Posts Tagged ‘Romance’

Mom and Me, Picnic

This is my first Mother’s Day without Mom. I miss her, not so much the way she was at the end, when, frankly, she didn’t really know who I was anyway. (Alzheimer’s disease is a far worse villain than anything I can come up with.) I miss her the way we were back in this photo, which is just an ordinary picnic. After Dad retired, they took up the habit of going on picnics once a week, usually on Tuesdays. If the weather didn’t cooperate, they’d still go for a drive and stop to eat somewhere. It didn’t take long before they knew all the best places–indoors or out–within a three-hour drive in any direction. (Well, not west. You can’t drive three hours to the west from here without a boat. ) Whenever I felt I needed a break, I could just throw my name in and join them for a day.

I’m planning to keep myself busy. There’s a lot that needs doing around here and I’m about two-thirds through revisions to MAGIC AND POWER.

Mothers Day Book Bash Banner

Don’t forget the Mother’s Day Book Bash. Nine great books for bargain prices.

And, just to tie the two parts of this post together, Mom was part of the inspiration for Valeriah in the Chimeria series. Not Vallie’s aggressiveness or her fighting prowess, that wasn’t Mom at all. Though, she wasn’t afraid to make her opinion known. No, the part of Valeriah that comes from Mom was the petite ball of fire aspect. Mom was barely five feet tall on a good day, but she sure was a firecracker.

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Here’s a character interview with Valeriah:

Valeriah strides into the room, eyes automatically flicking over everyone present and all possible entrances and exits. She’s petite with bright red hair and a ruddy complexion. Her presence radiates energy that makes her seem bigger than she really is.

Inspection complete, she huffs impatiently. “All right, I suppose we should get this over with.” She takes a moment to organize her thoughts.

“To begin with, all of the magical races of Chimeria can take human form. It’s our lingua franca, the way we can all talk to each other. Of course, once we take human form, there’s more we can do than just talk. Occasionally, interesting hybrids of the races are produced.

“You need to know this because I’m a hybrid. My mother was a werewolf. Now werewolves aren’t what you think over here. Your movies make me laugh. A werewolf isn’t forced to change by the moon. They take wolf form when they choose. Of course, as a hybrid, I’ve never been able to change at all. But I’m still driven by the moon. It’s not a ravening madness, though. It’s more like a manic energy and, of course, a craving for raw meat. Every werewolf has to find a way to deal with the energy the moon brings out in us, the wild blood. Now, I’m not denying that some werewolves get violent at the full moon, especially young males. But most find other ways to cope. Myself, I run. A tired werewolf is a good werewolf, even at the full moon.

“But I’m more than just half werewolf. My father was a hybrid, too. His father was the wizard Azander and his mother was a unicorn, Elsibel. Being a hybrid is never convenient, and it’s downright awkward when the parts of your nature are as opposite as werewolves and unicorns. For example, at the new moon, when my unicorn nature is strongest, I’m a vegetarian. But at the full moon, I prefer very rare red meat.

“Other than the compromises I have to make to balance my nature, I know very little about werewolves or unicorns, so don’t ask me. Grandmother Elsibel was disowned by the unicorns when she married my grandfather. And mother never had a chance to introduce me to the werewolves. Both my parents and my two brothers were murdered when I was five. I was only spared because my father fell on me and the killers didn’t find me. They seemed to be in a hurry and didn’t look too hard. I know they used a portal, because I saw them step out of thin air. But the portal had been closed by the time Grandfather found me.

“That portal is the only clue I have to find those who murdered my family. My werewolf blood won’t let me forget. I have to avenge them. But, after twenty years, the trail has gone cold. Almost impossible even for a werewolf to follow.

“Grandfather refused to tell me what he knew about the portals, so I left to find out for myself as soon as I came of age. I found work as a member of the Portal Watch. We protect Chimeria by preventing people from your ordinary, non-magical world from blundering in and finding out about us. Sometimes, we also act as bodyguards for the members of the Council of Magical Races when they cross over to your world. I get that duty a lot because of the strength, agility, and instincts I inherited from my werewolf mother.

“It’s not easy being a female in the Watch. There are precious few of us. It took a couple of years for me to convince the male members of the Watch that I wasn’t available for the taking. Every now and again, I still have to show a new recruit how I got my reputation. I can take any one of them in a fair fight–and have–often enough to make them respect me. I stay in the Watch because it’s the only way I know to find out more about the portals, and track down whoever killed my family.”

One brave interviewer puts up a hand. “What do you remember about those that killed your family?”

Valeriah’s eyes take on a distracted look as she stares at the far wall. “I remember that they used a portal. The air shimmered in front of Mama and then men stepped out of that shimmer. I’ve had enough experience with portals now to know that’s what that shimmer was. I remember the blood spurting around the sword point coming out of Daddy’s back. There were no screams. It was too quick for that.

“For the rest, it’s hard to know what’s real anymore, after twenty years. I think some of my nightmares have gotten twisted up in it. I think they were all wearing green shirts. I don’t think that came out of the nightmares.

