22 July 2014

The Importance of Villainy

Looking for a little Arabian Nights to go with your Steampunk, have we got the story for you! Today's guest blogger, writer/editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail talks about the challenges she and co-writer (and fellow editor) Day Al-Mohamed faced in re-imagining Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves for the Victorian Age--and our own.  Take it away, Danielle:

Stories are about conflict. Internal, external….it does not matter, as long as there is a something for our hero to overcome. Nowhere in fiction is this more prevalent than in faerie tales. Above all else, in faerie tales, there must be a villain. Why, you ask? Because as cautionary tales, these stories are about overcoming danger—or falling victim to it. Without true risk there is no payoff in a faerie tale. No happily ever after without the chance that the prize will slip through the hero’s grasp.

In my recent novel Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, co-written with Day Al-Mohamed, villainy abounds as is only fitting for a novel based on the tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. You remember the tale, don’t you? The humble and poor man who finds a cavern of treasure hidden by a band of thieves is one most of us have heard as children in one form or another. Our version is a steampunk envisioning steeped in the magic of the original and honest in the threat to our Ali, a faithful tinkerer’s apprentice who finds himself guardian to a shah’s treasure trove.

Inheriting a sacred charge from his father, Ali must find a way to thwart the band of thieves who have taken control of the cavern where these riches have lain protected for many years. Our challenge? How to transform a tale everyone knows? How do we achieve the risk…the tension sprung from the danger of our thieves, when virtually everyone knows how the story plays out?

The key is in the villains. With so many in this tale we needed to wake fear in the readers’ hearts by capturing the very essence of evil. A sorcerer who cannot die, who will not be freed until he completes his task: capturing the treasure and delivering it to his master. A powerful man. A ruthless man. One with no respect for anything beyond his own desires. One like Rassul Maroun…

Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn
by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed (Palomino Press, 2014)

Come, Best Beloved, and sit you by my feet. I shall tell you a tale such as sister Scheherazade could have scarce imagined… 

In the Nejd there is nothing at all…except secrets. A band of thieves wish such secrets to remain hidden. 

In England, far from his desert home, Ali bin-Massoud serves as apprentice to the famed Charles Babbage. One night a mysterious box is delivered by a clockwork falcon and Ali’s world is never the same again. Heartache, danger, and thieves mark his journey as Ali is summoned home at the death of his father. 

It will take faith, knowledge, and yes, love to realize his destiny, and more than a little skill with steam-driven technology. Can he unravel the mystery of the puzzle box and the clockwork djinn before it is too late? An ancient legacy and Ali's very life depend on his success. 

Hear you the tale of Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn...

Excerpt:

In silence the riders galloped across the desert, their tack silenced and their horses’ hooves covered in cloth. Moonlight limned them like specters gliding over the sands. Dread clung to their robes. Swinging down before their mounts had fully stopped, they hurried into their lair, a cavern whose stone roof rose above the desert, a deeper shadow in the darkness.

 Handing the reins to others of their band, the men strode to their leader, Rassul Maroun, who sat at a marble table ignoring them as he studied a scrap of parchment. The returning men knelt before him, heads bowed and the backs of their right hands pressed to their foreheads in tight fists. Torchlight flickered over thick silver bands engraved with identical markings visible across their inner wrists: a coiled viper poised to strike emblazoned over crossed khanjars. They knelt there on aching knees for long silent moments as their leader finally let his gaze rise from the parchment.

“Tell me of your success,” Rassul ordered, his voice rumbling low, like the threat of a pending storm. He stood slowly, aware of the impression he made as his lean, well-muscled body unfolded from the chair to tower above all present. He walked toward the prostrate men, his steps whisper soft. Stopping in front of one, Rassul traced the symbol on the man’s wrist before shoving the hand aside to grip the man’s chin tight, forcing his gaze upward until their eyes locked.

 The man trembled, blinking furiously as he swallowed hard. “The horse fled too swiftly, master,” the unfortunate man answered. “We followed but could not draw near enough before it reached the gates of Wadi Al-Nejd. The guards took the beast in and closed the gates.” He gulped again, sharp, as if swallowing a plump date. “We could follow no further.”

