Monday, August 26, 2013

What I'm Working On: CATS IN HEAT

This is the first in a series of upcoming paranormal romance novellas and I'm having lots of fun with it.

I was really looking forward to a late summer/early fall release, but I'll see--I have a lot on my plate at the moment. Details coming as soon as I have them! For now, I'll leave you with the blurb and a brief teaser (book in progress, please excuse any typos).


 
Adelaide Deveraux lives a quiet life in the country, never quite fitting in with other people and preferring her spare time spent caring for the various stray cats in the area. But late one Friday night, a feline of a much larger persuasion shows up at her door, shifting into a very injured—and very naked—human man in need of help.
 
Erik Wells has been on the run his whole life: from the people who killed his parents when he was a boy, from a group determined to exterminate his own kind, and now from the underground gladiator ring who abduct shifters and have them fight to the death for entertainment. And he needs to keep running, but something about Addie draws him to her home and her care.
 
The tiger in him senses it: there’s more to Addie than apparent at first glance—more to her knack for working with roots and herbs; more to her prophetic dreams; more to the secrets buried in her family history. But if she is who he thinks she is, the danger’s just beginning, as the powerful man responsible for keeping Erik captive for so long will stop at nothing to obtain her for his own.


Her flashlight caught a shimmer in the tall grass around the shed.
Addie froze and swung the beam back around again. Grass and weeds twisted with the violent beat of wind as her flashlight shone around the side of the shed.
Again the light caught it, two small, glowing balls of amber in the tall grass. Addie frowned and squinted against the wind, wondering what the hell—
It stepped forward suddenly and the grass parted. The face came into view first, amber eyes watching her, and then the shoulders pushed forward. Large, heavy paws pounded on the ground.
Her heart caught up somewhere near her throat at the sight of the massive tiger walking toward her.
Addie blinked but it remained—not a whisper of a shifting vision or a trick played by her eyes. A real, live, enormous predatory cat was only eight feet away.
And getting closer.
Trembles ran down her arms and she tightened her grip on the flashlight until her knuckles were almost white. Her throat closed and she couldn’t draw in a breath or even think; she could only stare.
The large cat took another step forward.
Her rational brain pushed at her to flee even as she knew wild animals could sense fear and that this wild animal was close enough that she couldn’t get away. Still, she took an experimental step backward.
The tiger padded forward.
Another step back. The rain beat against her face but she couldn’t look away and her entire body shook as fear raced through her veins. The flashlight beam bounced on the tiger, flickering back and forth with her trembling.
She could scream but no one would hear her. A few more steps and she was halfway to the house but the tiger had broken free of the grass and was passing the shed. He was huge, his shoulders coming up to her waist. Her eyes flickered down to his paws. Claws dug into the soft, wet dirt as he stalked forward.
Irony of ironies, the neighborhood cat lady is going to die being eaten by a tiger. She couldn’t quite laugh at the absurdity of the situation, not as the beast continued toward her.
Then he stopped abruptly. His head dipped forward and shoulders slumped. Addie continued backing up but the tiger didn’t attack, didn’t surge in her direction to make the kill. His attempted step forward was shaky and weak. He wavered, tottering from side to side, before stumbling and landing in a heap.
Addie paused warily.
She should run, she knew—her brain screamed at her to flee, to lock the door and call the entire county emergencies forces down to catch the thing. Instead, some buried instinct rose and cautioned her.
Wait. Just...wait.
She did, trusting that inner voice even as her heart hammered.
The tiger’s pelt rippled as her flashlight swung over it. Orange and black stripes shuddered and shrank, fur rolling back like water and disappearing into pale skin. Muscles and bones twisted and contorted, snapping painfully, until an entirely new shape lay on her lawn.
Addie stared down at a bruised, bloody, and completely naked human man.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Readers: Where Do You Get Your Book Information?

After another "this book wasn't what I was expecting/had objectionable elements" comment--which I've basically seen since my first release and occasionally get email about--I've really been pondering this again. Where do YOU find details about the books you purchase if there aren't yet reader reviews available?

I know money's tight around our house and I hate spending money on something that's too short, or poorly written/edited, or has elements I dislike (don't even get me started on cheating in romances). Sometimes I think I spend more time reading ABOUT the books I want to buy than actually reading. If there are no reviews or recommendations from friends, I try to check the author's website, info on Kindle or ARe, and that kind of thing. As a reader, I hate when I feel cheated.

