Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Man in Black --PG-13 excerpt

The Man in Black by Gwynn Morgan   www.amberquill.com/bio_Morgan.html or www/amberquill.com/ManInBlack.html

Blurb: Haunted by grief and guilt over the death of her domineering father, Melissa comes to Arizona  to visit her BFF Joanne Castle. They attend a mock gunfight enactment in the old mining town of Graveyard Gulch and she is entranced by the man who plays the sheriff, somberly dressed all in black compared to the gaudy garb of most of the other actors.
          Lawton finds himself drawn to the slender, shy and fragile seeming young woman but feels he is far too old for her and also fears the old enemy who has reemerged into his life may seek revenge through her, especially if Lawton seems to favor her. Soon however this mutual enemy closes in and he recognizes he can best protect Melissa by keeping her close. That may save her life but who can save her from him?

Excerpt:

Only the man in black seemed real. He moved among the rest, lining some up, dismissing others, collecting dropped gun belts and stacking rifles beside the barn. As he approached one man who wore the elaborate charro outfit of a traditional Mexican rancher, he stooped to pick up a pistol. The Charro seized the moment. Snatching a wicked-looking knife from his boot, he lunged.


Melissa joined the crowd in a collective gasp. The blade glinted in the sun, transcribing a bright arc toward the black-covered back. At the last possible moment, the man in black twisted deftly aside. He whirled to flip the shorter but heavier man, sending him sprawling. Jolted from the Charro’s grasp, the knife flew across the corral.

Melissa gasped again. Shock held her immobile as the blade flashed through the air, settling into the dust not two feet from her toes. Catching her trembling lip in her teeth, she dared a downward glance. It had to be only a prop, but still, she shivered.

The Charro rolled into a deep puddle made by water dripping from the horse trough and came up spitting mud. The man in black ignored him, crossed the dusty yard in a loose-limbed amble and knelt to retrieve the knife. As he rose slowly to his feet, he looked straight at Melissa.

She found herself entrapped by the strangest and fiercest eyes she’d ever seen. They were a pale silvery-gray, hard and pure as the desert sun’s light. Time stopped as she burned and froze. Her head spun and her knees threatened to buckle, but she could not look away nor escape the impaling intensity of those incredible eyes.

She saw the rest of his face in a blur: sun darkened skin drawn taut over angular bones, nose a strong wedge dividing its planes, lips narrow and finely drawn, and a maze of squint lines feathering away from the outer corners of those compelling eyes. A slightly drooping ash-brown moustache bracketed his mouth.

Finally, he touched the brim of his black hat, gave a slight nod, and turned away. Melissa let her breath out in a rush. It couldn’t have been more than seconds, but she felt as if half a day had elapsed. For an instant, a dream-like image danced in the back of her mind, this time more pleasant than fearful, only to fade away before she could grasp it.

The last part of the little drama unfolded at a distance, almost beyond Melissa’s perception. All she could see was the one man’s face. Though weathered, lived-in and too hard to be considered handsome, she had never seen a face with so much strength of character. His eyes utterly arrested her. Icy in color, they nonetheless burned, branding their way across her body and into her mind. Her skin prickled as if seared by their touch. She suddenly understood how cold could burn.



Another visit from Gwynn

Ha, I stole a march on Deirdre today and decided to talk about another one of my books! Since we have to use the same computer and actually the same fingers to type it can be tricky at times. She is much more brash and pushy than I am so I have to catch a time when she is goofing off and get my licks in!

Today I want to talk about another of my 'westerns' published by Amber Quill. The Man in Black took shape over quite a long period of time and was one of the three completed books I had when I started publishing.. I began  working on it before I retired from my civil service job with the U.S. Army at Fort Huachuca and it made the rounds of many critique partners and RWA sponsored contests while I was learning the trade of romance writing. It even got a few 'good' rejection letters with suggestions from editors but I finally realized it was not going to make the pages of a Silhouette or Harlequin paperback even though a lot of readers and a few published authors liked it very much and encouraged me.

So eventually after it grew layers and plot twists from some of the feedback I received, I decided to go the small independent press and e-book route with it. The lead characters were inspired by a real life couple that I knew who were active in some of the reenactment groups that performed in Tombstone but they diverged increasingly from that inspiration as the book developed until I am sure neither would recognize themselves at all, not even a hint! I finally changed the names but the setting is very much my old home area in the San Pedro Valley in Cochise County, Arizona. Graveyard Gulch is a mixture of Tombstone and Bisbee and the rest is just about how it really is.

It was my late husband's favorite of the books I had completed before he passed away and will always be special to me.Originally I sold it to Novel Books Inc, a small firm that folded about two years after the contract was signed. I worked with a friend, Linnea Sinclair (now a noted sci fi romance author),  on the first cover and still like it very well because it conveyed a lot of the idea behind the story. Here is that first cover. I visualized Sam Elliot as Lawton and the heroine a more sober and timid version of Sandra Bullock--at that time she was a kick butt madcap in most of her roles but the coloring was perfect for Melissa. Of course I am a sunset freak so...sunsets and happy endings became almost my tag line.

By the time NBI ceased to be, Deirdre had gotten her first couple of tales published at Amber Quill. When I sought a new home for Back to Tomorrow and also The Man in Black, I naturally turned to them and was very appreciative that they agreed to reissue two previously published works. They have ceased to do this now but at the time were helpful to orphaned authors since many of the founders had been in that situation themselves. All the AQ covers are done by the senior partner and artistic director, Trace Zabar. He did a great cover for this book too and it works very well, but I have a slight soft spot for the original. I'll feature the current cover and an excerpt in my next post.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

PG-13 excerpt Druid in Drag

This one will be out this Sunday, Dec 2. Get it on the Amber Allure home page for now: www.amberquill.com/AmberAllure/

Here is how it starts:

Nogales, Arizona
Halloween night

Renfro Coulter struggled not to teeter on the four inch heels of the thigh-high, shiny black boots he wore. He settled the purple velvet cape evenly across his shoulders and tugged at the hampering folds of the unfamiliar ankle-length skirt. Damned thing seemed to cling to his legs despite the high slits in its flaring panels. I’d better be careful or I’ll fall on my ass.

He took a final look in the mirror. The flowing waist-length locks of his wig tickled where straying strands touched his skin while the fluid waves softened the angles of his narrow face. Damn, I actually make a good looking woman. He shook his head, making the dark auburn tresses slither against the purple velvet. Sparkling with fiery highlights when the bank of lights reflected off the silken cascade, each hair seemed to be alive and aflame.

I prob’ly should have been born female. Even though this get-up feels clumsy, I could get to like dressing up this way. He grinned. Beats being the skinny short kid everyone picked on, anyway. Not that anyone would dare pick on him any more. As an agent of the increasingly notorious Paranormal Operations Unit of the Border Patrol or POU, he’d been well trained in martial arts and encouraged to hone the unusual skills he’d been born with--in the male gender, wrong body or not.

The son of an avowed witch and a mysterious father, allegedly a druid, who he could only recall in a scatter of vague vignettes from childhood, he’d grown up in an environment where magic was considered normal. Despite that, his mother insisted he refrain from casting spells or using any unusual powers for defense while he went to school and grew to adulthood. Maybe fighting with normal skills had made him tough but it certainly hadn’t been fun. He had the scars to prove it, too.

As an adult, not quite either mage or druid, he had his own peculiar powers and ways of working magic. Those skills had led him to the notice of Clayton Chiles, head of the POU. He’d been a full fledged member of that elite cadre of guardians for several months now.

With a flourish of the cape, he turned toward the door. It was time to put his disguise to test. Playboy and reputed drug lord Enrique Mendoza was said to have an eye for striking women and striking young men, as well. Either way, Ren should catch his notice. Although not an invited guest for this particular one of Mendoza’s infamous parties, Ren did not expect to have any trouble crashing the night’s festivities. If it came to that, he’d just make himself invisible long enough to get past security.

Outside the hotel where he’d registered as Rena Murphy, he caught a cab across town to Mendoza’s hilltop estate. The Latino cabby shot him one slantwise look but did not comment and gave a small nod when Ren told him the destination.

