Archive for May, 2015

Finding Our Stride: Books Of The Heart

Monday, May 25th, 2015

A long time ago the light bulb came on for me. You know those times when all of a sudden you see so clearly what you wished you’d seen before. Yeah. That. It took me a while to realize that while I love to write contemporary novels, I seem to find historical novels so compelling to write. Maybe it’s the research I love or creating a whole new take on an event in history that I can’t resist visiting. Such was the case in my historical romance Before The Dawn, set in 1850 Pennsylvania. All of my historical novels are books of my heart, which I can’t say for every contemporary I’ve written. I’m sharing an excerpt here today of a scene from Before The Dawn. Hope you enjoy it!

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A fallen woman must decide to stay down, or rise and fight…

Elijah McKinnon has been found innocent of a heinous murder, but it doesn’t erase the hellish years in prison he endured. He boards the train to Pittsburgh a changed man, certain he will never feel free until he’s wreaked revenge on the brother who ruined his life.

The passenger who catches his eye is intriguing, but he’s seen her kind before. The kind who puts on airs—and looks down on Irishmen. Still, he can’t seem to stop himself from stepping between her and a pack of ruthless cads.

Mary Jane Lawson is grateful for the handsome stranger’s help, but her journey has a higher purpose: to rise above her shattered reputation and declare her independence, come flood or famine. Propriety says she should refuse Elijah’s suggestion they pose as husband and wife—for her own protection, of course. Her practical side says it won’t hurt to pretend, just this once.

Come nightfall, though, their little charade must be carried all the way to shared sleeping quarters, where their vulnerabilities become painfully clear. And when danger past and present threatens, trusting each other becomes a matter of life and death.

* *

She stumbled along in his wake, no energy to ask why they pushed onward into the woods where no one from the train could help them. Thinking that far ahead caused more trepidation, so she concentrated on planting one shoe in front of the other. After what seemed an endless time, a rocky outcropping and massive hill rose in front of them.

“Thank the saints.” He tugged her forward. “Here.” He released her hand long enough to shove aside shrubbery and reveal a tall opening. She saw his throat work as he swallowed hard. “Damnation. I don’t want to go in here, but we must. I’ll go first, you follow.”

His voice snapped like a general, and she flinched. His eyes went hard, unyielding.

The darkness beyond the crevice appeared to be a wide mouth without teeth. What horrors lay inside? Unreasoning fear stilled her courage. She sucked in a quick breath. If Elijah could conquer his apprehension, so could she.

He crawled in, headfirst. When he disappeared into the maw, all went quiet. Even the wind didn’t stir, and the rain stopped. Her entire body quaked. Nightmares of deep, unknown places from childhood tormented her from the edges. They beckoned, dared her to stay brave and to remain sane.

Elijah’s hand came out and then his head. “It’s larger than I thought. It’s a deep rock shelter.”

She clasped his hand and leaned down. He released her once she started inside. She crawled on hands and knees and discovered enough headroom to stand and several feet on both sides. Light penetrated from a large crack in the ceiling.

He inched around in front of her and made certain the hole stayed thoroughly covered by the foliage. Turning back, he stopped. He put one finger to his lips in a gesture of silence. He pulled his weapon from the inner waistcoat pocket and held it, prepared for use. They stayed that way for several minutes. Time stretched in front of her, an eternity of waiting, of anxiety ridden breaths and heart pounding apprehension. Safety still felt far removed. Now that they had stopped running, she heard her own breath rasping, her heart pounding in her ears as her body slowed. Reaction came without remorse. Tears flowed and fell to her cheeks. She regulated her breath by slow turns, and yet her body remained tense. After what seemed an eternity, he made his way past her and sat against one wall. He gestured for her to come closer.

She eased towards him on her hands and knees, her crinoline bunching up in the way. Frustrated, she frowned. She never hated fashion more than this moment.

“Take off the crinoline. We’re leaving it and the corset behind,” he said.

She hesitated and then realized the wisdom in his request. Mary Jane rose to her feet. “Help me. I have to remove the dress first.”

He nodded, his face etched with a harsh determination. She turned away from him. Methodically he unbuttoned the back of the dress while she pulled the hatpins out of her hat and hair. As his fingers moved, a fleeting thought raced by. Even in these desperate moments of flight, his fingers brushing with heat through dress, corset and chemise somehow made her incredibly aware of him as a man. Then the thought fled.

