Book 3 in the Sixth Sense series, and the Convention Season!

Is it spring yet? I’m starting to think it might be.

SnowdustAfter uncharacteristically bitter temps (to the point my dog, who normally loves the snow, had trouble walking because the ground hurt his feet, it was that cold), and the multiple rounds of snow, which never melted before the next bout hit, we’ve had a bit of a tough winter for us Southerners. There was one morning when feeding the horses took three hours, simply because it was snowing so hard it was nearly impossible to see what I was doing. The only good thing about having so many snow days was that I got a lot of writing done. Yay!

redbud resizedBut in the last two days, the temperatures have jumped up into the sixties. Robins flit across the yard, and you can hear the spring peepers every time you step outside. (Sadly, it’s the skunk mating season, so you can smell skunks every time you step outside, too!) The air has a warmth to it that speaks of spring. Daffodils have sent shoots up almost overnight, and yes, I’ve already gotten a tick off me. Tonight we’re experiencing a cold rain, but even that whispers of spring. I believe we’ve seen the last of the winter weather around here, and for once, I’m glad.

I’m not generally a big fan of spring because spring is usually a few weeks of lovely weather before it turns into summer, and I am no fan summer at all. Summer means unbearable heat and humidity to me, being damp and uncomfortable most of the time. Sunburn and mosquito bites. Too hot to sleep. Too hot to walk the dog or ride the horse, unless you want to get up at dawn, and sometimes not even then. But this spring and summer, I have exciting things to look forward to, which change the way I feel about the seasons altogether!

108203413_8The first bit of news is that I’ve completed the next installment of the Sixth Sense series! Book three, tentatively titled Truth and Consequences, has been submitted to the publisher. Instead of holding my breath for the next couple of months until I see whether or not it will be accepted, I’ve decided to move on with the next WIP, which will be a contemporary M/M romance set against the backdrop of eventing. I’m excited about this one–it’s a tale of overcoming personal fears and learning to take second chances–a theme that’s every dear to my heart!

The next bit of exciting news (at least for me!) is that I’m going to be at Animazement in Raleigh, NC (May 22-24)! I’m excited because I’m going to be meeting some of my fellow Dreamspinner authors in person for the first time–we’ll be sharing a table and enjoying the fun! If you’re planning to go to this convention, look us up!

If that wasn’t exciting enough, I’m also going to Rainbow Con in Tampa, FL (July 16-19th) as a featured author! I’ll be doing some panels, and I think a reading as well. :-) I’m already working on putting together some swag to give away, as well as some signed print books. Have you checked out the events for Rainbow Con? They had me at the Big Cat Rescue field trip, but there are all kinds of amazing panels, as well as what will be my very first Masquerade Ball! There are going to be so many great authors there too, so if you’ve been toying with the idea of attending a convention this year, you should check it out! It’s not too late to sign up!

RC_2015_press_poster

Goodbye, Leonard Nimoy. Live Long and Prosper, Mr. Spock

SPOCK-mr-spock-35423717-500-451I’ve been crying on and off all afternoon.

I just happened to be online when word of Leonard Nimoy’s passing was announced, and though I’d known in my heart that his time was near, I was still stunned by the news. I quickly shared it with my friends, as one does, and only gradually did the truth of it sink in.

Mr. Spock was dead.

Now before I go any further, I’d like to say that I know everyone and their mother is going to post some sort of statement about their reaction to the news. This isn’t about jumping on the bandwagon and getting people to come read what I have to say because I’m going to be amazingly articulate and say something worthwhile. No, in fact, I’m having a hard time typing through the tears. This is just one fangirl mourning the loss of an icon, and a lifelong hero, and the man who gave that character brilliant, enduring life. It doesn’t matter that I never met Leonard Nimoy, or that he was an actor on a very old television show. His portrayal of Mr. Spock has been, and always shall be, a big part of my life.

Star Trek, and my love for Mr. Spock in particular, woke in me a fierce love for science fiction. After I devoured the James Blish novelizations, I wanted more. I needed more stories about these wonderful characters and their adventures. Star Trek was one of the few sci-fi universes that believed we’d solve our problems, that we weren’t stupid enough to kill ourselves or poison our planet. I didn’t grow up thinking that a woman’s place was in the kitchen because I saw a woman right there on the bridge. I didn’t think the Russians were our enemies because, even though Chekov endearingly thought all great things came from Russia, well, he was Chekov. They weren’t black, or Russian, or Asian, or alien to me. They were the crew of the starship Enterprise, and I wanted so very badly to be a part of their five year mission. More than that, I wanted to be good enough to be a part of their mission. Above all, I didn’t want to disappoint Mr. Spock, Captain Kirk, or Bones. The fact that I was a girl was immaterial to me. It never even registered that I might not have a place on the Enterprise. You have no idea how powerful, how liberating that kind of life lesson that is for a young girl. I credit it with helping shape who I am today.

StarTrekoldpixI read all the tie-in novels, but when I ran out of those, I desperately tried to get on one of those mailing lists for these things called ‘fanzines.’ Failing that, I read some of the published short stories written by dedicated fans, and let me tell you, some of these works were utterly brilliant. I began writing my own stories, horrible self-insert tales where I would miraculously get beamed aboard the Enterprise and save the day (despite being twelve at the time). Still needing my sci-fi fix, I went to the library, where I discovered Bradbury, Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, and more. You should have heard the dolphin squeals of glee the day I realized that the ST episode Arena was actually adapted from a short story by Fred Brown. It was like running into a member of a secret club right there in the library.

I became a dedicated sci-fi fan thanks to Star Trek, and my love of sci-fi has brought me my most enduring friendships, introduced me to some of the best people (including my boyfriend of seven years) and brought me back to writing after a decade-long hiatus. So yes, I owe Star Trek–and Mr. Spock–so very much. More than a lifetime of shared jokes and laughter. More than some tears at storylines that hurt and cheers when things were put right again. Star Trek is one of those foundational cornerstones in my life. I can’t imagine the person I’d be without having experienced it. Mr. Spock made science cool. He made science sexy.

