As you read this, dear readers, I’m on the cusp of releasing Pursuit, Lewis Legacy Series 8 (technically Book 9 when you include Prelude, the prequel to the series). Pursuit is the story of NASA Commander William Jordan Lewis, chosen to command a mission to the International Space Station in late October 2007.
Admittedly, Will’s story is one I’ve been leading up to with great personal anticipation. I drafted all the books in The Lewis Legacy Series (with the exception of Prelude) a number of years ago, and Will has been mentioned in all but one of the series books (Moonbeams). Commander Will was finally introduced to readers in Abide, the most previous installment of the series with Catherine “Caty” Lewis, the youngest Lewis daughter. Pursuit is the second book in the series which takes a new direction in telling the stories of the younger Lewis siblings (youngest brother, Carson Lewis, will get his turn in the final book, Assurance).
As always, in Pursuit, you will be brought-up-to date on the Houston-based TeamWork Missions volunteer members led by Sam Lewis (the core character in the series whose love story with his wife, Lexa, is told in Lewis Legacy 1, Awakening). Physically, Will closely resembles his older brother, Sam, and he’s three years younger and two inches shorter (meaning he is 6’ 3”). However, Will is different from Sam in pursuing a lifelong and single-minded focus on space exploration. Will also finds social situations awkward, especially with a woman who’s not scientifically minded, and that makes for some interesting dialogue. Will’s mission is the first full crew of seven astronauts since the tragic loss of STS-107 shuttle Columbia on the first day of February 2003.
When I originally wrote this book, I knew it was unique and special. I invest myself in every character and story I write, but no matter how many books I may write in the future, I can say with absolute certainty that Pursuit will always be one of my personal favorites. I believe this is so for a number of reasons, among them my personal love of flying and fascination with NASA. Pursuit has adventure, a great love story (on several different levels), humor, faith, family, suspense… But ultimately, at its core, Pursuit is the story of how one person can change the world for Christ in revealing the power, mercy, and grace of our great God.
I can be fearless and relentless in seeking answers when it comes to my characters and their stories. For this particular story, I did an unprecedented amount of study. I loved every minute of it. For every fascinating true story of astronauts related in this book, I have ten more. Following the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Dallas in 2012, I visited Johnson Space Center on a rainy Tuesday morning in September. My husband, Jim, and I explored as many of the exhibits as we could. I ran around NASA and talked with, questioned, and pestered every technician, tour leader, and staff member I could find with questions. No wonder the woman in one of the gift shops tried to hide when she spied me coming through the door! Perhaps the one overriding question from the NASA staff was “What’s the name of your shuttle?” I was thankful when every one of them agreed Pursuit was an awesome shuttle name.
Here’s a little taste of the blurb for Pursuit, and an excerpt from the beginning of the second chapter of the book:
From the time he was a little boy, all Will Lewis wanted to do was ride a rocket to the stars. Now, more than three decades later, NASA Commander William Jordan Lewis prepares to lead his seven-member shuttle crew in STS-777 Pursuit on a six-week mission to the International Space Station. Nothing and no one will interfere with his single-minded focus. Then four months before his mission, Will meets his new neighbor in the condo next door—a petite woman with a sweet Southern accent and a masculine-sounding name who challenges, intrigues, and completely captivates him.
Climbing out of his car, Will turned and tried not to frown. After a rough day with the botched simulation and an unruly, disgruntled crew member, the last thing he wanted was to make small talk with his neighbor. She’d moved into the condo next door a couple of months ago, maybe three. Time had a way of escaping him lately, and the days tended to overlap. Until now, they’d only exchanged a wave in passing. He’d be content keeping their relationship limited to similar brief encounters. If she’d allow him to do that, they’d get along fine. At the moment, that prospect seemed unlikely.
Will removed his sunglasses and graced her with his best attempt at a smile. “Hi there.” He’d feel better if he could remember her name. Of course, it couldn’t be something simple like Kate or Emma. His recall for all things scientific was phenomenal, but this woman’s name? He hadn’t a clue. All he knew was that it was something unusual and didn’t sound particularly feminine.
“So, how are things at NASA? See any life forms moving around up there on Mars today?”
“Not today.” Clicking open the trunk of the car, he pulled out a couple of eco-friendly, reusable grocery bags. Surely she wasn’t mocking the space program. That would be downright anti-American, but it wasn’t like he hadn’t heard all the jokes before.
