Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dealing With David--Coming Soon!

Just got the new, finalized cover for my next Samhain release, Dealing With David. Take a gander! It's pre-order-able now.

This book was previously published at Hard Shell Word Factory, but my Samhain editor had me run it through the wringer, so it's a much better book now.


It’s tough to win the game of love if you don’t understand the rules.

Though Tony Mullin agreed to put on a medieval costume, complete with pointy hat, for her best friend’s marriage vow renewal, another round of wedding bells will never be in her own future. Been there, done that, still sifting through the ashes of broken dreams.

Yet she can’t take her eyes off the Armani-clad mystery man among the guests—and no one’s more surprised to learn it’s David Peterson, the erstwhile nerd who mooned over her in high school. He not only grew up to be a hunk, but a rich one as well. Pity she’s sworn off men.

Last David knew, sweet, artistic Tony married the high school quarterback. He made his fortune developing video games, but the torch he carried for her still smolders. His surprise that she’s ditched the jock quickly turns to determination to win her heart at last…though she seems just as determined to play keep-away.

David didn’t become successful by giving up easily. A freak snowstorm plays into his strategy, but debugging a few gigabytes of computer code seems easier than figuring out how to win this wary woman’s love.

This title was previously published. 
Product Warnings
Contains strange Colorado weather patterns and video game heroines with breasts that could put your eye out.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Excerpt: Vampire Apocalypse: Revelations

With Vampire Apocalypse: Revelations, we get to the last books I originally published with Dreams Unlimited. The Vampire Apocalypse series was originally envisioned as a series of novellas. The first two, Julian and Nicholas, were published under separate cover, and I was working on the third, Lucien, when DU went out of business.

I decided to stick to the original plan of connected novellas, but finished Lucien and wrote one more, Lorelei, and sold them as a package to ImaJinn. Then Book Two: Apotheosis, followed with four more connected novellas: Lilith, Rafael, Tara, and Julian--Redux. Both books are still in print through ImaJinn. Overall, it's one of those worlds I keep thinking about revisiting, but I'm not sure if I should.

From Vampire Apocalypse Book One: Revelations--Julian

Lorelei Fletcher was in over her head. She should have followed her instincts from the beginning. Too late for that now—she just hoped she could get the hell out of here somehow.

On any other night but Halloween, she never would have followed Dina east of Tompkins Square Park, dance club or no dance club. But Halloween and her vampire costume made her feel invincible, so she’d agreed.

They’d never made it to the dance club. Instead, following directions given Dina by her latest boyfriend, they’d ended up here, in a bizarre tenement building where all the rooms seemed to be connected, and where no hallway seemed to be the same shape from moment to moment. Lorelei was beginning to wonder if the weird smell in the place was some kind of hallucinogen.

It would, at least, be a logical explanation for why everyone was so weird. Everybody in the place was dressed like a vampire. It hadn’t seemed strange at first. It was Halloween, after all. Lorelei herself made a stunning vampiress, or so she thought, with her black hair and naturally milky complexion. But, unlike the weirdoes at this party, she only played vampire one day a year.

She had to admit the image of the vampire intrigued her, sometimes to the point of obsession. She could spend days watching every vampire movie she could find, tracing dim, elusive memories. In twenty years, she hadn’t found a mirror to the scene she remembered from childhood. But compared to these nuts, she was a paragon of sanity.

She’d been accosted half a dozen times by guys with razor blades, and, looking for the bathroom, she’d stumbled into a couple of leather-clad women sucking each other’s wrists with an enthusiasm Lorelei reserved for sex or good chocolate. She’d heard about things like this, but she’d never really believed people could be so freaky. So much for unbridled optimism.

She wished she knew where Dina was. Lorelei had lost track of her about an hour ago, when they’d split up to find the front door. They were supposed to meet at a designated bathroom fifteen minutes later, but Lorelei hadn’t seen Dina since. Nor had she seen the front door.

Somewhere a clock began to strike. Lorelei looked at her watch. Midnight. A woman in a bright red cape brushed by her, a coppery smell of blood drifting in her wake.

“Excuse me,” Lorelei said, but the woman only cast a grin over her shoulder and kept walking.

“Thank you so much.” Lorelei came to a halt and crossed her arms. This was ridiculous. She could swear she’d been down this stretch of hallway at least twice. Where the hell had the front door gone? She thought a minute. If she went this way, she should end up back at the bathroom...

The voice, faint but frantic, seemed to come from around a bend in the hall.“No! Stop it, Nicky!”

“Dina!” Lorelei broke into a run.

“Get your hands off me, you bastard!”

“Dina!” Lorelei ran full-tilt into the closed door. She was certain it was the bathroom—or a bathroom—and behind it Dina’s voice rose, frantic.

