It's July 4th. To me, that means summery foods, maybe a water gun fight and glow sticks, fire flies in the yard, hopefully a fresh tomato from my garden.
I love fireworks. Sure, it's usually hot and sticky and swarming with mosquitoes. But there's something amazing about watching the explosions in different colors and shapes and sizes, all orchestrated to make the biggest awe.
Maybe that's why fireworks scenes end up in my books every now and then.
One ended up in Faith and Hope, deep in the heart of Texas. Needless to say, it's got some heat to it, and if you want to check it out, I shared it here.
The one from today is from my book No Place Like Home. It's set at Tom Lee park, right on the Mississippi River in Memphis. My characters have been chatting about her past and he finally gets her to tell him the rest of the story. And, well, there might be more than one kind of firework going off before the end. Check it out.
Happy Fourth of July! I hope you get to see some fireworks this week. I love watching the amazing colors and patterns burst up in the sky. Maybe that's why I've written several romantic scenes that include them.
To celebrate a little more with you, I wanted to share this excerpt from my latest novel, Faith & Hope. It seemed ideal for the day. Enjoy!
The Fourth of July dawned beautiful and clear. Sam, Faith, and Hope joined Maysie and her husband, Gavin, and Kendra, Maria, and Joe and headed to a local park that evening. Hope ended up crammed in the back seat of Maysie’s Suburban between Maria and Joe. Every time his knee brushed hers, she had to refocus on the conversation going on around her. It was the one day of the summer that camp was
closed, but she didn’t mind getting to spend it with Joe anyway. Once again, this week she had been paired with him and the first-grade boys. Did he bribe Steve to make that happen over and over again?
Since so many people were at the park for the fireworks show that evening, they parked quite a way from the actual entrance and had to walk. Kendra latched on to Maria. Sam and Faith strolled ahead with the blankets and some lawn chairs. Maysie and Gavin pulled the cooler full of waters and sodas. Joe and Hope ended up at the end of their train with a couple more chairs.
Somehow despite the crowd, they managed to find a spot big enough for all of them close enough to the stage to hear the music, but also near enough to the water to have a good view of the fireworks
later that evening. Hope helped Faith spread out the blankets on the ground while the guys set up the chairs around the edge for those who didn’t think the grass was soft enough. Hope found a corner of the blanket and some water. Joe sat in a chair right behind her.
“It’s so hot.” Hope fanned herself with the flyer.
“But at least it’s dry heat instead of that humid heat back east.” Faith held a bottle so that Kendra could take a swig. “I swear you walk out of the house at Mama’s and it feels like you’re walking through a hot tub, it’s so humid.”
“It’s not that bad. I miss the humidity. Here, I feel like I can’t keep my skin from drying out.” Hope pointed to her arms, which didn’t look as dry as she claimed, considering the sheen of perspiration
“I sweat so much I don’t think my skin can dry out.” Maysie laughed. “I didn’t realize there was such a difference in climate between here and Mississippi.”
“Not that extreme. Just different.” Hope shrugged. “The temperatures don’t get quite as high back home.”
“But the 90 percent humidity makes up for the five- to ten-degree difference.” Faith scrunched up her face.
“So, you’re both happy where you normally live.” Joe broke in. “Sounds good. How about that baseball team?”
Hope refused to look over her shoulder at him. She knew exactly what he was trying to do. He had changed the subject to keep her and Faith from beginning one of their sister squabbles. She quit fanning and looked around.
Some band on the stage was playing their version of a patriotic medley. Hope turned her view in their direction to avoid having to continue the conversation. The sky darkened little by little and several kids in the area waved glow sticks. Occasionally there would be a “pop, pop, pop” of firecrackers going off from various boys’ hands around the park. Multiple ice cream vendors walked their carts through the throng of people, hawking fudge bars and rocket pops.
Joe followed one and came back with the red, white, and blue popsicles for everyone. Hope took hers gladly. A gentle breeze lifted her ponytail off her neck and cooled her for a minute before moving
on to the next person. The wind down here took some getting used to. Sometimes it was like that breeze, playful and calm. Other times it almost knocked a person over. Sort of like her relationship
“Here, Mama, you take this chair.” Joe stood and offered his hand to Maria where she had been shifting next to Hope. He pulled her up as if she weighed no more than one of their second-grade boys
and helped her settle in the canvas seat. His tall frame slid down next to Hope as the streaks of pink
turned a shade hotter in the sky. She pretended she didn’t notice, but every inch of her body was aware of just how close his was to her. She slapped at a mosquito and rubbed some more repellent on her legs and arms. The darkening evening brought not only the fireworks show, but also unwanted pests.
