Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Flexibility of Time

Sounds like a great title, right? I should be launching right about now into an exciting discourse on time travel, or temporal streams, or the space-time continuum, right?

Actually, what I'm blogging on is time itself. Finding the time to write is a challenge for every writer. Seems like there's always another email to answer, or a promo activity to bite into. Then there's the world outside your head that wants its own attention.

My solution is ten-minute pushes. If I can sit down for ten minutes and type a sentence, I feel like I've accomplished something, and my brain is now free to jump up again and do the laundry (or search that one websie, or whatever). But those same ten minutes can seem like forever if the words aren't coming. I literally get fidgety when I can't click, or get up and pick at a snack. And yet ten minutes aren't anything if I'm on a roll. I look up and the timer has dinged and gone, and my butt's cramping from sitting on one leg for so long.

But a handful of good ten-minute pushes makes for a great day. I can't say that I've had a great day today, but at least I can go to sleep knowing that I made progress.

And that's a good feeling.

Day Late and $1.98 Short- Again

Damn and Crap!!!

Once again word comes to me that one of the ideas that I have had brewing in my most troubled and twisted mind is being made into a movie...and before you shower me in kudos, let me just say....someone else wrote it before I did and I never knew. Why does this always happen to me? Someone ripping the rug right out from under my good idea and selling it to Hollywoood. Don't I deserve to be first in line...just once?

I can take heart that the current idea to beat me to the punch is at least a little different than mine. But not enough I think. Because I strive to be as original as possible I have this horrible fear of going ahead and writing these novels and someone saying..."What's wrong, Kat, can't find an idea on your own?" -- This nightmare wakes me from sound sleep and gives me freakin' hives.

This happened before, only about a year or so ago with Medium and Ghost Whisperer. I had an idea for a woman who can speak to the dead...and because it was a sequel my book to "By A Silken Thread" I really wanted the paranormal element to remain in. So, over lunch one day my most excellent critique partner and I came up with another twist in the story to make my character different from all the other characters out there who can "see dead people."

The advice I get from most people when I bring up this complaint is: go ahead and write it anyways, because your story is going to be different from theirs anyhow. True. True. I don't believe the novel and now movie that I read about today will have any romance in it--since it's written by a man and romance is just not their first or even second thought while writing something, I'm probably pretty safe-- That's not to say men can't write romantic books or scenes, it just isn't done that often. Their stories tend to be more action oriented. My idea is also very dry in humor and is mostly fun, with a serious underbelly. I don't know the tone of the book that I learned about today since I don't plan to read it. I don't want it to taint or influence how I write my book, but I may go to bn.com or amazon.com and read the blurb just to be sure it's not even close.

Will I go ahead and write my book? Oh, probably. On my list of books to write, it's listed at number 4, and I'm currently flying through the second book on the list.

Well, I have to go and beat my head against a brick wall now.

-Kat

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What's In A Name?

Why is it that choosing a name for someone seems like witling characters out of stone? I mean I can see the necessity to name a real child, but why should it be so hard for a character? In my opinion, it’s because they seem so real to the creator. I cringe to say this because I’ve been told your book isn’t your “baby”, but the people between the pages seem to be.

Sometimes as soon as they come to life in my imagination I can call them by name. Other times I have to use their characteristics (or archetypes) to christen them with one. This is when I call upon babynames.com. I love this site! Not only because you can scroll through pages after pages of names and their meanings, but because you can actively search by a meaning or even part of one.

For example, Zara in TIES OF VALOR has undergone three name changes. Her original name was way to close to another I’d seen, so I decided to see what names meant princess. And I also wanted it to be opposite of the hero’s name—Awyn Shandar. So Zara Dior hit the right chord, with a touch of timeless class.

The task is an even bigger challenge when naming a group of people, because you have to mix and match their monikers’ without using the same sounds. It’s especially intricate when trying to carry over a theme. For example, I wanted to thread dragons throughout BELIEVE IN ME, so I made the heroes’ names signify the mythical beasts because they bear their mark. To that end I searched for Dragon at babynames.com and got a list to springboard off of. I ended up with Terry Drago, Kaida Hardy, Varick Long, and Drake Brogan. I chose Terry to go with Drago because it means Tender & Gracious, which were two characteristics I wanted this gruff guy to be sensitive to. For the same reason I chose Hardy as Kaida’s last name because it means Courageous and Strong, which are symbolized by her intensity to see her mission through the most personal of struggles. For Varick, whom I affectionately refer to as nerd-boy, I wanted to portray his Honorable side that never backs down under the direst of circumstances. Finally, I chose the last name Brogan for Drake, because this hot-head is a Sturdy and Strong lifeline that’s always in the thick of things to pull his teammates through. As soon as he came to mind, I dubbed him Drake the rake, which I’m sure you can guess the correlation between.

For the heroine and hero I deviated from the plan, simply because I wanted them to be different from the rest of the Dragons. They became “Rad” Eadoin and Jacqui Valere. I wanted him to be an Advisor and for her to be a Protector, as both their names imply. And their nemesis had to be a Hunter, to portray a man I’d built up to be a major baddie, so I named him Kacela Theron.

Out of all the characters I’ve named, I’ll admit the most fun I had was during a search for alternate names to do an American Idol spin-off in PERFECTION NOT REQUIRED. Simon Cowell became Simone Piaza, Paula Abdul transformed into Paulina Caelan, and Randy Jackson turned into Randall Slade. Other cast members that rounded out the secondary characters were Loralie Locke based on Kimberly Locke and the heroine’s best friend Lucy London based on Latoya London. My heroine’s name was Dara Carlton, because I wanted to push her Compassion to help others. The hero, Kendall Gregory, was a combination of two ho-hum names because I wanted it to be non-threatening like his geeky persona. I chose Gregory because it meant Vigilant and Watchful, two qualities a self-help therapist better have. However when he becomes undercover snoop Ken Sexton, who got his name based on a chance meeting with Dara at Susie’s Sin-sations, there’s nothing laid back about him.

As you can see there is a wealth of whys and why-nots to steer any writer to and/or from a name. (Especially those like Bobby, Willie, Mitzi, Bubba, etc. that come with preconceived social connotations.) But as a writer friend told me during a pow-wow, make sure what you pick is something you can live with incase your readers decide they love that character you kinda just threw in to liven the mix. Keep it tucked away in the back of your mind that if you get a live one who connects with readers, that name may one day be your brand (ie. Stephanie Plum, Kinsey Millhone, or Lt. Eve Dallas ). So choose wisely, not just at the drop of a fedora!

Do you have a favorite character’s name? A certain one that comes with a story of how she/he got their John/Jane Hancock? Blog it out there for us all to share!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Never Go to Pluto

It’s a Mickey Mouse Planet.