Rassul tightened his grip, almost pulling the man up by his jaw. “Your orders were to follow that beast and learn from where it came, that we might ensure no other knows the secret of our lair.”

“Yes, master.”

Rassul dragged the man to the table and tapped the surface. “Allah has blessed you with two eyes, that you might see the world. Do you see this?”

“Yes, master.”

“Are you certain? Because with the sanctity of our cache at risk it is important to be absolutely certain. Would you swear by Allah?” As he spoke Rassul moved his hand to the back of the man’s neck in a lighter grip. Beneath his fingers the thief trembled. “What is it you see?” Rassul asked.

“A m-ma…ma…” The man could not finish.

Rassul tsked. “I think you are not certain at all,” he said after a moment of the man’s stammering. Locking his grip hard on the man’s neck, his hand took on the glow of power as he slammed him forward into the table’s surface. Bone crunched against unyielding marble and the body went slack. Rassul let go and it slid to the floor, trailing crimson streaks from the edge of the parchment to the rim of the table.

“It is a map,” Rassul said as he spat on the corpse. “May Allah forgive you your foolishness…and your failure.”

He snapped his eyes upward and locked gazes with every one of his men, including the corpse’s partner, who still knelt, as yellow piss slowly pooled around him.

“Learn from this, in case any of you are uncertain.”

Casually, Rassul stepped over the body and once more perused the map. “Wipe out all knowledge of this map. Destroy any copies. Do this before all other things.”

#

Award-winning author and editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. Her published works include Yesterday's Dreams, Tomorrow's Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, and, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). To learn more visit www.sidhenadaire.com. 

Day Al-Mohamed is author of Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, co-written with Danielle Ackley-McPhail. Day hosts the blog Unleaded: Fuel for Writers. Her work is available in Daily Science Fiction, Oomph, and GrayHaven Comics' You Are Not Alone. She is a member of the Cat Vacuuming Society of Northern Virginia Writing Group, Women in Film and Video, and a graduate of the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop. She can be found online at www.DayAlMohamed.com and @DayAlMohamed. 

Links:

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BN/Nook

07 July 2014

Catching up with Bianca D'Arc

It's been a while since I posted here and it's been sort of a whirlwind the past couple of months with not one, but two new releases and a whole lot of convention prep. In early May, KING'S THRONE came out, adding to the String of Fate miniseries. I had been wanting to get back to this story for a very long time.

Everything seemed to come together for this book after some initial behind-the-scenes hiccups. The cover is now one of my all-time favorites. The editor was available when I needed her and did a fast, great job. I was able to turn it around quickly after months of delay from the behind-the-scenes stuff I made reference to. (It had nothing to do with the content of the book, but rather how it was going to be published.)

And then in early June, BOBCAT came out. It's the 4th book in the Redstone Clan miniseries. Just one more Redstone brother to go now! BOBCAT - in conjunction with KING'S THRONE and the books that will follow these - starts to draw a complex storyline to a head. We're getting to the point where it's become obvious that all my paranormals are related. They all happen in the same, contemporary paranormal world and the heroes/heroines are all fighting against the same enemy.

It's the epic battle of good vs. evil and within the next two books, everything is going to come to a crashing, exciting crescendo.

I'm working on the next book in the String of Fate trilogy right now. It will be called JACOB'S LADDER and I hope to have it out later this year, quickly followed by the final Redstone Clan book, titled MATT.

I'm also working on a few rewrites of old stories and sci fi romance books that I am playing around with. To be honest, things are a little stalled at the moment as I prepare for convention travel. I'll be going to my first RWA (Romance Writers of America) conference in about 2 weeks, followed quickly by the AAD (Authors After Dark) con in Charlotte, NC, in early August.