“Ah so,” the man murmured. Though unspoken, I might have guessed, hung in the air.

Ren gave the driver a generous tip when he got out at the portico of the rambling house. A bored looking man in an operetta-grand uniform guarding the door hardly gave him a glance. Seemed Mendoza felt he had nothing to fear. No doubt he’d have security in the mansion. Still, it seemed bold to the point of foolishness to be so lax. Easier for me though. Ren gave a tight smile. I can save my spell energy for later. He walked through the double doors and paused in the foyer.

After taking a moment to get his bearings, he stepped down the three steps into the first room which seemed to hold the overflow from the party. The center of the festivities appeared to be though an arched opening beyond the first room if the noise was a clue. A rock band, a country western group and a mariachi ensemble vied for dominance. Although they might be playing in different areas of the huge house, the sounds alternately melded and clashed.

Before he’d crossed the first room, he’d been ogled by many and propositioned by several but he put them off. “I’m meeting someone,” he said, “and he tends to be possessive.” He’d perfected that low genderless purr of a voice, as ambiguous as his persona—but sexy, very sexy.

From all he’d heard of Mendoza, that was completely true. If the don took a shine to Ren, nobody else better make any moves on him. The trick was to get close enough, just not too close. He’d have to play coy and hard to get while still interested and flirtatious. Although Ren had once considered a career in the theater, this would be the most challenging role he’d attempted.

It took him almost an hour of wriggling through the costumed crowd, into one huge ballroom and out again, across a patio and a courtyard, and through more rooms before he finally located Mendoza. Once there, Ren halted in the doorway to study his prey. The Latino, apparently outfitted to look like Zorro in black enhanced with conchos, rhinestones and silver braid, sprawled in a huge gilded chair on a dais at one end of the room. A bevy of scantily dressed beauties clustered around him, seeming to vie for a few seconds of his total attention.

They were all drop dead gorgeous. Even if some of them might be in drag, Ren had to admit he couldn’t tell. He knew some female impersonators perfected their look until they could fool even the most discerning. By comparison his disguise was almost clumsy. Still he knew he presented a striking sight. He held a pose in the open doorway, waiting to see if Mendoza would notice him.

He didn’t have to wait long. Across the room he felt the searing impact of the Patron’s ebony eyes. The man had power; whether part of it was magic-based he could not yet tell but there was both magnetic and kinetic energy in that fierce gaze. Mendoza turned to speak to a man who hovered close behind the patron’s throne-like seat while staying clear of the shifting mass of luscious women. The man made a fast transit of the room, almost as if he teleported although Ren knew he did not. Still, in an instant, he appeared at Ren’s side.

“You’re new,” he said, speaking in a low monotone voice, one that would not carry far from their immediate location.

Ren nodded. “True. I haven’t been here before but I had assurance I’d be welcome.”

When he met the slender dark man’s gaze, he had to stifle the jolt that shot through him. This man had even more power in his eyes than Mendoza! Dressed in stark flat black like a ninja or an outlaw, the stranger was not big, barely as tall as Ren in his high-heeled boots, and lean of build. His wore his night-dark hair drawn back in a severe queue, so tight it almost slanted his eyes. They were gray eyes, a steely hard and cold hue like icy water, eyes both bottomless and strangely opaque.

“Come with me. El Patron wants to meet you. May I have a name so I can introduce you?”

“Rena Murphy.”

The stranger arched one eyebrow and smiled, a mere twist of mobile lips that made his narrow moustache undulate. “Very good, Ms. Murphy. Follow me.”

“And you are?”

“Many of the folks here call me Dos Sombras –it seems to have some idiomatic meaning I’ve yet to sort out--or simply El Sombra. . If you have need of me, just ask for El Sombra.”

“Two shadows? That’s a curious appellation. And El Sombra is not correct; el is masculine and sombra feminine.”

The man darted a swift glance at Ren. “So you speak Spanish, Ms Murphy? That’s the idea, you see—a dichotomy, a conflict, even a mixture of both sexes embodied in one persona. A bit like yourself, perhaps?”

He smiled again, a smile which did not reach his eyes. They stayed as chill and flat as water on the verge of freezing. Ren restrained the reflexive shiver kindled by the icy glance. What did this stranger see when looking at him? This was a man to watch, perhaps one to fear or at least to handle with caution... A bad enemy and likely an equally dangerous friend. Unbidden, that assessment skittered through his mind, yet some intuition, told him they would be friends. He wasn’t sure if the notion comforted or disturbed him.

Walking steadily now that he’d come to a truce with his heels, he followed the lithe man, dodging through the crowd to cross the room. This transit seemed slower than the other man had made alone. Still they soon approached Mendoza.

The patron looked up at them. A leering smile painted itself across his broad face. “Aye, que bonita. You must be new for I surely would recall had I met you before, Senorita. How am I so blessed to have you grace my humble abode?”

Ren answered with a smile of his own, a toothy smile copied from the top models he’d observed in developing his disguise. “I’ve heard El Patron Mendoza throws wonderful parties, that the food and drink are unsurpassed, that any recreational drug one might desire can be had and that the company is always delightful. How could I stay away from such enticements?”

“Tell me your name, queridisima.”

“Rena Murphy, recently of California.”

“Ah, a model or a starlet perhaps?”

Ren shook his head making the long rippling waves of his wig shimmer. “Nothing so glamorous. Just a working girl, you might say. Sometimes in an office, a club, wherever… Right now I’m between jobs.”

“Then I’m sure I can find a place for you here. You’re overdressed, mi corazon. Underneath that cape I am sure you hide rare beauty and sexy attributes, no?”

Ren shrugged delicately, just a tiny twitch of one shoulder. “All of us have the same equipment, patron, two of this and one of that, you know.”

Mendoza laughed. “Gorgeous and a sly sense of humor as well. Yes, I’m sure I have a place for you here, Rena. I may call you Rena, may I not?”

Ren gave a gracious nod, not quite a bow. “Of course. I’m totally at your service.”

Latest and Future Releases

The time has away from me as it so often does. I really did not do justice to my November release, Hanson and Graber, The Price of Magic. It came out mid-month with the rest of the Once Upon A Fairy Tale PAX collection.

I will share a short excerpt here, actually the opening scene of the story: You can get it at www.amberquill.com/AmberAllure/  by the way--along with the other four tales in the collection. They're still on the home page but will be on mine as well, www.amberquill.com/AmberAllure.bio_ODare.html

***
One might begin a tale such as this with the classic Once upon a time, but such high-flown clichés are not right for the humble village of Wolmerk-on-the-Wald and two of its denizens. So, let us just begin at the beginning.


One evening in the village pub, pig farmer Hanson sat with hunched shoulders, work-worn hands wrapped around a heavy earthenware stein. Their mass almost dwarfed the pint-capacity vessel. "If I was a wizard, they'd not be calling me Hanson the Pigs," he grumbled, addressing no one in particular.

At his side, his lifelong friend Graber turned his attention from his own pint to slant a glance Hanson's way. "And had I a sorcerer's skills, I'd not be known as Graber the Firewood."

From a few seats away, close enough in the narrow stone cottage that housed the pub, a slender man rose, a sly grin on his narrow face. He was known as Bartle the Bard, and although his tales and music entertained well enough on festivals and holy days, the villagers mistrusted him. And not without reason. He tended to be a trickster, quick to pull a prank or a slippery deal. Approaching from behind, he slapped a thin hand down on Hanson's solid shoulder.

"I've a suggestion, my friend," he said. "I've heard tell there's a wizard dwelling on the far side of the forest. If you can locate him, perhaps you could prevail on him to share some of his spells and charms, enough to become at last a hedge-wizard for Wolmerk-on-the-Wald. Mayhap, swap some pork for his lessons. After all, the needs for magic deeds in Wolmerk are not so great. You could acquire this new trade in a flash."

For the first time since his naïve youth, a flare of hope swept over Hanson. Although he knew he should probably not trust Bartle's advice, the lure of magic sank a sly hook into him. Even though the deep forest was reputed to be haunted and home to myriad dangerous creatures, he was big and strong. Could he not fight his way past them if the reward was great enough?

He turned for another glance at Graber. "What do you think, my man? Would you come with me on such a quest?"

