Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Will Robinson Meets the Tar Baby

Remember Lost in Space? Danger, danger, Will Robinson and all that rot? Well, today was one of those Lost in Space days in terms of writing. Not necessarily the good kind, either. The best days are those where I'm in the zone of oblivion, tooling along as time passes unaware. The Lost in Space days are those where I struggle, but time still passes. And, at the end of it, I think: Did I get anything done? Then, I think, Well, I must have . . . because it's now five and I've been at it since eight. Today was one of those days. Lots of cutting and pasting, searching for material in older versions, rewriting and bridging. But still better than the Brain Dead Brick Wall Days, right? Approaching midpoint and feeling a bit like Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Another Excerpt from Queen of Swords

"To ensure what I did to the maid never happened again,” Graham began with a breath, “I locked myself in the tower, refusing to let anyone in—even poor Caitriona, however much she pleaded, wept, and beat upon the door. And when I could bear it no longer, I faked my own death.” He paused to sip his whisky. “It wasn’t difficult, given my physiology and the fallibility of medical instruments of the time. Truth be told, a shocking number of poor souls were buried alive back then.” He took another drink. “The hardest part was keeping my thirst in check as they carried me to the undertaker’s—and the time I spent shut up in that bloody coffin. I endured that living hell for three days, praying all the while for God to please, please have mercy on my soul. But either He has no mercy where I am concerned . . . or I have no soul . . . because my prayers went unanswered.”
Cat felt for him, but wasn’t surprised his prayers were in vain. More often than not, prayers of supplication went unanswered because the universe didn’t give people what they wanted, it gave them what they needed to grow. And that usually took the form of more hardship and suffering.
Shadows of her recurring dream flickered behind her eyes. Her belly, heavy with child. The crucifix hanging above the narrow bed. The yellow-eyed man draining her blood. Was it maybe more than a dream?
“Graham . . . what do you believe you did to Caitriona to invoke God’s wrath?”
He sat there for what seemed an eternity, staring at his half-empty glass. Then, just when she was sure she’d go mad, he began to speak in a choked voice. “I loved her so much. Wanted her so much. But, even so, I conducted myself like a gentleman throughout our engagement. Then, a month before the wedding, she summoned me to her father’s estate. I found her in the parlor unchaperoned. She asked me to claim her maidenhead."
The scene he described began to flicker behind her eyes. They sat together on a Chippendale bench in a parlor that seemed vaguely familiar. The ceilings were high and bordered with decorative moldings; the walls a soft shade of mossy green. A black marble fireplace graced the wall opposite, surrounded by a collage of paintings of varying sizes—portraits, for the most part, of people, dogs, and livestock. In the center of the room, over which hung an ostentatious chandelier, was a circular gaming table. A spinet stood on one side of the fireplace, shelves bursting with books and brick-a-brac on the other. The furniture, covered in velvets and tartans, was pretty but stiff.
They were alone in the room, looking as if on the set of a Jane Austen film. He wore tall riding boots, knee breeches, and an embroidered waistcoat under a deep green velvet tailcoat with large buttons, also velvet. She donned a white muslin frock with a pink ribbon tied in a bow under her bosoms. His hair was clubbed and plaited; hers, swept up in a Grecian coif with face-framing curls. He smelled vaguely of dust, horses, and manliness—a scent she found seductive. He held her hand and his eyes, the same color as his coat, searched hers.
“What is it, m’aingael. Why have you summoned me? Is anything amiss?”
“No.” She swept a hand across his jaw. “It’s just that . . . well, I want to taste the sweetness of forbidden fruit while it yet remains forbidden.”
The scene evaporated and she looked around for Graham, finding him still at the window--a silhouette framed by amber light. Sensing his anguish, she wanted to go to him, to throw her arms around him, to kiss away his pain. As she rose to do just that, he abruptly turned, meeting her gaze. Her heart wrenched at the tear running down his cheek.
“And, I did what she asked,” he continued, straining, “albeit reluctantly. And in doing so, I got her with child . . . though I didn’t know it until some months later.”
She bit her lip, heart-torn. He turned back to the window and took a moment, as if trying to get himself under control. Then, finally, he said, “When her father learned she was carrying my bairn, he disowned her . . . despite the fact that our marriage was technically legal . . .”
When his voice trailed off, she jumped in. “What? How?”
“We’d done a handfasting to become engaged. And back then, consummation of such a vow made it a binding marriage in the eyes of the law.”
“But not in the eyes of her father?”
“Nay. Because we had not been married by a priest. So, he packed her off to a convent, loudly proclaiming to the whole bloody parish that he would not have a Logan bastard in his house.”
 “Oh dear,” she said, cringing. “What did you do?”
He shook his head. “What could I do? As far as the living were concerned, I was deceased. And I couldn’t very well come back from the dead, now could I? I searched for her for weeks, finally finding her with the Carmelites in Falkirk. I found lodging nearby and visited her every night—in her dreams.” His back began to tremor with stifled emotion. “And then, one terrible night I found her on the bed. Pale and lifeless. Drained of blood.” He drew a quavering breath. “The wee bairn died with her. A laddie it was. A beautiful perfect wee laddie. And so close to term he might have . . . ”
His voice drifted off and he stood there like a lonely island in the window. Heart aching, eyes brimming with tears, she went to him, slipped her arms around his waist, and set her cheek against his back.
“What happened wasn’t your fault.”
“No? Then whose was it?”
“Aye, well,” he said, his words etched with angst. “Ultimately, I suppose. But it was I who put her in his path—by going to see her when I knew better. Just as I did with Catharine. And now, again, with you.”

