31 July 2010

And now for something completely different

From what I originally planned.

Today's blog was going to be all about my ReConStruction program schedule, but it's not yet ready for prime time. The program posted on the site July 28 has some major inconsistencies. While the good folks running the con sort that out, I decided to take this opportunity to point everybody in the way of two very good causes.

You know about the first one: Save our SJ. The response to our campaign has been fantastic. The donations literally have meant the difference between life and death to one of the good guys. Thank you to everybody who contributed. If you haven't, here's thirteen reasons why you should.

If you have a little more good will to spread around, you might want to check out Trisha Wooldridge's blog-o-rama for the Bay State Equine Rescue. Trisha is a writer, food critic and the go-to person when it comes to horses. Believe me, if you write any kind of historical romance or traditional fantasy, you need her expertise. Once a year, to give back to her favorite four-legged friends, she sells guest blogs and advertising to raise money to provide a future for abused and neglected horses in Massachusetts. Today, July 31, is the day.

The best part is you don't need to do anything but enjoy the results. Trisha has assembled a first-rate group of guest bloggers to amaze and delight you. Just check out her blog from 9 a.m. Saturday to 9 a.m. Sunday. And if you feel like hitting the donate button...well, I won't tell you not to.

Meanwhile, I'll be hitting the refresh button on the ReConStruction site. The tenth North American Science Fiction Convention (i.e., the US version of the World Science Fiction Convention when WorldCon leaves the continent), coming to Raleigh, NC, August 5-8, promises great guests, splendid events, a grand time for all and two Samhain authors: Marcia Colette and me. Hope to see you there!


30 July 2010

Why do I write Romance?

Someone I used to know very well caught up with me on Facebook this past week. After swapping catch-up stories, we moved on to where-we-are-now stories…and the question came up: Why romance?

I realized I am having this conversation quite a lot recently. So I asked myself, why do I write romance? There are a lot of reasons.

I like the Fairy Tale - Happily-Ever-After - aspect. I love to see the good guy get the girl, the underdog win the day, and the villain crushed under the heel of Karma.

I love characters I can embrace and live through vicariously. Characters who embody the elements and characteristics I admire and aspire to give me an escape from my daily drudgery. Life can be monotonous and literary fiction can be downright depressing. I want to read to escape the drama of reality, not embrace it.

There is still that little girl inside me who remembers the first brush of that first crush…and every time I read a good romance, I get the thrill of reliving all those “first” moments – first sight, first kiss, first date…etc.

But wait! All those are reason why I read Romances.

And that is exactly my point. I write the type of stories I enjoy reading. I don’t want to change the world. I don’t aspire to make a statement about the oppression of women or the evils of the cycle of abuse or any other issue plaguing society today. I want to bring people joy by way of escaping the humdrum reality of real life drama.

Speaking of - if you're looking for a little escapism or a beach read for that last month of summer vacation, ANGELIC AVENGER releases in paperback August 4th. :)

28 July 2010

Finding time

I admit it, I totally recycled this post from my other group blog. But it's a good post, and the blogs have two totally different audiences. So sue me. Actually, it's pretty apropos, considering the topic...

So many people have said to me, "Oh, I wish I could write a book - but I just don't have the time!" (As if time were the only necessary element to writing). I often wonder about that. I'm a pretty busy gal myself. Now I only have one child, so I bow to those authors who are juggling the lives of their three kids, all going in separate directions. But still...
My child is active in two sports a year, and football is a time suck beyond all others.
I work (part-time) and
go to Graduate School (part-time).
Guess who's Team Mom?
I manage slush for a small publisher
I am active in two group blogs, plus am my own webmaster and I have my own blog.
I do my own book promotion.
I try and exercise five days a week. (you see how that's at the bottom of the list?)

But I still find time to write.

I think the key to finding writing time is a)scheduling and b) determination. You have to WANT to make time. And if are determined, you can make a schedule and stick to it. During the school year, I wake up at 5:30 am (yes, Virginia, there IS a 5:30 am) to read for school. At least half an hour. If I'm working that day, I have plenty of time to shower and all that. If I'm not working - bonus! I get my son up for school at 6:30 (he's a slow riser, like me). On Sundays I work on school stuff. Sometimes I write in the morning, sometimes at night, but I have a schedule and work around everything to find that writing time.

My schedule is flexible. This is key for me. Mostly I have a word goal of 500 words/day. Some days I write all 500 words at once, sometimes it's 250 in the morning and 250 at night. Sounds weird, but 500 words a day is 3,500 words a week, which is around a chapter for me, depending on what I'm working on. That's how you build a book - one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter at a time. Even if it's 300 words, that's more than you had before, right? Some days I'll write 1,000 words and some 400, but it balances out in the end.

Once we're settled into the football season, I will take my netbook and write there, since practices are pretty much dead time for me. I write at work, when the kids in my class are at special. Or I'll read for school, which frees up some home time. I write at lunch. I take Boy to play at McDonalds and write. When he was little, I wrote while he napped, or in the blessed silence between when he would go to bed and my bedtime. I watch more Netflix than TV now, too. TV is a time suck, even the good shows.