Perhaps it was a good thing neither one saw Bartle's smirk as he turned back to his own pint. The bard saw a unique chance to claim Hanson's sturdy stone cot and excellent swine herd or the fine sharp saws and axes Graber used in his trade once they were gone. Either could bring him enough coin to seek a new and more lucrative venue for his trade. Of course, they would not return. Who had ever gone through the forest and come back again?

Graber thought for a long moment. "Aye, that I would. I couldn't let my blood brother and best friend go alone on such a dangerous journey. With your boar prod and one of my axes, we should be able to deal with any dangers we meet."

And so it began. Within a few days, the two set out on their quest, Hanson leaving his pigs in the care of a neighbor's son, and Graber able to cease his wood gathering for a few summer days with no serious consequence. The villagers shook their collective heads and murmured at the bravery and the foolishness of the two, but wished them well.

Both men shouldered heavy packs with bedding and provisions for a ten-day, feeling certain they could make it to the end of the earth within that time, or at least the far side of the forest. Once they reached the wizard, they'd surely have no need for ordinary provender. They forged on for half a day, leaving behind all glimpses of their home fields and the open country along the river.

Graber glanced back, uncertainty in his posture and expression. "Shouldn't we leave some mark of our way to follow back home? No one we ever knew has gone more than a league or two into the woods and returned. I don't fancy the idea of getting lost in this wilderness."

Hanson shrugged. "I guess you can blaze a tree here and there if it'll make you feel better. I always know where my big sow is. I can follow that lead back home from as far as we may go. I was there at her birth and have been with her all of her days. Moonbeam's scent and the echo of her thoughts are carved deep into my mind."

Although there were some vague paths, most rambled so much the two men soon gave up following them and just hiked on into the woods, first facing the rising sun and then with it falling to their backs as the day passed. They walked all day, but as evening fell, they seemed no nearer their goal of the far side than when they had begun.

When they found a small clearing, they decided to camp there. Graber gathered a bit of dry wood and soon had a cheery blaze going. Sitting on their rolled blankets, they ate a simple meal and drank from the stream that flowed through the meadow before they settled down to sleep. Visions of magical powers danced through their dreams, a lure more potent than gems and gold.

Hanson had no idea how long he'd been asleep when a bloodcurdling howl made him sit straight up, blanket falling unheeded to his waist and below. It didn't make much difference since it wasn't cold and he'd taken off only his heavy, mud-crusted boots before settling for the night, his normal habit.

Before he could do more than shoot a hasty glance around the small clearing, Graber landed at his side, so close a single bristle from the old boar's snout could not have been wedged between them. Graber seemed to have grown a pair or two of extra arms and they all clutched Hanson in a death grip.

"W-w-what was that?"

"Hey, you're the woodsman, always headed into the forest to cut your trees. I've never gone farther than I could still see the vale and the village, just enough to let my pigs get the acorns and mushrooms along the edges. But I'm guessing it must have been a wolf."

"A w-w-wolf? Oh my soul, we'll be eaten alive."

***

Then, this coming weekend the latest installlment of the Thin Green Line series will be released. It's called Druid in Drag in reference to the opening scene which I will also provide in an excerpt soon. As well as the hot, delicious cover. This is a stand alone tale although some of the characters in prior stories are mentioined or have a tiny cemeo appearance. I suspect there will be another story to continue the adventures of Renfro Coulter and his alien partner Darzul, rather like happened with Clay Chiles and Arundel in the two Runes titles.

I'll do that excerpt in a seperate post so as not to get too lengthy here! Hang on...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Next Big Thing Blog Hop

A Day Late and A Dollar Short

As usual Gwynn and I are up to our ears in a ziggy-dillion projects and busy-ness but after committing to doing this I do feel obligated. Or we do .

First thanks to Lyndi Lamont, http://www.lyndilamont.com/blog. my good friend and fellow Amber Quill author for the invite. I know I am supposed to invite some other folks and will but no telling if they will come through or not…. But I can hope. It’s one of those chain letter things, almost, but I assure all it is legal! No money will change hands unless someone is moved to buy a book—but you have to go elsewhere to do that, like maybe www.amgerquill.com/ and check out all the great offerings there.

So let’s play Q&A for a minute here:

What is your working title of your book? Hmm, which one? I always have more than one project ongoing and so does Gwynn. For Deirdre, the next one is Epona’s Favored.  And for Gwynn Jessie’s Legacy.


Where did the idea come from for the book? Since both titles are part of ongoing series, the ideas have been perking along for some time. Epona will tell the story of the origin of my horse shifter clan (Nellie’s Rogue Stallion and Colette’s Savage Stallion released so far) back in the dim distance of pre-history when a young woman of the Scythian people on the Asian steppes saves a mare and foal from wolves and is rewarded by the horse goddess Epona for this service. It will be longer than my regular Amber Heat and Amber Allure work, probably about 40-50K.

Legacy is the third of a long delayed trilogy (Copper Stars of Cochise—Penny’s Luck and Mollie’s McGuire currently OOP) centered around the law enforcement community in Cochise County, AZ where Gwynn used to live. Since her late hubby and now middle son were in that line of work, it came naturally to write about it.

What genre does your book fall under? Epona is of course fantasy but will be a ‘straight’ erotic romance also (not gay!) and Legacy is contemporary romance with police procedural setting.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Oh, that’s hard! I don’t watch a lot of current movies so most of my choices are now too old to play the roles! And in Legacy the hero is ethnically mixed with Latino and African American family while the heroine is a BBW and her father was probably part African American also! That makes it harder but I’m open to suggestions!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Epona: An unusual young woman of prehistoric central Asia saves a mare and foal from wolves, gains a magical power from the horse goddess in reward and uses it to unite her people with a clan they consider enemies.

Legacy: Jessie comes to Bisbee, Arizona to claim her heritage and stumbles into the middle of a hushed up murder, joining forces with a rookie Bisbee officer to delve into the cold case.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Both are still WIPs but I anticipate having them finished in 2013 and ready to market. I may self-publish Legacy along with the two prior books of the trilogy which are currently off the market but were released earlier by Awe-Struck E-Books. Epona will be an Amber Heat title.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Epona has a slight kinship to Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series and Legacy shares a setting with J.A. Jance’s Joanna Brady tales but my work is always just a bit out of the usual box so I really can’t make a comparison.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? What inspires any writer? I’ve always been a story teller and have written since I scribed ‘ranch romances’ (recycled Zane Grey and Louis LAmour) in steno notebooks as a teenager! Life is my inspiration along with the thousands of books I have read over the many decades since I started reading at about age four. Mostly I write to let these noisy folks out of my head when they shove to the fore and demand I tell their story!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? One question I get at times is: How do I keep Gwynn and Deirdre straight since they both live in the same head? That’s easier than you might think. Deirdre is a bit bolder and has totally shed the Victorian inhibitions that Gwynn still clings to in part but we both tell the most vivid and realistic stories we can, even if they may have fantastic settings or out-of-this-world characters. Deirdre’s have more explicit sex but both of us write love stories—always about love in its many forms and colors and guarantee a happy ending because that is what we truly believe in! However there is always more than boy meets girl, or sometimes boy meets boy or girl meets girl—in that love does not happen in a vacuum and life throws a lot of junk our way even when we are falling madly in love! Every story has two plots, the external one about events and the internal one about two people who stumble into love.

Sooner than either Epona or Legacy, I expect Deirdre will have other shorter tales coming—four PAX stories at least in 2013—and a print collection of four tales, previously only electronic releases, in January called Duty and Daring. That’s four gay romance stories centered around demanding work environments and the men who fall in love despite those constraints. So long as I/we have the capability to do so and readers keep enjoying, Deirdre and Gwynn will both be writing until their last breath!

Brightest blessings to our friends and fans who make it all worthwhile! Go in peace and beauty/harmony all the days of your lives.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

New Releases

I can hardly believe how quickly the time passes! Here is is November and next Sunday will see a new Deirdre O'Dare tale hit the market. Again it is part of an Amber PAX group, this one devoted to retelling of classic fairy tales in which the princesses and other female leads have magically become male! We each put our own twist to the telling and I promise you'll laugh, cry and enjoy them all.

