Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Wednesday Snippet - Bow your heads and proffer your thanks


I didn't get as much writing done as I'd have liked last week, but I think as the story heads into the third act and I have to start tying all these plot threads together, that's a little inevitable. Still! The good news to take from that is that I am heading into the third act, which means the end is slowly creeping into sight. Huzzahs!


Monday, 22 May 2017

Guest Blog - Rats!

Yes, rats. When I saw Shari Elder's newest release featured a rat-shifter hero, I was instantly sold. I can't think of many books where rat-shifters feature at all, with Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake series being the first that springs to mind. And although her rats are pretty much good guys, they're never presented as love interests or even main players - they're kept on the periphery of Anita's life for the most part. So I was fascinated by the idea of a paranormal romance that puts rats front and centre, and makes one a hero. I wanted to know more! And Shari has kindly obliged me. So say hello to Evan Grant!



Thank you for having me on your blog today. My paranormal romance, Unnatural Allies (Book #2 Shifting Alliances), features a rat alpha shifter as a hero.

As a writer, the real thrill in writing a rat alpha as a hero, is the freedom it gave to explore the parameters of an alpha.  How far could I stretch that definition?  How many beta-like characteristics could I sneak in and still maintain him as a leader who commanded respect of bigger, stronger predatorial shifters?

Lets’ start with what he looks like. Evan Grant is lean, with smaller muscles and shorter stature and a facial twitch (think rat with whiskers) we don’t tend to associate with heroes. While he is physically significant among other rat shifters, he pales in size to predators. He can be a deadly fighter, but prefers to use strategy and diplomacy over weapons and fists to solve conflict.  He’s humble, letting people assume he’s a local shopkeeper, when he is CEO of an international franchise.  He also reads and writes poetry and craves intimacy. His commitment to his pack, however, makes it hard for him to have a steady lover, a spiritual pain he carries everywhere like one would a phone.


Now that you know what he looks like, I think the best way to understand Evan is to meet him so I’m sharing an exclusive excerpt below.

Read on for an excerpt!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Flashback Friday - Feeling Witchy?

Happy Friday, everyone! Hope you all had good weeks and have excellent weekends planned. After a manic few weeks of trips to London, building work, birthdays, and general social-ness, I'm looking forward to shutting myself away for two days and cracking on with Imperial Demons without interruptions. But before we get to that, it's time for a flashback! Multi-talented, multi-genre Jessica Coulter Smith is here with witches and werewolves!


Witch Way to Love
Love Spell #1

When Breena McCall goes to find her wayward wand, the last thing she expects to find is the man destined to be hers. Instant attraction only goes so far, especially when her chosen one acts like someone pissed in his kibble.

Wolf Shifter Cade Milcom doesn’t understand the sudden urge to bend the witch over and take her every way imaginable. She’s sassy, sarcastic, and gets on his nerves from the beginning. And yet, he finds himself answering the distress call when she gets herself into trouble.


An accidental mating and a demon bent on blackmail make for an interesting few days, but it’s nothing Breena can’t handle. Maybe. 

Available now from:

And read on for an excerpt!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Wednesday Snippet - The second scream cut through the air


I'm pretty sure I'm going to start reaching the point in the writing process where it's impossible to avoid spoilers, so Wednesday Snippets may start getting thin on the ground. But we're not quite there yet, so let's check in with Lola. Enjoy!


Monday, 8 May 2017

Five (AFI) Songs for Tristesse and Lola

On Friday night I got to see my all-time favourite band play live for the first time since 2003. AFI have been an instrumental and vital part of my life and writing process since I discovered them back in the dim, glory days of MTV2. Every album they've made has had an least one song (and usually several) that has become a theme song for a book or character of mine. That's just as true for Imperial Demons as it was the first novel I ever wrote (which we will never speak of again), and since I'm still riding the emotional high of seeing them live again, I thought today would be a good day to share some of the AFI tracks that have woven themselves into Lola and Tristesse's world.

1. So Beneath You



If Tristesse has a theme song for Imperial Demons, this is it. The lyrics are the perfect words of rebellion and pride that will carry her through the story:

I won’t kneel. I won’t bow.
If you’re there now
Strike me down, strike me down, strike me down.
Oh, you’ve got nothing.
There is none higher than this blood,
And I won’t serve anyone.
No there is nothing above.
And I don’t serve anyone, anyone.

