30 October 2009

The Second Time Around

I’m writing a … what do you call a second story in the same world? Is that a series? Is it a sequel? Because it’s not about the same couple, so ‘sequel’ seems like the wrong word. Anyway, I’m writing a second story. It’s hard because I’m not naturally set up to write series. Once I put a story to bed, that’s it. I’m ready to move on to something else. Maybe it’s a product of my gypsy upbringing. After two years in one place, I’m usually ready for the movers to show up. Time to go see something new.

Unfortunately, my gypsy days are at an end. I live in the Midwest now. In the burbs, no less. I’ve been here for three years and will be for the foreseeable future. Good schools, nice neighborhood, pool, sidewalks, all that American Dream stuff. Writing is the only thing that’s keeping me from drinking in the afternoon.

It’s an apt metaphor for my writing, though. Suddenly, I’m compelled – by forces outside myself, I might add – to write this story that’s set back in Culford, SC. Back in the Congaree Swamp.

I spend a lot of time on my settings. I know where my stories live. I’ve said before that if this place was real, I could walk through it blindfolded and know just where I was at every step. Culford is a great setting. I loved writing that little town.

But I’m having a difficult time with it this time around. Writing new stories in new settings is fun and exciting. Writing a new story in an old setting means that suddenly I have to work much harder to make things interesting for myself.

I worry that the secondary characters I loved in one story will seem saccharine the next time around. I worry that familiarity will breed contempt for all the things that were so charming the first time.

However, this is the hand I’ve been dealt. And much like my current status as a Midwestern suburban hausfrau, I’m going to make the best of it. I just have to dig a little deeper into my setting and my characters to make them feel comfortable, rather than merely worn.

And next time I sign up to write a sequel, shoot me.

28 October 2009

A bit of magic

There're only three more days until Halloween is here. As much as I enjoy the excitement around the day, I'll admit there's a part of me that will be glad when November 1st arrives.

That's the part of me that's had to watch Halloweentown, Halloweentown II : Kalabar's Revenge, Return to Halloweentown, and let's not forget Halloweentown High somewhere near twentytwelve times each this month.

You see, my daughter has discovered magic. She's still not ready for Harry Potter (oy - I just had to go there, didn't I? Probably by next year, if the Universal Theme Park opens this year.) Yet thanks to Disney's Wizards of Waverly Place and their Halloweentown movie series she loves, loves, loves magic. She has spent the past few weeks practicing spellcasting, chanting made up words under her breath, and trying to turn her brother into a frog.

Now Wizards of Waverly Place is actually a pretty ok show. Selena Gomez is a cute, talented teen, and it's one of the few shows that doesn't have whining, annoying, or too-old-for-their-age kids on it. And the Halloweentown movies aren't too bad either - Debbie Reynolds made a pretty nice granny witch, and the movies are just the right touch of scary for a seven year old witch-wanna-be. But please, please, please stop showing the same things over and over and over. It's enough to make me miss Goosebumps, her scary-season fixation from last year.

The Halloweentown movies will be on Disney no less than 14 more times between now and the end of the month, so if you've somehow missed them you've got plenty of chances to make up for the loss. I think it may be time for me to unplug the satellite though. Otherwise I may never make it until November.

23 October 2009

Adventures in Capclave

Capclave 2009, Washington DC’s local science fiction/fantasy/horror convention, was warm, wonderful and didn’t wash away in the rain, despite the very best efforts of the weather. I think we got forty days and forty nights worth of rain in one little weekend.

SF/fantasy radio personality Jim Freund interviews
Asimov Editor and Capclave Editor Guest of Honor
Sheila Williams.

As if to make up for it, there was a banquet of panels I wanted to cover above and beyond my own. A writer’s dream, the con’s motto could’ve been “So many editors; so little time.” To cite only one example, in addition to Editor Guest of Honor and Asimov icon Sheila Williams, the Sunday morning Editors’ Panel showcased:

- John Joseph Adams, who’s been described as “the reigning king of the anthology world”,
- Christopher M. Cevasco, writer and editor of the late lamented Paradox magazine,
- Neil Clarke, editor of Clarkesworld,
- George Scithers, who’s edited EVERYTHING, including the ongoing anthology series Cat Tales: Fantastic Feline Fiction, and
- Sean Wallace, publisher of Prime Books, editor of Fantasy and co-editor of Clarkesworld.

Five of my panels featured at least one acquiring editor—to say nothing of the folks you could meet in the autograph lines. Which just goes to show small local cons can be excellent places to network. That was my selling point to two aspiring authors and would be booksellers, at any rate. It remains to be seen whether they made any useful contacts. However, they were totally won over by the jewelry venders in the dealers room.

The panels and my inevitable quest for brewed iced tea helped deliver me from temptations of the dealers room variety. Mostly. The only book I bought was Hank Reinhardt’s The Book of Swords, which I really should’ve bought at Baen’s DragonCon launch party. (Yes, I was an idiot. Your point?)

Capclave Writer Guest of Honor Harry

But Capclave has come up with a new way to squeeze money—er, encourage attendees to support the con and its sponsor, the Washington Science Fiction Association. WSFA now publishes limited edition anthologies related the theme of each year’s con. Reincarnations, this year’s anthology, encompassed seven stories by Writer Guest of Honor Harry Turtledove and an introduction by Sheila Williams. The con afforded many opportunities for get GOH autographs, too, and I did not repeat my DragonCon mistake.

Another heartening development was con programming’s efforts to integrate urban fantasy and paranormal romance into Capclave’s literary universe. This represents a real sea change in the local science fiction community. Of course, it helps when the “home team” includes luminaries like Catherine Asaro and Mindy Klasky. Not only do they write fabulous books, as the saying goes, they “give good panel”. Now if I could only figure out where Catherine Asaro buys her rock star boots…

Capclave 2009 also hosted the area’s first Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading. Broad Universe is a professional organization dedicated to promoting women writers of SF, fantasy and horror. But forget the worthwhile stuff. As far as I’m concerned, the best aspect of being a Broad is participating in the group readings we call RFRs, where all the Broads at a con convene to read their fiction. It’s a fabulous way to meet great writers, discover wonderful fiction, and avoid the scary prospect of reading to an empty room. You never, ever have to read alone. It’s all about community.

Kind of like Capclave.

The Broad Universe Rapid Fire Readers. In the top
row (from left to right) are Dina Leacock (aka Diane
Arrelle), Kelly A. Harmon, Victoria Janssen,
Roxanne Bland. I'm on my own in the lower row.

A New Turn of Phrase...

This month has been a wonderful one. My Maggie Award novel, ANGELIC AVENGER, had its digital debut on Tuesday, Octover 6th. I was absolutely thrilled to say I downloaded it as soon as it became available…and yes, I paid for the priviledge. Why? Because it made it real to me. :)

My husband, as the dedication indicates, is greatly supportive of my writing efforts. In fact, one of the most memorable episodes involving Bella’s launch on the world comes from him.

He works at a hospital. One of his coworkers came up to him and asked about my book. The digital release in advance of the paperback had some of his coworkers wanting to know when they could go to the bookstore to buy it.

Well, the coworker asked what genre it was. When my husband, slightly embarrassed, told him it was a paranormal romance, the instant reply was:

“Oh. It’s one of those vibrator books.”

Having met the gentleman in question, I can hear the humor in which it was meant. And the more I think about it, the funnier it is.

Vibrator books. My new turn of phrase for the week.

Well, experts say that a good bit of a woman’s interest in sex comes from fantasy and intellectual stimulation. Isn’t that the purpose of romance novels? A little escapism and fantasy?

Men can learn from that. *grins* And if they took advantage of it, they wouldn’t be called vibrator books at all.

My poor husband may be getting flack at work, but he’s taking it with pride and amusement. Funny, I don’t think he’s complaining, either. *wink*

21 October 2009

Where's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown???

I love Halloween. It's the time of year when I get all giddy inside, because I get to play dress-up and decorate the outside of my house, trying to make it look a little spooky. I adore the ghost story, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night aspect of it all. It's FUN. Usually I pull everything out around Sept. 30, to get it up on or around Oct. 1.

But this year, I was late. My cousin's wedding, plus my freelance work, plus my son's football season all conspired against me to keep me from putting up my stuff. When I finally got around to it, around ten days into the month, I looked it over and said, "I need new stuff." Hubby agreed. So my son and I jumped into the car and off we went.

