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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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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…

 

 

On New Cover Art, Stress, & Priorities…

First up this fine Monday – the last serial novel (now in editing) formerly known as Under His Wing now has a new title, and new cover art! I think it’s pretty spiffy, but I’m biased…
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Flame & Stone will be out later this month. Good stuff!

I saw a meme on FB last week (yes, I know, we all saw at least several) that was talking about how a heart attack feels for women (which is often much different than what a man feels). Towards the end, it was noted that one of the leading causes of heart attacks in women is actually stress, rather than something like high cholesterol (so one shouldn’t assume they aren’t having a heart attack just because they have low cholesterol).

For me, stress is a control thing. I get stressed when I feel like I can’t control some part(s) of my life. I get even more stressed when I want something or want to do something that will require me to give up something else that’s important to me – which is an issue of selfishness colluding with my control-freak nature. It’s one of my worst personality traits, I think, but it’s fostered by that innocent little statement that “we can have it all” if we just work hard enough.

Honestly – no, we can’t. Life is a series of decisions that require give and take, and a day only has so much time in it (same amount for everyone, obviously). The decisions we make determine how our life progresses, but unless you have very small goals/very few interests, it really isn’t possible to have “it all”. Facing that particular realization has been…a bit difficult for me. One might even say stressful.

One thing I always forget is just how much a good 20 minute exercise session can help. It’s good for my body, of course, but more than that, I find it extremely mentally clarifying. It doesn’t take much time, but it does require the decision to make it a priority, which pushes something else out of the way. It’s very important though, and without it, I have little chance of making good choices in other areas of my life.. Funny how that works.

I’ve been doing a lot of re-prioritization lately…deciding what’s truly important and what can either be dialed back, or let go of altogether. It’s not an easy process, but it’s necessary, and once it’s done, I’ll be happier for it. Obviously working out has to be a priority, as does writing, and from there, things get a little gray for me. But I’ll figure it out. It seems like I go through one of these cycles every few years, and it’s just something that has to be re-evaluated as we grow and change.

Change stresses me out…and not changing can too. Weird how that works. I’m just glad that my personal cycle of change seems to be dialing back down to “low” again. Stress is a waste of time…and apparently, bad for my arteries too.

If you’re interested in some of the changes I’m making on the writing/publishing front, check out The Writer’s Desk (formerly The Drafting Desk) for this week’s writing/publishing report.


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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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Serial Story: Under His Wing, Part 23

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 23

“Bed?” Katie looked at his hand, and back at his face, her arms still holding her knees to her chest. “My bed is too small. We can’t share. And I don’t have a guest room. Can’t we just sleep out here, on the couch? The ottoman seems to work well enough…”

Thomas frowned. “Your bed is narrower than your sofa? Why?”

“That’s not what I meant.” Katie shook her head. “I just think we’ll be more comfortable out here, is all.”

Squatting down in front of her, Thomas took the hand he’d sought a few seconds earlier. “I’ll sleep on the floor, if that makes you happy, but you need to get good rest tonight, and that means you need to sleep in your own bed. Come now. Don’t argue.”

Too tired to put up any more of a fight, Katie let him help her up and then led him down the hall to her room. As soon as he saw the bed, he’d realize there was no way he’d fit. Flipping the light switch, she stepped back with a gasp, bumping into Thomas.

“I take it this wasn’t your doing?” he asked, gently pulling her back into the hall, and then stepping around her to move through the doorway.

“No,” she said, peering past him at the chaos of clothing, books and accessories, all strewn about like a tornado had touched down.

“I’m no neat nik, but I’m not anywhere near this bad. It must have been Peter. He knew where the key was. I can’t believe…” she stopped, not wanting to voice the fact that she’d slept with the man who wanted to sacrifice her for his art.

Thomas gathered up the pile of clothing and other sundry items off the bed and dumped them on the floor to the side. Then he reached up and began peeling off layers of clothing, as if Katie wasn’t even there.

But she was. And she stood transfixed as his back was bared to her, tribal-style designs swirling across the broad expanse with every movment he made. What a gorgeous, glorious creature he was, no matter what form he took. When he moved to push his pants off his hips, she stared, licking her lips at the thought of what might be revealed.
“It’s not fair,” he said, his voice low and soft. She jerked her head up at his words, noting the smirk as he watched her watching him over his shoulder.

She swallowed, her mouth dry. “What’s not fair?”

He broke eye contact to look forward again, letting his trousers slide down his legs. Her gaze immediately went to that perfectly molded, sculptured bottom, and the continuation of the tribal pattern started above.

Yum.

“You have too many clothes on, Katie Watson. Undress. Unless you require my aid for this as well?”

She was pretty sure her face was the color of a ripe tomato. It felt like one of those atomic fireballs she used to get out of the dime machines as a kid. Still, she considered taking him up on it. Surely this man would make her forget everything wrong in her world, even if only for a night.

But then what?

“Thanks, but no th–”

He turned around, hands on his hips and one leg out, looking entirely too comfortable with his buff, extremely well-endowed self. No woman in her right mind could say no to that, could she? What were the odds she’d get another chance to be with such a man?

Gargoyle, a little voice in her head whispered. She nearly giggled when she whispered back.

Exactly.

“On second thought…” She stepped closer, wanting to look away from his intense stare. Unable to look anywhere else. Raising her hands, she placed them on his chest, remembering how different he felt from other men. Cool and hot at the same time, like a rock at sunset that had been sitting in the sun.

He nodded once, and then his lips were on hers, his arms pulling her in, his scent making her brain go foggy. She gave herself up to the sensations.


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