Throwback Thursday, literary style . . .

P1050882For a throwback today, I thought I’d offer a little snippet from my first novel, Unexpected Legacy. It’s one of my favorite scenes between the hero, Matt, and heroine, Kate, and it just happens to occur in a pumpkin patch shortly before Halloween. Unexpected Legacy is fiction with romantic elements. It’s about a dad who meets his son for the first time when the boy is sixteen years old and recovering from a serious car accident. Kate is the high school principal who steps in to help the kid, but with a different agenda than his father. 🙂

Matt caught up to her, and rested his arms against the fence.
“Let me guess,” he said. “You’ve loved horses since you were a little girl.”
She leaned against the fence, pushing back a strand of hair that had come loose. “Is something wrong with that?”
“Not at all, but I’m intrigued. I think I’ve stumbled across a soft spot. You put on a tough front in your profession, but your home is full of soft things, and you like ponies.”
“Excuse me, are you a psychiatrist?”
“Hell, no,” he laughed. “I’m just making this up. Basically, it means you’re such a girl.”
She laughed then, and smacked his arm. When she tossed her head back, Matt reached out and pushed the loose strand of hair behind her ear again. His hand lingered near her face, while his thumb skimmed her cheek.
And in the next instant his lips brushed against hers.
Maybe it was the warm rays of sunshine surrounding them, or the light smoldering in Matt’s eyes. Maybe it was purely Matt Dalton’s sensuality that sent liquid heat surging through her veins. She felt deliciously enveloped in warmth.
So when he pulled her against him, she lifted her face, welcoming his kiss. His arms went around her, pressing her closer, and she melted against him. He murmured her name, and her heart pounded as a wave of desire washed over her.
Kate clutched the taut muscles of Matt’s arm with one hand, while the other one curved around his neck and wound into his thick, coarse hair. His hands splayed across her back, sending shivers rocketing up her spine.
When his lips trailed kisses behind her ear and down her neck, she moaned softly, lost in his arms. When Matt shifted, his arousal, hard against her hip, jolted Kate back to reality. She drew back and turned, leaning against the fence.
One of the horses nuzzled up to her. Breathing in light gasps, she held out a shaky hand, grateful for the diversion. She couldn’t look at Matt. Kate knew she was playing with fire. She shouldn’t have come. She thought she could get past her attraction to him and simply enjoy the day, but when he touched her, her body had a will of its own.
“I’ll get these loaded up,” Matt said finally. His voice sounded strained, and she looked up quickly. He gave her shoulder a soft squeeze, then turned toward the wagon.
She followed behind while he wrestled with keeping the wagon upright in the uneven dirt and ruts. When they reached the tent near the entrance, Matt pulled out his wallet.
“Oh, Matt. No. I’m getting these,” she said, fumbling for her purse.
“Kate,” he said, his voice brooking no opposition. “Go pick out a couple of mums.” He nodded toward a grassy area to the side with a display of colorful mums in varying stages of bloom.
Swallowing hard, she turned and marched across the lot. The man had a bit of a bossy streak. Hardly even looking at them, she picked up the two closest purple mums and headed back toward the tent, until she realized Matt was already loading pumpkins into his car. He motioned to her, and before she made it halfway, he was at her side, taking the mums. She whispered a thank-you and hurried toward the car.
Kate sensed the electricity in the car as she sat with her hands in her lap, staring out the window. When he pulled into a parking lot, she turned and looked at him. “What are you doing?”
“I’m buying you lunch, of course.”
Oh. Right. Still processing her emotions, she’d forgotten about lunch.
“Matt, maybe we should just head back,” Kate said softly, not meeting his eyes.
“Kate. Come on. It’s almost one. I promised you lunch, and I’m starving. I know you must be, too.” He opened his car door, leaving her little choice but to do the same. He waited for her to round the car, then ushered her up the stairs of an old Victorian farmhouse.
Snap out of it, Kate told herself. Great blazes, it was one little kiss. She stepped onto the porch determined to be cool and collected. Taking a deep breath, she looked around at the stately old home.
“This is a clubhouse?” she asked.
“No. I thought you might like this better. My mom and sister love it.”
“Oh. It’s really cool.” It was absolutely gorgeous. With massive pots of flowers and cushioned wicker furniture, it looked like something from a magazine. The tranquility of the place went a long way toward restoring Kate’s equilibrium.
A hostess appeared. “Terrace this afternoon, folks?”
Kate couldn’t help but smile up at Matt. “Would that be okay with you?”
“Of course.”
Kate nodded to the hostess, and she led them to a table outside with a view of a small pond and lovely gardens. “Wow,” she breathed. “It’s incredible.” She picked up the menu and read the brief history of the Mansion. “Oh, I think I’ve heard of this place.”
“Glad you like it,” Matt said.
Kate’s heart sank at the stilted, formal tone to Matt’s words. How could they recapture the easy mood of this morning?
She ordered a salad and iced tea, glad to have the beautiful scenery to look at and take her mind off of . . . other things.
“Kate, I–”
She held up her hand and gave him a shaky smile.
“Matt, please. That shouldn’t have happened, and I shouldn’t have let it. Why don’t we just let it go, and enjoy the rest of the day, all right? I’ve had a lot of fun. You were right. I needed a day away.”
She didn’t add that she’d actually enjoyed it a little too much.
His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. His gaze met hers, and slowly he nodded. “Okay, we let it go today, but Kate?”
She caught her breath, held captive by the intensity in Matt’s eyes.
“This conversation isn’t over.”
The ride back was quiet. Once, he reached out for her hand. He squeezed it gently then caressed the top of it with his thumb. The soft movement sent shivers up her arm. Kate kept her hand where it was, but she ached inside. She couldn’t help but feel cheated – here was a really great guy whom she liked and was attracted to, but he was off limits. It wasn’t fair.
For her, this was a fairy tale day. It couldn’t be real. She was like Cinderella, and Matt her handsome prince – only there was no ball, and no glass slipper. When the clock struck midnight tonight, she’d be left with nothing but pumpkins. And no fairy-tale ending.