That joke is older than I am, but now it has a new punch line.

Never Go to Pluto – it’s not a planet at all!

According to the International Astronomical Union, Pluto, long considered the ninth planet in our solar system, no longer qualifies for the title. [It’s kind of like a publisher being kicked out of the RWA if you think about it. You’re in the club for all those years, thinking everything is fine and one day someone comes along and changes the rules and boom, you’re out on your asteroid.]

I feel bad about it. Pluto deserves to be allowed back into the ranks. Sure, they’re saying it’s a dwarf planet – but that’s like being ‘almost pregnant.’ You either are a planet or you’re not. Poor Pluto, relegated to second-class planetship.

It has to be lonely being so far from the sun and the butt of an interplanetary joke besides. If I were Pluto, I’d think I’d pack up and leave the party. I mean, why hang around where you’re obviously not wanted? Of course, before I left, I think I’d moon everybody.

That’s just me. What do you think about Pluto?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Survival Tactics?

This has certainly been my week to blog :D I had a turn at the Triskelion Authors Blog and one at Sisters of the Night. You might want to check them out since they bear a little bit on what I’m writing today.

In fact, all three of these blog posts that I’m doing arose from a chance viewing of a Sci Fi channel movie that I saw last weekend. Mansquito. The title is really a forewarning that the movie isn’t all that, right? Somehow, this prisoner gets injected with some odd compound that ends up morphing him into a giant mosquito. So okay, mosquitoes are the bane of my existence, they come from miles away just to snack on me. And I don’t hesitate to kill them if I get the chance. It’s a love/hate kind of relationship and maybe that’s why I watched some of this movie.

I say some because after the third of fourth victim fell flat on the ground or stood rooted to the spot, I had to change the channel. I have a very low tolerance for idiocy. Allow me to explain. The first victim–the prisoner’s girlfriend–sees him mutating into a giant mansquito. What would you do? I’d run like hell. What did she do? She threw herself onto the couch, screaming. Oh yeah, there’s a survival tactic–NOT. The second victim saw the mansquito coming at him. Did he run like hell? Nope. He grew roots apparently and ended up as snack food. Same for the next victim (another man). A fourth guy did run but tried hiding himself behind a flimsy pile of scrap wood while Mansquito was dining on his previous victim. I’d have been in the next state by the time he (Mansquito) slurped up the last drop of blood.

Why do movies portray these monster victims as Too Stupid To Live? Shock value? A chance to show how effective the rampaging monster can be? Or maybe it’s a subconscious wish to improve the gene pool? Your guess is as good as mine.

Unfortunately, I see some of this same TSTL behavior in some books, mostly from heroines (and I use the term loosely). I’m not talking about the heroine who is suddenly faced by the sexy vampire or shapeshifter. I’m not talking about the heroine who comes face-to-face with an intriguing alien.

No, what I’m talking about is the heroine who is attacked by the bad guy (human or monster–makes no difference) and WAITS for the hero to save her. Okay, so I’ll agree that the hero needs to be able to save his heroine from time-to-time. That’s what heroes do and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But occasionally I’d like to see the heroine set about her own escape plan, try to fight back with whatever weapons she can get her hands on. I’d like to see her TRY to survive on her own. She may not have a chance of success. We do have to make it hard for her, after all, thus allowing the hero to be heroic but she should try and, once in a while, she ought to be successful.

In fact, occasionally, it’s nice to see the heroine SAVE the hero. We live in a liberated age, one where a man and woman should be partners. To have the man always responsible for the heroine’s safety is, well, a bit archaic. It gives him all the power. But a partnership? Let’s think about it.

Even the best, larger-than-life hero needs someone to watch his back or give him that tiny bit of help he needs to conquer the villain. And even the most kick-ass heroine is going to bite off more than she can chew as she tries to save the universe. Neither is weak when alone but they’re so much stronger when they’re together.

And, to me, that partnership, that strength, is important to setting the stage for love–which is the ultimate goal (of the writer, never the characters) for a romance book.

So...partnership (and love) as a survival tactic? I think so.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Star-Crossed Romance

High Tech vs Medieval-style sci-fi

Why is it, I wonder, that so many sci-fi/futuristic romances are set in either high tech society, or in almost medieval-like societies. Is it that one is what we imagine it will be like, and the other what we secretly wish for?

High tech can be a scary thought. Maybe it won't be like we...well, like. What if there is no sex? *Heaven forbid!* What if we procreate using artificial insemination, or a little dish? What if sex is ruled out due to STDs? Or if more people stay single and so only meet to approve the sperm donor?

Oh HORRORS! Where's the romance in that?

But medieval...there's still that strong man mentality (yes, the good ol' Alpha and Beta man). That take-charge man who oozes testosterone and makes the panties wet. Yeah, that's the kind of romances we want! (or some of us).

I'm not talking the hero who is an unfeeling turkey, doing what he wants and never mind anyone else. I'm talking about the macho man who sweeps us off our feet (hey, it IS fantasy, remember? LOL). Hot sex and hot body and that he-man attitude (within reason). Hot lovin'.

But in a high tech society...will they do that? Can high tech be hot hot hot and make our blood sizzle? Will they be too caught up in political correctness and what is sexually right and what shouldn't be done? Will spontaniety go out the window when high tech comes zooming in?

Scary thought. *sniffle*

So I guess it's up to readers to say what they want in their high tech/medieval-style sci-fi/futuristic romances, and for authors to decide how hot they're gonna make the future, and what style of future it will be.

After all, think of the possibilites. Floating sex palaces, hot toys as in pleasure robots, romance at the flick of a switch, bathtub bubbles fragrant and never ending. No STDs and men who can go all night . New customs, blending of old and new - it is so limitless!

With a good old fashioned love match wrestle *guffaw*.

Sorry...I am just an old fashioned girl at heart!

Personally, I think there's room for both in sci-fi/futuristic romances. It's just up to us to use our imaginations and keep the romance strong and hot

And I like a sci-fi that mixes a bit of both!!! After all...I do LOL.

Angela

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Vacation From the Vacation

Why is it that I feel like I need a vacation to recover from my vacation? This year, Clan Xandra divided our time between the Pennsic War and GenCon, which, for you non-g33ks out there, are a medieval re-creation war in a primitive campsite, and the world's largest gaming convention, respectively, although you can find chicks in metal bikinis at both events.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered an "Authors' Alley" at GenCon, featuring many small press and self-pubbed authors of various subjects of SF and Fantasy. Some of it looked really good, and if I weren't on limited budget and even more limited time ("Okay, honey, I'll take the kids, you go through the Dealers' Arena. Fifteen minutes for fifty thousand square feet and fifteen hundred vendors, then we switch. Ready? Go!") I would have stopped to chat.

