Excerpts, She's Far From Hollywood

Beginnings: She’s Far From Hollywood

She's Far From HollywoodLast month I shared “first kisses” from my books, and it was so much fun that I wanted to do something similar this month. Since April is a time of renewal and new beginnings, I’m going to share the beginning of each of my stories every Wednesday. If there are any you haven’t read yet, maybe you’ll be intrigued and want to know more (psst – just follow the link!).

I’ll start the beginnings with my beginning – the opening of my debut romance, She’s Far From Hollywood.

……………………………………………………….

Brianna Mathews hated North Carolina.

Seriously.

She hated it.

She’d left the cosmopolitan appeal of Charlotte a couple of hours ago, and now it was just field after field of…what? Corn? Tobacco? Cotton? What did they grow in North Carolina, anyway? Cotton, right?

Some of the fields looked like golden-green grass and were undulating prettily in the wind. Was that wheat?

…amber waves of grain…

Wasn’t wheat a grain?

She cursed softly behind the wheel of her rented red Mercedes. She was completely out of her element driving through farm country, and she laughed at her reflection in the rear-view mirror.

“You’re a long way from Hollywood, girlfriend.”

This seemed like such a good idea last night. But last night she was still in the civilized world. She’d been happily ensconced at her cousin Amanda’s palatial stone castle, Halcyon, in the Catskill Mountains of New York, sipping pink champagne at Amanda’s baby shower. Then she got the news that upended her tidy little world. The concensus was she needed a place to stay that was out of the public eye. Amanda’s best friend, Caroline, offered her mother’s rural farm as the perfect place to avoid both paparazzi and crazed stalkers.

“‘Go to North Carolina,’ Caroline said. ‘You’ll be safe there.'” Bree glared at her reflection as she continued her one-sided conversation. “‘Mom has a cute little cottage you can use.’ Didn’t that all sound delightful last night at Halcyon? And look at me now. Driving down country roads in the middle of nowhere. Me! Miss California!” She shook her head. “I haven’t been here three hours and I’m already talking to myself. How am I supposed to last a month?”

[HINT: The hot, grumpy farmer next door makes Bree’s time in North Carolina a lot more interesting than she ever expected!]

Excerpts, She's Far From Hollywood

A First Kiss – She’s Far From Hollywood

Hollywood Checklist

Over the next few weeks, I’m visiting the First Kiss in each of my novels/novellas.

Sigh….that first kiss. One of my very favorite scenes to read in any romance, and one of my favorites to write, too. The whole story has led to this pivotal moment. The characters’ personalities definitely impact the scene.

In the case of Cole and Bree in She’s Far From Hollywood, they’ve basically hated each other at first sight. Or at least that’s what they tell themselves, but all that heat has nothing to do with hate.

When they finally kiss, it’s explosive!

………………………….
Cole lowered his head until their noses were brushing against each
other. She still hadn’t blinked. “But I’m not feeling very smart right
now…”

Those last words were spoken against her lips. His hands cupped her
face softly and she sighed, her breath blowing across his skin. This
was still a bad idea. But when her hands twisted into his T-shirt, he
was lost.

He wanted to take this slow, to be careful. Really, he did. But that plan
detonated on contact. Her lips were soft and pliant when their mouths
met, and she parted them with a soft moan that went straight to his
core.

Men had been plunging their tongues into women’s mouths for
centuries. Staking their claim. Grabbing the first taste of a woman.
And yes, hinting at that other penetration they had in mind. Kissing like
this, tongue against tongue, was natural. Primal even.

But Cole knew that never in the long history of kissing had there ever
been a kiss like this. Things quickly spun out of control, their heads
turning and their mouths moving against each other aggressively. She
tasted like cognac and toothpaste, and hell if it didn’t hit his nervous
system like crack cocaine.

His hands started to slide up and down her body, fingers grabbing at
every curve. She was trembling in his arms like a tuning fork, like she
was ready to come just from this. Just from kissing like this.