“The portal is my only real clue, though. I have to find out who could make a portal like that and then close it. It’s the only way I have to find the murderers, now.”

“Is it only your werewolf half that feels the need for revenge?” the interviewer follows up. “Does it conflict with other areas of your nature?”

Valeriah shakes her head. “My werewolf blood won’t let me forget about the murders. Especially at the full moon. The blood rage can be overwhelming, then.

“My unicorn side wouldn’t approve, I’m sure, but the werewolf hasn’t given that part of me a vote. My non-werewolf cousin certainly doesn’t approve. But then Cristel is a pacifist. And my grandfather thinks that seeking revenge will get me into trouble. They don’t understand.

“If I can just get the scent, I’m sure I can hunt them to ground.”

“What about scent? Do you remember the murderer’s scents?” another interviewer asks.

Valeriah’s lip twists up in a snarl. “I only remember the smell of my father’s blood and the beginnings of decay. That covers everything else.”

“You said your grandfather wouldn’t tell you about the portals. Does that make you angry with him?”

Valeriah blows out her breath. “Not really angry. He spent so much effort to protect me after the murders. He just never could let go of the need to keep me safe. He thinks seeking revenge will get me into trouble and I’ll get killed, too. I know he’s scared for me.

“That doesn’t mean I’m not frustrated that he won’t let me use his library. If he won’t help me, at least he could let me do what I have to do on my own. That argument is the main reason I left and haven’t been back to see him or my cousin in eight years.”

Another interviewer raises a hand. “You haven’t seen your family in eight years. Are you alone, or is there anyone else you turn to?”

Valeriah shrugs. “Well, I am a member of the Portal Watch. Some of them are companions of a sort. Of course, there are quite a few I had to beat up when I first joined, so they knew not to try to take advantage of me. Some of them hold a grudge. There isn’t anybody I’d really call a friend.

She sighs. “I’m a lone wolf.”

The interviewer follows up. “Would you seek companionship? What if you found someone who let you be you, but also gave you strength and at times something to lean on?”

Valeriah turns to look out the window. Her voice drops so that the interviewers have to lean forward to hear her. “I’ve never had any luck with that. Gave up trying years ago. I don’t need to lean on anybody, though I don’t mind working with a partner as part of my job. That’s just what it is, though. Nothing else.”

Another interviewer raises a hand, but Valeriah strides toward the door. “We’re done here. I have murderers to track.”

This was originally done for a challenge in which writers contributed different characters and then wrote a short story in which two of them met. You can read my story about Valeriah and a space alien (who looks like a poodle) here.

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Mothers Day Book Bash BannerAnd, since my contribution to this party is actually a two-book set, here’s an excerpt from the second book, BLOOD IS THICKER.

Blood Is Thicker Cover

To set this one up: Valeriah has teamed up with some dragons. (Pretty closely with one dragon in particular.) They’re out of Chimeria, in our world (disguised as humans), where the dragons maintain a palatial estate. Of course, they really don’t want to reveal their true identities to anyone over here. The dragons, all in human form, in this scene are: Rolf, his older brother Drake, and their baby sister, Kamara.

While Kamara is about Valeriah’s age, as the heiress of the Matriarch of the gold dragons, she’s been coddled and sheltered all her life. Her maturity level is closer to a fourteen-year-old than a twenty-something. And she’s made up her mind to go out to a party with a young man neither of her over-protective brothers, nor Valeriah, approve of.

Oh, and it appears the young man knows more about Kamara’s origins than he really should.

Kamara excused herself from the supper table as early as she could and rushed to get herself ready for Daniel. She wanted to be beautiful tonight. It would be nice if Valeriah could do her hair, the way she had for the Christmas party. Never mind. Kamara’d just have to do it herself. It wouldn’t be as elaborate, is all. She’d go for something simpler, like the way Valeriah had worn her hair that night. Rolf had seemed to like that. At least, he’d played with it a lot. The idea of Daniel playing with her hair like that made Kamara smile. Last of all, she drew the chain of her topaz pendant over her head, admiring the way it winked in the light, sending golden reflections across the room.

At two minutes to eight, she slipped down the back stairs. The others were in the study, so she wanted to avoid that side of the house and the entry hall, where her gold high-heeled shoes would echo on the marble tiles. Past the gym and out the French doors to the patio. She breathed a sigh of relief at escaping the house. This time, she was going to make it.

Around the kitchen side of the house to the front was easy. She walked on the grass, not the concrete driveway, despite the unpleasant way her heels sank into the damp soil. That was better than making too much noise and attracting attention. She had to step onto the concrete to open the smaller pedestrian gate, set into the larger one. Hopefully, she was far enough from the house now not to be heard.

As soon as she’d palmed the lock, the gate pushed open from the other side and Daniel stepped through. She smiled brightly at him. Two other men she didn’t recognize came through behind him. Well, he’d said they were going to a party with some of his friends.

Daniel didn’t introduce his friends, but they moved to either side of her.