2. Love Like Winter




Warn your warmth to turn away. Here it's December every day.

This is a pretty good description of Gehenna, where Lola and Tristesse find themselves trapped during Imperial Demons. This song's chorus also strongly evokes both the women and some of the overall motifs of the series for me.

It's in the blood, it's in the blood.
I met my love before I was born.
She wanted love. I taste of blood.
She bit my lip and drank my warmth from years before.

3. Torch Song



I think if Lola could write a song about Tristesse, it would be this song.

I saw you. Angels came to light your path.
I heard you keep their wings pressed under glass.
Now am I so enthralled that I might die?
I saw you, sweetly smile, and say "do try".
I'd tear out my eyes for you, my dear
(Anything)
To see everything that you do.
4. She Speaks the Language


And I think if Tristesse could write a song about Lola, it would be this one.

Little drops upon my cuffs
Let me know this must be love.
Red, red drops upon my cuffs
Let me know this must be love.
Now I know this be...
This must be love.

5. Endlessly, She Said



And finally, because a bit part of Imperial Demons is two lovers separated and fighting to get back to each other, this song just seems perfectly appropriate.

I returned to you but found,
My empty home.
The radio told me to stay.
As it burned down
I sang alone...

"I will wait for you," she said,
Endlessly.

This is a really quick trip through some of the musical inspirations for the book and the ladies, but I hope you like it! You can also check out the Blood Canticles playlist if you're on Spotify (see it at the bottom of this page) for more of the bands, songs, and instrumentals that have helped build the series. Enjoy!


Friday, 5 May 2017

Flashback Friday - Southern Drawl

Happy Friday, folks! I'm especially happy today because A) I'm off work and B) I'm going to see my all-time favourite band, AFI perform live tonight for the first time since 2003! I'M SO OLD. So today really is all about flashing back. In my case, it's back to my university years up north. In the blog's case, it's all about heading south with Paige Warren and SOUTHERN DRAWL. Enjoy!



Carson Benson has wanted to be a cop for as long as he can remember, but there are some days that he doesn’t like his job. Like the day he gets called out for a domestic disturbance and finds a battered woman and terrified child. What Carson didn’t realize was that it would be a turning point in his life. 

Peaches Malone and her daughter Daisy are very important to Carson, and he’ll do anything to protect them. Including taking them home—to his home, where he can watch over them. And if Peaches feels that same spark he feels when he looks into her eyes, all the better.




Read on for an excerpt…

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Crazy Little Spring Called Love!

Hey folks! Are you in the mood for an anthology? Some fantasy romance, perhaps? Want to take a sneak peek one of the stories to whet your appetite? Great! I've got you covered with a look at Traci Douglass's story below. But first, let's take a quick look at what else is in store...

CRAZY LITTLE SPRING CALLED LOVE! Eight Magical Stories of Fantasy Romance Stars and Stone Books Featuring: Elsa Carruthers, M.T. DeSantis, Traci Douglass, A.E. Hayes, L.J. Longo, Cara McKinnon, Sheri Queen, and Mary Rogers.

This delightful fantasy romance anthology features eight magical stories inspired by the awakenings and renewal of springtime. If you love gods and goddesses, fairies, djinn, druids, mermaids, sirens, and magic of all varieties, Crazy Little Spring Called Love delivers!

Crazy Little Spring Called LoveTraci Douglass - "When Hermes Met Eos" One night. Two star-crossed immortals. Will their vibrant connection survive beyond sunrise?

Sheri Queen - "The Girl with a Broken Wing" A story of courage and sacrifice--and finding love where you never thought to look.

Cara McKinnon - "Love at Dawn" Sometimes mortals need a little push from a god and goddess to fall in love…

M.T. DeSantis - "A Hunt for Love" Can a djinn and a clueless guy beat the clock, avoid the curse, and maybe even find true love?

L.J. Longo – “Seaweed and Silk” A mermaid: hundreds of miles from her home on the ice, on a ship with a troll, a goblin wizard, and a pack of wolves. What else can go wrong? Oh, right. A flippin’ sea monster.

Mary Rogers – “Spring Fling” A druid’s bargain gives Carson revenge against his former lover Carrie–at the price of her memories of them together. But did she truly steal his magic all those years ago? Or was the real theft his heart?

