Posted by: Trisha Leigh | July 15, 2011

Growing Together

“The most beautiful discovery that true friends can make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.”  – Elizabeth Foley

Even though Denise and I live only 8 miles from one another we met on Twitter, through the writing community there that I have praised on more than one occasion. We were at similar points in our writing journey when we met, and are still keeping pace with (and pushing one another) now. We became critique partners, brainstorming buddies, and finally, friends. There is often wine when we get together, and sometimes guacamole, but there is always laughter, and support, and a shared love of writing stories.

I chose the quote at the beginning because I’ve done a lot of growing since I met Denise. I’ve gotten divorced, admitted to myself and my family that I’m a writer, penned and ripped apart manuscripts, cried, laughed, been rejected (many times), signed with an agent, left that agent, cried some more, picked myself up, and somewhere in the middle of all that, figured out what kind of person I want to be.

Denise has been beside me for all of these things. She’s laughed with me, yelled at me, encouraged me, hacked apart my stories and helped me put them back together. Without her, I’d be a lot farther from becoming the better version of me.

Denise sent me the first pages of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes in June of 2010. I’d read her urban fantasy Chosen, but boy did Twenty-Eight have a much different feel. I immediately fell in love with Rose, her protagonist. Rose is in her twenties but has spent her entire life being bullied into submission by her Momma. No matter how hard she tries to do the right thing – she never drinks, or talks back, or goes anywhere at all, really – it’s not enough to make Momma forgive her for something she can’t control. Rose has visions, and in a small little place like Henryetta, AR, that’s enough to make you stand out. And not in a good way.

The story begins as Rose has a vision of her own dead body, but instead it’s her Momma who winds up six feet under. Rose finds herself under suspicion of murder and the prospect of spending her the rest of her life behind bars is enough to get her interested in living the life she has left. She makes a list of twenty-eight things she’d like to do, enlists the help of her (rather sexy) neighbor Joe, and gets cracking. The thing is, she forgets for a minute that someone killed Momma. And what she doesn’t know is, now they’re coming after her.

Rose is a fantastic heroine. You root for her from the beginning to the end of the book, laugh with her as she learns about life and love and relishes her overdue independence. Rose, for me, is what sets this book apart and makes it special. Well, also Joe, who I love and have requested a real life copy of, but Denise hasn’t come through on that end just yet. The mystery is tight and keeps you guessing, and not even Rose can see the twists and turns ahead of her before they hit her smack in the face.

The excerpt Denise is letting me post is one of my favorites of the book, the one in which Rose decides she’s going to try drinking beer, and Joe happens along. He thinks he’ll help her out, maybe teach her how to avoid those nasty little hangovers, but he ends up getting more than he bargained for. Again.

“Why do you want to commit all Seven Deadly Sins in one week? Why one week? Why commit them at all?”

I took a drink, suddenly tired of all his questions. “Look, there’s rules with that list. I can only mark them off when I do them. If I don’t do them, they can’t come off. I wrote that one without thinkin’. I thought about how Momma always said I was committin’ deadly sins and I thought I was gonna commit them all and enjoy it. But one day just didn’t seem right, you know?” I stopped to make sure he did.

He nodded with a smirk.

“So I decide one week would be more respectable. But what I hadn’t thought about was keepin’ track of them all. I think I’ll have to write them down or I’ll forget which ones I did and didn’t do.” I stood up. “I gotta pee.”

Joe laughed. “All right. Do you need help gettin’ to the bathroom?”

My snort told him what I thought of his ridiculous question. I turned to go inside the door, teetering because the porch began to wobble. I giggled again.

Joe got up and held onto my elbow. “Be careful.”

I tripped over my foot and started to fall. Joe wrapped his arm around my waist and steadied me, pulling my body to his in the process.

We stood chest to chest, his arm holding me to him. My heart sped up and my breathing became shallow. The warm feeling down below returned with a tingling I hadn’t expected but wasn’t ready to lose just yet.

“Can you list the Seven Deadly Sins?” Joe asked, his voice barely a whisper.

I stared up into his eyes, mesmerized. “Envy, slothfulness, gluttony.”

“Have you ever done any of those, Rose?”

I nodded slowly.

“That’s only three. Do you know the other four?”

“Wrath, pride, greed,…lust.”

