Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday's Chapter - Tara Manderino - Spellbound


By Tara Manderino

In an attempt to keep a revolutionary explosive from falling into the wrong hands, Luke, a U.S. Secret Service Agent in 1874, battles hypnosis wielding enemies in an effort to keep his fiancée, Maj, and the country safe.

Chapter 1

Luke opened the small stack of mail on his desk. The few messages on his desk mostly related to headquarters and reports, so he dispatched them as quickly as possible. He absolutely loved his job as a Secret Service Agent, but if he could figure out a way to dispose of the paperwork, he would gladly do so. Finished with his task, he gathered his papers into a neat pile and slipped them into a portfolio. He would take them to headquarters later when he went out.

"Are you finally done?" his partner, Simon, asked from where he was laying on the sofa of their shared flat, reading the paper.

As far as Luke could tell Simon couldn’t see a thing with the paper over his face. "Just because you write five sentence reports doesn't mean the rest of us do."

Finished with his task, Luke stood, stretched his arms above his head and twisted first to the left then to the right. The pull of muscles reminded him it had been several days since he had done more than deal with papers. Glancing at the desk to be sure everything was in place, he realized he had overlooked one piece of mail. Reaching over, he picked it up and opened it glancing at the contents quickly, then once again, more slowly. This was worth savoring. “I can't believe it."

“What?" Simon's voice drifted lazily from behind the newspaper."

The men had been partners at work for several years and shared a flat for most of that time. When they ended up courting, then becoming engaged to sisters, it almost seemed inevitable.

Looking at the letter in his hand, he couldn’t wait to share this with Maj. For now, he would share with his partner.

“Look at this.” There was no disguising the delight in Luke’s voice as he waved the letter in front of Simon’s face. He was leaning over the sofa where Simon lay with a section of the newspaper covering his face.

Simon moved the edge of the paper down to his chin, and peered at his partner over the top of the newspaper. “You sound excited. What are you talking about?”

“The letter.” Luke shoved it at him.

Tossing the newspaper on the nearby table, Simon sat up, grasped the edge of thick stationary and turned it right side up to read.

“It’s a formal invitation to speak at the Washington College Commencement.” Luke told him before he could have read more than the salutation.

“Washington, Pennsylvania? Your alma mater?”

“Yes. Can you believe it?” He had a difficult time grasping the concept. He had planned to make a visit but something always seemed to get in the way.

“Very impressive.” Simon skimmed the letter and handed it back. “Are you accepting?”

Luke took the letter and grinned at him. “What do you think?”

“I think it’s good that someone else will get to hear your theory on – ,” he half turned in his seat to follow Luke’s movements as he put the letter back on the desk. “Just what do they want you to speak on?” He held up his hand before Luke could say a word. “Wait, never mind. The only thing that can bring such an animated look to your face is explosives.”

“Exactly. In fact, the letter is from Professor Daley. He was one of my first instructors in the field.” He moved around the sofa and sat on the arm of the chair, facing Simon. He shook his head in disbelief. “I can’t tell you how much this opportunity means to me. It’s fantastic, that’s what it is.”

“Have you run it past the Major yet?”

“You mean about attending?” Luke waved the thought away. Major Trent had been their superior for some time now and was used to their odd requests, besides, this could benefit the agency. “Nah. I plan on going over to headquarters this afternoon. As far as I know, we don’t have any planned assignments, so the timing is perfect.”

Simon crossed his arms over his chest. “Um, Luke, the professor -- does know you work for the government?”

“I don’t see what that has to do with anything.” Luke shrugged, “but yes, he does.” He rubbed the back of his neck and gave Simon a sheepish grin. “I suspect it’s one of the reasons he asked me.” There were times his government connection would open doors he wouldn’t normally even look in.

“And this professor… Daley … likes explosives?”

“He’s one of the best in the chemical sciences.”

“This should be interesting.” Simon folded the newspaper and tossed it on the table before getting to his feet and stretching. “What time did you say you were going to headquarters? I may as well go along before I meet Kirsten.”

“Right. Let me grab my jacket and we can stop to get something to eat on the way.” A few minutes later, both men had donned their suit coats and headed for the restaurant down the street from the Secret Service headquarters, a popular spot for most of the agents even though the food could only be called tolerable at best.

A very short time after finishing lunch, the men crossed the street to enter the office building. Not particularly tall by modern standards, its three floors never the less boasted an elevator. After identifying themselves to the receptionist in the main lobby, they headed for the Major’s outer office, waiting for him to admit them.

“Do we have something scheduled?” The Major stood and greeted them as they entered the office.

“No, sir, but something has come up.”

Motioning to the sturdy oak chairs in front of the desk, the Major waited until they were seated before leaning against his desk.

In spite of the weight of the chairs, Luke still eased himself into it. He always managed to get the chair that creaked. With Simon’s slighter build it didn’t seem to make much difference. It had to be the ten pound difference between them. Or, as he suspected, Simon remembered which chair had the weaker joints.

“What brings you down here voluntarily?”

Luke raised his eyebrows at the comment. He and Simon were regular visitors to headquarters when they weren’t working on a case. Quickly, Luke outlined the invitation.

“It sounds like a magnificent opportunity. You definitely should attend.” Then he turned to Simon. “You have a problem with this, Barr? You must have some objection since you’re here.”

Simon spread his hands outward. “I’m not involved. I just came along because I had the time. I think it’s a great opportunity. I almost wish I were going – especially if Luke is giving any demonstrations.”

“You’ve seen them; used some of them, in fact,” the Major reminded him.

“True, but when someone sees them for the first time…”

Luke gave a fake cough and shot a glance at his partner. Although slighter in build, Simon was by far the more physically agile and stronger of the two men. Luke often came up with ideas and devices that would give him a sporting chance when compared to Simon. Too often, their pursuit of criminals ended up in a fight. Any edge he could find to ensure the clash ended in their favor, he gladly shared with his partner. He had tried to offer many of the same devices to other agents, but most of them were not nearly as appreciative. “They’re not all that bad.”

“Agreed. They saved me a time or two,” Simon said truthfully.

The Major clasped his hands together. “As it so happens, you wanting to visit the college couldn’t have come at a better time.”

“You mean things have slowed down here, there’s no threat to national security?” Simon asked, half in jest.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” the Major told them. “However, it just so happens that the department has also received a letter from Professor Daley.” He walked around to the business side of his desk and sat down before rifling through the papers covering the surface.

Luke raised his eyebrows. “About me speaking?” That would have been considerate, but deuced odd.

“Not exactly.” Finding what he was looking for, the Major pulled a folder in front of him, then leaning forward and bracing his elbows on the desk, he folded his hands. “He seems to be concerned about a new formula he created.”

Luke settled back in his chair. “Professor Daley always has a new formula or a new theory. I swear he creates them as often as other people change their clothes.”

The Major reached flipped open the folder and removed the first page. He passed it to Luke. “This sounds a little more serious.”

“What’s it say?” Simon asked, leaning to the side, trying to read over Luke’s shoulder.

After scanning the letter, Luke went back to the beginning and read it at a more leisurely pace. “He calls it Apocalypse,” he said. He passed the letter to Simon so he could read it on his own. “Why would he create such a thing, and then say that it needs to be protected?” he ruminated out loud.

“I don’t think he planned to create it,” Simon said, handing the letter back to the Major.

Luke waved his hand, and the thought away. “I saw that, but if he had created it, even by accident, why would he keep the formula? That doesn’t sound like him.”

“As to that, his secretary led me to believe he didn’t have much choice in the matter, figuring it would be safer in his hands than any others.” The Major tucked the letter back in the folder. He looked up at the men and chuckled. “No need to look so puzzled. That letter,” he used his chin to point to the letter in Simon’s hand, “was hand delivered by his secretary. She had a few other bits of information to relay. But since you’re here, I think you might be interested in talking to her.” Pushing himself away from the desk, he stood, walked to the door, opened it and stuck his head out, asking his secretary to find Miss Haight.

In spite of the Major’s words, Luke was puzzled. It would have made more sense to incinerate the formula. Then again, the professor wasn’t exactly known for his common sense.

“She’ll be here in a moment,” the Major said after closing the door, “she’s freshening up. She only arrived here with the letter moments before you did.”

“How did you know we would be coming by?”

The Major grinned. “Luke, I never know when you two will show up. This was pure happenstance, I assure you.”

Simon gave a disbelieving grunt. Silently, Luke echoed the sentiment. He didn’t believe in coincidence.

As the door opened and the young woman entered the room, all three men stood. The Major introduced Miss Elizabeth Haight.

Given the age of the professor, and the fact that Miss Haight had traveled alone from Washington, at least that’s what the Major had indicated, Luke expected a battle-axe or a matronly type woman at the very least. Miss Haight was far from it. He noticed that Simon too was staring at her. Dressed in a stylish travel dress, the deep green gabardine set off her dark hair and brown eyes to perfection.

“Haight? There’s a professor by that name from Jefferson College.”

“My father.”

That probably explained her position. She wasn’t some independent woman seeking work, she probably had grown up on the campus. The Washington College and the Jefferson Colleges had worked together closely.

The Major cleared his throat. “Since you are going to Pennsylvania, Luke, I thought Miss Haight could travel along with you.”

Luke’s gaze practically flew to the Major’s.

“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” Simon interjected.

“But of course,” Luke said to Miss Haight. “I would be delighted to escort you, but if you’ll excuse us for now?” Then turning to the Major, he assured the man he would be in touch later to confirm his travel plans.

