Sizzling First Encounters with Aspiring Author Sherrinda Ketchersid

 

Okay – so I love to brag. Lots. Especially about my favorite people – and it just so happens that one of those favorite people is my guest today.

We’re kindred spirits.

In lots of ways.

Both pastor’s wives, both moms of multiple kids, both somewhat smiley, and –low and behold- we both like to write.

 Aspiring to inspire together 🙂

 It’s no wonder that we’ve become critique partners along this journey.

Sherrinda started writing only two years ago and has already garnered an award – Finalist in the Touched By Love contest in May of this year. Now she’s waiting to hear the results, but either way, she’s a winner.

You can learn more about Sherrinda by visiting her terrific blog at http://sherrindak.blogspot.com

So Sherrinda, what do you think makes a great first encounter?

I think what makes a great first encounter is an instant awareness, maybe even attraction, yet knowing you cannot act on or further the connection with one another. It’s that tension of want-yet-can’t-have. I believe arguing and finding fault in the other as a way of coping with the “want” is another great way to bring the tension to the forefront. I know my characters argue a lot due to suppressed desire for one another (and when I say desire, I don’t necessarily mean what you think I mean).

 And exactly what is it that you think I think you mean? LOL.

Alright, I think you have an excerpt from your novel –  If My Heart Could Speak.

Set up:

Disguised as a boy, Jocelyn fled the convent holding her prisoner and found safe passage home squiring for the knight Malcolm who was on his way there for a tournament. He found out her ruse when she was wounded in a fight, but has agreed to keep her as squire—because he is a chivalrous knight. He does insist she take a bath, because he doesn’t want a scruffy squire shaming him at the tournament. This scene is his first encounter with Jocelyn looking like a woman and not a dirty boy.

“Are you bathed and presentable?”

Malcolm’s deep voice penetrated the silent darkness, sending a pleasant shiver through her. She gathered the cloak about her and found her voice. “Aye.”

She felt vulnerable, but garnered her courage as he came into view carrying a large bundle of wood.

He stopped midstride. His gaze found hers and pierced through her like sunlight spilling through dark clouds. She gripped the cloak tighter as he set the wood down at his feet and came to stand before her.

Jocelyn couldn’t find any coherent thoughts to string together to make speech. Malcolm stood in silence, eyes still on hers, gray on blue. 

Without breaking the stare, he reached out a finger and caught a droplet of water at the tip of one of the curls resting against her cheek. Her heart stuttered to a stop.

“By the saints, how could I have mistaken you for a lad?” he murmured.

His gaze moved over her face and lingered on her lips. Heat bloomed on her cheeks and her breath caught as his face inched toward hers. Faith, was he going to kiss her?

She wrestled with the desire to feel his lips on hers and the complete impropriety of such an action. She should push him away, and yet her eyes closed on their own accord.

She prayed for strength, her lips moving in silent supplication.

The sound of air sucked in over teeth jostled her back to reality. She opened her eyes to see Malcolm shake his head and back away from her. It was with a mixture of regret and relief that she squared her shoulders and smiled up at him.

He merely crossed his arms over his broad chest and lifted the corner of his mouth. “You clean up fairly well, for a girl on the run. ‘Tis possible you won’t shame me, little man.”

Woohoo! Sherrinda, that was beautiful. Oh my, what’s going to happen with the two of them? Sigh. I wanted to yell “Kiss de girl.” 😉

Thanks for showcasing your talent today. I’m so tickled to have two (possibly three) more aspiring authors willing to share their first encounters for next week. Prepare to see their work on Monday, Wednesday (and hopefully Friday).

Tomorrow, I hope to post my review of Mary Connealy’s newest novel, Doctor in Petticoats. Stop by to learn about it.

Sizzling First Encounter from an Amateur AGAIN

Okay – so  it’s my favorite story I’ve written so far. And I HAVE to post the first encounter. I love it.

But before I do, I just want to brag a moment about my friend, Sherrinda. Tomorrow, she’s my guest and her first encounter scene is very sigh-worthy. It’s a must read. So please, oh please, drop in to check it out. Wonderful.

So, if you guys aren’t TOO tired of my Eisley/Wes story, Here To Stay, I’ll introduce you to their very first encounter. (snicker – me and my characters have such a fun time together)

The basic gist: Eisley Barrett is a single mom of three who is traveling to England to research her geneology. Her goals: research the story, then pair up with her dying uncle to write about it before it’s too late; and steer clear of eligible men. Her ex-husband left her heart broken and untrustworthy. But temptation comes in the well-packaged form of Wes Harrison.

