Thursday, May 31, 2007
"You're living in sin?" the salesman shouted in the middle of his real estate pitch. He stood rooted like a sapling behind the moveable podium, his mouth slightly agape.
His horrible question echoed in the suddenly silent waiting area of Camelot Feast. Seconds earlier, it had been filled with a deafening din of trade chitter chatter.
The mixer to promote small town local businesses had just turned Freddy Kruger ugly.
Dara Carlton buried her head in her hands. They should’ve lied and said they were married, then politely refused his mega bargain offer.
She peeked at her boyfriend's face. It mirrored her horror. Samuel Brady III closed his mouth with a tooth chipping click and his eyes reduced from bulging orbs to small slits. His lips twisted into a grim frown as his comforting hand slipped from her waist and curled into a white knuckled fist.
Something within him flashed, as if a bright red light had gone off and he'd realized where he was and what he was about to do. He’d finally sensed everyone’s heated gazes assembled like he had a bulls-eye on his back.
The brief glance he flicked her way held no affection or love. Only contempt reflected in his oversized irises.
Astonished by the ferocity, Dara whispered, "Samuel?" What had happened to her charismatic, loving partner? The one she shared everything with. Who'd supposedly brought her here for the same purpose, to introduce her to the most important people in his professional life.
Behind them in the throng, a man cleared his throat.
It was Samuel's cue for action. He took her hand, then hauled her out the theme restaurant’s iron doors in his wake like a captive.
“I still have some great offers for you!” the salesman called, trying to close a sale.
When I entered this manuscript's opening chapter I got back a comment saying, “This would never have happened.” Guess what I did? I laughed. Because that moment had in fact taken place almost word-for-word at the Medieval Times in SC. I was afloat on my 3 year anniversary and getting ready to fulfill a dream since teenager-dom by seeing the show. My bf and I walked into the “holding area” and got accosted by a timeshare salesman who truly did ask us that horrid personal question with his face screwed up like a prune. Talk about mortified, especially with it happening in front of a hall full of people who turned to stare.
This just goes to show that not all comments from contests are good, nor are all contests. As a writer you have to know what characteristics—a hot scene, first chapter, last chapter—plays up to your strengths. And you have to have a goal to make paying the entry fee ($10-$50) feasible, especially if you’re living on a shoestring budget. So if there’s an agent or editor judging you’ve been dying to get your work in front of then submit. But be aware that your manuscript will have to FINAL to make it to their desk.
So how do you increase your chances? Submit your manuscript (as in a chapter/ scene) to smaller contests. The big ones are hard to crack, because hundreds of people enter for the prestige. I’m not saying that’s all bad, but think about your newbie self as the ugly ducking in a sea of swans. That’s what you’re up against, though that doesn’t mean your writing isn’t as good as anyone else’s!
It all boils down to the judges, who are at liberty to hate, love or be indifferent about your entries. My past scoresheets run the gambit, even on the same entry. I’ve had one judge adore everything about an entry, a second think it was average, and the third to trash every detail. Some published authors say that it’s good to have extremes—as in one loves it, one hates it—because it’s a sign the “reader” felt passionate about the work. And usually any manuscript that elicits this type of adoration/loathing is on the straight and narrow to publication (though it may take a while for a publisher to realize what a gem you have).
TIES OF VALOR was scored low from one judge because it had too many “dictionary words”. I chuckled over that, but refused to dumb down the book for my intelligent audience. Then after I sold, my editor tried to add more! On that same manuscript I also had several judges say they wanted to feel more emotion. Because of that overwhelming “flaw” I did a re-write and am convinced to this day that’s what helped it sell. No matter what comments you receive, be smart enough to know that you don’t have to make any changes a judge proposes unless they truly do fix a problem or if they make sense for your manuscript. You know your book inside and out, and the judges are only seeing a snippet of the whole.
So don’t worry if you finish second, third or even with honorable mention credits, you still made it to the finals! And that means you used your smarts to get your work in front of an industry editor/agent’s peepers. (Hint, hint about the smaller contests!) Plus, if you attend the awards ceremony you can be along for the ride, but not in the hot seat. As such, you’ll still get noticed by the publishing Who’s Who and be a winner to boot.
If you are an RWA member, please let the Board hear your voice about the Golden Heart/RITA proposed changes to the contest. Only you can tell them what you want them to put into action! For the details click here.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Like peanut butter and jelly, like Bonnie and Clyde, like root beer and ice cream, it's amazing how well paranormal goes with YA.
I've always been a huge fan of paranormal writing-in my early twenties, Anne Rice whet my appetite for sexy, moody vampires...and the love grew from there. But it wasn't until last year that I really learned about the world of paranormal YA.
See, as much as I loved reading paranormal, I never, ever thought I could write one. After all, I didn't have a "dark" voice-my tendency was to write light and funny. Until a good writer friend of mine said, "Rhonda, you have GOT to write a YA." And she gave me Serena Robar's "Braced 2 Bite" (a YA paranormal chick lit about a teen who becomes a vampire) to read.
Well, I was hooked. I continued to read more and more paranormal YA, eventually writing my own YA chick lit ghost story (which snagged my agent-she's currently shopping the manuscript around to publishers). I also wrote a subsequent YA novel about a girl who becomes cupid for her high school, but bungles it badly.
What I love about YA is that it's accessible for adults, not just teens. So many writers, like Stephenie Myers (who wrote Twilight), are doing sophisticated, daring, funny, dramatic paranormal novels for teens...and adults are just as drawn to them.
These books are being gobbled up by readers!!
It's a booming market for YA paranormal right now, which gives lots of opportunities for paranormal elements to be blended with other genres: paranormal YA chick lit, paranormal YA mystery, paranormal YA urban fantasy-the list goes on and on.
So, here are a few tips for writing paranormal YA (this is by no means a comprehensive list, but it does give you an idea of things to think about):
--Don't underestimate your audience. Teens nowadays are sophisticated and intelligent-most read adult novels, too. So don't feel like you have to drastically simplify/dummy down your writing. They appreciate stuff that makes them think.
--Don't be afraid to tackle more serious, dark subjects. I've read YA books that talk about suicide/death, kidnapping, abuse, alcohol, sex, running away, etc. As long as you don't come across as preachy or heavy-handed, you can explore different facets of real teen life within your story. In fact, it can be even more interesting for teens when a paranormal element is thrown in. In the novel my agent is shopping around, my main character actually dies on page 2 and is a ghost, so throughout the book, she deals with the struggles of watching friends move on, watching her family hurt over their loss of her, finding love but knowing it can't work because she's a ghost, etc.
