Awhile back, I participated in an author auction to raise money for a friend of mine's sister who was battling breast cancer. During this, I auctioned off the ability to have a character named in my next book. I had not one, but two, fabulous people win the auction. So, here is the introduction of the first auction character: Shane!
Mark rolled his neck as he entered the police department, a harsh sigh escaping from his lips. This certainly was not the way he wanted to start his day, particularly since he wasn’t even supposed to be working today. His mind raced with images of curly dark hair, sleepy eyes, bright smiles, stacks of pancakes, and a room full of laughter and he slammed his eyes shut before the longing to return home became more than he could bare.
“Mark!” A strong voice broke through his reverie, yanking him back to reality. “You’re here early. And on a Sunday to boot. What gives?”
“Frick and Frack, Shane. Frick and stupid Frack.” Mark tossed his file onto the desk and flopped down into the chair. “Don’t get me wrong, they’re good cops, both of them. But, man, they make me tired. Were we ever that young and inexperienced?”
Mock shock filled his friendly face as laughter flowed through his eyes. “You saying I’m old man?” I can still take you out.” He joked while flexing his right bicep.” Sighing loudly as he heard no response, Shane swung his chair around to study his partner, noting the fatigue in his eyes. He kicked his booted feet up onto the desk separating them, crossing one ankle over the other. “They were in here earlier. Those two still have a lot to learn. But why were you even dealing with them? You weren’t working last night.”
“Nope. Well, I wasn’t supposed to, but the Captain called me in early this morning.”
Shane lifted an eyebrow. “How in the world did he get involved at 2 in the morning?”
“No idea, Buddy.” Mark pressed his fingers to his temple, moving them in circles, feeling the caffeine from his early morning coffee disappear but not quite motivated to get up and get another cup. “But when he calls and asks us to go…”
“We go,” Shane finished.
Here's a smaller teaser this week. I'd love to know your thoughts!
She rose to meet him, her finger poking him in the chest. “And you don’t know that I am!” Almost immediately, she pulled her hand back and he wondered if she felt the same jolt of energy in that tiny touch that he had. “Look,” she continued. “I’m not a novice when it comes to danger.” He couldn’t help but raise his eyebrow at the thought of her anywhere near the things he had seen. “There’s a lot about me now that you don’t know. I’ll keep an eye out. I’ll report anything unusual. But, I want to go home.”
He opened his mouth to insist on an escort but she beat him to it. “Alone, Mark. I want to go home alone. If anything happens, your department will be the first to know.”
Hastily, she grabbed her few belongings. “Mandy, get your stuff.” She stalked to the door and turned, practically challenging him. “I assume we’re free to go.”
Without waiting for an answer, she stormed out of the small room leaving Mark to watch her walk away from him for the second time in his life.
Here's the second teaser from ALWAYS TRUST - Book 1 of the series, Teaching the Heart. Hope you enjoy!
Mark wanted to reach forward and grab her twisting hands, partially to calm the nervous witness in front of him and partially to comfort the beautiful woman from his past. Reluctantly, he did neither. “You said he called out?” his voice broke the silence.
“Mm hmm,” she nodded. “He said he would find her.”
His fingers moved over the pages in the report looking for the exact wording. “He said specifically that? Called her by name?”
“No.” Melissa’s eyebrows scrunched in a way Mark had seen hundreds of times before and he had to bite back a smile. “He said, ‘I will find you. I promise you that.’”
His chest faltered for a moment, the breath caught deep inside. Mark knew this guy, better than he ever wanted to admit and there was no way Mann was talking about the victim. Without even thinking about it, he dropped the professional tone. “Melissa, did he see you?”
“Of course he did.”
“No,” urgency laced his command. “Did he see you? Did he stare at you long enough to see what you look like?”
“He stared down the alley, but I’m sure he was just looking for the woman, Karen. She’s the one he was talking about.” Mark closed his eyes and forced out a breath as the naivety of her words hit him. “Right?” he barely heard her ask.