Travel and con prep sort of disrupts my whole life and writing schedule for about a month or two before I leave and a week or two after I get back. Going to a con as an author requires a heck of a lot of preparation. There are promotional items to design, order and somehow get to the convention site. There are plans to be made for parties, signings and other appearances. There are new clothes to buy and plan. Bags to pack. Packages to ship ahead...

You get the idea. Lots and lots of little tasks that require a ton of planning and busywork. Not my favorite thing, but since I rarely get a real vacation (I can't remember the last - maybe 2009?), traveling to cons is my only real getaway from my day-to-day existence. I enjoy them. Sort of. I love seeing chatting with other authors and especially readers, but the actual travel is a hassle and a half! And there's a certain amount of recovery time after I get back where I'm pretty much useless as a settle back into my old routine and catch up on sleep. ;-)

I hope I get to see some of you during my travels this year! If you see me at a con, come on up and say hello. I love talking with people and I promise, I don't bite. ;-) Meanwhile, I need to make the most of my time before all hell breaks loose and get some writing done. Back to the grindstone!

29 June 2014

"In the Black" - new excerpt!

You haven't bought "In the Black" yet? Not even with RT Times Review calling it "a fast-paced tale of murder & mystery in outer space"  and giving it 4/5 stars?

Let's see if I can tempt you with some delicious goodies...

*****

A puff of cold air slapped her bare back.

She froze, suds running off her skin.

The fact that Etts hadn’t screamed in alarm meant only one other person could have opened the stall door and now stood there watching her.

She waited.

The low voice brought goose bumps to her exposed skin. “Captain. Glad to see you took advantage of my offer.”

“Marshal.” She didn’t turn toward the open stall door. “Thank you for making it.”

“You’ll be glad to know that the transport left without incident.” He didn’t say the name; he didn’t have to. He wasn’t going to taint this moment with that name.

She was grateful for that.

“That’s good. Hope they fry the bastard.” Sam reached for the washcloth and poured a good amount of liquid soap on it. She could see him out of the corner
of her eye, watching her through the semi-clear glass.

She didn’t have the urge to hide her scars. There weren’t many and they’d whitened and faded over time, but some of her lovers had cringed at seeing them.

They hadn’t lasted long. In every sense of the word.

Daniel chuckled. “We’ll see.” He walked back and forth in front of the shower, a slow, leisurely pace. “You found everything okay?”

“Yes, thank you.” She looked at him through the door, her heart pounding like it was her first combat drop all over again.

Time to put up or shut up. He’d be leaving soon and she needed to get him out of her system.

“Could I impose on you to wash my back? I can’t quite reach back there.” She rolled her shoulders.

He grinned. “Thought you’d never ask.” He took a step forward, then stopped. “One minute. No use getting my uniform wet.”

Daniel slid off his jacket and tossed it over her pile of clothing. He tugged his T-shirt out of the top of his jeans and pulled it upward, annoyingly slowly.

She forgot about the hot water running down her face.

*********

The sequel, "In the Void" comes out in October - so why wait to hop on board the Bonnie Belle?

Don't forget! "Everyone loves a Mercy woman." (or man, as "In the Void" will attest to...)

Available at Amazon,  B&N   Carina Press 

Also on Goodreads!

28 June 2014

Writing What You Don't Know

Wanna know a secret?  Most writers don't like to talk about their work.

Oh, we'll glibly babble on about the origin of a story...if it makes a good story. The safe-for-work antics of other people's editors are fair game...so long as we've filed off all the serial numbers. (You never know when you might have to work for that nutjob--I mean, respected senior editor.)  Our research is even better.

Notice something about all these things we like to talk about?  The farther away the material gets from anything that might make us uncomfortable, the easier it is to talk about. When it touches on our (many) writerly insecurities..not so much.

Which brings us to this month's theme and why it's hard for me to blog about it. I'm a heterosexual female from a relatively privileged background. What business do I have writing from an LGBQT perspective, ever? I can't know what it's like from the inside.