Yeah. The first store we went to was slim pickin's for anything but costumes. But the CHRISTMAS stuff was in plentiful supply. Now, I know that stores don't like to order lots of seasonal stuff because what they don't sell they have to store. But first of all, WHY is the Halloween stuff out on the day after school opens in early September? And WHY do people rush around like mad, buying it all up then, so that at a reasonable time of year, there's nothing left? It was OCTOBER 11.

That's my first rant. I can't stand that retailers force us into thinking about holidays months in advance, especially Christmas. It's not just holidays, but clothing as well. Don't even get me started about how I see bathing suits for sale in Target...in JANUARY, but I can't find a pair of gloves or a warm hat.

But here's my second rant, and this one is really the issue. I finally went with my son to the local Halloween store to see what we could find. Beyond the high prices ($30 for a styrofoam tombstone? Really? It was nice, but still. One good wind, and bye bye thirty bucks.) was the content. Everything, and I mean every last thing, was blood and gore. Disemboweled victims, with rats nibbling their intestines, zombies with their eyeballs hanging on their cheeks, decapitated heads. In other words, really, really gross.

When did Halloween go from being a kids' holiday (I mean American Halloween, leaving aside Samhain for a moment) about being frightened and having fun to the competition for the most disgusting display we can find? How did we get from The Great Pumpkin to Saw VI??? I love scary movies as much as the next person - I will gladly watch The Blair Witch Project, Halloween, and Scream when they come on TV this year. What I like about them is the fact that you never really SEE the bad stuff. It's all left to your imagination. Like with decorations - creepy spiderwebs and flaming pumpkins and motion-activated ghosts give you the feeling of being frightened. What you imagine is supposed to be scarier than what's there. You don't have to actually SEE it, and that's what makes it scary. Not this gross-out fest that seems to have overtaken the industry.

Eventually I found some nice things, on the single shelf left at Lowe's that had Halloween decorations, including two adorable gargoyles. Next year I'll remember to get started earlier.

Meantime...bring on Christmas. Sigh.

18 October 2009


The pre-dawn air was cool and moist as she
drove Marilyn down the block. Carol Ann’s hair was
damp from the heat and clung to the back of her
neck as she drove along darkened streets with the
window rolled down. I won’t go too far, she
reasoned. Just far enough, but not to the campus,
because he’d get suspicious. No I’ll drop her off at
the Kroger’s and leave it in the parking lot with the
keys in the ignition. That’d do it. She smiled in
grim satisfaction. Yes, that’s perfect. It’ll be close
enough to walk back without him being any the
I went for my morning jog baby, I’ll tell him,
Carol Ann conspired. And when I got home the car
was missing. Someone must have taken it out of the
Patricia Snodgrass
garage while I was gone. They must have found the
keys in the kitchen and just drove off with her.
Sorry, lover. I must have forgotten to lock up when
I left. My bad.
Marilyn’s radio came on without warning. I Like
it Like That by Chris Kenner blasted through the
speakers. Carol Ann jerked in surprise. She turned
it off, but it came back on at once. Carol Ann
slammed her hand against the console.
“You’re just full of it this morning, ain’tcha?”
she asked Marilyn as she pulled into the Kroger’s
parking lot. She parked the car underneath a dull
orange street lamp.
She killed the ignition and sat for a moment.
I’m doing a bad thing, she thought. Despite how
she felt, Bobby loved Marilyn, and when she got rid
of her, and he found out, he’d never forgive her no
matter how many muscle cars she gave him.
She frowned. Is our relationship worth the price
of a car? She wondered. Why can’t I relent and let
him have the damned thing?
“Because you’re messing with my boyfriend, that’s
why,” she said aloud. “I don’t know how, but that’s
what’s going on and I won’t have it.”
An intense sensation ran up her leg, caressing
her crotch. Marilyn became stifling hot; the aroma
of Chanel and smoke from old fashioned cigarettes
was stifling. A feminine giggle came from nowhere.
Something ran up her right breast, probing her
shirt, trying to find a way in.
Within seconds she was covered with rough
obviously sexual caresses, tiny bites and heavy
perfume. She lingered in the sensation, alternately
frightened and excited at the same time.
After a few seconds of stunned excitement she
bolted from the car, leaving the keys in the ignition
and the door wide open as she ran as quickly as she
could back toward their house.
“I did it, I did it I did it,” she heaved as she
ran, hot and sweaty, back home. She leaned
against the garage door, panting. “I got rid of it; I
got rid of that hideous thing.”
She stepped into the garage and uttered a short
Marilyn was there, parked in her usual spot, the
driver’s side door open. Carol Ann looked inside the
car. The keys were in the ignition.
“How did you? How could you? How is it
Marilyn seemed to sneer around her horse
collar grill.

Marilyn is available at http://www.whispershome.com

17 October 2009

Just Say Never

They interrupt your dinner, they call just as you’re rushing out the door, they invade the private fun time with your significant other, they suck up your cell phone minutes, they leave incomprehensible messages on your answering machine, a computer calls and there’s nobody there. Everybody has a horror story or two. They are telemarketers.

I personally hate telemarketers. But then, so does everybody else in the world. Or so it would seem. I’ve never heard anybody claim to like telemarketers. I’ve never heard anybody admit to buying anything from them. But still they call and call and call until you want to scream.

Okay, I’ll admit it. One time MANY years ago I bought something from a telemarketer. My daughters were young, and a guy offered me a great deal on books for them. Books. My weakness. Turns out he rather exaggerated the deal I could get. I learned my lesson. Never did it again. I refuse to even talk to telemarketers. I tell them I have a policy of not buying from telemarketers. I’m nice, but I frequently hang up on them still doing their spiel. These folks are determined.

There are other issues too. What if it’s not a real telemarketer? What if the guy on the other end is only offering you a too-good-too-be-true deal in an effort to steal your credit card number? Could happen. Yeah, I’m paranoid. It pays to be in this crazy world we’ve built for ourselves.

What’s the answer? It’s simple, really. If nobody ever bought anything from telemarketers they’d soon go the way of the dinosaur—except nobody would dig up their bones and put them in museums. The thing is, somebody is buying from these people. If not, then it wouldn’t be financially feasible for them to keep calling. And keep calling. And keep…

So, logic demands that somebody is buying telemarketing wares. Is it you? How about you over there? Okay, I see you trying to sneak out the back. Somebody, actually a lot of somebodies, are aiding and abetting these annoying folks.

I’d like to say something here. This annoyance is not the fault of those who call (except maybe for the computer, we all know you can’t trust those things). It does no good to yell at—or worse—someone who is simply struggling to make a living. Yes, I’ve yelled, and I feel bad about it. Telemarketing is not a job I’d pick, but it might be the best, or only, choice for many people.
Actually, that’s the only good thing to be said for telemarketing companies, they do offer jobs, and in this economy that is definitely a good thing.

As long as they don’t call me.

14 October 2009

What's going on in my life

Good morning, everyone! So, fall has arrived, at least in Ohio it has. This morning I heard the dreaded 4 letter word. Snow! Already? I'm not ready for snow. I feel like summer was just last week.

There's been a lot going on in my life lately. This past Saturday I had a booksigning at the Barnes and Nobles in Cincinnati) where I signed my two romantic suspense books, Deception and Redemption. I want to thank everyone who turned out. It was a huge success. Below are some pictures from the signing. I'm on the left and beside me is my very talented fellow Samhain author, Ann Warner who signed her two contemporary romances, Dreams for Stones and Persistence of Dreams.

I'll be doing another signing on December 5 at the Barnes and Nobles in West Chester, Ohio with about 20 other authors including the very popular Lori Foster. When I get more details, I'll let you know.

I've been working hard on my next romantic suspense. This one doesn't have a title yet but its shaping up to be a very emotional read. And for those of you who crave paranormal romance, never fear, the next one in the pipeline for me is a paranormal romance set in 1300 and modern day.

I hope everyone is staying healthy and has a wonderful week!


ps - If you haven't joined me on Facebook or Twitter, please do! (just follow the links)

13 October 2009

Jean Marie's Capclave Schedule

Now that I’ve (more or less) recovered from DragonCon, it’s again time to put on my convention hat and party hard—er, prepare to educate and entertain at Capclave 2009, this Friday to Sunday, October 16-18. Capclave is the Washington, DC, area’s premier science fiction, fantasy and horror convention. Although it focuses on literature, particularly short stories, you can’t bring a bunch of daft writers together and not wind up with a good time.

