Friday, September 30, 2011

It's Friday

Another one bites the dust.


Sorry so late! Over a week without a computer! Well, there's the mini, but my fingers are just too large to navigate its keyboard with any accuracy or speed, but it's great for traveling and reading emails. Period. My old computer is in the hands of the Geek Squad, and I'm hoping for good news.

There is the possibility that in ten years I'll be springing for a third new computer... what's up with that? I should have sprung for the MAC in the beginning and just been done with it, right? I do believe at this point it would have been the better deal. Me and PCs just aren't cutting it. The worst of it is I'll probably be visiting the Squad again when my computer comes back to have the hard drive recovered. I've paid for Carbonite for 2 years feeling secure in the fact that my files would be backed up and easily recovered. WRONG! At least for me, a person who has no technical abilities at all. Spent over an hour trying to recover just one document, 1/2 hour sitting in a chat queue looking for help, big sigh, I'll be returning there to wait some more with hopes someone can direct me on how to open the damn files that are showing as recovered!

As I've grown older I find I have very little or no patience at all waiting for answers to something that should be easy, and undoubtably is, for some. I'm seriously leaning toward cancelling the Carbonite subscription and counting on being able to recover the hard drive 3 years from now.

Wish I was writing about something more... writery, or at least posting some cool, or hot, pics of hunks, or adorable animals, or anything aside from  - Another One Bites The Dust!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Buried Under My TBR Pile

Well before I put pen to paper and started writing, I was a reader. I still am, to be honest. I'm a firm believer that if you want to write, you have to read. Of course, someone forgot to mention that when writing takes over more and more of your life, the reading time gets less and less.

A few years ago, I could tear through books like nobody's business. I didn't have a TBR pile because I was usually well ahead of the curve. Now, my TBR pile is huge. And that's just the physical one, I wince at the thought of counting how many ebooks I have waiting for me on my Nook. 


Now I use books I really, really want to read as ransom for myself. You can't read that book until you straighten out that story line. You can't start that book you've been dying to read until you get this synopsis written. And so on.

Now, for something to possibly add to your TBR pile on your e-reading device. I'm over at fellow Paranormal Romantics author Stacey Kennedy's blog today. I'm talking about why romance and a tender love story play heavily into my latest release, Perfect Limit--a story that takes place in a BDSM club. Romance, a tender love story and BDSM?? Say it ain't so! *g* Come on over and check it out, leave a comment and you could be entered to win a free download of either of the Sypricon Masters books--your choice! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Week of Firsts...

So...Saturday was The Day.

Moira Rogers and I attended the Birmingham Books and Babes Book Club meeting.

Even though poor Bree was sick couldn't make it, Donna and I had a blast. It was my first reader luncheon/signing/talk, and it wasn't half as scary as I thought it would be. It was so great meeting another local(ish) author!


We did learn over dinner that we weren't the only special guests invited. I give you The Laird, the official mascot of the BBB Book Club.


He was introduced to us as "the man for every woman." You can see his spots--he's a shifter, a vampire, a fire fighter, a police officer, a sheriff, a rock star, body builder, a highlander, a solider, a cowboy, a striper, and an angel.

Once the ladies had a couple of drinks, his clothes came off...


Yeah. What else is there to say about that? LOL

I also met a very special reader Saturday. She had sent me a FB message saying she'd found my book at her local book store. I was so thrilled! I'd never seen my book on the shelf before she showed me the picture.


She went on to say she'd spoken with the staff about my books on a previous visit. When she returned a few weeks later, she saw they'd stocked Everlong and snapped some pictures for me. She even drove from Lexington, KY to Birmingham, AL for the signing and showed me the pics and told me her story in person. It was the most amazing experience.

I feel truly blessed. Ours really is the best job in the world.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Behind The Scenes by Rebecca Royce Contest

The one book I've ever written that was purely contemporary--meaning without any paranormal elements--released this last week with Decadent Publishing.

Blurb:

Kyra Soloman has been a successful actress in Hollywood since she was fifteen years old. Now, about to turn thirty, she's had enough of the scene. She wants to move to New York City and rediscover her love of acting.

Brent Hallow is the new 'it' guy in town. He's recently starred as a vampire in a teenage angst movie. He's also twenty-four years old and the fact that Kyra is attracted to him makes her feel very old.

But one hot night at a Hollywood house party will show them both that share more than the love of acting but the real desire for rough sex as well.


I think this will be my one foray into the non-paranormal/non-fantasy world.I loved writing it but my muse tends to make everything a little 'out there.' Warning: This book is HOT.


Comment today to enter for a chance to win a copy!



Monday, September 26, 2011

Goodreads? What's That?




Sometimes I take it for granted that everyone knows what I know. I mean, really, can’t you read my mind? LOL
Speaking with some co-workers, who are rabid readers, I was surprised that not one knew about Goodreads. If you know about this site, then I high-five you. I get that a lot of readers don’t care about author websites and blogs but this site is for READERS.
I love using Goodreads. Not as an author but, like most writers, I was a reader first. It’s a great way to browse new authors or checking out if a book is generally getting good reviews. It’s for ALL genres, not just romance, so if your hubbies/boyfriends/significant other likes to read they can play too.
The thing I like the most is that it gives readers the power to express their opinions. Like any website, there is some abuse but I find the librarians are on top of things if it is reported. I also like that my friends can recommend books to me and I have found some new favorite authors through this aspect.
I do have an author page but I use Goodreads as a reader more than anything. I review most of the things I read now. I keep it short and sweet, basically because I’m not a professional reviewer. If I can’t give a book a good review then I generally don’t write anything. (Mostly, one or two may have pissed me off enough to break my philosophy).
There are also book clubs and groups and so many things that I can't list them all. LOL
The moral of this blog?
Spread the word folks. You’d be surprised how many avid readers out there may not know of Goodreads. It’s a great resource!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Elise Hepner has a new release! Let's welcome her!

How Do I Get Ideas For My Stories?

I wish I could say I have a magical idea fairy that brings me my stories on fluttery wings that spout little mini waterfalls of glittery goodness—but mostly my ideas are random and out of the blue. A lot of my writer friends like to say that every story idea is a “plot bunny”. A little bunny with a concept that jumps into your brain and takes up all your attention with its preening, cute little ways. These concepts come to me probably at least once a day which is why I have a box full of them on top of my roll top desk.

When it’s time for me to pick a new idea to write, I normally go through all the little scraps of paper and pick which ones interest me the most rearranging them on my monthly calendar. Generally I try to have one submission to my editor at all times, no matter what else I’m writing. But that can get a little hard to juggle when I’m writing a new work in progress, editing a submission from my editor, and my editor also has a non-contracted submission all at the same time. Hello, paperwork!

So while my idea train is super awesome and always on the rails—it can get a little overwhelming at times.

Some of my favorite ideas come from popular culture or little chunks of research I run into doing my full time job as a writer. I enjoy putting modern twists on fairytales, mythology, and other all ready established stories that I can fiddle with anyway I wish—and put in super hot sex. Half the time I will get a vague story idea or setting and then all of the sex scenes will come to me like ba-bam! Several scenes right in a row. Then from the sex scenes I can actually get little hints about my hero and heroine through the ways they handle the sex—rough, slow, where their hands are placed, the pressure, etc. Believe it or not, whose on top can provide a lot of information about my heroine’s personality and whether my hero goes fast or slow during foreplay factors into who he is as a person.

