Toni Noel, welcome back to Romance Lives Forever. Let's talk about your book, Rising Above.
Genre: Historical Time Travel
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing
Cover artist: Carol Fiorillo
Length (words): 105,000
Heat rating: R
Tagline: A misfit tomboy goes back in time, compromises her reputation with a disillusioned Pinkerton man who to her dismay insists on a marriage of convenience, while she longs to return to her own time.
Bad weather cuts short Wilda Stone's hot-air balloon race, throwing her back into widowed lawman Hal Grantham's time, the 1870's. A sand storm forcing them off Hal's horse and into a cave where they spend two nights, compromising Wilda's reputation, and forcing Hal into a marriage of convenience. Once they make love Wilda realizes she has fallen in love with the terse lawman and abandons all thought of returning to the twenty-first century. Her stoic husband conceals his true feelings for her. When diphtheria-- the same disease responsible for taking his first wife and son -- threatens the silver mining town of Cerro Gordo, deep concern for Wilda's welfare drives Hal to send his wife back to her own time in her balloon. His actions convince her Hal shuns her love and she departs, whispering a promise to return, without revealing her pregnancy. Once her conveyance rises beyond his reach, Hal realizes his mistake and launches a futile search for the woman he now readily admits he loves.
Desert Breeze Publishing http://is.gd/Toni_DesertBreeze
Or from your favorite eBook store.
What are your main characters' names, ages, and occupations?
Wilda Stone and Hal Grantham. 28 and 32. In her other life Wilda was a flag person on a Caltrans road crew. In Cerro Gordo the only acceptable work to fill her time is helping out in the kitchen of the American Hotel, a totally unacceptable activity for an awkward outdoor girl who can't cook.
Hal is a disillusioned undercover Pinkerton agent ready for a change.
Dottie reached the main floor and ducked into a small room furnished as a parlor. The others followed, and all but Wilda engaged in a whispered conference. While waiting for them to finish, she noticed an Inyo County newspaper and a copy of Peterson's Magazine on the lamp table nearby.
Casually, Wilda unfolded and lifted the paper. The headline read "Lone Pine, California Rebuilds Following Disastrous Quake." Dated October 1, 1874, the lead article detailed the devastation that had occurred on March 26, 1872, when an earthquake shook residents of the quiet valley from their beds.
Is this October of 1874?
The corners of the newspaper were dog-eared from frequent handling, but the printed pages showed no sign of age. Wilda estimated the paper couldn't be more than a week old.
A hard knot formed in her stomach. Now she knew the year, she could no longer deny her worrisome suspicions.
Somehow, she had stepped back in time. Her pulse throbbed.
What else had happened in 1874?
The chase for gold in California had slowed to a crawl then and the Civil War had ended.
What else? Was California a state yet?
With all her heart she wished she'd paid more attention to her history lessons.
Why did it matter? Women weren't yet allowed to vote, she was sure.
Without giving Wilda sufficient time to absorb the reality of her predicament, Dottie turned toward the jumble of voices and entered a large paneled room. Wilda had no choice but to drop the newspaper and follow.
Oil fueled glass chandeliers hung from the ceiling. White oilcloth covered the tables arranged in three long rows. She remembered the shiny surface from her childhood. As Wilda entered, a hush fell over the room. A dozen miners sat at each table, their eyes all turned on her. Forks halted in mid-air. Although she followed close behind Dottie, Wilda's skirt caught on a chair leg, tripping her.
Her cheeks heated. Clumsy goose.
Hal, who had somehow wound up behind her, reached to steady her by placing his hand on her upper arm. Her cheeks burned hotter still. Careful now of every step, she watched the placement of her feet with lowered gaze.
From the corner of her eye she saw Hal stop long enough to hang his Stetson on a peg by the door. For some unexplained reason, she took comfort in the sound of his steps behind her.
Dottie led the way to an empty table, showed Wilda where to sit, and headed for the kitchen without waiting for her friends to take their seats.
Hal held Wilda's chair, bending to whisper in her ear, "Dottie's seeing to the food."
He took the place on her right and gave the occupants of the room an intimidating look. Wilda frowned.
Ace sat at the end of the table, surveying the room, his eyes never still, his shoulders tense, waiting, as if he expected something to happen.