If this sounds like your thing, you can find us at the Hilton, Washington DC/Rockville Executive Meeting Center, 1750 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852, from 3 p.m. this Friday until 5 p.m. on Sunday. I hope you’ll join us. I especially hope you’ll attend a panel of mine. Or two. Or all of them. The one thing I’ve learned over the course of my writing career is you can never be too rich or have too many fans.

Seriously, the thin thing is negotiable.

Jean Marie’s 2009 Capclave Schedule:

Friday, 8 p.m.
Fantasy-Mystery – From Harry Dresden to Rachel Morgan to Sookie Stackhouse to Anita Blake, a lot of popular urban fantasies/paranormal romances seem to be mysteries. Why add this element to the mix? What works and what doesn’t when you combine them?
Panelists: Andrew Fox (m), Peter Heck, Victoria Janssen, Jean Marie Ward, Diane Weinstein

Friday, 10 p.m.
Kryptonite for Characters – What do you do to limit your characters and keep them from being too powerful? What flaws do you give them? How do you have them grow and gain without becoming gods?
Panelists: Diane Weinstein (m), Davey Beauchamp, Neil Clarke, Tom King, Jean Marie Ward

Friday, 11 p.m.
Are Vampires Still #1? – Why are vampires so popular? Is anything likely to rival them—werewolves? Zombies? What? Whose vampires are the best and why?
Panelists: Andrew Fox (m), Davey Beauchamp, Darrell Schweitzer, Jean Marie Ward, Lawrence Watt-Evans

Saturday, 11 a.m.
Paranormal Romance—Just Chick Lit? – Why is the main character in paranormal romance usually female? Is the audience meant to be women only? What is the right balance between the paranormal and the romance? (And, the moderator adds, why the heck aren’t there any men on this panel? Hmph! I have a feeling I’m going to have to be a very bad girl on this one.)
Panelists: Jean Marie Ward (m), Mattie Brahen, Mindy Klasky, Victoria Janssen

Saturday, 1 p.m.
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading – Join the Broads of Capclave as they read fast-paced excerpts from their latest fictions. There will be chocolate.
Panelists: Jean Marie Ward (m), Diane Arrelle, Roxanne Bland, Kelly A. Harmon, Victoria Janssen

Sunday, 11 a.m.
Paranormal Versus Urban Fantasy – Is paranormal romance just another name for urban fantasy? If not, what is the distinction? How do writers determine the right balance between paranormal and romance? Is it just classic boy meets girl or does being a paranormal make it different?
Panelists: Scott Andrews (m), Catherine Asaro, Karen Newton, Edmund Schubert, Jean Marie Ward, Diane Weinstein


12 October 2009

31 Days of Halloween

Yes, I realize it's only one night a year, but from Oct. 1 -31 has always been a spookfest for me. I remember being in elementary school and sitting at my desk and drawing pictures of witches and ghosts and goblins while the teacher played a 12-inch vinyal recording of Pit and the Pendulum, Tell-Tale Heart, or the Raven. I was in my glory.

I remember setting up a haunted house in my friend's old house (her parents owned two of them and one was undergoing renovations while they lived in the one next door)- We'd give tours to the neighbhorhood kids and jump out of closets and grab ankles from under beds. It was Hitchcockian in it's suspense and simplicity. No blood or gore, just plain straight up fright.

Something happens to me when that first leaf turns yellow and the scent of fires drift on the air. I just love it. I can't think of any other time of year when I come as alive as I do in the fall. It breaks my heart that it lasts only a few weeks here in NJ. Not long at all. It really is the shortest season. (Though honestly nothing could be as short as our one week of summer we had this year.)

Is it any wonder that I'd end up writing paranormal romances? As Halloween draws closer, my books become increasingly more about those elements from my childhood that were poised to scare. But it wasn't just the ghost and goblins, but the love of those old black and white Universal Monster Movies - Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy. OMG. Loved them. Ate them up. I mean....who doesn't love the creature from the black lagoon? Or how about the modern Mummy remakes. I'll take two, please.

So, going over my own list of work for this article, I made an interesting discovery,
I've written a total of 3 ghost stories in my career. Not many considering my love of the paranormal. I have 1.5 "Vampire" books. .25 of a shifter story, but alas not to wolf form. I have no mummies, no creatures from the deep. I'm thinking my supply is sadly lacking. Why, o' why is this? And when am I going to find the time to correct it? Let's be honest, some of these characters would make some pretty sexy heroes.

Who here has read The Mummy: Ramses the Damned by Anne Rice? OMG! Can I just say as far as mummys are concerned the guy was very sexy. Hot. Yummlicious. (I'm going to have to find that book again, and read it before Halloween.) With this new push for zombie books, why not a mummy....oh damn, I just stepped on a plot bunny. (Lifts up foot and looks at shoe.)

What are your plans to get ready for the bestest holiday of the year for a paranormal author? Are you going to read scary books, watch scary movies, or write about your own form of terror-inducing, sexy, bad boy hero?


09 October 2009

Another Free Read from the PIACT Agent Archive. (Mostly work friendly)

Don't forget if you want to win a super duper Secret Agent ID card like this one and your own presentation packaged archive superspy mission for yourself, or a loved one, all you have to do to enter the free draw is comment on this thread. Stories can be written in four styles, sex free, romantic, spicy and erotic. Just let me know what you want.

Come along and join us, your superspy comrades are eagerly waiting...

Gentle Jaguar Enjoys the View

Gentle Jaguar was in her apartment, sitting at her computer and browsing the internet when the message came. She felt, at the least, somewhat annoyed. After all, she’d just returned from a five-year deep undercover mission and was currently planning her first real vacation ever. She was going on a tour of Italy—a longed for, dreamed about and fantasized trip of that magical country and even more superlative hunks.

It was a trip she’d been promising herself since she was a teenager and, by dingo, she was going to go. Not to mention she had just been looking at photos from the beaches on the Isle of Capri and, more pointedly, looking at photos of the gorgeous men lying on the beaches on the Isle of Capri.

That was when the PIACT chat logo flashed up on the center of her screen. The PIACT chat logo immediately did two things.

One, it shut down every other program her computer was running to make sure the connection was as safe and hacker free as possible.

Two, it mightily pissed her off because she’d spent ages finding the photos of the beach and its hunks, and she hadn’t had a chance to favorite the page yet.

Like the good agent she was, though, she kept her anger in check. After all, every PIACT agent was trained from the start to know that being contacted this way was only, and they meant only, ever done in extreme emergencies. So whatever they were getting hold of her for, it should be something pretty serious.

She carefully logged in using the ((quadruple x* 4)/√7) ² code word she’d been given years ago—God knows how she remembered it—and was rewarded with the chat window lighting up to show their esteemed leader, Ferocious Furball, the Supreme One on Top, ready to chat.

Well, at least she saw the silhouette of his head and shoulders on a backlit screen.

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” Furball began, looking as if he was peering around her room trying to find the dozens of naked men falling over themselves to service her every whim. Not that the thought wasn’t tempting, but she wasn’t really that sort of girl.

“No, you’re not interrupting anything at all,” she reassured him. Except for a gadzillion dollar daydream about Italy.

“Good, good.” Furball replied. “Because I need a second agent urgently for a most dangerous mission. I wouldn’t ask you normally but I can’t send Shimmering Dragon in alone for this one, and you’re the only agent I have free at the moment. All the rest are involved in a highly covert mission at the YouTube offices.”

Shimmering Dragon? Furball’s personal assistant? The One Beneath the Supreme One on Top? It had to be a very weighty mission indeed if he was sending her to investigate. This could be a very important stepping point in her PIACT career. Suddenly the interruption was beginning to seem much less inconvenient than it had.

“Of course I’ll be able to help, sir. May I know the details of the mission?”

“Too risky to tell you anything but the basics online,” Furball shook his head. “Dragon will be there within the hour and she will brief you. Suffice to say we believe it involves the Secret Party Looking to Annihilate Terra, SPLAT that is, and you’ll be hopping on over to Florence to investigate. Can you be ready in an hour?”

Jaguar held her breath as giddy waves of euphoria washed through her. Florence, Italy. Yes! Yes! YES!