When the subject or topic came up, I immediately thought of Hansel and Gretel! While not the most famous or best known fairy tale, it is familiar to most of us and we probably cheered when the wicked witch met her demise, baked in her own oven! Well, in my retelling the wizard does get his comeuppance but he isn't cooked. That seems a little extreme even to me! One might even say he was reformed...

Anyway, watch for Hanson and Graber: The Price of Magic. It is a fun story and one that will appeal to readers who like their tales a wee bit raunchy and also enjoy magic and mayhem at times. This one promises you all of the above. Here is the cover--somewhat sweeter in appearance than the story itself. I'll share an excerpt or two this coming week. Right now I am migrating all my voluminous 'stuff' to a new computer and am having problems recalling what is still on flash drives to be uploaded and what is now here!

And in December, we're going back to my Thin Green Line series with an exciting new story, Druid in Drag. It's got a hot cover let me tell you. More on that soon!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Not dead yet!

I've just been busy! The Sorcerer's Apprentice will be coming out next weekend, the 21st or thereabouts along with four other stories focused on "Making  Magic" which is the title of the Amber PAX of which they are a part. You don't want to miss this fun group celebrating Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos!

Since I last checked in, I finished and submitted another story in my Thin Green Line series about the 9new and improved?) US Border Patrol, the part that goes after the real outer space and otehr realm type aliens! It is called Druid in Drag and will feature a guy I really fell for--even if he is gay--and his special personal alien! It will be released early in December so more on that soon. And in November my 'fractured fairy tale, Hanson and Graber: The Price of Magic will be coming out. So I have not been resting on my laurels or anything like that!

Here are a few spots I'll be the rest of this month:
          
            World Romance Readers chat--a quick pop-in only on Oct 14 EST
            Amber Quill Blog--October 16, all day
            Talking Tulips Chat on Oct 17--10-11 EST
             Love Romance Cafe Chat Oct 24, 9-10 EST
                         
Today I am dropping by the new release party at The Romance Studio and on Monday, November 5 I will be hosting my regular gig at Coffee Time Romance and More, Book Brew with the Coffee Crew where our theme for the month will be Some Like It HOT!! Hope to see many friends and fans at one or all of these!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

After a bit of a dry spell, I have a new title with a release date and a cover!! Whoo-hoo. Maybe no one else is quite as excited with the news as I am but I hope some faithful readers will be glad to see a new Dierdre O'Dare story!

The title is of course the same as a classical music piece that I used to play at Halloween along with an old LP of Chinese opera and Night on Bald Mountain and a couple of other moody pieces. The Chinese opera was especially spooky sounding!! I am such a casual classical music fan that I cannot even tell you who wrote The Sorcerer's Apprentice but it's basically a cautionary fairy tale set to music in which the youthful apprentice  has been assigned many chores by his sorcerer master and tries to use a bit of magic to do them fast and easy with less than great results! Of course I had to put a twist on this theme when I wrote my own take on it!

The Sorcerer's Apprentice will be released on October 17 as part of the Making Magic PAX collection. I am betting the five stories will be great, hot and also evocative of the Halloween season with magic galore and a range of practitioners who maybe apply a bit of sex magic to their efforts ;-).

This is an unedited excerpt so be kind when you read; don't look for errors as I am sure there are some! But it will give you a flavor of the story, anyway. It is a wee bit droll in tone but there are serious spots too and a bit of romance and the mandatory happy ending. In between--well, you'll just have to wait and see!

Excerpt:
Driz knew he’d received all the formal schooling he could expect. He was, after all, eldest of the three children of a hedge witch single mother in the ancient realm of Melcovia. After he had completed the mandatory four years of public school, deemed adequate for the average working class child of the realm, Mum had struggled to get him through the Mystik Magick Academy Charter School–ten long and costly years. But her strength and determination were  both exhausted. She also had to consider the two younger children now. Nothing had actually been said, but she clearly expected Driz to do well enough to assist his siblings. Right now, he had little to offer.
Graduation behind him, he cursed the excesses of his last two years in school, an error that had seen his previously stellar marks plummet far below the scholarship level. He’d discovered sex, alcohol and recreational drugs, which played hell with his studies. It began to look like his remaining choices were but two. He either had to find a normal, mundane job – the word sat on his tongue like an obscenity—or locate a free-lance practitioner of magick who would take him on as an apprentice. The school, he’d found, didn’t teach nearly enough to make him the top flight mage he aspired to become.
So far his search for a master had not been fruitful. Was there no wizard, sorcerer or magician left who could take Driscoll Darnell under a protective wing and help him develop the talents he felt sure would prove exceptional?
Life was no long good in Melcovia, especially for the magic community. The latest incarnation of the government seemed to have lost traditional respect for the magical arts. What few mages were left either found employment at one of the remaining schools of wizardry which retained a bit of the old cachet or went into hiding to escape hassling by the personal police force of Premier-for-Life, Monsante Congerson.
His Excellence had no use for magic. Everyone said he called it an anachronistic folly beneath his notice, although a minor nuisance at times. Thus the police hazing of any stray gifted citizen, clearly condoned if not encouraged. Every minor blip on the smooth road of the ruler’s life, he attributed to bad magic and sent his enforcers out to discipline any likely candidate. Such discipline could be harsh. Anyone with a whiff of magic soon learned to keep a low profile or seek protection within the ancient and sacred strongholds far from the capitol city of Melcorth.
Driz and his family resided in a suburb of that city, where Mum could work legitimately as a midwife and a nurse practitioner. Those professions were still acceptable if one kept the magical aspects beneath the notice of the officials. Someone had to deliver babies and deal with the cuts, bruises and breaks of juvenile escapades and the routine complaints of the elderly. Mistress Darnell did this very well.
To get Driz through school she had also moonlighted as a waitress in a local pub and beer garden but she was getting a bit too old for that. Customers favored the youthful, buxom and flirtatious with their tips and gifts, not a middle aged mother showing the signs of her struggles. When her gratuities dropped below the pitiful wages the tavern owner doled out, she had quit. Even that small bit of added income was missed. The family had not a penny to spare.
Out of school now for three fortnights, Driz began to grow desperate. His hands did not fit a shovel handle, he loathed the idea of carrying weapons with the military or the guard force to enforce the dictator’s edicts, and clerical work bored him to tears. What else was there to do? He decided to send out an urgent telepathic call for a master.
Surely somewhere in the realm, someone would hear and summon him. Carrier pigeons had to have a known destination and hand scribed letters a place to be delivered. He did not know one single magician to reach by either method except his old teachers, none of whom would do for his needs.
Summoning all the magical lore he’d gained in school, and with an urgent prayer to the Powers-That-Be, he lit a candle. He then stood it in a low vessel of water taken from a running stream and focused his sight on the reflection of the flickering yellow flame. He sent out his frantic mental call three times and then waited for a reply.