Rapunzel is trapped by the harsh, inescapable reality of her prison, so she builds vivid sexual fantasies where she has full control and no one can take it away. If nothing else, at least she has command over her thoughts.

When Prince Samuel climbs into her tower it’s a small, satisfying excuse to break the rules—until his gentle touch coaxes out her trust. But it’s not enough. No longer can she keep her dark, sexual secrets inside. Rapunzel yearns for rough, passionate sex—a way to unlock her sensual freedom for good.

Vulnerable but unable to turn back, Rapunzel leads Prince Samuel on an intimate journey to define their sexual limits while twisting their definitions of control forever.

Excerpt:

“What in Christ’s name…”

I must be hearing echoes from the town nearby, where Mother sells her herbs and braided goods. No one ventures this far toward my tower because Mother’s gone to great lengths to see that they don’t—bear traps are her new favorite method of discouragement. Once one life is claimed, I imagine word spreads fairly quickly to stay away from the area. Why then are there hoof beats that make my head pulse with a slight pain?

There’s no understandable excuse I can delude myself with any longer. Before I can focus on the consequences, I swing my head out the window into the oppressive, humid summer air. Just the very top of his head is visible, his hair brushing past his cheekbones, glowing from the sunshine and shot through with gold. Never have I seen a color so close to my own before—not that I see many people.

For a few moments I can’t quite come to terms with his presence and it’s not for a lack of staring that my pulse inevitably echoes inside my head like an overbeaten drum. This is my chance. Mother won’t be back for quite some time with her wares. He’s circling the tower, slouched over a horse who looks a bit like a nag. Certainly not a proper horse for a man with such fine clothes in gorgeous colors and sumptuous fabrics.

There’s no going back from this moment. It’s a certainty that makes my teeth chatter in a wash of cold fear, despite the heat, and my hands clasp around my middle as I try to hold myself together. He hasn’t looked up yet, more intent on studying the free-standing structure than noticing my shadow plastered across the grass. My mind is desperately working out what I’ll cry out to him. Even as my throat closes with an infusion of happiness that makes me rock on my feet.

“Excuse me?” A tentative question I’m not sure he will hear because it can’t be any louder than a frightened whisper. “Sir, you’re really not supposed to be here.”

Somehow, I’ve managed to make this part louder because he glances up—and his slack-jawed expression is a blow to my chest. He possesses the most gorgeous cobalt blue eyes. Underneath my ribs, the pain grows until taking a full breath is hard. Mother is right, he hasn’t even overcome his shock as my heavy plait of hair rests down the stone side of my prison. He’s not to be trusted.

What am I thinking? He won’t even come near me to aid my escape and his eyes are swamped in confusion—and there’s a flash of unreadable emotion that I refuse to question. He must leave here now and I must somehow convince him to bring no one back with him. I won’t be paraded around for anyone’s amusement. This man has made a mistake coming here.

Yet, there’s still a part of me that grips the windowsill until my palms are numb and that clings to the hope that he will at least acknowledge me. So long since I’ve had any kind of normal conversation. One that didn’t revolve around my hair, my rules or my mother’s day. Won’t he say anything? I’m as trapped by his thick silence as I am by the beauty of his face.

“Please, you must go and tell no one about what you’ve seen. You shouldn’t have ignored the traps. They are there for a reason.”

I don’t know how I’ve gotten that all out because my main focus lies on the foreign stirrings of heat in my cheeks as the pulsing sensation twists lower in my abdomen. What is happening to me? With a certainty that surprises me, I find myself clenching my thighs together, only to have the subtle touch of flesh-on-flesh be more than I can bear. He has yet to take his gaze from mine and a shudder slips up my spine.

“How long have you been here?” His voice carries the strain I hold back and I’m slightly put at ease that at least we are on similar ground. “Who did this to you?”

“For a man who is about to leave, I don’t believe it matters.”

The words barely tumble out of my mouth before I clamp my hand over my lips. I hadn’t meant to be so harsh and instantly regret it. He is so handsome—and these sudden urges, they are overwhelming and confusing to the point where I wish to completely remove the problem. My lips part in an apology and I watch a jovial grin span from ear to ear as he laughs at me until I can’t hear anything but the frantic beat of my heart.

Who is this man? Now he stares at me with a playfulness that washes a wave of goose bumps across my flesh. He doesn’t seem offended, merely amused at my suggestion that he leave. To further that fact, he quickly dismounts and ties his horse to a nearby tree branch. While I can only stare at the way his tight riding boots and breeches hug his muscular body from his calves all the way up to his perfectly rounded buttocks.

Though I’d learned of desire from my mother—and all its wicked principles—I never expected it to rear its head in my lonely, simple world.

However, now my life spirals out of control quickly enough that I tilt back against the wall to my left and watch with trembling hands. This mysterious man climbs the wall of my tower as if it had been built to be climbed so easily—without any aid from my hair. One strong, sun-kissed hand and booted foot at a time. When he offers up his hand to me to pull him over the side, what choice do I have? Even a man that strong would eventually grow tired and plummet to his death—and I want him tucked close to my body, not on the ground.

“I was beginning to wonder what it took to get some assistance.”

He softly grunts and clasps my hand hard enough that I gasp as I shift my weight to pull him over the side. Muscles I didn’t know existed inside me burn with sharp pain from disuse because of my isolation. His touch radiates heat all along my arm. If it wasn’t for his precarious situation, I would fight to pull away on instinct—but as it is, he manages to throw himself into my home with as much grace as a charging boar—and he trips, falling on top of me and sending us to the hard, stone floor.

His surprisingly soft hand brushes the hair out of my face and lingers, gently stroking, down my cheek. Should I be frightened? Probably. At the moment I can’t bear the thought that my first sincerely gentle touch from a man would be anything but special. His sharp leather scent surrounds my tingling skin.

“Isn’t this a day for surprises?” His gaze cuts through all the fear inside me and his mouth holds the subtle curve of a half smile. “I should move myself off you, this isn’t proper at all when we’ve barely been introduced.”

Yet he doesn’t move an inch.

A realization whips through my mind and would have left me on the floor if I wasn’t already pinned there by a gorgeous man who touches me with such reverence I might weep. When will this happen again? After this twisted, meandering path of fate, there is no doubt I will be alone again—and I want a loving memory to cling to at night when my old fears tighten my chest until I can’t breathe. This is a choice I can make for myself. And I won’t live the rest of my ordinary, sheltered life not knowing true passion when it burns across my skin.

“They call me Rapunzel.”

“Samuel.”

His inviting smile lights up my whole world.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Why the sequel has taken me so long.

I want to talk about Slipping the Past, today.
Slipping the Past has received multiple four and five star reviews. It finished third in the National RWI’s More Than Magic contest, has been described as unique, a story unlike anything the reader has read before. And it’s one of my favorite stories, where I was able to flex some creative muscle and build a unique world. So, why didn’t I write a sequel?
I have.
As I’ve started the last two chapters of my unnamed sequel (we’ll call it Hear No Evil for now), I ran into a wall. This doesn’t happen very often, well in most my stories it doesn’t happen, but this story has been a struggle from the first page. It has taken me literally two years to write, and is one of the most difficult stories I’ve ever written because of the hero’s POV.

What do I mean?

Good morning, Nathanial Miller.

