Friday, October 30, 2009

And The Winner Is....

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Yay, Deniz! Congratulations. You are the lucky winner of one of my book choices. Email us your addy at alltheworldsourpage at gmail dot com and I'll get it in the mail asap.

Also, let us know which book you've chosen. :) Important bit, that.

Thanks to everyone who entered! Didn't win this week? Never fear! Kristen and Rachel are up over the next two weeks -- so you still have more chances to win!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mistakes, I've made a few

Mistakes. Trial and error. Frustration. When you first start out, they're all part of discovering how you write, and working out what it is YOU need to do in order to get the words down on the page.

There are so many different ways to approach the writing of a novel; it can be quite daunting to work out how to start when you're a newbie writer. What helped me figure out the "how" that works for me was to search out other writers' (published and unpublished) accounts of how they wrote, and stow away whatever tips they gave out, shiny new tools for my writer's tool box.

Now I've reached the stage where, after much trial and error, I know how I write; and in the spirit of repaying all those writers for revealing their secrets, this is my little manual of how I write. No "rules"; just what works for me.

A Space to Call My Own

This is where I write. Excuse the mess - but it's my mess, on my desk, in the only corner of the house that is mine, all mine!! I'm free to gunk it up with my research books and the snowdrift of notes I make to myself and my half-drunk cups of tea, with no one to complain. It's also a psychological thing - once I'm at this desk, I am WRITING. Nothing else.

Oh, and meet my supervisor:

Tex the cat, who spends his days following the sun patches around the study while I write (and yes, he has no whiskers; they were gnawed off by his sister when they were kittens and they never grew back. He's a bit of a freak, but we love him ... except when he insists on sitting on my lap while I write. Not good for the neck, that.)

A Straight Line

Unlike Jen and Kristen, the confirmed chunksters, I now know I can only write in a straight line. No chunking for this little black duck. I move from scene to scene, in sequential order, because that's how I see them, that's how they come to me. That said, I do occasionally get flashes of inspiration for scenes further down the track; when that happens, I write a quick and dirty sketch of what I see, save it, and get back to business. I know others are bored knowing what comes next; I find it exciting to know there's a really great scene coming up, just waiting for me to write it - it's like dangling a carrot!

And while I sometimes think the genre I write - suspense - is what makes me write in a straight line (you just have to have your clues and misdirections meticulously lined up so it all works) honestly, it's just how my brain is wired.

A Map

An outline, in other words. I tried launching into my book by merrily writing whatever came to me - and ended up writing 70,000 words of back story that will never see the light of day. But I don't regret it; trial and error is then name of the game when you're working out how you write (though it would have been nice if I'd worked this out a little sooner!) So, once I'd nuked my 70k, I sat down and wrote an outline, and now it's full steam ahead. I find that having a general idea of where I'm going helps to keep the plot straight in my head, as well as the development of my characters. But I DO NOT stick to my outline like glue; just this week I discovered one of my characters has a certain secret which has sent my story off on a very different path to what I'd outlined. C'est la vie!

Make Windows

For me, this has been the most important thing I've learned. I have to make widows - of time, that is.

Like everyone, I'm busy. Three kids, a husband, a cat, a house, will do that to a person. I used to think I needed big chunks of uninterrupted time in order to write, and would get steaming mad when I couldn't find it. Then I realised I was wrong - I didn't need to find the time, I had to make the time. If I didn't make the time, this book would never get written.

Once I worked this out, I suddenly found loads of time - all be it in short snatches of five minutes, ten minutes, half an hour here and there, but still, it was time. When my youngest kid still napped during the day, I'd dash up to the study and start pounding the keyboard as soon as her head hit the pillow, not stopping for anything until she woke up. She also slept well in the car, so I'd leave early to pick up my sons from school, find a park beneath a shady tree and grab half an hour's writing time while she napped in her car seat. These days, with all the kids at school, I do have more time, but still, I stick to what I've learned - when it's time to write I ignore the housework, I screen my calls, I ignore the door bell, I unplug the modem and the distraction of the internet ... all these little steps are vital if I am to make - and protect - those windows of time where I do nothing but glue my butt to my chair and just write.

So, there you have it. That's how I write.

And, because I'll always be curious about how others churn out the words, what has your own journey taught you about how you write?

The only thing we have to fear...

This weekend, I was in my sister’s wedding. And like most sacrificial lambs (that is maid-of-honor), I had my hair and make-up done in addition to donning “the dress”. Start with the hair. After sitting for one hour in a salon chair, I end up looking like a sweet fifties doo wop girl, curls on the side, everything properly pinned up. I don’t do sweet. I hate it. Then the make-up. My twenty-something “artist” decides that I need to go heroine chic. I don’t find this out until he done with his creation and I see the black rings around my eyes. So, to sum up, heroine chic thirty-six-year-old woman with Barbie hair. Lovely. Did I complain? NO. I kindly thanked them, paid their exorbitant fees and fixed the mess myself. Why? I was afraid. Afraid I would hurt their feelings. Never mind that I paid them. Fear sucked $200 out of my pocket and had me looking the fool.

Fear is like that. Even when you know it’s got you by the nose, you look the other way, let it take control, and suffer for it. With writing, I KNOW that fear has had its tentacles in me more than once.

Fear of failure is a biggie for writers. The Mac Daddy of stumbling blocks. Fear can make a young writer sit on a manuscript for years, fiddling with this and that, tearing the book apart, building it up, insisting that it isn’t done… all under the guise of seeking perfection (or as close as one can get), when really it is the fear that she will have to put her baby out into the world and find out: is she good enough?

I should know. I was that writer.

I started writing my first book in 2000. 500k words, four plot revisions, three long hiatuses from it, and in 2007, I was STILL not done. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot during that time. I consider this stage in my writing development the equivalent of getting a Bachelors degree. But I had to be honest with myself as well. I was also stalling. Big time! I was afraid that if I finished, I’d have to go and find an agent, and what if no one wanted me? What if after all these years, and effort, it wasn't good enough?

Realizing that I was afraid, admitting it to myself, forced me to suck it up and get the story done. It would never be perfect. I had to realize that. Nothing ever will for a writer who takes their craft seriously. But I couldn’t be afraid.

So I did it. I finished up and sent it out to agents, never realizing that fear still had a hold. This time in the shape of: what if it doesn’t sell? That fear pushed me into rash decisions, tied my stomach up in knots, and left me frozen, unable to write anything else. And guess what? My book wasn’t selling. That great fear had come true. I remember clearly, lying in my bed, blinking up at the ceiling while maudlin thoughts ran unchecked through my head. Then I realized that what I feared, I brought closer to me. Epiphanies work that way. Because here is the thing –I HAD failed, and it wasn’t the end of the world. I was still here. I let my fear go in that instant. Suddenly, not selling really didn’t hurt that badly (no, seriously, it’s true!). I was a writer, not a one trick pony. If one book didn’t sell, I could write another. Failure had set me free.

So I wrote another book. I wrote it in five months. And not once was I afraid. Nor was I afraid when I went searching for another agent. Fear had left me.

This is, of course, 100 per cent easier said than done. But it can be done. And the majority of us writers DO live in fear of failure.

So, to those of you who do, acknowledge your fear, swim around in those fears, name them, slide through them. And like oil to water, let them then roll off of you, let them go. Put yourself out there, whether it be with a risky storyline that you're dying to try, or –if you're like me- simply finish that WIP, put your hat in hand and step onto that long road to publication. You’ll be happy you did.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Miss Chunky Pants

And darn proud of it!

Now, before horrible images start playing through your minds, let me explain myself. Claire touched on a very important subject in her post this week, and I thought I would venture into another that sometimes plagues new writers. I'm definitely no exception here. I let "the rules" of how things are supposed to be done bog me down for far too long. But man, when enlightenment fell on this thick skull, that's all she wrote!

So, just what do I mean by my post title? I mean this…

I'm a chunk writer who flies by the seat of her pants, y'all.

I don't outline.

I don't do character study sheets.

I don't even write in a linear line from beginning to end.

And you know what? That is OKAY. Say it with me… that is OKAY.

I feel the need to bring up this subject because honestly, I think the idea of chunk writing really scares a lot of people. I know the idea sounded quite alien to me for most of my life. And of course, I've always been a chunk writer trying to force herself into the mold of what I thought "writing" was supposed to entail. To explain, let's do a quick flash through Jen's life:

--Jen age 12 – Ohhh….I have this great idea for a story! I see this scene that is SO cool. I should write it…write it NOW. *screech of brakes* But wait a minute! That isn't the way it's done! I must start from the beginning and work up to that scene. Otherwise, how they heck will I know if it's "right" – if it "works." How can I start a story in the middle?? It must begin at the beginning! I must do a detailed outline with at least three bullet points for each scene! *Jen age 12 thinks really hard* She doesn't know how to begin this book. *idea falters and fades* Must not have been the right story if I couldn't think of a spectacular way to begin it. Better luck next time.

