Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thursday's Opening Scene from Requiem Murder by Janet Lane Walters #ammystery

Requiem Murder

By Janet Lane Walters

DiskUs Publishing

Chapter 1


On Groundhog day when Robespierre, my Maine Coon cat, jumped from his place on the window seat, one thought popped into my head. Company. Who? After following him to the kitchen, I watched him push his bulky, brown and black body through the hinged opening at the bottom of the door. Moments later I peered down the dimly lit stairwell. Robespierre had sprawled in the center of the third step and blocked my visitor’s progress.

“Good grief, Katherine, I hope he’s not planning to bite me again.” Edward Potter, pastor of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, glared at the cat. His voice had risen to a high pitch. “Whatever do you feed him? He’s ever so much bigger than Bitsy.”

The temptation to say my pet fed on pastors was strong. I refrained and fought to control a grin that threatened to blossom. Teasing Edward usually results in a lecture delivered in an indignant voice.

With an air of disdain, Robiesperre stretched. His back rippled in a way I envy. Then he slithered around Edward.

When Edward reached the top of the steps, he turned and peered at the cat. “He’s becoming more brazen.”

“Only toward selected guests. He ignores most people.” I turned my head and Edward brushed my cheek with his lips.

Edward is a dapper little man with an ear for gossip and a penchant for turning even the slightest event into a fiesta or a disaster. He’s astute about church politics. The coffers at St. Stephen’s are filled through his ability to cosset and cajole the elderly population of the church, mainly wealthy women. I partially fit the category, being over sixty-five, and while not rich, I’m at least comfortable.

When he entered the sunlit kitchen, the expression on his face announced a problem. He walked into the living room. Unlike most of my guests, he considered chats at the kitchen table for commoners. In the living room, he perched on the edge of a Queen Anne chair, purchased years ago before antiques became the rage. In the past twenty years, stores selling every manner of old things have spread plague-like in the business district of the Hudson River village where I live.

“You’re tense. How about a cup of mint tea?”

“Not all the tranquilizers in the world will calm me. It’s a disaster, a complete and utter tragedy.” His hands fluttered. The words rolled out like a sermon promising hell and damnation. “How will we maintain the quality of the services? Easter will be a disaster.”

My forehead wrinkled. What in the world had stirred him into this state? The last time had been when one of the altar boys had spilled the communion wine. Had there been a fire at the church? A flood? A plague? The strident fire whistles had been silent for days. What had occurred? Knowing a full and dramatic scene would develop, I wanted mint tea.

“I’ll heat the water. Then you can tell me about this tragedy.” Mint tea is my all-purpose remedy, calming nerves and stimulating the mind, bringing alertness or sleep.

I retreated to the kitchen, filled the kettle and stuffed a silver ball with an assortment of dried mint leaves. While the water boiled, I assembled the pottery mugs, sugar and spoons on a wooden tray.

“Why will Easter be a problem?” I set the tray on a Duncan Phyfe table.

“We may have to cancel the season.” He patted his thinning light brown hair.

I swallowed a laugh. “How can we cancel one of the main reasons for St. Stephen’s existence?”

“Are you making fun of me?” His voice rose in pitch. “I’m absolutely serious.” He accepted a mug. “Mary’s husband has been transferred. It’s a disaster.”

I mentally sorted through all the Marys in the congregation and tried to decide which one’s leaving would cause Edward to fall apart. Who had triggered the word of the day? On another level, the need to giggle soared. Perched on the edge of the chair and holding a tea cup with both hands, Edward looked like a child.

“There are about twenty Marys at St. Stephen’s. Which one do you mean?”

“Mary Hensen, our organist. What will our services be like without the organ and the choir? Katherine, you have to help us until we find a replacement.”

Twenty years ago I resigned my position as organist at St. Stephen’s. My husband’s sudden death had left me with a son to raise and enough money to cover three years of expenses. Once I finished my nursing course, my Sunday schedule had passed out of my control.

“Don’t you think I’m a bit old for the job?”

Edward sighed. “I knew you’d say that. I have a list of people who are willing to play, but none of them want to direct the choir. Could you at least try?”

“What have you done about finding Mary’s replacement?”

“I’ve called the Organists’ Guild. They’ll list us in their newsletter. I’ve sent notices to several colleges within commuting distance, but I really don’t want a student. Our music program is something to be proud of and I dread losing our reputation.”

Pride, I thought. “Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned from this.”

“Perhaps, perhaps, but we must have music.” He put the mug on the tray. “I’d like you to head the search committee. People respect your musical judgment.”

“And the other members?” I’ve reached an age where I don’t have to like everyone and avoiding those who annoy me has become a game. “A search committee is like a family. I won’t spend time with people I dislike.”

“Beth Logan. Judith and Martin Simpson. Ralph Greene. I believe that’s a good balance.”

Beth is a neighbor who is becoming a friend. For several years, we had worked together at the hospital. Last winter when I broke my leg, we had renewed our acquaintance. She volunteered to be my chauffeur on Sundays for church. I liked the young widow and found her six-year-old son charming.

The Simpsons are also neighbors. There’s something strange about their relationship but their fifteen-year-old daughter, Marcie, had been my piano student until she’d grown beyond my ability to teach. With a sigh, I thought of Judith’s frenetic energy and wondered how much I could tolerate.

The fourth member, Ralph Greene, was a man with a superb baritone voice. Though he took music seriously, he wouldn’t cause any problems unless the committee decided on someone musically incompetent.

“Well?” Edward asked.

“You have a committee head.”

“Splendid. We shall rise from the ashes.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Minor characters #amwriting

We've all read books that have casts of thousands and some with only a few. Each writer must decide how many characters they want to put in their book. When reading How To Write Mysteries by Shannon OCork, she addresses this issue. "We've already figured we don't want any more characters than we can effectively use."

There are minor characters and secondary characters. Not all minor characters are in the story to be given a name, often they have a function, like being a cab driver who gives the main character a bit of knowledge about the area, or the nurse in an ER who hands the doctor instruments. They may only be shadow characters and once they serve their purpose for the scene they are never seen again.

Some minor characters can be used as bridges to connect one action to another. These characters should be used with care and not dwelled on for if they are given too large a role they could take over the story and steer the reader's view away from the main characters.

So remember to choose just enough characters for your story. Sometimes you will need casts of hundreds and sometimes a few. If a minor character tries to take over the story, there is a problem and you must re-think the function of that character and focus on the main characters.We've all had a minor character try to take the role we've given to the hero or the heroins. Tone them down and give them a story of their own.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday's Inspiration - Stephen King on Imagery

Who better for the 1000th post on my blog than Stephen King. While I seldom read his books since horror chills me, I do admire his ability to build an atmosphere and use imagery to bring the reader into his world.

In an essay he wrote he daid a lot of things about imagery and how to build this into a story. He mentioned a lot of rules that the writer learns over time. The following quote is one that sang to me. Particularly since I tend to be concrete in my writing, at least that was how I began. Hopefully I've grown over the years.

"Imagery does not occur on the writer's page, it occurs in the reader's mind." Imagery isn't concrete descriptions but imagery are those little bits of description that stimulate the reader to build a scene in their heads. Not only descriptions of places but of people. Sort of like this. The was a messy eater. Better would be The meals of a week or even a month stained his shirt. It's that sort of thing that makes the reader sit up and say wow to the picture formed in their head. The great thing about this is no two readers will invision the man or the scene in the same way.

Mr. King has more to say on imagery and I'll be using them to inspire me in the next Tuesday or two.

Books We Love Blurbathon featuring Running Scared by Cheryl Wright

Running Scared by Cheryl Wright

Emma Larkin is running for her life - nowhere is safe.

Stalked by her husband's killers, and desperate to protect her young

daughter, Emma must find what the killers are looking for before she

becomes their next victim.

When undercover cop, Gary Bedford, planned a relaxing break, he hadn't

counted on bumping into Emma. Now he can't resist the temptation to

discover all her secrets.

But should Emma trust her life and heart to Gary Bedford?

Can they solve the mystery surrounding her husband's death - and

uncover his deadly secret?


"Oh wow. Could not stop reading this. Was on pins and needles through

the entire book . Wonderful story and very well written. Looking

forward to more books by this fantastic writer!" ~ D. Gilman

"A great fast paced light suspense romance captivating the reader in a

plot of many twists and turns. You will not want to put this book down

until the end when all is revealed." ~ Claudia R.


Buy Running Scared at:

Learn more about Cheryl's characters and her books at:

And do check back to learn all about Sheila Claydon's books on

February 1st!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Meandering on Monday with Janet Lane Walters #amwriting

I'll be giving a short talk in a week plus at a library branch in a mall. Interesting concept that. My bit is about the state of publishing and how to get published. Years ago - 1968 - I sold my first short story. Markets abounded and I was able to send the story to about 20 places before it was bought. Then the market, the paying one, dried up and I turned to novels. There were many publishers for both mysteries and romances since those where what I was writing at that time. The first romance I sold went out 17 times, only four of these were repeat sends. At that time the publisher wanted the entire mss and the editors also sent sometimes pages of suggestions for making the story better. The novel sold but the greatest thing was the amount of writing advice I'd received. Priceless. I returned to nursing and came back to a whole new world. Not as many publishers and all wanted a query and an partial. Another thing to learn. They publishers began to dwindle and soon the only way in was to meet the editors at a conference or to have an agent. The publishing world has changed again. There are scads of markets but few pay advances. There are the NY publishers plus Harlequin, the electronic with or without paper copies and the self published.

Enough about that but it's a start on the talk I'm going to give. As far as my own writing, I'm still working on two stories, one a novella somewhere between 30 and 40 thousand words when complete. Maybe a third there. The other is the old story now called the Goddesses of Er. That's going slowly but that's all right. What it consists of is pulling the gems from all the beginning writer pages. Hope to have it ready by the end of the year.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

BWL Blurbathon featuring My Mozart by Juliet Waldron

In Honor of Mozart's Birthday, January 27th, the BWL Blurbathon brings


My Mozart by Juliet Waldron from BWLPP

"…Mozart was her teacher, her mentor, her rescuer, and, finally,

fatally, her lover."

"Mozart, Ich liebe dich. I love you. Love you."

"Come here, Nanina Nightingale. Come and give your poor old Maestro some

of your `specially sugary sugar."

My mouth on hisâ€`â€`the friction produced warmth and sweetness,

with a decided undertone of the expensive brandy he liked, flowing from

his tongue to mine. I slid my arms across the brocade of his jacket,

none too clean these days, and swayed a slender dancer's body against


Let me assure you that my sophistication was assumed. It really doesn't

matter - then, or now. I was young, foolish, and drowning in love. I was

seventeen. He was thirty five.

