse beat against the cool air.

His gaze flickered to her throat and his mouth dropped open, his breath pumping with the rapid rise and fall of his chest. One more step and it would be all over.

“God help me,” he gasped and closed his eyes, a visible shiver quaking his shoulders.

His plea doused her spell and confidence. She stumbled back to grip the counter, lost in this impossibility. A prayer from him?

A crash of the back door shattered into her thoughts followed by Rose, arms laden with two brimming bags. Sophia stepped between Rose and the intruder, blocking his access. One step and he’d be picking his teeth from the back of his head.

“Hey, Ethan. I see ya met our new neighbor.”

Sophia’s skin cooled to ice. “Ethan?” Her contact’s name was Ethan.

Rose stepped around her and set the bags on the counter, but the man’s gaze remained fastened on Sophia’s as he loosened his jaw. “Ethan Taylor.” His Adam’s apple bobbed with an effortful swallow. “I think we have an appointment?”

**********

Well – there ya go. Hope to have another for you by Wednesday. In the meantime, I’m keeping my wordcount on track for ACFW Novel Track for the month of July.

BTW, speaking of Christian Supernatural fiction – what do you guys think about that? I never imagined wanting to write one, but (much to my surprise) the idea came. Ever had the urge to step out on the edge in your writing? 🙂

Sizzling First Encounters with Jamie Carie

Well, if you want some first encounters with sizzle, today’s guest will provide you with some. Not only that, but one lucky commenter will win her newest book, a novella entitled The Snowflake.  

Jamie Carie is an award winning author who writes romantic tension with as much passion as she writes adventure. If you want a book that doesn’t make you tense from shoulder to shoes, or grab you from page one and hold you to the end, then  DO NOT pick up one of her books. Seriously.

But…if you want adventure, intense romantic tension, and constant peril – she’s the type of author for you. I LOVE her books. It’s kind of like Indiana Jones in print, but with a lot more romance 🙂  She’s quickly becoming a good friend too. You can learn more about Jamie and her books at her website – www.jamiecarie.com

And as far as first encounters go? Whew, just keep reading.

So Jamie, what makes for a good first encounter?

For me, I love it when the hero and/or heroine is slammed with the impact of the other person. This could be an instant attraction or something deeper, like that feeling that they’ve just met their other half. In Love’s First Light, Christophé feels a mysterious, almost supernatural connection with Scarlett which leaves his already delicate emotional balance teetering on the edge of rational behavior ( i.e. he becomes somewhat of a bumbling, mad scientist in her presence). Here’s an excerpt of their first encounter.

Woohoo! You picked my favorite of your books to use as an excerpt, Jamie. Oh my, it’s soooo good.

1794—Carcassonne, France

        The mist rose above the circle of the earth. The air was crisp, deadly quiet as it always was in the old graveyard at dawn. Christophé St. Laurent grasped his dark cloak against his chest with one fist, the other holding a knurled walking stick. He didn’t need it to walk—only to swirl the mist when the mood suited him.

His gaze tripped over the headstones as he passed. Robert Barret, born 1732, died 1765. A small stone. A short life, his. Madame Genevieve Montaigne rested on the laurels of goodwife to ten children, and yet not a plant or flower graced that simple edifice. And then there was Captain Fontaine, with a headstone so tall, the etching so old and proud, the moss so thick—a hero in some long-ago history lesson. Christophé’s lips grew taut as he contemplated the ghostly eulogies.

A small yellow glow started on the horizon. He stopped his morning walk, stilling the clip of his heels to turn eastward and watch the second-by-second display of a planet’s rotation. It never failed to fill him with wonder and he found himself taking a deep breath, feeling the mist move into his mouth and throat and chest.

It was turning pink.

Joy rose from his chest to his throat. “Thy kingdom come,” he whispered into the fading mist. “Thy will be done.”

He turned, his pace brisk now, knowing the way like a child knows the path home. Energy flowed from the earth, through Newton’s gravity, to rise up from his legs and cause a sweat to break between the sharp planes of his shoulders. His legs pumped faster as a sense of power rushed through him.

He could run.

The thought struck him as new. He hadn’t allowed himself that freedom in so long. An image flashed across his memory—he and his brothers and sister running through an ornate garden . . . a palatial dream. He saw their bright faces in stark relief. The light was too bright. Something in him wanted to shield it away, but he couldn’t. Every blink brought a remembered face. His brother, Louis, with hair so dark and eyes that flashed back a challenge at him. Jean Paul, a year older than Christophé, quiet and solemn, quick and encouraging, quick as moonlight, but willing to forfeit the race to see any one of them smile.

Then he saw Émilie. She reached her hand out toward his, her shorter legs unable to keep up. She was as bright as the braids that had tumbled loose, bouncing upon her shoulders.

Christophé blinked hard several times but could not rid himself of the image of her face, so alight with laughter and . . . life.

“Thy will be done,” he choked through sudden tears.

He stopped, realizing he’d been running. He bent over his legs, felt his long hair fall forward like a dark curtain, heard his grievous cry—waves of sound that made no difference. He lifted his head and watched as tears dropped in liquid pools, scattering the dust on the stone path into tiny puffs.