--Try grounding your paranormal plot in reality (magical realism). My novel deals with being a teen ghost in a modern world, and I have fun exploring that facet-she snoops in houses, breaks into the library, scours through lockers-basically, she does those things kids long to do. haha. Teens like to see how magic can affect an everyday life, and how it can rationally be incorporated into what they already know....
--...but on the flip side, don't be afraid of world-building to create something unique and new. Just like adults, teens want to be submerged in the world you create.
What about you-have any tips, thoughts, questions, or ideas about writing paranormal YA? Please share them!!
* * *
Rhonda Stapleton started writing a few years ago to appease the voices in her head. She has a Master's degree in English and a Bachelor's degree in Creative Writing. Rhonda works as a principal publishing specialist for a legal publishing company and enjoys freelance editing and offering editing workshops.
Because one writing group is never enough, she belongs to Romance Writers of America, several online and local writing groups, and Romance Divas.
Rhonda lives in Northeast Ohio with her two lovely, energetic children and fiancé, who are more than enough to keep her busy when she's not writing.
In the twelve minutes of free time she has each day, Rhonda enjoys reading, writing poetry, singing in the shower (and in the car, at work, or basically anywhere that provides oxygen), drinking chai tea, and playing on the internet.
Her chick lit novel, Stripped, and her short story, "Baring It All for Mr. Right" (in the Dreams and Desires charity anthology), can be found at Freya's Bower: http://www.freyasbower.com
Visit Rhonda at her website, http://www.rhondastapleton.net. Or, email her at email@example.com.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
They might not twinkle with merriment or adapt to your love, but they will help you hold onto the treasured memory of one stellar shindig (that I don't think we'll forget anytime soon).
And hopefully the fun you had will bring you back for more (writing tips, inside scoops & zany shenanigans) from our Star-Crossed Romance ladies!
The royalty all managed to get along, there was no need for particle weapons and even though we ran out of shrimp and edible flowers, no one went home hungry.
I stumbled back to the hall this morning, just to see if the Terraformers had goten around to cleaning up and I couldn't believe it.
You'd never know there'd been a party here at all.
Friday, May 25, 2007
I'll be quick, I promise:
Welcome everyone to our First Anniversary Party! All our guests this evening know that without their help we could never have come this far. They have inspired us, carried us and given us reason to do what we do. From the bottom of our hearts we thank them for sharing their lives with us and allowing us to venture into their worlds and tell their stories. Without them we would not all be together this evening and Star-Crossed Romance would not exist.
and there are wood ships,
The ships that sail the sea.
But the best ships, are friendships,
And may they always be.
My dress is crinkled, my hair is less than springing, but hey I'm here. *deep breaths in and out* Woosa. I just have to thank my lucky stars I handed over the placecards to Jennifer to lay out. And of course to the rest of the ladies for taking up my slack...sorry gals! But I could so use a drink right now, and the guys could use a cooling down after pushing the stretch hover-limo.
"Are you not going to announce us?" Awyn whispers into my ear.
Zara checks him with an elbow to his belly. (Didn't I tell you she was dangerous?) "Skylar's been through a trauma. Can't you make due without a grand entrance?"
"It's okay. You two are the reason I'm got to join the blog anyway." I clear my throat. "Everyone, I'd like to welcome Prince Awyn Shandar of Aquilar and his princess, Zara Dior Shandar, formerly of Sartin."
Ever the showgirl, Zara tacks on a smile as all eyes turn to them. "Come darling, we really need to hose you down. Didn't I tell you to ditch the armor?"
"How was I to know I would have to rescue you?"
"I think that was the triple A-team, dear. With a little help from Kendron's spell." Tucking her arm through his, she leads him away to the smörgåsbord of a buffet table. "We need to stuff something in that black hole of yours."
"Oh, Skylar." Gwynan grabs my arm to stall my 'arrival' and lifts her hand toward my cheek. "You've got a smudge of grease right there."
I look down at my sparkley dress, thankfully not finding anymore spots from trying to play white knight though I don't know diddley about flying autos. "Thanks Gwyn." In the mood to return the gesture, I untie Kendron's holographic cloak and resettle it over Gwynan's shoulders. "Trust me Kendron, she's going to need this worse than you down here. And I did kind of make the promise for you this morning."
When she shivers, Kendron gets my drift. He takes both our hands, kisses the back once apiece, and leads us into the festivities. "What need have I for a cloak when I have two gorgeous ladies on my arms?"
Giggles abound from both of us, then get whisked away when I finally see Star-Crossed's gala event.
Everything is breathtaking, literally. I mean, I saw the planning picture, but this...takes the cake. Everywhere I turn there are people smiling, chatting (not about writing), and some brave souls have even moseyed out to the dance floor. Is that Lynda? I wave, but I don't think she sees me because of the mood lighting. I'm not even game for a two-step at the moment, but soon...very soon. Right now my stomach is calling for food and my parched throat wants to be doused with water. Champagne would be nice, but I already have enough of a headache. But it's easing off thanks to the aspirin I had stashed in my purse.
Always be prepared for emergencies, that's one of my mottoes. Let's just hope we won't need anymore meds/life saving skills tonight.
"Yes, Skylar." She leans in closer, trying to hear over the crowd.
"Would you two mind helping me give out the favors? I'd intended to hand them out at the door, but well...you know."
"Sure." Gwynan and Kendron turned, their palms outstretched as I pull a pouch from my silver baggette purse. "What are they?"
I dump out the contents, then take a third for myself. Holding my cupped hand to my mouth, I blow gently across the white shapes. Gwynan and Kendron follow suit, then hold out their cupped hands to find twinkling stars waking from slumber.
"Baby stars," I breathe, in awe myself. The brochure said they'd be magnificent, but I never imagined this.
"Are there any instructions?" Kendron asked.
"Simply to love them." I smile up at the pair, "Let's go spread the love."
This pic is a little dark but, yes, there are people there, lol. And, no, the tablecloths aren't as red as they look. Ahem, they're gold. I think I need to go talk to the terraformers about the lighting. Sigh.
Oh and here's Eric. I keep telling him to smile but he's never relaxed unless Keriam is close by. Just have a seat, sweetie. Keriam is powdering her nose. She'll be along in a minute.
I swear, the man's like a lost puppy without his wife, LOL.
Here's a guy who can hold his own. Devyn MacGregor. Darn. He isn't wearing his kilt. Probably afraid some wild woman would flip it up to see what's worn beneath it. I can just hear him say "There's nothing worn, lass. Everything's in perfect working order!" Maybe we can get him to sing. He's got a gorgeous voice. Of course, as a Bard, he'd be expected to have a gorgeous voice, wouldn't he?
And Trace Munroe. Sigh. What an incredible man! I see he's brought Tara with him. Will you look at that? She's wearing a dress! A red dress! And I think she's been sipping on the Star-Crossed Cocktail because the gal I know is a lot more shy than this. Maybe Trace is a good influence on her?