“Having Miss Haight along could work out quite well,” Luke said as they took the cab to their apartment. He couldn’t have arranged it better. “I had been thinking of asking Maj to come with me. She has indicated at other times that she would be interested in hearing one of my lectures. Aside from that,” he continued before Simon could say anything, “there is a gala the night before the lectures. A chance for all of the guests to meet and get acquainted, or reacquainted.”

“I definitely think Miss Haight is an asset. Maj has to feel comfortable.”

Luke was pretty sure Maj would have been just fine with only him, but Simon had a point. One he had considered earlier. It was becoming increasingly common for women to travel alone, especially through the west, but Luke wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea.

Simon’s teasing voice finally registered. “Surely even you weren’t thinking of asking an unmarried woman to travel with you?”

“Er... Not exactly,” Luke said. “I thought this would be the perfect time to get married.”

Simon shook his head. “You know Kirsten and I are going to my family home for our wedding? My sisters would skin me alive if I had a wedding without them there, or had them involved, and since Kirsten doesn’t have any family except for Maj –”

“What are you getting at, Sime? I don’t have any sisters to worry about.”

Simon gave an exasperated sigh. “What I’m getting at is that unless I’m mistaken, Kirsten and Maj are contemplating a double wedding.”

Luke rubbed his hand across his forehead. He couldn’t remember the last time Simon was mistaken, not that he liked to remind the man. “And your mother, of course, has no objections.” He couldn’t keep the dry note out of his voice.

“None at all. In fact, I think she suggested it.”

Luke had no trouble believing it. He had only met Simon’s mother once, but mother and son were very alike. “You know, I could still have Maj come along if Kirsten came too.” He watched his partner’s jaw clench and hid a grin. “But I don’t have to now, since as you pointed out, Miss Haight has come to the rescue. Maj will have to come along now. It would be unseemly to travel with Miss Haight.” Not really, he reminded himself, but he would never give Maj cause for concern.

When the cab pulled up in front of the apartment, they disembarked. Luke headed inside while Simon paid the driver, and then followed.


As the two couples sat down to dinner in the hotel restaurant, Luke looked at the women. At first glance, it was hard to tell they were sisters. Maj’s hair was auburn, almost brown, and her eyes were clear amber. Whisky colored. Kirsten was shorter, blonde and had green eyes. But the stubborn tilt of their chins and the shape of their eyes proclaimed they were related. Only after the waiter had served the main course, did Luke bring up the fact he would be traveling to Washington, Pennsylvania and would be listed as a guest lecturer during the commencement exercises.

Maj arched one eyebrow and shot him a quick look that he interpreted as ‘why didn’t I know about this?’ He placed his hand over hers and squeezed as he continued speaking. “I just found out a short while ago and I needed to get clearance from the department.” It was such short notice, he had telegraphed his response to make sure it arrived as quickly as possible. Instead of releasing her hand, he slipped it in his and intertwined their fingers before pulling away.

“It sounds like a marvelous opportunity, Luke.”

There was no mistaking the forced lightness in her tone.

He again caught her hand and clasped it under the table; refusing to release it even though she discreetly tugged against him. “I was pleased to be asked.”

“How long will you stay?” Kirsten asked.

“It’s a short trip,” he told them. “There will be a full day of lectures, then the ball. The next day will be a shorter one with the speeches, then commencement. I’m not sure where I’ll be on the roster yet.” He squeezed Maj’s hand and turned to address his comment only to her. “I would love for you to come with me. All of the professors and lecturers are invited to the ball.”

Her gaze flew to his and there was no mistaking the excitement in her hazel eyes, and then they clouded. “I don’t think that will be possible.” She tried to slip her hand from Luke’s clasp, but he held tighter.

He gave a rueful smile. “I don’t think I went about this the right way. Miss Haight, the professor’s secretary, will be along too.” When she still seemed hesitant, he pushed home the fact that she would be helping him out.

“Do go, Maj,” Kirsten insisted. “I know how much you like going to lectures and this would suit you quite well.”

Maj looked at her sister, then back to Luke. “I think I would enjoy it very much.”

“I’m certain of it, or I wouldn’t have suggested it.” Luke patted her hand, then released it and leaned back in his chair. “I plan to telegraph the professor and see if he could make inquiries into visiting the Ladies’ Seminary in Washington.”

While she had seemed excited at the prospect of going with him, she positively glowed now. “I’ve read so much about the place,” Maj said. “They truly are a leader in the field of education for women.”

Simon leaned back in his chair. “Here we go,” he said with a smile in Kirsten’s direction.

“I won’t say another word.” Maj pretended to be affronted, then leaned forward to steady her gaze on Simon’s. “Ha! Like you don’t support education for women.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You don’t have to,” Maj assured him.”You’ve told us enough times about your sisters attending academies.”

“I really need to keep my mouth shut.” He covered his grumbling with a napkin to the lips.

Kirsten gave him a playful slap on the arm before turning her attention back to Luke. “Isn’t there a War Orphan’s School in the area too?”

Simon leaned forward, bracing his forearms on the table. “That is one thing the government did right.”

“Truly,” Kirsten agreed. “It’s sad to see some of the families broken up, but at least the parents know their children are cared for.”

“The War Between the States was hard on many people. I don’t believe anyone was left unscathed,” Luke said. Each of them paid in a different way, but the country most of all. He knew feelings were still close to the surface in the south.

Maj’s voice pulled him from his thoughts. “The school is in Uniontown, right on the Mason-Dixon line, but I have no idea how far that is from Washington.”

Seeing the excitement in her eyes, Luke decided it wasn’t too far at all, no matter how many miles. “I’m sure we can squeeze in a trip in there, too, if you’re interested.” An extra day or so wouldn’t matter if they needed it.

“Well, now that everything is settled, I think it’s time for me to get home.” Simon pushed the chair from the table, and pulled back the chair for Kirsten. “Your turn,” he said to Luke over his shoulder, as he escorted Kirsten out of the restaurant.

Luke grinned as he stood, and then held Maj’s chair for her. Simon knew darn well it had been his turn to take care of the bill.

After they pulled up in front of the boarding house where Maj lived, Luke insisted on walking her to the door, telling the cab to wait. Mrs. Whitcomb didn’t approve of men stopping in after dark, but he didn’t particularly care about her opinion. She should be used to him by now. “I’m looking forward to traveling with you, Luke,” Maj told him once they were in the foyer.

“Because you want to see the schools. I won’t kid myself.” He smiled as he said it taking the sting from his words, although he did know the schools were a huge attraction to her. He regretted her inability to attend college almost as much as she did. She was more intelligent than many of the men he worked with and he had met very few people with a thirst for knowledge to equal hers. At one time, he had considered encouraging her to go to school, but he was selfish. He wasn’t ready for her to do so without him. If he could figure out something where they could be together, even if it meant him changing careers, as much as he detested the thought, he would be open to it. But that kind of commitment could only come after marriage.

“Is that what you really think?” She canted her head to one side, studying him.

“Not by a long shot. If I thought it for one moment we wouldn’t be engaged.” He leaned close to inhale the lemon scent he associated with her and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.”I’ll send a message around as to when you need to be ready.”

~End Excerpt~

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday - How She Does It - Tara Manderino

We all know there are six elements in writing fiction and often fact. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth which for me is the plot. What's your take on this?

Thanks for inviting me here today. I love talking about my characters and writing. The Five Ws are like the introduction to a newspaper article. They tell me what I’m supposed to look for as the story progresses, yet give a capsule form of the story itself. I think that holds true in fiction writing too. The first chapter should answer the 5 Ws and unraveling the How definitely leads to and through the plot.

1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

I don’t know that I actually create characters. Mostly I have these people show up in my head and I have to ask them what they want and why are they there. Sometimes I have a little trouble on their appearance and have to grill them on it. Until then, they may be like an out of focus photograph and I have to hone in.

2. Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

The characters definitely come before the plot. I can’t think of one instance where they didn’t. There are times I will think of something plot related and say to myself – oh, Luke would love to deal with that. I have to actually stop myself and send a reminder to my brain that he is not a real person. Happens with quite a few of my characters. Once I understand the characters, we’re pretty much partners in the plot. I may sketch something out, but my path may not be the one a particular character decides they’re going to take. It can get very frustrating sometimes. Then again, when the character takes over is when the magic happens and I feel more like a translator than writer.

3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?

I always have an ending in place before I start writing. Most of the time, it’s a rather general idea of where I want the story to end. A lot of the specifics are determined by the characters. There were times I have come close to the end of story – the end was in sight! – and some pesky hero or heroine would say, “Nope, that’s not the way it’s going to work.” That’s always interesting. We (the characters and I) seem to agree on the general ideas, but the specifics often separate us.

4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?

I like to use settings I’m at least familiar with. I don’t actually know them so that always involves research, something I find all too much fun and absorbing on its own.

5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

Both. I tend to start out researching online. There is a ton of stuff out there, easily accessible. The Library of Congress is one of my favorite jumping off points. Once I get into more research I tend to get off line. I will look through books, check with reference librarians – which sometimes leads me back online, or correspond with people from local museums of there is info I think they can help me with. Most small, local museums are staffed by volunteers who are not only knowledgeable, but extremely enthusiastic and love to share that knowledge. Even if they aren’t able to answer a specific question for me, they generally are able to spark another tangent for me to research. I really have to be careful with the research. I could use all of my time there and just get totally sucked up in it.

6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?

I’ve tried both ways and have to say I am not most comfortable with being a draft writer. I need to get the whole story out. It helps me to better know my character. No matter how much I write about him or her beforehand, and learn all the little quirks, I just never know what they’re actually going to do in a given situation until they’re there. Kind of like life. There are a few instances when I would go over the draft and say, whoa, this isn’t working because the hero would NEVER do that. It’s just not in his character. That kind of thing.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday - Who I'm reading

Today I'll be talking about historical novels and one masterful writer of those I've been reading lately. I do read a lot and with the Kindle my reading has increased by leaps and bounds. Though I've been accused by my parents years ago of inhaling books, I do remember a lot of what I read and I re-read books. One of the new authors I've discovered is Juliet Waldron. She writes historical novels that make you feel you are living in the era she has chosen to write about and you are living the  lives of the characters. I haven't read all her books, but I will.

