Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Celtic-Inspired Rural Fantasy--Beyond the Shadows

Some time back I wrote the first of what was to become the Thin Green Line series about the fictitious Paranormal Operations Unit of the US Border Patrol. When I wrote Beyond the Shadows, I had no notion it would spawn a number of tales and that Liam and Rhys would appear in cameo spots in some of them. But of course most of us writers fall in love with all the characters we create, some more than others but I don't think I have invented a couple I was glad to say goodbye to. Liam and Rhys were certainly well up in my favorite list!

I had only a vague idea at first what the story was going to be about. The core was simply two men who had been near-lifelong friends and both denied the attraction they felt for the other because they feared to lose the very strong and valued friendship they shared. I frequently come up with characters who are of Celtic ancestry and these two were no exception. Liam is of course Irish and Rhys is Welsh. Finally I began to recognize that it would take some life-threatening emergency to bring their real love to the forefront for both of them. How and what would this be?

I ended up slipping up on it by way of dreams they both experienced which seemed to imply a shared life in the dim and distant past! You can either share my belief in reincarnation or not but that was the premise I used. In that long ago life they had become true partners and forged a bond which allowed them to triumph over a ghastly demonic enemy. They had vanquished it, but over the centuries, it found its way back! Now again it is threatening them and wreaking havoc in a remote region along the southern New Mexico and Arizona border.  Since the tale is romance, they do hook up and do succeed in banishing the evil being forever; more I will not reveal lest it become a spoiler!

Anyway it seems fitting to feature and share this particular tale today so an excerpt, the cover and buy link info will follow in a second post!

Beyond the Shadows--m/m, adult excerpt

Beyond the Shadows by Deirdre O'Dare

Blurb: First year Border Patrol officers Rhys Davis and Liam Malone have been friends since second grade. When their new assignment puts them on the front lines in tracking down a vicious and inhuman killer along the southern border, they must call on every resource at their disposal.

The most potent of these turns out to be memories from a life they shared two thousand years ago in the British Isles, one in which they were partners in every way, forming an eternal bond that allowed them to defeat this same enemy in that life. Will crossing the line from friends to lovers in this life destroy their friendship or build on it? 

Excerpt: At this point, as Rhys returns from a week away to training, they finally confront the reality of the powerful attraction between them.

As he drove into the carport to stop beside Liam's old Jeep, he noticed lights were still on. In fact, it looked like every light in the house was ablaze. Liam flung open the kitchen door and held it wide while Rhys stumbled in with his stuff. All at once, he was dead tired. Relief compounded the result of a six-hour drive on top of a full day, coupled with constant worry. He tossed his gym bag, laptop, and an armful of other stuff onto the counter and sank into the nearest chair.
For a long moment, he looked at Liam, really looked, seeing the newly deepened lines that bracketed the other man's mouth and the tension around his eyes. Still the familiar and beloved face looked good, comfortable and precious beyond words.
"I worried," he said finally. "I sensed something was out of whack when we talked last night."
Liam's gaze fell away from his for a moment and the other man exhaled a long, slow breath, almost a sigh. "Yeah, it's been weird. No more murders, but... I'm not sure how to explain this or even what really happened. Maybe it was a hallucination or just my imagination." With that preamble, he launched into the tale of his encounter on Monday.
Rhys nodded several times, but did not interrupt. He sensed Liam needed to get this out as quickly as he could, as if to eradicate the incident from a deep place inside himself and dispose of it by sharing the story. He could see the encounter haunted his friend and troubled him in ways the other man was not able to explain and probably didn't fully understand. He even sensed there was something Liam was not revealing, but what that was he had no idea.
"The monster wants us both," Liam concluded. "At least that's what he said, and he hinted about the two of us causing him a lot of trouble, thwarting his goals a long time ago. I--that didn't make sense to me, but then, well, there're those stupid dreams. I never used to dream, but lately I've had a couple about another time and place, another life maybe. I don't know what to believe. Still, I'm damn glad you're back. I guess I let myself get a little spooked."
Rhys nodded again, giving the other man a wry grin. "Yeah, monsters under the bed and the whole shebang. I didn't figure our demon would come to Albuquerque after me, but then again, he can probably go anywhere he wants to. I worried, I have to admit that, mostly about you and Billy."
Liam's eyes widened for a moment. "Never thought of that, our monster or whatever it is traveling away from around here, but you're probably right. What are we going to do? Do we start working separately so he can't get both of us at the same time or do we stick together and try to figure out how to take him down?"
Rhys took a moment to frame his answer. What he was going to suggest could either strengthen their bond of friendship or shatter it beyond repair. He had no way to guess ahead of time. Could Liam possibly be ready to hear and accept what he was about to say? He'd just have to approach it carefully and try to gauge the other man's response as he went along.
"I've had some dreams, too, and my sense is they're true, real. We did live before. At least one time was in the British Isles a couple of millennia ago. We met, and maybe I saved your life. We became friends, more than friends, much more..."
Liam's troubled gaze met his, locked in a steady stare. Rhys could read no shock or revulsion in that look, so he went on.
"Somehow that bond gave us the strength to defeat this monster then. You called him the Soul-Eater, told me about how he'd preyed on your people. Then he started to do the same thing with my tribe, while you were there with me. Druid magic, warrior powers and the strength of our love--that's what we used to bring him down before. If anything will work for us now, it'll be something close to the same. We just have to remember the spells, the herbs and the ways to invoke the old gods. And we have to be together, totally and completely together. Can we do that?"
Liam answered not in words, but in action. He closed the distance between them and dropped to one knee in front of Rhys where he sat in the wooden chair beside their small kitchen table. Liam rested one hand on Rhys' left knee and with the other reached out to touch his face. His fingertips brushed Rhys' cheek and then his palm curved to cup it.
"That's about all we haven't shared," he said finally. "Our lives are as twisted together as one of those Celtic knots. If it's gonna be okay with you, it'll be okay with me--whatever we need to do. Hell, I've loved you since we were kids. There were times I wanted to be closer, but I didn't know how to ask or what to do. I wasn't sure how you'd react, so I never tried."
Rhys turned his head until his lips pressed into Liam's curving hand. "I've always loved you, too, in every way I possibly could. I wanted so much more than just our friendship, but... We'll both be learning and exploring, but I think it'll be all right."
He stood then and put his arm around Liam as the other man also rose. "For now, for tonight, let's just share a bed. I mean to sleep, nothing more. I'm too tired to do anything else and you look pretty beat, too, but I think we'll both sleep better if we know the other is close."
He was surprised how easily it went, how comfortable they were as they both undressed and crawled into the queen-sized bed in Liam's room. Years ago, when they were both young and innocent, they'd slept together a few times, but all too soon innocence faded and inhibitions overcame the bond, at least to some degree. Touching became verboten, sissy and suspect. Rhys recognized suddenly how much he'd missed it. No, not missed, but needed.
Tonight they settled quickly, constraints perhaps soothed by weariness and stress. They spooned together with Liam's back to Rhys' front, just as they'd been in his recent dreams. Within moments, sleep began to blur his thoughts as a sensation of complete comfort enveloped him.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Love is Snowblind