There are all kinds of nooks and crannies of time to be had if you really want to write. Sometimes, other things suffer. I don't exercise as much during the school year (it's about priorities, don't judge me :P ). You might have to say no to things people ask of you. Not that I would know anything about that, I just never can seem to do it. Just squeeze it in - who needs to clean the house, right? You may need to turn off the Facebook and stop Twittering for just a little bit, but make it a reward, like I do - NO INTERNET until the words are done.

I won't give up my writing time, and I don't know a single writer out there who will. This is what we love, and even if we have to give up sleep, it will be done!

Think for a little bit - could you find more time if for something you REALLY want?

26 July 2010

Going to Disney World, Baby.

Okay, I'm a little bit excited.

It's THAT time of the year again...the Romance Writers of America Annual (RWA) Conference.

Squeeeee!!! For four jam-packed days, I will be immersed in all things writerly. From workshops on craft, the publishing industry, and how to tame that pesky muse, I will be glued to my chair. I will be surrounded by people who are, well, writerly too (agents, editors, multi-published authors, some of the biggest names in the industry). I am getting chills just thinking about it.

During the year, I sit all alone at my desk creating worlds, lives, loves. At RWA I get to sit with thousands of others just like me with the same hopes, dreams, goals, and desires. I don't know most of them, but I KNOW them. It's amazing.

It can also be a little daunting.

I'll never forget my first conference in 2003. It wasn't sponsored by RWA, because frankly, I hadn't heard of RWA at that time. I was a clueless, young, closet-writer. I wrote lots, but worried that I stunk big-time (which, thinking back now, I probably did.) I couldn't utter the words, "I am a writer." for fear that a burly guard might boot me out of the conference for writer-impersonation.

But I went. Why? Because I knew I stunk big-time, but this was my dream--to become published. I wanted someone to teach me. I wanted to know what I didn't know (which, looking back on it was a ton!). I wanted inspiration and hope and acceptance. I had never been in one place with so many writers before. This was awesome.

And rip the guts out of your body terrifying.

During orientation it was announced that we were supposed to bring the first five pages of our manuscript to workshops lead by multi-published authors, stand up and read those five pages aloud, so that the entire class could critique them while you, or really I, crawled under the nearest table and died a thousand deaths. (No the last part wasn't mandatory, but I could see it coming in all the gory details). I was beyond myself with terror. Remember, I couldn't even mouth the words, "I am a writer." and here we were going to prove it in front of God and all those strangers!

My heart in my throat, I turned to the person sitting next to me and said something like, "Aaagggk!"

It was the last intelligible sound I made for three days. I kid you not. I developed psychosomatic laryngitis. I could not speak above a whisper for almost the entire conference!

On the third day, I wandered into a workshop where the multi-published leader read my pages for me while I held my notebook over my face and blushed like a madwoman. In the end? The members of the class cheered. It was the first time the audience had cheered and the leader recommended my piece for an award. They liked me, they really did.

And not surprisingly, my voice came back that evening.

Jump forward to the year 2010. I can say, "I am a mutli-published author!" And yet, I am nervous to go to conference. I always am. But excited too. I still want to improve my writing and I know I have a ton to learn. I want to be inspired and accepted. I want to be surrounded by people who "get me." I want to meet new friends. Most of all, I want to be that author I always knew I could be.

I hope to see you there.

Kimberley Troutte

24 July 2010

How mature are you?

Yesterday I went to visit my daughter, son-in-law, and their three children. Yes, I had a wonderful time! I also noticed something interesting: as the evening wore on, it became harder to figure out who was most mature. There was my overwhelmed daughter, the voice of reason throughout the evening. She wins most mature overall. Then things got interesting.

Youngest was the nineteen month old. Calm, happy, and fun to play with. And the most mature of the three kids. The seven year old, who should have been the most mature, was all over the place. Rowdy, mouthy, and frequently very, very sweet. He had his moments of maturity, but also moments where he seemed very much the child he is. The way it should be, I believe.

Then there was the five year old. Sweet at times, a holy terror at others, she shot shivers up every adult’s spine with her frequent “no’s” to anything she was asked to do. She’s adorable, though, and laughs all the time. We hope her desire to rule the world is a phase. Meanwhile, she stays in trouble a lot.

Then there was my son-in-law. Just home from a stressful job, he took time out to chill. And then he became the silliest one of us. Mature? Maybe not, but then, he deserves to leave his mature work persona behind.

But what about my daughter? As a stay-at-home mom, she always has to be mature. Always in charge, always having to be the voice of reason. I think she needs to relax. In fact, I think there’s a grandmother/writer/very mature woman (okay, maybe not), who needs to relax too. I see a mother-daughter lunch date in our future. With shopping. We can’t be mature all the time. Right?

Have an immature weekend, including lots of silly fun!


21 July 2010

The Hiatus is Over

I haven't written much this summer and its been both a blessing and well, a little disturbing for me.

First of all the blessing. My husband and I were absolutely blessed to be able to take two cruises this summer and we thoroughly enjoyed both of them. Its something we've never been able to do before--go on two luxurious vacations--and probably won't do for a very long time again.

But that meant I had to stop writing for a bit. So I took five weeks off my writing. The only thing I can compare this to is drugs. Not that I've ever been addicted to any sort of drugs. Well, except that time in college when I was just a teeny bit addicted to Nyquil and couldn't sleep without it (but I kicked that habit, I swear!).

