ROMANCE AUTHOR INTERVIEW: VALENTINE’S MASQUERADE BALL WITH ATINA ATWOOD (From Lacey Dearie’s Rock Paper Spirit Daily Blog)

I’m so excited to share my first interview about the Holiday Heartbeats series! You’ll find it here with Scottish author Lacey Dearie on her popular blog Rock Paper Spirit Daily. Lacey is the prolific, author of cozy Cat Sleuth mysteries, and if you haven’t had a chance to get to know her, I suggest that you check out her award-winning blog (with over 35,600 subscribers!). She’s honest, insightful, and delightfully quirky with a keen business sense. It was a pleasure and an honor to have had this experience. Thank you, Lacey!

ROMANCE AUTHOR INTERVIEW: VALENTINE’S MASQUERADE BALL WITH ATINA ATWOOD

Today on Rock Paper Spirit, I’m welcoming romance writer, Atina Atwood, author of the Holiday Heartbeats series. She’s just released a new book called Love Games so I thought I’d invite her along on one of my research trips today. We’re at a masquerade ball, people watching and observing all the couples falling head over heels in love. Isn’t it sweet?

atina atwood author interview
Love Games is available now!

 

Atina, welcome to the blog! I love your mask! 

Thank you so much! I’m not necessarily one with off-the-runway fashion sense, but I’m really digging the whole midnight black, silver, and sparkling crystal thing going on here.

Why don’t you tell me a little bit about your latest book?

Love Games is a sweet Valentine’s Day novella, and it the second story in my Holiday Heartbeats series. This is Dante and Marisol’s story. Dante is a player, accustomed to using seduction in order to secure difficult business deals. He secretly despises himself for it and wants to change. When his method backfires, he takes some time to figure himself out. He ends up meeting Marisol, who doesn’t exactly embrace him with open arms.

Marisol is a no-nonsense kind of woman, fresh out of law school and waiting for her bar results. She’s fiercely devoted to her Mamá and her best friend, and she’s just as protective of her heart.

When they meet, sparks fly (as do a few tulips). Can Dante actually prove himself to be more than just eye-candy with a blemished reputation, or will Mari fall victim to the player’s game?

The comment about the tulips is intriguing me, but I guess I’ll have to read the book to find out what that’s about! Isn’t this book 2 in the series? What was the first one about?

Love Games (Holiday Heartbeats #2) takes place around Valentine’s Day. The first story in the series is His Epiphany, and it’s a sweet short story set during the Christmas season. Riley is actually Dante’s best friend; when Riley meets Epiphany, he knows he’s meant for her, but it nearly kills him when she runs into Dante’s arms. Years later, we find out why she ran to Dante instead of him. It’s a quick, sweet read. Maybe one day, I’ll revisit those two and learn more about their happily ever after.

His Epiphany

 

Imagine you’re a fairy tale character. Which one would you be and why?

Presently, I’d be a dragon, because my Little Man (toddler) is totally into them. The more fierce, the better.

Good choice! What one thing that is important to you would you give up if it meant you could become a better writer?

I can actually answer this question in the past tense because it’s no longer hypothetical for me. Last year, I actually left my full-time university position to start my own business and be able to write full time. This is because I was put in a position that women face far too often — career or family. For me, family will always come first. I’d already been planning for a transition that would allow me more autonomy in my profession, but it takes guts, a bit of foolishness, and a ton of hope to walk away from what you know and also love. In the end, though, it has also helped me reclaim a deep sense of self-confidence.

It isn’t easy, and I’m learning and growing every day. Waking up every morning with a strong sense of purpose and excitement is an amazing feeling. The best part is that I’m still affiliated with the university but on my own terms. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, career-wise.

I can definitely relate to having to choose between career and family! What are the hardest scenes for you to write?

I often have difficulty writing the settings, because I’m so focused on what the characters are saying and doing. Sometimes, the background remains, well, in the background. I also have to be careful not to spend too much time describing any place because I’ll get so caught up in the details, and I’m in danger of missing some of the action between the characters.