Btw, Eisley is staying with Wes’ parents while she’s visiting. Here’s Wes and Eisley’s first encounter. (And I see Eisley as Amy Adams and Wes as Richard Armitage) Plus, I’ve included a few pics of Derbyshire that I took while I was there.  The first half of the novel takes place in Derbyshire, UK.

*******

Eisley sighed. “I’ve never been good with guys and the whole flirting thing. All those subtle nuances and cues, well I’m clueless.” A pout pulled at her bottom lip, but she pushed it away. She would not think of her failures in that department. It hurt too much. “So I guess we’re taking a taxi to the hotel or maybe the Tube?”

“Actually, my son is to drive us. Wes is quite capable. He lives on the West End.” Mr. Harrison nodded toward the doorway. “And, here he comes now.”

Eisley followed Mr. Harrison’s gaze across the expanse of the meeting area, past the red bucket chairs and rows of people, and right into the eyes of a Greek god.  

A taller, younger version of Mr. Harrison, complete with black hair and captivating gray-blue eyes, walked toward them.

His gaze blazed through her. Immediate attraction. She held in a whimper. Lord, really? Are you joking?

She tried to adjust her expression. The last thing she needed was to look like a three-year-old in a candy store. Too much eye-candy is bad for a healing heart. Very bad. It might lead to thoughts of hope or worse, possibilities. And false hope was the last thing she needed. Step away from the candy and no one will get hurt. Remain calm, distant – and consider running away, as soon as you can.

She stumbled to a stand and bent to help Mr. Harrison.

“Eisley,” he whispered, “It might be wise not to mention the falling incident.”

Eisley jerked her gaze to his. “What?”

“Wes.” Mr. Harrison stepped forward and greeted his son with his other hand. “This is Eisley Barrett. Our guest for the next few weeks.”

Wes’ gaze trailed over her, leaving a splash of warmth on her face and a knot in the pit of her stomach. Calm. Distant. Glacial. The dutiful son offered his hand, somewhat reluctantly. “A pleasure, Ms. Barrett.”

His hot-fudge smooth voice swept all words right out of her head and melted any images of icecaps. She stifled a sigh. The perfect combination – fascinating eyes, a British accent, and chocolate. This could be love, okay, at least infatuation. Healthy infatuation – the safe, look-but-don’t-touch kind. Like on television.

Eisley mentally slapped herself. Pull yourself together, woman. No man is worth an Eric-sequel.

She peeled her tongue off the roof of her mouth, took his hand, and pushed all the giddy, junior-high feelings down to her pinky toe. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Wes looked at her pink luggage and kept a taciturn expression. Unapproachable. Very Mr. Darcyish – wait wrong thought direction. “I assume this is your baggage?”

“Pink is easier to find in the baggage check.”

“No doubt.”

Sarcasm? Daggone it, that just made him more attractive. Oh what a pickle. Why here and now? She’d been dodging men for years and now inchworms could escape faster. Obviously there was no mutual infatuation. He looked annoyed, maybe a bit bored, and definitely not as close to hyperventilating as she was. What was wrong with her? Jetlag?

Wes lifted her bags and started toward the doors. “Well, Ms. Barrett, I know very little about you.” A look passed between the two men and Eisley stepped back from the glare. “You are from Virginia, yes?”

“Yes, a teeny tiny place in the Blue Ridge Mountains with two stoplights and no Walmart. Which means it’s practically nowhere, but the area is beautiful. Rural, quiet. Home.”

Wes remained stiff as a hardbound book binding, but – Hark! Was that a faint light of interest flickering behind his dull expression? Well, she didn’t care. She liked him better as rude and unavailable. Maybe he was married. She took a quick glance at his left hand. Bare as a the Jenkins’ table after a meal.  Trouble. Deep trouble.

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 Kaye Dacus

It is such a pleasure to have author Kaye Dacus visiting today. Kaye’s books range from sassy contemporaries to Austenian historicals. She’s known as an encourager to new writers (of which I can attest personally J and provides a wealth of knowledge and information on her blog at www.kayedacus.com

Her newest series, The Matchmakers, sounds like books filled with wit and romance, much like her Brides of Bonneterre series. Her first published novel, Stand-In Groom, has been my favorite of her books so far. (Of course, the hero was British and you can’t go wrong with that, right Kaye? 😉

Besides the fun contemporaries, her historical series The Ransom Trilogy is definitely worth a read – especially is you enjoy Regency, Pirates, and a bit of Austen flair.

