31 October 2013

Digging Up Bones...Okay, Not Really!

Happy Halloween, or Blessed Samhain, everyone!

Having recently become a licensed motorcycle rider, I'm quite conscious of keeping my own bones (and titanium replacement parts) intact, thankyouverymuch. :)  Since I became a rider, I've gotten into watching motorcycle video blogs, aka "motovlogs", on Youtube. I love the strong sense of community, the diversity, and the welcoming, encouraging spirit among motovloggers.

So, while I don't yet have a fancy, helmet-mounted video cam set-up, I took my regular Canon PowerShot with me on a quick ride to take advantage of a rare, late-fall warm-up. I've ridden down to Sidecut Metropark, near Maumee, Ohio, many times, but never took the time to walk around the historic cemetery perched on the banks of the river.

So, for your Halloween pleasure, here is my first vlog, a walkaround of Riverside Cemetery near Maumee, Ohio, which is practically within the shadow of Fallen Timbers Battlefield. Feel fee to giggle at my stuttering and clumsy attempts at video editing!

Following my vid are links to three of my favorite spooky videos. Enjoy!! Have a safe (and hopefully dry) Halloween!

And now, three of my favorite spooky videos!

Castle Ghosts of Wales

Castle Ghosts of Ireland

Castle Ghosts of Scotland

~Carolan Ivey
Youtube Channel 

30 October 2013

Revenge Fantasies, Anyone?

This month's theme is Digging up Bones: Releasing our Ghosts through Writing. Though I write paranormal and fantasy romance and am about to release my first urban fantasy, I'm not a supernaturally inclined person. I'm not much of a believer, though worldbuilding and researching various phenomena remains fascinating, and I certainly don't knock people who have different beliefs than me.

But releasing ghosts through writing could also refer to stress or memories. Or journaling, as pointed out by A Catherine Noon (http://paranormalauthors.blogspot.com/2013/09/dem-bones-dem-bones.html). Me, if I have ghosts I need to release, it's probably all the dad gum revenge fantasies that occasionally play in my head like movies.

I don't know that this is a particularly writerly trait--perhaps just a surly, mean one--but it does give rise to some interesting situations in my writing. I won't say whether or not any scenes in my books are taken directly from real life, but the feelings of frustration, the fist shaking at the lack of justice in the world, and the way difficult situations frequently turn out for the worse are things we can pour in stories if we choose.

Things we can even rectify, in a way real life doesn't allow.

Anybody else out there enjoy a good revenge fantasy?


On that note, I'd like to share the first couple pages of my very-soon-to-be-released urban fantasy, THE WHOLE TRUTH (http://jodywallace.com/books/the-whole-truth/) , where our heroine, who can see lies but has never met anyone like herself, realizes that her real life is about to change. To find out what wrongs she gets to rectify in the course of her story, I hope that this book will go live on Amazon and Smashwords in the next couple days!


Chapter 1
I see shadows. But not dead people.

When they found me, they weren’t ninjas, just garden-variety men in black. Excuse me, people in black. The frustrating part wasn’t that they invaded my home but that I should have been expecting it. After all, I’m the only person I’ve ever met who can do what I can do. Besides write advertising copy. Anybody can do that as long as they have a penchant for buzz words and hyperbole.

No, as far as I know, I’m the only freak like me in existence. I should have been ready for this to happen. I should have had a bag packed, with stylish travel wear and airline-friendly cosmetics.

But I didn’t. They caught me completely unaware. I’m stupid that way, even if I can discover any truth by asking the right questions.

I got home from another late night, after a normal week at work, if there is such a thing. I unlocked the door, cursed it when it stuck, and had almost kicked it shut when I noticed them.

A man and woman I’d never seen before were in my living room watching my newest indulgent purchase. Wait, technically that would be my new Kate Spade purse. While it’s sparkly, it doesn’t do any tricks worth staring at. They were watching my widescreen TV.

The man rose when he noticed me, as if he always stood when a female entered the room. He inhaled audibly but made no sudden moves.

Had I surprised their….illicit TV viewing?

“What the hell are you doing in my house?” I asked from the safety of the foyer. I would have taken off without asking questions, but they didn’t seem aggressive. I mean, they’d been absorbed in Andy Griffith.

The man’s lips parted slightly. Then he gave a sharp nod.

“Cleopatra Giancarlo?” he asked, smoothing the lapel of his expensive suit.

“Maybe.” I propped the door open with my toe, tensed to run. “Maybe not.”

“I see you were working late again, Miss Giancarlo,” he said.

“Working late isn’t a crime.” Unless you were a mobster or something. When the man didn’t respond, I continued.

“Who are you people?” Let them try to claim they were friends. Let them try to lie to me. I didn’t step away from the door.

The man glanced at the woman. She shrugged.

“My name is John Arlin. This is my partner, Samantha Graves. We’re happy to meet you, Miss Giancarlo.”

Their actual names, and they were honestly happy to meet me.

Samantha reclined against the arm of my sofa with my cat—my cat!—in her lap. I hoped Boris got hairballs all over her spiffy tweed.

She smiled at me. Her teeth were unnaturally white. “Shut the door,” she said. “You’re letting in mosquitoes.”

I backed onto the porch, only to notice a gigantic man in a dark suit step out of a vehicle at the curb. He was nearly twice as tall as the car. He waved.

Safer inside or outside?

Outside lurked their giant. Inside I could see their masks if they lied. I went in, closed the door, and held my keychain at the ready. I’d read somewhere you could stab people in the eyeball with your key to incapacitate them. Provided you had the guts to do so.

“Please don’t feel threatened. We just want to talk.” John adjusted a sleeve and glanced at his watch. His dark jacket parted to reveal a crisp white dress shirt and…

Did I see a holster?

