Shannon here: Connie Almony shares insight into her real life romance, her characters’ romance, and an excerpt from her latest release, One Among Men. Comment or answer the question at the end of the post to enter the drawing for an e-book copy. Deadline: Feb 14th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Connie:
- What’s the most romantic thing your spouse has ever done for you?
Bought me Pepto Bismol on Valentine’s Day. Don’t knock it. It was PINK!!!
I know, about now you are wondering if I’ve lost my marbles, but I have reasons behind this answer. To me, it is VERY EASY to plan romantic gestures on a specified day. With the internet it is even more so! How romantic is it, really, for a man to pull out a credit card and fill in blanks on the screen, then sit back and watch some other poor schlub lug boxes of flowers to his wife? These are not the gestures that melt my heart. The things that make me love a man are the things he has to drop, or give up to be there for a woman when she needs him.
One Valentine’s Day, I needed Pepto Bismol. He’d come home from a long day at work, brandishing a single red rose he’d braved long lines at the grocery store (try not to gasp) behind other men clamoring for “romantic items,” to acquire so they wouldn’t be sleeping on the couch that night. It was cold and rainy and the traffic was awful. He found me lying sick on the couch and didn’t hesitate to go back out and brave more long lines to meet my needs. He even got me a bottle of ginger ale to boot. Sigh! My hero!
- Do you and your spouse have a favorite romantic restaurant?
No, but I have a favorite restaurant moment. One of the many that caused me to love him. We went to a very expensive restaurant where the waiter brought us a bottle of wine, displayed the label for my then boyfriend to inspect, poured and handed the glass to him so he could swirl and sniff. My date did as required, but the minute the waiter turned his back to us, Rick shrugged and grimaced, as if to say, “I have no idea what I just agreed to.”
I almost dropped and rolled on the floor with laughter. As the youngest of four daughters I’d seen lots of guys try to impress my sisters with image. My husband reminded me that night he had no intention to lie to me in any way, even to suggest he might know what good wine smells like. It was a humble gesture. Little things like this always added to my love for him.
- Do you and your spouse have a favorite song?
We don’t have a favorite song together. One of his favorite songs, like the hero of One Among Men, is Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.” I always think it’s funny because there is nothing simple about the man I married. Maybe he longs to simplify, but it hasn’t happened yet. He shares this quality with my hero (Chris) as well.
- What’s the most romantic thing your hero ever did for your heroine?
My hero is a musician and even though the heroine has an artsy streak, she is not excessively talented to the point of making any of the arts a career. However, she’d written a song as a love letter to God that was incomplete. Toward the end of the story, he finishes it for her. Though this is only one of the many things Chris, the hero, does for Samantha, it is the most intimate because it not only demonstrates his care of her, but his knowledge of who she is. He’s a man who listens—sigh!
- What’s the most romantic thing your heroine ever did for your hero?
Samantha resists her attraction to Chris for most of the story. There are way too many questions surrounding him that need answers before she can give her heart away. However, there is a point where she risks her life for him without any thought to her own safety. Is that romantic enough?
- Do your hero and heroine have a favorite song?
Because he is a musician, and music plays a large role in the story, songs are often mentioned. As I stated above, Chris’s favorite song, in the beginning of the story, would be “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, even though he is anything but. However, he becomes a Third Day fan as the story progresses. I didn’t give them a favorite one, but it might have to be “Born Again” or maybe “Let Me Love You.” He plays those on the guitar while they have a very important discussion.
- What simple gesture does your hero do that melts your heroine every time?
I don’t know that you’d call the gestures simple. The thing (or things) that added to Samantha’s attraction to Chris were the things he did in secret. She is a woman running an all-male dorm, and therefore lives as the only female in a building with 500 college guys. There are some pitfalls that come with that particular challenge, and even though they crop up, something keeps her from feeling the full effects of them. Eventually, she realizes that Chris is that something.
- What simple gesture does your heroine do that melts your hero every time?
I’d have to say it would be the gestures that come from her faith. He sees her sometimes struggle with the idea of doing what she’d like to do (being a new Christian), and following through on what her faith requires she do. He realizes she is not just a woman he wants to spend some time with, she is someone who could point him to something better in his life. He craves that at this point and has no idea how to get there, until he meets Samantha.
- How soon after meeting the hero did the heroine know he was the one?
For her, it came in stages. Of course he intrigued her at first, but on the outside, he reminded her way too much of an abusive ex. He also seemed to carry some of the same interests. His inner character is revealed to her in small ways, not just by what he does for her and others, but the fact that he does them in secret, not wanting to receive the accolades. She resists him for about as long as a girl can in a romance novel … and that’s all I’m going to say for now :o).