She tossed the pins in a corner and flung the hat aside. She was surprised the thing had not fallen off before now. Her dress stuck to her, sodden with rain and made the buttons more difficult to undo. She would have to dress in it again once she removed the corset and crinoline, but what choice did she have? Before she knew it the shoulders and the tight sleeves eased away from her skin. Eager, she pulled the garment off her arms until she peeled it all the way down and it fell around her waist. She wriggled to shove it off her hips. She stepped out of the dress and worked on the ties that held the crinoline in place. As they remained quiet, a sense of urgency filled the air. They must hurry in case his brother found them and they must fight. She shoved the horsehair padding downward, and he came around to the front and knelt in front of her.

“Here,” he whispered. “Lift your legs one at a time, and I’ll pull it off.”

She complied, and quicker than she expected, Elijah crumpled the nuisance and shoved it into a corner. Without speaking he returned to stand behind her and made short work of the corset laces. When it loosened around her ribs, she sucked in a breath. That felt so much better. Though she never worn her corset particularly tight, removing the garment was liberating. She took one deep breath after another. When he loosened it completely, he pulled it over her head. It, too, went into the corner.

Now that she stood in nothing but chemise, pantalets, stockings and boots, she trembled with cold. His hands rested on her shoulders for a second, and then he turned her around.

His eyes had lost their harshness, but they held no awareness of her as a woman. He had shut down for the fight, all efficiency in the face of danger. “I know the dress is cold and wet, but you have to put it back on. If they find us here…”

She put her fingers over his lips. For a few unguarded seconds, his eyes flared. She’d never imagined green eyes could burn this bright and hot with emotion. Quickly he shut it off, like a flame doused under a rush of water. He helped her back into the dress, which went much faster.

Once done, he sat, propped his back against the wall and stared at her. He drew up one leg and propped his forearm on his knee. With his disheveled hair, sweat beading on his forehead, and a harsh look in his eyes, he looked every inch the dastardly criminal. Part of her wanted to run from him too. After all, she was in this predicament because his brother had a vendetta with Elijah. His rumpled waistcoat hung open, dirt and something red smeared over one side. Worry speared her.

She sank to her knees in the damp earth in front of him. She grabbed the lapels of his waistcoat and parted them. “You are bleeding.”

“No. I’m not. That’s the blood of the man I killed.”

Her lips parted but nothing came out at first. She struggled with her words. “We both… I hit that man with a rock, Elijah. I killed him.”

“I know, darlin’.” His voice softened, the rough understanding lowering his husky voice. “I know.”

More tears came, and as they rained down, her face crumpled.

“Shhh…” He reached for her and pulled her into his lap.

He cuddled her close, his powerful arms providing shelter she desperately craved. She wept quietly, holding back the rage screaming fear. She shuddered and quaked. She saw a misery in his gaze, a genuine sorrow. She touched his face and felt the bristle of beard growing there. In those quiet moments, Mary Jane heard nothing more than gentle breaths, felt nothing more than his heat beneath her, cradling and comforting.

Understanding, like that she had witnessed before, warmed his eyes and softened his visage. His lips parted. She stared at that handsome mouth and wanted it on hers with undeniable desperation.

Closer, closer still, he tilted towards her until…his mouth touched hers with exquisite gentleness. When her lips parted under pressure, his tongue pushed inside. Retreated. Caressed. Owned her mouth with sweet, deep thrusts. She arched into that kiss, breath puffing into him, mouth moving in response, tongue tangling in carnal dance.

Elijah broke away with a gasp, eyes still blazing.

He leaned closer until he whispered in her ear. “If we were anywhere else and completely safe, you would be beneath me. Naked.”

Blunt as his words were, they excited Mary Jane and made her forget their harrowing flight.

“But we can’t.” His burning gaze lingered on her mouth, then recaptured her eyes. “I would put you in danger, and that’s the last thing I want. Promise me something.”

“Anything.” The word, so definitive and complete, left her throat without a pause.

“If they find us here and anything happens to me, you fight with everything in you. You fight to live. You understand?”

“No—I— you are not going to die.” Her voice broke. “That will not happen.”

“If there’s one thing I learned incarcerated in Eastern State, it was that bad things happen and you cannot always stop them. If that bad thing happens, and I cannot keep you safe…you do what you need in order to live.” His gaze was fierce and demanding. “You understand me?”

“Yes.” The excruciating thought twisted a hot knife in her breast. “Yes.”