As a writer, I very much want to give readers what they desire (hot fictional men! hot fictional sex! a happily ever after!) and I want them to find the right books. There are only so many hours in the day with work and family. I genuinely feel badly if I don't deliver what someone expects, whether it's the length or the genre or what have you.

Beyond keeping genre things listed on my blog's book pages (and you shouldn't have to go hunting through a blog for details) and using the "From the Author" section on Kindle pages...what can writers do to clarify these things for readers? Where do YOU go to find out if a book is right for you? I know I have a bunch of books out but I also feel terribly new some days and am completely open to suggestions. (Also, does anyone know if B&N has an "Author Central" type thing? As I haven't found one.)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stirling Falls Giveaway!

 
To celebrate the release of SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL, I want to give you a chance to catch up with the series. Enter to win your choice of either Wild Horses or Wild Horses: Cold Cold Winter in your preferred format.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 12, 2013

New Release: SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL

 
Sympathy for the Devil--aka Stirling Falls #2--is now available at last! 

You'll find it in all ebook formats and print at Phaze. I'll update here with links when it's at B&N, AllRomanceeBooks, and Kindle.

You'll find the first chapter and a bit about the book here.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Coming Soon: SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL

(Note, there's still time to vote for Maddox at All Romance eBook's Ultimate Shifter Challenge. Head here.)

The next Stirling Falls book is almost here! The book drops August 13.

This one took a while. It's a long book and had a lot of threads to pull together, but I'm really rather happy with it. A couple of notes and then I'll add an excerpt...

  1. It'll be released in eBook and trade paperback, as Wild Horses was. If you only read in print or prefer it for your shelf, there you go.
  2. The eBook price point will be $1 higher than WH. This is because it's a longer book. I know a lot of people were unhappy with the length of WH: Cold Cold Winter but that was never intended to be a novel (which is why I tried to include the word "novella" everywhere) and that's why it was $2 cheaper than WH. Sympathy for the Devil is about 50% longer than Wild Horses, so it'll be selling for $5.99. (To put this in perspective: Amazon guestimates WH is 198 pgs, based on about 242 words a page; with that as a reference, Sympathy would be 301 pages).
  3. This is more of an erotic suspense novel with less humor than Wild Horses. It also has stronger BDSM elements. Reader discretion is advised.

Ready for the first chapter? Here you go!

 

Chapter One


Natasha Whitaker ducked through the front door of Main Street’s Bar & Grill into the din of country music, laughter and voices chatting, and cues striking balls in the corner pool table. Closed for usual business though open in that all of Stirling Falls’ residents were invited in, the bar was hopping with energy and full to the brim with people. Multi-colored streamers fluttered when people moved and a wall of thick, humid air struck her. Mr. Holloway apparently didn’t have the air conditioner running—the thing seemed to die at least three times every summer.

She clutched her purse to her and squeezed between a pair of heavy-set truckers in a lineup for the bar, ducked under an arm swinging a stein of beer, and burst through a break in the crowd only to bump into a very, very pregnant woman.

Her best friend, Danyiah Jackson, turned, brown eyes wide and startled for a moment before warming. “Yay, you’re finally here!”

Tash hugged her friend in greeting, though awkwardly with the large baby bump in between them. “Don’t take this the wrong way, sweetie, but every time I see you, I think you’ve somehow possibly squeezed more fetuses in there.”

They parted and Dani grinned, rubbing her hand across her abdomen. “So far it’s just the one but I suspect it’s not planning on leaving—there’s probably a crib and dresser in there already.” She wore a white baby-doll style dress with spaghetti straps, the hem falling to her knees, loose and comfortable. Her long black hair was pinned up, but sweat beaded her brow—the heat must be getting to her too.

“Do you want a drink or something?”

“Adam’s supposed to be getting me water.”

Tash cocked one thin black brow in skepticism. Dani’s boyfriend, Adam, doted on her excessively—if he’d been intending to get her something, he’d already be back. “What happened to him?”

Dani pointed across the bar to where Adam was in a corner arguing with his boss, Gus, about something or another—the sound of their voices didn’t carry across the room.

“Something to do with some Tennessee Walking Horses being boarded at the farm and the owners are idiots—blah blah, the hell if I know what he’s going on about.”