“No! Nicky, no!” >The voice sobbed now, in terror. >

Lorelei slammed herself into the door. >“Dina! Dina, hang on

Hang on to what? Lorelei had no idea what was going on. Her breath tore in her throat, heaving toward panic. Visions of razor blades and blood swam in her vision. >She smashed herself again and again into the door until she thought her shoulder would shatter. Suddenly the door came open with the sickening sound of splintering wood.

There was Dina. There were no razor blades, but there was blood.

A big, dark-haired man had her pinned against the wall, face buried in the bend of her throat. Of course, Lorelei thought fleetingly. If they thought they were vampires, of course they’d go for the throat. Shallow cuts, probably, like the wrist cuts.

“Get away from her, you freak!” Lorelei grabbed the man by the shoulder and dragged at him, trying to haul him off Dina. But he was heavy, and stronger than she could have imagined...

Panic clawed up her throat. This wasn’t like the wrist-sucking girls in the bathroom. Something more was going on here. >The room reeked of blood. From this angle, Lorelei could see it, winding in a thick, red line down Dina’s bare shoulder, down the length of her arm, dripping steadily from the end of her index finger. Dina’s head was thrown back, the man’s mouth fastened to her throat...

He was killing her.

Lorelei struck him again, fruitlessly. Then, so deep into panic she had no awareness of it anymore, she grabbed a handful of his silky black hair and jerked as hard as she could.

The man’s head snapped back. Blood sprayed everywhere. He turned toward Lorelei as Dina’s body slumped down to the floor, filling the small room with a rhythmic spray of blood that suddenly subsided.

The man grabbed Lorelei’s hair on either side of her face, holding her riveted. She’d thought the paleness of his skin was makeup, skillfully applied. >Now she saw it was only his skin, smooth, seamless, painfully white. He opened his blood-filled mouth and she saw white again, slender fangs.

He struck. ***

Julian Cavanaugh had been sitting in the alley for hours, chain smoking and smelling blood. He came here every Halloween, to remind himself of what he'd been, and what he'd become.

Sometimes he wondered why he did it. With the blood-smell in his nostrils the craving became almost unbearable even with the aid of the cigarettes, which weren’t exactly over-the-counter Marlboros. But if he could sit here from dusk until dawn, smelling the blood and not giving into the need, he knew he could make it another year.

As of tonight, it would be two hundred and thirty-six.

Sometimes he thought it was a waste of time, namely the hours he invested every week making the cigarettes. The tobacco he could buy at the mall, nicely dried and prepared, but three of the other ingredients were herbs which, as far as he knew, had been extinct on this planet for a millennium. Except for the few plants preserved by a Native American shaman, given to him by a god of blood, then passed on to Julian two hundred and thirty-six years ago.

Deep, throaty laughter came from a second-story window. Julian recognized the voice. >Nicholas had been made a vampire three years ago tonight, during the annual Halloween bloodbash. Vivian had made him. As Julian recalled, she’d found him in a bar and brought him home for the party. It was strange to Julian how many humans were willing to come, to slash their wrists and lap each others’ blood, pretending to be something they couldn’t begin to imagine.

Julian lit another cigarette from the tip of the butt in his mouth and listened to Nicholas’ voice. A woman answered him, first laughing seductively, then, suddenly, in fear.

“No. Stop it, Nicky.” He heard scuffling. “Get your hands off me, you bastard!” Then she screamed, “No!”

Julian closed his eyes tight and sucked hard on the cigarette. He’d promised himself a long time ago to stay out of the business of other vampires. >But he hated to hear the taking of an unwilling victim.

He should get up and walk away. Inside, the voices rose. Another woman’s voice screamed from the other side of the door. >Julian snubbed the cigarette against the brick wall and put the butt in his jacket pocket. Gathering himself, he leapt, catching the sill and levering himself up on it. The cigarettes had stilled the need for blood, but hadn’t affected his strength.

The victim’s head lolled against the partly-open window. All Julian could see was a mass of gold-brown hair and Nicholas’ face pressed into her neck. Julian grabbed the window and shoved upward. >He should have moved faster. Now it was too late to save her.

Suddenly the bathroom door burst inward and another woman half-fell into the room. With an astonishing show of strength, she tore Nicholas away from the dying blonde woman. And Nicholas, predictably, turned on her.

Julian launched himself through the window and onto Nicholas’ back, breaking him loose from his victim and knocking him to the floor. >The woman fell in a heap to the ground, all pale skin and black hair, unconscious, not from blood loss, but from the beginning of the vampire’s trance. Her throat had been pricked, but not penetrated.

Nicholas, interrupted at the beginning of a new feed, stumbled. Julian grabbed his shoulder and shoved him down. The younger vampire glared up at him, eyes glinting black.

“You,” he said, his voice still wet with blood from the first girl.

“How observant,” said Julian dryly.

Nicholas leaped at him. Julian hadn’t expected that and he threw up an arm to ward Nicholas off, but he landed hard against him, threw a punch that smashed Julian’s lip against his teeth. The taste of his own blood made Julian momentarily dizzy.