Elsa Carruthers – “Welded” Welding Witch, Rena, is on the run. She's not looking for love, but all the magic in the world can't keep the sparks from flying when her rivals, Nate and Duke, find her.

A.E. Hayes – “A Siren’s Song of Spring She is sworn to sing men to their deaths. Until one sails into her heart.

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo


STARS AND STONE BOOKS| Goodreads| Facebook Release Party|Twitter

Excerpt from Traci Douglass’s story: When Hermes Met Eos

Read on for your excerpt!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

May Accountability



So back at the start of April I decided finishing Imperial Demons in April was a pretty reasonable goal. Now it's May and I think finishing by the end of May is a pretty reasonable goal. This is entirely because I broke my "no new stories" resolution by writing ON A DARK TIDE, but since I got that written, edited, submitted, and accepted in roughly two weeks, I don't feel too bad about taking the break. But I do really want to finish Imperial Demons this month now. Getting back into the swing of things has been hard. Real Life in April is always busy thanks to family birthdays, and I knew the day job was going to be...trying. I also re-opened Common Brimstone in a limited fashion, and have immediately found myself back in the old struggle to balance writing, work, and perfume.

The problem is, of course, the longer I leave a story, the harder it is start up again. I struggled with IN COLD BLOOD last year because I kept doubting it and myself, and ignoring it for days and weeks at a time. I don't have those doubts with Imperial Demons, so I know I just need to carve out that first crucial bit of writing time and dive back in, and all the inspiration and motivation will come flooding back. The next couple of weeks should prove easier in that respect, so I have no excuses. I want this story done, partially so I can move onto the next story, and partially so I can share it with you!

So, the goal for May is simply to work as hard as I can on this book. I will possibly have edits for LICH QUEEN and ON A DARK TIDE heading my way, as both are slated for release in June, but I'll burn that bridge when I get to it, or something... Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Good news, everyone!

I'm delighted to announce that I've just signed the contract for the creepy ocean story ON A DARK TIDE, and it's coming to Evernight in June! Release dates are always subject to change, but potentially that means you could get LICH QUEEN and ON A DARK TIDE in the same month! Huzzahs!


As usual, more details will follow as I get them, but in the meantime, here's the (unedited) blurb:

True crime podcasters Piper and Cam have travelled to the sleepy seaside town of Findlay to investigate the disappearance of a woman nearly a decade ago. The theories are wild - everything from murder to mermaids, and Piper is determined to get to the truth. Battling her fear of the ocean, Piper soon realises that Findlay has deeper, darker secrets than she could ever have believed. As she struggles to master her fear and deal with her unrequited love for Cam, Piper is lured into perilous waters. The truth waits beneath the waves - and Piper's fate waits with it.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Flashback Friday - The Playboy Bachelor

It's that time of the week again! Time to say goodbye to adult responsibilities and hello to adult situations! Like steamy romance from Lynn Burke, possibly best enjoyed with a glass of ice water nearby, as this smoking hot excerpt will show you...



The Playboy Bachelor
Contemp Romance / Menage
Release Date: Jan 31, 2017
Publisher: Evernight

Be Warned: menage sex (MFM), double penetration, anal sex, breath play

Dubbed Boston’s bachelor of the year, Blake Harper knows how to make the North Shore's women sigh and say yes…except for the studious Wren Shipman. The more she resists, the more he's compelled to pursue the little birdie, conquer her, and flee to save himself from a fall he's never wanted.
 
Wren would love nothing more than to dig her fingernails into Blake's back and squeeze the life from him with her thighs. But she's not interested in being another notch in the billionaire bachelor's string of shapely sweethearts--not when she's so close to earning the precious college degree that will help her rise above the trailer-trash stench she was born into.   
 
With his best friend’s help, the playboy's persistence wears on the young co-ed, until he has the little bird soaring from every fantasy he fulfills. What goes up must come down, and when Wren finds herself falling hard and fast towards a bitter reality, she'll do anything to save her heart from shattering. Even if it means walking away from the only man who had the passion to make her fly.