As the news broke today, people took to the airways to express their sorrow and to say their goodbyes. I think that’s when it really began to hit me.

As John Scalzi put it on Twitter: every geek has just lost their favorite grandfather. William Shatner tweeted that he’d loved Leonard Nimoy as a brother. My friends began expressing their sorrow, sharing their memories, their pictures, their stories. Every time I’d pull myself together, I’d read another tribute and I’d start tearing up again.

Leonard Nimoy brought Mr. Spock to life and made him the iconic character he became. He wasn’t always comfortable with being so closely associated with the role (hence the book: I am not Spock) but he came to embrace the role of Spock as being part of his legacy (hence the book: I am Spock) later on. He portrayed the character with a subtly that was the perfect counterpoint to the more bombastic style of Shatner’s Kirk. In fact, the on-screen chemistry between Nimoy, Shatner, and DeForrest Kelley was part of what made Star Trek resonate to such a degree with so many people for so many years. And though other people will play the role, it was Leonard Nimoy who first breathed life into a writer’s words and a creator’s vision, and made Spock unforgettable. He is the reason why other people will continue to play the role. Spock will live on.

I think perhaps this letter Nimoy wrote to a young fan in 1968, bullied for being biracial, shows best who Leonard Nimoy was and how much Spock has meant to so many throughout the years.

Yep, Crying again.

I’ll leave you with Nathan Fillion’s words, tweeted this afternoon:

“I have been, and always shall be, your fan.”

Goodbye, Leonard Nimoy. Your legacy will live on as long as even one person remembers Spock. Live long and prosper, Mr. Spock.

 

 

New Release & Giveaway for Felice Stevens: Memories of the Heart

Title: Memories of the Heart
Author: Felice Stevens
Genre: Adult, Gay Romance
Release Date: February 12, 2015
Ruthless, Controlling, A Loner. All words used to describe Dr. Micah Steinberg by the hospital staff for their next head of surgery. When a letter arrives from his grandmother’s friend at the assisted living facility, his orderly world tilts dangerously out of control.
Josh Rosen had everything until it was revealed much of his world was a lie. Forced to re-evaluate his life, Josh gives up his career and returns home to New York City to care for his beloved grandmother. What Josh didn’t figure on was an attraction to a man who on the surface, appears to be exactly like the life Josh chose to leave behind.
As Micah struggles with the reality of his grandmother’s illness, the bond they share deepens, as Josh helps Micah heal, then open his heart. Micah discovers there is more to life than work, control and success. Josh is in deep but has yet to tell Micah who he really is.
When the fight for the hospital’s head of surgery turns ugly, Josh’s past and present collide. Micah must let go of the past and accept who he is, if his life is going to move forward.
Life is full of surprises, and as both Micah and Josh learn, love can happen whether you plan for it or not.
I have always been a romantic at heart. I believe that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending just around the corner. I started reading traditional historical romances when I was a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that my interest in romance novels became renewed.
But somewhere along the way, my tastes shifted. While I still enjoys a juicy Historical romance, I began experimenting with newer, more cutting edge genres and discovered the world of Male/Male romance. Once I picked up her first, I became so enamored of the authors, the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion of the books, I knew I wanted to write my own.
I live in New York City with my husband and two children and hopefully soon a cat of my own. My day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. I practice law but daydream of a time when I can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.
HOSTED BY:

 

Release Day & Giveaway for Anna Butler’s: The Gilded Scarab!

square-scarabOh, I am so excited to be able to share this with you! Today, Anna Butler has a new release with Dreamspinner Press: The Gilded Scarab is now available! I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to sharing this book with you. I had the privilege of beta reading this story before its submission, and oh! There is so much to love! Steampunk! Political intrigue! Egyptology! And everyone’s new favorite book boyfriend: Rafe Lancaster, former pilot for His Majesty, the Queen, now grounded and looking to make his way in the world, without falling into the clutches of his family’s power struggles.

If you love Elizabeth Peters’s Amelia Peabody mysteries and smokin’ hot M/M romance, you’re going to love The Gilded Scarab! Without any further ado, here’s Anna!

BLOG POST TITLE: Hypocondriack Winds

When Rafe Lancaster buys Pearse’s Coffeehouse in 1900, he has no idea of the long history of coffee, or the influence it’s had in shaping the English nation. He’s an educated man, but his interest in coffee has always been in taste and quality, not the culture of coffee. But Rafe’s also intelligent, curious, whimsical. While it’s not mentioned in The Gilded Scarab, I’m pretty sure that as soon as he bought the coffeehouse, and in between learning how to make the best cup of coffee a man can buy, Rafe did a little research. I like to think that he came across this absolute gem of an advert for coffee from 1652, and, just for a moment, wished that he hadn’t renamed the coffeehouse Lancaster’s Luck, but instead had thought of calling it ‘Hypocondriack Winds’…
GSHypochondriackThe Vertue of the COFFEE Drink.
First publiquely made and sold in England, by Pasqua Rosée.
THE Grain or Berry called Coffee, groweth upon little Trees, only in the Deserts of Arabia.
It is brought from thence, and drunk generally throughout all the Grand Seigniors Dominions.
It is a simple innocent thing, composed into a drink, by being dryed in an Oven, and ground to Powder, and boiled up with Spring water, and about half a pint of it to be drunk, fasting an hour before and not Eating an hour after, and to be taken as hot as possibly can be endured; the which will never fetch the skin off the mouth, or raise any Blisters, by reason of that Heat.
The Turks drink at meals and other times, is usually Water, and their Dyet consists much of Fruit, the Crudities whereof are very much corrected by this Drink.
The quality of this Drink is cold and Dry; and though it be a Dryer, yet it neither heats, nor inflames more than hot Posset.
It forcloseth the Orifice of the Stomack, and fortifies the heat with- [missing text] its very good to help digestion, and therefore of great use to be [missing text] bout 3 or 4 a Clock afternoon, as well as in the morning.
[missing text] quickens the Spirits, and makes the Heart Lightsome.
[missing text]is good against sore Eys, and the better if you hold your Head o’er it, and take in the Steem that way.
It supresseth Fumes exceedingly, and therefore good against the Head-ach, and will very much stop any Defluxion of Rheumas, that distil from the Head upon the Stomach, and so prevent and help Consumptions and the Cough of the Lungs.
It is excellent to prevent and cure the Dropsy, Gout, and Scurvy.
It is known by experience to be better then any other Drying Drink for People in years, or Children that have any running humors upon them, as the Kings Evil. &c.
It is very good to prevent Mis-carryings in Child-bearing Women.
It is a most excellent Remedy against the Spleen, Hypocondriack Winds, or the like.
It will prevent Drowsiness, and make one fit for Busines, if one have occasion to Watch, and therefore you are not to drink of it after Supper, unless you intend to be watchful, for it will hinder sleep for 3 or 4 hours.
It is observed that in Turkey, where this is generally drunk, that they are not troubled with the Stone, Gout, Dropsie, or Scurvy, and that their Skins are exceeding cleer and white.
It is neither Laxative nor Restringent.