As somebody who goes to extreme lengths to research her fiction, that bothers me. It bothers me that I don't know what it was like to walk the streets of fifteenth century or the corridors of the Hindenburg just before it exploded, too. But in both those cases, the only people who care whether I get it sort of right are other history nerds, and even for them the issues are purely academic. If I misstep in my depiction of LGBQT characters--or characters of color or characters with physical or emotional challenges--people could get hurt. 

I hurt my characters. A lot. I challenge them every way I can think of. It's what writers do. I want to challenge my readers, too. But I don't want to hurt them by being an idiot about something I'll never know.

At the same time, the world is not populated entirely by privileged heterosexual females. I'm good with that. I'm boring in real life, and if my stories were only about people like me, they'd be boring, too. So I write about women and men at all levels of society, of all countries, races, and orientation. 

Perhaps the most important human character in "Fixed", my story in The Modern Fae's Guide to Surviving Humanity, is a gay vet tech based on one of my favorite coworkers. The original was a retired military officer who was built like The Refrigerator. Seriously, if you just saw this guy's face and his shadow, you would NOT want to meet him in a dark alley. But once the lights went on, you'd find yourself looking at someone with the fashion sense and mannerisms of Nathan Lane. Incredibly nurturing, too. So I could really see him working with lost and injured animals. But mostly I loved the way he talked and his own idiosyncratic way of taking no nonsense from anyone. He brought an incredible brio to the story. I loved writing his lines and how much his presence made everything better.

A lesbian couple were the main characters of "Personal Demons," my story in Hellebore and Rue, the award-winning anthology about lesbian magic users. The story is all about the cost of magic--and how that cost might not be what you think. For Anita, my exorcist, the cost was the alienation of her lover Deborah's affections.

I confess I used a lesbian couple because it made everything worse. Anita is a tantric sorceress, so there is a sexual component to her magic. Her lover sees this up close and personal in the middle of an exorcism. If a man had seen what Deb had seen, he would've felt betrayed, gotten angry and left to get drunk. It would've been nasty. There would've been a cost. But a man never feels soiled--polluted--in the same way a woman does. So his girlfriend has congress with demons. All he has to do is wash himself off and he's good to go. But a woman takes her lover inside her body. It's a whole different level of intimacy. You cannot simply rinse away a demon's touch, even at one remove. 

Having made that decision, I tried to treat both characters as if they were me. How would I feel in their respective positions? It's the only way I know to respectfully step in someone else's shoes. 

I'd like to think I got their emotions right, especially since sooner or later a story will demand another character who isn't me or anything like me. I want very much to get it right every time, because no matter where we come from, what we believe or who we love, we're all human beings. We deserve that dignity, in fiction as much as real life.



25 June 2014

Requiem for a Dream



Sometimes it seems like a dream. You have a great agent. She gets you a good deal and you have a contract. You've been through editing and copyediting and filled out all the forms for artwork. You're almost ready to see your manuscript turned into a real book.
Then you wake up.

I had one of those rude awakenings last week. Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint of Angry Robot books that was supposed to published A Curse of Ash and Iron, my YA steampunk fairy-tale retelling, was cut. Effective immediately. Contract canceled.

No book.

It's taken me awhile to put into words how this made me feel. Sick. Upset. Like the world fell apart. I mean, it happens in publishing. It's business. But it's really hard not to take it just a little personally, not to feel like someone has punched you in the gut. I cried. My agent cried. We can't believe we got so close only to have the rug pulled away. It's like a bad joke. I had booked a very big trip to the midwest to help promote the book at a con with the publisher. No publisher. Nonrefundable tickets. Fortunately I have other books I can push. Not so lucky for other authors who were making their debut.

But it could have been worse. There are many authors who were left with books in limbo after already being published. Or left in the middle of a series.  At least I hadn't booked a venue for the launch party yet. But it was a close thing. I feel for the staff, who might have been let go from their jobs. As least I have my book back right away and can move on.

So, not requiem for THE dream. Just this one. The outpouring of support for the imprint and the authors has been overwhelming. A lot of people wanted to read those books, including mine.People kept pre-ordering it evenI after the news.

We'll find a new home, and let everyone know when and where.