“You’re in my house without my permission. I feel threatened.” I inched into the room, toward the phone, my cell having disappeared in the depths of my work satchel three days ago. I knew it was there because I could call myself. I just couldn’t find the damn thing.

“I apologize for that. Time has become critical, and it was expedient to meet you in private, instead of making an appointment.”

Was it true? I squinted, trying to detect the shadow that formed around the faces of any liars in my line of vision. No darkening. He was being honest.

It occurred to me that John and Samantha could be the people who wanted to buy the house from my landlord. The old coot threatened to sell the place out from under me every time I complained about the parking lot, if you could call a ten foot wide section of rubble a parking lot.

John continued. “Dinner’s in the fridge. Pastrami and jack on sourdough.”

Good guess…but the sandwich put him out of the running for home buyer. “You didn’t break into my house to talk sandwiches. Why are you here?”

“We have some information for you about an opportunity,” he said. “Will you hear us out?” He had yet to display a mask, the shadow veneer that appeared in front of a liar’s face, which did ease my nerves. That didn’t mean I was going to let my guard down.

“Cut the solicitous crap. What do you want? My television?” I doubted it, because their car outside wasn’t big enough to transport it, but bravado seemed smarter than fear. “Take it, I have renter’s insurance.”

He stepped closer, and I became aware of the fact he was tall, not to mention built. I was short. Could I key-poke his eye or not? More like his throat. Wasn’t the spot between your collarbones vulnerable? I patted my non-key-holding hand against my breastbone to check, my heavy work satchel thumping my hip.

John picked up my cordless telephone from the bookcase next to the couch and extended it to me. “The minute we make you nervous, dial the police.”

“I’m nervous right now.” I pressed various areas on my throat to test which was most stickable. Nervous people did that, protected their throats, or their boobs. I guess they were protecting their hearts, not their boobs.

“Sorry.” He tilted his head down. “Would you prefer to eat first? You must be hungry. We got the sandwich from Mazio’s.”

How could they know my favorite eatery was a dive three blocks down on the east end?

An ugly suspicion rose in me. A nightmare of a thought. They knew all these things about me because they’d been spying on me. Watching where and what I ate, how late I stayed at work.

“I’d prefer that you leave,” I told him.

“We’ll leave as soon as we talk to you.” He stepped closer, still offering the phone.

“I think you should go now.” I snatched the phone but John held onto it, keeping me within arm’s reach. His nostrils flared and his pupils dilated, and for a minute I got the distinct impression he was smelling me.

“John,” Samantha warned. “You’re creeping her out.”

He shook himself. I returned to the relative safety of my foyer with the handset. Since Mondo was in the street, I could make a run for the neighbor. So what if he wasn’t home? They wouldn’t know that.

Oh, wait. They probably would. My fingers found the nine. I pressed it, then a one. John pursed his lips and fingered his Snoopy tie. Snoopy?

They waited to see if I’d dial a third number. If they meant me harm, would they give me the chance to call for help? Maybe I should hear them out.

We all stared at each other until Samantha said, “What a soft, fluffy cat. Is this Boris or Natasha?”

I contemplated the additional digit on the phone. “Why do you know all this stuff about me?”

“We know all sorts of things about you. That’s what we’re here to discuss.” The woman slid Boris off her lap and rose.

First thing I noticed was she was really short, too.

Second thing I noticed was she had on four-inch heels, Manolos, which meant she was actually shorter than me. Mine were two-inch kitten heels, the same rose pink as my tiered ruffle skirt and blouse.

You know, that thing about secret servicemen in black isn’t true. Samantha had on a tweed suit. I know tweed’s the new black, but I was pretty sure John’s Snoopy as the Red Baron tie wasn’t regulation at Ye Olde Agency.

“You guys aren’t from the CIA, are you?” I asked. “FBI? NSA? Homeland Security?” The main reason I’d kept myself to…myself was my inherent fear of the government and what they’d want from me if they found out. You could only tip off the cops so many times before they got suspicious, and pretending to be psychic only works on television.

Samantha Graves smiled, and her long-lashed, blue eyes twinkled as if we were sharing a joke. She had a perfect, shiny black bob without a hair out of place, and she couldn’t be more than a size three. I could hate a woman like that.

“That’s correct, we’re not from any of those places. May I call you Cleopatra?”

“Not unless you want me to finish dialing 9-1-1 for the murder I’d be forced to commit.”

I had yet to see a glimmer surrounding either of them. They had yet to answer any of my pertinent questions.


They knew.

FMI and eventual buy links: http://jodywallace.com/books/the-whole-truth/


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

29 October 2013

Guest Blog: Through a Glass Darkly

Today we're thrilled to welcome Gail Z. Martin, bestselling author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer and the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, as a guest blogger at Beyond the Veil. As you might guess, somebody who writes about necromancers has a lot to say about the ghosts that haunt a writer's work.

Through a Glass Darkly

By Gail Z. Martin

The idea of writing as therapy isn’t new, nor is the idea of writing as exorcism.  Writing is generally cheaper than hiring a therapist, easier than hiring a priest and doesn’t fill the house with the smell of incense (usually).  It’s all fun and games until someone’s head swivels around backwards.

My writing has helped to quiet the ghosts of the past in several ways.  After my mom had a devastating stroke, I wrote an as-yet unpublished novel about the experience, based on an off-handed comment a family member made that suggested an ideal—if illegal—solution to the quality of care issues she was encountering. I didn’t act on the suggestion, which was made tongue-in-cheek, but I did write about it, envisioning how things might have turned out differently.  I’m still debating what to do with that book, but I remember how quickly the book wrote, and how unusual it was to be typing as I cried (fortunately I’m a touch typist). That book may or may not make it to print, but it was cathartic for me to write it.  The novel didn’t have a happy ending, and neither did real life, but having written a version of what could have happened in advance; I was somewhat better prepared for what did happen. So it served its purpose.