- How soon after meeting the heroine did the hero know she was the one?
This is not a man who even knew he was looking for “the one.” He knows he’s interested from near the beginning and keeps the idea in the back of his mind. However, there are things that stand in the way of their getting together. One being that he’s a student living in the building she runs and any relationship between them would show poorly on her character. Another, is that he is considering a business relationship with someone who would not like him cozying up to the building “law enforcement,” so he resists his interest in her. Still, he knows these things are only temporary, and hopes for more in the future. All the while, he discovers a depth of character he wants to explore, and realizes his own desire for a more meaningful relationship with someone like Samantha.
- Who is most romantic, your hero or your heroine?
That would have to be Chris. First, I think Samantha resists romance at this point of her life after having been burned so badly by her ex. Chris is the one who does the pursuing, even though it’s often against his better judgment. The song he completed for her was a very intimate gesture that caused Samantha to drop her guard. It was all downhill from there :o).
- Who said, “I love you” first, your hero or your heroine?
Hmmm, that depends on how you define the word “said.” If you want to know what I mean by that … well … you’ll have to read the book.
Excerpt from One Among Men by Connie Almony:
A hard, metal clank sounded from the high-rise stairwell. Samantha stilled her paintbrush at the mural on the cinderblock wall, heart thrumming in her chest. Being winter break, the Calvert Hall dormitory was supposed to be empty. She glanced toward the flyer on the end table reminding residents about the serial rapist who plagued the campus since last fall. A chill raced down her spine.
She listened for another sound.
Nothing. Almost too much nothing.
Taking in a breath, she stepped back and scanned her new home—a testament to the fact that four dorm rooms could be combined and made into an apartment. Two on one side of the hall became bedrooms. The other two joined to make a kitchen, dining and living room in one space. Large, industrial blinds shaded the cinderblock-encased windows, and Facilities-issued furniture sat on the gray tile floor. Hard and sterile, making every click in the cavernous building echo like ghosts of Christmas past—bad Christmases.
An edge cut through her nerves. She’d already questioned coming back to Maryland State University for grad school, after having been extracted from the prodigal life that had flourished there. Could this living arrangement really have been God’s answer to covering her mounting tuition expenses?
The haunting keyboard strokes of Jason Mraz’s song, “Plane,” coming from the old CD player Sam’s mother had given her the year before she died filled her with even more angst. Deep breaths. A maelstrom—that’s what she headed for. The only woman living in a building with five hundred, hard-partying, college guys. And an all-male resident-assistant staff, who had more experience than she did, questioning her every move.
She glanced to the ceiling. “What are you doing with me, Lord?”
Janet had told Sam she lived from a spirit of fear. She needed to give her burdens to Christ. Janet never elaborated on how to actually do that, so after taking one last listen for the noise and hearing nothing remotely human, Sam ramped up the volume on her boom box to drown out her overactive imagination. The clank was probably just the blustering, January wind at the metal side door, anyway. Besides, her apartment was locked tight. Both locks. She was safe.
She pulled off her button-front shirt, leaving only her navy tank. Lucinda, her new boss, told her the building’s heat had one setting—unbearably hot. No kidding. Sweat already gathered at her neck.
Sam wiped her paint-strewn fingers on her favorite, well-worn jeans, noting how the tempura from her sunrise-over-mesas mural mingled with the oil-paint stains from a previous masterpiece. The corners of her mouth tugged into a smile. This was the only time her attention-deficit disorder made sense. She’d get lost in her painting. No need to think about strokes, colors or techniques, only the way the images enveloped her. She could feel the bitter cold of the desert night melting from the blazing sun that peeked above the horizon.
But fear skittered through her like a scorpion on the desert floor. Fear of disdain for the faith that ran counter to the university’s protocol. Fear of temptation into a past she’d rather forget. And now, fear of a supposedly empty building echoing nothingness.
Give it to God.
She squirted white tempura into a puddle of blue, hoping to meld into the colors and soar through the azure sky she painted. Her muscles released. She loved to create. Pride swelled in her chest as she backed toward the living-room entrance to get a larger view of the cinderblock canvas.
Mraz’s melancholic tune absorbed her in its full-fledged decibels, singing of lost loves, loneliness, and plummeting planes. Sam could relate. Backing some more, she crashed into a large, masculine form.
Strong hands gripped her. She cried out as she struggled to get free—no luck. Her screams were overtaken by the loud music in the empty dorm. She was on her own. Sam speared her elbow into the intruder. The blow was blocked. She pivoted and thrust her palm toward his nose. He caught it. Brown eyes intense. Gaze piercing. She’d crush his toe with her heel. But his foot slid back, and pinned hers with a heavy boot.