 

War Time London: One London Night

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Last week I profiled Geri Foster’s World War Two novel and this week I’m profiling my World War Two novel One London Night. Writing a story set during World War Two is a challenge, but it’s also an amazing and rich time period ripe with possibilities for creativity. I loved writing One London Night. Here’s a snippet of the danger my characters encounter during the Blitz of 1940.

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War Time London, 1940

A time when uncertainty festers within even the strongest of men.

A time when fear rules everyone’s lives.

A time when love dares to defy the devastation of war.

After years away, American War Correspondent Sylvie Hunnicut returns to England determined to put aside tumultuous memories and muster the courage to cover the war in Great Britain. Guilt she harbors over a horrible accident that permanently injured childhood friend Alec Kent threatens to destroy their relationship. Secret longings for him remain in her heart, even if he wants nothing to do with her.

Alec Kent’s disability works against him in serving his country, until he signs on with the Auxiliary Fire Service. Sylvie’s return brings to the forefront Alec’s hidden love for her, and a determination to prove himself to his disapproving father.

But war promises to destroy the possibility of love and bring a great city to its knees.

* *

Riding in the car with Alec, Bent, and Felix as they towed a pump toward Howard’s Timber Yard was about the most exciting thing Sylvie had ever experienced. She acknowledged a part of herself, right then and there, she hadn’t known existed before tonight. Adventure ran in her blood. Of course she should have known this before. She’d gotten into jams more than once with her stubborn insistence on challenging established rules.

As they rolled through the streets, the glows from more than one fire reminded her this wasn’t an adventure but deadly business. Nervous but thrilled to ride along, Sylvie caught herself talking too much.

“She’s quite the pip, ain’t she?” Felix asked.

Sylvie turned toward Felix—he sat right next to her in the back seat. “I’m right here, Felix. You’re talking about me as if I’m not here.”

A bashful look came over his face. “Sorry, miss.”

“I’d watch out, Felix. She is a pip,” Alec said.

She wanted to pop off with a snappy something that would show them all her mettle. Instead she kept it professional. As the dark buildings went buy, light from the fires ahead made the way easier to navigate. Tension traveled up her body, her muscles going tight.

“Here we go.” Bink’s voice reflected concern. “Straight into hell.”

Sylvie decided to remember what he’d said. Darkness prevented her from making notes. Time passed slowly as they continued slow progress along the streets.

“No wonder things burn down around here. We can’t move any faster,” she said.

“Can’t be helped,” Bink said from the seat in front of her. “We run over a civilian, there will be hell to pay.”

She didn’t want them to think she criticized their efforts. “Of course. If you crash, you can’t help anyone else.”

When they reached the timber yards a long time later, Sylvie quickly discovered her ignorance about firefighting. Walls of flame shot upward from the timber yard despite the efforts of dozens upon dozens of pumps on the scene. As Alec pulled the pump into line with the others, Felix and Bent bailed out to get orders on where they were needed the most.

“My God. Where do you start?” she asked.

In awe and fear, she watched the flames devour everything in their path, barely held back by the firefighters’ efforts.

“Damn good question.” Alec handed her something from the front seat. “Wear these.”

In the dark she almost couldn’t tell what was in her hand. “What is it?”

“Gas goggles. You don’t want eye injuries. I’m wearing a pair.” He slid a balaclava over his head and fastened the goggles in place before putting on the helmet. Then he handed her an extra helmet.

“What…” she started to say.

“Get rid of the fancy hat and wear the helmet and goggles.”

She stared at him for a few seconds.

“I’m serious, Sylvie. Wear it.”

Despite the bossy tone, she knew he was right. “Sparks off the fire.”

With the goggles and other head covering, he looked like some sort of weird creature from a nightmare. “That’s right.”

She worked on removing the hat and tossed it aside. Her hair tumbled down, but she ignored it. She didn’t have time to braid it. She’d have to work the situation with what clothing she possessed.

Felix opened the door. “When you two are done playing, we’ve got a fire out here. They want this pump over on the north side.”

She heard Alec curse under his breath. “Get in.”

As she plopped the helmet on her head, Alec drove them to the north side. As the fire drew nearer, she could feel the heat in the car. Tension rose inside Sylvie. Her stomach tumbled and flipped with an anxiety she couldn’t contain. She’d never crept closer and closer to a fire this huge in her life. She leaned forward to look out the windshield as fear threatened to derail her plans for calm.

You’re a journalist, Sylvie. No matter what you’re feeling, you have to do this.