1. What is one element of great romantic tension?

 Intellectual attraction provides the best catalyst for romantic tension, at least for me. While physical attraction can, well, generate heat, it’s when the attraction moves beyond the surface level, sees them for who they really are that the romance sparks.

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

 While this isn’t actually their first encounter (which happened in Ransome’s Honor), here is a scene from Charlotte’s debut ball in Ransome’s Crossing.

            The next hour swirled away in a blur of handsome, attentive gentlemen and officers. After a rousing reel with Mr. St. Vincent, Charlotte turned off the dance floor for a respite—and came face-to-face with Ned Cochrane.

            His cool gray eyes burned into hers. She dropped her gaze and bent her knees in a quick curtsey.

            “Might I have the honor of the next dance, Miss Ransome?”

            How could she? What if he then recognized her through her disguise next time they met at the dockyard? But as they would be on different ships, they would likely not see each other at all. “Yes, Lieutenant Cochrane. I would be delighted.”

            Charlotte’s fingertips tingled when they came in contact with Ned’s—even though they both wore gloves. A few steps into the allemande, Charlotte had trouble catching her breath. Every time they separated, she felt cold and abandoned. And she could look nowhere but at Ned. His hair was too dark to be blond and too light to be brown. He had a scar in the middle of his forehead that broke up the lines when he raised his brows, the way a rock broke the flow of a stream. And though he was not as tall and lithe as Percy Fairfax, he seemed lighter on his feet, more graceful, no doubt from years of developing a keen sense of balance aboard ships.

            The dance ended too soon. Had it not been for Penelope’s immediately claiming her and declaring the need for refreshment, Charlotte would have embarrassed herself by asking—begging—Lieutenant Cochrane for another dance . . . and another . . .

            Penelope pulled her into a corner where a tall vase gave them some measure of privacy. “My dear girl, why did not you tell me?”

            “Tell you?” Charlotte glanced around the vase, trying to see if Ned danced with someone else.

            “That you are in love.”

 Oh nice, Kaye. What a great way to start the day! Or end the day! It’s kind of like chocolate. Good ANY time 🙂 And I love the mystery involved, the conflict about Ned discovering her identity. Wonderful!

Thanks for sharing this with us today.

Up Next: Tina Pinson

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 – Final Week!!

It’s going to be a very busy week. The final week of Sizzling First Encounters and, boy, is there a great lineup. I hope you guys have enjoyed this series as much as I have. I’m already devising my next series, which won’t start until September and has to do with …er…’fall’ (As in, When I Fall in Love) 🙂

 Monday – Siri Mitchell

Tuesday – Missy Tippens

Wednesday – Audra Harders

Thursday – Jamie Carie

Friday – Kaye Dacus

Saturday – Tina Pinson

ACFW Novel Track: Writing starts on July 1 – and I’m participating. I’ll post tips and tidbits I’m learning along the way.

For some great posts on writing and just fun, check out The Writers Alley or Seekerville.

Blessings,

Pepper

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.

Sizzling First Encounters with Melanie Dickerson

I am SOOOO tickled to have debut author Melanie Dickerson on my blog today. If you haven’t had the chance to see the beautiful cover of her book or watch the book trailer, here’s your chance. The book trailer is the BEST one I’ve ever seen. Zondervan really pulled out all the stops, didn’t they?

Melanie has been writing for years and working among authors within ACFW, judging contest and serving in various capacities. During this time, she’s garnered some lovely awards for her writing as well, but the best reward for all her hard work was THE CALL. Yes – almost as if the skies opened up and light shone down just for Melanie.  Zondervan wanted to publish her novel!

I am thrilled to get to share this wonderful news with you and rejoice with her. What a blessing and so. much. fun. To learn more about Melanie, check out her new website at www.melaniedickerson.com. Also visit her blog at http://melaniewrites.blogspot.com

So, okay – without further ado, let’s get on with the intro and ‘sneak’ peek 🙂 Actually – this is Melanie’s FIRST SNEAK PEEK!!! AHHH! Thanks for letting me be a part of it, Melanie!

