Schedule and Assignments
June 13--Colorimetry (Book spotlight post, Snippet from a chapter in the book)
June 14--Faithfully Bookish (Review***, Author Interview (SLB Tours asks the questions))
June 15--Singing Librarian Books (Book spotlight post, Author Interview (SLB Tours asks the questions), Authors top 10 favorites, Snippet from a chapter in the book)
June 16--Getting Your Read On (Review)
June 17--Simple Harvest Reads (Book spotlight post)
June 20--Toni Shiloh Prayerfully-Lifted Romance (Review, Snippet from a chapter in the book) | Bukwurmzzz (Review***)
June 21--Wishful Endings (Authors top 10 favorites)
June 22--Zerina Blossom's Books (Author Interview (SLB Tours asks the questions), Snippet from a chapter in the book) | Katie's Clean Book Collection (Review, Snippet from a chapter in the book)
June 23--Red Headed Book Lady (Review***)
June 24--Smiling Book Reviews (Review***, Author Interview (SLB Tours asks the questions), Authors top 10 favorites)
Note: For those of you including a snippet in your post. There is a snippet from each of the three books in this series. Feel free to use any of them in your post.
Note: If there is a star next to your "Review***" that indicates that you are reviewing all three books in the series. Thanks.
From a stranger in a parking garage to Secret Service agents, surprise chases Lily around every corner. In the midst of the chaos, she has two constants - her longtime faith in God and her growing attraction for a silver-eyed trooper.
The Books in the Series
Heather Gray loves coffee, God, and her family – not necessarily in that order! She enjoys people who embrace God even when life is hard and who aren't afraid to laugh out loud. Like her, the characters she writes are flawed…but loved anyway.
(Insert interview here or include the interview via SLB Tours below.)
1. How did you get started as an author? What or whom inspired you?
“You should think about writing. That eulogy you wrote was something else.”
It was the week after my daughter’s memorial service, and I was having lunch with a friend. My world had been turned upside down and sideways, and I was walking around in a fog of confusion and pain.
Those words, though, they resonated deep down in my soul. Writing had been my friend for as long as I could remember. Sorting through emotions – messy or otherwise – was always easier with a pen in my hand. Fiction wouldn’t be that different…right?
I went home and started writing that very afternoon.
Five months later, I had my first book contract.
I know that’s not a normal story. People don’t just one day decide to become a writer, and nobody gets a contract as quickly as I did.
All I can say is that it’s from God. It’s as though God Himself wrapped it up in paper, tied a bow on it, and handed it to me. “Here. This is going to help you.” Writing will always be this spectacular gift that God gave me during a very dark and difficult time in my life. I hope I always treasure it as much as I do right now and that, in everything I write, I remember the Giver of this gift and that I honor Him with every word I write.
2. What writing project are you currently working on? What can you tell us about these projects?
An Informal Date will be out in September as part of the Falling In Love box set, and An Informal Affair will see publication in March 2017. That one’s also going to be in a box set, but we’re still working on a name for that set.
In An Informal Date, we run into Dr. Owen Pratt. He had a small part in An Informal Christmas, and now we get to step into his world and get to know him better. He’s a medical researcher with a very by-the-books personality – which lends itself to a chuckle or two when he starts to fall for Kimi, a bohemian artist who works at a coffee kiosk. Of course, there’s a lot more to Kimi than meets the eye, but I don’t want to give the whole story away… ;)
An Informal Affair involves an ER nurse, an IT guy, and an online dating experience for the books. Or maybe the newspaper. Definitely the newspaper – in the comics section, of course.
3. What authors inspire your writing?
That’s such a tricky question! I almost feel like I’m going to insult somebody by not naming them. Of course, I could prevent that by only naming classical authors who are long-since dead. I admit - I do like Geoffrey Chaucer.
However, when it comes to modern writing, my inspirations are mostly contemporary.
I love the way Karen Kingsbury develops her characters. It’s subtle and yet oh-so-intricate. I aspire to master character development like she has.
I enjoy Steven James and the natural rhythm of life that his characters experience. His plots unfold at a pace that keeps you on the edge of your seat but still feels entirely natural. He keeps the tension high without making his readers tense, and that, too, is a skill I admire.
When it comes to humor, I think of Rene Gutteridge. She doesn’t publish as much as she used to, but she’s fantastic at bringing the hilarity of everyday life to the printed page.