“Hello, Kamara.” Daniel’s voice was harsh, nothing like the sweet, charming tones she was used to. And his smile was almost predatory. For the first time, Kamara started to wonder if she should have listened to Valeriah after all.

“Um, hi. Who’re you’re friends?” she asked.

Daniel flicked a hand to his left at a big man–bigger than Father–with reddish hair and a long, horsey face. “Ben.” Then he gestured to his right as a slight fellow with golden blond, feathery hair like Daniel’s, but without the interesting blue highlights. “Patrick.” He swept his hand toward her in a mocking imitation of a bow. “I give you Kamara of Chimeria.”

Kamara’s heart dropped to her stomach. How did he know who she was? She backed up a step. Ben closed in behind her, cutting off her retreat. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all.” Daniel’s hand stroked her cheek, but this time she didn’t get any of those pleasant tingles. Instead, a shiver of fear coursed through her, mixed with overwhelming hurt.

Daniel continued to smile. “Don’t worry. No one’s going to hurt you. We’re just going to play a little joke on your brothers.”

“I don’t think they’ll have much of a sense of humor on that subject,” Kamara said, trying to keep her voice steady.

“Oh, they’ll play along. They’ll have to if they want to get you back. And they’ll give us what should always have been our birthright, too–access to the portals.”

“Let’s just go to the party, like we planned.” Kamara’s voice sounded pleading in her own ears.

Kamara dodged to the side, trying to get around Ben and make a run for the house. Patrick grabbed her arm to stop her. She spun in a move Valeriah had taught her, stomping on his foot and freeing herself. But then Ben grabbed her from behind so that her arms were pinned to her sides and lifted her feet off the ground. Valeriah hadn’t covered what to do in a case like this. Kamara struggled in vain.

Daniel’s smiled widened, but not pleasantly. “There isn’t any party, you little fool. There never was. That was just a way to get you away from your brothers.” His hand traced down her neck to the chain and followed the chain down to her topaz. His fist closed around it. “We’ll start with this. I don’t know what it does, but we can’t have you using magic against us.” He yanked on the chain, but it was stronger than he expected, enhanced with magic.

Her shivering fear and hurt turned in a flash to purely draconic outrage. No one, ever, laid a hand on a dragon’s jewels. Not if they wanted to live. The roar that issued from Kamara’s throat was not a sound any human could produce.

“What the hell!” Patrick said, putting his hands over his ears. “I thought you said they were wizards.”

Even Daniel looked stunned, though Ben’s arms were just as firm as ever. Daniel’s eyes narrowed. “That wasn’t human. What are you?”


Valeriah dropped the bowl of popcorn she’d been about to take into the study. That roar could only have come from a dragon. It wasn’t Rolf or Drake. It sounded female. Kamara!

And the roar had come, not from upstairs where they all thought Kamara was sulking, but from outside. She dashed through the kitchen door and paused. Which way? The sound of a boot scuffing on concrete decided her. The patio and all the paths in the garden were stone. The only concrete was in the driveway out front. The difference in sound was subtle, but perceptible to her sensitive ears. She raced to the front of the house.

Her werewolf’s night vision showed her the scene long before even her speed could close the distance. Three to one. For her, that wasn’t such bad odds–if only Kamara weren’t at risk.

Well, getting Kamara out of harm’s way was the first priority. She launched herself into the biggest man, the one who was holding Kamara, hitting him with both feet in the small of his back. The man dropped Kamara and fell to his knees, coughing. Valeriah had bounced back to her feet before either of the other two could react. Daniel next. He was almost certainly the ringleader, here.

“It’s the new wife,” Daniel said. “Grab her, too. We’ll get anything we want for the both of them.”

“You’ll get much more than you bargained for,” Valeriah answered. “I promise you that much.”

“Spoiled little rich girls don’t scare me.”

Valeriah actually smiled. “Your mistake.” Her kick took Daniel in the chin, dropping him like a stone. She ignored him as she turned for the third man.

The skinny one had grabbed Kamara’s arm, pulling her in front of him and was in the act of reaching into his jacket for something. Most likely a gun. Possibly a knife. Either was bad news. Valeriah could hear Rolf and Drake pounding up the driveway towards them, but they’d be too late to help with this. She needed to take this guy out before he could put a gun in play.

Kamara, bless her, drove her elbow into the smaller man’s gut. He didn’t release her, but Kamara’s continuing struggles did pull him part way around. It was all the opportunity Valeriah needed. She was behind him, with her arm across his throat, choking him, before he could straighten from Kamara’s blow.

“Drop it,” Valeriah hissed, “or you’ll end up like Daniel.” She heard the clatter of metal on the concrete followed by a deafening bang. Damned cheap gun had gone off. Valeriah automatically checked Kamara to be sure she hadn’t been hit by the stray bullet or any shrapnel it might have caused striking the concrete driveway.