So I knew I'd have to stop writing a few days before we left on trip #1 and for weeks before I wrote furiously, trying to finish the novel I'd been working on because I didn't want to interrupt the flow. Other writers know that when you're in the "zone", breaking out of it, then trying to get back into it is very, very hard. So I wrote like a fiend.

Then I stopped.

Cold turkey.

I thought I could do it. I thought it wouldn't be a big deal to stop writing.

I was wrong.

It was very strange, knowing I wasn't going to write. I'd wander around the house, a little--no, a lot--lost. At loose ends. Sort of like a brown, curled leaf, caught in a summer breeze. I'd flit here. I'd flit there. My mind couldn't focus. And I felt anxious. Nervous. I'd look longingly at my computer, my fingers twitching. Then yank my gaze away and try to concentrate on packing and the million other things I had to do.

Stories flirted with each other inside my head. Characters talked to me. Voices tried to coax me back to the computer.

I felt like I lost a part of myself.

By the time we left for the trip, I didn't give my computer, or my characters, a second thought. In fact, on the trip I rarely thought about my writing which is weird because I always think about my writing.

I returned, glanced at my laptop, then dismissed it. I had three weeks before I was leaving again. No sense in getting entrenched in another story when I'd just have to leave it again. I read books, watched TV. Every once in a while I felt a little lost. Like I had too much time on my hands and had no idea how to fill it.

We went on our second trip. I thought a lot more about my stories. One in particular kept nagging at me because it was partially set in the Caribbean, where I was vacationing. I realized I'd made some mistakes in describing an island and decided I'd have to change the location altogether.

Then I returned, looked at my laptop, and walked away from it. For two days I avoided it. But like the drug that it is, my writing kept calling to me until eventually I sat down, opened up my current work in progress and breathed a sigh of relief.


This is where I am supposed to be, sitting here, typing words that will eventually form characters who will become real people in my mind. Stories that will take you away from your life.

And like the drug that it is, my stories have a firm hold on me once again.

But unlike being addicted to a drug, I'm happy where I am. Happy to be "home" in my mind, with the people I've invented who are very, very real.

After five weeks, I'm back!

ps - the above photo is a picture I took of Nassau, Bahamas while on my hiatus

17 July 2010

A Heartfelt Thanks!

I’d always considered becoming bald and ugly like my brother as a fate worse than death. But I’ve been losing a lot of hair lately so guessed it was inevitable. And I knew my legs and arms were getting thinner over the months because of all the exercise I got from my job, even though the heavy chest pains worried me some, the Doctors kept telling me there was nothing wrong with my heart.

In fact everything looked perfectly normal for an eccentric, wacko Brit like me. Aside from my usual problems—the voices in my head, the purple rash which I’m not going to say where, and the tendency to hunch over the PC like it was a demon dwarf bringing beer from the local bar—but, hey, I’ve had those problems for years. And everyone has to have something to complain about or life isn’t worth living, what?

Honestly it’s hard to tell how long I’ve genuinely been worried, and tried to talk to various medical and non-professional people about what I was seeing. Mostly to be ignored, alas.

So when, after the thousandth-thousandth ER admission into the hospital, I was finally told my pancreas was functioning at a level so low it was practically dead, it came as something of a shock. Perhaps even more disturbing was learning that having a non-functioning pancreas meant my body was no longer absorbing the protein I needed from the food I ate. So it was taking it from a local storehouse stocked with the delicious must have molecules—my muscles (of which, alas, the heart is one).

That explained a lot. The thinning of my arms and legs, the awful cramps I was getting, the loss of hair (turning me into an ugly bald guy like my brother) the constant exhaustion and the increasing heart pains. For the last year or so at least, my body has been eating my muscles away like they were gourmet candy with a soft gooey center. Yum! Well, if you’re a part of me that needed protein anyway it was probably very yum.

My doctor was very positive about it. She’s known people without a pancreas who have lived for years.

Let me rephrase that.

She’s known people without a pancreas—and very good medical insurance—who have lived for years.

Of course the key phrase in that latter sentence is the one which clangs the clanger and dings the bell. Working as a cashier at Meijer’s doesn’t qualify as a source for a good medical insurance. (In truth I had to relinquish the coverage after my first year since their insurance was actually preventing me from getting medical coverage for my diabetes and pancreas treatments.)

And the recommended treatment for a lack of a pancreas is good, many folks around the internet have reported living a fairly normal life on Ultrase. Although I will have to take it as a lifetime regime, without the treatment the long term prognosis isn’t good.

The only kicker is that the cost of one month’s prescription of enzymes is more than my week’s wage. Certainly not something my wife and I can afford on a very tight budget. So we’d hit the end of the road, and it was a rather bleak looking one. But then bleak roads often have some amazing turns, and this one has been as full as surprises as it has fears.

While we wait to see if I can qualify for prescription assistance from the pharmaceutical company; our friends, fellow writers and sometimes almost complete strangers have stepped up and found ways to help me afford the—literally lifesaving—medication until a decision or alternative supply is found. From the simple expediency of sending cash, setting up a donation site and even making plans for writing and dedicating an anthology to help raise funds for my treatment. These are all things we hadn’t expected to see

All I can say is my wife and I are overwhelmed. To Jean Marie, Carolan, all the writers at the Beyond the Veil blog and everyone who has helped us in whatever way they can we are extremely grateful and I don’t know if we can ever repay the kindness you’ve all shown. You’ve given us some kind of hope that things may work out, that I may get to write some of the gadzillion novels that are bouncing around in my mind.