His face moved closer to mine. My heart beat even faster, trying to flip-flop out of my chest.

“Ever felt greed?”

“I don’t know.”

“Lust?” His mouth was inches from mine.

Overcome with a yearning I’d never felt before, I didn’t answer, just studied his face.

“Have you really never been kissed? I find that so hard to believe.” His free hand caressed my cheek.

I felt his breath on my face and something in me ached with a need I couldn’t name.

His mouth lowered so close to mine, our lips almost touched. “I can help you with an item on your list.”

“Which one?” I whispered, searching his eyes and trying not to go cross-eyed.

“Number fourteen, a kiss.”

My heart thumped so hard I wondered if I was about to have a heart attack. But I decided if I was gonna die, then kissing Joe was probably a good way to go. “Can you make it a really good one?”

Joe laughed, tilting his head back, to my utter disappointment.

“So you can’t make it a good one or you don’t want to kiss me?” I asked, peeved.

He stopped laughing. “Neither.” The hand around my waist inched up my back, pulling me even closer to him, which I hadn’t thought possible. He did it slow and deliberate, like I was a mouse and he was a cat, playing with his prey. His eyes bore into mine, his mouth inching closer. My heart rate sped up again, the ache inside growing with every second.

“Are you sure, Rose?” he asked, a small grin lifting the corners of his mouth and making his eyes twinkle.

“Yes,” I sighed and closed my eyes.

So you’re dying to read this now, right? Because it gets better. I cut it off there just to make you salivate.

And guess what? I’m giving away a signed copy to one of you lucky folks. All you have to do is leave me a comment with the story of one of YOUR first kisses.

It doesn’t have to be long. Here’s mine: I was 13 and in 8th grade. I was “dating” this adorable guy named Wes, one of the most popular boys in my grade, but honestly not ready to have a boyfriend. One of his friends told one of my friends to tell me that he was going to kiss me. I avoided him for as long as possible but finally he cornered me at the top of a staircase in our middle school. My back pressed up against the bricks and he leaned in. I closed my eyes, and the last thing I wondered (before the terrifying, slobbery experience) was how mad he would be if I ducked and he smashed his face into the brick wall.

The End.

I’ll choose a random commenter to win a that autographed book at midnight tonight.

If you can’t wait, you can buy the book for your Kindle, your Nook, or in paperback.

What I’m watching right this minute: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (S5).






  1. WOW! My God, I’m hooked.

  2. Yay for Denise! I can’t wait to read this! My first kiss story:

    Mark was my first love. As much as a first love can be at thirteen. I played volleyball after school and there was a late van provided for all the students involved in extra-curricular activities. I was so swoony-in-love with Mark, I would rush to change clothes after practice and go meet him at the late van pick up place. One afternoon I left my book bag inside the gym and when I thought to go get it, all the coaches were already gone and it was locked. Mark ran to the nearest teacher’s house (it was on an Army base – very small), got them to come unlock it so I could get my stuff. He walked me to my late van and I kissed him in thanks. Soft and quick.

    These are sweet stories and I love reading about them. But I wonder what happens to these lovers after their first interlude. They grow up and go their seperate ways most of the time. Some of these first kisses have tragic endings. Mark, my first kiss, my first love, passed away at 22. I remember that first kiss all the more fondly because he’s gone now.

    • Oh, Harley. That’s sweet and sad. I’m happy you have found memories of your first kiss, though. Mine was, in fact, disgusting. LOL

    • I’m sorry about Mark, but happy for you that such lovely memories exist and can bring you a smile.

  3. I must read more, so I’ll share my story.

    When I was 15, the boy who sat next to me in pre-cal invited me to Homecoming using a TI-85 graphing calculator. We went, and we started dating, but we were both very shy. Months later, he got snowed in at my house. We were playing hide and go seek around midnight when I slipped on the floor by the pool table and fell flat on my ass. When he leaned over to see if I was okay, he kissed me instead. It was geek love, and it was awesome.

    • OMG! Did he spell out a message with upside down numbers??? And that is a VERY sweet kiss! Love it!

    • That is adorable, like a movie. I will be disappointed if a similar scene doesn’t make it into one of your books one day.

