AuThursday – Brenda Billings Ridgley

Tour Banner_Lady and the Tribe copyTell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m a Colorado girl who spent a decade in corporate America as a human resources manager and then decades more as an entrepreneur with businesses ranging from brick-and-mortar retail to consulting and direct sales. I am an avid networker and connector.

How do you make time to write? 

I set a small daily goal that I can keep up with on a consistent basis. I don’t always get the daily goal done but it kept me on track enough to make up for it within each week. Don’t we all wish we could make more time? I made writing a priority and had to re-negotiate some other things.

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

I believe that it exists for writers when they are finding themselves less passionate about their work. I have yet to experience it but I am too superstitious to say that it doesn’t exist!

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it. 

For much of my adult life I have been drawn to books that help be grow whether that be in business acumen, spirituality, learning something new or just be happier. I wrote Lady and the Tribe for women so they could rediscover themselves like I did through empowering friendships. I love this genre because I believe we should all choose to be life-long learners.

How are you publishing your recent book and why? 

I chose to self-publish Lady and the Tribe because I feel the information is timely, our disconnected world needs to remember that our relationships are really what bring joy and meaning to our lives. I didn’t want to wait years for a publisher to pick it up and make it their own.

Are you an Introvert or Extravert?  How does this affect your work? 

I am an extraverted introvert. A friend told me she calls it an Ambivert. I love to get in front of people, even on stage and present, share, interact… but after I need to go into my little she-shed and re-fill my energy stores. Many are surprised when I tell them I am really an introvert.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

I have two:

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right. ~ Henry Ford 

“You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” ~ Glinda, Wizard of Oz

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t wait for the perfect time to get started because it may never come! Write about things that interest and excite you and you will never be at a loss for words.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

My website is BrendaRidgley.com and on social media you can find me @BrendaRidgley

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

Book Cover_Lady and the TribeQuest for Wholeness

We all want to be whole. At some point in time, we may find ourselves asking the universe, “What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose? Why do I feel like something is missing?” I found myself asking these questions the year my son was a senior in high school and began planning for college. He had decided to go to a performing arts school in New York, far away from our home in Colorado. I was experiencing some inner turmoil as I realized my life, as I had come to know it, was about to undergo an unwelcome transformation. 

As many mothers do, I had spent the last 18 years focusing on my family and much of my identity revolved around that role. What purpose did I have beyond raising good kids? Oh, how I would miss my son . . . and then I would soon be losing my daughter too. Things were never going to be the same again. Our family of four, my world, was a ticking time bomb soon to implode. I struggled to hang on to every possible MOM-ent that school year.

I felt an unexplainable emptiness creep up on me. My life was great, but something was missing. I wasn’t motivated to do anything beyond clinging to the upcoming “lasts” of a child becoming a young man. I longed for a new goal, purpose, or intention to get excited about, but I was not finding the inspiration. In an attempt to find my way, I wrote this letter to the universe. 

Dear Universe,

I have heard the analogy that our energy stream is like a river; we should work with the current, rather than paddle upstream. We can be or do or have anything we want, believe, and allow. Everything we want is downstream. All we need to do is turn our boat around and paddle with the current, our inspired action, or let the oars go altogether and let the momentum take us to our best life. 

I sometimes feel like I turned the boat around and drifted into a large lake with little current, or my boat was dropped in the middle of the ocean, and I’m lost at sea. The only way out is to paddle. But, I don’t feel the inspirational current, and I don’t see the destination clearly. 

My question to the Universe is: “How long do I hang out in this boat adrift being content but not satisfied?” I love the peace I have found, but I am hungry for inspiration and passion to drive me into motivated action. “When will I hit the rapids again and find the current that makes the journey seem effortless and exciting?” I feel incomplete without a burning desire. 

There it is, Universe. “What do I do next?” I am so grateful for all of the blessings in my life. I have many. Life is beautiful. I want back in the game of contribution and creation . . . eagerness and excitement . . . joyfully making a difference. “Isn’t it okay to want it all?”

All my love,

Brenda

My letter was not immediately answered. It took some time, but months later, I did find my way out of this funk. Pick up a copy of Lady and the Tribe, How to Create Empowering Friendship Circles to learn what happened next.