So what if it also involved the most evil, despicable, deadly and corrupt organization PIACT had ever encountered. Jaguar knew she’d get time to visit the Archbishop’s Palace, the Cloister of the Barefoot, wander around the Oricellari Gardens and marvel at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. And then, once the mission was over, begin her tour from there ending up, finally, on the golden beaches of Capri.

“Jaguar? Jaguar? Are you okay?”

Realizing she’d been drifting in a daydream haze, and hoping she hadn’t been doing it for too long, she schooled her face into a perfectly neutral expression.

“No problem, sir.” She told him. “I’ll be packed and ready in an hour.” In less, if she had to.

“Very good,” Furball nodded. “Good luck to you both, then. And remember, the fate of the world depends on you.”

She waited until the chat window had shut down and she was certain the web cam was no longer pumping her image across the net before she leaped up, dancing towards her closet.

“I’m going to Florence, I’m going to meet an Italian. We’re going to be best of best buddies!” She sang a silly little song as she threw bikini’s, bikini wax, toothbrushes, sun tan lotion, camera’s, video camera’s, makeup, shoes, her electronic English to Italian translator, more makeup, some very skimpy panties and bras, her passport into a couple of suitcases.

Looking at the three matched sets of luggage the middle one was still empty, though she couldn’t figure out why. She thought about it as she sang again, lauding the delicious Italian who was going to fall in love with her forever in the beautifully romantic city.

Ah, clothes! Yes, she’d need some clothes! What a silly girl she was, but, oh, what a wonderful surprise!

By the time Dragon arrived she’d managed to drag all five cases of luggage—well, she really couldn’t fit all the clothes into just one—down six flights of stairs to the front hallway. And was waiting, as gracefully as one can when feeling in an excited tizzy, dressed in her Donna Karan sequined dress, her Jimmy Choo branded mirror slingbacks and her Rioni mini-on-the-go purse.

This was going to be the adventure of a lifetime, and she intended to live it.

“So, you want to take all this?”

Jaguar didn’t like the tone of Dragon’s voice as she looked at the small collection of luggage. Didn’t the woman realize just how much essential stuff she’d had to leave behind?

“These really are the essentials,” Jaguar insisted. “I simply can’t go on vaca—mission without them.”

Dragon was rude enough to sigh—loudly. “Oh, very well we should have room in the back. Grab those two.”

Jaguar considered complaining that Dragon had left the biggest two for her, but then remembered she was about to reprimand her boss and changed her mind. After all, one sometimes had to suffer a little to get ahead.

Jaguar’s opinion of Dragon dropped even further when she managed to get the suitcases out the front door.

Now, it wasn’t surprising that someone from redneck Indiana had a jeep, but couldn’t it at least have been a red one, or better yet, yellow. And one that had real windows, not just some ugly, plastic stuff.

Dragon dropped two of the suitcases in the back then turned to look at her, rolling her eyes.

“PIACT issued.” Dragon said, reminding her. “Every time we start a mission we’re considered to be in a hostile zone.”

So, Furball was responsible for this was he? Jaguar fumed silently. Like a camouflage paint job was really going to make a difference going down the Trans-Canada Highway.

“Quickly!” Dragon was getting a bit testy apparently. “If you keep standing there like that someone’s going to try and slam dunk a basketball in your mouth.”

‘Hmph!” Jaguar grunted her disgust. Still, at least the dismay was wearing off a bit, and SPLAT did have a dangerous reputation. Just look at Two Toed Turtle—he was still majorly shell-shocked. Probably, once they hit Italy, all of her frustrations would melt away. Just like Italian ice cream. “Yum!”

She ignored Dragon’s peculiar stare.

Deciding to make the best of it for now she hefted her two bags into the back while Dragon fetched the last, and smallest. This was, unceremoniously, tossed onto the back seat. Hopefully her compacts stayed in one piece. There was nothing worse than brushing your teeth and finding the toothbrush full of foundation. Ick!

With the car fully packed Dragon thrust a small plastic box with an antennae into her hands, and then sat behind the steering wheel, starting the jeep.

“What’s…?” Jaguar began.

“We have to locate the secret base,” Dragon told her. “That’s the secret base locator. Just make sure I keep heading in the general direction of that little arrow on the front.”

“You’re not just going to go to the airport?”

Dragon gave her a funny look. “Why have a secret base next to an airport? Far too dangerous. Too many people could discover it.”

“Ah, of course.” Jaguar realized how silly she was being. This mission was so important they would be taking the PIACT private jet, and PIACT wouldn’t want anyone to know where that was currently housed.

“Well, lead on,” she chirped, meeting Dragon’s odd gaze with a smiley one of her own. “We’ve got a mission to finish.”


Five hours later and it was dark. Very dark.

Not that the dark bothered Jaguar too much. Rather, sitting in a jeep that was being driven like a demon on a mud track through backwoods country in the Canadian Rockies, without headlights—that kind of bothered her some. Admittedly Dragon had switched on the jeep’s HUD and the dashboard held a pretty detailed map of the local terrain, including the odd owl or bat that decided to flee rather than investigate the huge mass of metal that was ready to tear into the nearest tree it could hit.

Not that she suspected they could hear it. Dragon had also turned on the PIACT patented quiet engine device and even with the window flaps rolled up, Jaguar couldn’t hear a sound from the powerful engine. Nothing except the snapping of twigs and the imminent sound of death by crushing into a tree.

Okay, so she was fixated on trees, but driving like this through a forest at night kind of did that to you. Especially since Dragon occasional had to shift down to third gear now and then and had to slow to fifty mph to do it.

Still, Jaguar couldn’t help but feel that something was wrong, and maybe the full moon had something to do with it. She cast a surreptitious glance at Dragon. Nope, she wasn’t foaming at the mouth.

“This seems like a really weird place to have a secret base,” Jaguar hinted, hoping to draw some information out of Dragon. The One Beneath the Supreme One on Top had barely spoken a word to her since they’d started the journey. Other than “Pass the Cola,” and “Where’s the beef jerky?”

But, of course, Dragon would be waiting until they got on the plane. It would make much more sense to have the briefing where it was both secure and comfortable. Not to mention a few hors d'oeuvre and a bottle or two of Chardonnay.

And to be really honest Jaguar didn’t want to distract Dragon with small talk when the trees had a disconcerting habit of leaping in front of the jeep at a moment’s notice. There she goes again, thinking about trees…

“How much further?” Dragon asked.

Jaguar jumped, not expecting her companion to speak.

“Well,” she peeked at the box which had the number zero point five lit up in green. “I’d say about half a mile.”

She looked up and yelped as a badly painted road sign took a quick swipe at them as they passed. Truly things around here were suicidal.

Jaguar’s blood ran cold. It was only a glimpse, she reminded herself. She couldn’t be certain. But for one moment there she could have sworn the sign said “Florence, Lake O’Hara.”

“Keep giving updates on direction,” Dragon told her, slowing the car to a mere thirty miles an hour as she corkscrewed around the trees.

“Ten yards. Dead ahead.” Jaguar screeched, hanging on for dear life as Dragon stopped the jeep in zero point seven five three seconds and testing the seatbelts to within a three hundred pound square inch of their lives.

“We’re here!” Dragon announced triumphantly.

Jaguar stared at the solitary wooden outhouse, situated in a sixty foot diameter of cleared forest. The dilapidated wood, door almost hanging off its hinges with its cracks and splinters aplenty said it had given up the ghost years ago, even if it had once been an Alpine Club Hut outhouse look-a-like in its youth.

Jaguar took one look at Dragon, looked back at her suitcases, stared at the outhouse.

And cried.


“So, Furball told you, you would be going to Italy?”

“Well, no.” Jaguar admitted, dabbing at her eyes with a lace handkerchief and refusing to let them tear up again. “But when someone mentions Florence you automatically think Italy, don’t you?”

Jaguar looked at Dragon’s face.

“Well, if you’re anybody who knows anything then you do.” Jaguar insisted.

Dragon sighed and opened her car door, obviously oblivious to Jaguar’s problems.

“Where are you going?” Jaguar asked.

“Well, this nobody who knows nothing has to investigate that outhouse for signs of hostile activity while she lets someone who is everything daydream about somewhere else.”

“Oh, uhm, I hope I didn’t sound rude.”

“Not at all, duckface.”

With that Dragon slammed the door shut and stalked off across the grass. Jaguar stared at her for a moment then, suddenly remembering why she was here—aside from the not-going-to-happen supreme vacation in Italy—got out of the jeep and, pulling out her small suitcase from the back seat, chased after her.