Monday, August 26, 2013

Farby Book Cover Fashions

Can I just say this without offending anyone? Why are all the women on the Scottish historicals wearing the same 1970's prom dress with the zippered back and drop-shoulder sleeves? I've studied period fashions for my dollmaking . . . and these dresses are wrong, wrong, wrong. Can we please get some period-correct attire going on these covers for those of us who know and care? I'm just saying. Am I the only one who cares? I mean, are these not the SAME GOWN? Should we not demand accuracy and differentiation in the marketing of our books? I love these books, so I mean no offense to the authors, but c'mon? And there were plenty of other covers with the same dress, believe me.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Making Progess on the Queen of Swords

The rewrite on THE QUEEN OF SWORDS is moving along. Another good writing day, but running out of juice. Trying to let the characters have their heads while keeping in mind what the agent/publisher liked about the version she tried to sell several years ago. This book is definitely more "vampiry" and less "romancey" than THE KNIGHT OF WANDS.

I sent a short excerpt a week or so ago to a fellow author and finally got her feedback on it this morning. She said it reminded her of Bram Stoker's Dracula and Cathy Marie Buchanan's The Painted Girls all at the same time. I don't know Buchanan, but will take that as high praise indeed.

And speaking of Dracula . . . the following excerpt, one of my faves, incorporates the flashback my friend read:

The moment they were through the front door, Cat made a beeline for her bedroom, muttering something about getting back to work. She locked the door, headed straight for her desk, and switched on the lamp. Still struggling to steer her mind back to vampires, she started picking through the articles she’d collected over the past several months, most of them addressing the vampire’s sexual prowess. The title of her doctorate was Romancing the Vampire: His Evolution from Sexual Predator to Bad-Boy Fantasy.
She picked up Carmilla—a Gothic novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu telling of a young woman’s seduction by a vampiric female being. On the cover was a young woman in white, the victim, presumably, peering out a castle window with a mixture of longing and forlorn—an unwelcome mirror of Cat's own emotions.
Carmilla possessed unearthly beauty, could change her shape, and slept in a coffin, but concealed her true nature behind a sweet facade. Her affection for the story’s heroine was genuine, making the seduction all the more disturbing.
Images and sensations from earlier floated through Cat’s mind. The feel of his mouth, the weight of his body, the impression of penetration. Desire fluttered in her abdomen like a trapped bird. She bit down, forcing her focus back to Carmilla. She thumbed through the novella, scanning and jotting some notes before picking up Dracula. The image of his hand reaching past her flashed through her mind. His words echoed: He was lucky to have no reflection to be forever wrecking his head.
She chased away his ghost, turned to a dog-eared page, and began to read a highlighted passage.

In the moonlight opposite me were three young women, ladies by their dress and manner. I thought at the time that I must be dreaming when I saw them, they threw no shadow on the floor. They came close to me, and looked at me for some time, and then whispered together. Two were dark, and had high aquiline noses, like the Count, and great dark, piercing eyes, that seemed to be almost red when contrasted with the pale yellow moon. The other was fair, as fair as can be, with great masses of golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires. I seemed somehow to know her face, and to know it in connection with some dreamy fear, but I could not recollect at the moment how or where . . . 