Thank you Clog Blog for this great interview and opportunity!

author photoAUTHOR Bio and Links:

BRENDA RIDGLEY is an author, speaker, and girlfriend guru who loves helping women connect, find success, and discover joy through friendship.  Her mission is to start a movement: women coming together to build thousands of new Lady Tribes around the globe.  Through her workshops, vlogs, blogs, and book clubs, Brenda helps women connect and communicate with respect, love, and trust. She holds an MA in human resources and has spent decades cultivating her own Tribe.  A Colorado girl at heart, Brenda lives in the Carbon Valley area with her husband, Parker, two kids, Parker Jr. and Gillian, and pooch, Perry.  She enjoys hiking and has conquered Longs Peak and several other 14’ers.  

To connect with Brenda, visit her website at www.BrendaRidgley.com

Invite Brenda to speak at your next event: mailto:brenda@brendaridgley.com.

Order:  Lady and the Tribe  –  https://www.amazon.com/Lady-Tribe-Empowering-Friendship-Circles/dp/1737289709

Subscribe:

YouTube: @BrendaRidgley

Podcast: @TheConnectionConnoisseur   – https://www.podserve.fm/series/website/the-connection-connoisseur,3341/

Blog:  https://www.brendaridgley.com/blog

Follow:

Instagram: @BrendaRidgley —  https://www.instagram.com/brendaridgley/

Facebook: @BrendaRidgleyConnections – https://www.facebook.com/brendaridgleyconnections

Twitter: @BrendaRidgley

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GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE

Brenda Billings Ridgley will be awarding a Cape Diablo wrap bracelet and a $25 Amazon Gift Card (US ONLY) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f3929/

AuThursday – Carla Luna

Please welcome Carla Luna to The Clog Blog!  Carla, tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

My name is Carla Luna and I write contemporary romantic comedies that feature messy families, swoony romance, and steamy shenanigans. When I’m not writing, I work in a spice emporium and get paid to talk about recipes, which is why my stories often feature delicious food. Before I had kids, I worked as an archaeologist, but now I channel my wanderlust into the settings of my books. Though I was born in Los Angeles and grew up on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, I currently live in Wisconsin with my family. 

How do you make time to write? 

I squeeze it in late at night and on days when I don’t have to work. 

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

Yes, because I’ve experienced it before–usually when I’m stuck trying to figure out where I want my story to go. I find the best solution is to step away from my laptop and go for a nice long walk. If I let my mind wander, the ideas often come to me. 

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.

I love writing romantic comedy because it’s a genre I grew up watching. I love rom-coms from the 80s and 90s, like “You’ve Got Mail,” “Notting Hill,” and “When Harry Met Sally,” because they mix humor and emotion so well. I always hope that my stories will not only get my readers invested in the characters, but also provide them with a few laughs as well. 

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both) 

My current book, White Wedding, which comes out on November 16, is indie published. It’s the third book in the Blackwood Cellars Series, all of which are set at over-the-top destination weddings. I wrote all 3 during 2020, when I was desperate to get out of the house, but couldn’t go anywhere (like most of the world!). Once they were done, I decided I wanted full control and decided to indie publish them in 2021. 

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work? 

I’m an Introvert, which means I’m very happy sitting at my laptop and losing myself in my made-up world. Because I work in retail, I have to be around people a lot, so it’s always a relief to come home to the solace of my home office and write. 

What is your favorite motivational phrase? 

“The only way out is through” 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? 

Find a supportive community that you can bond with though all of the highs and lows of writing and publishing. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without the support of my writer friends. You can find like-minded writers all over–on Twitter, in Facebook groups, by offering to beta-read their books, and by participating in NaNoWriMo in November. 

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Website: https://www.carlalunabooks.com/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/casacullen 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarlaLunaAuthor 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/carlalunacullen/ 

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us? 

From Chapter 2 – Victoria, who works as an event planner for her family’s winery, is stuck coordinating her ex’s big Christmas wedding. When she meets with the caterer, she’s shocked to find out she already knows him. 

Victoria couldn’t do this. Tres Hermanos might have a great reputation but trusting an inexperienced caterer for her ex fiancé’s wedding was a wreck waiting to happen. Not to mention she and the caterer shared an intimate, personal history. 

She drained the rest of her water and set down the glass. “I’m sorry, Mr. Sanchez.” 

His dark eyes fixed on her, displaying a hint of annoyance. “Rafael.” 

“I’m sorry, Rafael. But this isn’t going to work. You’ve never managed an event on this scale, and I can’t have anything go wrong. There’s also the fact that—” 

“That we were lovers?” 