And having hope for the future, and in particular not turning ugly and bald, is probably the best news we’ve been given. Ever.

Thanks for everything. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as this situation is by no means resolved as yet. Until I can find a way to acquire a lifetime’s supply of the medication my life is simply on the line.

We will keep you all posted. Hopefully the news will be good.

S.J. and Tree

16 July 2010

Summer stretch

Writer's are similar to athletes... except that we spend the majority of our time sitting on our butts. We have to. Have you ever tried typing while walking, running or working out on a treadmill? Not easy. Actually, it's a good way to get hurt.

The way we're similar, however, comes into play when we work on our craft. An athlete has to stretch their muscles... to push themselves just a little harder and further in order to improve their game. Writers need to do the same thing -- only the muscle we stretch is more cerebral.

If you have a favorite writer, you may notice, from time to time, that their stories sound a little stale. I can't tell you how easy it is to get in a rut. I find myself leaning toward a very specific type of heroine, for example. I've also noticed that there are certain plot devices I tend to favor. That's all well and good -- as long as I don't let my stories get boring. I don't want you to think I simply change the location and character names to create a new book. Who'd want to read it? Not me.

This summer I'm shaking things up a bit. I did this once before when I turned a would-be, somewhat standard romantic suspense into a paranormal romantic suspense. That turned out very well, btw. ;) Now I'm finishing book two, and stretching those writing muscles all the way. This hero is not my typical alpha.

So far, so good, but what I can I possibly do to get a better work-out? How can I stretch my writing muscles just that much more?

I think I've found the answer: Steampunk. No, not because it's all the rage, but because I love the genre... have even before it earned such a special designation. Remember Wild Wild West? Sexy. Funny. And oh-so cool. ;)

So now this new idea is percolating. One featuring a feisty bounty hunter and her shifter prey. Steampunk style, naturally, with funky goggles, gadgets and corsets. Not to mention those steam-powered machines. Yeah, this should be fun. And a challenge, which is the best way to give the gray-matter a work-out.

I take what I know I can write... and add something new to the mix. Another level to the plot. Another element to the story. Something that makes me work for just the right mix. Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes I'm overcome by the urge to bang my head on the keyboard or nearest wall. I frequently have to step back; take a breath; ask my resident consultant for some plot ideas; etc. But it's the best way I've found to keep my muse from losing the spark.

Now if I could only come up with a good way to exercise my butt, as well. ;)

11 July 2010

Sunday Snippets: Passages from SJ Willing's Free Fiction

Sorry I'm late with my monthly post. I was kidnapped by a man on a Harley yesterday and whisked off for a day in the sun. :)

If you haven't read SJ Willing's wealth of fantastic, funny, deliciously sexy FREE fiction, you're missing out! Check it out on his Coffee Time Romance forum.


“Really girls,” Wolf chastised them. “You shouldn’t be walking around naked while a man is watching you.”

“A man…?” Fox squeaked.

“…watching us?” Lynx chirped.

Both women dashed to the balcony and dangled over it, searching for their elusive voyeur.

“He’s in here, silly.”

Still excited the two girls turned around and began searching behind the curtains and in the cupboards.

“He’s standing right in front of you.” Wolf added, exasperated.

Fox and Lynx paused to look at Wolf.

“Oh!” Lynx said at last. “I think she means Lion.”

“Lion?” Fox stuttered. “He’s not a man, he’s married.”

“To Otter,” Lynx agreed.

“Damn,” Fox flumped down at the breakfast bar, disappointed.

“Damn, too” Lynx joined her.

Lion swallowed, glanced down at his perfectly athletic body, muscles to die for, and felt about as useful as a butt plug at a gay bar.

“Well, just keep your clothes on around here, okay. The poor fellow is already having fits by the looks of it.”

Lion felt himself blush as Wolf pointedly looked at the front of his pants.

“Don’t worry about that,” Fox stage whispered, “It’s only padding.”

~From Lethal Lion


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.”

From Scorpion's Sting


Wolf was beginning to sweat. Well, could you blame her, being this close to ten of the hottest men in the world, all of them, she was almost certain, sporting hard-on’s that would make a decent stallion jealous.

On top of which, a few in-flight brandies had made the in-flight conversation skew to the, uh, rather risqué.

Well, risqué, maybe not. But hearing how Alfonso, step by step, seduced his latest conquest with no censorship at all, would make any red-blooded woman hot.

And she had a feeling they knew it too. After all they’d been flying now for nearly ten hours.

It was with a kind of relief when the pilot came out and made his way towards her. Obviously with some kind of report to give.

“Madam Wolf,” he spoke softly in a French accent that, if she’d been wearing panties, would have talked them off her in a moment flat. “Is bad news, yes. The vessel taking your team to the Antarctic has it a few problems, is likely to be delayed a few weeks.”

“Damn,” Wolf whispered back. “Weeks? How am I going to delay these guys for weeks?” She sighed then shook her head. “Okay, how long can you keep the jet flying before you need to land for fuel?”

