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On Contests, Sight, & Almond Milk…

Before I forget (because I have a tendency to do so), I have a few sale & contest announcements for this month (it won’t take long, I promise):

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– The digital version of Flame & Stone is just .99 for the month of March (woohoo!)
– There’s a contest to win free copies running now on LibraryThing
– There’s another contest to win free copies running now on BookLikes
– The print version should be done by the end of the week, and then there will be a contest for signed print copies on Goodreads, as well as LibraryThing & BookLikes.
– Giveaways for the audio version should be up on LibraryThing & BookLikes before the end of the month.

So…lots of chances to win free copies, or you can buy a copy cheap for this month only.

Fun Fact: As of this blog post, the audiobook has outsold the ebook by a wide margin. Odd, but hey, I’m all about variety here, and I’m just as happy with people listening as reading. Thank you! And I’m sure our excellent narrator, Kevin Clay, would extend his thanks as well.

 

Now, on to other things…

I finally went to the eye doc last week, and found out why my eyes have been watering pretty much non-stop all winter, making it difficult both to write and work, as I stare at a screen all day & most nights. Apparently I have a “genetic corneal degeneration” – an inherited disease of the cornea that causes not only the excessive watering, but also the extreme sensitivity to light that I have off and on and other uncomfortable symptoms. Unfortunately, my doc didn’t say which kind I have, and a quick internet search reveals that there are quite a few (though many are very rare, or only appear in children, so I can pretty much rule those out, I think).  In any case, while it will probably cycle through good/bad times, unless it’s one specific type, it’s pretty much assured to just keep getting worse as I age. There’s a good chance I’ll need corneal transplants when I’m older. Joke’s on me for being so blase (I have no idea how to put the accent over the “e” there) about turning 40, eh?

I have another appt. next week to see if the steroid/antibiotic eyedrops the doc prescribed are working (feels like they are – no more watering, and no more soreness/pressure – yay!), and probably to get a new lens prescription because eyes that aren’t inflamed see differently, of course.

You know how life tends to force you to confront your worst fears at some point in time, whether you want to or not? Well, aside from general anesthesia, the thing that scares me most in life is losing my eyesight. I love to read. I enjoy my coding/web job. I love watching squirrels chase each other around our roof, and flowers in the garden, and big trees and beautiful houses. I love art – paintings and sculptures. I love a sunny spring day, fall leaves, and blankets of snow. Love those first roses of summer…

Technology these days is such that a blind or very low-vision person can get along far better than they used to, and I’m quite sure I could adapt, if necessary. But I don’t want to. Hopefully, I won’t have to, but of course my mind always jumps to the worse possible outcome. Luckily, rather than getting too mopey or depressed, I start planning for what might happen, in hopes that it won’t. Thwarting the universe, so to speak. Unfortunately, that’s distracted me a lot for the past week, but it’ll calm down, especially when I have more information on what the exact disease I have is, and can gather more information about what happens next.

And just like that, another book idea is born…

Last but not least…almond milk. Clearly I’ve been watching far too many vegan cooking shows on our local PBS Create channel, because while doing my grocery shopping for the week, I picked up a half-gallon of Almond Milk to try. Unsweetened.

It sucks.

Sugar, anyone?


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Excerpt Day: The Time Stone

A quick note for you audiobook listeners – the audio version of Flame & Stone is available now! Narrated by the truly excellent Kevin Clay, I think you’re really gonna love it!

I’ve mentioned the kid’s book I’ve been working on a few times lately, and thought you might a little taste. Keep in mind, of course, that this is just the unedited first draft, and subject to all sorts of changes…


Excerpt: The Time Stone
(The Stone Scavengers, Book 1)

Sydney Pointer wrinkled her nose at the nasty smell that hit her just as Ripley Edwards, boy detective found another important clue. Looking up from her book, she was surprised to see an old man in rumpled layers of dirty clothing with the kind of mountain-man facial hair she’d only seen on TV slide into the booth across from her.

She glanced around the nearly empty diner, but her mother was nowhere to be seen. Her heart pounded in her chest so loud she was sure the man could see it, but she tried to stay calm as she closed her book and reached for her bag. Surely he couldn’t move as fast as an eleven-year-old, she thought. She began to scoot out of the booth when he spoke.

“I have something for you, Sydney.”