Lovers. Because he’d been more than a mindless vacation romp. During the two weeks they’d been together, she’d actually cared about him. 

Just not enough to tell him her real name. 

She cringed. “I was hoping you wouldn’t mention it. Or that it was a distant memory.” 

“I haven’t forgotten any of it.” 

She looked into his eyes, and it was evident he hadn’t. Despite his composure, he was no doubt remembering every passionate, tequila-soaked moment they’d spent together. 

He cleared his throat. “I wouldn’t have come if I’d known who you were, but now that I’m here, I don’t want to lose this chance. I’m a professional, and I’ll behave like one. No one will ever know about us.” His gaze darkened. “Wasn’t that how you wanted it, anyway?” 

She winced, remembering what she’d done to him. How she’d left him when he was sleeping, without ever giving him her real name, her number, or any way of tracking her down. 

This content is neither created nor endorsed by Google. 

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AuThursday – Floor Kist

TourBanner_Can Machines Bring Peace gifPlease welcome Floor Kist to the Clog Blog! 

Hi Tina, thank you so much for this interview and for taking the time off of your own writing. I’m really impressed by the diversity of worlds in your novels.

Floor, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Well, I live in a town called Voorburg in the Netherlands. It’s near The Hague. Wife, two kids, two cats and a dog named Monty. And I’ve always been involved in public service. At the moment, I’m an alderman in my town. That’s a member of the city executive council, along with the mayor and three other aldermen.

I think I surprised a lot of people when I wrote and published a science fiction novel.

How do you make time to write?

Planning! Just like for the most of us, I can spend time on a lot of different things. So, just making an appointment with yourself to write can really be help. And is really a wonderful gift to yourself.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I can relate to the moments that I don’t know if the story works or how it continues. I know I can get distracted by all the other things happening in my life. And I’m especially susceptible to wanting to start all the other books I want to write.

So, for me, real writer’s block is the one when I don’t know what to do next in the story. And when that happens, I take a good look at my characters and what motivates them. Because if one of my characters wants something badly enough, they will start moving to get there. Well motivated characters will always keep the story going.

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.

For some reason I prefer science fiction over fantasy. Both genres allow you to imagine wonderful worlds, but I guess I like the believable world that may actually happen, intrigues me most.

Jules Verne wrote a story about traveling to the moon, and one hundred years later we did. He wrote a story about an electric submarine, and twenty years later it was built. Isaac Asimov, at an auto show in the 60s, predicted the robocar, and now we are actually building them.

This is why I like science fiction.

How are you publishing your recent book and why? 

My novel is self-published. But that wasn’t my first choice. I had found three publishing houses where I believed my novel would fit. And I’d done my homework on what my audience would be like, so we could target them better. And it also seems that the best time to launch science fiction books is before the summer.

None of them replied. Not even a ‘thank you for your interest’ or ‘thank you, but no thank you’. Nothing, nada, niente.

I can even understand why: because there are about one hundred thousand books being published in the USA alone.

And the idea of spending a year and a half trying to reach a publisher and not hear anything back didn’t sound that appealing. So, I found my way to the Amazon self-publishing service.

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert?

A lot of people are surprised when I tell them I’m an introvert. And one of the most difficult things I’ve had to learn is to go ‘out there’ – even when everything inside me said ‘just stay home, it’s nice and warm here’.

I didn’t mean to overcome being an introvert, because I didn’t like being one. It’s just the way you are. But I did want to experience more than just staying home.

How does this affect your work?

Local politics is probably not where you go to meet introverts. As an introvert, I’m comfortable being me. So, a lot of criticism I get doesn’t affect my self-worth. And being an introvert also helps me talk to everyone in an open and honest way.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

“Even the longest journey starts with the first step.”

I love this phrase. It kept me motivated when I started writing. It kept me motivated when I was trying to make a serious career switch.

It says that no matter how far you want to go in your life, you need the courage or the ambition or the passion to take that first step in what will undoubtedly be a wonderful journey.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Finish your book! Once you start writing nothing else matters. Plan to write, even if it’s just half an hour a day.

Don’t worry about if anyone will like it, or if it’s any good, because that only counts once the book is finished. Don’t worry about how to publish your book; it can only be published once it’s done.

And please don’t fuss about typos. There is no universe in which there will not be typos in the final edition of your novel.