Wilda couldn't comprehend the need for a bodyguard, or for the whispered words and knowing looks she'd so far observed but, following Hal's instructions, kept her questions to herself.
Dottie and Chang Li placed white pottery bowls heaped with stew before the newcomers, and then Dottie sank into the vacant chair across from Wilda. The other diners didn't resume talking until Dottie began to eat.
Chang Li placed a cup of steaming coffee before Wilda. Delighted, she sipped the strong brew. In an effort to appease her raging hunger and to give her hands a task, she tackled her stew, a meaty concoction well seasoned with pepper and tasting of wild onions.
She finished it off quickly, along with the dark, yeasty bread.
"The lady has a healthy appetite," Dottie commented.
Wilda glanced around the table. Her bowl was the only empty one. Her cheeks took on new fire. Intense hunger had caused her to forget her manners.
"Everything is so delicious," she said lamely.
Hal and Dottie laughed at her flustered explanation, attracting attention of the miners seated nearby. The men stared at her with interest. One man's openly lascivious grin made Wilda's flesh crawl. She quickly looked away from him, right into Hal's unreadable gaze. After a moment in which her heart thumped wildly, he turned back to his stew.
Looking beyond the heads turned her direction, Wilda saw the evening sky through windows draped with forest green tapestry over sheer curtains of lace. A wide opening to the kitchen revealed the cook stirring a steaming pot on the massive black cooking stove.
The men began leaving the tables, slapping each other on the back, and politely tipping their hats to Wilda. She smiled at the courtesy.
Uh-oh. My mistake.
A toothless man whose shaggy growth of beard partially hid a wide grin separated himself from the group and headed for their table. Hal and Ace both came to attention.
"Evenin' Miss," the miner said, and preened. "Josh Buckston, at your service."
Hal narrowed his eyes at Wilda. She ducked her head, but tuned her ears to listen.
"Looks like the lady's finished with her food," Josh said, apparently for Hal's benefit. "Would you care to step out on the porch with me for a nice breath of fresh air?"
Wilda glanced up before she heard Hal gritting his teeth. "The lady's taken, Buckston," he warned.
"Can't blame a man for trying," Josh said, backing away.
He joined his friends waiting for him near the door. The men leaned in close to hear what he had to say, then stared back over their shoulders at Hal, who raked the cluster of men with a heated look.
Once the group had sauntered out, Hal turned to her, a small smile softening his features. "I'm sorry, Miss Stone," he said. "These men don't often have the occasion to see a pretty woman. I forgot how forward they tend to act at times."
Hal possessed way more gall than Josh Buckston. She was quite capable of speaking for herself. He might at least have given her the opportunity to turn aside the miner's attention, but no. He'd warned her not to speak to the men.
Well, she wouldn't allow Hal's presumptuous rules to run her life.
While no one previously crossing her path had showed any interest in taking her out, the miner who'd approached their table didn't hold any appeal to Wilda. She let her gaze travel about the room, much aware of everyone observing her every move from across the dining hall. She didn't see one she'd care to sit with. Certainly none she'd choose to walk with along a dark road.
Besides, not a man in the room held a candle to Hal. She glanced at him, now deeply involved in whispered conversation with Dottie.
He grimaced and a tiny frown marred the smoothness of his forehead. Somewhere, he'd taken the time to shave and slick his dark hair. It skimmed the collar of his newly laundered black shirt. She was aware of the shirt's aroma, lye soap and the scent of what she supposed was bay rum.
Hal glanced up and caught her smiling. His frown deepened into an aggravated scowl. He shook his head at something Dottie said, but continued to stare at Wilda, trying to communicate some unspoken message she failed to interpret.
Perhaps he'd guessed her thoughts. At the strong possibility, Wilda looked away, flushing, but his words replayed in her mind, and the way he'd looked at her when he referred to her as a pretty woman.
Another group of diners entered and Chang Li soundlessly scurried about, clearing tables and arranging clean place settings of tin utensils.
One of the new arrivals failed to take a seat, choosing instead to head directly toward the table where Wilda and her companions sat. A determined gleam flashed from his eyes, a cocky self-assurance his unwashed face and hands proved unjustified.
At the last minute, he dragged his hat from his head and came to a halt opposite her. He hesitated and squashed his hat against his chest. "Miss, you've done run off with my heart. Marry up with me?"