If you want to know more about the author and her books the following will take you to her author page andyou can explore her books.

Now to the one's I've read so far. Genesee is a story of a woman who had been captured by the Indians as a child and what happens after she's returned. Some of the characters are not nice to her but she perserveres and she finds a hero worthy of her.

Mozart's Wife was enthralling. I saw Amadeus on Broadway and also the movie, but the story of Mozart's wife brings a whole new picture to this musical genius' life and his music. She's written a new one called My Mozart that I'll be buying soon.

I've also read Red Magic. The time is about the same as Mozart's Wife and until I read Mozart's Wife I didn't know of the connection.

If you like history with a touch of romance, I'd definitely take a look at Juliet's Amazon page and find books that are well written and will carry you to a different era.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Characters, Eileen Charbonneau

Once again it's Wednesday and I'm looking at Elements of the Novel by Eileen Charbonneau. This time she's talking about characters. Without people in the story, there can be no story. Of course we've read stories using animals as the major characters but they become more than just animals. I once wrote a very unsuccessful story from the POV of a park bench. I'll say nothing more except I was writing in my artsy period. Eileen has written stories with wonderful characters, so let's see what she has to say.

Her first advice is about creating these characters and knowing more about them than their name, height and weight. Looking into other aspects of the life of the characters you're developing always adda dimension to who they are.The more you know about a character and how they developed into the person they have become with the goals they strive for and the problems caused by their social, physical, emotional and mental development, the better you can bring the people you develop to life.

Once you have your character firmly in mind, Eileen talks about how to reveal your character. This is done in many ways such as speech, action, and interacting with other characters. The character is also defined by where they live and the twists and turns of the plot.

So when writing start looking at ways to enhance your characters and some day you may have a character who lives for the ages like Scrooge or Scarlet.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Edgar Rice Burroughs

I will admit to reading the Tarzan series and the John Carter books when I was much younger than I am today. In fact starting at age 4 when I discovered the library, I read and read. When there was nothing new to read, I re-read books. My mother used to say, "You don't read, you inhale." What does this have to do with Edgar Rice Burroughs? Twice in the past few weeks I've come across the same quote of his and today this has inspired me

"If you write one book, it may be bad; if you write a hundred you have the odds in your favor."

Interesting thought. What does it mean to a writer. I have several friends who have written just one book, over and over again. They are striving for perfection and somehow they never find that goal. I have other friends who have written a hundred books, some less and some more. What the quote means to me is to become an author a writer needs to write more than one book. There many things that can be learned by a constant plunging into something new. I also believe a writer to become an author is to read and read in a variety of fields.

 That one book a writer produces may gain publication and success or that one book could languish in a drawer forever as version after version is produced. The writer of many books may come to a delightful discovery. Every book they write is better than the one before. Those first few attempts may be shoved into a closet but suddenly the writer becomes an author. One learns by doing and honing the bits and pieces of writing that can be learned.

What about you? Are you a one book writer or one who writes until the craft of telling stories helps you beat the odds?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday - 25 June - Week behind and week ahead

Keying in corrections is boring but it must be done. Though the story is finished it is not ready to send. I'm faced with pages of manuscript with corrections scribbled over the pages. Question marks left off. Words that are words but not the right words. Sentences that are needed to clarify the story. Between this and also starting the rough draft of a new story this coming week looks like fun.

Last week I did finish the final read through of The Micro-manager Murder and now must type in all the corrections so I can send it off to one of my publishers, the one who has the other four of the Katherine Miller mysteries. Writing the end is always a rewarding time and making those last few changes, maybe not a few but hundreds will make the story sing.

This week I'll be working on Lines of Fire, the first of a trilogy. A fantasy grouping that somehow snuck in ahead of the next story in line. Sometimes stories cry to be told and though the one I had planned to tell next is still there the characters are waiting patiently so this new one can be told. Alric is a Defencer who sees and uses the lines of fire during the duels he fights. Kalia is to be his bondmate. She also sees the lines but she refuses to use them during duels. This whole concept is interesting to me at this point and during the writing, I'll start thinking of the next and the next stories. Call writing an obsession. I believe that's true. So now it's off to work.

Before I go, tell me which is your favorite part of the writing game? Writing The End or starting the Rough Draft of a new adventure?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday's Chapter - Fire's Ice - Brynna Curry


Ireland-Fall 1009

“Arianne! Help me!”

Ari placed the sachet she’d been filling with lavender on the old oak table and hurried to open the door. The cottage she shared with her twin Briella was small, just big enough for the two of them. The main room held a large hearth for cooking and preparing medicinal herbs. There were two other rooms for sleeping.

She watched Brie struggle to get through the open doorway with a large man leaning on her small frame. Another stray. Where had she found this one?

Rushing to help her sister, Ari wedged her shoulder under his other arm to take some of the weight off Brie. Dark, delicious power punched into her with the contact. Dizzy with lust for it, her magic began pulling on his of its own accord and scared the hell of her. She was always very carefully controlled--never had her power acted alone. Faerie. The demon did not stir. Fear of what he was, what he could make her, made her lash out with venom “Really, sister. You bring home the most interesting creatures. You do realize he is faerie.”

“Arianne! It matters not what he is, just help me get him into my room.”

She felt Brie’s urgency and terror as strongly as the faerie’s power. As a rule, she wasn’t empathic, but today proved different. The man’s body was torn; seawater made his wounds a vicious ache. His suffering became hers. Giving up, Ari knew it would do no good to argue with her sister. Nothing would change. “The villagers will lynch us before nightfall. What has happened with him anyway? His clothes are shredded.”

“As is much of his flesh. Mayhap you should direct your eyes elsewhere, sister.”

“I’ve seen naked men before.”

“You have no shame. Do you? I think he must have been tossed overboard in a storm or something of the like. I found him washed up on the sand and rocks below the dance. I thought he was dead at first. His heartbeat is faint, weak, but there. I suppose we will have to wait until he wakes to discover the nature of his injuries.”

She managed to avoid breaking most of the urns as they struggled to get their patient into Brie’s room. Turning sideways, they made it through the small doorway and crouched down to angle and shift his shoulders onto the straw mattress where Brie slept. “So you floated him up the cliff, but couldn’t use the air to carry and lift him inside.”

“Normally I would have.”

“Then why waste the energy to carry him? He will probably die anyway.”

Briella turned on her, eyes snapping open with barely contained anger. “Mayhap the next bones I find on the sand will be your own and I might consider your words before stirring the air.”

“Sure and I might be doomed to die on the rocks, sister, but only if you pushed me over the edge first.”

“My craft forbids the like, but oh how there are days I wished I were more like your wicked self.” She paused to lift his feet onto the mattress. “I am weak. I linked with him to save his life. It drains me.”

Wicked, am I? Ari shook her head. Not that she had the power to sacrifice herself, but she would have never done such a thing. “Little fool. Keep giving so much of yourself and one day there will be nothing left. Then what use will your almighty power be?”

“I could not let him die.”

“Why not? Others have died in your care. More may yet. We will be put to death when the elders learn he is here. You risk our lives for a dalliance with the devil?”

“Stop being a child. He will be important to me. I can feel it. Fetch some boiling water. I need to clean his wounds.”

Fetch me some water, Arianne. Do this. Do that. “I am not your bloody dog to fetch for you on a whim.”

“True. A dog would be obedient and more pleasant to be around. Water. Now!”

“Fine.” Five minute’s difference and Brie’s power would have been mine. The elders thought she was like our sainted mother, but that was not true. She was kind to others, but treated me like the dirt under her feet. Brie's craft rules her while her hatred destroys me.“Why do you hate me so, Briella?”

Her sister said nothing in return, only continued to murmur enchantments over the demon in her bed. Briella’s crusade to save him would doom them both. To bring his kind into the village was akin to a death wish. Briella might be spared by the elders, banished perhaps, but she the lesser twin with power so dark she dared not use it would be put to death for the crime.

Ari felt the pain of betrayal slick over her heart like ice. One day I will show you just how wicked I can be, sister.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday - How She Does It - Brynna Curry

Thanks so much for allowing me to visit with you!

2. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

I start with dialogue. My characters are very vocal, but setting the scene is something I agonize over. Every detail has to be just so and work with the next and previous scene without being jarring, unless I want it to do that. I probably spend more time researching setting than anything other aspect of the book.

3. Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end? Characters come first and I never model a character after someone I know in life. There may be bits and pieces of similarities, but never a carbon copy. If it is a series book, then of course some things must be planned, but I like to just see how it all unfolds.

4. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?

Always. I write the last scene first because its usually the first one I see and where I'm introduced to the hero and heroine, but the characters decide how we get to that destination.

5. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around? The Elemental Magic Series is set in Alabama (where I live) with side trips to DC, Tennessee, Ireland and Scotland. I've lived in Tennessee and Mississippi, visited Georgia, Florida and D.C. I like including local settings in my work. It's just too beautiful in the South not to share the scenery.

6. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

At home or work and mostly online. My local library has a limited collection of research material and I can get more up to date information by seeking it online. It really just depends on what I'm looking for.

7. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?

So much of what I write hinges on how the story plays out, so I write and edit as I go. Otherwise, I'd never get anything finished.