I had a really good time playing Mechwarrior miniatures, and all along, I kept wondering...why isn't there more erotic romance with giant robots in it? Why aren't more guys picking up their dates in a giant mechanical suit outfitted with quad lasers and a belly turret gun? Chicks dig giant robots, people!

Still, I wonder what it would be like to take a vacation someplace relaxing, like the beach. And just, do nothing. What's it like to actually get extra sleep on a vacation? To not swelter in a tent in ninety-degree heat and too many layers of medieval clothing, or roll around in sensory overload from fifteen hundred little companies trying to sell games, cards, fantasy artwork of women with impossibly gravity-defying chest attributes, and/or The Batmobile? What's it like to just be alone, or with few other people on vacation, instead of edging yourself around someone in full Tudor garb, complete with three-foot farthinggale hoop skirts, or Klingons, or Drow elves, Warrior princesses, and various Pirates of the Caribbean washed up all the way to Indiana?

I'm grateful to get back to work, because it looks like I'll need the rest!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Zara Grills Somthing Besides Supper

“When I crash landed on Beryl what was the first thing about me that caught your eye?” Zara Dior nudged her significant other’s knee with her foot, to press him to answer. “And don’t give it to me in Prince Regent mumbo jumbo. You know I like it straight.”

Awyn Shandar grimaced, fighting the negatives if he skirted her order. “Your training honed body. I did see you naked that first day.”

“And there I was trying to fathom what you were thinking because I assumed you weren’t like other guys.” Zara chuckled, swiveling to jab him with a firm gaze. “Bet you wouldn’t have tried those shenanigans if you’d known the way I could kick-ass and take names later, huh?”

“If it had not been a medical necessity…no. ”

“And you’d only think it fair, since you gave me two tests that I even the score, right?” Zara leaned forward to nab something she’d secretly tucked behind her back.

“Will it entail matters of diplomacy?”

“No. It’s nothing your mother or Geist will have to sign off on.” Zara flipped open the cover. “If your brother hadn’t destroyed my cargo, it wouldn’t have been this…crispy. Now we’ll see if you pass my test with flying colors.”

“What is that book?”

“The futuristic woman’s guide to life.”

Awyn’s eyebrows swept down. “A travel log? Can I see the maps.”

Zara wheeled it around for him to get an eyeful of a scantily clad couple lounging on Sartin’s beach to shoot an ad for Mirage perfume. “You can borrow my magazine all you want, but it’s way out of date.”

“Then what will it prove?” Awyn scoffed, chugging half his tankard of Tropi.

“These quizzes never go out of style. But to humor you, I’ll skip the multiple choice answers and let you fill in the blank. Fair enough?”

Awyn nodded, draining the rest of his cup with a gulp.

“Think you’re a bigger girl magnet than most of you pals?” Zara held up a hand to stop his rushing answer. “Take your time and answer truthfully. I want details,” she stressed.

“I caught your eye as Captain of Mostyn's Guard.” He wiggled his eyebrows only to get a scowl for his troubles. “There is no way I could out maneuver Talis. They swarm to him like flies to Anida’s sweet rolls.”

“Kudos on the vivid detail, but I could've done without that mental picture. Let's move on. How often do you spend time naked when you’re solo?”

A pent up breath whistled out between his teeth. “What kind of question is that?”

“An interesting one. Now fess up.”

“An hour…maybe two, but I’d rather spend it bathing with you.”

“Maybe later, hot stuff. If you rub me the right way with those aphrodisiac salts I offloaded.”

His lips curved into a heart-stopping smile of pure sin. “Can we go now?”

Oh, how she wanted to say yes. “We’ve only answered two questions!”

Awyn’s face fell, his frown beseeching her to hurry along with her fun so he could have his.

“The last really yummy fantasy you had…fill in the blank.”

“We played this out in the holochamber. Remember the—“

“Delicious cake that didn’t light me up like on of your brother’s experiments. We’ll have to hit Anida up for more of that.”

“It can be arranged for a price.”

“Who’s boss here?” Zara’s eyebrow arched, keeping him in check for a few minutes longer. “Name a non-sexual activity that makes you feel more in touch with your bod.”

Awyn’s eyes focused far off, his air one of someone lost in a daydream. “Sparring with you sword to sword. Advancing and retreating, neither the stronger.” His brilliant blue eyes afire, he warmed her with their touch. “How many men can say they have such a talent in their reserves.”

“You’re going to make me blush.”

“Eventually. If we ever make it to our bedchamber.”

There was that naughty boy that wanted her to call him daddy. “Last question okay?”

Awyn nodded, a satisfied grin animating his face. “You could not take it any longer?”

“Why do I feel another test coming on?”

“Ask your question and let us call it even. Agreed?”

Zara slipped her hand behind her thigh and twisted her index and middle fingers together. “You’ve got a deal.” After all even if she were a loser, she’d still get some spoils. The edges of her mouth twitched, ready to break into a grin until she scanned the next question. “The luscious woman you just started dating says she’s going back to her ex. You feel…fill in the blank.”

Awyn’s face went deadly serious, his tone rigid. “Is there another man?”

“No. Substitute Sartin, my home-world where I still bear a duty. What then?”

“I would die. Without you I have no heart, so how could I live?” He scooted to the edge of his chair to grab her hand, slackening the pressure when she winced.

Zara leaned forward to place a kiss as powerful as her killer death strike upon his lips. “If I ever had to make the choice, know I would take you in my heart. And at the first chance I’d sail across galaxies at break neck speed to reach your side again.”

A brimming smile cheered his soberness as he pulled her to her feet, then wrapped his arms around her waist. “Isn’t that what got you into trouble in the first place?”

“You could always come along for the wild ride. CHIRI will keep you safe, or kill me if I let anything happen to you.” Her gaze dropped to the magazine laid out in her chair. “Or you could opt out for an extra credit question.”

“I shall choose the later.”

Her smile went from barely there to too-hot-to-handle as she wedged in closer to him to whisper, “Sex is hottest…fill in the blank.”

He peppered her cheeks with soft kisses. “When…you…are…unarmed.” His hand slid down her thigh and lifted the hem of her dress to snag her backup dagger. With it safely tucked in his belt, his hand latched with hers. “Shall we?”

“You’re bowing down to let me lead the way?”

Awyn twirled her away from him, then zeroed in on her weakest spot with a resounding pat. “There are advantages to bringing up the rear. I get to watch you walk away.”

Her spirit flared to life as quick as her libido’s blood-pumping race. “Payback is a double-edged sword I won’t mind wielding when the time comes.”

Awyn’s hand on her hip turned her toward him. His head dipped, their tongues at passionate war until they pulled back for a mutual cease-fire. “I would never expect less from the woman I love.”

