Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Blog Hop--Let's Talk About the Weather

Weather in Colorado is whacky. You might think weather in your state is whacky, but it’s got nothing on Colorado.

When I moved to the mountains west of Denver after seven years in New Jersey, I had to learn new weather words. Words like sublimation and virga and graupel. I had never heard of this nonsense. (I shall now define these terms for you so I feel all smart and stuff.)

  • Sublimation. When a solid moves directly to a gas without stopping at liquid or passing go or collecting $200. Basically this looks like snow or ice on the road turning to a massive evil cloud attacking your car as you attempt to go grocery shopping.
  • Virga. This is rain that hits dry air and evaporates before it hits the ground. It looks like a big dark rain cloud with long, gray stripes coming out of it. Or sometimes like a ginormous jellyfish hovering over your car, attempting to eat it while you try to go grocery shopping.
  • Graupel. The official definition http://www.weather.com/glossary/g.html of this is snow pellets. They tend to be kind of soft. They look and feel like some nutcase in the vast heavens is pelting you and everything around you with tiny balls of Styrofoam while you try to go grocery shopping.

So what does this have to do with writing? Well, I have this bad habit that drives me to use new words in stories when I find out about them. So when I found out about these weird weather phenomena, I had to work them into a story somehow. What better way than to make one of my delectable heroes a meteorologist?

Now you might not think this is sexy. You would be wrong. A guy who knows something about the weather is totes sexy. And so was born Carter Allen, the meteorologist hero of Mostly Sunny with Chance of Belgian Chocolate. So basically, I wrote that novella so I could use the words graupel and virga in a story.

So what does this have to do with Christmas? Not a lot, except that our Christmas weather is shaping up so far to be particularly weird, and I wish I had Carter around to tell me whether we’ll have snow or not

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Next Big Thing Blog Hop

So I got tagged for this thing by Cindi Myers, so I'm posting my post today which is the posting day I was supposed to post my post. So here's my post:

1. What is the title of your latest release? Necromancing Nim. The question also asked about WIPs, so I'll just add that I have several WIPs on the front burners, one of which is the follow-up to Nim. The tentative title is Sorcelling Sebastian. (Should that be one "l" or 2? I keep waffling...)

2. Where did the idea come from for the book? I wanted to write an urban fantasy-style story with a kickass heroine, but I wanted to avoid or subvert some of the clichés that have begun to develop around the genre. Like kickass but whiny heroines and annoying love triangles that never resolve. Also that whole thing where everyone the heroine meets falls for her, and where she eventually becomes some kind of supernatural being. (Nim does experience some side effects, but I didn't want her to be supernaturally powerful in any significant way. She's just a kickass chick with a water gun full of holy water.)

3. What genre does your book fall under? Urban fantasy with erotic romance elements.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie version? Sebastian is Alexis Denisof, no doubt about it. Colin is sort of David Boreanaz from his Angel days, but he drifted quite a bit. Mostly because I got mad at Boreanaz for cheating on his wife. And for being a Flyers fan. (I can forgive him for the former if his wife can, but the latter? Sorry, DBor.) I didn't "cast" Nim when I was writing. When I put together the cover art form I settled on a picture of Zooey Deschanel, mostly because she has the big anime eyes. But Nim has short, shaggy black hair. The cover art captured her pretty well, I think.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? One domineering vampire was enough—can Nim handle two and still avert the vampire-zombie apocalypse? (I totally cheated on that cause it was originally two sentences. But I'm an editor. I can do that.)

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Um.. neither? This is a weird question to my overly literal mind. It’s published by Samhain Books, and it came out on October 23.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? LOL. Four years? More or less? That was writing sporadically, setting it aside and coming back to it. A lot of that was struggling with the voice and getting the plot to work. I’d never written a full-length novel in first person before, and a lot of the challenges of that approach, well, challenged me. I promise the next one won’t take as long…

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Maybe Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake books and/or Charlain Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. My ménage in the book is almost a direct reaction to Anita Blake’s constant back-and-forth between Richard and Jean-Claude, which I found ridiculous. Quit whining, girl! Two hot guys? Do 'em both? Which of course is what Nim does. And they do each other, cause that's hot. But there’s a lot of screwed-up, quirky humor, which begs for a comparison to Sookie and maybe to Maryjanice Davidson’s Queen Betsy.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book. I think I kinda answered that question already. Although another tidbit is that Nim's name came first. I had run across a fanfic writer named Nimuë Tucker (I think it's a pseud--I'm not sure). I loved the name, so I wrote it down. When it came time to write the book, I checked online and discovered she was still writing under that name, so I figured it'd be better to change it a bit. So I stole my best friend's last name and called her Nimuë Taylor instead. At which point I decided I was really glad I decided to write it in first person cause that umlaut is a PITA.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest? It’s funny. I even laughed at it myself when I was doing edits. (Maybe that’s not the best recommendation?) But even when there are vampires exploding and shit hitting the fan, Nim has a sarcastic voice that keeps things grounded

I tagged Angela Parson Myers for this, as well, but I don't see her post up yet. Go visit her site anyway. (Hi, Mom!)

And yeah, I know I was supposed to tag five people, but it looks like everybody in the WORLD has already been tagged for this hop, so I didn't. Also:


Monday, November 26, 2012

More November Word Count

When last we spoke, I was failing at NaNoWriMo. I'm still failing at NaNoWriMo, but this morning I finished the first draft of a new novella. So I win at life. Or something.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NaNo Totals for 11-13-12

Well, my word count totals are kind of pitiful compared to what they're supposed to be and compared to what others are doing. But I'm kind of happy with them, and this is why.

I've only written 7,000 words, but those words were on a few different projects. (No, I didn't even follow my own rules. This surprises you why?) One of these projects, thanks to me deciding I was going to work on SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY is now almost done.

So my brain is lame but at least I'm finishing things. That's good, right?


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Oh, Good Grief, It's November Again

In case anybody's been living under a rock for the last few years, November is NaNoWriMo month. This phenomenon seems to be getting more popular every year. (Yes, you damn kids, get the hell offa my NaNoWriMo lawn!)

I've participated in NNWM several times, and have yet to make the 50,000 word goal. I tend to hit about 30-35K, although I think I might have flirted with 40K last year. Formal participation kind of makes me sad because of this inability to "win," so I've been doing it informally the last couple of years.

I'm going to do the same this year. I have a WIP that's about 2/3 done. I think I have 25-30,000 words left on it, so my goal for this month will be to get to that place where I write "THE END" on the last page. (Actually I don't write THE END on the last page. I usually write some kind of weird squiggly thing. But you get what I mean.)