--Jen age 24 -- Why oh why can't I write a story?! *sobs* Why?!?! For the love of God, why?!?! Hmmm. Why not just write this scene I've had floating around in my head the past few weeks? Just to see. Jen age 24 says what the heck. Can't hurt me any. She writes it. It is so super-fantastic. So shiny and sparkly and practically perfect in every way. (go with me, here) I must show this to my sister so she can see how super-fantastic, shiny and sparkly and practically perfect it is. Then we can both be stunned with amazement. *Jen age 24 shows it to big sister and waits with barely concealed glee for the stunned reaction to appear. For Big Sis to realize she is in the presence of a literary genius!* *Jen age 24's big sister finishes reading and gives Jen age 24 a blank look* Jen age 24—clearly shocked to see such a mild expression on Big Sis's face, exclaims, "Well?" Big Sis: I don't know what to say. I don't know what comes before it. Jen age 24: But is it GOOD? Just that scene. Big Sis: I don't know! I can't say if I don't know what comes before it! *Many rounds of this ensue, ending with Jen age 24 slumping back to the drawing board. Foiled again.*

Okay…you see my point? I got so caught up in the idea of how things are SUPPOSED to be done that I wouldn't let my own techniques bubble to the surface. As a result, I spent many frustrated years starting and stopping stories that fizzled out when I couldn't pull together an outline, start from the beginning, plot, etc. Take your pick. My life is littered with literary road kill.

I realize that this is all my doing. I should've had the confidence in myself to say to heck with the rules, I'm going to write a book MY way. But I didn't. It took many years, many failed attempts, and one very smart lady to point out the fact that it doesn't matter how you write a book.

What I realized is that it doesn't matter if you start in the middle, jump around like a chili pepper on crack, or write your book backwards. The ONLY thing that matters is that you write it. And…

Psst!! Lean in so I can whisper this…

No one will ever know when they read the final book.

Cross my heart and all that.

Don't be afraid to do things outside the box. That's what one fabulous writer named Diana Gabaldon taught me, and I hope I have passed on that knowledge to anyone floundering around believing he/she is doing things the wrong way.

There is no wrong way. Remember that.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Book Giveaway: Jen’s Choices

Hey all, it's my turn to give away one of my favorite books and as you'll see there's pretty much no rhyme or reason for the selections I'll be offering up. As always, the same "rules" apply. Simply comment on this post (or any of the other posts this week), and you'll be entered into the drawing. The deadline to enter is THIS Friday, October 30th at 12 noon EST. And please, spread the word on your own blogs, etc. If I get a lot of entries, I may get all kinds o'crazy and start giving away even more books. You never know with me.

So…what am I offering up? Well, I'm going to be listing six of my favorite books—3 Young Adult, 3 Adult (Hey, I write both – there was no feasible way I could choose between them). BUT…if you follow my blog ( and took a fancy to any of the books I've reviewed/read/mentioned in passing, let me know. I'm more than willing to send one of those selections instead. Though THESE books are REALLY good. Okay…


Young Adult Selections

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak – Narrated by death, it tells the story of a young girl in Germany during World War II. It's a-mazing. I can't say enough good things about it. THIS should likely be your selection. I'm just sayin'.

UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld – I've often said I want to BE Scott Westerfeld, simply to have written the Uglies Trilogy. It's fantastic. It's set in the future, when society has some new rules. Namely, they believe that individual beauty or otherwise is at the root of society's problems. Therefore, when you turn 16, you become "pretty." It follows the story of Tally Youngblood, a young "Ugly" on the verge of becoming "Pretty."

LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green – John Green is simply one of the best YA authors out there today. IMHO. This book tells the story of Miles "Pudge" Halter as he heads off to boarding school and falls for the clever and very self-destructive Alaska Young. I can't say much about this book without giving a lot away. But it's sooooo good. I read it in one sitting, when I had only meant to read a chapter or two. (It's a Printz winner! As is THE BOOK THIEF, btw. Yes, I'm still saying you should choose THE BOOK THIEF.)


Adult Selections

PRIDE & PREJUDICE by Jane Austen – I know what you're thinking. BUT Jen! I read that in high school and it was sooooo boring. Well, too bad. I love it! And might I add, didn't have a true appreciation for it until I was in my adult years. So give it another shot, k?

IT by Stephen King – One of the first big books I ever loved. I love the world building King achieves. I felt like I was one of the Magnificent Seven, and IT scared the BEJESUS out of me. Pennywise…yikes. As if I wasn't afraid of clowns before this book. I absolutely love the way he flashes back and forth between the present and past. And like I said…SCARY.

ONE FOR THE MONEY by Janet Evanovich – Nothing tops an afternoon spent giggling at Stephanie Plum and her crazy antics. It made me want to write comedy, and started the eternal question…Morelli or Ranger?? (Ack. I still can't decide!)


Okay, so there they are. As you can see, there aren't any clear patterns in my selections. They're simply stories I love—stories I can't get out of my head.

So…anyone have a decisive POV on the Morelli/Ranger thing? (g) And what stories have stayed with you over the years?

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Hi gang! This week I'll be talking about how my first and subsequent story drafts have come to be. Stay tuned to see what the others will tackle!

I often see new people at the CompuServe Books and Writers Forum posting pieces of their work for comment and asking a very loaded question- should I keep going with this writing gig? Or should I just give up?

In other words, they want other people to tell them if they have the talent to tell a story, or if they really can't string two words together.

But it's not that easy.

No matter how long you've been writing, you still have plenty to learn. That's never more true than when you're just starting out, but it doesn't become less relevant as you go along, either. And though you can read dozens of craft books, take classes, talk to agents and authors, there's only one way you're going to get better at it- by writing, and writing plenty.

Sadly this means you may have to accept that what you first put out is not all that good. That's where I am at the moment.

I churned out a 120,000 word first draft of BETWEEN THE LINES in just over six months after joining the Forum. I was so enthused to find myself surrounded by other writers, and so buoyed up by positive feedback on my work, that I just couldn't stop writing. It was wonderful. I just put out words and words and words and words. I wrote without looking back, and it was extremely freeing. I recommend it as a first draft approach to anyone- don't review your stuff (in detail) until it's done.

But be prepared that when it's done, it's very possible your bubble might get burst. When I sat down and re-read my 120,000 words, it was less a complete story, and more a demonstration on learning how to write. There was no flow. The pace of most of my scenes was very average, to say the least. My characters were pretty good, but my dialogue was awful. It got progressively better the more I wrote- I could see the progress- but after a lot of attempting to squeeze and shape what I had, I was left with one conclusion- it nearly all had to go.

And gone it mostly is. Instead of editing what I've written, I'm starting from scratch. Except this time I know I'm starting with infinitely better skills, and I also know how to edit my work as I go. Instead of giving up on this book as the "doorstop" that will never see the light of day, I plan to set aside the first draft only, and put my renewed everything into my second draft.

No great revelations here, I suppose- just know that if you're starting out at writing, it's okay to write bad stuff to start with, as long as it keeps getting better. Nobody else can tell you whether it's worth persisting with- you'll know that if you a) read plenty of books and absorb good language, and are therefore able to realistically assess your own work; and b) if you can't get your story out of your head, and you love the journey it's taking you on (whether you love the actual butt-on-chair part so much or not!).

And one day you'll get to a point where you realise you actually know what you're doing. You'll still have plenty to learn, but you'll know that your story is taking you somewhere great.

Friday, October 23, 2009

And the winner is...

Names were written on slips of paper...

The lovely assistant drew the winner at random...

And that person was...

New Zealander Helen, that is, as opposed to Melbourne Helen R-S (g).

Congratulations Helen! Drop us a line at to let us know where to send your prize, and make sure to leave a comment here to let everyone else know which book you're going to pick.

And thanks again for entering! Stay tuned for next week's book giveaway.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blood of the Heart Excerpt

Papa sat across from her, blanket tucked around his knees, the faint smell of pipe smoke that always accompanied him stronger here in the confines of their carriage.

“Smile, Isabel. Most young ladies would be delighted to be on their way to Paris.”