Yikes! There are more guests arriving. I better go greet them.
To calm myself a little, I did some recon in the hall, just to make sure everything is going smoothly. The place looks wonderful. I have to give the Terraformers credit, they did a magnificent job combining all of Lynda’s ideas. I caught one of them putting the finishing touches on the subterranean section of the hall,
But it looks like everything else is ready to go.
The tables are gorgeous, all centered around the enormous buffet tables. Everything’s done in gold.
And the food is all almost ready. It looks like we’ve catered to every imaginable taste – you know with all the royalty on the guest list, the menu had to be just perfect.
Look at the ice sculpture. Isn’t it magnificent?
The orchestra is just finishing setting up. They say they can play music from any one of a dozen different planets. I hope whatever they play, we can dance to it because there’s plenty of space.
Whew, with everything under control, I feel a bit calmer now. I think I’ll snag some champagne to keep me hydrated while I get ready, then I’ll go prepare for the big meet and greet. Yikes, this should be nervewracking. I’m looking over the guest list and I’m a bit overwhelmed.
How does one address an Heir to the Noble House of Hades, anyway? What should I say to the Most Powerful Wizard Ever Born? At least we’ll have Ambassador I'sadhe on hand to help smooth things over. On second thought I might need two glasses of champagne. Good thing there's plenty of it on hand.
Isn't it fabulous! My favorite color, a little sparkly, and figure flattering since my tummy isn't as flat as this model's! But yes, that could be my cleavage about to spill out. God did grant me with a few other assets besides writing talent. Though I shall have to practice my come-hither look.
Oh, a new mesage from Kendron just popped up. Hmm...seems Gwynan isn't too happy from the picture he snapped.
The Ancient Ones dabbled with her wardrobe and exchanged her cocktail dress for this jumper. I can see her shaking her fist at them, can't you? As if she needed more to worry about, including the fact that they're watching and waiting to stir up trouble...again. But really, I don't think this look is all that bad for a sweet, country girl like Gwynan. And if she snitches Kendron's to-die-for cloak, she'll make a fabulous entrance if she pairs the pieces with a killer set of clogs.
Another header in my Inbox also tells me Zara decided to go a different route. Seems a little bird told her there were several attendees coming in pantsuits so she opted for this and sent me a preview pic.I just hope she doesn't find out I leaked it! Wow, she really is sexy when she isn't kickin' butt, and yes that is fair warning for all you party-goers. She's ex-Sartin security force (remember me thinking about that), and can take down a bull of a man with her little finger. Though it seems she's having trouble browbeating Awyn into changing his mind about donning his black armor. I totally agree it isn't the most stellar choice, but the man is drop dead sexy. As long as he's in attendance, I'm happy.
Whew! Now I need a drink...but not a Star-Crossed alcoholic one yet. It's still too early to tie anything on! Especially that heavy, empress style necklace I picked up on sale for half price.
*I raise my OJ without a kick to all of you*
Here's to glitter, giggles and a whole bevy of glamourous antendees who'll be beaming/flying/materializing in shortly.
I still have some last minute preparations. Got to get my hair done. Maybe a manicure (I'm a terrible nail biter so I'm not sure what they can do short of a miracle.) I've got my dress.
But, most importantly, I've got my list of things to check (you didn't think I'd just find the hall and be done, did you? LOL) before the party.
Oh, Keriam showed me her dress. Take a look. Pretty stunning, huh? I suspect Eric helped pick it out :D
Liane hasn't fessed up about what she's wearing yet but I'm sure she'll wear something that will please Devyn. Oh wait, she just sent these pics to me. Here's her outfit. I think she's really taken to the Scottish culture and heritage of her new husband, Devyn. With a man like him, who can blame her?
Isn't that what we all do? Dress for our men? :D
Thursday, May 24, 2007
So whether it's Klava wine on Trehet Station, or Glenlivit in the St. Blaise drawing room, people gotta keep the good times rolling.
It is with this 'spirit' (oh stop the groaning, I can hear it from here) I get to put together the drinks and appetizers for our big anniversary bash.
This is not an easy undertaking, since I understand that what may be ambrosia to one lifeform may act like poison on another. What is a glorified wine steward to do, I ask you? Even water becomes a difficult proposition since the amphibious guests may need only salt water to survive, where most others would require fresh water...or sparkling. To this end, I've decided to stock what is the most popular brands on various worlds, and put enough mixers with them to create our own Star-Crossed Cocktail.
Of course this will have different versions depending on what planet you're from.
The Earth version will consist of the following. (Use your own descretion on the amounts of alcohol you use. And may God have mercy on your soul the next morning.)
Malibu Bay Coconut Rum
Splash of cranberry for color
Now, on to the appetizers.
Finger foods are definately the best choice. Though I use this term in the broad sense of the word since I'm not about to assume that all our guests will have fingers, or even aposable thumbs. Anything that can pick picked up by a tenticle, snout or talon will be considered viable.
We'll have a variety of ingredients so be sure to ask you waiter or waitress what's inside the popper, before you pop it. I'd hate like hell for you to think you're eating goat cheese and bacon only to bite into seaweed and squid. ughhhh... Just be sure to pick up plenty of napkins. And don't dance on the tables.
So when it came to booking the band and entertainment, I turned to my characters attending, since they're far more versed in what makes a good party than I am.
Princess Ione Ra:
Don't make it boring. I'd give an earring--yes, they are one of a kind, and designed as a gift for my birthday by an Al-Zur jewelsmith using an ancient and legendary method of hand-carving the facets of the gems--for something with a driving beat that you can grind to. But anniversary parties aren't just for celebrating another year alive, they're for rubbing it in the face of your enemies. So you contract out with the Terraformers' Guild for a couple of their apprentice Elementals. They'll sculpt your environment into something breathtaking that people will talk about for weeks. But do some of us a favor and make sure you have them put in little privacy areas. Some of us need to nip away for an extra shot or two in private to keep our buzz up. And for Ancestors' sake, don't make it boring.
Lord Den Hades:
Entertainment needs to be amusing, yet unobtrusive. And it definitely needs to underscore the power and influence you wield. Do you know what goes on at these kinds of parties? Let me tell you that if the Sublevelers knew how much of the actual government coming down from the spires was hammered out klicks away from the Noble House Council chambers, and in cloakrooms and bathrooms by half-lit blowhards in a self-congratulatory fog, there'd be riots in the ringwalks five hundred levels down. The bloated wheezing of the governmental apparatus is best underscored by a chamber orchestra with klonkhorns, to cover the mental flatulence. Oh bloody Ancestors...I didn't just say that out loud, did I?