He had once been boyishly agile, doing handsprings over chairs, turning

cartwheels of joy at a prima donna's kiss or a perfect performance

of his own celestial music. He was never tall, and was, like most men of

his age, working on a bit of a belly. Still, he kept more or less in

shape by a daily regimen which included running from bailiffs, dashing

out the back doors of taverns to avoid payment, and climbing in and out

of the bedroom windows of adventurous (and talented) musical


I believed he knew everything--that he could see right through me with

those bright blue eyes. He probably could. He'd been my music

master--and, more--my deity, ever since I'd met him, in my ninth year.

His jacket, now spotted and stained, must have been fine enough to wear

in the presence of the Emperor. Bright blue, it perfectly matched his

eyes. I can still feel the fabric sliding under my fingers as my arms

passed over his shoulders and around his neck.

I can still see himâ€`â€`a woolly frizz of blonde hair, long,

aquiline nose--a ram that had once been an angel. Sometimes, when he was

loving me in some exquisitely naughty way and joyfully smiling as he did

it, I could almost see horns…

Buy My Mozart at:\


Mozartby Juliet Waldron, from Books We Love Publishing


was her teacher, her mentor, her rescuer--and, finally, fatally, her lover. ..


dawn, in the marble palace of a Prince, a nine-year-old sings for Wolfgang

Amadeus Mozart, then at the peak of his career. Always delighted by musical

children, he accepts Nanina as a pupil. Gifted, intense and imaginative, she

sees the great "Kapellmeister Mozart" as an avatar of Orpheus and her

own, personal divinity.

His lessons are irregular and playful, but the teacher/pupil bond grows strong.

Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro premieres, and Nanina, now twelve, is given a

solo part. For her, this is the beginning of a long stage career. For Mozart,

it marks the start of his ruin. His greatest works will be composed in poverty

and obscurity.

During the composer's last summer, his wife has left him. Chronically in debt

and suffering the emotional isolation of genius, he takes refuge with his

disreputable Volksoper friends, who want him to write a "peasant opera"

for their audience. Nanina, now grown, and still in love with Mozart, is among

their number. As he seeks solace among the women of the Volksoper, the charms

of his young fan become increasingly alluring. No one, least of all the

composer, understands the depth of her obsession or how a brief affair will

permanently alter her life.

"This really knocked my socks off,

and so you don't have to know the opera or Mozart's music to love this book."

Kay Cochran

"The brilliance of the plot is that it is timeless ... Teenage fan falls

in love, has a brief love affair with her idol...The characters are as real as

today, once again underscoring the fact that people, after all, never change in

motives or behavior, only in time." Patricia A. Martin


My Mozart at:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday's Chapter featuring Ghost Writer by Lorna Collins

Chapter 1

“I don’t believe in ghosts,” I used to tell anyone who’d ask. I’m a ‘techie,’ a computer programmer. I deal with data and facts, not fiction and fantasy.

So how did I get mixed up with a temperamental, egotistical, rude, smart, funny, aggravating, self-centered, loveable... uh... spirit? Okay, if you insist, ghost.

It all started the day I moved into my house.

Well, it’s not really a house, more of a cottage on the sand south of Laguna Beach, California.

This place was the one blessing I received in a whole series of otherwise disastrous events, starting with losing my job.

I worked in the mortgage industry for three years following my college graduation. It was all I knew until I became another victim of the banking industry collapse. I went to work one day, and the company was gone. Pffft. Taken over by the government. The assets were sold and I got two weeks’ severance.

Of course, at the end of the first week, not only was my job gone, but so was Jeff, my live-in boyfriend, taking all the cash in my wallet with him. Since he hadn’t worked in over a year, I figured he’d found another gainfully employed female to support him. I was really ticked off that he split the minute he lost me as his meal ticket. I needed his help.

It had been kinda nice coming home to a human being after work. Well, not always, but he was there most of the time waiting for me to nuke his dinner. And he was sort of cute, with long dark hair and big brown eyes. I thought we looked pretty good together. Besides, he was the first guy who really paid any attention to me. I’d hoped it was because of my personality and not my paycheck, but after he took off, I wasn’t so sure.

I got the eviction notice the day after Jeff moved out. The building was in foreclosure. It was probably just as well because I couldn’t afford the apartment on unemployment insurance anyway.

So learning I’d inherited a house couldn’t have come at a better time.

My great-great-aunt, Nanette Burton, for whom I was named, died at one hundred and four years old in the mansion where she’d lived for years and loved so much. She’d never married and never had children. I heard rumors of several passionate affairs in her younger days, although I wasn’t supposed to know about them.

A week later, her attorney invited us to the reading of her will.

“Mr. and Mrs. Burton, and Miss Burton, please take a seat,” he said as we entered his Santa Monica office.

Since the rest of Aunt Netta’s family had died, Dad and I were her only surviving relatives, but, to our surprise, there were a few others already there.

Albert William Spencer, Esq. (according to the sign on his door) was a throwback to another era, courtly and tall, with a full head of wavy white hair. His charcoal pinstriped suit, vest, and white shirt were impeccably pressed. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he wore a pocket watch, but his jacket was buttoned, so I couldn’t tell.

His inner sanctum looked like it had come from the 1950s. I’ve watched lots of movies from that era, and all the attorneys’ offices were the same. Before the window, stood an impressive highly-polished wooden desk, a monument to old money. The walls were lined with matching bookcases holding leather-bound volumes from floor to ceiling.

We took our seats.

“Since everyone has now arrived, I shall begin.”

I spaced out during some of the preliminaries. It wasn’t until we reached the bequests that I gave the attorney my full attention. I was hoping for a little help out of the pit my life had become.

“My real estate holdings and personal property, with the exceptions listed herein, are to be sold immediately. I have asked my attorney to manage the sale and have given him all the particulars.”

Mr. Spencer turned to us. “As Ms. Burton requested, the estate is already on the market and I anticipate several offers shortly. It is a rare and exceptionally large property. Buyers remain plentiful. I shall arrange for an auction of her personal belongings not specifically listed in her will to be held soon.”

He returned to the papers in his hand and described a few rings and other items that had belonged to family members, which she left to Dad. Then he looked up again to make sure we all understood.

We nodded in unison like bobble heads.

“Half the proceeds of the sale, after expenses, are to go to several animal shelters and rescue organizations listed herein in the proportions designated.” He read the names of six or seven groups and their respective percentages. That explained the other people in the room. Their representatives smiled and nodded.

I wasn’t really too surprised. For a very wealthy woman, Aunt Netta seemed to collect more than her share of strays. She converted an old chicken coop on her property and its surrounding yard into a pretty nice temporary residence for the dogs. Then she hired someone to come every day to feed, exercise, groom, and clean up after them. But she worked hard to find each one a new home. She was so persuasive that she only had five mutts left when she died. Plus Mitzi, her own favorite and much-pampered Shih Tzu.

“The animals currently in my care, with the exception of my pet, Mitzi, are to be entrusted to ‘Homes for All,’ until suitable arrangements can be made for their permanent placement.”

I was sure the organization would be more than happy to take the dogs since a sizeable bequest came along with them.

“My beloved Mitzi, I leave to my great-grandniece, Nanette.”

Oh joy, I get the dog. Just what I always wanted—but not much.

Not only was I named for Aunt Netta, I was born on her birthday. I think that may be why she tolerated me, even though she was quite outspoken about not liking children in general. It probably also helped that I was an only child, as was my dad. She seemed better able to be around kids one at a time.

Mr. Spencer looked over the top of his wire-rimmed reading glasses to be sure I understood. “My secretary, Mrs. Owens, has been caring for Mitzi. The dog and all her belongings are in the outer office.”

I wanted to say, “But I have nowhere to live myself, and I don’t have a job. How can I take on a dog? Besides, even as a kid, I never wanted a dog.” But instead I smiled, said nothing, and resumed my head-bobbing.

Mr. Spencer cleared his throat and went back to his paper. “Let me see. Where was I? Oh, yes,” he continued. “The remainder of my estate is to be disposed of in the following manner. One half, I leave to my great nephew Craig William Burton. One quarter will remain in trust for my great-grandniece Nanette Louise Burton to be held until her thirtieth birthday, at which time, she will have access to the annual income. On her fortieth birthday, she will be given complete control. My attorney has specific instructions on how the trust is to be invested and managed.”

Okay, so I’ll have some income at thirty, and if there’s anything left, I’ll actually get to spend it at forty. Four years before I get anything. Great.

Mr. Spencer continued reading. “The final quarter is to be managed by my attorney for the care of my precious Mitzi. I trust that my great-grandniece will provide food and shelter as well as loving care to my darling companion. When my pet meets her final end, I have arranged for a thorough examination to be certain no foul play was involved. At that time, the balance of Mitzi’s bequest will become the property of my great-grandniece, Nanette Louise Burton. However, if there is any question about the cause of the dog’s demise, all remaining funds, other than those left to Craig William Burton, including Nanette Louise Burton’s trust fund, are to be liquidated immediately and given to the organizations named herein.”

Mr. Spencer removed his glasses and stared at me. “You do understand Ms. Burton’s wishes.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Yes, sir. If the dog dies of anything other than old age, I lose everything. I think that about sums it up.”

This is going to be the most pampered pooch in history.

He cleared his throat. I don’t think he was used to such direct answers. “Yes, that is correct.”

He returned to the papers in his hand. “There is one last bequest. The property on Seashell Cove, I leave to my great-grandniece, Nanette Louise Burton, along with the contents therein.”

Holy crap! Her beach cottage is mine! My heart pounded so loudly I was sure the rest of them could hear. I’ll take really good care of the dog as long as I can live there.

I gasped and he glanced up at me.

“The house, indeed, is yours. I took the liberty of arranging for it to be cleaned and having the deed transferred to your name.”

My life suddenly looked a lot brighter. Even with

Friday, January 25, 2013

Books We Love Blurbathon featuring Savage Possession by Margaret Tanner


Welcome to the Books We Love Blurbathon.


A sweeping tale of love's triumph over tragedy and treachery in frontier Australia .

A mistaken identity opens the door for Martin Mulvaney to take his revenge on the

granddaughter of his mortal enemy.

An old Scottish feud, a love that should never have happened, and a series of

extraordinary coincidences traps two lovers in a family vendetta that threatens

to destroy their love, if not their lives.

Friday's How They Do It - Lorna and Larry Collins

I've met this couple who write together at several EPICons and lookon them as long distance friends. Also as gutsy enough to write together.

Janet, thank you for having us!

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

They usually come along with the story we are telling. However, sometimes we find the character and then build a story around him/her. Often they are composites of real people. For instance, for our first mystery, Murder... They Wrote, we met a man, talked to him for about five minutes, and as we walked away, Lorna said, “We have to write that guy.” For our current historical novel, The Memory Keeper, set in San Juan Capistrano, we knew we wanted to tell the story from the viewpoint of a Juaneño Indian. The character grew from the story and our research.