Jaguar shivered slightly, the air in the Rockies always seemed clearer, and cooler, than the city. A little way down the small slope from the outhouse a falling down, Alpine Club look-a-like hut was falling to pieces. She suspected that even Florence, population twenty-five and a dog, wasn’t even there any more.

“So, I guess this isn’t really a secret base or anything,” She suggested as Dragon pulled out a pencil flashlight and concentrated the beam on the falling-out door.

“The signal came from here,” Dragon told her, concentrating her attention on the door as she carefully lifted it up and swung it outwards. Jaguar had expected to cringe but the inside of the outhouse was surprisingly clean—almost surgically so. “So this may not be the base but it will probably lead us to it.”

Dragon stepped into the tiny cubicle and Jaguar edged closer peeking in around the doorframe.

“Here’s a light switch,” Dragon said. “Strange that such a derelict building has power.”

“Wait! Uhm.”

Jaguar’s protest came too late. There was the click of the light switch and a peculiar hum as the light came on. Without thinking Jaguar leaped into the outhouse squashing herself up against Dragon, it was rather nice really with white tiles on the floor and from floor to ceiling tiles on the walls,. The door, which apparently wasn’t as bad as it looked, slammed shut behind her and some rather disturbing noises, like a huge engine starting up, started up around them.

“Ooops.” Dragon said, as the small outhouse began to shake from the engine’s vibrations.

The vibrations became so strong that Jaguar was shaken off her feet. She fell, butt first onto the toilet seat with her suitcase slamming into her lap. Thank God whoever had been here last had left the lid down. Dragon hadn’t been so lucky, she’d been throw up against the sink and was now hanging onto the faucets as if her life depended on them.

Actually, Jaguar thought, her life probably did depend on them.

‘This could be rather hazardous,” Jaguar voiced her opinion.

“Yes, that is true,” Dragon agreed. “But at least we’ll know where their secret base is.”

Jaguar thought about it for a moment and couldn’t find a flaw in dragon’s logic.

“I hope it’s Italy,” she said.

“You and your Italy,” Dragon snapped at her, glaring. “Will you, for one second, forget about f----“

Jaguar, mercifully, didn’t have to listen to the last of Dragon’s tirade as the noise grew to a massive rumble.

Something slammed around the outhouse, encasing them.

And they started going up.


“It really is rather pretty,” Dragon said as she peered out of the small heart shaped hole in the outhouse door.

They’d been traveling for around three hours now and aside from a few booms and bangs, all of which were rather startling, there didn’t seem to be anything in particular wrong with the ride.

“I don’t care,” Jaguar pouted. “I still don’t want to look.”

“Oh, come on,” Dragon told her. “I’m only trying to make the best of a difficult situation.”

“What’s to be made best of?” Jaguar countered. “Here we are, flying three hundred miles above the Earth in a cramped outhouse and no idea where, or if, we’re going to land safely.”

“Well it wouldn’t be so cramped if you hadn’t brought that stupid luggage.”

She held her luggage protectively. “A girl simply can’t travel without her compacts.” Jaguar defended herself.

“Have it your way,” Dragon said grumpily, then continued to stare in silence out of the tiny porthole. After a minute or so she turned back to Jaguar. “Are you going to sit there forever?” She asked, exasperated.

“Probably,” Jaguar answered. “What’s it matter to you?”

Dragon glared at her for a moment longer, then fidgeted nervously.

“Well,” she said. “I need to pee…”


Jaguar had to admit there was, almost, a certain amount of enjoyment from looking down at the Earth below. And she’d always wanted to see Italy. Granted, not as that tiny boot shaped thing below but, truly, how many Italian tourists can say they’d seen the country from this high.

She would have kept looking but something, a flash, caught the corner of her eye. She peered as far to the left as the angle of the outhouse would let her, her heart thumping with excitement.

“Oh my goodness!”

“What?” Dragon demanded, from behind her. “You’re getting a tan from the extra solar rays?”

“No, not at all. It’s a base. A huge, massive space base.”

“A space base?”

“Yep, that’s what I said.”

“Well. Dang. No wonder the PIACT patented super secret base sniffer couldn’t figure out where the base was. It wouldn’t work up here.”

“Well, we found the base,” Jaguar said cheerfully. “We can go home now.”

“Yes,” Dragon nodded. “As soon as we can find a way back.”

Jaguar swallowed. Of course, this outhouse was flying on autopilot. They had no way of turning it around. “Well, thank God the autopilot will dock us,” she said.

Suddenly the light in the cubicle began flashing red and a deep voice reverberated in the tiny space and a small panel swung down from behind the mirror. Something that looked suspiciously like an adapted Playstation controller appeared below it. Green squares and images of the docking area started flashing past on the panel.

“Autopilot failed. Prepare for manual docking. Autopilot failed. Prepare for manual docking.”

“We’re doomed!” Dragon shouted.

“No, we’re not.” Jaguar yelled back, slamming her suitcase on the sink and ripping open the zipper. “Now where did I put that mascara?”

Dragon looked at her, and the pile of cosmetics in the bag.

“We’re doomed!” she repeated.

It took a few seconds rummaging for Jaguar to find the Roman Midnight Blue, and a few more milliseconds to pull the brush out of the mascara tube.

A quick search in the cabinet under the sink located the computer unit that controlled the outhouse. Pressing a small button on the brush she pushed it into the nearest data port she could find. The brush began to blink and flash as the screen on the panel began to dance in odd patterns.

“Oh, cool!” Dragon noted. “What does it do?”

“It’s an Instantly Nuked Computer Hacker. An INCH.” Jaguar said. “It should take complete control of the system and then will be able to tale us to the last mile to the docking port and dock us safely.”

“Ah, give it an INCH to take us a mile,” Dragon smiled. “What other cool stuff do you have in here?” She picked up a slightly oversize lipstick which hummed vigorously when she turned the base.

“That,” Jaguar blushed furiously as she deftly took it from Dragon and slipped it into a pocket of the luggage. “We don’t talk about—”

“Ah, Wolf sent you a Christmas present too.”

Fortunately all conversation ended as the INCH beeped in delight. The outhouse lurched to one side. Spun head over heels a couple of times, and sent the contents of her case tumbling. Jaguar noted with satisfaction that the flashing green boxes on the screen were now all perfectly aligned with the base docking port.

As they picked up her bits and pieces, somehow working around each other in the tiny space, Jaguar finally felt she was getting some control over her crazy life.

All of her make-up and other devices were in the suitcase and resealed when Dragon drew her attention to the green boxes on the small screen.

“Should we be uhm, moving that fast?” Dragon asked.

Jaguar gave an awkward little squelp sound then grabbed the controller, frantically pawing at the buttons and the joysticks on it. She did make a difference. The squares were going by a lot slower now, its just none of them were lined up properly when they were doing it.

“Hold on!” Jaguar yelled as the huge metal port of the docking area leaped towards them a little too quickly.

Dragon didn’t get a chance to reply before there was the slamming of metal into metal and their small traveling cage bounced its way along the landing tube, finally thunking to a halt into the docking bulkheads.

After a few moments clanking and grinding the door to the outhouse opened to the fresh smelling air of the space station.

Jaguar grabbed her suitcase and stepped through the door. “I think we need to get out of here before someone comes to investigate.”

“Yes,” Dragon agreed, struggling to her feet. She passed Jaguar what looked like a palm sized water pistol. “The last SPLAT base we visited was populated with androids. This should stop them if they have androids up here that attack.”

“Okay,” Jaguar pocketed the gun, it looked too puny to even de-wing a fly at point blank range. “Let’s move it.”

The small corridor leading away from the air lock was just that, a little too small. Both of them had to lean over a bit to avoid bumping their heads.

Once they were out of the small corridor they appeared into one which was just a little too large.

“Why do I get the impression there’s going to be a corridor that is just right.” Jaguar muttered.

“Right, so what do we do now?” Dragon asked.

“Hmm, how about we find a way of getting out of here, and then maybe blowing up the station before we leave.” Jaguar suggested.

“Brilliant ideas,” Dragon grinned.

At that moment a silver skinned robot thingy wandered up the corridor, then paused to analyze them.

“Greetings humanoid type earth species who are soon to be come the latest casualties caused by SPLAT, how may I help you?”