It wouldn’t be Bree’s style to just passively let him kiss her. She gave
as good as she got, tugging, pushing, sucking, biting. She was staking
her own claim, holding his head in place while she devoured him.
Twice their teeth clashed together, and neither of them flinched.

This was Bree, and he damned-well knew her.

Excerpts, Nora's Guy Next Door, Teaser Tuesday, The Writing Life

Teaser Tuesday: Two Days Before Thanksgiving

Nora's Guy Next DoorToday is the exact day my romance novel, Nora’s Guy Next Door, begins – two days before Thanksgiving.

The book opens with Nora (a Southern belle) in a crowded grocery store – you know how crazy they can get, right? I originally come from “Wegmans Country” in the Northeast – if you live anywhere near a Wegmans grocery store, you know how amazing they are (it’s like the Disney version of grocery shopping), and yes, I miss them. I don’t think the little town of Gallant Lake is big enough for a Wegmans, but I did envision their produce section while writing this scene.

I am partying up a storm today over at the Facebook group Coffee, Cupcakes and Contemporaries, with some fun giveaways to celebrate “Two Days Before Thanksgiving” – come join us!

……………………

Nora Lowery Bradford didn’t come close to losing her good Southern manners until the third time someone smacked their grocery cart into hers, nearly toppling a package of fancily frosted cupcakes. She spun on her heel, but the angry words died on her lips. The offender was an elderly lady, even shorter than Nora, pushing a cart loaded to the brim with Thanksgiving fixings.

Bless her heart.

Nora smiled and was about to wish her a happy holiday, but before she could speak, the woman rammed her cart into Nora’s again—on purpose!

“What’re you doin’, sightseeing or something? Move over! Other people got things to do.” With that, the woman pushed on by, scraping her cart along Nora’s to drive home her point.

Nora stood there for a moment with her mouth open, then rolled her eyes and pushed on. With Thanksgiving just two days away, the grocery store in Gallant Lake, New York, was mobbed with people. And the mob was cranky. Maybe she was biased, but people seemed just a bit more genteel back home in Atlanta. Unless, of course, you went grocery shopping on senior discount day—then all bets were off, Southern or not.

The miserable weather wasn’t helping anyone’s attitude. Three inches of snow were on the ground when she arrived in the Catskills yesterday, and she was not happy about it. Oh, sure, the stuff looked like sugar frosting on the rooftops and tree branches, but the air was cold and raw.

The forecast for the week was snow, rain, wind, more rain, then snow again. Her cousin Amanda assured her that was typical for November, which was little comfort. No wonder people were so grumpy here in the North! She’d tried to convince Amanda and her  husband, Blake Randall, to fly south for Thanksgiving with their kids, but they owned a large lakeside resort here and couldn’t be gone during a busy tourist weekend. So the family was gathering at their historic castle-turned-home, Halcyon, located right next door to the resort.

Nora unfolded the store flyer she’d picked up at the door, trying to remember where the produce section was. The only good thing about being in Gallant Lake this week was that her favorite person in the whole world, her daughter Becky, would be arriving later today. Somewhere along the line, Nora had failed as a proper Atlanta mother, because her debutante daughter had inexplicably fallen in love with the Catskills the first time she came here after Amanda and Blake’s wedding. It was disappointing, but not surprising, when Becky hopped the first plane out of Georgia when Vassar offered her a scholarship.

The produce section was even more crowded than the aisles, and Nora slowly worked her way through the veggies, taking in the dramas unfolding around her.

A woman threw a round head of pale lettuce into her cart, glaring at the balding man by her side. “Of course your mother thinks iceberg lettuce is the best. Your mother wouldn’t know a romaine leaf if it bit her in the ass!”

Two men leaned intently over a tomato display nearby. “Derrick, trust me. Vine-ripened tomatoes are better for salad than that monstrosity you picked up.” He gave his partner a wink. “I know you love the word beefsteak honey, but bigger isn’t always better.”

A young woman pushed a cart past Nora with a toddler in the seat and a little boy and girl in tow, all three complaining loudly. The girl stomped her feet.