She drew in a breath and let it out slowly. Noise outside the car hid the sound. Good. If they knew how nervous this made her, they’d believe all the things said about women as war correspondents. It didn’t matter if this whole thing scared her to death, she couldn’t show it.

The car and pump drew to a halt. Her heart raced as Alec and the other men hurried out of the car. She sat there a second too long before she noticed Alec, Felix, and Bink manned the hoses. She wished she had a camera, but her memory would have to do the trick, and maybe she could write some notes if the fire made it light enough. She hesitated, the fierce flames sending a primitive fear through her she’d only experienced once before.

Her mind flashed back to being fourteen and hearing Alec’s cry of agony as glass tore into his right eye. Recalling that horrible experience hurt enough, but the flames…the flames dove into everything primitive inside her. She’d been prepared, hadn’t she? She’d imagined this scene before.

She forced herself out of the car but stood near it, as if it would be a bastion of safety if things got out of control.

Heat blasted her, and she took an involuntary step back. Glad for sturdy shoes and practical clothing, she directed her attention toward recording everything she could in her mind’s eye. Water spouted from the hose Alec and the other men pointed at the relentless conflagration. Streams of water came from another hose manned by other men. They’d hooked up the hose to a hydrant. She shoved aside all apprehension and allowed her senses to absorb the situation. She’d need all this for her article. Fear sliced like a knife through her, but she closed her eyes and listened.

An angry roar and snapping sound told her the fire had no mercy. It was a beast without conscience or morals. Heat came in waves. Snaps and crackles mingled with the ping, plop, and zing of mortar popping and melting. Bricks crumbled and fell. The noise almost eclipsed the drone of Germans flying overhead and the ack-ack noise of anti-aircraft guns.

She opened her eyes and matched what she saw with the hellacious sounds. Fire shot up from the center of the building and made the windows look like yellow eyes staring at her in condemnation. An element of helplessness overwhelmed Sylvie. She took out her notebook and managed a few perfunctory notes. She couldn’t fight this fire, and the men nearby put their lives on the line doing what they could to tame this beast. Shouts mixed with grunts of exertion. She was hot and tired already, and the night was certainly young. She remembered them explaining that if it was an oil bomb fire, they’d take care of it with a special foam. But this wasn’t that type of fire, apparently—she didn’t see any crew using foam. As time dragged on, the pumps at the fire started to make progress. She wandered away from the car but kept herself far away from the timber yard and other buildings.

A roar came from somewhere nearby, and someone shouted.

“Sylvie!”

Alec’s voice reached over the horrible sound of hell coming undone, and she realized the building behind her was listing to the side and new flames had cropped up. Sparks had found their way over her head.

“Sylvie, get away from there!”

Alec raced toward her, and she darted toward him and what she hoped was safety.

 

 

 

Geri Foster and Love Released (World War II Historical Romantic Suspense)

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Today I’m welcoming author Geri Foster and her new leap into historical Romantic Suspense with her first Women of Courage story, Love Released. I want to applaud Geri for writing historical romances that are different! The creativity coach in me is thrilled to see any writer take a step toward writing what really thrills them. Welcome Geri!

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For all the years I’ve been writing, not once did I consider writing a Historical Romantic Suspense. I’ve always leaned toward danger and suspense, but more in the cotemporary world with spies, special agents and lots of action.

As I continued to write these books, in the back of my mind was a very frightened, weary young woman begging me to tell her story. I ignored her for over a year, with my critique partners, writer friends and even my editor telling me to go for it. I believed that Women of Courage simply wasn’t my kind of story and not what people had come to expect from me.

What would my readers and fans say? Would they cross over? Going from Action Adventure to Historical Romantic Suspense is a wide gap. It was a gamble. What if no one liked that era? Was it too soon to write a post-World War II book?

I would be stepping out of my comfort zone as a writer and I was very leery.

Another thing that frightened me was that this story would be an extremely emotional story of true love and I didn’t know if I was up to that. I would have to write raw, gritty and heartbreaking scenes. That’s so difficult for a writer to settle into. But, the story also had its rewards. There were other touching scenes of tenderness of loving a child, heartwarming reunions, true bonds, and happy ever after.

No longer able to keep the story inside, I set out on this daunting journey with the idea I’d write one book and see how it goes. I learned in the writing world it doesn’t pay to make plans. Every story has a life of its own and Women of Courage would not allow me to stop until the story was finished.