 It was like that sometimes. A sudden memory swept away all but this core of grief. No matter how he fought, it knew his weakness. It sought him out in the sane moments when his mind wasn’t obsessed with the physics of light and color and the complexities of a mathematic scheme that shouldn’t work but, somehow, always did. When his mind was a silent crypt it crept in, an insidious rotting, a ruin, and then simply . . . overwhelmed him.

 With nothing short of grace, he pulled himself up and together, took a bracing breath, and continued on this morning-ritual walk of blurted-out prayers and nonsensical thought. It was the only thing that kept the thread holding his mind and soul from snapping.

 He turned another way. It was frightening, this varying from routine, but this morning he found himself running. This morning, he found he could do anything.

 He moved smoothly, his legs and feet pushing against the stone path, up a slow rise, his breathing soft and even. He ran with the cool wind blowing back his hair, the remains of the dead flashing by like glowing stones. He ran and felt he could keep running forever.

 He saw her and stopped. She was crouched low, her head down, her shoulders curled within her, stiff and unmoving. He couldn’t help but stare at her long, unbound hair. It was dark but alive with color, the pink glow of a morning’s glory reflecting in each strand.

 Gold and amber and bronze and the color of glowing coals. Bright, white light. He saw the prism in his laboratory. Blinked and saw the split of white into the colors of the rainbow. Saw them reflected on his old castle’s walls. Brilliant but cold. So brilliant.

 So cold.

 He wanted to tell her of it. His chest heaved with the effort not to blurt it out.

 She stood suddenly and whirled around—long, dark cape and glorious hair, flowers still clutched in her hand. Christophé’s gaze dropped from her frightened face to her rounded stomach and then the gravestone that glared chalk-white in the mist behind her.

 “Color,” he thought as he stood transfixed. No, not a thought.

 Heaven help him, he had said it aloud.

*********

 Scarlett stared at the tall man on the path before her, hoping he wasn’t everything he looked to be. Murderer. Maligner of women everywhere. Dark and dangerous stranger. Everything her mother had warned her might happen on these early morning visits to a husband’s grave suddenly rose up as real. She clutched her cloak to her throat, wishing, for once, she had listened to reason and put on something besides her nightgown before leaving the house.

 “Stay back,” she heard herself whisper and then wished she’d stayed silent. She backed away, slowly, one step after another. The lilies in her hand dropped to the sharp green earth. She turned to run and then heard his deep voice.

 “Did you love him?”

 She turned her head back toward him and stared. No one had asked her that question. What right did he have to ask it? What right to make her feel afresh the guilt in that answer? She turned fully toward him, felt the flare of her anger and her cape.

 “Comment est-il mort?” His eyes were dark and hooded. “How did he die?” He murmured again, this time in English.

 She tilted her head into one shoulder and closed her eyes. “For the Révolution. In Paris.”

When she opened her eyes . . . she saw nothing but the mist.

 Color, indeed. Bright and beguiling – just like the story. Thanks so much for sharing this, Jamie, and what a wonderful opportunity to introduce people to your writing.

 And don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win Jamie’s novella.

Like Christophe in Jamie’s novel, Love’s First Light, may we marvel in the Creator of so great a creation.

 Up Next – Author, Kaye Dacus

Sizzling First Encounters with Missy Tippens

Sit back with a glass of sweetened iced tea and some good-ol Southern hospitality with Love Inspired author and Seeker gal, Missy Tippens. I know I rave about them, but the ladies of Seekerville are always so full of encouragement for those of us who are daring to enter the world of writing, and Missy is no exception.

Another reason I feel a special connection with Missy? We’re both preacher’s wives 🙂 AND she likes to include kids in her novels. Go Missy!!!

To find out more about her books, check out her website at www.missytippens.com or visit her blog at http://www.lifewithmissy.blogspot.com.

1. What is one element of great romantic tension?

One element I love to use is a sense of longing. The hero and heroine are physically attracted, and they’re starting to see something they really like about the other. He or she is longing for some type of emotional attachment. But there’s still too much in the way, so the character has to pull away.

  2. Would you please provide an excerpt of one of your most dazzling first encounters between hero & heroine?

Pepper, I really wish I could share the first kiss scene from the book I’m working on right now (A Family for Faith, April 2011). It’s my favorite so far! But it’s not edited yet. So I’m sharing a scene from my last book, A Forever Christmas. This is a reunion story, so this isn’t a first encounter. But this is where my hero starts to admit he still feels something.

 Gregory and Sarah were in love in the past, but her dad (Winston) didn’t approve. Gregory and Sarah each ended up feeling betrayed and haven’t seen each other for years. Now, Sarah is home for the holidays and has been roped into directing the church Christmas pageant—which will be difficult enough since she’s just experienced the death of one of her kindergartners. Now on top of that, she has Gregory’s two little boys, Hunter and Chase, in the pageant. He’s been working lots of hours to try to create a perfect Christmas for his kids, but she’s been trying her best to make sure he spends the time with them that they crave.