Cyborgs, skinwalkers and a terrestrial revolution—Nate Miller would have never believed the greater forces that warned him about his future, were talking about this.
Until he opened his eyes.
Nathanial Miller hasn’t been himself for the last two months. Murdered, his soul captured, Nate wakes up to find he inhabits the body of his killer, but even that isn’t the worst of it. He has also inherited his killer’s psychic abilities, making him capable of reading someone’s past, future and thoughts, by hearing one spoken word. Now the voices in his head have convinced him that becoming a loner may be the only way he can keep from losing his mind.
Then she walks into his office, asking for help.
Paxton Silver is an expert in South American artifacts. When she finds a crystal skull in a drawer in the museum’s basement, an ancient alien evil awakens in the body of a Mayan mummy. Slowly, someone begins to erase her existence, her birth record, bank accounts, friends and associates. Knowing she could be next, she takes a chance on a business card she found on a local supermarket board and heads for the one man who will either destroy her or save her.
Drawn together because of a past-life they can’t remember, Nathanial and Paxton have to put the pieces of the puzzle together and find a missing treasure. On the run for a murder, they slowly learn about their past lives and the story of a soldadera and a 13th Calvary soldier, enemies and lovers during the Mexican Revolution. Remembering their past may be the only way they can save humanity from extinction.
But will they be too late. The invasion has started. Earth is being captured one soul at a time and the people of Earth continue to sleep.

Ah, so Nate is living in the body of his killer. He’s inherited the pychopath’s abilities, and wonders if he will become the same. Yeah, that could suck and getting in the head of a man living this nighmare was, well, a writing nightmare.

Here’s a little of the story. Bear in mind these are from a WIP and raw at the moment.

Excerpt 1:
Her soul! The fucker took her soul. Nate sat up, eyes wide open. Blood pounded through his veins and his heart slammed against his ribs like a jackhammer, driving the breath from his lungs. A trickle of moisture meandered down his spine. He swallowed, kicked the sheets away, shoved both hands into his hair and pulled his knees to his chest. No!

She didn’t kill herself. All these years—all this time he’d believed she’d committed suicide. He’d never known. Where was she now? Where did Ian put her?

He swung his legs over the bed. His innards twisted. “It was a dream.” He tried to convince himself, but he knew the truth. Why now? Ever since he’d inherited Ian’s body he’d been dreamless. The voices kept REM away and made drifting off impossible.

Tonight that all changed. What had awakened the small bit of the beast? Ian’s soul had been fragmented and destroyed, all but a small sliver that had been missed. It sat at the back of his mind and fed him dark thoughts, but never came forward, it wasn’t strong enough. It had felt like nothing more than an ugly thought.
Until now.

It reveled in the death of his mother. He felt Ian’s delight. He’d felt his hunger. Nate reached up and touched the brand that now burned. Ian’s energy felt stronger, harder to hold back. God, he was in trouble. He’d no one to talk to that wouldn’t trigger the voices and visions—an anchor to sanity.

Nate froze. Except her. He’d hadn’t heard, seen or felt anything when she’d spoken to him. Well, that wasn’t one hundred percent true. He’d felt something. He’d gotten damned hard and it had taken hours and an ice shower for it to go away. Everything about it was unnatural and if he’d learned anything lately, it was also fate.

He needed to talk. He needed to work through the dream without outside visions interfering. He needed to freaking think. Most of all, he needed to see Paxton.

She’d left her purse in the office. When Jocelyn hadn’t been looking, he’d rifled through it and had taken the opportunity to learn something about her. He should be ashamed he’d snooped, but he wasn’t. She was in trouble and needed help. But she wasn’t the only one. He needed her help.

Nate glanced out the window then at the clock. Three in the morning, a little early to drop by and return her handbag. He could go to her house and wait for her to wake. He sure wasn’t going back to sleep.
“I am not Ian Saefa. I am not a monster.” He eyed his reflection in a large mirror that leaned against the wall. The swelling in his face had gone down and the black and purple had faded to tan and olive. Not pretty, but better than before. They did indeed heal faster than most.

He reached out and touched the mirror’s frame. He kept it to remind him of what resided inside him and what he could become. He hated looking in. It always seemed like someone else stared back, and frankly, it creeped him out. But he had his reasons. Good ones. His gaze traveled to the corner to where a note had been scrawled across the silver surface.

“Know thy enemy.”

First thing when he woke, Nate looked into it and would recite the message over and over. Evil still resided in this body and he wouldn’t allow himself to forget, nor would he become the monster Ian Saefa had been.
“Know thy enemy.” The brown eyes, so dark they looked black, bore into him. Ian. That energy had wrapped him in a stranglehold, filling his head with cold thoughts, urging him to do things he would have never considered doing before—terrifying things—gruesome things—things that made him question if he was no longer sane. “Know thy enemy. Know thy enemy.” Nate leaned in. “Fuck you, asshole.” He stepped back and flipped the mirror on its stand so he could no longer see him.

Excerpt 2:

Nate surveyed the grassy clearing. He eyed the impressive group that began to gather in an area that usually had people picnicking on blankets and playing Frisbee. Everywhere, reapers stripped out of coats and boots, laced on cleats, slipped on jerseys, taped their wrists and stretched. Only reapers. He’d been alone in the park before this. The moment he’d arrived, the previously crowded area emptied.

He needed to get used to it. This was his reality now. People didn’t like him—were afraid of him. He couldn’t blame them. Before he’d ended up in Ian’s body, he’d have run too.

Now it was spook central.

Diego clamped a hand down on his shoulder. “We’re playing Lacrosse.” Bad girls need spankings and someone’s been a very naughty reaper.

Nate shot Diego a crusty look and growled. He knocked his hand off his shoulder and jumped to his feet. He raised his hand to point, dropped it instead, shook his head and turned to walk away. Fuck this.

“We’re going to play,” Crunch. Oomph. Diego teleported in front of him, stopping his escape.

Suicide. “Go ahead. Don’t let me stop you.”

“I said, we are going to play.”

Uh huh. When Diego said they played Lacrosse, he meant a free-for-all massacre, with the occasional use of a ball. It had been ages since Nate had played any kind of sport, and never something so violent—made worse by angry reapers with attitudes. No matter how much they wanted him to be one of them, he never would be.

“Got it. Have fun.”

“You’re playing.” Crack. Crunch.

Nate shuddered. He had to be kidding. Gabriel and Diego grinned and bumped fists. Okay, maybe not. “I don’t think so. I have better things to do.”

“Like what?” Diego pulled his sweatshirt off and dropped it to the ground. He squatted down, unzipped his bag and pulled out a well-used stick with a net on the end. He pushed it at Nate and extracted another, tossing it to Gabriel, who caught it and gave it a spin.

“Things,” Nate snapped. Sick of the mind barrage, ready to find a hole and bury himself in it.

“Are you too big a pussy to play with us?” Diego asked. Blood. Head-on collisions.

Nate eyed the players and looked down at the stick Diego had crammed into his hands. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know if you’re a pussy?” Gabriel snickered. The visions went in a whole different direction, involving his sister and condiments. Do you like whip cream?

Nate gagged and balled his free fist, ready to punch. “Oh fuck me. Eeesh.” He threw his hand up to stop Gabriel before he gave him all the details of their afternoon. “Don’t. Not another fucking word. Don’t even breathe in my direction. What did I tell you about talking to me?”

Gabriel snorted and walked away. One last blast hit Nate’s mind.