“Stop,” he said, his voice pitched low and deep. >

Nicholas stopped. He was young, his three years no match for Julian’s eight centuries. >He gaped at Julian, then struggled to formed words. “There’s a Call out for you, man.”

Julian stared. There had been no Call put out for a vampire for nearly two centuries. >But under the compulsion, Nicholas had no choice but to tell the truth.

“Sleep,” Julian said finally, and Nicholas slumped to the floor.

Julian turned to the dark-haired woman. She was alive. He could still help her. It was far too late for the other woman. All he could do was get away from the smell of her blood as quickly as possible. Gently, he lifted the living woman from the floor.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Earthchild: Excerpt

Earthchild is a follow-up to Starchild. It also appeared first at Dreams Unlimited, then went to Samhain. (I think LTD went out of business before I managed to arrange a reprint there.) Anyway. This one makes my mom cry.

Taken in as an infant and raised by the primitive, non-human natives of the colony planet Denahault, Noisy Girl has always known she was different. Human settlers initiating peaceful contact confirm it—her true home is a planet called Earth, millions of miles away among the stars.

Her search for her heritage leads her to the home of Harrison Fairfax and Trieka Cavendish, and their guest Jeff Anderson, Trieka’s former second-in-command.

For Jeff, Trieka’s offer to captain the legendary ship Starchild is a lifelong dream fulfilled. Then he meets Noisy Girl, an entrancing young woman who speaks only in sign language. She captures his imagination like no other woman ever has, and his efforts to teach her English deepens a relationship he never thought was possible for him.

But the claustrophobic, technology-laden atmosphere of Earth traumatizes the gentle Noisy Girl, and suddenly Jeff’s choices aren’t quite so clear.

If he accepts permanent command of Starchild, all hope of happiness with this beguiling woman will be destroyed. Unless a compromise can be found…

From Chapter One:

The Loud-Talking People had cut down trees and made houses from them. To Noisy Girl, who’d lived her whole life in the shelter of a natural cave, this seemed both bizarre and fascinating.
But even more bizarre and fascinating were the Loud-Talking People themselves. The noise seemed incessant, as they opened their mouths and made peculiar rhythmic sounds. Noisy Girl thought they looked strange as well, until she remembered they looked just like her. They had smooth, almost hairless skin, ranging in color from pinkish, like her own, to a black-brown nearly as dark as the skin of the White Fur People. Over it they wore garments amazingly constructed of woven cloth finer than anything she had ever seen. They were strange and beautiful and very, very noisy. They were her people, and they frightened her.

With her mother, she watched the village from a nearby ridge. They were close enough to see details of the houses and the people, close enough to hear the odd sounds that came from the Loud-Talkers’ mouths, but hidden by the forest growth that dominated the overhanging ridge. It would have been a good site from which to attack the little settlement, had they been so inclined. Noisy Girl shook her head as the thought passed through her mind, negating it. It wasn’t the kind of thing that usually occurred to her.

“They sound like tree-climbers,” Noisy Girl signed to her mother, thinking of the furry creatures who hung by their tails from the tree branches, chattering incessantly to each other. 

“They have fine houses,” Walks Crooked replied. She pointed. “Look. Children.”

One of the women below squatted as a small boy ran to her. A horrible noise came from his small mouth, an unarticulated sound of distress. The woman gathered him into her arms and brushed her mouth against his head, crooning against his sun-colored hair.

Something too vague to be a memory stirred in Noisy Girl’s heart. She pressed her fingers against her lips as the boy’s howling faded. Within a few moments, he laughed and ran away.

“They can be kind,” she said.

Her mother smiled. “They can be unkind, as well. But I think they will not be so to you.”

Noisy Girl frowned. “Will you come with me?”

“I will.”

The woman who caught sight of them as they slid down the ridge knew only a few words of the White Fur People’s language, but she tried. She smiled, made a great deal of noise, touched Noisy Girl as if she couldn’t believe Noisy Girl was real.

“No talk well,” she’d said, obviously uncomfortable with the hand gestures. “She talk well. Find her. You wait.”

“She wants us to wait,” Walks Crooked said, then her mouth twitched into a smile. “At least, I think that’s what she said.”

Noisy Girl recognized the nervousness behind Walks Crooked’s smile. She herself swallowed to calm the jumpy nausea caused by her own nerves.

“I don’t want to go,” she said suddenly, a desperate sound straining at the back of her throat. The Loud-Talking woman turned and looked at her, concern on her face. What did that sound mean to these people who used sounds as a matter of course?

“These are your people,” Walks Crooked said.

“You are my people.”

Walks Crooked cupped Noisy Girl’s face in a white-furred hand. “Learn about them. You can always change your mind later, if things don’t go well.”