 Excerpt from A Forever Christmas, by Missy Tippens

 A few painfully quiet minutes later, Gregory parked in the Radcliffe’s driveway. Such a contrast with the rowdy drive earlier. But they didn’t really have much to say to each other.

She turned sideways in her seat to totally face him.

He wasn’t sure he wanted to be the center of her attention, but he forced himself to turn and look her in the eye. He blew out a nervous breath.

“I know I’m only a visitor here in Magnolia. I’m just home for the holidays. But I hope you’ll let me help with your kids.”

“Because I’m such a failure as a father?” He hadn’t been able to keep the bitterness out of his voice.

As if without thought, she put her hand on his hand. “Oh, no. I didn’t mean that at all. I—” She pulled her hand away and clenched it in her lap. “I just… well, I want you to understand why I’m doing all this. It’s because I recently saw someone close to me, one of my students, wish for more time with his parents. And they were working all the time, trying to provide all they thought he needed.”

Did she think he pawned his kids off on everyone else? “I have time with them. And they have time with my dad. It’s not like they’re at daycare all the time.”

“My student had a wonderful nanny. But he told me he wanted time with his mom and dad.”

Why was she like a dog with a bone? How could he make her understand? “I know Lindsay’s leaving took a toll on them. And now she’s in Europe for the holidays. That’s why I’m trying to make this the perfect Christmas.”

“My student, Peter…he died.”

He jerked back in his seat as if she’d socked him in the gut. He hadn’t seen that coming in a million years. A kindergartener died? “How awful.”

Her lip quivered. “Cancer. And it took him quickly. We closed school early because of the funeral. And the other children needed counseling.”

Poor thing, she probably needed it, too.

Before he could stop himself, he took hold of her hand. At least he hadn’t hugged her like he wanted to do. “I’m sorry.”

She held tight. “I just can’t bear to see any child missing his mom or dad. And Peter’s parents… The regret. Just too painful for anyone to have to bear.”

Well, no wonder she’d been hounding him. At least he understood better now.

He wanted to hold her in his arms. To comfort her like he had so many times before. But he couldn’t. It wasn’t his place now.

Gregory turned off the truck. “Come on. I’ll walk you to the door.”

She seemed disappointed. “Okay.”

When they reached the front door, he couldn’t help glancing in the direction of her upstairs bedroom window. Where years ago, he tossed rocks to get her to sneak out to meet him. Which, of course, reminded him that her parents never approved of him.

Never would, either.

Then why do I want to get closer to her? To breathe in her fragrance? To remember holding her close? To remember kissing her?

To remember all the big dreams I had when I was with her?

Before he knew it, he had moved closer. He took hold of her hand again. “You know, I should thank you for spending time with Hunter and Chase. They seemed to have a good time. Seemed happy.”

“I had fun, too.”

Frustration. Gratitude. Attraction. They all warred, yanking his thoughts all over the place.

But one thought dominated.

He wanted more. More than the touch of her hand. He wanted to look into her eyes and see that she cared. He wanted to know if she felt anything for him now.

His gaze slid from her eyes to her lips…

He took a step back to fight the temptation. He couldn’t look at her right now—too many emotions swirling around. So instead, he let go of her hand and looked up the length of the big white columns, took in the expensive furniture on the porch, to remind himself whose house he stood in front of. Then he nodded. “Good night.”

She started to unlock the door, then turned quickly, nearly running into him. “Oh, wait. The craft stuff.”

He had to get out of there before he did something stupid. “I’ll get it later.”

He hurried to the truck. As he started the engine, he noticed a shadowy figure standing at the side of the house. Just outside Winston’s home office.

Even with the sun setting, and the shadows on that side of the house, he could tell it was him.

How long had he been there? How much had he seen or heard?

His stance—legs spread wide, arms crossed in front of him, his head following Gregory’s truck as he backed out—said everything. Stay away from my daughter.

Apparently, Winston expected that the agreement was still in effect.

No threat was needed. If Gregory wanted to keep his shameful past a secret, he needed to stay away.

 Copyright © 2009 by Melissa L. Tippens

Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

Whew, Missy – I can ‘see’ that dad standing there – a threat and warning. And I always love the hero’s POV. There’s something about a tortured man in love, isn’t there? A man with his best armor against a foe of the heart. Sigh. He’s a goner. 🙂

Thanks so much for being here today. It’s always a pleasure 🙂

UP NEXT: Another Seeker and debut author, Audra Harders

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 Deb Raney

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.

 Here is the scene from Almost Forever:

 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!

Sizzling First Encounters with Janet Dean

Oh it’s such a great pleasure to have Love Inspired author, Janet Dean visiting us today. Her stories are as sweet as her personality – and they’re definitely not lacking in romantic tension or conflict. Thanks so much for joining the blog series, Janet.

Pepper, I love this blog, the depth of your faith and the beauty of your writing. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share one element of romantic tension with your readers.