***

Corydon Callipsich Cremonis rinsed his bowl after cleaning the last of the soup from its rough sides. Although his life had come to this sad pass, he knew he was better off than many of his brother mages and sorcerers. Dom Tanguich, who held to his ancestors’ traditional respect for magical folk, allowed Cory a comfortable cottage on the grounds of the Tanguich mountain stronghold in eastern Melcovia and generally kept him supplied with such necessities as wood for his fire and food for his table. This might not make for a luxurious life such as magedom had once enjoyed but was more than adequate. Of course one could always conjure up a few pretties but that just wasn’t the same. Gifts and offerings were much sweeter!
In exchange for the support, Cory shielded the estate from the notice of the Premier and his minions and turned the feet of any who wandered their direction to other paths unless they brought good fortune rather than trouble. Beyond that duty, the Dom made few demands on him. Yes, he was fortunate--but lonely. Living here, cut off from others of his kind, made for an austere existence.
He wandered out to the stone stoop of his abode and watched the fading sunset. From what he could see, much-needed rain was not likely. Perhaps a small spell was in order. The Tanguich livestock required new grass and the crops in the fields down the narrow valley from the hilltop fortress were beginning to wither from the extended dry spell. Ambling back inside, he went directly to his work bench and dragged up a three legged stool. He planted his bottom on the solid wood and prepared to get to work.
After he selected certain herbs, an appropriate candle and several other implements, he began. Although his powers were substantial, magic was taxing work. When he concluded the spell, he sat back with a sigh, weariness settling over him like a cloak. Far removed from others of his kind, he had few ways to recharge his special energies. That worried him. Still, unless he had totally lost his touch, rain would fall before daybreak. The Dom would appreciate his supportive gesture, or so he hoped.
Just before he snuffed the candle, it gave an urgent flicker. At the same time, from its niche above the work table, his crystal ball emitted a startling flash of light. Whoa, what’s all this? He snatched the globe down and gazed intently into its depths. As a shadowy figure appeared there, a wisp of thought trickled through his mind. He focused his attention on the signals until a message shaped itself out of the vague whisper.
::Is anyone listening? I seek a mentor, a master, a high mage who is not bound to any university or post but works alone. I am a talented young man with magical ancestry and gifts of my own, but I need further guidance and instruction. I’m willing to work hard, be your total slave if necessary. All I ask is that you teach me!::
Pinpointing the location from which the plea came proved more difficult but after a time Cory determined the caller was somewhere in or near the capitol city. This contact seemed an odd coincidence, almost as if his wish for companionship had summoned a response. Perhaps it had. He focused on the dim image within his crystal ball, trying to make it clearer. The young man appeared comely enough and perhaps sincere in his wish, earnest, at least.
Without giving it a great deal more thought, Cory replied. ::You must make your way to where I am to prove your determination and latent skills but if you arrive at my door within a ten day, I will grant your wish.::
::Wait! Give me some hint, a clue to where you are, at lest what direction I must take.::
Cory sent the tiniest glimpse of the mountains behind the Tanguich holdings. The area was remote but a couple of the peaks were fabled enough for portrayal in paintings and exotic tales of adventure. That was more than enough of a hint. Smiling to himself, he cut the communication, extinguished the image in the crystal orb and placed it back in its space. If the gods were kind, perhaps he’d get what he desired and needed. Maybe the distant youth would also.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Where the Thunder Walks

This article written a few years ago sheds some added light onto the background behind Gwynn Morgan's novel, Back to Tomorrow which we discussed here recently.. Few of Gwynn's books lack at least a subtle hint or two of paranormal things and they often crop up in Deirdre's tales as well.
I/we feel they are a real and valid part of life and have experienced enough of them myself to be a "true believer.". There is much 'out there' that we cannot see, hear, smell or taste, much less touch but we are given a hint now and then and that's enough for me to find these unknowns real!

Back to Tomorrow By Gwynn Morgan, Amber Quill Press
www.amberquill.com/BacktoTomorrow.html


                                                        Where the Thunder Walks

Not for nothing do we have an old saying, "Good things come in threes."  Three is a number of great power and potent magic.  The idea of the triad runs through many primitive religions and was even borrowed by the Christians for their Trinity because of the amazing power inherent in the "Rule of Three."  Thus, it was no real surprise when a peculiar revelation came to me recently, one involving yet another mystical trine.
Almost everyone familiar with New Age beliefs and literature has heard of the energy vortex or power point located in Boynton Canyon, near Sedona, Arizona.  During the past ten or fifteen years, it has been widely publicized by the Dick Sutphen and others.  Perhaps less well known, unless one has traveled U.S. Highway Interstate Eight west of Yuma, Arizona, is a point known as the "Center of the Universe" where another group has built a huge pyramid and metaphysical center. 
I recently fell to thinking of these two places and suddenly realized there must be a third one!  I promptly dug out a state map.  First, I tried a pendulum.  I could scarcely believe my eyes when it hovered over the middle of Cochise County, in southeastern Arizona, where I now reside.
Then, with a ruler, I measured the distance between the two known points and then to the area the pendulum indicated.  I found it was almost exactly the same distance from Sedona as was the desert spot, and only slightly farther from the latter.  The exact spot is in the San Pedro Valley, north and east of the communities of Sierra Vista and Huachuca City.
Suddenly, it fell into place with an almost audible click.  Of course!  The Apache sensed a mystical atmosphere in the region and made it their special hideaway.  Even earlier, the Sopaiburi and other Amerind tribes frequented the area.  Their name for the region was the origin of the modern name "Huachuca" (pronounced Wa-CHOO-ka) and meant "Where the Thunder Walks."  How better could one describe a vortex of energy and power?
Although the name has in modern times been settled on a range of mountains along the southwest side of the Valley, I suspect these early denizens applied it to an opposite mountain area, now called the Dragoons.

Even deeper into the past, people were here.  Along the San Pedro near the modern settlements of Hereford and Palominas, on the ranch of Mr. Ed Lerner, a site has been discovered where primitive warriors killed mammoths.  Prior to this find, few even acknowledged man and mammoths coexisted, at least in the new world.
But at this site, some of the fine stone arrow and spear heads known as "Folsum Points" have been found embedded in mammoth bones.  This leaves no room for doubt that ancestors of Native American people actually killed mammoths, which perhaps were mired in mud or quicksand in that area.  More than one of the gigantic beasts fell prey here to Stone Age hunters thousands of years ago.
Mysterious hieroglyphics can also be found,  graven in stones of all the mountains which surround the valley, possibly left by the same folk who slew the mammoths.  Still earlier, southern Arizona was a plateau, higher than more northerly regions which were then a swampy forest, now preserved in part in the Petrified Forest in northeastern Arizona.
I grew up about thirty miles from the Sedona vortex point in central Arizona's beautiful Verde Valley.  At that time, I had no idea such things as an energy vortex existed, much less that one was near by.  I only knew "my" valley was a special place and its air often seemed to be charged with a peculiar intensity.  I rode horseback all over the hills and canyons of the region and absorbed its magic until it became an integral part of me, leaving a constant awareness of the 'otherness' which exists all around us.  Then I grew up and left the area and thought no more of it for many years. 
After wandering about for a number of years, I finally settled in Cochise County.  Here too is much natural beauty of the sort typical of the southwest.  This stark, rugged land holds many secrets and hidden treasures. 
Here too the very air sometimes seems to hold a special vividness but I gave it little thought until recently.  Once I 'caught on" I had to laugh at myself for being so slow to reach this awareness.  The whole region is infused with a special magic, and I had felt it all along, without really thinking about it. 
To the southeast side of the valley lies a range of mountains now called the Mules.  Some years ago, my husband and I, in a fanciful mood due to reading Tolkein and other fantasy tales, had christened this range 'The Sleeping Dragon'.
Viewed from across the valley around modern Fort Huachuca, it takes only a little imagination to see a great beast, tail curling near the Mexican border and head not far from the town of Tombstone.  Thus, the dragon has guarded at least two mineral lodes of great worth:  the copper mines of Bisbee which are also the source of the famous "Bisbee Blue" turquoise, and the rich silver lode of Tombstone. Since geologists know there are yet more rich mineral deposits to be found, other 'boom towns' may yet arise, unless the dragon wakes.
The valley is also steeped in history.  It is here the Spanish explorer Coronado first set foot in land which is now the United States, probably the first European to enter the region west of the Mississippi.  Here in the 1770s, about the time the Colonists on the Eastern seaboard tired of British oppression, the Franciscans established a 'visita' ‑ a small mission without a resident Padre ‑ at Quiburi, a Sopaiburi village on the west bank of the San Pedro River.  The ruins, a few melting adobe walls, are now inside the San Pedro Riparian Conservation area, protected by the Bureau of Land Management.
Sometime later, a plague wiped out most of the Sopaiburi and the influx of the warlike Apache drove the survivors to retreat to the region of Tucson.  For awhile, the people of Cochise and Geronimo had the area to themselves, but then the European Americans descended. 
Settlers began to arrive and the Army came, setting up camps and outposts which were later centralized to become the present‑day Fort Huachuca.  Intrepid ranchers such as Pete Kitchen and John Slaughter brought cattle from Texas to graze on the rich grasslands, wandering prospectors found valuable minerals, and "civilization" came to the San Pedro.  Ironically, most of these newcomers didn't have the sensitivity to realize they invaded a special place. 
Today thousands of tourists pass through to view the historical mining camps of Bisbee and Tombstone.  In 1996, Karchner Cavern in the foothills of the Whetstone Mountains will open, a new attraction to rival the wonders of Carlsbad Caverns if preliminary photographs are any indication. 
At Fort Huachuca, the Army trains soldiers in the modern 'magic' of Military Intelligence and Electronic Warfare, while the Army Communications Command develops and applies lasers and other state‑of‑the‑art technology.  All this where a century ago, the 'Buffalo Soldiers' and their officers flashed heliograph messages across the valley from the present day Huachuca Mountains to peaks in the Dragoons while the Native Americans they pursued used smoke signals and even more subtle and secret communications.
Mining has slowed greatly and there are few cattle ranches left, but relics of both remain, along with those of the earlier residents.  Thus, new links in an old chain are still forged with the passage of time.
Yet another peculiar coincidence links the three points.  The San Pedro River is one of very few in the continental U.S. which flows predominantly northward.  It joins the Gila near the towns of Winkleman and Hayden.  To the north, the Verde River flows south to meet the Salt River north of Phoenix.  South and west of Phoenix, the Salt joins the Gila.  The Gila crosses the state to flow into the Colorado, just north of Yuma.  Thus, a network of running water links all three sites, or very nearly so.  Given the geographical dispersion involved, this would hardly be expected, so it seems to have some arcane significance. 
As nearly as I can determine, the exact vortex or power point is on private land, east of the San Pedro River.  I do not feel free to disclose the exact coordinates.  Quite possibly the owner does not even know of its existence.  However, I can attest the whole region is alive with energies any sensitive person can feel. 
Each of the mountain ranges bordering the valley has its own special ambience, due to alignment with and proximity to the power point.  Natural wonders are many, and long term residents all relate tales of strange sightings and events, either experienced personally or related to them by trusted friends and kinfolk.
Last summer, I was pursuing one of my hobbies, taking pictures of the lightning during the approach of one of the region's typical spectacular summer thunderstorms.  Later, when I had the film developed, I found one picture truly amazing.  There in vivid clarity was a towering figure limned in lightning bolts.  It strode east, toward the exact power point, holding aloft a mask or skull, perhaps an offering to the Force which inhabits the vortex.  My camera had captured a specter too fleeting and too brilliant for the eye to perceive, giving me a likeness of the Spirit of Huachuca.  Indeed, this is Where the Thunder Walks, and I now have proof.
Though the true Seeker never fails to learn and question, there is so much that we do not yet know.  The exact nature of these mysterious sites falls into this category.  That they exist is definitely true; that our ancient ancestors often utilized them in some manner by constructing their most sacred and arcane temples and holy places in their vicinity is also.  Today though, how best we might utilize them is still in the realm of the unknown. 
Therefore, it is probably best the San Pedro vortex remains in its pristine state for the time being until our level of knowledge increases to the point where we can properly harness the potential offered by such wondrous resources.  Here, where there are strong links to both the past and the future, perhaps there is even a gate to other places and times or other realities.  Eventually a Seeker will come, one who is ready, and he or she will find the key, learn the combination, or simply open the door.             
Until then, the Dragon sleeps and the Point of Power waits, like Excaliber held in stone for the destined hand to raise it. But those of us fortunate enough to live in the area can smile a small secret smile when we hear the old timers' tales of strange phenomena.  We can also feel the vital energy and be 'charged' by the residual radiance of this special place Where the Thunder Walks.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Upcoming Releases