After a dramatic musical introduction, the first few rockets shot up in the sky. The crowd grew quieter as all listened to the songs and the explosions. Shivers ran down Hope’s arms as the theatrical lights
display lit up the night.
“Sort of reminds me of the way I felt when I kissed you the other night,” Joe whispered in her ear.
Bigger tremors traversed her spine. Had he really just said that? A quick glance showed him watching her instead of the pyrotechnics. She hurried to turn her attention back to the sky. Why did he have to
play with her heart like that?
He shifted so that his shoulder was slightly behind her and she could lean back against him for a better angle. Her stubbornness made her wait until the next song started before she gave in and took advantage of that. Why did he have to feel so strong and safe and secure? Why did something so good have to have such lousy timing?
Faith leaned against Sam in a similar fashion. Maysie and Gavin had Kendra between them, the toddler vacillating between jumping up and down and covering her eyes. The music crescendoed and moved into the “1812 Overture.” Fireworks larger than before started exploding one right after another, hardly giving their eyes time to adjust to the dark before lighting up the sky again. As the song ended, one final blast made it almost as bright as day, and then all was quiet and dark.
People all over the park cheered. Kids waved their glow sticks and sparklers around. Smoke hovered over the area like a blanket. Slowly, Hope sat up and away from Joe’s arms. She helped the others gather their belongings and then started the trek back to the car. Maria walked right beside Hope and gave her a hug from the side.
“I see the way he looks at you. He’s smitten.” Her voice was quiet, as if she were sharing a secret.
Hope looked at the petite woman. “It doesn’t matter. Our paths will part ways at the end of the summer.”
“Only if you let them,” Maria said.
Hope didn’t even try to pay attention to the conversation going on around her as they drove back to the church building, where everyone had met. She relished the feel of Joe being pressed against her side. And she thought about what Maria had said.
We're less than two weeks out from the release date for Faith & Hope. You've met the main characters, the sisters, in previous posts. Now, let's bring in a few more. After all, it would be pretty boring to only have two characters in a story, right?
SAM is Faith's husband. He works at a Christian academy in Austin, Texas and helps coach basketball. He also volunteers to help with youth group events. And he loves Faith like crazy--to the point of maybe being a bit overprotective at times.
JOE is probably one of my favorite characters in this book. He's a grown-up boy, one of Faith's best friends, and Hope's co-counselor at camp. He loves working with the first-grade boys. He's also an associate minister at church with a heart for missions. He goes out of his way to be a friend to all. He's the one I think of when I see the picture above. Notice there's no head? I couldn't find one that made me think exactly of him. If I were to cast a movie, maybe the same actor who played Jacob in the Twilight movies?
MARIA is Joe's mama. She, too, works at camp. She's a hugger, an adviser, and a fierce protector when it comes to those she loves. She still has a bit of a Mexican lilt to her speech from when she lived there as a little girl.
CASSIDY is Hope's roommate in Mississippi. She tells it like it is, but is also great to have around when you need someone to commiserate with. And she's always good to share a tub of ice cream.
MAYSIE is Faith's best friend. She's been a listener and prayer warrior for Faith through most of her infertility struggle, and is super excited to be able to plan a baby shower.
HANNAH, aka MOM, is Faith and Hope's mother. She wants the absolute best for her girls, although they don't always approve of her methods of getting there. They both love her, but they also know she's going to push for her way, no matter what.
Any of those characters sound like someone you could relate to or be friends with? I hope so! I can't wait to hear if you love Joe as much as I do, or if you have your own favorite. It won't be long now before you can join them on their journey!
The picture above isn't actually from my new book, Faith & Hope, but it is from a time when I was starting to think about the story line. This picture is from late summer 2011. My husband and I were fixing our house up to sell because he had taken a new teaching job in another city. My sister and mom had come down to help for a few days. I am the one on the right and my sister on the left. I had been working all summer at Camp Doublecreek in Round Rock, TX. Let me tell you, it's a great camp, and I had a blast. But it was hard work. However, please note the AMAZING tan I had that year. I do miss that part.
At that point, my plot consisted of throwing two sisters together for a while who didn't get along. It was very loosely based on my own relationship with my sister. Don't get me wrong. I love my sister and always have. But we had several years where we didn't see eye-to-eye at all, and got along much better when we lived three states apart. So, my brain played with the idea of, "What would happen if two sisters who barely got along with each other were forced to live in the same house again?" Then, I had to figure out what would force that to happen. Several years before this, my sister had lost her teaching job. I though, okay. Why not use that. So, would she move for a job? Sure. But would it need to be permanent or temporary? What would she do? Then, I got the job at Camp Doublecreek. Perfect. A temporary summer position for the fictional sister to be able to work that would be in the area of her other sister. I didn't actually end up writing the novel for a few more years, after I had worked out a few more plot points in my brain.