Eeriness washed over Cat, raising the hairs on her nape as she re-read the last line.
Good God.
Was he . . . ?
Could he possibly be . . . ?
It certainly would explain a few things.
Like that seductive stare of his--the one that was so penetrating it felt as if he was actually inside her.
And his habit of vanishing into thin air.
And the fact that he knew about her Cinderella Charm.
But it didn’t explain the visions. Or the bagpipes. And she didn’t feel “dreamy fear” when she looked at him, she felt a blazing desire to jump his bones—a desire that even now smoldered deep in her belly.
She dropped Dracula on the desk as if it had burst into flames. She sure as hell had. Swallowing, she unzipped her dress and let it fall to the floor, stepping out of it as she moved toward the bed. Wearing only her bra and panties, she reclined and reached to the nightstand. Easing open the drawer, she felt around for the book she kept on hand for such occasions: The Rampant Cock (the symbol of Clan Sinclair).
The scuffed cover--featuring a buff, bare-chested Highlander—protected yellowed, heavily dog-eared pages smelling suspiciously of dust mites. As she read the first of the bawdiest passages, she slipped a hand between her legs, imagining it belonged to the long-fingered Scot.
            When the last shudders of release had passed, she dropped the book in the open drawer and her head on the pillow. No sooner had she closed her eyes than a new scene began to take shape inside her mind. It was fuzzy at first--an indistinguishable collage of shadow, light, and color, but, little by little, it sharpened until she saw herself walking in Paris. She wore a peacock-blue gown, a strange sort of fur wrap, and an enormous hat ornamented with ribbons and exotic plumes.
            Strangely, she was both inside and outside herself at the same time. And she was herself, but also someone else. She had the same dark hair and willowy figure, but the woman she was inside frequented fashionable cabarets and salons, belonged to Le Tout-Paris, and possessed poise and confidence.
            Was it a dream? Her dreams were often vividly realistic, but this seemed more so somehow. Setting aside the explanation for now, Cat took a breath and sank into the experience. The morning air was cool on her face and the sky above clear and luminous. She walked alone, but passed several people in old-fashioned clothing: men in suits with starched collars and women in elegant lace and velvet gowns. Most wore hats as large and ostentatious as her own. Others wore smaller chapeaus and carried parasols.
            Over the rushing water, she heard clopping hooves and carriage wheels grinding on cobblestones, but also the sputter of early automobiles. In the distance, she spied a brasserie and somehow knew it was her destination. She was meeting a friend—a fellow writer from the Federation of Freethought. And she was late, though the narrowness of her ankle-length skirt made it impossible to lengthen her stride.
            As she approached the cafe, she scanned the sidewalk tables in search of the friend—Louise Boyer--but did not see her. Had Louise, for some mad reason, opted to sit inside? Moving toward the front window to check, her wrap caught on the back of a woven chair, pulling it over with a crash. Face heating, she turned to both right the chair and offer an apology. Her eyes skimmed over a solitary gentleman in a tweed driving cap and round-rimmed dark glasses.
            “Please forgive my clumsiness, monsieur,” she said in French, stooping to grab the chair.
            “There is nothing to forgive, mademoiselle,” he replied as she set the chair back on its legs.
            His words were French, but his accent foreign, provoking a second look. Peering at her over the top of his glasses were the most extraordinary golden eyes she’d ever seen.
            J’mapelle Graham Logan,” he said, tipping his cap.
            She warmed under his gaze. “C'est un plaisir, Monsieur Logan.” Making a small curtsy, she added, “J’mapelle Catharine. Catharine Le Croix.
            (She pronounced it Catrine, which surprised the Cat part of her a little, as did the fact that Graham Logan was in Paris during Le Belle Époque and had not aged a day since.) The Catharine part of her also found him familiar—as well as intoxicating—a response shared.
            “And where do you hail from, Monsieur Logan?”
            “Scotland, originally,” he replied, now in English, which she understood perfectly. “But now reside here.”
            Though Catharine had never been to Scotland, she yearned to go. She had long been a fan of the novels of Sir Walter Scott and had read with pleasure the books depicting Scottish country life by Ian MacLaren, S. R. Crockett, and others of the Kailyard School.
            “And what brought you to Paris?” she asked.
            He gave Catharine a smile that weakened her knees. “Ennui.”
            His hair, unfashionably long, fell around his shoulders like a skein of copper silk. His herringbone suit was slightly out of date, but finely tailored. Over his chair lay a plaid wool overcoat, also quality. Feeling a trifle dizzy, she pulled her eyes away from his and glanced down at his table. Surprise pricked when she saw tarot cards. Curious about the nature of his query, she let her gaze roam over the spread.   
            The Queen of Swords—a cerebral woman who hid her heart. Was it, perchance, a harbinger of their meeting? A smile pulled at her lips but retreated when her eyes landed on the spread’s final card—the outcome.
            Death can herald many things,” she said, more for her comfort than his. “Change, for example, which is inevitable.”
            Desire sparked when her eyes met his. Her gaze dropped, landing on The Lovers. Would they become intimate? It seemed possible, given the stirrings in her womb. She swallowed and licked her lips, keeping her eyes on the cards as he studied her the way a painter might study a nude model. She pressed her thighs together to douse her growing arousal, but the flames of lust only leapt higher.
            Suddenly remembering Louise, she glanced around. Her friend was still nowhere to be seen. Not that she gave a fiche at this point.
            “And what do you make of The Devil?” he asked, bringing her eyes back to his.
            Taking a moment to study the spread again, she now saw The Devil beside the Queen—in the position of influencer.
            She lifted a gloved hand to her perspiring face. “The shadow. That which lies hidden. Unconscious desires.” She swallowed. “The Devil represents . . . our bestial lusts, monsieur.”
            “Or, might he represent . . .”—he arched an auburn eyebrow--“a dark magician?”
            She did not comprehend his meaning. His eyes still held hers--his beguiling, penetrating eyes. She lowered her gaze to his mouth—a sculptural masterpiece worthy of Le Louvre. She yearned so badly to kiss that mouth she almost couldn’t breathe.
            “Forgive me for staring, Mademoiselle Le Croix,” he said softly, seemingly oblivious to his effect on her. “But, if you do not mind my saying so, you bear an uncanny resemblance to a lady I knew once upon a time back in Scotland--a likeness I find most distracting.”
            She kept her eyes on the cards. If she looked at him again, she would lose control.  “And where is the lady now, monsieur?”
            “In the grave,” he said with a rueful sigh. “Or so I have long believed.”

