Dragonfly Dance Mercy Mountain Series Book 1 by Becca Maxton Genre: Contemporary Romance
Some things are worth the wait…
Ben Mannis never got to be young, wild, and free. Both his parents died when he was 20, leaving him a ranch to run and younger siblings to raise. Now 42, life—and love—seems to have passed him by. Not that he’s complaining, the town is his family and he’s been too busy to fret a missing love-life. When he’s asked by the newspaper editor to show the Gazette’s owner around the local area for a few days, Ben is happy to oblige. Little does he know everything he’s missed out on is arriving wrapped in one sophisticated leggy, blonde package.
Catherine Kendall wants to live her creative dream and not the dictated life her father has assigned. As the only child, she’s been groomed to run the family publishing empire. Trouble is, she hates the news business, hates the city, and longs to live near mountains and indulge in becoming a sculptor. So, while the town thinks she’s come to inspect the Gazette, she’s really there on a frustrated dare her father tossed out—prove herself an artist or return to Kendall Publishing and never speak of her silly ambitions again. The mountains are just what she needed to spark her passion. Turns out, so is the handsome rancher acting as tour guide.
Can two late-bloomers turn a sexy fling into true love, or has their time passed them by?
Rolling down his window, he offered the kid drying his car an extra dollar. “Get all the windows and mirrors. I’m looking to impress someone.” “Fancy truck, mister.” “Thank you, son.” With his truck polished, Ben headed off down Main Street. He drove past the post office and the turn off toward the senior center before pulling into a parking spot. It wasn’t glamorous, but the Ashnee Valley Gazette was headquartered directly above Gordy Sinclair’s Hardware Store. He stepped out and waved to Mrs. Gordy through the store window. Officially, she was Mrs. Sinclair. But for as long as he could remember, everyone called her Mrs. Gordy. He guessed she must be eighty years old now. It didn’t seem the time to switch things up and start calling her by another name. He winced at the inordinate amount of noise the creaky wood steps made while he walked up the narrow staircase to the second level. So much for a subtle entry, he mused. At the top of the stairs, he opened the glass door with the stenciled words The Gazette on it and stepped into a scene filled with a handful of people singing. Removing his hat, he stared at his friend Brady playing a banjo at the front of the room. Even Brady’s wife, Alicia, their two older boys and five-year-old twin girls were there. A petite blonde woman led the entire room in singing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver. What the heck? When the song ended, the tiny group clapped enthusiastically. The blonde, who Ben quickly surmised had to be old Catherine, was anything but. She was a modern day Grace Kelly with slim, modest curves in all the right places and a face bordering on aristocratic. Stunning. Watching her attempt an awkward curtsy for the crowd sent a jolt of electrical thrill up his spine. On the highest heels Ben ever saw, the blonde spun around, tripped, laughed it off, and picked up a tray from the table behind her. She began handing out cupcakes. Mesmerized, he flinched a little when someone touched his shoulder. “Ben, you’ve got to meet Catherine,” Brady said. “She’s the most fantastic woman. Have you ever met a person who knows all the words to every country song ever written?” “I can’t say that I have.” “Catherine,” Brady called across the room while pointing at Ben, “this is Ben, the one I told you about.” “You mean my tour guide?” she called back. “He’s so handsome, Brady, are you sure that’s him? Brady quivered all over, laughing at Catherine’s teasing. This was certainly a side of his friend he’d never been witness to. Setting down the tray of cupcakes, she put her hands on her hips. “You aren’t playing with me now, are you?” “No, ma’am. This is him!” Ben enjoyed the form-fitted grey tweed suit Catherine wore as she walked his way. The skirt was long, past her knees. Black buttons ran up the skirt on a slant. The matching jacket was tied tight with a belt around the waist. A little big city. A little old-fashioned. A whole lot classy. He stepped forward holding out his hand. “I’m Ben Mannis, tour guide. At your service.” “Catherine Kendell,” she said with a strong handshake. “Kendall Publishing and wanna-be country singer.” He smiled. “What, no cupcake for me?” A flush crept across her skin and to his chagrin she let go his hand. She crossed the room, picked up a cupcake, and headed back. Ben chuckled. “I was kidding, darlin’.” What made me drum up that endearment? “I don’t know where my manners went.” She handed him a chocolate-frosted cupcake with a wink. “I never kid about treats. Darlin’.” After saying goodbye to Brady and the rest of the newsroom, Ben held the door for Catherine, and they headed downstairs. He’d seen her falter twice on her shoes already and worried she might teeter on the steps, but she managed the descent like a pro. “My truck is the white one right in front,” Ben said, taking the lead and walking around to open the passenger door. He stood back as Catherine took hold of the safety handle inside the vehicle and made a valiant attempt at lifting her knee against the restraint of her skirt. Failing to get her foot on the runner, she glanced at him. “Give me a minute. I can do this.” “Of