“Sit for a minute and I’ll get you something.”

“Uh...” Dani cast her eyes around the room.

Right, there was pretty much standing room only. Well, the hell with that. Most of these people didn’t need to be sitting. She spotted a couple of teens at a table a few feet away—nothing wrong with their legs and none of them was pregnant considering they were all boys.

Tash grasped Dani’s arm and guided her for the table.

“Really, it’s okay—”

Tash gave her a warning look. “I’m armed and I’m tired. I’ll brook no argument on this.”

Dani visibly backed off and smiled. “You’re the one with the gun.”

They stopped in front of the table where one boy had his legs stretched out, feet on the spare chair. He gazed up lazily and gave her a cocky grin. “What?”

“Move.”

“Ah, come on, we were here—”

“You’re here in a bar drinking and you haven’t even graduated high school yet, Tommy.”

“No I’m not!”

“Pro tip, hot shot: Coke does not hide the smell of rum. Nothing can.”

“But—”

“Do I need to get your father?”

Tommy glowered at her and dropped his feet from the chair with a heavy thud, loud even over the din of noise in the room. His boots had left a dusting of dirt on the chair; Tash looked pointedly at the evidence of his footwear on the seat, then back at him.

He cursed under his breath but nothing she could call him on. Instead she waited while he swept off the seat with his hand and then stood abruptly, nodding at his companions and jerking his thumb over his shoulder. The group of them got up and left.

Dani took the vacated seat, shaking her head and chuckling. “One day, when my kid’s in trouble, it’s not going to call you, the cool aunt. Oh no, it’ll come straight home to me because you are so not gonna provide bail money.”

“Oh honey, your kid’s already a lost cause—it’ll be arrested before you leave the hospital. Now I,” Tash set down her purse next to Dani, “will go get that drink and try to pretend like I’ve been here for an hour.” She slipped away from the table, squeezing between patrons again. At least she wasn’t underdressed by the look of it; everyone around here dressed casual no matter the occasion, so her dark low-rise jeans and black tank top fit in fine. She swiped curly black hair from her brow and wedged herself in a spot at the bar.

The bartender was at the other end, rushing to take orders. It seemed insane they only had one guy working tonight. She frowned as she waited, drumming her fingers on the countertop. Patience was not something she’d been born with and she wouldn’t start now. With a sigh she left the bar and headed around the side, ducking beneath the counter and heading straight for the mini-fridge.

“Hey!” the guy at the end called but she gave him her warning look. She didn’t immediately recognize him but he must’ve known her as he backed off. “Sorry,” he continued while she retrieved a bottle of water for Dani and bottle of smoked Scotch ale for herself. “Amy is AWOL and I can’t get in a replacement.”

“On the guest of honor’s tab,” she said, indicating the bottles, then ducked back out from under the bar.

Adam Cooper spotted her and headed over, eyes darting to the water and mouth opening to likely come up with some explanation.

She handed him the bottle of water for Dani. “Go, take this to your woman before she expires.”

“Where the hell have you been?”

Tash rolled her eyes. “Working. You don’t want to know.” Her back still hurt from the tree she’d been lodged in for hours waiting for her client’s husband to show up with his mistress. The good news was she had photos and soon the other half of her paycheck. The bad news was she nearly missed her boss’s retirement party.

“They haven’t done the cake yet—they were waiting for you.”

She winced. “I know, I’m sorry. Give Dani her water and I’ll come sit with you guys in a sec.”

They parted, Adam for the center of the restaurant where Dani waited and Natasha for the door at the back that said KITCHEN – STAFF ONLY. She wasn’t staff but, much like the bar, it didn’t stop her from strolling in like she owned the place. She hadn’t opened her bottle of ale yet but just holding the condensation-drenched bottle cooled her off considerably.

Shoulder-first, she pushed through the staff door and into the brightly lit kitchen. One fan spun overhead while another sat on the end of the counter and turned back and forth, drying the sweat on her skin and blowing her hair.

A familiar person leaned against the counter, holding open a paperback book with a worn spine—an old Harlequin, of all things, and it caused a bit of cognitive dissonance, seeing a large, gruff man in old jeans and a crookedly-buttoned denim shirt reading a romance novel.

“Hey kid,” he said without looking up.

