Weekend Excerpt–Finding Callie

Happy Weekend!  Is it me, or is the summer seeming to fly by?  How can it be August already?  I’m still hard at work on FOR SPARROW, which will be the third book in the Dream Dominant Collection.  Sexy and talented author (and fellow Wicked Pen) Linzi Basset is hard at work on the cover, and she may or may not have another couple of surprises up her sleeve.  Stay tuned here for more new about that.

callie

For this weekend’s excerpt, I’m sharing another snippet from the Teasers tab on my website.  Tentatively titled FINDING CALLIE, this story idea comes from experiences I had some years ago when I had the chance to travel to France and Spain for a couple of weeks.

Here’s the first chapter…

Standing in line at the post office has to be the fourth circle of hell

Callie shifted her weight to her left foot and leaned her hip against the railing around which the line of fellow postal customers snaked.  Look, only three more back-and-forths then it’s my turn, she thought sardonically. 

She frowned to herself.  Whose inner monologue is sardonic?

     “Next,” called the clerk at the second station.  Everyone in line took a step forward clutching their parcels all wrapped in brown paper and packing-taped into infinity, or their very important looking overnight-air envelopes. 
Callie glanced down at the peach square of paper in her hands.  We REdeliver for you! the paper promised.  She shook her head.  She wasn’t waiting for redelivery.
     Another clerk called out and the line shifted again.  A sextet of antique ceiling fans whirled ineffectively over their heads as a bead of sweat trickled down her spine.  She wondered if the air conditioning was out or if the USPS was simply economizing.  Either way, you could tell it was summer in south Florida.
     She made it to the turn-around and felt a bit encouraged.  Not much longer now.  She gazed at the receipt once again, her forefinger lightly tracing the address of the sender.  Sevilla.  She inhaled sharply.  She knew one person in Seville.  She couldn’t imagine what he’d sent in a parcel.
Raised voices interrupted Callie’s thoughts.  She looked up to see a well-dressed middle-aged woman shouting at the clerk at the third station.   
    
     “What do you mean, I have to get in a different line?  I’ve been standing here all day!”
     “Ma’am, I don’t have the form that you need.  Would you like to get in the other line?” the clerk asked patiently.  The man was an older black gentleman with sloping shoulders and an air of resignation.  Callie idly wondered if he’d delivered mail on foot back in the day.
     “Well if you won’t give me the form I guess I’ll have to!” the woman snapped as she vacated the station and toddled off to the the correct line. 
     Callie shook her head.  Why do people have to be such assholes?  She ran into her fair share of them as a teacher but she recalled her college days when she’d worked as a server in a busy restaurant.  People have no idea…
     She found herself suddenly only two people behind the head of the line, and she felt her heart begin to pound.  Finn.  She looked back at the peach scrap of paper.  After all this time.
     In truth she was shocked that he’d sent anything at all.  She’d known him for all of what, fifteen days?  The flush began in the center of her being and flowed up her neck to her cheeks.  Those fifteen days had changed her irrevocably.  She could never go back to the pre-Finn Callie.
     Vaguely she heard a clerk call for the next customer.  “Excuse me, ma’am?” said the guy behind her.  Callie looked up, startled.  “You’re next.”

     She murmured an apology and walked to the vacant station.  The same clerk who’d had the misfortune to deal with the nasty customer surveyed her with gentle eyes.  Callie was determined to be kind, to make up for the woman who’d been so unpleasant.  She smiled broadly.  “Yes, I’m picking up a parcel.”  She presented him with the peach scrap and her driver’s license.

     The man smiled kindly as he took the slip of paper and disappeared into the back.  He reemerged moments later carrying a package about the size and shape of a hardcover book.  Callie’s pulse pounded in her ears.
     “Here you are, ma’am,” he said as he handed her the box.  It was lighter than she’d expected.  Her eyes zeroed in on the return address.  Finn Cooper, 54 Calle Montevideo, Sevilla, Espana. 
     She smiled again and thanked the man, wished him a pleasant day, and walked out into the heat of the summer day.
I hope you liked this little teaser.  FINDING CALLIE joins a long list of stories I’ll eventually get to.   In the meantime, browse my Amazon Author Page for your next steamy read.