Well shoot, I lied. A day got away from me. For more info on the Iditarod, you can visit the other blog,  and if you are wondering, the race is still going--there have been some sudden shifts in the leaders and with about 150 miles left to go, it is anyone's race, almost. By this time tomorrow it could be over or at least very close.

But without further ado, here is the story I wrote as a tribute to the mushers and the wonderful dogs. I didn't make the Iditarod the background but some of the lesser preliminary and leading-up-to-it races. I took a few small liberties but as much as possible I kept the atmosphere and the facts about mushing as accurate as I could!  The cover is on the right and the info, blurb and an excerpt follow.

Love is Snowblind by Deirdre O'Dare

Blurb: Dylan is a loner, seeking to heal old wounds as he pursues a new-found dream of training a sled dog team and winning the big one, the Iditarod. He makes a difficult choice to rescue a stranger lost in a blizzard instead of seeking a win in a preliminary race. This choice and the results throw an unexpected but major change into his solitary life. Can he accept and adapt to these changes?

Grey must prove himself, pursuing his dream of seeing Alaska first hand and writing about the world of sled dog racing in such a powerful way it will jump start his chosen sports and feature writing career. Green and naive, he almost pays with his life for a bad decision. Can he learn and grow fast enough to survive in the unforgiving environment and overcome a rocky start with his new hero, musher Dylan Norgard, or has he sold that proverbial outhouse?

Excerpt:  At a checkpoint, word has come in of a distress call. Dylan decides to attempt a rescue, not knowing who it is--another racer or just someone in trouble.

