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Cover Reveal: Blood to Fire

BtF_coveridea_01a_600Tonight, despite the blizzard outside, the cockles of my heart are blazing: I Haz Cover Art!

One thing I love about indie publishing: It allows me control of imagery and branding for my books. And Gayla is awesome to collaborate with in the process of refining graphic ideas and how they might play in our target market.

The result is the beauty you see here.

I could go on about the challenge of doing photo-realistic covers in the fantasy genre, and the nature of font selection… but I’ll let that remain the mystery it should be for a reader who’s shopping for their next book and happens to stumble across what I’m sharing with you now.

So: For anyone waiting for book 2 of the Red Slaves series, or anyone who wants to try out a book that walks the line between contemporary fantasy and paranormal romance… WITH DRAGONS–your wait is almost over.

🙂

Hump Day Hook: Red Slaves 2 – Blood to Fire #HDH Take 4

hump-day-hookBlood to Fire is with my editor now, I’m anxiously awaiting her feedback, and I’m working on cover art development with my fabulous publisher.

So, to keep myself from bouncing off the walls too much as I complete the final steps in producing my third novel, I will share another snippet from the book.

In this scene, Anne discovers that her friends and compatriots are striving to help her feel at home–even if it’s her first Christmas apart from her family:

I’m stunned at the magnitude of the changes to this space. It had been cozy in the way of the great New York library, with conversational groups of couches and chairs at the edges of a vast cavern holding an untold number of books. The ceiling is still lost to the shadows, but with the new rock formation and the massive tree we’re facing, all of a sudden I feel like Clara in The Nutcracker: a child dwarfed by wonder.

“How did this happen?”

“Do you like it? Did we get it right?” Ivan’s anxiety is transmitting though the tense hold he has on my waist.

“This is stupendous. When did you do it? How did you have the time to get this all in place in an afternoon? Were Vasily and Fyodor faking it?” The questions tumble out of me in an urgent stream. Then I shake myself. Where are my manners? “Thank you!”

Hump Day Hook asks authors to post one paragraph (sorry, I can never leave it just at that!) of one of their stories, whether a WIP, one contracted, or already published. Please visit and comment on the participants – you might just stumble on the next great read for your library! To see more participants, click on the HDH banner.

Hump Day Hook: Red Slaves 2 – Blood to Fire #HDH Take 3

hump-day-hookI’ve started the critique and editorial process on Blood to Fire, and am getting more and more excited about sharing the final result with you in a few weeks. In the meantime, you get to make do with yet another snippet:

You ask so many questions at once it’s difficult to get a word in edgewise. Of course I know where other dragons are. We are here in the western edge of the Himmapan.

Seriously? That place is real?

If you would stop interrupting, I could finish answering your previous questions.

I’m all but vibrating in my urgency to understand how we could have landed in a mythical, mystical place, and lean in to show my close attention.

The mythical always has its basis in reality; in this part of the world, our separation from standard geography took place at about the same time as it did in the west, with the retreat of Avalon–and much the same effect. Magical creatures of great power can still make the transition, but it happens much more infrequently with the greatly reduced population of magic-bearers.

I could listen to this lecture all day, so creep closer and settle down. I notice Ivan, too, has wedged himself tight against me, with one wing unfurled across my back. For once, I don’t care whether he is acting possessive. Vasily and Fyodor have also rejoined us, and are fixated with rapt attention on Shr-Zen. I’m glad this time it’s not a voodoo transference, and vow to catalog all the sensory inputs to make sure I don’t miss any of the details.

Hump Day Hook asks authors to post one paragraph (sorry, I can never leave it just at that!) of one of their stories, whether a WIP, one contracted, or already published. Please visit and comment on the participants – you might just stumble on the next great read for your library! To see more participants, click on the HHH banner.

Hump Day Hook: Red Slaves 2 – Blood to Fire #HDH … Reprise

hump-day-hookI’m plunking along on Blood to Fire, so you get another sneak peek this week:

“At some point soon, we’re going to have to take a trip in to Omsk. The Christmas market is a lot of fun, and it’s been forever since we’ve been to the banya together.”

I laugh. “You have either a cleanliness fetish or an obsession with secrecy. This is a dragon cave; how would the KGB even know to place bugs here.”

She lowers her eyebrows ominously. “You can never be sure of what the KGB has discovered. Remember, Natasha said her flight’s agreement was with the government, so there are documents somewhere. Which means there could have been an attempt to survey this space, too.”

Hump Day Hook asks authors to post one paragraph of one of their stories, whether a WIP, one contracted, or already published. Please visit and comment on the participants – you might just stumble on the next great read for your library! To see more participants, click on the HHH banner.