Like all of the stories in my Holiday Heartbeats series, Love Games takes place in San Diego, California. The characters travel all over the county, and I have to be careful not to include too many details or hard facts, but provide just enough information the reader draw a sketch in their mind’s eye of what I’m describing and then can focus on the action at hand.

Masquerade balls: creepy or fun?

Lacey, they are creepy AF. Don’t get me wrong — I absolutely love the bling on this gorgeous mask! It looks fabulous with black satin, Swarovski crystals all around the eyes, and the charcoal silk overlay is breathtaking. Of course, the raven’s feathers are to die for. Full disclosure — I’m taking this sucker home with me.

But back to your question. Yeah, honestly, it seems as though everyone is parading around, wearing a mask. We’re trying too hard to impress when most of us can barely hold our crap together on a daily basis. Too often, we’re chasing illusions — whether it’s the mask of a political party or ideal, the idolatry of a celebrity, or the fanaticism of social media influencers. We’re losing sight of the fact that it’s okay to be a bit messy, a tad quirky, a little… lost sometimes. But if we keep focusing on the noise and shine surrounding us, eventually we’re going to collectively end up being a grotesque distortion of the superficial image we’ve been striving to become. Ultimately, we’re forgetting to be our true selves. Whatever the heck that means.

Do your family support your career as a writer?

Unequivocally. They also supported my career as an opera singer, which led to so many fantastic experiences, most importantly, meeting the love of my life while I was still a teenager. When I had to stop performing after a car accident, I turned to Academia, which inevitably led to research and a ton of writing. For me, it was a match made in heaven. Writing is a culmination of so many worlds. I don’t write Romance exclusively, but it’s definitely one of my most favorite genres to write. My husband is my biggest supporter, and my sister keeps asking me for more installments. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that most of my closest friends are right in my corner as well.

You’re extremely well-qualified in terms of academic achievements, aren’t you? Tell us a bit about your background before you became a writer.

I’ve been on stage since I was five years old, so being in the creative and performing arts has always been an integral part of my life. The only thing that I’ve been doing longer than performing is reading. My mom loves to remind me that I started reading “books with no pictures” at the age of four. The multifaceted story of humanity has always fascinated me. My lifelong dedication to various methods of communication eventually led to me earning my Bachelor’s, Masters, Ph.D., and various certifications in interrelated fields.

There’s something captivating about the Drang, or the urge to communicate by any means available to us. It doesn’t matter if it’s through music, through words, through language, through sounds, or through movement — some people just HAVE TO create — and I’m one of those people. I’m blessed that my family recognizes this and supports me in knowing that I simply must live my life as a creative spirit.

What’s the most difficult part of the writing/publishing process for you? Is it the artistic side of things or the business side?

I think that both sides have their pros and cons. I can see the artistic side being difficult for me because I’m still learning my craft. Despite its undeserved reputation, writing Romance is hard. I’m constantly learning by reading and writing. I ask questions: How much is cliché? How much is too much? Do the characters and plot have enough depth? If not, how can I enhance them?

It’s a learning process, and from the very beginning, I decided that I was going to be honest with my followers about my journey into writing fiction. That means with each publication, I expect each one to improve. There will be hits and misses, and I expect to grow with each new release. I’m grateful and indebted to all of my readers and followers who choose to stick with me; Love & Light to those who encourage me every step of the way.

Although I’ve been traditionally published in nonfiction, tackling the business of self-publishing in fiction is no joke. I don’t even have my blog properly categorized, much less with SEO. Rookie moves, I know. But I’m working on it. I believe that in business, it’s about setting a target and doing whatever it takes within the confines of your abilities to achieve that goal and then repeating the process. As soon as I’m specific about exactly what I want Atina Atwood to accomplish, I can also help my readers know what to expect. (Good luck with that, fam.)