I recently turned in two short novella length pieces to my great publisher, Amber Quill.  They will be released in October and November in the Amber Allure GLBT line. Each will be part of a PAX collection and both have fantasy and magical themes.

The first will be out on October 17 barring unforseen issues, and is titled The Sorcerer's Apprentice. It is perhaps slightly inspired by the famous classical music tone poem of the same name but of courss features gay romance and quite a different twist on the apprentice's ineptitude and development. The second, for a mid-November release, is a 'fractured fairy tale' titled Hanson and Graber: The Price of Magic. It is humorous for the most part, more than a little tongue-in-cheek but not as totally whacky as Tom Fleet's Incredible Machine! (I have to admit that one got carried away LOL.)

They are both under contract now but not edited and I will hold off a bit on posting the excerpts until I have the final mss in hand and cover art. No use showing off my mistakes! Thank goodness I have a woonderful and eagle-eyed editor who finds and helps me fix all those boo-boos.

Now I am finally getting back to another tale for my Thin Green Line series, this one tentatively titled Druid in Drag for the opening scene in which one hero crashes a drug-baron's orgiastic party as a gorgeous woman. He hasn't really  been a cross-dresser but decides it is kind of fun.... The other hero, well, he's an alien but not a little green man or three eyed or anything--but I'll save that for later!

Of course there will be more doggie tails--er tales. I have got to feature my newest family canine soon; we think he is Dachshund and Cavalier King Charles spaniel mix and adorable but quite the little rascal, too. Then I discovered a breed previously unknown to me called Eurasier or Eurasian. My beloved Alanna from long ago who we thought was Chow and wolf mix looks just like some of them! They're a  fairly new breed, mixing Chow and Spitz and are supposed to throw back to some of the ancient direct wolf-descended dogs of early humans. Hmmm, that triggers some what if ideas too!!

Speaking of that, I want to get back to my long postponed Horse Clans series with one story on how the shifting gift was won by a young prehistoric woman who saved a mare and foal from wolves and thus pleased the goddess Epona. And a modern set tale about a country band of horse-shifting friends descended from the DeJean/Johns clan introduced in Nellie's Rogue Stallion and Colette's Savage Stallion. (This one came to me as a result of an ad for some figurines with dragons as rock musicians! I loved it and said wait, why not horse shifters who would have to be country musicians???) So look for Appy Jack and his buds maybe late next year! That may take more than one story even...

You can see I am not resting on my laurels or anything like that despite a bit of a dip in production this past several months due to my move --hopefully the final one!!--and some other busy-ness and issues that cropped up to get my muse to the point she needed light duty only for a time. We're back and rearing to go!!



Here's a few pix from my new high desert home. And I am lovin' it!
The back of the house--now have climbing roses on those trellises. In the second, I built the 'saguaro' bird feeder and the bird bath was a gift. (That's the garage/shop behind them) And the sunset glow on the Sacramento mountains is just awesome. We have fabulous sunsets here and I am a huge sunset freak! You can learn more about all this at my other blog deirdre-fourds. That's the one where I talk about everything except my/our (can't leave Gwynn out!)  writing!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back to Tomorrow, PG-13 excerpt

Back to Tomorrow by Gwynn Morgan  ISBN 1-59279-182-4 (p)
www.amberquill.com/BackToTomorrow.html

Here is the current cover. The lightning bolt in the background came from a photograph I took and talked about earlier on my fourds blog! It's "the spirit of Huachuca" or where the thunder walks. BTW Huachuca is an ancient Native American word and is pronounced Wa-CHOO-ka
www.deirdre-fourds.blogspot.com

Blurb:
Librarian Emily Dennison has always loved history, but catapulted into 1889 Tombstone, she finds life far from the idyll she imagined. Meeting Zach Tremaine, a newspaperman from Philadelphia, she gets involved in his quest to rescue his younger sister from her abusive paramour, gambler Jake McEuen. This leads to more adventure than Emily ever thought possible. Eventually she has to confess to Zach that she is from far away, not in distance but in time. Fearful of being torn back to 2000, but missing her modern conveniences, she hardly dares to love him though she aches to.

Zach isn’t quite sure what to make of Emily, so different from any woman he has ever known but so sweet and spunky that she wins his admiration and soon his heart. Just when he thinks he has convinced her they belong together, a bolt of lightning tears her away. Or was it Joker Jake McEuen, seeking revenge?  Can Zach live long enough to search until he finds her? Can she get back to tomorrow in time to save him from McEuen’s murderous rage?