On second thought, hire the Terraformers. They'll send you four teenagers skilled in elemental manipulation who will landscape your reception dome into whatever environmental theme you wish, with the perfect blend of ostentatious discretion that blurs the price tag, yet reveals your wealth with perfect clarity.
Okay, this is waay too complicated. My idea of entertainment is my mp3 collection playing on the computer in the background. And I thought the Terraformers' Guild was a--well, guild of terraformers, not party-trick players. I thought their specialty was planets.
I mean, I could still line up some filkers for the occasion? I mean, who doesn't want to hear "Banned From Argo" just one time?
Okay, okay. I'll get a chamber orchestra. And the Terraformers, put it on House Ra's tab, they're loaded anyway. Sheesh. Quit looking at me like that, Lord Hades. I know all your secrets.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
*gulp* That’s the kiss of death!
For this gig, we’re talking sit down, chat amongst yourselves for hours kind of seating. The kind that bride’s go through so family members don’t kill each other. I’ve seen the charts, heard the horror stories, and luckily haven’t made it to my version of that party yet. Though I’m feeling the pressure here. You can’t put known enemies together, yet you look like you’re trying too hard if you don’t. Though I guess a neutral buffer would work…like Switzerland. Of course, nothing will stop a well-aimed zinger from hitting its target. Let’s just hope all the boys and girls...play nice.
*I giggle at how two could play that game*
You can’t do all guys on one side, all girls on the other, because every planner knows you must blend. But what if a species doesn’t fall into the XX or XY pigeon hole? Do I dribble them in, and hope they can talk equally well about sports and the latest innovation for hair dying? Fat chance things would go that smooth, but I can hope right?
Then there are the couples—Eric & Keriam, Devyn & Liane, Tara & Trace, Zara & Awyn, Kendron & Gwynan, Chance & Bree. Do you break them up, keep them together or force them to mingle? What if they’ve had a tiff? What if no one can get anything in edge wise? (Lord, don’t let anyone pull their swords or phazers!)
And what can you do about hair? I mean a guest can’t help it if she causes an allergic reaction because she might accidentally shift into a cat. I guess I could make her the lone girl out…along with the “trader” since there seems to be a lot of dignitaries and military types coming. (Dare I say pot stirrer in the midst?)
See what I mean about it being so simple?
*I wipe my brow with a cocktail napkin*
And then there’s the little tidbit about everyone bringing a food. What if the hall doesn’t come retrofitted with a microwave or fridge? Can we stoke some heat from the middle of Earth in the Subterranean Hall? The food coordinator will need ice for the drinks, so I guess we could chill anything that needs to be frostbitten with that. And use some of those crystals to pelt any ruckus-causing roustabouts.
*I pull out a notebook and draw a big circle* Who can get mad sitting at a roundtable? (Critique of clothes, food, best assets optional, since that isn’t my little piece of the puzzle.)
Let’s see. Maxwell Hart, who works alone as a vampire investigator would do well beside Kendron Valdemar, who has lived by the same code. Gwynan Kadin’s keeping Tara Rowen busy. And Liane MacGregor and Chance MacKenzie would have tons of “work” related topics to talk about. I’ll just have to make sure Tara doesn’t overhear their conversation, since Independent Trader may lean toward pirate. The opposite side of the table….that would work wonders! Now to fill in everyone else in their own rectangle.
What am I not worried about? The placecards, because I’ve printed dozens for wedding receptions. See, there is always a bright spot in any worrisome storm, which gives me a fabulous idea for favors.
Monday, May 21, 2007
To that end, we’re celebrating our first year anniversary with a party! My assignment was to find a hall for all our guests.
This sounds simple but when you consider the various life forms, eating requirements, and climate requirements – well, let’s just say it isn’t as easy as it sounds.
The first place I looked at was a hall on the edge of a strato-city. Yep, way up there in the clouds. Fantastic view, no doubt of that but I kept seeing a slightly tipsy guest taking a wrong turn and well, that first step could be a killer. We could ask for a special force field to be erected on the palisades and balconies near the hall to ensure the safety of our guests but that’s going to cost extra.
The next place I checked was a gorgeous hall in the middle of an ocean. Literally. About two miles deep. Again, the view beyond the force field was fantastic! Schools of fish playing on the oceanic floor, most of them glow since it’s quite dark down there. There were even thermal pools nearby for the adventurous to visit...if they had the proper gear. The only real problem I found was the aforementioned lack of sunlight. Some of our guests, (those whose DNA produces chlorophyll rather than pigment might be a little put off).
My next stop was a subterranean hall. Quite lovely really. And the temperature was a constant (though just a bit cool) 68 degrees Fahrenheit. But we still have the ‘sunlight’ problem though I’ve been told that special lamps can help alleviate that for both the aquatic hall and this place. The extra cost for these lamps isn’t quite as much as the costs for the force fields on the strato-city hall.
So I’m at a quandary. Any one of these halls would be fantastic for our party. I need help to decide which one to use so please comment this article and vote for your favorite.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
1. You don't need as much sleep as you think you do. It is possible to function after spending the night in a rocking chair with a sick toddler in your lap.
8. It is of monumental importance to be able to divide the last brownie into exactly equal parts.
9. Two identical toys are never two identical toys.
10. Giving birth is the easy part.
I hope everyone had a great Mother's Day!
As a matter of fact, when I called my mother on Saturday last, to wish her a HMD, I said my usual, "Hey, do you know who this is?" - I say this because for years she's told me how much I sound like my sisters on the phone. I just want to make sure she has the RIGHT daughter. She sort of laughed and said, "Of course, I do. You've always had that little laugh in your voice that the other girls don't."
I thought that was kinda neat, and cool. It's something a mother-- and probably nobody else on the planet-- would pick up on. It's her way of separating me from the rest of the litter. Though I'm not her favorite child (she claims not to have one, but she does- sorry, Mom, but it's true) I'm different enough from my siblings to stick out from the pack.
So here's my tribute to my mother, and thanks for making me different...(which I hope is a good thing.)
Top Ten Ways My Mother Made Me Different
10. One stormy day when I was a kid you made me paperdolls from scratch. (She claims not to be able to draw, but I swear that doll looked just like Betti Page)
9. You never got mad when I took the organ and sheet music out on the back deck and produced my "plays."
8. You let me get lost in the woods on every family vacation. (In retrospect, I'm thinking you did that on purpose. But I thwarted you and found my way back to camp. HAHAHA.)
7. After cleaning the house all day, you let me and the cousins play "war" in the bedroom, totally destroying any order that may have been there before.