“I don’t wanna eat turkey! I wanna eat ice cream!”

“You gotta eat turkey on turkey day, dummy.” Her older brother gave her a shove. “And you can’t have ice cream. You gotta eat pie!”

The littlest one, sitting in the cart, started to scream. “No pie! No pie, Mommy! No pie!”

The mother’s face was pinched and tired. Nora reached out, resting her hand on the woman’s arm. “Don’t worry, darlin’, these days will pass. Enjoy these babies while they’re young. Before you know it, they’ll be off to college like mine.”

She got a tight smile in return. “Right now, it feels like that can’t happen soon enough, but thank you.”…

 

A deep voice started cursing behind her as she reached for a bag of lemons. She glanced over her shoulder and spotted a tall, lean man in jeans and a faded flannel shirt. His gray-blue eyes were frosty with anger, but she couldn’t tell where it was directed, since he seemed to be alone.

“Damned idiots. They’re nothing but stupid-ass idiots.” He roughly tossed a bag of apples into his cart, making it rattle, causing a few heads to turn. “Stupid, stupid, stupid…” Another bag of fruit landed in his cart with a bang, and he pushed it closer to hers.

She couldn’t see a Bluetooth device in his ear, so he seemed to be having this conversation with himself. Flat out raging at himself, from the sounds of it. His face was sharp and angled, but the dark stubble along his jaw softened those lines just enough to make him strikingly attractive in a rough-hewn way. Layers of dark brown hair brushed his shoulders, and he reminded her of an aging rock star getting ready to smash a guitar somewhere.

Nora gave herself a mental shake. She hadn’t looked twice at anyone since Paul’s death, much less ogled someone in a small-town grocery store. And this bad-tempered stranger was very much not her type. But still, she couldn’t take her eyes off Hot Produce Guy.

Excerpts

Excerpt: She’s Far From Hollywood

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For a few heartbeats, neither of them spoke or moved. The only sound was the chug-chug of the hay elevator. She raised her head and met his eyes, which were just above her own. Instead of the usual cold slate blue, his were dark and intense. Without moving his head, he slowly lowered her legs until she was standing, but still trapped tightly in the circle of his arms. The suffocating heat of the loft now felt cool against her skin compared to the fire burning between them. Every nerve ending was on high alert.

His mouth was right there. Right. There. She could feel his breath moving across her cheeks, and she closed her eyes at the delicious sensation of it. She opened them again when she heard a low moan from deep in his throat. Whatever was happening, Cole was feeling it, too. He took a deep breath and blinked, his eyes flicking away from hers briefly. His hold loosened ever so slightly, and she felt a sharp pang of disappointment.

She could stop him. She could reach up and kiss him and stop him from letting her go. His lips were still just inches away. He shook his head slowly, as if he’d read her mind. His voice was raspy and labored when he broke the feverish silence.

“You and me are a bad idea, Hollywood.”

She nodded, and whispered the words back at him.

“Bad idea.”

He released her and stepped back, putting more space between them. His voice was stronger this time.

“A very bad idea.”

She suspected he was trying as hard as she was to convince himself of the truth of those words. His hand lifted toward her face but he stopped before he touched her. It didn’t matter. She felt the zip of energy between his fingertips and her skin. Her lips parted as she closed her eyes and sighed. This bad idea was starting to feel really good.

Excerpt from “The Hide-Away” (working title only) to be published by Harlequin SuperRomance in 2016. Stay tuned here for a release date! Winner in the 2015 Four Seasons Windy City Romance Writers Contest.