“Touché.”
____________________________
For more flying sparks between Zara and Awyn pick up TIES OF VALOR, due out November 2006 from Triskelion Publishing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Coming in September to Amber Quill

Yesterday I got my cover art for my new science fiction romance!















Ravensatr's Bride has been on the drawing board for a long time and I'm thrilled to finally see the release date on the horizon.

Here's the blurb:

Princess Ra’Nara Lumina, destined for the throne of Cadeia, has fled her privileged life to escape the dark destiny that awaits her. Slated to be bred with her cruel cousin, Cleus Antioch, she can expect most of her children to die of a genetic illness borne in the genes of the royal family. To save her unborn heirs, she leaves the palace, but as long as she remains untouched by a man, she is still eligible to rule. Pursued by the ruthless Chancellor Kossa, who will do anything to see that succession of the throne is unbroken, Ra’Nara must find a man willing to claim her as his wife.

Istrian Merchant Captain Ravenstar Bren finds himself with a strange dilemma. To save the princess and the lives of her as yet unconceived offspring, he must claim her as his bride, but can he convince the proud people of his nomadic nation to accept a ‘land-born’ as the wife of their sovereign?

Stay tuned for more info on Ravenstar's Bride and go here, for a short excertpt!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Plot

By now most people who know me also know that I get most of my ideas from dreams or that hazy little twilight of storytelling I do right before I drift off to sleep. Most of the time—unless the idea is so awesome I'm Jonesing to tell it—I will write a few lines or get the main idea out on paper and come back to it later. Sometimes, much later.

During the time away from the new idea, I write other books, stories, or articles. By the time I get back to the idea the market may have changed, the push for 'something different' nipping at my heels like a rabid Pekinese. So, what to do with these ideas to make them fresh and not only stand out in the current market, but to make them salable? Glad you asked. The answer is very simple- I tweak.

Yes, indeedy folks, you are associating yourselves with a self-confessed tweaker. I can't help myself. And even though I would like to stand up and say, "I write for myself. Not for the market." If I did so, lightning would strike me dead as the worst possible liar. This is what I want as my career, so to that end I do freely admit I do try to watch the market trends and adjust my novels accordingly. That's not to say I will abandon what I like to write and just write what's current or selling. I don't think I could make that big a compromise, but adding popular elements I can do. It helps of course when the market and my interests already mesh.

But back to tweaking...

My current WIP didn't start out as a humorous treasure hunt with a legendary archeological site and a gun-toting ex-boyfriend...it just happened that was what started coming out as I sat down and started writing the outline. The original concept was for a dark romantic suspense featuring a clandestine government agency and black market scuptures...oh, well, I can still do that to another story. When I pulled "Idolatry" out of the conceptual mothballs it had been hiding in since I got the idea, I had thought to turn it into an erotic romance, but somewhere down the line it became a fun romp with humor and, I hope, heart. But that's all right...the important thing in tweaking is to not take your story into a direction it doesn't want to go...and believe me, my characters protested loudly when I suggested the dark romantic romance. Not that the love scenes aren't hot...I'm told they are, but there just aren't as many of them. : )

Since pulling this story and beginning again on it, I've spent probably a total of four months writing it. (That's from outlining and research to actual rough draft). The market hasn't changed in those four months, but it did between original idea and actual writing. Hopefully the tweaking will see it to an editor who can appreciate the fun of the story, and also the more emotional scenes as well. If not...I'll tweak it again and again. After all...it ain't written in stone.

So, how far have you tweaked to get a project marketable? Do you? Or don't you? Would you, or won't you? I'd like to hear other points of view on this.

-Kat

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Star-Crossed Romance

Star-Crossed Romance

Hi all! It was actually my day yesterday, but for some strange reason, cyberspace didn't like me and woudn't let me in *sniffle*.

Anyway, my thoughts for the day (scarey...I actually have thoughts!).

So many people ask what inspires me, and most of all, it is music. It sets the mood. Leads me inwards. No, not space music LOL.

If I'm writing a swashbuckling scene, my music reflects that. A sad scene? Music reflects that.

I wrote Soul of a Witch mostly to the soundtrack of Gladiator (Russell Crowe's film). Heart of a Traitor - I mostly played the songs "Shame" and "Some People Are Strange". Soul of the Forgotten was similar music, but also included "I Wouldn't Be a Man (If I didn't Feel Like This)" and "Shot Full Of Love".

Songs like "Don't Pay The Ferryman" and "Holy Grail" really push my imagination.

Some music is great for fight scenes, violent scenes, and yet others for the tender moments.

Music suits my heroes, too. Such as when I'm writing a love scene and I listen to "I Wouldn't Be A Man" just inspires tenderness in my hero. "Don't Pay The Ferryman" gives an edge of desperation to a scene.

Just recently I cought a CD By Sandi Thom, and two songs on that CD - "Lonely Girl" & "Sunset Borderline" show me, in my minds eye, a lonely Heroine, facing the universe alone and brave, but with a secret longing for her love and someone to be by her side.

Music can make my universe explode in action, loneliness, fear, horror...

Yep, music is a main ingredient for my inspiration. It sets my mood, reflects the setcion of writing I'm working on, and helps the words flow from the keyboard to the screen. I couldn't live without my music. Heck, I even went through nursing studies with music! LOL

Angela

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Heartstone -- Eric d'Ebrur

I wanted to let you all know that to celebrate Heartstone's release, I'm having a contest for members of my newsgroup. The prize will be a box of See's Dark Chocolates, a handmade crystal heart suitable for a necklace or use as a suncatcher, a 2007 date book and other assorted promo items. To enter, all you need do is join my newsgroup by sending a blank email to LyndaKScott-Newsgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.com The drawing will be on September 30.

Here's another excerpt: Eric's first appearance in the book. Eric is scouting out the area--and the Stonebearer--as the first step in his quest to find the Heartstone.

In his alter-form, the canid, Eric d'Ebrur watched the Stonebearer enter the shop. Between one moment and the next, she'd gone pale and trembled. What had happened?
His first thought, that she was Infested, he dismissed. Once a Gawan took command, it didn't relinquish control. He'd seen it often enough to know.

He'd been surprised when Benamont I'sadhe's information had proved correct though he shouldn't have been. The old scholar had resources beyond the scope of most. Resources he guarded as stringently as Eric guarded the Federation. Eric admired that.

But he didn't admire the cavalier way I'sadhe had told him to use his niece, Keriam I'sadhe. The Stonebearer.

Still. She was tall and well-made like all the I'sadhe clan. The hair, glistening with dark fire, and the midnight-blue eyes came from her father's line. He'd recognized that from the imagescans but what identified her was her scent.
That part of the Gar'Ja bond apparently held true.