“Uhm, hi,” Jaguar said. “We were just wondering if, like, there might be a way back to Earth from this place.”

“Most certainly young, soon to die a certain doom, earthling. May I suggest you look into the emergency escape pods in sector three-A on level four.”

“Oh, thanks, that’s great.” Jaguar cast a glance at Dragon.

“How about giving us a quick plot to blow up this place?” Dragon asked.

“Easy, my sweet about to be crushed by the mighty hammers of SPLAT lady.” The machine buzzed for a few moments, then gave her a printed sheet of paper from the general area of its stomach. “Just follow these simple instructions on how to reverse mode the gravitational generators and kaboom in fifteen minutes. Is there anything else I can help you with?” It asked.

“No,” Jaguar jumped in before Dragon could ask anything else, like where were all the handsome hunks kept. “That will be all for now.”

“Then I wish you good day,” the robot bumbled off. “Before SPLAT makes a particularly gory example of you televised before all the soon-to-be-victims currently watching YouTube on Earth.”

“Well,” Jaguar said as the thing went out of earshot. “I don’t think much of the opposition’s IQ rating.”

“Probably just a cleaning bot or something.” Dragon studied the paper it gave her. “Hey, it’s got a map. Let’s go blow this joint, then head back home.”

“Sounds good to me,” Jaguar agreed, following Dragon down the big corridor.

Which soon turned into a corridor which was just right.

“Wow, what a view!” Dragon stopped to look out of the huge porthole that took up one side of the corridor, revealing the other spokes of the space station beyond and the Earth below it.

“Yes, it is,” Jaguar’s mouth watered as she looked across to the other spoke and saw a man looking back. Sleek, handsome, Mediterranean tan. He was everything she’d ever dreamed her love-at-first-sight to be. Her heart pounded under his heated gaze, as her own traced the perfect shape of his body through the tight fitting shirt and pants.

“Perhaps we ought to go,” Dragon whispered in her ear. “It looks like that android has taken rather too much interest in us.”

Android? Jaguar looked at the figure with a slow ache across her chest. Of course, for the moment there she’d forgotten exactly where they were. In the middle of space in a huge space station, most likely completely manned with androids. The man/android, still looking at her, was very quickly making its way back to the main corridor. It, unlike the cleaner bot they’d spoken to earlier, was definitely coming for them.

“We have to split up,” Jaguar rummaged in her suitcase for a second and pulled out two packs of floss. Handing one to Dragon she snapped the other open and wrapped it around her ear and mouth. “I’ll try and draw it off, you carry on with the blow the place apart bit, and we’ll meet up at the emergency escape pods.”

She watched Dragon as the agent efficiently opened and set up her floss headset.

“Okay,” Dragon’s voice echoed in her ear. Good, they were working. “Good luck,” Jaguar said, hurrying on an intercept course to the android, her anti-android weapon in her hand. Hopefully it would work.

She caught sight of the android just as she hit the main corridor, then quickly began to backtrack, looking for any room, or niche she could slip into and throw it off her track.

Unfortunately those kind of tactics tended not to work unless you had a detailed map of the place memorized. Whenever she glanced back the android had always managed to gain on her by a yard or so.

Finally, she decided she couldn’t run anymore, and stepped into a vacant storage room. Leaving the light off as she hid in the corner, gun ready.

Nervously she waited for the door to open. She’d been in trickier situations, yes—but never before against a virtually invincible android.

When the door opened she squinted against the blinding light and pointed her gun, pulling the trigger repeatedly. Water squirted out of the gun barrel, soaking the android to the skin. His weapon did the same to her. Cold, itchy water that was working its way under her clothes and into her bra.

“Hold it! Hold it a second!”

Jaguar paused for a moment, blinking as the android turned the light on. Well, so much for the anti-android weapon. All it had done was make its clothes almost transparent. Jaguar licked her lips. This one obviously liked to go commando. Not to mention it was torturing her with its perfect, musical Italian accent.

“Who are you?” It demanded. “You’re obviously not an android.”

Android or not, if he continued to speak like that her legs would be so weak she wouldn’t be able to walk for a week, at least.

“Well, no.” Jaguar agreed, squirting him again with the water pistol, just in case it took some time for the stuff to sink in and giving her legs chance to grow stronger. “But you are.”

“No, I’m not,” he stepped closer, ignoring the spray. “And if you know what’s good for you, you’d be saving your ammunition for when you did come across one.”

“Well, if you’re not an android…” thank God. Jaguar wanted to throw her arms around him and delve his inner secrets with a lavish kiss. “…you must be one of the bad guys.”

“I’m not one of them either.” He relaxed with a chuckle that suddenly made the room seem awfully hot and stifling. “She pulled at her dress, trying to get some cool air flowing.

“Well, what are you?” She crossed her fingers praying he’d be one of the good guys, and maybe had a bed somewhere nearby too.

“I’m Vincente, a Handsomely Unique Naughty Kisser,” he said.

“Oh Mi God! You’re a HUNK!” Jaguar’s heart did a little double flip. Ever since Flaming Scorpion met her HUNK, Abu wotsit’s, it was all the female PIACT agents could gossip about for months. And now here she was, with her very own HUNK.

“Are you Italian?” she asked, fingers crossed behind her back.

“Bologna, Italy.” He gave her a curious smile. “You’re one of those PIACT girls aren’t you?” Jaguar could see him relax at last. “I’ve seen some of them on YouTube.”

“Uhm, yea,” Jaguar suddenly felt all coy and speechless. “That wasn’t me though.” She’d found him! The man of her daydreams—Italian, dashing, handsome, Italian, and a definite HUNK and even more important, Italian. And she was in love! Oh, be still her beating heart!

His smile turned sexy as he stepped forward, gently stroking one finger down her cheek.

“You know, you look exactly like the woman who has haunted my daydreams for the last twenty years.”

Jaguar felt so giddy, she wondered why she didn’t swoon. Especially when those deliciously soft lips moved slowly closer to hers—

“We have a problem Houston.”

Dragon’s voice over the headset broke the moment, touching his lips gently with one finger she smiled an apology.

“This won’t take a moment,” she whispered. “What is it?” she snapped at Dragon.

“I’ve started the reverse mode on the gravitational generators,” Dragon answered.

“Well, that’s good, isn’t it?” Jaguar hissed, Vincente’s lips were mere millimeters from the most devastating kiss she’d ever have.

“Well, yes, but we’ve got five minutes to evacuate before the place blows.”

“Five minutes!” Jaguars shouted. “The robot gave us fifteen.”

“So it lied.”

“Hmph, never trust a robot… hmmmm!”

Jaguar’s reply was stopped by the softest, most delicious kiss her lips had ever imagined. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer as he held her tight against his body, both devouring each other in their new found passion.

“Uhm, Jaguar? You okay? You know you have like three minutes and forty three seconds?”

“Gotta go,” Jaguar mumbled into the kiss. “Place is going to blow in three minutes.”

“She put the gravitational generators into reverse mode?” Vincente mumbled back.

“Yes,” Jaguar licked his lip, savoring the distinct Italian taste.

“Thought about doing that,” Vincente nipped her lip back. “But the robot looked too sleazy.”

Reluctantly they both broke away from the kiss, breathless and flushed.

“So uhm, I guess it’s to the escape pods.” Jaguar suggested.

“Uh, uh.” Vincente tapped her nose gently and stroked her chin. “We’re going back in style, I have a shuttle waiting.”

Following him as he ran down the corridors, Jaguar had to ask.

“So, uhm, where does this shuttle land?”

“At our secret base in Florence,” he called back over his shoulder.

“Florence, Arkansas?” Jaguar asked, too smart to be caught twice in the same trap.

He stopped for a moment, puzzled. “Florence, Italy,” he said, astonished. “Is there anywhere else?”

“No.” Jaguar grinned, resisting the urge to throw herself on him again. “No, not at all.”

“Won’t make it to the escape pods, but I’ve found an alternative escape route,” Jaguar let Dragon know. “Meet you back on Earth.”

“Will do,” Dragon responded, then with a little hesitation. “It’s been great working with you, you’re a good agent.”

“Thank you, same to you.”

Communications ended and Jaguar drifted down the corridors to Vincente’s shuttle, dreamingly staring at his yummy butt as they ran.

She was going to Florence, Italy after all, and everything had ended right with the world.


Not Again! Dragon thought as she landed in the chilly water. The escape pod had disintegrated just over a thousand feet up, and her emergency chute had almost got her down to the ground before, it too, gave up the ghost.