Hump Day Hook: Red Slaves 2 – Blood to Fire #HDH

hump-day-hook

I’m getting so close to the end of book 2 of my Red Slaves series, it’s getting exciting. And since it has me in its claws, will be going to my editor in two weeks, and is coming out in a little more than a month… I thought it was time to start building some excitement about Anne’s ongoing story. She was a self-contained know-it-all in book 1, so she has a lot to learn in book 2, and there are some seriously fun scenes to write as I blow her mind time after time:

“This is going to be one of those culture clash things, where we have to agree to disagree. Again. I can’t imagine a time when being an individual isn’t more important to me than being part of any kind of group.”

“We will give you time. And we will create our own society. But you are no longer an American. You are my mate, the leader of our flight, and responsible for much greater destinies than were ever possible as a human.”

I mmph in an indeterminate response. If he thinks I’m going to cave on this one, he has another think coming. And why is it that these supernatural types always speak in such pretentious terms: Destiny? Life and Death? I don’t see anything as quite that important. Even if there are very few dragons left. Hundreds of species go extinct each year, and the likelihood that there is sufficient genetic diversity to make this or any future generation of dragons strong enough to continue or expand the race is small. Besides, I didn’t even know dragons were a reality until… recently? How long has it even been since Sam sent me on that fateful trip?

Hump Day Hook asks authors to post one paragraph of one of their stories, whether a WIP, one contracted, or already published. Please visit and comment on the participants – you might just stumble on the next great read for your library! To see more participants, click on the HHH banner.

Hump Day Hook: Last Supper #HDH

hump-day-hook

I took a break from Red Slaves last week and started something completely different. In the midst of seasonal family revelries, my head was someplace darker, and I started working on a new short story. This is planned to be one of several short stories that form part of a second go at a Katarr Kanticles Press anthology in 2013. The anthology is set around a horror theme, so this one has everything to do with the horror of changing family ties–with the paranormal twist I can’t seem to avoid in my writing.

Without further ado:

The afternoon sun streamed in the window and sparked rainbows off the cut crystal stemware. Lana wondered why her mother had been persuaded to go to all this trouble, when her father’s betrayal was still so fresh. He had presented his divorce decree and marriage certificate almost in the same breath, just a month before Thanksgiving. Lana suspected her mother still harbored hope that the strange woman now in her family’s midst was just a nightmare from which she could wake up.

At least Lana had been successful in enforcing the division of families. She sat by Henry and her mother in the kitchen, while the interloper and her adult children enjoyed the repast so carefully presented in the formal dining room. Lana had drawn the line at breaking bread in the same room as the woman who had convinced her father to cut his decades-old family ties.

Yet they were following all the old traditions: The 25-pound turkey was golden-brown and juicy; the cornbread stuffing paired perfectly with the giblet gravy; the sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes crying out for that topping too; the green beans with almond slivers; the Brussels sprouts with garlic and butter; the cranberry salad and jelly; and all the desserts. There would be the full complement of pies: Apple, cherry, pumpkin, and pecan–as well as the vanilla ice cream they had hand-cranked over the summer, during happier times. The tables would have groaned at their loads, had they not been divided between the rooms.

Henry and her mother were doing their best to carry on a normal conversation, but Lana was trapped in memories. She could see the marks on the door frame that showed how she and her sister had chased each other’s heights, until finally, in High School, Laney had surpassed her to become the willowy model that allowed her to travel in style to the exotic locales her photographers insisted she visit.

She could see the lighter patches on the wall where her mother’s collection of china plates from countries they had visited as a family were now missing–packed up and ready for the mover to arrive in the morning.

She measured the tall cabinets again in her mind’s eye, wondering if finally she might be tall enough to reach the top shelves.

If it weren’t for the full force of the traditions around this time of year, the room would be haunted by these echos of the past.

Hump Day Hook asks authors to post one paragraph of one of their stories, whether a WIP, one contracted, or already published. Please visit and comment on the participants – you might just stumble on the next great read for your library! To see more participants, click on the HHH banner.

Book Review: Blindsight

BlindsightI read my first Nolan book over a year ago, and had thought to delve deeper into her Mirus world quite a bit sooner… As they say, life got in the way. Last night, I was overnighting in a hotel, avoiding the blizzard conditions outside, awaiting the second day of a work-mandated training. Since I was sharing a room with a colleague, and wasn’t yet tired enough to sleep after we turned out the lights, I unearthed this short story.

Here’s the blurb:

Isla’s ability as a Seer has made her a life-long captive of a paranormal crime lord. Fae assassin, Ransom, offers her a chance at escape, but when she touches his hand she sees only blood, horror, apocalypse. What reason can Ransom have for wanting to rescue her, and can she possibly trust a man who deals in death?

It wasn’t what I expected, even though the blurb told me to expect blood, horror, and apocalypse. The opening scene was enough to almost gag a reader on smoke and gore; somehow, though Red had its graphic scene, I hadn’t expected the level of violence running through this story.