It’s Going to Be HOT in Tampa!

 

Looking for your next great read?  Love to have fun in the sun?  Join me this Sunday, July 16, in Tampa for the Tampa Indie Author Book Convention!

I understand that about 40 Indie authors will be there, chatting with readers and signing books.  I’ll have copies of RESISTING RISK, LUKE & BELLA, and LOST & BOUND.  I’ll also have some free swag.

Admission to the event is FREE, and you can buy tickets to the VIP after party where there will be food and an OPEN BAR.  Just imagine, sipping cocktails and chatting with your favorite Indie authors.  Sounds amazing, right?

Check out the official Facebook page of the Tampa Indie Author Book Convention.  And if you’re going to be anywhere close, please stop by and say hello!

How to Have a RED HOT #4thofJuly !

I know.  You have plans.  Cook-outs, beach outings, family gatherings, and fireworks.  But you’re going to want to squeeze in a little ‘Me Time’.  Because the Wicked Pens and KinkCrate are partnering up to give you a Fire Hot Fourth.

Check it out.

That’s right.  From 3:00-4:00pm EDT, Wicked Pen authors are having a panel discussion on adding heat to your romance.  We’ll be discussing a variety of steamy topics, and we’ll be answering your questions.

Plus, one lucky attendee will walk away with a couple of kinky prizes: their very own ball gag and flogger, courtesy of KinkCrate.

In order to attend, you must be a member of the Wicked Pens Facebook group, so hurry on over and sign up so you can join us for a hot, sizzling 4th of July.

Book Launch–Luka’s Dawn by A.M. Manay

If you adore paranormal author A.M. Manay’s award-winning November Snow series, and were heartbroken like I was when it ended, you’re in LUCK!

At the very end of She Marches Through Fire, Manay gave us a tiny glimpse of what happens next.  Now, she’s released the first November Snow epilogue story, Luka’s Dawn.  Luka is nothing if not the bad boy you hate to love, and he’s back.   Along with all your favorite characters.  And it’s brilliant!  I know, because I read an ARC.

Here’s the description.

What’s a failed supervillain to do when the object of his obsession dies?
Luka Lazarri, vampire terrorist and would-be dictator, faces life without November Snow. He now inhabits a world in which he is utterly defeated, sick and living in hiding, jailed by his own family. He waits for November to be born again, clinging to the hope that he will have the chance to know her. Will the consummate survivor succumb to despair, or will he build himself a new life? And if the reincarnated psychic finally lays her eyes on him, will she see a monster, or a friend?

I don’t want to tell you much more than that, it’s a shortie, one you’ll devour in an afternoon, then beg for more.  And, once again, you’re in luck, because this is just Episode 1.  More are on the way.  Cue extreme happy dance, y’all!

AM Manay Luka's dawn pre release

Get your copy of Luka’s Dawn at this LINK.

WIP It Up Wednesday–Invisible

Ever have a wild-hare idea and you just knew you had to follow it?  That happens to me sometimes, usually when I’m busy trying to concentrate on something else.  But sometimes, a story just comes to you, or at the very least, a nugget of an idea.  If I can, I try to write it down before I forget.  Eventually, I plan to write the whole story.

This snippet comes from a project I’m tentatively calling Invisible.  My love is dying for me to finish this story.  One day…