Made and Sold in St. Michaels Alley in Cornhill, by Pasqua Rosee, at the Signe of his own Head.

Delightful, isn’t it? No wonder Rafe found coffee so fascinating! Now it would please Rafe if you would go and make yourself a cup of coffee, remind yourself that your hypochondriack winds are quite safe and that any defluxion of your rheumas is quite unlikely, and join him in The Gilded Scarab of an hour or two of love and adventure.

Happy drinking!

BLURB GildedScarab[The]FS

When Captain Rafe Lancaster is invalided out of the Britannic Imperium’s Aero Corps after crashing his aerofighter during the Second Boer War, his eyesight is damaged permanently, and his career as a fighter pilot is over. Returning to Londinium in late November 1899, he’s lost the skies he loved, has no place in a society ruled by an elite oligarchy of powerful Houses, and is hard up, homeless, and in desperate need of a new direction in life.

Everything changes when he buys a coffeehouse near the Britannic Imperium Museum in Bloomsbury, the haunt of Aegyptologists. For the first time in years, Rafe is free to be himself. In a city powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston, and where powerful men use House assassins to target their rivals, Rafe must navigate dangerous politics, deal with a jealous and possessive ex-lover, learn to make the best coffee in Londinium, and fend off murder and kidnap attempts before he can find happiness with the man he loves.

(Cover by Reese Dante)

EXCERPT

MY TRAINING at the coffeehouse went on apace. Some things were more easily learned than others. Mr. Pearse gave me ungrudging approval for my skills in making the various brews—he said I had a neat hand with the espresso machine and the slow-drip apparatus, and mixed the various coffee and milk combinations with confidence—but he was outraged (horrified? pitying? all three?) when he realized I had been planning to buy my coffee ready roasted. Perhaps he was all three, but outrage certainly won the day.

“No,” said Mr. Pearse with decision. “You are not.”
“I’ll have to—”

“No, Rafe.”

“But I don’t know how to work that thing back there—”

The old man pulled down the blind and put up the “closed” sign, then herded me into the back rooms. “You’ll learn.”

“But—”

“No, Rafe,” repeated Mr. Pearse, and I felt all too like a puppy in danger from a rolled-up newspaper. I put my hand over my nose, just in case. “This is important. You want to be better than Philtre Coffee, don’t you? I have no doubt they buy their coffee ready roasted and ground.”

The scorn stung. I couldn’t argue with that. Protests were a waste of breath. So I laughed and gave myself up to the arcane mysteries of roasting green coffee beans.

It astonished me that so far I’d overlooked the roaster. Perhaps my damaged eyesight was worse than I realized, because the damn thing should have been impossible to miss. It filled half the back storeroom with its brooding, massive bulk, a chunk of black cast iron, big as an aerocarrier, with brass hinges and decorative plates and a furnace beneath that looked like something Lucifer himself would covet. But despite its bulk, it was a thing of quirky beauty, from the polished hopper at the top to the enameled cooling tray at the bottom. The best bit was the huge brass handle on the drop door—no plain knob, but a beetle with a blunt rounded head, wing cases opening and gossamer wings, made from the finest of polished brass wires, unfurling to lift it from bright brassy flames.

Another Aegyptian beetle, a bigger and brighter version of the one Daniel had given me. The coincidence made me laugh. I appeared doomed to be surrounded by dung beetles! But for all that, the roaster impressed me. “Good God, Mr. Pearse! How old is it?”

“I have no idea,” confessed my mentor. “It was here when I bought the business, more than fifteen years ago, and it was old then.”

“Old? It belongs across the road in the museum! It’s ancient.” I traced a hand over the beetle’s rounded head. “You know, it looks like it needs to be coaxed into life with kindling and prayer before it works its way up to consume logs, entire trees, and the odd martyr.”

Mr. Pearse laughed. “Do you feel the need for holiness and martyrdom, my boy?”

“Not I! I’m not martyr material. Is it as fuel-hungry and temperamental as it looks?”

Mr. Pearse copied my gesture of caressing the beetle handle. He had an odd smile on his face. “It’s obsolete, really. A sensible man would take it out and use the space for storage or something.”

Something in my chest contracted a little. The old man was going to miss this place. He was going to miss it badly.

I put my hand over his. “Just as well neither of us ever claimed to be sensible. Show me how it works.”