“I said not to even breathe in my direction, asshole.” He did a full body shake, trying to knock the image loose. Even a snort wasn’t safe. Gabriel didn’t like Nate in his head anymore than Nate liked being there, but he could be a little more careful with the way he threw the energy around. Nate puffed up his cheeks and blew out another breath. Yeah, that had been fun. Better to drown it out. He slipped his headphones on and cranked the music. It dulled the visions, put them into a fog and made them a little less intense, but not tolerable. He thrust the stick back at Diego. He’d watch.

“You got something better to do?” What your daddy doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

“Yes. I’m going to sit over there.” He pointed at the bench. “Alone.”

“No you’re not. Lacrosse is a good way to work out the stress, and you, mi amigo, look like you’re carrying
more than your fair share. When you’re an enforcer, you have to have outlets, a way to dump all the energy you pick up throughout the day. We’re like energy vacuum cleaners, some more than most—no offense.” Yes. Yes. Yes. Oh you fuck so good, Diego. Harder, baby. “There’s nothing like kicking the crap out of someone to put you back on even ground. Come on. You can play on my team.” Diego handed the stick back to him. “We could use a big guy on defense.”

“Yeah, and you need to keep your dick in your pants and your hands off Cappy’s daughter.”

Diego narrowed his eyes. “You haven’t told anyone about that, have you?”

Nate shook his head. “I’m not a snitch, but a little advice. Daddy’s are very protective of their little girls. He’s gonna cut your nuts off when he catches you—and yes he’s going to catch you.”

Well, that’s a peek at the sequel, and if anyone has any ideas for a better title—I’m up for suggestions.

To find Slipping the Past and some of my other stories, stop by my website and visit.
http://authordljackson.com/
or
Leave a comment suggesting a possible title for this sequel and if I pick your title, you'll win a copy of Slipping the Past. I'll announce the winner next Saturday.

Have a great Saturday,

D L Jackson

Friday, September 23, 2011

It's Friday

And what the heck is going on with Facebook?! I have no patience, I'm not very technical, so I damn near couldn't find my profile. *Sigh* Learning to navigate everything took too much time, of which I seem to be short of these days, so I logged out. I'll deal with it another time. Why don't they leave it alone - it wasn't broken. :(

It's my weekend off and I'm not going to work AT ALL! Nothing. Zip. Nada. Well, I do need to start getting my yard in order for winter which is a thought I hate. Hmm, maybe another weekend for that.

Big plan is to cuddle up with a good book. Tonight I perused my shelves to see what might catch my fancy and there's so much to choose from in the way of series which I usually love best. But not what I'm looking for this weekend. I want an old romance that will pull me in, and take me for a wild ride to 'the end'. Guess what? Couldn't find anything that screamed out at me so must go shopping... *big grin*

Any ideas?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Running Around in Circles

Ever have one of those days where you just feel as if you can't keep up with everything going on around you? Yeah, I'm having one of those weeks. No matter how much I try to get ahead, I feel three steps behind. And why do I need to sleep anyway? It's taking perfectly good hours I could use for other things.


I've got a book releasing tomorrow (though, if you're so inclined, Amazon has is up for sale already: (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005OMB936)), another entry in the Sypricon Masters series. My leanings toward tortured hero went by the wayside for this book, this time, the heroine is the one with all the problems.

So, lay it on me, tell me something that amused you recently. I need something funny to giggle at--entertain me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Deadlines and Math

If ever two words could strike fear in the heart of, well, anyone, it's deadlines and math. I say this as I'm bent over a calendar averaging out what my daily write goal needs to be to get my current WIP written, revised, edited and ready to send my editor by December. That said...

I've never had a deadline before, writing-wise. Even now I hesitate to call it a deadline. It's more of a timeline suggestion. Sure I've done the "I need this back in 24 hours" thing with edits, but that's when the book is done and contracted. This is staring down blank pages and hoping they fill in in time. Scary stuff, that.

According to my calculations, if I stick hard to my usual 2k a day write goal, I'll have this book wrapped up by October the fifteenth(ish). That might happen if I wasn't a pantser and knew where this book was headed. Since I'm not and I don't, let's cross our fingers, shall we?

So let's say end of October with a month for edits and cleanup. Doable. I hope.

Maybe I should get one of those fancy countdown widgets...the sparklier the better.



How about y'all? Any deadlines looming? Have you had to dust off your calculator and test your math skills recently?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Love Beyond Time

I have been doing a blog tour for the last few weeks for Love Beyond Time. Have you stopped by any of the other blog stops? You could win a $50 gift card. This is the other place where I am today.

But, keeping up with two different blog tours (I am also doing one for Eye Contact) has kept me very. very busy. I feel like I'm doing a lot of writing but none of it is in my current work in progress.

Promotion is every authors challenge. I love doing it. I love talking about my books. Love it. But anything that cuts into my writing time is also problematic.

Hope you are all well and we can run into each other again in the blogosphere soon.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cystal Kauffman- Comes the Wolf

Cyrstal Kauffman has agreed join me today and answer a few questions. She is also going to give away a copy of her new release, Comes The Wolf, with its wonderfully hot cover.



When asked how long they’ve been writers, most will answer “forever.” So instead, I’ll ask how long you’ve been a paranormals writer?
That’s a good question. Paranormals are actually where I started, before recognizing and pursuing my love of romance.  Like many writers, I was inspired by Stephen King, and I thought paranormal horror was the greatest thing ever. I loved creating characters with outlandish capabilities and victims plagued by outrageous monsters. It took a while for me to see these monsters as potential hero characters, but now I’m hooked on the bad good-guy characters like Charlain’s True Blood vampires.



I love bad vamps too. LOL
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
I love the idea of monsters who are protectors. In my Guardians series from Loose Id, my heroes are human-shapeshifters who can bring forth wings of flesh that make them able to fly, putting them on an even playing field with their vampire enemies. In book 2, The Collision, a Guardian and a vampire are trapped together in the Romanian mountains. Fitch isn’t exactly a protector, but he is a character with a noble heart who does the right thing in the end. I decided to take my desire to the next level and create a werewolf protector. Aidan is a tracker, sort of like a bounty hunter but more an investigator, who finds missing people. He’s been hired to find Madeline Forsythe after being misled to believe she stole two hundred and fifty thousand dollars from her father. Once he learns how much danger she’s in, he doesn’t think twice about protecting her.



I love protective characters.
Do you have another book in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
In taking my monster protector hero one step even further, my next book is about an elite group of vampires working under the CIA called the Night Squad who are sent after criminals too dangerous for human law enforcement personnel. Often innocent victims accidentally get mixed up in their very dangerous assignments, and these men do whatever it takes to keep them from becoming casualties. Look for the first, a novella called Red Hunger, this winter from Ellora’s Cave.


Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?
There are a lot of “types” of characters that I love to read and write: the underdog, the bad boy, the humble alpha, but to pick one specifically I’d have to say Fitch Galloway, the vampire hero in my Guardian ménage (Book II The Collision). He was a bad boy secret agent who chose to be good, even if he wasn’t ready to admit it out loud. Watch my Night Squad series for another bad boy hero who thinks he’s a monster, but puts his own case on hold to protect his woman; a human who stumbled into his sting by accident.


 
What so you see for the future of publishing and e books?
I’ve always believed ebooks were the wave of the future and are here to stay regardless of what naysayers naysay, but that future has come rushing toward us with a speed I did not anticipate. And I was proven right not only by the solidity of ebook-specific publishing houses who continue to put out top-notch books, but with the new opportunities created by the Kindle and Amazon’s self-publishing platform. It’s definitely a new world out there today. You readers are right in the middle of it!


