Chasing the Wild Sparks
Wild Sparks Series #1
by Ren Alexander Genre: Contemporary Romance
Throwing down the marriage gauntlet has never been so wild.Thirty-something paralegal, Hadley Beckett and charismatic, local sportscaster/daredevil, Finn Wilder, disagree about how they should share their lives together. Having been together for three years, Finn increasingly pressures Hadley to move in with him, but being unusually traditional, she wants to be married first, adhering to her moral beliefs, just as he clings to his own religious upbringing when it comes to procreating with her. Each is unwilling to negotiate or concede marriage to the other. Complicating matters is Finn’s seemingly double life, keeping his private life hidden to the point of convincing his viewers—Finnatics—and even his coworkers, he’s single, amid Hadley’s objections. Yet despite their immense disparities, they are determined to make their relationship work, even if it means Hadley has to take their future into her own hands.
Then again, Finn Wilder has his own story to tell.
“Some of these people here are scary as hell, Hadley.”
“Morgan, get off of me!”
“The closer I am to you, the further these people are from me.”
“Honestly, I think you’re being a tad dramatic, don’t you think?”
“Not a chance. I should’ve stopped by an urgent care on the way here and got myself a damned tetanus shot.” I nudge her away and she scornfully asks, “Where’s your man anyway?”
I impatiently state the obvious, “He’s racing on his dirt bike, Morgan. Where in the hell has your mind been all this time?” I sigh as I crane my neck to see if I can see him anywhere. It was such a mistake bringing my best friend with me. She definitely isn’t cut out for live sporting events. If it’s not college football or basketball on TV, she’s not interested. My longtime boyfriend, Finn Wilder, is participating in a dirt bike race about half an hour outside of where we live in Richmond, Virginia. In the past, he’s raced in amateur motocross events, but today, he’s racing for charity, not to mention the event is being covered by the very same Richmond TV station where he is their star sportscaster. When he’s not risking his life.
“I’ve been here. I’ve just been distracted by Ma and Pa Kettle over here fighting over the last dip of snuff!” she criticizes loudly, turning up her nose and leaning onto me again, clutching my arm tighter.
“Morgan!” I hiss, looking past her to see if anyone heard her mouth. She drags her wavy, dark hair with one hand, draping it over a shoulder, using it as a privacy barrier between her and the riff-raff, as she referred to them earlier. “Why did you come with me if you don’t want to be here?”
“Something to do while Ivan is working.” She cringes as she’s jostled. Ivan’s her personal trainer, as well as her boyfriend who works at the gym we belong to. “Excuse you!” she shouts to a group of kids walking down the wooden bleachers.
“Morgan, stop!” I again shake her off and stand to see if I can see Finn’s black and blue bike. Morgan tugs on my arm and I plop back down beside her.
“What?” I edgily ask.
“Have you talked to Finn?” she asks, digging into her purse.
“Hadley, do not play dumb with me. You know what I’m talking about.” I glance down at her duffle bag-sized designer purse as she continues to rummage through it. Oh, yes. Talking to Finn. Nope. Not looking forward to that.
“I did not,” I say, returning my attention to the track.
“Why not? There it is!” I look over at her to see she's holding a silver compact. “Now to find my lipstick.”
“I have a couple questions. One: Why do you have a purse that big if you can never find anything in it? Two: Why do you need lipstick at a racing event?” Morgan’s mouth drops open and she gives me a look that’s a cross between incredulity and disgust. She rolls her eyes and hands me the mirror.
“Here, hold this. I can’t believe you actually asked me that question, Hadley Beckett,” she scolds and recommences excavating her bag. “A woman must always look her best, no matter where they are.” She stops searching and gives me a roaming, disapproving look. “You should try it sometime.”
Miffed, I automatically look down at my clothes. I’m wearing a light blue t-shirt with small, dark blue sequins scattered throughout, and blue jeans. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” I ask, confusion painting my tone.
I assess what she’s wearing: a dark blue blouse with dramatic ruffles cascading down the front, khaki capris, and brown-heeled sandals. Her outfit’s very classy, as usual for Morgan, but not practical for watching a motorcycle race.
“It’s not just your clothes,” she distractedly answers towards her purse. I tug at my light brown ponytail self-consciously and scowl at her. “What do you mean?”
“Please, girl. Have you seen your boyfriend lately?” I glance to the track at the mention of him, but from where we’re sitting, I can’t see my #35 yet.