Excerpt:

April 24, 2000
Hardwick, Vermont
"The postman just came, Em. Run out and see what we have today, would you? I can't leave off stirring this fudge yet."
Aunt Faith's cheerful voice cut through Emily's gloomy thoughts. Leaving the window, which looked out into the rainy afternoon, she moved to obey. Her heart wasn't in the small task, nor in anything she could imagine doing. Pausing on the back porch to tug on overshoes and a mackinaw, Emily grabbed an old umbrella and forged out toward the mailbox that stood beside the highway some fifty yards from the house. Driven by a biting wind, icy raindrops stung her cheeks, as if nature wept with her. Six months, and so little has changed. It almost feels as if time is standing still.
Although most of the mail seemed to be addressed to Faith Dennison's business, Maple Leaf Confections, the last item, a thick brown envelope, bore Emily's name. Moisture smudged the return address, but the handwriting looked like that of her friend, Carol Hodges.
Emily hurried back to the house, curiosity over what she had received temporarily overcoming her depression. Almost anything would be welcome if it took her thoughts away from the ache of loss and the pressing issue of what she should do with the rest of her life.
She'd come here to Aunt Faith's last fall after leaving New Hampshire, stayed to help with the rush of business prior to the holidays, and somehow hadn't managed to move on. She kept delaying just one more day, unable to find a new direction for her life.
Carol was now nearly seven months pregnant--as Emily herself might have been, had the planned wedding taken place last October. They were still best friends, four years past their two-year stint as roommates and their college graduation. Carol had sympathized with Emily's loss through several long phone calls, but that offered no clue as to what she might have sent.
While Faith went through her mail, Emily carefully pulled the heavy tape off the flap to unseal the envelope. She upended it, gave the envelope a slight shake. A single sheet of paper filled with Carol's scrawling handwriting and a small, leather bound book slipped out into her waiting hand. Emily quickly scanned the scribbled lines, the erratic sizes and shapes of the letters reflecting Carol's volatile personality.
Tom and I found this fabulous old trunk in Tombstone that we thought would make a wonderful toy box for Junior. In the process of cleaning it up, we discovered this little book in one corner. Remembering how you love old tomes, I decided to send it to you right now. Maybe reading will while away some otherwise dreary hours.
Please think about coming out to Fort Huachuca for a visit. Spring in Arizona is lovely and I'd so enjoy your company while I wait the last few weeks before this rowdy child makes his appearance. All I can do now is sit and talk, but then, I was always good at that, wasn't I?
Emily smiled, recalling their many late-night conversations, sometimes one or both falling asleep in mid-word, too drowsy to go on. She could use a dose of her bubbly friend's enthusiasm now. Maybe she'd accept the invitation.
She turned her attention to the little book. Holding it gently, she absorbed the aura of age, let her senses appreciate its special value. The soft binding of red leather was cracked and worn, marred in spots by traces of mildew, but basically still intact. The book exuded a musty scent, which she found vaguely comforting. Old books had always fascinated her. The odor brought to mind only pleasant memories.
As she held it, the book fell open to reveal hand-scribed lines, the ink faded to a sepia tone but still clear. The writer had a neat, elegant hand, the delicate copperplate penmanship of a bygone era.
April 24, 1889. Arrived in Tombstone. To actually see a place of such notoriety triggers a thousand fantasies. I can scarcely wait to begin my explorations, although my primary purpose in coming here must take precedence. The place is not wholly as I expected, being both more rustic and more cosmopolitan. The country around is stark and empty, miles of ragged, pale hills and scraggly bushes too small to be counted as trees. One wonders how anything can live in such an inhospitable environment, but local people assure me the desert teems with life. Other than some birds and a few lizards, however, I have seen little so far."
For a moment the book, the cozy room, and all else faded. In its place, the described landscape appeared, vivid in every detail. The harsh glare of midday sun burned Emily's skin and made her squint. She wrinkled her nose at the sulfurous dust on the creosote-scented breeze, which carried the muffled sound of distant gunshots.
Afterwards Emily decided she must have seen a postcard or a photograph, perhaps something Carol had sent when she and her husband first arrived at Fort Huachuca. The fort was only twenty some miles from Tombstone. No other way could she explain the curious vision, hallucination, or whatever it was. When she came out of the odd trance, her aunt was peering at her with an expression of concern.
"Em? Are you all right, dear? You looked so peculiar for a moment. You haven't received more bad news, have you?"
"Oh no, nothing like that. It's a note from Carol, my old roomie, you remember? She and her husband bought an antique trunk in Tombstone to make a toy box for the baby. They found this diary or journal in it, which she's sent to me."
Still feeling slightly dizzy and displaced, Emily shook her head. This was the strangest sensation she'd ever experienced. She snapped the book closed, deciding not to look at it any more until later. A curious paradox of wishes warred inside her. She wanted to put the small tome away and never see it again, but also to sit down at once and read straight through.
Since her aunt still looked worried, Emily continued. "Carol invited me out to visit. Her baby's due in June, and she sounds as if she's running out of patience. Her doctor has prescribed rest, staying off her feet as much as possible until she gives birth. I expect that's a real trial for her. She's always so full of energy and activity."
Faith set her mail aside and resumed her work. "Why don't you? It would be a nice change of scenery and a break before you decide what to do next. I know life is dreary here right now, and that can't help pull you out of your grief."
Although Faith seemed to address her remarks to the bowl of fudge she spread onto a baking sheet to harden for cutting, Emily heard the sincere concern in her aunt's words. Inhaling deeply to absorb the rich, sweet scent of the warm candy, Emily hoped the aroma would dispel the lingering sting of acrid desert air.
Belated, Emily remembered to reply. "Perhaps I will. There isn't much more I can do here to help out, really. In all honesty, you have everything down to a gnat's eyebrow. Except for doing the books, when I try to help, I only wind up being in the way."
"It's an old lady's habit, Em. I'm too used to working alone to adjust now. Not that I don't enjoy your company, but life's too slow and quiet here for you. You're used to the bustle of a college town, your library, friends around, and young folks. Twenty-six is far too young to settle into an old maid's quiet routine."
This time Faith's keen gaze sought Emily's, as if demanding her attention. "You really ought to go. Call your friend tonight and start making plans."

A bit about Back to Tomorrow

Hello, Gwynn here today. I wanted to share some background about my time travel tale, Back to Tomorrow. I suppose it came about because I watched a Hallmark movie titled, as I recall, The Letter. Anyway it was a story about a young man in present time who communicates with a young woman during the Civil War through an old desk and letters until he finally ends up living part of the past. It did not have a real romance style happy ending but there was a ray of hope that the 1860s woman was reborn in a present day descendant. As a total die-hard romance fan, I was not quite satisfied but the idea of reaching across time via the written word held an irresistible appeal.  Pretty soon I began to play with some what ifs

The picture here is the original cover which I had done by a talented friend with the Poser software--although the Amber Quill version's cover is much more artistic and commercial, I have a soft spot for this one which I basically planned myself. It is on a mug and mouse pad I got when it first came out under the original publisher. Sadly that was short lived and I am thankful again that Amber Quill took in  my orphan!

When I wrote this book, most of it in a burst of activity in about six-eight weeks in the summer of 2000, I was living "twenty miles west of Tombstone" as I explained when I talked about The Man in Black. I really did want to do a Tombstone tale but not one on the notorious Earps, Holiday and Clantons et. al. That had been, IMHO, done to death and then some. Probably dug up and done to death again! I was like "Yech, no way." So I definitely did my own thing here. The only historical character that appears is Nellie Cashman and I took some liberties with the time she was there according to what I could find out on her--she didn't rate two percent of the verbiage the gunfighters and such have garnered but she was a remarkable lady and I was glad to honor her..

Last week I attended for the first time a meeting of a local writers group--some published and more aspiring. I had carried along a couple of books to 'prove' my boast that I had published ten novels and since reading something to the group is a rule apparently, I read the prologue of this tale. Everyone wanted more so I guess it went over okay!

As always, I tried to make the setting totally vivid and real, and since I am familiar with the whole area in which the book is set, that wasn't hard to do. I know the scent of rain-wet creosote and mesquite, the ferocity of the frequent thunder storms, the heat baking down on the white hills, and the red canyon going up from the San Pedro valley side to reach Bisbee. I especially loved both Emily and Zach and the fact I made Zach not a miner or gambler or gunslick but an eastern man who loved to write! I also tried to be authentic in the way people talked, acted and thought in 1889! I am fussy about historical accuracy and although I know I make an error now and then, I do try to be authentic.  I may throw a book across the room when I find a character speaking or acting in a manner totally inappropriate to the era of the tale! I hope no one will find anything like that in this book!