Standing, Eric shook himself and trotted across the street to peer through the glass. She wasn't there, he realized with a spurt of disappointment. Where had she gone? Her scent still came strongly to his sensitive nose, an evocative blend of woman and soft spice. His ears pricked forward, detecting movement beyond the young, yellow-haired female. Then the Stonebearer appeared, a stack of ancient tomes in her arms.

She was not beautiful, but her features intrigued him. She had high, wide cheekbones with just a hint of color and a jaw that was a little too strong. Her lips were full and elegantly shaped. He had the feeling she smiled often.

As he studied her, she looked up, saw him at the window. Her expression slowly became curious. She smiled, pointed him out to the other female. That one made a funny sort of ooh'ing sound and charged to the door as if the Gawan were hot on her tail. The door slapped open, accompanied by a tinkling bell.

"Hey, you lost, sweetie?" Fearlessly, the yellow-haired female rubbed his head, tickled his ears. "No collar? Poor baby!"

"Sheesh, don't run up to a stray and start playing with it." The Stonebearer's voice came, exasperated and just a little amused, from beyond her companion. "Especially not one that big. You'll get bit."

"Oh, he's a good boy. Look at him. He likes me."

Eric allowed the female to draw him close but when he tried to turn to see the Stonebearer, he found his nose in the female's cleavage. She squealed, merrily, and pushed him back. "Just like a guy. Or are you a girl?"

He narrowed his eyes in automatic insult then caught the Stonebearer's silent laugh. Helpfully, she said, "Turn him upside down and check."

"You turn him upside down, Xena-Warrior-Princess." She ducked her head, peering under his belly. "Definitely a boy."

Eric pulled free of her grasp and went to the Stonebearer. He nuzzled her dangling hand. One rasp of his tongue against her flesh told him what he needed to know. She wasn't Infested.

A weight lifted from his chest. The Gawan hadn't gotten to her. Yet. The Stonebearer knelt, holding his ruff between her hands, and looked him in the eye. "He looks well-fed." She glanced at her companion. "I don't think he's been lost for long. Someone will be looking for him."

She stood, glancing at the empty street. "Put a sign in the window saying you've found him. Then put him in the back."

"He'll get lonely back there."

"Janna, we can't keep him in the store. Not with customers coming in and out. All we'd need is for him to bite someone."

Eric slipped past her, entering the store. He needed to stay close to the Stonebearer. Close enough to protect her should the Gawan come. Close enough to find the Heartstone if he could. Meanwhile, he would continue to play the big, friendly dog. He sat by the counter. Grinned. Wagged his tail.

"Look at that. Isn't he sweet?"

Not many would call the Antiare Defender sweet. Dedicated, certainly. Honorable, he hoped. Dangerous, yes, a warrior must be dangerous. But not sweet.

"Put him in the back."

The young female, Janna, did her best but Eric simply lay with his nose on his paws and refused to budge. He watched the Stonebearer, curious about what she would do.

He didn't have long to wait. She whipped her belt off, looped it around his neck and tugged him toward the back of the store. He growled, braced his paws against the slick tile and still found himself sliding over the floor.

"Weighs a freaking ton," Keriam panted as she dragged him through the door. "I've got a soup bowl in the cabinet. Get him some water. Then, run down to Jantzen's Hardware and buy a collar and leash. Or rope. He'll need to be taken outside to do his business."

"What about food?"

Keriam planted her hands on her hips and studied him. "We'll deal with that later. He doesn't look in danger of wasting away real soon."

The two females left, securing the door behind them.

And so, Eric d'Ebrur, the High Defender of Antiare, was relegated to the status of common pet.

But only for as long as it took to find the Heartstone.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Heroes Among Us

Sci-Fi wants to know WHO WANTS TO BE A SUPERHERO? My answer—jumping up and down like a cheerleader on a sugar high, my hands waving wildly in the air—ME!

Of course I leapt over from Yahoo’s summer TV guide (where I found this intriguing nugget) to Sci-Fi’s website (http://www.scifi.com/superhero/). Only to find some really cool graphics which include a list of all 11 hero/heroines. Which means they’re done casting (for this season at least).

Bummer. I’ve wanted to be a superhero since I was ten. Maybe even younger, but my memory is a little sporadic when trying to access events that old. I started with Batman, as in the old Adam West-Burt Ward version. Wealth galore, secret identities and all those cool gadgets, who wouldn’t want to don a mask and wear spandex tights? Then I progressed to Spider-man, who I connected with because he was forced to be a loner. Through Peter Parker, I was introduced to Firestar. Hmm...a girl who’s unsure of herself, but hides a feistiness that threatens to explode. That sounded way close to me. So of course she became my new favorite. I recently did an online test at liquidgeneration.com about what Marvel superheroine I was. Guess who popped up? Yep, Angelica Jones AKA Firestar.

And who created these giants among men? Stan Lee, the man who will judge SciFi’s Superhero contestants on numerous characteristics—and crown the Super-winner.

I reflected on an oft repeated quote—“with great power, comes great responsibility”. Would I have had the metal to pull that kind of coup off? If I were Bradley "Rad" Eadoin—my latest hero, I think I could. As an All-American male, he'd grown up with an ideal life that blossomed into a career as a male model. Overcome by fame's richness, he fell from his gentlemanly graces into an abusive lifestyle. But when a mistaken step lands him in Winzles, he becomes a nobody who must fight to stay alive. When he's given the chance to enlist in a group to save others like himself, with urging from the radical mastermind, he decides it's time he redeemed his sins.

So what’s his power? Technically, none. He wasn’t born with a mutation (a natural occurring anomaly that gifts special talents). In fact none of his teammates—the Dragons—were. They’re bio-engineered by a cutting edge doctor, but nonetheless they’re “true” heroes who play Robin Hood with real lives. Rad epitomizes the doctor's best of the best with his natural leadership charisma and super-awesome new ability to morph into liquid metal.

However as Stan Lee says, it’s more about heart than sparkling flair (or being the heroine's oh-la-la bling). And in Rad's case that organ has withered under the duress of life vs. death decisions that have gone bad way too many times. But when Jacqui Valere's path crosses his, he learns love can work miracles simply by the sparks that linger in a kiss. For Rad all is fair in love and war, but occasionally aiming below the belt is legal...if you have the papers to prove your claim.

Even while my pen stroked Rad to life, I never knew how persuasive he could be. That is until he whispered an idea for a twist in my ear while I was half asleep to get his way. Hopefully, you'll all get the chance to read his adventure as a Shomi title. But as we all know things written on paper, don't always find an audience. And wearing a cape, doesn't always make you a superhero. Sometimes it just makes you fashionably chic.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Heartstone is here!