My relationship with my dad was, shall we say, complicated.  It did not occur to me until this year that in all four of my series, the main character also has a complicated paternal relationship.  I swear I didn’t do that on purpose.  I wasn’t even aware that I had done it until I suddenly saw the pattern.  I am now working to consciously create different patterns for future characters.  I guess I have issues.

My dad was a hoarder, and my husband and I had to deal with his collections when dad went into a nursing home.  Some stuff was valuable and some was not; sorting through the mountain of stuff to determine what to keep and what to pitch took over a year.  Not surprisingly, a fair number of the more unusual pieces and some of the settings made their way into my Deadly Curiosities series of short stories (and the upcoming novel).  My husband is my first editor and beta reader.  He read the drafts and shook his head and said, “I see you’re still working through it.”

When my dad passed away, I was the executor, so handling his estate and the remaining collections fell to me, on top of publishing deadlines and other work.  Writing the books and short stories became my little port of sanity in a stormy ocean of legalities and paperwork. It’s taken most of a year to resolve everything, during which writing has become my rabbit hole where I can escape.

There are probably other ghosts that either haunt my writing unacknowledged or that have been exorcised, but if so, they’ve agreed not to break the dishes and I’ve agreed not to call the exorcist (or Ghostbusters).  I suspect that most writers’ brains could keep a good paranormal investigation team busy for a long time. Coincidentally, I’ve never met a successful writer, artist, comedian or musician who had an idyllic childhood, and I suspect the two are inversely related.  Dysfunctional families are the gift that keeps on giving.

Come check out all the free excerpts, book giveaways and other goodies that are part of my Days of the Dead blog tour!   Trick-or-Treat you way through more than 30 partner sites where you'll find brand new interviews, freebies and more--details at www.AscendantKingdoms.com.

Ice Forged will be a Kindle Daily Deal with a special one-day price of just $1.99 only on October 31!  Get it here.

Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books.  My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

About the author: Gail Z. Martin is the author of Ice Forged in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga and the upcoming Reign of Ash (Orbit Books, 2014), plus The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven & Dark Lady’s Chosen ) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn  and The Dread) from Orbit Books.  In 2014, Gail launches a new urban fantasy novel, Deadly Curiosities, from Solaris Books. She is also the author of two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.  Find her at www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com.

28 October 2013

Tales of the Were: Red - Excerpt

I have a new book out! Here's a little taste of it...

Tales of the Were: Red
Redstone Clan #2

A water nymph and a werecougar meet in a bar fight… No joke.

Steve Redstone agrees to keep an eye on his friend’s little sister while she’s partying in Las Vegas. He’s happy to do the favor for an old Army buddy. What he doesn’t expect is the wild woman who heats his blood and attracts too much attention from Others in the area.

Steve ends up defending her honor, breaking his cover and seducing the woman all within hours of meeting her, but he’s helpless to resist her. She is his mate and that startling fact is going to open up a whole can of worms with her, her brother and the rest of the Redstone Clan.

EXCERPT (c) 2013 Bianca D’Arc

“Hey, Red! How’s it hanging?”
“Damn. I knew I shouldn’t have answered the phone.” Steve Redstone’s smile belied his gruff tone. The call was from one of his oldest and best Army buddies—Derek “Deke” Morrow—an entirely human soldier, but a great guy nonetheless. He was also one of the most skilled warriors Steve had ever known.
“Man, I’ve got a big favor to ask you.” Deke’s tone was serious and Steve sobered.
“Spill, bro. You know I’ll do what I can for you.”
“Thanks, man. Knew I could count on you. Thing is, my baby sister is heading your way. One of her girlfriends decided it would be fun to have her bachelorette party in Sin City. It’s not that I don’t trust Trish, as much as I don’t trust her friends. This is an accident waiting to happen and I need some backup. I can’t go. She’d kill me if I showed my face, but she doesn’t know you and you’re local.”
“So you want me to show her a good time?” Steve relaxed. Babysitting, he could do. Teasing his friend just came naturally.
“You do, and I’ll break both your legs.” The tone said Deke was only half-joking.
“Relax. I’ve got you covered. What hotel are they staying at?”
A few minutes later, the call ended and Steve had all the information he’d need to track down his good friend’s wayward sister. He’d establish surveillance first. Check the lay of the land and see what kind of mischief the girls were getting up to. If necessary, he could call on some members of his Clan to help him keep an eye on things, but he didn’t really think that would be necessary. How much trouble could a few young human girls get into, after all?