There were moments Mark knew he was destined to be a cop, moments like this when his gut was practically screaming at him. They had a problem; every fiber of his being told him Johnny Mann had picked a new target. Stalking to the door, he flung it open calling for the two rookies. “I want any information of surveillance in and around the club.”
“Sure thing, Detective,” Officer Landrum replied. “But we all know there weren’t any cameras in the back. There’s no way he would have been there otherwise.”
“I’m not looking for that,” Mark ground out. “Just get me the information.”
The door was cool against his back but it couldn’t seem to battle the fire raging in his veins.
“Hey! Detective Cheat!” Mandy called out from behind him and he turned just in time to see Melissa softly backhand her friend in the arm as she bit back a smile. “You gonna fill us in or do we not get to know what’s making you pace like a crazy man?”
“Lis,” he practically whispered as he walked back towards both ladies.
“Don’t,” Melissa’s hardened voice ground out.
“You don’t get to call me that anymore. You lost that right a long time ago.”
Mark raised his eyebrows in confusion. He was so caught up in concern for what he was afraid would be a horrific nightmare for her, he hadn’t even realized his old nickname for her slipped out. “I’m sorry, Ms. Smith. I meant no disrespect.” She nodded her head and the vinyl of the chair crinkled under his weight as he returned to his seat. “I’ll be honest. I think you’re in danger.”
Both women exchanged quick glances “Of what?” they asked at the same time.
I'm so excited to start a new monthly feature - Author Spotlight. These are some of my favorite authors, or friends I've made along the way on my journey as an author.
My first author spotlight is Peggy Henderson. If you have not read any of her books run, don't walk, to start one today!
Her bio can be found on her website
and in each of her books. But, I wanted to get to know her more. So,here's a little interview I did with Peggy to find out a little more about this fantastic author. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
First of all, thank you so much, Marisa, for inviting me to do this interview. What an honor!
I guess I consider myself the “accidental author.” I’ve always loved writing, but it’s not something I ever considered to do for a living. English is my second language, and I used to make up stories in German when I was little.
My background is in veterinary medicine and lab sciences. I’ve always been an animal nut. I’m married to my high school sweetheart, and we have two boys.
My husband and I have loved going to Yellowstone since we graduated from high school. One summer, I went on a girls-only trip with a good friend, who was also my boss at the time. I came home from that trip with a story in my head. It stayed with me for over a year until I finally started writing it down. That’s how my first book, Yellowstone Heart Song, was born. I found someone to critique the story, and she urged me to pursue publication, which I balked at until I had three more books written. I was writing for my own personal enjoyment, not to publish, but I’m glad I finally took her advice. It’s led me to an entirely new career path. You have several ongoing series: Yellowstone Romance, Teton Trilogy, Second Chance Time Travel Romance, and Blemished Brides Western Historical Romance. How do you determine which series you plan to work on next?
I guess I let my characters determine who gets their story told next. My readers are fairly vocal on which series should be next in line for a new book. The Teton Trilogy is done, so I don’t have to worry too much about it (except for a novella or two in the future). It really depends on which characters are loudest in my mind at the moment. Sometime I try and work on two books in different series at one time, and then one of them always tends to take over and I finish it and then go on to the next one. How much research goes into your books, and how do you tackle that?
For some books, I have to do more research than for others. Sometimes I’ll spend an entire day on something minor that may be brought up in only one scene, but it’s important enough to get right. Names in particular, are very important to me. Names and name origins, and their significance to the story and the characters. This is especially true for the Yellowstone Series. It wasn’t at first, but in the newest books it’s become very important. I spent an insane amount of time researching names.
In general, I would say I spend equal amounts of time researching things than I do writing. What works best for you in writing novels? Do you plan and outline first or do you just start writing and let the story unfold?