She froze at her name, fear turning to panic as she wondered what else he knew about her. She tried to remember everything her mom had taught her in case a strange man ever tried to take her. She opened her mouth to scream, but stopped when the man slid a tattered piece of paper across the table.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said. “But I need to give you this. It’s something your father was working on until recently. I’m sure he’d want you to have it.”

Sydney forgot her fear for a moment at the mention of her dad. He’d left when Sydney was a toddler – off on another one of the treasure hunts he was so fond of. An amateur archaeologist who could never be happy rooted in one place, her mother had always said with a wistful smile. He’d tried, her mother told her, but after a year of missed holidays and sporadic hour-long visits, they’d divorced and Sydney hadn’t seen him since, even though he still kept a house in town for the rare occasion when he wasn’t off treasure-hunting.

“You know my dad?” Sydney let her bag fall to the bench and looked closer at the man. He looked…tired. His hair was long and knotted, his beard in serious need of a comb and shampoo, his teeth crooked and brown, and the lines on his face etched in deep, sunburned furrows. There was something in his gaze though that seemed honest.

Something non-threatening in his hunched posture and shaking bent fingers.

“I know him very well, child.” He pointed to the list, but made no move to reach across the table. “Your dad was looking for these stone talismans – keys, he called them – when he disappeared six months ago. Insisted that together they would open some sort of ancient treasure trove. One that supposedly holds the secret to life-long happiness for whoever opens it.”

Sydney looked at the list, which consisted of six crude pencil drawings with a title scrawled in rough handwriting under each one. At the top the drawing was of a circle with a triangle standing on top. It was labeled Time Stone. There was also a flower blossom, an arrowhead, a heart with a crack down the middle, and what looked like a scroll of some sort.

“He was trying to find these? But how did he know where to look? And if they’re made of stone, aren’t they very heavy?”

The old man chuckled. “A talisman is a small object believed to bring good luck to whoever holds it. Your father found the first one – The Time Stone, he called it. I’ve seen it. It’s a sundial no bigger than a half-dollar coin.” He curled his gnarled thumb and forefinger into a circle to demonstrate. “Legend has it that each talisman has a clue on the bottom that leads to the next. Whoever follows the clues and finds the stones will eventually find the treasure as well.”

Sydney frowned. “He disappeared? What happened to him? Is someone looking for him?” She looked for her mother again. They had to do something. “Did you call the police?”

“I don’t know what happened to him, kiddo. And I suspect the police won’t be able to help.” The man hesitated, and then looked her in the eye. “He had some…trouble getting the first stone. As if there were something protecting it. The last thing he told me before he left was that I should pass this list on to you when you turn eighteen.” He coughed, a wet, phlegmy sound. “I’m afraid I’m not going to live that long, kiddo, so you’ll have to take it now.”

“Sydney Ann Pointer, what did I tell you about talking to strangers?”

Relieved that she’d finally showed up, Sydney looked up at her mother, who only glanced at her before turning on the old man.

“Who are you, sir, and why are you talking to my daughter?”

The old man raised his head, and Sydney’s mother gasped, putting a hand to her heart.

“Hello Daphne. It’s been a long time.”


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New Release & Excerpt: Flame & Stone

Today I’m excited to (finally) announce the release of my first paranormal romantic suspense, Flame & Stone, Book 1 in the new Dunning Manor series.

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Flame & Stone
Dunning Manor, Book 1

It takes a lot of heat to melt a heart of stone…

Flames once put the heartbroken Thomas Grady under the ancient curse of an old manor house. Two hundred years later, fire fueled by an unholy passion drives Katie Watson to the same manor for protection. Assigned as her guardian under duress, Thomas just wants to do his job and go back to his perch at the top of the manor.

Katie falls hard for her new protector, even as they’re planning an intervention for her nemesis. Now that she’s found him, she refuses to give him up – even if that means she has to travel through both time and space to make it happen…

Flame & Stone is available now in ebook format for $2.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance, and Smashwords, and will be available at other online retailers within the week. The print copy will be out within the next month!


Excerpt:

For a long moment, the hall was deathly quiet. Katie glanced at her friends, still apparently stuck in some trance, and then back to the monks, those glassy black eyes staring right through her, or so it seemed. They didn’t move a muscle, and she frowned, wondering if they were even still alive.

Finally, they stood in unison, the action forcing her to take a step back. They began to walk in a circle around her, kicking up a slight breeze that gradually grew in substance, though apparently only within the circle they’d created.

