Sweet Saturday Samples/A Lot Like A Lady

HAPPY SATURDAY! Every once in a while I like to check out p. 99’s. Here we have p. 99 from A Lot Like a Lady, available now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Astraea Press..

The air rushed from Juliet’s lungs. When she gulped in a deep breath, the sharp scent of the fragrant lilies on the side table clogged her throat. She swayed as a woozy feeling threatened to overcome her. She simply hadn’t considered anyone would notice that Annabella’s dresses didn’t quite fit.But Harmony merely shrugged. “And every young lady should enjoy a new gown or two.”

“Aunties! I can’t go to this ball!” Juliet’s shout echoed in the room, finally silencing the aunts. The clip-­clop of a fast-­moving carriage filtered through the open window. Juliet stole a glance at the duke. Glittering eyes bored into her like a hunter waiting to pounce on his hapless prey.

“Why not?” asked Charity after a moment, a confused frown knitting her brow.

“Yes, Annabella. I’m interested in the answer to that question myself.” Grey stood, watching her with his icy blue eyes as he interjected himself back into the conversation. If she had thought she had a chance of putting the aunts off, she was certain she stood no such possibility with his grace.

“Well?” he snapped. “What excuse are you concocting to avoid this social engagement?”

Juliet shrank inside herself. The lilies’ cloying scent became bitter, and her stomach turned. She could hardly plead off with a headache this time since the day had yet to approach. She’d simply have to admit to the truth. At least as much as she dared.

“I can’t dance,” she mumbled, keeping her gaze locked on her feet.

The aunts gasped in unison and Juliet flinched.

“What?” barked Grey.

His voice jerked her head up. The duke stared, disbelief evident on his face. She began to tremble and her throat went dry.

“What nonsense are you pulling now?”

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Sweet Saturday Sample!

From brand new work in progress, A Life Like Jack’s, planned charity release. Dedicated to rescued dogs everywhere.

“Mom! Come quick! Amy had her puppies in the basement!” shouted Tiffy up the steps.

“Of course she did,” Carol muttered with a groan. “Because it would be too convenient for me if she had them up here.” She stood, balancing on one foot while she stretched her left arm for the bright blue cane leaning against her desk.

Taking care not to get her feet tangled up with the cane, Carol limped to the basement stairs and negotiated them one painstaking step at a time. A little breathless when she reached the bare cement floor at the bottom, she took a second to get adjusted to the dim lighting as she looked for her twelve-year-old daughter. She located Tiffy kneeling next to the white oval laundry basket. Most of her untamable chocolate colored hair escaped the thick blue elastic band at her neck to form a riot of curls that danced when she bounced up and down on her knees.

“She has two babies and they both look like her!”

Leaning heavily on her cane,  Carol limped across the floor, a little leery. More sweet babies to fall in love with only to have to give them up to good homes after eight short weeks. In Tiffy’s twelve years, they’d never had a pet of any sort. The timing had never seemed right, and the responsibility of taking care of a child had seemed enough. Until poor Amy had shown up under their back deck, that was. Too skinny, yet obviously pregnant, shivering in the chill of a late spring thundershower. Tiffy hadn’t asked. Not out loud anyway. But those eyes of hers, those mocha pools of pure emotion, had begged without words.

The white and black terrier had merely lain where Tiffy had found her, trembling, her own coffee-colored eyes so perfectly matching the child’s not begging, not showing much expression at all beyond grim resignation.

It hadn’t taken long once they’d let her inside and fed her, for Tiffy and the newly dubbed Amy to become tight friends. But now Amy had presented them with two more bouncing bundles of joy, and Carol worried it would be hard for Tiffy to give them up when they were weaned.

One of the little white and black pups nuzzled Amy and the mother dog gave the tiny head a lick. Then she started panting and began straining.

Make that three bouncing babies to find homes for. Carol sighed.

Amy gave a mighty push and a dark puppy slid into the world. The mother quickly took care to give the baby a doggie welcome to the world.

