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:

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  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,

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, 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 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!