She’d just managed to get her head above water when she heard the voices.

“Ralph! Malcolm! Go make sure she’s alright.”

Treading water, Dragon just managed to clear her eyes when two naked and very well muscled men, swam over to her. Over on the shore she could make out several jeeps and trucks with the Rockie Mountain Rescue Training Corps emblazoned on their sides. At a quick glance she counted at least two dozen of the eager, naked, trainees.

“Uhm, is this Lake O’Hara?”

“It sure is ma’am,” one of the men responded. “I apologize for our attire, we were just taking our morning ablutions. This is supposed to be a private zone, you know.”

“Ah, yes,” Dragon blushed, realizing that every single man she could see was sporting a rock hard, uh, thingy. “Well, my chute—“

“Chute failed to open?” the other man asked, his voice full of concern. “Come, we’ll take you back to shore. We’ve all had emergency training. You’ll need a full examination to make sure everything’s okay.”

“Please,” the first man insisted. “Besides being against our code to leave any emergency victim untreated, it would do wonders for our trainee’s training.”

“Well, uhm, if you put it like that. Are you sure it won’t be a bother?”

The two men grinned at each other.

“Absolutely not,” they said.

If you liked this there are more.... on my forum here www.sjwillingforum.com . So come on and browse. They're all sparkling and free.


What color is your sky?

As a child I saw things differently. I was afraid of the dark, or rather, afraid of the things that lurked there. I was always afraid of the possibility of seeing ghosts though my best friend for years was a girl of unknown origins and looks. At least to my mother, who couldn't see her.

Like most children, my imagination roamed free. A hairbrush was a microphone. The bed a stage. A shadow could be a monster or some horrible beast that would drag me away, never to be seen again. And of course, I didn't dare look under that bed at night.

But now I'm an adult and things have changed. Um, well, a little. I'm no longer afraid of the dark. I prefer it. I will admit, many of my 'friends' are still invisible to most. However, that shadow near the forest at the end of our driveway is not seen as a monster or beast. Obviously it's the spirit of a long-dead Native American, protecting what was once his people's land. I just might write his story someday.

Children are amazing. They have such capacity for 'what-if' and are willing to accept so much. But as they grow, they learn from us adults that there aren't monsters under the bed or in the forest. The sky isn't purple, it's blue. The grass shouldn't be colored red, it's green. And don't forget to stay inside the lines. Little by little, their imaginations are reined in until many of them forget how to use them. They forget how to dream.

Luckily many of us never quite let go of childhood. We thumb our noses at authority and keep coloring those pictures any way we see fit. And so an artist is born... or an inventor... another Einstein... an actor... a musician... a writer.

Luckily, my mother taught me that there is more to life than what I can see. (Insert a nod to Shakespeare at this point.) She taught me so many things through example and words. So many things about this world and the next. And so I am still a child inside. I hold on to the notion that yes, sometimes the sky is purple. And pink. And blazing orange. Somewhere the grass may be red. And those shadows? They're ghosts... or shapeshifters... or faeries.

My youngest son -- now nine -- is ever the dreamer. He often seems to be immersed in his own, happy world. We once asked him what the color of the sky was in his world.

"Orange," he replied, not missing a beat. I hope he always sees it that way.

So what about you? What color do you see when you look up?

07 October 2009

13 Great Reasons to Ban My Books

Last week was Banned Books Week, and it got me thinking. When books get banned, the banners are attempting to reduce their availability, to reduce the number of readers of that book. They think it should Not. Be. Read. Yet when a book shows up on the banned books list, I wonder if it has the exact opposite effect and people seek it out?

So I have to ask myself. Would anybody ever care to ban one of MY books so people would be more inclined to read them to protect our freedom of speech? I don't know, but just in case, I've compiled a handy list of thirteen reasons why people might want to ban my books.

At last count my books contain:

1) Violence (gnome vs human, fey vs human, human vs human, human vs door, human vs cellphone)

2) Sex (not with gnomes)

3) Cussing (of the colorful variety)

4) 80's music (no, not like those "Sound" cards...you have to imagine it...but still)

5) Drinking (and subsequent disorderly behavior)

6) Paranormal elements (fairies and gnomes and leprechauns, oh my!)

7) The presence of various religions (and disrespect towards them too)

8) Unwise clothing choices (call the fashion police)

9) Somewhat uncivil disobedience (really, a lot of the characters are uncivil)

10) Poor dietary choices (not a good example for health nuts or dieters)

11) Dancing (in sheets, out of sheets, underground, above ground)

12) Mouthy women (who don't get much comeuppance, no indeedy)

13) Puns (I saved the worst for last)


Jody Wallace
http://www.jodywallace.com/ * http://www.meankitty.com/

Come check out my current contest to win free books and other prizes! http://www.jodywallace.com/contests.htm

Read about my upcoming Samhain release "What She Deserves" here: http://www.jodywallace.com/books/whatshedeserves.htm

03 October 2009

Excerpt time!

Following is the blurb and an excerpt from A Ghost of a Chance which released in print last week. Enjoy!


One life hangs on the thread of her imagination.

Legends, Book 2: Sequel to the award-winning Beaudry’s Ghost.

Troy Brannon is a ghost with no time for heaven. Thanks to his well-intentioned meddling, he’s got a missing soul on his hands. Fortunately he’s learned a skill no well-behaved spirit should have—the ability to zip through time and space.

A side trip to revive a drowning woman should’ve been simple. But the moment he locks lips with Carey Magennis, she generates an inner fire he’s never felt before, alive or dead—and his ability to time travel disappears.

When the rising tide closes over Carey’s head, it’s the end—but only of life as she knows it. She wakes up haunted by the idea she no longer fits in, and by the sexy, lion-hearted ghost of the man who saved her. No one wants to hear about the strange things that have been happening to her since her near-death experience, least of all her image-conscious fiancé.

Troy realizes Carey accidentally stole his gift—and she has no idea the danger she’s in. Wherever her imagination takes her, she goes with it. Literally. Plus, that fiancé of hers has an agenda that doesn’t include her survival.

Saving her will be as dangerous to his mission as she is to his heart.

*Warning: This title contains some gratuitous bad language; the sex of your dreams with a professional bad-ass hero; bloody Civil War battles; astral joy rides; and a heroine who “gets it” in more ways than one!*


Troy had never stayed in a materialized state for this long. The strain tore at him, threatened to separate the layers of his energy field and send them flying off into space like water rings from a dropped stone.

It had taken every atom of his strength to make the three-thousand-mile spatial jump, on top of staying solid long enough to rescue the woman from the flooded cave. He’d intended to bring her all the way to the top of the cliff, leave her there to be found and be on his way about finding John.

But the effort had cost him.

Troy glanced down at the face of the woman in his arms, grit his teeth and held on.
If he lost control of his energy and faltered, she would die.

His superb sense of balance, an asset in life and still now in the afterlife, didn’t fail him as he crouched on the narrow rock ledge, braced so the woman’s body wouldn’t slide off into the roiling sea. Rain slapped them from above, and the wind and waves clawed at them from everywhere else.

Risking precious balance, he used one hand to gently unwind her long, matted black hair from around his arm and away from her face. Her lips were blue and slack, her eyes partially open and dull. He lowered his face to hers, checking for breath. Nothing. He let her head roll to one side and slid his fingers to the pulse point on her neck. If any life throbbed there, he couldn’t feel it for the vibrations of wind and storm.

“Oh, no you don’t. Don’t do this to me, lady…” He tilted her head back and covered her mouth with his.

He blew once, then swayed, dizzy, feeling his grip on his materialized state slipping dangerously with the extra effort it took to breathe for her. He clenched his jaw, tilted his head back and growled deep in his chest, willing his form to stay together, just a little longer. Just until help arrived. He’d seen two people poke their heads over the cliff edge above them, so he knew it wouldn’t be long.

“Not yet,” he muttered, using the vibration of his voice to send binding messages throughout his energy field, reminding it that no matter what the laws of physics said, he was in charge here. Never mind the fact that before now he’d only managed to stay solid for a few minutes at a time, and only in dire emergencies. The last time he’d done it was for the lives of his sister and Beaudry, and for his effort he’d earned a bullet in his shoulder to keep company with the gaping hole he carried around in his chest.

He lowered his mouth and breathed for her again, turning his head to feel her automatic exhale, this time accompanied by a gush of water.