It’s my pleasure, Janet. And I’m so glad you’ve chosen Courting the Doctor’s Daughter as your scene today. It’s my favorite of your books. So much internal conflict and spiritual depth. Any interested reader can learn more about Janet’s books at www.janetdean.net

So, let’s get on with the questions. What is one element of great romantic tension? 

With each story I write, I try to bring the hero and heroine together in that first encounter with emotions that ramp the romantic tension yet ring true. For my excerpt today that element is anger. Anger and tension go hand in hand. Though it might appear to be an easy way to add tension to the opening, anger has to come from who these people are. In other words it has to come from what matters to them, from what they experienced in their pasts that make them act and react as they do. When those elements feel real, the clash of a first encounter will feel appropriate, not contrived. For that tension to be romantic, the anger must be accompanied by equally strong attraction. Strong attraction that is contrary to the character’s wishes, yet undeniable. I hope you can see the romantic tension in this excerpt from the first encounter of Mary and Luke in Courting the Doctor’s Daughter, May, 2009.  I hope you see clues as to what motivates Mary’s reaction to Luke. And yet see how much the hero has affected her, even against her will. If I’ve succeeded then the scene will sizzle.   

Mary Graves couldn’t believe her eyes. And the gall of that man. A stranger stood on the seat of his wagon holding up a bottle and making ridiculous claims for its medicinal value with all the fervor of an itinerant evangelist. His Eastern accent grated on her Midwestern ears.

She slipped through the gathering crowd to sneak a closer look. Gazing up at him, Mary pressed a hand to her bodice. The man didn’t resemble any preacher she’d ever seen. Hatless, the stranger’s dark hair lifted in the morning breeze. He’d rolled his white shirtsleeves to his elbows revealing muscled, tanned forearms. He looked more like a gypsy, a member of the marauding bands tramping through the countryside stealing chickens and whatever else wasn’t nailed down—like the Noblesville residents’ hard-earned dollars.

Well, she had no intention of standing by while this quack bilked the town of its money and worse, kept its citizens from seeking legitimate treatment.

Not that her father needed more work. Far from it. Since Doc Roberts died in the spring, her father often worked from sunup to sundown—and sometimes through the night. With the exception of those folks who’d profited from Noblesville’s natural gas boom, most patients paid with produce or an occasional exchange of services.

The peddler raised the container high above his head. “Just two capfuls of this medicine will ease a nervous headache and an upset stomach. It’ll cure your insomnia, but most importantly, this bottle holds the safe solution for a baby’s colic.”

This charlatan attempted to take money out of her father’s all but empty pockets with a potion no doubt containing nothing more than hard liquor or flavored water. Imagine giving such a thing to an infant. But her neighbors nodded their heads, taken in by his nonsensical spiel.

“Imagine, folks, getting a good night’s sleep and waking refreshed to tackle the day,” the peddler went on.

Around her, John Lemming, Roscoe Sullivan and of all people, Pastor Foley reached in their back pockets for their wallets. Even her friend, Martha Cummings, a baby on her hip and two of her youngsters clinging to her skirts, dug into her purse. And everyone knew Martha could squeeze a penny until it bled.

Mary clenched her jaw. Such foolishness. Why couldn’t these people recognize a sham when they saw one?

“Step right up folks, for the sum of—”

“Whatever you’re charging is disgraceful,” Mary called, the words pouring out of her mouth. She turned to her neighbors. “Have you forgotten the swindler who came through here last year, promising his tonic would do all that and more? Not one word of his claims proved true.”

The townspeople stilled. Her gaze locked with the frauds. Suddenly cool on this sunny October morning, Mary tugged her shawl tighter around her shoulders. “You’re preying on these good folks’ worries, knowing full well what’s in that bottle can be found for less money over at O’Reilly’s saloon.” Her deceased husband had hidden his drinking behind the pretext of using it for medicinal purposes.

The man shot her a lazy grin, revealing a dimple in his left cheek, giving him a deceptive aura of innocence. Then he had the audacity to tip an imaginary hat. “Pardon me, Florence Nightingale, but without testing my product, you’ve no cause to condemn it.”

Florence Nightingale indeed. No one in the crowd chuckled as the man had undoubtedly intended. They all knew her, knew she lent a hand in her father’s practice. Knew what had happened to her mother.

Mary folded her arms across her chest. “No right? I’ve seen your kind before….” A lump the size of a walnut lodged in her throat, stopping her words. She blinked rapidly to hold back tears.

Though his smile still remained, the stranger’s eyes darkened into murky pools and every trace of mirth vanished. Good. Maybe now he’d take her seriously.

He leaned toward her. “And what kind is that?”

She cleared her throat, determined not to be undone by this rogue. “The kind of man who instead of putting in a hard day’s work, earns his living cheating others. That nonsense in your hand isn’t worth the price of an empty bottle.”

His eyes narrowed. “Your assessment of my remedy—of my kind—is hardly scientific.”

He jumped to the street and bystanders stepped back, giving him a clear path, a clear path leading directly to her. He stopped inches away from her skirts, his features chiseled as if from stone, his dimple gone. The starkness of that face put a hitch in Mary’s breathing. Her hand lifted to her throat.