Dylan took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I'll go. Anybody got a map I can use to plot a route out there, a good topographic map that shows the terrain?"
Someone produced one. He hitched the team and went inside to spread it out and figure which way he'd go. It was going to be like looking for a needle in a haystack, maybe a big needle in a small stack, but still no easy task. He checked his own compass and GPS unit, watered the dogs and then headed out. Sergei and Sasha both looked askance at him, as if sensing they were leaving the trail and the route the other teams were taking.
"It's okay, kids. We're going to make a detour here. If we get lucky, we might still be able to finish this race. If we don't...well, someone's life is worth more than a cup and a title, right?"
As if they understood, the two lead dogs leaned into the harness and swung into a smooth wolfish trot that ate up distance with the least possible waste of energy. Dylan trotted alongside, knowing he needed to spare the team all he could now because there was no way to know what they might encounter. A keen regret knifed through him--he'd been counting so much on a good finish in this race and he'd just thrown that away.
Am I a fool or a crazy, half-assed hero? Perhaps a bit of both, he decided.
* * * *
Two hours of that steady trot got Dylan close to the GPS coordinates he'd received. The wind had started to blow, swirling the dry surface layer of snow as he made his cautious way down a ridge. A bad forest fire had ravaged the area the past summer. Now dead trees that had not completely burned lay like giant jackstraws, and holes left where some had blown over, pulling out their roots, lurked under the snow to trap a dog or tip a sled. It was ugly terrain.
Sasha seemed to have an inborn sense for hazards. She had slowed from the trot and zigzagged along, picking her way as daintily as a gymnast or a dancer. The rest of the dogs followed her lead, also showing cautious alertness. The ridge finally leveled off into a gentle bowl. Just before a stronger gust obscured his view, Dylan thought he saw a flash of color off to one side, color at variance with the uniform black and white of the landscape.
Damn it, will the fucking wind die for just a few seconds? He squinted through the spinning, whirling white, trying to find the spot, the color, once again. If there were other dogs, maybe his team would scent them. The wind kept shifting so it was hard to line up with the place where he thought he'd seen something that didn't belong.
He didn't speak, but sent the thought to Sasha. Sometimes she seemed to read his mind. Maybe she would this time. Find them, girl. If there's someone here, close, find them.
The lead pair halted, heads up, ears pointed like antennas. He knew their noses would be twitching, sampling the frigid air. Finally, Sasha stepped off again, moving faster now and in as direct a line as she could. Here the fallen logs were fewer and there seemed to be no holes or other booby traps. He didn't try to guide the team. If Sasha was onto something, he'd let her find it.
When the team stopped, Dylan almost tripped over the sled. For an instant, the blizzard let up and he saw it, a patch of red, just in front of Sasha and Sergei. A tent? It looked like one, but a damned small one. He edged along beside the team until he reached it. Yep, a miniscule half-tube of red nylon, stretched by several light plastic arches.
He knelt at the end. "Hallo. Anyone here?"
The next instant he rocked back on his heels as a very pale face suddenly appeared in the opening as a zipper slid down.
At first, he did not recognize the person who drew opened the tent and began to wiggle out, dragging a green sleeping bag with him.
"Oh, my God, oh, my God, I'm not going to die after all." A gloved hand grasped Dylan's and another reached out to Sasha. "Somebody heard; somebody came. I didn't think anyone would."
"Don't go bawling," Dylan said. "The tears'll freeze your eyes shut. Let's get you packed up and on board, and head back to civilization before this blizzard gets any worse."
"Mr. Norgard? Is it really you? I thought you were trying to win the race."
Dylan didn't know whether to laugh or cuss. It was that damn cheechako kid, the reporter. What in bloody fucking hell was he doing out here alone in the snow?
"Where's your team, your rig?"
The younger man was fumbling to try to collapse and fold up his tent. "I--a guy named Hoolihan was going to get me to the third checkpoint ahead of the racers. One of his lead dogs came up lame, and he said he was going to take it to a village a few miles back just off the way we'd come. He said he'd be back in two hours. After four or five, I figured he'd left me."
"Hoolihan. Might've known. That sorry son of a bitch. You paid him, of course."
The younger man nodded. "Yeah, I paid him. And he suckered me, didn't he?"
"Looks that way." Dylan took pity on the kid, and anxious to head back, slammed the tent into a bundle and jammed it and the sleeping bag into his sled bag. "Get on and hang on tight. We're going to be fighting the wind all the way back, but we'll make it, gods willing."
Almost before he gave the command, Sasha and Sergei turned and headed back the way they had come, following the tracks and runner-ruts that were rapidly filling with new and blowing snow. No trotting now, but they kept a steady pace, leaning into the harness to take the extra weight. Dylan muttered a prayer they'd make it back to the checkpoint. If they got that far, he'd forget about the race. There would be other races, but he only had one life, as did his unexpected passenger and each dog of his precious team.
The trip that had taken two hours coming out took five going back. Long before they got there, the dogs had to break drifts higher than their backs. The wind howled like an insane banshee and ripped at them, sucking off every bit of heat their bodies could produce. A time or two Dylan considered stopping and making a cold camp, but he didn't have enough to feed the whole team because he hadn't picked up his drop bag before he left the checkpoint--mistake on his part. It was make it or other choice.
He stumbled now, pacing beside the sled, knowing that his added weight on the runners would be too much for the tiring team to handle. All at once he tripped, his leg twisting beneath him and he fell. A searing pain knifed up his right leg. Oh, shit, I've done it now.
Somehow, the dogs knew, stopping almost at once. He grabbed at the sled and tried to get up, but he couldn't. His leg was not going to bear his weight.
* * * *
Grey wasn't asleep. He didn't dare go to sleep. Even as green as he was, he could tell the dogs were tiring and the non-existent trail had vanished beneath the windblown snow. He sensed Norgard staggering along beside the sled and started to offer to trade places for a while. Then the big man went down.
The dogs stopped, somehow sensing something was wrong. Grey unwound himself from the sled and scrambled to Norgard's side.
"You okay? What happened?"
He heard the big man draw a slow breath and let it out. "Think I broke my leg," he said. "Tripped over something. Tired..." His voice slurred with exhaustion and pain. He slumped against the sled, resting on his left knee.
Panic gripped Grey for a moment, but then he steadied himself. It's up to me now. I didn't come this far to die, to lose everything. Damn it, what do I need to do?
Later, he could not have told anyone how, but he managed to help Norgard onto the sled. The man probably outweighed him by seventy-five pounds, but together they did it. This was going to be a heavier load for the dogs, but somehow they'd handle it. He had to lean close to hear Norgard's mumbled words.
"Not too far, I don't think. The village--maybe another mile or two. Just trust Sasha. She'll get us there if it's possible. Hold on to the handles, but try not to put too much weight on the sled. Talk to 'em. Tell Sasha it's up to her."
Grey wasn't sure if Norgard passed out then or not, but he hoped the other man would stay on the sled. Norgard's gloved hands seem to lock onto the side rails at any rate.
Grey raised his voice so the dogs might hear him above the wind. "Okay, Sasha, you know what to do. Mush, girl."
Much to his amazement, the lead pair leaned into the harness again and started forward. They seemed just to be inching along, but they moved, and he had to keep walking to stay in his chosen spot at the back end of the sled. One foot after the other, slogging and struggling, but moving, moving, moving.
He held onto the handles like a lifeline, which indeed they were, but he didn't lean, didn't put any weight at all on the sled to add to the burden the weary team dragged through the snow, against the wind...
When the dogs finally stopped, Grey almost fell. It took a moment before he realized he could see dim lights through the dancing snowflakes. Lights? Then he heard voices.
"Hey, somebody's here. Team in." People seemed to come boiling out of the cold darkness to surround him.
"Hey, it's Norgard." Then the fact the musher was on the sled and a smaller figure stood beside it soaked in on them.
Grey tried to explain, but a haze wrapped around him as he felt himself sliding into a cold, silent, empty place. He sank onto the snow and everything went out like a quenched candle.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Cover for A Different Drummer...