Aww, look at that couple over there! He’s been smiling at her all night and he just worked up the courage to ask her to dance! Makes me all warm and fuzzy. What do you think brought you to the point where you started writing romance? Was it planned or was it something you stumbled upon by accident?

I started reading Romance novels six years ago. I was bedridden for months and so I spent my days surrounded by things that brought me to a positive place emotionally. I discovered that there was nothing more powerful or healing than the expectation of a happy ending.

Although I could say that writing Romance was something I stumbled upon, it wouldn’t be completely true. I’ve been researching the cultural necessity for Escapism and its employment through various mediums and genres throughout international societies and eras for years. One constant theme has always been Romance, unrequited or reciprocated. It’s a basic human theme — we all want to love and be loved.

How do you choose the names for your characters?

Most of the time the names just come to me, as do their stories. In Love Games, Dante and Marisol just introduced themselves to me with a funny scene involving tulips. Marisol quickly became Mari in my mind, and I can’t imagine her any other way. On the other hand, Mari’s best friend, Nhu, is the heroine in Luck of the Irish (Holiday Heartbeats #3 — coming soon!). Because Nhu is Vietnamese, I definitely knew that I had to do a lot of research on her name and understand the significance of her name from a cultural standpoint. Fortunately, I can also rely on some of my family members for #Ownvoices insight to help me with this.

Luck of the Irish – coming soon!

 

Oh no. That couple aren’t getting along so well any more. Did she just throw cake at him?! 

Um yes. She definitely did. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the 5’3 culprit looks like Nhu, and Mari is trying to hold her back! And now Dante is protecting them both from… the duck confit.

Darn it. I was looking forward to eating some of that.

It’s turned into a full-on food fight. DUCK! Ok, before we go, because no Lacey interview is complete without this question, what’s your favourite cookie/biscuit?

I love chocolate chip cookies. Soft in the center, and warm all around with just the slightest crisp around the edges. Yum!

Thanks Atina. Where can we find Love Games and your other book, His Epiphany? And where can we find you on social media?

Thanks so much, Lacey! This was fun. You can find Love GamesHis EpiphanyLuck of the Irish (coming soon!) and all of the Holiday Heartbeats series on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble and wherever ebooks are sold.

Join my newsletter for freebies and news about the series’ progress. Check out my blog for #MotivationalMondays, Tuesday’s blog, and Thursday’s Romantic Thought. I’m also on Twitter, supporting and following back other readers and writers who love to write and spill the tea. I also exist on Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads, and Facebook.

I’ve had a blast. Thanks again Lacey, and have a fabulous Valentine’s Day!

-End-

Sending Love and Light to all of you.

©Atina Atwood 2015-2019 Exploring Love and Life, One Word At A Time.™

– Atina Atwood is a southern girl who moved from Europe to the West Coast. A former university professor in Germany and California, Atina stepped away from Academia to focus on her miracle child, life, love, food, quilting, and of course, Romance. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook for more, and sign up for Atina’s newsletter here.

Love Games (Holiday Heartbeats #2) is LIVE!!

Join my mailing list to be the first to know about my new releases, books slated for release in 2019, giveaways, and more. Follow me on Amazon and Goodreads!
Love Games (Holiday Heartbeats #2) is now available wherever eBooks are sold

Love Games (New Release)

I’ve been waiting for February to come already because I just couldn’t wait to finally share Love Games with you.

Love Games (Holiday Heartbeats #2) is LIVE and available at the distributor of your choice!

It’s a sweet-heat romantic novella about an irresistible, successful, commitmentphobe and the smart, no-nonsense woman who brings him to his knees – just in time for a Valentine’s Day surprise. Dante and Marisol’s story is around 62 pages, so it’s a quick, fun read. I played with the following tropes:

  • smart, sassy heroine/successful sexy hero who’s ready to be schooled
  • all grown up/commitmentphobe
  • boss/employee’s daughter
  • close proximity
  • multicultural romance
  • “sweet-heat” romance
  • slow burn, novella-style 😉

My VIP Friends from 28 states and 11 countries received a complimentary copy of LOVE GAMES over a week before the book’s official release!

