28 August 2009

Eight Panels & Counting: Jean Marie's 2009 DragonCon Schedule



Are we there yet?

DragonCon, the world’s greatest summer camp for wayward adults (2009 edition), starts in five or six days, depending on whether you count the Alternate History Track Meet & Greet at Max Lager’s brew pub and the concerts Thursday night. (I do.) I’m pumped. I’ve got my postcards (for Fantasy Art Templates, the art book slated for release in March 2010). I’ve got bookmarks for Master of Crows, Grace Draven’s fabulous fantasy romance. I will have postcards and bookmarks for the spouse’s web site, Intravenous Caffeine as soon as they arrive at home of an Atlanta-based friend.

But I don’t have a thing to wear!

Actually I’ve got quite a lot. I need it, because in addition to the Meet & Greet, the Time Travelers Ball (Friday, September 4) and the Pirate Party (Sunday, September 6), I’ve got eight panels! And once again, The Powers That Be have blithely assumed that I will be conscious and capable of carrying on intelligent conversation with the likes of Peter David and Katherine Kurtz at 10 a.m. on the morning after the Cruxshadows’ midnight concert. They are so insane. I am so doomed. Of course, I’ll be worse at 1 p.m., Monday, September 7, when they’ve scheduled me on a panel with Rogue, the Cruxshadows’ lead singer. Get your earplugs now. Given the fan girl squee that’s building, you’ll need them.

There will be photos.

Eventually. ;-) Hope to see you there!

Saturday

You Say Religion, I Say Magic – An examination of the use of religion and magic systems in science fiction & fantasy. What is their place and why? Panelists: D.A. Adams, Linda L. Donahue, James Palmer, Stephanie Souders (Moderator), Jean Marie Ward. 1 p.m., Greenbriar Room (Hyatt)

They SHOULD Be Movies! Books You Want to See on Film – Indulge your fantasies. Talk about the books you most want to see on the big screen…and who’d you most like to see do them. Panelists: Van Plexico, Jean Marie Ward. 4 p.m. Fairlie Room (Hyatt)

Sunday

Where Do You Go When You Need…? – The pitfalls and benefits of doing research for your writing. Panelists: Peter David, Katherine Kurtz, Terri Osborne, James Palmer, Jean Marie Ward. 10 a.m. Fairlie Room (Hyatt)

Beyond Binaries – Gender Roles in Science Fiction & Fantasy – What fantasy and science fiction literature has gone beyond traditional gender definitions? How successful is it? Does this require aliens or magical creatures? Panelists: Lee Martindale, Jean Marie Ward. 2:30 p.m., Greenbriar Room (Hyatt)

Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading –The broad-minded science fiction and fantasy writers of Broad Universe bring you a buffet of snack readings just when you need it most. Unlike most other DragonCon panels, this one will run two and a half hours to accommodate lots of writers, including some not listed on the guest list. Panelists: Marcia Colette, Kathryn Hinds, Gail Martin, Racheline Maltese, Sandra Ann McDonald, Tee Morris, Jean Marie Ward, Trisha Wooldridge and more. 7 p.m., Fairlie Room (Hyatt)

Sex in Science Fiction & Fantasy: Too Much or Not Enough? – With the rise of paranormal romance, sex seems to have become de rigueur. Is this right or wrong? Why or why not? Panelists: Sandra Ann McDonald, Van Plexico, Jean Marie Ward. 10 p.m. Greenbriar Room (Hyatt)

Monday

The Future of Urban Fantasy – Where does the genre go from here? Panelists: Jennifer Heddle, Althea Kontis, Heather Osborn, Jeanne C. Stein, Jean Marie Ward. 11:30 a.m., Montreal/Vancouver Room (Hyatt)

Under Raven’s Wings: 200 Years of Poe – Poe’s influence on popular culture – sometimes in unexpected ways. Panelists: John Everson, C. Gilbert, Kat Richardson, Rogue, Stephen H. Segal, Jean Marie Ward. 1 p.m., Montreal/Vancouver Room (Hyatt)

Jean Marie Ward

ANGELIC AVENGER has a cover!


This has been a big week for us around here. School started for the munchkins. :) Ordinarily, a reason to celebrate and bask in a day or two of quiet before plunging into the next project on the list; however, they're not being pawned off on a new teacher this year. Nope, they get me.

I have a whole new respect for Homeschooling parents and Elementary School teachers.

Just when I thought the week was going to drive me into a vacation at the funny farm, I received an email from Angela James. Now, I love her emails. This one was no exception - it held my cover art for my upcoming October release, ANGELIC AVENGER.

Kanaxa does beautiful work and this one is no exception. Isn't it pretty? I've been over the moon.

It's really happening. What started as a nagging voice in the back of my head at a movie theater while waiting for the show to start and became my very first independently completed manuscript is really going to be released. It's not a bad joke.

Everyone says to write the book of your heart and pray you don't have to sacrifice it on the alter of edits for the sake of selling. And that's what I did.

Stay tuned to my website for an upcoming contest to celebrate the launch of Bella in the world.

Here's the blurb, if you're interested:

The road to hell is paved with Heavenly desire...

Angelic Avengers, Book 1


Fetch a soul? No problem. Quell a little shape shifter rebellion? She can do that, too. Just an average day in the afterlife of Arabella "Bella" Morrison. Or, what she hopes will become an afterlife after restoring the cosmic imbalance caused by her suicide over a love affair gone bad.


Protect a willful fallen angel? That takes a little more teamwork than she's accustomed to. Especially when the team includes Gray Devereau, a sexy, half-breed angel who's got an eye on her - in more ways than one. Their attraction could set could set fire to Heaven itself. Normally not a problem for Bella, but Gray's sights are set on something more than a fly-by-night affair.


Save mankind from chaos? Bring it on. Let her heart trust a man enough to love again?


It'll be a cold day in hell...

24 August 2009

Borged?




"Right there during dinner,” My brother complained. “She picked up her phone and started texting.”
“Now that is seriously rude,” I replied.
“So I pulled out my phone and set it on the table, thinking she’d get the hint, but no. She didn’t. She just kept right on texting.”
“What was she doing tweeting about ya’ll’s date?”
“I don’t know what she was doing,” Z said, disgusted. “All I know is that it was one of the worst dates I’ve ever been on.”
“So what did you do?”
“I paid out and went home.”
“You mean you just left her there?” I asked, astounded.
“Might as well,” Z shrugged. “It was obvious she wasn’t there for me.”

Ah the distractions of technology. We’ve become so hardwired into it that it’s become an addiction. We have Palm Pre’s Ipods I tunes, mp3 players, blackberries, GPS and other gadgets that whistle sing, tell us where to go, and do a little jig. You can’t even get through a movie without someone’s messenger vibrating, buzzing, singing tacky little tunes. Or worse, some jackass answers their phone and starts talking right in the middle of the movie, as if their call is the most important thing in the world—and you know it isn’t. All you want to do is watch the movie, but the guy behind you is talking loudly, very loudly about minutiae, thinking about how very impressive he is.

Even now, our television is running. Nobody is in the room, but as soon as I turn the damned thing off my husband will be up, wanting to know what happened, turn it back on, then go back to bed.

I like technology as much as the next person, but aren’t we getting a little too attached?

It wasn’t long ago when kids played outside in the sunshine, getting brown and lean as they ran or tramped through vacant lots and green pastures (I live in the country) looking for adventure. Now kids sit inside, attached to a video game, becoming fat and indolent, their imaginations atrophying along with their bodies. How many of those kids even truly know how to play these days, by using nothing more than sticks and garbage can lids and their imaginations?

And Nintendo Wi? Frak that. Here’s a clue. Wanna go bowling? There’s a lane down the street. Wanna play baseball? There’s an actual park two blocks down. Forget about virtual basketball, go out to the playground and shoot some real hoops with real friends. Feel the real ball between your hands, feel the air as it rushes by when you run, sense the elation and satisfaction of really scoring instead of lighting up pixels.

I can happily say I don’t own anything that vibrates, buzzes and beeps. And I don’t want it either. (aside from my desk top) All those gadgets are nothing more than a colossal time suck. They’re supposed to bring us closer together, and in cyberspace that’s true. But in real life, technology separates us, even though we’re sitting across the table from each other.