I set the story where I was familiar, my great grandmother’s hometown. My hometown is twelve miles away. So much of the story is set in a fictional place that’s a blend of both places.

My character’s name is Cora and so was my grandmother’s, and that’s just a hint of how much of the story parallels things I’m comfortable with.

I hope you will try this serial. While I’d meant it to be one, maybe two books, it’s grown much larger and even as I write this, it continues to grow.

If you like to immerse yourself into the lives of fascinating characters facing the difficulties of life after the Second World War, people forgiving the past and finding true, deep, abiding love then you’ll enjoy Women of Courage.

* *

She’s running from a past, he’s duty-bound to protect her.

He stands on the other side of sorrow and despair with a love so vast and strong it reaches into her soul and sparks the courage to become the woman she dares.

Cora Williams is an ex-con with no place to go but Gibbs City, Missouri. A small mid-western town where she hopes to remain undisturbed and unobtrusive. With her nephew Jack, her wants are simple, to hide from the horrors of her past.

Sheriff Virgil Carter is a WW2 veteran with demons of his own, but Parker County is his to protect. That includes a young, beautiful woman newly released from prison who longs to be left alone.

Love often comes like sleep, softly, quietly and unexpectedly. You just have to close your eyes and dream.

Geri Foster Bio

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Geri Foster is a multi-genre author with over 15 titles. They include her bestselling Romantic Suspense series Falcon Securities, the Historical Romantic Suspense serial Women of Courage and cute, short, sexy ERoms, Accidental Pleasures. She stays busy continuing her series and consistently coming up with new and exciting stories for her readers.

She’s been writing for years and enjoys hearing from her fans and chatting on her Facebook Groups, Women of Courage Book readers and Smart Women’s Romantic Suspense Readers Group. She’s been a member of RWA for almost twenty years, and belongs to two local chapters.

She enjoys her grandchildren, friends, family, and traveling. Europe is her favorite destination. She always has fun at conferences and can usually be found at the bar.

She lives with her husband and their shy rescue dog, Lola, in the DFW area of Texas.

Links for Book One of Woman Of Courage-Love Released

Amazon

iBooks

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Google

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Writing: Keeping The Daydream Alive

Friday, May 1st, 2015

 

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Pardon me if I’ve posted this blog before! I just emerged from several hours of writing. I’m still in that fog, that ecstasy stage when I’ve written a scene I’m very pleased with. I’m planning on jumping straight into writing more this afternoon. Strike while the iron is hot. Lately I’ve been compelled to talk more about writing and what a writer needs to keep that iron hot. Writers listen to far too many shoulds I think. There’s a lot to be said for doing things your own way and to use another tried and true saying…damn the torpedoes.

Don’t daydream. Don’t be unrealistic. Don’t have fun.

As children we are sometimes lectured to rein in our creativity, and as adults the admonitions are often equally as powerful. Adults often forget or perhaps we’ve never known, that in order to create we must daydream and we must open ourselves to possibilities. And by gosh we’ve gotta have fun.

Whether we’re painting, dancing, sculpting, drawing or writing, we have limited ability to create satisfying art if we don’t daydream. As children we did it naturally. As adults we often need to relearn how to discover the beauty of daydreaming and the benefits it can have for our creative practice.

Rediscovering daydreaming can be as easy as taking the time to remember our childhoods. As a creative people we can usually recall those blissful moments of staring outside and being fascinated with the world. Play was the ultimate in creativity.

Few things are more exciting than finding that much talked about inner child. Because without that innocence, that piece of us that says it’s all right to play, creativity can escape us.

How do we recapture that bliss? It could be as simple as trying this one simple idea:

Take a pad of paper outside wherever you won’t be disturbed. It could be a park, your backyard or even your front porch. Breathe deeply and absorb what you’re hearing and seeing. Reconnect with the part of you that wants to return to basics. Scribble. Sketch even if you aren’t a painter or into drawing. Brainstorm a story idea based on what you see around you even if you aren’t a storyteller. Color outside of the lines. No idea is too strange. No picture is too ugly. This is your recess. Children don’t know they “can’t” do something until they’re told they can’t. Remember what it was like before someone told you “no.”

Try this whenever you’re feeling creatively stifled and discover how much easier it is to access the beauty of daydreaming.

Denise A. Agnew is the author of over 60 novels. Denise is also a paranormal investigator, Reiki Master and Certified Creativity Coach.  Visit Denise’s websites at www.creativepencoaching.com and www.deniseagnew.com.