It depends on the story. I’ve never written an outline and stuck to it. Most of the time, a story starts out as a single idea, usually for a specific event for a character, and from there, it evolves. I’ve been trying to do more outlining, but I’m not a hard-core plotter. What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
I get to make stuff up and entertain people! And I don’t have to do it by standing in front of a crowd. I’ve always been a better communicator in writing than by speaking, so that’s what’s so great about this job. I also have the freedom to live exciting adventures through my characters. What is your least favorite or what do you struggle with the most?
In crafting a story, the things I struggle with the most is writing dialogue and writing action sequences.What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of writing your books? What about marketing?
The most challenging aspect of writing is marketing. Writing a book is the easy part. Getting the word out and selling it is complicated, and something I don’t like to do. I think it’s something with which all writers struggle. If you had to pick a favorite pairing in your novels, who would it be and why?
That’s a difficult question to answer. That’s like asking, who’s your favorite child. I like to think I paired my characters to complement each other. Of course, Aimee and Daniel will always be my favorites since they were my first. Dani and Josh are another great couple, and then there was Lucas and Tori. I think those two rank right up there with my favorites. Lucas was such a fun character to write. Such a daredevil, without a care in the world, and he gets the surprise of his life when he falls for Tori. He wouldn’t have fallen for anyone else but her. She’s just as adventurous as he is, and the two of them are just made for each other. What else do you have in store for your readers?
I have to finish the Yellowstone Series (2 full-length books to go in the series, and I’m sure there will be some more novellas), another Second Chances book, more Blemished Brides, and I’ve got three potential new series on the backburner that I’m slowly trying to develop in the next year. And now, a speed round of favorites:
Favorite color: royal blue
Favorite drink: raspberry ice tea
Favorite food: chocolate
Favorite movie: Hallelujah Trail
Favorite music to write by: country, but I don’t usually listen to music while writing. I require silence to write.
Favorite accessory: my cat (my writing assistant), or if you mean outfit accessories, I don’t really have any. Maybe my hair scrunchy to tie my hair in a ponytail.
Thanks so much, Peggy! Here are some links to find her books and follow her in social media. Amazon
| Barnes and Noble
| Facebook Group
And, here are some of her beautiful covers
Celebrating New Years can mean many things to so many people. This has been a rough year for my family. We've had illness, surgeries, and more losses than we were prepared to contend with, the loss of my father being the most significant. But, as I prepare to celebrate this New Year, I look back over 2015 and think of the many things I've learned through this year.
The most important thing we have is family.
God has graced us with the ability to need and form relationships. These people we connect with are the family we lift up and rely on when life gets hard. They are who we cry with, laugh with, get mad at, and love unconditionally. Whether family through genetics or through the heart, they are the most important resource you have on this Earth and should be treasured.
You have to take care of yourself.
There is only one you and you have only been gifted one life to live on this planet. I've learned the hard way that you have to take care of yourself, especially if you want to take care of others. I haven't quite mastered this concept yet, but it is certainly something I'm hoping to do better with during this new year.
Live, Laugh, and Love
One of my Mom's favorite quotes is "live well, laugh much, love often," and I've learned this year that nothing can be quite truer. Live every day as if it may be your last. Laugh every day as that laughter is the best medicine you have. And, love every day beyond words or measure; love your family, your fellow man, and love yourself.
As the new year rings in tonight, take few moments to think over your memories of this last year (even the painful ones as those can help you see hidden blessings) and make a plan for the future. Don't worry so much about resolutions that you may fall short of; instead, think of ways to cherish your family, take care of yourself, and live, laugh, and love often.
I am a daughter, a wife, a mother.
I am a a student, an educator, an author.
I am a Christian.
So why, if I know I am all of those things, do I try so hard to separate it out? This past year has found me rethinking many parts of who I am and how that is portrayed. My faith is a huge part of who I am; yet, I found myself feeling the need to start a new webpage to share that. I write separate blogs for education but do not share any education thoughts here. Granted, I started this website originally when my first book was released. In many ways, some could argue that people searching out clean romance authors might not want to know about faith, or education, or even the strides I am making to be healthy again. On the flip side though, all of this is who I am and all of it is relevant to anything I might publish.