Steve cursed himself for even thinking that a few hours later as he leaned against the wall of a dark club, watching the half-dozen women who had stormed the Las Vegas strip with the way-too-gorgeous little sister of his friend. Trisha Morrow was a knockout. That was something Steve hadn’t counted on.
When Derek talked about his kid sister, he always made her sound like a teenager. The woman currently knocking back an entire row of colorful, questionable test tube shots at the bar was no teenager. Far from it. She was an adult and as lovely as her brother was deadly.
Steve’s first sight of her had nearly knocked him off his feet, and his reaction hadn’t tamed any in the two hours since. He’d followed the gaggle of women out of the hotel where they were staying and tailed them to this club. They were enjoying the live band, some dancing and a whole lot of drinking. Too much drinking, by his standards. Some of the girls were getting sloppy drunk, but Trisha Morrow seemed to be able to hold her liquor with a little more dignity than her friends. That was something, at least.
He knew she was just as shitfaced as the other women though. She was unsteady on those sexy high heels and the way her short skirt rode up when she tried to get on the barstool had nearly given him a heart attack. She was tall for a human woman. Just a little shorter than her brother, who was about six foot. Trish had to be about five-nine or so. A nice height to match Steve’s six-foot-two.
And he really shouldn’t be thinking thoughts like that. No, not at all. Her brother would kill him if he even thought Steve was thinking about his little sister in an inappropriate way. It would end a friendship Steve valued, and he wasn’t willing to give up that relationship over a woman. Even a woman as knock-out gorgeous as Trisha Morrow.
Steve kept watch from afar. He didn’t want to know her scent. He stayed well upwind so he wouldn’t accidentally smell the sexy, feminine aroma he just knew would rev his engine to full throttle. It was bad enough seeing her. He didn’t want to know the intimate details her scent would reveal to him.
If he wanted to keep his friend, it was better he didn’t know. Even though his inner cougar clawed at his insides to learn more about the pretty female. The cat appreciated Trisha’s beauty and its innate curiosity pushed at Steve to find out more about her, but he couldn’t. He was a babysitter. That’s it.
Steve was so busy watching the woman and thinking about how he mustn’t get too close to her that he almost missed the danger when it struck. One of Trisha’s friends—the bride-to-be, in fact—went out onto the dance floor with a creature Steve recognized. A creature he had no respect for and would not let interfere with this particular group of women.
He had to act. Pushing away from the wall, Steve strolled onto the dance floor and positioned himself opposite Jorge, a Peruvian vampire who’d moved to the area recently. The bloodletter was already treading on thin ice with the local Master of his kind for preying a little too openly on humans. He hadn’t killed anyone yet—that they knew of—but he’d been warned repeatedly to be more discrete in his feeding.
Steve made sure he caught Jorge’s eye, and with a grudging sort of compliance, Jorge finished the dance and escorted the woman back to her friends. He left her with them and glanced over at Steve, cocking his head. Steve looked toward a quiet corner and Jorge nodded almost imperceptibly.
They both moved toward the corner. Steve stood for a moment while the vampire did one of his magic tricks and dampened the sound so they could talk. It was amazing what some of the older vamps could do. They had a weird sort of magic all their own, very unlike anything Steve had seen human magic users do.
“Handy,” Steve mused. “Thanks for the moment of quiet.”
“You wanted to talk with me?” Jorge prompted, clearly annoyed, but Steve didn’t give a shit.
The Redstone Clan was the most powerful group in this city, and even the Master knew it. This guy should show a little more respect, even if he was a few hundred years old. Steve could still crush him like an egg. And he wouldn’t even need backup from his Clan to do it. Jorge just wasn’t as tough as he apparently thought he was.
“I’d like you to leave those women alone.” Steve didn’t owe the vampire any more explanation than that, though he sensed Jorge was going to be difficult.
“Why should I? They are human, are they not?” Jorge looked over the small group who went on talking, laughing and drinking, unaware of the discussion in the corner.
“Yep. Human,” Steve agreed. “And under my protection. Got it?” He leaned forward, doing his best to intimidate the shorter man.
“What’s in it for me if I do you this favor?”
Steve had to stifle a sigh. This little twerp really didn’t understand the gravity of the situation, and he certainly didn’t know his place in the hierarchy around these parts. But Steve didn’t want to be the heavy. It wasn’t necessary and it would take too much time.
“I would be grateful. And I won’t tell Tony you’ve been sniffing around the tourists again. I heard he warned you off…what was it? Three times, already? You should know better by now, Jorge.”
Antoine de Latourette was the local Master vampire. His friends called him Tony. He was more than seven hundred years old and not someone to cross lightly.
Jorge finally got the message and straightened from his insolent slouch against the wall. He looked miffed, but Steve didn’t care. It was time somebody taught this little pipsqueak a lesson.
“Instead of harassing me, maybe you ought to put a leash on some of your own.” Jorge sneered as he looked pointedly over at the group of women.
Steve looked too.
“Shit.” Things were getting more complicated by the moment. He turned back to Jorge. “Do we have an understanding?”
Jorge nodded, dropped the barrier he’d held that kept the blaring sound of the club at bay and turned to go without another word. It was disrespectful, but Steve didn’t care at the moment. The group of seven women had been joined by a small Pack of wolves he knew well.
What was it with Derek’s little sister that she—or her group of friends—were drawing out all the Others tonight? It couldn’t be helped. Steve was going to find out for himself.
He set out across the crowded room just as a fight broke out. The violence quickly spread toward him, but he had his objective clear in mind. He wasn’t going to let anything stop him from making it to the small group of women. He’d promised Derek he’d take care of his sister. Letting her get hurt in a bar fight was not going to happen on his watch.
Somebody threw a punch at Steve. He barely paused to return the favor, sending the stupid human flying several feet back, out of Steve’s way. Another idiot tried to block his way with a barstool. Steve made short work of him but he started to wonder why seemingly disinterested bystanders were suddenly keen to stop him from getting to the women.
Steve whistled and one of the wolves perked up, looking through the crowd. Steve caught his eye and gave him a silent signal. Guard. Protect. Instantly, the stance of the young wolves went from merely protective of the women, which they’d been already, to on guard. Good dogs, Steve thought with a fleeting moment of humor as yet another human tried to block his path.
One of the wolves made as if to come help him, but Steve signaled him back. Protect the women, he sent via the hand signals everyone in the Redstone Clan knew. This group of wolves was part of one of the construction crews and they were mostly reputable. A little rough around the edges maybe, but good men all. Steve was sort of relieved to have them here now that the situation had taken an unexpected turn.
Steve paused momentarily to parry a few punches aimed his way but he didn’t let the concerted attacks slow him down. He kept his eyes on the prize, making his way one opponent at a time, toward Trisha Morrow.