She gave him a sour look. “Most young ladies do not have the burden of a rock-headed father, bent upon endangering his health.”

“And it seems I will have weeks of hen-pecking to endure,” he muttered, flicking open his latest copy of Punch. “In my books, I’d say we’re even.”

He disappeared behind the pages of his magazine; she glared at the paper barricade, then turned her gaze to the window.

The sky over Chislehurst was the grey of overwashed linen, hemmed by a bank of dirty, low-slung clouds. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Raindrops splattered upon the carriage glass. She did not believe in bosh such as omens and signs, but she could not deny the weather was supplying a suitably sombre tone to their seeing off.

The rain increased to a steady patter upon the roof. After a mile of jolting along the rutted lane they came to the crossroads on the edge of Chislehurst, marked on three corners by gnarled, twisting oaks, and on the fourth, by a tavern, the Pig and Pearl. Isabel gripped the handle of her valise. This was the junction that would irrevocably put them on the road to London. Then to Paris. From here on in, there would be no turning back.

Grasp the nettle, Knight. She breathed deeply, sank back against the leather seat; but just as she resolved to grin and bear the journey, she saw him. Standing beneath the tavern’s porch, just a blur of brown through the rain-sluiced window. His hand lifted what might have been a pipe to his mouth, and the smudge of his head turned as they passed by, as if tracking the progress of their coach.

Inspector Tucker.

Isabel shrank back in her seat. Had he seen her? Did he know their coach? Her stomach roiled.

Think! Think!

Slowly, she gained mastery over her panicked thoughts - and realised it mattered little whether he’d spied her in the coach. If he was watching the house, which she was sure he was, it would be apparent soon enough that she and her father had left Chislehurst. As a precaution, she had instructed a dubious looking Mrs Lees and Annie that should anyone come calling, they were with relatives, in Edinburgh; she only hoped the promised increase in their wages was sufficient motivation for them to lie to a policeman … and that when she returned, she had the ability to honour that promise.

Isabel turned in her seat, squashing her bonnet as she pressed her nose to the small rear window. The glass was made opaque with sheeting rain; if it was Inspector Tucker, he’d been swallowed by the gloom.

Leather creaked as she sat back down. Lightning scissored across the sky, thunder rumbled, and as the elements rose to the occasion, Chislehurst finally vanished from sight.

Isabel drew her valise tight to her chest.

Omens. Indeed.

Psst! Don't tell anyone, but ...

This, ladies and gentlemen, was a very hard post for me to prepare.

I know what I write – after three years of scribbling, I damn well should – but telling people what I write … hmm, that’s sort of like sticking pins in my eyes.

For the longest time, I found it impossible to admit that I even wrote. I’d sneak off to the computer, telling my husband I was off to do some “typing”, quickly minimising the screen if he walked by … sigh. What a twit. Nowadays, I’m fine with telling others that I write; it’s just the “what” that trips me up. I guess it’s because it’s mainly family and friends who ask that question, and when I start to answer I can see them thinking “Oh, my God! YOU - our wife/daughter/mum/sister/friend - are writing THAT?!” I guess what I write challenges the view some of my nearest and dearest have of me; not that what I write is anything outrageous, in my humble opinion - it’s just not what others expect of me.

Well, time for them to get over it, and for me to get over myself. And what better place to do so than in the company of other writers – “an advance of authors” being the collective noun, or so I’m told - who just know me as one of them.

So. What I write is what I love to read – historical suspense, a combination of genres that just does it for me.

I do love a good historical, suspense or otherwise - Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome Series, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, works by historical novelists such as Catherine Delors, C.W. Gortner, Philippa Gregory, Margaret George, Michael Cox, Tasha Alexander, Ariana Franklin … I’ve devoured them all. I’m fascinated by how people lived their lives in times gone by, and experience such a thrill when a writer effortlessly (seemingly!) transports me to the past - whether it’s ancient Egypt, Tudor England or nineteenth century Constantinople, I’m there.

I also love being on the edge of my seat, holding my breath with anticipation, when I read. Ah, the suspense! Bodies dumped in streets, innocent victims preyed upon, unpredictable plot twists and turns, heroes and heroines who must choose between taking a stand and risking their lives, or allowing chaos to reign unchecked … books such as C.S. Harris’ Sebastien St Cyr series, Mark Frost’s The List of Seven, most of Stephen King’s offerings, Silence of the Lambs … these all spring to mind as tales of suspense that I just could not put down.

I’m aiming for that same mix - suspense in an historical setting - in my own book, BLOOD OF THE HEART. In part, it deals with a darker side of the human condition; how it is that some people appear outwardly normal – the quiet, keeps-to-himself neighbour, for example – yet are able to snuff out another’s life without compunction, bringing pain and suffering into the world. And what is it that motivates others to do the exact opposite; to do their utmost to help others, to ease pain and suffering? And what happens when these delineations – to harm or to heal – begin to blur?

It’s also about ideals we cherish – reputation, liberty, identity; what it means to have them, and what happens when, one by one, they are taken away.

It’s through my main character, Isabel Knight, and my antagonist, Philippe, the Marquise de Cheverny, an artist and a serial killer, that these themes have become a story.

In 1864, Isabel is a newly minted physician who travels to Paris, the world centre of nineteenth century medicine, in the hope of finding a cure for her father’s debilitating ailments, and of finding some way to put her medical skills into practise. But Isabel lives with a gaping hole in her memory; one entire month of the previous year has been cleanly excised from her mind. She has chosen to try to accept her condition - her mind has clearly decided some things are better not to know, after all; but when a body is discovered dumped on a Parisian boulevard, mutilated by Isabel’s own distinctive, pearl handled scalpel, a medical symbol cut into its chest, the memories begin to flicker into focus – and what she sees makes her blood run cold.

The French police and British Embassy officials circle round her; when another body appears, murdered in the same manner, she becomes their prime suspect, and faces an agonising plight; to clear her name and to stop the murders, she must enter the killer’s game of cat and mouse – and pray that when the memories come tumbling out, she does not come to discover that she is exactly the same as the one she hunts.

It’s not all dark, however; Isabel just cannot help but have a sense of humour, a dry comment always at the ready, which is one of the reasons I love writing her. Philippe, too, is capable of being quite charming, despite his depravities.

So, I’m nearly finished the first draft. I hope (fingers and toes crossed) to be done by Christmas, when I will shove the thing in a drawer for a good six weeks, after which I will get stuck into it with my scissors and lashings of red pen!

I’m going to be a snip-hog, and post two exerpts - Isabel going hammer and tongs with one Mr Skelton, money-lender and thug (a minor character who causes her grief when her shady brother won’t repay his debts); and Philippe, at work.

And my questions for you:

What is your favourite mix of genres to write, or read, or both? And why?

And – because I’m nearing this point and I’m damned curious - what do you do when you reach the end of you first draft? Let it sit and percolate for months? Or type THE END and whip right back into edits?

Oh, and don’t forget, if you comment before 12 noon EST, Friday, October 23rd, you’ll be in the running to win one of Claire’s book picks. They're a fabulous selection; I'm so bummed I can't enter!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Litte Something From The Petal Falls

“You didn’t answer my question,” he said softly.

I rolled away, blinking up at the diamond dust sky. After all we had been through he deserved my trust. And the truth; at least most of it. I would not tell him about Callow. There were too many questions I couldn’t answer.

“I knew I was no longer safe there,” I said finally. I told him of my dinner with Andrews, careful to omit how Callow actually died and the finer points of Andrews touching me because I did not want to relive those moments.

It hardly mattered. Lieutenant Stanton said not a word but I heard his anger rise. A sharp snap rang out as I explained Andrews’s proposition. It might have been a log from the fire settling but the sound came from the lieutenant’s direction.

“I kept him at bay as long as I could, but he sent me a note yesterday stating that we would...ah, meet on Monday.” Even now my stomach clenched in revulsion.

I waited for him to respond. I could feel the energy in him humming like that of a steam engine. I feared he would soon blow. But he spoke with equanimity.

“You should have told me.”

“To what end, Lieutenant?”

“To his, of course.” The resolution in his voice was so complete, without a hint of possible failure that I had to smile.

“Dueling is illegal, as you well know.”

He snorted mildly. “It would not be a duel.”

“That only makes it worse. I said before, I would not see your life ruined.”

“You worry too much about my welfare, Molly.”

It was my turn to snort. “That is only because you worry too little about it.”

He barked with laughter. “Fair enough.”

He was silent and then I heard him take an unsteady breath, which he blew out slowly as though calming himself. “It’s been a long time since anyone worried over me,” he said softly. “I had almost forgotten how it felt.”