PURCHASE LINKS:


~~~oOo~~~



EXCERPT:

“Dance with me,” he said, pushing to his feet and holding out his hand.


I’d rather get right to the fucking, I thought, but I took his hand anyway, cursing myself with every erotic sway of our tightly pressed bodies. His hard cock pressed against my belly, his large hand palmed my ass.


I dug my fingernails into the back of his neck, closed my eyes, and leaned my forehead against his rock-like chest. He smelled ten times better than chocolate, woodsy, sexy man … I wanted a bite. “You drive me insane.” I heard myself whisper.


Blake’s other hand palmed my ass, and he lifted me higher.


My legs wrapped around his waist and squeezed as our mouths crashed together. His groans filled my ears as his fingers dug into my backside. I’d bruise for sure, I thought, pulling his hair to angle his head so I could bite his lower lip.


“Fuck,” he gasped as I bit harder. He ground his cock against my soaked core, and I repeated his curse over the fact clothing separated our bodies. His mouth released from mine, Blake kissed along my jaw, down my neck, and back up to my ear as I squirmed in his hold. He bit my earlobe, and I winced, my panties useless to contain my arousal.


“I want to fuck you, Wren. Right here. Right now.”


I shimmied out of his arms, and he tugged my tank top off. In my rush to get his shirt open, I heard a few buttons ping off the furniture as they flew. Holy shit, his bare chest. I licked across one pec and bit the hard nub on the other.


“Goddamn it, woman.” He all but ripped off my skirt, the material floating to the floor.


Panting—heaving for breath—we stepped apart, hungry gazes drinking in the other. His eyes set my skin aflame, and I swallowed, nails digging into my palms, as I studied every curve and indent of his sinful upper body. The luscious V of muscle disappearing beneath his jeans flooded my mouth with drool and my pussy with cream.


“Lose the jeans,” I said, my voice raspy and low.


“Lose the bra and panties,” he replied, reaching for his zipper.


A quick rustle of clothing and we both stood naked, his jutting cock drawing my gaze. 

“Condom,” I whispered, every inch of my body thrumming.


Blake fished one from the back pocket of his jeans, ripped it open, and rolled it on. Two steps forward, and he tangled a hand in my hair, his other hand gripping my thigh to hoist me up.


I wrapped my legs around his waist and wiggled around, trying to line up his cock with my dripping core. He attacked my mouth, striding across the room.


My back slammed into a wall, ripping a gasp from me, but Blake swallowed the noise and thrust into me, balls deep and perfect.


~~~oOo~~~

About Lynn Burke:

Lynn Burke is a full time mother, voracious gardener, and scribbler of spicy romance stories. A country bumpkin turned Bay Stater, she enjoys her chowdah and Dunkin Donuts when not trying to escape the reality of city life. Find Lynn on her websiteFacebookTwitterAmazon, and Goodreads.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Wednesday Snippet - She smiled darkly at her reflection


So! On A Dark Tide is done and in the hands of my publisher. Fingers crossed for good news on that soon! In the meantime, it's back to work on Imperial Demons. I think finishing the first draft by the end of April is probably unlikely now, but this is going to be a long book. I want it to be an amazing book. And that means being patient with myself and not worrying too much about when it gets done.

With that in mind, here's a snippet to prove I'm on the right track!


Monday, 17 April 2017

Guest Blog - Brownies, time travel, and Alexander the Great

Oh man, have I got something different for you today! I hope you're not too full of Easter chocolate to enjoy chocolate brownies! Not to mention time-travel journalism and Alexander the Great. Please say hello to Jennifer Macaire!

Hi Naomi - thank you for having me as a guest on your blog! Let me introduce myself, I'm an American living in France. I write for Evernight press, Medallion Press, and in March, I have a new book out, The Road to Alexander,  from Accent Press. It's a love story as old as time itself - a love that spans centuries. Ashley, the time traveling heroine, is stuck in the past with Alexander the Great, and the one thing she misses most - is chocolate! I made brownies for Valentine's day, and even if it's past now, the brownies were so good, I'm going to make them again. In fact, my mouth is watering at the thought of these absolutely fantastic brownies - and they are super easy to make!



Related image  

Recipe

4 oz dark unsweetened chocolate, 2 sticks sweet butter, melted. Melt chocolate in the microwave or over a double broiler and add melted butter. Stir well. In another bowl, mix 4 eggs and 2 cups granulated sugar together until creamy.  

Note: I used 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup light brown sugar. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Blend chocolate/butter mix with sugar/egg mix and add 1/2 cup of flour. You can also add a cup of crushed walnuts or pecans if you like.

