Friday, August 22, 2014

Mermaids of Duluthie

I learned something about myself this summer....I like mermaids. Sure, I haven't met one, but I really do think they are the bees knees. And I'm not talking about the creepy ones on the Discovery Channel. Nope. I like my mermaids standard fiction style with long flowing hair and a habit of breaking out in song.

I happily indulged this new love by writing 'Undersea Sweets' for the fantastic "Cookie Club Romance" series. The series includes the stories of 5 young witches who keep in touch by sending each other cookies and other treats. My story is about Milly, who didn't know she was meant to be a mermaid.

Milly Mystic is starting again. For a decade she was a trophy wife to a powerful wizard, and now that he's dead, she's reinventing herself. Who is the real Milly? The nice witch who sends cookies to her best pals? The carefree jet-setter? The only person she knows how to be now is the loaner sitting on her houseboat floating on Lake Superior. But maybe that's as close to the real Milly she's ever been. A fantastic opportunity is about to come her way, and one thing Milly has never been is afraid to try something new.

Prince Baldwin loves being a merman. He travels the world, eats lots of fish, and on occasion catches glimpses of the beautiful humans who intrigue him so much. When a mer-angel lands in his lap, Baldwin does the only thing he can think to do--kiss her. But catching Milly and keeping her are two entirely different things.

Buy it Now on Amazon!

This new affection for mermaids has made my summer better. What about you? Do you have a thing for the mythical beings under the sea?

All the Best,
Stephanie Beck

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What's Hot, What's Not.

So the dog days of summer are here, and it’s hot.

That’s a word that can be taken all sorts of ways. This time last year I’d just finished teaching summer school, and my room hadn’t been air conditioned. With the tarmac outside, quite the opposite; M19 hovers around ten degrees above the outside temperature. If you’d asked me what hot brought to mind then, I’d have probably said something like this…

Of course, that’s not what most people think of when they say ‘Hot!’ While every person in the world has their own foibles and fantasies, around half of them are thinking of something like this…

And the other half are thinking of something like this…

Now, a lot of folks will talk about how ‘hot’ is more than just bodies, and I’ll agree, a knowing smile can be hotter than any amount of skin; either of the following for example… 

Of course, I have one of my students to thank for a completely different, yet surprisingly accurate illustration of what I think ‘hot’ is. As the Anime and Science Fiction club staff sponsor, I tend to take the last day or days of the year and show an episode or two of something. This year, however, one of my students asked that we not watch anything animated. He’s at that age where no matter the subject matter or treatment, if it’s not adequately ‘real’, he feels like it’s childish.

So I went digging in my video library and came up with something which kept him enthralled, yet wasn’t anything he would have picked up on his own: The Warrior’s Way. If you haven’t seen it… go do so. I’ll wait.

No. Seriously. I'll wait. It's that good.

At any rate, as I watched it I realized it shows all different kinds of hot, as well as clearly showing what’s not hot. It shows the pragmatic definition of hot, since it’s set in a desert. It shows things that are typically ‘hot’, like a woman in a fancy, maybe even a little slutty dress or a ripped, shy guy with his shirt off, but in the situation they’re not; the woman is only wearing the dress to get revenge, and the guy hides his chest to hide his scars. All that aside, there’s a scene, and a moment in that scene, that has got to be one of the hottest kisses I’ve seen in a movie. Ever.

For those of you who followed instructions and watched it, it’s the desert knife fight between Lynn and Skinny, with the panoramic three sixty starscape shot in the background. For those of you who didn’t watch it…

WHY NOT? It’s right over here on Netflix. Keep your eyes open around thirty six minutes in, from thirty six to around thirty eight. You can even fast forward to there, but you’ll be missing out. It’s a heck of a movie.

At any rate, as I watched it I realized it’s one of the most beautifully shot scenes and one of the hottest on-screen kisses I’d ever seen. A strong, independent woman, an equally strong, stoic man, both attracted to the other, but neither able to show it openly up until that moment under the desert sky.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Exclusive Excerpt from New SFR Mission to Mahjundar!

Sharing an exclusive excerpt from my newly released science fiction romance Mission to Mahjundar!