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?

Sometimes the characters come first, and sometimes the plot dictates who the characters will be. Larry is a plotter and would like to outline the entire story, every chapter, and every scene before even starting to write. Lorna is a ‘pantser.’ That means she tends to write by the seat of her pants and follows the story as it unfolds. But even she knows the beginning and the end as well as the overall arc of the story before starting to write. Since our current book is based on historical events, Larry has done the extensive required research and puts down the facts for the chapter. Then Lorna adds the human elements and emotions. Finally, we sit together and polish our work into a seamless narrative.

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

The one element we always know from the beginning is the actual end of the story. We usually have at least the final sentence or sometimes the final chapter written very early in the writing process, often right after the first chapter.

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

Our settings are based on places we know, although the specifics of homes, gardens, streets, etc. may be created. For our historical novel, we are able to see many of the actual buildings that would have been in existence at the time, and descriptions and drawings exist of the town. We even bought an etching showing what San Juan Capistrano Mission looked like during the period of our story (1820-1890).

For Lorna’s anthologies, Snowflake Secrets, Seasons of Love, Directions of Love, and An Aspen Grove Christmas, she and her fellow writers created a fictitious town in Colorado based on two other real small towns. However, since it doesn’t exist in reality (although some of our readers have expressed an interest in visiting it), we can make it anything we want it to be.

Our mysteries, Murder... they Wrote and Murder in Paradise, take place in Hawaii in real settings and places we know well. The first is on Maui and the second starts there but moves to Oahu.

Larry’s short story collection, Lakeview Park, is based on a real park in Orange County, CA. and Lorna’s fantasy/mystery/romance, Ghost Writer, is set in Laguna Beach, CA. Since we live in Dana Point, in southern California, these are both very familiar locations.

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

We usually do most of our research online. When possible, we visit the actual locations, whether we portray them as they are or fictionalize them. However, for our historical novel, we have purchased a great many reference books and have interviewed quite a number of people for specific information. Then we try to find secondary sources for confirmation if possible.

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

Because we write as a team, we revise as we go along. We start writing individual chapters. Once we are satisfied with them, we begin building the finished manuscript. But often, as we move further into the story, we realize some background for later events is required earlier in the narrative. So we go back to the combined manuscript and revise. We continue this process, including at least twice or more on the completed manuscript, before we submit it.

3 Attached Images

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thursday - Opening Scenes - Murder and Mint Tea by Janet Lane Walters #ammystery

 Thought I would ddo something interesting today. On Thursdays, instead of what I'm reading, I've decided to put up the first scenes of books I've written, one at a time starting with Murder and Mint Tea. Not the first book I ever published but the first electronic book in my list. The book is availabel on Kindle, Nook, I believe Kobo and other venues. This book was a fun one to write and started the series featuring Katherine Miller

Murder and Mint Tea

By Janet Lane Walters

DiskUs Publishing

ISBN 978-0-7572-0121-9

Chapter 1

Preparing The Ground

The pale winter sun shone through the kitchen window. I cleaned up the last of the mess from my adventure. The caper hadn’t gone as planned. How many do? In my many years of life, most of my plans had taken an unexpected turn.

Merup.” Robespierre, my Maine Coon cat, announced a visitor on the way. He’s almost as good as a doorbell. The firm rap on the door told me this wasn’t one of my female friends. “Come in.”

Pete Duggan strode across the room and thrust a bouquet of bright carnations into my hands. A red hue, almost as vivid as his hair, stained his face. “Mrs. Miller, got to hand it to you. I’ve come to eat crow.”

To hide a smile I buried my face in the flowers and inhaled the spicy fragrance. “How about chocolate chip cookies and mint tea instead?”

“Sounds great.” He straddled one of the chairs at the table and picked up the local newspaper. “Local Woman Thwarts Robbers.” His grin made him look like the ten-year-old who had moved into the corner house on my block. He cleared his throat. “The guys at the station ribbed me about this. Did you forget the plan?”

How, when the idea to catch the real thieves had been mine? A series of burglaries had plagued the neighborhood for months and had troubled me. Especially when the police had decided two teenage neighbor boys were the culprits. I knew the pair and had disagreed strongly enough to set myself up as a victim. Then I informed Pete.

“Did you forget?” he repeated. “When I crept up the stairs and saw you grappling with one of the men, I nearly had a heart attack.”

Heat singed my cheeks. “How was I to know my date would poop out early?”

After filling two mugs with mint tea I opened a tin of freshly baked cookies. How could I admit to a nagging doubt, or tell him I had wanted to be part of the action? In July I had turned sixty-five and in September retired from the nursing staff at Tappan Zee Memorial Hospital. Six months of placid existence had made me edgy. Lunch with friends, coffee with the neighbors and weekly bridge games with old cronies bored me. These events held none of the challenge of meeting crises at the hospital.

Pete scowled. “You could have gone to the Prescott's house.”

“They’re away.” I sipped the tea and savored the cool mint flavor.

“The Randal’s’ then.” He pulled the other mug across the table. “The guys insist the two of us make one perfect cop. Want to hire on?”

“I’ve no desire for a third career.” Until my husband’s death twenty-five years ago I had been the organist and choir director at St. Stephens Episcopal Church. Needing a way to support myself and my son, I enrolled in the nursing program at the community college. “Besides, I’m too old.”

“Old, never. You look the same as when we moved here.”

“It’s the dye.” His puzzled look tickled me. Dyeing my hair makes me look younger. “I came into the world with red hair and I intend to leave the same way.”

Laughter rumbled deep in his chest. “A worthy ambition you nearly fulfilled last night.” He touched my hand. “Thanks again. You kept me from making a mistake that could have ruined those boys.”

I lifted my mug and inhaled the aromatic steam. The evidence against the pair had been circumstantial and strong. They had done odd jobs at all the houses that had been burglarized. “I’ve known them since they were infants. Nothing I’ve ever seen in their actions to make me believe they were guilty.”

Pete made a face. “I’ve known them just as long. Didn’t stop me from suspecting them. How could you be sure?”

“Forty years of living in the same house has attuned me to the rhythms of the neighborhood.”

“Twenty years hasn’t helped me.”

“There’s living and living.” Some people are so concerned with the melody they never hear the underlying harmonics. As a musician I’ve learned to listen. As a nurse I know how to evaluate symptoms that are sometimes similar but are caused by different diseases. Those traits are a vital part of my nature.

I set the mug on the table. “Don’t blame yourself. You weren’t the only one to suspect the boys. No harm was done.”

He finished the cookie he held and rose. “No harm. Maybe some good. I’ll try looking beneath the surface.”

“That’s a great idea.”

He grinned. “I’m out of here. Work tonight.” He zipped his green down jacket. “How about acting as my silent partner?”

I laughed. “Go away with your nonsense.”

Just them the cat door opened. Robespierre made a grand entrance. Flakes of snow dotted his brown and black fur. His gait suggested a mission. He halted in front of Pete and banged the young policeman’s leg with his head.

Pete crouched and scratched the cat’s head. “Not my fault, old man. She jumped in on her own.”

Robespierre’s rumbling purr suggested he understood and accepted Pete’s explanation.

“He’s been out of sorts since the thieves visited.”

“Me, too.” Pete hugged me. “Never again. Promise. We need you around. Think about being a silent partner. There are times when I need someone to listen.”

“If listening is all you need, I’ll be here. No more active involvement in crime for me.”

“See you.” He clattered down the stairs.

Until I heard the front door close I remained at the top of the steps. Silent partner, no way. I rubbed the tender spot on my head where I’d been bashed. I had enough experience with crime to last the rest of my life.

* * *

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Real people to Characters #amwriting

This is sort of a warning but it's something to be aware of. When casting a character for a story or using an idea from someone's make sure you  as totally different from the person you're losing. Skirting too close to the truth can bring trouble. Nearly happened to me once. Just after one of my books was published, the publisher received a call from a woman who threatened to sue. She indicated I had used her as a model for a bit player in a book. She wasn't objecting to the character but because there was sex in the book. After talking to the publisher, we decided there was no way she won the New York phone book there were pages of people with the same last name and a number with the same first name. Second I had never been in the state where this woman lived. She was never heard from again.

But she could have been. Now I have used real life people as a character in a book but they were so well disguised the person never realized they formed the basis for the book character. The name, the face, and sometimes even the sex were changed in creating the character.

Authors have been sued and lost the suits over using a person barely disguised in a book. Just remember to use your imagination if you're tempted to use the person or their story in a book of fiction.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday's Writer's Tip based on quote by Sidney Sheldon #amwriting

This quote in an essay by Sidney Sheldon struck me as very true and takes me back to when I began writing. "If you write only when the muse sits on your shoulder, it is unlikely your project will ever get completed."

That is how I began many years ago. How about you? Do you wait for that moment of inspiration and then sit down to write, then hang up the project until the next inspiration hits? Maybe you will finish the story in a year or two and maybe never. Sometimes putting a story aside for a time is a good thing. I have a lot of starts in a file cabinet. They're ones I've hit a roadblock. So I put them aside and start a new project. I may or may not go back to the project or I may change the project's focus.

But I write nearly every day. There's no muse sitting on my shoulder or even in the room. What primes the pump is putting those words on the paper, knowing when I reach the end I can go back and rewrite passages and revise what's down.

Words matter, the muse is a game or a myth. Finishing the story even when it's not going well or putting it aside until you find a way over the roadblock and starting something new. The main thing I give to new writers is "Finish the book." The writer is in control and has the words needed and they will emerge with a bit of persistence,

Monday, January 21, 2013

Meandering on Monday with Janet Lane Walters #amwriting #amreading

Last week was interesting. Heard a reviewer give a talk on trends in writing. She aslo said something like this, If you write a book you will find others who want to read it." Maybe yes and maybe no. There are some books I would never want to read and I do tend to read a lot. But the advice seemed good. Following what's hot this year may be cold next year. We've all seen the way the market leaps on a story that hits the charts running. Then everyone wants to write that book or a variation of it. The market is drowned and the market dies. People start to say, Not another book like book A or B or C." For me I write what I want to write and I do find people to read them.

I also volunteered to be part of a committee for a conference. Took on a project that interests me. Fewer baskets but ones with greater value so things won't be left behind. A good idea. Was looking at some facts. The group has about 150 members. If each one would donate five dollars or ten dollars to buy quality things for the baskets. We could have ten or twelve really great ones. Will think on this some more.

I've been reading several of my friends' first books and now their latest. I've had my fingers in a number of other writers' careers and what really makes me feel good to to watch their improvement.. A lot of people can write one book and never grow as a writer. So my hat's off to those of my now and former critique partners who have constantly improved with their writing.