Author Bio: Paranormal romance and romantic suspense author Brynna Curry is a lifelong believer in the importance of reading. She enjoys the writing process, helping others hone their craft by lending her time to review books, critique manuscripts and serving as a contest judge. She loves hearing from her readers.

When she isn’t writing, she’s often found haunting the library for new books to read, at the park with her children, or just spending an quiet evening at home with her husband Jackie watching old westerns on TV. She makes her home in North Alabama where the history is rich with music and culture, forests and lakes are abundant and beautiful, and every day is another adventure.

Visit her at


Twitter: @BrynnaCurry!/brynnacurry

Buy Links




Brynna Curry

Let me cast a spell on

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thursday - Who I'm Reading - Joan Hall Hovey

I'll admit to reading suspense and liking it. Lately I've been reading Joan Hovey and she writes suspense that has you biting your nails. So far I've read Chill Waters, so far my very favorite of them all. Her heroine doesn't give up but neither do any of her other heroines. Nowhere To Hide is a great revenge story and a chilling read. The Abduction of Mary Rose interested me because of the subject of adoption and finding roots. I have an adopted daughter and we have no idea of her roots. I've also read Listen to the Shadows and there's one more on my reading list to go. I'll read it soon and become so rapt in the prose and the suspense I'll probably scream is someone says hello. I've heard she's writing a new one and I'll buy it to.

If you like suspense, pick up one of Joan's books and you'll become addicted. When I've read throuh all the books on my Kindle, I'll re-read these books and see what I can learn about developing suspense from a master.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Research - Eileen Charbonneau

I've been reading Elements of the Novel by Eileen Charbonneau each week for these posts. Today's is on Research. Something necessary but something that can be a lure and steer a writer away from what they're supposed to be doing and that is writing. I used to be one of those ones she talks about and would try to find one more book and one more fact. One day I finally said enough is too much. Now my research is based on what I need to know.

The interesting part of research is uncovering that one fact thaat triggers off an idea for the book. One little bit in a research book on Egypt set me off to write one book and then to write a series. I can't quote it now but I could find it in the book where I found the  small sentence. When I first uncovered this fact about the time of the Hyksos invasion and the chaos in Egypt with a lot of men wanting to become pharaoh I knew there was a story there. This led me to recall my love of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and how as a child I thought the woman was foolish for throwing herself in front of a train. This led me to writing a reincarnation series of stories that became a united book. That fact also led me to a current trilogy I'm writing, but another fact made me change this from a time-travel to an alternate ancient Egypt. There were no camel in Egypt during the time period I was writing about. Thus I needed to shift my focus. All this because of research.

In Elements of the Novel, Eileen lists the reasons for doing research. There is the Why. This is using the real facts to make the novel sing. She also talks about the When of research. Before you start writing will help bring your story into focus. During will help you find a fact that helps explain why or how the character faces the event. After the book is done and you've sent it out for the first readers or to an editor, sometimes honing is necessary. A scene may need to be changed because you've assumed something could be true when it's not.

Another thing Eileen talks about is chosing sides. Sometimes two bits you're found when you're researching contradict each other. Choose a side and go with it. Use your imagination to see which of these facts fits your story or leads your story into new territor.

So, how much research do you need to do. Enough to make the story sing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Richard Lockridge - Crime and Characters

Today's inspiration came at the right time for me. While looking through The Writer's book I came upon an essay by Richard Lockridge, creator of Mr. and Mrs. North. What he said was about characters "The problem of those who write mysteries and of all writers is basically the same." The reader can care or not care about the characters." This is rather a summary. What he's saying to me is the characters must be ones the readers care what happens in their lives. This can be easy or hard.

My current WIP is part of a series and while the main character basically stays the same. She's stubborn, loyal and caring. The truth is often more important to her than anything else. But she is also changing and those changes can bother a reader who doesn't know the character the way I do. She is the main character but there are others in the story. How does one make the reader care what happens to the villain of the piece. By showing them in action. I remember a review I once recieved for the first book of this series. The reviewer couldn't wait for the villain to find justice.

So what did this inspier me to do? To look at the story I'm writing and determine what the changes my character has been making so they're logical. This is something important to remember. Another thing I'll look at is to see if the victim and the suspects are people the reader can see and either like or dislike but feel satisfied when the book ends.

Developing characters the readers can care about in some way is my inspiration for today

Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday 18 June Week Ahead and behind

Interesting thing Met Babette at a NJRW meeting. She was a guest on my blog both Friday and Saturday.

Been thinking about what happens when one does the spell and grammar check. What I've found it I write a lot of incomplete sentences and I know that I'm doing this. Sometimes the spell checker marks things that are sentences as phrases. Think about re-writing is the advice. But people don't think in complete sentences and they also don't talk in complete sentences. I push the ignore button a lot. That's my wondering for this week.

Last week I nearly finished the final re-write of The Micro-Manager Murder and I'm very glad it's coming to the end. Not that I don't like the story but the closer I come to the end, the harder a new story pushes to emerge.

This week, I plan to finish the re-write. On the last chapter and then it's time for the check of all the spelling, punctuation and making sure all the loose ends are gathered up and resolved. Found one or two while working on the last chapter. Of course I'll wonder if a story is ever done. Sometimes re-reading books I wrote years ago, I see how far I've come and though tempted I push aside all thoughts of  re-writing them. How I wrote then and how I write now have undergone changes and learning. I'm still learning and hopefully each story will get better and better.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday's 3 Blog Visits bit from a cover artist Interesting thoughts

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday's Chapter - Babette James - Clear As Day

Clear As Day - Blurb:

What’s a girl to do when her summer lover wants forever?

Haunted by dark memories of her parents’ volatile marriage, artist Kay Browning keeps her heart locked behind a free-spirit facade and contents herself with the comfortable affair she has every summer with easygoing photographer Nate Quinn.

The only trouble with her plan? This summer Nate’s come to Lake Mohave to claim the lover he can’t let go. He’s done with the endless traveling and settling for temporary homes and temporary loves. Kay’s always been more than just a vacation fling, and now he must convince this woman, who sees love as a course to certain heartbreak, to take that leap of faith and learn how safe love with the right man can be.

Clear As Day - Chapter One

Of course, the more she determined not to think of Nate, the more she did.

“Just perfect.” Kay Browning tipped her Dodgers cap low against the mid-morning glare and kicked into a hard backstroke through the cool water. Blue skies, hot July sun, intense desert landscape—another perfect day at Lake Mohave. Except for the futile if onlys snarled in her mind like fishing line.

Nate Quinn had come along with July and Mohave for the past six years. He’d sail in like a freshening wind, they’d share two weeks of fishing, playing, and loving, Kay’s careful schedule demolished to a pleasant shambles, and then he’d be off again on his adventures. Kay’s life would resume its organized pace, punctuated by glossy postcards, scattered bursts of e-mails, IMs and silly Tweets, the occasional twenty-plus-page letter, and the odd oblivious-to-time-zone phone call.

Kay liked how they kept the relationship simple. No demands on each other. No clinging, pining or carping. A happy, mutual understanding: she stayed and he went. But this summer, however much she hated admitting the feeling, Nate’s absence threw off her sense of balance.

No whining, no pining, remember?

She turned with a splash, adjusted her cap, and swam hard toward shore.

Life happens. Focus on what you can control.

At the moment, that was her painting.

She allowed herself one heavy sigh. Why every last one of her friends had inexplicably cancelled on the set-in-stone annual vacation—well, plans change. As for Nate…She hadn’t pined over anything since she was ten. This was simple, annoying regret.

She coasted into the shallows, rolled to her back and forced herself to relax and float. In her mind’s eye she drew Nate sitting there on the beach with the sun-drenched background of stark rocky land and softening tangles of willow, mesquite and tamarisk, and the mental exercise halfway worked in distracting the fidgets—as long as she kept her eyes closed. Fantasizing wasn’t pining. Quick pencil strokes to block him in. Slower, surer on the details. He liked his blond hair in a crew cut. His lean shoulders, strong, long hands… She trailed her fingertips over his favorite path from her waist over her ribs upward to—

Nope, no fantasizing that way. Back to drawing. Maybe she’d grab a sketchpad later and work out a few real drafts.

Lips set together, relaxed, with the faintest lift of a smile at the corners. The faint crook to his rugby-broken nose. His agile, comic eyebrows lay thick and straight over gray eyes. His ears stuck out a charming slightest bit. Beautiful cut abs and pecs proved his claims of laziness a lie. A perfect amount of body hair dusted silky crisp over chest, arms and legs. Men were such texture contrasts: the satin of skin and rasp of hair, jut of bone and arc of muscle, soft lips and calloused fingers. He wouldn’t have shaved yet today, and there would have been sandpapery-rough morning kisses. She almost heard him calling her, “Hey, Kay!” in the relaxed, husky way he—

With a splash, she erased the frustrating daydream. This wishful imagining fixed nothing. Her sheltered little camp would still be empty. Should she give in, pack up the camp, and hit the road north to Lake Mead instead? Just break her routine for once.
No, but it was definitely past time to get her tush out of the water and do something constructive. This lonely gnawing in her bones and brain was unacceptable. Kay pushed to her feet, facing out to the scenic lake created out of a stretch of the Colorado River and the rugged land beyond shimmering with heat.
Work, right, but it was too early in the day for the hard afternoon light she needed for the Coyote Point painting. She was too restless to read or fish and not in the mood to take the boat over to the marina, chat with George, and buy ice.

She rolled her shoulders and stretched, enjoying the hot air licking over her wet skin. As she wiggled her feet in the sand and gravel-bottomed shallows, a flurry of minnows darted past her ankles, and her silver toe ring glinted beneath the clear water. She paused, caught by the possibilities in the sparkling sun on water and the intricate, shifting reflections over gravel. Yes! Exactly the distracting challenge she needed. Shaking the water from her ears, she pivoted toward camp.