23 June 2014

A New Bride for My Hubby

This is my hubby's big milestone birthday month. And we're not in a panic, no.

Years ago, when he was but a babe, he promised himself he'd be driving a Porsche 911 before this birthday struck. He did NOT want to look like one of those old guys speeding through a mid-life crisis. I promised him a new bride to ride shotgun. Okay, the wife is still me, but I was determined to be a fitter, skinnier, stronger version of the gal he married twenty-five years ago.

Well...let's just say there's no new car in the driveway and I'm still rockin' the same jeans I've been trying to ditch for a smaller pair. What in the heck happened?

Life. Sometimes she steps in our path and gets tangled up with our feet. We've had much bigger things to plan for, like college graduations for two of the best kids on the planet. And feeding them. Who knew how much teenage boys could eat?

But we've kept the big promises to each other and have a glorious life together. Hubby is still test-driving Porsche 911's though, so maybe that counts?  I've got to say the sexy fox does look smokin' hot behind the wheel. Gosh, I love that man no matter what he drives.And if he scrunches his eyes just so, I might actually look like the skinnier bride I promised.



That's not to say I've given up on my promise. No way. It just takes a little longer to lose those inches than I remember. I'll rock a new pair of jeans, one of these days. Hey! Maybe next big milestone. Either that or wait until he can't see anymore and do the next best thing...lie.

Until then, happy birthday, baby.

Readers: Have you made promises that were a bit difficult to keep? What did you do about it?

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12 June 2014

13 Ways to Spice Up Your Writer's Block!

Muzziness and unclear thinking got your writing productivity down like it has mine? Here's a random list of herbs and spices purported to give mental clarity and purity of thought!

1) Brahmi. This sounds very like brony, which are dudes who love My Little Pony. I can see how that would help with creative writing and writer's block -- think outside the gender box, man!

2) Gotu kola. What kind of cola is that? Go to cola? I'll go to a cola and drink it and then write better. Good to know.

3) Ashwaghandha. So, a quick Google confirms this herb, also known as Indian ginseng, has a strong horse-like smell. I do like the smell of horses, and I didn't realize that the smell of horses would help with writer's block. Bonus!

4) Vacha. That's, like, cow in Spanish, right? So the smell of horses and the smell of cows. Uh. I really like the smell of horses better. But BEEF, now, that would be a nice remedy for writer's block. Especially if I'm trying to write and somebody else cooks dinner and brings me a nice, grilled steak. HINT HINT, KIDS.

5) Tulsi. Nothing against Oklahoma? But I don't personally live in Oklahoma, and if I have to visit Tulsi to break free of writer's block, I don't think that's very practical. Also, Tulsi is aka holy basil and since it's religious, I guess I shouldn't make fun of it. Sorry, Oklahoma.

6) Rosemary. Hey, I have a plant out front. And I don't know what to write next about rosemary. BRB, going to smell some bush.

7) Peppermint. I'm back! The rosemary bush was delightful, especially when we add it to chicken, but I have no peppermint. Except for Altoids, which are purported to contain real peppermint oil. Considering how many of those little sinus bombs I eat, it's amazing I ever get writer's block.

8) Basil. Now, the basil's in my back yard, in the square foot garden. It's actually growing this year, as opposed to last year, when SOMEBODY who is married to me let the kids plant whatever they wanted wherever they wanted and nothing came up. Who could that be? I had to take over. I guess it was good for my writing, since I instinctively planted basil. Now if only somebody else would get me a salad.

9) Rooibus. Who's bus? Roo's bus! Roo's bus is Kanga. But all that jumping, I don't know if I could focus. I'd probably get motion sick and barf. But, you know, I could write about what it's like to ride in a kangaroo's pouch. That would be an unusual topic.

10) Ginkgo biloba. A relative of the Bagginses of Bag End? Or a lesser known Spanish conquistador who got lost in the Bermuda Triange before we knew it was the Bermuda Triangle? The first one I don't think I'm allowed to write about because copyright. But the second one....

11) Green tea. Man, that's just caffeine. I'll take mine as a coffee, thanks.