My cheeks burned and I knew his likely did as well. We had a habit of saying too much to each other. Lying together in the dark only made us freer. It was a wonder to me that I felt such comfort in his presence but I needed to quell my impetuous tongue or he’d soon know the whole of me.

“What was the other reason?” His question broke through our strained silence.

“Oh...ah, I have something Blume and Andrews want.”

“And that differs how exactly…”

“Really, Lieutenant; where your mind is.” I laughed before becoming serious again. “I have my mother’s jewels. There are quiet a few rings, a pearl necklace, a couple of bracelets and a rather large ruby pendant, to be exact.”

He cursed softly under his breath.

“On the night of the fire, I decided to keep them from Mr. Callow. I didn’t want to see that man even touch them, and by rights they are mine. So I hid the jewels in my dress with the idea that the state would let me keep my clothes. It was only by providence or dumb luck that I happened to have the dress on when the house burned down around me.” I sighed in the darkness. “All I have left to keep me from being a poor relation is sewn into my skirt.”

“Have Blume and Andrews seen you with them?”

“No. But they keep asking questions regarding them. Andrews made several round about inquires regarding the jewelry during our supper. But I don’t think they are in cooperation with each other.” I spoke as the thought came to me. “They are at cross purposes somehow.”
I shook my head. “It doesn’t matter. They both knew I was lying, and both were determined to find them. Later, after that incident with Morris…” I knew without having to look that

Lieutenant Stanton had stiffened. “Someone searched my room.”

He made a strangled noise deep within his throat and I smiled. “I'm not sure if it was Morris, it could have been any of them. At any rate, my stay at Fort Blair had to come to an end.”

“It was me.”

The abrupt confession rang out into the night and something within me jerked.

“What!” I was up on my knees in one motion.

He was just as fast, and before me in an instant. “I had to!”


I should have jumped up and run but my legs wouldn’t work, the desperation in his voice held me still.

“Because I could no longer keep you safe!”

He sat back on his heals. The dark reduced his features into triangles of blue and black.
“Andrews was circling you like a hungry dog, and I now know why! Blume was growing impatient with my reticence, and Morris was riffling through your room –as you well know.”

“And you thought you’d take a look as well! Finding my jewels will help keep me safe?”

“No,” he shot back. “I didn’t even know about them –though it explains a lot. And I didn’t search your room. I merely made it look like someone had.”

“Oh that makes sense!” I snapped “Thank you, Lieutenant for saving me –”

“If you would shut up and let me finish–”

“Shut up?”

“You know what Blume is capable of, don’t you.” It was not a question.

Nonplused, I shut my mouth.

Sensing this, his voice grew soft. “I saw it in your face on the day you left his office.”

I nodded feeling ridiculously close to sobbing.

His shadowy form leaned a bit closer, though he still had the forethought not to touch me. “I can only hope you never learned the extent of his perversion.”

A strangled noise broke past my lips and he cursed.

“I…I saw him with Elise.”

He sat back, tilting his head to the sky. “His ‘little acts of kindness’ are well known by the men,” he said thinly. His shadow moved again and I realized he rubbed his hand over his face. “I feel like the lowest of cowards for not finding a way to put a stop to it.”

“You’re not a coward.”

He would never be that. But my protest did little to persuade him, for he merely snorted in wry disagreement. And I thought John Stanton would likely take the weight of the world upon his shoulders, given half the chance.

“I knew you understood the danger you were in, Molly, but you didn’t act. I expected you to put up more of a fight. I expected you to hound Blume until he was forced to let you leave,” he said tiredly. “Write letters to your Aunt, make the kind of ruckus you did in Blume’s office. I even goaded you. But you simply stayed put. ”

He sighed like one who’d failed but only realized how much in hindsight. “It was only a matter of time before Blume sent me off on some fool’s errand. And you would be alone with them. I figured finding your rooms upended would be the last straw. Only I expected that you’d come to me for help.” He shook his head and snorted again. “You didn’t behave as expected.”

I shifted onto my heels, taking my weight more comfortably. It did nothing to alleviate the knot that twisted in my belly. He was right. And right to anticipate that sort of reaction from me.

“You sound like my mother,” I muttered. “She always said that to me.”

“Ah well, the fault is mine. I should have simply come to you and offered passage to Chicago, except I expected you to be stubborn about that too.” The smile in his voice drifted through the darkness.

“Perhaps,” I said stiffly.

“My hands were tied.” He faced me in the darkness. “Blume knew it, I knew it, even Morris knew it. Perhaps it was the wrong thing to do, but I’m here now, Molly. And I’ll see you safe to Chicago. I am no longer bound by their rules. I won’t let anyone come near you. On that you have my word.”

I eased back into my bed and rolled onto my stomach, bunching the blanket around me. Seeing the fight had gone out of me, Stanton did much the same, giving me a gruffly offered “good night,” as he did.

My eyes felt heavy, the day’s ride was catching up with me but I could not sleep just yet.

“John,” I said on the edge of sleep. The use of his given name felt almost too intimate, delicious even; I could say his name forever and never grow tired of it. And I could no longer think of him as anything else, nor did I want to.


“Thank you,” I whispered, hoping the darkness hid my emotions. “For tearing apart my room. And for coming after me.”

John stirred slightly. “You’re welcome, Molly.” It was a husky whisper in the darkness, soothing me in to a comforted sleep.

A Bit of West Club Moon

A snip from West Club Moon. And, because I realized that I didn’t give any summary of the story, here is the pitch I used in my query letter to Kristin:

Pride and dark magic left Lord Benjamin Archer horribly transformed, forced to hide from society until he finds a way to undue his curse. A good plan, had he not done the impractical --fallen in love.

Miranda Ellis fears little, but is no fool. She knows accepting a marriage proposal from the enigmatic Lord Archer is tantamount to dancing with the devil. His strange masked appearance and foul temper have all of London wary. But the eyes behind the mask promise adventure, an escape from her father who has forced her into a life of crime. What she does not expect is Archer’s sharp wit, or the way his gaze melts her insides like hot tea to sugar. Suddenly her convenient husband has become quite tantalizing.

Then elderly noblemen start turning up butchered in the most gruesome of fashion, and the ton immediately suspect the oddly attired, thus sinister, Lord Archer. Such foul logic spurs Miranda to clear Archer’s name by investigating him, only to fall into a world of intrigue, clandestine societies, and an irate husband thwarting her at every turn. For Archer knows what Miranda cannot: to protect the woman he loves from an unstoppable killer, he must give in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to keep within, even if it means losing his soul to it.

And the snip!

“You have not asked why I was following you,” she said as the cab headed up Piccadilly. It had rained while they were in Burlington House and the cobbled road glistened like black snakeskin.

Archer settled in more comfortably and his arm brushed her sleeve. “I know that well. It is because you are the most stubborn, impetuous, overtly curious creature I have ever known.”

Something rude passed over her lips and the corners of his eyes crinkled. She pulled her gloves on tighter and gazed out the side window at the massive Georgian building they passed, its limestone face painted onyx by coal’s black hand.

“I shall take that as a complement,” she decided aloud. The coach turned on Shaftsbury and into lighter traffic.

“As you should,” he answered. “There is enough complacency in this world.”

The coach slammed over a rut in the road. Just as abruptly, her good humor faded. She turned away with a frown.

Archer’s sigh of resignation broke their stalemate. “All right, I’ll play your game. Why are you following me?” Despite his jesting manner, irritation sharpened in his voice.

“Sir Percival’s murder,” she said without thinking. The black mask faced her, the eyes behind it flat as pewter as the wide expanse of his chest hardened like mortar and her heart sank with dread. Why had she prompted this conversation? Curiosity would be the death of her, to be sure.

Until Archer, she hadn’t thought of stillness as explosive. “You think I had something to do with it,” he said in even, awful tones.

“No!” She gripped the handle of her parasol. “No. But they have all made assumptions based on your appearance and…”

“You believe the mass intellect without measure?”

She flinched at the coldness in his voice. The ivory kid leather of her gloves pulled tight enough for the little lines of graining to run like tiny rivers over her knuckles. “Such skewed logic galls me. Guilt or innocence ought to be based on proof, not hearsay.”

The coach rounded a bend and his shoulder pressed into hers then moved away. His voice grew as rough as the road. “So you your boundless curiosity bids you to discover my innocence. Or is it proof of guilt you seek?”

“I’d like to believe you are innocent.”

“Why? Don’t want to lose the security of my income?”