And yet. The characters are fully drawn and have realistic motivations and interactions:

It was on the tip of his tongue to ask why, but this was what she did, how she operated. Maybe she needed to see their chances for success. He placed his hand in hers for the second time that evening, marveling at how small and delicate hers was. Soft hands. Not the hands of a warrior. She laid her other hand over his and her eyes faded to white as the vision took her. The hands around his heated almost to burning, but he did not pull away.

She was frowning when her eyes turned blue again.

“What did you see?” he demanded.

“Enough,” she said simply. “Let me change.”

She was quick about it, emerging in minutes from the walk-in closet, clad in some kind of stretchy black pants and a form-fitting t-shirt, also dark. Ransom approved. She would be able to move in the outfit. After donning her shoes, she grabbed a hoodie, then hesitated. “Will I need this where we’re going?”

In the end, though I spent the night dreaming crazy scenes, the story sucked me in and didn’t let go. I was awake even later, wondering about details of a world where psychics, fae, and werewolves operated like the darkest underbelly of any crime syndicate. I am absolutely anticipating good things whenever Nolan releases Revelation.

In the meantime, for those on the same, tight, Christmas budget as I am, this is free for who knows how much longer, and paints yet another unique and intriguing supernatural world. For those who enjoy short stories, and those who are looking for the scheming of evil overlords and rebellious factions, this should be right up your alley, regardless of price.

Book Review: Steel’s Edge

Steel's Edge

Ilona Andrews is another one of my favorite urban fantasy authors. This husband-wife writing team caught me in their snare when I read Magic Bites shortly after its original release. Since then, I’ve watched for all their new releases, and haven’t yet been disappointed. I took advantage of my Amazon Prime status, and received this final installment of their Edge series on the day of its release.

And then I had to sit on my hands, with the book on a shelf, while I finished this semester’s last class.

Not to say I didn’t manage to sneak a peek. The blurb on the back was enticing:

Charlotte de Ney is as noble as they come, a blueblood straight out of the Weird. But even though she possesses rare magical healing abilities, her life has brought her nothing but pain. After her marriage crumbles, she flees to the Edge to build a new home for herself. Until Richard Mar is brought to her for treatment, and Charlotte’s life is turned upside down once again.

Richard is a swordsman without peer, future head of his large and rambunctious Edger clan—and he’s on a clandestine quest to wipe out slavers trafficking humans in the Weird. So when his presence leads his very dangerous enemies to Charlotte, she vows to help Richard destroy them. The slavers’ operation, however, goes deeper than Richard knows, and even working together, Charlotte and Richard may not survive…

What I didn’t realize was that the deep, emotional turmoil Charlotte faces is related to her diagnosis of being barren. The pronouncement tears down the carefully established parameters of her life, and she discovers the monster side of being a healer–very much in the tradition of Chinese martial artists, who understand that the difference between a killing and a healing touch all comes down to intention.

Because she’s seen her inner darkness, she flees the Weird to make sure she’s never tempted that way again. She builds a new life, then faces destruction again as she intervenes to heal an Edger who’s made it his purpose to eliminate the slave trade in the Weird. The connection between them is strong, immediate, and dreamlike on Richard’s side:

Her eyes were just as he remembered: luminescent with power and heartbreakingly beautiful, but this time he saw no concern in their depths. His cage had changed owners. Whether it was for the better remained to be seen.

Richard weighed his options. One of three things would happen: she could kill him; she could walk away, letting him die slowly; or she could let him out. If he had any hope of getting out of this mess alive, he had to talk her down. He had to survive and finish what he started.

The dark currents of her magic licked the bars of the cage, sparking with red on the metal. Richard braced himself. He could tell by her eyes that whether he left this cage a free man or died of starvation and thirst inside it depended on what he’d say next.

The fast-paced action pulls the reader from one tragedy to the next, with the reader rooting for both protagonists to find their way out of the hell that surrounds them. Both the Edge and the Kate Daniels series deal with worlds that are ugly, dark, and very dangerous. These are not places I would want to call home (other than, of course, the ubiquitous magic in them) and they leave their mark on all the characters within them. What I find fascinating is that the disturbing surroundings both highlight the inner demons the protagonists face, as well as make a stark contrast with the fully luminous qualities of goodness they also embody.

The authors’ ability to weave a complex storyline across so many pages makes for a multi-layered reading experience. I really want to go back to the beginning of this series to pick out the hints they drop about the agents of the Mirror and the varying levels of evil that permeate each of the story arcs.

In the end, I can happily recommend this to any urban fantasy fan, but also to those who like to read about something akin to a murder mystery, or about political intrigue–or even are looking for a meaty romance. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the authors built the happily ever after required in the romance genre out of the ashes of some truly horrific experiences; it’s non-standard, and not something the reader will necessarily see coming.