“Katherine Watson. Your enemy has been vanquished, and the warrior returned to the manor, but for bringing your enemy here rather than taking your warrior’s council, you will not be allowed to break the curse. As per the requirements for aide from the manor, you are hereby banished, and are never to return again.”

“Wait! No!” The wind swirled around her like a miniature cyclone now, and she tried to push through it, tried to get to Thomas, but it flung her back every time.

“You can’t do this! You can’t keep us apart! It’s not fair!”

The wind turned to a cloud, the cloud dark and angry around her, and tears slid down her cheeks as she felt herself lifted off the ground.

“No!” she screamed into her swirling cocoon. “I’ll find you, Thomas – I swear! I won’t give up!”

The cloud disappeared in a puff and she dropped to the ground, hitting hard and collapsing from the impact. Stunned, she rolled to her back and saw stars – real stars in the vast, navy blue night sky above. Crickets and frogs chirped in tandem as her fingers curled around dirt and grass. She sat up, looking this way and that, but though she was sure this was the right clearing, there was no sign of the manor anywhere.

“No,” she murmured, swiping at the tears on her face. “They can’t do this. I won’t let them.” She didn’t want to leave, but there wasn’t anything else she could do here, and she was pretty sure those damn druids wouldn’t be coming back.

After one last long look, she ran back to the car and slid behind the wheel. Locking the doors, she just sat there, stunned and shaking. She went over everything that happened, image after unbelievable image flashing through her mind. The manor was gone. Thomas was gone. Peter was dead, and Sarah was…a gargoyle now? It all felt like a dream, something her mind had made up while she was sleeping, and just like that, it was gone. Had it all just been a strange fantasy? Was she going crazy?

No. Even if everything else was fake, Thomas was real. She knew it as surely as she knew her own name, and when she closed her eyes, she could feel him next to her, holding her, hear his deep, gentle voice in her ear.

She had to find him. She would not give him up.

She started the car and peeled off the gravel shoulder and onto the pavement, only slowing when a local cop flashed his lights at her on his way to somewhere else.

She needed help. Someone who had seen the manor, who knew the legend, and someone who knew about druid magic, whatever that was. She had no idea where to find such a person, but the internet seemed like a good place to start, and there was no time to waste.

Frantic to find him by the time she reached her house, she ran inside and grabbed a pen, a notepad, and a couple sodas from the refrigerator before heading to her computer desk. Her fingers flew across the keyboard as she entered the first search terms and started scrolling through results.


Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the final version! Up next in the Dunning Manor series – Sarah’s story, coming later this year…

 

 

Talkin’ Books: November 19, 2014

Books Finished:
Moon Shine by Vivian Arend

Kindle Books In Progress:
One in a Million by Jill Shalvis
Tatterdemon by Steve Vernon

Print Books in Progress:
Invasive Species by Joseph Wallace
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut

Comic Books:
Harley Quinn #11

It’s been a good week for books/reading. As I mentioned last week, I finished the 11th issue of Harley Quinn after I finished writing/scheduling that post, and it was…interesting, what with Power Girl in the mix. I’m not sure I like her, but we’ll see. And then there’s the new guy, fresh out of prison. Harley seems to like him…

I also promised to let you know if I found the creepy in Invasive Species. Boy did I! If you read this blog regularly, you know we had an issue with paper wasps this summer, and I was stung several times. Those insects made life…interesting for three months, and I’m glad they’re most certainly frozen now. This book though…oh yes. This book brings back memories and then magnifies them times ten, and I’m not even a quarter done yet. Should be a freaky ride!

No freakier than Johnny the Homicidal Maniac though, of course. Read a couple more of those stories, and I just want to give the kid a scritch behind the ears. As you do, with pets…

As you can see, I then took a bit of a break from the freak-fest and indulged in the last Takhini Wolves series by Vivian Arend, Moon Shine. I actually had myself a little mini-binge last Friday night when the hubby had to work late, and read the whole thing before I went to bed. I’m sure it surprises no one to learn that when it comes to paranormal tropes, I’m a werewolf girl, and I always enjoy Vivian’s books. Never read one I didn’t, actually. And this one was just as excellent and emotionally charged as the rest. With a bonus bear-shifter included.