“It’s black,” whispered Tiffy, wrinkling her nose.

“And it looks a lot like Diesel…Miss Dora’s dog,” murmured Carol, picturing the black and very fuzzy male terrier mix.

Tiffy grinned up, her eyes already filled with stars. “Diesel’s a daddy!”

Carol sighed. “Yeah, well, I don’t think we should count on him for child support.”

“He looks kind of funny, Mom…different from the others.”

“Maybe it’s because he’s black.” But Carol frowned and took a closer look. The pup seemed to struggle more than its siblings in the crawl for its mother’s belly, and its hips seemed narrow, making it look more like a teardrop than the oval shape of the other two. The puppy began to suckle with enthusiasm. “I’m sure he’s fine. Look at him eat!”

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Dog lover? Cat lover? If you’re in the market for a new four-footed companion, please consider a trip to your local shelter! If you aren’t looking to add a permanent member to your family, please consider animal foster care…the lives you save may one day touch someone’s heart. Check out one shelter’s Foster Blog and see.

“I know a lot of people are concerned that they will fall in love, and they won’t be able to let go of the animal. Bu if you are really focused on the fact that you’re saving lives, it’s much easier. A little heartbreak on our end is worth it to save their lives,” said Sunshine Richards, the foster coordinator for the Bedford Humane Society. For full story, go here.

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Sweet Saturday Samples

Nearly finished with this one so how about a bit from close to the beginning? From WIP Abiding Echoes:

After Justin stirred the coals, he set the grill in place. Then he laid the first T-bone steak across the wire, followed quickly by the second. The sauce he’d slathered on combined with the fats in the meat and began to sizzle. Soon a smoky savory aroma filled the air, teasing his palate.

“That smells awesome.” Beth’s voice from behind him startled Justin. He hadn’t heard her come outside.

He turned slowly, keeping his cool as he slowly ran his gaze upward. His mother’s peg leg jeans were too long. The red plaid  shirt he’d loaned Beth fit nicely, though, the cotton bulged just a bit across the chest and, oh, sweet mercy, she wore nothing underneath. He hadn’t known what to do about undergarments, and had assumed she’d use his mother’s clothing just to get to her van for her own things. With a herculean effort, Justin forced his eyes to move on. She’d pulled some of her hair back, taming it away from her face and securing it somehow behind her head, but the majority still caressed her shoulders.

Sudden longing to experience that spun gold caressing his shoulders ripped through Justin like a harvester chewing up hay, and he battled for his next breath.

“I didn’t know what to do with my clothes.” Beth laughed nervously. “Burn them maybe.”

The intensity of his yearned with her words, and Justin chuckled. “We may live out in the country but we still have a washing machine. You’re welcome to use it.” His eyes drifted toward those gaping buttons on her blouse and he turned back to the pit on the pretense of flipping the steaks even though he knew they didn’t yet need to be turned.

“That bath worked wonders,” murmured Beth, stepping next to him. She leaned over and inhaled deeply. “Mmm. What’s in that sauce?”

She’d used his mother’s shampoo and her hair smelled of lemons. The riot of curls floated against her shoulders, and Justin clenched his hands against the urge to touch it, to see if it was as soft as he thought it must be.

Beth angled a look up at him, her eyes questioning. Right. She’d asked him about the sauce.

“It’s my mom’s special recipe,” he answered, forcing himself to concentrate. She was still warm from her bath and the heat reached out to him with enticing little invisible fingers. He retreated by a half step, needing the space but not wanting it.

He picked up a pair of tongs and stirred the embers, locating the potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil and turning them over.

Beth placed a hand on his shoulder and leaned close again. “What are those?”

That was a good question. Justin stared at the lumps of tin foil in the coals, but all he could think about was how warm her hand felt through the thin material of his shirt. “Potatoes—baked potatoes,” he finally choked out. He stood up a bit too quickly, sending Beth into a backward step.

Her feet caught on the bottom hems of the pant legs and she stumbled toward the barbecue pit.

“Watch it!” Justin snapped out a hand and clamped it over Beth’s forearm, jerking her back away from the fire.

And against him. Justin’s body knew instantly what it wanted to do and he sucked in a gulp of air as he fought for emotional and physical control.

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Pairs Writing

Quick shout to my friend and fellow Astraea Press author, Jennifer Comeaux, whose book, Life on the Edge inspired the title for this post!

When Kim Bowman and I set out to write our first collaboration, A Lot Like A Lady,
we weren’t doing anything new. Lots of authors over the years have teamed up to write. Kim and I eventually found a rhythm and a method that worked for us, and it’s a method that is still being refined as we move into book two of the Lady series, Something Like A Lady.

Overall, however, we discovered that for us, writing together is a lot like pairs skating. Sometimes we worked together on the same parts of the story but doing different things. Sometimes we worked on different parts of the story but doing the same things.

I wondered how other writing teams handled pairs writing. Surely we’re not all the same–we must do some things differently. Fortunately, I had at my disposal, two Astraea Press authors, who sometimes write alone and sometimes write together: Leah Sanders and Rachel Van Dyken. And this is what they shared:

LEAH: Back in August, there was a call for submissions for Christmas stories. I had been working on a novel since March, but hadn’t gotten very far. I decided to put it aside for a bit and try to write something for the Christmas deadline. Rachel was hanging out at my house, probably working on The Seduction of Sebastian St. James, and I turned to her and said, “I have this idea for a Christmas story. Want to write it with me?”

The Parting Gift took us about two and a half months to complete. Since it was our first endeavor together, we didn’t split it up in a certain way. I wrote until I got stuck and then I sent it to Rachel to pick up where I left off. Sometimes I would set her up to write a kissing scene, because I don’t really write them…at all. And she would get all happy and clap her hands with joy. She would write, send it back to me. I’d read it and blush then move on to the next part of the story.

RACHEL:  Most of the time you would move to the next part of the story but smile as you read the kissing part and then blush.

LEAH:  The most frustrating part of the process with our first book together was the encroaching deadline. I can’t tell you how many times I would say to Rachel, “We’re never going to get this done!” And she would smile and pat my little head and say, “Of course, we will. All that’s left to do is…” filling in the blank. I would take a deep breath and keep writing. And indeed, we did finish it on time to submit to Astraea Press. It was accepted and subsequently released on Black Friday.

RACHEL:  I think we both panic at different points. When we write stuff together one of us panics and is like oh no it’s not going to get accepted, and when we write our own novels we do the same thing. Writing with a parnter is cool b/c you have that support system.

LEAH:  After that first book, I had more confidence in what I was doing as a writer, so I took it upon myself to answer the call for Valentine’s Day submissions with a solo endeavor (Sacred Ring, a young adult adventure story), while Rachel worked on revising a Valentine’s Day novella she had written (An Unlikely Alliance). Our normal M.O. when working on any writing project (solo or duo) is to brainstorm together, read and critique works in progress, and work as sounding boards for what we are writing. Because we do this on a regular basis, it was a natural progression into co-authoring another story.

I’m pretty sure we were sitting in the exact same places actually, when Rachel stopped working for a minute and looked up at me. “I think we should write another book together.” I agreed immediately. But when she said we were going to do Regency this time, I may or may not have choked on my gum. Regency is Rachel’s strong suit, and while I read and help her revise a lot of her stuff, I did not feel qualified to participate in writing in the genre.

In the end, Waltzing with the Wallflower took a short time to complete—only about two weeks. But for me, it started out a little rocky. I did not want to mess up the story with my ineptitude, so it took me a couple of chapters to get a good handle on it. Once I got over that initial nervousness though, the character I was writing and the story seemed to take off. Rachel was an invaluable source of encouragement and guidance to me as I wrote outside my comfort zone. Granted, I still let her write ALL the kissing scenes. 🙂

RACHEL:  To my utter delight!!! But I will admit Leah can write some killer kissing scenes, she just deletes them as a blush creeps up her cheeks. One of these days though…it will happen!