 
Lastly, if there is one thing you could personally say to your readers, what would it be?
Thank you. Definitely thank you.

For more information about Crystal and her upcoming works, visit her website http://www.crystalkauffman.com


In celebration of her release, Comes the Wolf from Loose Id, Crystal will choose one winner to receive a personal copy of her book, drawn from comments left here today.



Sunday, September 18, 2011

Please welcome New York Times bestselling author, Heather Killough-Walden!!!

I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Actually, that’s not 100% true. In my heart, I knew I had one gift, one love, and one hobby that were a three-in-one slam dunk of inner happiness. I nearly flunked out of high school because all I could do was sit there during Calculus class and pen short stories about romance and vampires (which I’d been obsessed with since I’d fallen in love with The Count on Sesame Street at the age of four) to my best friend. I didn’t even care if it irritated the teacher. All that mattered to me was getting to the next tooth-sinking, grip-tightening, desperation-filled moment of maddening lust and writing about it in vivid detail. Obviously, that one gift-given hobby that I loved was bad news; it almost deprived me of a high school diploma, it sure as hell wasn’t going to pay the rent one day. At least that’s what everyone and their poodle was very fond of telling me.

So, when I want to college, I started with an empty slate, not really interested in anything. Because of this, I took classes in, basically, everything. I took classes in psychology, teaching, astronomy, journalism, architecture, art, and even criminal justice. I hated all of them.

Eventually I flunked out. For real this time.

I was granted the opportunity of living a few years under the very tight, very itchy, and bruise-leaving bridle of minimum-wage existence in which I worked forty to sixty hours a week, had no medical or dental insurance, and made enough money to pay for Ramen Noodles and Goodwill clothes and then I bit the reality bullet: I needed to go back to school and earn some sort of degree. At the very least.

My grades had been so bad, it was difficult for me to get back in. I literally had to write a letter to the governor and plead my case – explaining how serious I was this time around and how voters were sure to remember being given second chances – before he convinced the dean to let me back in under a grade probation. This should have been a massive clue that I was meant to be a writer, but I’d been writing these kinds of letters my entire life and didn’t look at them as a gift at the time – they were simply how I survived.

I got back in, but I had to earn a 3.0 or I’d be out again.

No problem. I was smart enough by this time to have learned a few things about myself that helped me to choose the right schedule: I am incapable of coherent thought prior to 10 a.m. and only then with caffeine in my system. I can not work in groups; don’t ask me to. And I absolutely abhor politics.

Religion, on the other hand, fascinated me. I’d been fascinated with it since I was little and recognized the hypocrisy in my own church when the very same girls who had sent me to the emergency room with a cracked jaw were sitting a few pews up from me and bowing their heads as if in prayer. At the same time as my gag reflex was kicking in, the dichotomy of the situation really occurred to me. I mean, it really, really hit home.

For the next ten years, I read books on religion, watched shows on religion, and questioned people of different religions, trying to figure out what it was that made people believe in something so strongly, but in such a strange, non-linear manner. In doing this, I discovered the joys of world religion, myths, beliefs, legends and pantheons. Godly figures swam in my mind’s eye, their names thundering through my ear drums as I tossed and turned in bed: Daghda! Zeus! Butsu! THOR! I went from Taoism to Wicca to Judaism to Buddhism and back again and then – to my extreme joy – I came across a world religion class offered by the Philosophy department of the university I was attending and thought, “Wow. I can actually earn credits for learning this stuff.”

I signed up, and one class turned in to twenty, and twenty turned into an eventual degree in religious studies. It did wonders for my grade point average, but it didn’t make too many other people happy. What the hell was I going to do with a degree in religious studies?

And they were right, more or less, which I learned again as I went out into the work-a-day world and took jobs as everything from a customer service representative at a start up internet company to a marketing writer at a chiropractic college (this really should have been another clue as to my “gift,” as I helped write that college into their current university status).

In the meantime, I wrote, usually about romance or vampires and often about religious figures. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but I filled journal after journal with stories about vampire kings and wraith lords and even Thor in love and Zeus in lust, and I dreamed, very much in private, of one day getting published.

I went to law school, had a kid, moved around a lot.

Eventually the internet REALLY took off and a few sites popped up where we wanna-be authors could post our work for free and get feedback. I did so on Literotica.com (great site) and received such amazing feedback, it threw me.

For the first time in my life, I honestly wondered whether I might have a gift.

Then Kindle came along and I thought…. “Maybe?” What the hell. I posted a book.

A few months later, that book hits #1 in vampires on Amazon and the highly illustrious chairman of Trident Media Group calls me up and asks me if he can represent me, and whether I’ve written anything new.

After my initial shock and joy wear off a little, I take a deep breath and say, “Well, I’ve started this new series about angels. I’ve been wanting to write about them for a long time.” My agent is thrilled and wants to read the first book. I send it to him and he loves it.

I have an epiphany.

Everything I have ever done in my life has led me to this moment. Even the religious studies degree that no one thought I should get – in fact, perhaps, especially that religious studies degree – has played a major role in getting me to the position I currently find myself in:
As an author. Writing about romance. And vampires. And angels.

I hope that you all enjoy reading it as much as my life has enjoyed building it. ?

- Heather Killough-Walden, New York Times bestselling author

When four female angels were created for the archangels Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Azrael, a chaos spurned by jealousy erupted, and the archesses were secreted to Earth. The four favored archangels followed, prompting a search that has lasted millennia. But for Uriel, the former Archangel of vengeance, the search ends the moment he lays eyes on Eleanor Granger, his one true archess. Can he protect her from the danger lying in wait for her - and win her heart?

Pre-order at Amazon!

UK COVER

Saturday, September 17, 2011

How to take a negative review with grace.

I've noticed lately a lot of people talking about negative reviews. It has prompted me to re-post an article I wrote a couple years ago, after I received a very nasty review.

As we grow as writers, publishing more and more, we’re going to encounter those who don’t agree with the romance, or erotic romance genre and we may be called on to respond to the naysayers. We may receive negative reviews.

Regardless our true feelings or the need to curse the children of the naysayer’s loins—stick pins in the voodoo dolls we’ve created in their likeness or mutter insanely that they don’t know what they’re talking about, there is only one way to handle it.
With grace.

Rule #1: Put your pride to the side. Your pride has nothing to do with how good your story is or isn’t. Folks, writers in general don’t like to hear negative criticism. Regardless of how hard we worked on a story, how many hours of our lives we traded to put it out there, somewhere, sometime, that story is going to get slammed. We are not perfect. No matter how good we think we are, we’re not perfect and we never will be. Rinse and repeat. You are not perfect and your story isn’t either. There is always something you could have done better.

Rule #2: When it’s true, it hurts. Don’t ignore it because you don’t like what they said. My mother always told me, “The truth hurts.” It does. Sometimes reviews can be unwarranted attacks on a writer. (I’ll address these later.) But sometimes they’re not. This is when a writer needs to step back and look at what was said. Is it true? If the answer is yes, don’t retaliate, no matter how bad it made you feel. They have a point. Take a breath and think about what you can do to fix it. Arguing with a reviewer because you don’t like what they said, especially if it’s true, is going to accomplish one thing. It will make you look foolish.

