That Was Your Favorite Part? Really?

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FIRST TO BURN, Book 1 of The Immortal Vikings

A soldier with secrets. Immortal Viking Wulf Wardsen once battled alongside Beowulf, and now serves in Afghanistan. He trusts the mortal men on his elite special operations team to protect his secret, until an explosion lands him in a place more dangerous to him than a battlefield: a medevac helicopter.

A doctor with questions. Army captain Theresa Chiesa follows the rules and expects the same from others, even special forces hotshots like Sergeant Wardsen. She’s determined to discover the secret behind his supernaturally fast healing, and she won’t allow his sexy smile to distract her.

An enemy with nothing to lose. Even as Theresa’s investigation threatens to expose him, Wulf wants nothing more than to build a future with her. But the Viking relic that might reverse his immortality is being hunted by another–an ancient enemy who won’t hesitate to hurt Theresa to strike back at Wulf.

Reading is one of the last solitary personal spaces. Although more and more of us interact about books on social media, the way a book remains a unique experience for each reader was brought home to me when I asked my friend/beta reader Mary and my editor Jeff to help me choose a memorable scene from First to Burn to submit as an exclusive excerpt at a book review site.

Jeff listed the motorcycle chase in Rome, the sewer escape and the sauna love scene. Mary jumped on the cookies-and-movie scene and “the scene where Wulf finds out about his brother.” My short list contained the designer-boot shopping scene, evading the nosy photographer and the other cookie scene, where Theresa finds out that her mother’s care package can cause unexpected trouble:

“Delicious.” His slow, deep voice returned, cueing her to look down.

Her mother hadn’t put cookies on top. Black lace peeked out of pink packing tissue. Jet beads caught the sun and winked at her from ribbon trim that connected two scalloped bra cups. She shoved the offending object deeper. Her jaw hurt from the pressure of gritting her teeth, but nothing she could say, nothing, would make this go away. She should shut up. Right now.

“If you decide to take her advice…” His smile lifted one side of his mouth.

What was he talking about? She followed his gaze to a sticky note that’d transferred from the tissue paper to her forearm. Not for your roommates! Share these with a nice boy. Written in her mother’s distinctive slanted loops.

She needed to escape before she surpassed her record for embarrassment, set the day she broke her holster in pre-deployment training at Fort Benning, and her Beretta slipped down inside her pant leg. Two more minutes and she’d blurt out that story. That would impress a Special Forces stud.

“Here.” She reached deep, felt plastic and tugged out a bag of chocolate espresso swirls.

Mary is well-acquainted with Mr. Richland’s baking expertise, so I know why we both thought of the scenes with cookies. I was surprised she also flashed on the creepy scene where Wulf arrives at his brother’s deserted house and finds graphic evidence of their enemy’s retribution, because I had no idea it was one of her favorite scenes. Even after being roommates at the end of the grunge era and sharing hundreds of books with each other, talking about specifics taught me something new about my friend. She likes scary more than cute. (Although apparently not more than cookies.)

My editor preferred the sauna love scene over the first love scene, which is my favorite. The sauna fits my hero’s lifestyle, because he’s an immortal Viking, but I don’t personally enjoy tiny over-heated rooms. Even if Wulf gives Theresa a much better appreciation for the benefits of steam and cedar benches, I’m not a sauna type, so that scene never came to my mind.

Try the same game. Find someone–book group, friend, family–who’s read the same book recently and ask what three scenes she remembers best or would recommend as an excerpt. Any overlap with your list? Any complete surprises?

Anna lives with her quietly funny husband and two less-quiet children in a century-old house in Seattle. She is a former army officer who now fills her days with imaginary friends and lots of coffee. Her new paranormal romantic suspense series is inspired by the Beowulf epic, and she also writes military romances, grocery lists and opinionated reviews of children’s books.

Anna would love to connect with readers at Facebook or Goodreads.
Visit AnnaRichland.com for a longer excerpt from First to Burn and a sneak peek at Anna’s next book from Carina Press.

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