And when your work is done and you don’t think it’s any good or even if others don’t think it’s any good, there is the sheer reward of making something out of nothing, of creating something that wasn’t there before. And no one can ever take that away from you.

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

Cover_Can Machines Bring PeaceCan Machines Bring Peace?

by Floor Kist

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GENRE: Science Fiction

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BLURB:

Can a machine bring peace? Or are humans built for war?

450 years after Earth was bombed back to the Stone Age, a young diplomat searches for lost human settlements. Kazimir Sakhalinsk narrowly escapes an exploration mission gone wrong and searches for ways to make future missions safer for his people. A festival introduces him to the Marvelous Thinking Machine.

A machine Kazimir believes can change everything

For his admiral it’s nothing more than a silly fairground gimmick. But Kazimir is convinced. Convinced enough to go against orders and build one of his own. Convinced enough to think he can bring peace. Convinced enough to think humanity is worth saving. What if he’s wrong?

He asks his hikikomori sister, a retired professor filling her empty days, the owner of the festival machine and the admiral’s daughter for help. Will that be enough?

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NOTE: The book is $0.99.

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Excerpt :

Kazimir hears the beep-beep response to his beacon. The plane is overhead! His breath shortens as he peers through the night. Standard protocol states the plane will land at a safe landing zone within a kilometer radius of ground zero. If Kazimir can find the right direction, he may actually have a chance. There! The shape of the plane against a clouded moon is a beautiful sight. He is afraid to smile, but can’t help himself.

He follows it, stumbling over the thick roots of the trees. Quickly, he looks up.

There she is again. No. ‘That’s… that’s… black flag.’ That means the others are dead.

Standing against the tree, he retches. Cold sweat forms on his forehead and his back. He shouldn’t have left the settlement. He could have saved them. No. He would be dead too. Kazimir gags and coughs. He spits out the sour taste, and wipes his chin. ‘Yuck.’

He looks up, trying to control his breath. The twin rudders and the nose turret machine gun nozzle give the Ki-2 light bomber away. Kazimir has only seen it in the hangar of the Ryūjō. He remembers the pilot telling him about the 500-kilogram maximum bomb load. All headed towards the settlement.

The ground trembles with the explosion. Kazimir sees the red and yellow clouds grow against the dark sky. Seconds later, he hears the wheezing sound of the dropping bombs, followed by the roar of a thousand dragons. Sound travels at three hundred meters per second, so he must be about 300 meters away.

The hot blast wave that follows knocks him down. He hits his head on the root of the tree. ‘Stupid tree.’ He feels a sharp pain. Warm blood dribbles into his hair. Its metallic scent reaches his nose.

Sounds of the explosion die down.

Author Image Floor_KistAUTHOR Bio and Links:

Floor Kist lives in a Dutch town called Voorburg with his wife, two sons, two cats and their dog Monty. He is currently deputy-mayor for the Green Party and an AI researcher. He’s concerned about current divisive public and political debates. But he’s also interested in how AI can be used to resolve society’s big issues.

This is his first novel. He’s been carrying the idea about a story about AI bringing peace for a long time. The Covid-19 lockdown in the Netherlands suddenly gave him time to actually write it.

Link to website:

www.floorkist.nl/author

Link to ebook:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08XK42BMP

Link to paperback:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/151368115X

Blog:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21225715.Floor_Kist/blog

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GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE

Floor Kist will be awarding a $30 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

RAFFLECOPTER:

Enter to win a $30 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

AuThursday – Kim Findlay

_BAY4002-Kim_Findlay (1)Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m a (mostly retired) CPA who now lives on a sailboat in the Caribbean and writes romance novels. I’m a Canadian, and previously lived there all my life, mostly outside Toronto, but for 17 memorable and cold years in Winnipeg, which is where you wind up if you go north of North Dakota.

My husband is the sailor, and he suggested we try the cruising lifestyle. The carrot for me was time to write. So I closed my accounting business, and we headed south. I’ve learned a lot about living on a boat.

My first two published books were hockey romances with Harlequin Heartwarming in 2018. I have five books being published in 2021, one in 2022, and a short story in a holiday anthology in November. 

So for me, this has been an awesome change in lifestyle.

What genre are your books and what draws you to this genre?