As for myself. Still working on two projects. One without a title but there are some ideas brewing. Now it's off to write and type.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday's Excerpt from Trading Faces by Ann Herrick


Brrrr. It's cold in here. I must've left a window open. Uuuuh. I hate to get out from under the covers. One, two, three, fling.

My teeth chatter as I hunt for my slippers. Where’s the carpet? It feels like … like wood under my feet. Maybe I'm still dreaming that I'm in Silas Marner's cottage. I pinch myself.


What's going on? Why is it so dark in here, anyway? Did the hall nightlight burn out or something? Where's the lamp?

Where's the nightstand?

What's this? The wall? Okay, I follow the wall and find the light switch. Ack! I've run out of wall. Did I leave my bedroom door open?

Where am I?

There’s a nightlight here reflecting off a mirror. Somehow, I find myself in a strange bathroom with a granite floor. I flick the light switch on and see myself in the big, full wall mirror. I take a good look.

Cybil Sheffield?

I lean in close and blink. Cybil blinks. I smile. Cybil smiles. Her smile is dazzling.

I nod. Cybil nods. I touch my nose. Cybil touches her nose.

Wait a minute. I can feel my nose, and it is cute and round and small enough to fit under a dime! I've morphed into Cybil! Wow! Is this for real? Maybe I should pinch myself again. Ow!

I take another look. Yes! I am Cybil. Even in the morning, without makeup, she looks beautiful. Her hair's barely even messed up.

I look at my hands. Instead of large hands with thick fingers and clipped fingernails, I've got little hands and oval fingernails painted with Cybil's trademark Pink Opal Glaze nail polish. Hey, my toenails are painted Pink Opal Glaze, too. Who knew?

Upon further examination I also detect a pair of pointy, perky breasts, way bigger than mine even when I'm bloated, peering through the semi sheer nightgown I'm wearing instead of my over sized T-shirt. Wow, I'm not even sure what to do with these babies. I'll have to learn to use them wisely.

What am I thinking? Okay, for some reason, I look like Cybil, and I’ve been transported to some bedroom that must be hers. But how? Why? And, anyway, even if I look like Cybil, can I possibly pull off being Cybil? I don’t know how to act popular. I don’t even know to talk to most people. It’s not as if I grew up looking beautiful and wearing great clothes, which must make everything much easier.

Clothes! Maybe I should get dressed. Maybe I could think better with clothes on. I certainly can’t run around in this … this nightie all day.

What day is this, anyway? Friday? Yikes! I've got an algebra test—

No, wait. Darcy has an algebra test. Wait, a few days ago Cybil was moved into the class. Does she study? Huh? Why am I even thinking about algebra?

What am I going to do? What about Mom and Dad and Joey? Do they think I'm missing? Am I missing? Are they frantically searching the house and the woods for me? Or am "I" still home? Maybe "I'm" sitting at the breakfast table eating Grape Nuts, as usual. Maybe "I" have turned into an android.

Or. Maybe Cybil has been turned into me?


I peer into the mirror over the dresser. The light is not great in here, so everything looks a little blurry. Ack! I slap my head with both hands. I went to bed great looking and woke up … yuck! Total nerd! Dull, stringy hair—definitely not my color—close set eyes … and this nose. I run my fingers over the bridge of it. Where's my perfect little nose?

Where did this wide one come from? Did I bump into the bedpost in my sleep or something?

What happened? Whose face is this? Maybe someone from school? Why is it suddenly my face? I try to think. Is this a nightmare? Well, of course, looking like this is a nightmare, but, I mean, am I really awake? If I’m asking myself that question, I must be! Wait. Maybe I’m just … just not completely awake yet. I close my eyes, count to ten, yawn, stretch, open my eyes and look in the mirror again. Eeew! That face is still there.

And my room. What's with the log cabin walls, braided rugs and country kitch décor?

I run around the room. Where's my four poster queen sized bed? I open doors. Where's my walk in closet? Where's my bathroom?

Okay, calm down. Think! Maybe I can look this up on the internet. Ack!

Where’s my computer?

I sit on the edge of the bed. Hmm, a quilt bedspread. How department store. Wait a sec. This looks like a genuine hand made quilt—

I take a deep breath. Maybe … maybe Mother worked her decorating witchcraft in here. I mean, she is a "Consulting Interior Designer; Residential; Designing Space for Your Lifestyle; Over Twenty Years Experience; Evening Appointments Available; Member ASID."

She put herself through design school with the piles of beauty pageant scholarships she won. Everything from Miss Grass Seed Queen all the way up to Fourth Runner¬ Up in the Miss Most Beautiful Teen of America pageant where she also won the Talent Contest with her piano rendition of Footloose. So she also knows makeup. Maybe she gave me and my room some kind of reverse makeover in my sleep.

But why would Mother do such a sick, cruel thing? There's only one way to find out.

I find the closet. Ack, what a dinky closet, and the clothes—yipe, what a mess! I grab a robe to cover the graying T shirt draped over my—eek! Where are my boobs?

I've got to find some answers before things get any worse.

I peek out into the hall and find the same cabin look out there. This is so not good. I tiptoe down the hall and creep down the stairs. I see light spilling through a doorway to my left. Maybe that's the kitchen?

It is.

Problem. There are three people sitting around a scrub top kitchen table. I have zero clue who they are and no idea where I am.


Kindle -

Kobo -

Barnes and noble -

Smashwords -

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday's How She Does It with Ann Herrick

Ann and I are both Books We Love authors.

I believe 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?

I hadn't thought of this specifically, but I know when I first get an idea for a story, it always starts with Who and What, and then the other factors follow.

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

In a way, I think of my characters as starting out as actors and then turning into real people. I usually get to know them as I write the first draft, and by the second draft I have a clearer picture of who there are.

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?

I have a vague idea of a character and a small kernel of a plot when I start out. I think my books are character driven, as the plot in many ways follows their wishes, hopes and/or dreams.

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

I know in general how a story will end, but I don't usually know exactly how I'll get there! The characters, as I get to know them, lead the way.

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

My books are set in Oregon, where I live now, or Connecticut, where I grew up. I have magazines with different kinds of houses and interiors that sometimes I use as guidelines for homes in the stories.

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

Both. And sometimes I ask people questions in person, or watch a sport, performance, whatever, to find out more.

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

A little of both. I write a first draft, but each day I re-read what I wrote the day before, in order to jump-start the current day's writing, and I revise a bit what I have re-read. Sometimes when I get an idea later in a draft that requires changes earlier in the draft, I'll go back and make those changes. Other times, I'll just make notes and make the changes in a later draft. I probably write four drafts, saving each one, but there are several "mini-drafts" within each of those.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

What Janet Lane Walters Has Been Reading #amreading #suspense #romanticsuspense

The past week the reading has been all suspense or romantic suspense and this has been a fun time.

Guarding Kelsey by Kat Attalla was a great read. Even though I heard a good bit of this in critique, I found Wolf, the man who didn't want to fall in love fun to watch struggle. Kelsey is a strong heroine. From the opening scene this story has laughter, suspense and love.

The Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer - Christmas stocking gift. I've enjoyed most of his books since I read The Sisterhood, I think that's the title. This time I was kept on edge when one of the most evil mass murderer showed up to plague the hero and heroine, Nick and Jillian. Thanks for another great read.

Relentless Pursuit by Adrienne Giordanno - Lots of tension here and the hero Billy is a real trip and a fun hero. The man is relentless. Kristen the heroine is intrigued but she has problems. This book not only deals with car thefts that lead to something more sinister but also with body-image problems.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - On Villains #amwriting

Not all stories have true villains but some have characters who for some reason oppose the hero or heroine or both. There are several things the writer needs to watch their stories for that might change the story. These are gleaned from How To Write Mysteries by Shannon OCork.

The first one is my favorite and that is making the bad guy more interesting than the hero or heroine. Doesn't mean this character is likeable or even wonderful but he or she becomes the one who sparks the reader's interest. In a mystery, for the writer to spotlight the villain means the reader will stop rooting for the hero or the heroine. This can also spoil the ending. There have been times when as a reader I've known the bad guy the instant he appears on the scene and this makes me want to put the book aside. One book I recently read there were 200 pages after I knew who the murderer was and I also wanted to know why the main characters didn't know.

Some of the advice I found was interesting. Give all your characters a flaw and this can misdirect the reader's view.Let the bad guy remain in the background. Concentrate on the hero or heroine, or what needs to be solved and forget about wondering who did the crime. Give the hero and heroine lots of problems to solve. If a murder, or some other crime, give the victim a good sign.

Do these ideas flow to other genres than mystery. They can, if you have the opposer to the hero or heroine's gain of their goal as a seeming minor character in the story. I hope I have learned how to do this and will continue to work on adding a bit of uncertainty to my stories.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tuesday's Inspiration -John D MacDonald - Environment #amwriting #amlearning

This quote really hit me since settings and creating the environment of a story is one place where I can go wrong. Sometimes I put in too much and sometimes too little. Mr. MacDonald put it all in caps. Makes is easy to remember but hard to accomplish. Does this hint resonate with you? No caps but it's advice to remember.

"And when the environment is less real, the people you put into that environment become less believable and less interesting."

How true this is. Years ago, when I began writing, I sent my first mss out again and again. Each time the story came back with comments from an editor. One of these comments struck me. "Your characters are operating in a vacuum." So I went back and rewrote the story describing where the characters were placed in great detail. The first attempt said things like she got into the car. The second went on to describe the car in living detail. The response I received went sort of like this. "You're bogging me down in details. This slows the story." So I went back and tried to figure where I went wrong each time.

What happens when you make the environment right means giving the reader enough detail for them to fill in the rest in their imagination. Every reader will see the environment a bit differently but they will be drawn into the story because you've engaged him or her. The characters in your story real to the reader. This is description at its best. Specific detail that allows the reader to invest their imagination in the story.

What about you, do you create a generic environment, or do you pile on detail after detail until the reader is bogged down? Do you strive to find the right way and pull the reader's imagination into becoming an equal partner with you?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Meandering on Monday with Janet Lane Walters #amreading #amwriting

First I'm celebrating Lines of Fire was released by Books We love. Received the strangest review on it. Rating was a 4 but the remarks inside were pans. Got to figure what this meant or not since I seldom pay attention to reviews.

Vow number one this week is to start doing some promo work and go after the rights on one of my books. Would like to get the last two with this publisher but the third book of the four is still in contract.

In books and often in romance novels, cliches are born. I read nearly as much as I write. Lately I've read this line in maybe as many as ten of my most recent reads. "He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear." I thought the first time I read that "How cool. What a nice way to show the alpha man in ant of tenderness." A lot of other writers thought the same thing. Of course, this could have interesting effects in other genres. What would it mean in a horror story. Maybe someone has used it there but I don't read horror. I do not like to be chilled. Another place where it could change would be a mystery with the villain performing the act just before of after he killed his victim. Now that's a thought. Unfortunately my mysteries are written in first person from Katherine Miller's viewpoint. I've seen this sort of action, bit of dialogue crop up in stories. Could it be the collective unconscious or is it really like my reaction. "How cool." Let me put that line in my story. Thus cliches are born.

