Saturday, September 07, 2013

I Wished for Tomorrow and Here It Is – by Karen Rock

Thank you so much for having me on Tote Bags ‘n’ Blogs today! It’s my pleasure to return to see all of you again J Now that my first Harlequin romance has hit the virtual bookshelves, I couldn’t be more excited or prouder to chat about it with you.

When my husband I moved to our subdivision, the first neighbors to welcome us had a little girl the same age as our own daughter, Danielle. We soon learned we had much in common with Katie (name changed) having the same birthday and initials as I do and she and her husband Michael (name changed) having the same anniversary! We were instant family friends and the more I’ve learned about them over the years, the more they’ve impressed me with their devotion to their children, one another, and their community. Most of all, I was taken with their love story. It is the inspiration behind Wish Me Tomorrow, September release.

Michael met Katie, the girl of his dreams, his first year of nursing school. Shortly after Michael and Katie began dating, Michael learned he had leukemia. He told me he was sure that he’d lost Katie but, to his surprise and relief, she stayed by his side. She helped him get through his chemotherapy treatments and kept him up-to-date with his assignments so that they graduated, together, with RN degrees. Twenty years later, they are happily married, now have three beautiful children and Michael is cancer free. Michael calls Katie the strongest woman he knows, and I agree.

The idea of writing a love story where feelings were strong enough to withstand an uncertain future took hold. Such devotion is the purest, most beautiful, selfless kind of love and I hoped for a story idea that would do it justice. I needed to create characters with complex, compelling back stories and vulnerabilities that made it difficult for them to take such risks with their hearts. Yet, if they did, the payoff couldn’t be greater.
I began with Eli, a strong, devoted father who married a woman who couldn’t handle his illness and had never liked the idea of having children. When she left him during his chemotherapy treatments, he became extremely protective of his children. So much so that, even during his recovery, he worked hard to save money to guarantee their future since his own was uncertain. More importantly, he won’t allow another woman in his life and risk her breaking his children’s hearts if his cancer returns and she walks out. As for himself, he’s become too much of a realist to believe in falling in love when he doesn’t know what his tomorrows will bring.

Next I imagined the type of woman who would be uniquely able to help his troubled children, be capable of handling Eli’s recovery, but have a past that would make her guarded about getting romantically involved with a cancer survivor. Christie’s character was born- an oncology grief counselor RN who specialized in working with children.  While she was willing to help Eli’s children deal with the aftermath of their father’s illness and the loss of their mother, she wouldn’t trust her heart with a man who affected her more than any other. While she counsels her patients with an optimistic, hopeful approach, she’s experienced loss too. Her positive approach masks her painful past. The guilt she associates with it has made her fear relationships in general, especially with a man whom she might lose.

Both of these characters had much to overcome in terms of trusting and forgiving themselves and life. They needed to have faith in each other and love… to believe that their time together was more precious than holding on to past hurts and old regrets. As you can see, it’s a deeply emotional book, yet with lots of fun secondary characters like her speaks-her-mind, 1940s glamour girl Gran and perennial ladies’ man, and Eli’s older chemo-buddy, John. The children provide humor as well and, for me, that is what life is like. Moments of despair, moments of joy, and all of the other grades of high and low moments in between. I adore all kinds of romance, but have a special place in my heart for contemporary stories about real people overcoming true-life issues to find lasting love.

Here’s an excerpt from the story. I hope you enjoy it!