New cover, buy info and excerpt in the next post!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Deadline Demon

Yep, it's something we writers have to deal with now and then. Maybe we procrastinated a little too much feeling that date was far in the future and of course we had plenty of time to get the next project done. Ooops, all of a sudden that pitchfork carrying demon is right there goosing us in the backside and we're burning midnight oil to get the job done. That's me recently. I actually was committed to two projects that needed to be done by September 1 at the latest. All of a sudden it was August and neither was done. Oh stuff!!

Well, one has been submitted and the other is taking shape. They are both tales in the fantasy or paranormal vein, and one will probably be coming out in October, maybe even both. Once I have cover art and a firm release date, I will be telling you about them both.

For now, I would turn the time and keyboard over to Gwynn to fill you in on another of her stories but unfortunately we both use the same fingers and keyboard so that is a bit iffy. Soon though! She's itching to tell you about her Tombstone time travel Back to Tomorrow and a couple of her other books so you can expect that soon.

I'm actually caught up since I had told you about Rez Dogs and Scooter Trash about the time it came out and that was my latest release. By the way, it got a really nice review on sensual reads.com that I was just told about a day or two ago. Elise gave it a 4.5 rating and said, "The story is told with just enough action to keep it moving and the right touch of tenderness and love.... the perfect story for when you want something fast and satisfying." She liked both the heroes and the setting, too! To read it all go to http://sensualreads.com/?p=10496

See you soon, either Gwynn or me, with more stories behind the story, excerpts, great cover art and news!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Farm Girl's Dragon--Excerpt, PG-13

The Farm Girl's Dragon by Deirdre O'Dare
www.amberquill.com/AmberHeat/FarmGirlsDragon.html

Blurb:
Yerna Yatskievych left her humble beginings on a poor farm to become one of the few female knights in Draconia. . Soon finding herself in the younger prince’s guard, her  role is both wonderful and challenging. Of course he is far above her reach but a girl has to dream sometimes…

For Hazwell the Disposable the trappings and perks of royalty  hold little appeal. He wonders what will become of him when that brother becomes king. With Prince Max away, a few duties fall to him, revealing a life he will never have more than a tempting taste of. His young guard’s hesitant request to be relieved of a problem start a chain of events with incinerating consequences. Then treachery and mischance bring about huge changes.

With this couragous young knight at his side, he dares to reach and strive farther than he had ever dreamed , even to claiming an ancient family power and rising to incredible heights.

Excerpt:

Draconia, Draconisla
Late Spring
 
Yerna hunkered down to fasten the stiff buckles of her shining new spurs. The metal twinkled in the slanting sun of early morning. Her heart skittered at the thought of the future. Today she'd be dubbed Sera Yatskievych, Knight of the Draconian Empire. Of the twenty-seven squires who'd be knighted today, only three were women, including her.
It had been a struggle, without a doubt, but the six-year effort was now behind her. Of the original group of forty-six recruits, five women and fourteen men had flunked out. Yerna felt more pity than contempt for them, but a bit of both. Maybe she had a little more motivation than most and the benefit of the strength and stamina gained in the first fifteen years of her life.
The eldest of a family of seven, with the only two boys born late in the sequence, she'd taken on the tasks normally given to sons in the family. Finally, the two boys were big enough to do her work between them. That's when she'd left. A troop of knights had come through the area seeking recruits for the king's guard. Tall and sturdy, Yerna had jumped at the chance, although it was a route few farm daughters took.
She straightened from her crouch, making sure every line of her crisp, new breeches and tunic fell into place. Then she settled the metal cap on her head, buckled the yet-empty scabbard at her waist and went out to join her squad. For the special ceremony, they had spent two long days marching to Draconia, the capital, from their training camp in the hinterlands.
Next time they journeyed it would be to duty stations, and she would be mounted in proper knightly style. The coins comprising her reward for excellence in several combat disciplines, along with the gain from a few careful wagers, clinked softly in the hidden pouch inside her tunic. More than enough to buy a decent horse later today.
Although it was hard not to crane her neck and gawk like the bumpkin she really was at the sights of the city, she kept eyes front and stared fixedly at the back of the young man marching in front of her. They had formed into ranks of three for the march to the grand palace and their knighting. Rumor had it Prince Hazwell himself would be taking part.
Second son and nicknamed The Disposable, Haz was still royal, still respected and still inspired awe among the common folk--like Yerna. For a moment, her thoughts drifted. Of course, none of her family would be here to witness her change in status. She doubted they even cared.
But for her, it meant much. No more slopping hogs, milking cows, mucking byres or enduring the lash of her father's tongue and the frequent blows given when things did not go well. Byromyr Yatskievych was neither a patient man nor a fortunate one.
Things often went badly on the farm. He had more luck producing children than anything else. His first wife Morna had given him three daughters and a stillborn lad, whose difficult birth resulted in her decline and final death. Lerma, his second, had added two sons and two more daughters to the mix. He cursed the misfortune that the order and gender of his children was not reversed. With strong young sons early in life, things would surely have gone better for him.
Until she left, Yerna received the brunt of his displeasure, even while doing the bulk of the work. But no father would dare hit a royal knight--not that he would ever have such opportunity. She planned never to go home.
The troop made a sharp quartering turn and came to a halt in the stone paved yard in front of the palace. Flags whipped overhead in the stiff spring breeze and a small band began to play. At their commander's yell, the twenty-seven knights-to-be snapped to rigid attention. Peering past the shoulder of the man in front of her, Yerna saw the prince and his entourage emerge from the massive formal doors of the palace. They descended the wide staircase to the level of the courtyard and crossed it to stop before the group.
When he stepped to the fore, the first thing she noticed was the prince's height. He towered almost a head above the knights and courtiers surrounding him. He wore a uniform not unlike theirs, although of much finer cloth and more elaborate decoration. Several medals hung from colorful ribbons around his neck. They were not the ordinary valor-in-battle medals, though. She'd learned to recognize them all as part of her training. Of course, a prince probably merited a bit of flash just by virtue of his royalty.
The ceremony passed in a blur. She vaguely heard the command to reform into a single long line and obeyed. The band played. There were speeches to which she gave little attention and finally, the most important part began. In the row of twenty-seven, she was ninth. She watched out of the corner of her eyes as the prince strode to the first candidate. The young man knelt, bowing before the status of the crown for which the prince stood proxy today.
Prince Hazwell drew his sword, tapped the young man on each shoulder and intoned the ritual words. "I dub thee Ser Bronkowski. Arise, knight of the realm."
All at once, the prince stood before her. Her legs went rubbery. It was good she was required to kneel for she would have had trouble standing steady. Her gaze fell to the prince's gleaming boots, the golden spurs, again similar to those she wore now, but more ornate. She fought waves of dizziness, dreading the vision of shaming herself by falling to the ground. The shining blade touched her right shoulder and then her left. One firm thump and then another. She shut her eyes and took a deep breath.
"I dub thee Sera Yatskievych. Arise, knight of the realm."
Yerna wasn't quite sure how she managed to stiffen her legs and her spine to get up, but she did it. Once standing, she saw the prince's medals, hanging right in front of her face. To find a focus, she fixed her gaze on them, struggling to read the ornate script. Although girls in her village received little schooling, she had been driven to learn to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. Even while she labored though the steps from page to squire and now knight, she continued to work on those skills as well.
Her breath leaked out in a slow sigh as the prince stepped along to the next candidate. His proximity had affected her more than she'd expected. He had a powerful aura, something more than simply the unearned grandeur of being a royal personage. After he moved on, she turned her thoughts back to herself.
I'm a knight! By all the gods, I did it. What comes next for me?
She realized she'd given very little thought to the actual business of being a knight. Beyond purchasing her horse and gear, she really had no idea where to go or what might be asked of her. Knights were soldiers of sorts. That much she knew. Soldiering meant duty stations, fighting perhaps, maybe even training young pages and squires as she had been trained. Vistas unfolded in her imagination, possibilities both exciting and daunting.
Aye, what comes next?