Noisy Girl nodded, blinking back tears. She couldn’t help the sounds in the back of her throat. Until this moment, she hadn’t been certain the White Fur People would want her back. She’d been loved and cared for among them, but she couldn’t help the doubt—the fear that they’d jumped on the chance to introduce her to her own people so her strangeness would no longer disturb their world. She’d lived with that fear all her life.

“Thank you,” Noisy Girl said.

Several hours later, with the sun now past its zenith, they still waited.

Noisy Girl couldn’t fault the Loud-Talkers’ hospitality, though. They’d provided comfortable places to sit, on wooden constructs unlike anything Noisy Girl had ever seen, in a small room of one of the remarkable wooden houses. The woman brought them warm sweet drinks and hot bread with fruit spread. She sat with them and they all tried very hard to converse. The visitors didn’t get much beyond asking for more drinks and indicating appreciation of the food, but it gave Noisy Girl hope. If she could feel some measure of acceptance already, maybe she could find a place among these people that she’d never quite been able to make among the White Fur People. But everything here was so different. The sounds they made fascinated her. Could she learn to do that?

All her life, she’d been defined by the sounds she could make. In this world, those sounds would become commonplace. That realization suddenly clarified the enormity of the changes she faced.
A shift in the voices in the next room told her something had changed. Their companion, the woman who’d met them on the ridge, quickly left the room, following the sounds.

Noisy Girl sat straighter. Next to her, Walks Crooked laid a hand on her knee. She laid her hand on top of her mother’s and clutched at it, grasping at any link to familiarity. Her other hand fingered the string of amber beads she always wore. The texture of the smoothly polished stones had always calmed her. They helped now, but at the same time felt alien and strange. What would these people think of her?

From the other room came two more people, a man and a woman, accompanied by the woman who’d kept them company over the past few hours. The man was tall and slim, the hair on his head a dark brown touched with red. The woman was small, her hair a shocking orange.

The woman smiled, and her hands danced.

“Hello. My name is Fire Hair, and this is my mate, called Long Nose by the People Who Live at the Edge of the Mountain. We were asked to come here to talk to you.”

Noisy Girl glanced at her mother, shocked by the small woman’s identity. The stories of Fire Hair and Long Nose, who’d made possible the present interaction between the Loud-Talking People and the White Fur People, had traveled even to Noisy Girl’s isolated village. Those stories, in fact, were why she had come here.

Walks Crooked lifted her hands. “I am Walks Crooked, from the People by the Shores of the West Sea. This is my daughter, Noisy Girl. She came to our tribe as a very small child. When we heard of you and the peace that had begun between your people and ours, we knew we should come here so Noisy Girl might learn of her true people.”

Fire Hair nodded. “From the West Sea to here is a journey of many miles and much danger. You have come alone?”

“The dangers are not great for those who know these forests. Our village is small, and now is the best time for fish, so no one else could be spared for this journey.” Walks Crooked didn’t mention the other reasons. There’d been great debate about whether the journey was worth the risk. The West Sea tribe was distant and isolated, and fear still reigned when it came to dealing with the strange Loud-Talkers.

“May I speak to your daughter and call her by her name?”

“You may.”

Fire Hair’s attention turned to Noisy Girl, and her apprehension grew again. It was tempered, though, by Fire Hair’s attitude—her respect for Walks Crooked and her obvious knowledge of the customs of the White Fur People.

“Noisy Girl, I greet you with happiness. You are welcome to come with us and visit the tribe of the Loud-Talking People. If you wish to learn more of us, we will gladly teach you.”

“I’ve never been away from my village,” said Noisy Girl, feeling strangely at ease with this new acquaintance. “All of this is so strange.”

Behind Fire Hair, the man—Long Nose—joined the conversation with equally flawless gestures. “Perhaps your mother would wish to come and stay for a time, until you decide if you wish to remain with us or return to your village.”

“Yes,” said Walks Crooked. “I would do that, if it would be accepted.”

“It is accepted,” said Fire Hair. “You both may come and be welcome among us.”

And so it began.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Links for Friday--The Business of Writing

Today's batch of links is focused on the overall business of writing. Goalsetting, how to ensure quality, seeing yourself as an entrepreneur, etc. This is the hard stuff we have to do instead of sitting around scribbling in notebooks all day. (In a perfect world, I'd be scribbling in notebooks ALL THE TIME. While drinking coffee and watching hockey or ogling band boys. Alas, this is not a perfect world.)

Jane Friedman--guest post by John Warner--How “Literary” and “Entrepreneur” Are Becoming Intertwined

Chiseled in Rock (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers)--post by Tamelah Buhrke--Is Micro-publishing the Game Changer?

Jody Hedlund--Walls on the Way to Publication: A Necessity or a Nuisance.  A little of both? I think her approach to setting up your own walls to determine your readiness for publication are not a bad idea. It's easy to rush stuff out. It's harder to be sure it's really good.

Passive Voice Blog--It's the Rare Writer Who Actually has Ambitions. This post has excerpts from and links to a full post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Long but worth a read.