6. You put green eye shadow all over my face one year for Halloween so I could be the Wicked Witch of the West.
5. You gave me coloring books and crayons.
4. You let me play make-believe for hours and didn't disrupt or disturb me.
3. You let me read your Barbara Cartlands when I was too young to know the true power of a Ruthless Rake.
2. You took the Brothers Grimm and Three Billy Goats Gruff away from me when I was a kid and insisted on reading them despite the nightmares, forcing me to tell myself bedtime stories to get to sleep.
1. You believed I could be a writer.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Which is why the things she did share with me, the things she did teach me (or attempt to--I still just don't get the logic behind making a bed) are all the more precious to me. My mom and I are learning, now, to be friends, and to treat each other like friends. In so doing, I'm learning to appreciate her not as The Hammer (because when I was growing up, no one feared Dad except to make his ego feel good, because it was Mom who could--and did--drop the hammer on anybody edging out of line, and it was Mom who got reeeeal creative on the punishments. The Spank was a light to medium swat on the rear end, but the Anticipation of Spank could probably still turn my guts to water. All Dad could do was shake The Finger--sorry, Dad, but the Anticipation of Spank trumps The Finger), but as a person.
My mom taught me that there's a certain kind of magick in living on the edge. Somehow, she always manages to get five bucks' worth of something out of three. She's an expert thief and grifter, robbing Peter blind to pay off Paul.
She's no hippie (it's my Dad who had the bell-bottoms you could camp out in--one leg of them eventually became a coat for my son), but she recycled long before it became "green" to do so. Some of the ziploc baggies she uses are as old as I am.
She taught me that you'll always have use for something you threw out. She taught me to quit wasting efforts in saving pennies for a rainy day when half a pound of ground beef would make a two-pound meatloaf a hell of a lot more useful than a couple copper coins.
My mom taught me how to fold fitted sheets so they wouldn't look like balled-up crap that springs out of the linen closet, and she taught me how to iron a circular hem. She taught me how to crochet, and that lap-ghans never don't come in handy.
My mother taught me that there are times when you just don't back-sass no matter what. She also taught me that there are times when you just don't keep your mouth shut, either. Sometimes you take the hit that comes with speaking up.
My mother taught me that when something traumatic happens to one of your friends or one of the neighbors, you send a card or a plant. But you also make a lunchmeat tray and take it over there because the last thing they should have to worry about is what to make for dinner. You also pick up their kids for school, practice, or just a few hours because life goes on often before they're ready to.
My mother taught me that cleaning up after dinner takes away the need to do it for tomorrow morning, but I didn't learn that lesson very well. She still tries to teach it, though, which is more important.
My mother showed me there's a very good reason for falling asleep on the couch at 8 PM, but I didn't really learn that one until my own kids came along. The lesson was there, though, just like the vestigial ability to see out of the back of my head.
My mother gets credit for teaching me a lot of things. I didn't inherit any musical ability from her (I'm not sure she has any herself), or much of my looks (although I did get her ass. Thanks Mom. :P But I favor my dad's side of the family, except for my mom's mother's nose). I may yet get the dementia that runs in her family at the end of life.
We are learning to be friends and adults with each other, and we'll keep learning that lesson, I've no doubt, because even if we don't have much in common, I'm stubborn, and in that respect, I'm just like my mom.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
My mother is the same in most respects, and as they say here in the South she didn’t fall far from the tree. She is a woman devoted to family, who loves my sister and I with a love that cannot be eclipsed (except maybe by my grandmother). How could she not when she had to go the hard road of being a single mom until we were ten? Time and again she has said she wouldn’t have made it through without my grandparents. I know if push had come to shove, she’d have handled everything fine on her own. From her I’ve learned to stretch a dollar, make the best of every situation, and always to look at the brighter side of life. There is always darkness lurking around the corner, hardships that can break you down, but it’s your choice if you let them win you over…to the dark side. My mother never gave in, always did with what she had, and trusted that everything would work itself out with a little help.
Which is precisely the way I strive to see things. Life isn’t always peachy. (But you can make some darn good sherbet from my grandfather’s favorite fruit). So of course the first person I called when I sold TIES OF VALOR was my mother. Since I got the news via e-mail at about 2 a.m., I had to wait until the “next” morning. I was sitting in my cubicle still not believing it was real while I picked up the phone and dialed her number. When she answered, I broke the news. She said, “That’s wonderful. I knew you could do it,” then she paused to take a deep breath, “Sometimes prayers do pay off.” Those few simple words made me tear up. She knew the ups and downs I’d been threw, had seen me struggle and finally gotten to see me climb that mountain and get to the other side.
During my whole life she’s cheered me on. Of course she hasn’t always seen things the way I do, but she’s had the calm foresight to let me do what I must and been there to help pick up the pieces. Since I became an adult, I’ve tried to shoulder my share to help her, because I finally realized what my mother went through alone. I don’t know if I could’ve been strong enough to raise two children on my own while keeping my chin up after a divorce, but I’m certain my mother would be by my side for the long haul, no matter what.
One of my mom’s most recent regrets was that she didn’t get to accompany me to Atlanta for my first National Conference, where I got to preen around with my first sale ribbon. But when I showed her that sassy pink slip of material dangling from my decked-out badge holder, she beamed. Though I know she’d rather have been in the thick of the excitement (and dressed to the nines at the RITA/Golden Heart Awards), she was able to live that lifetime dream through my animated accounts.
And when I pulled out my laptop on our family trip following Nationals with the excuse of polishing my chapters because of requests, she nodded her head in understanding. An hour later she reminded me I was on vacation (as if I’d forgotten the fact sitting in a condo suite in Florida). Little did she realize I was working on a story about a heroine whose mother reminds her there’s more to life than work, that family is the key to remembering where you come from and that helping others is always the right thing to do. So I’m safe in saying whenever a mother appears in my stories, there is a very big chance part of her is based on one of these real-life examples of Southern ladies who live and love freely with all they have.
In the writing circles I travel in I find a few women have something else in common with Ann. They use their handsome sons as inspiration for their heroes. After all who would know a gallant man’s inner heart of hearts better than his mother? If you want to read a passage from THREE DOGS, NO CATS & A MAN SHE LOVES (which remains packed away as a bygone birthday gift to my sister) click here.
Monday, May 14, 2007
She only went to grade school and had to drop out of 6th grade when she ran away from home after being beaten by her dad. She ended up working for an aunt, taking care of an invalid cousin. She stayed there until she was about 15. Then she met my dad and they got married.
There were only a few times I remember that she didn't have an outside job. But even working outside the home, she always made sure we kids had what we needed whether it was food or care or what have you. And she always emphasized getting an education.
You see, that lack of schooling made her feel inferior. Though she was bright and though she'd taught herself a lot, the fact that she hadn't gotten through high school shamed her. She never saw all the good things she did for us as being extraordinary--a mom did stuff like that. She taught both my brother and me to cook, to clean house, to take care of ourselves because everyone needed to know those things. She was a friend and a companion, a mother and helper.