invisible

Henry sat across the table watching her devour his hamburger and fries.  When he’d asked, she’d said she wasn’t hungry, but when his food arrived, she hadn’t been able to take her eyes off of it.
     The impromptu meal started when he’d asked if he could buy her a coffee.  It seemed a small thing, seeing how she’d rescued him from an embarrassing predicament.  He never should have tried to go after Joanne.  He’d been a fool.  She hadn’t just now decided to break up with him, it had been brewing for a while.
     He’d found himself trapped in the door of her building, the sleeve of his overcoat caught when it slammed shut.  He’d pulled and tugged, kicking at the door, but to no avail.  He couldn’t even manage to take the damn thing off and the driving rain was soaking him anyway.
     That’s when she’d appeared.  “Are you stuck?” she’d called to him up the steps.
     “No, I enjoy standing in the rain!” he’d fired back.
     She’d shaken her head and bounded up the steps, pulling her soaked black fleece hoodie tighter around herself.  “No reason to be an asshole,” she muttered. 
     She began pressing all of the buttons beside the door.  “Let me in!  It’s rainin’ out here!”  The door buzzed and he was free.  She gave an exaggerated bow and hurried down the steps, stopping under the awning of the building next door.
     Sheepishly, Henry followed, standing beside her under the awning.  She glanced down at him then resumed looking out at the rain.  “I’m sorry,” he said.  “I didn’t mean to be an asshole.”  She continued staring toward the street.  “Can I buy you a coffee?  My way of saying thanks.”
     She looked back at him again seeming to think for a moment.  Finally she sighed.  “I guess I’m not goin’ anywhere until it stops rainin’ anyways,” she said.  That was when he noticed her drawl.  She certainly wasn’t from around here.
     She must be homeless, he guessed.  He figured her to be in her early twenties, twenty-three tops.  She was pretty, too, as far as he could tell.  Her long wet hair was plastered to her head, but it seemed to be red.  She had huge blue eyes that were watchful, flitting all around the room as she ate.  He’d never seen a woman eat like that.  And she was skinny, too. 
     “I’m Henry, by the way,” he told her.
     She paused, french fry halfway to her mouth.  “I’m Shelby.”  She chewed thoughtfully and swallowed.  “What were you doing stuck in that door, Henry?”
     He looked down at his hands.  “Acting like a fool, I suppose.”
     She smiled knowingly.  “It was a girl,” she said definitely.  Henry declined to answer.  “So what do you do, Henry?”
     “I’m a professor of English Literature at Columbia,” he answered.
     Shelby’s already large eyes grew bigger.  “No shit?” she said softly, and she laughed to herself.
     Henry felt his temper rising.  Having been born with dwarfism, he’d faced ridicule all his life.  “What, is it so unbelievable that someone like me could be a university professor?” he demanded.
     Shelby stopped laughing.  “That’s a hell of a chip on your shoulder, there.  A chip that big ought to have its own name.”  She shook her head.   
     “What I meant was, who would have thought that someone like me would ever meet a professor, let alone sit and have dinner with him?”
     “What do you mean, someone like you?” he asked, realizing that he owed her another apology.
     She shrugged.  “I’m not very smart,” she said simply.  “I never finished the eighth grade.  I don’t even know anybody who went to college, let alone anybody who teaches there.”
     Henry let that thought sink in.  I’m not very smart.  “Where are you from, Shelby?”
     She shook her head, grinning.  “You never heard of it.”
  
     “Try me.”
     “I’m from Pine Grove, West Virginia,” she said, watching him carefully.
     Henry smiled slowly.  “You’re right, I never heard of it.”
     She laughed.  “Count yourself lucky, then.  It’s smack in the middle of nowhere.  Everybody there works in the Hastings plant, processing natural gas.  They actually have red lights to stop the cars about a mile away from the plant, just in case the shit hits the fan.”
     Henry nodded.  “Is that why you left?  You didn’t want to work in the plant?”
     Shelby looked him dead in the eye.  “I left in the middle of eighth grade because I was tired of getting fucked by my mama’s boyfriends.”  She paused.  “I figured if I was going to be doing it anyway, I might as well be getting paid for it.”
     Henry’s eyes widened.  “You’re a…” he stopped.
     She narrowed her eyes.  “Now who’s judgin’?” she asked.
     Henry backpedaled.  “No, I mean, I just…”

     “I don’t do that anymore.  I quit three years ago.  I have a new gig,” she said.  “I take pictures.”  Henry noticed that she pronounced it pitchers.  “I have a friend who sells postcards and shit to the tourists.  He sells my postcards and splits the profits with me.”