Yes! Another breath into her lungs. Were her lips slightly warmer? He left his own there for a second or two longer than necessary, testing. A faint green color flickered in front of his eyes, like the brief flash of a hummingbird, there and gone. He tore his mouth away from hers and looked up to see what kind of strange lightning this could be, then he ducked and pressed her body tightly to his as a heavy wave broke over them. The water lifted them both off the ledge, and only by sheer will did he manage to bring them back onto the ledge safely. How much higher was the tide going to rise?

He shook water from his face, pressed the woman’s body firmly between himself and the cliff wall and bent his head to hers once again. She had to start breathing on her own soon. He couldn’t keep this up.

A movement off to his right snagged his attention. A glowing figure, winged and silent, stood on a nearby ledge, observing, not moving. Her guardian angel, clearly. He spared the being a two-second glare, then lost patience.

“Hey! Aren’t you going to do anything?”

The guardian’s expression grew thoughtful, then regretful. But it didn’t move, either to help or to hinder.

“Thanks a bunch.” Troy turned back to the task at hand.


Without thinking what he was doing, he willed life into her. Closed his eyes and focused his energy inside her body, targeting her lungs, her barely fluttering heart.
This time, he felt her jaw move under his mouth, and her body flex in his arms. The weird, pale green lightning flickered around them again. Her first strong heartbeat resounded like a bell throughout his being, her first voluntary breath sucking in what he’d given her.

Then, before he could lift his mouth from hers, she breathed into him.

Troy nearly lost his balance, and flung out one arm to find a fingertip hold on the rock. Her breath filled his mouth, his chest, and even with his eyes closed he saw the faint green flickers of light strengthen, steady, intensify into a solid glow more brilliant than any Ireland had to offer on its best day. Heat rushed through him, and it took him a moment to register the fact that he felt it at all. As a ghost, normal physical sensations were foreign to him. Now every drop of rain hitting his skin felt like a needle. And his wounds, normally painless, now screamed at him.

He tore his mouth away and stared down at her. Her eyelids trembled, opened, light grey irises expanding as her pupils focused on his face. The same fiery emerald light that flashed round them burned in their depths. Even with their mouths now separated, her strengthening heartbeat rushed around him as if he were a child enveloped in her womb.

What the hell is happening to me?

If he was anywhere else but perched on a narrow ledge, an inch from losing her to the maw of the sea, he would have done a quick about-face and put as much space and time between them as possible. But stay he did, her life force growing stronger and flowing like a river under his hands, into him, through him and back to her. She seemed to be studying him, her mouth moving slightly as if trying to form words. But if she made any sound, it was swallowed by sea and storm. Then her eyes slid closed and her head rolled to nestle against his chest, fitting perfectly under his chin.

He swallowed, trying not to take in any more of the living energy that still enveloped them both. Something about it was as seductive as it was disturbing, and all his instincts screamed to get outside it and look at it from an objective distance before deciding what to do about it, if anything at all.

He took her cold hands, intending to tuck them inside her coat, when he caught sight of the diamond sparkling on her left ring finger.

She belongs to someone. Absurdly, the thought felt like a sucker punch to his gut.

He looked up, and finally, finally, he saw two people rappelling down the cliff, red-and-black jumpsuits making ripping sounds in the wind. A metal litter dangling between them.

“Take her first,” he yelled above the crashing tide as the rescuers reached them. Their reply was lost in the noise, but they quickly assessed the situation and expertly relieved him of his burden.

The instant her body separated from his, he felt himself dissolving, the last of his strength leaving as the green light faded. One of the rescuers cried out in alarm, but could do nothing as his grip on the rock slipped, and the icy grey sea closed over his head.

Copyright 2009 Carolan Ivey, all rights reserved

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For more about A Ghost of a Chance and the Legends series, read my TRS Feature Interview!

02 October 2009

Bestiary 201: Composite Beasts

For today’s bestiary lesson, we’re going to talk about a few composite creatures – those that seem to be made of the leftovers of Creation.

First, the Manticore. The Manticore is made of three elements. It has the face of a man, the blood-red body of a lion, and the tail of a scorpion. It’s from India and feasts on the flesh of men with its rows of sharp teeth. Its voice is that of pipes, or pipes blended with trumpets – somewhat incongruous for such a terrifying beast.

The Manticore, because of its human face, is often related to the Sphinx, even going so far as to make its prey answer riddles. Spiritually, it represents fraud because its face hides its true nature.

The Leucrota is another impossible combination made from the offspring of a hyena and a lioness. Now, through countless National Geographic Specials, lots of Animal Planet and, of course, “The Lion King,” we know that lions and hyenas do NOT get along, so unless there’s some kind of interspecies Romeo and Juliet thing that happened along the way, plus a good dose of miraculous genetic coding, this particular beast never existed.

Pliny the Elder went even further than hyena/lion in his description: “The leucrocota is the size of an ass, and has the neck, tail and breast of a lion, the haunches of a stag, cloven hooves, a badger's head, and a mouth that opens from ear to ear, with ridges of bone instead of teeth. It is the swiftest of wild animals, and is said to be able to imitate the human voice.”

The next two aren’t so much composite creatures in description, as much as they’re shown that way in illustration.

The Jaculus is a flying serpent often depicted with a serpent’s body, but the wings of a bird and the haunches of a beast. It waits in trees for prey to pass beneath, then jumps down and kills it.

The Cerastes is very likely a Horned Viper, which is a real snake that lives in the Sahara Desert. The medieval illustration, however, depicts a serpent with the literal head of a horned ram.

My bestiary story has been moved back in my writing queue, so there’s no guarantee on what I’ll be talking about next time I blog. I may continue in this vein, I may go back to pantheons of gods – you just never know, so stay tuned!

01 October 2009

Print releases from BtV authors today!

One life hangs on the thread of her imagination…

Legends, Book 2: Sequel to the award-winning Beaudry’s Ghost.

Troy Brannon is a ghost with no time for heaven. Thanks to his well-intentioned meddling, he’s got a missing soul on his hands. Fortunately he’s learned a skill no well-behaved spirit should have—the ability to zip through time and space.

A side trip to revive a drowning woman should’ve been simple. But the moment he locks lips with Carey Magennis, she generates an inner fire he’s never felt before, alive or dead—and his ability to time travel disappears.

When the rising tide closes over Carey’s head, it’s the end—but only of life as she knows it. She wakes up haunted by the idea she no longer fits in, and by the sexy, lion-hearted ghost of the man who saved her. No one wants to hear about the strange things that have been happening to her since her near-death experience, least of all her image-conscious fiancé.

Troy realizes Carey accidentally stole his gift—and she has no idea the danger she’s in. Wherever her imagination takes her, she goes with it. Literally. Plus, that fiancé of hers has an agenda that doesn’t include her survival.

Saving her will be as dangerous to his mission as she is to his heart.

This title contains some gratuitous bad language; the sex of your dreams with a professional bad-ass hero; bloody Civil War battles; astral joy rides; and a heroine who “gets it” in more ways than one!

Excerpt and choice of buy links here!

Sometimes a rose is more than a rose.

The Watchers, Book 2

The countdown is on for Louisville, Kentucky’s fireworks show and the Watchers are in place. Rogue vampires, being the ultimate party crashers they are, are expected to join the revelry.

Rosa Bella, standing-room-only singer at the Black Panther Lounge, has her own chaos to manage. As a vampire who manages to blend in with society, she doesn’t need any more complications. But a gorgeous one has just turned her life upside down—Vane, a Watcher assigned to hunt down and eliminate Rogues prowling the downtown streets.

Vane, dubbed “Latin Lover” by his fellow Watchers, fills his nights with his favorite letter of the alphabet, “F”—females and food. But nothing fills his empty heart like Rosa’s soft, sexy body. Still, a Watcher’s life has no room for attachments, even one who can defend herself with a pair of red stilettos.

Then two unexpected players join the game, and Rosa is thrust into the middle as the prize. They never expected their relationship to be a bed of roses, but as the festival-ending horse race looms, the only way to survive to the finish line is to face the dangers—together.

Warning: Contains sex, drugs, rock and roll, and a sexy vampire with a big appetite.

Excerpt and choice of buy links here!

Also, congrats to these BtV alumni, who also have print releases today:
Beverly Rae, I Married a Demon
Melissa Lopez, True Blue Love