By then, Rolf and Drake ran up. Drake quickly picked up the discarded gun and took charge of the two men already down. Rolf pulled first Valeriah and then Kamara into his arms. After a quick, reassuring hug, Valeriah squirmed free to check on Daniel. She didn’t think she’d kicked him hard enough to break his neck, but it wouldn’t hurt to make sure. No. There was a steady pulse, but he was certainly out cold.

She straightened at the sound of sirens coming up the hill. Damn. That was precisely what they didn’t need. She pointed to the biggest of the three. “You. Pick up Daniel and hide in those trees.” She pointed back up to a curve in the driveway where a thick stand of Italian cypress screened the house from the gate.

The big one just stared at her. “Go. Unless you really want to be arrested for attempted kidnapping. We don’t need to be dealing with the police right now. We’ll just tell them it was a mistake. We heard it, too, but think it must have been some kids setting off a firecracker or something. Then we’ll deal with you later.”

“Right,” Drake said, pocketing the gun.

The skinny one jumped up and pushed his companion into action. By the time the patrol cars arrived at the gate, they were hidden from ordinary eyes. Valeriah could still see them. Probably Rolf and Drake could, too. But ordinary human police wouldn’t.

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Mothers Day Book Bash BannerAs part of the Mothers Day Book Bash, I’m sharing an excerpt from BLOOD WILL TELL.

Blood Will Tell CoverTo set this up: Valeriah has returned home to Chimeria (the place where all our legendary creatures come from) for her dying grandfather. The old man has died and now Valeriah and her cousin Cristel are burying him.This is the first time in twenty years she’s been into the crypt where her own murdered family is buried.

Valeriah is half-werewolf on her mother’s side.

When Valeriah carried her Grandfather’s shrunken body through the crypt door, she saw the empty bier straight ahead of her at the back of the tomb. She placed him on the cold, white stone and arranged his body so that he appeared to be asleep, hands on his chest. She patted the cold hands once before she looked around her.

Grandmother Elsibel’s bier was right next to Grandfather’s. Elsibel, who had died before Valeriah was even born, appeared to be in a natural sleep. There was probably some spell on the crypt to prevent decay. That was a strangely comforting thought. Looking at Elsibel, Valeriah realized how much Cristel looked their grandmother.

Cristel was on the right side of the crypt, staring down at one of the bodies. From where she stood, Valeriah couldn’t see the body Cristel was looking at clearly, but she assumed it must be one of her parents. She turned away, to give Cristel a moment of privacy. Her eyes fell on the four bodies on the left side of the crypt. She crossed to them in three quick strides.

None of them looked like they were asleep. The death wounds were too obvious and so were the signs of feeding by forest scavengers before their bodies had been found.

Her father. Daddy. Tall and blond, still in his prime. The hole in his chest where the sword had passed through–all the way through. She remembered seeing the point come out of his back, the blood spurting around it. Mama. Her throat slashed so deeply that the bone of her spine showed through. Conall. Still ten years old. Ten years old forever. Ruddy like their mother, but already lengthening to be as tall as Daddy some day. That would never happen now. Nothing could hide the slash that had nearly cut him in two. Martin. Forever eight years old. The only one with Father’s coloring. And one side of his skull sickeningly caved in by a blow from something heavy. A club? Valeriah didn’t know. She hadn’t seen Martin fall.

They shouldn’t be in this crypt. They should all of them be alive and still with her. Her brothers grown tall and strong like Daddy. Maybe others, younger than her. That’s the way it should have been. She should not be alone.

Pain wrenched through Valeriah as if it had happened yesterday, not twenty years ago. All of them cut down in one moment. Her vision darkened. She clamped her mouth shut against the long, mournful howl that wanted to escape. Even now, at the new moon, when her wild blood should be quiet, she felt the blood rage boiling up in her. And Grandfather wanted her not to seek revenge? If the Goddess herself were responsible, Valeriah would avenge them.

The scuff of a shoe on stone and a choked-off sob brought her back to the moment. Valeriah raised her head, wiping away tears she hadn’t even realized she was crying. She crossed over to Cristel and stopped, one stride away, looking at what had to be Cristel’s parents. The woman was almost like a waxen image of Cristel–except for the gash across her neck. She’d been killed exactly like Valeriah’s mother. The man, presumably Cristel’s father, looked like he had been hacked with an axe.

“Yours, too?” Valeriah asked softly.


“Your parents were murdered, too. I didn’t remember that. But, then, I had my own nightmares back then. I wasn’t very interested in other people’s pain.”

“I didn’t remember, either. I’m not sure I ever knew. I was so young. I only remember Grandfather crying and saying that he would take care of me, now. I’m not sure he ever told me how they died. Or maybe he did and I just didn’t understand.”

“You weren’t there? When it happened?”

Cristel shook her head. Then she lifted her head to look at Valeriah. “Were you?”

“Oh, yes. I was the baby, only five and small for my age. I was holding Daddy’s hand when we were attacked. Mama and Conall fell while I watched. Daddy pushed me behind him. I saw the sword point come through his back and disappear again as he collapsed. He fell on me and the men who killed them didn’t find me.” She shuddered at the memory. She would say no more about that. Not here. Not now.