Here's the story:
An attempted assassination left Princess Shalira blind as a child and, now that she’s of marriageable age, her prospects are not good because of her disability. She’s resigned herself to an arranged marriage rather than face life under the thumb of her cold stepmother. But then she meets Mike Varone, a Sectors Special Forces officer sent to Mahjundar by the intergalactic government to retrieve a ship lost in her planet’s mountains. After Mike saves Shalira from another assassination attempt, she arranges for him to escort her across the planet to her future husband. She’s already falling hard for the deadly offworlder and knows she should deny herself the temptation he represents, but taking Mike along to protect her is the only way she’ll live long enough to escape her ruthless stepmother.
But what should have been an easy trek through Mahjundar’s peaceful lands swiftly turns into an ambush with danger around every turn. Shalira’s marriage begins to seem less like an arranged union and more like yet another planned assassination. The more they work together to survive, the harder it becomes to stop themselves from falling in love. Caught in a race against time, can they escape the hostile forces hunting them and make it off the planet?
The excerpt is from a scene early in the journey, when Shalira demands the caravan halt at a small shrine to her patron goddess.
Taking a swift glance at the small area of greenery and ruins under discussion, Mike didn’t see any reason not to let the lady have a few minutes to worship, if doing so meant that much to her. “Look,” he said, “The horses could use a break.  If visiting this shrine is so important to Her Highness, why not take advantage of the pond and the shade for a few minutes?” He touched her arm. “You weren’t planning on a long stop here, were you?”
“No, I suppose not. I only want to offer a quick prayer,” she said. “Will you escort me?”
“I’d be honored,” he said, ignoring Johnny’s smothered curse.
A few moments later he was walking beside her, guiding toward the tumbledown ruin set in the midst of seriously overgrown trees, next to a small pond and a gurgling stream. The rest of the column had remained behind, on the fringe of the oasis, per Shalira’s request.
He felt a cool breeze, the first one of the day.
Shalira stumbled over an exposed tree root and he cursed himself for inattention even as he kept her upright. “I’m sorry, I’m not a very good guide. You’d probably have been better off with Saium.”
“I wanted you to see this,” she said. “No apologies needed.”
“Why? Why did you want me to come here in particular?”
“I think you don’t really want to be on our planet, nor riding along with me in a slow caravan. I’ve heard you didn’t like the crowded capital or the palace,” she said. “I was hoping this place might give you a different idea of Mahjundar, to take with you, when you leave.” Her lips curved in a mischievous smile. “And I liked the idea of a few moments alone, out of the saddle. Do you object?”
“Not at all. I apologize if I’ve been taking my impatient mood out on you. Nothing personal, Your Highness.” He helped her climb a few crumbling stairs and they stepped into a pavilion, open to the sky. Lush grass grew up between the cracked flagstones and flowering vines wound around the pillars. “It’s quite beautiful. Would you like me to step aside while you worship?”
“Very kind of you. I need to be standing in the exact center, please.”
He led her to the round mosaic in the middle of the platform, colors still bright. As they stepped onto the slightly upraised pattern, there was a sudden trill of musical notes and a brightly colored creature fluttered around his head. Automatically he recoiled, free hand going to his gun.
No doubt feeling him tense, Shalira crowded closer. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Are we likely to be in any danger from a bird-butterfly kind of thing?” Focusing on the tiny, brilliantly-hued creature as it fluttered around him, Mike felt a little silly. But there were deadly predators on other worlds that seemed just as harmless at first glance and it wasn’t his nature to take chances.
“I’m sorry, a what?” Her forehead wrinkled as she puzzled over the term he’d used in Basic.
“I don’t know what to call it in your language. They weren’t mentioned in our briefing. Some kind of flying warbler?” The creature set down on his shoulder for an instant, fuzzy antennae vibrating, and then launched itself into the air with another trill of bell-like notes that seemed too loud to be coming from such a tiny being.
“A myrdima of  Pavmiraia! Do you really see such a marvel?” She turned her head left to right. “I thought I heard music.”
“It’s flown off now, to the trees. It was pink and purple and red, with furry white antenna. About the size of your fist.”
“We’d be blessed indeed, to be serenaded by Pavmiraia’s songbird. None has been seen in this area of Mahjundar for centuries. They withdraw, as the old gods withdraw, because the people’s faith wanes.” She shook her hand free of his, not rudely. Arms outstretched, she twirled, dancing, humming under her breath. She made graceful hand movements in time to her tune as she swirled. Pausing for a moment, she said, “I feel so free here, momentary though the sensation may be. I haven’t felt so unencumbered since I was ten and my world fell apart.”
Not knowing what to say to her personal revelation, but feeling pleased she was happy, Mike leaned on the nearest pillar, scanning the ground for snakes or any other menace. He hoped Vreely would let Shalira enjoy her brief excursion for a bit longer. The man had been impatience personified since they’d left the capital city.
“Uh oh, look out, the whatever-you-called-it is back, with a friend,” he said. “Stand still and maybe it’ll land on your hand.”
She closed her eyes and extended one hand, giggling a moment later as the little creature settled on her outstretched fingertips. “That tickles.”
“They have tiny, fuzzy feet,” he told her. “Gave me goosebumps.”
A green-and-blue companion followed suit, touching down on her other hand. Shalira began to sing in a lovely, high soprano and after a moment the myrdima joined in with their crystalline three notes. Mike thought he’d never heard anything so beautiful, on any world. As Shalira continued to sing, in a language he didn’t understand, more of the tiny warblers arrived, in a rainbow of colors, each adding its own three notes to the performance. They placed themselves on the princess’s hair like jeweled ornaments, and more hovered around her in a cloud. Entranced, Mike thought there must be several hundred in all. A few even floated over to where he stood, although none landed on him. The colors ornamenting the wings shone in the sunshine, particularly vibrant against the drab, dusty landscape.
          If they’re waiting for me to sing, they’ve got nothing but disappointment coming
Copyright Veronica Scott 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer Settings