Hump Day Hook: Blood to Fire #HDH

Hump Day HookOne of my crit pals, Sarah Cass, recently shared this meme by Kerrianne Coombs as another way of promoting our Works in Progress. The idea is to share a paragraph or two of what’s in train (or, what’s already published). Because it’s a blog hop, too, you get the chance to see what a bunch of other authors are working on as well–and the possibility of stumbling onto something new for your library. Click on the banner to see the other participants, and share commentary or feedback among the group.

Since I’ve been teasing you with progress on book two of the Red Slaves series, Blood to Fire, then, I figured you might like a preview of some of those words:

We laugh but fall silent again soon enough. I’m struck by how wildly my moods have been vacillating in the past 6 weeks. I can scream and laugh and cry all in the same hour–and do multiple times a day. I’m beginning to annoy myself with all this emotionalism. It’s not rational. It’s out of character. What else has changed in me? How much more will I change?

I’m startled out of my deep thoughts as we turn another corner and all but run into Ivan and Andrei. Olga skips and throws herself at her husband. “Did you miss me?”

“Of course! That’s why we came looking for you.” He’s caressing her face as if she were a rare, wild mink who had only barely allowed itself to be touched. It’s difficult to watch, but I resolutely keep my eyes away from Ivan. The semi-precious stones inlaid at the curve of the wall into the ceiling are more beautiful and intricate than I had previously appreciated. They almost look like living scales.

There you have it… part of my ongoing obsession with Anne, Ivan, and the rest of the crew from Dust to Blood.

Book Review: Fair Game

Fair GameI knew after I read the first Mercy Thompson book that I was going to be a Patricia Briggs fan; she writes interesting, complex, female protagonists and sets her stories in livable worlds. I had been waiting and waiting for this latest installment of the Alpha and Omega series, since I didn’t want to break the paperback collection I have so far… and I’m on a tight budget these days. Then I discovered a funny thing: the mass market paperback is still scheduled for release next month, but there’s a “paperback” version available on Amazon. It has different cover art, and now that the book is in my hands, I suspect it’s the British print run of the series, but I can shelve it together with the others and that makes my OCD side happy.

The blurb:

They say opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anna Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son-and enforcer-of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant alpha. While Anna, an omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind.

Now that the werewolves have revealed themselves to humans, they can’t afford any bad publicity. Infractions that could have been overlooked in the past must now be punished, and the strain of doing his father’s dirty work is taking a toll on Charles.

Nevertheless, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston, when the FBI requests the pack’s help on a local serial killer case. They quickly realize that not only the last two victims were werewolves-all of them were. Someone is targeting their kind. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves right in the killer’s sights…

I’ve loved Anna and Charles’ relationship from the beginning. It gives an entirely different perspective on living as a werewolf when there’s an Omega to keep things (relatively) calm. And Anna’s journey to strength and some measure of self-assurance is a wonderful thing to read, given her character’s history.

“Broken or whole,” she told him, her voice dropping to a growl, “you’re mine. Better not forget that again.”

Charles laughed–a small, happy sound. “All right. I surrender. Just don’t go after me with that rolling pin.”

Anna tugged the shirt down and smoothed it. “Then don’t do anything to deserve it.” She smacked him lightly on the shoulder. “That’s for disrespecting my grandmother’s rolling pin.”

He turned around to face her, wet hair in a tangled mess around his shoulders. Eyes serious, though his mouth was curved up, he said, “I would never disrespect your grandmother’s rolling pin. Your old pack did everything in their power to turn you into a victim, and when that crazy wolf started for me, you still grabbed the rolling pin to defend me from him, even though you were terrified of him. I think it is the braves thing I have ever seen. And possibly the only time anyone has tried to defend me since I reached adulthood.”

This story is much more romantic (in a non-traditional way) than the previous books in this series. This one starts at a point when the relationship is seriously frayed by the demands of Charles’ position. It’s a modern trial with mythic overtones, but so real in the ways we cut ourselves off from those we love (in the thought that we’re saving them from our pain!) it left me feeling heartsick for both of them for a good deal of the book.

And the ending… Now I’m uber-anxious for the next Mercy Thompson book to see how she evolves the rest of the world these packs inhabit.

So I continue to be an unabashed Briggs fan. Anyone who wants to read an engrossing mystery with the spin of werewolves and fae and vampires and other things that go bump in the night set as the backdrop to a clearly limned and extraordinarily sympathetic cast of characters would be well-advised to read this series. (And I’m admitting to a massive character crush on Charles, even though he–and I–are both clearly taken.)

😀

This series and its sister series represent some of the best urban fantasy on the market to me, so if you like the genre, don’t hesitate to check it out.

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