  4. Oh, geez. I still remember my first kiss like it was yesterday. And come to think of it, the anniversary of that momentous occasion is next week, our big tri-county fair. The biggest week of my entire year, every year because we showed livestock and got to spend the entire week there with all the other 4-H kids. The summer I was fourteen there was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy from Hawaii there, visiting his cousins, and we walked around the midway together to the smell of the cotton candy and the taco stand and hamburgers, and when we got back to the barns by where we parked we snuck into an empty horse stall and he kissed me.

    It was the ultimate farm girl romance, I’m telling ya.

    • A summer romance! I love it.

    • Kari, I WANT your story. Summer. Cute boy. Hay. Sigh. My first kiss was the opposite of all that.

  5. I had an awful first kiss. Really, just gross and ew. How about this- I’ll tell you about my next first kiss, which will be amazing. Yes?

    And can’t wait to read it Denise. ❤

    • Kate, I’m feeling so much better because my first kiss was disgusting. Really. And my second too. I really needed to find better kissers. 😉

      • Oh, and now I just need to find someone to kiss me. Period. LOL!

    • I’m glad you commented, Kate, because I was starting to think I was the only one.

  6. I heartily endorse this book! It was delightful, sweet, and damn fine crime story for those who like damn fine crime stories.

    Also, my first kiss was in the fourth grade with Donna Bell in the closet at her mom’s house. We were hiding from her sister, I think.I can’t quite remember. Anyway, we decided since we were in there we should, you know, kiss. Also touch tongues. I think we were both surprised by how much we liked the tongue part.

    Bonus detail: Donna was the first girl to see my no-no. It wasn’t like that, pervos. We were out in the woods and I had to pee, so I peed. Boys do that. But then I realized, “Wait. Donna is a girl! She saw my no-no!”

    She wasn’t impressed.

    • Bill, you just made me cry. I can’t believe Donna wasn’t impressed. 😉 No seriously, your words of endorsement mean more than you know! THANK YOU!

      Now, about your first kiss story. This reminds me of my son’s first kiss. When he was six, I picked him up from the babysitter one day and the sitter met me at the door with a look of horror. She confessed that the little girl she watched, who was two years older than Ross, had convinced him to go into the closet with her and kiss. With tongue. Ross would never say how he felt about the experience. I guess he doesn’t kiss and tell. 😉 (Okay, that was bad.)

  7. It was the summer I turned 13. You have to understand that I went to a very small college prep school where you graduated with the same people you saw eat paste and pee their pants, so romance was simply not in the cards during the school year – it was far too incestuous for my tastes. No offense to the 20% of my classmates that ended up marrying each other, of course. But, I had a secret life. During the summers I became someone else. I took part in the community theater summer production and it was glorious. That summer Justin Federico was playing the lead. He was Italian and gorgeous with a deep voice that just screamed “I’ve already been through puberty.” He called me on the phone at night and sang Belle Notte to me and for the very first time in my life I thought that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t weird or ugly or fat or any of the other things that had attached to my psyche from the taunts of mean, shallow kids at my school.

    I wasn’t even allowed to date yet, so there were no opportunities to huddle in the back of dark movie theaters or even wander malls with pinkies linked or any of the other things that all the other girls my age talked incessantly about while flipping their hair and tugging on their too-tight clothes from trendy stores.

    After the final performance of the summer we had a cast party in the theater. A big group of rowdy teenagers, all inclined to drama, set lose to have fun. On a stage, no less. Somehow there was a cake fight and I managed to smash a fistful of frosting right in Justin’s face on center stage. He looked shocked for the briefest span of time while I held my breath and looked at him. It felt like the entire group stopped to see what would happen.

    He reached out, grabbed me by the waist and bent me backwards in a dip that would have done the cover of Time post WWI proud and kissed me. Frosting went up my nose as I squeaked in shock and all I could think was, “This is it? This is my very first kiss? The one I’ll remember for my whole life as being The First. And it’s happening on stage in front of all these people. And, oh, GOD, I hope I’m doing it right.” Then it was over and after a dramatic pause that can only be created by a group of kids enthralled with Theater there was applause.

    • That has got to be the best REAL first kiss I’ve ever heard. So jealous! But so happy for you!!! That is AWESOME!

  8. […] is a stop at my dear friend Trisha Leigh’s blog. Trisha also happens to be my crit partner and even though we only live about ten minutes apart, we […]

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