As a writer, I love getting out of my normal, day-to-day environment to experience new sights, sounds, sensations, or smells, and hopefully translate it all in my writing. Summer getaways are a perfect opportunity to recharge the creative mind. This summer my family and I went to Florida with a stop-over in New Orleans, giving me an opportunity to visit some old haunts and spend time with my family in Orlando.

Escaping the Phoenix summer heat is what many Phoenicians try to do. Granted, surviving the four or so months of excruciating heat is often worth the blissful weather we get the rest of the year, but I don’t buy the argument that dry heat is somehow better than the humidity. I guess it’s what you’re used to, but I find the urban heat in Phoenix rather monotonous, a heavy weight dragging me down. I once went to see Pearl Jam play an outdoor concert in the summer and Eddie Vedder compared singing in the heat to someone sticking a hairdryer down your throat. Only the rain brings a sweet relief, when it chooses to bless the desert.

Our first stop, New Orleans is certainly the warm, wet blanket draped over you, but for whatever reason, unlike other humid places, that blanket is sultry. It hugs you, caresses you, lulls you to sleep with a sweet lullaby. Maybe it’s the smells wafting off the Mississippi, the Magnolias draping over rooftops, the Southern charm blended with old European sophistication, or maybe I just watched The Big Easy with Ellen Barkin and Dennis Quaid too many times. Whatever that indefinable quality that is New Orleans, I bathe in it every time I visit. And every time I visit, I stop by the Lafayette cemetery to wrap myself in the mystery and spooky charm brought to life in Anne Rice’s Lestat books. Maybe I’m just hoping to glimpse something crawling out of a masoleum J Here’s a picture we took while navigating the narrow, overgrown paths between the bodies laid to rest.
Lafayette Cemetery

However, it was our final destination of Florida and it’s coastlines that had my anticipation running amuck. I love my Florida: its beaches, with fine, bleached sand, perfect ocean water temperatures; her back wood rivers stained tea-brown by the over-flowing Cypress trees; clouds so thick and bulbous, and green, green, lushness all around. I grew up in Florida and I forget after living in the desert just how much of a swamp the Sunshine State really is. When you’re there, the atmosphere, the greenery practically grabs you in its velvet embrace (especially the bugs, but I don’t mind it so much). It is like living in a greenhouse, but the evenings are sweet and cool, especially after a fast, hard afternoon shower. It feels so alive to me. The sounds of cicadas, the crunch of the thick green grass under your bare feet, even the textures, like this picture of barnacles on a sea tree branch.
Banana River in Florida

Not to say I don’t appreciate the quiet subtlety of the desert flora and fauna, almost respectful in its cohabitation. I love nature in all its shapes and sizes, which seems so alive in the summer, so vibrant, but I have a bias. I am a child of the salt water, the currents, and the wet sand flowing through my fingers. I grew up digging for clams, dipping for shrimp, undulating with the ocean currents. These are the sights, sounds, and sensations I love the most. Speaking of sounds—with meaning, one day we took off for a small island in one of the channel rivers on the coast on my brother’s boat. The moment we arrived, we heard thrashing in one of the small trees, finding a black bird stuck in the fronds, its foot caught on a fishing line. Fishing runs in the soul blood of all Floridians and some fisher people are more responsible than others. I like to think that my family is one of the responsible ones. We never tossed used fishing line in the environment and proof positive of our care was in finding the poor trapped bird that day. It was a joy, maybe serendipitous, that we happened upon the bird that day. The boys rigged a knife on a long branch and cut the line, freeing the bird. A great start to a perfect summer day.