I'll start today with my initial wordcount graphic. I snarfed this over at Writertopia, and I think it's cool so I'm using it, so there. I'll update it whenever I feel like it and maybe post a short excerpt or two here and there. The book I'll be working on is represented on its own Pinterest board here. I'll probably be adding stuff there, too--I still have a lot of research to do on this book, and God forbid I should do the research before I start writing. That would be too easy.

Anyway, best of luck to everyone else who's NaNo-ing. I hope we all crank out many words, and that some of them are even good!


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Blood Shots for Halloween (or any time)

Every good vampire wants a decent blood shot for breakfast. Or lunch, or dinner. Or a snack, when the munchies hit. Here are some recipes for high-quality blood shots you can serve your favorite vampire any time of the year. (Note: Your favorite vampire will probably want to change the ratio of blood to liquor a bit...)

Ruby Wednesday
Fill a shot glass about 2/3 full with a good vodka
Dribble blood* slowly into the vodka for that lovely layered effect.

Virgin’s Kiss
Vanilla rum
Blood
Again, dribble the blood slowly for a layered look. Vampires like that.

The Harlot
Replace the rum/vodka with pomegranate liqueur. Garnish with lime.

Velvet Dick
Layer butterscotch schnapps and Irish crème and top with blood. (This is basically a Slippery Nipple with blood substituted for Grenadine.)

Bring one of these out for your next vampire party, or for that new vampire you’ve decided to date, and see how the evening turns out.

*I used cherry-flavored candy blood from my local Halloween store. It’s overly sweet and sort of artificial-tasting, but not awful. You might do yourself a favor by using Grenadine instead, although it doesn’t have the same rich, red blood color as the fake blood. 

(Thanks to Belinda [aka Evil Best Friend] for help naming the drinks.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Couple of New Reviews

It looks like Necromancing Nim is doing not too badly out there in the big, wide, scary world. Thanks to everybody who's picked up a copy! If you've read the book, a review or even a hit on the "Like" button would be greatly appreciated. :-)

In other news, I have a couple of new reviews to share for Dealing With David (Samhain) and Unleashed Hearts (Still Moments).

First, from Long and Short Reviews, a 4.5-star review for Dealing With David:

"For a fun high school reunion, wedding-style, snap up a copy of Dealing with David. It will appeal to anyone who has ever wondered about their high school classmates, wanted to carry out an outstanding appearance at their high school reunion, or just needed a great story to read that combines revenge, overcoming obstacles, and romance."--Lotus and Long and Short Reviews











And from Sizzling Hot Books, 4 stars for Unleashed Hearts

"For the dog lovers among us, Unleashed Hearts shows how dogs are really our best friends. In this trio of stories in Unleashed Hearts, these dogs do their best to make their handlers happy. In each case they search out and bring love into lonely hearts."

"'Accidental Evenings' was a cute story showing how Cleo knew best! I enjoyed it, the story running smoothly from beginning to end."--Beverly at Sizzling Hot Books


Thanks for the great reviews!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kicking the Tropes to the Curb

I talked a little bit about how I came to write Necromancing Nim in my last post (or the one before that—I don’t remember. You really expect me to keep track of my own blog? C’mon, people, that’s hard!). Now’s the part of the show where I admit that part of my motivation for writing this book involved me reacting to urban fantasy tropes.

It seems like urban fantasy has brought two major tropes into its fold over time. These are the Extremely Broken Protagonist and the Whiney Moany Love Triangle. Now, the EBP is pretty common in fiction across the board. This bugs me. Why does everybody in a book have to have a horrible past with parental abuse and tragic circumstances and a great-aunt who turned out to be a demon who put magically noxious chocolate chips in her Christmas cookies? It gets a bit tiresome, in my opinion, and after a while it stops being a character development tool and turns into a cliché. So Nim isn’t Horribly Broken. She’s actually a fairly functional adult (well, maybe not entirely functional since she’s a lot like your dear author-person) with a mostly normal family life. I think the worst thing her parents ever did to her was decide not to pay for braces.

Which brings us to the Whiney Moany Love Triangle (tangentially, I guess, but since a triangle is a geometric concept why not have tangents, too?). Nearly every urban fantasy heroine these days has to have two hot guys (sometimes more—see Sookie Stackhouse) who want in her pants. And then she’s all… omg I love them both whatever shall I do? At which point I yell at the book, “Bang them both and quit whining, for the love of everything!”

So Nim, being the practical, straightforward and flexible gal that she is, bangs them both. And they bang each other. And everybody’s happy! Perfect world, right?

Now if they could just figure out how to deal with that whole turning people into mindless vampire zombies thing...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Now Available! Necromancing Nim

Necromancing Nim arrived today from Samhain Publishing, available at all your usual ebook outlets. In honor of this auspicious occasion, here are some words of wisdom from Nim herself.

"Vampires aren’t great with plants."

"Word of advice—if you’re ever hiding something in your house that you know evil vampires are after, leave it in plain sight on the kitchen table. Otherwise, you’re going to be left with a lot of cleanup work after they turn your house upside down trying to find it."

"The Englewood Police Department is much like any other suburban police department. There are places to wait, places to fill out paperwork, places to be intimidated, interrogated or incarcerated. It’s always a little wackier at night. At night, there are more drunks, more vampires and more drunk vampires. The cops who work there after dark are also quite a bit testier, or at least that’s been my experience."

"God save me from Alpha males."

"Sometimes it’s good to be a bitch."

 Get to know more about Nim Taylor and her two vampire, um... "special friends" in Necromancing Nim.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Necromancing Nim--Advance Review



My new book, Necromancing Nim, isn't out until next Tuesday (10-23), but it's already gotten a great advance review from Night Owl Reviews. Thanks to Night Owl and Zollyanna for the Top Pick review!

Here's an excerpt:

"Necromancing Nim by Katriena Knights is a fast-paced paranormal romance that is engaging and will hold your attention. The characters are well-rounded and seem to leap off the page making you feel as if you are right there living the story with them. The story does get hot. Katriena Knights’ made sure the story flowed very well, and I look forward to reading more of her books. I won’t hesitate to suggest this book to anyone. It is a great book to read and I will definitely be reading it again." --Zollyanna at Night Owl Reviews


Monday, October 15, 2012

Necromancing Nim--Coming Soon!!

When last we spoke—a nearly unforgivably long time ago (please forgive me, omg)—I was yammering about learning Russian and posting still more pictures of Evgeni Malkin. Today I’m going to yammer about something else. My new book! Which is coming out really soon! A week from tomorrow, in fact!

You can read what it’s about at the buy links. I’m going to tell you how I came to write it.