Valeriah took hold of Cristel’s arm. “Let’s get out of here.”

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Mothers Day Book Bash Banner

To help decide which books might best suit those you gift on Mother’s Day, all week during the Book Bash, we’re going to be posting tidbits about these books–excerpts, deleted scenes, etc.–on our Facebook event page

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Eye on Orion  by Laura Bastian

Sale Price: $.99, regularly $3.99   Amazon

Genre: YA Fantasy

Falling in love with your gorgeous new neighbor isn’t a bad thing, but when he turns out to be the bodyguard of a princess from a planet nine billion light-years away, life gets complicated.

Seventeen-year-old stargazer Holly Adams never imagined she’d find herself trying to prevent the overthrow of an alien government. When Jai and his sister Amira move into the house down the street, Holly is immediately drawn to them. Jai acts suspicious of her from the start, making Holly more curious about their oddities. When Holly learns they are from a different planet, she does what she can to help protect Amira from Shander, a man who wants to marry her by force in order to take over the kingdom her father rules.

Mistaken identity, a botched kidnapping, and a first kiss that bonds Holly and Jai for life are hard enough, but when Shander believes Holly to be the princess, things get even more dangerous.


Arms Wide Open - High Resolution (Copy)

Arms Wide Open, a novella by Juli Caldwell

Price: $.99   Amazon

Genre: Romance

Lauren Brooks is in a rut, and her roomie is determined to yank her out of it by convincing her to participate in a local coffee shop’s 5-in-5 speed dating event. Once she agrees, it takes her about 30 seconds to realize if there’s an oddball out there looking for love, he’ll find her. And creep her out. She confronts one weirdo after another until someone she used to know winds up in the same place, and she has to decide what she wants more: to make a break for it, or embrace the possibilities of another chance.

Not-So-easy (Copy)

Not So Easy by Sherry Gammon

Sale Price: $2.99, regularly $4.25   Amazon

Genre: YA Fantasy

Senior Max Sanchez has it all.

He’s the star pitcher for Port Fare High’s baseball team. He’s dating the head cheerleader, Emma McKay, and he has a great group of friends.

Junior JD Miller’s life is Not So Easy.

Unlike Max, JD struggles with making friends. He’s a social misfit, and he’s being bullied at every turn. He’s also barely surviving.

A tragedy forces these two together. Now Max must face the hardest challenge of his life as he works to help JD. A tragic accident changes everything, merging their lives together, and Max soon learns that life is not so easy for everyone. Max works to the point of exhaustion trying to help JD survive the chaos that is his life, and his eyes are opened to a world he had no idea even existed.

Not so Easy is a story about hope, surviving, and never giving up. Download a free sample and start reading now!

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Adrenaline Rush by Cindy Hogan

Sale Price: 1.99, regularly 3.99    Amazon

Genre: YA romantic suspense

A madman with a mission is kidnapping groups of thrill-seeking high school seniors across the country, and it’s up to Christy to stop him. To do so, she must take on a fearless alter ego and infiltrate a group of adrenaline junkies bent on pushing life to the limit. Death-defying stunts are only the beginning: two groups fit the profile, and Christy must discover the real target before it’s too late.

If she chooses the wrong group, more people will disappear. But choosing right puts her as the prime target—with no guarantee that she’ll get out alive.

Rising Cover (Copy)

Rising Book 1: Resistance by Laura Josephsen

Sale Price: $.99, regularly $3.99   Amazon

Genre: Science Fiction

All Alphonse wants is a quiet summer at home before his final months at university. What he gets is a half-dead stranger on his doorstep and the task of delivering a package to the leader of his home country. Not long after he boards a train toward the capital, he’s attacked by knights, elite soldiers of the neighboring king.

Alphonse is temporarily rescued by Mairwyn, a mechanic with a haunted past and a deep hatred of knights. Together, they attempt to carry out Alphonse’s urgent errand, only to learn that if they fail, countless people will die.

And even if they succeed, they may not be able to prevent the war that lurks on the horizon. (Book 1 of 2)


Chimeria Omnibus Edition Blood Will Tell and Blood is Thicker 

by Meredith Mansfield

Sale Price: $.99, regularly $4.75   Amazon

Genre: Portal Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

Blood Will Tell

A half-werewolf and a dragon in disguise join forces to rescue an innocent woman from an unknown attacker. Without knowing who or why, each tries to solve the mystery in their own way. But a decades-old crime and the dragon’s true identity may destroy their collaboration–and their growing attraction to one another–just when their enemy has found their hide out.

Blood Is Thicker

Rolf and Valeriah are back. Even while Valeriah struggles to adapt to her new life, a new crisis arises. If they can’t figure out why the dragons’ hatching grounds are suddenly going cold, a generation of dragons may never hatch–including their own eggs.

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How to Have Peace When You’re Fall to Pieces by Rebecca Rode

Sale Price: $.99, regularly $4.61   Amazon

Genre: Nonfiction

You haven’t seen your kids’ bedroom floor in weeks, your schedule is overflowing, and the drive-thru lady knows you by name. But even when life feels chaotic, peace is possible. Packed with poems, quotes, and inspirational stories, this book gives a fresh perspective on a mother’s work and helps restore calm to a hectic world–starting at home.