Another thing I’ve noticed is how much of a time suck the internet is. Every day at 8 am I sit down at the computer, and in theory at least, begin to write. What actually happens is that I get online and screw around, write a little, my IM comes up alerting me to a message, that I absolutely have to answer…even if it’s just as nonsensical as responding to someone’s comment on facebook. Or I’ll tromp around the Stephen King message board, read more mail, play a game, screw around some more, and the next thing you know it’s lunch and I’ve written maybe 200 words.

This has got to stop. Seriously. Any other boss would have fired me for that shit.

So today I’m making a proposal, a challenge if you will. Turn off your technology. I mean really shut it off. Keep your cell with you if you’re traveling of course. Just in case of an emergency, otherwise, turn the damned thing off. And no putting it on vibrate doesn’t count. And whatever you do, don’t text on a date.

Put the ipod away. Turn off the tv and radio if you can. Don’t go online unless it’s truly important. And for me the big challenge is to stay off my IM and that damned facebook.

The second part of this challenge is to get out there and connect with humanity. Not with the electronics that makes it possible, but an honest skin on skin connection. Touch someone today, talk to them, look in their eyes and share the warmth that humanity offers but technology can only give a hint to.

I’m outta here. I’m off to write, for real today. And afterwards I’m going out into the sunshine to meditate, in peace and quiet. Then spend time with the people I love most in the world. Make that honest human connection that only real life can bring.

I look forward to reading your comments, especially if you take me up on my challenge. And I hope you do.

23 August 2009

Some books NEED to be made into movies.

I can't believe summer is almost over! I had all these plans - day trips, swimming, writing. What I got was buying a new car, working, school. I think I made it to my neighbor's pool twice. My son, however, spent most of the time up the street at his friend's pool. I DID get one week-long trip to my sister's in VA, which was fun, but I still worked through it. Sigh.

I think I'll be able to slip away a little this week and get some sun. And we'll go to the Aquarium too; one last hurrah before school starts. One thing I did get to do this summer was go to the movies. Just me and a friend, which NEVER happens. We didn't see a chick flick either - it was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I think it's well-known how much I love HP, both the books and movies. Some books just beg to be made into films, don't they? But what makes a good "adaptable" book?

I think Tamora Pierce used to have as part of her website FAQ: "Why haven't your books been made into movies?" And I think the answer had something to do with fantasy and the cost of making such epic films with costumes and such. Personally I love her books, but I don't know that I'd enjoy a movie of them. She leaves enough narrative gaps that I have already built her characters and worlds up in my mind - I don't think a film could do them justice. HP books, on the other hand, are so descriptive that most of the films have lived up to my expectations. Some things are not what I would have expected, but many are. They've been pretty true to the novels.

Of my own books, I'd LOVE to see some made into movies. The Zandria books would be nice, but I really think the Library of Athena series would be terrific movies, and for much the same way HP is. They're sweeping, grand adventures in places that spark the imagination. I mean, they're great visual books - Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, (and China if the third book gets published). Running from mythological monsters, come on! And I'd love to see the manor and the library itself on screen. That would be SO cool.

When I wrote them, I was picturing them in my head. Megan and Rachel riding the wind on the back of Pegasus, and running from the basilisk would make stunning film, at least in my head. Don't ask me who would play the parts - I've never been able to decide. Just not Miley Cyrus please. I want new talent.

I don't feel this way about all my books. The WIP, the sort of Steampunk but really historical fantasy fairy-tale retelling, to me is a quieter book. It's much more emotional than epic; not that the LoA books don't have great characters and emotion, there's just something different about this new story. It will also be visually stunning, I guess. 19th century Philadelphia is pretty nice, and the costumes would be fabulous! But there will be far more narrative gaps for the reader to fill in for herself. On the scale of plot-driven vs. character-driven, I'd say LoA is a little more plot and the untitled WIP is a little more character. I think I'd like it to stay on the page.

Let's face it - plot makes good movies. But alas, Hollywood has not yet come knocking, and I fear I will have to get by with watching The Lightning Thief next February instead (many have compared the LoA books to the Percy Jackson series. Which is a great compliment.) and continue to dream. I can dream, right?

What books would you love to see made into movies? Which ones would you NOT? I think that's almost as interesting.

22 August 2009

Sidetrack to Destiny



I was watching a rerun of Supernatural (“It's a Terrible Life”), and toward the end an angel urges Dean to get back to what he’s destined to do. Maybe there’s an angel prodding at me, because I’ve really been feeling an urge lately to get back to my destiny: writing.

I took a break from my destiny for a while, in order to get some personal stuff together, and well, maybe have a mini nervous breakdown. But I’m better now, and what I miss the most is being neck deep in a story. Actually, I never totally stopped writing, but what I was doing was sticking a toe in, I want to dive head first into the murky water of a twisted plot, odd and interesting characters, and fascinating creatures. Like, say, Bigfoot. That’s a little different, don’t you think. Hey, I’m known for different, just ask my friends and family.

You know what the most fun of fantasy is, right? It’s the melding of fact with fiction. My next-door neighbors yell at each other at weird hours, and I just smile and say, “They are so going to wind up in one of my books.” Somebody does me or someone I care about wrong, a character with some resemblance to them might just come to a ghastly end. I hear about a really strange event, I might just find a way to twist it so that it fits into my crazy fictional world. Even a childhood bully from long ago is fodder for payback, paranormal fiction style.

Okay, I’ll admit it. My imaginary friends didn’t leave when I grew up, they just became characters. Not that I mind. I enjoy playing with them. They’re a lot of fun, but I really wish I could control them. They have a tendency to want to tell me what to do.

What’s that? Oh, excuse me, I have to go. There’s a Bigfoot at my front door. And he’s yelling at me to tell his story. Ooh and it’s an interesting one too. This is going to be fun.

Have a great weekend!

Cheryel

www.cheryelhutton.com

19 August 2009

Makeup


Yes, makeup. I know this is an authors blog--particularly a paranormal authors blog--but I thought I'd veer a little off topic to my second favorite love. Makeup.

Besides being an author, I also work outside the home in the makeup industry. I love makeup. I hoard makeup (particularly lip glosses and eye shadows), I study makeup. I spend countless hours on the internet researching different makeup tips. Yes, I know, I sound obsessed.

To me, putting on makeup is relaxing and fun and I like to consider my face a blank canvas to paint (and definitely improve) upon.

I know a lot of women don't think this way and that anything beyond the basic foundation, blush and mascara, can scare them so I've decided to share some of my favorite tips and dispel some myths that are floating around out there.

1. Foundation. Foundation should absolutely match your skin. There's nothing worse than seeing someone whose face is a totally different color than their neck. Your gaze is drawn to it and you don't see anything else. When you pick a foundation shade, the shade should disappear into your skin so you don't see anything. That's your perfect shade. And there's no need to put foundation everywhere. Just a few strategic spots will make it look like you have a full face of foundation on without actually putting a full face of foundation on. I tend to be somewhat red around my nose, forehead and chin so that's where I put my foundation. Make sure to blend it well. If you don't like heavy foundation (seriously, who does like heavy foundation?) my suggestion is to try Almay's Smart Shade. I know it looks hokey but it does work and its sheer and doesn't feel heavy.

2. Bronzer. Bronzer, IMO, is the best thing every invented. But its definitely one of those cosmetics that needs to be applied with a light hand and only judiciously. Never put bronzer all over your face or you'll look like you're wearing a mask. Not good. Use a blush brush but make sure you tap off the extra and apply on only those places where the sun touches your skin. For instance I apply it at my hairline, down my temple, under my cheekbones and along my jawline (blend it very, very well here). I also put a light touch of it on my nose. That's it. That's the only places you need it. You'll see it gives you a great looking sun-kissed glow in just those few spots.

3. If you apply bronzer, you should also apply just a touch of blush to give your cheeks some pop. Apply it on top of the cheekbones. The bronzer under the cheekbones and the blush on top will give you a sculpted look. In the summer I go for a shimmery blush. (We'll talk shimmer later).

4. Mascara. I own tons of mascara and a lot of it is the high priced mascara but do you know what I keep going back to? My Cover Girl Lash Blast. The best mascara around, IMO. My best suggestion for mascara is to make sure it doesn't clump because then all the eye is drawn to is your eyelashes. I also recommend a mascara comb. Comb your lashes before applying the mascara and they won't clump together and you'll get a fuller look.