The club was great, but when the fight broke out on the other side of the packed dance floor, Trisha sobered enough to realize they probably should leave. Only there were a bunch of handsome men—big bruisers, most of them—flirting with the girls and none of her friends seemed sober enough to realize there might be danger if the fight kept escalating in their direction.
Trisha looked around and her gaze was caught by one man. A big, muscular man. He was as big as her brother, Deke, and just as good in a fight. He was walking toward her but kept getting waylaid by idiots who wanted to fight. Why they tried to hit him, she’d never know. Even she could see he wasn’t interested in the melee. He was just trying to get from one side of the club to the other, and he didn’t really seem to care who he had to mow down to do it.
There was something so elemental about the way he moved. Like a panther on the prowl. He vanquished one opponent after another—sometimes more than one at a time—sweeping them out of his way as if they were nothing. He sent a few guys sailing through the air. Some went down hard on the grimy floor. A few turned away when he growled at them.
He actually growled. She could hear the low rumble of it, even across the distance that still separated them. Why in the world did she find that sexy?
“Guys?” Trisha tried to get the attention of her drunk friends while her gaze remained on the warrior.
That’s the only word she could think of to describe him. He had to be like Deke and most of the guys in her family. Military. Spec Ops. If not, then some kind of mercenary or professional killer.
That last thought almost made her giggle with nerves as their eyes met. And held.
Even as he threw two more would-be fighters aside, he kept his gaze on her. When he had to look away to throw a punch or block a barstool being thrown at him, it was only momentary. As soon as he’d dealt with the obstacle, he looked straight back at her again.
It was about that time she realized he wasn’t just moving across the room. He was actually aiming for her table. For her.
Her foggy mind didn’t understand the animal attraction that reared up and made her want to purr when she realized that hunk of dangerous manhood was making a beeline to her side. The rest of the raucous room faded to nothing as she watched his muscles bunch and flex as he dealt with one miscreant after another. Yowza. He was hot.
Hot and dangerous. The ultimate bad boy. Mrawr.

Buy your copy of RED now from: AmazonB&N – ARe – Smashwords or wherever ebooks are sold. Also coming in print very soon!

24 October 2013

Ghosts of the Past

Retrieved 10/24/13 from URL:
The ghosts of the past can haunt us in ways we don't even understand, coloring our reactions to current events with shades of decades gone by.

I don't often talk about Quincy, the town where I lived during middle- and high-school.  When I left that place, I left and never looked back.  Well, that's not entirely true; I did go back once and was sharply reminded of why I'd left in the first place.  I haven't attended my reunions and no longer receive calls asking if I'm interested.

One of the memories I have is of the kitchen in the house where we lived on a seven acre horse farm.  The story has always been, and I've always parroted it, that my mother was a phenomenal cook and could prepare any meal to perfection.  Recently, my husband and I moved our family into a three-bedroom apartment, more than doubling our prior space and giving us a sumptuously large kitchen in which to cook.  I had forgotten how much I like to cook.

The ghosts came back to haunt me after my best friend left, having come to help me move and settle us into the new place.  I stared at the kitchen in shock, because it was mine, and because I could cook anything I wanted in it.  But who was I to cook?  Wasn't that my mother's purview?

Then it hit me.  My father is the one that tells the story of my mother, elevated now to the status of legend in the kitchen.  But I lived with my mother too, for eighteen long years, and there's nothing wrong with my memory that a little "listening to" wouldn't fix.

See, here's the thing:  the stories that are told about us, haunt us.  Good, bad, ugly, beautiful, heart-rending - it doesn't matter.  If the story isn't our own, then it's not our truth.  I'm not saying my father would deliberately lie about my mother, though there would be plenty of reason.  She suffered from mental illness most of her life and the two of us were isolated on that ranch after my father left.  We spent eight long years together in that house, and five bedrooms on seven acres isn't nearly enough room to run if you need to.

As I re-learn how to cook now, as an adult, I am startled by the realization that my mother wasn't a really good cook - for me.  She was famous for her New York Cheese Cake, but I never tasted it, not once in my life, because she refused to make it as being "too fattening."  I spent all of fifth grade eating frozen dinners because she was out in the evening at the bar.  I grew fond of Lean Cuisine, though I wrote them when one of the dinners didn't come out very well and was a little burnt.  I received eight fifty-cent coupons in the mail from the company, apologizing and begging me to try them again - eight!  That was a fortune to my young eyes, all mine, and all to be spent on Lean Cuisine.  I didn't like Chicken Cordon Bleu, and have never once eaten it since I left home at eighteen.  But fancy meals?  My mother stopped cooking holiday meals when I was eighteen because she didn't want to make fattening food.  I knew how to make ramen and cups-o-lentils, but couldn't boil water for an egg or make bread.

I don't think that the Story of Mom vs. my memory of her are necessarily at odds.  They're simply memories my father has and the way he tells the story to himself of his life.  The way to vanquish those ghosts, I've found, is to learn to tell our own stories.  By doing so, they cease to become ghosts and become our own bright memories that tell us the story of ourselves.  In doing so, the irony is my mother becomes more real, more three-dimensional, in my mind.  She becomes a person, and no longer a ghost.

But I still won't eat Chicken Cordon Bleu.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Book 2 TIGER TIGER, available from Samhain Publishing. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!

The Persis Chronicles:
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.
Check out "Seeking Hearts", available from Torquere Books.

Check out COOK LIKE A WRITER , available from Barnes and Noble.
Coming soon - "Taking a Chance" is being re-released from Torquere Books!

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Publishers: Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

19 October 2013

Ghoulies and Ghosties and Hard-Frosted Chocolate and Notes that Go Bump in the Night

Given this month's theme, “Digging up Bones: Releasing our Ghosts through Writing,” I bet you expected me to write something scary.  The thing is, most ghosts aren’t.  Half the time we don’t even know they’re there.  We might not even recognize them as ghosts at all, yet they haunt us just the same.