In my book, Hope ends up spending the summer working at Camp TwinCreeks. See the resemblance? I fully admit I based the summer camp in my book on the one I worked at. What's the point of having all these different jobs throughout the years if I can't use them in my books? It's hot, sweaty, and exhausting. But it's also fun and ends up rewarding Hope in more ways than one. You'll just have to read the book to find out how!
To give you just a little extra, I went back and found a post I had written for the blog I kept back then at the end of the first summer I worked camp, and I'm sharing it below. Enjoy!
I worked at camp all summer and all I got was. . .
This week, I'm introducing you to the other main character in my newest book, Faith & Hope. Obviously, her name is Hope. She's Faith's younger sister.
She lives in Oxford, MS, teaches high school math, rooms with her friend Cassidy, and loves TexMex. Problem is, she's been laid off and no one else is hiring right now. What's a girl to do? Her mom suggests she go live with big sister Faith way over in Texas. Hope can imagine nothing worse. Although she does love a good chicken enchilada.
My husband and I had never considered moving to Texas when we first married, but we ended up living in the Austin area two years into our life together. It was a bit of culture shock at first, but we grew to love it. Some of the experiences that happen in my book happened in my real life all those years ago. Even though I had sworn to never move to that state, it has come to be one I consider home, and I'm missing parts of it now that I'm back in Tennessee.
In honor of Hope, I tried out a new recipe on my family the other day. I've pinned several recipes mentioned in the book over here on my Pinterest board dedicated to this book. I hope you go check them out, as well as looking around at other pins I've saved on there that reminded me of the escapades the girls go through during their summer together.
If you had to move to another state, could you find something good in the situation? Chicken enchiladas with sour cream sauce are definitely something good I found in Texas.
My new book, Faith & Hope, will be out in less than 40 days! Can you believe it?
To get you even more excited for it, I'm going to be doing some posts over the next month or so to help you get to know some of my characters a little better, and give you a peek into their lives.
Today, we're talking about Faith McCreary. She married her college sweetheart, Sam, and they're happily living just north of Austin, Texas. Now, after four and a half years of infertility struggles, they're finally expecting their baby. Needless to say, she's thrilled.
Faith teaches preschool during the school year, helps with a summer camp most summers--although the doctor has warned her against getting too hot while pregnant--and sells stamps so she can support her card-making hobby. Because she loves to make cards, she's had tons of ideas over the last few years of just how she could announce her pregnancy to family and friends. Unfortunately, the timing of this year didn't work out. She isn't due until December, so an Easter card won't cut it. Maybe for Mother's day.
Good news. Because she can't use the idea for herself, she's sharing it with you today in case you know someone who might like to send a cute card like this. Want to know a secret. This could be used for anything? You could make the inside into a chick with your child's picture as the face instead and send to a grandparent. But for today, here's what Faith would do.
First things first, let's gather some supplies. You need:
First, I used my envelope to measure and make sure I cut my eggs out small enough to slide inside. To do that, I folded the white to the right size and used the envelope as a template to cut a regular shaped card first. After you get your rectangle, cut it into an egg shape. You might want to use some scrap paper to make sure you get it the right shape and size and then trace onto the white to cut out that way. Cut the yellow into a slightly smaller egg. You should end up with two white eggs and one smaller yellow one.
Time to crack the shell! Figure out about where on the egg is the widest, and mark it on either side with a pencil so you can have a goal for cutting. Only on one white piece, cut a zig zag across the widest part.
Now, we assemble. Glue the bottom half of your cracked shell, only around the edges, to the bottom of the uncut white egg. Then, using your brad, fasten the top piece at a corner so it can open and close. Make sure your yellow part still fits. If you're like me, you might have to trim the edges again.
Time to decorate our yellow part. On one side, I wrote "Hatching this September." Obviously, you can use whatever phrase fits you best. "Happy Spring" or "Happy Easter" would also be cute. On the other side, I attached an ultrasound picture (this one happens to be of my son from several years ago).
I hope you had fun with this. I can't wait to share more of Faith's story with you!
Did you have any fun ideas for announcing your pregnancy? I'd love to hear about them!
This is a place for me to tell you about what I'm writing, talk about the process or where some of my ideas came from, or even have other authors come in and talk about their books.
Authors I Love to Read (in no particular order)