4. What period of history interests you the most? Does this influence your writing?
Is this a good time to admit that I minored in history in college? Honestly, I really do enjoy most periods in history, but my favorite is the medieval period. Oddly enough, I’ve not written anything that takes place in medieval times, and I have no plans to do so in the future. I can’t say why exactly. I’ve written western romances and regency romances, but medieval…I’m not sure. I don’t see a direct influence of history on my contemporary fiction-writing, but I will say this: The ideals that we like in history are the same ideals that we embrace in our world today. Honor, hard work, defense and protection of the weak and innocent. In days of old that might have looked like a knight on a horse, but in today’s world those same ideals can show up in a police officer, a doctor, or a homeless person. Gallantry is a bit part of what shapes modern romance novels, and I do think that can be traced back in literature all the way to the medieval period.
5. What inspired the idea for An Informal Introduction?
I attended a writing conference in 2014. As I drove home, my radio kept dropping stations (because I’d driven out of range) and picking up new ones (because I’d driven into range). It seemed like every time a new station filled the air waves, it played the same song. I must have heard Dierks Bentley and “I Hold On” a dozen times on that fourteen-hour drive. I don’t even normally listen to country music, but that song captured my imagination and got me to wondering.
Could I write a hero who was steadfast, loyal, and solid like that? Could he be all those things and not be boring? (After all, nobody wants a too-perfect hero.) What would his romance story look like if she didn’t swoon at his feet the first time they met? How would he convince her they were meant for one another?
By the time I made it home from that conference, I knew my hero inside and out. It took a few more months before I started to get an inkling of who my heroine might be, though. She was a little more complicated. She needed to be someone who wanted to follow God but who was having a hard time hearing Him in this situation, and she needed to have spunk so her personality wouldn’t get swallowed up by the hero’s.
Eventually, An Informal Introduction made its way onto paper (or the computer screen). They were a fun couple to write, and I enjoyed being able to bring their story to life.
6. What other hobbies do you enjoy when you are not writing?
Ha! Who has time for anything else?
I homeschool a teenager, but his classes are primarily online now, so I’ve been relegated to supervision and moral support.
I volunteer at a couple different activities, such as my church’s community food pantry.
I read, I play Sudoku, and I’m great at bossing people around. (Now if I could just get them all to listen and do what I say…) ;)
Life is busy and full, and I’m content. Plus, I don’t think I could squeeze anything else into my schedule, so there’s that, too. ^_^
Favorite quote: “You cannot amputate your history from your destiny, because that is redemption.” (Beth Moore)
Favorite candy: Chocolate
Favorite flower: Tulip (red, of course)
Favorite season: Fall
Favorite movie: My Fair Lady
Favorite comic book character: Batman
Favorite place to visit: A friend’s home. Any friend, really. I’m easy to please like that.
Favorite Restaurant: Any of them. (Hey, if I don’t have to do the cooking or the cleaning up afterward, I love, whatever it serves and wherever it is.)
Favorite author: This changes all the time, but then I change, too, as do my tastes. Right now it’s Steven James. Ask me again in six months, and we’ll see if I have anything different to say. ^_^
Favorite holiday: Christmas
Book 1: An Informal Christmas
Rylie ran for the elevator. A man in a faded denim jacket stood inside with the back curve of his left shoulder facing her. He didn’t acknowledge her high-speed sprint in his direction. Nor did he stop the two brushed steel panels from sliding closed between them.
She thought of pushing the button and forcing the doors to reopen. Honestly, though, did she want to get stuck in a metal box with a man who didn’t care about basic courtesy toward his fellow mankind? Not likely. Rylie huffed out an exasperated breath as she started up the stairs. Three flights up. It could be worse.
With a shove to the door, she exited the stairwell and stood on a narrow landing with skylights above and a view of the hospital’s lobby below. Ten steps to the left, and she broke through to the hallway-of-no-return. Nobody came up to this floor unless they worked in one of the three departments exiled here. The first door belonged to the chaplaincy. The second led to the main office for the hospital social workers. The third door, decorated with construction paper butterflies and cotton ball caterpillars, was home sweet home — Child Life.
“I can’t believe how rude people have become!” Rylie vented about the man in the elevator as she stepped past the colorful decorations and into her domain. Suzie, the part-time department head who kept their ship running tighter than junior size spandex on a burly linebacker, wasn’t at her desk. Their offices were anything but spacious, though, so she was likely still within hearing distance. After all, what was a good venting without someone to listen?
“I was running for the elevator, but the guy inside didn’t even wait for me. He let the doors slide closed. Because obviously it wasn’t big enough for two of us.” She left out the part about his back being to her. Absolving him of guilt wasn’t high on her priority list at the moment.
Suzie emerged from The Vault, a nether region of their office used for storage. She dusted her hands off and frowned at Rylie. “We have company.” She waved at the man following behind her. “This is Mr. York. He brought several boxes of stuffed animals for our kids.”