When you sign up for my mailing list, it means a lot to me, and this is one way that I happily show my appreciation. *kiss kiss* Please consider leaving your honest reviews on Goodreads. They are appreciated! 

“Sweet-Heat” Romance

I had a fun time writing these two characters, and I really like their chemistry. My Holiday Heartbeats is what I like to call a “sweet heat” series, so the characters kiss, and when they kiss, they kiss well. Ideally, I want this particular series to be accessible to readers of varying ages and backgrounds, so consider doing me a solid and share it with your friends and add the books on your bookshelf (Listopia) on Goodreads. Thank you!

Atina Atwood Love Games A Holiday Heartbeats Story

Sending Love and Light to all of you.

©Atina Atwood 2015-2019 Exploring Love and Life, One Word At A Time.™

– Atina Atwood is a southern girl who moved from Europe to the West Coast. A former university professor in Germany and California, Atina stepped away from Academia to focus on her miracle child, life, love, food, quilting, and of course, Romance. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook for more, and sign up for Atina’s newsletter here.

 

 

 

Love Games

Be sure to join my mailing list to be the first to know about my new releases, books slated for release in 2019, giveaways, and more. 

Are You Ready for Love Games?

Today’s post is actually much later than usual, and while I love it when things are steady like clockwork, there’s a valid reason for my tardiness. I’m polishing up Love Games, Story #2 in my Holiday Heartbeats short story series. To be honest, Dante and Marisol really want their story to be longer than a short, but for now, they’ll just have to be satisfied with this story’s length. I’m anxious to hear what you think about them. I really like these two characters – Dante’s personality is a complete facade and he realizes too late that his reputation may destroy his chance to finally be himself with a phenomenal woman; Marisol is so prideful that she’ll deny herself happiness simply to spite the man who dared to make her fall in love with him.

Atina Atwood Love Games A Holiday Heartbeats Story

 

One thing that makes me really like Dante and Mari so much is the fact that they are so honest about the vices that they have. We all have them, but it’s really not so easy to own up to them. Have you ever wondered what would happen if one day you decided to own up to at least one of your weaknesses – and then actually do something about it? I found myself wondering how much closer could I come to feeling content about my ambitions and my shortcomings if I just focused on one vice, and then searched for ways to improve that weakness.

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll keep you posted on that progress. Until then, get ready for Love Games, Dante and Mari’s Holiday Heartbeats story.

Sending Love and Light to all of you.

©Atina Atwood 2015-2019 Exploring Love and Life, One Word At A Time.™

– Atina Atwood is a southern girl who moved from Europe to the West Coast. A former university professor in Germany and California, Atina stepped away from Academia to focus on her miracle child, life, love, food, quilting, and of course, Romance. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook for more, and sign up for Atina’s newsletter here.

His Epiphany – Yours FREE when you sign up for my newsletter!

Holiday Heartbeats Short Story Series

His Epiphany is the first in my short story Holiday Heartbeats series. Each story is a fun, quick read, and the heroes are guaranteed a happily ever after (HEA). This first story is yours free when you sign up for my newsletter!

Remember the post about a story that I started, and had no clue what would happen to poor Riley? Well, shortly after Thanksgiving, he was determined for me to give him an HEA ASAP. Seeing as how I’d publicly humiliated him by sharing the most embarrassing moment of his life with all of you, I figured I’d go ahead and give him his peace – just in time for Christmas.

Click on the fabulous book cover below or click here to sign up for my newsletter and get this sweet story for FREE.

His Epiphany by Atina Atwood

His Epiphany is also available wherever eBooks are sold. Tell a friend, or better yet, give them a sweet treat that’s calorie free. 😉

Sending Love and Light to all of you.