Just thought I'd let you all know that Heartstone is now available to purchase at Triskelion! I didn't expect it to be available until August 15 but, what the heck! {g}

Thursday, August 03, 2006

An Interview With Chance MacKenzie

Recently, I caught up with the globe trotting hero of my paranormal romance, The Soul Jar [New Concepts Publishing, June 2006]. Mr. MacKenzie was kind enough to grant an interview before jetting off to his next exotic locale. Since he didn’t have a lot of time, I figured I’d cut right to the chase and ask the hard questions up front so all you interested ladies could get to know Mr. Tall Blond and Handsome.

JC: First off, how did you get the name “Chance”?

CM: My first name is actually Mason, but all my friends call me Chance. I’ve been told the name Mason doesn’t fit me. I guess I’m too tall. They started calling me Chance when I was wrestling sharks in Bimini. [Winks]

JC: Sharks? Hmm. You’ve given that up, I hope. What is it you do for a living these days? I’ve heard whispers that you work for the CIA .

CM: Ah...I do as little actual ‘work’ as possible. [Laughs] My business card says “Entrepreneur.” I dabble in antiquities, international security and ‘creative bargaining.’

JC: Where did you get that yummy accent?

CM: Born and raised in New South Wales, Australia but I haven’t been back in a while.

JC: What would you say is your best feature?

CM: If this is a PG rated interview, I can’t tell you.

JC: [Blushing] Your second best feature then?

CM: My eyes. I’ve been told they’re brooding and smoky.

JC: I can’t argue with that. [Drools a bit] Let’s talk about your personality. You’re certainly not a homebody. How would you describe yourself to the opposite sex?

CM: PG rating again?

JC: [Nods] We’ll save the...intimate stuff for another time.

CM: All right, I’d say, I’m well traveled, well read and always looking for adventure. I don’t like to stay in one place long, so be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Breakfast might be in Milan, dinner in Cairo, dessert in Paris.

JC: So a lady has to be ready for anything with you around. Describe your ideal woman.

CM: Is it okay to say I like brunettes? Blue eyed brunettes to be precise. My ideal woman stays calm in the face of danger. She’s smart and self-reliant and ready for anything.

JC: Danger, you say?

CM: It seems to follow me wherever I go.

JC: And where will danger follow you next?

CM: That’s classified, luv.

JC: One final question before you go. Are you available?

CM: [Laughs] Not anymore. I’ve found the woman of my dreams, again. And I’m never letting her go.

JC: [Long suffering SIGH.] Oh well. On to the next hunky hero.

Star-Crossed Romance

Star-Crossed Romance

Hi all!

ahhh...Hunks week. And we all love a good hunk! Tall, handsome, dreamy, muscles you could use as speed bumps...*phwoar*! Fanning self*

But there's more to a hunk for me. The hunks in my books have to be more than just good looking and built like a Greek God. The looks are great, but there has to be more to make him a character you lust...er, I mean want to get to know better.

And I admit, a hero's character will have the qualities I admire in a man. The characters and traits I look for. What are they?

He must be loyal to his chosen friends and loved ones. Willing to go through the fires of hell for them.

He must have a sense of humour, a keen wit, a roguish twinkle in his eyes.

He must look at the people as a whole, not as a fat person, a skinny person, but as a PERSON. Looks aren't important to him. If his love is big or small, he thinks she's just perfect.

He must be honest...but when the occassion calls for it, he's not above telling a whopper. Ah - ha, you say, a flaw! Hey, why not? A hero can't be perfect all the time! But the whoppers I'm talking about (and for those who don't know my Down Under lingo, I mean a lie), are for the good of others. The little white lie "You look great" when he might think "Good God! I HATE that dress!" Face it, most of us tell the white lie!
But he might lie to save a loved one, or because he knows it's the right thing to do at that time.

A lie the right thing to do? Debatable, you think? Well, I can argue that another time LOL. For this blog, I mean honesty to his lover, but he will do what he must to save her.

But yes, he is also honest. I know, I know, I just said he could tell a lie, but there's telling a lie, and then there's earth shaking lies. Let's be practical here. He is honest to his lover, he doesn't steal...oh, hang on, one of my heroes was a space pirate who stole...but circumstances, you understand? LOL

That's the other thing with heroes - they conform to our story, to their time and place in the universe, so I'm taking the heroes on that, not on anything else. And hey, this is fantasy, not real life...though if I could find a hero like my written ones in real life, I wouldn't leave the bedroom! (Bedroom? Heck, the bathroom, the kitchen, wherever he wanted to take me - oops!...Back on track now, girl...)

He's not vain, or if he is, he knows it and can laugh about it to himself.

Canny. Intelligent (not big-headed). Sure of himself.

Compassion. He MUST have compassion. Again, different heroes don't have that compassion outright. I mean compassion for those he loves. I have a bounty hunter I'm writing about at the moment, and because of who he is and what he's been through, his compassion is only to his friends. Everyone else can go to hell...if he cared enough. But compassion for loved ones is a must.

Kind to animals. Hey! That's a must-have in my books, even if it's never mentioned!

Respect for others who deserve respect.

I don't want my heroes to be suckers. If they're going to be blackmailed, then there had better be a REALLY good reason, not just because he feels sorry for them. And there has to be no way out.

He loves sex with his lover. Hey, admit it, the hero has to be great in the sack (and out of it)! LOL

Even though he might be a bit of a wild child when single, once he marries his love, he becomes a contented family man, but he's still roguish, still a naughty twinkle in the eye - he keeps everything he was when single, but he's a loving and loyal family man once wed.

Once wed, he doesn't change. He doesn't become bored, or feel tied. He respects his love's wants and needs, as she does in return.

There are probably a dozen other things I could list, but I think you get my drift. Some might say a hero like this is impossible, yet we have to remember, this is fanatsy. And I know women who would say their husbands/boyfriends are just like this. Many of us have found our hero already, and some of us haven't. Some may never find their hero.

But that's the beauty of books - we can find a hero and be lost in his charms and admirable traits, and that twinkle in his eyes. For a time, that hero is ours . And there's nothing wrong with that.

Now, off to find a Daamen trader (giant hunks), or an Argon (sexy hunk) or a Felys (hot hunk).

Bye!

Angela

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Eric d'Ebrur -- Heartstone

The following takes place prior to the opening of Heartstone.

"I'll fight the Gawan with sword or blaster, fang or claw," Eric said firmly. "But I will not take a wife."

The words hung in the study like a laser-flare over a battlefield. Like a flare, they caused a moment of absolute stillness in the two men facing him. Sharp beams of light from the Antiare sun speared through the windows hitting a jeweled prism on the low table to Eric’s right and burst into coruscating splinters. Through the richly carved moonwood door, Eric caught the soft murmurs of his mother and Orianna as they exchanged pleasantries in the reception room. Doubtless, the girl was trying to woo the mother as she did the son, he thought sourly. Orianna was persistent but, as lovely as she was, he would not wed her.