I still miss you, mom. And I still love you.
Why God Made Moms
Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions:
Why did God make mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.
How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my Mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.
What ingredients are mothers made of ?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice
in the world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use
string, I think.
Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?
1. We're related.
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like me.
What kind of little girl was your mom?
1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.
What did Mom need to know about Dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get
drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?
Why did your mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that Mom didn't have her thinking cap on.
Who's the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goofball.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess Mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than Dad.
What's the difference between Moms and Dads?
1 . Moms work at work and work at home and Dads just go to work at work.
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller and stronger, but Moms have all the real power
'cause that's who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your
4. Moms have magic; they make you feel better without medicine.
What does your mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don't do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.
What would it take to make your mom perfect?
1. On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of
2. Diet. You know, her hair. I'd diet, maybe blue.
If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that.
2. I'd make my mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who
did it and not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back
of her head.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Mum, you were always there for me
You read my stories when I was a kid
Encouraged me to be anything I wanted
Laughed and cried with me as experiences came and went.
You saw me through my first jobs
My frustrations, my lack of confidence
You nurtured my thirst for books
You never told me I wasted money on them
We went through so much together
My disappointments as I entered the world of writing
My excitement when my books were published
As I entered the world of grown-ups
Even my Christian walk in life
The breeding of pedigree cats
The heartbreak when the kittens went to new homes
You nursed abandoned and orhpahned kittens with me
Through the long nights and days we bottle fed
We cried together when we lost the sicker ones
We laughed and burst with joy with each furbaby that thrived and lived
And we still cried when they went to new homes!
Through all the ups and downs you have been with me.
We held each other up through Dad's long illness
You were there alone when he died, you phoned me, I drove straight home
But you handled the ambulance alone
Doing so much better than I thought you would
My heart broke for you when the funeral directors came
And I had to ask them to let you say a final goodbye,
You didn't know they were taking him right then
You insisted on doing the phoning of everyone yourself
Together we organized everything
And we saw each other through it all, and the hard months to follow
We put our lives back together
And now, years later, you are still with me
People ask how we live together
I laugh and say we get on fine - most of the time *wink*
You, me, the cats, the dogs, my books and work and writing
You're there with me through everything
Without you I could not have done all those things I have done
We've held each other up
I don't mind admitting to people that when I'm away from home for too long
I miss you, I miss the cats and dogs - I miss being home.
Mothers and daughters have such a special bond
And I'm so glad you're my Mum.
*hugs & kisses always*
For more about Hunter's Moon
She’d never seen anything like him before--except maybe on television. He reminded her of Vincent from Beauty and the Beast. His features were definitely feline, but regal and sensuous rather than grotesque. He was magnificent.
His knees buckled and instinctively Alli reached around his waist to hold him up. The flashlight and the first aid kit hit the dirt with a thud and he hissed at the noise. It sounded like words, but she couldn’t make them out.
“Come with me,” she said. “I’ll help you.”
Which voice was that? she wondered when he put his weight on her shoulders. They began a faltering four-legged limp back to the house.
She had no idea who or what he was, but for some reason, she had the undeniable urge to take care of him. It amazed her how self-assured she sounded, as if she fixed up wounded aliens all the time.
Alien. That’s exactly what he was. Crazy. That’s exactly what she was.
Inner voice. Outer voice. Both deserted her in a rush. Her brain went on autopilot and her body followed mutely along, one foot in front of the other. With deliberate movements and a few low, painful moans, they made it back to the farmhouse and up the stairs where Alli did the only thing she could think of. She put him in her bed.
By the sixty-watt light of the lamp on her nightstand, he was even more fascinating and frightening than he’d been in the moonlight. Stretched to his full length on the handmade quilt, he looked like the shadow of some fantasy creature. Half feline, half man--well, all man she decided with an eye on the impressive bulge between his legs. Whatever equipment he possessed was covered by some type of loincloth attached to a wide leather belt. Bright jewels studded the belt as well as the matching cuffs on his wrists, but aside from those adornments, he was naked, covered only in fine, blue-black fur that had the exquisite feel of crushed velvet.
She forced her gaze upward to his face. Incredible. His features were chiseled and the heavy ridge of his brow hooded those magnificent feline eyes, which were currently clenched tightly in pain. Unlike the television character Alli remembered, he had no wild lion’s mane of hair. His head was sleek, but his pointed ears ended in short tufts of ebony fur.
He made a noise deep in his chest as his massive torso settled against the mound of pillows that cushioned the old brass bed frame. With his feet hanging off the bed, he didn’t look comfortable, but then again, with a bullet in his chest, she doubted the size of the bed would make much difference to him.
Alli realized she’d been stroking the skin of his abdomen and pulled her hand away when he stirred again, still trying to find a comfortable position. She ignored the tide of fear that ebbed and flowed in her and she bent closer to examine him.
His wound was vicious. The dark skin beneath the fur was torn and oozing. In the dim light she thought she could make out a metallic glint in the mangled flesh and realized that if she cleaned away the blood, she might be able to remove the bullet.
The thought made her dizzy. Then what?
She glanced at the phone beside the bed. Three little numbers. Nine-one-one. Would they even believe her if she called?
He growled and struggled to sit up. She could tell by the wild look in his eyes that he was delirious from the pain. She wondered if he would hurt her accidentally if she tried to restrain him. Then she wondered if he would hurt her on purpose.
“Stay here,” she said, swallowing another wave of fear as she pushed him gently back against the pillows. To minimize the distraction and ward off chills from shock, she pulled an afghan over his lower body. At the very least the weight of the heavy knit blanket might be enough to keep him still in his weakened state while she scrounged for supplies.
“Don’t move. I’m going to get something to clean you up.”
One brilliant green eye opened and he hissed something. She jumped back again when a deep roar of pain split the air. His body seemed to convulse and Alli pressed her back against the bedroom wall while he writhed on the bed. She had no idea what to do.
Finally, his muscles relaxed and he lay back against the pillows, drained from some internal struggle. When she looked again, the wound was pumping fresh blood, but the bullet was now clearly visible embedded in his flesh.
Alli leaned closer. What the hell was happening? She drew in a breath in amazement. He seemed to be expelling the bullet from his body. The wounded muscle and skin was actually pushing the foreign object out, millimeter by millimeter, as she watched. If the pain of it didn’t kill him, he might actually survive.
As if a dead alien wasn’t trouble enough, what was she going to do with a live one? Alli’s self-preservation voice kicked in again. He may be incapacitated now, but look at those claws. He could rip you to ribbons and you’re standing there staring at his ... loincloth.
She had to get a grip. First things first. She needed to clean him up before he bled all over her grandmother’s double wedding ring heirloom quilt.