“Kay!” That male voice was not her imagination.

“Oh, shit!” She twisted and dropped into the water, sinking neck-deep. Mother always said, among other things, that a lady never goes skinny-dipping and must always wear a proper hat. Kay was only half skinny-dipping, but she fervently wished she’d worn something a bit more substantial than a baseball cap and the bottom half of the quintessential teeny-weenie yellow polka-dot bikini.

Shit, oh, shit, oh, shit. She so hated when Mother was right.

Okay, time to find out who’d just gotten an eyeful. The guy had called her name, so she should know him. Oh boy, if she’d flashed old George…

She wiped water from her face, sucked in a breath against her pounding heart, and peeked around.


She must be sun-dazed. Nate? With a beard? Hair curling over his ears? No way. Just because a familiar slouchy fishing hat topped those unruly, sun-bleached blond curls and just because this guy possessed the same deep-water tan and footloose taste in clothes as Nate with his electric blue Hawaiian shirt, bright orange swim trunks, and beat-up deck shoes didn’t mean—

“Hey, babe. Now that I’ve finally caught your attention, how about a hug from my girl?” He opened his arms. “Am I coming in after you or are you coming out?” Only Nate’s voice held that mellow
timbre like chocolate for her ears.

“Nate! What…” Giddy delight flushed over Kay, clearing her shock. She dashed from the water and into strong arms, a wonderful hug, and a better kiss that launched her mind into a blissed-out whirl of oh, yes and why?

The oh, yes won out until the need to breathe forced them apart.

Nate gave her a long look, his usually easy gray eyes holding a new, simmering heat.

Wow. Whoa.

His slow hands followed the trail of his roving gaze: gentle tracing of cheek and lips, gliding across hips, waist and ribs, and grazing over her breasts to cup and caress. With his tender, simple touches, he stirred the warm desire of her daydream into full need. She shut her eyes, soaking in the unexpected pleasure. Oh, yes.

“Damn, I missed you.” He settled his mouth back on hers.

Kay laced her hands into his hair, but the soft, curling strands under her fingers and the brushing of his new beard and moustache against her face changed their kiss, as if she were kissing a stranger, the sensations sexy and disconcerting. Too much.

The sweet, sensual spell broke, leaving her strangely caught between aroused and unsettled. She shivered and eased free of his hands, immediately annoyed with herself. She’d missed him, and here he was. She wanted him here. She wanted his touch. She forced herself to relax against the solid, grounding warmth of his chest and was rewarded with another long, deep kiss—

Interrupted by his stomach’s loud growling.

They broke apart laughing.

“Yep, that’s me, Mr. Smooth.” A louder rumble of hunger and Nate chuckled, rolling his eyes. “Guess I should have grabbed something more than coffee at the marina.” His grin was happy, but his eyes were tired and shadowed.

Tenderness rose. Kay snagged her bikini top from the beach chair. “I’ll make us lunch.”

“No need to dress on my account.” He waggled his eyebrows in his best Groucho Marx imitation
before retrieving her cap from the ground.

More laughter bubbled up. “You’ll never get lunch if I don’t. Can’t have you wasting away from hunger now.” She slipped on the top and tied the strings firmly. “How did you find me? I might have been at Crickets or Bent Willow Camp or anywhere.”

He settled her cap on her head and grinned. “You are a creature of habit, love. I knew I’d find you at Skunk Beach.”

“I suppose.”

“To be honest, I did check with George yesterday.”

Wait, how had he gotten here? She’d paid little attention to the boat traffic out on the lake today, but no way could she have missed his small sailboat, the Morning Whisper, sailing past. She glanced behind her. Nope, no boat. Her own boat rocked softly at its mooring. “Where’s the Whisper?”

“She’s moored over at Spider Camp.” Why not here? But before she could voice her question, the warmth of his smile completely derailed her thoughts.

“How about I see if I can quick catch us a couple bluegill or crappie for our lunch?” With a wink, Nate slipped on his sunglasses and scooped up her fishing pole and tackle box.

Lunch, right, focus on lunch. Focus on normal.

Kay dragged her scattered attention onto lunch, cleared her equipment from the card table, set the places, and sorted out the salad ingredients from the cooler. He’d need more than salad and fish or sandwiches to fill him. The biscuits left over from breakfast would go nicely. The ice was getting low. She liked the heat, but with the weather these days, ice went fast. George had told her the other day the highs for the past week hadn’t been under a hundred and nine. She needed to work on the painting…and why on earth had he moored around the point?

She slammed the brakes on her spinning brain.

Oh, hush. Stop fretting and enjoy him. The painting’s not going anywhere.

Nate stood in the shallows, casting with her fishing pole, the lure and bright yellow and red bobber flying in a graceful, snapping arc to plink into the deeper water near the tangle of drowned willows.

He is.

The oddest wistful tug pulled in her, and she immediately smothered that unwelcome sensation, and the fretting. Nate was here. Now. Mindful of her earlier funk, she laughed. A wish had come true.

Better be careful what you wish for.

No. No negative thoughts today. She spread the white towel back over the cooler, straightened the corners, and soaked the heavy terrycloth down again.

The fish must have been as hungry as Nate, because in quick succession, he caught four nice keepers. He squatted at the water’s edge to clean the fish.

Kay started the Coleman stove and proceeded with the ritual of blowing sand from the fry pan and the dishes. Sand worked its way into everything no matter what.

Nate joined her and set the plate of cleaned fish beside the stove. “Pan ready?”

“Just about.”

He tossed his hat over on the camp chair, folded his sunglasses and tucked them away into his shirt pocket.

Kay studied Nate’s unexpected facial hair. She had to admit the short, tidy circle beard suited his face. Her final vote on how she felt about the change was still out, but at least the beard didn’t hide his smile.
“What would you like to drink?” She pondered her ice chest’s limited selection. “Iced tea? Water? Beer?”

“Allow me, madam,” Nate intoned in a silly butler voice. He retrieved an insulated picnic bag from its shady hiding place in her tent and unzipped the lid with a flourish, revealing two cut crystal champagne flutes and the gold-foil topped green bottle nestled in crushed ice.

Delight ruffled through her. “Champagne. Oh, wonderful! What beautiful glasses. You’re crazy, you know. What are we celebrating?” Nate always came up with such sweet, fun surprises.

“July. Us.” He set the glasses on the table. Clinging crumbs of ice melted to beaded drips. After stripping the foil and wire cage, Nate cautiously eased the cork free in a fizzy pop. The bottle frothed over. “Oops.” Laughing, he filled the glasses quickly. His gray eyes sparkled and he handed her a glass. “A toast. Here’s to us and our future.” He touched his flute to hers, the small crystal ting singing between them.

“To us.” She sipped at her champagne, savoring the tart, sweet effervescence. Our future? What was that about? He still hadn’t explained his sudden change of plans.

Nate turned his attention to the stove, and a satisfying sizzle arose as he arranged the fillets to sauté simply in the olive oil with a dusting of salt and pepper. They both preferred to leave the mild flavor of the fish alone and avoid the usual breading or heavy seasoning.

She sighed. Nate. Give him his camera, pad and pen, and the clothes on his back, and off he flew, making his home wherever he threw his hat. If only she could pack her duffle bag, grab her paint kit and catch the next plane to somewhere exotic, maybe Bali or Greece, with Nate’s ease. Why not? She traveled with little more than that in her camper, so what was her problem?

Besides being a neurotic idiot? Does it matter? Stop stressing and wasting your time together. Enjoy him while you can.

Nate wrapped his arm around her waist, swaying them gently to the sweet melody he hummed. Ah, yes, “Come Monday.” After six summers with Nate, she knew almost all his favorite Jimmy Buffett tunes by heart.

“So tell me, why are you back so early? Aren’t you supposed to be heading to New Guinea?”

He neatly turned the filets. “Plans changed fast, and I wanted to see you.”

Happiness rushed through her at his simple statement. She waited for the rest of the story, but Nate simply nipped at her earlobe and scattered butterfly kisses along her nape and shoulder between sips of champagne. He knew her every ticklish, arousing place, and the touch of his clever hands and lips on her bare skin made focusing on conversation difficult.

“Hey, babe, got a question for you. I always meant to ask. Why do you do that wet towel over the ice chest thing?”

What? A sour clench of her stomach kicked her out of her bemused daze. Why? “That’s how Dad said it had to be done.”


Damn. Nate sighed. He’d tripped over another of her mysterious buttons. Even simple stuff was complicated with Kay. “Ah, okay.”

Kay glanced over her tense shoulder with defensive shadows in her blue eyes and her brows drawn into a pensive wrinkle. “We’ve always done it this way.”

“No biggie. I just was curious.” He kept his arm around her, stroking her belly, sneaking caresses up to her breasts. He wanted to kiss away that worried line. He needed to fix whatever put it there. “Damn, it’s great to be here with you, babe,” he murmured, nipping again at her ear and tasting kisses down the curve of her neck to her shoulder, pleased as she settled and softened under his touch. That’s better. No problems here. “You taste so good.”

Tasted good, felt better. Being with Kay knocked the exhaustion right out of him better than any pickme- up of caffeine. This had been the longest damn year away from her.

Her relaxed sigh broke into a laugh, and she set aside her champagne. “Hey, one of us better keep an eye on the fish or we’ll end up with cinders.”

Chuckling, he stole one more kiss before he released her. “Right. Fish. I’m on it. Have a seat and enjoy the champagne and I’ll get this fish served up.”