Long-time readers have heard about the horror that was my mom’s cooking. Long story short: terrific mother, terrifying cook. She imploded turkeys and vaporized whole rib racks.  So you can imagine the panic which overtook me the first time my first grade teacher Sister Mary Josephine sent me home with a note demanding Mom propitiate the God of Bake Sales with a homemade offering. 

“No commercial substitutes.  No making it on your own and passing it off as your mother’s, either.”  Sister Mary Josephine’s gimlet gaze drilled through me like something out of the Black and Decker catalogue.  “HE will know—and so.  Will.  I.”

With the greatest misgivings, I gave the note to Mom.  In response, she produced what many consider her (ahem) masterpiece: an entire lunar landscape composed of chocolate cake product.  It’s a pity the camera broke when I tried to take a picture.  I’m pretty sure it was a scale model of the Sea of Tranquility, down to the chalky ridges, cracks and impact craters, but lacking a photo I have no proof. 

Then she frosted it.  Sort of.  She called it “a glaze”.  I think she invented a new kind of polymer, because it proved impervious to any and all knives available to the nuns and their bake sale customers.  Bullets would've bounced off that thing. 

But not off me.

Sister Mary Josephine went after me with a ruler.  She called me a liar and a cheat, and wrote an outraged note to my parents about my heinous deceit—a note which caused no end of confusion back home, because my dad had driven me to school that day and personally witnessed the hand-off to Sister Mary Josephine. 

Ultimately, though, my parents shrugged off the incident, ascribing it to the arcane mental processes of people who dress in wimples and kirtles for a living.  They expected me to do likewise.  I didn’t have that luxury.  We’d been warned to expect a bake sale every quarter, and the days to the next one were growing short.

By the time I got that second bake sale order, I knew I couldn’t be the honest, truthful, upstanding daughter my parents tried to raise.  I had to save myself.  So I hid the note and told Mom I volunteered to bake a birthday cake for a friend in class.  Mom was a little surprised Sister Mary Josephine would indulge in something as ordinary as a classmate’s birthday.  But Dad sometimes bought cake for the office, so she didn’t question me too closely.

I got out the cake mix, followed the instructions, allowed Mom (under strict supervision) to place it into the oven and retrieve it at the designated time.  Then I watched the clock until I could turn it out of the pan and apply the frosting I’d likewise made from a box with instructions on the side.

Sister Mary Josephine’s reaction?  “Isn’t it so much better when you do what you’re told and don’t lie?”

The truth?  I consider it a miracle I ever do anything I’m told and tell the truth more often than not. 

That’s probably my parents’ influence.  Eighteen years (fourteen, actually—I started cooking early in self-defense) of intermittent food poisoning is a small price to pay for parents who always played fair.  I’d hate to disappoint them, even now.

But that incident haunts me.  I learned that day that people see and believe what they expect.  Too often, they’re not interested in the truth.  That goes double for truths which challenge their world view—“truths” like all women cook and all men are good with tools. 

Yeah.  Right.  My dad, albeit a great father and stand-up military officer, was to home repair what my mother was to cooking: an apocalypse on legs.  He once broke a wall trying to hang a picture.  He called the base quartermaster (the military officer in charge of base housing, furnishings and supplies) to change the light bulb on his desk lamp—and the quartermaster sent someone immediately!  Everybody agreed it was safer that way.  The toaster meltdowns and deep fryer incident were not to be spoken of in polite company.

The other eye opener was that nobody has any special gifts with respect to any truth.  Sister Mary Josephine thought she had a direct line to a higher power, but that didn’t mean squat when it came to perceiving reality on the material plane.  I also realized age was no guarantee of understanding.  None of the grown-ups in this tale had a clue about what was really happening on either side of the bake sale divide.

I’m convinced that’s why I ultimately made my way to a career in public relations.  Thanks to two very different homemade cakes, I learned at age six that it’s all about the spin.

That knowledge permeates everything I write.  You can see it in the way I present my facts in my nonfiction.  In my fiction, nothing is ever exactly as it seems.  Power and agency are fluid, and the person who appears the most inconsequential is probably the one you need to worry about.  It’s all about masks, disguises, veils, shrouds, secret identities and sleight of hand.  Still waters may run deep, but you’ve got to watch out for what’s under the rapids, too.

It’s a very noir sensibility, which probably explains why some editors consider my fiction dark.  To me it isn’t dark without severed body parts.  But hey, if it earns me a place in Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” showcase, I’ll take it.  And it did.  My flash fiction, “District Confidential”, will be published some Monday early next year.

There’s no baking involved.  But there is a lime, a knife, and the people who think they know what’s going on don’t.  That’s my thing.

Thank you, Sister Mary Josephine.

Speaking of haunts, later this month Beyond the Veil will have a treat for you.  Gail Z. Martin, bestselling author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer and Ascendant Kingdoms, will be giving you her take on writing haunts on October 29.  You want to mark your calendars.  You really do.  See you then!
Jean Marie Ward

18 October 2013

When the Owl Hoots and the Calf Rolls

We island folk are a superstitious and deeply spiritual lot. It's not surprising when you look at where our ancestors come from. Africans, Europeans and Asians all contributed various beliefs, leading to a true hodgepodge of superstitions and things that go bump in the night. I thought it might be... well... not fun exactly, but perhaps interesting to take you on a little walk with a man I'll call Johnny Dread, who's having what is quite possibly the worse night of his life, Jamaican style. (Words marked with * are explained a little more in the glossary after the story.)