“You hiding?” She strolled over to his side. Gregory Malone, local private investigator extraordinaire, and her boss and mentor for the past few years. Though he wasn’t doing anything with his retirement other than fishing and spending time with his wife, Natasha would still miss him.

Malone waved her off, eyes still on his book. “They didn’t notice.”

She leaned against the counter next to him and unscrewed the cap from her drink. “They’re gonna notice when I bring out the cake and there’s no one to cut it.”

He sighed, dog-eared the page he was on, and closed the book. Tash offered him her ale, which he accepted. “Maybe I can put it off—”

“Nuh-uh, no way. Again, there is cake, sir. Cake. You can’t put it off once there’s cake involved.”

He took a pull from the smoked ale, then gazed down at the bottle appreciatively. “Yeah, and Susan’ll be on my case about it. But,” he glanced at Tash sideways, “you know I’m still here. If you need anything—”

“I’ll be fine,” she promised. And she would, too. She’d been preparing for this, after all. Long hours, extra cases. Sure, the sign would still read MALONE AND ASSOCIATES, PRIVATE INVESTIGATIONS on the door. For now. People trusted the Malone name, after all.

Eventually it would be Whitaker. In the meantime, she was basically the new Malone.

“You head out,” she patted his shoulder, “and I’ll find the cake.” The heels of her sandals clicked on the tile as she crossed the bright kitchen.

“Tash.”

She paused and glanced over her shoulder.

Malone stood tall and when he wasn’t slouching, he looked imposing—a big, bearded mountain who was like a wall of fleshy denim. But he had a soft heart and a soft smile, the latter of which he offered her now. “You know there’s no race. Take a break once in a while. Have fun. It’s even more important when I’m gone.”

“I promise I will. There’ll be Dani’s baby to concern myself with and who knows, I might even date. Maybe. At some point.” Before he could laugh, she added, “It could happen.”

Malone shook his head, mumbled something she couldn’t make out, and ambled out of the kitchen.

Tash sighed and continued for the fridge. Honestly, she didn’t see the big deal. Plenty of men worked long hours and no one said a word. But she was twenty-seven and suddenly a woman who took her job seriously was cause for concern? Antiquated attitudes prevailed in town, and while it wasn’t a surprise, it still burned her a little.

She found the huge white cake inside the fridge. It just barely fit, the sides narrowly close to brushing icing on the refrigerator walls. For a moment she stared down at it—a blue lake across the front of it and fishing pole. HAPPY RETIREMENT, GREGORY!

Her eyes were wet and heavy, an unexpected swell of emotion rushing over her. He’d been a good boss, a good mentor. And even though it merely meant he wouldn’t be working in the office anymore, still, things were changing.

With a sigh, Tash carefully slid the cake from a fridge, knocked the door shut with her heel, and headed out of the kitchen.

 

****

 

The party was still in full swing but the heat was definitely getting to Natasha. Adam had taken Danyiah home already, a few of the families had left, and the noise inside had grown louder, full of raucous laughter and loud music. She slipped outside, unnoticed, for air.

There wasn’t much to be had outside, the atmosphere heavy and stagnant. She leaned against the side of the Bar & Grill and wished she could’ve brought a beer.

A glance at her watch put it at after eleven. Tomorrow was Saturday and while technically not a work day, she’d be in the office anyway. There were the last of Malone’s files to sort, the upcoming week’s cases to go over, and a host of other things.

Main Street was silent, with the whole town mostly closed up even on a Friday night. There was another bar open a few blocks away, but aside from the thrum of heavy metal and periodic shouting voices that carried, Stirling Falls might as well have been a ghost town.

Dirt scraping under shoe treads drew her attention to the left. An alley bisected Main Street, right by the Bar & Grill. Shadows hid whoever was there until light at the end of a cigarette flared, briefly showing the figure of a man before fading. Smoke drifted out.

“Private party?” he asked, and the cigarette flared again. His voice was deep and rich, edged in gravel—the kind of voice that could give a girl goose bumps if he said just the right thing.

“Yes and no. It’d be awkward if you didn’t know the guest of honor. There’s Eight’s over on Prince, though. Follow the noise. Pay extra and they’ll let you smoke in there, too.”

He blew out more smoke, pale gray floating onto the street. “I should quit.”