“I see him often.” I grab her purse and put it on the other side of me.
“I want you to tell me what you mean by that statement. You can’t just say that and expect me to not want you to explain yourself.”
“I mean that you look as homeless as some of these people sitting here.”
“Shit, Morgan! Keep your voice down!” I loudly whisper, imploring her as I look around us.
“Oh, who cares?” Morgan dismisses the people around her with a wave of her hand, her orchid nail polish shining in the sunlight. She lifts up her dark sunglasses so I can see into her dusky brown eyes. “I mean, you’re dressed rather plainly. You have a hotter-than-fuck boyfriend. You should be dressing up your equally hot, little body so it doesn’t look like he’s dating a 12-year old.” My mouth pops open at her observation. “You also could use some more makeup and a cuter haircut.” Her eyes float down to my fingers. “And stop wearing black nail polish. You’re not in a satanic cult, a heavy metal band, or a victim of teen angst.”
“Morgan Yates!” I shriek, but the sound of roaring dirt bikes drown out my protest. A flurry of motorcycles emerges through the small tree grove the track snakes in between, and I, along with everyone else in the stands, minus Morgan, jump up and cheer. She reaches around me to snag back her purse.
Finn’s bike is near the front, so I squeal as I hop up and down, clapping around Morgan’s compact still in my hand. The riders begin their last circuit and we all take our seats again.
She says, “You didn’t answer my question, bitch.”
I irritably scoff, “After all of your gushing flattery concerning the clothes I’m wearing and my overall horrid appearance, I forget what you asked.” I glance down at my shiny, black-polished nails before I curl my fingers under my hand. What’s wrong with my nail polish?
“You know I love you, Hadley. I’m only trying to help you keep your man.”
I morosely glower at her. “I don’t need help.” Do I?
“Really? So how come you won’t answer me? Why haven’t you talked to Finn?”
I sigh heavily and slump my shoulders. “Because we’ve had similar talks in the past, Morgan. He doesn’t want to get married. He has said that repeatedly.”
“Hadley, you’ve been dating him for three years and living apart from each other, at that. When are you two going to grow up and stop the weekend-only fuck fests?”
I wince. “Do you have to put it that way?”
“Don’t tell me that isn’t what you and that fine specimen aren’t doing every weekend,” she poses dubiously.
“No, we knit,” I mutter and look away from her. I practically hear her rolling her eyes at me.
“You need to talk to him again, Hadley. Three years is enough for you to have wasted your time on a man who isn’t going to commit to you or give you the children that you want. You’re 33-years old. Won’t he be 34 in a few months?” I swing my head back to her and nod. “His sperm will last forever. You, on the other hand,” she raises an eyebrow and shakes her head sadly, “are in a time crunch. Those eggs of yours aren’t going to wait around forever, you know.” So says the woman who is almost four years younger than me.
Annoyed, I reply, “I know this, Morgan. It’s all I think about lately, but I can’t force him to change his mind and propose.”
“Then, you do it.”
“No. I can’t do that because I know what his answer will be.” He’d reject me without a second thought.
“Well, you have your answer then. If he said no to your proposal, then you would break up with him and move on.”
“With whom? I’m in love with Finn. He’s all I want.” I stare at her waiting for her to elaborate, her dark skin glowing in the sun, no doubt from wearing a dark color on an unseasonably warm, mid-April day.
“He is not all you want. You want a marriage and kids. He doesn’t. But for some ridiculous reason, you let him string you along, and who knows how long he’ll do that to you. He may never grow a pair. It could be indefinitely, Hadley. I don’t want that for you. You need to give him an ultimatum.”
I shake my head furiously at her. “I won’t do that to him. I know he loves me. He just…” I aimlessly look to the track as we wait for them to finish the race.
She finishes my sentence with what I was not going to say. “He's just getting his milk for free.”
I look over at her, frowning. “Thanks for calling me a cow.”
Morgan laughs, but the smile soon fades from her face. “You are so stubborn,” she accuses me. She sighs. “Remind him of what you want. You deserve happiness. Talk to him, Hadley. Your eggs are going to dry up and blow away.” I know. That’s what I’m afraid of each passing day.
“Talk to who?” a familiar voice asks from above me. I angle my head up, squinting, to see my friend Rod.
“Nothing,” I dismissively mumble, looking down as he scoots closer to me.