Johnny and the Rollin' Calf

Johnny got off the minibus at the intersection, and stood watching it drive away. It was after one o'clock in the morning, and when the sound of the revving motor faded away all he could hear was the rustle of leaves and animals in the bush at the side of the road. There were no streetlights on the narrow country road leading the the village of Stone Heart, but the moon was full, lighting his way. Hitching his bag higher on his shoulder, Johnny turned to begin the five mile walk toward his grandmother's house. Just as he took the first step, a white form took flight from a nearby mango tree and soared across the road above his head, letting out a long, loud WOO...

"Bumboclaat*!" Johnny dropped down, stooping as low as possible, covering his head with his arms. "Patoo*!"

The owl seemed to understand the words, circling back over Johnny, hooting again. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, and in complete silence, it was gone.

Legs shaking, clutching his bag to his chest, Johnny got up and stared up into the trees, trying to figure out where the owl had gone. This was bad. Raasclaat*, this was bad-bad-bad. He knew he shouldn't have come, but his mother had begged him to help her clean out Uncle Juckoo's house. He had missed the funeral, and had heard the people in the village suspected someone had worked Obeah* on Juckoo, but he hoped it wasn't true. If the Obeah woman had stolen his spirit, the rest of the family was in big trouble since it would be used against them. Worst of all, there had been no ninth-night* gathering. At least if they'd had a ninth-night, there was a chance his spirit might appear, be captured in the water bowl and then set free outside. Seeing the patoo was a bad omen. Now it seemed Johnny himself was walking into danger. Was Juckoo's duppy already being used against him?

The quicker he got to the village, the better, so Johnny started jogging down the narrow asphalt road, hoping a car would come along and the driver would stop to give him a lift. The road dipped into a little valley, and Johnny started running, using the slope to gain momentum. Just as he got to the bottom something moved in the bush at the side of the road and, seeing two points of light shining out from among the leaves, Johnny skidded and almost fell. He tried to shout, but fear caught the sound in his throat and it came out as a strangled moan. With a mwraw! a black cat jumped out of the bush and streaked across the road.

"Oh, Lawd..."

First the patoo, and now a black puss*? Could it get worse?

He was shaking so much now, it was a struggle to get up the hill, but finally he was at the top and, in the distance, could see the village. Not too much farther now, especially if he ran all the way. Galloping like a mule, his bag slapping against his side, Johnny made a break for it. Down into the next shallow valley, then up again. All he could hear were his own footsteps and the rasp of his breathing. One more hill, and he would almost be in Stone Heart.

Suddenly, without any warning, Johnny found himself in fog. Not the light mist that sometimes came down into the hollows during the night, but a thick, blinding white covering. Barely able to see the road ahead, Johnny stumbled to a walk, but didn't stop. It felt as if the fog had gone into his ears, because he could no longer hear his footsteps. Even his breathing seemed to be coming from far away, and was accompanied by a rattling sound he'd never heard before in his life. Then he realized the sound was coming from behind him, getting louder, as whatever was making it came closer.

Ignoring the fog, he started to run again, ignoring the potholes, just wanting to get away. But now he could hear a deep, demonic snorting sound mixed in with the metallic rattle of chains and the rapid tuc-a-tuc, tuc-a-tuc, tuc-a-tuc of hooves. He didn't want to look back. If he could stop himself looking back, maybe the rolling calf* would just go past...

But he couldn't stop himself from looking over his shoulder as he ran.

A huge, black bull, wrapped in chains, wreathed in fire, charged toward him. Fire also blazed from the beast's eyes and, in what seemed to be the last moment of Johnny Dread's life, he found the strength to scream...

Next morning it was the sun that woke him, as he lay between the roots of a huge old cotton tree*, covered in mud and shivering in the cool morning air. It took a moment to figure out where he was and what had happened. When he did, Johnny stumbled to his feet and took off running, not stopping until he got back to the main road, where he could catch a minibus back to Kingston.

He'd never go back to Stone Heart again...

'Bumboclaat' and 'Raasclaat' - Jamaican swear words.

'Patoo' - The name given to an owl, usually a barn owl. Seeing a white-faced owl is considered a sign of extreme bad luck or death.

'Obeah' - A religion brought from West Africa, connected to the god Obi and closely connected to Myalism. It is believed an Obeah practitioner can draw the spirit from a person and trap it in a cotton tree. Eventually the person whose spirit has been stolen will die, if no one can be found to "dig out" the spirit and bring it back. If the person dies, the spirit can be used by its thief to bedevil the rest of the family.

'Ninth-night/Nine-night' -  A ceremony that takes place on the ninth night after the funeral. It is believed that on the third day after the funeral the spirit of the deceased rises and goes back to the residence to wander among its possessions. On the ninth night after the funeral the family and friends gather to sing and dance, giving the spirit a farewell party, so to speak. In years gone by, a person adept in seeing and capturing spirits would 'catch' the spirit and trap it in a bowl of water, which is then thrown out the window, releasing the spirit.

'Black puss/cat' - Cats are viewed with suspicion and fear by many Jamaicans, as they are said to sit on babies chests and suck the air from their lungs (perhaps an explanation for SIDS?). A black cat is particularly feared, as the color black is associated with the devil. Fully black dogs fare little better than cats.

Rollin' Calf - The name is said to derive from "Roaring Calf' but while this evil spirit is usually described as taking the shape of a bull, it also is said to take a number of other shapes, and can shift from small creatures (cats and dogs, always black) to large (bulls and horses). It rarely attacks people, but often is reported chasing them, or lying in wait for them at crossroads.

'Cotton tree' - This tree, along with bamboo clumps, is said to be the home or haunt of the rolling calf and also of the spirits stolen by Obeah men and women. Finding himself at the root of one of these trees would confirm for Johnny that he hadn't dreamt the encounter.