“This isn’t a bottle of spirits as you’ve alleged.” He unscrewed the cap and thrust it under her nose. “It’s good medicine.”

She didn’t smell alcohol, only peppermint and honey, but couldn’t make out the origin of another scent.

“Let’s hear what he has to say,” Roscoe Sullivan said.

Roscoe’s rheumatism had been acting up and he probably had trouble sleeping. The poor man dreaded the onset of winter, and no doubt hoped to find a miracle in that bottle. But miracles came from God, not from a peddler with a jarring accent. 

John Lemming, the owner of the livery, waved a hand toward the remedy. “Our baby cries all evening. I’d give a king’s ransom for something to soothe him.”

“If it worked.” Mary exhaled. How could these people be so easily fooled? “Don’t you see, John, he’s in this to fill his pockets and then move on before you folks discover his claims are meaningless. Just like last year’s peddler.”

The stranger smiled, revealing even white teeth. “Since you’re so sure of yourself, Miss Nightingale, why don’t you pay the price of this bottle and investigate the medicine yourself?”

Lifting her chin, she met his amused gaze. How dare the man poke fun at her? And worse, ask her to pay for the privilege of disproving his claims? “And line your pockets? Never!”

He stepped closer. If he intended to intimidate her, she wouldn’t give ground, though her heart rat-a-tatted in her chest.

“Well then, stand aside for those folks who are open-minded enough to give it a try.” He pushed past her and lifted the bottle. “For the price of three dollars, who wants a bottle of my remedy?”

Mary gasped. “Three dollars. Why, that’s highway robbery!” She grabbed his arm, then watched in horror as the bottle slipped out of his hand and hit the ground, shattering the glass. Her neighbors’ gasps drowned out her own.

The man pivoted on a booted heel. “I believe you owe me three dollars,” he said, his voice low, almost a tease.

The liquid trickled between the brick. She lifted her gaze to lock with his. “I’ll pay your price—if you’ll move on to another town.”

His mouth thinned into a stubborn line. “I’m not leaving.”

Perhaps she had a legal way to get rid of this menace. She planted her hands on her hips. “Do you have a permit?”

With that lazy grin and irritating dimple, he reached inside his shirt pocket and retrieved a slip of paper, waving it in front of Mary’s face. Her hands fisted. This rogue had thought of everything.

Nearby, Roscoe and John exchanged a glance, and then both men ran a hand over their mouths, trying to bury a smile and failing. Apparently, her neighbors found the exchange entertaining.

Mary dug into her purse and handed over the money. “You’ve made a handsome profit on this bottle alone, so move on to fleece another town and leave us in peace.”

“I like it here.” He tossed her a smile, as arrogant as the man himself. “I’m staying.”

Though he deserved it, she had no call to give this scoundrel a sharp kick to his shin, but oh, how she’d love to give in to the temptation. Mary closed her eyes and said a quick, silent prayer to conduct herself like a God-fearing woman, not a fishwife. “Well, I don’t want you here.”

John Lemming pulled out three dollars. “If it works, it’ll be worth every cent.”

The peddler gestured to the knot of people crowded around them, opening their purses and wallets. “Looks like you’re in the minority, Miss Nightingale.”

He returned to his wagon and the good citizens of Noblesville started forking over the money, purchasing the worthless stuff the man had undoubtedly concocted out of peppermint and honey. How could they trust him?

Why had her mother befriended such a man? Her stomach knotted and tears stung her eyes. Even five years later, grief caught her unaware, tearing through her like a cyclone. She bit her lip, forcing her gaze on the hawker.   

Surely he didn’t mean to stay. If he did, everyone would discover the worthlessness of his remedy. No, he’d depart in the middle of the night, having a good laugh at the town’s gullibility.

Handing out bottles of his so-called remedy, the stranger glanced her way, shooting her another grin. Obviously, he took pleasure in swindling her friends and neighbors right under her nose. Like a petulant child, she wanted to stomp her foot—right on his instep. That ought to wipe the grin off his haughty face.

As if he read her thoughts, he turned to her. “Best remember the exhortation in the Good Book to love thy enemy.”

How dare he mention the Bible while he duped her neighbors? Still, she had let her temper get the best of her. Love thy enemy was a hard pill to swallow.

Then of all things, the man gave her a wink, as bold as brass. A shimmer of attraction whooshed through her. Aghast at her base feelings, Mary turned on her heel and stalked off.

Behind her, the man chuckled. 

Cheeks burning, Mary strode down Ninth Street and then turned right on Conner. Permit or no permit, she’d find a way to run that peddler out of Noblesville. He represented the last thing she and this town needed—trouble.

 Thank you again, Pepper, for the opportunity to share with your readers. Your blog is a favorite of mine!

Come by tomorrow for another Seeker, Cheryl Wyatt.

Sizzling First Encounters with Julie Lessman

Okay, it’s time to ramp up the temperature about 80 degrees.

Everybody ready?

Summer’s here. We know it’s hot outside. But I think today’s guest has a way of moving WAY beyond a sizzle. She tends to stay at…oh…scorching.