As to my writing I've begun a story that has no title. It's part of a long series of novellas. I like the way it's going and will continue to work on it. Once I have several of these done I'll propose the series to one or more publishers and see what will happen. I'll still be working on the one that nearly got left in the dust of the file cabinet. I also want to start on Tainted Lines the sequel to Lines of Fire,

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Saturday's Chapter from The Abduction of Mary Rose by Joan Hall Hovey


Chapter One


The teenage girl hurried along the darkening street, head down in a vain attempt to divert attention from herself as she headed for her bus stop, still over a block away. The car behind her was a soft growl in the still, warm air.

It was mid-June, only two weeks till school closed. The air was fragrant with the smell of lilacs that grew here and there along the street. She wore a jean skirt and white cotton shirt, and yet she felt as exposed and vulnerable as if she were naked. She was anticipating the freedom of summer and thinking about spending more time with her new friend Lisa, when she became of aware of the car following her. She had been thinking maybe she and Lisa would swim in the pond edged with the tall reeds, near her house where she sometimes fished with her grandfather. She'd let grandfather meet Lisa. She knew he would like her. It would be impossible not to like Lisa, even though her grandfather didn't quite trust white people.

The growl of the motor grew louder, and she heard the window whisper open on the passenger side, close to her. "Where you goin' in such a hurry, sweet thing?"

She didn't turn around, just kept on her way toward the bus stop, one foot in front of the other, as fast as she could go without running. Music thumped loudly from the car radio, pounding its beat into the night. It was not music she would have listened to, not like the music they'd played on Lisa's tape player tonight, and that she and Lisa had danced to in Lisa's room. Lisa had tried to teach her some new steps; it had been so much fun. They danced to songs by Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross' Mirror, Mirror and a bunch more she couldn't even remember. Lisa had a lot of records.

The music that blasted from the car sounded angry and unpleasant. The car drew up so close to her she could smell the alcohol the men had been drinking, mixed in with the gas fumes.

The car edged even closer to the curb, and the man said something ugly and dirty out the window to her and his words made her face burn, made her feel ashamed as if she had done something wrong though she knew she hadn't. She pretended not to hear, made herself look straight ahead, her eyes riveted on the yellow band around the distant pole that was the bus stop, just up past the graveyard. She kept moving forward, one foot in front of the other, trying not to look scared, and prayed they would go away. Fear made her heart race.

The day was fast fading, the sky a light mauve, only a sprinkling of stars yet. Soon it would be dark. She was always home before dark. Grandfather would be worried. A few more minutes and you'll be at the bus stop, she told herself. Ignore them. But it was impossible to do with the car following so close that the heat from the motor brushed her bare legs, like a monster's breath.

The car crawled along beside her. She moved as far away as she could get, but the pavement was next to none along here and broken. "Hey, sweet thing," the man said. "You trying to get away from us." He laughed.

Despite herself, she turned her head and looked straight into the man's face. He was grinning out at her, showing his square, white teeth, causing her heart to pound even louder than the music. He made her think of the coyotes that sometimes came skulking around grandfather's house at night hunting for small cats and dogs. No. I am wrong. He is not like the coyotes. They are just being coyotes. It is a noble animal. An evil spirit dwells within this beast. One tied with the most fragile of chains. She could feel him straining toward her, teeth bared. She would not have been surprised to see foam coming from his mouth.

Softly, he said, "Hey, Pocahontas, want a ride?"

Feeling as if a hand were at her throat, she darted a look behind her, praying to see someone, anyone, who might help her, but the street was deserted. She'd left the row of wooden houses behind her a good ten minutes ago and was now at River's End Cemetery. There was no sidewalk at all here, just the dirt path, broken curb on her left and the empty field to her right, leading up into the graveyard. If a car comes along, she thought, I'll just run right out into the middle of the road and flag it down. But none did. She visualized herself safely inside the bus and on her way home to Salmon Cove, to her grandfather's small blue house on the reservation. She would tell him all about Lisa, her new best friend from school. Her grandfather would smile at her, and be pleased for her and call her his little Sisup. She fingered the pendant around her neck that he had made for her, a kind of talisman. To keep evil spirits away.

Grandfather didn't always understand the white man's world though, and there would be worry on his weathered face because she was not home yet. But she would make them a pot of tea and they would talk, and he would forget his worry. She was still focused on the bus stop, the utility pole marked by its wide yellow band. With the car so close, the thrum of the motor vibrating through her, the bus stop seemed a mile away. She walked faster, a chill sweeping through her body. She was forced now to walk on the slight incline that led up to the graveyard. Only the ruined curb separated her from her tormentors.

A taxi fled past, but she'd been so intent on getting to the bus stop she'd noticed it too late. It had been going so fast, out of sight already, just pinpoints of taillights in the distance, then nothing.

"Hey, what's your hurry, squawgirl?"

She gave no answer, swallowed, and kept going. When the man did not speak for several minutes, she became even more frightened by his silence than his talk. The boys at school sometimes called her Indian, and other dumb stuff like pretending to be beating on war drums, or doing a rain dance, and though it hurt her feelings and sometimes even made her cry, this was different. The boys thought they were being funny. Not so with this man. She could feel his contempt, even hatred for her, and something else, something that made her mouth and throat dry and her blood race faster. As she continued to put one foot in front of the other on the worn, rocky path edging the graveyard, she was very careful not to stumble and become like the wounded deer under the hungry eye of the wolf, she kept her eyes on the pole with its yellow band. In the darkening sky, a high white moon floated.

Everything in her wanted to break into a run, but a small voice warned her that it would not be a wise thing to do. Anyway, no way could she outrun a car. Why did the bus stop seem so far away? It was like a bad dream, where no matter how fast you run you don't go anywhere, and whatever is behind you ... draws closer and closer.

She shouldn't have stayed so long at Lisa's. But they'd been having such fun, just talking and listening to music, sharing secrets. It was nice to have a best friend, to feel like any other teenager. But you're not like any other teenager. You're an Indian. She should have listened to her grandfather.

The man spoke again. "C'mon, get in, Pocahontas," he said, his tone quiet, chilling her. "We'll have us a little party." He reached a hand out the open window and she shrank from his touch, stumbled, nearly fell, tears blinding her. She heard the driver laugh, a nervous laugh and she knew he was a follower of the other man. There was an exchanged murmur of words she couldn't make out, then, the car angled ever closer to her, wheels scraping the curb, making her jump back.

"Got something for you, sweetheart," the grinning man said. "You'll like it."

More laughter, but only from him now. Adrenaline rushed through her and she started to run, ignoring the warning voice. But it was too late. The car shrieked to a stop and instantly the door flew open and the man burst from the car and grabbed her. She screamed and fought to free herself from the steel arm clamped around her waist, but it was no use. She kicked and clawed at him, but he lifted her off her feet as if she were a rag doll and threw her into the back seat, and scrambled in after her. He shut the door and hit the lock. "Go," he yelled at the driver but the car remained idling. The man looked over his shoulder, started to say something but the man holding her down yelled at him a second time to go, louder, furious, and they took off on squealing tires.

"Please let me out," she begged. "Please…" Her pleas were cut off by a powerful back-hand across the mouth, filling it with the warm, coppery taste of blood. "Gisoolg, help me," she cried out, calling on the spiritual god of her grandfather, and of his grandfather before him. But no answer came.

Up in the graveyard, an owl screeched as it too swooped down on its night prey. And all fell silent.

Friday, January 11, 2013

How She Does It with Joan Hall Hovey

Haven't met Joan but I have read and enjoyed her books. We're fellow authors at Books We Love, a great place to be.

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?

You're absolutely right, Janet. We do need to answer all those questions for the reader, but I'm an intuitive writer and tend to answer them in large part on a subconscious level as the novel evolves.

My books are generally rooted in childhood. I draw on my life for inspiration and an emotional connection. Then I'm off and running. The seeds for Night Corridor, for example, were planted in my childhood. On Sundays, I went with my grandmother to visit an aunt in the mental institution, once called The Lunatic Asylum. She'd spent much of her life within those walls. They said she was 'melancholy'. Though the sprawling, prison-like building has long since been torn down, the sights, sounds and smells of the place infiltrated the senses of the 12 year old girl I was, and never left. Night Corridor is not about my Aunt Alice, but it was indeed inspired by her. latest novel The Abduction of Mary Rose was inspired by a true story as well. After her adopted mother dies of cancer, Naomi Waters learns from a malicious aunt that she is a child of a brutal rape. Her birth mother, a teenager of MicMac ancestry, lay in a coma for eight months before giving birth to Naomi, and died five days later. Feeling angry and betrayed, but with new purpose in her life, Naomi vows to track down the man responsible and bring him to justice.

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

I think about them for a long time, particularly my main character and let her settle into my imagination. I hear her speak, listen to the nuances, zone in on the gestures she makes, the way she walks. Kind of like getting to know someone in real life. At first they are shadowy figures, gradually taking on more personality and clarity as you come to know them. And like those who become old friends, she tells you her secrets, her passions, her pain, her fears. (Because I’m writing suspense, this is important to me.)

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?

I don't write an actual outline because I want the novel to flow organically as much as possible, but I do make copious notes and do a lot of cerebral outlining.

In the end, I don’t think you can separate character and plot. They are interwoven. With suspense, I am always aware of the thread in my story and I hold it taut, letting it out a little at a time, but never letting the thread go slack. It should grow tighter and tighter until it fairly sings. This is what constitutes a page-turner. It’s a promise I make to my readers and one I take very seriously. Reviews tell me I’ve succeeded for the most part, and that makes me happy.

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

I do have an idea generally of how the story will end, but only generally. If I’m surprised there’s a good chance my reader will be. A good beginning is one that draws the reader into your story. A good ending is one that has her/him reaching for your next book. Or more often these days, downloading it.

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

My novels are set in fictional towns that could be anywhere in New Brunswick or Maine, since the flora and fauna are similar. Although I did set part of Nowhere To Hide (Eppie Award) in New York. I researched the city but I also spent time there. But New Brunswick, which lies on the Bay of Fundy, Canada, is part of my DNA. And the town where I live, whose streets and hills and shops are bred in my bones, is probably in essence where all my novels are set, whatever fictional name I give them. However, I did set my second novel 'Nowhere To Hide' partially in New York city. I'd been there so I had a general idea of The Big Apple, but also picked up a copy of Bantam's New York City.