12) Oatstraw. Ok, really? What's that, oatmeal with Weetabix in it? Oh, MUESLI. Which is supposed to unstopper writer's block. Sure, if writer's block = your colon. Which I guess it could.

13) Skullcap. I'm wearing a gnome cap right now and it's not helping. I guess I should switch to a beanie?

Hell, now I'm just too hot. Stinkin' perimenopause. I need to go look for some herbs that fix that.

Jody Wallace
Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist of the Apocalypse
http://www.jodywallace.com  * http://www.meankitty.com  

08 June 2014

Tossed Salad

Photo
Photo: WANA Commons, Lynn Kelley Author
According to our blog schedule, this month's theme is  LGBQT,so I sat down to write a blog. At first I thought I had nothing to say on this subject, except to be supportive of my fellow writers. I am a traditional woman/man, woman/werewolf, vampire/man, sort of writer. Those are the stories my muse tells me. Then I remembered something, I might not have heroes or heroines who fit the theme, but I do sometimes have more minor (but important) characters that do. I will admit, none of these manuscripts have yet to be published, but I have reason to believe that is about to change.
So why not heroes and heroines? No clue. As I said, those are the stories my muse tells me. And,  I suppose, what my audience expects at this point. So will my readers accept these minor characters who happen to be of a different sexual desire? I think so. My stories tend toward the theme of acceptance and finding one's place in the world. I would hope that whatever differences the characters within the stories my muse tells me have, my readers will be open to at least giving those characters a chance. In my—not so humble—opinion, our world is not that "melting pot" I've always heard about, but rather a salad. And really, what's more interesting, a pot of oatmeal, or a bright beautiful salad with all kinds of colorful fruits and vegetables?

Take care!
Cheryel
www.cheryelhutton.com

05 June 2014

The Crazy Chicken Dance


I'm face-down in the crazy-chicken-dance of editing.  Final line-edits are due Friday.  ~dances~  So.  I share with you my favorite bit from Denis Leary (turn it down if you're at work, the language is a bit blue).

And here's the Super Sekrit Cover Reveal for Sealed by Fire:


02 June 2014

Harpo, Who Dis Woman?


Greetings Kittens,

It’s me! I know it doesn’t look like me, because I’m actually here and all, but it’s me!

Since I last wrote I’ve moved again, been housebound, bedbound, denied short term benefits for my illness, denied full accommodation for my illness, lost my job, found my Zen, gained perspective, embraced many blessings, and danced like my groove transcended any criticism. It’s been an adventure.

I’m still experiencing symptoms from moderate to severe. I can’t walk far or for long without my back locking up, and I feel safest walking near walls and handholds due to the vertigo. But I’ve had some really good days recently and I’m celebrating.

I’ve been working diligently the last three weeks to build my endurance and manage what energy I do have as best I can. I’ve managed not to crash too badly, even with the added exercise. My nutrition has been fantabulous and is getting better every week now that I can digest more. I’m not sleeping, but really, when I was ever? The important thing is that I can sit up for extended periods of time with tolerable pain levels and stay hydrated and nourished without being violently ill. Of course that means it’s time to write.

I picked June as the marker to jump back in, find a sub call that appealed to me, and go for it. It was probably more reasonable to pick something months down the road, but I couldn’t pass up a Halloween themed call with a July 1st deadline. 35k in 30 days, edited and in submission form.

It’ll be a challenge, I’m more comfortable around 50k and longer. Oh, and of course the whole more than 1k a day thing, that has to be edited as I go in order to be sub ready, all after nearly two years without writing. I’m not really sweating that part though. Either I finish, or I’m closer to a complete ms than I’ve been in ages, I call it good both ways.

I know this isn’t on theme as far as the LGBTQ focus of June, however, as a openly bisexual writer, whose story has bisexual and queer characters, I’m calling horseshoes on this one. Totally close enough for government work. Smile.

Glad to be back, the timing feels right and I couldn’t be more ready to start again. Now to get typing!

Ramble Done, Kittens!