Her dark hair, pulled back in a ponytail, bounced around her shoulders as she walked closer. Bright blue eyes with a hint of gray surveyed him with open curiosity. Up close, she was very pretty in a perky, cheerleader way—fresh-faced with deep, appealing dimples etched on both sides of her mouth. Although petite, she appeared well-proportioned and physically fit in her shorts and T-shirt. He could appreciate that. She must have been gardening or planting as evidenced by the gloves she tugged from her hands and tossed on her driveway. The smudge of potting soil on her right cheek was oddly beguiling although it was highly possible his brain was functioning on overload.
“Oh, here. Let me help you with those.” She crossed the grass dividing their driveways to stand beside him with an approving smile. “Good to see you’re doing your part to save the environment.” As if he needed her approval. When she reached for one of the bags, Will handed it over. Call it a hunch, but she didn’t seem the type to accept no as an answer.
He retrieved the other three bags before clicking his key fob to lower the trunk. After she slung the bag over one shoulder and walked toward his condo, Will caught a whiff of her scent in the downwind. Reminded him of a combination of vanilla and something else he couldn’t immediately define. Potting soil? The vanilla won out, bringing to mind his mother’s oatmeal raisin cookies. He’d been craving them lately. That’s probably all it was.
Standing by his front door, his neighbor watched as he walked toward her. He was used to people looking at him, but she seemed more curious than in awe. No doubt with her outgoing personality, this woman would fit right in on the cul-de-sac, at least from what Will knew of their neighbors—families, older folks, and enough kids to be lively without being overly annoying.
He joined her on the covered porch. “I beg your pardon?”
“My name,” she said. “It’s Dalton Smith.” She stuck out her hand.
“No wonder I couldn’t remember.” He gave her hand a brief, awkward shake. “Not that you’re not memorable.” He was fumbling and needed to say something nice. His mother would be appalled by his current lack of manners. “You smell like fresh-baked oatmeal raisin cookies.”
“Thanks. I think.” Her cheeks colored pink which surprised him since nothing about the woman struck him as shy. Did she think he was flirting? Was he? Was she? Maybe it was a combination of both. He’d never been inclined to engage in much flirting, so he wasn’t sure he’d recognize romantic interest unless a woman knocked him between the eyes, kissed him, or hauled him off somewhere.
He unlocked and then pushed open the door, pointing to the right. “The kitchen’s back there.”
“I know. My floor plan is the opposite of yours.”
“Right.” He followed as Dalton walked toward his kitchen. “You can put the bag on the counter, and I’ll take it from there. Thanks for your help.”
“You’re welcome.” She turned back to face him, her smile slightly less enthusiastic. What was she waiting for? A tip?
“They’re my favorite,” he said, lowering his bags to the counter.
Dalton tilted her head with a confused expression. “What’s that?”
“Oatmeal raisin cookies. My mom makes them from Grandma Lewis’s prizewinning recipe. In my mind, telling you that you…smell…like that type of cookie was, in fact, a compliment of the highest order.”
“Prizewinning?” Her lips tipped in apparent amusement. This conversation was going nowhere fast.
“Yes, based on the fact that my mother found a large box stuffed full of purple and blue ribbons at the top of the bedroom closet after Grandma died. Along with newspaper clippings that made mention of the cookies.”
“Why did she keep them in a box?”
What an odd yet insightful question. “I imagine it meant more to her to earn the ribbons than to display them.”
Dalton nodded slowly. “I’m sorry for your loss. Grandma Lewis sounds like my kind of woman. In that case, I’ll take the compliment. You’re an intriguing man, Commander. Are all astronauts as much fun as you?”
“More so, I’m sure.”
“And, by the way, that was a compliment.” She brushed past him on her way out of the kitchen.
As you read this, I will be traveling on my way to Florida. I will check in when I can and comment.
Lastly, friends and readers, this is my last post on Inspy Romance. I’ve been a part of this wonderful blog from the beginning, and I’ve loved getting to know many of you and blessed to call you one of my faithful readers. If you’d like, please feel free to join me on Facebook on either my personal page or my Author JoAnn Durgin page. You can also find my website at www.joanndurgin.com. Wishing all of you God’s richest blessings. I’ll leave you with the theme Scripture verse from Pursuit:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,”
says the Lord God,
“who is and who was
and who is to come, the Almighty.”