The Writing Life

The Care and Feeding of a Romance Writer: Family

PillowA writer’s family puts up with a lot. They’re in the trenches with us through every up and down. They’re the ultimate cheerleaders, and you know they want nothing more than your success. And that’s exactly what a writer needs from family. I need my mom calling me in tears of joy after she hears about my book contract. I need a sister-in-law that has no problem sitting on the balcony of our shared beachfront vacation rental reading a book while I tap away on my laptop, writing one. That same sister-in-love (who really hates romance novels, but devours mysteries by the dozen) confessed to shedding tears when she got to the ending of Halcyon, and I knew she wasn’t just puffing me up. She meant it. And that meant a lot to me. Her husband, my brother, is pretty cool about the whole adventure, which is perfect. It’s as if he’s not even surprised that I achieved my goal. That kind of faith is precious. And then, of course, there’s my dearest husband, Himself (it’s an Irish thing).

Just yesterday morning, Himself looked at me over the breakfast table and asked a loaded question.

“Do you want to go to the golf club tomorrow and watch football? They’re serving beer and wings. Or would you rather stay home and write?”

My heart tightened just a little bit. Mind you, Himself and I are huge New England Patriots fans, and the reigning Super Bowl champions are once again playing for the AFC championship. But I’m a writer on a deadline. And I also love Himself very much. So I fell back on the typical married-for-twenty-years cop-out.

“What do you want to do?”

His steely-eyed stare told me he wasn’t falling for that trap. Which forced me to be honest. I wanted to write. While watching the game. At home. With him. And bless his heart, he shrugged and said it was fine.

That’s the kind of spouse a writer needs. One who may not always understand the writing process (and indeed, is often baffled by it), but who is able to put up with my idiosyncrasies with large doses of love and patience. Himself lets me write like a madwoman when the mojo is with me, and even brings sandwiches and the occasional glass of wine to my desk to keep me alive.

He hardly batted an eye when I had an epiphany about the ending of Halcyon months ago while on the treadmill at Golds Gym and interrupted his own workout to insist he drive me home immediately so I could get it down on paper before I “lost it.” That’s love.

And he doesn’t hesitate to let me know when I become too obsessed with the writing, to the point of ignoring piles of laundry and dog hair covering every surface. A writer needs someone to remind them of real life once in a while, because balance is critical. It’s really good if your husband is one of those balancing people.

I know it can’t be easy being married to a writer. We can be just a little…umm…moody. Some days we think we’re Charlotte Bronte, and we’re on top of the world, full of smiles and confidence. The next day we’re snippy and snarly because we’re obviously nothing more than a talentless hack.

And we never, ever stop writing. Ever. Even if it looks like we’re doing something else, we’re writing. We’re the ultimate multi-taskers. Himself is snorting reading this, I’m sure, but it’s true.

Even if we seem like we’re totally present, a writer can be somewhere far, far away mentally. In fact, we usually are. Walking the dog? No, I’m really thinking about whether Amanda should confront Blake’s family or not. Washing dishes? Shhh – I’m deciding whether or not to keep the tractor scene in Hide-Away. Staring at the television? I’m actually deciding if it’s more authentic for Bree to burst into tears or slap Cole right across the face during their Black Moment. Driving on the highway? I’m mentally spinning through options for the stalker scene and how best to resolve it. When a writer is in The Zone, it’s like being in a bubble. The Cone of Silence descends on our brain. That’s why we tend to say “Huh? What?” a LOT after someone speaks to us. It can be tough on the ego of a spouse, but Himself handles it really well.

He cheered with me the first time an agent requested more pages from a query. He dealt with my tears after yet another rejection letter. He hated it, but he handled it and encouraged me to get up and move forward. When I said I “needed” to spend thousands to attend an RWA convention in New York City, he sent me off with his blessing. He has been my champion every step of the way, and no one was happier than he was the day I got the call from Harlequin.

I can’t spend my entire life at the computer, and he’s my balance-master – he pulls me away when I need it, or when he needs it. And he gently nudges me back to it when I’m procrastinating (“shouldn’t you be in your office writing instead of sitting there on your ass?”).

I’m sure my being a writer bruises him once in a while. Like the Friday he told me he was not golfing the next day, and I looked at him and said “But, why?” He answered “Because I want to spend time with you.” And I said again “But, why?” You see, Saturday morning when he’s golfing and the house is quiet is my best writing time. And he knows that. He also knows we need to get away and have together-time once in a while. And I love him all the more for making sure that happens.

