Thursday, October 6, 2011

SPECIAL GUEST Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

If there is one question I am asked most often it’s where do I get my ideas. I guess I should be flattered because I read once that Stephen King gets asked the same thing. He’s been known to tell his fans he gets them from an idea service for a small monthly fee but I believe he quit when they believed him. It’s hard to explain the process from a moment’s inspiration or the kernel of an idea and how I take it from that to a finished novel. Maybe that’s because I spun stories as long as I can remember. I made up tales about all kinds of things as a kid and spent most of the fifth grade writing my first novel in the back of my binder. Although it was an unashamed reprise of Margaret Mitchell’s classic Gone With The Wind through a ten year old girl’s eyes, it was a start. 

I expected Witness Protection Program to release from Rebel Ink Press on October 3 and it did, right on schedule. The next day, I realized that A Time To Love, my time travel romance that wasn’t due out until November was out too. So, a month early, I’ll talk about where the idea for A Time To Love came from and how it came to be.

Time travel always intrigued me and I often wished it could be possible. As a teen, I read a fascinating novel by Jack Finney called Time And Again that dealt with time travel and talked a lot about some of Einstein’s theories. Then my uncle Darrell, an avid reader of paranormal fiction of any kind, gave me a stack of paperbacks that included a novel called The Mirror by Marlys Millhouser. In it, a young contemporary woman went back in time and exchanged places with her grandmother who came forward. Trippy stuff but I loved it.

Most of my ideas start with a single image. For A Time To Love I envisioned a young woman on a beach during a serious thunderstorm. She’d walk out of the surf and from one time to another. I liked the idea but I hadn’t started writing it yet. A few years ago, my husband and I made the long trek down to Louisiana about four times a year. If you go south from Missouri to Shreveport, you travel the length of Arkansas and we did, often. On one trip I noticed a sign pointing up Rich Mountain to a “Queen Wilhelmina Lodge” and that intrigued me. On the return trip, we hit a big thunderstorm and came into Mena, Arkansas at the foot of the mountain when the storm clouds were so low they blanketed the town.

I decided right then my heroine wouldn’t be on a beach but out on a mountain. When we got home, I started writing the story and A Time To Love is the result. It’s actually half of the story – the finished manuscript was so long that I divided it. I hope, when time allows, finish the story and get it out in the world too.  
Here’s the blurb and an excerpt from my just released time travel story:

Reclusive songwriter Samuel Baird lives on a remote Arkansas mountain in the Ouachita forest where he’s drinking his life away. The last thing he wants is a woman to complicate things but during a spectacular thunderstorm a woman arrives just in time to save his life. Annie says she’s from the late 1800’s and Samuel thinks she’s crazy. Even so, Annie manages to gain his attention and affection. In time she convinces him she did travel through time. To reach a happily ever after, Samuel and Annie must overcome several obstacles both past and present. Annie must reveal the secret she’s keeping and it’ll take a trip home to meet his family in Nashville to work out all the issues. The couple shares joy, tragedy, and family ties along the way.

She dried her hands and smoothed her hair before she approached Samuel. He appeared so deep in thought he failed to hear her step until she climbed up beside him. He glanced up with a start, face twisted with misery.

She didn’t think his trouble was physical but she asked anyway. “Don’t you feel well, dear?”

I’m okay.” He lifted an arm to drape over her shoulders. “I just miss my brothers more than I thought I would. Makes me want a drink.”

Samuel Baird!” Her outrage was real. “I wed one drunkard and I’ve no wish to be with another.”

Jesus, Annie.” He sounded more sad than angry. “I didn’t say I was going to have one. I’m not. Booze always dulled the pain and seeing them go home hurts.”

He withdrew his arm and put his head down on his knees. She felt his pain in invisible waves that rocked the space between them.

I don’t expect you to understand.” His voice seemed muffled.

She reached out a tentative hand and put it on the back of his head.

I understand well enough. I miss my brothers and sisters very much. I’ll not see them again and I must live with that.”