One of my favorite parts of the weekend is Sunday. I am so blessed to be a volunteer with the youth at our local church as a Sunday School teacher and Sunday evening adult. I love their energy, their passion. Their thoughts on so many different topics run deeper than any of them imagine. Over the course of the last few weeks, we’ve been discussing social media and its impact on ourselves and others with some of the main questions being do we portray who we are all of the time, and do we uplift others with our postings. Then, this past Sunday, I listened to them discuss comparison. Why do we find ourselves comparing often? How would life be if we stopped comparing ourselves?
And so I found myself here, thinking that instead of separating out who I was among various blogs and social media sites, instead of wondering how I would compare to other authors, other educators, other Christians, just compare to others, I would simply be who God created me to be….me.
What will this mean for those of you who follow the blog? (And though rarely do we have comments, there are really quite a few or you!) No major changes, just more. I’m not sure where this will go, but I know I’ll be able to share more simply because I can have a tendency to ramble when I’m being me. I may share some great recipes, host some of my favorite authors and educators for guest blogs, and who knows what else. That’s the beauty and simplicity of no more compartmentalizing.
And, I’d like to challenge each of you to do the same! Share some of the areas you need to consolidate and don’t separate out who you are.
Be the fabulous you God intended you to be!
As I mentioned in my last blog, life has been rough for my family and me this year. In many ways it seemed like it was one shoe dropping after another. Some things the outside world witnessed and prayed for; many things they never knew about. And I know we were not alone, I was not alone. When looking in the eyes of another, you never know the secret battles they are facing, even if you know some of the external ones.
So, how do you survive? How do you stand when these larger than life moments seem to want to totally overwhelm you?
For me, the answer is simple (though sometimes difficult to remember). I survive with my faith, my family, and my friends.
Faith is a choice. It is believing without seeing, and it is knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that I will not walk my path alone. And faith is just as much a verb as it is a noun. It is something that must be practiced daily, not just something we say we have. There are moments I know I would not have made it through if I didn’t know God was in my corner already holding me.
Family is a gift. Now, I realize there are times when family drives you absolutely insane. There may even be times when a family member has hurt you beyond belief. And that’s okay. They are still family, but family exists beyond the blood family God graced you with and into the heart family you surround yourself with. I don’t know how I would have survived this last year without my husband, my mom, my sister, my Aunt Kaye and Uncle Gary, Patty, Dawn, Leslee, Katie, and Cherry. They are the ones that no matter what, no matter when, no matter how long since we’ve spoken, I can call and know they will be there (and I have relied on this with them more times than they probably want to admit!) They are the ones I can just simply be ‘me’ with, and the ones that love me for me, even if I’m frustrating them beyond belief!
Friends are a blessing. And for me, that blessing is often a blurred line between friend and family because so many of them fill my heart. The night of my father’s visitation is a blur in many ways. He was such a pillar of faith, and a strong member of the community, that many wanted to come and pay their respects to both him and the family. We were awed at the number of people who came. As the evening came to a close, and the crowd began to dwindle, I found myself standing alone near him for the first time in hours, feeling utterly empty, when I felt a soft hand on my shoulder. I turned to find the tear-filled eyes of a longtime friend and within a few moments was surrounded with a few more. We told stories, shared some laughter and tears, and I was filled with an indescribable peace at one of my darkest moments. These are women I grew up with, went to school, church, and youth with. We have celebrated weddings together, births, loss, and struggles. And yet, we do not always see each other often enough. Sure, we keep up with each other on Facebook, but we don’t regularly talk. But when needed, they don’t hesitate to make a trip if needed, just to be there; until now, I’ve never put into words what that moment meant to me. And that one moment is just the tip of the iceberg of describing how friends have carried me.
Faith, family, and friends. Three simple words, yet three forces I could not live without. These are what help me survive the seemingly un-survivable moments.
What helps you?
That unusual four letter word that remains more unpredictable than almost anything else we come in common with.