And for all those who wonder about a romance writer’s inspiration…. Yes, Himself is the laughing, mercurial, blue-eyed alpha-man hero in my own happily ever after.

Profile 2015

 

Excerpts

Excerpt: She’s Far From Hollywood

Coffee DeskHuh – I missed a week, didn’t I? Ah, well. Life happens sometimes, and October is a busy month. But I’m here now, and posting an excerpt from She’s Far From Hollywood. This is my most recent book, and I’ve sent it out to a number of agents/editors to see if they might be interested. Time will tell! In the meantime, enjoy this tidbit…

Before Bree’s brain could fully absorb what that meant, Maggie bounded down the driveway and across the road, running directly to her. She’d never really been a fan of dogs, but she found herself dropping to one knee to greet the happy girl. She was a pretty thing, with those expressive brown eyes and her glistening dark coat. She looked like a German Shepard, but darker and more finely-boned.

“A little early for drinking, isn’t it?”

Bree’s head snapped up. Cole was standing in the middle of her yard. He’d stopped there as if that was as far as he dared go, which made her smile just a little as she rose to her feet.

“That’s rich coming from the guy who was drinking at a bar in the middle of the day yesterday.”

“Yeah, well, I’m a man.” He made a point to look her up and down, taking in her bare feet, jeans and t-shirt. “Women in the south tend to be a little more ladylike.”

“Sorry, I left my hoop skirt at home.”

His eyebrow arched and she thought she saw a touch of admiration there. The two of them had the ability to exchange scathing sarcasm down to an art. She bit back a smile of triumph and turned to the door to leave him standing there, but Maggie’s soft whine stopped her. She looked down and couldn’t resist scratching the dog’s ears one more time.

“Maggie hasn’t seen anyone at the cottage in a while, and she seems to like you for some reason.” His expression made it clear he couldn’t understand the dog’s logic.

Excerpts

Excerpt: Halcyon

Coffee DeskAn excerpt from Halcyon. This is my first book, to be published in 2016. This excerpt is subject to minor changes before publication. As always, this is make-believe – any resemblance to actual people/places/etc. is unintentional and coincidental. It’s fiction, folks!

 

 

     Amanda was having the weirdest medieval dream. She was in a massive, heavily-carved mahogany bed, covered with a satin comforter. Heavy tapestries draped the canopy of the bed and hung behind the huge headboard. The room was large and round. The only light came from a fire in the marble fireplace. The flames flared and danced merrily when she looked that way, then settled back to a gentle glow. Tall windows were set deep into the walls, framed with heavy damask curtains.
     A wing-backed chair was pulled up close to the bed, and a man was sleeping there with his feet propped up on the mattress next to her. But this was no knight of the round table. He was dressed in blue jeans and a plaid shirt. Black hair curled down over his forehead.
     Blake Randall.
     This was no dream.
     Peeking under the sheets, she saw she was wearing a large t-shirt she didn’t recognize, and nothing else. She sat up, and the quick movement was enough to wake him. His eyes opened, but he didn’t move. He just watched her cautiously as if he thought she might bolt. And she was seriously considering it.
     “Where am I?”
     He sat up and slowly dropped his feet to the floor. Leaning forward, he rested his elbows on his knees, clasping his hands in front of him. His voice was soft and deep.
     “You’re in my suite at Halcyon.”
     “What time is it?”
     “A little after eleven.”
     “What happened?”
     Before he could respond, she remembered. Greg and Katt. The storm. Her panic attack. She groaned at the memory.
     Blake muttered something under his breath, but he didn’t move. She frowned at him.
     “Did you undress me?”
     “No. Your cousins and my manager Julie took care of that. I just donated the shirt.”
     “The girls know I’m here?”
     He nodded. “Of course. I didn’t kidnap you, Amanda. I just wanted to keep you as far away from Greg as possible. Nora’s asleep in the suite next door. Your other cousins went back to the resort a while ago. All of your things are here.”
     “And Greg?”
     She was shocked at the rage she saw flash across Blake’s face. He took a deep breath before he answered in a low growl. “He’s gone. That’s all you need to know.”
     She felt a little light-headed as she propped herself against the headboard. She had the strangest thought, and spoke it out loud. “Did you kill him?”
     Blake’s eyebrows raised, and his mouth quirked into a smile. “I’m impressed you think me capable, Miss Lowery. But no.”