(Here, have a buy link: Necromancing Nim)

When I first started writing with intent to publish, I focused on science fiction and fantasy because that was what I loved the most. Later, after some failures in that area, I moved to romance because it was a big market and I discovered I liked reading it far more than I’d expected. These interests became a big mish-mash that eventually turned into paranormal and futuristic romance.

I don’t think I’d heard the term Urban Fantasy back then. I’m not sure it was a term that was being bandied about much at the time. But I knew I liked books that mixed contemporary settings with paranormal elements, which was what I found myself writing with my paranormal romance.

When Urban Fantasy started becoming a “thing,” I decided I wanted to write one. I’d had a character name knocking around my head for a while, but I wasn’t sure what she would be up to once I started writing about her. Finally, one afternoon at work when I was bored, I put pen to paper and started fiddling with a first person perspective to see what would come out. I remember it was a red pen. I even remember exactly what kind of pen. I won’t go into detail because you probably don’t care, but this just demonstrates that my brain is weird.

I wrote a couple of pages and quit. First person is hard, yo! Especially when you’ve never really written that way. But I picked it up again later. People kept posting writing challenges on Live Journal, and I’d go back to the book and use it to meet the challenge criteria. I joined NaNoWriMo and managed to add about 30,000 words during that November. Then it languished until the next November, when I added another 20 or 30K. I think I went through three NaNoWriMos with the same manuscript before I finally finished it.

(Here, have another buy link: Necromancing Nim at Amazon. I'm trying to be subtle. Is it working?)

Then I started rewriting. I rewrote the first third I don’t know how many times trying to get the voice to work. Because I wrote it over such an extended period of time, the pieces didn’t always fit together right. Something I set up in the first section would be completely contradicted in the second. So I tore out a lot and put in new stuff. My best friend and critique partner informed me she hated a big chunk, so I redid that bit, too. (She was right. She almost always is.)

I submitted it. I got rejections. I got a request for a full from two different places. I was happy. Then I got more rejections. I put it away for a while again.

Finally I resurrected the story and sent it to my editor at Samhain. I’d done still more revisions between the last rejection and this submission, trying to address some of the issues the rejectors in question had brought up. And finally, Nim found a home. We changed the title, added quite a few scenes, cleared up some inconsistencies, buffed and polished and all that jazz. I’m pretty happy with the final result.

(Have a Nook? Here, try this link: Necromancing Nim.)

I do have to warn my readers, though, that this book is very different from previous books I’ve published. I think it has a lot of similarities to the Vampire Apocalypse series, but it’s not a sweet-ish romance. The heroine has hard edges on her. There are two heroes. There are ménage shenanigans. There are vampire shenanigans. There’s a hell of a lot of swearing (sorry, Mom). But there’s a lot of emotion and humor and action and Nim is pretty kickass, in my overly biased opinion. So I hope you’ll give it a look, and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

EXCERPT:

Fangs-deep in debt? Visit Bernstein & Carter for full-service financial management, structured with the modern vampire in mind. Visit us today at our convenient Lower-Lower Downtown location. Vampire-Owned and Registered in Denver, Colorado since 1972.—from the Bernstein & Carter Financial Services brochure.

Chapter One

Working for a vampire is fun. Vampires are cool, and the coolness rubs off. People are scared of you because they think your boss might bite them if they piss you off. At parties, you can tell people you work for a vampire, and their eyes get big and they take a step back, and for a few seconds, they can’t quite eat their crab puffs. And the vampire boss is always rich and hot, with a nice car and a penchant for cute human girls.

At least, that’s the way it always is on TV. But my vampire boss is an asshole, and I, the cute human girl, work in collections, because I suck as a receptionist.

Tonight, collections meant standing in the middle of the sidewalk at eleven-thirty p.m., under a shot-out streetlight, staring at the looming, gloomy house that was the target of my current appointment. The neighborhood, about five miles south of Denver, wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either; one of those odd residential pockets in Englewood that had never settled into all-human or all-vamp dwellings. Cute, cheery little ranch homes sat cheek by jowl with narrow, windowless vamp townhouses. This house was among the latter. I was beginning to think flipping burgers for humans would have been a better option than approaching whatever organizationally challenged vamp lived behind that decidedly unwelcoming front door. Hell, if it was all about working for vampires, serving blood shots at the local fang bar would be better than this.

But Colin, my asshole vampire boss of two years, had put this address on the top of my list of stops for tonight, so knocking on the door was my job.

“Mitch totally fucked this one up,” he’d said. “Pissed his pants and ran away like a little girl. You take it tonight—I want it done.”

I decided not to point out that, unlike Mitch, I actually was a girl. And little. “Why?”

“You make more than Mitch. If you get eaten, or I have to fire you for rabbitting, it’ll be financially advantageous.” He gave me a look that wasn’t that much different from his usual dissatisfied glare and so was open for interpretation. “Plus, you won’t screw it up.”

Hard to argue with that. It was the closest he’d ever come to complimenting me. So I’d taken the clipboard and headed out to find out why Mitch—who was, in all honesty, kind of a natural fuck-up—had pissed himself.

After sparing another minute to frown and sulk, I headed up the sidewalk to the house that had been Mitch’s undoing. With the streetlight gone and the porch light off, it was dark and disturbing. Yeah, I have night-vision goggles—it’s a necessity in my line of work—but they make everything green, and they don’t quite fit right. Tonight’s full moon and clear sky made them optional, so I’d opted against.

In any case, it was up to me—all five feet nothing and a hundred and mumble pounds of me—to go to the door and tell the vampire who lived there that we were going to impound his HDTV if he didn’t cough up four months’ worth of back payments, interest and administrative charges. Something told me he wasn’t going to be happy.

I gave my jacket pockets a last check—Taser, pepper spray, garlic, squirt gun full of holy water, properly licensed, thank you very much—and stepped through the gloomy dark to the gloomy front door of the gloomy, windowless house.

I knocked. And waited. Knocked again. Finally, HDTV Guy answered his door. His shirt buttons were askew, and he had a drip of blood at the corner of his mouth. God, I didn’t even want to know.

“Good evening. I’m Nimuë Taylor, from Bernstein & Carter,” I announced. “I regret to inform you—”

“I talked to you assholes last night,” TV Guy interrupted. “Told that little shit not to come back.”

I pressed my lips together and gave him an annoyed head-tilt, eyes narrowed. Not that I managed to be intimidating, since I resemble a shaggy-headed anime character. “In deference to your request, my company has thoughtfully provided a different little shit. Now, I have paperwork here with a breakdown of all funds currently in arrears. You can contact our office tonight to let us know how you’d like to handle the situation. Otherwise, we’ll have to impound your TV.”