©Atina Atwood 2018 Exploring Love and Life, One Word At A Time.™

For a limited time, get His Epiphany – Holiday Heartbeats #1 for FREE when you sign up for Atina’s newsletter!

– Atina Atwood is a southern girl who moved from Europe to the West Coast. A former university professor in Germany and California, Atina stepped away from Academia to focus on her miracle child, life, love, food, quilting, and of course, Romance. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook for more, and sign up for Atina’s newsletter here

Riley’s Epiphany. A Short Story

I hope that you’ve had a fantastic November. I haven’t shared any writing tidbits in a while, and as I’m finishing up this manuscript for Book 2 in my YA sweet romance series, I thought that I would improvise the first scene from another potential story. Enjoy!

Riley’s Epiphany

Riley saw her, and he knew that she was his.

It wasn’t about possession or dominance; it was the bone-deep confirmation that an integral part of him – a part that he didn’t even know was missing – was suddenly standing right in front of him. Never had he seen a smile so radiant with a row of perfectly straight, white teeth that were slightly too large for her mouth. Even her body couldn’t contain the potency of that smile, he thought with a half-grin. Her lips were full, their perpetual pout sensual and playful at the same time. His eyes, greedy and eager to take all of her in, were drawn to those moistened lips, broad and slightly flushed as she bit the lower one to contain her mirth.

The sight of her easygoing, positive nature made an unfamiliar heat unfurl in the center of his belly. The warmth gave his courage sustenance that he otherwise never would have had. Detmernined steps were fuled by a confidence that Riley would normally never possess. What would he say to her? What should he say to her – “Hi there, I’m Ri, and I just want you to know that you’re my future wife”? The absurdity of the thought made him smile.

His smile must have caught her attention because suddenly, she was walking towards him – no,  it was an all out squeal and skip-run combination. His grin grew wider – could she feel the connection between them, too? 

Arms outstretched, he stood, knees bent, his body braced in anticipation of her approach.  She ran, smiling, now laughing – her pure joy sparkling like the myriad particles in a sunbeam – right into the arms of his best friend.

In the back of his throat, Riley tasted the bitter bile of hate for the first time in his life.

Rileys-epiphany

Sending Love and Light to all of you.

©Atina Atwood 2018 Exploring Love and Life, One Word At A Time.™

– Atina Atwood is a southern girl who moved from Europe to the West Coast. A former university professor in Germany and California, Atina stepped away from Academia to focus on her miracle child, life, love, food, quilting, and of course, Romance. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook for more.

Short Story: Ali & Nick (Continued)

short-story-ali-and-nick
Google

Ali & Nick

Okay, it’s been a while since I’ve returned to Ali & Nick. Sometimes, when I’m delving in the business of other folks, aka writing, some stories rush forward, demanding to be told, while others choose to take the time of a gently blossoming flower. The story with Ali and Nick is a bit more like the latter than the former.

If you haven’t had a chance to get to know Ali & Nick, or since it’s been a while, get to know them in the first installment of the short story here. Now, without further adieu, their story continues…

Nick

“I’m just gonna assume that you’re Nick.” Her strong voice was no nonsense, smooth as butter, and carried the faint overtones of reproach.

“Yeah, that’s me.” Why do I always sound like an idiot in real life? 

When a computer is in front of me, it becomes my shield, and I can approach anyone as though we are equal. My confidence soars, and I know exactly how I want to express myself. If the words don’t look right, I can simply erase them and try again. In real life, I only get one chance, and as soon as I open my mouth, I somehow end up feeling like a first-class dunce.

Miraculously, she sat down, and I scrambled to remove the scarf that I’d thrown over the chair to reserve a spot for her. I send a silent prayer of thanks to my Grandmother for having at least taught me manners. Nervously, I cleared my throat.