5. Eyeshadow. This is where I get the most questions. I firmly do NOT believe that older women should shy from shimmery eyeshadows--unless your eye lids are very crepey. Then you should stick to matte. However, even in that case you can use a little bit of shimmer. Apply the shimmer closest to the lash line on the upper lid and it will open up your eye.

People want to know what's the best eye color to wear and honestly, anyone can wear any color. If you want the color of your eyes to stand out, then go to the opposite end of the color wheel of your eye color. For instance, blue eyes should wear browns and peaches, green eyes plums and purples, brown eyes can wear just about anything. Another question I get is the smokey eye look. If you want to learn how to do a smokey eye, my biggest suggestion is to buy the right tools. You'll need an eyeshadow brush and a crease brush. The lightest shade goes on closest to the lash line, the medium shade above it and the darkest shade in the crease (a crease brush is excellent for applying the crease shade. The brush puts it exactly where you need it). Then blend, blend, blend with the eyeshadow brush. Blending is the key. Sometimes I go through the steps three times before I get the desired effect, blending between each application. Its best to practice this several times because like any art, it takes practice. Sometimes I'll finish it off by dipping the eyeshadow brush in translucent powder and brushing it on over the eye shadow. This gives the smokey eye a more subdued look.

6. Lips. Light is in right now. In fact corals are in right now and corals look good on any skin tone. I like soft colors. Pale pinks look awesome on anyone, especially older women. The older you get, the more you should stay away from the dark color lipsticks because it will only emphasize the wrinkles around the lips. Softer looks younger. My favorite is L'Oreal's Color Riche Gloss in Rich Pink. It looks good on anyone.

7. Shimmer. There're some ugly myths out there that say older women shouldn't wear shimmer. Hooey, I say. You can wear shimmer. You just can't wear a lot of shimmer. Applied with a light hand it looks great. Its a great way to highlight areas on your face you want highlighted while drawing the eye away from areas you don't want highlighted. Apply it along the upper lash line of the lids or right below the eyebrow on the browbone or top of the cheekbones or on the lips. My suggestion is to pick one thing and add shimmer to it. Go for it and see what you think.

Makeup doesn't have to be expensive and its definitely come a long way since I was a teenager. So don't worry about breaking the bank to look good. You can find some great buys at the drugstore.

I never buy a new cosmetic without researching it and my favorite place to research is Total Beauty. Click on the Product Review tab. You can research a specific brand or you can just type in what you're looking for (like foundation, blush or mascara). You can even tell it what your price range is.

I hope I've dispelled some myths and convinced some of you that makeup application doesn't have to be scary. My biggest suggestion is just to have fun with it. Its not permanent. If you can't achieve the look you want, you can always wash it off :-)

Have fun!

Sharon
www.sharoncullen.net

18 August 2009

Selkie Island now on sale

Today my novella, Selkie Island, goes on sale. It manages to combine my love of a maritime setting with my love shapeshifters. I’m excited to see it at My Bookstore and More!

Here’s the blurb:

Gone without a trace…now danger tracks them to their one safe harbor.

A hundred years ago, her mother’s plea gave Morag a second chance at life—but not as she knew it. Now she lives a mostly solitary life as a selkie, seal in winter, human in summer, barely aging while her family and friends pass away. As the lonely years become almost too heavy to bear, she clings to the memory of one intense summer affair with a young man who left her, as humans always do.

Nine years have passed since Clay hitchhiked to the Maritimes, where he embarked on a memorable if short-lived affair with a mysterious woman. Their enchanted time together called him back a few months later—but she had disappeared. Now, wounded and desperate, Selkie Island is the only safe harbor he can dredge from his feverish haze of pain.

When a strange boat plows onto the beach, Morag is curious—and shocked to discover her long-lost lover, unconscious and hurt. Nursing him back to health is the first thing on her mind…right after she convinces him she’s real.

As real as the danger following in his wake…

--------

Here's the opening of the book:

She heard the boat first, its vibrations traveling down through the water. This arrival was a rare occurrence, and she felt driven to investigate the intruder. Leaving the ocean floor—she wasn’t far from the island—she angled her body, undulating upwards at top speed. She hit the surface and caught sight of the boat headed towards her and her island.

As it came closer she saw that it was surprisingly small. These days only larger boats seemed to venture this far out from the mainland. Most people gave her island wide berth—it had certainly wrecked many boats in its time—but this one was aiming for Selkie Island, and she didn’t know what to make of that.

Curiosity was her first and strongest emotion so she waited, just below the surface. The occasional seal hunter or angry fisherman existed, so she kept her profile low as the boat passed by, then followed in its wake, swimming along behind it. It struggled in the rough water, making its way through the large waves.

Her vision through air wasn’t terribly clear, but a single man appeared to be slumped over the steering wheel. How odd. Intruders—visitors, she corrected herself, deciding to be positive—generally did not come alone, and they usually arrived in warmer, gentler weather than that of a gray, wet, windy spring day.

It was hard to describe the excitement growing in her, though she knew she should feel more cautious given the terror engendered by the last set of strangers who’d landed on her island. But loneliness was a powerful force in her life, and as of now, it swamped her fear.

He rounded the point, rather clumsily, and she heard the boat scrape a rock, harsh enough to cause damage. She cringed, not wanting the man to sink the boat. Never before had she rescued anyone from drowning, and the logistics would be challenging. Seals didn’t have limbs useful for lifting humans, and her human shape would very quickly become lethally chilled in the spring ocean.

Thankfully, the boat was not immediately harmed. It kept going, rather grimly she imagined, towards the little beach that she considered hers. A mild sense of territoriality rose within her. Still, human conversation was something she sorely missed, and it had been a couple of years since she’d last spoken to anyone.

Maybe. Her sense of time was deteriorating. She knew it. And at some point she might lose it forever and forget what was human in her.

But not today, it seemed. She braced herself, for this wasn’t the time of year she changed. Usually she waited for summer and heat and sun. Her seal body was never cold, only sleek, thick, furred and comfortable. On the other hand, her human body did not like the cold and over the years, that body seemed to become a little thinner, a little weaker and less able to withstand the elements. As if it was fading from disuse.

Rain began to fall. The gray sky had darkened since the intruder’s arrival. Morag dragged herself onto the rock, and like the rock, she lay half in and half out of the salt water. Her focus turned inward.

She was never sure of the passage of time when she shifted forms though it felt instantaneous and perhaps it was. Certainly the first transformation, or what she remembered of it, had not taken any amount of time. It couldn’t have, she’d just died and the magic had needed to work quickly.

She allowed the energy to engulf her—it was always her choice—and the seal was gone, only its shadow-light living within her. In the seal body’s place, she’d become a wet, sodden human, shivering in reaction to the shock of change though she wasn’t yet cold.

Pulling herself out of the water, she crouched in this new body, already growing familiar, becoming hers. Then she crawled up the short cliff onto the bank. Rising, she remembered her height and enjoyed being on two legs and lifting her arms to the wind. She ran for shelter, a little astonished that it was so easy to embrace the human body after this length of time being seal. She came to the old house from the other side of the island than the intruder, wanting to reach home first before he could catch sight of her. If she was clothed when they met, he’d be less likely to think of having sex with her. At least, that had been her experience over the years.

The door opened, and she breathed a sigh of relief at gaining shelter from the wind and rain. Human skin was not much of a barrier against the elements.

Her shack remained hers, she saw with satisfaction. The lighthouse-maintenance workers continued to ignore her home, and her relation left it unlocked after doing his yearly drop of supplies. Her family had not yet forgotten her, even if some years the supplies went untouched when she couldn’t face the human solitude of living on the island by herself.

However, one day, her sister’s descendants would forget. Not only had she outlived her first family, at some point in the future she would outlive their memory of her and she would, finally, be lost.

That was her future, but now her curiosity about this lone boat in spring, before the fishing season, had drawn her out, drawn her home. If only the clothes were still in the chest… Yes, she saw as she lifted the cedar lid. Whenever she returned after a period of time away, she feared someone had decided to clean out the house, taking her clothes with them.

Her older relations used to visit with her during the summer, but the newer ones made her shy. They didn’t believe in her and had no patience to wait for her to summon up courage to appear before them. They jumped on and off the island, anxious to get the drop over and done with. She’d overheard more than once that they only visited to placate their elderly mother and her crazy ideas.

Morag’s niece was now an old woman.