Apparently, he and his TV had developed a serious relationship in their brief acquaintance. “You are not taking my fucking TV.” He flashed his fangs, as if the sight of moonlight glittering off sharp, pointy teeth would send me gibbering off to mind my own business.

Fangs didn’t faze me much these days. I blinked at him blandly, ready to squirt-gun his ass if necessary. I had my clipboard in one hand, so I could hand it to him for his signature, but my other hand was inside my jacket pocket, finger on the trigger of the squirt gun.

“You’re correct, Mr. Smith.” What a lame name. Like I couldn’t figure out it was fake. “If you fail to contact our office, someone will drop by tomorrow, and he will take your fucking TV.” I held out the clipboard, a business card clamped under the clip on top of my paperwork. “The phone number’s right here.”

He snarled. My hand tightened on the squirt gun. He was going to get a face full if he didn’t watch it.

I took a loose, cocky stance, refusing to show fear, though I could feel it curling in my stomach, and he could probably smell it. Vamps are gross that way. “If you could just sign here, to verify I made this stop—”

He knocked the clipboard out of my hand. I pulled the pistol and pointed it at him. “Pick up the clipboard and sign it.”

“Or what? You’ll shoot me with your little purple gun?”

“My little purple gun full of holy water,” I said calmly.

His sneer faded, and he eyed the gun. “I can take that out of your hand before you have a chance to pull the trigger.”

Nice piece of vampire posturing. I pulled the trigger. The stream of water hit him right in the eye—I’m a good shot, and, lame as it sounds, my squirt gun is souped up.

“Shit!” He lurched back as his eye began to smoke. While he was still off-balance, I squirted him again, then grabbed my clipboard and ran. Colin would bitch that I hadn’t gotten the signature. Let him. I wasn’t going to hang around to get chewed on.

I still heard Mr. Smith swearing behind me, then issuing threats. “You fucking bitch! I’m gonna tear your throat out!”

Not if I got to my car first. From the sound of it, he was still scrambling behind me, and from the smell, the holy water had done some serious damage. My car was only a few yards away—

And someone was leaning against it. Not just any someone, but a vampire someone. He grinned at me, flashing fangs, and this time, the sight of sharp, pointy teeth in the moonlight did make me want to cut and run.

In no way could this be construed as good, regardless of how much you tried to stretch the definition of the term. In fact, I was willing to go out on a limb and say it was just plain bad. I dropped the clipboard, leaving both hands free. One still held the squirt gun; I shoved the other into my jeans pocket, where I’d stowed my car keys.

The new vamp pushed away from the car, giving me a feral, fangy smile.

“You upset my friend,” he said, his voice oily. The performance was almost too over the top to be scary. Almost. “I don’t like that.”

“It’s just a TV, for God’s sake,” I said. There wasn’t much I could do at this point to get away—he was between me and the car, and I could hear Mr. Smith staggering up behind me. Could smell him too. There’s nothing quite like the reek of burnt vampire.

“He likes his TV.” The vamp took a menacing step toward me. This was my only advantage—it appeared the newcomer liked to play with his food. “I like his TV too.”

“Well, I’m sorry your boyfriend can’t remember to pay his bills.” My fingers found my keys in my pocket and hit the alarm button. My car began to wail, and I groped into my hoodie pocket again, searching out another weapon.

The vampire jumped, then glared at me, obviously embarrassed at his reaction to the sudden, pervasive noise. “You really think that’s going to help?”

But it had helped, because it had distracted him for that split second. I leveled the squirt gun at him. He let out a barking laugh and slapped it out of my hand. At which point I treated him to a face full of pepper spray from the other hand.

He recoiled, grimacing, eyes watering. The stuff hurt like hell, I knew, even if you were a vampire. While he made incomprehensible grunting noises, I ducked around him and jerked the car door open.

Just then, Mr. Smith descended, his right eye weeping goo onto his cheek. He reached into the car after me, and I slammed the door on his arm. He grimaced but still groped for me as I held the door shut as tight as I could. Wriggling in the car seat, I got my feet up against the doorframe for leverage and pulled harder, wondering how much pressure it would take to sever his arm.

He couldn’t quite reach me, his fingers wiggling in the air a few inches from my face. If I leaned forward, I could get one of those stupidly annoying fingers between my teeth and bite it off—

Suddenly, Mr. Smith flew backward across the grass. He landed hard on his ass and sat there, stunned. I stared back at him, at first not sure what had happened. Then the other vamp flew across the lawn as well. I recovered enough to realize I could close my car door now that the vamp’s arm was no longer in the way, so I did. I stuffed the key into the ignition and started the car.

There was a tap on my window. Startled, I met the gaze of still another vampire standing next to the driver’s-side door. They were just crawling up out of the lawns tonight. He laid my clipboard against the glass with a careful smack.

“You’re going to need this.”

I wasn’t sure what to do at first. This new vamp had just saved my ass—well maybe not saved it, per se, but he’d made things easier. Adrenaline still rushed through my system, so my first impulse was to slam him with the door, get him on the ground and spray holy water into his ear until his brain melted. I’d done that once, and it wasn’t pretty. Vamps didn’t come back from that. In fact, their families sued under those circumstances. And then lost a shitload of money if you could prove self-defense.

I didn’t do that, though. I just stared at him, heart galloping, trying to control my breathing before I hyperventilated and passed out.

He smiled. He was nice to look at. A slim face with etched cheekbones, a wide mouth not marred but enhanced by a slight overbite, and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. The rest of him appeared to be slim as well, though I couldn’t see all of him out the window.

“If you’d like to put the window down just a bit, I can slide the clipboard through for you.” And British. I hadn’t registered the accent at first.

I swallowed, adrenaline still muddling my head. Finally, I hit the button to lower the window just enough for the clipboard to slide through. He displayed my squirt gun and eased it through to me too.

“Thanks,” I said as I took the gun. “You really saved my ass.”

He shrugged, still grinning. “Seemed you were doing all right, actually.”

I smiled in spite of myself. “A little help never hurts.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

There was an awkward moment of silence. I felt like I should say something else, but I didn’t know what.

And that was when the cops showed up.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why I'm Learning Russian and Why You Should Learn Urdu or Maybe Tagalog



I’ll be one of the first to admit that I can go overboard when it comes to research. I like to follow trails wherever they lead and can spend months just reading when I should probably be writing the story.