As he plated the filets, he savored the simple, perfect pleasure of watching Kay. Sunshine lit the gold and red flyaway wisps escaping her neatly braided light brown hair. He loved that yellow polkadot bikini on her. He’d nearly swallowed his tongue when she’d risen from the water topless, water dripping from her pale and lovely freckled skin, her breasts tight and tempting.

Kay’s blue eyes flicked up to him as she sipped her champagne. She licked a droplet from her lips with a quick pink touch of her tongue, followed by a thoughtful nibble at her lower lip.

Desire curled through his belly. Maybe he shouldn’t have let her pry loose to make lunch after that kiss.
Yeah, but his obnoxious grumbling stomach had kind of broken the moment, and Kay had needed to regroup after his unexpected arrival.

But was it his fault she camped in wilderness areas without cell service and hadn’t gotten the message from George?

“Here you go. One blue-plate bluegill special.” He set the blue-and-white Melamine plates on the table.
She’d likely be further upset with him for holding back the rest of his surprise—that the gang was over at Spider Camp—but yeah, he was being completely greedy and unwilling to share her attentions just yet.

Her smile reemerged. “Perfect.”

“Yeah, thanks to you. Caught them in time.” He took his seat and topped off her glass and his. The surprise of the champagne and the fancy crystal glasses had gone over well. Damn, but he loved making her smile.

“So, tell me everything.” She drizzled honey onto her biscuit. “Why’s the Whisper over at Spider Camp? Last I heard from you, you weren’t getting back to the States until October.”

“My less than shining effort at a surprise. It seemed brilliant at the time.” He winked. “Can I plead sleep deprivation as an excuse?”

Honestly? On mental autopilot, he’d anchored with the others, grabbed his picnic bag and backpack, and charged on over. Bringing the Whisper over to Kay’s camp would have been the sensible thing.

“Well…since you caught lunch.” She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. “Now tell me, what happened to the New Guinea trip? You were all excited about that project.”

“Schmidt cancelled at the last minute, but Cane still wanted Schmidt, so after much arguing, name-calling, snitting, and making up, they’re looking at next year now.” Instead of frustration at the whole debacle between his two prima-donna friends, he’d simply felt relief. Then, while he’d been cooling his heels in Auckland waiting on Cane’s final word on the trip, idly browsing the Web, playing what if and kicking himself over the wasted time, realization had struck. He’d been wasting time in more ways than one. Time to go home.

“Are you going to join them?”

He’d wished Cane aloha and good luck and started the crazed flurry of phone calls, e-mails, negotiations, plane flights, and caffeine-fueled driving that brought him where he needed to be: with Kay.
He smiled. Damn, he was pretty secure about most decisions in his life, but this next step was the big one. “No, I’ve got new plans.”

Hoping he wasn’t sounding like a complete idiot, he rambled on about the shoots in Australia and everything and anything light and easy he could scramble up to spill out over the meal, avoiding—uh, make that saving—the explanation of why he was here and what he had in mind until the right moment.
He was done with the endless traveling. He was more than done with holding back his heart. Kay had always been more than a summer fling, and this year he’d come to finally claim her—and her wary heart.
As for exactly how, well, he hadn’t settled on the answer beyond following his heart. That all depended on Kay and trusting his gut. He smiled at the quick neon image of Las Vegas and its games of chance—an easy ninety-minute drive north from the marina. He wasn’t a gambling man, but trusting his gut had never let him down before.

Whatever rubbish he’d been blurting out while they ate was working. She began sharing bits of her summer travels, sights she’d seen, and work she’d accomplished. Gradually, the sensual, happy warmth he longed to see edged the last anxious nerves from her blue eyes, and desire bloomed.

Everyone else might buy the artistic free-spirit act Kay carried off with aplomb, but at her core, his Kay was all plans, order, and routine. Heck, one glance at her tidy camp proved her organized mind in an instant.

His Kay. He took a long swallow of champagne. The clean, fresh taste of her fair, freckled skin, her generous mouth, her slim, strong body wet and cool against him flooded his mind. Be patient.

He watched her mouth close on a bite of fish, slide along the fork.

His hard-on ached and he shifted in the chair. Kay blushed, but mirth gleamed in her eyes as she sipped from her glass.

Don’t push. Or should he? Oh, hell. Patience was a lost cause. It had been a long, long year. He’d been half-hard since landing at LAX, and now with her here…

Be patient. Every reunion was this way, both of them wanting, desperate for each other when they got within reach, but Kay needing to close the space between them first. Yeah, Kay made him freaking nuts, but damn, she was worth the wait. When her reserve fell away, her blue eyes softened, and she made her move to him, she was every fantasy, every hope he’d ever had.

Kay set aside her knife and fork on her cleaned plate and stretched comfortably in her chair. “That was delicious. Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome.” He leaned over, meaning to take a quick kiss, but slowed and strayed his lips over hers. “Want some dessert?” Or we could just kiss. Yeah, this was good.

“I have oatmeal raisin cookies. I could make coffee.”

“We’ve got something better. Hang on a moment.” He dug around in the picnic bag and
retrieved the container buried in the ice. “For dessert…one well-traveled lemon meringue slice from Mira’s Diner.”

Kay’s delighted laugh was the best thanks. Oh, yeah, Kay with joy in her eyes was like sunrise, Easter, and Christmas all rolled together.

Scooping a forkful, he teased the serving a few inches from her mouth. “Indulge me and shut your eyes. This is an experience.”

Giggling softly, Kay obeyed.

“Open up.”

Her lips parted and he slipped the portion of flaky pastry, creamy lemon custard, and sweet meringue into her mouth. She closed her lips over the fork, slowly drawing off the bite.

His body tightened, and he had no choice but to kiss those soft, pursed lips.

“Mmm.” Her eyes flew wide. “Oh, wow, that’s amazing. Best ever. From a diner?”

Most diner lemon pies he’d encountered were a mountain of rubbery meringue over gluey canned filling and bland crust. Not this one. “Don’t tell anyone, but I swear it’s better than my mom’s.”

He stole more kisses between shared bites of the sweet-tart dessert.

Pie and champagne finished, washing the dishes progressed to leisurely swimming in the refreshing lake water. Swimming led to lighthearted play and promising touches, a sensual game of tag and kiss, teasing quick and slower, sweeter kisses, and slick, cool embraces, all laced through with laughter.

Nate caught her one more time, scooping her up in his arms. Her laughter pealed.

This was exactly where he wanted to be. Kay was his, and he wasn’t letting her go again.

Now, God help him, he just needed to convince her of the same.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday - How She Does It - Babette James

We all know there are six elements in writing fiction and often fact. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth, which for me is the plot. What's your take on this?

That makes sense. The first five are the ingredients that mix and inform how the story plays out. Change Who is in the story and the What and the Why will change. The Where and When affect the characters’ desires, opportunities, and decision-making. Stir them thoroughly with imagination and you have the How that leads you to The End.

1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

I don’t have a deliberate process for creating characters. They invariably just show up as the story brings me to them. They do develop and change as the story expands and I delve deeper into who they are. It’s all very organic. In writing Clear As Day, my character Kay appeared first in her lakeside campsite, already independent, reserved, and commitment-shy. Then the man who would become easy-going, globetrotting photographer Nate showed up to disrupt her careful, comfortable rut in life. As I explored why he’d shown up on her beach and his connection to Kay, their simple friends-with-benefits relationship proved not so simple and their conflict, love story, and their tight-knit group of friends bloomed from there.

2. Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

Characters come to me before the plot. I’m definitely a pantser. I just keep asking why and what happens next and keep writing. The only plot goal I have in the beginning is that my hero and heroine will reach their happily ever after at the end. I start with a scene and a character and the story grows like Topsy in every direction until I discover how it all works out. I do create an outline as I go deeper into the story to keep track of scenes and start to build the synopsis, but the story comes first and outline second. I’m often as surprised as my characters are along the way.

3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?

The only thing I’m sure of while writing is that there will be a happily ever after, since I write romance. Finding out how the hero and heroine get to that happy ending is part of the fun of writing. Plotting would be much more efficient, I’m sure, but I’ve given into the fact my mind doesn’t work that way and now I enjoy the unexpected on the journey to The End.

Writing Clear As Day has given me many surprises. I had to explore the whys of all the characters and asking one question led to another and more. Not only did I have to ask what had happened in just Kay’s and Nate’s backstories to bring them to the story’s point in time, I needed to explore their friends’ lives, and additionally, ask what happened next to all of them, after Kay and Nate reached their point of happily ever after. I found that the story of Kay and Nate and their friends had not ended, but had more still to tell. I’m currently hard at work on the sequel and other friends will be joining Kay and Nate in falling in love at the river.

4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?

Some of my settings are familiar to me, for instance the Lake Mohave setting in Clear As Day. Others develop out of research, and some, like those for my fantasy works, from my imagination. I do like collecting pictures and researching as I develop the setting, and it never hurts to learn more, even if it is a place I have visited and know.

5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

I’ll research on line and in books, wherever I find the information I need. I love the ease of researching on the internet and the wealth of images and inspiration that a simple search can lead to. Research can also be a dangerous distraction, stirring up tempting new shinies and alluring plot bunnies.

6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?

I try to write an initial rough draft first, with minimal editing along the way. I like the fast drafting I learned by participating in National Novel Writing Month. It helps keep me from getting completely bogged down by the editing bug before there’s a story to edit. I don’t write linearly, the story grows outwards, rather than forwards. Once there’s a rough draft, the rest of the process seems to be continual state of filling in and layering.

Clear As Day is different from most of my other stories in that it did have several distinct draft stages. It began life as a first-person viewpoint short story focused on the scenic location and simple moment in time between two occasional lovers. Then, an experiment of expanding the little original story into a novella revised Kay’s viewpoint from first person to third. The biggest change was a challenge to add in Nate’s viewpoint, and once I did that, the story just blossomed into the full novel length it is now.