Before dressing she wrung out her hair as best she could and tied it in a knot. She wanted to cut it off, but not when she was rushed like this. Growing nostalgic, she pulled on pants, sweater and jacket, all of which had been given to her by the one who’d loved her. Clay had been the most patient of everyone, waiting days for her to appear before him. Once he’d landed on Selkie Island, he’d acted like he’d had all the time in the world.

She hugged his clothing to her, a frail echo of the embraces she had given him and he her not all that long ago. When she was seal, she didn’t miss him as keenly. But she was human again and it felt as if he’d left yesterday.

He was the only one she’d ever laughed with since her immediate family died.

Enough. Humans, she had to admit wryly, were too nostalgic. The pragmatism of the seal fell away when she shifted from that body. Here, now, she had to focus on the intruder and ignore her memories. She set off from the house.

Morag didn’t take the direct path to the beach where the boat had landed. Instead she circled around to it, silent on her bare feet, stopping before she might come into his view.

But as she peered past the point he wasn’t there, though the boat had been pulled up from the shore. Not far enough for this time of year when the tides could be high, but she’d think about that later. First she needed to locate the boat’s owner while keeping her advantage—she knew he was here, but he didn’t know she existed, and for now it should stay that way.

She walked carefully by the boat, listening for movement and hearing none, though it was windy. Cautiously she started up the small bank, and froze at the sight.

The man was there, lying on the ground of all things. She’d expected him to be moving, at least standing. It was an odd place to rest, if that’s what he was doing. He still hadn’t seen her. His back remained to her.

Was it a trap? She waited, silent, then stepped closer to get a better look.

Recognition slammed into her, stealing her breath. She took another step, shaking now, wondering if she was mistaken, wondering if she was no longer able to distinguish among the different humans. Was her memory shot and she thought every man was her lover, Clay?

He was sleeping and that made her uneasy. He shouldn’t be sleeping in the rain, curled into himself. She breathed in and smelled the slight metallic tang of blood. Her heart, which had stopped beating during her shock, started up again.

“Hello,” she whispered and got no response. That made her scared for him. Something was terribly wrong. “Clay?”

He didn’t stir and her uneasiness grew. She drew closer.

He was older, which surprised her. Because she’d barely aged, he shouldn’t have either. But he did not live by her rules, and it was him. He smelled of Clay, that distinctive musk, perhaps a bit stronger with age. She’d liked his smell though he’d been embarrassed by the statement when she’d made it that summer, so she’d only said it the once.

“Clay,” she repeated. He had a scar on his chin now and more wrinkles where before the skin had been smooth in his youth. His forehead was creased in pain. And still he didn’t stir.

She placed a hand on his arm, and for a moment he didn’t react to that either. Then he pulled air into his lungs, a sound of alarm rising with that inhale, and his eyes flew open. He rose, grabbed her wrist hard and yanked her to the ground as he rolled to lie on top of her. A stone dug into her back, his weight made it difficult to think, and bloodshot, unseeing eyes stared down into hers.

“Clay?” she said for a third time. Her voice sounded weak, unused. “It’s me, Morag.”

His gaze seemed to sharpen despite the dullness in his eyes. Shock gave way to recognition and disbelief. His mouth opened slightly and she thought he might speak. Instead his eyes rolled back in his head and he slumped on top of her.

Well. At least his bruising grip relaxed. She rolled them back over, not sure if she wanted him to wake up again or not, though that hadn’t been an attack so much as a shocked awakening. The pressure of being lain on might have panicked her, but it was Clay who’d loved her at one time. All of her emotions were overlain by confusion, yet she felt a strange, aching relief.

Because she’d never thought to see him again. He was from far away, he’d only been a visitor, and still he’d come back to her.

Mind you, she’d rather he were conscious and happy to see her. Remembering his hot hand encircling her wrist, she touched his cheek. He was burning up. She’d thought it had been windburn giving his dark face a ruddy complexion, but it was a high temperature. She sat back on her haunches, bracing herself to try to wake him again, hoping he wouldn’t try to initiate another wrestling match. Despite her efforts, he couldn’t be roused by her shaking or her pleading. Which probably wasn’t a good sign.

It took her a few minutes to slide her body under his and rise, balancing him on her back. It wasn’t so much his height, though he was taller, it was his muscular, solid frame and her human weakness. Still they didn’t have far to go and she half-carried, half-dragged him up the path towards the lighthouse and home.

She laid him down on the ground in order to go open the door and set something up for him inside. There were old blankets in the chest and she used that as a bed, placing them on the wooden floor before returning to drag him in and lay him on them. He was muttering now but not really aware, and again, she touched his face, alarmed by the force of the heat. Her hand was cold so she pressed her cheek against his forehead, and her heart started to beat fast with fear.

Sarah had caught a fever one summer, almost died of it, and Morag’s mother believed that only by keeping her cool had she saved her younger daughter’s life. Morag bit her lip. “I’ll be right back, Clay.” On impulse she kissed his cheek. Then she picked up a pail and ran for the ocean, her easy source of cold water.

She had her work cut out for her. As little as she knew about humans, she recognized that. But she would apply herself to saving Clay. Later she’d try to figure out what his reappearance on Selkie Island actually signified. For him. For her.

It meant a lot to her, his return. Because no one but her mother and sister had ever come back for her.

Jorrie Spencer
www.jorriespencer.com
Puma in print
Selkie Island in ebook

17 August 2009

Bubble, Bubble, Dimensional Trouble

It's no secret I'm a closet geek. Though I suck in math...I think, given a better aptitude for numbers and formulas, I may have been a physicist. I find programs on the origins of the universe and quantum mechanics so fascinating, I've taken to saving them on my DVR.

I've even dedicated my next Samhain series to those bold thinkers who strive to make FTL travel a reality, open dimensional gateways with a thought, and make Stargates possible.

The first book, High Octane, starts off the series that revolves around an American military group called the Jumpers. They move between this dimension (Alpha) and the next one over, called....yes, you guessed it...Beta.

Here's a blurb.

During a routine fuel run through one of the four dimensional portals covering the planet, Major Geneieve Lockhart’s Jumper team is engaged by hostile forces in an unprovoked attack. With her ship disabled and contact to mission control limited, it appears Genie’s crew will meet their end on the blood-soaked floor of a foreign desert. Help comes in the form of an unlicensed freelance mercenary ship, piloted by her AWOL ex-lover, Lt. Col. Dante Bowen.

Bowen’s undercover mission to expose a governmental conspiracy in the beta dimension hits a major snag when he hears Genie’s distress call. Going against direct orders, he brings his team to the rescue, only to end up in chains in Genie’s cargo hold awaiting transport back to mission control for trial as a traitor.