~X



01 June 2014

"In the Black" excerpt!

It's been a great few weeks with the release of the first book from my new "Tales from the Edge" series, "In the Black"! But you can never have enough excerpts, right?

So let's see how Sam Keller feels sitting on a Mercy ship with everyone getting sex except for her...

*****

It wasn’t as if she didn’t have options. Hell, she was the captain of a Mercy ship and had full access to the services and personnel within. She could purchase an hour from Sean or, if she were really desperate, Dane.

A fast hour of quick, meaningless sex with no commitment, nothing but a financial transaction between a professional and a customer.

The option wasn’t unheard of. It’d even earned a short notation in the manual, detailing the costs and the discount offered to the captain.

There was nothing wrong with it.

Nothing, that is, other than the embarrassment of having to face him later on as his captain, not a client. She hadn’t slept with any of the men in her squad for the same reason, and even though she wasn’t wearing a uniform anymore the same rules still applied, at least in her mind.

Look but don’t touch. Save that for the long nights strapped in her hammock when she could fantasize about whatever or whomever she wanted without fear or guilt.

But would it be enough for the rest of her contract?

Or should she make an appointment with Sean and get it over with, shut down the longing and the need to be touched?

It wasn’t like he’d use it against her, not like Dane would. That bastard wouldn’t let it go and would be rubbing her face in it every time he had a problem and Sam ruled against him.

No, it’d have to be Sean.

But the risks still outweighed the benefits.

For now.

Sam sighed. She wasn’t at that point yet. But it was on the horizon and she knew it.

She shifted in her seat. It wasn’t so much the sex; it was the basic need to touch and be touched. Held, stroked, hugged.

Not that there was anything wrong with hot, sweaty, crazed sex. But her skin ached for the simple sensation of being caressed, fingertips drawing lazy circles on her back until she fell asleep. Goosebumps rising from a gentle kiss, gasping at the sensations traveling over her body from a simple touch.

Damn it, she had it bad.

She wasn’t going to pay Sean to just cuddle, not at those rates.

Time to shift gears before she got beyond frustrated and said or did something she’d regret.

*****

What's a woman to do? Buy a night with one of her Mercy men or...

;)

Check out "In the Black" at Amazon, B&N, Carina Press or other fine ebook retailers!

31 May 2014

The Balticon Saturday Six That Growed

Wiped from turning in a story that went on too long and baking too many cookies, I didn't take as many pictures as usual at this year's Balticon. But I still had too many to narrow down to six. Balticon, the Maryland science fiction and fantasy convention held over the Memorial Day weekend, is like that. Mind-boggling and often disorganized, it's always crazy fun.


Marty Gear, the patron saint of Maryland costumers died last year, but his spirit definitely lingers in the Balticon Masquerade. Take this amazing stag, who is prepping for a turn onstage Saturday, May 24. The real eye holes are hidden beneath the orange glass eyes, and the jaw moved when the costumer spoke. BTW, the person inside is a woman.


Marty Gear also provided the motivation behind Stephanie Burke's gorgeous hand-painted kimono. She'd been promising him to create a Steampunk kimono for the Masquerade for years. This year, she did.


Meanwhile, you couldn't walk down a hall of the Escher Inn of the--I mean, the Hunt Valley Inn without seeing the towel over the bolt signifying a room party. The one two doors down from my roomie and I featured absinthe and this guy, who sang about "That Guy", the jerk you don't want to meet at a con. The filker was excellent and the song, spot-on.


I encountered this pair in the bar. The lady had the best clockwork stockings ever, and Buddha was having a grand time encouraging folks to rub his belly.


Even Super Mario Brothers were there.


Even I dressed up this year. Twice! No one caught a photograph of me in my Steampunk finery for Friday night's Zombies Need Brains launch party Friday night. (Remember how wiped I was before the con? Add in a four-hour drive that should've taken ninety minutes. Rinse. Repeat.) So I made sure to get a shot of my faerie gear for Sunday's Dark Quest Books launch party.