Behind the massive black calani wood desk, Tiernan d'Ebrur lifted a reproving brow. His hair and eyes were the color of bright silver coins. The round collar of his tunic was the same silver gray and stood in contrast to the remainder of the garment's deep blue color. He sported the Ebrur House badge, a black wolf silhouetted by full Harrer, on his left shoulder. Eric wore a similar badge on his dark gray tunic. But where Eric's House badge was bordered by a plain silver edge, a gold and silver braid surrounded Tiernan's badge.

Not that Tiernan needed that lofty sign of office. His intelligence and force of will would dominate any gathering. Certainly, he dominated this meeting. As House Lord, Tiernan could be ruthless or charming, though he often professed to prefer charm as his weapon of choice. In Tiernan's opinion, one Eric shared, force of arms was best left as a last resort.

After a lengthy silence, he gave Eric an odd, understanding look. "You misunderstand, grandson. We are not offering a contract of true marriage. The liaison is one of Gar'Ja."

"Gar'Ja?" Eric stood, going to the sideboard to refill his glass. Relief and resentment mingled in his chest. At one time, the mental and emotional link between Gar’Jalon, husband, and Gar’Jael, wife, symbolized the deepest and truest of bonds between a man and a woman.

Long ago, great pains were taken to ensure each boy was joined in Gar’Ja to his perfect mate. Gar'Ja was still recognized by the Great Houses with all their political and economic alliances but, now, it was a temporary union, meant to last one year, and invoked less and less often. Eric looked at Tiernan coolly and said, "Then you, indeed, have the wrong man. My Gar'Jael is dead."

Tiernan exchanged a cautious look with his guest. The man, Benamont I'sadhe, fingered his Speaker's medallion, as if the heavy gold circle conveyed more authority than his words alone. Nothing the man could say would change Eric's mind, although it might prove interesting. Leaning against the sideboard, Eric sipped his brandy and studied the man.

Like all members of House Sadhe, Benamont was tall but his rounded shoulders gave him a frail appearance. I'sadhe's pale face glistened with oily sweat and dark patches formed under his arms although the room was not warm. To Eric, I'sadhe had the look of a man just recovering from illness, perhaps a touch of the Balenese flu. Eric wondered if the man's breathing had been affected as well since he'd apparently tried to drown himself in a sickly sweet cologne.

I'sadhe shifted uneasily on the rich, korath-hide chair and sent a questioning glance at Tiernan. Tiernan gave an almost imperceptible nod. Eric tensed. What did the man have to say that could not be said outright? Impatient, he strode to the windows and in its reflection, watched the Speaker.

With slow, measured movements, I'sadhe extracted an embroidered cloth from his pocket and methodically dabbed his neck and chin. Folding the cloth with precision, he said, "Your Gar'Jael lives."

Eric turned with a swift, challenging movement. "I understood she and her family were among those lost on Purlea."

"So we all believed." Benamont held the cloth ready in one hand while he reached for his own bulb-shaped glass. "Regardless, Keriam I'sadhe, my great-niece, lives. She has been traced to a world known by its inhabitants as Earth."

"Indeed?" Eric turned his back to the men. He understood now. Benamont wanted his niece returned to her family. This ruse of Gar'Ja was intended to provoke Eric's sympathy. In addition, since Eric was the only Antiari who had any real knowledge of that primitive world, he was the only logical candidate to fetch the missing girl. He considered the best way to refuse the, as yet, unspoken request as he stared at the fiery red locanthe blossoms lining the garden path. Finally, he decided on blunt honesty. "I am glad your niece has been found, sir, but my duty lies elsewhere. If you like, I can dispatch a hand of men to fetch Keriam I'sadhe, but that is as much as I can do."

"Would you forego a weapon against the Gawan?" Tiernan leaned back in his chair. Eric turned to confront his grandfather warily. The elder man continued. "A weapon that could stop the Gawan advance and repel them from our worlds?"

Eric narrowed his gaze. "You know the answer."

"The woman is the heir to the Heartstone," Tiernan said bluntly. Eric returned to his contemplation of the locanthe beyond the window to hide his reaction.

The Heartstone! Adrenaline jolted through his body, bringing with it an instinctual urge to shapeshift. The adrenaline quickly gave way to a fierce elation. If the Heartstone was found, the war could be over in months. Days! No more infestations of Gawan-spawn to hunt down and destroy. No more battle mates lost. His father's face swam through his memory, leaving him aching with guilt and fury. No more Enogch!

The legendary weapon, with its ability to broadcast energy along psychic wavelengths, was precisely what he needed to stop the mind-controlling Gawan.

Caution doused his state of near-euphoria. He relaxed his grip on the fragile brandy glass before it shattered. According to legend, the Heartstone would only answer to its rightful heir. And her chosen mate. To anyone else, it was deadly.

As if hearing his thoughts I'sadhe said, "A dangerous weapon and a useful tool. In the right hands."

"Also a tool whose whereabouts is unknown," Eric pointed out. He eyed the man with interest. "Or is it?"

Benamont smiled a mere twist of the mouth that did not reflect humor. He stroked the Speaker's medallion, a sly gleam in his eyes. "I have had Seekers dredging through our history datapaks and ancient tomes. I believe I have the location narrowed down to one place."

"Let me guess--Earth?" Eric asked suspiciously. Would the Sadhe tempt him with the Heartstone, a weapon without equal, just to retrieve his damned relative? He would throttle the man, Speaker or not, if that proved to be the case.

"No." The man waved his hand in dismissal. "Purlea."

"Then it might as well be in the deeps of the Abyss." Eric's newborn hope plummeted. "Purlea lies inside Gawan space. Going there would be suicide."

"A man such as yourself could get in and out of Purlea without attracting notice," Benamont I'sadhe said smoothly. He leaned forward in his chair, as if to number his arguments. "You've astounded the Council with your ability to survive impossible odds and accomplish your purpose. You broke the Gawan blockade over Jeirif. You, at great personal risk, rescued the First Speaker's son when the Agaz pirates took him hostage. You nearly single-handedly repelled the Gawan from Balen after their five-year entrenchment.... Think, Defender, what could you do with the Heartstone in your grasp?"

Eric leaned against the windowsill, frowning slightly. I'sadhe's flattery left a sour taste in his mouth. However, he had gone to the heart of the matter. With the Heartstone, Eric foresaw the end of the war. Finally, he said, "I would have to take your niece. If she lives, she is the only one who can find the Stone."

"She is," Benamont I'sadhe agreed.