Our income,” she snapped back. “As you’ve stated.”

He made a sound. “Better to see me hang then and collect all of it, darling.”

“Oh for pity’s sake!” She thumped her parasol on the floor for emphasis. “I cannot believe it was you.”


“I have my reasons.”

His eyes pinned her to the spot as they jostled over the cobbles. “Which are?”

She refused to answer as she held his gaze. The corner of his eye twitched.

“I should not have to profess my innocence to my wife,” he said slowly. There was no hurt in his voice, no anger, only prodding as if daring her to reveal more. That itself lifted her heart.

“And I should not have to ask of it. Yet here we are.”

The corners of his eyes creased. The sound of laughter came from behind his mask. “A fine pickle we are in.”

“Pickle? An Americanism?”

“Yes. Five years there and my language is polluted.”

She ducked her head, trying not to smile. The coach swayed gently as it turned a corner. She faced him again and found him watching. “I shall ask it once, Archer. Whatever you say, I will believe it.”

His shoulders tensed. “Why?” he rasped. “Why give me your trust when you know it is such an easy thing to break?”

“Perhaps the easy giving of it will make it harder to break.”

He made a soft sound. “Lying is quite easy, Miranda Fair. I can assure you.”

“Amusing. But I don’t believe that of you.” She shifted to face him, the effect of which unfortunately pushed her knees against his thigh. She couldn’t move away without drawing attention so she went on as if unaffected. “You hide many things, Archer. But you do not lie. Not to a direct question, anyway.”

He leaned in and the hard swell of his thigh slid along her knee. “You’re collecting pieces of me, aren’t you?” His voice turned thick as warm toffee. “A bit here. A bit there.” A slow shiver lit over her skin. “Soon you’ll set me out on the table, try to fit me back together.”

“I’ve only got the corners,” she said, little tremors in her belly making her voice thin. “But it is a start.”

His laugh was a purr. “I believe you have the center piece as well.”

Before she could reply, he spoke again. “No. I did not kill him.”

Warmth eased the tightness in her shoulders. She dared not smile. Not yet. “Do you know who did?”

She could all but feel his grin as he sat back against the bolsters.

“I’ve only got the corners.”

Miranda’s lips twitched. Cheeky sot. “And when you have all the pieces? Then will you tell me?”

This time he did laugh, sudden and sharp. “Not if I can help it.” Her ire rose when he suddenly reached out gave the curl at her neck a gentle tug. “I sense a predilection for trouble coming from you. I’ve no desire to encourage it.” END

Excuse me, this might take a while...

What do I write? Perhaps it shouldn’t, but this is a question, when put to me in casual conversation, that always produces the following effect: “Well it’s a…that is to say, I am writing a… (at this point, I am assuredly blushing)…well, I call it a historical, adventure, romance, paranormal…” And then I trail off awkwardly as the other person nods kindly and plasters a benign smile on their face –the sort reserved for children and mentally challenged people.

Why is it so hard to describe what I write to people? Never mind, I know the answer.

First off, I’m in love with my stories. Introducing them to people is akin to telling your parents that you have a steady man whom you love. You want so much for them to get along. You want your parents to see in him all the lovely qualities you see. And there is a chance that they may not. So you become protective, afraid that you are not doing justice to your man.

Secondly, as a writer, I’d like to say that story comes first, genre classification second. As a writer, I don’t _want_ to be boxed into any one genre, and don’t think my stories should either. An idea comes and I follow it wherever it goes. But as a writer who wants to be published, I know that agents, editors, and -most importantly- publishing houses DO classify novels, so skewing a novel to fit more or less into one specific genre makes my life a whole lot easer on said road to publication. (Feel free to disagree)

As my stories always features (among other things) a couple meeting, getting to know one another, falling in love, having sex (g), I decided to call them romances. But my love of mysteries, thrillers, historicals, and paranormals make it impossible for me to write straight category romances. I’d love to call what I write adventure stories, but there isn’t an adventure genre at present. So romance it is. Romance with a twist. Yeah, that sounds right. Historical, paranormal, romantic suspense… oh never mind!

Now as to my stories specifically, there are two. The first one –my first love- is The Petal Falls (I’ll say here that I have a hard time with titles and always think of this book simply as Molly and John’s story –shrug). Petal is the story of Molly Bishop, a psychic woman who falls in love with a young army lieutenant, John Stanton, only to discover through horrible dreams that he will hang for a crime she unintentionally committed. While Molly tries to deny her growing attraction for John, and keep him at arm’s distance, a deeper threat to their safety arrives in the form of a mysterious ruby necklace left to her by her father. The necklace may or may not be the infamous Philosopher’s Stone –known to give its possessor untold riches and immortality. And someone is willing to kill to get it.

Petal got me an agent last year. It went on submission right in the midst of some of the darkest days/months in publishing. Petal was sitting on more than one editor’s desk when Random House underwent a massive reorganization that had everyone running scared. Poor Petal did not sell. Was the publishing upheaval to blame? Who knows. Petal is admittedly long, epic, and not your normal romance. I’ll never know. But I still have hopes that Petal will someday find a home.

Flash forward to West Club Moon. While on submission with Petal, I decided to keep busy by writing another book. I couldn’t very well write book two of Petal (in case it didn’t sell). I had to try something different. This was a huge challenge for me as I had lived in Molly and John’s world for so long, and loved them dearly. I felt a bit like a traitor. I sat for a good while in front of a blaring white screen. Then from somewhere beyond my fog, my five-year-old daughter called out for me to put in a movie: Beauty and the Beast. And while it played, another story stared to fill my head, of Victorian London, streets shrouded in fog, gleaming cobbles, and of a man, cursed (by what I had no idea) and angry because a shady merchant had stolen his ship, a ship which carried most precious cargo –the key to ending the curse. Only the ship had sunk, and now the merchant would pay, pay in the form of his beautiful daughter. Within an hour, I had 80 per cent of the story in my head. Five and a half months later, I’d finished the first draft. I love this story. I had great fun in writing it. But I will say now that having learned a bit with trying to sell Petal, I intentionally kept in mind that I was writing a romance first, and an adventure second.

When it came time to sell WCM, I decided to switch gears and let my former agent go. It was a terrifying thing to do (what if I couldn’t get another agent?), but a partnership with an agent is one of the most important business relationships a writer will have. And a perfect fit might not happen the first time out; I wanted a perfect fit. I started querying at the end of August, and am pleased to say that on October 8th, I signed with the spectacularly wonderful, and utterly charming, Kristin Nelson. I couldn’t be happier.

Kristin and I will be working of combing through WCM and tightening it up. Then we shall see. I, for one, will be crossing fingers and toes because I love this book, and would love to share it with all of you.

So that’s it. That is what I write. Told in a long, drawn out, confused tale. Right on par with my normal behavior. I only hope that you will forgive my rambling. And tell me…is it hard for you to talk about your babies too?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Faking It: Excerpt

After about ten minutes, I figured the coast was clear and slipped back outside. The girls were indeed gone, and I let out a sigh of relief. I had half a mind to remove my shoes, which, let’s face it, were meant more for looks than comfort, but refrained. They crunched against the gravel as I weaved through the parking lot and back towards the entrance where I had parked my car.

There was a chill in the air, and I crossed my arms to glean what warmth I could from a pair of spaghetti straps. Drunken patrons were shouting to each other all around me, some yelling out lewd comments to me as I passed. Only when one dared to make a comment on the cold air’s affect on a certain part of my anatomy did I turn to give them a one-finger salute.

Hey, I’m impulsive.

Too late, I realized it was one of the guys from earlier—the one who had tried to suction cup his groin to my ass.

“Hey, Mommy,” he said, blowing me a kiss. His friends—all of the baggy-pant, greasy haired variety—leaned against a pair of low-rider cars that shook with heavy bass. They looked damned disreputable, not to mention very scary now that I didn’t have any back-up. There were at least five of them—that I could see. No telling how many more lurked behind the tinted windows.

I put my head down and kept walking. I didn’t get more than a few feet before the leader—the one who thought we were related—scurried past to block my way.

“Where you goin’, Mommy?”

I jerked away from him. He had a row of gold teeth that glinted when he grinned. I hadn’t noticed them before. Attractive. And, might I add, not exactly a selling point.

“I’m not your mommy,” I snapped. “If I were, I’d tell you to wash your hair and pull up your damn pants.”

Okay, quite possibly the worst time and place to make such an observation.

His eyes hardened and his grin faded. “You got a real smart mouth, bitch.”