“So, why were you two talking about me?” Eli probed, shifting in his black Oxfords. In the background, the piano keys banged out the song “Let’s Do It,” an off-key chorus accompanying it.
Gran’s husky contralto rose above the rest, belting out the lyrics, “Let’s fall in love…” as she gazed down at an eyebrow-waggling John. Why was life so uncomplicated for them? They were enjoying each other’s company, plain and simple. So why, when it came to her and Eli, did their distance seem insurmountable?
“Something about Becca thinking we like each other.” Christie’s voice came out unevenly—he was standing very close to her, near enough that she could feel the warmth of him.
“Hmm. Guess she knows how to read her dad, at least.” He ran a hand through his hair, the intensity in his eyes making her flinch and turn away.
Her chest rose and fell, colored dots appearing on the edge of her vision.
“Christie. Talk to me.”
She shook her head mutely, unable to meet his gaze. There were too many secrets her eyes might tell.
He cupped her elbow and steered her farther from the party guests until they stood alone in a far corner. A sign outside the window cast red light on his pale face.
“Am I really alone in this?” His voice sounded as tattered as a retired flag. “I didn’t want to press you after our run in the rain because you looked so…surprised by my admission that I want more. But can you really tell me you’re not feeling something for me, too? Because I’m losing my mind, losing sleep. Every waking moment is me thinking about you…about us.”
His urgent tone made her look up into his pleading eyes, the surge of hope in their depths making her heart leap.
She nodded and felt his hand tighten, his hold draw her close. Her eyes shut, and she shivered at the caress of his breath against her temple. This was it. All this time, imagining what it would be like to have Eli’s arms around her, to feel him against her, their hearts beating together…it was close to coming true and she wasn’t going to deny it any longer…even though she knew she didn’t deserve any of it. And Eli needed to know why.
She wanted to admit what was in her heart before things went further, but she became suddenly conscious of the quiet crowd and the dimmed lights.
“Time to sing everyone,” Mary said. She carried a chocolate sheet cake with loopy writing and a blaze of candles. Luckily everyone was looking her way and not theirs.
John pounded out the opening notes to “Happy Birthday.” Christie avoided Gran’s speculative gaze as she and Eli stepped from the shadows and joined the assembly. Her voice blended with the rest, her body relaxing against the warm arm encircling her waist. Time to tuck away her rational self and live in this perfect, happy moment. There’d be time enough for doubts later.
“Make a wish, Eli” John called. “You’ll need a big breath to blow out all those candles.”
The group laughed then hushed as he closed his eyes and inhaled long and deep. Christie stepped aside to join Becca, Tommy and a tail-wagging Scout. Eli’s breath exploded from him, obliterating every pinpoint of light and smearing some of the candle wax on the frosting. Wow. Whatever he’d wished for, he meant it.
“What happened to Mister I-don’t-believe-in-wishes?” John wheeled closer and ruffled Scout’s ears.
Eli shrugged. He picked off the candles and dropped them on a paper plate. “Guess I’ve seen the light.”
“So, what’d you wish for, Dad?” Becca asked, grabbing hold of Tommy’s finger as it inched toward the cake.
When the lights came back up, his eyes leveled on Christie.
“Something I can’t live without.” ***

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek! Wish Me Tomorrow is available as a Kindle download at Amazon or on Nook at Barnes and Nobles as well as a print book version on eHarlequin. Please share your thoughts about contemporary love stories you’ve fallen in love with- fact or fiction- and you’ll be entered to win my giveaway of an autographed copy of Wish Me Tomorrow and my Young Adult Romance, Camp Boyfriend to share with a family member or read for yourself! Thanks so much J

~Karen Rock

***Karen's winner is Girlygirlhoozier52.  Please email with your mailing address!***


Laney4 said...

Fact-Prince William and Princess Kate. Smile whenever I see the two of them smiling at each other (or their baby now).
Fiction-Susan Mallery's Liana Archer and Malik Khan, Crown Prince of El Bahar, from THE SHEIK'S SECRET BRIDE. Lots of sweet dreams because of these two characters. Yowsers!

Kaelee said...

Fact ~ Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. She married him even though a lot of people didn't approve of the Greek/Danish Prince.

Fiction ~ Kathy Altman's The Other Soldier, Super Romance July 2012. Great story about a soldier who killed another soldier in a friendly fire incident. He's trying to help out the widow. Very emotional story. I never knew if I would be laughing or crying all the way through the book. It really helped that the heroine raised orchids.

Kaelee said...

Forgot to add that I'm looking forward to getting mail and reading this book.

girlygirlhoosier52 said...

I admire anyone who goes against the 'flow' and makes a hard choice for love...

Mary Preston said...

Fact most definitely William & Kate. You can't miss the love they have for each other & now baby George.

Fiction so many to choose from, but I recently read THE NOTEBOOK by Nicholas Sparks & the story has stayed with me.

traveler said...

What a heartwarming and beautiful post today which resounded with me. When I married in 1970 I knew that I had met my soulmate and lifelong partner. We have been through many trials and tribulations. Illness, death and extreme business problems but last year was the most demanding year ever, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and needed surgery, radiation and chemo. My husband's strength and his steadfast devotion gave me the strength which I needed in order to recover.

petite said...

Many stories are emotional and special. I am captivated with meaningful and unforgettable stories of triumph over adversity. A novel which is memorable and was fiction but true to life was The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons. A fact which which captivated my interest greatly was Victoria and Albert.