"I dislike taking an innocent woman into danger. If we are captured, I might not be able to prevent her from becoming Infested. Can you accept that?" Eric's bald words fell like rocks. The following silence stretched for a long moment.

"We understand the risk and will hold you and your House harmless," I'sadhe said gravely. "If the Gawan are stopped, we will honor Keriam as befits a daughter of a Great House."

"Compared to the risks, I doubt she would consider that much of an inducement," Eric said dryly.

"She is a Sadhe. Destiny will guide her." The man dabbed at his temples with the now sodden cloth. "Of course, there are ways to insure her cooperation."

Eric caught an amused glint in Tiernan's eye. He looked at Benamont I'sadhe suspiciously. "What would that be?"

"Women can often be seduced to do a man's bidding." He spent some time folding his cloth again.

Rottinghell. They had come full circle. Eric glowered at both men. "Are you amusing yourselves at my expense?"

"Women are weak creatures, ruled by their empathic gifts. Touch her heart and she will follow you in anything.... Forgive me for being blunt but could you not exercise the same charm that draws even my granddaughter to your side?"

"Your granddaughter sees in me a future that does not exist," Eric all but growled. He fell back on the argument he had used on Orianna. "As long as I am the Defender of Antiare, I will not take a wife. I cannot afford the luxury of having my attention divided between the war and a woman."

"With the Heartstone, the war would be finished. You could attain a seat on the Council. And your Gar'Ja bond with my niece would be concluded, as far as House Sadhe is concerned, the moment you complete this mission." I'sadhe glanced at his wristcomp. "Make her love you, Defender. Once the Stone is bonded to you, you will have your weapon."

"Will I?" Eric muttered angrily. He considered the situation and found it repugnant. The risk to him--that was acceptable. He understood the dangers and the nightmare of failure. Moreover, if he were captured, his ability to shapeshift would protect him from Gawan Infestation. Keriam I'sadhe, however, would gain little and stood to risk much. "You lack a certain regard for your niece, sir."

"Quite the opposite, I assure you," I'sadhe said. "Her line is one of the strongest of House Sadhe. Nevertheless, as much as I value Keriam, I value Antiare more. My duty, and yours, is to protect and defend our people from the Gawan."

"You don't have to remind me of my duty. I've fought the Gawan since my first Shift."

"And Antiare thanks you for your dedication." I'sadhe made a show of checking his wristcomp again, then stood. "I have another appointment, I'm afraid. Consider my proposal and give me your answer tomorrow. I have confidence you will make the right decision."

Benamont I'sadhe bowed to Tiernan and took his leave. Eric returned his glass to the sideboard while his grandfather pulled open a desk drawer to retrieve a datapak. Tiernan sent it spinning on the desktop. "This is an imagescan of Keriam I'sadhe at the time of your bond making. I expect her appearance will have changed somewhat."

Eric picked it up and depressed the tiny stud on the upper edge. Immediately the image of a plump, young child appeared in the air before him. She had a fuzzy kind of hair, reddish in tint but thin enough that her scalp showed through clearly. Her eyes, a blue as dark as the midnight sky, widened in wonder. As he watched, her dimpled chin quivered then she let out an ear-splitting screech and lunged forward. The imagescan halted and looped to the beginning. The corner of Eric's mouth twitched upward, until catching Tiernan's glance, he schooled his face to bored nonchalance. He placed the datapak on the desk. "A brat."

"She was quite taken with you," Tiernan's eyes glinted with wicked amusement. "And you with her, I might add. You seemed fascinated with her."

"I was three years old. Even bugs fascinated me," Eric pointed out. "My tastes have changed since then. I now prefer my women with hair. And teeth."

Tiernan's amused expression faded. "Eric, are you so against this Gar'Ja bond? Are you worried it might...offend Orianna?"

Eric clenched his jaw then forced himself to relax. "Offend Orianna? No. I doubt there is much that would offend that particular woman. She wants my name. My status."

"Many pair-bondings are built on less honest grounds."

Eric shrugged. "I've made my position clear. As long as the Gawan threaten Antiare and the Federation, I will not wed."

"Other Defenders have not taken such a stand."

"Other Defenders were not faced with the Gawan." Eric rounded on his grandfather. "Marriage weakens a man...makes him lose sight of his goals. His vision becomes limited to his immediate clan or family. Isn't that why my father did what he did?"

Tiernan looked away as Eric struggled to contain the conflicting emotions, shame, grief, and guilt, mention of his father always brought. He heaved a sigh. "I can't afford to pass the opportunity to gain the Heartstone, can I?"

"Unleashed, it is a force without equal," Tiernan said, returning to his desk. "At least, that is what my research indicates. Sit down, grandson. Before you make your decision, and it will be your decision alone, there are some things you need to know."

Eric returned to his seat. Tiernan paused for a moment before he spoke. "When I'sadhe first came to me with the news about his niece, I was more than surprised. I wondered how he knew where Keriam went or that she still lived."

"Good questions." Eric nodded.

"Especially since she and her mother disappeared from Purlea at the height of the first Gawan attack. Had her father not closed the Purlean Portals, we would have been overrun by Gawan-spawn long ago." Tiernan pursed his mouth. "I'sadhe claims Meredith and Keriam were in transit when the primary Purlea portal was shut down. The resulting backlash is supposedly what deposited them on Earth."

"Similar to what happened to me when I tested the Gatefold on Neraldi."

"Precisely. Although, in your case, the influence of the magnetic lines transversing both planets ultimately caused your arrival on Earth," Tiernan agreed. "The question is, however, how did I'sadhe come by his information? Purlea is closed to us. Of the few who escaped before the Portal was closed, none had any knowledge of Meredith or her daughter."

"None?" Eric looked up, surprised.

"Not one. I have had my people investigating his story. So far, I can neither prove nor disprove anything he says."

"You think he's lying?"

"No," Tiernan said frowning. "But I have a sense there's more involved here than just the acquisition of the Heartstone."

"Something involving Keriam I'sadhe?"

"Perhaps."

Tiernan's unease transmitted itself to Eric as he considered the facts he had available. Looking at his grandfather, he said, "The Heartstone is still a tempting weapon. If we can use it."

"As for that, I am researching the history surrounding the jewel. It may be several days before I have anything conclusive however."

"In the meanwhile, I can fetch Keriam I'sadhe."

"There's something else you should know." Tiernan held a hand up to forestall Eric's departure. "I suspect the Gawan have infiltrated Antiare."

Eric's gaze shot to his grandfather. "What do you mean? Gawan? Here?"

"I have no proof. Not yet. But things have happened that make me wary." Tiernan shook his head. "If the Gawan are indeed here, they'll use the Portals to transfer to each of the Federation Worlds."

Eric's blood chilled. "There is no choice. We must have the Heartstone."