Please welcome one of my favorite authors, and so pleased to call her my friend, Julie Lessman. She writes with a Passion Most Pure filled with purely passion 🙂 And not just the loosen-your-collar-and-grab-a-fan type of passion, but the kind that leads you into deeper contemplation about the goodness and mercy of God.

The first book in her newest series is coming out this fall and in celebration of that fact, JULIE IS GIVING AWAY A BOOK. 

READER’S CHOICE. You may choose one of her Daughter’s of Boston series, or…her newest novel, A Hope Undaunted. (which you get a teeny peek at the main characters for that book today- and not just ANY peek, but a deleted scene. Woohoo!)

If you want to peruse the choices and learn more about this wonderful lady, you can check out her website or visit Seekerville (she’s a frequent contributor).

Okay…okay – get on with it you say 🙂

Welcome Jules,

1.)  What is one element of great romantic tension?

 Well, since I’m a drama queen, I like anything with LOTS of head-butting tension, be it anger (my fav!), surprise, sarcasm or just sheer annoyance, which is what I used in this scene from A Passion Denied when Cluny McGee and Katie O’Connor (the hero and heroine of my next release, A Hope Undaunted) have their first “sizzling” encounter.

 Now keep in mind they are kids at the time (Cluny is 14, Katie 11), so “sizzling” is not exactly the right word, but it is their very first “romantic” encounter in which I wanted to sow the seeds of attraction for the next book. But because they were so young, my editor requested I alter this scene to delete “the kiss” and any indication of attraction, which I did in the final book. But I have to tell you that I loved the original SO much (and have fond memories of my own innocent “first kiss” in kindergarten with Johnny Huels in the coatroom), that I wanted to share this scene today since no one has ever read it before as originally written.

 This scene is in Katie O’Connor’s point of view and takes place outside of a hospital waiting room where Cluny McGee has promised to buy her Life Savers. Incidentally, this Life Saver scene also plays a part in the grownup Cluny and Katie’s romance in A Hope Undaunted.

 Cluny nodded to the guard before depositing his money into the machine. He gave Katie a sideways glance. “Life Savers or gum?”

“Did you hear me say anything about gum?”

He grinned and yanked on the lever. “You’re a pistol, Katie Rose. Life Savers it is.” A roll thudded into the open slot while change clinked into the coin return. He retrieved the candy and dropped it in her waiting hand.

She arched a brow, hand still extended. “I believe you said five.”

He pulled his change from the return and tossed in the air. “Nope, said I’d buy you one, but had enough for five.”

She jiggled the roll in her hand. “I want five.”

He grinned. “Kind of hoping you’d say that.”

“You were.”

“Yes, ma’am, I was. And I would dearly love to give you five.”

“You would.”

“For a price.”

“A price?”

“What, are you a parrot?” He redeposited his money and repeated the procedure until five rolls of gold and blue candy gleamed in his palm. She reached and he jerked them away, slipping them into his pocket with an annoying grin. “Yes, ma’am, a price. Kind of an experiment.”

She folded her arms, her eyes slits as he opened a roll and popped one in his mouth. He held another in the air, taunting. “Mmmm … minty.”

She stared, jaws clamped tight, the little white circle an inch from her nose. She could smell the sweet scent of peppermint as he gently prodded it against the tight crack of her lips. Seconds seemed like an eternity before she finally snatched it with her teeth, almost taking his finger in the process. He jerked away.

She smiled. “A bit twitchy, are we?”

“No more than usual when you’re around.” He sucked on his finger as if she’d bitten clean through. “Do we have a deal?”

“What kind of experiment?”

He took her hand and pulled her down the darkened hall, stopping just short of where light shafted through the windows of the waiting-room double doors. Producing four additional rolls of Life Savers, he bounced them in his hand and grinned. “A kissin’ experiment.”

She tried to leave, but he blocked her with a hand to the wall. “One measly, ol’ kiss, Katie Rose, and if Life Savers were money, you’d be a wealthy woman.”

She studied him with a critical eye, deciding for the hundredth time that Cluny McGee was a cocky little brat that grated on her nerves. He had way too much confidence for a boy with a sunken chest and arms no bigger than a willow twig, and enough freckles to make you lose your train of thought. Sweet saints, she hated freckles! Her eyes shifted to the glittering treasure in his hands, shimmering like gold as he rolled them in his palm. Her gaze flicked up to the piercing blue eyes that glinted as if they could read her mind. She firmed her stance and lifted her chin, determined that the blush she felt rising would not reach her cheeks.

“One-measly-kiss,” she enunciated through clenched teeth, “Quick, clean and absolutely no lingering. And for pity’s sake, keep your mouth closed.”

A slow grin traveled his lips. He pocketed the candy with the same unwavering confidence that always got on her nerves. He shot a quick glance down the hall, then pulled her to him with a grip surprisingly strong. “Close your eyes, Katie Rose, the glare is blinding me.”