Butter and flour a rectangular baking dish. Pour in batter and bake in a preheated 350°F  (220°C) for 25 minutes or until middle is set. Do not overcook! Let cool and cut into small squares.  
  
The Road to Alexander

Ashley is a one of the elite, a time-travel journalist who has fought to prove herself in a world where everyone believes her road in life was paved by her parents’ money and her title. After winning a prestigious award she is chosen to travel through time and interview a historical figure. Choosing her childhood hero Alexander the Great, she is sent back in time for less than a day to find and interview a man whose legend has survived to the present day. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his own time.  What follows, after she awakes under a pomegranate tree, is a hilarious, mind-bending tale of a modern woman immersed in the ancient throes of sex, love, quite a bit of vino, war, death, and ever so much more!

You can order the first book in the Time for Alexander series to be published by Accent Press! It's fun, it's adventure, it's romance, it's a modern woman stuck in 300BC without her cell phone or decent shampoo - but with the greatest hero who ever lived, Alexander.

UK, USA, France...available now on all Amazon sites!

The Road to Alexander (The Time For Alexander Series Book 1) (English Edition) par [Macaire, Jennifer]

The Road to Alexander, “First of the Time for Alexander series. Time-traveling reporter Ashley is trapped in the past of Alexander the Great, when Alexander thinks he is rescuing her from the god Hades. […] Entertaining, fast-paced, and knowledgeable." ~Spinoff Reviews

Excerpt

We walked through the doorway to find Darius sitting pensively on his throne.

He was taller than I'd expected. Most of the people I'd met were of medium height. Darius, when he stood up to greet us, towered over me. He was nude, except for a golden chain around his neck. Nudity was so common that I'd ceased to be aware of it. The soldiers went around unclothed, and in the villages children were nude. Persian men wore very brief loincloths. Women wore robes or belted a cloth around their waists, although slave women were often naked. Alexander chose the Greek mode, which meant he wore a pleated tunic or slung a short cape over his shoulders. Today he wore his tunic.

Darius's hair was long, black, and wavy, brushed back from his high forehead. He was clean-shaven; the beard he wore on ceremonial occasions was in his hand. It was made of finely knotted black silk. 

He looked at his beard and then placed it gently on the seat of the throne.

"It's yours now," were his first words to Alexander.

"You can keep it." Alexander's voice was neutral. It almost sounded like pity, and I looked at him sharply. So did Darius. For a second his eyes flashed, and I saw a glimpse of the king he'd been.

"Thank you." His voice was careful too. They talked about the battle, verbally dancing around each other like fencers. Neither gave the other any advantage, but there was an undercurrent of sadness in Alexander that I could not fathom. Darius was puzzled as well, because after an awkward silence, he motioned toward the table where a tray of fruit sat. "Would you like some figs? They're fresh. I imagine you've been living off dried ones during the march."

Alexander said, "No thank you."

Darius nodded. "Ah well. How's Statiera?" It was almost an afterthought.

"She's well. She's ruling Babylon."

He looked surprised. "Oh? And your mother?"

"I sent her back to her own people. It was either that, or kill her."

Darius froze. I held my breath. He turned his head very slowly and looked at me for the first time. He had long-lashed, honey-brown eyes. Vanity prompted him to line them with kohl, making them appear even larger and more brilliant. His face was dark and his eyes were lighter than his skin, like a lion's eyes. And like a lion he blinked and looked away from my gaze. "So you knew," he said.

"Why did you think I came after you?" Alexander's voice rose, a note of anger in it.

"Oh, I suppose I'd guessed." Darius shrugged and took a plump fig. He squeezed it appraisingly and then put it back in the bowl. "You want the babe."

"Where is he?"

"Is it true she's a goddess?" He wouldn't look me in the face and I found that disturbing.

"It is." I was startled by Alexander's answer, but even more startled at Darius's next question.

"Tell me when and how I shall die, Goddess." He was staring out the window, bracing his hands against the sill. His body was all flowing lines and muscle. I couldn't help admiring his physique.

I looked at Alexander who nodded once.

I drew a deep breath. "You'll be killed by someone you trust before the summer ends."