The Creative Penn--Writing for Life: 5 Practical Goals for Writers. Guest post by C. S. Lakin. Great advice.

Deanna Knippling--How Much Is Your Writing Worth? Wow, that was depressing. Also--warning--white on black. I suggest using Readability. (Via The Passive Voice.)

Mystery Writing is Murder--Promoting a Pen Name. I have... way too many. *collapses in exhausted heap*

Michael R. Hicks--Adjusting to Being a Full-Time Author. Part 1 and Part 2. Really good, meaty, sensible advice I wish I had known, oh, sometime mid 2011. (Oh, and there's about 5 parts now. Go read them all. They're linked at the bottom.) Again, black on white. Don't have Readability yet? Go fetch it.

David Farland--Marketing Before You Write. Writing for a specific audience. Interesting thoughts. Pretty sure this approach would work best if you make sure you're still writing what you love.

And that's it for today. Hope you found something useful, and have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

EXCERPT: Starchild

Starchild was my second published book at Dreams Unlimited. It moved to LTD after DU, then LTD went out of business. Then I bought an ad to publicize it at a magazine and the magazine promptly went out of business. I was beginning to think the book was a curse. Then it landed at Samhain, and they seem fairly solvent still, so hopefully that little string of weirdness has ended.

When billionaire financier Harrison Fairfax boards the EarthFed starship Starchild, Captain Trieka Cavendish knows he’ll bring trouble.  Earthlubbers always do.  But she has no idea “trouble” will come in the form of a vast government conspiracy that will turn her whole world upside down.

Harrison Fairfax has spent the past seven years trying to find out what happened to his wife, an investigative journalist.  But his wife’s disappearance is only the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath is bigger—and much, much worse. It’s a conspiracy reaching to the highest echelons of EarthFed.

Government strongmen, who are on to Fairfax’s meddling, drive him and Cavendish into the wilds of the colony planet Denahault, where they discover even more secrets—and a passion that may be the only thing that can save them.

From Chapter Three

The annoying buzz that was supposed to be a chime jarred Trieka out of a more restful sleep eight hours later. Bleary, she looked at the clock on the shelf by her berth: 0459. As she stared, eyes barely focused, it clicked over to 0500 and began to beep.

Whoever was outside her door activated the buzzer again.

The situation should have made sense, but in her semi-unconscious state, Trieka couldn’t fit the pieces together.

“Captain!” That was Jeff’s voice. “Breakfast.”

“I’m coming,” Trieka replied reflexively.

She swung out of the bed as she gradually remembered she’d set her alarm a half hour later than usual. She didn’t go on duty until 0600, and had figured the extra sleep would do her some good. Quickly, she shed her pajamas and stepped into her uniform. She folded the pajamas and laid them on the bed, shoved a hand through her hair to put the riotous curls into some semblance of order, then went to the door.

Jeff and Lieutenant Wu stood outside. Jeff, as always, was pressed and pleated within an inch of his life, his dark blond hair crisply combed, boots so shiny you could touch up your mascara in the reflection. Robin at least looked like she’d recently been asleep, her fine, dark hair entertaining a not-quite tamable cowlick.

“Rough night, Captain?” Robin asked.

“No rougher than usual on the first night out.”

“Weird dreams?”

“Very.” She had no desire to go into detail, especially with her crew, but Fairfax had continued to haunt her dreams, naked and otherwise. She didn’t make a habit of using sleep enhancers, though it was fairly common for crews on long voyages, but she was beginning to wonder if it might not be a bad idea.

Although crew and passengers had been scheduled to eat in shifts, the small mess was filled to capacity. Ensign Rico had held their table while Jeff and Robin went to fetch Trieka. Trieka helped herself to the food at the counter, then joined her crew.

“How did it go last night?” Trieka asked Rico.

Rico shrugged. “Smooth. No catastrophes.”

“That’s always a good sign. How about you, Jeff? How was Fairfax’s preboard? He give you any trouble?”

“No, not really. Asked a lot of questions.”

“Good. I think Admiral Derocher would appreciate it if we were nice to him. The government wants his money.”

“Is that why he’s here?” Robin looked as if she had just solved a particularly annoying puzzle.

“That’s right. So kiss his ass as much as possible.”

Robin grinned slyly. “May I take that literally?”

“Only with his permission.”

Jeff cocked an eyebrow at Robin. “Best be careful, Lieutenant. We don’t want any lawsuits.”

Robin shrugged it off. “Not likely. I just think he’s cute, that’s all. And being rich doesn’t hurt anything, either. What do you think, Captain?”

Trieka had her mouth full of toast, which was fortuitous since the question caught her off guard. She chewed and swallowed, trying not to think about the dreams.

“I think he’s skinny and he has a big nose.”

Jeff looked at Trieka in amazement. “I think that if I were talking about a woman like that, you’d write me up.”