Rule #3: Not everyone is going to love you or your stories. I learned this as a child. Everyone wants to be the “popular kid”. The thing is, what makes one person popular with one group will make you disliked with another. The world is full of variety. It’s what makes it interesting. Go out and be interesting and write for your audience, not for everyone.

Rule #4: Keep a pint of Ben and Jerry’s handy. Any flavor will do. I recommend the direct spoon to carton approach. If this doesn’t work, call a friend to share your misery and ice cream. Through your conversation, you might be able to get out some of your frustrations.

Rule #5: Go ahead, write a response. Vent. Put it to paper or on your hard drive, but before you hit send and make it public, give it a day or two. Sometimes what we’ve written in anger doesn’t look so good the next morning. If you still want to send it after stewing on it overnight, remember the publishing world is a small, small place. Everyone knows everyone and yes, they talk. Don’t do yourself a disservice and burn bridges when you have so many brilliant novels to sell. Remember the saying, “Don’t go off half-cocked.”

Rule #6: You are not alone. We’ve all been there. Talk with other writers who have been through this. Ask them how they worked through it. You might make a few friends and it’s always nice to have a support group of people who understand. People who aren’t writers will never understand our relationships with our stories the way another writer will.

Rule #7: Celebrate the positive. You’re published. Somebody thought your story sounded intriguing enough to purchase, read and review. You’re an author. You’ve done something a lot of people could only dream about. You’ve gotten in the door and your story out there. Reach around and give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it. In the same note, give other authors their due. They’ve been through the same to get it out there and they too, deserve their place in the spotlight.

Rule #8: Ignore those who did the review out of spite or only for the joy of tearing the story apart. These reviews are obvious to all who read them, for what they are. Garbage. A wolf in sheep’s clothing is still a wolf. Your readers are intelligent enough to see this. Trust them that they will, and do not respond to the attacker. (Note, I did not say reviewer.) Responding to the attacker will only give them more fuel and a deeper desire to hurt you. It’s hard to walk away, but when they don’t get a response and they’re called on it by others, they’ll move on to other sheep. They are predators. This is how they survive. Don’t respond.

Writing is a competitive market and it’s a challenge to get published. Breaking into the romance genre and crossing it with science fiction or paranormal fiction is an even bigger challenge. In a niche market like romance, you have to have thick skin and a mountain of grace to handle the controversy you’re going to stir up amongst hard core science fiction fans and paranormal fans, especially if you write "erotic" romance.

So I leave you with this. When that bad review happens, and it will, smile, yank out that pint of Ben and Jerry’s and know that you’re not alone. And please toss that voodoo doll in the drawer and save it for when your mother-in-law comes to visit and critiques your spaghetti.
Have a great weekend,

D L Jackson

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's Friday...

It's cold, and I'm late because I slept snuggled under a quilt like a baby with my heat on. Woke up sad that Summer is leaving. I need a Summer home to run to... no, move to. Preferably deserted desert, but I could do a city with trees and grass as long as it's Southwest. Florida is warm, but the only sand there is on the beach! Don't get me wrong, that's beautiful in it's own way :) But I love desert colors and cacti. Believe me, it's not all tans and browns. The sky seems closer without being surrounded by city lights, and smog, or a tree canopy. It's so spiritual, peaceful, and just plain beautiful. Driving through the southwest is a delightful experience filled with natural wonders that will take your breath away. If you get the chance to do it - DO IT!

As usual, I'm using pictures because they're "worth a thousand words!" And I woke up late...




Growl and roar-it's okay to let the beast out.-© J. Hali Steele

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Submission

I just sent off a packet for submission to one of my editors last night and it feels good to complete a project. Not to mention a little unnerving. The first few days after sending in something, I always get a little nervous. After that, I can move on and sometimes even manage to dive into work so deeply, I forget I have something out there that I'm waiting to hear back on.

It doesn't help much that I dove back into paranormal after having been away for quite some time. My last (and next few upcoming) releases have all revolved around BDSM and either been futuristic or contemporary. A handful of shorts (one of which comes out next week, but I'll get to that in a minute) and a full-length. This submission had nothing at all to do with BDSM. Barely even a glimpse of it. But the two characters held an interest dynamic.

See, Brady is an emergency room doctor at a pediatric hosptial in Chicago. And Garrett, well, he's a gargoyle--well, at least by day. *EG* Hopefully, I'll get to share these characters with you at some point in the future.

As I said, I have a new release next Friday, and I have an ARC of it up for grabs at my site. So swing on by and leave a comment to be entered. I'll draw a winner on Sunday night, so win it before you can buy it! http://www.sarabrookes.net/2011/09/13/contest-perfect-limit-arc/

And, I also have an "open post" going at the moment where you can ask me anything and I'll post the answers in a post later in the month. I'm going to pick a few winners from those comments to win their choice of my backlist. http://www.sarabrookes.net/2011/09/02/ask-me-open-post/

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Shows That Make Me Go Hmm

Well, it's official. Nothing I pre-schedule posts as it should. For that, I have to apologize.

Now, on to my topic. TV. I don't watch it much. There's hardly ever anything interesting on besides Discovery Channel (IMO). Now I see that might change with some of the shows lining up for the fall.

Do y'all remember when all the publishers were asking for fairy tales retold? Well, it seems to be a big theme this season.

Here the trailer for Grim (NBC):



Or how about this one for Once Upon A Time (ABC):



Another one I've been eyeballing is based on a YA series from what I understand. I'll admit, I don't read YA or have much experience with it beyond Harry Potter (which I love) and whatever my daughter is reading at the moment.

Still, The Secret Circle looks interesting... (Embedding is disabled in that video, sorry.)

And I'm sure it's not just because I've been crushing on Gale Harold for years. *fans self*

Gale Harold Pictures, Images and Photos

He plays messed up characters so well. I love his ability to portray pain, it's just...I don't know. His characters sometimes make me hurt.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Worlds You're In To




Some writer's are gifted in creating wonderful worlds where you don't want to leave when you reach the end of the book. There are some who have taken me on such a journey I find myself thinking about the world long after I finished the story.

My favorite worlds are:

  • CJ Cherrhy's Atevi stories
  • Erica Haye's Shadow Fae series
  • Nalini Singh Guild Hunter world
Which author's have grabbed your imagination?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A read you can't miss!

Happy Sunday! I'm reading Living Nightmare by Shannon K. Butcher, and just had to share this one with you. I've read every book in this series and I've enjoyed them all. But Madoc is my favorite character in this series--he's badass--so I was super excited when his story was coming out.

I'm halfway through and it's been a fantasy ride so far. Madoc, as always, is a complete jerk, but Ms. Butcher has a way of making you want to cuddle him. Even though, he deserves a slap on the face. The heroine, Nika really shines in this story and it's amusing to watch her deal with Madoc. I can't get enough and every time I read it's hard to stop.

If you haven't checked out this series--you should! Ms. Butcher is the Queen of writing opening chapters. The first book in this series, Burning Alive has the best first chapter that I've ever read. And I've read a lot of first chapters.

Here's a peek at it! Happy reading!

They are the Sentinels. Three races descended from ancient guardians of mankind, each possessing unique abilities in their battle to protect humanity against their eternal foes: the Synestryn. Now, one Sentinel's burning loyalty and love may prove to be her greatest weapons.