He grinned and patted my hand with his free one. “You’re very good to indulge an old man so, Rafe. But once you’ve seen it for yourself, you’ll understand.”
He was right. Within a day or two, I understood why buying preroasted coffee from a supplier would not do. Not merely intellectually understood it, but viscerally and emotionally. It was fascinating. It was science and art, all wrapped up together. I freely admit I went into it a skeptic, but I was astonished to find how much it interested me. Mr. Pearse delayed his retirement for another week until he was quite satisfied I could handle it, although, as he said, it would take years for me to be an artist with the roaster.

I laughed. “I’m content to master the basics for now, sir. I’ll allow greatness to creep up on me, unawares.”

Because, of course, it would.

WHERE TO BUY

The Gilded Scarab is available at:

Dreamspinner as an ebook and in paperback.

All Romance as an ebook

GIVEAWAY

Comment here and one person chosen at complete close-eyes-stick-a-pin-in-it random will get their choice of a little pack of Gilded Scarab or Gyrfalcon loot, a free copy of FlashWired (a gay mainstream sci-fi novella) and a entry in a rafflecopter to win an Amazon gift card.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Come over to the Dreamspinner Facebook page on Tuesday 17th 11am EST (4pm GMT) and get the chance to win a Gilded Scarab coffee travel mug.

Go on from there to Rainbow Book Reviews Facebook page on Tuesday 17th at 5pm EST (that’s 10pm GMT) to talk about both Gilded Scarab and my other new release, Gyrfalcon, and get the chance to win a Gilded Scarab or a Gyrfalcon iPad cover.

Come over to Wilde City on Facebook, the 18 February, for the Gyrfalcon launch to and you might just be the lucky person to win a rocket ship pen (it makes landing noises! How is that not the most desirable thing on the planet?)

ABOUT ANNA

Anna Butler was a communications specialist for many years, working in UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to running an internal TV service. She now spends her time indulging her love of old-school science fiction. She lives in the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo.

Find Anna:

Website and Blog

Facebook

The Butler’s Pantry (Facebook Group)

Pinterest

Twitter

 

 

Release Day Post & Giveaway: Memories of the Heart by Felice Stevens

Hello! Everyone give a nice welcome to Felice Stevens as she is celebrating the release of Memories of the Heart!

Title: Memories of the Heart
Author: Felice Stevens
Genre: Adult, Gay Romance
Release Date: February 12, 2015
Ruthless, Controlling, A Loner. All words used to describe Dr. Micah Steinberg by the hospital staff for their next head of surgery. When a letter arrives from his grandmother’s friend at the assisted living facility, his orderly world tilts dangerously out of control.
Josh Rosen had everything until it was revealed much of his world was a lie. Forced to re-evaluate his life, Josh gives up his career and returns home to New York City to care for his beloved grandmother. What Josh didn’t figure on was an attraction to a man who on the surface, appears to be exactly like the life Josh chose to leave behind.
As Micah struggles with the reality of his grandmother’s illness, the bond they share deepens, as Josh helps Micah heal, then open his heart. Micah discovers there is more to life than work, control and success. Josh is in deep but has yet to tell Micah who he really is.
When the fight for the hospital’s head of surgery turns ugly, Josh’s past and present collide. Micah must let go of the past and accept who he is, if his life is going to move forward.
Life is full of surprises, and as both Micah and Josh learn, love can happen whether you plan for it or not.
I have always been a romantic at heart. I believe that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending just around the corner. I started reading traditional historical romances when I was a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that my interest in romance novels became renewed.
But somewhere along the way, my tastes shifted. While I still enjoys a juicy Historical romance, I began experimenting with newer, more cutting edge genres and discovered the world of Male/Male romance. Once I picked up her first, I became so enamored of the authors, the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion of the books, I knew I wanted to write my own.
I live in New York City with my husband and two children and hopefully soon a cat of my own. My day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. I practice law but daydream of a time when I can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.
HOSTED BY:

Taking Up the Reins…

K headshot - CopyTight financial circumstances forced me to make some tough decisions nearly a year ago. After a lifetime of riding horses, I had to move my mare to a less expensive boarding situation.

“Less expensive” meant moving her from a facility that had multiple arenas, where I could ride any time of the day or night, during all weather conditions, to pasture board at a private farm where, if I chose to ride, it would be across open fields on the property. That fact right there severely cut into the time I could ride. When you work long hours, having access to an indoor arena means that you can ride after dark, or during inclement weather, provided you haul your ass out to the barn.

Young KWhile I could still ride on occasion, I found myself riding less and less. In part because there were so few days in which I could make it out there during daylight, when it wasn’t too hot or too cold, when the ground wasn’t too hard or too soft. In part because I’d bred my mare specifically for competition. While I’d reconciled myself to giving up competition several years ago when she developed arthritis in her hocks (to this day, I’m convinced it was as a result of being slung upside down by her legs on a hoist to be carried into emergency colic surgery–something they no longer do with surgical cases in horses), I confess, my mare isn’t a quiet kind of trail riding horse. At almost 20 years of age, she is still quite hot. She has that spark, that flare, that inner fire that made her an awesome competition horse. Unfortunately, it makes her a less than comfortable Sunday afternoon ride when all you want to do is putz around the property.

Autumn Kenya - CopyTo be honest, as little as I am riding these days, getting on her isn’t smart. I either need a dead quiet trail horse, or I need to ride my own mare enough that she gets over the excitement of being taken away from her herd mates and ridden around the property. Since getting another horse isn’t an option, I’m stuck with making what I have work. I’ve been given the choice of riding another horse at the same retirement farm, one that is by nature quieter than my own mare, but I know my horse. I’ve been riding her for nearly twenty years now. Good or bad, I’d rather be on her than a green-broke horse I know nothing about.

You have to understand, too, that this horse in many ways represents the child I never had. She has almost died on three separate occasions over the last 20 years as well. Every day we have together is a gift. Despite the fact my life would be easier if she was the kind of horse you could ignore for months on end and then just climb aboard, I wouldn’t change a single thing about her.

Jumping KI did my best to be smart about making a not-so-smart choice today. I pulled out my old eventing vest to wear while I rode, pleased to find that it still fit even though I haven’t worn it in years. We jokingly refer to the vest as ‘body bags’ around the barn; today I felt the nickname might be more appropriate than usual. I also called my boyfriend and told him what I was going to do–and gave him a time by which, if he hadn’t heard from me, he should come out and look for my body. Then, too, I lunged my mare before getting on her, letting her gallop in a controlled circle to blow the stink off her before asking her to settle down and do a specific routine; one we’ve been doing for years. If she couldn’t wrap her mind around the task I was asking her to do, I wasn’t going to get on her.

Aside from how herd-bound she’d become in the time she’d been living with the old horse retirement group, the day went better than expected. She was lit up at first, but due to the unseasonably warm day and her relative unfitness, she rapidly decided that running in circles was pointless. It was odd, too, but as soon as she began galloping on the lunge line, I thought, I have this.

I might not have the best riding skills in the world–in fact, I’ve spent much of my life bemoaning the fact that I am not that talented a horsewoman–however, the fact remains that I hold the record at our barn for lunging difficult horses. Once I was working an off-the-track racehorse who went berserk and began galloping madly–and I held on to him, spinning in circles and playing him like the marlin in Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea until he finally tired out and gave up–over forty minutes of determined not letting go because if I had, the horse would have learned he could pull away from a human. So when my mare started her mad dash in circles on the end of the lunge line in the middle of an open field, a part of me grinned and settled in for the battle. As expected, she soon tired of the fight, even as her galloping never threatened to be completely out of control. I know my mare. I know while she can get lit up, there is not a malicious or mean bone in her entire body.

Goldeneye - CopyI can’t explain why it was important to me to get on her while no one else was around. I felt the need to prove to myself I could still do this. There was a time in my life when I was the one who got on the ‘bad’ horses. I rode the horses no one else would because I wanted to ride so badly and I didn’t have a horse of my own. I rode despite living with chronic pain post car-accident, the kind that knifes through you and makes you cry every time you take a deep breath. I rode when I was told that I had no business being on a horse, and I should never bother getting on another horse again.

Ridge top viewThough we are no longer able to compete, though we are reduced to meandering around wide open fields, getting on my mare today was a major achievement. I silenced the Internal Critic, the one who constantly tells me that everything is all downhill from here on out and that my life from now on is a series of things I must give up. I conquered my fear of getting hurt, something that has become a bigger factor as I’ve gotten older, and contemplate just how much it would ruin my life if I got injured while riding. I rode on my own, too, without relying on friends to come out and ride with me, effectively limiting any future attempts to times when they could join me. I know now that if I do this regularly, at least once a week, it will get easier. My mare will get used to the demands I am making, and I will be able to ride further afield, eventually going out of sight of the herd as she learns to take it in stride. While it is not the same kind of riding we used to do, where everything had a focus and purpose, it is still riding, and that makes my heart sing.  Not to mention, the views are spectacular. :-)

Most of all, though, I’ve learned that I am the one who sets limits on myself. I am frequently guilty of writing myself off long before those limits are actually reached. With nearly every aspect of my life, I tend to mourn the losses well before the time they actually occur. I hear myself saying that this will be the last horse, the last big dog, the last time I do whatever–but the truth of the matter is that it will only be the ‘last’ if I decide it will be so.

Today, I took up the reins and found the courage to say, “Not yet. Today, I will ride.”

I might pay for it tomorrow with sore muscles and a pissed-off back, but it will be worth every minute of discomfort because today, I rode my mare.

 

 

Walk a Mile and the Sixth Sense series place in the 2014 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards!

Champagne Cork PopHoly smokes! Time to break out the champagne! Walk a Mile (book 2 in the Sixth Sense series) placed third in the Best M/M Romantic Mystery category for the 2014 Paranormal Romance Guild’s Reviewer’s Choice Awards, and the series itself came in second in the Best M/M Romantic Mystery series division!

You could have knocked me over with a feather–I was up against some seriously good stories by some amazing authors this year–and while I was pleased to be nominated, I didn’t really think I had a chance of placing so well. In fact, I was so boggled by Walk a Mile’s placement, that I didn’t even notice that the Sixth Sense series as a whole had placed as well!

2014 3rd2014 2nd

This is just the sort of encouragement I need right now–I’m in the homestretch for finishing the third installment in the series, tentatively titled Truth and Consequences, after which I’ll be putting the series aside for a while to work on some other ongoing projects. I’m thrilled that so many people are enjoying this series, and honored to have placed in these awards.

Meanwhile, back to the keyboard! I hope to get the first draft of T&C finished today and off to my critique group for this weekend’s session. Which is why you won’t see much of me until I come out on the other side of this deadline!

UnspeakableWordscoverWalkAMile

Through the Eyes of My Dog

Jessie in the snowI’ve had several dogs over the years. If I’m not careful this will turn into a love letter to each one of those dogs, instead of the post I sat down here to write today.

I could tell you about Jessie, my heart dog, the first dog that was all mine. I could tell you how gentle she was with babies and small animals, how infallible her sense of judgement was on character, how she was a tigress protecting cubs if she thought I was being threatened. I could tell you how she broke my heart when she developed a terminal disease at ten years of age, and there was nothing on the planet that could save her. She’s been gone twice as long as she’d been alive, and tears still come to my eyes as I type these words. She taught me what it was like to love and be loved unconditionally, and for that, I owe her the world.