One thing I’ve done under the umbrella of book research is learn languages. Languages have always fascinated me. When I was a kid, I remember spending hours poring over my mom’s college Spanish texts and even dipping into her text of Beowulf in the original old English (I guess it runs in the family). So when I decided to write about a Russian spy, it seemed natural to come home with a stack of Russian language books from the library, including the entire CD set of Pimsleur’s Russian courses, one of the best ways to get pronunciation and syntax drilled into your brain.

So why would I need to learn a whole new language just because my hero is from another country? I gave this a lot of thought because, let’s face it, learning a language is time-consuming, and there are all kinds of ways to handwave that kind of thing in fiction.

But I decided to pursue the venture, as much as it seemed like overkill. And I discovered that, yes, learning the language made me feel more comfortable with the characters.

My heroine is American but knows Russian, so knowing how the language feels in the mouth helps me add verisimilitude when she exercises her bilingual skills. That might sound weird but give it a try. My college Spanish teachers said to smile when you speak Spanish—it helps keep the words at the front of the mouth. Irish Gaelic seems to depend a lot more on the tongue. And Russian seems to be either way in the back of the throat or about to fall right out on your chin, depending on the word.

Another issue is syntax and word choice. Without knowing something about the language, I wouldn’t have known why Russians tend to drop articles (there are no articles in Russian). I also wouldn’t know what English words are difficult for Russians to pronounce. (As far as what Russian words are difficult for English speakers to pronounce, the answer is all of them.)

Of course I could figure out a lot of this listening to Russians speaking English on YouTube. (Which, by the way, is a great reason to watch hours and hours of Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin interviews and call it work.) But knowing the reasons why they speak like they do makes it easier to remember what my personal Evgeni will sound like when he speaks English.

There are also scenes when both characters are speaking Russian. In these cases, it’s easy to fall into a pattern where they talk as if they were both speaking English, idioms and all. But it’s more realistic to reflect some of the natural syntax and idiomatic usages of Russian. I want there to be a distinct “feel” to the dialogue based on what language is being spoken and who’s speaking it. I think it’ll add something to the story.

So I’ll keep plugging away with my Russian lessons. Maybe down the road I’ll know it well enough to follow the KHL. In the meantime, here’s a challenge—if one or more of your characters speak something other than English, see if a bit of study of their native language gives you different insights into how you write them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Friday Links on Tuesday: Software for Writers

Just about every day I see a post from someone somewhere lauding the latest app or software or online tool that has revolutionized their writing, their workflow, their love life or all of the above. I usually take a look at them. Most of them I don't try for various reasons. But a few things I've integrated into my work day have really made a huge difference for me. Today's links are about those few tools that I've found Incredibly Useful.

Evernote. I was late on the bandwagon with this one. I swear I tried it a year or so ago and wasn't able to get it to download, or couldn't figure out how it worked, or something. Then, a few months ago, I tried again, and I haven't looked back. It's an excellent tool to organize research notes, random articles that look like they might evolve into story ideas, or just piddly things I need to remember. This article from Open Forum tells more about ways you can utilize it in all its wondermousness.

And another note on Evernote--yesterday I did a "library day," where I headed down the hill to a big library where I can sit in a study carrel and write uninterrupted. I brought my Kindle and my phone. On my Kindle, I had several books I was using for research for the story I was working on. On the phone, I had just installed Evernote as well as an Evernote widget to make access to all my research easy cheesy. Between the Kindle and the phone, I had everything I needed without lugging my MacBook Pro with me. It was convenient and easy and kind of awesome. Except now it's got me thinking an iPad would be EVEN COOLER!! (KK wants ALL THE GADGETS!)

Scrivener. I don't even know how I wrote anything without Scrivener. It's like the Avengers of writing software. Seriously. With Joss Whedon thrown in on the side. I write better, stronger, faster--and I didn't even have to crash a test plane to do it. (Oops, sorry, switched superhero types there...) The combo of Evernote and Scrivener is like Thor's Hammer, Captain America's Shield, Hawkeye's cool bow thingie and Black Widow's general basassedness all in one. But you don't have to take my word for it. Here's an article from The Creative Penn with more.

Kanban. This isn't so much software as a tool for managing workflow. However, I use the online tool mentioned on the site. I've only been using this for a couple of weeks but it's already kicked me into a higher gear as far as getting things done efficiently and increasing my productivity. If you love writing things on sticky notes and moving them around, chances are good you'll like this. The link above explains the process, and the online tool can be found at kanbanflow.com.

And here's a bonus link for those who like their iPhones/iPads--I don't have either, so I haven't tested any of these, but the article looks like it has some neat ideas:

The Book Designer--10 Ways Free iPhone Apps Supercharge Writers.

Any tools, software or doohickies you can't do without? Share in the comments below.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Friday Links on Tuesday: Worldbuilding

It's, like, a world. Get it?
I've addressed worldbuilding before (very briefly--it's in Item 3 on the linked post) over on Notes on Vellum, but here I'd like to talk about some more specific ways to use worldbuilding to build your backlist as well as to add depth to your current projects. The links below offer some hints and suggestions about using the world of your story to build more stories, draw readers in, find your way into series books, and, of course, profit...

David Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants: Your Setting as a Petri Dish. This is a neat article talking about how you can use one setting to kick off a bajillion stories and ideas. I'm in the middle of something like this right now--three separate series ideas (or is it four? I forget) all set in the same universe. It's fun and crazy and kind of overwhelming. I was glad to discover I'm not the only person who comes up with this kind of nuttiness.

Another from Dave Farland: How Real do you want Your World to Be? This is fiction, right? So why does it have to be real? Farland talks about grounding fantasy settings in reality to increase reader engagement and how to balance all your story elements to support your decisions about how far you want to go with the fantasticalness.

Nathan Bransford: Expanding the World of your Novel. This could be seen as a companion piece to the Petri Dish article above. Bransford talks about adding companion pieces to expand the universe, including novellas focused on a single character and book trailers to bring the world to life. This is a bit about marketing and a bit about just having fun with your created world.

Writer's Digest: Writing a Stand-alone Book (With Series Potential). If you're writing genre, Standalone with Series Potential is the magic word. This article gives some practical tips on how to think of your story as a series pilot and lay in numerous elements that can help jumpstart further books in the series. (Do people actually have trouble thinking of forty zillion sequels to a book? Or is my brain just insane? Don't answer that.)

Jane Friedman: It’s OK to Leave Stuff Out. In Fact, It’s Better. Tips on building your world without turning your book into the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Also? Superdog is AWESOME.

Worldbuilding is a complex subject. It's also hard, and hella fun. I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have about your own worldbuilding processes, how you add to your created universe, or different ideas you've had for nourishing that Petri dish. (No pictures of yucky mold, please.)


Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Links: Deepening Your Writing

Starting next week, I'm going to switch my links posts to Tuesday and just post once a week for a while. Instead of just posting a list of links, though, I'm going to have them all focused on a theme, and I'll try to add some additional thoughts regarding that theme (appearance of additional thoughts dependent upon amount of caffeine consumed that day and number of afternoon naps indulged in).

Today's links are focused on pushing your writing that extra step--adding layers, making it more real, and taking advantage of all the senses you can put into play to draw your readers in.

Jody Hedlund: 7 Setting Basics That Can Bring a Story to Life. Adding detail and meaning to your story's setting.

Wordplay: How to Create Distinctive Character Voices. Ways to make your characters stand out from each other.

Writers in the Storm, guest post by Janice Hardy: 5 Ways to Bring Your Descriptions to Life. Looking at how descriptions will be written differently depending upon the POV.

Glimmertrain: Prompts to Deepen Character Development. Get to know your characters without having to buy them dinner.

Writania: 3 Steps to Writing a Novel With Unforgettable Characters. Making your characters balanced and real.

On your next pass through your WIP, take a look at some of these ideas and you'll add depth to your story that wasn't there before. These are also great steps to look at while you're doing revisions on a completed manuscript. Any personal tricks or tips you use when you're working on adding layers and depth? Please share in the comments below. I can use all the help I can get. :-)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Not quite as many links today, but they're all FOCUSED n stuff. These links are about using social media to help spread the word about yourself and your work. Enjoy, and try at least one tip to get your name out there where people can find you.

Social Media Examiner: 5 Tips to Build and Grow Your LinkedIn Network. If your still perplexed about LinkedIn (I know I am), this article will help you sort out some of the details.

Arielle Ford: Why Authors and Social Media are Meant for Each Other. Some general suggestions about social media, several examples using Facebook.

Justine Musk: Pinterest--creating a vision board for your creative project. Ways to use Pinterest to kickstart your muse.

SheWrites: Top 10 Don't-Miss Sites for Marketing Your Writing (Without Breaking the Bank). Advice on using several sites for promotion.

My Name Is Not Bob: April Platform Challenge. 30 days of tasks that will expand your platform and bring more readers right to your social media door. You can still do these even if it's not April.

That should keep you busy for a while. I hope you find something helpful here that helps you find your audience.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Excerpt--The Haunting of Rory Campbell


After last week's spate of new stories, this time we head for another blast from the past with a snippet from The Haunting of Rory Campbell, another novel from ImaJinn Books. Rory Campbell is a professional ghost whisperer, I suppose you could say, although I wrote this book before that term came into vogue. While investigating a haunted historical site in North Carolina, she encounters Lachlan MacGregor, a Scottish immigrant who died in the 18th century. Ghostly hijinks ensue.

Paperback
Ebook
Kindle

***
            A few hours later, suitcases unloaded, cameras and tape recorders strewn all over the living room, Rory sat at the kitchen table writing out a game plan.  Tomorrow she’d set up tape recorders in places most likely to yield results.  Based on the background information, she’d already ruled out the pink bedroom, but the kitchen and the library seemed promising.  Tonight she’d collate her notes on previous sightings, which would make a good first chapter to her book.
            Finally she stopped, eyes aching from looking at the computer terminal.  Time to wind down for bed.  But she had nothing whatsoever to do with herself.  The place had electricity, yes, but there was no TV, no radio, and she was tired of looking at the computer, even for entertainment’s sake.
            She’d almost decided just to go to bed and read when she remembered the big, deep, claw-footed porcelain tub in the upstairs bathroom.  The thought of a nice, warm bath made her realize just how long a day she’d had, and how much she needed the relaxation.
            The water sputtered a bit when she turned on the tap, blowing a nice spray of rust with it, so she let it run until the water was clear before she stuck her hand in to test the temperature.  She wondered how old the pipes were, and if they might have lead in them.  She’d have the water tested as soon as possible.
            The bathroom filled with steam as the tub filled with hot water.  Rory went back to the pink room to retrieve the paperback horror novel she’d picked up at the grocery store.  She found horror novels vastly entertaining.  Devoting her professional life to the paranormal had given her a perspective somewhat different from the average reading public’s, and she often laughed her way through the most gruesome tales of preternatural mayhem.  Stephen King could still scare the hell out of her on occasion, though. 
            Book chosen, tub full and steaming, Rory peeled off her clothes and settled down into the nearly too-hot water.  It would cool quickly enough, but right now it was warm enough to turn her pale, freckled skin an interesting lobsterish color.  She wished she had bubble bath, but unfortunately she hadn’t thought about it when she’d been at the store.
            She read for a while as the water cooled to comfortably warm.  The heat and the stress of the day combined to fill her body with lassitude.  As the mayhem in the book began in earnest, she found her eyes drifting shut.  Finally, after nearly dropping the book into the water, she laid it aside and closed her eyes.
            Warm steam caressed her face, and the warm water lapped softly against her thighs and breasts.  With her eyes closed, the dampness felt like a hand against her face, each bead of sweat seeming to pop as it rose on her upper lip.  She felt as if she were floating, though her body rested securely on the floor of the tub.  Giving herself up to the floaty sensation, she let it carry her away.
            She didn’t fall asleep.  Not quite.  She hung suspended between consciousness and slumber, thinking of nothing, only feeling.  Sensation filled her, until it seemed nothing existed outside the layers of her own skin.           
            The heat, which had lain soft and damp against her skin, shifted as her breathing deepened.  It was like the caress of hands, moving up and down her body, the imagined touch adding to the deep, pervasive lassitude which had completely filled her.  She smiled a little, sank deeper into the water, but her conscious self was unaware of the action.
            And heat grew within her.  Liquid still, like the heat of the water, but pooling within her body, sinking to lie between her thighs, until that place ached with heaviness.  Sticky and hot, she moved, her hips pulsing softly.  She didn’t know she did it.  She thought she dreamed.
            But the dream was all of heat and water, growing and moving as it passed over her body, molded firm around her breasts, slipped soft down her belly, feathered against the insides of her thighs . . .
            Rory woke with a start and sat gasping, still feeling the heat, her body teetering on the edge of completion.
            What the hell was that?
            It had to have been a dream.  Certainly the heat hadn’t been real--the bath water had turned almost icy around her.  She stood, shivering as she snagged the towel from the sink.  Her legs wobbled.  She scrubbed herself dry and shivered her way into her pajamas.
            She stared at the water as it swirled and glugged down the drain.  She’d had strangely intense emotional experiences at haunted sights before, but never anything like this.  It had to have been a dream, the result of fatigue and her understandable preoccupation with the possible haunting of the house.
            At least, she hoped that was all it was.  Anything else didn’t really bear thinking about.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

One More Excerpt: Lord of the Screaming Tower

My third release for April is from Lord of the Screaming Tower, a fantasy novella from Etopia Press. This story has a long history. The story was inspired by the song "Wrapped Around My Finger" by the Police. I wrote a long short story originally, then later I decided it might work as a longer piece. I wrote some additional bits about the characters and the world but never quite managed to complete it as a full-length book. This time around, I took the original story and the bits and pieces and put them together and ended up with a novella.