“Thank you so much for coming. I know that neither one of us is really into meeting face to face…” 

As soon as I mentioned the word face, I lost my train of thought. Ali is truly beautiful. Now that I’ve had a chance to see her in real life, her profile picture seemed like a caricature. Her eyes were the color and shape of a roasted almond, a mesmerizing shade of light brown just on the verge of turning dark. At first glance, I could tell that those eyes were perceptive — they noticed everything with judgement and a hint of distrust. Under her intense scrutiny, I was no exception.

“…And yet, you insisted that we meet.” Ali readjusted herself in the overstuffed chair, scooting back with her legs primly crossed at the ankles. 

I battled with my eyes to keep them above her neckline, but eventually, I lost the war. Her legs got longer by the second, and that eggplant purple skirt ended just a few tantalizing inches above her knees. The black button-up blouse that she wore was modest, some sort of silky material with long sleeves and a high collar. I don’t know how it worked, but it did. She pulled off sexy and sophisticated at the same time, and while I felt nothing but admiration and attraction, I also felt even more inept wearing just jeans a t-shirt with the logo of my brother’s auto shop business. When my eyes finally returned to hers, a faint sparkle of mirth in them reminded me of gold.

“Yeah, I know.” I sighed and ran a hand through the length of my hair. I was overdue for a haircut, but times were tough and I didn’t have the $20 to throw towards vanity. 

“So, now that we’re face to face, what is it that you feel you need to say, Nick? You already know that I’m out of my comfort zone here, but the past few months have been… nice.” Ali paused, and I could have sworn that the heat of a blush stained her cheeks.

“Look,” I started, already exasperated by the amount of words we’d already exchanged, but hadn’t really gotten anywhere. “I just needed to see you, face to face. I needed to know if you were — real.” 

There, I said it. At risk of looking like a complete idiot in a public place, I had to lay everything out on the line. Because the truth of the matter is, this online thing between us isn’t enough for me anymore.

“What do you want from me?”

Her features had softened at my outburst, and now she stared at me thoughtfully, with genuine interest. I was relieved that she hadn’t walked away, or worse, outright laughed in my face. Still, I knew that Ali was highly intelligent, and combined with her beauty and wit, she was definitely a force to be reckoned with.

There was no way that I could honestly answer her question. Not now. Not when my mouth, heart, and soul wanted to confess to her that I wanted anything and everything she was willing to give me.

***************************************TBC*****************************************

I can’t wait to find out what happens next! Be on the lookout for my next installment (sooner rather than later).

Sending Love and Light to all of you.

©Atina Atwood 2018 Exploring Love and Life, One Word At A Time.™

– Atina Atwood is a southern girl who moved from Europe to the West Coast. A former university professor in Germany and California, Atina stepped away from Academia to focus on her miracle child, life, love, food, quilting, and of course, Romance. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook for more.

When Characters Become Dictators

Sometimes Characters Tell You Who They Are. Sometimes They Don’t.

UGH.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest, maybe I can go ahead and finish this manuscript that should have been finished 2 months ago.

When you write, it’s amazing to see how many different approaches and techniques that you’ll inevitably use. Each project is like a new experiment, what worked once is never guaranteed to work a second time. Well, except for the sit down and write part.

My latest work, a sweet, YA novella that is slated for release in late October, is the one that is giving me grief. Already at 16,500 words, this novella is screaming for more character depth and development. The heroine and hero want to be super fleshed-out, not just two little gamey tropes, and here’s the gut-puncher of it all – they BOTH want their stories told in the first person narrative.

Which, for whatever reason, totally isn’t my thing. Normally, my developed stories play out in my mind in an arc, and I get to report to everyone else as I observe the action as it takes place in the sweet-spot of third person omniscient.

Not this time.

Stories WANT to be Written

My husband keeps chuckling because I’m complaining about how the story wants to be written in the 1st person. It may sound strange when I say things like that, but it’s totally true. Eventually, stories have lives of their own. It’s a beautiful thing, and a frustrating thing at the same time. I can fully understand how some people call their works “book babies”, because there are a few similarities involved. In any case, this novella is currently throwing a tantrum, and at 3:00 this morning, I finally heard my hero whine “Hey, what about my side of things?” (Insert eye-roll here.)