“Charming . . . full of wit, humor, and great ideas.” ~Sandra Covey

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A Change of Plans by Donna K. Weaver

Sale Price: $.99, regularly $3.99  Amazon

(If you get the Kindle book, you can add the audiobook for only $1.99)

Genre: Clean New Adult Adventure Romance

When Lyn sets off on her supposedly uncomplicated and unromantic cruise, she never dreams it will include pirates. All the 25-year-old Colorado high school teacher wants is to forget that her dead fiancé was a cheating scumbag. What she plans is a vacation diversion; what fate provides is Braedon, an intriguing surgeon. She finds herself drawn to him: his gentle humor, his love of music, and even his willingness to let her take him down during morning karate practices. Against the backdrop of the ship’s make-believe world and its temporary friendships, her emotions come alive.

However, fear is an emotion, too. Unaware of the sensitive waters he navigates, Braedon moves to take their relationship beyond friendship—on the very anniversary Lyn came on the cruise to forget. But Lyn’s painful memories are too powerful, and she runs off in a panic.

Things are bad enough when the pair finds themselves on one of the cruise’s snorkeling excursions in American Samoa. However, paradise turns to piracy when their party is kidnapped. Lyn’s fear of a fairytale turns grim. Now she must fight alongside the man she rejected, first for their freedom and then against storms, sharks, and shipwreck.

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All the Finer Things by Stephanie Connelley Worlton

Sale Price: $.99, regularly $2.99   Amazon

Genre: Romance

Married to one of the most lucrative and sought after plastic surgeons in SoCal, Megan Hamilton has it all. Her posh life, designer clothes, and stunning penthouse leave her wanting for nothing… or do they? Controlled by his obsessive pursuit of perfection, Doctor Matthew Hamilton will stop nothing short of breaking his young, spirited bride into a subservient trophy wife. But when parenthood enters their picture, the entire game changes. How far will Megan have to go to escape Matt’s obsessive control and abuse? And how much will she have to lose before she gets there?

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I’m just going to announce a few things today:


???????????????????????????????????????“Becoming Lioness” is now free everywhere (yes, even Amazon). It contains an excerpt from THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, which will come out sometime this summer.

Red Wyreth Cover Small“Wyreth’s Flame”, with a substantial excerpt from THE BARD’S GIFT, is free everywhere but Amazon. If you’d like to help with that, feel free to report the lower price at Apple (or Barnes and Noble). The link is just below the product details on Amazon’s product page.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image10567743And, finally, a bunch of great authors are doing a Mother’s Day Book Bash next week (May 5th thru the 12th). Among the other titles that will be a great bargain that week, my Chimeria Omnibus, containing both BLOOD WILL TELL and BLOOD IS THICKER, will be only 99 cents that week. There’ll be a bunch of other fun things during the week, too–excerpts, deleted scenes, character interviews. So come join the fun on Facebook.

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By far the longest part of writing is revisions. First drafts are allowed to be bad. Some would even say they’re supposed to be bad. Really, the first draft is just to get the story down. My rule on first drafts is never look back. There is only one direction–forward. If I go down a rabbit trail, well, I just cut that part in the next draft. There are going to be things I have to cut. There are going to be things I have to add–settings and emotions I skipped over in the first draft, foreshadowing of things I discovered as I went along. Sometimes, there are just going to be things I got wrong.

Sometimes, in the process, I create even more problems.

I’m currently working on what I hope will be the last revision of MAGIC AND POWER (working title). This one has taken a more circuitous path than usual. When I started it, I expected it to be a novella. Yeah. Right. It’s 95,000 words now and likely to get a bit longer. Not a novella. Some reworking was necessary when I realized that. The conflict that will sustain a novella isn’t necessarily big enough to make a novel work. So the political background of the love story had to grow and take a bigger role in the story.

I intended it to be a love story between just two characters–until a third character popped up and turned out to be a better match. My first love triangle. And, on the first and second pass, I botched it. Knowing which character was going to win in the end, I didn’t make the other enough of a possibility. In this revision, I need to make that character a plausible love interest–better, stronger, less desperate.

Not content with that, in the process of creating a little more tension with the other love interest, I messed him up too. I want him to have some goals and methods that are annoying to the main character, so that their attraction to each other is derailed a few times before things work out for them. I took it too far. Now he comes off as pushing too hard.

Sometimes the writing process is two steps forward and one step back. Oh well, as long as the momentum is still forward.

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The Bard’s Gift officially launches tomorrow (but you can really get it now, almost everywhere).


The mead of poetry was a real element in Norse mythology. It was made by dwarves who mixed the blood of the murdered go Kvasir with honey. The dwarves gave it to a giant in payment of a blood debt. Odin stole it for the gods by tricking the giant’s daughter into letting him have three sips. In three sips, he drained the mead, turned himself into an eagle, and flew back to Asgard with the treasure.