I write contemporary romance. I do not have the imagination for paranormal or the patience for research for historical – though I enjoy reading those who do. I’ve always written stories in my head, and no matter what I start out thinking I’ll write, there always end up being two people falling in love. I think the draw might be that incredible feeling when those characters find their HEA. 

What are your current projects?6_MooU_Findlay_ebook_FINAL

I signed contracts for six books in 2020 and I’m just about done edits on the last one now. One was out in February, one in April, one in June, July, September and then January. I’ve submitted a proposal to Harlequin Heartwarming for three more books in the Cupid’s Crossing series. I’m fairly optimistic about the chances I have there. 

The non-Harlequin I released in April was part of Sarina Bowen’s World of the True North, featuring two college hockey players. Several people have asked for Cooper’s story (MMC’s friend) so I’m working on that, considering self publishing, and also a short story for the Christmas anthology featuring the FMC’s roommate Penny. 

Beyond that, I have about 20 stories battling for room in my brain, and I need to figure out which one to work on next!

Do you outline a plot or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you?

I do a kind of hybrid. I start with the idea, and let it lead me, but my brain normally gets ahead of my hands, so I’ll do a plot outline or synopsis so that I don’t forget what I’ve thought of. For proposals, they require a synopsis, so I’ve learned to get the story plot set down even if I can’t get much of the story itself written. But I have friends who plot out chapter by chapter, and I cannot even fathom that. My first draft is just one big thing, and I don’t break it down into chapters until I’ve gone through it several times.

How did you deal with Rejection Letters if you received any?

Are you a writer if you haven’t had a rejection?

I didn’t start querying, since I came into this a little differently, until after I’d been published. So after I work through the hurt feelings, resign myself to never being accepted by an agent or publisher again, sharing with my writing group (rejections are responded to with pics of hot men and women, and sometimes cute dogs) I remember that I have books out there, and I will again, if I’m willing to do the work. And since I don’t have an agent, I’m open to consider less traditional routes. I’m more aware of the fact that traditional publishing does have issues and limitations for writers, and I’m seriously considering self publishing.

Which means I can then look at dismal sales records to keep  my ego in check.

You are Traditionally published without an agent, how did that come about? 

Someone I knew wrote for Harlequin Romance. She seemed a normal person, but she was doing this. Writing, what I wanted to do! She would often post on social media about opportunities Harlequin had, including the annual So You Think You Can Write contest. I tried a couple of those, joined the forums to talk to other writers and writer wannabes. In 2016, I entered a Blitz Harlequin had for their Heartwarming line. My first chapter and synopsis led to a full request, which led to revisions, which led to “the call” and a two book deal, with of course, more revisions.

I really had no idea about the usual querying process at that time. Part of that was because I had so many ideas in my head, and not enough time to get them written that I didn’t have a complete manuscript, let alone a polished one. The Blitz meant that I had one project that had merit and I could focus on that.

I would still like to get an agent, because of writing opportunities that only exist for writers who have an agent. But mostly, I’d love to have someone look at all these ideas I have and say this is the one you should do. And then this one. Because focus is my problem. 

Since I was published with Harlequin, I have an editor, for whom all things Harlequin feed. I’ve got two Love Inspired Suspense titles coming out under the pen name Anne Galbraith this year, and that happened because I could approach my editor about an idea. 

And I’m now more aware that there are publishers you can approach without an agent. I’m working on some ideas for that now. 

Why was Traditional Publishing right for you vs. Self-Publishing?

A big part of that was because I knew nothing about self publishing. I still know very little, but I have a better idea of where to find the knowledge I need. It will require a big investment of time and some financial resources, but I’m considering it for a future option.

What I liked about traditional publishing was first, the validation. Someone, a professional in publishing, was willing to pay me money for something I wrote. As well, since I knew so little, I didn’t have to worry about the areas I was ignorant of, like covers and formatting. Harlequin especially, puts your books in hands because of the publisher, so it was an opportunity to get my writing out there, which I, with so little marketing knowledge and talent couldn’t do. 

And, as I mentioned before, I needed the focus. Someone else said, yes, that story. Finish it, because I want to read it. That was a big help. And the first edits I received? Were like getting a free class in writing craft. So much that I hadn’t thought of.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Obviously, write. A lot. You keep getting better. 

Also, read. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and from that I’ve learned the basic arc of a story without really working through from a how to book. As well, you’ll find comps, and learn what’s popular and not in your genre. There are books out there that can help you refine your writing skills, or marketing skills or whatever you’re needing.