14 October 2013

HOW Conference in October

I just did something that I've never done before--I flew away for a weekend of romance in October. Before you start thinking of hot cabana boys on some tropical island, or a secret weekend in Paris, let me clarify.

A few months ago, my dear friend, C.C. Wiley, asked me to go with her to the Hearts of the West Romance Writer's Conference in Utah. Ah, that kind of romance. I was tempted to go, really tempted.

In the middle of October? Was I crazy? The kids were deeply involved with school and sports, hubby was working hard, and I was in the middle of my big reports at work. Not to mention the cost was outside the family budget to take off and fly to a conference. How could I pick up and zip away at a time like this?

Without any question my family and my day job come first. But here's the thing, I am a business owner too--I write books. Didn't I owe myself the right to improve my business, my craft, and network? Didn't I deserve a little time away?

Yes, I did.

I seized my right to be a romance author, to challenge myself, to put myself "out there" and I went to the conference. Boy, am I glad I did! Being with other authors always juices up my writing batteries. Even though I am not a member of their chapter, the HOW members welcomed me with open arms. What an amazing group. I gained insights and tools to attack the manuscript I am working on. I pitched to an agent and learned about cover art from the amazing cover model, Jimmy Thomas.

It was a whirlwind weekend, but I am better for it. My family is better for it too. Heck, they probably enjoyed having mom away for a while.

Oh, and I brought pics!

This is the beautiful sunrise outside my window in Park City, Utah.

The lodge where the conference was held. The changing fall colors were spectacular.

Me winning second-place in the Single-Title category.

And of course, there was the chance to meet Jimmy Thomas. Do you know that he is on the cover of about 6,000 books? He is a very smart man. He spent a bit of time with me looking at covers and explaining what works and what doesn't. I was super grateful for the lesson. Thanks, Jimmy Thomas! 

13 October 2013

Halloween - its the most wonderful time of the year

This year will be a little different at the Holland household.  Why?  Because the last of our children is off at University.  We live in the middle of nowhere so the odds of our kids friends stopping by for Tricks or Treats is pretty much nill.

Halloween is a big deal in my family... so there's always been an other worldly air about it in my family, particularly my father's side. 

My mom easily embraced the commercialism of the candy industry and always made great treat bags.  My sister, however has always been about the trick...wary the treater that heads for her house, she plans to get her scare in. 

Both houses where the "it" house to stop at for kids and adults.  We used to dress up as a family and head to one of the impromptu parties.   Now kids have grown up, parents have gotten older and there's less festivities around the holiday.

My husband looked at me and asked, "What are we going to do this year."

New tradition this year...roasting marshmellows in my new recycled firepit and emergency candy for anyone who wants to trek to my farm.  It's possible my kids friends could stop by...but I doubt it.  If nothing else DH and I will get our sugar fix...unless it SNOWS.  


09 October 2013


I love zombies. Zombie movies, zombie books -- maybe being a Mom of Boys it's the gross humour that appeals to me, but I just love them.

Being a zombie (the sleep deprived kind) is something I like a little less, and since this summer, that's what I've been. (hence the many missed post-dates, and my apologies to everyone.) I hit a rough spot and finally saw my doctor to get things straightened out, which is the best thing I've ever done.

And then I got a new job, which was the second-best thing. I'm currently a Senior Editor at Taliesin Publishing, which was started this year by Georgia Woods. Georgia's faith in me and her support of me really pushed me along and built my confidence when I needed it most.

She's also working me to zombie-ness, which accounts for another missed post or two, as I was getting used to my schedule and how to get All The Things done. And on time. And I was still healing, and still learning my own limits, and I turned zombie a few times when I overdid it. (And I probably will again in the future, realistically speaking.)

But all in all, life is really good right now, and I'm ready to blog again, too.

And now I think I need to put on a zombie flick...

04 October 2013

Spooky October

I really, really love this time of year.

The chill in the air...the falling leaves...the riot of colors across the land...the deep blue of the sky...the smell of wood burning and apples baking. This is my time: the part of the year that I feel most at peace and at home.

It could be because this is my birthday month -- I was an almost-Halloween baby. ;) Or maybe it's something deeper. All I know is that I feel an undeniable sense of belonging.

To share with you my love of all things Autumn, I've re-released a slightly spooky romance titled: Familiar. This story was first part of a short anthology; I later chopped it up into a super-short version for a promotional giveaway with Samhain Publishing. :)

This re-published version of the original length (about 12k) has a pretty new cover and has had a slight spit-shine applied. ;) It features a heroine close to my heart who finally gets to go  home to small-town West Virginia-- just in time for Halloween. Along the way she realizes that some things haven't changed; some have; and sometimes you can start over.

Here's a short excerpt:

(c)Meg Allison 2013

* * *

“Jed will be standing behind the counter and he’ll say…”

“I’ve been waiting on you, Penny Lynn…” She gasped as her eyes met a pair in that hypnotic shade of crystal blue she had vividly imagined. “My Penny Lynn comes home again.”

He grinned at her and the second of silence stretched tight and thin as she swallowed, took a deep breath and swallowed again. Coincidence, that’s all. It had to be. Dreams didn’t come true. Not like this.

“Jed, it’s good to see you,” she replied in a nervous rush. “But how did you know I’d be here?”

He shrugged his broad shoulders. “I heard you were moving back and figured you’d need supplies sooner or later.” He winked at her. “Glad it’s sooner. You look good, Penny. Haven’t changed a bit.”

* * *

Familiar is a favorite of mine because it combines what I love best: ghosts; family; romance; and the possibility of getting a second chance in life. I hope you'll enjoy it, too.

Now available for $0.99:


Barnes and Noble


~~Meg Allison

Indulge your senses...