I also splurged on One in a Million, the last Lucky Harbor novel by Jill Shalvis, which was a major mistake, productivity wise, but man, I’m loving every word. So sweet and funny and heart-wrenching all at the same time… *sigh* I’m sad this is the last Lucky Harbor book, but she’s got more Animal Magnetism books coming out, and I enjoy those too. As long as she keeps writing, I’ll be a happy camper. And a less productive writer, but whatever. Writer’s gotta read…

So, like I said, good reading week. Hubby’s got a poker game this Friday night, so I’ll be on my own then as well. Maybe I’ll mainline Invasive Species while he’s gone…


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Serial Story: Under His Wing, Part 29

This story is presented weekly in draft
(unedited) form. Each installment is available for one week until the
next is posted. Miss one? Email me, and I’ll hook you up. Enjoy!


Dunning Manor, Book 1

Under His Wing
Part 29

Peter’s car was the only one in the lot when Katie parked on the street a couple buildings away. It would make saying what she had to say easier, but it was scary too, considering she needed to go in without Thomas so Peter would feel like he was in control of the situation.

She had to convince him to meet her at the site in the woods that they’d set up – the sooner, the better.

“Wait,” Thomas said when she reached for the car door. “I have something for you.” He pulled a large tiger-eye pendant out of a pocket, hanging from a thick dark silver chain.

“Wear this. It will protect you when I can’t.” He held the chain in both hands and she ducked her head so he could put it on. She felt the weight of the stone settle over her heart, and an almost electric buzz settled under her skin, like a force field of sorts.

“It tingles,” she said, rubbing the smooth stone between her fingers as she held it up for a closer look.

He nodded. “Druid magic. You have the instructions for him?”

“Right here.” She retrieved the piece of paper from her purse and waved it at him.

“Then go. Call out if you need me, and I’ll get to you as fast as I can. The amulet will protect you until then.”

She opened the car door, and then at the last minute turned back and grabbed the collar of Thomas’s shirt, pulling him in for a quick, hard kiss. Surprised as he was, he kissed her back, and she smiled as she pulled away.

“For luck,” she murmured, and then got out of the car and strode toward the garage, hoping she looked more confident than she felt.

The bell above the door rang loud as she let herself in, and she could see Peter bent under an open hood in the first bay of the work space. Her skin crawled as she approached him, and the amulet grew warmer against her heart, a reassuring sensation.

Peter stood, a grin spreading across his lips as he recognized her, and he wiped ineffectively at the grease on his hands with a red rag.

“Well, well. Look what the cat dragged in. Need a lube job, sweetheart? You know I’m happy to service you for free anytime.”

Katie fought back the gag reflex and tried to stay focused on the reason she’d come.

“Are you still interested in using me for your artwork?” She cocked her head to the side, doing her best to look curious rather than repulsed. Holding out the piece of paper, she watched the interest flare in his eyes as he took it from her.

“What’s this?” He opened it and scanned the contents, then met her gaze again. “Directions?”

She nodded. “I have something set up for us there. A gift, of sorts. Will you meet me later tonight?”

Peter frowned. “What about your new boy-toy? He doesn’t seem to like me much…”

Katie shrugged. “He’s out of the picture. This is just…us. Will you come?”

Peter chuckled. “Sure. But if you want to make art, darlin’, we don’t have to wait. In fact, let me show you something over here.” He moved away, deeper into the double bay of the garage, and she followed, keeping her distance from him. When he stopped next to one of the oil pumps, she stayed back several feet, knowing it was folly to trust him.

Holding the pump in one hand, he took a lighter out of his pocket with the other, and smiled, wiggling his eyebrows.

“Watch this.”

Squeezing the handle, he started dispensing oil onto the cement floor between them, and then he flicked the lighter to life, setting the oil stream on fire.

The burst was so hot it forced Katie backwards, and she teetered on the edge of the second work pit before catching her balance as Peter laughed. He swirled the oil-fed flames around in patterns, looking as comfortable as a gymnast with a ribbon as Katie slowly backed toward the exit.

“Leaving so soon, Katie-girl? But we’re only getting started!”

“Meet me tonight,” she called out above the roar of the flames. And then she pushed out the door and ran all the way back to the car.

Sweating from heat and nerves, she slid behind the wheel and peeled away from the curb, needing to put as much distance between that monster and herself as quickly as possible. She could feel Thomas staring.

“Is he coming tonight?” Thomas asked, the calm tone of his voice helping to calm her own nerves.


She nodded. “He’ll be there.”


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