She broke her own rules and did exactly as he said, although she didn’t really know why. It seemed like he was always giving her ord—

A soft gasp rose in her throat when his mouth moved against hers. Lips that seemed anything but soft when he always yakked her ear off, suddenly felt as silky as the petal of a rose with the fragrance of Pep-o-mint. She had warned him not to linger, but he did, and she found herself shocked that she didn’t care. He stroked the curve of her jaw before he finally pulled away, leaving her lips strangely bereft. She opened her eyes and noted she’d forgotten to breathe.

“That settles it, Katie,” he whispered, his high-pitched voice no longer that of little-boy pest. “You’re the girl I’m gonna marry.”

Her mouth fell open, allowing for shallow breathing that now fluttered in her chest. He took her hand and placed the rolls firmly inside, then pressed her fingers closed. She’d once told Collin she’d never let some sap boy steal her heart. He’d told her she would eat her words. She swallowed hard, the taste of those words—and Cluny’s kiss—still burning her tongue.

 Well Jules, that’s it. I’m going to daydream about Cluny today. After reading a few of the other scenes with him – especially the clips from A Hope Undaunted, I’ve decided my little hero crush might transfer from Collin to Cluny.

Thank you so much for sharing this today. And good luck to all of you who enter the drawing. You CANNOT lose with any of Julie’s books. I have all of the Daughters of Boston and plan to purchase anymore this lady wants to pen.

Inspirational First Encounter

He couldn’t see the faces of the people around him. Had never seen their faces, or anything else. But voices pushed and shoved him through the streets, hands leading him or knocking him away.

Dust, hot and harsh, ground into the holes of his worn out sandals, irritating the sores rubbing against the threadbare leather straps.  There was nothing a poor, blind man could do to earn money for new ones, except beg and wait. But begging felt humiliating and waiting? Well, he’d been waiting for something to happen almost his entire life.

Blind. Yes. Blind from birth. And dependent on the kindness of others.

The swell of voices around him warned him of an incoming crowd. Certainly not a safe place for someone like him. Besides, everyone else seemed as blind to him as he was to them.

A voice, warm as fresh goat’s milk, smoothed through the clamor of voices. What? They were talking about him?

“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Someone spat, then all grew silent, except for whir of a sea of whispers.

“Jesus.” They said. Jesus? The very name stirred the embers of hope in his heart. Jesus? The healer from God?

Suddenly, something warm and damp touched his eyes.

“Go,” the voice spoke, as if to the deepest hurt in his heart. “Wash in the pool of Siloam.”

The man half-stumbled and half-ran to the pool, feeling his way around baskets of bread and resting animals. Every step, every fall, increased his faith that this moment would change his life forever.

He nearly fell into the pool, the water washing over him in waves from his splash. It soaked through his clothes, up to his shoulders, and with one deep breath he plunged his face underneath.

The air cooled his face as he pulled his heavy body up from the water and wiped a dripping sleeve across his face. Light poured through his closed eyelids. Light. He blinked. Colors, blurs, movement. He blinked again. The blurs slowly cleared and faces came into view. Faces. Eyes. Smiles.

He could see for the first time in his life. He could see – not only with his eyes, but with his heart. Jesus had made him whole.

Stop by tomorrow and find out who’s visiting next week. Still two more weeks to go of these Sizzling First Encounters, so find out what’s in store.

Blessings

Sizzling First Encounters with Colleen Coble

Well, we’ve had a few historical first encounters, but now it’s time to change things up a bit with multi-published author, Colleen Coble. Not only do her books tell a great story, but with all the action, adventure, and  plot twists, you feel more like you’ve ridden a breathtaking rollercoaster by the end than sat back in an easy chair 🙂

Colleen has won all sorts of awards for her fiction, both with short stories and novel-length suspense. Her credentials are pretty impressive and you can check them out , along with her list of novels,at www.colleencoble.com

I’m so tickled she agreed to be a part of this series. So, let’s find out what she’s brought with her today.

Colleen, what do you think makes a good first encounter?

I like to see the conflict setup and the first spark of noticing the other person as attractive. 🙂

Here is an excerpt from Colleen’s newest novel, Lonestar Homecoming. Book 3 in her Lonestar series.

As Michael disembarked the train, his gaze settled on a young woman who held a little girl of about five by the hand. What caught his attention more than the fragile beauty of her fine-boned face and full lips was the wedding gown she wore. It was creased and spotted as though she’d worn it several days. Her dark blond hair hung in wisps around her cheeks where it had fallen from a shiny clip.

The little girl glanced up with an appeal in her brown eyes. Her pink dress was all ruffles. A layer of dust dulled the shine on her patent leather shoes. “Mommy, I’m hungry,” she said.

“I know, Hope,” the woman said, her voice full of defeat. “I’m out of money.” She blinked rapidly, but a tear escaped and trickled down her pale cheek. She turned to a woman beside her. “Would you be going to Bluebird Crossing? My daughter and I need a ride.”

“No, dear, I’m sorry. I live here in Alpine. There’s my husband.” The woman waved at a craggy-faced man in a cowboy hat and walked away.