Unexpected Legacy on Amazon

Speaking of throwbacks, do you have any books so near and dear to your heart that you occasionally re-read them? I have a couple of oldies but goodies that I enjoy re-reading. In romance, two of my faves are Paradise by Judith McNaught, and Montana Sky by Nora Roberts. And yours?

Sometimes you just can’t force it

CSAZCgNWcAAZdCxI see this meme or some variation of it posted a lot: children become readers on the laps of their parents, or children who are read to become lifelong readers. And I’m always tempted to like and repost and say “yeah!”
But then I remember, there’s no guarantee. I wish I had hard and fast scientific data. I don’t. But I do have two children. One girl, one boy. One a reader, one not. I read (or attempted to) to each of them when they were little. So why did one become a lifelong reader, and the other have absolutely no interest?

Despite my repeated efforts – years of efforts – my son is not a reader. The little book pictured here is one of our very earliest attempts. You can see that it is well-worn. Looks well-loved, right? It did, actually, become a favorite chew toy. :-/ P1050866

There were a couple of glimmers of hope through the years. He seemed to enjoy Captain Underpants. Yay, boy humor. OK, I could roll with that. We bought the entire series, and he even dragged them around when we went out to eat or to an appointment. A few years later, I was again encouraged when he discovered Lemony Snicket and the Series of Unfortunate Events. But that was about it. From then on, I don’t think he read many other books except those that were required in school.

We subscribed to Time magazine and National Geographic and Sports Illustrated for Teens, and I hoped the shorter non-fiction might appeal to him. Mmm, not so much. When he was in high school, I tried to read the required books, too, so that I could talk to him about them and make sure he was understanding and processing them. He was. It wasn’t that he couldn’t read. He simply didn’t enjoy it. Unlike my daughter, my son did not entertain himself for hours lost in imaginary play. He didn’t work puzzles and create elaborate set-ups with Legos or Playmobile sets the way my daughter did.

For a reader/writer mom, this is hard. I can gnash my teeth and lament, “where did I go wrong?” But the fact is, it was out of my control. He needed more action, more stimulation. In grade school and middle school he played soccer and tennis and baseball and basketball. His dad tried to get him to play golf, and that didn’t work out. Too slow for this kid. He played soccer and tennis into high school, and plays tennis in college. Lots of action, constant running and movement. We joke about whether he’s ever stepped foot inside the campus library, or could even identify the building (he can). And, yes, he can read and write, but it’s not his personality to sit and read for enjoyment. Not his thing. Never has been.
His dad isn’t a reader, either. So, I’m thinking maybe it’s genetic. He just didn’t get the reading gene!

What’s the ‘right’ way?

P1050861So here’s my pet peeve – I mean public service offering – for the day. As a writer with a degree in journalism, I do some kind of auto-cringe thing when I see misspelled words and incorrect word usage (as in your when it should be you’re or it’s when it should be its) in a written piece that’s being distributed in public. I can’t help it. When I was in J-school, the Associated Press Stylebook was The Bible. We studied it, memorized it, lived by it.
As an author, I still use it today. Of course I still have my trusty Webster’s dictionary, and Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, along with a smattering of other editing books and style guides.
Mistakes happen. We all know that. And they are a hundred percent easier to spot once they’re distributed, or in print. That’s a given.

My issue today is the fierceness with which some people cling to an incorrect usage. It’s as if they’ve seen something spelled incorrectly (think alot) for so long, that they bought into it, and now insist that it become a legitimate “form” of the word!
I recently offered a polite correction on a Facebook feed because I genuinely do want to help other writers when I can. Well, let’s just say my efforts weren’t appreciated.

But for the record, here’s how you spell that word that starts with an A when you want to thank or acknowledge the people who helped you with your book:
There’s no E after the G. I double-checked the AP Stylebook. Now some dictionaries may have acquiesced to the “other acceptable forms” concept, but I also went and looked inside several books on my shelves published by famous authors. Guess what? Anthony Doerr, Nora Roberts, John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, Jodi Picoult, Jan Karon, Rebecca Wells, Nora Ephron, and more all spell acknowledgments the same way – without the extra E.
Perhaps acknowledgments is the preferred way of spelling the word.
Just a friendly FYI! 🙂

Happy reading and writing!