In the world of this book, magic is performed with music, both vocal and instrumental. Sarangell, the protagonist, is a particularly talented young wizard faced with the ultimate choice--banish the older wizard he's been told is evil, or take into himself power beyond what any wizard has ever previously imagined possible.


***

Chapter One
The tower stood in a dark jumble of broken stones, ragged in the moonlight. And it was screaming.
Sarangell’s hand closed on nothing. For weeks, while he and the old wizard had planned, the screaming had haunted the edges of his dreams, howling into his heartbeat. On impulse, he touched the black rock that made up the tower’s outside wall. It lay cold and still under his fingers.

To his left a door grated open, and a boy put his head out. Sarangell jerked toward him, snatching his hand away from the stone.

“What do you want?” the boy asked. One side of his face drooped, making his words slur.

At the abrupt, disrespectful demand, Sarangell fought the urge to lash out, with magic or otherwise. This was only a boy, after all, and a broken one at that. “I wish to see your master.” His soft, careful voice moved like clean water.

The boy’s eyebrows rose at the sound of that voice, and he took a sharp step backward. “Wait here.” The door closed.

Sarangell eased his harp case off his shoulder and laid it down. The cold night air whipped through the folds of his white shirt. Sarangell shivered, then hummed warmth back into the air around him. It was a simple enough spell, one of the first the old wizard had taught him. A yellow glow rose from his feet, sending the biting wind into steam. Sarangell hummed a Sustaining pitch and smiled. With the harp, and the sixth octave the old wizard had given him last night, he could have filled the courtyard with flames.

The door grated back open, and the boy reappeared. He stared at Sarangell’s yellow aura then collected himself.

“My master will see you. Follow me.”

Sarangell had expected as much. His Natural voice had gotten him easily into other wizards’ towers. All he had to do was say “hello,” and he was ushered into the inner sanctums. It had been that way twelve years ago when he’d fallen at the old wizard’s doorstep, nearly dead from the wrath of his father. It should be no different here. Inside it was dark but warm. Sarangell hummed a Counterpitch, shedding his warmth, and sang up a light. The boy gaped at him yet again.

“Your voice… It’s Natural, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

The boy shook his head, eyes still wide. Sarangell smiled.

The corridor twisted between black, broken walls. At one time, the tower had been a single piece of obsidian stone, constructed with magic no one but its lord understood. Now there were chips, holes, and cracks that ran down the walls to the floor. The damage, Sarangell knew, was the remnants of the old wizard’s last assault on the tower. Afterward the tower had been silent for years.

Then the screaming had begun.

They reached a staircase that took them to a landing lit by magical wisps and mundane torches. The boy opened a door.

“He’s waiting.”

Sarangell stepped forward, tempted to sing a note that would lead him right where he wanted to go without needing to depend upon the wavering lights and the boy’s dubious guidance. It would have been rude though, and he didn’t want to offend the master of the tower. Not yet. Certainly he’d be offended later, when Sarangell killed him.

Beyond the door, a short, dim corridor led to a large room. A desk sat in the middle, next to it a tall standing harp of honeywood. Book-laden shelves lined the walls.

He crossed the room, eyes on the harp. It was a beautiful instrument, its curves perfect, the strings fairly humming with the movement of the air in the room. Sarangell looked toward the bookshelves. They held standard wizard texts where he had hoped for rare tomes of eccentric power. His mouth twisted with disappointment.

“I’ve always thought it was a rather pleasant room.”

Sarangell spun. The voice was a wizard’s, a bit deeper than training usually aimed for, but with the clarity of Natural intonations. Its owner stood in the shadow behind the desk, where Sarangell should have seen him and yet hadn’t, his tall, slim body draped in purple. A neat beard darkened his craggy face. His eyes were pale green, and he looked thirty years younger than he should have.

“It is a pleasant room,” Sarangell said. “A bit dark though.”

The wizard stepped forward and touched the harp. The lights brightened. Sarangell’s hands shifted on his own harp case as the wizard’s eyes found the gold-rimmed insignia on Sarangell’s left breast.
“You bear the mark of Kandrell,” the wizard said.

Sarangell nodded to the wizard’s own black and purple badge. “And you bear the mark of Menesh.”

Teeth flashed ivory in the dark beard. “I am Menesh.”

“I know.”

Menesh nodded, the smile still playing across his lips. “You have a Natural voice. I didn’t believe the boy when he told me, but he was right. He’s tone deaf and simple, or I wouldn’t keep him here, but he can hear the grit in the Trained voices. How many of your octaves are natural?”

“Three. A little over.”

“Do you have the eighth octave?”

“No. Only six.”

Menesh rounded the desk and perched on the edge of it. “May I see your harp?”

Sarangell hesitated, then handed the instrument over. Menesh opened the case. The light in the room seemed to catch fire in the brilliant red wood. Menesh’s blunt hands touched the strings gently, playing harmless notes, music rather than magic. After a time, he handed it back.
“It’s a good harp. Why don’t you sit down?”

Sarangell obediently sat in the chair next to the desk. The desk had papers on it, most filled with music. Some were outlines of spells Sarangell recognized, but with minor changes here and there. Others appeared to be pieces of more complex magic, while still others Sarangell recognized as simply music. The notations ran through ten octaves, with harp augmentation up to eight. Sarangell passed a neutral glance over them.

“What’s your name?” Menesh asked.

“Sarangell.”

“You’ve been studying with Kandrell for how long?”

“Twelve years.”

“And before that?”

“My voice disappeared when I was thirteen. When it came back after two weeks, I couldn’t say hello without breaking crockery or setting the walls on fire. So my father beat me, and I found my way to Kandrell.” It wasn’t the whole story, of course, but it was more than Menesh needed to know.

Menesh nodded, eyes narrowing. It wasn’t so unusual a story, Sarangell knew. Magic was not only feared but despised in the towns, which was why the wizards congregated in towers in the rugged countryside. Which was also why Sarangell’s father had crushed his wife’s magic-laden hands into uselessness, finally managing to kill her in her thirteenth trip to childbed. These days Natural voices were practically nonexistent, with the wizards searching more and more for apprentices in the southern countries. There older gods reigned, wizardry was still considered an honored profession, and children with borderline voices were often sent to towers with their parents’ blessings to be trained.