When the hostile race known as the Muloons return to finish off both his and Genie’s teams to take control of the New Mexican portal, Bowen and Genie must band together to ensure freedom on both sides of the dimensional divide.

~~~~~~

The cool thing about my world is that from all the programs I've watched on alternate dimensions, I've learned my version of it is possible. Now, I've always been rather eye-rolling over dimensions that have the exact same people living in them as the one we currently live. Like my evil twin is somewhere out there...or maybe it's my good twin...whatever...I just knew when I was developing this idea, I didn't want that for my Beta dimension. Basically, I constructed a world that geographically and topographically was Earth, the civilizations and cultures just developed along a different path. It's that whole theory that if you turn right rather than left, your whole life will change. I just took it to the extreme and said....early man took the right turn instead of an individual. Anyhoo...in my alternate dimension, even Atlantis never fell into the ocean. (That's book two, by the way.)

However, in my quest to at least make my dimensional set up plausible, I've borrowed some fun locations from the area of the unexplained. The dimensional portals in my world - in book one that is - are located in New Mexico (Roswell), the Bermuda Triangle, the Dragon's Triangle (off the coast of Japan), and Tibet. Interestingly enough, as I was doing research for my world, I held up a globe and wouldn't you know Each one of these four places has a corresponding one on the other side of the globe. Meaning, if you drew a line through the earth from one...you'd come out at another. How much fun is that?

But this will only take me so far, and I have four books, and planned to have more gateways in each book. So, I decided, what would you have if the entire globe were covered with these portals, only they weren't as distinct? It would probably look somewhat like a honeycomb. So, that's what I've gone with the idea of parallel dimensions covering the earth in a honeycomb pattern. Now, to tie this into the title of my blog. As I was watching one of my very beloved documentaries on this very topic...they discussed something called Bubble Nucleations. Basically, it's the idea that alternate dimensions pass by us all the time, like bubbles blown from a bubble wand. I once saw a magician who blew a series of bubbles and stacked them all together. Inside each bubble was a cube, a square....a honeycomb. A world. Don't you just love it when things you think you've created in your mind, are theorhetically possible?

I rest my case.

- Kat, writing from an alternate reality.

16 August 2009

Don't forget to comment to get your chance of a PIACT Undercover Agent card and story!



Scorpion’s Sting

Flaming Scorpion studied the man struggling across the sand, each step sinking deep into the soft dunes. An American she’d been told though it didn’t matter what race he was from. To Scorpion he remained an unwelcome visitor, along with his burden of murder and death. She smiled with a grim satisfaction as he nearly stumbled in the sifting flow of soft silver. Wherever he came from the stranger was not accustomed to a land that moved beneath him and his lack of adaptability showed. So far Scorpion had foiled all his criminal forays into her country.

She adjusted the focus of the night vision binoculars. Even though she was hidden hundreds of feet away, just beneath the top of a majestic dune, Scorpion could feel the stench of death flow around him. So far those murders had been in another country, it was Scorpion’s duty to ensure he didn’t bring his poison here.

When the American reached the top of the dune that’s when he appeared. Heart pounding from more than the danger of her situation Scorpion drew her veil more tightly around her face, and then loosened the scarf around her neck to cool herself from the sudden warmth. He may be a terrorist suspect she was keeping under surveillance but Abu al Khayr’s approval of her as a woman meant more than it should have. Besides, the veil was the color of the sand, she needed to make sure she was camouflaged well. If she said it enough, Scorpion thought ruefully, she might eventually believe it.

Not that any color existed in this world of silver grey.

“Hey Scorp! Your tats are showing.” Dragon’s warning hissed through Scorpion’s headpiece.

Scorpion blushed, instinctively throwing her hands around her neck then quickly sliding backwards, well beneath the brow of the dune. She felt the double burn of embarrassment. Firstly that she’d accidentally caused her scarf to slip and let the fiery images become visible, and secondly that she’d been caught exposing them in a mission by an outsider. Furball had insisted she let Shimmering Dragon and Omniscient Otter work with her on this assignment yet, beyond the all too frequent cultural faux pas, Scorpion still hadn’t seen their worth. Although Dragon’s corporate credit card meant they were enjoying finer accommodations on this mission.

“There’s a breakaway,” Otter added. She was several dunes over to Scorpion’s left, the opposite direction from Dragon’s location. “Three, four men, armed, moving towards your position. They’re using Stealth.”

Which meant, Scorpion cursed softly, a watcher had seen the fire of her tattoos in the night and now Abu al Khayr’s men were searching for her.

“Fall back,” Scorpion ordered reluctantly. “Regroup at base.”

She could sense the other’s disappointment as well as she could feel her own. But there was no point taking risks, with their presence revealed they would be learning no more about the American’s deal tonight.

Hurrying around a couple of the tall dunes she pulled on the ripcord of her backpack. A spider-like lattice of ultra thin alloys and sheer windproof silk spread out from her shoulders like wings of a black demon. Somewhere out in the dunes Dragon and Otter would be doing the same. Climbing almost to the top of a dune, she daren’t go any further, she gave a small prayer that the height and breeze would be enough as she slipped her arms into the wing’s retaining straps.

One small push and the wings quivered as the small engines kicked silently in tiny rockets, almost as noiseless as the wind. Tremoring in the breeze, the wings lifted her above the sand and she began to glide, slowly and low at first to avoid being seen by those who chased her. Then, once she felt certain she was beyond their sight, she caught the uplifts in her wings and took herself higher. A slow, circuitous route that would eventually lead her back to their base.

##

“So, what do we do now?” Otter asked, taking a small sip of her coffee, screwing her face up with the bitterness. Shrugging she eagerly downed the rest of the caustic, hot liquid coughing as she swallowed some of the thick grounds.

Scorpion stroked her neck, she felt the warmth of the tattoo just below her ear and remembered how it had nearly been her undoing last night. Her mentor, Deadly Diamondback, had thought it egoistic when Scorpion had purchased it. She knew he never fully understood. Her whole life from when she had been a very small child had been training to love and protect her land and people. She did that with pride and her tattoo was a symbol of that dedication.

Even now when she looked in a mirror it still amazed her. Created out of special electroluminescent inks, powered by miniaturized solar cells and an implanted circuit chip, the image of a red scorpion with flames flaring backwards from it, would soak up the sun during the day. Then at night, the tattoo would burst into light, the flames flickering realistically in reds, oranges and yellows from the incandescent body of the creature.

It may have cost a small fortune but it made interesting conversation at the many social events she had to attend, often leading to contacts she’d been able to use in her missions. It also, she admitted caused the occasional problem when she had to keep herself hidden. Regrettably no one had thought to include an off switch.

Scorpion sat back in the overstuffed chair and sipped her coffee the way it should be sipped—slowly, so as not to disturb the grounds in the bottom of the cup. Out through the window the sea beat relentlessly on the beach and the bustle of tourists in the hotel was slowing down as the heat became unbearable.

“We continue to act as tourists until we can determine another suitable time for intercept,” she decided.

“That could take weeks,” Dragon said, giving her stun needle gun a final polish before spinning it around her finger, tossing it in the air, catching it and firing immediately at the far wall. Scorpion could just see the mosquito the needle had pinned there. Thankfully the needle guns were virtually silent.

“I suspect not,” Scorpion mused. “Al Khayr and the American seem keen to get their new business started. We may have to move deeper into enemy territory, but I suspect they will be meeting again, very soon.” They had to meet soon. It was Scorpion’s duty to confront Al Khayr and stop him.

Otter put the final polish to her needle gun, tossed it, fumbled the catch and accidentally fired it twice.

Scorpion could see two more mosquitoes pinned to the wall. Otter gave her gun a stunned look, then tossed it into her purse before it could bite her, looking like she’d love to pretend nothing had just happened. Dragon gave a disgruntled “Hmph.”

“Furball’s credit card will fix it.” Dragon reached for the room service menu. “I think we need another bottle of that champagne. I wonder if Rashid is still on shift...?”

Scorpion hid her smile behind another sip of coffee, then remembered Al Khayr as he’d walked across the dune. She put the cup down, realizing how foolish it was to drink hot drinks in the middle of the afternoon. She wiped her brow with some nearby tissues, hoping the flush of heat it had caused would pass quickly.

“He sure was a good looking guy,” Otter said wistfully. “It’s a shame he’s one of the bad ones.”

“Who?” Scorpion could barely keep the disgust out of her voice. “Rashid? He was ugly.”

“No, that Abdul wotsis guy.”

“Abu al Khayr,” Scorpion corrected sharply. “He is a child of the desert.”

Like me, Scorpion thought, fanning herself with the hotel menu.

She watched as Dragon and Otter gave each other a Look.

“Ah…” they both said together.

Scorpion, wisely, did not reply.