He didn’t answer for a few moments and his silence hurt. She removed her hand, prepared to leave him alone with his misery when he raised his head and spoke. “I’m sorry that you’ve lost all your family, sugar. I really am. I’m not much good and I don’t know why you want me but I want you, Annie.”

He was earnest as his worried eyes searched her face and she realized what she’d mistaken for indifference was not. “Do you, Samuel?”

Yes.” With one arm, he drew her close so that his voice was warm in her ear. “You’re goin’ have to be patient with me. I’m not used to having anybody around. Hell, I didn’t think I’d be with a woman again. However, I want to be with you, sugar, more than anything. I feel a little shy, though, and I don’t know why.”

His words soothed her and she snuggled against his shoulder. “I do, too, Samuel.”

Good. I’m glad it’s not just me. Can you sing?”

Sing?His question astonished her. One moment he made sweet talk and then changed directions with such speed, she felt lost.

Sing. You know, songs, hymns. You sang to me when I w
as sick, didn’t you?”

She felt heat in her cheeks as she blushed. She didn’t think he remembered. “Yes.”

So you sing?”

“’Twas the first time in some years that I sang.” It was a struggle to explain but she made the effort. “We sang at home when I was growing up, though, in the fields while we worked, in the evenings, and on Sundays.”

The bitter years with Jake had leached all music from her heart and since her return to Rich Mountain, she had never sung, not until she sang to Samuel.

Let’s go inside and sing, then.”

She could find no reason to object so she nodded. Inside, he took down his Gibson from the wall and strummed it.

I think I told you I’m a songwriter, didn’t I?”

You did though I didn’t quite understand it.”

I write a few songs. A company up to Nashville publishes them--like sheet music--and then a singer records them. If the song gets played a lot on the radio and sells a lot of CDs, then I get some of the money.”

Radio?” She repeated the unfamiliar word. “Is it like the tee-vee?”

Not quite. I don’t know how to explain radio to you except to say it’s like television but without the pictures. Would you like to hear my songs?” 
  He strummed and fiddled with the guitar until it sounded in tune. She watched the way his fingers moved across the strings and felt a frisson of anticipation down her back as she imagined those fingers on her skin.

I don’t suppose you’ve heard anyone play guitar before,” he said.

I did once.” She had but she wasn’t prepared to tell him it was in the parlor at Miss Laura’s. Samuel had no idea that she’d spent several weeks in a bawdy house and she didn’t intend to tell him.

Oh, okay.” He sounded surprised. “Well, sing something. I used to be good enough I could play along with anyone’s voice, follow it. I don’t play as much as I used to but I’ll try.”

A strange shyness made her want to refuse but she felt such a pull toward Samuel that she nodded. She didn’t have to choose a song because an old one, sung to her by her grandmother back in Texas, came to her lips. Her rich alto rose and he played along, his chords framing her voice with sound.

Sing another.”

Because she felt happy, she obliged, this time with another old folk song, a childhood favorite called “The Stuttering Lovers.” As she watched his hands move over the guitar, she became aroused. Sweet little shivers rushed through her body. Sexual tension made her uneasy but she finished the song.

He kissed her on the cheek, my lad,

He kissed her on the chin.

Ah, don’t be kissin’ me, merry lad,

I fear it ’tis a s-s-sin, me lad,

I fear it ’tis a sin.

Well he kissed her once

And he kissed her twice

He kissed her ten times o’er,

It’s nice to be kissin’ bonny wee lass

That’s never been kissed b-b-before, me lads,

That’s never been kissed before.”

Samuel’s fingers faltered and he stopped playing before the song ended. He laid the guitar aside and came to her, then pulled her to her feet.

I want to kiss you.”

“’Twould be no sin at all.”

Inches apart, she swayed toward him as she spoke, lips parted. He bent forward and kissed her with urgent hunger, his mouth greedy on hers. The world exploded around her as sensations traveled to every region of her body. His mouth was warm against hers but she felt hot, burning hot. Her nipples hardened and protruded until she knew he could feel them. His hands moved over her body and he ended the kiss with an unspoken query. His eyes were dark, alive with vital emotion and passion. She looked into them and surrendered without a fight.

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