A shudder ran through his body. When he spoke his voice was broken. "The child is in the hands of a Bactrian satrap. I gave him to a caravan going east. He'll be in Bactria in the spring. The babe is marked by the goddess. He'll come to no harm."

I put my hand on Alexander's arm to steady myself. "Why?" I whispered.

"Because of the oracle," said Darius. He sighed and then looked at me at last. "When Olympias came to the city she had the babe brought to the temple of Marduk. She was going to sacrifice him. An oracle told her that the babe would be her downfall. In a way, I suppose it was true. However, my astrologer said that if the babe died I would lose everything that was dear to me. I love my daughter Statiera more than all the gold in this city. And I love her more than my own life. How long do you think she would have lived if you had found out that your child had been sacrificed on the altar of Babylon's god? Now she is the Queen of Babylon. The babe is safe, but the prophecy said one more thing, Iskander, about you."

"What did it say about me?" asked Alexander.

"It said to ask her." He pointed at me. "The oracle said, 'All Iskander's questions can be answered by the child's mother.' It claimed she knows all." Then he turned to the window again. "Ask if you dare, 
Iskander. I did." His voice was almost inaudible.

I would have run out of the room, but Alexander caught my wrist. He bowed to Darius, and made me bow too, although Darius had his back to us and was staring out the window. Alexander knocked on the door, and Lysimachus let us out.

"He can see anyone he chooses," said Alexander.

"Anyone?" Lysimachus looked surprised.

"Anyone. He'll be trusting no one now." He looked at me with flinty eyes as he said this, and I quailed.

When I got outside the palace, I gulped the air. The atmosphere had been suffocating. Darius was doomed.

I had hated Persepolis from the moment I'd entered it. Perhaps it was the emptiness of the city. No one had ever lived there. There were no women, no children, only Darius and the soldiers. Or maybe it was the pall of smoke that hung low in the sky. Thousands of men were clearing the bodies from the battlefield. The dead soldiers were being cremated, and the smell was ghastly. Darius had lost nearly half his army. The rest of Darius's men had either been absorbed into Alexander's army, or if they wouldn't swear allegiance, sent to the mines as slaves.

Alexander brooded as we walked. Several times he made as if to speak, but each time he fell silent. At first, I wondered if he were thinking about the men he'd lost, and their families' grief when the news arrived. Then I saw him looking at me out of the corners of his eyes, and I realized he was thinking about what Darius had said.

I reached out and touched his arm lightly, meaning to comfort him, but he flinched.

"All right, that does it!" I stopped in the middle of the path and folded my arms across my chest. "We have to talk about this. It will do no good for you to go on sulking."

He spun around and faced me, his eyes blazing. "Sulking? Sulking, am I?"

"Yes." I glared back at him, but I couldn't stay angry long. My eyes softened. "Oh Alex, I'm sorry. I never should have said anything to Darius. It was a mistake, I admit. I regret it and I wish you had never made me do it."

"Made you do it? I made you do it?" His anger was terrible to behold. "I told you not to!"

"You nodded!" I was furious. "You nodded your head like this!"

"That means 'no'!" He sputtered. "Everyone knows that!"

"I forgot," I said miserably. "I'm sorry. Where I come from that means 'yes'."

"Where do you come from?"

I shook my head. "That means no, where I come from. And I can't tell you."

We stared at each other. Alexander's face was paler than usual, his forehead damp. "The gods are playing with us," he said slowly.

"Perhaps it's true." I couldn't face him anymore and I turned my head.

"Oh, no, you don't." He took my chin and made me look into his eyes. "How do you know he will die by the hand of someone he trusts?"

I shivered. I would have to tell him, and by doing so change the course of history. A sharp pain was starting in my toes and I wondered if it was the erasure that was beginning. In a moment I would disappear. Probably writhing in horrible pain. I glanced down, expecting to see my feet disappearing but no, it was just Alexander, standing on my foot. "You're on my foot," I said, pointing.

He cursed and stepped backwards. "I need to know. Are you really an oracle?"

I shook my head. "No, I'm not. I've never even seen an oracle, and I don't know what they do, or how they act. When I was in the palace, all I could think of was my baby, and that Darius had kidnapped him. I was angry. I said something I regret. If it turns out to be true, we'll talk about it then. Right now I'm just glad to be out of there and away from him."

"He was a great man," said Alexander.