For nine years, Nika has had one goal: to save her younger sister from the Synestryn who hold her captive. Now the psychic bond Nika forged with her sibling is fading, and time is running out. But the one man who can unlock the power inside her left and never returned, leaving Nika alone to rescue a sister everyone else believes is dead.

Madoc swore to himself he would never enter Dabyr again. For his soul is nearly dead, and he fears what he might do to those he's sworn to protect -- especially Nika. If he accompanies her into the Synestryn realm, his forbidden desire for her may unleash the savage monster within him. But Nika's need to rescue her sister is soon becomes intertwined with her passion for Madoc, while the a key to victory in the war may be within her reach...

Excerpt:

Chapter One

Omaha, Nebraska, March 3

Nika wasn't crazy, and the only way to prove it was to dig up the bones lying inside her sister's frozen grave.

The shovel bit into her palms, rubbing them raw. A cold gust of wind threatened to rip down the hood of her heavy coat and suck the precious heat from her skin. She turned her back to the wind and kept digging. There wasn't time to crawl into the car she'd stolen and warm up. She had to finish this before the Sentinels found her and took her back to Dabyr.

Nika was now much stronger than she had been a few months ago when she'd barely been clinging to life, but with each pitiful half shovelful of dirt, she realized she wasn't yet strong enough to be doing this. Not alone, and certainly not in the dead of night -- the only time no one would be around to see her desecrating a grave.

It was dangerous to be here in the dark. She knew that, but she had no choice. No one would listen to the crazy girl without proof, and the bones lying six feet down were the only tangible proof she could find that Tori was still alive.

Tori was out there. Nika could feel her baby sister's presence inside her splintered mind, amidst all the other sinister, alien beings who shared the space. Tori wasn't like she used to be -- she wasn't the sweet, innocent child the Synestryn had taken -- but she was still Nika's sister. She was still loved. She deserved the chance for freedom, no matter the cost to Nika.

Besides, if Nika could bring her home and stop the torture Tori endured, both their lives would be better. They were connected -- though not as strongly as they'd once been -- and Nika wondered sometimes how her sister had survived this long.

The night the Synestryn stole Tori, Nika had promised her she'd never leave her alone. Now, almost nine years later, she'd kept that promise despite the fact that it had nearly killed her more than once.

Tori was slipping away, and Nika had the feeling that her sister was doing it by choice, that she was pushing them apart for a reason Nika couldn't understand.

Nika refused to give up on her. With or without help, she was going to find Tori and free her from her captors. Or die trying. That was definitely another alternative -- perhaps the more likely one, given the way her muscles were already burning with fatigue.

If she couldn't finish the simple job of digging a hole, how could she possibly execute a rescue mission?

After an hour of digging, she'd barely made a dent in the frozen soil. At this rate, she'd still be here come daybreak, when the authorities could see her and drag her to the closest hospital's mental ward. She couldn't go back there. Eight years of being restrained and questioned and tortured by doctors with their fake smiles and dead eyes was more than she could stand. If she had to go back to that life, she really would be crazy.

And even if that was not where she ended up -- if she went back to Dabyr -- the chances of escaping the watchful eyes of the Sentinels again were slim. She was going to have only one shot at this -- one shot to prove that Tori was still alive and needed to be rescued.

Time to dig faster.

The shovel slipped in her weak grip, scraping off a layer of skin. She should have brought gloves, but hadn't thought that far ahead. Remembering a shovel had been foremost in her mind, consuming the small space she had left for rational thought.

She'd also forgotten money and food. She had no idea how she'd get back home -- the gas tank was nearly empty. She had left her cell phone at home so they couldn't use it to track her and find her before she was done. Anything that happened after she'd collected the stranger's bones seemed distant and unimportant.

A tugging kind of pressure pulled at her mind. Nika froze instantly, fighting it. The shovel fell from her frozen fingers. She clutched her head, knowing it would do no good.

She didn't want to go there tonight. She didn't want to be pulled into the mind of a monster to hunt and kill and feed. She had too much work to do.

An eerie howl vibrated the base of her skull, and it was all she could do not to lift her chin and howl along with the creature. Her own vision winked out and was replaced by another's.

Tall, frozen grass parted along her muzzle as she hunted for her prey. The warmth of food glowed bright in the darkness ahead. Hunger roared inside Nika's mind. The remembered taste of blood made her mouth water.

She struggled to pull from the sgath's mind before witnessing its kill, but this one was strong. It liked having her with it. It liked knowing she didn't want to be here, that she suffered.

Nika gritted her teeth and stopped trying to fight its pull. Instead, she focused on the feel of its limbs, the cold earth against the pads of its paws. Wind ruffled its fur, but it was warm, even in the cold.

Not for long.

She took the chill of her own body, the weakness of her own limbs, and forced those feelings into the sgath. The beast stopped moving and a low growl reverberated through it as it fought her. It didn't like what she was doing to it. It didn't like the cold.

A throbbing filled her skull as she fought the sgath. She whispered to it that it was too tired to hunt. Too cold. It needed to sleep.

The sgath roared into the darkness and thrust Nika from its mind, shutting her out.

She landed on her butt, hitting the pitiful mound of frozen dirt she'd managed to scratch from Tori's false grave. Fatigue kept her glued to the spot as she tried to catch her breath. Her chest burned as the cold air filled her lungs over and over again, coming out in silvery plumes. Her body trembled with cold and weariness.

How could she keep going? How was she going to dig all the way down and open the casket lying below? Why had she thought she could do this alone?

Why had Madoc abandoned her? She hadn't seen him in seven months.

Her older sister, Andra, said the distance was for the best -- that he was too angry and dangerous for her to be around him. Everyone seemed to be blind to the truth: He was in pain and he needed her to make it stop. It was so glaringly obvious to her, but no one else seemed to see it.

And that, in a nutshell, was the story of her life. She saw things no one else did, and no one believed her.

All that was going to change as soon as she had the bones. The Sanguinar would be able to tell they weren't Tori's, and if they couldn't, DNA tests would. One way or another, she was going to make the people around her listen.

If she lived through the night.

Already she could feel more sgath clawing for her attention, trying to suck her into their minds. They sensed her weakness. Even though there were fewer of them than there had ever been before -- thanks to Madoc's quest to make them extinct -- those that were left were stronger and smarter than the rest. They'd evaded Madoc's blade, hidden from him, learned from the mistakes of the others.

Most nights Nika could resist their pull, but she was weaker tonight, outside the magically enhanced walls of Dabyr, which had apparently helped protect her. Her escape from Dabyr had been nerve-racking. The drive here had been terrifying. All that combined with the effort of physical labor was too much for her.

She wanted to be stronger than this. She wanted to be healthy. She wanted to be normal.

Wishing wasn't going to get her or Tori anywhere, so she pushed herself to her feet, brushed the dirt from her hands, and picked up the shovel. It was time to get back to work.

Nika let the cold have her. She let the wind drag her hood from her head, stripped out of her puffy coat, and put the thought of her chilled fingers and aching legs in the front of her mind. Any sgath who wanted to have her along for the ride tonight was going to end up freezing its furry butt off.

* * *

"What the fuck do you mean, Nika's gone?" Madoc growled into the cell phone.

Rage was always close to the surface, spurred on by his constant pain, bubbling, waiting to be let loose. His soul was nearly dead, and hiding that fact was getting a lot harder as each day passed. He needed to finish killing all the fuckers that had taken Nika's blood before it was too late and he no longer cared whether or not they ate the crazy chick's mind.