The young woman’s face took on more determination, and she turned toward the next person exiting the train. Michael started toward them, his hand going to the pocket that held his money clip. The woman swayed as her knees began to buckle. What little color remained in her face leached out. He sprang forward in time to catch her before she crumpled to the walk. As he lifted her in his arms and carried her to a nearby bench, he noticed how slight she was.

“Mommy, Mommy!” The little girl ran after them with tears streaming down her face.

“It’s okay,” Michael said, pitching his voice to a low, soothing murmur. He laid the woman on the bench, then pressed his fingers to the thin skin of her wrist. Her pulse jumped erratically beneath his fingertips.

“Hope,” the woman muttered, her lids still closed.

He glanced at the little girl hovering beside her mother. “Hope, has your mommy had anything to eat?”

Hope shook her head. “She only had five dollars when we ran away. She bought some apples, but she said she wasn’t hungry and I could eat them.”

“How long ago was this?”

Hope wrinkled her forehead. “We rode the train all day yesterday and slept on it last night.”

It was middle of the afternoon now, so Michael assumed the woman hadn’t eaten in two days. He wanted to ask why Hope’s mommy had run away from her wedding, but it wasn’t his business. “What’s your mommy’s name?” he asked Hope as he took out his water bottle.

“Gracie. I’m Hope. Hope Lister,” she said.

Gracie Lister. The name fit the delicate woman on the bench. Her nose had a dusting of freckles. Translucent eyelids fluttered, then opened wide, revealing eyes as blue as the cheery storefront behind them. A tiny scar gleamed on her forehead.

She started to sit up, but he pressed her back. “Easy. Here, have a sip of water.” He held the bottle to her lips and she swallowed a mouthful. “A little more,” he instructed.

She nodded and took another drink. “Thank you so much,” she said. “I don’t know what came over me. The heat maybe.”

He helped her sit, then pushed her gently forward until her head was down. “Sit up when your head clears. Take deep breaths.”

After a few inhalations, she straightened. “I feel much better,” she said.

“Hope says you haven’t eaten in two days.”

A delicate bloom of color stained her cheeks. “I’m fine.”

“I don’t think so, ma’am. I heard you tell Hope you had no more money. Where’s your luggage?”

Her hands twisted together in her lap. “I . . . I had to leave it behind.”

He saw the fear in her eyes, the way she couldn’t hold his gaze. Was she running from an abusive fiancé? A distasteful marriage arranged by her family? His gaze went to her left hand again. It was bare, so apparently she’d escaped before the marriage happened.

“Do you live here?” she asked, glancing around. Her pupils dilated when her gaze fell on the crowd moving past. The muscles in her throat convulsed, and she shrank back against the bench when a tall man came toward her. Her breath eased from between her lips when the man passed without another glance at her.

“No, I’m heading to Bluebird Crossing.”

Her head came up. “Could we catch a ride with you?”

“Why are you going to Bluebird?”

She wet her lips, and her gaze darted away. “I’m looking for a job.”

“In Bluebird? Ma’am, you’re not likely to find much there.”

“I—I have a contact there,” she said. “Someone to help me.”

While he knew the folks in his tiny burg were neighborly, he couldn’t see her finding any real job there. “I can give you a ride when mine gets here.” His gaze swept the parking lot. “I don’t think he’ll be here for another half hour, though.”

“I’d be so grateful,” she said, more color coming to her face.

“How about we get something to eat?” He held up his hand when objection gathered in her eyes. “My treat. Hope is hungry.”

The rebellion in her eyes disappeared, and she nodded. “Thank you.”

He nodded across the street. “A sub sandwich sounds good to me. How about you?”

“Hope loves turkey sandwiches,” Gracie said.

He took Gracie’s hand and helped her to stand. “You okay? Dizzy or anything?”

“I’m fine,” she said.

As he led her across the street, he noticed the way she glanced over her shoulder and the tension in her muscles. What was she running from?

 Inspirational First Encounter

There are so many amazing first encounters with Jesus, but one I really enjoy reading is the story of the woman at the well. The Samaritan Woman. If you’ve ever paid attention, the entire gospel slows down at this story. The book is moving along from one action of Jesus to the next, especially in Mark, and then our attention is drawn to this first encounter.

A SAMARITAN and a WOMAN – two things that left her the ‘outcast’ category. Add to that she’d been married quite a few times and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband, and then you get a forsaken Samaritan Woman.

So how did Jesus view her? Did he ignore her like most Jewish men would have done?

Nope. He gets into a theological debate with her. He causes a bit of conflict. He throws the truth in her face – both of her own sin and of his salvation. All over a discussion about water. Because at the heart of it all, Jesus wasn’t concerned about what ‘others’ thought, or proper etiquette, or making the right political move. The heart of his message was for the heart of this woman. For all of our hearts.

We are loved.

Just as we are.

But – he loves us so much, he will not leave us in our sin. He takes our parched soul and soothes it with living water.

UP NEXT: Let’s not just end the week with a sizzle, but a rolling boil. Kissing QUEEN and romantic tension diva, Julie Lessman is up tomorrow. AND SHE’S HAVING a BOOK GIVEAWAY. Stop by and join in the fun.