“Come on, Hadders. What’s up? Sorry, I’m late. I had to do a couple things and they ran over.”
“It’s a Saturday, Rod. What the hell were you doing?” Morgan asks, pushing me forward so she can see him.
He taunts her, “None of your bees’ wax. Are you going to cast a spell on me now?” Morgan reaches behind me and punches Rod’s arm.
“Ow!” he cries, rubbing where she hit. “You’re a lawyer, Morgan! You should know that’s assault and battery!”
She starts to protest, but I sit back and put my arms out to restrain the both of them. “Come on, you two! Cut it out!”
He clutches my shoulder. “What’s going on with you, Hadders? Is your man losing the race? I know what you could do to make him feel better,” he merrily insinuates.
“Shut up, Rod.”
“What? I was going to say buy him an ice cream cone! Damn! You’re bitchier than your friend Morgan over there. Are you on your period?” I shove Rod as he shakes his head, his short, brown hair lightly blowing in the breeze. He laughs while looking over at Morgan, who flips him off.
Those two are natural-born frenemies. I know there is some love there, but not a lot of it lost, either. I’m always the buffer. I love them both, yet it does get tiring refereeing their fights.
Greg Rodwell has been a friend of ours, mostly mine, since he started at the law firm where Morgan and I work, Rhodes, Dryden, Charleton & Associates, about two and a half years ago. She’s a lawyer and I’m a paralegal for one of the partners, Val Dryden, while Rod assists Amos Vaughn. Rod’s first name is in fact, Greg, but nobody has called him that since Morgan started dubbing him as Rod shortly after being hired as a paralegal. Now, everyone calls him Rod at work, even Fred the mailman and the people who work in the building’s cafeteria.
He sneers to Morgan, “By the way, cool shades. It’s so nice seeing you out in the daylight with the rest of us lowly mortals. I thought you’d be sleeping in a coffin, or hanging upside down from a tree branch or a belfry. What gives, Elvira?”
“I’m here supporting my best friend and her boyfriend, Ass Rod.”
He huffs, “Name calling. How mature of you, Morbid.”
I intervene, “Please! You two are acting like bratty children!” Leaning forward, I rest my head in my hands.
Rod bumps my arm with his. “What were you talking about before I got here?”
“Hadley won’t give Finn an ultimatum,” Morgan interjects before I can blow him off again.
He asks, “An ultiwhatum? I’ve never heard of that one before. I’ve heard of a rusty trombone, a Hot Carl, a Dirty Sanchez, and an Abe Lincoln, but not whatever you just said. Does Wilder do it to you or do you do it to him?”
I immediately straighten. “Oh, my God! Shut up!” I demand as I move closer to Morgan.
“That’s disgusting,” Morgan says as she finally takes her compact out of my hand. “You would know that shit.”
“What shit?” Rod asks innocently, genuinely looking confused.
Instead of elaborating, I answer Rod's original question, “Morgan wants me to tell Finn that either we get married or break up.”
Ren Alexander was born in Wheeling, West Virginia. She graduated from West Liberty University, where she received a B.S. in criminal justice. Although interested in that field, her true passion was reading and writing. She currently lives in Detroit, Michigan with her husband, two daughters, and two cats. "Chasing the Wild Sparks" is Ren's first novel.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
Unique or quirky. Hmm. I’m right-handed but can only drive with my left. Weird, I know. I write my best/intense scenes in the dark. The smell of peaches or cucumbers makes me gag big time. The artificial scents are even worse than the smell of real peaches.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I grew up in several places in West Virginia’s northern panhandle, but I lived the longest in both Bethany and Wheeling and attended West Liberty State College (now University), graduating with a degree in Criminal Justice.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I loved writing the most in middle school and my middle school language arts teacher, Mrs. Mains, told me I should be a writer. I loved hearing that, but I fell out of writing in high school some until college. My Freshman English professor encouraged me to write more since she enjoyed my daily journal entries we had to turn in to her. She either laughed or cried, which was a huge compliment. From there, I took a creative writing class, where I learned a thing or two. I was going to major in English, but I didn’t really know what I could do with an English degree, besides becoming a teacher, which I didn’t want to do. I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know how far I could get with that career since it seemed unobtainable. I didn’t even keep my stories or journal entries because I thought I’d never get anywhere and I was wasting my time.