“Turrets,” I said with an aww-shucks grin and tried to maneuver around him. He stepped in front of me, and I heard the distinct sound of approaching footfalls.

Sh-t, sh-t, sh-t.

His friends came up behind us, circling the spot and blocking all possible escape routes. I didn’t really think they would try anything—not within sight of so many witnesses, but then, what the hell did I know? I’m the idiot who had gotten them all riled up to begin with.

A hand shot out and made a grab for my ass. I smacked it away, my heart trip-hammering in my chest. “I don’t want any trouble,” I said, quelling the squeal rising in my throat.

“Too late, Mommy,” Goldtooth said.

Hands were everywhere—pinching and trying to catch a feel beneath my scant clothing. I shied away from them only to be met with someone else as soon as I attempted to retreat in a different direction. I felt like a goddamn pinball.

No sooner had it all begun than someone appeared behind Goldtooth. A thick arm came around his neck, cutting off his air supply with a sharp squeak.

“Leave her alone.” To punctuate his words, Gabe tightened his grip around Goldtooth’s windpipe, making the hoodlum’s eyes bug out.

Hands dropped away, and I met Gabe’s eyes. Stunned and speechless. With a jerk of his head, he motioned for me to move behind him. I quickly obeyed, the gratitude I felt toward him in that moment almost stealing my breath away. My hands shook as I straightened my clothing. By some miracle, everything was still intact.

“Back off,” Gabe said to the remaining circle of men. They hesitated, torn. Gabe was far-outnumbered, but their leader was being threatened.

Goldtooth tried to croak out a few words. When that failed to work, he simply flapped his arms at them. They backed up a few paces, still tensed to jump into battle should the word be given.

When the group had retreated a good distance, Gabe released Goldtooth and shoved him towards his car.

Everything happened fast then.

I saw a flash of metal appear in Goldtooth’s hand. Before a scream could travel from my brain to my mouth, Gabe moved in. Next thing I knew, Gabe had wrenched the gun away.

“Didn’t your Mommy teach you not to play with guns?” Gabe said, plunking Goldtooth upside the head with his own weapon.

Holy sh-t. I nearly laughed at the surprise on the hoodlum’s face.

Distracted, I didn’t see his friends rush forward. Gabe, however, anticipated the move and turned the weapon on them in warning. They froze mid-stride. I said a quick prayer that none of them were armed.

I scanned the area. Several club-goers were transfixed by the spectacle before them. Should any of them come to the group’s aid, we would be in serious trouble.

Gabe seemed to have similar thoughts.

“Get in your cars,” he said, his forearms bulging as he aimed the weapon at the nearest man. “Get in and we’ll all walk away from this without any more trouble.”

By some miracle, they listened and began a slow retreat to the open doors behind them.

“Go. Quick,” Gabe said. He kept his focus on the men, but I knew he was addressing me. We both backed away.

Goldtooth was the first one out of the vehicle.

“You’re probably a lousy f-ck anyway, Puta,” he spat out.

I stopped dead.

I could take a lot of things. Being threatened. Being called a bitch. I’m pretty even-keeled like that.

What I wouldn’t tolerate, however, was having my womanhood called into question. Especially by some greasy gangster with bad teeth.

A half-full beer bottle lay discarded between two darkened cars, and before I gave it much conscious thought, I scooped it up and chucked it at the a--hole’s head.

Frankly, it was a sissy throw—not to mention way off base. It soared through the air like some slow motion Hail Mary and smashed into one of the pimp-mobile’s windows. Beer sprayed everywhere—all over the car and all over Goldtooth.

There was a moment of stunned silence.

I swallowed hard. Oops.

Goldtooth turned slowly to face me, his eyes flashing every shade of red. Beer dripped from the bling around his neck.

“Oh sh-t,” Gabe said.

Truer words and all that.

Gabe grabbed my hand and yanked me behind him. “Run!” he yelled, turning to give me a firm nudge. “Run!”

He didn’t need to tell me twice. I turned on my heel and took off towards my car. I could hear him behind me, and even further behind him, the echo of many angry voices. It didn’t matter who had the gun. If they caught us, we were both f-cked.

I didn’t stop until I spotted my Eclipse. I scrambled inside and attempted to close the door only to have a large hand pluck the key ring from my fingers. Before I could protest, I found myself being shuttled over to the passenger side. The door slammed behind me, and I heard the power locks engage.

“Hey!” I yelled, trying to stop myself before I smashed into the opposite window. My ass was in the air, and my hair was in my face. I let loose a slew of expletives that would’ve made my mother ashamed.

The engine roared to life.

“Hold on,” Gabe said. The car lurched backward and the sudden momentum sent me tumbling into the foot well. I lay there, my skirt hiked up to my crotch and my legs tangled around the gear shift.

“Are you trying to kill me?” I said, swatting the hair out of my face.

Gabe glared down at me, shifted, and returned his eyes to the road. In the distance, I heard an angry mob of men screaming in our wake. I held on for dear life, one hand clutching the dash above me, the other digging into the fabric of the passenger seat. I desperately wanted to pull my skirt down, but I didn’t dare try with the car pitching back and forth as he tried to maneuver out of the parking lot.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, the car hit smooth road. My heart rate slowed to a full canter, and I found my voice again.

“Stop the car. You drive like a goddamned maniac.”

“You know, most people might be grateful.” The corner of his mouth tipped up despite the heat in his voice. “Hell, they might even thank me for getting them out of that mess.”

He had a point, but it was damn hard to be judicious with my underpants winking at him.

I bit my tongue, and looked at him. Really looked at him.

A most unladylike snort escaped me. A good foot taller than me, and having had no time to adjust the seat, Gabe had been forced to stuff himself inside my small car. His knees were practically touching his earlobes, and the wheel was pressed tight against his groin. He looked like a circus clown driving a toy car.

I giggled. I couldn’t help myself.

He grimaced. “You realize I may never father children after this?”

By the Pale Moonlight: Excerpt

The clang of the shackle locking into place around Ty’s wrist echoed in my heart. I ran my fingers gently beneath the unforgiving metal. The contrast between the iron and his velvety skin stirred the emotions I barely held in check.

“We should pad your wrists first,” I said, my voice thick.

“I appreciate the sentiment, Mac, but it won’t matter.” Before I could argue with him, he added, “Besides, we have to make sure there’s enough give for when I change.”

With his free hand, Ty grabbed the chain attached to the ceiling and pulled with his full weight. It held firm, though a light fall of dirt rained down to dust our shoulders.

“Do you think it will hold?”

He jerked the restraint again. “I hope so.” His green eyes met mine, but he wouldn’t allow me time to succumb to my fears. “You better lock my other arm. It’s almost dark.”

I immediately went to work, struggling with the latch on the metal cuff as Ty softly whispered instructions. At last, it snapped shut and I stepped back as he once again tested the give. Dressed in a pair of dark grey gym shorts, he looked like a modern day Christ waiting for absolution. The deep cuts on his chest were raw and shiny. I turned away, unable to bear the sight before me.

All of our hard work had been for nothing. In the end, we hadn’t been able to cure him. In the end, we were right back where we had started.

The guilt of it all weighed heavy on my shoulders. I’d distracted Ty too much—split his attention with a million irrelevant things that no longer seemed important. Now I had to chain him in a pit and leave him completely defenseless.

“You should go.” Ty’s voice was low and soft, a gentle plea in his tone.

I ran a hand over my mouth to hide the slight tremor in my lips. “Are you sure you’ll be okay?”

“I promise to stay put.” His attempt at wry humor landed with a thud; he immediately looked repentant. “I’m sorry. No more jokes.”

“Good.” I tried to lighten my tone. “Remember I have you at an advantage. Misbehave, and I can do whatever I want to you.”

He grinned. “Anything?”

I tried to smile, but failed as a tremor stole through me again. Our eyes locked and held.

He motioned me over with a jerk of his chin. “Give us a little kiss before you go.”

I went to him, running my fingertips along the slopes of his chin before kissing him softly on the lips. He buried his face in my neck and we stood for a long time, cheek to cheek, both reluctant to be apart. I knew if I didn’t leave him then, I wouldn’t be able to go. I took a deep breath and memorized the smell of him—that certain Ty scent mixed with sweat and the woodsy outdoors.

“Stay close to your parents,” Ty whispered, his lips warm as he pressed a kiss against my temple.

I turned and quickly ascended the stairs without looking back. I barred the cellar door and set the small alarm that would alert me if the door opened some time in the night. Melanie waited outside and gave me a reassuring smile as we secured the building with yet another alarm.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?” Melanie searched my face. In the gray light of dusk, her face was almost white, the slight smattering of freckles across her nose standing out even more than usual. She looked scared. This was the last place on earth she wanted to be, but I knew she would stay if I asked her to.