For me, that unpredictability came in absolute waves this last year. As an educator, I tend to think of "years" differently than the rest of the world. My year usually goes from August to July - in other words, the start of the school year. And this past year was a doozy! A move back home after being gone four years, an unexpected surgery, major complications from the surgery, finally seeing the light at the end of that tunnel only to be thrown into another one as we hospitalized my father, struggling to deal with his unexpected passing, and finally trying to determine what our new normal looks like.
Needless to say, when school started this week, I was glad to feel as if I could maybe, just maybe, move on from last year and start fresh.And starting fresh for me means stepping back in to some long-missed activities.
First - writing. I have missed writing more than I can say. It's always been a release for me. But, when life throws such crazy curve balls, even those good releases can be pushed to the side.
Second - health. Although it should be one of the most important, it's also one of the easiest to push to the side. Eating well and exercising become less critical when you are crawling out of that tunnel (though really they are even more important than usual). So, I'm committing to eating better and exercising.
Third - Faith. My faith is the one thing, besides my family, that has carried me through this past year. And, this year has reminded me that the daily faith is just as important, if not more, than relying on it when we are at our darkest.
As I step back into life this year, I also want to thank some of you who have stayed in support and contact with me. So, to my mom, Brandy, and Kim I want to give a huge shout out for trying to keep tabs on me and constantly supporting me. To Becca and Charlotte, I promise I haven't forgotten you! And to everyone else who has continued to send emails, buy books, and send messages, thank you, thank you, thank you!
This week's Fan Friday question comes from Jen. She asks:
When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I didn't set out to be an author. It was something that happened over time. In all honesty, I have had a love affair with books for as long as I can remember. The first book I remember reading was No One Listens to Andrew. I have no idea how old I was when I read that, I just remember reading it. Coincidentally, my parents told me I never read a book with that title until I found it on a shelf in my house!! (Apparently, no one listens to Marisa either!)
The first full-length chapter book I read was Gone With the Wind. It was the summer after my 5th grade year and I was staying with my Grandmother. I read the book in less than three days and was absolutely in love!!
Several years later, I wrote my first "story". It was the end of my 8th grade year and I wrote the beautiful historical fiction love story of Wade and Caitlyn set during the Civil War. This was the cumulative project I chose instead of the typical diorama or map. To this day, I credit Kelly Kerlick, my 8th grade US History teacher, for allowing me this option. (This was a cutting edge idea when I was in school!)
From that day forward, I fell in love with playing with the written word. I wrote poems, lessons for my youth group, short stories, and almost anything else I could delve into. I constantly had stories floating around in my head, but still never planned to be a writer.
It was not until my second year of teaching that I got the notion I could actually write a book. I was at a conference in San Francisco when I got the idea for Is Love Enough. From there, the words just poured out and the story was born.
I may never have started out with the intent to write, but I love every minute of it. And, now that I've started letting the first stories move from my head to the paper, the rest are begging to come out.
Our question this week comes from Kim. She asks:
So Always Trust is your romantic suspense? Do you have a summary description for it already?
Thanks for the question, Kim. It made me start thinking about a good summary. It may still change, but here is the tentative back cover blurb for ALWAYS TRUST.
Melissa Smith doesn’t ask for much. Children to teach, friends and family to rely on, and a quiet life to enjoy are all she needs. Unfortunately, finding that is harder than it seems. After stumbling onto a drug deal gone badly, Melissa becomes the target of one of Texas’ most notorious criminal. He will do anything to get her, including using her students as leverage. Soon, she realizes she only has one choice if she wants to survive – to trust the one man who let her down when she needed him the most.
Life never goes as planned; Detective Mark Hill knows that better than most. He never planned to be a cop. He never planned to be a single father. And he never planned to run into Melissa again. But now that their paths have crossed, he plans to do everything possible to keep the one who got away.
She was his first love and the first to break his heart. He was the one who destroyed her trust in love. Second chances can be a blessing but they aren’t as easy as they seem. Amidst the chaos and danger, can Mark and Melissa finally learn that when you love, you ALWAYS TRUST.