The miner's flowery speech triggered a grin Willa thought best she swallow. Beside her, Hal stiffened then cleared his throat. Fists clenched, his body half out of the chair, Hal announced to the entire room, "Miss Stone is promised to me."
How do you come up with ideas?
Inspiration strikes me at the oddest times, and in unexpected places. Usually it's through something I see, or hear. A boarded up house in a ritzy neighborhood we were driving through inspired Decisive Moments. A network news story about the rising birthrate in a faraway Irish town inspired Fairy Dusted. A weekend stay in the refurbished bunk house of a restored silver mining town inspired Rising Above.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I love the freedom of being my own boss, and the chance to escape reality while I write, but I also enjoy the anticipation I feel when a friend buys one of my books. I can't wait to hear how they liked it, whether it made their day a little happier or gave them something new to think about.
What do you enjoy most about life?
The thing I enjoy most is simply being alive. I am so blessed. A loving family. Good health. A wealth of knowledge at my fingertips and time to explore all of it to the fullest. It's a great life.
Where do you start when writing? Research, plotting, outline, or...?
The inspiration comes first, then a character's name or the novel's setting. Next, as ideas come to me, I list fifty scenes necessary to move my characters through the story and reach a satisfactory conclusion. I'm very visual, so I transfer the scenes to stickies, arrange those on a story board, and after identifying the major turning points and the blackest moment for each character, I'm ready to write. The beauty of this method is the stickies can be moved around countless times, and the scenes rearranged as I write to give the story ending a satisfying resolution, showing ways in which the main characters have changed.
What are some jobs you've done that would end up in a book?
In my teens I called square dances for the Y.M.C.A. and later did alterations for a cleaners. When we were without health insurance, and our four young children had run up a big debt at their doctor's, I made drapes for his new office to settle our account. I've also performed puppet shows and taught crafts at nursing homes. Before retiring, I supervised a computerized payroll, and included some of my office experiences in Temp to Permanent, a romantic suspense.
What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?
I want my readers to feel satisfied with their read. I write novels about finding a safe haven for the heart and firmly believe this is what everyone hopes to find. I found my safe haven early in life, but it still delights me when the book I’m reading ends with the heroine finding her safe haven in the arms of her newly found love.
Picture yourself as a store. Considering your personality and lifestyle, what type of products would be sold there?
I would specialize in classically styled upscale dresses and suits, go-to outfits a woman reaches into her closet for every day. I'd have a complete selection of leather boots in a variety of styles and widths. The leather purses I carry will have wide openings and no places for lipsticks and car keys to hide. I'd showcase earrings with silver or gold posts for pierced with only snap closures, no easily-lost separate parts. In the casual clothing department you'll find quality merchandise for travel, spectator sports and working out all in one place, the huggable woolens and cashmeres incredibly soft to the touch, the baby terry and fleece silky smooth next to your skin.
As a child, what was your favorite thing about school?
I loved the countless opportunities for expanding my horizons school provided. I had endless curiosity and still question everything. My favorite question is "Why?"
If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
Caution. Contents under extreme pressure and with good cause will likely explode. (I inherited my father's volatile temper.)
Please Fill in the Blanks
I love vegetarian pizza with artichokes.
I'm always ready for fun.
When I'm alone I eat dinner on our best china. It makes me feel like I'm eating out.
You'd never be able to tell, but I was the head cheerleader for my high school.
If I had a halo it would be bent.
If I could crochet I'd own that sweater I've been admiring.
I can never diet for long because I love to eat and have no willpower.
Law Breakers and Love Makers, soon in print, too.
Temp to Permanent
Books Coming Soon
To Feel Again
About the Author
Toni Noel's Novels... Safe havens for the heart.
Toni Noel's love of books started in childhood, when her mother first read The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew to her. She helped start church libraries in two rural Tennessee towns and appeared before the City Planning Commission and the San Diego City Council to urge a site be purchased. As the neighborhood spokesman for the new library the City Councilman for her district invited her to turn the second shovel of dirt at the groundbreaking for the new library. Toni's fondest dream, to see one of her safe-haven-for-the-heart novels available for checkout there may soon be fulfilled. Desert Breeze Publishing will release in print form in November the author's first published novel Law Breakers and Love Makers.
Find Me Here