This excerpt is all about how Astrid comes by her gift. Braggi is the Norse god of eloquence and poetry.


Astrid made her way down the long center aisle of the longhouse to her place on the wide bench. She pulled her straw pallet, blankets, and the white bear pelt out from the storage space beneath the bench, and wrapped herself up to sleep.

Warm and full, Astrid drifted quickly into sleep and into a dream. In her dream she stood on a headland, the wind off the ocean blowing her hair back from her face. But this wind was cool, not icy. She turned landward to see a broad grassy land. Hilly, but much less steep than anything she’d seen in Greenland. There were even a few clusters of trees. It certainly wasn’t any place she knew, although she could see the long hummocks of several longhouses down below. A strange bird with a long naked tail and colorful wings circled high above.

A young man walked up the slope toward her, carrying a drinking horn. Torolf? Her heart did a little flip in her chest.

Astrid started to look down out of sheer habit, but realized to her delight that her dream self wasn’t blushing. The thought of talking to Torolf didn’t scare her, either. If only she could feel this way when she wasn’t dreaming.

Her eyes narrowed as she watched the young man approach. Yes, he looked like Torolf, but also not. His face wasn’t end-of-winter pale and gaunt. His cheeks were full and ruddy and his eyes sparkled in a way she’d never seen Torolf’s do. Not that she’d met Torolf’s eyes that often. There was something else about him, though. It took her a moment to recognize it. The way he held his body, his gait as he strode forward, were not at all like Torolf. Neither was the smile he gave her as he stopped just a few feet away.

“You’re not Torolf,” she said.

The man smiled. “No. Though this form seems pleasing to you.”

“Who are you?”

“I am called Braggi.”

The name was familiar, but Astrid couldn’t quite place where she’d heard it before.

He pressed the cup into Astrid’s hands. “Drink.”

The sweet smell of fermented mead rose to her nostrils. Astrid shook her head. “I don’t drink mead.”

“This is a very special brew. Drink it, Astrid.”

Astrid wrinkled her nose. She didn’t like mead, or, more properly, she didn’t like how mead made her feel. “No, thank you.”

Braggi’s eyes almost seemed to glow. “I insist.”

She tried to push the cup back toward Braggi, but found that her arms wouldn’t move in that direction. Every attempt to push the cup away from her only resulted in bringing it closer to her lips. Braggi’s eyes seemed to bore into her.

Her arm trembled, but the liquid didn’t spill. Astrid tried to turn her head away, but that didn’t work either. Instead, her face lowered to the cup until her lips touched the rim. Her heart hammered in her chest. There was no way she was going to escape drinking this, whatever it was.

“Don’t fight it so hard, Astrid,” Braggi said. “You’ve wanted this. It will give you the ability to speak–yes, even to Torolf. It’s also for the good of your people. You must trust me on this.”

Trust was about the last thing Astrid felt. Everything she tried to do ended up as something else, as the very thing she was fighting against. She could feel sweat popping out on her upper lip. She clenched her jaw, but none of her muscles seemed to be obeying her. Instead of locking her mouth shut, the effort caused her lips to part.

The sweet smell of the mead filled her nose. She could feel the liquid against her teeth. Braggi put a hand to the bottom of the cup and tipped it upward, so the liquid filled her mouth. She would not swallow. She wouldn’t. She tried to spit the mead back out and once again her body did the opposite of what she intended. She swallowed and felt the liquid burn as it slid down her throat.

All at once, the spell or whatever it had been was broken. Astrid’s legs folded beneath her and she crumpled to the ground. She threw the cup away from her, but Braggi caught it, holding it reverently.

“Careful, Astrid. There’ll be no more of this brew until the end of the world. It wouldn’t do to spill it.” He raised the cup above his head and another hand reached down from somewhere else to take it from him.

Whatever the drink was, it was different than anything she’d tasted before. Unlike mead, this seemed to make her mind clearer, not muddled. Her body, now that it was hers again, seemed to pulse with life. “What was that?”

Braggi smiled and offered her a hand to help her stand up. “That, Astrid, was the mead of poetry. And now you will become the bard of your people. Their guide to a new and better life.”

“Me? I’m no bard.” The thought of trying to sing or speak or tell a story in front of anyone made her feel slightly queasy, even in her dream.

“You are now. When the time is right, you will know the stories your people need to hear.”

She was still shaking, but she pulled her chin up in an attempt at defiance. “And what if I don’t want to tell these stories?”

Braggi shook his head. “Oh, Astrid. There’s more of your father in you than I allowed for. You may fight us, but you can’t expect to win. In time, you’ll realize that what we do here is for your good and the good of your people. Then, maybe, you’ll accept the gift we offer with better grace.”

Although the sky was clear and there was no hint of recent rain, a rainbow appeared behind Braggi. He turned and stepped onto it as if it were a bridge to another world.

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THE BARD’S GIFT is about a girl who must change her world just by telling stories.