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Good Day

Today was a good day. Worked on the re-write for my former agent till my arse was numb--making strides--and got a letter from one of the publishers to which I've submitted THE KNIGHT OF WANDS. Small, publisher I learned about at RWA from one of their authors. Got an email today from an editor saying, and I quote: "I enjoyed your partial and would like to read the rest. You have a compelling voice and are an excellent writer."

I'm not bragging, just celebrating positive feedback. Like I said in yesterday's post, it's hard to come by useful feedback.

In other news, today is my fifteenth wedding anniversary. My husband is working late, but brought home (in addition to the MacDonald's fries I asked for as a side-dish to last night's left-over gluten-free fried chicken--a once-in-a-lifetime request, I swear!), a dozen red roses, a movingly sincere card, and a bottle of Korbel brut, which we polished off over television.

Earlier, after he got home, he said, "Did you see what else I brought?"

Spying a plastic Publix bag on the kitchen table, I took a peek. There was a package of bacon inside. I laughed and said, "Are you trying to tell me something?"

He's like, "What are you talking about?"

"Bringing home the bacon?"

He smiled and said, "No--I just saw it and it was on sale and looked good--but thanks for thinking that."

Backstory: Things have been tough the past couple of years. I lost my business, we sold our house at a huge loss, and I can't find a job, despite all my brilliance and experience. Now, Hubby's working six-day weeks on commission, making nothing. Would be really nice to sell a book.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Eight Rules for Writing

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
— Kurt Vonnegut: Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.

Found this list at the New York Writers Intensive while surfing around.  Seems like a good list, though No. 8 sounds like the dreaded "infodump" and No. 7 runs directly counter to one of the site's bloggers, who claims, and I quote: "The biggest mistake you can make as a writer is to toil away for months or years on your own, honing your masterpiece in solitude, polishing and repolishing your prose until every word is perfect. The writing process begins when you show your first draft to people and start getting feedback. Beethoven went through 70 drafts of his symphonies. As William Zinsser (arguably best known for his book, On Writing Well) put it: 'Rewriting is where the game is won or lost; rewriting is the essence of writing.'”