##

This time, dressed in midnight black so she could blend more easily into the shadows, Scorpion climbed four stories up the naked girders to the final, barely started fourth floor. Once here she walked, half-climbed, to a darkened and enclosed corner where the darkness lay thick and heavy. A midnight deep enough for her to hide in without being seen.

Abu al Khayr was funding the construction of this place, it was to become a hospital for the poor. Here there would be free treatment for those who couldn’t afford the services of doctors and nurses in the more affluent parts of the city. How could a man do such a thing, and yet be evil? Scorpion was determined to discover the reason for that tonight.

It had been just over a week since the aborted meeting within the dunes and during that time the American had become more confident, and bold, about moving under al Khayr’s wings. The freedom the killer had within al Khayr’s company now infuriated her, making it harder to defend the man.

Pulling herself up onto the girders in the corner Scorpion settled herself in for a long wait. She would end it tonight, one way or another. Al Khayr must be innocent, he had to be.

She looked across the city to the business building roughly half a mile away. Otter would be there now, sniper needle rifle already loaded and pointing her way. Dragon, wings safely hidden in her backpack, was waiting below. Dragon would give them their first warning of company. Scorpion checked one more time that her minute headset and microphone were working. Last time it, and Dragon’s warning, had probably saved her life.

“Movement,” she heard Dragon mutter. “It’s Abu.”

“Al Khayr,” Scorpion noted absently.

“Looks like he’s leaving his goons behind. So you’ll just be dealing with him and Carson. Your tat’s aren’t showing, are they?”

Blushing, Scorpion checked her scarf. It was tightly in place and the tattoos covered.

“Can you see me, Otter?”

“Barely,” Otter said. “Even the night scopes can’t seem to get that far into the shadows. Keep away from the South-West corner though. The wall work they’ve started there blocks my sight.”

Scorpion looked at the offending wall, she could see how it would get in the way of Otter’s aim.

She stilled as the sound of the temporary elevator started up. The wind began to rise too, thankfully. The cold desert nights were just way too hot for her recently, she was fairly stifling in this heat. She let the air move over her, becoming one with the flow, as Diamondback had taught her she could taste the storm within it.

“The wings of the wind,” he’d once told her. “The breath of Allah.”

Scorpion shivered, in spite of her flush. Diamondback had passed on over nine years ago yet, now and then, she could still feel him at her back.

Al Khayr arrived alone and Scorpion wondered that he couldn’t hear the pounding beat of her heart. The elevator came to a noisy stop and he stepped out, towards the middle of the construction where the floors were more completed and safer.

Even with her eyes closed she would have recognized him. His scent, heat, his very presence seemed to fill the world around him as she became acutely aware of everything he did. From his soft, steady breathing to the slow confident steps as he walked closer towards her.

In the middle of the floor he stopped, lifting his face to the wind as if tasting it with his thoughts.

“You’re here!”

Scorpion blinked, startled. He knew she was here? Her heart skipped and she shivered, recognizing the pleasure in his voice; understanding his excitement at finding her here with him. He turned on the spot looking for her, knowing she was present but unable to see.

“I have searched many years for you, Raging Scorpion. At last we get to meet.”

Searched for her? He’d called her Raging Scorpion, a name she’d heard whispered about in discreet circles for years. Could al Khayr have been the one who’d been looking for her?

Knowing what she was doing was foolish, Scorpion dropped silently from her hiding place, stepped out of the shadows behind him. She moved cautiously, not quite able to trust, but wholly unable to resist.

This close and he filled her senses, hot musky male, and an aura of strength and kindness. This one had been aptly named. For one brief flickering moment she’d been tempted to tear away her veil and submit herself to him. Fortunately the moment passed and her modesty remained intact.

“The sands hold many a truth, and buries a mountain of lies,” she said.

He span to face her. Scorpion smiled, she’d surprised him. That was good, he had to know he could still be surprised.

“What are you Abu al Khayr? A bringer of truth, or a giver of lies?”

Al Khayr walked towards her and Scorpion suddenly realized how stupid she’d been. Being this close to him, seeing his walk and understanding how dangerous this man could be, caused her to swallow nervously and freeze. Her legs felt too weak to run, her mind couldn’t function to think. If only the wind were wilder, maybe it would cool her down and aid her.

He stopped before her, the cold silver of the moon reflecting sharply into his eyes unable to hide the inferno within them. An inferno matched only by the heat within her that was raging uncontrolled.

He reached up to her face, for her veil.

“No!” The word came out as a gasp as she, somehow, found the strength to stop him.

Al Khayr chuckled, a warm and gentle chide as he touched a finger to her lips through the veil. The touch, even through the coarse silk, set her lips aching. A hungry pain that leached slowly into the rest of her body.

“Child of the desert,” he soothed, settling her veil firmly into place. “You think I’d be disrespectful and expose you to my gaze?” Scorpion didn’t know what to think, and didn’t think she really cared anymore. “What I was reaching for was this.”

His hand touched her neck, sliding the silken scarf away from her skin with a thousand torturous pinpricks of desire.

She felt him gasp as her neck and tattoo’s became clear to his sight, his movement so small and undetectable. His fingers touched the scorpion, trailing liquid fire on her flesh as he traced the design.

“You’re…”

“…white?” She finished his question for him, finding herself amused by his shock.

“Yes. But you’re like one of us. As one with the sands.”

Scorpion nearly purred as his fingers stroked and caressed her neck.

“I was reborn here when my parents died.”

It was all she would give him. The evil crimes that had murdered her family and sent a toddler into slavery only she and her mentor had known. There was no one she could trust with that truth.

“Child of the desert,” he repeated. Scorpion heard the truth in his words.

Then felt the warmth of his lips on hers.

Hunger, frustration, her mind began a whirl of sensations—none of them lessened by the thin rough cloth of veil between them. His heat, his breath, permeated the silk and burned her, sending ripples of delight to spark and rage in the very heart of her womanhood.

Unknowing she wrapped her arms around him, fought to deepen the kiss and press herself hard against his firm body.

“So, you’ve finally brought me the witch who’s been ruining my plans.”

Stunned, moving as if she’d been plopped straight into a vat of treacle, Scorpion looked over he shoulder to see the American standing by the elevator. The wicked looking gun in his hand was pointing at her.

How did he…? Had she truly been too deep in al Khayr’s spell to hear her enemy arrive? Was she now betrayed unto death?

She jumped, startled as a gun was fired by her ear. al Khayr looked grim as he put the gun down and stepped in front of her. The American, shock written over his face, fell to the ground.

The stranger who stood before her, turned to face her, concentrating his gaze into her eyes. Behind him Dragon appeared on her wings, her stun needle gun aimed at his back.

“Don’t let him confuse you,” Dragon’s voice in her earpieces helped her focus a little. “We have to get you out of here now, that’s a full bloodbath going on down below.”

Dragon took aim, then squawked as a heavy wind caught her, tossing her away from the building.

“Damn,” Otter muttered. “talk about a huge blow job.”

Scorpion ignored the antics of her friends and turned to face al Khayr, anger brewing in her heart.

“What are you?” Scorpion demanded, alternating her stare between his face and the dead American. “Why did you kill him?”

On the ground below she could hear the sounds of a fierce gun battle. Obviously al Khayr’s and the American’s friends had decided to talk things out.

“Yours isn’t the only agency to protect our land from those who bring terror, drugs and bloodshed,” he gave a careless shrug. “We’d considered arresting him, but his ‘bodyguards’ killed three civilians last week while trying to introduce his ‘product’ to them.”

Scorpion’s mouth went dry. PIACT hadn’t passed on that news to her yet, but it would explain their sudden demands to speed up the operation.

“Three?”

al Khayr nodded, resetting the safety on his gun and slipping the weapon under his jacket where it was so well placed even Scorpion couldn’t detect it was there.

“A teacher and two of her students,” he explained. “He was looking to open a market at the University. They stumbled in on the deal.”

Killing three innocents, shooting the American was probably an act of mercy if al Khayr spoke the truth. His arrest and trial would have been a foregone conclusion, and his life in prison before his death a living hell.

Something in her stance must have softened because he reached out and touched her neck again, sending waves of yearning through her.

“We should…collaborate,” he said. “I know we’ll be much more, if we…work together.”

Deluged with a sudden desire Scorpion slipped a hand around his neck, pulled him down for a kiss. A kiss as frustrating as it was devastating, the veil now an irritation and barrier to her need.

She reached up, determined to tear it away.

al Khayr suddenly fell towards her. Barely able to hold his weight, she gently dropped the unconscious agent to the floor. Down below the sounds of gunfire was slowing. The battle was almost over.

“Hey, girl!” Otter announced over the headset. “You’ve gotta learn to play a little hard to get.”

Not sure whether to be relieved or angry Scorpion gave a short laugh. “Well, thanks to you, he’ll always think of me and that knock-out kiss. Thanks.”