Could he read her mind?
His lips moved, but Sam couldn’t understand his taunts over the blaring melody.
Her attacker stretched his arm around her. She tried to wrestle free. But his arm did not encircle her or thrust her close. Still holding her hand in his strong, calloused grip, he reached for the CD player.
The music stopped. Silence claimed the room.
He blew out an exasperated sigh. “Please. I’m not gonna hurt you.” His eyes pleaded, like the sound of his voice.
Yeah right. “Then let go of me.” Sam managed strength from her vocal chords as her panicked breaths came heavy and hard.
His attention moved from her tethered limb to her face. “Only if you promise not to shove the cartilage from my nose into my brain.” Was that a smirk playing on his lips?
Sam’s brow tensed. Of course she would. “Promise.”
Didn’t mean she’d keep it.
Her gaze slid down from the young man’s face as he lowered her hand and released it. A toolbox sat at his feet. “I’m here from Facilities to fix the outlets in the bedrooms.”
She looked him over, still trembling. Blond hair strayed from his ponytail. “How’d you get in?”
“Facilities masters.” The ring of keys jangled as he held them up. “I knocked, but no one answered. Don usually doesn’t mind when I let myself in.” He swiveled his head around. “Where is Don, anyway?”
Sam ignored his reference to the resident director who’d quit mid-year at the last minute. She needed hard-core proof this guy was legit. “Where’s your ID?”
He dropped his attention to the graphic t-shirt, under his open khaki coat and shook his head. “I don’t have it. Don knows who I am.”
Should she believe him? Her muscles remained at the ready. “Don doesn’t work here anymore.”
He stepped forward. “He quit?”
Sam thrust a fierce finger in his direction as she inched toward the phone on the kitchen counter. “I’m calling Facilities. Don’t. You. Move.” She tapped a staccato beat with the digit at each word, picked up the receiver and pressed the on button. Then … “What’s the number?”
What else could go wrong?
“Ma’am, I’d rather you act in a completely safe manner.” His voice traveled from conciliatory to condescending. “I’ll step out the door, and you can call the number in your Resident Life Directory over there.”
She flipped her head around to see where he was pointing. “Where?”
“Right on that shelf.” He waved his finger, like an impatient schoolmarm.
She rummaged through the stack of standard-issue phone books, manuals and directories, shaking her head. If only the ADD didn’t make it so hard for her to think under stress. Her mind whirred and everything took on a blur.
The stranger inched closer, gesturing to see if it was okay. Sam kept her distance, though the threat seemed to dissipate. He grasped the large red and white book with the Maryland State University logo emblazoned across it, flipped through the pages and pointed to a number as he pushed the directory toward her. “This one here.”
“Thank you.” She managed an apologetic smile. After all, the minute before, she’d tried to throttle him.
He mirrored her expression. “I’ll be right out here.”
Sam punched in the number to Facilities, asked if any work was ordered, and what the man looked like who was sent to do the job. The voice on the phone described him. “Young guy, about six foot, wavy blonde hair pulled into a stubby ponytail, and jeans with a few extra holes in them.” His gruff voice chuckled at the last description.
She sighed. Not a rapist. But something about him didn’t compute. How did he know exactly how to subdue her self-defense? Shaking off the thought, she strode to the door to let the guy in.
About Connie: Connie Almony is trained as a mental health therapist and likes to mix a little fun with the serious stuff of life. She was a 2012 semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest for Women’s Fiction and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest. She is the author of One Among Men about a woman whose job requires she live with 500, hard-partying college guys, and At the Edge of the Dark Forest, a modern-day re-telling of Beauty and the Beast about a war-vet, amputee struggling with PTSD.Learn more and connect: ConnieAlmony.com, InfiniteCharacters.com, IndieChristianFictionSearch.Blogspot.com, LivingtheBodyofChrist.Blogspot.com, https://twitter.com/ConnieAlmony, https://www.facebook.com/ConnieAlmony, https://www.pinterest.com/conniealmony/
About the book – One Among Men:
Samantha Hart is looking for godly purpose, like her missionary best friend, but is forced to take a job as the resident director of the all-male party dorm at the major state university where her prodigal past haunts her. She must avert the pitfalls of a woman in her position as well as the dangerous forces that threaten her life.
Chris Johnson, a rock guitarist, has come back to school as a music major, and finds himself in a business relationship with the ruthless supplier of an on-campus drug ring. He’s intrigued by the lady RD, while learning more about his musical gift and the God who gave it to him. Can he manage his two worlds without risking Samantha’s life?
Question: Do you play any instruments or sing? If so what instrument or where do you sing?
Come back Feb 9th for Christine Lindsay!