Since he’s 100% right, damn him, I’ve got to go back and slap his perspective on everything in subsequent chapters. Had this story wanted to be written in 3PO, I would have been finished months ago. Now, I’m off schedule by about 3-4 weeks, and you know, no pressure there.

Teenagers. *Sigh* Here’s hoping for the best, and that I do these kids justice.

Sending Love and Light to you all.

©Atina Atwood 2018 Exploring Love and Life, One Word At A Time.™

– Atina Atwood is a southern girl who moved from Europe to the West Coast. A former university professor in Germany and California, Atina stepped away from Academia to focus on her miracle child, life, love, food, quilting, and of course, writing. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest for more.

when-characters-become-dictators
Google

 

Short Story: Ali & Nick

Short Story: Ali & Nick*

Nearly a year ago, I posted the beginning of a quick pants short story, and then I completely forgot about it. I rediscovered it during Toddler nap time yesterday, and so I added a little bit more to it. The original posting of the story is here, but for convenience, I’m re-posting the beginning of this short story here as well.

As usual, I invite you to let me know what you think! Comments appreciated.

Short-Story-Ali-and-Nick
Google

She was the silent type. It would have been an awesome and somewhat mystical trait if she had also been strong, but she wasn’t. Not yet.

For years, Alissa had been perfectly fine flying solo, and after that disastrous train wreck that she’d mistakenly called a relationship with Dax, being alone had been a good thing. She needed to heal; she was determined to remember to love herself before she tried loving anyone else.

Besides, she knew that when the time was right, her feelings and intuition would give her the courage to take action and move forward. Today, Ali knew that the time had come.

Squaring her shoulders and taking a deep breath, she held her head high as she advanced upon her target. This guy didn’t know it, but a serendipitous hurricane was heading his way.

***

He felt her presence before he saw her. Nick had already memorized her features from her profile picture, so he took his time before looking up from the glare of his computer screen. He just barely resisted the urge to adjust the frame of his glasses with his thumb. Reviewing facts always calmed his nerves, so he ran through the shortlist of everything he thought he knew about her.

Her name was Ali, she was a junior, and she had long jet black hair (thanks to two $5 dye kits from the store, she’d confessed), and apparently had shapely legs that went on for miles and miles down to impatiently tapping feet that had an at-home, slightly rushed looking pedicure. Well, the last facts had been observations in real time.

Nick cleared his throat and willed his heart to stop beating in his ears like an obnoxious drum. During one of their late-night chats Ali warned him that she was a mess; yet even after he’d confessed his own shortcomings to her, she’d still been willing to show up at this random hipster cafe to actually meet him in person. She’d given him a chance, and he was already half in love with her for that small miracle alone.

He just hoped like hell he wouldn’t blow it.

Ali

I recognized him before I even saw his face. Hunched over a laptop, his back was toward the front entrance of the cafe. Since he was the one who proposed meeting here in the first place, I was a little confused. It had taken all of my strength to gather enough courage to show up in the first place, and now he’s placing me in the position of risking possible humiliation by approaching a complete stranger like I’m desperate or something. Far from it — I know my worth.

The familiar burn of sudden rage churned in my stomach, threatening to erupt in the form of bile. Wait a second, Ali, I reassured myself. It’s Nick. He’s not one of them. Give him a chance. These days, being my own voice of reason was my only saving grace. 

As I stood near the door of the coffee shop, I took a deep breath and weighed my options. He hadn’t turned around, so I could still back away and escape before he even noticed that I had come. We’d both given each other a way out in case either one of us lost our nerve; maybe this was his method. 