I shook my head. “No.”

My reasons were numerous, but mostly I needed to be alone. Just for one night, I didn’t want to filter my emotions for the sake of another person. When tears came, they would be shed in privacy.

“You’ll call me if anything happens?” Melanie said, glancing nervously at the shed and back at me. “I can be here in less than ten minutes.”

“You’re on my speed dial.”

She squeezed my arm and hurried up the drive to her car parked at the curb. She cast me one last wary glance, got in, and drove away.

The sun hung low in the trees, weak rays breaking through the now bare branches. A slight breeze scuttled stray leaves across the asphalt, the only sound in the growing twilight. The world seemed to be waiting with baited breath for some dormant unrest to rise and break free from its constraints. I wrapped my arms around my torso and tried to stay the impending doom taking root in my chest. If only I could know the path we’d chosen was the right one.

I paused and studied the small shed, trying to imagine what Ty was thinking, what emotions coursed through him in that moment. I struggled with the urge to release him and finally had to force myself to turn and head inside my house. Once there, I secured the locks, and with a determined set of my jaw, vowed to uphold my end of the bargain.

I Think I Did Pretty Well...

...considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of paper.

--Steve Martin

Aha, so the big question this week. What do I write?


Like Claire, I’m all over the board when it comes to what I write. In fact, it would almost be easier to tick off the genres I haven’t tried at this point. Two come to mind – sci-fi and western. I’m not ruling those two out, mind you, it’s just that I haven’t given them a shot at this particular point in time. In other words, don’t be surprised if I someday write a western set in space. It could happen. Trust me.

But at last tally, I’ve tried my hand at historical, mystery/suspense, fantasy, romance (sort of), literary fiction (again, sort of), and YA. And when I say YA, I mean all kinds of YA. Current topics range from ghosts, to werewolves, to arson, to sexual abuse, to plain ole’ fashioned super heroes. I like to toy around with lots of different stories.

Why so diverse?

Well, to be quite honest, for me genre classification comes secondary to telling a story. I simply don’t give it much thought in the initial stages of dreaming up/starting a project. What comes first is an idea – some little seed that slowly takes shape in my mind. In the beginning, it may just be a small scene, a kernel, if you will, that I don’t really know how to classify. Then, as the story starts to mature, I’m eventually able to say…Okay, this is going to be a fantasy. Or maybe an urban fantasy that’s got a strong “whodunit” mystery thread to it. But at first, it’s just a story.

Some may argue I’m totally schizo because of this. Some might say it’s a sign of my immaturity as a writer. Both could be right. I certainly wouldn’t argue against either idea. But the truth is, I love to tell stories – all kinds of stories. And I don’t want to paint myself into a corner by saying I write This One Genre And Nothing Else. Where’s the fun in that?

So, what do I have to show for all of this?

As of this moment, I have two completed novels. One is an adult mystery/suspense. The other is a young adult paranormal.

I wish I had some cool story like Claire’s to share, but I don’t. The truth of the matter is that I wrote my adult novel – FAKING IT – because people kept urging me to write a book about my experiences as an undercover drug investigator—literally. A non-fiction memoir of sorts. Well, that all sounds fine and dandy, but trust me, it would’ve been BORING. That stuff you see on TV? FICTION, people. FICTION.

I had this nightmarish image of people pounding on my door, demanding their money back once they learned what UC work really entailed. I.e. a lot of waiting around…followed by more waiting around…followed by a whole truckload of paperwork. Talk about a snooze fest.

But, I had to admit there was some merit behind the idea. Not many people know what it’s like to go undercover—the constant lying involved, the ever-present fear of being made, the hobnobbing with drug dealers you would cross the street to get away from in your normal, everyday life. It’s a job made for fiction, and I had a whole mess of experiences to write about.

I started with the idea I would write a romantic suspense. (Is that even the correct term?) Why? Because I thought it would be easy! (Insert a hearty chuckle here) It was HORRIBLE. Yes, an all caps kind of horrible. I quickly scraped the idea and gave up. Only it kept nagging at me.

(During this period, I was neck-deep in the Evanovich books. Loved the voice. Loved the humor. I finally said… I CAN DO THAT!!! I can tell a funny undercover story. This will be a cinch!)


Well, it was better….And I was having a great time throwing my characters into the most outrageous situations I could imagine. My execution wasn’t always the greatest, but eventually I said to myself:

Jen…What the heck?! You ARE funny. (This is something some co-workers of mine would dispute. They tell me all the time that I am not funny. Not even a little bit. Granted, most of them speak very little English. I’m convinced my humor doesn’t translate into Spanish.) And FI as its known today was born.

I’ve got one “completed” book (which is in the middle of being hacked to death in the revision process), and a good third of the sequel. I also have ideas for many, many other books –including a prequel. I write this series because I love my main character, Madison – and I love the two men in her life – Drew and Gabe. I could be quite happy to write about them for many years to come.

That said, they don’t satisfy me completely. My other love is Young Adult. All types of young adult. I love the complexity of emotions involved, the immediacy, the awkwardness of being inside a teenager’s head….the limitless potential for the type of stories I can tell.

I’ll be honest, I started BY THE PALE MOONLIGHT when I heard an agent say she was looking for stories about werewolves. It was really my first attempt to “write to the market” which we all know is a ridiculous idea. Granted, I didn’t know that at the time, but regardless – I wouldn’t have continued with it if I hadn’t fallen head over heels in love with my characters and their story. So, in the end, I’m SO glad I took that leap—no matter how idiotic the notion.

BY THE PALE MOONLIGHT is a paranormal “whodunit” with werewolves. It’s the kind of story I would’ve loved as a teen. It’s the kind of story I still love. It’s the kind of story that was started LONG before I had even heard of TWILIGHT. (Just want to make that clear!) Bah on Team Jacob. It’s Team TY, I tell ya.

It’s light in parts, dark in others. It opened the door to exploring many other young adult books. More about those another time.

Many people ask which I like best – Adult or young adult?

Well, it’s impossible for me to choose. They both have their challenges, they both push me in different ways.

So my answer has to be: Why choose? Can’t I have both? (grin)

So yeah, that's what I write. For now, it's all pure enjoyment. Someday, I hope to get paid. (very big grin)

Some excerpts to follow. Thanks for listening to my babble.

So tell me, what's the weirdest story you ever tried to write? Mine would be my epic Gabaldonesque Scottish Time Travel that is collecting dust under my bed. (g) You?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Between the Lines: Excerpt

Stonehaven, Western Australia

The first time she saw him down by the river that summer afternoon, she couldn’t pull her eyes away. He stood tall and straight, the sun playing over the long lines of his legs, and when he drew back his arm and lobbed a rock into the water, every part of him moved in perfect time. The stone broke the glassy brown surface with a plop and disappeared. Somewhere high above, a magpie warbled out, singing to the sky. She stayed in the tree-dappled shade at the edge of the bank, almost holding her breath, transfixed by his golden hair and the strong curve of his chin, until he turned around and saw her.

Their eyes locked from fifteen feet apart. Even from there, she could see that his had the colour and depth of the the aquamarine stone in her favourite brooch.

And then he bent swiftly to the ground, snatched up another rock from the pile, and hurled it straight at her.

She yelped and skipped out of the way as it skittered into the bush. “Hey!”

He was already bending down for another. “Having a good look?”

She rushed for the nearest tree and slipped behind it, peering out. She was, but she wasn’t going to say it. “No! No, I just… like to come here.” She ducked back, waiting for the next missile, but nothing happened. She peeked out again. “Who are you?”

He squinted at her, suspicious. “Len. Who are you?”

“Katherine.” She eased out from behind the tree, and brushed aside a branch of something with a lemony scent. His voice was deep. He looked about her age, maybe a year older. “You can call me Kit if you want.”

“You new here?” He swung his leg and kicked at the rusty soil. He was wearing shorts and no shoes. The skin on his legs was brown as tree bark, dusted in hair the colour of sunlight.

“We just moved to the farm up there.” She nodded back over her shoulder.

He broke into a wide grin. “The preacher? You’re the preacher’s daughter?”

Something about the way he said it made her bristle. She stood as tall as she could, but he still had a head on her. “I am.”

His eyes ran all the way down to her feet and back up again. “You don’t look like a preacher’s daughter.”