He looked at her, surprised. “Did they not tell you, Madam. This is the special nuclear powered jet. She can fly for five years without stopping for fuel.”

“Really? Oh my gosh, how wonderful.” Wolf started to think fast. How could she use this to her advantage? “It has an autopilot, yes.”

“The most efficient in the world, Madam.”

“We might need to engage that then, and pretend that you’ve had some kind of accident and can’t land the plane.”

“It is already engaged, Madam, and it—“

The airplane suddenly flipped over and back again, bouncing around in a rather large airpocket. When it straightened out Wolf found herself upside down in one of the seats, in her usual, unfortunate position.

“Is it? Could it possibly be…?” One of the HUNKs asked.

“No, surely not. She looks so different.”

“I’ll bet you fifty thousand lira it is.”

“But, she looks so familiar and so, different.”

“Ah, let me try something.”

Wolf blushed bright red as gentle fingers toyed with her pubic hair and removed the sunglasses.

“Ah, magnifico, it is her.”

-- From A Lively Lark with CTR's Angels


“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.”

--From Gentle Jaguar Enjoys the View


Then, of course, there's the fabulous through-story SJ wrote for DunVegas.

Thank you to every who has donated so far toward SJ's much needed medication. The donation link will remain on the Dunvegas page and here on the BtV blog for as long as SJ needs it.


07 July 2010

Show Me the Way to Go Home

I'm just home from a long holiday road trip. Five days away left me equal parts wonderfully exhausted, warmly buzzed from being with family I don't have a chance to see often enough, and eager to get home so I could see my husband, whose work schedule didn't let him come with us for the fun. I keep randomly grinning from the little snippet-memories I'm getting of things that made me laugh over the weekend.

It's about an eight hour car trip to my sister's house. We've done the trip so many times that there isn't much that is shiny and new along the route, other than the occasional new construction area that slows traffic to a crawl. Not exactly the sort of new I look forward to. And I'm very much an "It's about the destination, not the journey" person when it comes to this sort of road trip. If I only have 5 days, I want to get there and start having fun with the people I'm going there to see.

So the 16 hours in the car that bracket these family visits have been the least favorite part of this trip for a long time. And this is in spite of the fact that the kids are really great travelers. They know bickering will make Mom a NOT happy person, and when a NOT happy person is in charge of snacks, drinks, and potty breaks... well, let's just say they are sharp enough to know not to go there. But I didn't like that the trip there and back had become something we just endure.

Then a few years ago I picked up an audiobook right before the trip. I think my daughter was 6 then, and my son 14. And suddenly, the words "Are we there yet" all but disappeared from our road trip dialogue. Instead, before we're even out of our neighborhood I hear "Start the book Mom!"

The only real challenge to this is finding a book that appeals to both kids and me. My son is 16 now, and my daughter 8. Not a whole lot of overlap in their reading interests. But having it read aloud means that I can introduce my daughter so some books she isn't quite ready to tackle on her own just because her reading vocabulary isn't quite there, as long as I keep the genre one my son likes. Luckily the fantasy genre, his favorite, has a large number of young adult authors that fit our niche very sweetly.

This trip we found a new-to-us author, Garth Nix. His book "Sabriel" was a perfect mix of magic, with a talking cat (who isn't really a cat), a young female heroine with enough male voices to keep my son happy, and a storyline that was kept us all entranced. The unabridged audio was just over 11 hours, leaving us enough downtime that my daughter could nap a bit and I could get my NPR fix. And we made it there and back having heard a great story, perfectly framing the wonderful family time that was the main reason for the trip.

I'm already looking forward to our next family trip. I'm not sure what we'll listen to next time. Something YA, so the content isn't too "adult" for the now 8 year old. Something with magic, and either cats, horses, or dragons. (Unicorns are cool too!) Something no more than 14 hours unabridged, and at least 8. Any suggestions?

06 July 2010

In the Spotlight: Dante I

As our way of saying thank you for the amazing, wonderful, fabulous response to Beyond the Veil’s Save Our SJ fund drive—and to give you a taste of what all the fuss is about—today we’re posting the jacket copy and an excerpt from SJ’s newest release, Dante I. Thank you again from all of us, and especially SJ!

Their love could save the planet—or blow it all to hell.

PIACT Undercover Agents, Book 3

Two years on the Separatist-controlled planet of Dante I, and undercover PIACT agent Tomas Valcino is no closer to contacting the underground rebellion. As if imminent mission failure isn’t bad enough, he can’t shake his lust for the prefect’s beautiful daughter, Yumi Rebyj. The distraction must not tear him away from duty.

Every time Tomas’s eyes find her, Yumi’s insides melt like the molten planet below them. But she’s got her hands full leading the rebels, caring for her sick father, and fending off the Separatist leader’s advances. Plus, she already knows that Tomas isn’t who he says he is. She just isn’t sure whose side he’s on.

An assassination attempt drives Tomas to take Yumi into hiding. In close quarters, all is stripped away. Secrets. Lies. And clothes.

Then the discovery of a new technology drives the Separatists to step up their campaign of cruelty to expose the rebels, once and for all. Tomas and Yumi’s connection is Dante I’s only hope—but it could be too little, too late.