I'd like to believe Vonnegut's right and not Zinsser. Why? Because I can't find a critique circle or beta readers who can give the level of feedback I need (and no, I don't have an ego that rejects the feedback--I want to learn and grow as a writer). A couple of years ago, I joined a writer's group that met at a local coffee house. After the first couple of meetings, the organizer pulled me aside and asked me not to mention that I had an agent . . . because it would make the other writers feel bad. Seriously? It's not as if I flogged the fact that I had an agent . . . or that I mentioned the kind of laundry detergent I used or something else unrelated to writing. Needless to say, I left the group--but not just because of that. I got no useful feedback. People just listened to a fragment of a chapter (which was all we were allowed time for) and said, "That was nice."

I admit, I'm frustrated. I went to RWA this year, which was freaking fantastic, but in every session, I heard people talking about their critique partners. I felt lost, clueless, inadequate.Where does one find critique partners? Beta readers? Anyone willing to read their pages without rolling their eyes?

If anyone out there can help, do let me know.

Had a good rewriting day, btw. Lots of new ideas in the old manuscript.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Queen of Swords Rides Again

Received a surprising email the other day from the agent for my first book, which remains unsold. Seems she's starting up an e-book business for her clients and asked if I'd let her publish the unsold manuscript. Of course, darling. But do let me spruce it up a bit, eh? It's been a few years and I've been honing my craft as a fiction writer every moment of the time in between. So, THE KNIGHT OF CUPS enjoys a brief respite while THE QUEEN OF SWORDS gets a shot in the arm.

I'm excited, but also dubious. Not about her sincerity or the new business--just about whether she'll like the new version of the book when push comes to shove. One never knows, does one?

In other news, I've put up a new batch of buff lads in plaid in the Hot Scots gallery (note the symmetry of red tartan and six-pack abs!). And I have a pork picnic in the oven (cheapest cut of meat around, for we starving writers), a gluten-free mascarpone, gingersnap, and nectarine tart chilling in the fridge to enjoy during TRUE BLOOD and THE NEWSROOM, and a glass of three-buck Chuck beside my keyboard.

Here's a picture of the tart (from the recipe site, not mine--haven't put the nectarines on mine yet, but it's looking good so far). Go here for the recipe, if you're interested. To make it gluten-free, just substitute Trader Joe's GF gingersnaps (they're yummy, even if you're not gluten-intolerant). Don't have a Trader Joe's near you? Well, you have my sympathy.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Knight of Wands

Vanessa Bentley and Callum Lyon are opposites. She’s a free-spirited socialite who writes horoscopes for London’s underground newspapers; he’s a passionate political astrologer who lives in a castle in Scotland. She’s Aquarius; he’s Leo. She’s a butterfly; he’s a lion. She’s vegetarian; he drinks blood. She’s human; he used to be.

Now, he’s a Knight of Avalon, a shape-shifting dark faery who requires blood and sex to survive. And has been since he fell at the Battle of Flodden Field back in 1513. After centuries of sowing his dark-faery oats, Callum is ready to settle down. He sets his sights on Vanessa, who he affectionately calls mo dearbadan-de—my butterfly—because she flies away before any man can catch her. 

Vanessa claims it’s because she values her freedom more than her heart—the truth, though not all of it. Deep down, she fears she’s too flawed to be loveable. Once a man sees the real her—a reckless, flighty, promiscuous, and basically screwed up woman who’s stumbling through life without a compass—he’ll high-tail it for the hills, right? And, if she’d been foolish enough to risk her heart, well . . . shame on her.

Will Callum's love be enough to ground Vanessa for good?

Here's a wee taste:

Vanessa Bentley opened her eyes to a pounding headache and the dim sensation that she was not alone. Scenes from the night before rose inside her mind like mist after a warm rain. Callum Lyon’s lecture on political astrology. Waiting around while he signed books. Fleeing back to the inn, disappointed and alone. Going down to the bar for a nightcap. Chatting with the bartender until the object of her desire sauntered in from the blue. They had talked—but what about?—and drank whisky. Things got fuzzier after that.
            Swallowing, she rolled on her side, expecting to find him sleeping beside her. She was alone in the bed, meaning what? She checked for the telltale signs of coupling, but found she was still mostly clothed. He had very decently removed her shoes, her jacket, and her jewelry, but left on her trousers and top. So, he had been too much of a gentleman to take advantage. She liked that scenario, but it did not explain the feeling that someone else was in the room. Checking farther afield, she found a figure sleeping on the couch at the foot of her bed. The long ochre hair confirmed the sleeper’s identity. But why had he opted for the couch?           
            Her necklace lay in a tangle on the nightstand. She rolled to the edge of the bed and peered over the side. He had neatly tucked her shoes—alongside his—under the ruffled skirt. She reached down and picked up one of his. They were classic lace-up oxfords with punched trim. Black and freshly polished, judging by the smell. She peeked inside. They were Church’s—a quality brand. Size twelve.
            She put the shoe back, crawled to the foot of the bed, and looked him over before slipping the blanket down just far enough to bare a powerful shoulder. Was he naked under there? Shivering under a little thrill, she scouted around for evidence. His shirt and both their jackets lay over the back of the desk chair, but there was no sign of his trousers. Oddly, though, there were muddy footprints leading from the couch to the window . . . or, rather, upon closer inspection, from the window to the couch. Had he gone out the window at some point and come back in? She scowled, puzzling. Why would he do that? And, more to the point, how? Her room was on the second floor.
            Her mind grappled with the jigsaw, trying to fit the jagged edges together. She must have passed out at some point . . . and he had put her to bed, but not taken liberties. So, she’d picked a nice guy for a change, thankfully. She combed her mind for other details. They had kissed. With tongues. In the bar and in the elevator. And they’d talked for a while. But what about?
            Astrology? Yes, he’d said he was a double Leo and she’d told him she was Aquarius with Leo rising, which meant she was a free spirit who couldn’t bear to be tied down. She was like a butterfly, he’d observed, moving from flower to flower, belonging to none but herself. That was good. That meant he understood. But what else had he said? With considerable effort (and pain), she excavated fragments of last night’s dialog from the miasma clogging her mind.
            Double Leos are ruthless romantics, Miss Bentley. A verra dangerous prospect for a butterfly such as yerself, would ye no’ say?”
            So, why are ye still sitting here, mo dearbadan-de, eh?
            Why are you?
            Because fire needs air. Tae breathe and tae burn.
            Fire might need air, but air did not need fire. Air needed space, even in a committed relationship (not that she’d ever had one of those or had the least desire to). Another memory surfaced then, giving her a jolt. She’d asked to see his castle. And he’d consented, but only if . . . she’d stay for a week! To give him a chance. And—oh, bugger--she’d promised she would.
            Vanessa bristled. What had she gotten herself into? She might have been tipsy, but she’d given her word. And, in her book, there was a difference between free-spirited and fickle. Besides, part of her wanted to stay. He was smart, gorgeous, sexy, and principled. He would be her perfect man, in fact, if she were in the market for one—which she absolutely wasn’t. She’d come up here not to meet someone but to get away from the paparazzi who’d been hounding her since she dumped Nick Crow, the notorious bad-boy rocker, last week.
            She’d hooked up with Nick a few weeks ago at a PETA fundraiser, so she’d assumed they shared similar values—a mistake. Nick Crow had no values, no principles, and no manners. He’d loudly called her the c-word. At the Queen’s Garden Party, no less. In front of her father, the royal family, and most of the British aristocracy. Jaws and teacups had hit the lawn. The thought of it even now made her cringe in horror.
She flung the thought away, returning her attention to the man in front of her. Callum Lyon was a Leo—with the leonine good looks characteristic of the sign: thick mane, slanted golden eyes, and a mouth that curled up at the corners like a cat’s.
            She hadn’t told him she’d come to Caithness with the express goal of hooking up. She had read his books and, like many women, lusted after the handsome face on the jacket. And what providence that she happened to be passing through this part of Scotland on the night he was making a rare public appearance. As it turned out, the picture didn’t do him justice, but how could it? No two-dimensional image could possibly capture the feral carnality he exuded or the graceful power with which he moved. No wonder women threw themselves at him. 