     “Really?” Henry said thoughtfully.
     “I have a nice camera,” she said, for the first time opening up her jacket to reveal a small camera bag.  She placed it on the table, opening it carefully.  “It’s mine, I bought it at a pawn shop,” she said, slightly defensively.
     Henry looked over the camera appreciatively before handing it back to her.  “It’s very nice,” he said.
     “That’s why I came uptown.  Somebody told me that I’d like to take pictures at Columbia.  Said there’s cool buildings there.  I was pissed off and not thinkin’ straight.  It was dark by the time I got here.  Plus I didn’t know it was going to rain.  I wasted a whole damn trip for nothing.”
     “Where do you live?” Henry wondered.
     Shelby rolled her eyes.  “Long story,” she said, “but when I’m in between places, I usually stay at Grand Central.”  He thought of the train station.  “It’s pretty clean, and you can leave your stuff in a locker for two weeks before you have to move it.  There’s a guy who lets me clear tables for a few dollars.  Plus, you can eat what people leave on the trays.  You wouldn’t believe how much food people just waste.”
     Henry listened, astounded.  He’d never known a moment when he didn’t know where his next meal was coming from.  “So you came uptown to take pictures at the university?”

     “Yeah,” she said around another mouthful.  “Kind of stupid, I guess.  It was too late to begin with and then when I came out of the subway, the bottom just fell out of the sky.”

     “So are you going to go back to Grand Central?” he probed.
     Shelby shrugged.  “I guess so.  I’d better hurry, though.  The good places get taken early.”
     Henry sat back in his seat, picturing Shelby stalking through the train station dripping wet, trying to find a good place to settle down for the night.  His own words surprised him.  “You could stay with me for the night.  I’ll take you to the university in the morning, give you a tour.”
     Shelby’s eyes narrowed.  “I don’t fuck for a place to sleep.”
     Henry blushed furiously.  “God, no!  That’s not what I meant at all,” he stammered.  “I just thought, you’re all the way here, you’re soaked, it’ll take you, what, another hour to get back to Grand Central.  What if you can’t find a place?”  He cleared his throat.  “I’m just saying you could stay on my couch, go with me to work tomorrow.  You can get your pictures and get back at a reasonable time.”
     Shelby popped the last bite of hamburger into her mouth, gazing steadily at
Henry.  “Okay,” she finally said.

Finishing this story isn’t on my radar at the moment,

but check out my Amazon Author Page for other great reads.

Bashing Romance Novels–Don’t Do It

In this terrific article from Bustle, author Sarah Maclean asserts that bashing romance novels is just another form of slut-shaming.  This image is from the article and I’ve included the link below…

https://www.bustle.com/articles/186881-sarah-maclean-bashing-romance-novels-is-just-another-form-of-slut-shaming

Romance, erotic romance, and erotica may not be your cup of tea.  But that doesn’t mean that those who enjoy it are somehow morally inferior.  It doesn’t mean that romance authors produce inferior work.  If you don’t like it, don’t read it.  Like a good friend of mine always says, ‘To each his own.’

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On Writing Great Characters

Couple IndoorsWhat is it that makes for a great romance story?  Interesting plot lines, right?  Sexy settings.  Hot love scenes.  All true.  But for me, I have to care about the characters if I’m going to get into a story.  I need to feel their emotions, to relate to their motivations.  And while we are sometimes invited into their thoughts, it’s really the words of characters that tell us about them.

So how do you write great characters?  Make them relatable, believable?  They have to have great dialogue.  I think the thing you have to do is to listen to people.  A lot.  Listen to conversations around you, listen to characters in movies and on television.  I’d bet that every character you write has his or her origin in someone you know.  Delve into the motivations of that person to give your characters believable reasons for what they do, what they say, and how they are.

Characters have back-stories, whether or not you include them in your book.  But those back-stories inform the way the characters are in the present.  Inhabit the minds of your characters, feel their emotions, then express them in the character’s own words.

I rehearse conversations between my characters before I ever write them.  I run lines while I’m in the shower.  I hold entire conversations while I’m driving through town.  I can only hope that other drivers think I’m singing along to the radio.