I loved law enforcement, but I also didn’t want to be a police officer, instead working behind the scenes or along with the police. So, that’s what I ultimately decided to pursue in college, hoping to get a job, but it also was an uphill climb to get anywhere in the field.
After working for a medical insurance company and being assigned to write the remarks on EOBs, I became a certified medical transcriptionist, which oddly, has led me to transcribing police reports. So, that’s where I am right now amidst my writing.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
Ooh. I’ve thought about that. I think out of all my books, The Keys to Jericho or UNSCREWED would be good as movies, whereas my Wild Sparks books would be good as a series on HBO or Netflix. Just a thought for anyone out there with connections.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
On the way to one of my book signings, two of my friends and I visited Richmond, Virginia, the home of my Wild Sparks series, and then the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia, which is also featured in that series. It was surreal being in the places I wrote about. I felt like my books were coming to life in a way. I loved it.
Do you have a favorite movie?
One of my favorite movies of all time is Honeymoon in Vegas with Nicholas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker. Such a great and underrated movie. I also love Wedding Crashers, and Girls’ Trip.
What inspired you to write this book?
My most current book, UNSCREWED, is so out of my comfort zone, but it’s also my favorite character’s story, Greg Rodwell. He’s a funny guy with a big heart, who has serious problems buried beneath the surface that nobody ever expected. Nothing really specific inspired me to write it, except that Greg needed to tell his story. It’s not pretty, perfect, or always funny. In all actuality, his story is probably the most tragic of all my characters.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
It took a while but one of the main characters, Finn Wilder, is a sportscaster/daredevil who has his own sports segment on Fridays called the Wild Side. As I was writing the second book, Daring the Wild Sparks, it became apparent that his name would dominate the series. I can’t give it all away, but by reading the series, you’d figure out why or how it got its name.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I wanted UNSCREWED to be so much longer, but I tend to let my books run away from me like that. Beckoning the Wild Sparks is huge at around 700 pages I think. The Keys to Jericho is slightly shorter.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
A lot more real than fiction.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
That I would dismantle my Wild Sparks series with one paragraph from UNSCREWED.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story? Convince us why you feel your book is a must-read.
Oh, hell yes. I always have an outline. But when I write, usually about halfway through, all that is blown apart, especially Greg Rodwell. He has such a mind of his own. It’s like he takes over my brain and I just type what he says. Seriously. Most of the time I have no idea what he will say or do. That’s the beauty/horror of writing him. UNSCREWED is a book I was terrified to write for four years now and it is the most challenging book I have written so far. It took me way out of my comfort zone, but his story needed to be told authentically and as raw as possible. His story will make you laugh, yell, cry, and question what the hell is happening. I questioned it at every turn. Underneath his silly exterior lies a deeply traumatized soul. Finding the balance of the light and the dark was a struggle, but I’m immensely proud of the book, no matter how difficult it was to write and it will be to read.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
The end. It’s earth-shattering and mind-blowing. I did not expect any of it.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
Mostly beforehand in the outline, but some will pop up here and there as I go. The major ones, though, are well-thought out ahead of time.
Pen or typewriter or computer?
It used to be pencil when I was in grade school. By college, it was typewriter that soon transitioned to a computer. I don’t know how I did it before the computer came along!
What makes a good story?
A story that sucks you in and refused to let you go, even after you finished. It will stick to you for days, sometimes weeks, and often you want to go back and read parts of it or the whole thing again. Those are my favorites.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
It never used to be until recently, but Facebook and my damn phone. I’m constantly checking FB because that’s how I communicate with my PA, who lives in Canada. I’m a slave to distraction. I would get so much more done if I didn’t stop to check FB, my messages, or just to procrastinate in general. I do that especially when hitting a difficult section of my book, which UNSCREWED had a ton. I need to be better about ignoring all the crap and just writing.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
When I started out, I wrote three books in about four months, and they’re LONG books, like 200,000 plus words. My latest UNSCREWED is one of my smaller ones and it took twice as long due to the story and the increased amount of distractions. Refer back to the previous question/answer.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
More than the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Abominable Snowman altogether. The struggle is friggin’ real.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” It’s my life’s motto. I do my own thing and ignore the trends or what people tell me I should be doing. I’m not them. I’m Ren Alexander, not Author A or Author B, and I’m truer to myself than anyone else could be in my place. I tell the stories that need to be told, whether they’re commercial or not. Don’t really care about that aspect, even if I should.
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