Warning: Hunks, Heroines and major warfare in close quarters—and locked cells. Ahem. We won’t forget the pair of panties that bravely gave its all in the making of this novel.

Chapter One

Yumi Rebyj closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of the man beneath her. Tomas Valcino, a special metals consultant, had arrived on Dante I a mere two years ago. He’d driven Yumi crazy every day since, simply by being around. It must be illegal the way his muscles rippled as he moved; just watching him made her shiver with lust. When he gazed at her, those pale blue eyes never failed to send a tingle running through her body. Still, none of that could compare to having him in bed. Now that was—

“Would you like me to put it in now?”

Startled, Yumi opened her eyes and peered over the railing. Lying on the floor below the catwalk, long black hair splayed against the steel floor, Tomas poked amongst the circuitry of the Secondary Mining Terminal. In his free hand he held a datacard loaded with clean datacubes. His puzzled look as he watched her made her blush. What would he think if he knew the daydreams she had about him? Not that they would be anything other than daydreams. Between running the Bolgër—the resistance forces—managing Dante I’s constant flux of mining skippers, and Tomas’s very obvious lack of interest in her, Yumi very much doubted her dreams would come true.

Suppressing a sigh she leaned back, staring up for a moment at the rock above her. Living in an asteroid circling the molten planet below had a lot of advantages, but unfortunately being able to see anything other than rock wasn’t one of them. Forcing her heart and mind to calm she looked down again.

Tomas still looked at her, expecting an answer to his query.

Yumi glanced over to the main control panel. Zshanna stood there, a curious smile playing over her lips as she waited for Yumi’s directions. Damn. Yumi knew from that smile she’d just told Zshanna far too much, given away too many thoughts. Zshanna, a Poseidian by birth, may be one of the most proficient data operatives Yumi had, but the tech’s psyche abilities could be embarrassing as well as extremely useful. Zshanna had filtered out almost all of the Separatist infiltrators who attempted to worm their way into the Bolgër. Without her abilities the resistance would have been crushed years ago. Of course, it also meant Yumi barely held a secret she could call her own.

There had been only two people Zshanna couldn’t get a fix on. Both were natural Melds with thought patterns so stubbornly fixed and immutable Zshanna was unable to single out anything but the most basic thoughts. The first, five years ago, had turned out to be a Separatist spy who eliminated several of the Bolgër cells and the Federation agents assigned to them, before he was discovered. The second was Tomas, a man with an ironclad history woven in the Ultranet. A history that was a little too perfect. There were also the odd things he did now and then, almost as if he were looking for the resistance forces. The Bolgër kept a careful eye on him, taking no chances that he might be a second Separatist spy.

Still, after one intense session where Zshanna attempted a Meld breakthrough she determined, other than personal things, Tomas’s absolute hatred of the Separatists. The images had been enough to satisfy Zshanna that Tomas posed no threat to the Bolgër. They knew too little to invite him into their fold, and enough not to be concerned about his poking around, so the surveillance on him was light. This was great, not only because of his good looks, but he’d also turned out to be one of the best damn SpecMets Yumi had ever known. In the two years since Tomas arrived he’d improved the special metals extraction and purification process by almost two hundred percent. Incidentally saving a few lives at the same time by meeting the absurdly high Separatist quotient demands. Personal feelings aside, Yumi, and the colony, couldn’t afford to lose him.

She couldn’t afford to lose Zshanna either. If the Separatists ever discovered Zshanna’s abilities the Poseidian would be in the grunge tank, brain dissected, faster than a plasma bubble burst. Yumi would die before she let that happen.

“Ma’am?” Tomas asked again.

“Yes, just a moment, Tomas,” Yumi blurted out, amazed he didn’t show even a trace of impatience. She became too easily distracted nowadays, maybe because the uprising was so close. “Zshanna, how are the multiplex Riener circuits doing?”

“Around seventy-five percent optimum,” Zshanna answered, grinning back. “They’ll hold if the Secondary burns out again.”

“Okay, Tomas, you can put it in.” Yumi almost cursed, blushing bright red again. Fortunately Tomas had slipped under the unit and couldn’t see her embarrassment. She definitely needed a break from Dante I and the oppressive Separatist culture. Time away, with someone really sexy—like Tomas.

They were rewarded when the Secondary hummed gently back to life. Yumi relaxed a little. It wasn’t a vital piece of the colony’s systems since it mainly worked as a backup in case the Primary failed. Experience, though, had taught Yumi not to delay repairs even on the secondaries.

“Well done everyone,” she congratulated them. “Repaired in less than five hours and we didn’t have to call the Techs in. Good work!”

Her own work had begun though. The Secondary had been sabotaged and she had to find the saboteur before the occupying Separatists did. She’d already set several cells of the Bolgër on the task. It certainly wasn’t the work of the underground resistance themselves. The sabotage had been sloppy and the Secondary of too little importance to destroy. This had been something personal against the Separatists, through a relatively easy target.

She watched Tomas edge out from under the terminal, and the familiar feeling of lust coursed through her. When this was all done, maybe…

“Ah, I see you have it working. Good.” Colonel Marcus Saeger walked up to her smiling. “And I have several pieces of good news for you.”