Joseph sounded tired. "She stole one of the cars in the garage and left."

Something suspiciously close to fear wriggled inside of him, making the pounding pain in his chest swell. He needed some relief. Now. All those fucking hours of meditation he'd just finished hadn't done jack shit.

"Where the hell was her sister?" he demanded.

"Andra and Paul are up north searching for a lost kid. I tried to call her, but couldn't get through. They're probably deep in the bowels of some cave, out of cell phone range."

"If she was gone, then who was supposed to be watching Nika?" He was going to have to find the person responsible and beat the hell out of them. No help for it.

"No one. I keep trying to tell you that she's better now. Stronger. She's an adult and doesn't need a keeper."

"Obviously you were wrong," snarled Madoc. "You should have had someone babysitting her."

"You can have the job anytime you like," said Joseph.

"Not interested." If he got near her he'd hurt her. He knew he would. He didn't normally go for scrawny chicks, but there was something about her that turned him on and made him feel violent all at the same time. Not a healthy combination -- especially not for Nika.

"So you've said. Too bad you're the closest to her -- or at least to where her car stopped. Nicholas tracked the car to Omaha, and since you're nearby, you're volunteering to go check it and see if she's still in it."

"Send someone else. I shouldn't be anywhere near her."

"Why? 'Cause she seems to have a thing for you? Wish I had such problems."

"She doesn't have a thing for me. She's crazy. That's why she refuses to stay away. Chick's got issues."

"Don't we all. Listen, just go find her, okay? Nicholas will text you the info so you can find the car. If she's not in it, you'll have to track her down. And hurry the hell up. I don't like having her out there alone at night. Who knows what could happen."

Joseph hung up, leaving Madoc writhing in frustration and fear. For her. The last place on the planet he wanted to be was near Nika, and yet the thought of her alone in the dark, weak and helpless, was more than he could stand.

"Fuck." He flung the curse out into the night, sheathed his sword, and stomped back to his truck. The nest he had been ready to cut into would have to wait. Nika couldn't.

* * *

Nika's plan had worked. The sgath hated the cold, and every time they brushed up against her mind, they flinched back in anger.

Of course, the flip side of her brilliant plan was that she was freezing to death. Her body shivered, and she could no longer feel her fingers or toes. The shovel kept slipping, but at least she couldn't feel the blisters forming on her palms anymore.

She worked for another hour without interruption and was smugly pleased with herself. Until she heard the first hungry cry of a sgath hunting nearby. This time, the sound wasn't inside her mind; it was in her ears. It was real, and it was close.

They'd found her.

Panic gripped her by the neck and choked the air from her lungs.

How had they found her? She'd been so careful to drive only during the day, when they were all asleep and couldn't read her thoughts. And tonight none of them had tried to pry from her where she'd gone when she left the safety of Dabyr. They couldn't know where she was.

Tentatively, Nika sent her mind out, searching for any nearby Synestryn. Their alien thoughts and uncontrolled hunger would be easy to find among the humans nearby. Their thoughts were bleak, festering spots of darkness among the bright, clear human thought patterns.

If there was only one Synestryn and it wasn't too strong, she could probably control its mind long enough to kill it with the shovel. If she was lucky.

Her body fell away as she went seeking into the night, searching for the source of that eerie cry of hunger. She found one Synestryn slinking through the darkness less than a quarter mile away. It was small -- the size of a large dog -- and it was weak with hunger. That hunger gave her the edge.

She could take it.

Nika had just begun to whisper into its mind to come her way when she felt another Synestryn nearby. Then another. There were three, then four, then seven. They were closing in. They smelled blood. Her blood.

Before they could trap her within them, Nika pulled back into her own mind and scanned her body for signs of blood. There was a smear on the leg of her jeans, muddy, but definitely blood.

She looked at her hands. Sure enough, the shovel had scraped off several layers of skin until she bled. The Synestryn smelled it and were moving in to feast.

The car was parked outside the metal fence several hundred yards away. As cold and weak as her legs were, she wasn't sure she was going to make it to the car before they made it to her, but she had to try. She couldn't let them get her blood. Thanks to Madoc's recent killing spree, she was just now regaining the pieces of herself that had been taken the night her family was attacked. She'd spent almost nine years living inside a nightmare, unable to tell what was real and what wasn't, and she refused to go back to that hell.

She'd rather die than let them have her mind again.

Nika grabbed the shovel, knowing it was the only weapon she had to hold them at bay, and sprinted for the fence.

Behind her a loud chorus of rasping howls rose up into the night as the Synestryn closed in.

* * *

Madoc found the stolen Volkswagen Bug outside a cemetery, but Nika was not inside the car as he'd hoped. Intense pressure rolled through him in a painful wave, growing until he was sure it would tear him apart. He sucked in huge gulps of frigid air, but it did little good.

He needed to be killing or fucking -- bleeding away some of the pressure -- not chasing after a girl who was too crazy not to go running off alone in the dark.

Clearly, what he wanted had no bearing on reality.

Madoc fought the pain back with a snarl, slammed his truck to a stop, rammed the gearshift into park, and left the engine running.

One way or another, this wasn't going to take long. If she wasn't nearby, then he'd call Joseph and tell him to send someone else to search for her. If she was, he was going to shove her in the Bug and follow her ass all the way back to Dabyr, where she belonged. No more joyrides. No more scaring the shit out of him. She was grounded.

But first he had to find her.

He leaped the fence and landed with a thud as his heavy boots hit the frozen ground. The wind had picked up, tugging the front of his leather jacket open.

If Nika was out here in this wind, she was going to be freezing her bony ass off. Not that he cared. Served her right for leaving home, where she was safe and warm.

They want to touch me. I don't like it, Madoc. It hurts when other men touch me.

She'd begged him to take her with him last time he was home, to get her away from the male Theronai who came from the four corners of the world to see if she could channel their power and save their lives. That had been seven months ago, when he'd gone home in a moment of weakness, needing to see her again. Unfortunately, watching her flinch away from those men -- seeing pain pinch her features -- was more than Madoc could stand. He'd hit the road and hadn't been back since.

Best decision he'd ever made. Being on his own was safest for everyone. Besides, he had plenty of hookers to keep him company. That and a pile of nasties to kill was all he needed.

A high-pitched, feminine cry ripped through the cold night air. Fear shimmered inside the noise, and with it came instant recognition. That was Nika's voice. He'd heard her cry out in fear too many times not to recognize it.

Madoc spun around toward the sound, releasing his sword from its sheath with an almost inaudible hiss of steel on steel. He raced over the ground, letting free the rage that was bubbling barely below the surface.

Whatever or whoever had made her afraid was going to die.

He cleared the top of a rise, saw Nika, and nearly came to a dead stop. Half a dozen sgath surrounded her. Her back was against a thick tree. Moonlight shone off her stark white hair, and she wielded a shovel like some kind of war club, batting at the Synestryn that dared to inch closer. Her blue eyes were wide with fear -- a familiar sight -- but the snarl of rage twisting her mouth was new and completely startling.

She swung the shovel, hitting one of the sgath in the head. There wasn't enough force behind the blow to do any good, and it bounced off, shaking her entire body. She looked unhurt, but that wasn't going to last for long if he didn't step up and take over.

Madoc closed the distance, lifted his blade, and let out a battle cry.

Immediately, six pairs of glowing green eyes turned toward him. A slow smile stretched his mouth. Playtime had finally come.