The sun seemed very warm on her neck all of a sudden. She folded her arms and put her chin up. “What’s a preacher’s daughter supposed to look like?”

He walked towards her, hands on his hips, still smiling. “I dunno. Plain. Boring.” He reached out and touched the plait of golden hair that draped down over her shoulder, just for a moment. “Brown, probably.”

“Sorry to disappoint you.”

He laughed. “I’m not disappointed.”

They stared at each other while the trees chattered in the breeze, until a whirring insect broke the quiet. She took a step back, feeling the blood rush into her cheeks. “So… what are you doing?”

He glanced back at the river. “Wasting time.” His smile did something funny to her stomach. “You wanna waste some time with me?”

She forced herself to shrug. “All right.”

They settled together on the edge of the bank, feet in the rushing cool of the river.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Book giveaway: Claire's choices

This week's book give-away- the draw closes on Friday 23rd October at 12pm EST. To enter, leave a comment on this post or any of our posts this week.

I thought long and hard about what book I wanted to give away as a welcome to our blog. I debated whether to choose a book that stunned me with brilliant language; an Australian literary classic; or a book that inspired and haunted me. And in the end I decided I just couldn't pick between them, so I figured I'd leave that up to you. This week, I'll offer a choice of one of three books as the prize, and you get to pick which one you want if you win.

All three books are set in World War I, and each of the three books represent three different perspectives on the war: English, Australian and German. I didn't pick any of them because they were war genre or literary fiction. Each one came to mind when I was thinking about books that have had a profound impact on my writing, and I shall elaborate on why to help you decide which one YOU will pick if your name comes out of the hat this Friday. The books are:

FLY AWAY PETER, by David Malouf

First up: Pat Barker's REGENERATION.

The first in a trilogy that includes THE EYE IN THE DOOR and Booker Prize winner THE GHOST ROAD, REGENERATION is based on the real-life experiences of First World War British army officers being treated for shell-shock. The novel features fictionalised versions of real people, including poets Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves, and asks what is madness? The soldiers who crumble under the horrific conditions of the battlefield, or the society that keeps patching them up and sending them back to the front?

The book is dryly humourous and beautifully written with an absolute economy of language and a richness of character. The characters are vivid and real, and above all else their madness is understandable. Logical, even. This book made me wonder how any survivor of war could truly come home when the world was, for them, a different place.

Next: FLY AWAY PETER, by Australian author David Malouf.

I confess that I first read this short novella as a school assignment when I was 15, but it really changed my writing life. For the first time I stopped thinking about how the First World War impacted on other countries, and started thinking about what happened in Australia. This might sound a little crazy for someone whose relatives served in both World Wars, but honestly I didn't think too much about *them* or their experiences until after I'd read FLY AWAY PETER. And then I felt I understood a great deal more about those relatives and how they must have felt.

As well as that deeper understanding, this book showed me what it was to use words as a love letter to the Australian landscape.

The novella tells the story of three people whose lives intersect before the war begins, and examines the impact of the conflict on each of them. It's full of rich and evocative language, and captures the essence of the Queensland wilderness beautifully for the first half of the story. The story is equally stunning in the second half when it follows two of the characters to the trenches of France.

Lastly, a book that will never leave me: ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT

The book was written by former WWI German soldier Erich Maria Remarque based on his experiences in the war, and portrays a group of teenagers from the same school class who sign up to serve in the trenches.

Seen through the eyes of one of the boys, the short novel is a dizzying ride through shooting, shelling, and every imaginable horror of the war. Almost worse than the fighting, however, is the separation the soldiers feel from their old lives when they have a chance to visit home on leave.

This story changed my reading (and writing) life. I felt so deeply for all the characters that it showed me a whole new realm of possibility for the emotional impact of a story. To put it simply, I want to be able to write a story that stays with readers the way this story has stayed with me. And one of the most interesting things about this book is that you'd never even know the characters were German if you weren't told. They're just boys.

So, there you have my three choices. Leave a comment to be in the draw, and if you feel like it, tell me- what books have influenced your writing?

Reading between the lines

Good morning and good week to you all! And thanks again, readers, for your wonderfully supportive response to our launch last week.

This week we'll be talking about WHAT we write. This is your introduction to the fictional worlds in which we each hang out. Needless to say you'll be seeing a lot more of those as time goes by, so if you're curious to know more about what lies behind our stories, then this is the week for you.

And if you know nothing at all about our stories, then read on and discover! We'll also each be posting an excerpt from our works-in-progress this week so you can see what we're all about.

As mentioned in my introduction, I write across a whole range of genres, from crime fiction to Gothic thriller. But the story that has held my attention for more than a decade is BETWEEN THE LINES, which is best described, I think, as a family saga with lashings of literary fiction and war genre.

I talked a little bit about the story in my last post, and I'll be posting an excerpt from the story today. So I won't go through it all again- instead I'll tell you a bit about what lies behind the story; between those lines. There are a lot of inspirations in the story, so for now I'll stick with the biggest one: a family war diary with a tragic love story.

BETWEEN THE LINES is, at the core of it, a story about the redemptive power of love and family. It's not a romance, really, though it begins with one- my main character, Bill, is a young man of 18 when the First World War breaks out, and he's madly in love with his childhood sweetheart Kit at the time. But the war is an irresistible force, and Bill is drawn into it after his best friend is killed. And while he's away, the unthinkable happens- though he survives four years of war, his girl Kit dies.

The very thing that has been keeping him going is now gone. The hope he was coming home to no longer exists.

Or so he thinks. But what he doesn't realise until he gets home is that Kit died in childbirth. His great love is gone, but in her place is another- his son, Jared. The complicating factor is this: Bill's nasty older brother Lionel always had his eye on Kit, too, and after returning home a hero from Gallipoli, Lionel was left alone with Kit while Bill went to war.

Is Jared really Bill's son? Or could he be Lionel's? Bill knows he can trust Kit, but there's no way he can trust Lionel. As he grows up, Jared hears whispered rumours, and turns to letters and diaries to find the truth.

The theme of lost love and family is based on the story of some of my relatives whose lives were changed by the Great War.

In 1917, my great-great aunt Vena was engaged to be married to a local boy, Thomas Lockyer. They were both young and in love, and life was good. Sadly their hope for a long and happy life together was dashed when Tom was killed by shelling at Maricourt Wood in 1917 after only a few months as a soldier.

Tom's diary before the war shows a pretty relaxed way of life. Tom's diary during the war doesn't change much. Every day he wrote what he ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He was a man of few words, mainly because the diary didn't have much space for rambling.

Before signing up: Tom talks about going visiting with a friend, and doing some shooting. Regular teenaged country boy stuff.

During training: Tom talks about marching drills and eating, which seem to be his two main pastimes for a full couple of months.

All I could think when I first read this diary was, what's behind those words? What's between those lines? What's he seeing every day when he writes about getting up, eating bread and butter, then falling in line? What's he feeling? Does he miss his fiance? His home? Or has he really shut himself off to keep the reality of war away?

Just a few months down the track, Tom is in the trenches- and he's still talking drills and food:

Tom's death destroyed my aunt's life. She never married and died a spinster in old age, always pining for her lost love. Despite that, I couldn't help but wonder what life would have been like for them if he *had* made it back from the war. How would his experiences have shaped him? How might they have affected his family?

All of these questions are why I'm writing about Bill and Jared. They're my attempt to understand the impact of war through the generations. When I read Tom's diary, I feel like I know him. He reminds me of guys I went to high school with- and no surprise, because I don't think the Aussie bloke has changed all that much since 1916.

He reminds me of my current family members, too. People in my family still say they've "had a feed" after they've eaten- it's the lingo of country Australia, of families who have lived in the same place for a long time. Communities that hadn't changed much until the war came along. And then with the loss of a generation of men, things began to change.

These days, Red Range, the town where Tom courted Vena, is all but gone. The only thing remaining of my family, beyond the ruins of their house in a farmer's paddock, are their tombstones.

Writing this story connects me to those generations by making me realise that who *I* am has already been shaped by their experiences. They way they felt about life, love and loss informed my grandmother and my mother, and as a consequence me. The effects are subtle and subconscious, but they're there. Through every family runs a thin wire connecting the generations, and their loss is my loss. The nation's experiences in war have been partially responsible for making me who I am today. It's quite a thought.

At this stage I don't plan to follow Bill and Jared's family all the way through the ages, but by following their journey I've at least come to understand a lot more about where I come from, both in a family sense and as an Australian.

And I guess that's the bigger picture in this story- I'm looking at war and what it does not only to those who serve, but also to those who are left behind.