Yumi grimaced. Good news to a Separatist colonel wasn’t normally something people wanted to hear. Not that she had much choice nowadays. Ever since her father’s illness—losing the supply of Federation anti-aging drugs had finally taken its toll—she’d been called in more often than normal lately to represent him on matters of colony policy. Not for the first time she wished Father hadn’t surrendered so easily to Separatist rule. Yes, they probably would have all died trying to stem a Separatist invasion. Surely, though, it would have been preferable to dying like this, one day at a time.

With a shock, Yumi realized this was the seventh year of Separatist occupation in the Dante system. During those years she’d seen their population steadily decline despite a steady influx of workers. Only seven thousand now lived in The Rock, instead of the nine thousand there used to be. She’d heard rumors the losses were even greater on Dante V, or The Fiver, as her people called the frozen planetoid that spun in the lonely fifth orbit. All the losses, it was pretty obvious to everyone, could be traced to Marcus’s administration, his treatment and frequent execution of Dante’s colonists.

“You know I’m always interested in your good news,” Yumi lied. As she spoke she walked toward the Prefect’s office—officially her father’s office though Yumi would be inheriting it soon. She tried not to think about that too often. “So what’s happened?”

Marcus brushed a hand through his hair. The shocking red color, like the dusky red tone to his skin, had been genetically induced to increase his natural resistance to solar radiation. Marcus’s home, Stallas VI, was one of the nine foundation worlds of the Separatist Dynasty. Its people had been engineered to survive on the planet surface in the high radiation system.

“Well,” Marcus said. “We found your saboteur last night. She was trying to stow away on a shuttle flight to The Fiver.” Marcus spoke loudly, making his presence felt amongst the nervous Control Room staff. “One of your Techs, Stela Magrow, seems she had some complaint with our policies.”

Damn! Yumi swore at herself. She should have seen this happening. The policy Stela felt unhappy about occurred five months ago. The distraught Tech had filed charges against five Separatist soldiers who’d spent one night raping her—simply because they were bored. The charges were instantly dismissed by the Separatist legal system as trivial. The Separatists even refused to undergo tests to determine the father of her unborn child.

Yumi, like every other Dantian, hated the Separatist policies that left Separatist soldiers free to terrorize the colonists. She knew she’d been stupid, but now it was too late. She should have smuggled Stela out of system months ago to one of the Federation-owned safe quarters the Bolgër maintained. Then again, there’d been no physical contact with the Federation for almost five years and no radio contact for almost two. Getting Stela to safe quarters, which had more than likely been compromised, would have killed everyone involved.

Yumi was left with the task of rescuing Stela from the grunge room and hiding the poor woman from the Separatists somewhere in the belly of The Rock. Probably with the small Bolgër army she had in The Crypts. God knew how they’d managed to maintain their forces there for so long without anyone noticing.

Yumi turned into a small tube-like corridor. Here the walls were highly polished, indicating the tunnel had been cut by the V.T.M., the superbly efficient Vinder Tunnel Drill. A few more yards down and she stopped in front of the Prefect’s office. Marcus, with that damned superior smile on his face, stopped with her. Short of taking a small tank into the heart of Separatist territory there was very little she could do for Stela. Unless, and it was rare, Zshanna could find a bribable guard.

“I’m glad you found her.” Yumi smiled as the doors automatically slid open. It was a lie, of course, but she daren’t let him know how she truly felt. “We need more manpower on the ore-smelting line. She can join the other prisoners there. It won’t take more than a few days for her to regret her actions.”
Yumi walked into the outer office, passing Vhal and Melindra. The two assistants sat behind their desks busily working on the latest ore shipment and mining figures. Their desks, like most of the furnishing in Dante I, were fabricated from crushed rock obtained from the tunnel drills. Here and there within the highly polished surface of the dark-gray stone was the sparkle of silver, copper and gold.

“I’m afraid Stela can’t join the line,” Marcus said. Yumi’s stomach twisted, anticipating his next words with dread. “She died an hour ago while under questioning.” Marcus made sure Vhal and Melindra heard everything he said.

Stiffly, barely able to keep her temper, Yumi walked the last few steps to the inner office in silence. Touching her fingers to the lockpad she stepped back and let the door slide open. Once inside, with the door closed, she turned to face Marcus. Only sheer determination prevented her from shouting at him.
“I wish you would refrain from this continued depletion of our personnel resources.” She spoke calmly in spite of seething with every word. “We’re twelve percent undermanned as it is and we’ve had no replacements from The Fiver, or out of system, for over six months.”

Marcus, unruffled by her words, simply sat on the edge of the desk and looked at her. A knowing smile pasted on his face. A stupid, aquiline face she wanted to slap silly.

“The second piece of good news,” Marcus continued, “is your father has given us permission to marry.”
“Father has what!” Yumi held onto a tall cabinet next to her. Weakness washed over her. What had he done to her father! No. Doctor Lasky ranked as Second Lieutenant in the Bolgër. He’d never let a Separatist, even a colonel, near her father. Not while her father remained too ill to care for himself. Walking carefully to the desk, Yumi went behind it and sat in her father’s chair. She refused to show her fear to this murderer. “I understood Dr. Lasky’s orders were no visitors,” Yumi said. “I’m surprised he let you in.”
“Dr. Lasky is in the infirmary.” Marcus’s face held a look of, Yumi assumed, mock sympathy. “Several members of the Bolgër assaulted him last night. He’ll be lucky to survive.”