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

Both. I have several books on psychology and forensics. Two I recently purchased are ‘Police Procedure & Investigation and ‘The Writers Guide to Psychology’ by Carolyn Kaufman, Psy.D. But I’ve always been a student of human behavior, in particular the dark side of humanity, which is probably why I'm drawn to write suspense novels as a way to explore these themes.

I'm also a big fan of Google. Since I tend to research on a need to know basis, sometimes I go straight to the source. For example, when I wanted to know what color bodybags are, I phoned our city morgue. They’re dark green. Or at least they were at the time. I think you can get them now in dark blue, if anyone needed to know that. -:)

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

I write numerous drafts and also revise as I go along. Lots of trial and error. That`s probably why it takes me a long time to finish a novel. But that`s where the challenge is and writing novels isn't a race. In letting the novel evolve as it should, and not forcing anything, you have a chance of writing a good book. At the same time, you must exert some kind of control so you don`t end up all like the guy who `flung himself on his horse and rode madly off in all directions`. I've done that too.

There's a fine line.

Thanks for inviting me today, Janet. I enjoyed being with you.


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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thursday - What Janet Lane Walters has been reading #amreading

This week there are four since one of them is a short novella.

The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh - Laughed through this book as Angelina gets her man. I've read the other two Mistress books and did wonder how Angelina ended up with a rather stuffy man. He's not stuffy in the bedroom.

 Perfect Fit by Carly Phillips - A great romance by a friend and former critique partner.Cara and Mike's story, a new one in the Serendipity series - An intense romance that is heartwarmint and a nice read.

The Marriage Mistake by Jennifer Probst - The third in the series and a fun read where Carina uses her Love Spell to gain Maximus. Delightful and heart-warming

Thunder by Taryn Kincaid - Short sexy story of a 1 Night Stand, Really loved when Sean built the bat house for Veronica's attic pests.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wednesday's Writer's Tip On heroes and heroines #amwriting

Still finding gems to help a story grab reader's attentions and make for a good story using How To Write Mysteries by Shannon OCork. This time there's something she said about heroes and heroines that struck home and something every writer should know.

Give your focus character problems and keep them in trouble. Why? This keeps a reader turning the pages. Make these problems small ones that can be solved but then have the solution lead to another problem. There are two areas where this can occur. There are the outside areas and the inside the character problems. I never realized I've used this method until I read this book. How does this work in genres other than mysteries.

I write a lot of romance as well as mysteries and realized keeping the goal in mind one could rev up the tension by solving one problem that leads to another one that may seem minor. I'll look at two books here.

Murder and Mint Tea was the first mystery I wrote. It's a sort of when will someone kill this not very nice woman. The heroine's first problem involves a broken leg. This led to her son finding a tenant for her first floor apartment. This tenant brings trouble into the heroine's life and each time she thinks she has found a solution another bit of trouble pops up. When the tenant is murdered now the heroine must find who killed her and how can she protect her near and dear when each of them owns one of the murder weapons.

The other is a romance The Doctor's Dilemma. Here the hero has a number of problems. First he doesn't like to stay in one place and works as a temporary doctor. Then he inherits infant twins from a dead foster sister. As he solves the problems of them, a vanished sitter, falling in love with the heroine who wants a settled life. being in a town where he has friends who want him to stay. Each time he solves one of the problems, another results from that solution.

So think about this when you're writing and keep your hero or heroine solving small problems that lead to the big one and the final solution.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday's Inspiration via Sue Grafton - On Inspiration #aminspired

Am reading essays by authors about this business of writing. In the recent one Sue Grafton talks about Inspiration. How neat to find something that fits the day. I'll give my take on what she says and how I've come to wait for that moment.

You're mulling over an idea and not sure where you'll be going with it. For me this happens frequently.
Here's the quote. "Eventually there is that spark--that wonderful flash--aha!--that mental leap" There's more to the quote but this is the essence. All of a sudden you know where the story should go and you take off running.

For me this often comes during the rough draft stage. My rough drafts sometimes wander all over the place before I find that one thing that gels the story. "Aha" is what I think and I start the words flowing again. The rough draft may be begun again because of that magical moment. Perhaps this is because I think with a pen in hand. My rough drafts are usually written by hand. Just my style and not a must in the writing world. Just a must for me.

Back to the quote. If there is no spark or flash or a mental leap, the story doesn't come about. But when it happens, the story takes form and the real writing can begin.

How about you? Are you hit by a a mental leap and suddenly you know the idea has merit and will become a book?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Meandering on Monday with Janet Lane Walters #amwriting

This is a new year and let's see where I meander today. The first is anonymous posters to the blog. I am getting tired of someone trying to sell medicine on the blog but I also don't want to amke things hard for the real readers and writers who want to post without giving their names. Not sure why they do this. Would I hunt them down and try a hard sell on them. No. I rather go for the soft sell and for showing the work of other authors on the blog. So give me a break. If you're pushing medicines, don't do it on my blog.

Yesterday was 12th night and my Christmas tree did not come down. I'm not sure why. Probably because I'll need a day to pack all the decorations away. Also because it's pretty. Maybe it's because I like the tree. I finally put the Christmas music CDs to rest and am now entering the classical phase of my music listening while I write. But sometimes I write to silence. That's especially true when I'm doing a rough draft.

As to my writing. Today I will finish chapter 8 of a rough draft of a novella expected to finish at between 30 to 40 thousand words. Odd thing is that I know the title of the series but I've been toying with a title for the book. I usually have the title before I begin a story. Sometimes it's the title that brings on the creative juices for the story. There will be 12 stories here with Moon Child as the main title. I have an idea of what I want to do with the series but that will wait until I have at least three of them written and a fourth planned.

As to the Goddesses of Er. Had to go back and type in the missing chapters. They may be in my computer somewhere but I couldn't find them. So glad I print out each chapter when it's finished. Once I catch up on typing chapters 7 and 8, I'll be finished with the rough draft and can type that while I work on some nore chapters in the Goddesses.

The last thing I'll meander on is that I must start doing some promo things. I always hate to take time away writing to do this but I will take at least an hour a day to find some blogs for a post other than my own or do some other sort of thing. One promotes their name as well as an individual book.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Saturday;s Chapter from Cougar by Skhye Moncrief

COUGAR Skhye Moncrief 2

Chapter One

Post-apocalyptic Earth: after alien invasion, AEI, 2064 AD

Life has gone to Hell in two generations. Extraterrestrials altered the human genome,

splitting humanity into two subspecies of humans, Shifters and Normals. Sometimes Shifters and

Normals work together for survival in cities or remote villages. Other times they war for

dominance. Regardless of the outcome, they must survive and fight against human enslavement.

Hunted by aliens for breeding stock, Shifters understand this the most. Especially, Wolf males.

But every once in a while, a female Shifter is born and her Cougar protected from detection

because nobody knows what the aliens want with Cougars¡¦

* * * *

The gangrene should have killed my half-brother yesterday, Jackal thought. My little

brother, Rattler, would drop dead any minute. But Rattler had no intention of dying before he

reached his mate. So, the others and I followed his ragged brown shirt with cut-off sleeves

tucked into his black leather pants through the whispering forest on this last-ditch wild-goose

chase of June. To the place Rattler lived the past eight years.

In hiding.

Eight damned years.

We.d wondered where he was as he.d come and go to the village, to the clan, a time or

two a year. But we never guessed he had a mate. Everyone just thought he.d lost his mind. Or

went on a killing spree. Nobody could blame him for slipping into a rage with life on Earth gone

to Hell once the aliens arrived. But hiding a mate? That was the last damned thing we expected.

Not from him.

He wasn.t the type to turn down a challenge though. To feel forced into hiding.

Rattler halted, his back to us. Shaking. Elbow jerking. Then, he stepped off again.

Driven onward. Toward love.

That.s what he had secreted away.

Because of the damned aliens. Because Shifter mates were targeted above all else for


We should have guessed what he was up to. He was always so damned determined.

¡°Up here,¡± Rattler said over his shoulder without stopping.

Demon shot me another one of his speculative looks.

Like I knew what to expect from my baby brother. Rattler and I shared the same mother.

But hell if there was any way I could make sense out of his behavior. We.d grown up together.

He was the baby five years in my shadow. Actually my shadow until he hit fifteen. But his

father never treated me like his own son, just a step-son, and we went our separate ways

thereafter. I became his father.s right-hand man. Present, yet distanced from Rattler, while

Rattler wallowed in his father.s favoritism. Then, I hit twenty and proved I could beat the best of

the village Guardians. Earned the respect of a man who could enforce village rules among the

Normals and Shifters.

COUGAR Skhye Moncrief 3

With that came rank and duty. Whereas Rattler just lived off the prestige of being the son

of the village.s clan leader. He could kick ass and kill with the best of them. But he didn.t have

to work at making something of himself with his built- in reputation inherited through birth.

Rattler had it all in becoming the next clan leader. Until he mysteriously abandoned the village.

The clan.

Rattler veered toward a thick tree trunk.

A tall ash.

At the tree.s base, he halted, slid his gaze up the trunk, wobbled, thrust his palms to his

hips, and managed to steady himself. ¡°Angel,¡± he yelled almost a little hoarsely.

The four of us stared up at the weathered wooden base of a tree house, with Rattler.

Nothing moved at the rectangular doorway.s tarp covering. Except a breeze making the tan cloth

flutter. A perfect place to sleep with the aliens. blood-thirsty Bounders crawling across the

forest floor, hunting down anyone foolish enough to dare venture out every night after curfew.

¡°Angel?¡± Rattler yelled again, somehow managing to brace his rotting flesh, and waited

for his mate.

Movement flashed to his left set back deep within the wall of tree trunks forming the

forest. First, a bit of bare arm slipped between tree trunks. Then, a leg covered in faded

camouflage and a beige hiking boot. A swath of her honey-colored hair pulled back into a long

sleek ponytail swung into view. Then, she burst fully into our line of sight, running.

Silently. Like she was part of the woods.

Rattler extended a hand. ¡°Hurry, Angel.¡±

She was slim. About five foot six. Ample curves hidden beneath her olive-drab tank top.

Her gaze locked onto Rattler like he magically appeared and would vanish as she gripped

the weathered black strap of the large firearm, something a good sixty years old, looking of

military issue by the two visible ends, thrown over her head and shoulder where the strap bit

between her breasts.

Damn. She had no idea her mate was about to die.

Poor woman.

For the need in her features.

For my brother.s desperation to save her before he collapsed and passed from the living

into the promised world of the fortunate dead.

¡°Come here, Angel,¡± Rattler said calmly.

Probably didn.t want to spook her. The last thing I.d want to do is tell my mate I was

dying. All the better reason for letting the other Guardians take on mates when the opportunity

produced an unmated female. I.d give freedom a few more years to show me what life had to

offer before taking on the responsibility.