What makes for great hero/heroine romantic tension – especially in that first encounter?

One element of romantic tension is denial. It adds power to the attraction between the hero and heroine when one or both of them is really attracted to the other one but is denying that they are. Maybe the heroine is angry at the hero and tells herself that she doesn’t think he’s cute, that she doesn’t like green eyes, and so doesn’t like the hero’s eyes or his thick brown hair and muscular chest and hardly even noticed them. 
 
In the partial scene I’m sharing today, the hero is pretending he isn’t attracted to the heroine, that she’s beneath his station, he’s betrothed to someone else, and therefore he couldn’t possibly be attracted to her. I couldn’t share the entire scene, but maybe you will get a sense of it from this snippet. This is also the scene that’s portrayed in the trailer that Zondervan made for my book.
 ******

Wilhelm held the cup to his lips and watched the healer’s apprentice walk to the window, giving him a clear view of her profile. Her brown hair glowed in the sunlight that poured through the glass. Her nose and chin were small, her cheekbones high, and her lips full and perfect. He recognized her. She was the girl he’d seen on the street with the dog.

He knew about this girl. His father had recently approved Frau Geruscha’s request to have the maiden as her apprentice. If he remembered correctly, her name was Rose. She was a beauty, a woodcutter’s daughter who ordered his knights around as if they were lackeys. But he’d been betrothed since he was five years old, so he was used to guarding his heart. Besides, he wasn’t likely to be tempted by a woodcutter’s daughter—or a healer’s apprentice—no matter how beautiful.

Her wolfish dog sat in the corner of the room and eyed Wilhelm’s two knights, who were staring at Rose. The dog growled low in his throat, his forelegs pulled in tight, ready to spring at the men if the need arose.

Wilhelm studied Christoff and Georg. With a fair maiden in their midst, he knew his men too well to doubt their thoughts. He suddenly agreed with the dog. He didn’t want them staring at her.

“Christoff, Georg, you may go now.”

They tore their gaze away from Rose. “My lord?”

“Unless you want to watch her sew me up?” He raised his eyebrows.

The men seemed to realize what was coming and practically raced each other to the door. From outside, Christoff called, “We shall wait nearby.”

Wilhelm grinned at their haste. He brought the tea to his lips and drank until he had swallowed some of the leaves and all of the liquid, the bitter taste lingering on his tongue.

The maiden turned from the window with dread in her face. He hoped the tea worked. The pain in his leg made him clench his teeth, but he bit back a hiss, since the girl looked as though she might cry herself at any moment.

He set the cup on the floor and lay flat, letting his head sink into the prickly, straw-filled pillow. She placed a low stool next to him then rummaged through a basket at the foot of the bed and withdrew black string and a needle.

“So what is that you’re stitching me up with?” He forced his tone to sound calm, hoping to put them both at ease.

One side of her mouth went down as if she were avoiding his gaze. “Catgut, my lord.”

She stared down at the needle and he watched her draw in another big breath. She closed her eyes as she made the sign of the cross. Her lips moved silently, then her long lashes swept up, revealing warm brown eyes that brimmed with determination.

His heart beat faster.

“When Frau Geruscha sews up a wound, she tells the person to think about something else, to imagine they are in a favored, peaceful place.”

Wilhelm nodded and closed his eyes. He could do that. He wouldn’t think about the needle, the catgut, or his leg.

Her soft fingers, gentle and tentative, touched his bare leg, near the wound. But he couldn’t think about that, either. He’d think of a stream … Yes, with the sun glittering on it … a nice grassy bank and a big tree. The leaves are moving with the breeze … the grass is cool.

There it was, the stab of the needle piercing his flesh. His leg tensed in spite of himself. He forced a moan to the back of his throat. The tea wasn’t working.

Okay, there you have it! A brief intro into Melanie’s book coming out in October. And this just in. Her book was chosen for the American Christian Fiction Writers October bookclub. Is that great news or what? So many congrats, Melanie. You’ve gotta be proud.

So, talking about ‘denial’. Can you think of any situation in your wips where you’ve created some hint of denial? One of the basics of conflict in novels. Do you have it in your book?  Let’s hear a little bit about ‘your’ romantic tension through denial.

Up NEXT?  Join Colleen Coble and learn about what she thinks makes a great first encounter. With over 35 novels, I’m sure she can give us some great advice on how to create fire from the first encounter.