           Feeling suddenly tempestuous, she moved over him and blew softly in his ear. He made a growling noise deep in his throat and twitched a little, but didn’t wake. She reached down and ran her finger along his temple, but he only swatted at it like an annoying insect. As she withdrew her hand, she dragged her fingers across his hair, which was sleep-tousled and cashmere-soft. He came to at once and blinked up at her, looking adorably sleepy.
            “Why are you still here . . . and on the couch?”
            “Tae be honest,” he said, yawning, “I was afraid ye might leave if I didna stay. That ye’d forget the promise ye made tae me before ye passed out.”
            “And you intend to hold me to that promise, I take it . . . despite my being less than sober when I made it?”
            “No,” he said, eyes meeting hers with the same spark she’d felt last night. “I willna hold ye tae it if ye truly wish tae go.”
            “I’ll stay,” she told him. “Provided you promise to show me a good time. And understand that, when the week is up, I’ll be on my way.”
            “Aye. Of course. Unless I can persuade ye otherwise, aye?”
            “You can’t. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”
            “Oh? And how can ye be so sure?”
            “Because I know myself,” she told him, shrugging. “And I’ve already made other plans.”
            His brows knitted in confusion. “Other plans? Since last night?”
            “Before last night.” She heaved a sigh. Hell, she might as well tell him the whole bloody story. “I’m moving to America. To New Orleans. In a month. To take a job at Zodiac magazine. And nothing short of another Hurricane Katrina is going to stop me.” She paused to reconsider, then added, “Actually, not even that would stop me. Because I’d go anyway to help out with disaster relief.”
            “So,” he said, looking dour, “what ye're saying is that it canna be anything more than a roll in the heather?”
            “Not at all. What I’m saying is that even if it should turn into more, you’ll need to let me go.”
            His expression grew serious, contemplative. He didn’t say anything for the longest time. Worry began to gnaw. Oh, no. Would he break their bargain? Send her on her way? That was not what she desired. They hadn’t made love yet, and, despite his need for a pound of flesh, she still wanted him desperately.
            “When I was a lad, I collected butterflies,” he said at last, looking thoughtful. “There are more than thirty different varieties in the Highlands alone, believe it or no’. Skippers, Fritillaries, Hairstreaks, Peacocks, Painted Ladies, and dozens more. My favorite was always the Scotch Argus. The sub-species of erebia aethiops called Caledonia. When newly emerged, they’ve got these bonny chocolate wings emblazoned with bright orange bands and eye spots. I used tae net all I could, pin them tae a board, and label each with its Latin name and where I’d caught the wee thing.”
            He stopped talking and just looked at her. She returned his gaze, waiting for him to go on, but he didn’t. He just stared up at her like he was seeing into her soul. Meanwhile, her mind was racing. Why had he told her that he’d once collected butterflies? Was he planning to collect her, too? Pin her to a board with her name and where he’d caught her? Vanessa Angelica Bentley. Wild Gorse Inn, John o’Groats, Scotland. Finally, unable to bear the silence—or his probing gaze—another second, she said, “What’s your point, Mr. Lyon?”
            He rubbed his morning-whiskered chin a couple of times and licked his lips before he finally said, “Call me Callum, eh? Given that we’re about tae become intimate. And my point is that I now ken it’s the spirit of a butterfly that makes it beautiful. And that by trying tae hold onto that beauty, I destroyed it. So, aye. Whatever comes of our time together, I will let ye go. But with the hope that one day ye might see fit tae come back.”   
            And then he touched her face with a tenderness that almost made her regret her need to fly away. Swallowing the feeling—and her lust--she climbed off the bed and, without another word, headed into the bathroom, closing and locking the door behind her. She still wanted him, but also wanted to see what he was made of—to understand what made him tick. Most men were too easy to solve and thus, incapable of keeping her interest for long. She hoped Callum Lyon would prove to be different as much as she hoped he would not.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Shopping for a Publisher

The Knight of Wands, book one in my paranormal romance series, is out shopping for a publisher while I work on book two (The Knight of Cups) with fingers tightly crossed (which, let me tell you, doesn't make typing easy). Meanwhile, I'm putting together my author's blog so I'm ready to ramp up the marketing machine as soon as I get a contract. Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

The series will chronicle the romantic exploits of four KNIGHTS OF AVALON—the “drones” of an Amazonian faery culture ruled by a sadistic queen. In their mortal lives, the knights were Scottish nobles wounded in battle. The queen conscripts the fairest among the titled wounded to serve as her breeders and sexual slaves.

Each title in the series, named for one of the knights of the tarot (wands, cups, pentacles, and swords),  tells the story of one knight's redemption through his relationship with the heroine. The books will be smart, sexy, and infused with history, folklore, divination, and loads of heart and heat!