So Sarangell understood the gleam in Menesh’s eyes as he considered Sarangell’s potential. “And you’ve augmented three times since then?”

“Yes. And I want more. I’ve been to tower after tower, and the wizards are all the same—slow and careful. They won’t teach me what I want to know. Maybe you will.”

Menesh toyed with his beard. “Kandrell tried to kill me once, you know.”

Sarangell knew perfectly well. And Sarangell’s arrival here was Kandrell’s second attempt. “No, I didn’t.”

Menesh made a wide gesture. “You’ve seen the broken walls. Kandrell did that. He destroyed a great deal of important work.”

“What has that to do with me?”

Menesh’s robe rustled as he slid down from the desk. “Possibly nothing. But if I find that you maintain loyalty to him, I’ll kill you.”

Sarangell tried to match the other wizard’s quiet gaze, but couldn’t. “My Lord,” he murmured. Menesh smiled. His hand touched the golden harpstrings, and he disappeared.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Excerpt Week Continues: Accidental Evenings

"Accidental Evenings" is my first venture with Still Moments Publishing. It's one of three stories in the anthology Unleashed Hearts, which features stories about couples who are brought together by their dogs. As a dog lover, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to contribute. My story was accepted (yays!) and here we are!

Mandy is a homebody, much like myself in that she'd rather stay home and cuddle with her dog than try to find a new boyfriend. Her dog, though, has other ideas, and when Chloe keeps digging under the fence and ending up on the next door neighbor's back porch, Mandy has no choice but to meet the neighbor. The hunky neighbor. Who seems to like her...

***
 
Standing on the porch, Mandy wondered if she should have brought a housewarming gift. A bottle of wine, maybe, or a houseplant. But the only wine she had in her house was in a half empty bottle in the fridge, and all her houseplants were dead. The neighbors would have to settle for, “Hi, how are you? May I have my stupid dog back, please?”
Gathering her courage, Mandy rang the doorbell.
For a few minutes, everything was silent behind the door. Maybe nobody was home? But the porch light was on, as was the light in the garage, and she could see a car through the high garage windows. Not that she was snooping or anything.
She was about to ring the bell again when something stirred inside the house. A minute later, the door opened.
Mandy forgot to breathe for a minute. The man on the other side of the glass-and-screen door was about six foot three, with black hair, blue eyes, and shoulders that nearly filled the doorframe. She also noticed, with a reflex she’d developed over the last five years for no really good reason, that there was no ring on his left hand. He was wearing suit pants and a collared shirt, unbuttoned at the throat as if he’d recently removed a tie.
“Good evening?” He had an accent. She couldn’t quite peg it because her ears were ringing, but good God, just when she thought he couldn’t get any hotter.
“Um…hi?” Mandy managed. “I’m your next-door neighbor and—”
“Oh!” His face lit up and he held out a hand. “It’s so nice to meet you. I’ve been meaning to come over and introduce myself.”
“Um…” She couldn’t come up with any additional words, so she shook his hand. It was big and warm. The accent, she decided, was Eastern European. Not Russian, but close. Russian-ish. “Mandy,” she managed as he clasped her hand then let go. It was a good handshake.
“Tómas,” he said. “Won’t you come in?”
Come in? That wasn’t where she’d expected this to go. “I don’t want to impose. It’s just…my dog—”
“Oh, no imposition. Please. Come in and tell me all about your dog.”
It seemed she didn’t have much choice. He wanted her to come in and so she was going to come in, dragged bodily over the threshold by the sheer power of his amazingly blue eyes.
She figured she’d just tell him what was up with Cleo and get the socializing over with, and then run back to her comfortable living room where she could watch television and eat a pint of double-chocolate, mint chip ice cream, and pretend this Tómas thing of gorgeousness didn’t exist. It would be a much easier life than acknowledging he was here and wondering if he could see past the weird little flip on her bedroom curtains when she was undressing.
“Can I offer you tea? Coffee? A soft drink?” Good God, but he was friendly.
“Um…the dog…”
“Yes. The dog. I’ll bring you tea, and then we can talk about the dog.”
Friendly and bossy. And decisive. She thought about telling him she didn’t like tea, but that was a lie. And it wasn’t like she was any real hurry. Cleo was probably still lying stubbornly on his back porch with her feathery tail over her nose.
“Have a seat,” said Tómas.
Mandy had a seat. The living room was nicely furnished, with chairs that looked strangely modern and antique at the same time. She ran a hand over the red and gold upholstery on the arm of the chair she’d chosen.
“My dog…her name’s Cleo…” Mandy began, raising her voice so Tómas could hopefully hear her in the kitchen. It was around the corner from where she sat, and she could hear him puttering, the clink of porcelain and the soft glug of water pouring out of a kettle. “She’s normally really well behaved, but the last three nights she’s gotten out of the yard and—”
Tómas reappeared, carrying two cups of steaming tea. He handed one to her, kept the other for himself and settled into the chair across from hers.
“She’s gotten out?” he said. “Do you need help to find her? I’m sorry, I should have let you tell me earlier—”
“No, no.” Mandy waved off his impending apology. “I don’t need help finding her. The thing is, she’s on your back porch.”
Tómas’s black brows rose and he regarded her almost comically. “She is? She’s on my back porch?”
“Yeah. She dug a hole under the fence, and when I went to look, she was back there just…hanging out. She wouldn’t come when I called.”
“Goodness.” Tómas set his teacup carefully on the side table. “I wonder why she would do that? Let’s go let her in, shall we?”
He stood and Mandy followed suit, rubbing her tea-warmed hands down the fronts of her thighs. “You don’t have to let her in the house. I mean, she sheds and she’s been digging, so she might be muddy—”
“Oh, psssh.” It was an odd sound, accompanied by a flip of his hand that made it clear he wasn’t concerned about either muddy paws or the horrors of Labrador hair. “Is she friendly? She sounds like she must be.”
He was on his way to the back door already, leading Mandy through his kitchen. It looked as if he’d just been finishing up dinner when she’d arrived—there was an empty plate and a half-empty glass of wine on the table, the bottle sitting next to it.
“Yeah. She’s friendly.”
“Her name?”
“Cleo.”
Tómas opened the back door. “Oh, my goodness! Look what it is. A dog on my back porch. Come in, Cleo, and say hello to your mama.”

I hope you'll check out Unleashed Hearts, with "Accidental Evenings" as well as "Dog Day Afternoons" by Darlene Henderson and "Snow White and the Seven Dogs" by Denise Moncreif.