About those cookies--this photo shows the reason for all the baking. In addition to launching the line's new books, Dark Quest Books editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail turned the launch into a surprise 30th anniversary celebration and fundraiser for author CJ Henderson and his wife Tin.


The place was packed. I'm almost scared to see what Danielle cooks up when the Silence in the Library anthology for CJ, Dance Like a Monkey, is released later this summer. I may wind up chained to my stove for a week. On the plus side, folks REALLY liked my ginger cookies.


Finally, on the last day of the con, I captured this image of Guest of Honor Brandon Sanderson (right) and a fan dressed as the Mulian Alegretto from the anime RahXephon. Look at that headdress! Not only that, her manicure matched the costume perfectly.
Speaking of perfect, guests of honor don't get much better than Brandon Sanderson.  He managed to be funny, charming and instructive for four full days. And yeah, I got the interview. ;-)
Need more Balticon goodness? I've posted more photos on my Flicker page. Enjoy!

29 May 2014

Writing What Scares You

I used to think I was a fearless writer.

Many writers worry about relatives or friends reading their sex scenes. I have no shame.

Many writers worry about finishing a story. I always get to the end.

Many writers worry about how people will judge them from their stories. I never did.

Until now.

I just completed a book that's the fourth full-length novel in the Phoenix Institute superhero romance series. It's entitled Phoenix Inheritance and it's due out next March.

I've never been so afraid of hitting send to my editor.

Why? Because it's essentially a book about motherhood and I'm terrified of being judged for how the heroine thinks, feels and react to her son, who is autistic.

That's because this heroine, Renee, is closer to me than any other heroine I've written. I'm a mother. I have an autistic son.

I'm already aware that some people judge me harshly for my choices about the best way to raise him. We're already so judgy in this country about parental choices and that judgement increases exponentially if you have a kid with special needs. But I know in real life that my son is happy and improving each year, so I can shrug off any judgements about what "they" think I should do and just follow what helps my son.

But now I've written a fictional heroine with a similar problem to send out into the world and I've never been more scared, not just for those not familiar with autistic kids but for those who deal with them every day. Did I explain it well enough? Is her fictional son realistic on the page? And does Renee seem far too occupied with her frustration and fear and thus seem bitchy? Will people hate her?

And, of course, I mean will people hate me?

Then I ask myself: if I'm so scared, why did I write this book?

Hah. Good question. Mostly, I wrote it for my son because any small understanding about autism gained by the public from reading a book makes things better for him in the future. I wrote it because I wanted people to know that "autistic" doesn't mean broken and that those with autism can have bright, happy futures. I wanted to write it to show how families can stick together and help each other.

And I wrote it because this was one of the few times I had to write a particular story.

Is Phoenix Inheritance all about autism? No, I hope it's a great lover's reunion story, mixed in with some intense action and some really sweet moments between a father, mother and their son.

They say writing a book should scare you. I've never understood that.

I do now.

Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and sometime superhero. She's the author of a new steampunk detective novel, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, the Phoenix Institute superhero romance series and the alternate history Seneca series. In her non-fiction identity, she's the Content Director at GeekMom.com and blogs for CriminalElement.com.

26 May 2014

Memorial Day Thanks

I sit typing at my desk as the golden sunlight slants through an ancient pepper tree dancing on the breeze outside my window. It's a regular day, a peaceful day, full of life, promise and hope. Love.

I am free.

My children are safe, sound, and watching a silly irreverent show on a television.

My husband has a great job that pays him for his service. I have two great jobs that I love.

Our house is more than enough, our paychecks more than enough, our healthcare, education, food much more than enough. We breathe fresh air, drink sparkling water, sleep at nights.

We can go to church, to school, to vote because we are free.The men and women who died for this country made it so.

There are not enough words to thank those who risk paying the ultimate sacrifice for me and my family. But on this beautiful Memorial Day, I am deeply grateful. Thank you for serving in the military.  God bless you and your families. And God bless the beautiful United States of America.

Kimberley Troutte
www.kimberleytroutte.com