Just hit my in-box and I love it! I'm excited about this story even if it is still a month plus to the release date!
Of course our wonderful cover artist at Amber Quill actually was a heavy metal musician in a 'prior life' so he has a real feel for a cover like this. I think it is perfect. More on this story soon including excerpts as soon as the edits are done. Have a wonderful Celtic Heritage month! And visit our other blog

Tomorrow since I am a huge fan and the race is going on right now--speaking of the Iditarod, of course--I'll feature my story from sometime back Love is Snowblind which takes place in the mushing community in Alaska and was in the second volume (print) of my Canine Cupids tales. More comments on the Iditarod at the other blog too!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Join us tomorrow on Coffee Time Romance!

Tomorrow , March 4 from 12-8 pm EST over at the blog site of Coffee Time Romance and More, in my "Starbooks Barrista" hat  as AZGaye  I'll be hosting the monthly Book Brew party, The URL for that is in case you have not visited before. It's an eight hour party where visiting authors post excerpts, tidbits, sometimes interviews and other fun stuff. We have a theme each month and welcome both new releases and back list titles that fit the theme.

I really look forward to this gig and always enjoy it. Readers can comment for chances to win a bunch of kewl prizes and talk to authors via comments too. Tomorrow we will be featuring Celts and the Celtic regions as they appear in books, mostly romance of course. Two of my favorite authors who excel in Celtic based romances are going to be special guests, Sue-Ellen Welfonder the author of a slew of wonderful medieval and earlier historical tales set in the Scots Highlands and Cornelia Amari, whose dramatic books are rooted in the mythology and deep historical past of Ireland and the rest of the Celtic world. We'll also have Kelley Heckart who delves into somewhat similar territory and some other authors as well.

Gwynn and I will be there too! Gwynn will feature her wonderful police procedural tale, January gets her Gunn  where the heroine is of Irish ancestry and the hero Scots--and their background does play a major role in the unfolding of their tale, especially their rocky romance! I'll be talking about Beyond the Shadows, the very first of my Thin Green Line series, where the two heroes, who've been friends since childhood, one of Irish and the other of Welsh ancestry, discover a powerful connection in a prior life that links them in unexpected ways and gives them the power to vanquish  a terrible supernatural foe in their duties as rookie US Border Patrol officers. We'll each have a book up for winning, too as will most of the visiting authors. So see you there!