Angel crashed into Rattler with the gusto only a lover could display. He grabbed her, his

foothold shifting. Undoubtedly from the pain. But he never let on he felt anything.

He loved her. That.s how Shifters mated. For life. Wholeheartedly. Irreversibly. Until

one of them died and released the other from the bond. He loved her so completely that the

clan.s head, Rattler.s sire, sent out half the village.s best Guardians to bring back Rattler.s mate.

Rattler.s body blocked our view of Angel. All but her hands where she threw them

around his neck. He bent toward her.

For a last kiss.


I couldn.t stomach this anymore.

COUGAR Skhye Moncrief 4

But I had to. For Rattler. Brothers owed each other favors throughout life. I.d be

damned if I didn.t hold steady to help his mate through the catastrophe awaiting her in a world

where women needed men for protection. I ground my teeth and exhaled.

Purging. Trying to keep a level head.

She backed away, peering around his shoulder, at us with the palest blue eyes stretched

into wide-eyed surprise. ¡°What happened?¡± She shot him the same owl stare with her finelycarved

features. ¡°Who are they? Shifters. Do you know them?¡±

¡°I need you to listen to me,¡± Rattler began and turned a little to face us sideways, holding

her by the upper arms as if to begin introductions.

I guess, for starters, that.s all you could say in this type of situation.

She eyed him suspiciously.

His knees buckled. His body fell forward, into hers, as he dropped.

She grabbed him under his arms.

He grunted, his pain magnified by her touch at his torso.

¡°What happened?¡± she asked again, her brow furrowing. She knelt, pushing him at arm.s

length from her chest, watching him, fear stretching her mask. ¡°John?¡±

So Rattler told her the Christian name the villagers forced Shifter sires to give their sons.

Insults to us who were deemed abominations by the Normals who feared our geneticallymodified

power. Especially Christians. Were these two truly mated? Did she know he was a

Shifter? Was this woman a Normal who despised Shifters only to learn now that she.d married

the wrong type of man because he brought Guardians to her?

Not Rattler. He wouldn.t have hung on to return to her if he and Angel hadn.t bonded

with blood. Like Shifters.

So, why did she use his Christian name?

Rattler cupped one of her cheeks with a palm.

¡°Don.t send me away.¡± She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and clutched him


Rattler flinched from her squeezing his rotting flesh beneath his shirt.

She caught the motion, backed away, and ripped his shirt open where she could view his

putrid abdomen. ¡°No,¡± she gasped the most pitiful sounding word I.d ever heard.

I couldn.t watch anymore. I turned to pretend I guarded our back, the indomitable forest,

from the direction we.d arrived.

She just kept crying no.

Over and so god-damned over. Again. And again.

¡°Promise me you.ll go with them, Angel. My father says the clan will take care of you.¡±

Damn. Talk about the miserable truth. She.d have to come with us. Or Normals would

drag her off for marriage, breeding, or worse, trade her into prostitution. That.s the way of

things since the aliens invaded and began jacking with the human genome.

¡°No, John. I.ll find the healer. She.s not far. Wait here.¡± She took a step toward the


He grabbed her arm. ¡°That old woman can.t help me now. It took everything in me to

bring the Guardians here. got to promise me you.ll go with them.¡±

She sniffed.

¡°Promise, dammit,¡± he growled.

¡°I promise,¡± she blurted. The response seemed more an effort to appease him than reflect

her true intent.

COUGAR Skhye Moncrief 5

¡°I love you, Angel. Keep Black Betty close. Take the supplies. The clan will need

them. Or trade them.¡±

Suddenly, you could have heard a whisper.

¡°No, John. Don.t leave me,¡± she begged with crackling words.

* * * *

This can.t be happening. Sierra knelt on the ground with her mate clutched to her chest.

She could feel his heart beat. The recognizable scent of him, a familiar comforting aroma of

campfire and leather that kept her warm in her bedding whenever he was gone hunting or

trading. Even though his body rotted.

Those gentle steel-blue eyes he always flashed at me, his stunning grin, all were absent in

his attempt to save me from the isolation he brought upon me. He wanted me to leave the forest.

To leave the little world he.d carved out of the wilderness to safeguard me.

His palm trembled against my cheek. He calmly sighed and planted his soft velvet lips

against mine.

So damned warm.

You can¡¯t die.

He couldn.t.

¡°You promised,¡± he said and closed his eyes.

The warm breath whistled out of his parted lips.

My heart split.

Blinding tears smeared my view of my Shifter.

I couldn.t breathe.

My John was gone.

What did it matter where I went now?

What I did?

He was my life.

My family was dead.

Nobody else even knew I was alive.

Except for these four males.

What did they know about me?

Other than my heart died on the forest floor with the light in John.s eyes.

The whispering scratch of fabric against fabric beckoned before I saw him kneel in my


He was tall. The dark stubble on the top of his head and his six o.clock shadow told me

his hair was darker than his brown eyes. John.s brother? I blinked, looking back at John.s

square jaw.

This Guardian was nothing like my John at a ll¡¦

¡°Angel, we can.t stay long. We have to reach our vehicle by nightfall. Rattler, uh John,

wanted us to hurry. For your sake.¡±

Who was the talker with the gentle words?

And how could I leave John?

How? I clutched John.s heavy stiff body against my chest and slid my gaze over to the

scuffed toe of the talker.s combat boot, up his khaki bloused pants, up to his straight- lipped


I couldn.t leave John.


COUGAR Skhye Moncrief 6

I couldn¡¯t.

¡°I.m Demon, Angel,¡± the talker said where he knelt beyond my periphery. ¡°John and I

have the same sire. Father wants me to bring you back to the clan. I need you to gather your

things quickly. We have to leave now.¡±

The more I tried to open my mouth to say no, the more hot tears blurred my view,

smearing the blank expression on John.s face.

¡°Please, Angel, got to leave before the Bounders start their night patrols.¡±

I couldn.t leave my John.

Not with the alien.s creatures out to kill those foolish enough to ignore the sunset curfew.

How could these Guardians think I could leave my mate? What was wrong with the fucking


¡°You promised him. He killed himself making the two days journey back here, Angel.

Hold true to your word. For him.¡±

Demon.s voice remained low and gentle.


Maybe it was alright to leave?

John told me to leave.

To go with them.

I had promised.

The talkative Guardian skirted me.

Was he going to do what he would with me now? Like all the others. Without John, I

had no protection. Just a goddamned rifle and some ammo. All but the one thing John and my

father made me swear never to reveal. My inner Cougar.

Could my Cougar shifting ability save me now? Or damn me worse than the loss of my

mate if I revealed I was one of the rarest creatures on the planet? Talk about irony of the

Goddess. She would gift me something so powerful and taunt me with its dangerous use. Then

slap me in the face with gang rape and the murder of my parents all to reiterate I damned sure

better not use the power.

Well, I could try to outrun the Guardians. Absolutely impossible in human form¡¦

They.ll probably do what they will with me anyway.

Maybe they.d just rape me and put a bullet through my head. Release my spirit from the

tidal wave of grief barreling down upon my accursed bones.

Hands gently grabbed me under my arms from behind and hefted me up to my feet.

¡°Come now, Angel, got two hours before sunset. That.s just enough time to reach the

tank,¡± he said softly.

John.s stiff body slipped away from me. Back to the grassy earth while my empty arms

dangled at my sides.

He can¡¯t be dead. Not my John.

A hand nudged under my chin and lifted my gaze to meet those brown eyes. ¡°I know you

feel like you want to die. But John wants you to live. Do this for him, Angel.¡±

And be cursed.

Hell, I promised. ¡°My name is Sierra. Only he calls me Angel.¡± I turned my chin out of

Demon.s grasp and stepped back twice. Away from them. Could they be trusted? John had

brought them. I suppose I had to believe they were my Guardians.

COUGAR Skhye Moncrief 7

The four males, all with the shaved heads of Shifter Guardians, each wearing a mixture of

camouflage, leather, and combat boots, studied me. The pity in their eyes spoke louder than my

dying drumming heart.

Maybe they weren.t going to rape me.

Why would they?

John brought them here.

John said they were his brothers.

And I promised.

* * * *

Jackal watched the pale blue eyes of his brother.s widow glint with pooling tears. But

the tears had ceased flowing as if she realized what had happened. What must happen. She

stared them down. Thinking, undoubtedly. I would. In a world where Shifter mates were

hunted to use as bait to lure their mates into capture for exploit by aliens, a woman as beautiful

as Sierra couldn.t be too careful. She.d wind up on an alien spacecraft, heading for someplace

far far away. Or traded for breeding or just for sex. That.s why only a fool would risk mating.

Risk his mate.s life and the lives of his children. Especially after I.d watched my mother survive

the pains of childbirth to lose four of the children she bore before they were old enough to have

their own children. I.d never put a woman through that torture.

Sierra sighed, lifted the rifle strap over her head, and tossed her four-foot long black AR-

15 rifle at Demon. ¡°If planning on killing me, use this.¡± She abruptly turned to the tree

trunk, grabbed a length of rope coiled around the stump of what was left of a low branch, and

shook out a rope ladder.

She ignored us.

Probably hoped we.d kill her.

With all the horrible things that roaming packs of Normals did to Shifters and their mates,

I couldn.t blame her for uttering that fear. Hell, it was the best reason not to take a mate. Once

you had a wife and children, the level of danger in your life of simple village Guardian elevated

to nightmare. Anytime, your family could be stolen in an attempt to get you to pursue in a

rescue attempt. And that often resulted in your own capture. Resulting in imprisonment on an

alien spacecraft. Talk about a nice one-way trip off world.

Sierra climbed up that ladder like it was the easiest thing she.d ever done.

Demon shot me another one of his stoic how- in-the-hell-did-we-get-caught-up- in-this


Like I knew what to expect with this whole insane venture. He was in charge. He

needed to make his own strategic assessment. I swear the man didn.t want to take over the clan

for his sire. Most Shifters would jump at the chance. Whatever Demon wanted was a mystery

though. But one would think he wouldn.t want to look like a fool in working toward his goal.

Nobody dared call him on his actions other than his sire though. Still, a man had pride.

¡°He.s your half-brother,¡± Demon muttered.

¡°And yours. More so, you and he both got your sire.s disposition. I was just gifted the

sweetness of our mother.¡±

Demon snorted. ¡°Killing machines are anything but sweet.¡±

¡°You only say that because kicked your ass more times than you can count.¡± I guess

we shouldn.t be talking about trying to kill each other when our brother.s widow could barely

think due to her loss.

The tarp door flap fluttered overhead.

COUGAR Skhye Moncrief 8

Sierra shoved the end of a large brown duffle bag through the rectangular doorway, and

worked a rope, lowering the bag, hand over fist, to the ground at the base of the rope ladder.