course. There’s no hurry.” Her hand on the handle again, she wiggled her behind like a cat ready to pounce then jumped with both feet. Ben bit the inside of his cheek to school his expression. “Hold on. I think we need a plan that doesn’t involve you falling in the street. How would you feel about me picking you up?” She wrinkled her nose at him. Adorable. “We’ll do this quick. No one will be the wiser.” He glanced above her head at the two reporters who had their faces mashed against the newsroom window. Brady gave him a salute. Straightening her skirt, Catherine held her arms out to him like a child. “Okay, you can pick me up.” “Uh, well… I’m going to have to do this more like we’re crossing the threshold on the way to the honeymoon suite. I mean as far as the style of lift.” Catherine lowered her sunglasses, looking him right in the eye. “Should I pretend I don’t know we have an audience?” Without waiting for his answer, she stepped forward and wrapped her pretty arms around his neck. “Or should we give them something to write about?” With one arm supporting her back and another under her legs, Ben swooped Catherine off her feet, suggested she duck her head, and placed her on the seat inside the truck. “I’m pretty sure we just made the front page,” Ben said. “It only matters if we’re above the fold. And, thank you by the way.” “My pleasure, old…” He stopped himself just in time. “My pleasure, Catherine.”
Becca Maxton is a contemporary romance author. She writes sensuous (dare say, steamy) and encouraging stories about rocky road detours leading to resilience and romance. Her characters are brave women and men facing challenges together and finding love.
Becca is a member of Romance Writers of America, Colorado Romance Writers and the best critique group of writer friends ever. She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and son.
What is something unique/quirky about you? With the help of YouTube, I am slowly learning to play the ukulele. My motivation is to play classic country songs such as, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry or Your Cheatin’ Heart. This is for fun only. It’s good practice in being a beginner – something we tend to shy away from as adults.
What are you passionate about these days? My husband and son. Romance writing and reading. Dark Horse Rowing.
What do you do to unwind and relax? My favorite thing is going on drives with my husband in the mountains.
When did you first consider yourself a writer? When I finished my first manuscript. It was 125K words and mostly awful. But I knew at that point I had the ability to “butt-in-chair” the time and effort needed to write a novel.
Do you have a favorite movie? Rudy. My family loves sports, especially college football. Plus, I like any overcoming the odds story. It’s the Midwestern upbringing –get knocked down seven times, get up eight.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie? This might get me in trouble, but I’m not all that big on romance movies. So, I’d say the last book in the series, which is still in progress. It will have bad guys, betrayal, trauma and redemption…plus the love story. Movie makings, right?
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? Hawk. They can fly, see many times better than humans and are badass fierce. It’s aspirational.
What inspired you to write this book? I wanted to write about a woman who allows herself to pursue her artistic dreams. Catherine’s story also supports the idea that geographic solutions can work. You don’t always “take your problems with you” which is how naysayers try to discourage you. Nope. We can grow, change, move on and live happier than ever. And, it’s never too late.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters? There are out-take or extra scenes in the series that won’t make the books. It could be fun to share a few of these on my website as we go. Also, there are 2 minor characters in the series that I think it would be fun to write a Christmas novella about. We’ll see if that happens next winter.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Dragonfly Dance? One of my favorite things about Catherine Kendall (Dragonfly Dance) is that she’s gorgeous, sophisticated and a klutz. She wears ridiculous high heels and trips and stumbles her way around. None of it phases her. I had a friend like this. Sometimes, I’d look to my right or left and she’d be on the ground. She’d just jump up again and keep walking.
I adore Catherine because she has been raised to be a “good” daughter. Remember this is set in the late 1970s. She’s a late bloomer who manages to break from the path others set before her.
I loved writing Ben. He’s a good man. Humble. Sexy! He’s been so responsible his whole life. He thinks love has passed him by as a result. It’s fun as a writer (not just a reader) to root for a character’s happiness.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book? Dragonfly Dance as an idea came after I’d already written most of the books in the series. I wanted to add a novella to better introduce Ashnee Valley and Mercy Mountain Lodge to readers. Going back to in time to tell the parent’s love story was a fun way to do this.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book? I enjoyed the late bloomer aspect to these two characters and finding love. I liked that they were in their late thirties/forties and the love could be mature and sexy.
Who designed your book covers? I worked with Killion Group for the series book covers. I love each one!
