Saturday, 9 February 2013

The lovers' month, and the long awaited first kiss.

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, my mind's on romance. I'm thinking about the first time eyes meet, the first date, the first kiss... I have my own experiences to reflect on, but this lovers' month has also got me thinking about the first fictional couple who stepped out into the big wide world with me.

In August 2012 I was a launch author with Penguin's Destiny Romance, and I had the great privilege of reading an excerpt from my launch title, Small Town Storm, to an assembled crowd at the Romance Writers of Australia national conference. It was the first time I introduced Jordan Hill and Erica Lawrence to the public, and even today, these complex characters are never far from my mind.

So I'd like to share a special moment of theirs with you.

The moment that Jordan and Erica finally kiss.

Happy Valentines Day to all of you, may you be spoiled somehow, may someone attempt to touch your heart, and may you smile more than you do on a typical day.

A bit of background first:

It all began with love. The pure, innocent kind that only an eight year old heart can know. But when a family tragedy tore apart her family, Erica was literally dragged from the arms of her best friend, Jordan.

Nineteen years later, the young boy with a plastic police badge and a hero complex has grown up to be a detective, and the fragile, broken little girl has become a vet, letting only animals touch her distrusting heart. But both are dogged by the shadows of that night and independently make the decision to return home.

In Olinda she is known as Erica Lawrence, the charming but emaciated little girl that was poisoned by her mother. Her return is the best gossip the town has had in years, and everyone is convinced that love between the pair is inevitable. All eyes are upon them, watching and waiting.

But their trip down memory lane is interrupted by two brutal murders, and Erica appears to be the next target.

The townspeople are jumping at shadows and pointing fingers in every direction, Jordan’s team has gone rogue, conducting their own investigations and nominating their own suspects, and his objectivity has been clouded – Erica’s safety is now his primary concern.

Even as the horror creeps ever closer, Jordan and Erica are drawn together. The need for answers that once consumed them doesn’t burn so brightly now, and when their hearts begin to align, they dare to do something neither has had the courage to do before: look forward.

On the precipice of confessing their love –the world appears to be against them.

* * *
Erica laughed and settled back against the wall. Her eyes shone in the feeble torch light, the thin beam reflected in her eyes. She rolled her head towards him and smiled.

Jordan shifted so that she could rest her head against his shoulder. ‘If that git Elliot didn’t upset you, then who did?’


Jordan raised a brow. ‘The woman with the poison tongue. What did she say this time?’

Her fingers flexed in his hand. ‘She cornered me when I was coming out of the bathroom. She was digging for dirt, as usual.’

‘That’s our Beth.’

‘Anyway, all she wanted to talk about was you and me. Said the town was fooled, thinking Elliot and I were an item. She knew better, she said. Wanted a confession of sorts so I snapped at her and told her to mind her own business.’ There was a long pause as Erica gathered the courage to continue. ‘Then she said I was just like my mother: secretive and impulsive in love. She said . . . ’ Erica hiccupped, too mortified to continue.

Jordan winced and released her hand so he could drape his arm around her shoulders. He pulled her towards him as sobs shook her body. They sat like that until her rasping breaths subsided, then he pushed her back and cradled the sides of her face.

‘Listen to me. I can understand how that would have hurt you. But you are nothing like your mother.’ He waited as she nodded. ‘She was a famous, attractive and stubborn woman. You are obviously none of these things.’

Erica gave a watery laugh.

Jordan smiled. ‘Seriously though, your mother was a monster. No one could possibly liken you to her and believe it. Don’t let a nasty piece of work like Beth convince you otherwise.’

She melted into his arms and buried her face in his shirt. Very gently he pressed his lips to the top of her head. When he spoke again, he murmured into her hair. ‘As for impulsive in love . . . of all people, I can attest to that being rubbish.’

Erica lifted her shoulders slightly. And he would have traded almost anything to know what she was thinking.

When she finally answered, his breath caught. ‘I don’t know. Maybe I am impulsive. I fell in love a long time ago – very hard and very fast.’ Her face moved against his chest, and it felt like she might be smiling. ‘I fell in love with a boy. He had a police badge and a hero complex.’

Very slowly, she sat up and stared into his eyes. The darkness cast shadows along the lines of her face. ‘Then I fell in love again. With a man. He has a police badge and a hero complex, too.’

The air sizzled with tension.

It would have been the moment to kiss her, but Jordan forced himself to wait just a fraction longer. It surprised him that he could think clearly when she was pressed up against him this way. It made it harder still, that her mouth was lifted and her eyes were on his lips. But there was something he needed to do first.

His hand slipped beneath the jacket she wore and fumbled in one of the inside pockets. He withdrew his wallet and flipped it open, then pulled something free. When he angled the flashlight over the small item on his upturned palm, the slice of light illuminated a small plastic bag. In it was a delicate silver chain and a small blue bird pendant.