LEAH:  With this second undertaking, we split up the book by points of view. In the first book, I wrote the hero’s point of view mainly and Rachel wrote the heroine’s point of view. But we did crossover from time to time. In Wallflower we divided it strictly. I wrote the heroine’s point of view; Rachel wrote the hero’s point of view. We switched off every other chapter. It seemed to go so smoothly that way. But again, we were constantly discussing where we want the plot to go and who the characters are, so we were both able to stay true to their personalities (or perceived lack thereof).

Rachel has a thing for the “bad boy”. It’s okay to admit it, Rachel. And she can write arrogance very well. Case in point, Nicholas Devons, Earl of Renwick. It’s kind of our standing joke how much I would like to write his death. My tendencies lean more towards the shy, uncertain guy—Blaine Graham. He is a pilot, so can appear arrogant, but he is all thumbs when it comes to interacting with women.

We are currently working on a follow-up story to Waltzing with the Wallflower that takes up Anthony’s story. The prologue and the first chapter are done. If things go well, it should be done by the end of the month.

As far as I’m concerned, writing with a partner—well, writing with Rachel— is not much different than writing alone. Regardless of what I’m working on, I rely heavily on her as a trusted critiquing partner. The main difference is the speed with which I write.

RACHEL:  TRUE

Find more of Leah and Rachel on Amazon:  Leah, Rachel.  Or find them on Barnes & Noble: Leah, Rachel.  If you leave a comment by Thursday, 04/12/2012, you may win Kindle/Nook/PDF versions of both Waltzing With the Wallflower and A Lot Like A Lady!

 

 

 

Waiting on the next one!

 

 

From WIP Abiding Echoes, Book 3 in the Echoes of Orson’s Folly series:

Chills worked along Beth’s spine where Justin rested his hand as he guided her to the kitchen. She knew the way by now but suspected if he hadn’t helped her along, she might have walked in a tight circle in the foyer until she dropped of exhaustion.

He talked as they went, his voice deeper than normal and a little husky. “I pulled some chicken from the freezer this morning so it should be defrosted. Want to help me fry it up?”

“Fry it up?” Panic fluttered up from her stomach. “You mean like—cook it? In a pan?”

Justin flashed a grin. “That’s usually what ‘fry it up’ means, yeah.”

Well, here was her chance to tell him she didn’t know how to cook, and he could have a good laugh at her expense.

But then they were in the kitchen and Justin dropped his hand from her back as he crossed the room. A searing smile in her direction when he pulled out a frying pan sent tingles from Beth’s fingertips to her center and back. Justin set the pan on the range with a clatter and then walked to the refrigerator and pulled out a white serving plate on which rested a whole raw chicken minus feathers and head.

Beth took one look at the pale whitish pink meat and shuddered. Oh, she’d rather go back to kissing Justin. She didn’t…really need to eat to survive, did she?

He set the platter on the counter next to the range and pulled a knife from a butcher block holder. Then he looked over at Beth, obviously expecting her to join him by the dead bird.

Bile rose in her throat. “Ahh, was that—ummm…walking around here at some point?”

Glancing at the chicken and then back at Beth, Justin broke out in laughter. It was a few minutes before his guffaws subsided enough so he could speak. “No, with chicken, you’re pretty safe. My mom refuses to keep chickens on the ranch.”

“I like your mom already,” Beth muttered under her breath, sending a mock glare in Justin’s direction.

“She’s going to like you, too,” murmured Justin, turning back to the chicken on the counter and deftly wielding the butcher knife.