“No problem,” Otter replied. “You’d better get your wings on and get out of their before his friends come looking. We’re going to have to find Dragon too. No doubt she’s got herself into more trouble again.”

Scorpion studied al Khayr’s face one more time, her memories burning within and making her blush. Yes, it was as well Otter had stunned him. She needed time to consider this man, and what an “alliance” would mean. Just how much could she afford to reveal?

Scorpion needed some time to consider the consequences of such a partnership. Retrieving her pack from the corner she slipped into its harness, reluctant to leave, yet eager to put a fair distance between them.

Before pulling the ripcord and releasing the wings she picked up the silk scarf and started to wrap it around her neck.

Pausing she changed her mind. Instead she knelt and wrapped the black silk around al Khayr’s left hand knowing he’d guess what she’d done. Then, lifting her veil, touched her lips against his tasting the forbidden fruit. The soft warmth threatened to envelop her with uncontrollable desire and, even in his unconscious state, he smiled.

Done, Scorpion forced herself to step away from him and open her wings. The storm was fast approaching but she should have enough time to escape. Finding Dragon would be another matter.

Blowing one kiss to her unconscious lover she turned to the wind, and stepped into its hungry maw.

##

It was wet. Still, Dragon considered herself pretty lucky seeing that the wings had departed only a short while ago. Landing in a swimming pool like this had probably been one of her best breaks in this mission so far.

“Are you okay?”

Uh oh, the deep male timbre hit her straight between the legs, and she hadn’t even been able to clear her vision to see him yet. Swimming until she could feel the bottom and stand comfortably on it she took a moment to scrub her eyes clear of water. Then blinked.

A dozen or so men, dressed only in tight fitting speedos, were gathered about the pool—all of them looking at her with varying degrees of curiosity and concern. She also noticed the huge bulges in their nether regions. Looking down at her wet cat suit as it vacuum packed to her breasts and nipples she guessed she wasn’t exactly hiding much herself.

“I kinda got lost, blown off course,” she mumbled. Not quite sure how to explain her sudden appearance.

“So it seems.” The owner of that voice spoke again, allowing her to pick him out from the crowd. He had to be a Hugh Jackman clone. Just had to be. “Gentlemen, help the lady out of the pool. Qasim, fetch the Aloe oil, she probably has a few bruises we need to attend.”

“Uhm, that’s okay…” Dragon started to protest, then one of the younger men picked her up, carried her like she was a Barbie doll to one of the poolside loungers. Strong hands began to give her a rather delicious massage.

“We would be much amiss,” the Hugh lookalike told her as she let the wonderful sensations take a hold. “If we sent you home ill cared for.”

“Oh, yes,” Dragon agreed. “As long as it isn’t too much trouble.”

All of the men looked at her and grinned in a hungry sort of way.

“Rest assured,” the man chuckled deep and low. “It will be no trouble at all.”

14 August 2009

Networks and the antisocial writer

Okay, so maybe I'm not really "antisocial", but I'm not an outgoing person, either. That, in part, is why I write. I can say all those things I want to say but would never dare. I just let my characters do the talking.

Then along comes the aspect of writing that I find the toughest of all -- self-promotion. I'm not comfortable saying "Read my books, they're fantastic", but that's basically what you have to do. You have to convince all those readers out there that your story is the one they cannot do without.

Social networks have become both the saving grace and bane of many writers' careers. The thing that attracts us first: they're free. Free is always good. And they manage to reach a huge and varied audience. Learning to use social networks to our advantage...well, that's a whole other ballgame.

I'm not the best at the social network thing. Yes, I have my spot at MySpace and my own Facebook page. I also have a page at Manic Readers; tried out Bebo for a time; and have two twitter profiles -- long story. Then there's this blog, my own blog, Shades of Suspense, and the Samhain Author Blog. Overkill? Likely. But when you hear about the latest great thing, you hop on board the train.

My problem with all this is: What do I say? What on earth is so wonderful about my life that people would want to read about it on a daily or even weekly basis? Then there's the big dilemma of where the hell do I get the time to do it all???? I have five children, 9-18. I home-school them all ... except the oldest son (age 14) who is jumping ship to try his wings in high school. I also have a home to take care of -- I do clean occasionally; a husband that needs a bit of attention (men!); and, oh yeah, there's the writing thing I really should spend some time on.

It can get a bit overwhelming. What's a girl to do?

Well, I think I've somewhat figured it out. You have do what's best for you. Personally, I feel more comfortable at Facebook than I do at MySpace, so the former is where I'm more likely to log in every day. However, do note that if you're my friend and send me a hundred applications, I'll likely ignore most of them. It's not personal. It's time management. Besides, I have no secret desire to join the Mob. Really, I don't.

As far as blogging goes, I'll stick with what I have. I will admit, I'm still trying to find that blog-voice. So many come by it naturally, but not me. I don't feel completely comfortable sharing cute family trivia and day-to-day antics -- we have them, believe me. But there are too many eyes out there. Too many people I don't know from Adam, and these are my kids. I've also found I'm not the best at sharing writing advice. So I think I need to be somewhere in the middle...and it's a middle I'm still searching for.

Then just when I think I have this social network thing somewhat under control, along comes another invite to another network someone in my circle has discovered. Here that sound? It's me...banging my head on the keyboard.

Btw, do read my books. They're great! (GGG)

~~Meg Allison

Indulge your senses...
http://www.megallisonauthor.com

12 August 2009

Interview with Author Amanda Young

My cat does an interview series at my home blog, but sometimes authors just don't know what to say to a cat! Plus it's not like Meankitty is particularly FRIENDLY. Sometimes I do non-felinious interviews with authors.

Samhain author Amanda Young writes paranormal romance, m/m romance, erotic romance and various combinations of the three.

***

1) If you were captured and tortured by evil book pirates, what would be your authorial equivalent to name, rank and serial number? (IE What is the most general description of your writing focus?)

Amanda Young, smut writer extraordinaire.

2) If the evil book pirates, using some hideous method, forced you to write books that were not paranormal romances, what do you think you would write?

I would write contemporaries. While I enjoy writing about all things that go bump in the night, I also like writing stories in a contemporary setting.

3) Why are you drawn to include speculative elements in your fiction? How do you think it enhances the plots or characters?

Writing paranormal fiction is an adventure of sorts. It enables me to write outside the box, using elements that would be never be allowed in contemporary fiction. Characters can be bigger than life.

4) What paranormal book or movie would you like to be dropped into the middle of, to experience the world if not the entire plot?

I really loved the Underworld series. It would be awesome to step inside any of the three movies. However, I’d definitely want to be a predator instead of the prey. =D

5) If some famous director were going to cast you in the movie version of a speculative or paranormal romance novel (and you had the acting chops to carry it off), which book would it be and what character would you play? (Note: doesn't have to be the hero or heroine...but certainly can be!)

I couldn’t act my way out of a paper bag, but if I could I wouldn’t mind playing Sookie Stackhouse in True blood. Man, is she ever surrounded by gorgeous men. :D

6) Do you have any writing rituals, quirks or requirements, like background music, flavored coffee, meditation--medication!--or what have you?

No, I don’t have any requirements to write. Whether there’s noise or quiet, I’m pretty much good to go (knock on wood). The only thing I need is something to write with (laptop, pen and paper, or what have you) and plenty of caffeine to keep me awake.

7) What were your favorite childhood (as in pre-teen, even) books or movies? Can you spy the seeds of paranormal romance budding even then?

I read a lot of Goosebumps and VC Andrews books as a young teen (like 12-14 or so) before I branched out into romance novels. Before that, I was a bit of a tomboy who hung around outside and climbed trees.

8) Are your books your babies? And do your characters "take over"?

I wouldn’t say my books are babies, but rather that they’re cherished friends which occasionally take over my life. I’ve found that when I try to make them do things they don’t like they’ll revolt, so I generally go with the flow and give them what they want.

9) Marketing and promotional responsibilities (or imagined responsibilities) vary from author to author. What are your favorite things to do to get your name out there beyond sell great books to great publishers? What are your least favorite?

I love running contests and doing chats, anything that gives me an opportunity to talk with readers. On the flip side, public appearances are still a bit of a struggle for me. I always want to throw up a little beforehand. Thankfully, I’m always glad I came by the end of every event.

10) Tell us about some interesting or offbeat research you've done for some of your stories. This is an invitation to infodump!

For my upcoming series, Chicken Ranch, as well as a romantic suspense novel I have coming out later this year with Michelle Cary titled Don’t Look Back, I had to do a ton of research on brothels. Naturally, I turned to what research I could find online regarding the legal brothels in Nevada. There was also a show in HBO, I believe, that inspired a thought or two for what it must be like to sell your body for a paycheck. Although it was all in the name of research, honest *wink*, it was certainly interesting to find out how much money some of those people bring in per client.