Taking advantage of the slightly crowded, yet still cozy coffee shop, I perched on a wooden bar stool and pretended to study the  gigantic menu ahead of me on the left wall. Nick was seated near the back of the shop, apparently in a designated quiet area. A vacant brown pleather seat next to his caught my attention. A sapphire-blue scarf with appliquéd peacock feathers was carefully draped over one of the arms of the well-worn chair, a clear indication that the seat had been reserved for someone. An involuntary gasp escaped from my throat. That was the present that I had made for him after his grandmother died a few months ago. He swore to me up and down that everywhere he went, that scarf went, too. I was certain that he was exaggerating, attempting to flatter me, until now. Even from my safe distance I could see that the scarf truly had been well-worn. I’ll have to make another one for him, I vowed. 

Taking my time, I studied what I could gather of his physique. He definitely had stringy, chestnut brown hair that he had warned me about; it was a bit longer than I personally preferred, but it was his head, so I guessed that he was pleased with the length going slightly past his neck. I had expected him to be a super tall string bean kind of guy, but from what I could tell from my pseudo-hidden position, he seemed to be of average height, about 5’9 or so. His shoulders were more broad than I had anticipated, and a flutter of surprised attraction swirled in my belly. I knew that he worked out because of his older brother, but I have to admit that I hadn’t expected that it would be so, well, obvious. 

The realization that Nick could actually be an attractive guy suddenly made me nervous. I know that this sounds snobbish, but I was kind of expecting him to not be the hottest guy in the world. Actually, the way he described himself, he almost made Quasimodo sound handsome. I knew that he had self-esteem issues — don’t we all — but to a certain extent, when he had described himself in such a negative fashion, I believed him.

His back suddenly straightened, as though a chill had clutched him by the shoulders and pulled him to attention. It was strange; in that very instant, I knew that he had finally sensed my presence. Still, he didn’t turn around; instead, he adjusted his computer screen, obviously relying on its reflection to reveal my actual location to him. Coward. 

Quickly tiring of the Cat and Mouse game, I stood up, straightened my purple and black skirt and blouse, slung my thick braided hair behind me, and walked straight towards him. 

Nick

Oh crap. I knew that I was in trouble the second I heard the barista address Ali as she floated by the counter, beelining in my direction.

“May I help you?” The perky barista practically look ready to jump over the counter and give out free hugs to all customers. Ali barely glanced at her as she maintained her pace.

“No, I can help myself. If I need anything, I’ll let you know, thank you.”

The succinct, clipped tones emanated from a voice that reminded me of indulging in one of Grandma’s honeyed biscuits on a Sunday morning. Sweet, savory, buttery, and hot all at the same time. Who was this woman? And why the hell was she still showing interest in a throwaway like me?

*******************************TBC******************************

*The Next Installment of Ali & Nick’s story continues here!

I can’t wait to find out what happens next! Be on the lookout for my next installment (sooner rather than later).

Sending Love and Light to all of you.

©Atina Atwood 2018 Exploring Love and Life, One Word At A Time

– Atina Atwood is a southern girl who moved from Europe to the West Coast. A former university professor in Germany and California, Atina stepped away from Academia to focus on her miracle child, life, love, food, quilting, and of course, Romance. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest for more.

Whatever Happened to that Free Ebook I promised?

My sister sweetly reminded me the other day that in a previous post a few months back, I promised to write a free ebook before this year ended. Well, thank you for the reminder, and I’m happy to say that I wrapped it up last month in November! I’m pretty pleased with it, and I’m hopeful that you will be, too.

So, that’s the good news. The not so fantastic for the short-term follower is that I am definitely postponing the release of this ebook because, well, it actually inspired me to expand on my series beyond the original novels. That means that each book continues to be a stand-alone, but you can also now expect a shorter story involving the original characters to have another dance in the limelight.

Meanwhile, look for the continuation of a story I started in a previous blog post, Skies of Gray (it was originally “Shades of Gray”, but I’m modifying it to avoid confusion). The next installment can be found on my blog next month in January.

As this year closes, I wish all of you a safe, uneventful ending to this year, and a Happy New Year 2018 filled with happiness, laughter, love, and if you’re open to it, romance. 💜