Beth’s breath caught. She hadn’t expected him to hear her. The sharp knife sliced easily through the meat as Justin separated legs and wings from the body, and then worked on the thighs. She didn’t want to watch but his movements were so self-assured and easy, she found herself mesmerized. Still, she should contribute to dinner, but the problem was she had no idea what she could contribute. So, she hovered in the middle of the kitchen. What did Justin expect her to do? Before she could put voice to the question, he answered as though reading her thoughts.

“There’s a potato bin in the corner.” He pointed with the knife. Beth hastily shifted her gaze to the direction of his gesture and away from the gross piece of chicken skin that clung to the tip of the knife. “Can you grab us a few and peel them for mashed potatoes?”

Peel them? Beth worried at her lower lip as she crossed the kitchen to the bin and lifted the top. An earthy smell wafted up, not unpleasant but certainly a scent she’d never have expected to discover in a kitchen. She stared at the pile of brown tubers. They’re just plants, or parts of plants, anyway. The problem was, she hadn’t a clue how to remove the peels. Casting a surreptitious glance over her shoulder, Beth noted Justin had finished cutting up the chicken and was systematically rinsing the individual pieces at the sink and setting them into a bowl. She shifted her gaze back to the potatoes. How many should she peel? How many potatoes would two people eat? Surely not more than one each.

That decision made, she reached in and plucked two fairly large potatoes from the bin and shut the lid. The next problem hit her as she turned around, unsure of where she should carry her prizes. Where exactly did one peel potatoes?

Justin finished rinsing the chicken, set the bowl aside, and looked up, smiling when he caught Beth’s eye. He motioned for her to join him at the sink. His eyes fell to the potatoes she carried and he raised a brow. “Not very hungry?”

Actually, she was starving, Beth realized as her stomach grumbled softly. Justin’s words seemed to indicate she hadn’t chosen enough potatoes so she shrugged and played the helpless female card. “I couldn’t carry them all.”

“Gotcha.” Justin winked as he crossed the room to the bin, returning in short order with two more potatoes. “Do you use a vegetable peeler or a paring knife?”

Beth stared, unable to form an answer to the question, simply because she had no early idea what a vegetable peeler was. And while she could guess what a paring knife was, she had no idea how she would use a knife to remove the peels from the potatoes. She opened her mouth to explain, preparing herself for his ridicule, when he simply pulled open the second drawer down next to the sink and rummaged through the utensils until he found what he wanted. After he pushed the drawer shut, he held up an instrument that looked like a knife with a split in the middle to form an inverted blade.

She eyed the tool with suspicion. This must be the peeler, though it looked more like a knife that someone had turned inside-out. It didn’t look all that complicated to use. But it did look sharp. She accepted it with two fingers, not having a clue what she was going to do with it.

Beth cleared her throat. “Justin…um, I don’t—cook.”

He stared, his face showing no expression at all. Then he tilted his head and his forehead knit into a confused frown. “Oh. You don’t cook.” He sounded like she’d just confessed to having arrived from Mars.

She let out an impatient sigh. “I—actually I don’t know how to cook. I…never learned.” She averted her gaze, waiting for his laughter. When none came, she chanced a look at him.

Justin’s eyes twinkled and he wore a bemused smile. He rubbed two fingers along his jaw as he studied her. No doubt contemplating how utterly useless one female could possibly be.

She offered him a weak smile and a tiny shrug. “Sorry.”

He stared a miniscule second longer before he moved, and she had no time to register the intent in his eyes before his lips had claimed hers. He moved closer, crowding her against the cabinet. This was no gentle lead-up to passion. It was fervent ardor, unleashed and wild.

Raw hunger of surged through Beth. Of their own accord, her hands snuck upward along Justin’s taut chest, where she fisted them in his shirt and clung as he took her on another heated foray into the land of longing.

Justin stroked his tongue along her lips and she shivered, parting them beneath his touch, granting him access. Pressing herself shamelessly against him, Beth was convinced the flames of pleasure licking at them would soon ignite. And she didn’t care. She understood, without knowing how, that on some level she’d always belonged to Justin. She’d only been waiting to find him.

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