‘It would seem,’ Jordan said softly, staring at the old necklace, ‘that I fell in love with you at the same time.’

Seemingly overwhelmed, Erica closed her eyes. Tears slid down her cheeks and Jordan moved in to kiss them away. He clasped the chain around her neck and pressed his lips to the spot where the pendant lay against her throat. It sat much higher than it had when she had worn it as a child.

He lowered his mouth to hers.

And his mind blurred. She tasted sweet and somehow familiar, as if they had kissed before – if only in his dreams. Her tongue grazed his lower lip and he thought he would break with urgency.
He drew back and kissed the sensitive flesh of her neck, curling his fingers in her thick hair. Her sighs quickened his pulse and brought his lips back to hers.

When at last they separated, their hands still clinging to the other, there were no words. So for the longest time they sat in warm silence.
In Jordan’s mind there was no doubt that he had just experienced his last first kiss. This was it – this was that great love that people spoke of. He smiled into the darkness, which somehow seemed much brighter now.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

I'm delighted to be part of The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. I've been asked to answer ten questions about my new work and then tag other authors to do the same. So without further ado, see below for a scoop on my upcoming romance novella (the first of a series - so excited!), and follow the links at the bottom to continue the hop. If you have any questions, I'd be delighted to answer them. If you're a reviewer and you're interested in reading and discussing the title, please contact with me about acquiring an ARC - I'd love to hear from you.

1: What is the working title of your book?

Ask Me To Stay

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was participating in the international 3-Day Novel Contest and I wanted to write a short, emotionally satisfying story about returning home with an undeserved reputation. All I knew when I sat down to start it was that the novella featured two estranged brothers and their best friend, a death and a lie. Then fingers went to keyboard and an entirely unexpected first sentence appeared. After that, I was hooked. I had to finish Ethan's story.

3: What genre does your book come under?
Contemporary rural romance - the setting is a fictional small town in country New South Wales, Australia.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
In my wildest dreams, Ethan Foster the story's male protagonist would be played by Jared Padaleki. His brother Dean would be played by Jensen Ackles and their best friend Caleb O'Hara would be played by Alex O’Loughlin. Samantha O'Hara, Ethan's high school sweetheart, could be played by Ellen Page. In my mind, little Nina Foster looks a little like child actress Ashley Boettcher, and her brother Rowan like child actor Owen Best.  

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Ethan Foster has been protecting a secret for almost a decade, but when he faces losing everyone he's ever loved all over again, the past becomes too heavy a burden to bear.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
Contracted by Penguin's Destiny Romance, scheduled to be released April this year.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Three days. I wrote into the early morning, all through the day... I achieved nothing else for an entire long weekend.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Perhaps Kelly Hunter's Wish and Rachael John's Jilted. Both are rural contemporary romances. Kelly's is a novella about two people trying to come together despite a traumatic past and the scrutiny of a small town. Rachael's female protagonist returns home notorious and persecuted for running away many years ago. My character Ethan is the same, he has an undeserved reputation and a childhood sweetheart who still stirs his heart.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The challenge of drafting a complete work under an absurd deadline was what initially inspired me. I wanted to see if I could do it, and what I could produce under pressure. Prior to that, I kept imagining a man driving through the night, led home by the magnetism of family and obligation.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
This is the first in a novella series about the lives and loves of Ethan, Cal and Dean. The second and third novellas are expected to come out later this year, so you don't have to wait long between reads. There's a strong focus on family, forgiveness and self-sacrifice, and a gorgeous little girl who stole my heart. The story begins a few days after a tragedy but don't be put off by that because it's also very light-hearted; I want you to laugh and sigh. This story will make you feel good, author's promise!

Thank you to Patricia Zick for inviting me to join the blog hop. Patricia's Next Big Thing Blog Hop post is here. Please take some time to visit her website and blog and read about her latest release, contemporary literature novel, Trails in the Sand. 

See below for a list of fabulous authors you should acquaint yourself with:

Keziah Hill
Author of steamy erotic romance and romantic suspense, Keziah has been recently published with Momentum, and Harlequin imprint, Escape Publishing. 

Jennifer St George
Contemporary romance author of The Convenient Bride talks about her latest release with Penguin imprint, Destiny Romance, Seducing The Secret Heiress, here

Imelda Evans
Published with Destiny Romance, Imelda's debut novel Rules Are For Breaking was a finalist in the 2012 ARRA Awards Favourite Contemporary Romance category.

Louise Reynolds
Another wonderful Destineer, Louise's title Her Italian Aristocrat takes contemporary romance readers abroad.

M.O Kenyan
Author of  Shades of Spring 1964: Letters to my daughter; you can connect with her the following ways: