Tuesday, April 26, 2011

DreamKiller 2... Teaser Tuesday

I'm taking a break from our regularly scheduled program to bring you a sneak peek at my newest short story installment. This is chapter one of DreamKiller 2 which will release in the next week or so. Even if you haven't read #1 yet (its only .99, go pick it up!) you can still read on and let me know what you think!

Chapter One

A door clicked shut, and Marlena’s eyes sprang open. Her muscles went rigid inside her skin. She was careful to keep her body still as she scanned what was visible from her angle on the hard, stale mattress. The room was small, with white walls and generic framed art that featured diluted seascapes. The rough coverlet threatened to chafe even though she hadn’t yet moved underneath it.
It took only a second for her to take it all in, and remember she wasn’t in her room at the orphanage. Even in sleep, her brain couldn’t seem to relax enough to forget.
     She was in a hotel room, downtown. And not in the nice section either. He’d said it would be better to stay here, where no one questioned paying cash for a place to sleep. And no one remembered your face.
     The muted spray of the shower shut off. Marlena chastised herself for only now noticing that it had been on. One night away from the orphanage, and she was already losing her edge? She strained her ears and listened to the sounds of fabric being pulled against limbs.
     A second later, the door opened, and Luke - he kept insisting she call him that, instead of Lukas - walked into the room. She turned to look at him, pulling herself up and throwing back the stale blanket to reveal the same clothes she’d worn the night before; her work clothes. The leather was warm and stiff from being worn so long. Marlena barely noticed. She'd grown used to the feel of it against her; like a second skin.
     Luke was dressed in fresh jeans and a blue button down, with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Marlena ran her eyes over the length of him. His hair dripped with water and he ran a hand through it, to shake it dry. Beads of water flew off, into the air. He reached down and pulled the extra blanket from the floor, where he’d slept, and tossed it aside. He took another step into the room and found her watching him. If it had been possible for her to do so, Marlena would have blushed right then. She couldn't remember she'd stared at a man simply for the view. Now wasn't the time to start either.
     “Good morning,” he said; his voice cheerful and without a trace of the awkwardness she felt.
     She flexed her stiff muscles and nodded once. “Good morning.”
     “I thought I’d wait ‘til you were awake to step out. I’m going to run down and get some coffee, maybe a pastry. You want one?”
     “Yes. Thank you.”
     “Sure. You can get cleaned up while I’m gone.”
     She nodded again, feeling anxious and claustrophobic under his gaze. In the light of day, doubts were creeping in; as well as the gravity of her new living arrangement. Luke seemed unaffected and upbeat which, she was starting to understand, was typical for him. It unnerved her. She’d lived in a climate of stress and tension for so long that anything this friendly and open seemed too easy, and not to be trusted.
     Luke’s gaze flicked down, taking in her shiny black pants and tank top. “I don’t have any extra clothes for you.” He gestured to himself saying, “I had these in my truck but…” He trailed off, sounding sincerely sorry that he didn’t have something to offer her
“It’s fine. A shower would be great, though,” she said.
     “Alright. Be back in a few, then.” He grabbed his keys off the ledge by the air conditioner and let the door click shut behind him.
     She hadn’t missed that he’d put them there last night. She assumed he was testing her, wanting to see if she’d run. But where would she go? He was the only one she knew in the entire world who wouldn’t kill her on sight.
     She waited until the muffled roar of his truck faded from the lot and then got up and went into the bathroom. She stripped off her leather, peeling it away from her skin, and adjusted the spray as hot as it would go. When she stepped into the stream, she stood there, bracing herself with her palm against the cold tile, and closed her eyes. She allowed herself all of ten seconds to enjoy the blistering heat of the water against her naked skin, and then reality crashed back in.
     In a single night, she’d traded everything she’d ever known, including Korian’s life, for a hunch and a stranger with friendly eyes. How had it come to this? Living in a hotel room, with nothing but the clothes on her back? Where did she go from here? Would Azura be looking for her? Would she know that Korian was dead yet? Yes. She would know. Marlena didn’t know how, but Azura would most certainly know.
     She made sure to be out of the shower and dressed again before Luke came back with the food. She was standing in front of the mirror, a blow dryer pointed at her short, dark locks when the door clicked and opened. She tensed reflexively. In the mirror’s reflection she saw Luke enter, balancing a cardboard tray of coffees and a paper bag in one hand. In the other, he held a larger plastic bag. He slid through the opening, backlit by glaring sunlight, and pushed the door closed with his heel. His eyes met hers, and he smiled.
     “Got you something,” he said, setting the food on the small table by the bed. He came toward her, the plastic bag swinging in his hand.
     She shut the blow dryer off and turned to face him.
     “I don’t know if they’ll fit right, but it’s all I could find on short notice.” He held the bag out.
     She reached in and pulled out clothing; a white zip-up sweatshirt and a pair of drawstring pants, in gray. Not exactly on par with the leather and microfiber, but it would do, especially for a disguise. No way would anyone from the orphanage recognize her in this.
     It dawned on her that Luke had bought these for her. She couldn't remember the last time someone had bought something for her. Even on birthdays, Azura was the only one, and her gifts were always necessities of Marlena's profession; the leather clothing, steel-toed boots, things that would make killing easier. Tears stung at her eyes, but she blinked them back, hardening her jaw at her unexpected emotion. “Thank you. That was very kind.” Her ability to bury her emotions was thing only thing that saved her voice from cracking.
     Luke waved a hand, dismissing her gratitude. “No worries. There was a gift shop next to the corner store where I got breakfast. We can get something better later.” He went back to the table and began sorting breakfast sandwiches and packets of sugar.
     She slipped into the bathroom and changed her clothes. She used the hotel soap and rinsed out her soiled set as best she could, hanging them on the shower rod to dry. The cotton felt bulky and thick against her skin. The sweatshirt was a little small, and rode up, revealing an inch of skin. At least the pants fit okay, once she’d pulled the string as taut as it would go. She double knotted it and stepped out.
     Luke was eating a breakfast sandwich. A crumpled wrapper sat in front of him and the entire room already smelled like grease. Marlena thought it smelled like Heaven. She couldn't remember the last time she’d eaten. She’d been too worked up about her mission: killing Luke.
     She took the empty chair and mixed sugar into her coffee. It had cooled enough for her to gulp it. The caffeine stirred in her blood, and she dug in to the closest grease-stained wrapper. Three bites in, she noticed Luke watching her.
     “I take it you like sausage biscuits?” One brow was lifted as well as one corner of his mouth.
     She swallowed the massive bite she’d been inhaling. “They’re okay,” she said.
     He laughed. She sat back, a little startled by it. Was he laughing at her? If it were anyone else she would've said yes, but his laugh was easy, like he did it often, and deep, like it went all the way through him. And despite the fact that she was the target of his joke, his eyes remained so open and readable; she couldn't seem to feel offended by it. Marlena wondered what it would feel like to laugh like that.
     “Here, you can have the last one, then,” he said, shoving another greasy wrapper across the table, still smiling.
     “Thanks,” she said, testing out the hint of a smile in the corner of her mouth. It felt odd and she let it disappear. She chewed and swallowed more slowly this time, wondering if he’d notice it and laugh again. He didn’t. She wasn’t sure if she was relieved or disappointed.
     “So, now what?” she asked, when they were done eating.
     Luke sat back in his chair and took a slow sip of coffee before answering. “Well, that depends a lot on you, I guess. How are you feeling after last night?”
     “I’m …” How was she feeling? “Confused.” He nodded, like he’d been expecting that answer. “I’m not going back, if that’s what you’re asking. But I need to know more before I can go any further.”
     “Fair enough,” he said. “I can tell you my story which, coincidentally, intersects with yours, or at least the beginning of yours. After that, well… I’m not the one to ask.”
     Marlena waited.
     “I was seventeen when I met Azura. I was working for a circus and we’d stopped in the city for a five night show.”
“You worked for the circus?” Marlena asked, surprise coloring her voice.
Luke grinned. “Sure did.”
“Doing what?”
“Fortune teller, of course. Good times, too. At least for awhile. Anyway Azura came into my tent, looking all silver and regal, and threw a fifty on the table without a word. I figured I knew what she wanted so I closed my eyes and looked ahead, and that was it. No conversation needed. I saw it all play out in the vision. She was there to see me. She already knew about my ‘gift’ as she called it, and wanted to invite me to live with her at the orphanage. I would’ve turned her down, too, but the thought that there were others like me out there… I had to meet them. So, I packed up my stuff and went home with her that night.”
"Just like that." Marlena sat back in her chair.
He nodded. "My upbringing wasn't ... ideal. My parents caught on to my ability early on and shunned me for it. I had no friends, no one. So Azura's offer to be included, to be a part of something, I couldn't say no."
“What happened? When did you know she was using you?”
“For a long time, I didn’t. Azura kept me out of the business end of things. She gave me a job, teaching the younger kids about dealing with their abilities, and she worked with me, taught me to control and focus the premonitions.
Then, a few months into it, she came to me. She said there was a couple interested in Devon, one of the boys in my class. She said they wanted to adopt him and could I do her a favor and check on them, see if they were going to be good parents for him. I told her no problem, of course I'd want to make sure he was going to be okay. So, I used my gift to search for the couple. They weren’t hard to find, but the images were not what I’d expected.”
“What did you see?”
“The couple, along with four others, storming the orphanage and taking Devon and another kid. There would’ve been casualties. On both sides.” The light had gone out of his eyes, and his lips were pulled thin.
“But I thought your premonitions only showed five minutes out?”
“Accurately, yes. I can see further, but it’s not always accurate. Anything further out is only about fifty percent, so I try not to rely on it.”
“Do you think your vision of the attack was accurate?”
“No way to know and I couldn’t be sure either way, but if it was true, I couldn’t let it happen. So I told Azura. She assured me that I shouldn’t worry and she’d take care of it. I had no idea what that even meant at the time. But the next day, I picked up the paper and read that the couple had been killed in a drive by shooting. Police suspected gangs, but I knew.”
“Did you confront her?”
“Of course. She insisted she had no involvement. I almost left after that but I thought about the kids. I couldn’t leave them. A few weeks passed, and I put it out of my mind, but then she asked for another favor. Look in on a man. He’d been poking around, claiming to be from the health department. I agreed, still wanting to do what I could to protect my kids.” He stopped, hesitant all of a sudden.
“What did you see?”
     “You.” He didn’t meet her eyes.
     “What do you mean?”
     “The man Azura had me look for was your father, and he was a special. His gift was compulsion, and he used it to keep you and your mother hidden. But your mother was somehow discovered and… she was killed. I don’t know how. I think your father was scoping out the orphanage because he knew he might be next.”
     “What happened?” Marlena gripped the armrest with whitened knuckles. She couldn't remember anything of her parents, or her life before the orphanage. Any information, even something horrible, was better than nothing.
     “I told Azura, and she seemed upset. It was one of the few times I’d ever seen her show any emotion. She asked if I would come with her, to check on you guys. Said that if you were specials, you deserved our help and protection. So I brought her to your house. I didn’t have the vision until it was too late. She… killed your father before I could stop her. Then she brought you back with us. In the car, you were crying. You wouldn’t stop. And she did something. I don’t know what, exactly. But whatever it was made you stop crying, and you didn’t even seem to know what had happened, or that your dad was even gone. You just sat there, like a puppet.
     When we got back to the orphanage, Azura whisked you away. I tried to see what she would do, but my visions were hazy and blocked, just like they always were when it came to Azura. When I tried looking at just you, I saw you growing up in the orphanage, completely devoted to Azura. You were safe. So, I told myself that was all that mattered, and I packed a bag and left.”
     Marlena sat quietly, absorbing the story. In a way, she wasn’t surprised. She’d suspected for a long time now that Azura had done something to manipulate her memory of that day. But, Azura had killed her father. At least, that’s what Luke said. The temptation to disregard his story was pricking at her. But if she did, she’d have to reject every choice she’d made in the last twenty four hours. And she couldn’t do that. The truth in Korian’s eyes had been unmistakable. Azura was using her. But for what? Why?
     “Marlena, say something,” said Luke. His voice was almost a whisper. He had his hands clasped between his knees, and he was staring down at them. He seemed... nervous.
     She met his eyes, unsure of what he wanted from her. She didn’t feel like she had anything to give. “How did she kill him?”
     He winced, like this was the one question he’d been hoping to avoid. “She compelled him to shoot himself.”
     Marlena shook her head. “No, Azura doesn’t have the gift of compulsion.”
     “Yes, she does. I hadn’t seen it either, when I’d been at the orphanage, but she definitely used it that day. And I think she used it on you.”
     “But how? How did she get a new power?”
     “I don’t know for sure. But I suspect her gift is absorption. She can absorb the powers of those around her. I think it’s why she collects so many specials and keeps them close.”
     Marlena thought about that. There really was no way to know for sure, unless Azura herself confirmed it. Which wasn’t likely. Luke was watching her again, his eyes soft with sympathy. “It’s why she wanted you so badly.”
     “Why me? I mean, she could’ve just absorbed my gift and sent me on my way.”
     He shook his head. “You have more than just the dreams. Your physical strength and stamina are something she can’t absorb. If I’m right she can only take in psychological gifts. Physical is off limits.”
     “So she needed me to carry out the dream’s actions.”
     They both fell silent. So, Azura had been using her as her own personal assassin? “I didn’t have a dream last night. It was the first night in months that I didn’t dream of a way to kill someone.”
     Luke nodded. “Because you left.”
     “What do you mean?”
     “When I left the orphanage, my visions came back almost instantly. I was able to see Azura in them, for the first time. It was like she had put a block on herself when I was there. But as soon as I was away, it was removed."
     "You think she was manipulating my dreams?"
     "It's possible. Who knows what kind of powers she has, through her absorption."
     Marlena felt a cool trickle of unease on her spine. "Including mine." She looked across the table at Luke. "My dreams. If this is all true, and she was picking who I saw myself killing in my dreams, then she could easily dream up killing me."
     "Hmm." Luke sat back in his chair, considering. "I don't know. Your gift only works if you are the one acting it out, right?"
     "So, for Azura to use it to kill you, she'd have to do it herself. In my experience, Azura doesn't like to do her own dirty work. That's why she had you." A corner of his mouth turned up, in a wry smile.
     "And Korian," Marlena murmured. Luke didn't respond.
     Marlena resisted the urge to fidget with the drawstring of her pants. Nervous energy was bottling inside her and she needed to do something, anything, to let it out. She itched for action. “I still feel like I have more questions than answers.”
     “So what now?”
     His expression lightened, leaving his eyes a lighter, cheerful shade of green. Had he been wondering if she’d bolt? “For starters, we get you some clothes and whatever else a female needs for a life on the run.”
     “Alright.” She wanted to ask him what came after that, but she couldn’t do it. Part of her was too busy digesting the story he’d told; another part of her wasn't sure she wanted to hear his answer. A future spent running for your life sounded awfully bleak. Would he always run with her? Or would he set her up with some clothes and a hotel room and then split?
     They tossed the empty wrappers in the trash and left the motel room. Outside, the sun shone over the black asphalt lot, giving off a layer of blurry steaming humidity that seemed to gather at her ankles. Even in the stifling heat, Marlena felt chilled. She knew that whatever came next, it would only get harder.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Race to Review Update

The race to 30 reviews is going strong and I want to give you an update on where things stand as well as some more awesome news in the prize category.

First, backstory:
As you know, we're doing a race to 30 reviews, to see which of my titles can get to 30 reviews first. (Across the Galaxy or Dirty Blood.) When one of the titles reaches 30 reviews TOTAL (on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords COMBINED) I will draw winners.

So far, the standings are as follows.....

Dirty Blood - 3
Across the Galaxy - 5

How you get entered: Write a review on one of the following sites: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords, OR add tags to the book on Amazon. (You must email me that you've tagged the title and what tags you used for this entry to count)

*Note: You can be entered mupltiple times if you review on every site or for both books.

What you'll win:

Here's the big news!!!!

On top of everything I already listed for the Grand Prize winner of each book's drawing, Angeline Kace has offered an ARC of her paranormal romance, Descended by Blood, coming summer 2011, when its ready. Its got vampires and secrets and hottie mcnaughtys so you won't want to miss it!!

So here's a recap of the grand prize packs:

Dirty Blood drawing, Grand Prize: Signed paperback of Dirty Blood, E-copy of Sleight by Jennifer Sommersby, E-copy of Across the Galaxy, ARC of Cold Blood, Dirty Blood's sequel when its ready, ARC of Descended by Blood by Angeline Kace when its ready.

Across the Galaxy drawing Grand Prize: Signed paperback of Across the Galaxy, E-copy of Sleight by Jennifer Sommersby, E-copy of Dirty Blood, ARC of Cold Blood, Dirty Blood's sequel when its ready, ARC of Descended by Blood by Angeline Kace when its ready.

~ That's FIVE free books per winner!!! ~

both drawings will include 2 runner ups who will get 2 free e-books of their choice. (Choose from any of my titles as well as Jennifer Sommersby or Angeline Kace).

I'm pretty excited about this contest and I can't wait to start seeing those reviews pop up so we can draw those winners!! Hurry, go now!!

Oh, wait, one more thing:

In other exciting news...

 Sleight is currently #21 on Amazon for the "YA Love & Romance" category. YAY Jenn!!! I am soooo excited for you and you deserve it because you are an awesomesauce writer!

And I am on lovlivlife reviews today with a special guest post about werewolves: 'The Para and The Normal'. It's pretty awesome. Check it out.

Okay, now I'm done.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Race for Reviews Giveaway!!

Before I say anything, I have to give a shout out to Andrea at the Bookish Babes, for giving Dirty Blood such a great review. You can check it out here. She's also doing a giveaway on her site for Dirty Blood now through April 30th, as well as an interview by me. Go read it and come right back. I'll wait...

Okay, now that you're back...

I know there's been so much hype that you're all at the edge of your seats about the mysterious giveaway that I know for a fact I've mentioned at least twice now. For those of you who've been paying attention, I originally stated that I'd unveil the magnificent giveaway by end of last week so I'm running like 3 days late. (story of my life right now)

I took a little longer to really hone the details because I wanted to get it right. I am doing a number of giveaways in the coming weeks through other sites, and I didn't want to overlap or repeat myself. I also wanted to do something unique and something that is mutually beneficial, if you will.

So, Reviews.

Reviews are pretty important to us authors. They lend a certain credibility where there might not yet be any, especially for us newbies. And I'm a writer, a story teller, a liar - for a living. So I'm not offended to know that the reader doesn't trust me enough to take my word for it. They need to hear from some regular joe's, instead. (i.e. YOU)

This whole process becomes especially important as a self-published author, like moi. Reviews are sort of a life line in the marketing-advertising-promoting-platform-building smash up that we are always juggling. Now - let me stop and point out right here and now that I don't mean Stepford Wife-like reviews. I mean honest, opinionated, though never cruel, real life impression of my story kind of reviews. Those are the ones that count.

So. The details of the giveaway is this:

I'm going to have a RACE TO 30 REVIEWS!

Let's see how fast we can hit 30 reviews EACH. The first contestant in the race is my new paranormal romance: Dirty Blood. And the second, my YA Fantasy: Across The Galaxy. ITS A RACE!

Every review posted gets you entered into the drawing and as soon as we hit 30 reviews, I'll draw the winners. THIS IS A TWO PART CONTEST so there will be 2 sets of winners, one for each title. And yes, you can enter for both, and potentially win both! AND, if you've already read one or both, and left a review, it already counts towards the contest. AND if you've read one or both, but haven't left a review, go do it NOW!

So, here's exactly how you can be entered: (1) Choose either Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com or Smashwords.com and leave a review for one of my books mentioned above.
(2) You will receive an entry for EVERY review you post, so if you post to all three sites, you get three entries
(3) if you tag the book on Amazon, you will receive an extra entry. (Email me the tags you used so I know.)

As soon as we reach 30 reviews for a title, I'll do the drawing for that title. Here's what you'll get:

Dirty Blood Grand Prize: signed paperback of Dirty Blood, e-Book of Across the Galaxy, e-Book of Sleight by Jennifer Sommersby, AND an ARC of Cold Blood, the sequel to Dirty Blood, when its ready. (ARC will be ecopy)

Across The Galaxy Grand Prize: signed paperback of Across The Galaxy, e-Book of Dirty Blood, e-Book of Sleight by Jennifer Sommersby, AND an ARC of Cold Blood, the sequal to Dirty Blood, when its ready. (ARC will be an ecopy)

Two runner ups (for each drawing) will receive: 2 eBooks of their choice. (Can choose any of my titles as well as Sleight by Jennifer Sommersby) as well as ARC of Cold Blood when its ready.

The race is on.
Ready... Set... Go!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ADD and Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry's

I think I woke up with ADD today, and it sucks. I am usually pretty focused with my morning schedule. I get home from dropping the kiddos off and settle in for net surfing, tweeting, checking my sales, reading other blogs, etc. Then I shake myself against the pull of the seductive internet and get down to the business of writing. Not today. For some reason, I've just been surfing the net, for like two hours now, staring dazedly at my computer screen, and I'm not even sure if I'm retaining any of the pointless crap I've read. Not that it matters since it was all kind of pointless crap. Like the fact that today is free cone day at Ben & Jerry's. Okay, well that one might be important. Then again, I don't know if we have a Ben & Jerry's around here. Damn. Now I gotta google that. See what I mean?

Oh yeah, back to my point: ADD. So, I think about writing and I'm like "nah, maybe later" or I think about cleaning or laundry or dropping off that bag to Goodwill, and I'm like "nah, maybe later." Damn. I need to get it together, but I can't shake the 'Nah' mood. I'm not a fan of it, but I hardly ever get this way, so I'm not quite sure what to do about it.

Any suggestions?

Oh, in other news: Jenn Sommersby and I are putting together the most awesomest contest ever that we will be running simultaneously, together, at the same time (that was the ADD). So stay tuned and I hope to have it posted somewhere near the end of the week.

Okay, I'm going to google Ben & Jerry's in coastal Va. =) Later skaters!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Iron King... a review for you, a review for me.

The Iron King (Iron Fey, #1)The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Just finished reading this for the 'YA Addicted Book Club' I am a part of on Goodreads. Here's the deal with it: At first, I wasn't that into it. The story line seemed a little bit "younger" YA than I normally read. But it got interesting and I hung in there and I'm glad I did. It ended up being a cute spin on familiar fairy tale ideas. Tir Na Nog and the Seelie Court and piskies instead of pixies. And some newer types of characters, too. The machines, in particular, were very creative. The world the author built was reminscent of a hundred different fairy tale ideas, all smashed together, and it was fun to hear a familiar term (dryads, silkies, sirens, etc) but spun differently. The relationships and story layers, were definitely age appropriate and roped me in. And the tension and impossibilites of the romantic relationship there has me already reaching for Book 2.

Another recent review you might want to peak at. Andrea, over at Bookish Babes, just posted this for Across the Galaxy:

 "...Across the Galaxy is a beautifully descriptive book. Author Heather Hildenbrand does a terrific job of placing the reader into the scenery. While reading of Arizona, I felt myself visualizing the terrain, the orange and red of the sky, the heat. As I was taken 'across the galaxy' into each ensuing world, the imagery given made each planet feel real. The animals, trees, grass, water; every detail was given its due. True escapism at its best.
  Each character in the story, beginning with Alina, is set up in a realistic way. Their emotions, reactions, the conversations were all believable. I felt as if I got to be a part of the characters getting to know one another. There wasn't any of the "insta love" I've read in a lot of books. When Alina meets Ander, also a native to her home planet, they actually take the time to get to know one another in a real way. That was very, very refreshing. But as they do get to know each other, that chemistry is smoking hot!..."
Click here to read the rest....

Thank you so much Andrea, for your enthusiasm and fabulous review!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dirty Blood... at last.

Wowzer, peeps. LOTZ going on in Heather-Heather land!

But it's bound to be that way after a book release, right? And I'm having so much fun. It feels like Christmas and my birthday because I'm getting so much love about Dirty Blood AND Across the Galaxy today, AND I just bought Cassandra Clare's: City of Fallen Angels, which I'm about to dive into, so yeah, good times.

Oh, and for those of you that checked, yesterday: Amazon was trying to make me look like a liar! Dirty Blood was uploaded on Saturday afternoon; PLENTY of time to go live on Amazon by Monday. At least, in my experience. Apparently, they had issues, though? Because, according to my computer, it didn't go live until this morning. So yeah, launch day was kind of a tease. But it's there now. Click here to check, if you don't believe me. And buy it, too. That'll put me in my place. Hehe.

Here's the 4-1-1 on my books:

Andrea over at The Bookish Babes is reading Across the Galaxy, and will be reviewing when she's done. She's posted a teaser on her site here. I have to be honest, I read the excerpt, and was like "I wrote that?? Huh, not bad." Seriously... I don't mean that to be egotistical, I just really had forgotten. Anyway, she's got Dirty Blood on deck, as soon as this one is done, so she's a doll. Thanks Andrea!

Also out today is an Author Spotlight post by MD Christie - one of my #TGNO girls. Check it out here. She's awesomesauce.

In the works:

A giveaway, forthcoming on this blog. Stay tuned for deets.

A review/author interview by Wenona Hulsey.

Goodreads giveaway (paperback version!), coming soon.

OH- and coming as soon as she gets her butt in gear: a guest post by Jennifer Sommersby, author of Sleight. Awesomest book I've read in forever! Her kids were out of school all last week, and if you know anything about kids, you know that means she had her hands full. Back to work, Jenn!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dirty Blood, Chapter One

“C’mon Tara, you didn’t even give tonight a fair chance,” George said. His blue eyes were a mixture of pleading and irritation.

I returned the pool stick to the rack on the wall and tried to think of a fair answer before I turned to face him again. I was careful to keep my voice down; the tiny pool hall was pretty crowded for a Tuesday night. The smoky haze that hung permanently in the dimly lit air gave the illusion of privacy around our corner table, but I noticed the couple next to us was already glancing over, trying to look like they weren’t listening.

“George, you were an hour late picking me up because you were working on a press release with your agent.” I stepped closer. “Your agent,” I repeated, shaking my head. “Seriously. You haven’t even graduated yet, much less secured a scholarship. Why do you even need an agent?”

He ran a hand through his hair, evidence of his impatience, though he was careful to keep his tone light, in an attempt to win me to his way of thinking. “I told you already, my dad set it up. And a lot of the pros got one early, especially the big timers. And I’m sorry I was late, but I’m here now and I’m focused on us.” His expression became accusing and he added, “More than I can say for you.”

I rubbed at my temples, trying in vain to massage away the stress headache that had become a trademark of our relationship. “I’m sorry, George, but I’m not the one who messed things up. And I don’t fault you for a change in priorities. Football is important to you. That’s fine, but it’s pushing out everything else, including me. It would make it easier for you to just admit it.”

“You’re wrong, I can do both,” he insisted, shaking his head vigorously. His loose blond hair shook with it.

“You’ve cancelled on me three times in the last week,” I argued. “Not to mention standing me up two nights ago.”

“Tay-” he began, using his nickname for me.

I put my hand up to silence him. I couldn’t do this anymore. “Just stop, George. Stop with all the excuses. It’s just not going to work. You should go. I’ll find my own ride home.”

George stared back at me and I waited for him to argue some more. The tone of regret in my voice had been obvious, but so had the finality of my words. Finally he sighed.

“I’m going to find a way to fix this,” he said quietly.

I didn’t answer. There was nothing to say. Reluctantly, he grabbed his jacket and left. I watched him until the door swung shut behind him and then turned back to our half finished game. I went to the wall and retrieved my stick, as if the breakup I’d just initiated didn’t bother me one bit, and lined up my next shot.

I ignored the curious looks from the nosy couple beside me and focused on sinking the three ball. Only a small twinge of regret ate at me while I finished the game. I hadn’t wanted things to end with George. We’d known each other since sixth grade, and in a lot of ways, he was my best friend. I cared about him a lot. But he’d changed in the past few months. At first, it was so slow I’d barely noticed. We’d go two days without talking – a record for us at the time – which slowly turned into a missed date or a last minute changing in plans. Then, he got an agent, and it was only downhill from there. And while I hated thinking I was throwing away everything we’d ever been to each other, I wasn’t going to be a ‘back-burner’ girlfriend, either. A girl had to have some self respect.

With the game finished, and my pride somewhat still intact over letting a pool hall full of strangers witness my breakup, I pulled out my cell phone and dialed my friend Angela for a ride home.


“Ang, you busy?” I asked, doubting she was.

There was a second of hesitation and then, “Um, Dave and I are having dinner.”

“Dave? That guy from your pre-Calculus class?” I knew my surprise came through, maybe a little too loud and clear, and I felt bad for the way it had come out. “That’s great,” I hastily added. And it was great. Angela had been harboring a crush for this guy for like four months now. And it wasn’t that she couldn’t get a date; she was really pretty with her long dark hair and sexy-librarian-style glasses, but she was mortifyingly shy.

“Thanks. We just ordered so…. Is everything okay? Are you already home from your date?”

“Oh, yeah, I’m fine. Never mind.” I decided against interrupting her. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow and I want details.”

Angela giggled and I pulled the phone away from my head to stare at it like maybe it had just morphed into another life form. Angela never giggled. “Okay, see you tomorrow,” she said.

We disconnected and I dialed my friend Sam. Even if she was out, I wouldn’t feel nearly as bad interrupting her; Sam was always ‘out’. Unfortunately, all I got was voice mail. Darn. I disconnected without leaving a message. No point. She rarely checked it anyway.

The only option left was to call my mom but I quickly dismissed that. No doubt she’d have questions as to why I’d gotten myself stranded in the first place. Which would lead to what happened with George, which was something that, even though I loved her, I didn’t really feel like discussing with my mother. It wasn’t that she wouldn’t listen. The problem was, she’d listen too eagerly. My mother was a classic worrier, and because of that, she hovered. She always wanted to know every single detail of my day, down to what I’d had for lunch and who did I stand next to in gym. And it seemed like the older I got, the worse her worrying became. No way was I calling her.

With all my transportation options exhausted, I sort of regretted letting George leave. Only sort of, though. If he’d driven me, it would have extended the argument or his pleading attempts to change my mind, which in the end would’ve pissed me off. And I was still hoping to maybe salvage our friendship.

I turned my rack of balls in to the bar attendant and walked to the door. I stood there, staring out the foggy glass of the front window, and considered my last resort. There was a bus stop a few blocks away. Not ideal in the middle of February in northern Virginia but it was all I had. I yanked my arms into my coat sleeves and headed for the back hall, past the restrooms, to the back door which would give me a minimal shortcut through the alley that ran between the building and the public parking lot on the other side. The cut-through would shave at least five minutes off my travel time, which was five minutes less I would have to stand in the cold -and I despised the cold.

I slipped out the metal door and pushed it closed behind me, making sure it clicked. A few yards to my right, a streetlamp cast a yellow beam onto the asphalt, but I turned left, towards the bus stop, and into the darkness that was my shortcut. I walked slowly until my eyes adjusted and then picked up the pace. The dark didn’t bother me; I’d made this shortcut dozens of times. The parking lot coming up on the right was free parking and I used it more than the meters out front whenever I came to this part of downtown. I passed the lot, wishing I’d driven separately so that my hand-me-down Honda – and its wonderful heater – would have been waiting for me, instead of the drafty city bus. Matter of fact, I wished I hadn’t come at all. George’s tardiness would’ve been the perfect excuse to change my mind. Especially when we both knew our relationship had already hung in the balance, precariously leaning towards ‘breakup’ before we’d even made it out tonight.

It was quiet and my boots thudded loudly against the asphalt. I hurried to reach the bus shelter, hating the bite of the cold air, and glad that the surrounding buildings were high enough to keep the wind to a minimum. I drew my coat tighter around my neck against the chill that seeped its way into my skin, giving me goose bumps from head to toe.

I hated goose bumps because it meant the hair on your legs grew back twice as fast. And I was always getting them, because of some weird cold chill that would come over me. Even in the summer, when everyone was wearing shorts and bathing suits and having shaved legs was sort of a priority. When I was younger, I complained to my mom about it a few times and she would always say that Godfreys were thin blooded and easily chilled. Then she would stare at me, with an odd expression, and disappear; either into the backyard, to weed the flowerbeds, or the pantry, to reorganize the canned goods.

The tingling of the goose bumps subsided and my thoughts wandered back to George, and all the history between us. Like in sixth grade, when he’d tried growing his hair out, saying he’d wanted a surfer look, but really, I’d had no choice but to tell him he just looked… grungy. Back when grungy was NOT “in”. And seventh grade, when he’d shaved it all off again, after we’d watched a video on career day, about the army. He’d talked about joining for months afterward; talking about how cool it would be to shoot guns for a living. Then, in eighth grade, we’d each had our first kiss, though not with each other.

George had fallen hard for the girl until her family had moved away. She was military and her dad had gotten re-stationed. He’d changed his mind about enlisting after that. Ninth grade, he’d gone out for football, and made Junior Varsity MVP. He changed a lot that year, gaining a self confidence that wasn’t there before. By the end of sophomore year I’d started to notice him as more than just a friend. Last summer had been awkward between us. I’d spent the entire time stressing over the uncharted territory of having feelings for him, and whether he might have feelings for me.

I’d never even questioned being with George. It felt natural and right. He was my best friend for so long that the only thing dating had really changed was adding kissing into the mix. Not bad, as perks go.

Up ahead, a movement caught my eye, pulling me out of my thoughts. I stopped short and felt my pulse jump at the unexpected company. I didn’t usually see anyone else in this part of the cut-through but just past the next dumpster, a girl with long blond hair and pointy-heeled boots stood in the center of the alley, shaking uncontrollably. I took a step towards her, wanting to help in some way, and then stopped again, at the look on her face. She was glaring at me with a look of hatred so raw that it sent a shiver down my back.

“Um, are you okay?” I called out, still trying to understand why she was basically convulsing. Was she having a seizure? But she was managing to stay on her feet. Her gloved hands were balled into fists at her sides, and she was breathing heavy now. I tried again. “Do you need some help?” Something about the way she looked at me was making my skin tingle and crawl. I shivered again.

“Help,” she repeated, through clenched teeth. “Right.” Her words dripped with sarcasm and unconcealed malice.

Then, before I could think of something to say to that, her shaking reached its crescendo and then she … exploded. There was really no other word for it. With a harsh ripping sound her clothes disappeared, scattering into the air in tiny pieces. In the same second, her body seemed to waver and then morph, leaving in its place the largest wolf I’d ever seen. I felt my jaw drop. Was I crazy or had that girl just turned into a giant dog?

I had a split second to stare at her and then she charged. The brown fur became nothing more than a blur as she rushed forward, teeth bared and claws extended. In that moment, I was completely sure that I was going to die. I didn’t even have time to be afraid; it would all be over too quickly.

Then, somehow, though my conscious brain had nothing to do with it, my body reacted. Just before impact, I twisted aside, dodging her. Using my body’s momentum, I brought my hand around and swung. I hadn’t even realized I’d made a fist, but my knuckles connected and I heard the crack of bone as my hand slammed into the wolf’s cheek. The hit drove it - her? - back a few paces but then it straightened and seemed to right itself. Its yellow eyes locked onto mine and it came again. I shed my jacket, and let it fall next to me on the asphalt; some hidden part of me knew I needed better use of my limbs.

Three more times I managed to dodge the wolf as it lunged. On the fourth, its claws caught on my shirt and raked down my abdomen on either side, driving me back. I stumbled and fell. My back slammed onto the pavement with a hard thud. Again, I accepted my inevitable death. I watched as she continued to come at me, slower and more confident now that I was on the ground. All I could see were razor canines aimed straight for my throat. I cringed and turned away, unable to look into those bright yellow eyes, knowing what was coming. When I turned, a glint of slivered moonlight caught a piece of piping nearby; probably meant for the dumpster but somehow landing here.

Again, subconscious reasoning took over and I felt myself reaching for it, my hand closing around the cold steel. With a grunt, I swung out.

I hadn’t expected to actually land the blow or for the crack to be quite so loud. I felt the vibrations from it all the way up my arm but I managed to hold onto the pipe until I felt the wolf’s weight go slack and it crumpled in a heap, half on top of me. I pushed it aside, which wasn’t easy, and scrambled to my feet. After that, I just stood there, staring down at the giant mass of fur and wondering how in the world no one else had noticed what just happened.

As I stared, the wolf’s form began to shake and then shimmer around the edges, going hazy, and then finally – it was the girl again. Her long hair covered her face in stringy waves, matting to her head on the side where the pipe had made contact. Blood seeped slow and steady from the wound to the pavement. Her body was naked and curled together, almost fetal, except for her knee wedged at an unnatural angle. I could see that her eyes were open and staring vacantly but I didn’t linger on that. I couldn’t. My eyes were wide and disbelieving as I gaped at what lay in front of me. I struggled to accept what I was seeing. No way. It was impossible. People couldn’t be … wolves. That was a myth. A way for Hollywood to cash in.

But there was no mistaking it. The girl lying in a heap in front of me was definitely the same girl as before. And she smelled, distinctly, of animal.

I kept hoping she’d move, or at least groan, from the pain of the head trauma. Ignoring the feminine details of her bare body, I stared hard at her shoulders and chest, looking for any sign that might indicate breathing. I didn’t see any. And I knew, deep down, that I wouldn’t.

My hands began to shake. Maybe from the cold, but I was too numb to feel the temperature against my skin. I took a step back and stumbled.

Hands closed around me, keeping me upright. I jolted and tried to jerk away from the unexpected contact. A strangled scream escaped my lips as the hands whirled me around to face my attacker.

“Whoa. It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you,” he said.

I didn’t answer. I couldn’t really remember how to speak at the moment and if I could, it would’ve been a scream anyway. My breath came in uneven gasps and he waited until I got myself under control.

There was concern in his eyes but that didn’t go very far with me. I noticed vaguely that his eyes were the same exact color as his hair, a sort of bronzed brown. The color was fascinating; unlike anything I’d ever seen, and they seemed to hold some dark edge that hinted at danger, no matter how gentle they got. The rest of him wasn’t bad either. His face matched his eyes, rugged and hard edges from his cheekbones to his jaw. When he’d spun me around, I’d grabbed out to steady myself and even now my hands still rested on his shoulders, where I’d first gripped. Underneath my fingers, and the leather of his jacket, was solid muscle.

The fact that I was actually checking him out – just moments after killing a girl - was my first clue I was in shock.

“Are you alright?” His gaze swept over me without waiting for an answer, critically inspecting the rest of my body, not unlike the once over I’d just given him.

It dawned on me that he was trying to help, and thankfully, that dialed back my panic enough for me to find my voice. Then again, now that my brain was convinced the danger had truly passed, some switch seemed to release, giving me permission to officially freak out. “I think so.” I answered automatically, without really knowing if I was or not. I felt numb and strange inside my own skin.

“Did she bite you?”

His voice seemed to come from inside a tunnel. I blinked to try and clear the fog. “What?”

“Did she bite you?” His voice was firmer now and his hands pressed down on my shoulders, trying to keep my attention.

“No,” I answered, finding it easier to concentrate if I stared into his unwavering, gold flecked eyes.

“Good.” A look of genuine relief passed over his features before his eyebrows arched downward with new worry. “Are you alone out here? Do you have a way home?”

“I-” I struggled to remember and kept my eyes fixed on his while I waited for the answer to come. “I was taking the bus. My ride left earlier.”

His brows curved deeper at that and he shot an almost imperceptible glance at the exposed body lying behind me. His hands finally dropped away from my shoulders. “Well, I’m not going to just leave you here,” he mumbled, almost to himself. He seemed to debate something a moment longer and then pulled a phone out of his pocket, hitting a single button.

“Jack, its Wes. We’ve got a situation. Liliana’s dead.” There was a pause as he listened to whoever was on the other end. Then, “No, it wasn’t like that. It was a girl but it’s … confusing. I can’t get a read on her at all.” Another pause and then, “I’m in the alley behind Fleet Street. She’ll be in the dumpster until you get here… No, not the girl, Liliana.”

I blanched at that and felt new panic rising as he finished his call. Whatever else he said didn’t make it past the warning bell ringing in my ears. He must’ve seen the look on my face, though, because he quickly put his hands, palms up, in front of him, and spoke soothingly. “I meant her- the girl you fought with. I didn’t mean you.”

I nodded, inhaling deeply to wash away the adrenaline that was coursing through me. I really needed to get a handle on myself. This was ridiculous. I probably looked and sounded like a moron, and the fact that I was shivering didn’t help, either. It reminded me of the way the girl had been shaking, right before she-

“What’s your name?”

His voice snapped me out of it, cutting off the replay my brain had been about to give me. “Tara,” I answered in a voice that sounded much weaker than I’d intended. “Tara Godfrey,” I repeated, louder.

“Tara, I’m Wes and I’m going to help you, if you’ll let me. Can I give you a ride home?”

“A ride? Seriously?” I gaped at him. “I just killed that girl. We need to call the police, a coroner, somebody.”

“I made a call and someone is on his way to take care of it.”

I shook my head. “Yeah, that didn’t exactly sound official. And you called her by name. Liliana. You know her? What’s going on?”

“Look, obviously you saw what’s going on,” he said, a little impatient. “That girl wasn’t human. And I don’t think either of us wants to answer the questions that would come with admitting that to the police. Not that they would believe you in the first place. So, I’m taking care of it - discreetly. And unless you want to end up in a padded room, you’ll do the same.”

Okay, he had a point – especially about the padded room part. I mean, I saw it with my own eyes and I was still having a hard time with it all. I could guess how it would sound, trying to explain it to police or doctors.

It didn’t feel good, lying about something like this, though. I’d just killed a girl – or dog – or whatever. But, maybe I’d be willing to deal with it – if I had some answers about what the hell was actually happening.

“Fine, I’ll do it your way. But you have to give me something in return,” I said.

He eyed me, wary. “What?”

“Answers. An explanation. I mean, seriously, this kind of stuff isn’t real. Or isn’t supposed to be, but here it is. And you seem to know a lot about it, so what’s the deal?”

He sighed in response but didn’t argue my demand. Maybe he’d been expecting it. “I’ll tell you in the car. For now, we’ve gotta’ get out of this alley before someone sees us. Come on.”

“No way. We talk here and then I’ll take the bus, like I planned.”

He glanced down at my shirt with a wry half smile. “I don’t think that would be wise. You would draw a considerable amount of …attention.”

I glanced down, too, and noticed for the first time that my shirt was all but destroyed. It hung off me like a rag with long slash marks running up both sides of my abdomen, along my ribs. Underneath the fabric, I could see shallow slash marks on my skin. The wounds were raised and red and looked like I’d faced off with a cat. Oh wait. Dog.

I reached down to zip my jacket and remembered I wasn’t wearing it.

“Here,” he said, holding it out to me.

“Thanks.” I took it and put it on, fully preparing to just zip it up to cover the damage. No such luck. The zipper wasn’t just broken; it was completely gone, as was a huge chunk of my sleeve, near my wrist. Apparently the she-wolf had gotten closer than I thought with her teeth.

“Crap.” I sighed, long and loud, letting him know exactly how I felt about this idea. “Fine, you can take me home.”

“Let’s go.”

He turned and started walking, slowing his pace to match mine and blocking my view of the girl as we passed by on our way back down the alley. We ended up in the public parking lot. The lot was lit with yellow-bulbed street lights at each corner and in the middle. They were like glaring spotlights compared to the pitch darkness of the alley. My senses kicked into overdrive. Something in me snapped. Maybe I was finally coming out of the shock I’d been in – or maybe I’d hit a new level of “freaking out”. Either way, at the sight of the lights, I froze.

I tried putting one foot in front of the other but it just wouldn’t happen. I was shaking badly now, enough to make my teeth chatter, though I felt weirdly numb and unaffected by the cold. I didn’t even have stupid goose bumps anymore. My heart began pounding, echoing loudly in my ears. Behind that was a rushing sound that made me lightheaded.

“Tara?” I heard Wes calling my name. I hadn’t even noticed him standing there.

“Tara, we need to go. My car’s over here.” His hand closed over my arm and sent me over the edge.

I jumped away, startling both of us, and stared back at him in panicked fear. This was all just too much.

“Tara.” Wes’ voice was low and soothing. “I know you’re scared but I’m not going to hurt you. I’m trying to help you. Let me help you.” He took a step closer.

Some closed off part of my brain was yelling at me, telling me to shake it off and stop acting like a complete lunatic. But I couldn’t seem to calm down.

“I can see that you’re in shock,” Wes said, still edging closer while I fought the urge to bolt. “I can’t afford to take you somewhere to be treated so I’m going to do something for you. I’m going to help you forget – just for now. It should wear off in the morning, and if not, I’ll help you remember. But for right now, it’s better if you just forget for awhile. Okay?”

I didn’t answer. Partly because I was scared if I tried to talk, I’d scream like a banshee, and partly because not a single thing he’d just said made any kind of sense.

Apparently he took my silence as agreement because he nodded and said, “Good, now just relax.” He was using that same patronizing tone, the one meant to be soothing. But he was looking at me like I was some wild animal, ready to bolt. And he kept his distance. “Now just keep your eyes on mine. That’s right. Just focus on me…” He murmured reassurances and somewhere around the third or fourth one, I felt myself being drawn in. I looked down but my body hadn’t moved. It was my mind, something inside me, that seemed to pull closer and closer until I felt like I could reach up and touch him. “Right here, Tara. Just look here, in my eyes. It’s going to be okay.” I looked up and our eyes locked. His held a piercing stare that seemed to stab all the way through me and out the other side.

Then, it all disappeared.

*                        *                           *
Now that you just have to know what happens next, you can go pick up your copy at Smashwords or Amazon.  As I write this, it's not yet available for purchase on Amazon, but the page is there, so it should be anytime that it goes fully live and allows you to click to purchase. Let me know when you see it! I'm off to continue working on getting it ready for paperback, and I'll be popping in and out of FB and Twitter all day, just to scream and do the booty dance with friends. See you there! 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Exciting times, people, Exciting times.

 Just incase you haven't noticed, and we'll pretend that you had, I've been noticeably absent from blog posting and such this past week. Well, ALOT has been going happening!

First - The BIG news:

Two of my very bestest, most awesome writer friends - Angeline Kace and Jennifer Sommersby - and I have formed an indie publishing group called Accendo Press. You should definitely check out our site at http://www.accendopress.com/ because its awesome, and then you should bookmark it because it will only get better as we add stuff for new releases and giveaways - but we'll get to that in a minute. So, Accendo.

Accendo came about as a result of how much the three of us already help each other out, with our writing, and marketing, and whatever else we need. So, we decided, let's go one further, and start a press. Basically, publishing our books under the umbrella of Accendo Press gives the reader a guarantee that we've put in the time and elbow grease to make that book a quality peice of literature. AND if you like one of our books, you know you're going to get similar quality in any book put out by us. So, while you're waiting on Jenn's sequel to Sleight to come out, like I am, you could pick up my novel or short story, because you know it's going to be great, too. We're really excited about this, and would love the support of other indies, as we will definitely continue to support you. Creating our own Press is something new and very forward-thinking in the digital publishing market, so we're exciting to be taking an exciting step forward in our careers with this idea.

And we're serious about our mission. Accendo, a Latin word, means to ignite, inflame, or kindle. Which is exactly what we strive to do, in the imagination of each of our readers. Here's Accendo Press' logo:

We love it!

*Before I go any further, I must say this: To all our fellow indies, we love you so so much but at least for now, we aren't adding any more authors. Mainly because of all the help we do give each other, and if we added to the list, we'd have no time left for writing our own stuff. So, we do still love you, and we will get Twitter Tipsy with you any time you want. Just say the word. I'm sure you guys understand. =)

The other big news, which is more of an update, really, is Dirty Blood. I've been editing like a crazy woman for a week now, and it's almost there, really, it is. I'm working on it today and then need to do another read through, because I really want to catch any misspellings and such. So, should be uploading it Sunday maybe? Will definitely post an announcement and let you know the when of it all, as soon as I figure it out. It's exciting, though, because this book is definitely my best yet, and its such a fun story.

Check back here for Chapter One to be released, possibly Saturday. Oh- and one more thing. New cover for DreamKiller. Thank you Angeline. I love it!! Ir's so perfect. And I just uploaded it, so its on its way to Amazon and B & N's estores as we speak.