“Oh, please—” Robin protested, but Trieka interrupted her.

“No, Jeff’s right. It’s highly inappropriate. Lieutenant, write yourself up for unbecoming conduct.”

“Write myself up?” Robin gaped, only half-serious.

“Well, it would save me the trouble.”

Jeff, on the other hand, had worked up a snit. “I’m offended you’re not taking this seriously.”

Trieka laid a conciliatory hand on Jeff’s arm. He’d been a good friend since academy days, so she hated to chastise him. In fact, she’d requested him as her second-in-command because he was smart and dependable and maybe a little cute. But his too-proper attitude didn’t fit in with her concept of a colony ship. She wanted things more relaxed. On the other hand, he’d probably make a great admiral someday.

“I wouldn’t write you up for talking about a passenger, Jeff. After all, I didn’t even reprimand you for what you said about me at the holiday party last winter.”

Jeff slid from self-righteous to uncomfortable. “I was drunk.”

“Even so, I think you were responsible for your own actions.”

“I apologized once, and I’ll apologize again.”

Trieka grinned. She’d gotten quite a bit of mileage out of that little indiscretion. “It’s all right. Though I have to say it’s the first time I’ve ever heard my breasts compared to any kind of fruit, much less—”

Jeff waved surrender. “All right, all right. Fairfax is cute and he has a big nose. Can we please change the subject?”

“Sure. How are the passengers settling in?”

Apparently the passengers were settling in fine. Trieka listened as Jeff related the mild fiasco of the boarding procedure, half her attention focused on her own thoughts.

She had a great deal to accomplish today, with only the usual twenty-four hours to work with. She arranged her schedule in her head, Jeff’s words sinking in just far enough for comprehension.

She wasn’t sure what made her look toward the door, but when she did, Fairfax walked through it. Inexplicably, Trieka’s heart sped up, then settled into a slow, very hard rhythm that left her breathless.
He was bleary-eyed and mussed, the dark red-brown hair standing up at his crown. From the pattern of the wrinkles in his shirt, she could tell it was silk. It looked like he’d slept in it. He collected his breakfast, then sat down at a table with a group of passengers, greeting them with a weary smile.

No, Trieka wouldn’t call him cute, though the long nose gave him a bit of a sad puppy look. Not cute, but definitely not ugly. Unable to stop the thought, she wondered how accurate her dreams had been once the clothes had started coming off.

“Captain?” Jeff said.

Trieka realized he’d asked her a question. Quickly, she cast back, trying to remember what it was. Funny how she could arrange her schedule and listen to Jeff at the same time, while Fairfax’s presence seemed to crowd everything else out of her head.

“I’m sorry,” she said to hide the hesitation while her mind filled in the gaps. “I was thinking.” She considered a moment. “There are a couple of empty passenger cabins. We had some last-minute pullouts. If these people really can’t stand each other, you could separate them.”

Jeff nodded decisively. “Good. That gives me some flexibility.”

Trieka returned an equally firm nod, hiding her amazement that she’d supplied a relevant answer. Jeff returned his attention to his meal, and a comfortable silence settled over the table.

Trieka’s coffee had gone cold, and she wrinkled her nose at the tepid, bitter taste. She enjoyed strong black coffee when it was hot—cold, it needed sugar. She reached across the table for a sugar packet, looking up as she did so.

Fairfax’s gaze riveted to hers from across the room. He smiled a little, and Trieka found herself staring at his mouth. His jaw was wider than his temple. His smile broadened, showing a flash of teeth. Automatically, Trieka smiled back, then, suddenly self-conscious, looked away.

A surreptitious glance a few moments later found him involved in his breakfast and the conversation of the woman sitting next to him. Resolutely, Trieka put him out of her mind and resumed planning her day.

* * *

Fairfax was exhausted. Even five cups of black coffee couldn’t keep his eyes open. He should have tried to exchange his early breakfast shift with someone else. It had occurred to him, but it had also occurred to him that Captain Cavendish would probably eat at the early shift. For whatever reason, it had seemed worth the loss of sleep to exchange that smile with her across the room and see her look away as if it had affected her.

But he was paying for it now. Finally, after drifting into semi-unconsciousness one too many times, he excused himself from the breakfast table and returned to his room.

The berth in the small cabin barely allowed him to stretch out to his full six foot one inch frame. He lay very still on his back for a time, trying to let his mind drift. Unfortunately, the drifting kept finding a target. He opened one eye to look at the computer pad sitting on the small desk. If he reached out, he could pick it up without even stretching…

No. He’d been up all night struggling with the encrypted files he’d snagged from Derocher’s logs. It wouldn’t do him any good to struggle more with them today. The little pad just didn’t have the processing power to break the encryption. He’d have to access the shipboard computers to take advantage of their power.

He needed to get into Cavendish’s logs as well. He had to know if she carried orders from Derocher—something other than the simple delivery of a few colonists to their destination. He had to know, and not just because it would add to the pile of evidence if she did. In fact, he hoped she didn’t.