Mimi Sebastian

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sneak Peek at the Prequel to The Twelve Kingdoms

It's been really exciting, seeing my Twelve Kingdoms series take off. Last month on Paranormal Romantics, I talked about how much it meant to me for book one in the trilogy, The Mark of the Tala, to receive RT Magazine's June Seal of Excellence for a book that "stands out from all the others reviewed that month."

And it was crazy fun being at the RWA National Conference in San Antonio and having some of those same reviewers come find me and gush about the book. One of them, after the award was announced, told me this tweet had been about my books.
She was talking about the first chapter excerpt from The Tears of the Rose, which comes out November 25 and is up for pre-order now.

SUCH  a huge relief to hear that.

I think this is a common writer neurosis - or human neurosis, maybe - that you worry that what you do NEXT will be a failure. It's like this terrible flip side to success. A book you write is celebrated and immediately you start thinking, what if they all hate the next one?? What if I've peaked with that book?



Did I mention it's a neurosis?

At any rate, early readers are telling me they like book 2 even better and people are being lovely and wonderful by turning around and ordering The Tears of the Rose right after finishing The Mark of the Tala. Which is great, because it makes my publisher happy to see that. And right now they're making noises about taking the series to Frankfurt to maybe sell to foreign editors and that I can maybe do three more books after this.

So I can obsess about those, too. :-)

In the meantime, I'm starting up a newsletter that you can sign up for here. The first issue will include a prequel story to The Twelve Kingdoms trilogy, that previously was only available in an anthology. Here's a little sneak peek of that story, Negotiation. If you've read The Mark of the Tala, you might very well recognize these characters.

          Salena didn’t need to smell the blood to know the warrior was wounded.
          It showed in the sag of his body, the way he cradled his side, curling over it with that animal instinct to present the ridged spine to the cruel world, protecting the soft underbelly. 
          Nothing he did would protect him from her.
          She hung back in the shadowy grove, letting the snowfall muffle her scent and the stark lines of the forest disguise her shape. After so much watching and waiting, the moment was finally upon her.
          The man swayed in the saddle, barely conscious. His will, however, penetrated his fevered mind to keep him clinging to his horse while the stallion carried him to the one place Salena could never allow him to go.
          None of this surprised her.
          Very little did, really. Which could be both good and bad.
          In this case, only one real question remained. Which would this be?
          She’d seen this moment coming for most of her life. This pivot point for so many fates arrowing in from the beyond, like a meteor set in motion eons ago, just now hurtling into physical view. From her dome under the sea, her sacred seat of power, the images had played out for her, all the futures equally possible until the moment of decision, when the pattern of events became inevitable.
          For years she’d examined the outcomes, unable to discern which of her actions would trigger each. Now the moment was upon her. The next choices would set the course for her beloved land of Annfwn, for the larger world and, not incidentally, her own fate.
          Nothing would stop this meteor of destiny and the resulting destruction. All any of them could do was choose the point of impact. And by any of them, that meant Salena, because she was the only one who knew.
          She’d made her first choice already, just by being here. The warrior must not be allowed to enter Annfwn.
          The stallion nickered nervously, rolling an eye in her direction. Not seeing her yet, but catching her scent perhaps. Or just sensing the presence of death, the predator in the forest. She padded nearer, the horse dancing aside, into the deeper snow off the path.
          The warrior grunted, pain jouncing him into greater awareness, his hand going even now to his sword hilt, as if he could swing it. He would be easy to kill. In her wolf form, she could overmatch the weakened man. His blood would run hot and sweet in her mouth and so many things would never happen. Especially for her. Her life would be reasonably good if he died now, alone in this forest he should never have entered. A short-term solution, oh so tempting in its simplicity. More, the outcome beckoned—Salena would live out her days in Annfwn, perhaps not happily, but not in misery.
          It galled her to see past the short-term, to the chaos of civil war, the death, disease and starvation that would grow so large that the festering would eat into Annfwn itself. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Probably not even in her lifetime. Another woman would have pretended not to see it, would have turned her face away and enjoyed the now for what it was.
          Salena herself would have done it, before her baby died. Before Tosin took the coward’s way out and killed himself.
          Grief taught you things.
          Salena would never again ignore the portents, never again place blind faith in joy.
          She slunk closer, letting the horse sense her now, the glimpse of a fang in the shadows, not too much. Just a hint of canine musk, of danger. Not this path. That way, towards the only choice she could make—saving the man who would be her slow destruction.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Call to Adventure