Thanks so much for letting me visit here today!

Bio: Babette James writes contemporary and fantasy romance and loves reading nail-biting tales with a satisfying happily ever after. When not dreaming up stories, she enjoys playing with new bread recipes and dabbling with paints. A teacher, she loves encouraging new readers and writers as they discover their growing abilities. Her class cheers when it’s time for their spelling test! She lives in New Jersey with her wonderfully patient husband and three extremely spoiled cats.




Facebook Page:


Clear As Day is available at:

The Wild Rose Press– Paperback & eBook – Paperback & Kindle

Barnes & Noble – Nook

iTunes -

Come fall in love at the river.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Janet Lane Walters - What I'm Reading - Vijaya Schartz

I began reading science fiction in my teen years and was fascinated by the genre. I thought I might write it someday. When I finally began writing, I tried several times to write stories. Sadly they were rejected. One almost made it but the publisher changed directions and was no longer publishing fiction. The editor of a science fiction magazine expressed interest in my writing and would have liked to see more though he didn't make an offer on the story. Then he died and I put my dreams of writing science fiction aside. They will remain on the shelf because while writing I discovered a number of things about my style and my interests. I discovered fantasy and that was a better fit. But I still read science fiction and enjoy it. Now to a writer I have recently discovered. I have been reading through her stories and while I haven't read them all, eventually I will. My reading remains eclectic and there are so many authors.

Vijaya Schartz is the latest of my discoveries. What I like about her stories is the adventure. Her heroines are strong, her heros are also strong and the adventures pull me from chapter to chapter. She also combines science fiction with romance. Her created worlds interest me. I was going through what I'd read of her stories. There are I believe five or six on my Kindle that I've enjoyed. So if you like action, adventure and romance try her books.

Snatched is one of my favorites. So are the Ancient Enemies series. And for a different take try the Archangel duo. Alien Lockdown was the first one I read and hooked me. Imagine a prison underground and the place is undergoing a meltdown leaving the hero and heroine stranded among the criminals trying to find their way to the surface.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Elements of the Novel - Eileen Charbonneau - Settings

In the chapter I read today from Eileen, she's talking about Setting. Now if there's ever something I need to pay attention to, this is one area of writing where I tend to fall down. Action, dialogue and other elements are ones I usually have little problem with. I once had an editor reject a story of mine and her one comment was "Good story but the characters operate in a vacuum." Not a thing a writer wants to hear. So I set out to remedy this and failed in a different way. Each scene in the work began with a long description of the setting. This was boring. I'll admit that I haven't yet conquored the setting part of writing a story. I'm not sure why.

In Elements of the Novel, Eileen has given a very on point bit of advice. I'm going to try it to see if I can make my characters operate not in a vacuum or in a cluttered place but in a way that gives the reader a way to be in the settig with the characters.

"Setting is vital." This isn't what I learned but it's a reminder to keep the characters in a setting rather than in a vacuum.

"Place is sensory." Now this is where I usually fall down. Eileen recommends having the characters react by using one of the senses to bring the setting to life. Actually she suggests at least twice in each scene. This will bring the setting to life and can also be used to bring the characters to life as well.

Somehow this makes sense to me and I'm going to try it as I do the final revision of my curre WIP. How about you are your settings almost absent in your stories? Are your places cluttered with dozens of details that really don't have a purpose other than to put your characters in a place?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Critique Groups

In many ways, writing is a lonely game. The people you meet are often those you've created on paper. Telling stories that are produced on paper or electronically takes time and being alone. Trying to write when surrounded by people carrying on conversations can be difficult if not impossible but writing in a vacuum is also difficult. One needs feedback from others. Just sending off a story and waiting for an editor to comment can be hard. So what can you do?

Writers often band together with other writers to share their works and receive comments from their fellow writers to help. But critique groups may not always work for one author or another. I've belonged to three in my long career as a writer. The first one was centered only in poetry and while I learned there things like rhythm and word choice there was no appreciation of my prose. Since it was the only group in town, I remained and my fellow writers at least were supportive of what I was doing but they didn't help me hone my craft. Then we moved.

I joined a second critique group who said they were interested in both poetry and prose. Problem was they were interested in intellectual prose. I wrote genre fiction, stories with happy endings. My characters had goals and motives and coflicts that could happen to writers in every day life. Did I learn here. Yes and no. I learned I was never going to write "literary" fiction, but some of the authors the quoted as being wonderful didn't write "literary" fiction in the days when they were producing. I also had fun. Doing poetry readings in NYC and meeting people whose poetry was recognized was a great experience. I also had some poems published. My fiction suffered in some ways and grew stronger in others.

Then I found a third critique group. While the writers were mainly focused on romance they could give pointers on some of the other areas I was exploring. The group formed in 1990 has continued. Not all the original members still belong. Some of them have gone on to become best-selling authors. Some have moved and some have dropped out of the writing game. I always wonder about the strong writers who simply gave up. Was it something the group was not giving them or was it a fear of faila fear of success. Through this group I discovered electronic publishing years before it became the boom it is now. And I think a lot about those people who left the writing game. But each time one of the members or former member's career takes off I feel inspired and wonder if somehow I have helped them move forward in their careers the way they have helped me.

Monday, June 11, 2012

11 June - Week Behind and Week Ahead

Am now into the last re-write of The Micro-manager Murder and I'm feeling impatient. Not sure if anyone else gets this way when they're finishing a story but I know I do. The desire to rush fights with the need to make sure all the I's are dotted is a hard thing to overcome. I want to make sure the story is as perfect as I can make it but the new story is sitting in the wings crying to be let out. Is there a happy medium, I'm not sure but I will continue to polish the current work before leaping into the unknown. Finishing a story is rather like saying farewell to old friends and leaving one with some regrets. In this case Katherine has been with me for now five stories. Starting a new story is rather like being at the top of a hill on a roller coaster and preparing for that swoop. I always wonder if anyone else feels that was.

Last week saw two of my stories being offered for free on Kindle in the select program and will not know what's happening with them until a month or two from now. One will see what happens here. I do wish some of my other publishers would take a chance with these things. I've found new readers for my other books when this program is in effect. Publishing is changing and writers have to change with it.

This week I will near the end of this last draft and then it will be clean-up time for the story. Sometimes rewarding and sometimes frustrating. It's not the big glitches that bother me, it's those little ones the spell checker doesn't find and sometimes I don't find either. Our instead of out seems to be the real problem. Periods instead of question marks always plagues me. Will that ever stop. Then there's the return from the editor and finding the things I missed picking up. Sometimes the eye doesn't see and even reading the story aloud doesn't find those few glitches. One must do the best they can and hope.

Another thing I plan to do this week is do some promotion for my YA books. I'll see how far this will bo. Last week I finally semi-mastered Triberr and belong to a great tribe. Hopefully that will continue to draw people to my blog.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

3 Blog Visit Sunday

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Saturday's Chapter - Wait Until Moonlight - Teri Thackston

Chapter One
June, 1774

“There are seven ladies waiting tonight, my lord.” Arthur stood in the library doorway. “Your mother asks that you join them in the ballroom.”

“Only seven?” Upper lip curling in displeasure, Nicholas Pierce poured himself a drink. “Mother is slipping. Last week there were twelve.”

Arthur did not respond. Nicholas didn’t expect him to. The aged butler was well schooled in servile comportment and knew when to keep his mouth shut.
But seven more women?

“Tell my mother I will be down when I’m drunk enough to tolerate her guests.” Raising his glass, Nicholas tossed a generous measure of whiskey to the back of his throat and swallowed without tasting it.

“Yes, sir.” The elderly butler closed the door.

Silence enshrouded Nicholas. But instead of peace, he felt the pall of guilt. He was hiding, shirking his responsibility as lord of the manor, Earl of Beaumarith, last in direct bloodline to the title. Duty required that he take a wife at the ripe age of twenty-seven and produce an heir.
His gaze touched his father’s chair standing empty near the stone fireplace and his jaw tightened. “Duty be damned.”
Scents of azalea and honeysuckle drifted into the library though the open terrace doors behind him, mingling with hints of leather and the lingering aroma of his father’s tobacco. Moonlight spilled through tall, paned windows to touch soaring book cabinets. But Nicholas took no pleasure in the comforting surroundings.

Refilling his glass, he faced the fireplace. Embers bored caves in a massive log and cast a glow across the large portrait that hung over the mantle. The painting was of Nicholas and his father, the late Earl of Beaumarith, Benoic Pierce. Firelight merged with moonlight to flush the images in ocher, highlighting the anger of one and grizzling the vibrancy of the other.

“Father.” Nicholas gazed into the eyes of his sire. “Must love hurt so?”

It was no fault of his. He’d been ready to wed, had treasured the illusion of a single, perfect love. Now, six months after Sara’s rejection, he still considered the fairer sex with the suspicion of one betrayed. If a woman wanted a man for his wealth, she should have the courage to tell him so from the start. Honesty, he could respect. Deception, he would not abide.

Feminine laughter drifted through the open terrace doors. Facing the night, Nicholas lifted his glass to salute the moon. “To the only lady a man can trust,” he said.

“Feminine trustworthiness is not all it is professed to be?”

Pausing with the rim of the glass against his lower lip, Nicholas closed his eyes and inhaled slowly. Fragrances of smoked peat and fermented barley filled his head, dulling his sense of outrage at this particular feminine intrusion.