Madison had taught him a lot about ship’s computers, too. Fairfax began to run the most common configurations through his head, theorizing where the weakest points might be in the system’s security. The theoretical networks became pictures—spinning, mesmerizing webs. He wasn’t certain when they caught him, but they did, and he fell into sleep.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Links

More bits and pieces that have wandered my way through Twitter or elsewhere.

Jane Friedman--How do you Know if Your Agent is Any Good? You know, if you have one...

The Write Practice--The Fool. (Via The Passive Voice.) Craft--interesting breakdown of the Fool archetype.

Stephen Pressfield--Work Over Your Head. Ways to challenge yourself.

Jody Hedlund--Making Friends Without Making Them Feel Used. How not to abuse your fanbase.

Ghostwriter Dad--10 Grammar Rules you Can (and Should!) Ignore. I could add like five more to that list. And by five I mean nine zillion. (I have a love/hate relationship with Proper Grammar.)

HuffPo--Why Some Authors Fail. Some interesting analysis of the industry. I still maintain that most authors who "fail" fail because they quit. Being stupidly stubborn is an underrated quality in the artistic soul.

Penny C. Wrede--Keeping Track. Craft. How to keep track of all your plots and subplots and sub-sub-plots and still remember what color eyes Annoying Guy to the Right of the Hero in Scene Twelve has.

The Domino Project--Rejecting the New York Times Bestseller List. I reject thee, NYT! I reject thee!

The Passive Voice--Some Things That Were True About Publishing For Decades Aren't True Anymore. Read the original article if you like--I was more interested in Passive Guy's analysis.

Grammar Girl--May vs. Might. This came up while I was editing, and I realized I differentiate solely by gut instinct. Actually I parse most grammar by gut instinct. Which might explain my love/hate relationship with Proper Grammar.

So there you have it. Hope something was helpful, and have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

EXCERPT: Time and Time Again

 Time and Time Again was my first published novel. It originally sold to Dreams Unlimited, then was reprinted in paperback at ImaJinn Books when DU went out of business. It's still available in paperback and electronic formats through ImaJinn Books or Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Five years ago, Britt Keane's husband was gunned down in an apparently motiveless act. She’s hired a displaced Russian physicist to build a time machine. Then she hires Jesse Branson to go back in time with her to save her husband.

Unbeknownst to Britt, Jesse's a private investigator who was investigating Adam Keane’s finances just before his death. Britt's quest gives him an opportunity to close the case. When he hears about Britt's time machine, he's convinced he's in the presence of a madwoman.

But the machine works, and Jesse and Britt must face the ultimate question—can the past really be changed? And if it can, should it be?


Jesse Branson could almost hear his car breathe a sigh of relief as he parked in the long circular driveway in front of the Keane mansion.

“Sorry about that,” he mumbled as he got out. He normally didn’t talk to his car, but he felt obligated to apologize for the harrowing trek up the mountain. It had been touch-and-go for a while, when he’d wondered if the ancient Toyota would just give up and roll back down to a more comfortable altitude.

Now the car looked like something the Keanes had put out on the curb to wait for trash day. With a wry smile, Jesse patted the car’s hood, then wished he hadn’t. The metal was almost hot enough to burn. He sucked the quick pain out of his fingers, wiped them dry on his jeans, and headed up the long, flagstone walk to the double front doors. The afternoon sunlight blinked blindingly off the textured glass inlays in the doors’ upper panels.

As far as Jesse knew, no one had ever questioned how Dr. Adam Keane, a pediatric surgeon at St. Matthew’s Children’s Hospital, had managed to afford this palatial mountain estate. Keane had, after all, been quite a successful doctor, and his medical supply firm brought in a steady and large profit. But, five years ago, Jesse had been given reason—and a decent salary— to look more closely.

Determined to find the truth, Jesse had done so—but had been unable to prove it after Keane’s murder.

Then, last week, he’d been scanning the classified ads in the Denver Post, looking for a car. And there it was, a bold, strange little ad calculated to catch attention:

WANTED: Individual with firearm license. Preferably single, with no family attachments.

Weird, he’d thought, and then he saw the phone number. He recognized it—he’d been only days away from getting it tapped when Keane had died.

When he called the number and found himself talking to Mrs. Keane herself, the deal was clinched. Whatever she wanted done, he would do it, for the chance to close the case.

Well, within limits. He hadn’t yet decided what those limits were.

And now he stood at the Keanes’ front door. He scrubbed his dusty cowboy boots on the mat and rang the doorbell. Chimes echoed inside the house. The entry hall must be huge.

Silence settled, and Jesse was about to ring again when the doors opened, swinging silently outward. Beyond, in a foyer nearly as big as Jesse’s bedroom, stood a smallish, sober man in a pricey gray suit that didn’t hang quite right on him.