“Probably.” Naturally nosy, she tried to peer at him as closely as possible without actually staring. But the shadows were too thick to make out much other than his height and build—tall and broad. Her lips parted to say more but a revved engine and squeal of tires drew her focus to her right.

A dark two-door car halted in the street outside of the Bar & Grill, double parking on an angle. The driver’s door swung open while the car was still rocking, engine still running and headlights cutting across the road. A man flew out of the vehicle, face violently red and she didn’t think it was from the heat.

As Tash recognized him, she started backing for the Bar & Grill’s door.

“You!” He thrust his finger forward as he ran toward her. He wasn’t a terribly big guy but anger had a way of making an average-sized man seem huge. “I’m gonna kill you!”

She reached for her purse and belatedly realized she’d left it inside at Gus’s table, which was where her Beretta 92F waited in a holster. “Calm down, Gordie—”

“You were on private property—”

“With your wife’s permission—”

“Invading my privacy—”

“While you were violating your marriage vows—”

He hadn’t slowed, still heading straight for her. Her back struck the side of the restaurant, the window behind her rattling—the door was three feet away and now Gordie Martin was too close to avoid, getting right in her face, his still-pointing finger nearly striking her throat.

“Neighbor’s kid took a picture of you up in the tree outside my window!”

Damn technology. It wasn’t like the good ol’ days in movies anymore—now people in her line of work were as likely to be recorded as whoever she was hired to spy on. Gordie’s wife probably could’ve hired the neighborhood kids with cell phones to film her husband and his mistress, and saved a lot of money.

“At least any photos of me were G-rated,” Tash offered with a shrug.

His face went redder, which she scarcely thought was possible. Gordie launched himself at her and she pulled her fist back to punch him.

Instead another body collided with his, grasping Gordie’s wrist and jerking his arm back. The stranger twisted her attacker around and thrust him forward, slamming him on the hood of the car.

While she didn’t have her gun, she did have her cell phone in her back pocket, which she withdrew and began dialing. “Charges of threats and attempted assault will look great for you during your divorce proceedings, I’m sure,” Tash said with a dramatic sigh. “Can’t wait ’til this info goes public.”

Gordie muttered under his breath. When the stranger stepped back, the other man moved, shoving off the car, casting a glare at Tash, and then returning to his car.

She kept the phone at her ear until he’d sped off and the car was out of sight. Well, that was going to go over well with her client—the woman would not be happy that she’d been made. She’d have to get the photos to her first thing in the morning—and get paid—before Gordie could explain or apologize convincingly.

“Exciting times in Stirling Falls.” She ended the call mid-dialing and returned her phone to her back pocket, then shifted her attention to the man who had intervened.

His back was mostly to her as he stared in the direction Gordie’s car had gone. He wore a dark jacket despite the heat, chocolate-colored hair cut short—it looked like a fresh trim. Caucasian. Little else she could make out. Tash took a step to the right, casually, angling herself to at least see his profile. His nose was well-cut and proud, jaw square and a flicker of movement suggested he ground his teeth. She couldn’t make out the color of his eyes with the shadow streetlights cast, but they were narrowed, still, on where Gordie had disappeared.

“Thanks,” she offered as she continued to study him.

He turned, shifting his attention away from the direction Gordie had taken. The hardness of his expression faded as his eyes settled on hers.

A rolling heat burned under her skin, her heart fluttering with just a smoldering look. Her mouth was dry. She licked her lips, tried to find her voice. “Buy you a beer?”

His lips parted to speak when the door to the Bar & Grill opened. Noise spilled out, as did people. He snapped his mouth closed and turned his head away.

Natasha glanced over her shoulder to see a couple exiting the restaurant, arm in arm, chuckling. She swung back, but the other man had left. A glance both left and right down the street, and she found no sign of him.

Out-of-towners are weird.

Well, she’d just have to buy herself a beer. With a sigh, Tash headed back inside for one more drink before heading home.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

ARe's Ultimate Shifter Challenge

Exciting news! Maddox from Bad Moon Rising is a finalist in All Romance eBook's Ultimate Shifter Challenge. Thirty-two alpha male shifters compete for the crown.

The first round of voting is open. Sign in to ARe and head here: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/contest_shifter_challenge.html

You can only vote once per bracket and each week a random winner will be selected to receive a $25 GC!