No way. Not… Lots of guys wore denim jackets, right? It couldn’t be the same…
“Sorry about the elevator. I got wedged into position by my dolly. I thought I heard someone calling, but by the time I turned myself around, the doors were closed and I was on my way up here.” His voice reminded her of a lemon tart, decadent smoothness with a sharp aftertaste. For some reason, she found herself tempted to savor the sound rather than pucker. Too bad her mind was already made up about him. He might have proven interesting.
Book 2: An Informal Arrangement
Holden tried to twist around in the chair to see her, but she was lost in the shadows. “I keep a spare key hidden in a ceramic frog by my back door. If you climb up on top of the air conditioning unit on the side of the house, it’s easy to get over the fence.”
“Are you for real?”
He patted his chest and arms. “I think so. At least, I feel real, but I suppose if I wasn’t real, I might think I was anyway.”
“How long have you lived around here?”
“Four years. Long enough to build a business but not so long that I’ve lost my countrified ways.”
“Did someone forget to tell you that only crazies hide keys? People are skilled at finding those. You’re lucky the place hasn’t been burglarized.” That had to be the same voice she used to lecture patients on the importance of brushing their teeth. Compassionate and incredulous.
Holden shrugged. “I’m notorious for locking myself out. I had a choice. Put a key somewhere outside or put the locksmith on retainer.”
She hopped off the side of his porch rather than try to get back by his wheelchair. “I’m still not convinced you’re for real. If it turns out you’re a closet serial killer, I don’t want to be groomed as your partner or anything. Got it?”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll cancel the order for the serial killer training manual.”
The sound of her shoes on the air conditioning unit was loud in the still night. She grunted as she pulled herself up over the fence. Then the muttering started. “It had to be a frog. Couldn’t be a cute puppy, could it?”
Book 3: An Informal Introduction
As if the flashing lights in her rearview mirror weren’t enough, the trooper turned on the siren, too. Lily cringed and slid down in her seat like a teenager hiding from prying eyes. Of course, her teen years were long behind her, and any eyes intent on prying would need night vision goggles to see her. The sun hadn’t yet kissed the eastern horizon.
She slowed and sought a place to pull over, no small feat on this narrow stretch of Lee Highway. Spotting a patch of grass to her right, she steered her silver two-door sedan as far over as she could and cut the engine. Her fingers drummed a rhythmless beat on the steering wheel as she waited for the trooper. He was probably busy checking with dispatch to make sure she wasn’t a mass murderer. Because, clearly, rampaging homicidal maniacs drove nondescript cars on the way to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning.
In all her years traversing this road, Lily had never seen a state trooper on this particular stretch. Until today. Good thing she’d left early for work.
Thank you, God, for getting me up and out the door when You did.
The trooper climbed out of his cruiser and approached her parked vehicle. She hit the button and listened to the almost imperceptible hum as her window slid down. The grey of his uniform would have blended into the night were it not for the illumination of his headlights and his car-mounted spotlight. As it happened, they blinded her enough that she couldn’t catch much more than the color of his clothes and a hint of his shape.
“License and registration, please.” The voice was impatient. Tired, too. He was probably at the end of his shift, which meant she had little chance of winning the argument, but she wouldn’t let that stop her from trying.
“I wasn’t speeding.”
“License and registration, please.”
So much for the serve part of public service.
“Can you at least tell me why you pulled me over?”
“Give me your license and registration, ma’am.”
Heat swept through Lily. It’s not like she’d asked a difficult question. “How do I even know you’re a state trooper and not some crazed rapist who’s trying to get my address so he can break into my home?”
The trooper’s shadowed mouth hinted at a smile, and his eyes morphed from intense pinpoints to… Hm. Eyes couldn’t be huggable, could they?
Who was she kidding? She couldn’t even see his eyes. Her imagination had to be on overdrive.
“Well, ma’am, most people consider those flashing red and blue lights as proof enough that I’m one of the good guys, but if it would make you feel better, I’d be happy to go turn the siren back on, too. I doubt crazed rapists announce themselves with police sirens.” Now that he was speaking in actual sentences, Lily picked up a hint of honeyed Southern drawl dancing along the edge of his words. She never could resist Southern charm — real or imagined.
(Insert review with FTC disclosure here.)
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June 14--Faithfully Bookish
June 15--Singing Librarian Books
June 16--Getting Your Read On
June 17--Simple Harvest Reads
June 20--Toni Shiloh Prayerfully-Lifted Romance | Bukwurmzzz
June 21--Wishful Endings
June 22--Zerina Blossom's Books | Katie's Clean Book Collection
June 23--Red Headed Book Lady
June 24--Smiling Book Reviews
SLB Tour Kits will be posted here by the Friday before the tour begins.