“Yes?” said the man. “May I help you?” The politeness seemed practiced, not quite natural.

“I’m Jesse Branson. Ms. Keane is expecting me. I’m here about the ad.”

The man nodded. “Of course. Come in.”

Light from a wall full of bay windows filled the spacious front room. Beyond the windows, the mountain fell away in a steep, tree-covered slope. In the distance marched a line of spectacular snow-capped peaks. The room itself held a cream-colored sectional sofa, positioned to take advantage of the windows.

“Have a seat,” said the doorman, or butler, or whatever he was. “Mrs. Keane will be with you shortly.”

Jesse settled into the chamois-soft leather sofa. He would have expected to see a TV in the room, but there was none. The view, he supposed, was sufficient entertainment. He propped an ankle on the other knee and tapped his still-dusty boot.

As much time as he’d spent pursuing Adam Keane five years ago, Jesse had never met the man’s wife. He’d seen her from a distance, so he knew what she looked like, but there had never been reason to get any closer.

Which, as it happened, was for the best. Because if she were to recognize him now . . .

The distinctive click of heels on tile rose from an adjacent room. Jesse stood.

She came into the living room seconds later. Jesse was wrong—he hadn’t known what she looked like. Five years could change a person.

She was taller than he’d thought, wearing a tailored ivory suit that sleeked over just-right curves. Her brown-black hair fell in a soft wave to just below her jawline. Upturned eyes the color of espresso scrutinized his face. She looked elfin, he thought, but not like a particularly friendly elf. More like the kind who’d leave coal in your Christmas stocking.

“Britt Keane,” she said, holding out her hand. Jesse took it firmly.

“Jesse Branson,” he replied.

“Please, sit down.”

He sat, and Britt followed suit, settling into the other section of the sofa. She crossed her legs neatly, folding her hands in her lap.

“So, Mr. Branson. The job’s yours if you want it.”

He gave an incredulous grin. “What? That’s it? That’s the interview?”

“Yes. That’s it. Do you want the job?”

“Aren’t there other candidates?”

Lips pressed together, she eyed him again. Small lines bracketing her mouth told Jesse she’d once smiled frequently. She wasn’t smiling now. “I didn’t contact anyone else. I have very specific needs, and you were the only one who met them.”

Jesse considered that, then found himself unable to resist her inadvertent innuendo. “What, exactly, is it you want me to do?”

Her face reddened. “It’s all quite complicated, I’m afraid.”

Her blush was lovely. Under other circumstances he might have tried to elicit another. But there was more to concern him here than a pretty woman.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Keane,” he said, “but I can’t accept a job I know nothing about.”

“Understandable.” Composure back in place, she uncrossed her legs and crossed them in the other direction, exposing an intriguing few inches of thigh in the process. Jesse sensed hesitation, as if she didn’t really want to go into details.

Finally she took a quick breath. “To be honest, Mr. Branson, I would be much happier taking care of this situation myself. But I need someone who can handle physical confrontation. Someone who can use a gun. Which is why your military background appealed to me, as well as some of the . . . independent projects you mentioned in your résumé.”

Jesse shifted. Curiouser and curiouser. What in the world could this neat, sophisticated woman want from him that would have any relation to his military service, or to the few soldier-of-fortune type missions he’d taken on?

With a slight twitch of one eyebrow, he met her brown gaze directly. “So,” he said, “who exactly is it you want killed?”

“I don’t necessarily want anyone killed.” She leaned forward a little, her hands clenched together so tightly her knuckles turned white. “On the contrary, Mr. Branson. I want you to save my husband’s life.”

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Linkage--KK Gets Herself in Gear (Hopefully) Edition

So, now that the taxes are turned in and all I'm stressed over is nine million deadlines, back to Friday linkage!

Roni Loren: Fiction Groupie--Authors Interacting with Readers Online. Possible drawbacks to interacting with your readers online. Probably not what you think...

Jane Friedman--Where to Find Free Market Listings.

Barnes and Noble Book Review--Kind Reader--Despair and William James. Reasons to NOT despair if you're not wildly famous yet.

Patricia C. Wrede--Weaving Plot Threads. Structure and craft.

Passive Income Author--The Uncommon Truth About Marketing Your Books. Marketing vs. you know, yutzing around.

Dean Wesley Smith--Shifting Goals in This New World. Goalsetting in the Brave Freaky New World of Publishing.

More Intelligent Life--Writing is the Greatest Invention. Well, duh.

Sunset. Anne Lamott on Finding Time. Read it. 'Cause it's Anne Lamott, ferpetesake.

The Creative Penn--Technical Aspects of Creating a Non-traditional Ebook. Yeah, this made me want to go out and do all kinds of crazy stuff. *eyes to-do list* STOP IT, BRAIN!

The Business Rusch--Writers: Will Work for Cheap. Kind of appalling, really...

So... there's another Friday of Linky Linkage. Hope you found something useful!