And then there was Abigail, who had so many issues, both mental and physical, that she Jadziakept me fully occupied after losing Jessie. Solving those problems took me on a journey down a path I’d never expected to go, introducing me to a different way of thinking, even a different way of living. It took me a long time to appreciate the teachings Abi brought into my life, to be grateful for her hard-headedness and her strength of spirit after Jessie’s gentleness. She was exactly what I’d needed in my life, though it was hard to believe it at the time. I still regret that while she demanded so much from me, forcing me to grow in ways I hadn’t expected, I always held back a little piece of my heart–the part that couldn’t bear to be shattered again.

And then there’s H. Like Horatio Caine, H is so cool,  he only goes by his initial. :-) H is everything I’ve ever wanted in a dog. I was on a waiting list for two years for him, and drove over 800 miles to pick him up. I took Abi with me, because if she hadn’t approved, then he wouldn’t have come home with us. To everyone’s surprise, when they were introduced, Abi, graying and fragile, found a stick and brought it over for the fuzzy young H to play with. It was so much like a passing of the baton that my friends still comment on it today.

My BoyH is the dog I’ve always wanted. Handsome, strong, healthy, with a boyish energy that is hard to keep up with, to be honest. Most days, it’s like living with a two year old racehorse in the house. I realize he is the dog I always wanted–when I was twenty. I’m not twenty anymore, and after years of working 60+ hours a week, it’s hard to come home to find a bouncing, energetic dog who wants my attention and wants to go DO something when all I want to do is sit down for the first time all day.

s320x240I frequently tell him that he would have been better off with someone else. Someone who would have given him an outlet for his energy, who wouldn’t come home grumpy and too tired to go for a walk. Someone who would get up early and take him for long hikes in the woods. The funny thing is, he doesn’t listen to that. He doesn’t care that I’ve gained 15 pounds, or that my hair is thinning, or that I am not the person I was when I was twenty. He doesn’t try to jolly me out of my depression, though sometimes he forces me to take that walk anyway. Oddly enough, it is almost always the right call.

The thing with H, is that he doesn’t see me as I do when I look into the mirror. He doesn’t see my faults, or my failings. Oh sure, I might get the woebegone face when I tell him to go lie down, and I admit, I do that more often than I should. And yes, the other night he took a box out of recycling and tore it up into itty bitty pieces because I said we weren’t going for a walk. Dude, it was sleeting. I get a free pass on that one.

Hcarvinscove25pctBut I’ve noticed recently that I don’t take as many pictures of him as I used to. He’s beginning to show his age right before my eyes, and it feels like a reflection of my own aging, even as my head is saying, too soon, too soon, not again, too soon.

I’m aware that one of my biggest hang-ups in life is holding back from giving my entire heart to anything because I am protecting myself from eventual loss. I start preparing for that loss years in advance, distancing and sheltering my poor fragile little heart because, you know, it might ache some day. As a result of this, I’ve lost out on a lot of joy in life. And frankly, these little things are the ones that make life worth living because the big ones? Well, they’re like winning the lottery. Doesn’t happen often, and for some, never.

And the best thing about a dog is he doesn’t think in terms of the future. Hell, I’ve seen a dog wake up from anesthesia, take a step, fall down and go, “Dang, I’m missing a leg” and then figure out how to walk without it.They are utterly amazing creatures with their ability to live in the moment. The other wonderful thing about dogs is that every sentence begins with “Wouldn’t it be fun if…?”

Autumn Path WoodsWouldn’t it be fun if we spent the whole day hiking? Wouldn’t it be fun if I stole your shoe while you were trying to get dressed? Wouldn’t it be fun to chase the cat, swim underneath a waterfall, watch the sun rise from the top of a mountain?

Okay, sometimes the ‘wouldn’t it be fun’ isn’t always the best idea. I certainly wasn’t laughing when I chased after H, bellowing for him to leave the bear alone as he ran it up the side of the mountain. Nor when I realized that he’d rolled in something disgusting, but only AFTER he’d greeted everyone at the pet store by wallowing all over them. Okay, maybe I thought it was a little funny. Later. After we got home.

The point is, H doesn’t care that he is graying around the muzzle, or that he is getting cataracts. He is not particularly bothered that his nose is cracking and peeling (I’m doing my best to treat it, but this too, is another common German Shepherd problem). He is who he is, and he doesn’t think about it. Likewise, in his eyes, I am who I am. He doesn’t care that feel like a terrible failure at times–I am not a failure to him. I am not my appearance or my wealth or my success. I am me, and I am the only me he has and he doesn’t want another me. I am good enough for him.

I should be good enough for me, too.

Yesterday, I ran across this post about a woman who created and filled a bucket list for her dying dog. I made it most of the way through the post before I started crying, so be warned if you choose to read it. It struck home once more how much I tend to mourn the loss of things years in advance, as though by spreading out the pain over time, it will somehow hurt less when the loss actually occurs. It probably does. I frequently stand dry-eyed at funerals, proud of my inner Vulcan, calmly dealing with death while everyone around me falls apart. But then I am the one ugly-crying in the parking lot when a memory strikes me out of nowhere years later. See, sorrow is a bit like mass and energy. You can convert it to something else, but the energy of it is still retained. Eventually you have to get rid of it somehow, or it will color your perception of your entire world. And I am tired of living in a gray half-light of mourning in order to keep from crying in the dark.

So, I’m going to live more like my dog. I’m going to chase butterflies and not care if I look silly doing it. I’m going to get muddy and laugh about it. I’m going to live as though I’m putting things on a bucket list instead of waiting for that ephemeral day when I’ll have the time and money to go someplace ‘special’. But most of all, I’m going to cut myself slack. I’m going to love hard, and love what I have now, and make sure that everyone I love knows it. I’m going to live as though I really am the person my dog thinks I am. I’m going to see myself through his eyes. They are very beautiful eyes, aren’t they? :-)

H Sun

 

Mark Your Calendars: Anna Butler is coming soon!

Who is Anna Butler, you might be asking yourself? Well remember, you heard it here first. Anna is one of the most talented authors I’ve had the pleasure to read in a very long time, and in February, she is releasing two full length novels for the first time. You may have enjoyed her short story Contact Sport as part of Dreamspinners Daily Dose Anthology Make a Play. Or maybe you remember her smoking hot story Happy Holidays, from Dreamspinner’s Cuddling Anthology. A promising new author, you might have told yourself, and then promptly moved on to another story.

Well, let me tell you, she’s gonna knock your socks off! I’ve been part of the beta process with both of the novels Anna will be releasing in February, and I can’t wait until everyone else gets to appreciate this amazing talent! In Gilded Scarab, which will be released Feb 16th by Dreamspinner, Anna has created the ultimate Book Boyfriend in Rafe Lancaster. Trust me, you will fall completely head over heels with Rafe! Anna says it best here:

Gilded Scarab image

Londinium, 1900

An alternate Britain where the Britannic Imperium is an oligarchy ruled by the eight Convocation Houses and the Minor Houses, their satellite allies. A Britain where political manoeuvring involves plot, conspiracies and machination—all to get around the Queen (God bless her) having banned advancement by assassination. A Britain where the skies are filled with aeroships powered by steam and luminiferous aether, and where House Guards carry phlogiston-powered harquebuses and pistols.

A Britain where Aegyptologist Daniel Meredith looks for love.

A Britain where Aegyptologist Ned Winters, First Heir House Gallowglass, is recently widowed and left with two sons.

A Britain where ex-aeronaut Captain Rafe Lancaster, late of Her Britannic Majesty’s Imperium AeroCorps, buys a coffee house.

The rest, as they say, is the steampunk coffee house mystery-m/m romance.

Anna is already planning the sequel, which is music to my ears because I can’t get enough of Rafe, the charming, dashing pilot, who finds navigating the political waters (and his love life) at home far more dangerous that battling Her Majesty’s enemies in the air. YOU WILL LOVE HIM.

WildeCity

On February 18th, Anna will launch book one of the Taking Shield series with Wilde City Press.  It is not a typical M/M romance, though the two main characters are male and deeply attracted to one another. Taking Shield is classic epic space opera, in tradition of David Webber or John Ringo. It’s hard-core military sci-fi at its finest.

Gyrfalcon_cvr_100dpi

Blurb

Earth’s dead, dark for thousands of years. Her last known colony, Albion, is fighting an alien enemy that no one has even seen. In Gyrfalcon, the first of the Taking Shield series, Shield Captain Bennet is dropped behind the lines to steal priceless intelligence. It’s a dangerous job, and Bennet doesn’t need the distractions of changing relationships with his long-term partner, Joss, or with his father—or with Flynn, the new lover who will turn his world upside-down. He expects to risk his life. He expects the data will alter the course of the war. What he doesn’t expect is that it will change his life or that Flynn will be impossible to forget.

Excerpt

All the warning he got was the slightest prickling of the hair on the back of his neck, then someone or something forcibly connected with his legs and brought him down. The impact had that foul-smelling air whooshing out of his lungs.

“Stay down!” hissed Bennet in his ear. “Two drones. Right behind me.”

Flynn tried to catch his breath. Bennet, arms and legs wrapped around him, rolled them both into the shelter of the rock that he’d evidently been hiding behind. For an instant they lay in the warm darkness, wrapped together. They were in deep shadow, and Flynn had to feel for Bennet’s face to touch it, to make sure that the Shield captain was really there. His hand found Bennet’s mouth, felt it curve into a smile, and he smiled himself.

Bennet disentangled himself, so that Flynn was undistracted again. Huh. Shame. Bennet had felt pretty good. He inched up to peer carefully around the rock. The two drones were about fifty feet away and marching towards them.

Bennet was breathing hard. “One each, then let’s get the hell out of here. Take the one on the right. On my count: three, two, one.”

They rolled in opposite directions from behind the rock. Flynn fetched up on his knees, bringing up the laser and firing several sharp short bursts. His drone staggered and fell onto its back, dropping the laser rifle it was holding, its circuitry fried by a plasma bolt to the head. The remaining one stood rigidly still, sparks shooting out from its chest circuitry. In an awful travesty of a human reaction, its hands were clawing at the hole in its chest. It toppled slowly over onto its face.

“Shit,” Flynn said. “What an exciting life you lead! Any more of them?”

 

About Anna:
Anna worked for many years as a communications specialist in the UK government, working in a range of central government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to running an internal TV service. She now spends her time indulging her love of old-school science fiction featuring handsome heroes running about shooting lasers. She doesn’t claim to be a romance writer – that her laser-wielding heroes are gay and their relationship is a real one are both integral to her Taking Shield series, but not the reason for it. When she isn’t writing, she looks out at her garden thinking that she really should get out there and tackle the weeds, but is easily distracted into building up the biggest collection of tiara images on Pinterest instead. She lives in London with her husband and Molly, the cockerpoo.

 

 

Agent Carter Hits It Out of the Park

Agent Carter PosterAnyone who follows this blog knows I’ve been a Peggy Carter fan from the moment Captain America: The First Avenger was released. So, be prepared, this post is going to be a bit of social commentary combined with fangirl glee.

Captain America was one of my favorite Avenger movies from the Marvel Universe collection. I’ve written about my love for Steve Rogers before, and why I think we need more heroes like him. I adored Peggy Carter in that film, and was sorry to realize that we’d probably never see Hayley Atwell in that role again. Once Rogers wakes in modern-day New York, after being in the deep freeze all those years, the following movies are all about Captain America in the contemporary world. But the funny thing is, fandom loved Peggy Carter, too. She got a 15 minute short film as a DVD extra in the Blu-Ray version of Iron Man 3, and we got a glimpse of what her life was like post WW2, an agent who was treated more like a file clerk and grieving for Steve’s loss. The agent who took it upon herself to get the job done where other agents had failed. The fans, myself included, loved it! Then she appeared in Captain America 2:The Winter Soldier, both in newsreels about her role in S.H.I.E.L.D. and then later, Steve visits her in a nursing home, in one of the most painfully poignant reunion scenes I can recall in a movie. My father lost the ability to put anything new into long-term memory toward the end of his life. I could completely identify with Steve having a conversation with Peggy, who was lucid and clear one moment, only to turn for a second and have to watch Peggy re-discover that he was alive all over again in the next. Oh, my heart!

Even then, Marvel wasn’t done with this character. The fandom reaction to the One-Shot Agent Carter film was so positive, rumors began to circulate that they were considering a series. I can tell you, I was both excited and nervous. I loved this character and I sincerely hoped they wouldn’t get her wrong. Now that might sound odd, considering that Marvel put her on the screen for me to fall in love with in the first place, but I’ve seen it happen before. Take a great actress in a terrific movie role and try to build a weekly television series around her, and before you know it, the character isn’t even recognizable anymore. Even my boyfriend fell into the habit of muttering, “Please don’t let them screw this up…” every time a promo came on.

Marvel is a wonder for tie-ins and story-arcs across their universe, but in many ways, Agent Carter is fresh ground for them. They have some facts they need to retain, and they can seed the series with nods toward future events (like they did with an appearance by a younger Anton Vanko, who goes on to create the arc reactor with Howard Stark), but they aren’t tied into comic-book events the way the Avengers are. In many ways, it’s like what they did with the reboot of the Star Trek franchise–since the new movies follow an alternative timeline, the writers aren’t locked into re-telling old stories, but can play around in this brave new world of their own making.

I was encouraged that the showrunners were on track for getting things right when I read that the same writers for Captain America, Markus and McFeely, wrote the pilot and the first episode. I was reassured when I read this interview with Atwell in which she is quoted as saying the show “feels like a small triumph for women on television.”

But it all boiled down to the premiere. Would it live up to my expectations?

Agent Carter promoOh man, did it ever.

I’ve never been moved to live-Tweet during a program before, but I joined the legions of others on Twitter that made #AgentCarter trend on Tuesday evening. The show had everything I wanted: a strong female lead who doesn’t take the crap she’s handed out by her co-workers lying down, who is fiercely independent, but it’s because she is the most competent person she knows–and that people she cares about tend to wind up dead. She just also happens to dress fabulously, too. I’ll be honest, half of my fascination with Peggy Carter is the juxtaposition of her kick-ass toughness with her ‘ladylike’ appearance. (Not to mention I simply adore 1940s style clothing)

I found the scene between her and Agent Daniel Sousa interesting. At one point, Sousa demands an apology to Carter from co-workers that had speculated on how many men Carter had ‘known’ during the war. Sousa is far more sympathetic to Carter than most of the field agents, perhaps in part because he is a disabled war veteran who also is discriminated against. When Carter first speaks to Sousa about the incident, he assumes she’s going to thank him for sticking up for her, but instead she lets him know in no uncertain terms that Sousa isn’t doing her any favors by making such a distinction–and that she doesn’t need his intervention on her behalf. It’s interesting because it sets the tone for Carter as a character–no sooner does she give Sousa a mild set-down, she softens it with an acknowledgment of their commonalities, and then sharply takes on one of her co-workers who sticks her with his filing–thus proving her point that she doesn’t need a man to stand up for her. While I was thinking that she should be giving encouragement to anyone who sides with equality in the workplace, I am reminded that this is 1946. A male customer can slap a waitress on the ass and she has no recourse. The customer is always right, especially if he is a man. Carter has learned when and where to take up for herself because she can’t count on having a man step in on her behalf. This is Peggy Carter: independent. Not used to asking for, or receiving help. Not a bitch, as some would probably label her. She’s just not a whiner.

This doesn’t mean that she can’t be hurt. She can feel pain. She can cry. Her hands shook as she tried to deactivate a deadly bomb, and she reached for the whiskey as soon as it was done. If she’s hard on the people in her life, it’s because the bad guys don’t show any mercy, and she doesn’t want anyone else to die simply because they know her. She curses when she hits her head. She likes nice things. She isn’t above using her sexuality to meet her goals, but she’s more than a beautiful woman. She’s not afraid to play the ‘female’ card, however. And why not? Sometimes it’s the best card in a woman’s hand, especially when the rest of the deck is stacked against her. She’s tough, and smart, and sexy, and she gets the job done. Better still, she has to learn to ask for help. To accept that she ‘cannot carry the weight of the world on her shoulders alone.” I know a lot of women who struggle with this concept. I am one of them.

Ultimately, that’s what makes Peggy Carter the heroine I can admire. She gets things done through grit, courage, and ingenuity. She thinks fast on her feet and meets new developments with aplomb. She didn’t take a super serum. She didn’t gain special abilities through a lab accident. She gets by on guts, brains, and training. And yes, this is a comic-book universe, but she is closer to any one of us than the average superhero. She could be the cashier at Wal-Mart, or your dental hygienist, or the data entry person for a large company. She is us.

Besame Red VelvetBesides, who among us hasn’t felt like we weren’t appreciated by our bosses? Who hasn’t longed for a secret identity or mission that sets us apart from the other people we meet in our daily lives? The appeal of this basic scenario is HUGE, at least it is for me. Which is why I squealed like a fangirl when one of my friends told me Hayley Atwell tweeted an “Agent Carter Starter Kit”, letting fans know what color nail polish, lipstick, and perfume Carter wears. Because let me tell you, if I can paint my nails with OPI’s Cinnamon Sweet and spritz on a little Besame’s 1940’s perfume, and walk out the door asking myself, “What Would Peggy Do?” then there is nothing I can’t face during my day.

That’s what fictional heroes are for. To make everyday heroes out of all of us.