Exhaling, he tilted the glass and slowly drank all the whiskey before lowering his arm and turning to face the newcomer. Satin folds of her white gown clinging to her exquisite body, Saffira slouched against his father’s chair, toying with a lock of her loose black hair. Her brilliant blue eyes sparkled like the jewel from which she had taken her name, and her lips, full and red, parted in seductive invitation.
Nicholas resisted with ease. “I believe young ladies are taught to knock before entering a gentleman’s study.”

Saffira painted lips curled at the corners. “I’ve heard that.”

Nicholas turned away as she uncoiled her body and moved forward.

“I was talking to Sir Lunsford a few moments ago,” she said. “He certainly seemed to enjoy my demonstration of sorcery tonight.”

“It’s that dress.” He stared at the night beyond the terrace. “Lunsford always did appreciate a flash of flesh.”

She stepped close to him. “Jealous?”

Nicholas jerked free of the suffocating warmth of her body. “Hardly!”

The dim firelight shimmered, as if the very air had been set astir. She laughed and darted in front of him.

“Really, Nicky, I shan’t bite you!” She touched his arm. “I wish only to give you that which a wife can give a husband. Marry me. Let us make true magic together.”

He stared at her hand where it lay upon his arm. Her fingers were long and white, unadorned, the nails colored with some pale, pearlescent paint that caught the firelight. That those digits could work magic of a sort, he did not doubt. Feminine magic. Carnal magic.
Raising his eyes to meet hers, he spoke quietly. “You would give me your lips?”

Her smile turned coy. “Willingly.”

“Your touch?”


“Your alabaster body?”

“Yes,” she breathed.

“And what of your heart, Saffira? What of mine?”

She laughed again, but the sound rang hollow in the night. “Oh, Nicky. It isn’t your heart that I’m after.”

“Perhaps ‘tis my heart I truly wish to give.” Weariness crawled through him. “And to gain a heart in return.”

A harsh change came over her features, as if the very Devil had taken a hand in shaping them. “You speak of hearts as if you possess one, Nicky. But you’re as heartless as that pitiful creature of darkness that roams the woods. Tell me…is it you?”

“You’ve heard the dark tales and yet you brave me in my den? You think much of your own powers, Saffira.”

“You would be wise to think much of them yourself.”

He set his empty glass forcefully on a nearby table. “And you would be wise to leave me in peace.”

“You are not at peace, my lord. You haven’t been since the night you learned the truth about your precious Sara.”

His hands balled into fists. “Do not speak her name.”

“Because my lips are not worthy of forming it? Or because its very sound grates upon your soul?”

Nicholas turned to the gallery door. Her latter statement was the true one. The pain that came from hearing that once-loved name gnawed at him like a rabid beast. “If you will not leave me, I shall seek my peace elsewhere.”

Saffira moved between him and the door. “At least consider my proposal.”

“I’m not interested.”

She touched his chest. “Don’t you see—”

“Don’t you see?” He thrust her hand away. “I will not make a business arrangement—or whatever you have in mind—at the marriage altar!”
Her face darkened. From beyond the terrace, he heard a sound like distant cannon fire.

Her voice dropped to a lower register. “And for what reason will you marry?”

He thought of his parents’ cold union, of Sara’s betrayal, and he answered Saffira with the truth. “For love.”

“Have you learned nothing from your parents, Nicky? Love is a myth! It is for commoners and mortals.”

“Mortal is all that I am, Saffira.”

Her gaze darted toward the portrait above the fireplace. “But an uncommon mortal. I know what runs through your veins. ‘Tis the blood of the Olde Ones. There is no other man alive with your bloodline. Join it to mine.”

Before he could move, she embraced him, pressing her wet lips to his. The taste of her was bitter and sticky-warm as blood, and her silken arms clamped around him like the sinewy coils of a reptile.

Stomach turning, he thrust her away once more. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, trying to remove the taste of her. “But I do know that I do not wish to be with you. Not ever!”

The air thrummed once more with that distant rumble.

“Do not think to cast me aside, Lord Pierce. I will not allow it!”

He tried to ignore the bile settling in his gut. “It is not for you to allow or disallow.”

“You underestimate me. That kiss, a simple chant…my spell will sway you.” She lifted one dark eyebrow. “And of course you wish to protect the village children from your mother and her investors. Accept my proposal and I will see that they are safe.”

Guilt slammed him. The children…he had been so consumed by grief that he’d neglected his father’s concerns about what went on in the coal mines. But this so-called sorceress had nothing to do with that.

“You take yourself too seriously, Saffira,” he said. “That kiss meant nothing and illusions will gain you no ground. Take your parlor tricks back to my mother’s party where they may be appreciated. Seek out Sir Lunsford if you want a man’s company.”

“Scoff ye not at old ways,” she warned. “Lest ye feel the wrath of old gods.”

Wind blasted through the terrace doorway, hot and dry, scattering the embers in the fireplace. A glowing brand flew upward then spiraled down to the leather seat of the late earl’s chair. The smell of burning hide scorched the air.

“As one who is dead, yet warm of flesh, walk ye within these walls.” Saffira extended her arms out to each side, palms up, glaring at Nicholas as she chanted. “Unseen. Unheard. Untouched. As on the breath of the wind, those round ye shall part as ye pass among them. Not by word spoken, set in ink or lead shall ye be known.”

Fine hairs rose on the back of Nicholas’ neck. Scowling, he shook off the sensation. “You don’t amuse me, Saffira.”

“As currents in a river, other lives round ye shall flow.”

Wind gusted in off the terrace, whipping up the embers in the fireplace once more. Lightning cracked.

Striding to the terrace doors, Nicholas pressed them shut. “Woman, if you must spout spells, at least make them rhyme!”

Thunder jostled the house so violently that books bounced on the shelves and furniture danced across the floor. A vase of roses teetered on a stand near the terrace doors. Nicholas lunged for it, catching the expensive crystal piece inches above the floor. Rose petals flew everywhere.

“Freedom lies in the light of the full moon and true love’s embrace.” Her voice rose and fell now, monotone abandoned for fury. “Only through consummation and the pledge eternal, beneath Diana’s full gaze, shall ye be freed. Until the pledge be made, I condemn ye to wander evermore within this living tomb!”

A brilliant, sizzling blaze filled the room. Throwing his free arm across his eyes, Nicholas staggered back. The heel of one boot, treading upon the silky petals of the fallen roses, slipped. Falling, he struck the back of his head on the door frame. The vase flew from his grip. As it shattered, the intensity of the storm centered inside his head, exploding with light and thunder.

Then, suddenly, all was silent.

Gingerly, Nicholas touched the lump on his head. Although it was tender, he felt no blood. Glancing around, he saw that he was alone.

“Witch,” he muttered, pushing himself to his feet. She’d nearly blinded him with that smoke pellet of hers. The scent of it still lingered in the air. And the vase…

He looked down at the shattered crystal. There would be hell to pay when his mother saw that!

The door leading to the gallery opened. Seeing the elderly butler, Nicholas gestured toward the fragments on the floor. “Get one of the maids to sweep this up.”

Arthur approached slowly, staring at the broken vase. He pushed at the larger pieces with the toe of one shoe, then raised his head and looked around. “Lord Pierce?”

Nicholas scowled. “Have you gone deaf, man? I said call someone to sweep up that mess!”

But Arthur stepped over the shards of crystal and crossed the library to the terrace doors. Beyond him, Nicholas saw that the night sky was clear. His scowl deepened. The thunder and lightning…what had happened to the storm?

Arthur stepped onto the terrace. “My lord, are you there?”

“I’m here, you fool.” Nicholas moved into the doorway. “Have you gone blind as well as deaf?”

Returning to the library, Arthur passed within inches of Nicholas. Angry, Nicholas snatched at the other man’s sleeve and, impossibly, missed.

“Well? Where is he?” Lady Charlotte Pierce appeared in the gallery doorway. “The ladies are growing impatient.”

Arthur stepped back over the broken vase. “I’m sorry, my lady, but the master must have gone down by way of the terrace.”

“Hang the ladies, Mother. I told you I would take no part in your matchmaking.” Nicholas strode toward her, boot heels ringing against the floor. “And as for children working in the mines—”

“To the stables, do you think?” She advanced farther into the room. Her full skirts shimmered as silver gray as her hair, not the mourning black of a recent widow. “To ride that beast of his?”

“It is possible, my lady. I shall send Ralf to see if Calon Crau is in the stable.”

Lady Pierce passed so close to Nicholas that he smelled her perfume. Still, she seemed oblivious to his presence. A chill began to creep over him.
“Tell Ralf to go quietly,” Lady Pierce said to Arthur. “If Nicholas has slipped away, I do not wish the fact made public.”

She gestured toward the broken vase and trampled flowers. “He probably broke that vase on purpose. He’s angry with me for arranging this party so soon after Benoic’s death.” Her voice fell to a murmur. “And for other things.”

Arthur, wisely, said nothing. Lady Pierce turned back toward the gallery door. Nicholas placed himself in her path, confident that she must walk directly into him. But as she drew closer, the air before him seemed to gain weight, pressing against him until he could not help stumbling backward. His treacherous legs did not stop until he backed up against the stone wall of the fireplace.

His mother paused beside the big leather chair. “Is this a burn?”

Joining her, Arthur looked at the scorched seat. “I believe so, my lady.”

Her upper lip curled in distaste. “Destroy the chair. ‘Tis an eyesore. With Benoic gone, there is no need for me to tolerate its presence.”

“Yes, Lady Pierce.”

With a rustle of satin, she was gone. Arthur followed more slowly, his gaze wandering once more around the room, whispering past Nicholas.

In that instant Nicholas knew that he stood unseen. The door closed behind Arthur. At the vibration of its closing, the last log fell in the fireplace. In the crackle of its fall, Nicholas heard a gentle echo of husky feminine laughter.