¡°Untie it,¡± she ordered.

Within minutes, she lowered a second duffle with a few steel firearm barrels sticking out

where the zipper gaped. Then she sent down a heavy backpack before climbing down with two

smaller packs and a guitar slung over her shoulder. She stepped off the ladder, turned to face us

with the hardest mask I think I.d ever seen on a woman, and sucked in a deep breath. ¡°I have to

bury him.¡±

Oh shit. There.s no telling how Demon would react. Guardians directly in line to take

over clan leader often were a bit unpredictable. Yet, he called the shots.

Demon claimed a foothold next to her and laid a palm on her shoulder.

She clenched her jaw and stared him down.

¡°There isn.t time. John knew that,¡± Demon spoke softly but firmly.

Her gaze met each of ours in a swoop. ¡°If his brothers, you won.t leave him like


Where¡¯s a gods-be-damned shovel?

Demon scanned the grass and knotted roots of the tree. ¡°We don.t have a shovel anyway,


Good thing he was in charge. I.d already be clawing handfuls of earth from the ground to

ease the pain in her eyes.

¡°I do,¡± she ground out.

Demon sighed. ¡°There.s no time.¡±

¡°Give me the shovel,¡± I ordered.

Demon sighed, shooting me a disgusted stare as she riveted a serious gaze upon mine.

Something unsaid passed between us.

Something impossible to grasp.

Perhaps understanding?

But she dumped her bags in the grass and produced the pointed spade.

My stepbrothers took turns hacking at the hard earth to speed up the process while she

strapped no- frills handguns at her hips and filled extra clips. Probably because she knew her

delay would result in our party being attacked by Bounders. But she never met our gazes with

the knowledge in her eyes that she endangered us all.

I.d do the same in her boots.

Demon finally patted the last clump of grassy earth atop the grave and tossed the shovel

onto the long mound. ¡°Let.s go.¡±

Sunset was close the way the intense orange light bore through the canopy.

* * * *

After strapping John.s favorite handguns to her thighs, Sierra watched as the Guardians

picked up her duffle bags, one by one, and heaved them over their shoulders. They¡¯re carrying

my packs. For me?

Probably to steal everything. That was the way of life AEI. I grabbed my smaller

lightweight backpack of extra clothing and the one containing medical supplies. And hoisted

them each over one of my shoulders.

Just in case the men were out to rob me. It would be tough trying to get at Black Betty if

I needed to. But the old rifle never failed me. I.d carry her close. And the handguns. Like John


COUGAR Skhye Moncrief 9

A wave of smothering sorrow choked me.

The tallest quiet Guardian, the one whose eyes stared me down with empathy, strode over

and extended a wide hand. ¡°I.ll take your packs for you.¡±

He would?

Were these Shifters about to run off?

Leave me here?

Trade me to Normals for even more supplies? ¡°It.s alright. It.s just my clothes. And

medicine. I can carry them.¡± Maybe he wouldn.t care about either bag.s contents. I clutched the

straps at my shoulders and tried not to let the massive musculature of his broad shoulders

intimidate me.

¡°No. got a heavy enough load to haul without dragging those packs along. And

we.ll travel faster if you don.t ha ve to rest.¡± His strong broad hand waited.

For me to hand over.

Hell, what did anything matter anymore?

Without John, I.d be lucky to last two days without a male trying to claim me as a mate.

My eight years in solitude with a man who loved me to death just ended. Lying to myself was

stupid. I handed over, acquiescing to tote my guitar and Black Betty, and followed the tall

capable forms of John.s clansmen into the setting sun.s reddening orange light .

Night was two steps away. With its monsters.

Bounders had to feed.

And this was the werescape. Earth altered by aliens. There wasn.t anything to fear from

genetically-modified shape-shifting warriors who swore to protect the weak. Was there?

* * * *

Jackal kept lookout behind his brother.s mate as the others led the woman back through

the night.s quiet darkness to the tank. We¡¯d be safe locked away inside the vehicle¡¯s steel walls

if Bounders showed, he thought. Prepared, if we reached the vehicle. The trail we left on the

drive out to the tree house meant we were highly likely to have visitors tonight. But since we

were almost to the tank, we just might avoid a scuffle.

Hell, I just want to sleep.

The day had been too damned exhausting.

I buried my baby brother and followed his widow on a two-hour hike.

The thought of tightening down the tank.s hatch and stretching out until morning

sounded more satisfying than talking to the grieving lover my brother left behind. And for some

gods-be-damned reason, I thought of nothing but talking to her. Maybe it was the fear in her

eyes. Something that pushed me to reassure her she was safe. Or the woman.s sorrow yelled for

companionship. Just someone to speak to.

Maybe Demon was right. I.m too damned soft. Weak.

A shriek pierced the darkness.

The line of Shifters before me halted.



Move now, Demon. I conjured up my internal deep hum to pull the change upon my

Shifter eyes. To use night vision to scan the distance for the awkward gait of the squatty fourfoot

tall nocturnal creatures out to hunt the fools who lingered outside village walls.

They probably already had our scent.

Sierra turned to me, extending a hand. ¡°The lighter pack, please.¡±

COUGAR Skhye Moncrief 10

I gave her the bag and kept my gaze on the distant expanse of dark tree trunks spaced out

by shafting moonlight.

¡°Do you see anything?¡± she whispered and foraged through the bag.s contents.

¡°Not yet.¡±

She threw the pack over her shoulder. ¡°Give me the other backpack.¡±

¡°I told you I.d carry them.¡±

¡°Not if you shift.¡±

She was right. My clothes would be shredded. And I.d mindlessly drop anything I

carried. I passed her the bag.

¡°Move,¡± I muttered at my stepbrother, Badger.

Badger turned his burning silver Shifter gaze my direction. ¡°Who stays with Sierra?¡±

¡°Tell Demon and Steel that I.ll stay behind her.¡±

She jerked something over her head, shot me a glance through night vision goggles, and

curled her fingers around the butt of a pistol at her hip.

Talk about one prepared little angel.

The line headed forward again, ushering her along toward the tank.

We had to be close.

Where was the damned tank?

Movement fluttered to the left.

Party time. I closed the space between Sierra and myself.

She whipped the pistol out of its holster to point toward the Bounder.

Four awkward orange-red forms glowing from my night vision pulled black ground

toward their bodies, heading in our direction.

Should I shift to guard her? ¡°Will you feel better with me in were- form?¡±

¡°Do what you want.¡± She didn.t even glance my direction. ¡°Just stay out of my way.¡±

Maybe I should have been insulted about my intelligence when it came down to my

having enough sense to keep out of someone.s line of fire. But the time wasted on being angry

wasn.t going to gain us anything. ¡°Come on. Let.s keep moving. The others will fight them.¡±

She began to trot onward. ¡°How much farther?¡±

¡° close. Just keep moving.¡±

¡°I see the tank,¡± she blurted.

Talk about miracles.

Another shriek sliced through the darkness.

Demon roared.

My brothers. were- forms loped through the forest.s stoic expanse of tree trunks.

Away from Sierra. To intervene with the advancing Bounders.

The bags my brothers carried littered the ground with their boots and belts.

Sierra leapt over the duffle full of firearms.

Leaving them behind would be a huge mistake. I stopped, bent, and heaved the load of

ammo and guns to my shoulder.

Sierra caught my movement in her peripheral vision. She halted, raised her weapons, and

fired into the nearby battle.s clashing bodies of werewolves and Bounders.

Screeches cut through the night.

Only to be snuffed by the burst from each moment she quickly aimed and pulled the


COUGAR Skhye Moncrief 11

Like rattling off death blows. With seamless motions. Effortlessly. Not many men

could shoot with one hand the way she used both of hers. Still, she.d be safer inside the tank

instead of engaging in target practice. ¡°Come on,¡± I shouted and stretched my stride toward the

duffle full of canned food.

She followed at my heels, picking off approaching Bounders with carefully placed bullets

set right between their eyes. ¡°Leave the duffles until dawn,¡± she shouted. ¡°There.s so damned

many of the beasts. And Bounders aren.t going to do anything with the supplies.¡±

True. But the guns were the difference between life and death these days. I didn.t want

them damaged. I raced the last six steps to the bulky side of the tank.

She was there, at my back, shooting with both hands, two directions, knocking off

Bounders with every bullet. Damn. Nothing wasted.

But more orange-red loping forms burst from the ends of the tank.

Flanking us. I grabbed her around the waist and threw her up at the hatch.

She scrambled her feet beneath her and fired at anything that moved toward me.

Thank the stars the blood-thirsty creatures couldn.t climb. I shoved the bag of firearms

and ammo on top of the tank and yanked my body up beside her slim kneeling form.

She kept matching the Bounders. shrieks with explosive pops.

I turned the hatch.s wheel, pulled the heavy metal open, and crammed the duffle into the

black hole.

The bulky mass would be in our way. I jumped into the darkness and slid the heavy load

across the tank.s metal floor, creating space for everyone else to move when climbing in to


But every minute I left her topside she could accidentally shoot a Guardian. So, I thrust

my ass back toward the dark circle of night sky, grabbed her around her trim waist, stuffed her

into the tank.s black void, and closed the hatch behind us.

My brothers roared.

Finally. Or I just noticed them now that we settled down in the blackness.

She backed up against the far wall to sit, checking her ammo clips. ¡°Are you okay?¡± she

asked. ¡°Ready to shift?¡±

My pulse was pounding.

Yes. My arms jerking. And with my heat vision. ¡°I can control it.¡± The Normal woman

didn.t seem upset about my transitional edginess.

She eyed me over through those night goggles. ¡°I can help you if ready to kill the


The last thing I needed was the hands of my baby brother.s mate on me. That skin of

hers, touching mine. It had to feel like intoxicating silk. And she was so damned beautiful. Not

many women reached twenty without looking like they.d birthed a dozen babies and worked

twenty years in the fields.

Every cell in my body screamed for me to utter yes.

My foot jerked.

Thoughts of silk were deadly.

She watched me for one more breath, climbed into a squat, and edged to my side. ¡°

better off with your thoughts on the present,¡± she whispered.

Shit. She was going to touch me. How was I going to just sit there?

My blood was boiling.

Her palm edged toward my face. ¡°Everything.s going to be alright,¡± she whispered.

COUGAR Skhye Moncrief 12

Wasn.t I supposed to be telling her that? Instead, all I could do was sit there with my

cock hardening to stone, licking my lips, with thoughts of her salty flesh moving closer and


For one bloody bite¡¦

My inner Wolf drooled.

¡°You have amazing control,¡± she said, sliding her palm across my cheek.

Skin to skin, my pulse shot from throbbing to nuclear. If she didn.t get her hand off me, I

was going to shove her onto her back and bite a chunk out of her shoulder.