“I’ll be right back,” she said shakily. He looked at her with both eyes now but made no comment.
“I won’t hurt you.” She held out her hands, palms forward, hoping that signified a peaceful, friendly gesture. “So, please don’t hurt me, okay?”
* * *
To find out more about my Back List Bonanza, visit my contest page and look for more excerpts!
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Yesterday was a good day. Despite the fact in the past two days not only has one of my editors quit on me again, (I swear it's nothing I'm doing but I have gone through 4 editors at two different publishers), but one of my publishers has decided to pull most of their print books and concentrate mainly on ebooks.
This is not a problem for me really. I found the silver lining there, and actually dig the idea that the print rights will revert to me. I'll be in control of the printing, the cover, the distribution...everything. (I'm kind of a control freak, so this really spoke to my inner alpha bossy-girl). I was mildly disappointed because now I'll have to deal with the bs of printing, but it's not like I haven't looked into it several times over the years when I was pre-published. I just have to refind all the information. Well, enough said on that, I did mention it was a good day. The reason being, I got my very first, official royalty check. It wasn't for a good deal, but it was enough that I could put the money back into use and buy prizes for a contest I ran before going to RT. That was before I went to the bank to cash it.
I think you'll know the rest of the story without me even saying it. But yes, for the first time in 15 years, we were overdrawn on the account. What??!!! Say it isn't so! The rest of the day, I've been scrambling about, transferring money from this account to that account to cover the deficeit, and hoping to God the government hastens the cutting of my tax refund checks. Hubby is so upset...(He swears we were all right) that he had me tell them we are going to close the account. (He wasn't with me, but I called him on the cell phone when I found out.) Well, that's all well and good. We never had trouble with our bank through three different buyouts -or is it four- until the current owner (yes, a major, major bank) bought them, and now we've had nothing but trouble since. Anyhoo...the next two weeks are going to be very interesting. We both just filled up our cars, so we have enough gas. Dave got a few groceries yesterday, so we aren't likely to starve. (I could stand to lose a few pounds anyhow, so this might be good.)
I work very hard for my money...so hard for it honey. (Sorry, couldn't resist) Not only in my full time job, but at writing that having something like this happen when we are so careful with expenses, (hubby is in school full time right now so only working part time), is really a humiliating kick in the teeth.
I had an entire list of things I had to do today, and buy with that check. None of which are going to get bought, because I'm afraid to put anything on my credit card right now....just in case. Things will work out...they always do. I'll get a paycheck next week and hubby gets paid tonight or tomorrow...but it's just knowing that we work so hard and still we're very poor. I have 7 contracts for books and novellas, most of which will not see publication until later 07 and early 08. That's no help for the immediate. My Red Sage titles were advanced, so I won't see any return on them for a long while. I have another ebook coming out in July, but heck...I won't see payment for that until August or Sept.
I need the Lottery Gods to smile on me just once. Even the NJ Cash Five will be appreciated. The thing is...I can't even afford to buy a ticket. Hahahahahhahahahaha.... It's a cruel world.
I have heard the term "struggling writer" but I always thought that meant the road to publication. I didn't think it meant "struggling to pay bills," "struggling to buy food," "struggling to make ends meet."
Thank God I don't have kids. If I did...this would be a whole other nightmare.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
And as everyone knows a prince and princess need a castle. Admittedly, the structures have always fascinated me because country to country the designs morph to acclimate themselves to the surrounding territories. Some in Germany are perched on mountains, those in Scotland overlook the seas, and then there are the ones in my North Carolina hometown.
Since I was a child, I've passed these grand properties wishing for a glimpse inside. Of course they don't house knights, nor ladies fair, but each piece of real estate holds a speck of history. And each shows that a man's house, in some instances, really is his castle.
This was my newest discovery, and resides about a quarter mile from my own house smack dab in the middle of the city. I smile when I ride by and see the woman of the house's flags flying like a pennant of old.
I passed this residence every day going to and from work when I lived with my parents. It belonged to the founder of the local brickyard, which supplied the stone and bricks used to build many of the business and homes in my area. Unfortunately Hanford Brick was finally closed in 2000, and the house was put up for sale. At the time, I didn't have the credit, nor a good enough job to afford such a place. But that didn't stop me from dreaming! BTW, the steps by the front tower are a new addition by the new owner.
This grand church in Graham stands 2 miles from my house. I saw it for the first time when I was taking my first Recreation drawing class. The teacher brought us up the street to sketch. What a fabulous still-life this building made!
Driving in Graham one afternoon, I looked up and spotted this tower. It stands directly across the street from the church above. I wondered, why cap off the corner with a tower instead of leaving the roof flat? Like most vacant factories in the area, this one needs serious repair. To help eradicate the eye sores, the mayors' are offering businesses tax breaks/incentives to remodel the properties into apartment buildings. Hmm...where did that idea to use an old warehouse for the final showdown in my superhero paranormal TO CATCH A HEART come from?
I love this house in Graham because it has a "castle" feel, but is cottage sized. When I began planning the follow up book to ALL I EVER WANTED, I knew this was going to be Jenn's house. Since it sits on a street corner, I discovered the back yard was picture perfect! Just like in my imagination it had tons of rose bushes enclosed in a gated garden as well as a small car shed.
I believe this is one of the oldest houses in downtown Burlington . It sits at the end of Fountain Place, a beautiful street so named by the goldfish fountain surrounded by lantern light poles at its center. I remember driving by it on the way to the orthodontist's office and wondering who lived there. I still don't know the answer to that question, but I still love the house!
The Holy Comforter Episcopal Church is one of my favorite buildings in downtown Burlington. It is coveted as a historical landmark, and even has some claim to fame because of it's Tiffany stained glass windows. Currently, it is only used on special occasions and only members are allowed to have their weddings inside. It had been closed due to safety issues, but has since undergone a restoration to bring it back to its full glory.
With these in my backyard, is there any doubt why I set a portion of TIES OF VALOR inside Castle Mostyn? True the Shandar's castle is a far cry from these humble abodes with its blend of newfangled technology, but it still holds the magical glory contained within the castles of old. And yes, there be knights, princes, princesses, servants and a Queen within its walls.
Do you have any "castles" in your neck of the woods, or a building that you adore? Why not tell us about it or share your fondest memories?
Castle McCulloch in Jamestown, NC.
A lantern lined walkway leads visitors across a drawbridge. Among the wooden rafters of the Main Hall, a small promenade allows a view of all the festivities. The room below lays even with the moat and bears thick windows laced with crisscrossed metal. Tucked away to the rear is the dainty Queen's Chambers. I confess the moment I saw it, I wanted to be married here, since my boyfriend and I are huge Highlander fans. What locale (besides Scotland) could be more perfect for a Scottish theme wedding?