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead? For the male lead, Brad Pitt. And, for creative purposes, I would need to be on the set every day.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers? Your greatest strength is your vulnerability. This is not what the world teaches any of us to see as strength. But I believe it is where your courage and resilience come from. My characters represent everyday people like you, who are brave and inspiring, when life sends them on a detour.
What is your favorite part of this book and why? The scene in Patsy’s Diner when Catherine first arrives in Ashnee Valley. You’ll have to read it. It’s goofy and sweet and was fun to write.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day? I’d hang out with Ben Mannis. We’d walk the ranch. Feed the animals. Go fishing. Sit on the porch in the evening and watch the sunset. I’d listen to his wise words.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story? I think it’s a 50/50 deal. I usually know where I’m headed – meaning, I know what outcome I want for the characters and the reader chapter by chapter. How we get there within a chapter is often up to my characters. When they say or do something unexpected, I trust and follow where they lead.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read. I’ll answer that more from the series perspective rather than one book. Mercy Mountain series is about women who become who they were always meant to be and the men that love them. Romance books inspire us to be better in our own lives. Why not encourage yourself with entertaining positive stories?
Have you written any other books that are not published? There are three more books in the Mercy Mountain Series after Dragonfly Dance. They are in various stages of development and coming soon.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?'-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book. I often listen to music from the time period in which I’m writing and imagine my characters and what would be their favorite songs. I like to listen during my workday (non-writing job). I have a standing desk and it keeps me moving. It’s also a fun way to stay engaged with my characters even when I can’t spend time with them until evenings or weekends.
What book do you think everyone should read? For romance, Outlander. Non-romance, Crime and Punishment.
How long have you been writing? My writing has evolved. When I was very young, I wrote these odd-ball “books” (loose term) about different kinds of cats. I did a lot of research and felt serious about it. I’m not sure I can explain today what this was all about! By the way, I do not have any cats.
Later, I tried writing essays about life. I’m an optimistic person, but for some reason my essays came out too serious or worse, preachy. Who wants to read that?
I didn’t read a romance book until well into adult-hood. I was hooked, devoured hundreds in record time and read all heat levels (you know, for research). To this day, there are some where I still can’t figure out the acrobatics involved. But I digress. It was late 2012 when I started writing romance.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write? They all show up in quick succession and are all talking. I hear their conversations first. Soon after I begin to see them.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book? Geography -- even though the locations are fictionalized. Weather. Trees. Flowers. Whatever jobs my characters have. Time period, if not current day. Funny little things too – like how long is an ambulance ride from point A to point B? What songs were on the radio that year? For Dragonfly Dance, I researched sculptures and the bronzing process – even though most of this detail didn’t make it in the book.
Do you see writing as a career? Definitely! I do have a long-time career in the non-writing world too. But creating worlds, characters, stories is what I am passionate about.
What do you think about the current publishing market? I am very appreciative that it is possible to share my writing with readers.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre? Romance. Romance. Romance.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why? Silence. I lose myself in it and have no sense of time. Sometimes I’ll look at the clock and – blink -- it’s suddenly 3 hours later.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time? I have limited time, so I stay focused by working on one at a time.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book. My favorite character is Hepzibah - from the children’s bookHorrible Hepzibahby Edna Mitchell Preston. That’s probably not what you expected to hear. She’s deliciously mean to her nemesis, whose name is Beautiful Vanilla.Not all girls are sugar and spice.
A day in the life of the author? I have a demanding technical job so a typical day starts early. After work, I sometimes row. On weekday evenings I focus on writerly tasks like promotion, creating graphics, social media or outlining. I write on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s pretty much work, row, write, eat, sleep, repeat.That’s not a martyr thing. I’ve become a minimalist with my time. There is only so much we can accomplish, so I prioritize what means the most.
Advice they would give new authors? Listen to your intuition. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with everyone else’s advice and opinions. Trust yourself and your goals.
What are they currently reading? I recently readThe Bromance Book Clubby Lyssa Kay Adams and loved it.
What is your writing Kryptonite? Emotional stress, such as managing a family member’s serious illness, unemployment or other financial struggles. It’s very hard to drum up creativity when exhausted and/or worried.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? I’d say a little of both. I’m writing stories and characters I want to share, but hopefully in a way that is universal and appealing.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? I researched writing male characters and took writing classes on the topic. I try to remember that men don’t ask a lot of questions, they make statements. I have a male beta reader, among others, who keeps me honest (and chuckling) with comments like: “Wait, what about his blue balls?” and “He should say f**k more.”
Do you believe in writer’s block? Not especially, but we all have slumps where we are uninspired. Slumps affect everything, including writing.
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