Yumi shook her head sadly. It wouldn’t be the first time Separatist soldiers had disguised themselves as resistance fighters, just enough of a disguise to confuse the few witnesses who’d see the attack.

Marcus’s men always made sure there were reliable witnesses to make the Bolgër unfavorable to the frightened colonists. “I took the liberty of assigning Dr. Krog to your father,” Marcus added. “He assured me a short visit wouldn’t tax your father too much. Just long enough for your father to understand my arguments for a strong male leader in the colony. Appreciating that, he agreed to our wedding.”

“Ah.” Yumi nodded. In other words Marcus’s men hospitalized Dr. Lasky so Marcus could install his favorite toady, Dr. Krog, in Lasky’s place. Then Marcus had the freedom to torture her father until he agreed to the wedding. It had to have been torture. Yumi knew her father enough to know he’d never go against Dante I’s deeply ingrained custom of Prefect inheritance. Neither would the workers accept non-family inheritance—which was why Marcus forced her father to approve of this marriage.

Seriously concerned for her father’s safety, and that of the colony, Yumi shuffled the papers on the desk. Trying to calm her nerves, she filed the unneeded ones in a drawer—she’d sort them later. For now she daren’t allow her thoughts to wander through dangerous assumptions. She needed to think clearly. The stakes in this deadly game of occupation and resistance had suddenly tripled.

“So when is the wedding date?” Yumi continued as steadily as she could. “How long do I have to get the wedding dress ready?” By how much did she need to accelerate the rebellion preparations?

“Three weeks,” Marcus said, looking way too smug. “My Procurer is already working on your wedding chains.” He took the remaining papers from her hand and scanned through them as he spoke. “You should be proud. General Tarug himself will be arriving on the Ultimate tomorrow. He’s decided to stay for the wedding.” He extracted a couple of the reports, folded them and put them in his pocket, then dropped the rest on the table.

Damn. She’d have to see if Vhal and Melindra could work out which reports were missing and duplicate them.

Obviously deciding business was over, Marcus leaned forward. He grasped her around the back of her neck and forced a hard, unwelcome kiss on her. Stunned, Yumi couldn’t react immediately because Marcus stepped away before she could brain him. Being out of reach and unable to cause him physical damage was, in itself, probably a good thing.

“I’ll call on you later,” he told her as he stepped toward the door. “I’m going to start organizing this colony the way it needs to be done.”

Organizing the colony? Chains? For her wedding?

Yumi shuddered. The chains meant Marcus planned for a typical Separatist ceremony. Yumi couldn’t let it happen. She refused to be given to his best men the night before the wedding then dragged to the ceremony the following day—bruised, beaten and very naked. In a true Separatist marriage the woman became little more than a slave.

Yumi gritted her teeth. Thanks to the Federation’s anti-aging drugs she’d had seventy-three years to learn how to control what her father called her hair-trigger temper. Somehow they’d accelerate the rebellion by three weeks. The only trigger Yumi intended to pull then was one that blasted a bullet through Marcus’s heart…

Ahem. Dying to read more? You don’t need to go quite that far. Simply click here to order the book from My Bookstore and More.

01 July 2010

Thursday Thirteen: Thirteen Reasons to Save our SJ

SJ Willing, one of our favorite people and the author of the frame story for Dunvegas, is in trouble. Five years after pancreas surgery that was supposed to fix things, but didn't, his pancreas has shut down completely. With proper medication, he can thrive. Without it, he will die. Soon. The problem is he doesn't have insurance to cover it and the meds cost over $250 a month.
The rest of us at Beyond the Veil are doing a number of things to help out. We'll announce them as they go live. But there's one thing you can do right now. If you've ever read Dunvegas--or if you're even thinking about it--please, click on the new Donate button we've added to the Dunvegas cover page. Here are thirteen reasons why:

1. Without SJ's tale of Roger Ing and Amanda Uhndame there wouldn't be a Dunvegas to enjoy.

2. In the close quarters of Dante 1, SJ's most recent sexy futuristic romance about the undercover agents of PIACT, everything the hero and heroine have is stripped away. Secrets. Lies. Clothes.

3. Dante 1 provides a happily ever after for its hero and heroine, but there's still another major romance left to be resolved. C'mon, you can't leave them hanging that way forever.

4. Agent Double D3, whose advice is crucial to helping us keep those special relationships with the werewolves, vampires, zombies, ghosts and mummies as, um, special as they need to be.

5. You don't have to give much. This really is a case of little things add up.

6. The new cover for Poseidon VII, the second in SJ's erotic futuristic series about the sexy and romantic agents of PIACT, deserves some cover love.

7. The bath scene in Poseidon VII deserves... well, let's say you'll enjoy it--and the elevators--a lot.

8. Free fiction--SJ shares a lot of it, both on Beyond the Veil and his web site.

9. Every dime of the money donated will go to SJ.

10. He needs to stick around to see Space Burps, his hilarious (really, I've beta read it) science fiction comedy get published and make the USA Today bestseller list.

11. Cyberius III, the award-winning first installment of the PIACT undercover space agents series.

12. All the wonderful novels he hasn't finished yet.

13. Because if we don't help each other, who will help us?