Here's the blurb:
Love consultant Afra Dytte transplants herself in Manhattan determined to shush the gossipmongers back in Swansea, GA. But her rosy do-or-die outlook fishtails when she smacks headlong into E. Ross, her stiff competition for the prestigious Golden Arrow award.Eric Ross, a washed-up NFL player turned matchmaker, is out to prove he can roll with life’s dirty little punches, personally and professionally. But he naively stakes his business against Afra’s in a showdown of love-life expertise and flounders.
Analytical to the buzzer, Eric can’t figure whether Afra’s really charmed by the Gods or if he’s throwing the game due to outside interference—namely his perfect match breathing down his neck to snag the whole kit-n-caboodle plus his heart.
Note: The cover shown above is a mock-up I put together, not artwork from an actual book jacket.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Starting today, we're trying something new. We're adding a FeedBlitz subscription (you can find it right below Angela's great cover) to our blog so that you don't have to remember to come back to the site. Once a day, you'll get an email that shows you that day's articles. No fuss, no muss! And it's free! How cool is that? :D
We've got some great stuff coming this month. Since Mother's Day is coming up, we'll be doing a theme week on mothers, human, animal, or alien.
On May 20, we'll be celebrating our first year anniversary and we're planning an out of this world party so be sure to check back often (or use the FeedBlitz to get automatic emails for the blog).
Then on May 28, we're having a guest blogger--Rhonda Stapleton who will discuss writing YA with us. You'll want to stop by for that too.
So have a great week and enjoy the--finally--spring weather while it lasts.
See you soon,
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
I can't control it and I suppose, logically, I shouldn't want to be able to turn it off and on at will, because then I might have it turned off at some important moment and miss a divinely inspired idea because I actively chose not to pay attention to it.
The upside of constant inpsiration is that I don't think I'll ever run out of ideas for stories. The down side, I can probably never retire from this life because my brain would explode.
As it is I have a collection of notes, pictures, excerpts and scraps of things here and there that represent moments of inspiration. Some don't seem like much, and others speak for themselves. Here's a sampling of things that have inspired me:
Buildings like these beach houses at the Jersey shore.
Artwork like this cozy painting,
Soul of a Hunter is a book that remains among my favourites, of all those I've written. So I thought I'd give you a little taste of a female bounty hunter in the sci-fi/futuristic world of the Heart & Soul series...
The bounty hunter's soul thirsts for vengeance, her life given to the hunt. She knew the killer, but who were the extra players in a growing mystery?
Sabra looked at Cormac. Reflected in his eyes was the knowledge she’d already concluded. Darcus did not mean to let them go alive.
“So, pirate.” Cormac returned his attention to the man leaning gracefully against the banister. “Is this a showdown?”
“A showdown?” He burst out laughing and his crew echoed him.
The bounty hunters watched warily, their nerves strung taut yet steady. Waiting.
“Such a sense of humor!” Darcus wiped his eyes. “I could have done with you in my crew, hunter. No, this isn’t a showdown.”
“Then what is it?” Sabra grated.
“It’s a slaughter.”
“With lasers? Stupid, don’t you think, knowing that the blasts go straight through one person and into another? You’ll kill as many of your own men as you will us.”
“Nobody said it was lasers, my pretty. We fight much better with machetes and daggers, and all sorts of lovely little things. Don’t we, lads?”
A rumble sounded from the pirates and more seemed to pour into the room. With dismay Sabra saw that the hunters were outnumbered by at least six to one. It was indeed going to be a slaughter.
“There seems to be no point in killing the others, Darcus. Take me only. They are no threat—”
“Oh, come on! Even I know that these hunters will be back if something happens to you. No, my dear, I’m afraid negotiations aren’t going to work here. You have, to state it clearly, reached the end of the line.”
“Then I see no point in waiting any longer,” Cormac said calmly and in one lightening move, drew his laser.
The room exploded, pirates swarming towards the hunters. Belmos managed to pull his laser in time, but the other hunters only had time to fend off the first of the pirates.
Sabra drew her own laser and fired straight up at Darcus, but he wasn’t there. Looking up, she saw that he’d disappeared back into the shadows, and she started towards the stairs. Her way was blocked by several leering pirates and she cut them down quickly, but no sooner had she done so than more appeared to take theirplace.
A beefy hand came from the side, grabbing her wrist in a crushing hold, and forcing her to drop the laser. A fist connected with her jaw, then the sensation of something sharp and cold across her shoulder, followed by a wet sensation. Blood. She’d been cut.
Furiously she rallied, swinging deadly chopping motions through the air, catching one pirate in the throat with the side of her palm, another in the eye. A third pirate’s nose she slammed up, breaking it and forcing bone to jar up into his brain. Drawing a dagger from her boot top, she slashed from side to side, cutting flesh, hearing curses and shrieks.
The room seemed to seethe with bodies. Tables broke, chairs were flung. The laser fire stopped abruptly, but the fighting didn’t.
Seeing Cormac go down beneath three thugs, Sabra whirled around and tried to slash a path through to him. With fleeting fear she realized that she couldn’t see the other hunters, nor hear them. But she couldn’t worry about that now, she had to get to Cormac, had to fight beside him—
Suddenly her arms were grabbed on each side and she was rushed backwards. Twisting, she was unable to break the brutal holds, and glancing back over her shoulder, saw where they were aiming to take her. The huge front barroom window loomed closer and closer and suddenly she was hoisted up and thrown backwards through it.
It exploded around her but she was protected from the shards by the thick jacket. Hitting the sidewalk, she ploughed down into the snow. No sooner did she come to a stop than she sprang to her feet, swaying and slightly disorientated, but determined to hurtle back into the fight.
“Don’t try it.”
She looked up to see Darcus standing on the sidewalk, laser in hand.
“Your friends are dead, Sabra.”
“They are. Dentil, throw them out into the snow. Let her see.”
Numbly she watched as bodies were thrown haphazardly out of the window to lie in broken heaps on the sidewalk. The blood running
down the bodies was already slowing, soaked up by the thick clothes and cooling in the chill breeze.
Harld, Belmos. The others. And there—oh God. There was Cormac at the bottom of the heap, his face covered in blood. Gaping cuts showed through the torn jackets and shirts. Part of Belmos’s face was cleaved in.
Her stomach lurched, agony gripping her heart. She looked up to meet mocking green eyes.
“Oh, does poor little Sabra cry? I like little girls that cry.”
A cold hand clutched her heart. Those words, the same he’d spoken to her all those years ago. After he’d killed Mother and Father... “You bastard.” The words came out an agonized whisper.
Snow fluttered around her, the cold gray light heavy with doom. Her breath came out in cold puffs. And then she moved fast.