***

For Meankitty's interview series you can click here: http://blog.jodywallace.com/search/label/interviews

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks to Amanda for being so patient with me.

Jody W.
http://www.jodywallace.com/

10 August 2009

New Books from Bianca

I've got two new releases this month! First, GRADY'S AWAKENING will be debuting on August 18th from Samhain Publishing.

It's the story of Grady Prime, an alien super soldier who is beginning to learn what it means to be human. The story brings him together with Gina, a martial arts champion and spy, and her other true mate, Jim, the leader of a ragtag band of human survivors. Together, the three of them figure out how to live and love in the post-apocalyptic world where only the strong survive. You can read an excerpt online by clicking here.

Then I have another menage story coming out later this month. It's a short story that will hopefully be the start of a new series. It's called TAG TEAM and it will be released by Total-E-Bound on August 24th.

TAG TEAM is the first of my Gemini Project stories. The Gemini Project is an experiment to produce psychically enhanced warriors, who are able to share their thoughts in teams of two. They are invaluable as special operators, but what happens when they fall in love?

Check them out if you get a chance! I'm also happy to show off the cover for my first Kensington Brava release, a 2-author anthology called HALF PAST DEAD, coming in January 2010. Isn't the cover awesome?

My story in the anthology is called SIMON SAYS and it features a military hero battling a medical experiment run amok. Zombies are attacking people in the woods near a military base and it's up to Simon and his ex-girlfriend, a Navy doctor, to stop the killing and bring the situation under control. Of course, they didn't count on falling in love along the way...

I'm busy writing my first full-length zombie novel right now. It should be out in March 2010 from Kensington Brava. More news on that as it becomes available. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the new books this month! And don't forget to check out the contest we're holding for an ebook reader. Details are on my blog.

08 August 2009

Kilted Goodness

Because when you read this I will be once again on the road and away from my computer, here are a few tasty treats cross-posted from my own blog. Talk about "stepping into the mists"...check out the picture from the torchlight ceremony. The mountain was shrouded in fog and all you could see was silhouettes of kilted clansmen. It was like looking through a lens into the past. Enjoy!

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A sampling of the bonny kilted men of the 2009 Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Disclaimer: Because I'm a weenie about asking men if I can take their picture, most of these are rear views. LOL)


Proof that no matter what size and shape, a man who knows how to wear a kilt is sexy. Period.


Kilted guy, species Stageus securitum, subspecies dontmesswithmii.



Kilted guy, species Marineii homeonleaveus.


Kilted guys. Left: Kiltus traditionalis. Right: Kiltus lurvemycamoii


Kilted guy (my sister's personal favorite), species Tallbootius cavalrii.


Ibid. No, we were NOT stalking him. Okay, maybe a little. Who can blame us for noticing the nice, er, swing of his plaid when he walked? At one point he wore a Civil War kepi but I didn't manage to snap a picture of him wearing it.


Two kilted guys, traveling in pairs for safety from marauding women with cameras. :)


Torchlight Calling of the Clan ceremony. At first it was so foggy on the mountain we could see nothing but the eerie glow of the torches floating in the thick mist. Toward the end it lifted just enough to pick out the silhouettes of kilted men around the torches.


Kilted guy, species Securitum plantmybootinyourarseii.


Kilted guy, species Shawneus backoffladies-he'smarriedii


Kilted guy, a rarely seen subspecies called Cellphoneus waterbottlii.


Kilted guy, species Haha caughtyoutakingmypictureus


Kilted guy, species Competitorius bagpipeii


Not a kilted guy. Has no one heard of Photoshop??


Kilted guy, species Indianajoneus wannabii.


Another rare species, known as Nerdicus sonyii, distinguishable by the camera mounted on the head of his staff. (Um, that sounded kind of dirty, didn't it??)


Kilted guy, species Singingtooloudicus annoyinglii. (They had him set up next to the author tents.)


Kilted young 'un, species Toocuteus forwordsiana.


Species Takeoffyourshirticus prettypleaseii.


Never too old to appreciate a couple nice sets of shoulders!


Highland wrestling, teen division.


Kilted guy, species Romancecover modelii.

Hope you enjoyed! Next year maybe I'll work up the courage to ask for frontal shots. ;)

Carolan Ivey
www.carolanivey.com
carolanivey.blogspot.com

PS - Check out the recent review of my fantasy romance, Abhainn's Kiss on Joyfully Reviewed!

07 August 2009

Bestiary 101




Do you know the difference between a cockatrice and a basilisk?
Ever heard of a Leocrota? Or an Anphivena?

Well, today is your first day of Bestiary 101.
Dude. Not bestiality. That’s just gross. Get your mind out of the gutter.

A bestiary is just an encyclopedic list of animals, but in antiquity, let’s just say that there wasn’t much emphasis placed on scientific method. But the true purpose of a bestiary wasn’t exactly scientific. Each animal was examined as an illustration of God’s creation and its habits were moralized to teach Christian doctrine. They were used as allegorical illustrations to teach the mysteries of divinity.

The first bestiary in evidence was called the Physiologus, written in Greek, probably around the 2nd to 4th century AD (sources vary). The author of this work drew from numerous sources around the world – “Indian, Hebrew and Egyptian animal lore and various classical natural philosophers like Aristotle and Pliny.” (1)

In the 7th century, a Spanish clergyman named Isidore of Seville (2) wrote another work called the Etymologiae which added to the ground that the original Physiologus covered. He also organized them more efficiently.

Around the 12th century, those two seminal works, plus a few others, combined to make the Bestiary as we understand it today.

Beautifully illustrated, the pictures are frequently inaccurate, even when it comes to creatures we know today. How many English monks had ever really seen a crocodile? They could only draw what they understood from the texts, so it’s hardly a surprise to see a crocodile rendered as a long, dog-shaped beast, or a whale depicted as an oversized, scaly fish.

The illustrations served the purpose of providing a visual lesson to the largely illiterate peasantry as the priest gave a homily on the nature of the divine as found in a pelican or a lion. Sometimes they were also used as simple morality tales. Reynard the Fox (3), the trickster of the Middle Ages, often teaches a lesson.

As this is merely an introduction to a new series of articles, I’ll leave you with some general links to different bestiaries:
The Aberdeen Bestiary
The Ashmole Bestiary
The Harley Bestiary
The Northumberland Bestiary

T.H. White, the English scholar who wrote “The Once and Future King” and other Arthurian tales, also gave us the first English translation of a medieval Bestiary in his book “The Bestiary: A Book of Beasts.”

Next month, we’ll begin our search for some fantastic creatures and the stories behind them.

1. Aberdeen Bestiary Project
2. The Medieval Bestiary
3. The History of Reynard the Fox, ed. Henry Morley

BTW, a basilisk and a cockatrice are the same thing!

05 August 2009

Can't I just write you something instead?


This week I needed to get together a biography and photo for an organization I belong to.

The biography wasn't that stressful. Actually the toughest part about it was keeping it down to the 100 word maximum. That's about three short paragraphs, or two long ones, if you've never counted. We writers can go on for a very long time about anyone, selves included, so it took a lot of muttering, deleting, and rearranging to fit everything I wanted to say in just 100 words.

The photograph was something I put off as long as I could. Like some others that work at home, I've gotten used to letting my words speak for me, more than my face. I can edit bad words; the skills to edit really bad photos are largely beyond me. But I don't have any pictures of me taken this decade that look like me now. Between weight fluctuations and hair changes, every picture of me I could find looked nothing like what I look like today. So it was time for a photo shoot.

Being on the subject side of a camera intimidates me. It's gotten a bit easier for me since most of the world has gone digital - I know (hope?) that any horrifically bad pictures of me will end up in the virtual trash can without ever being committed to paper or shared in an online album. But even so I'd much rather be the one behind the viewfinder than find myself in the target frame.

Having put it off as long as I could, I ended up enlisting the help of my seven year old daughter last night to play photographer. She's got the eye of an artist (proud mother? who, me? If you could only see this paper doll and clothes she just whipped up without any templates besides the pictures in her mind) and some pretty good skills. The hardest part was getting her to keep snapping away instead of stopping to critique each picture as soon she took it. But we had fun with the impromptu photo shoot. Then more fun laughing over some of the silly pictures she talked me into.

And after some judicious use of red eye removal, we have author photo. (See top of this post.)

It won't win any awards, but it's me. Shiny faced through the powder, crooked smile, frizzy hair and all.

I'm not embarrassed to admit that I'm glad I can forget about the pictures for a while now and go back to what I love - writing words. I know my comfort zone, and being in front a camera isn't part of it. But it also felt good to suck it up last night and get it done. And I've found a new favorite photographer too. Maybe in another decade I'll be ready to let her try it again.