Excerpts

Excerpt: She’s Far From Hollywood

Coffee DeskAn excerpt from She’s Far From Hollywood. This is my second book, to be published in February 2017. This excerpt is subject to minor changes before publication. As always, this is make-believe – any resemblance to actual people/places/etc. is unintentional and coincidental. It’s fiction, folks!

 

     “Would you like another glass of wine?”
      Bree stared at her empty glass, still burning over Cole’s judgment of her.
     “Gee, Ty, I wouldn’t want to offend your brother’s sensibilities by ordering more wine. Maybe I should try what he’s having.”
      Cole let out a sharp, humorless laugh. “You’d hurt yourself, honey.”
      Oh, no he didn’t. “Let’s make one thing clear. I am not your honey.” She impulsively reached for Cole’s glass. His hand shot out so quickly she didn’t see it move until he grabbed her wrist tightly. His fingers were as hard as his eyes, and she gasped at the feel of his calloused skin on hers.
      Ty’s voice dropped to a growl. “Cole, I’ll throw your ass out the door myself if you don’t let her go and knock it off. What the hell is wrong with you today?”
      Cole pierced her with his eyes, and he didn’t let go. His voice was low and rough.
      “Don’t start something you can’t finish… honey.”
      They glared at each other, then he released her hand and pushed it away, causing some of the golden liquor to slosh over the rim of the glass onto her fingers. She kept her eyes locked on his as she lifted the glass to her lips and emptied it. His eyebrows raised just enough that she knew he was surprised, even if his expression remained carved in stone. Both men probably expected her to have a coughing fit or some other girlish reaction, but they were going to be disappointed. Thanks to her father, she was no stranger to hard liquor, including whiskey. She welcomed the burn as the strong drink warmed its way to her stomach. After setting the glass on the counter, she slowly licked the spilled whiskey from the tips of her fingers. Cole’s nostrils flared just a bit at that move.
      “Not bad.” She shrugged, settling back down onto the barstool. Ty’s eyes were bright with laughter, and he was staring at her in awe. He nodded toward Cole.
      “Brother of mine, I do believe you’ve finally met your match.”

Excerpts

Excerpt: Halcyon

Check out my new page – My Titles! My plan for the website is to provide a personal post once per week, plus an excerpt from one of my romance novels and/or a commentary on other authors’ books I’m reading.

When reading excerpts (or any work of my or anyone else’s fiction), please remember that it’s make-believe. The characters and stories are fictional. Any resemblance to real people, stories, places are strictly coincidental and unintentional. These are excerpts from unpublished works, so the copy may or may not change slightly before publication.

EXCERPT FROM HALCYON (see Titles page):

I don’t need a twelve bedroom castle, Miss Lowery.”

“It’s been a home before, and it could be again.” She was like a dog with a bone.

“Yes,” he said with a heavy sigh, “it was a home. And yes, the stories are full of romance and tragedy, but…”

“Stories? Tell me!” Amanda was leaning forward now, eager to hear. A smile teased her lips. Very rarely had she given him a genuine smile this week, and the effect of it caused him to stutter.

“T-Tell you what?”

“Tell me the story of Halcyon.”

He shook his head. “There are plenty of people around who know the history of this pile of rocks better than I do. I just wanted the land, not the legend.”

“There’s a legend? Now you have to tell me!” Her blue eyes were sparkling, and she laughed out loud. It was his heart that stuttered this time.

Blake racked his brain for the history of Halcyon. He’d been disgusted with the whole stupid story right up until the moment Amanda Lowery fell in love with it.