I always try to make sure that a character’s words are authentic to his or her personality.  Sometimes, characters have potty mouths.  You don’t plan it, it just turns out that way.  Maggie Flynn, from Rannigan’s Redemption, is like that.  And although it’s not the way I talk, day in and day out, I couldn’t shy away from it just because it’s not me.  It’s Maggie.  Backing off of that rings inauthentic.

Here’s an example from Book 1 of Rannigan’s Redemption, Resisting Risk:

It was noon when Maggie exited the elevator on the 50th floor.  She’d dressed in a purple turtleneck and charcoal slacks, a scarf with a purple paisley design accenting her neck.  Karen wasn’t at her desk.  Probably at lunch, Maggie thought, and she went directly to her office.

Opening the door, she started to toss her bag on the desk when she realized someone was sitting there.  Her arm stopped mid-swing, her eyes wide, and she looked back at the door, frowning.  “May I help you?” she asked.

The guy was about her age with brown hair and eyes.  He looked startled.  “Um, no, thanks.  I’m okay for now.”

Maggie raised an eyebrow.  “You’re in my office.”

“Oh, you must be Maggie,” he said.  “Mr. Rannigan said you wouldn’t be in until tomorrow.”

“And yet, here I stand today,” Maggie replied in an irritated tone.  She turned and marched down the hall to Michael’s office.  At his closed door she hesitated.  He might be with a client, she considered.  Fuck that!  Some dude is in my office. 

She threw open the door with enough force to swing all the way open and it crashed into the wall behind it.

Michael, seated at his desk and concentrating on his computer, jumped.

“What the fuck, Michael?!” Maggie demanded.

“And it’s nice to see you, too, Mags,” he replied with a grin.  “Welcome back.  We didn’t expect to see you until tomorrow.”  He met her at the door and ushered her into the reception area.

“I can tell you didn’t expect me until tomorrow.  I didn’t expect some guy to be in my office today,” Maggie ranted.

Michael put up both hands in defense.  “Calm down, Mags, everything’s okay.”

Maggie shook her finger in his face.  “Don’t you tell me to motherfucking calm down!  If you were going to fire me…”

“Fire you?” he frowned.

“You could at least have done it on Wednesday instead of waiting until I come in and find my office occupied by some…”

Michael continued to guide her down the hall.  “That’s Josh, we just brought him up from downstairs,” he explained calmly.

“I don’t care where he came from, he can just take his skinny little ass right back…”

“Mags…”

“Because as far as I know I still have a contract…”

“Maggie…”

“You can’t just push me out, I’ve worked way too hard…”

“Mary Margaret!  Stop talking,” Michael interrupted.  They’d stopped in front of the door to what used to be John Hemphill’s office.  He pushed it open.  “This is your new office.”

Maggie stopped mid-sentence.  She was looking into the most beautiful room she’d ever seen.  It was a confection of lavender and cream and eggplant.  On the far side of the room next to the floor to ceiling windows, there was a silver chandelier over a small ecru French desk.  On the desk was a white and purple orchid in a shallow lavender bowl.  Purple drapes and cream sheers framed the wall of glass.  Nearer the door there was a seating area with a cream sofa accented with lavender and purple pillows fronted by a glass coffee table.  On the other side of the room was a small glass conference table and four purple upholstered chairs.  The new pale hardwood floor was arranged in a herringbone pattern.

“It looks like an office in Paris,” Maggie breathed.  She crossed the room to examine a pair of large framed photographs.  Gasping, she looked back at Michael.

He smiled at her.  “Florence,” he said.  “This is why I wanted you to wait until tomorrow.  The furniture was delivered this morning.  We literally just got it finished.”

Maggie’s eyes were wide.  “I don’t understand,” she said.

“Let’s go to lunch.  We’ll talk about everything,” Michael said.

Great characters are believable.  You can relate to them because you understand their feelings and motivations.  And you gain that insight from meaningful, authentic conversations.

Resisting Risk is available everywhere for just .99.

books2read.com/ResistingRisk

But you can get it FREE when you subscribe to my Newsletter.

https://www.instafreebie.com/free/EvsRs

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