Find people. I found a great group when I did #RevPit on twitter. We share opportunities and information on agents and publishers. We critique for each other, cheer-lead, and in case of R’s, post pictures of hot people to inspire and console. Writing is a solitary thing, so even if you don’t want to share your work, sharing your experiences with someone who’s been there helps.

Be willing to risk. Putting your work out there is a risk. Getting rejections hurts. But try something new, like sending something to a publisher without using an agent. Enter a contest like #PitMad or #RevPit, and see what happens. 

Finally, persevere. It’s not going to be easy. There are going to be rejections that make you want to curl up in a hole and never come out. Even if you get published, there will be hurtful reviews and one star ratings. But if you want to get your stories out into the world and find the readers that are going to say they love your characters, you have to pick yourself up and try again.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

www.kimfindlay.ca is my website. On facebook, KimFindlayAuthor. My twitter ID is @missheyer74, and on Instagram you can see pretty pictures of the Caribbean and my dog at authorkimfindlay. 

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

Here’s an excerpt from A Valentine’s Proposal, which came out in February. It’s the first book in the Cupid’s Crossing series. Nelson and Mariah are fake dating, for reasons, and she’s suggested they practice kissing in private so they’re able to make a convincing show in public.

9781335179760Nelson looked at Mariah, her cheeks slightly pink, her gaze on her notebook (had she actually researched bad kissing?) and her teeth biting her bottom lip. Maybe it was all this talk of kissing, but right now, he wanted to kiss Mariah.

         Not theoretical, pretty woman, kissing would be great, but kissing the woman sitting there, the one trying to make kissing an item on her list, something they could practice in order to demonstrate to people that they were falling for each other.

         Maybe some people kissed like that. But Nelson never had. He didn’t kiss for anyone but himself and the woman he was interested in. He wanted to kiss Mariah but kiss her so that she wanted to kiss him again, not to impress anyone else or critique his technique.

         He was going to make her love his kisses.

         Being overeager was something that would be on the bad kissing list, so Nelson shrugged.

         “Okay, then. Let’s do it.” He patted the couch beside him.

         He watched Mariah. He saw her swallow. Her teeth were scraping her lip now. She set her computer and notebooks down on the floor beside her chair.

         “I guess we should go ahead and get this taken care of.”

         Was she nervous? She totally was.

         “Mark it off your list.”

         She narrowed her eyes, looking like she suspected something. He smiled back at her.

         “Come on. No time like the present. Then I can get back to the game.”

         Her shoulders snapped back, and her teeth were no longer worrying her lip. He held back a grin. Unless he mistook the expression on her face, she was determined that he wasn’t going to shrug off this kiss and turn on the TV.

         Good. They were on the same page about this.

         She stood and crossed to the couch, dropping on the cushion beside him. He watched the expressions swirling over her face. She was staring at his lips, and leaned forward, starting to pucker. He could almost read the checklist in her mind.

         Unh uh. Kissing wasn’t a checklist.

         He put a hand on her cheek, soft under his palm, and kept her at a distance.

         “Hold on, Mariah. You all but accused me of being a bad kisser. I can’t have that. We’re going to do this right.”

         Her brow creased. “What do you mean?”

         His thumb brushed over her cheek. She blinked. His other hand brushed her arm, fingers running up and down from shoulder to wrist and back. Her gaze followed his hand, her expression confused.

         His fingers slid up her shoulder, across to her neck, gently stroking. He felt her soften under his touch. Soon he had both hands cradling her face. She drew in a breath, watching him intently. He caressed her bottom lip with one thumb, and her mouth parted.

         Bingo.

         He leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead. Her skin was warm and smooth under his lips. Her perfume tickled his nose, and he could hear her breathing. He felt his own speed up. Mariah’s eyes fluttered closed as his lips traced a path down her nose, across her cheek, to one corner of the delectable lips.

         She sighed, relaxing fully into his hold.

         Then he touched her lips with his, softly. He pulled away, just enough to catch his breath, and she moved closer, seeking more.

         He pressed forward again, brushing his lips against hers, back and forth, as she pushed closer to him. His hands slid into her hair, and hers moved up his chest, gripping his sweater.

         Now he increased the pressure, feeling the texture of her lips, the brush of her breath, the slight moan that escaped her.

         Or maybe that was him. Because kissing Mariah was a pleasure he’d have hated to miss.