Stories have a structure beyond the beginning, middle and end. It’s a structure that goes back to the myths and legends told around campfires. That structure, sometimes called the hero’s journey, is evident in movies as well as books. One of the elements of this structure is The Call to Adventure, also known as the first turning point.

Whatever it’s called at some point early in a story, the hero (male or female) must make a choice. Stay in her safe world or answer the call and venture forth. Without that decision, there really is no story. Does she have a goal? Does she really want it? What is she willing to do to achieve it? Making that decision can be a leap of faith as large as the one Indy makes in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, when he’s about to step out onto the invisible bridge.

In Romancing the Stone, the call to adventure is literally a call from Joan’s sister who is being held captive and only Joan can help. She has to make the choice to go to Columbia or stay in her New York apartment. In Star Wars, the call comes from Obi Wan inviting Luke to learn the ways of the Force. In my book, The Pilot, Celara’s nemesis needs her to find a gangster.

In each situation, the hero says no. Not just, no. A resounding NO. Joan can’t go. She’s scared to leave her apartment. Her publisher/friend tells her she’s not up to it.  Luke claims he can’t leave his aunt and uncle. Celara fears the gangster. No way is she going anywhere—especially with Trevarr Jovano, the Coalition Administrator who impounded her ship and cargo and locked her in jail.

But something pushes the hero over the fence. Joan can’t abandon her sister. Luke has no home left, no family. When Celera discovers her brother works for the gangster, she makes that decision. She has to rescue her brother.

So each hero answers the call. And the adventure begins.

Excerpt from The Pilot:

“I would like to make you an offer.” Jovano stared at Celara. “I need to talk to Hallart.”
“You can’t be serious.” Space jocks—including her—took huge detours to avoid running into Hallart’s territory, or his men.
“I assure you, when it comes to Hallart, I am deadly serious.” His piercing eyes gave her pause.
“If you find him—and that’s a big if, Admin Man—you can forget about being serious. You’ll just be dead. Forget it. I don’t have a death wish. I am not helping you find the biggest gangster in the galaxy.”
“In the galaxy? You exaggerate his importance.”
“That’s because you don’t know him. He would kill his own mother if he could make a profit.”
Darkness crossed Jovano’s eyes. His brow furrowed. He probably didn’t believe her so she added, “I heard he did kill his mother. Father, too. And his siblings. Ask him. Right before he rips your heart out of your chest and slices it while you watch.”
“You fear him.”
“Any sane person is afraid of Hallart. So the answer is no. A resounding No.” She didn’t even want to think about associating with criminals like Hallart. Quintall couldn’t be one of them.
When Jovano didn’t continue, she added, “Hallart is into some very bad stuff. He’s a slaver. He runs dust and outlawed weapons. I even heard a rumor he was behind the assassination attempt on the Coalition President last year. She wasn’t the prez yet, but you know who I mean.”
He grew very still. A muscle along his jaw started to twitch. “It is not a rumor.”
“Yeah, well. The assassin missed and offed some unlucky fem who got—” At his fierce look, her voice trailed off. “. . . in . . . the . . . way.”
“Unlucky?” His quiet tone frightened her. “The fem did not just get in the way. She was protecting President Filana.”
Celara shrugged. “Well, you’re Coalition. Guess you’d know about that.”
After staring at her in silence, he said, “Yes. I would know about that.”
What just happened? What caused such a look of desolation in his eyes?
“I want you to put me in touch with your brother.” His voice had returned to its natural timbre, almost conversational, and Celara thought she had been mistaken about what she’d seen in his eyes a moment before. “He is a sure way to contact Hallart.”
Jovano was wrong. He had to be.
She shook her head. “I don’t know where he is.”
“If I can find him, will you help me?”
At first she started to refuse, but if they could find Quintall, she could talk to him, find out if what Jovano claimed was true. And if it was, she would convince Quintall to give up the dangerous life, convince him to leave Hallart.
The Pilot is available at Amazon ~ Smashwords ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Kobo ~ iTunes


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