By the nature of the story, THE BARD’S GIFT contains several stories told by Astrid. Where possible, I used stories from the sagas or actual Icelandic tales, like those of the water horse and the laughing merman. Sometimes, to find a story that would fit what I needed, I had to go further afield–to Grimm (Jorinda and Joringel), or Aesop, among others.

In two places, I used stories of my own. Here’s one from Chapter 13 of THE BARD’S GIFT. Astrid and Torolf are about to separated, for a while at least.

A wedge of snow geese flew over. A stray feather drifted past Astrid’s nose and a story drifted into her brain as if the feather had carried it.

She pointed upward. “See the snow geese?”

Torolf looked where she pointed. “Of course.”

“Snow geese mate for life. They pair off in their second year, but don’t mate until the third. And in winter they fly west to Markland or Vinland.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Not long ago, maybe only last year, there was a young snow goose, Eisa, in her second year. Like most young geese, she stayed with her family during that nesting season. As the season progressed, Eisa molted, coming into her adult plumage. When she had lost her flight feathers and was confined to the ground, an arctic fox found its way onto the nesting ground. Birds that could still fly burst into the air in all directions, but Eisa was forced to run for her life. She was a strong runner and kept running until she came to a boulder on which a snowy owl had her nest.

“Eisa was wise enough to know that the owls would defend their nest against the fox and so she hunkered down to rest. As she caught her breath, she realized that there were more snow goose nests in the vicinity of the owls’ nest and near one of these another young snow goose, Alf, was watching her.

“Eisa watched Alf right back. He was an exceptionally large and handsome young goose.”

Torolf smiled. “I think I like this story.”

“Before long he waddled over to talk to her. And soon they were fast friends. Through that nesting season, they spent a great deal of time together and when it was time for them to fly to their wintering grounds, they had bonded as mates and they promised that next year they would build a nest of their own together.”

Torolf’s smile widened to a grin and his eyes glowed. “I know I like this story.”

Astrid suppressed a smile, trying hard not to blush. “Eisa’s family flew off first, and Alf watched, sorry to see her go but eager to be reunited with her at the wintering grounds. But when Alf’s family flew off, a gale came up and blew them off course to the east. Alf and his family ended up wintering in a strange place, mixed in with a flock of strange gray geese with black heads. And every day, Alf thought of Eisa and wondered what she thought when he didn’t arrive at the wintering grounds.

“Eisa looked for Alf in every flock that arrived at the wintering grounds. When it was too late and too cold for any more flocks to turn up, she worried about the things that might have happened to him. A full-grown snow goose, able to fly, doesn’t have to worry about many predators, but eagles and bears take a few every season. It made her unhappy to think of that and Eisa grew thin. So thin that her parents worried that she wouldn’t be able to fly back to Greenland in the spring.

“Alf worried, too. Not that anything had happened to Eisa, but that she would think he was dead and some other gander would catch her eye and she would form a new pair bond. He ate only to keep his strength up so that he could fight off any rival for his Eisa.

“When spring finally came, Alf and his family flew back to Greenland and Alf waited for Eisa by the snowy owls’ nest. Flock after flock arrived at the nesting ground and many of the best nesting sites were taken. Still Eisa didn’t arrive and Alf began to worry in his turn about the kinds of things that could have happened to her.

“Finally, a small flock–just Eisa’s family–flew in to the nesting grounds last of all. They had been forced to fly more slowly than the others so Eisa, in her weakened condition, could keep up. When Alf saw her, his heart leaped and he flew up to meet her before she even reached the ground, flying in joyous circles around her.

“Eisa honked in delight at seeing Alf safe after all the dire things she had imagined happening to him. They built their nest right beside the snowy owls’ nest, where Alf had stood and waited for Eisa. Alf flew far and brought back all the best grasses for her so that Eisa grew strong again. And they were never separated again.” Astrid bowed her head, blushing furiously.

Torolf brushed a strand of hair back from her face. “I will be like Alf and stay strong so I can return to you in Markland.”

Astrid looked up into his eyes. “Like Eisa, I’ll watch for you on every tide.”

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Posting a little early because tomorrow I expect to be watching the parade and taking down the Christmas tree.

So, now it’s time to set goals for the year ahead.

  1. Publish THE BARD’S GIFT. I’ve already got the files formatted, uploaded, and checked. All I have to do is press the button. Release date is January 30th.TheBardsGiftCoverSmall
  2. Continue to query MAGE STORM
  3. Complete, polish, and publish THE SHAMAN’S CURSE and THE IGNORED PROPHECY.
  4. Complete the revisions to MAGIC AND POWER (or whatever the final title will be) and start querying that. It’s going to be awesome when I get through with it.
  5. Write something new, hopefully Weird Oz. Maybe, if I’m very good, two new things.
  6. Continue to learn and improve. Specifically, this year, really try to find the right formula for indie book promotion. The blog tour didn’t do a lot of good. Neither have Goodreads giveaways. I’ve got a whole month to figure something out for THE BARD’S GIFT.

Happy New Year Everyone

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