"But you're a greater one." I touched his face and then pulled him towards me and kissed him. "And you're the best kisser in the world. Who taught you?"

He opened his mouth to speak then snapped it shut. "My mother was right. All women are sorceresses."

My mouth twitched. "For once, she was probably right." I linked my arm through his, and he didn't pull away. He was not convinced and was still angry, I could tell. He hadn't forgiven me, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I'd have some serious explaining to do. Bleakly, I wondered what I could invent.

~ You can visit Jennifer Macaire's blog here

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Five Creepy Ocean Stories To Shiver Your Timbers



As you know, I've been taking a short break from Imperial Demons over the past couple of weeks to write On A Dark Tide, a short story I've been repeatedly (and probably annoyingly) referring to as the creepy ocean story. It's nearly finished! I reckon I can have it done and dusted over the Easter weekend, and be back to work on Imperial Demons by Tuesday.

My jokey reference to it as a creepy ocean story got me thinking about other creepy ocean stories. It shouldn't be a surprise that I love reading and writing about the sea. UNDERTOW and THE SEA WIFE are both born of that love, although they're very different. On A Dark Tide is more akin to UNDERTOW, inspired by that idea that the deep, vast ocean is concealing a very alien and inhospitable world from us - and that maybe we don't want to uncover it's secrets.

These five books share that theme, and were all incredibly formative reads for me growing up. I make no apologies for three of them being Lovecraft stories. If you want creepy ocean stories, HP Lovecraft is your man. Enjoy!

1. DAGON
 
DAGON was one of the first stories Lovecraft wrote as an adult, back in 1917. Told from the point of view of a morphine addict recounting a horrific experience he had as a merchant marine, it's classic Lovecraft, encapsulated into a short but striking story. Adrift in an unknown region of the ocean, he finds "a slimy expanse of hellish black mire" thrown to the ocean's surface by a volcanic upheaval. Upon exploring the landmass, he discovers an inhumanly large monolith covered in hieroglyphics that suggest a terrifying truth about humanity. As he studies the monolith, an enormous creature emerges from the waters. Insane with fear, the man escapes, but is cursed to madness as fear of the creature consumes him.

This was the first Lovecraft story I ever read! It set me on a long and happy path of trying to make everyone I knew read Lovecraft (only partially succeeding). It's short enough that his sometimes purple prose doesn't grate on you, and leaves enough to the imagination that you can't help being fascinated by his submerged civilisations and cold, distant gods.

2. TELLING THE SEA

On a rather different note, we have TELLING THE SEA by Pauline Fisk. I must have read this dozens of times as a child. It's the story of Nona, who moves with her mother to a coastal village in Wales to escape an abusive partner. Isolated and lonely, Nona deals with her troubles by sharing them with the sea. But as life grows more complicated and no answers seem to be in sight, Nona does more than just talk to the sea...And soon her life is danger as the waters lure her in.

This is a YA book dealing with some heavy topics - domestic abuse and suicide, chiefly. I don't think I truly appreciated as a child how well those topics were addressed, but it's a book that's stayed in my memory my whole life. The setting and Nona's strange, difficult relationships, and her sanctuary in the sea, make this a one-of-a-kind book.

3. THE CALL OF CTHULHU

Maybe the ultimate watery horror? In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming, as we all know. Francis Wayland Thurston, our narrator, retells his discovery of notes left by his deceased grand-uncle, which slowly unfold a disturbing tale of sinister cults, dead sailors, and a peculiar bas-relief sculpture that conjures "simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature."

CALL OF CTHULHU, for many people, is the Lovecraft story, and if you don't know any of his other works I can almost guarantee you've heard of Cthulhu somewhere. He was in the Ghostbusters cartoon, for goodness sake! Lovecraft himself thought the story "rather middling," but it's spawned an ongoing mythos that other writers and creators have been tapping into and expanding ever since Lovecraft's time. The idea of a slumbering alien god waiting at the bottom of the ocean is captivating, especially in light of things like the bloop (now explained, sadly) and the elusiveness of animals like the giant squid.



4. SEA DRAGON HEIR

Oh man. If you want your high fantasy ripe with incest, have I got a book for you. Twins Valraven and Pharinet are heirs of a royal family cursed many hundreds of years before. Any woman married to Valraven was destined to become the Sea Wife, a being capable of commanding the vast powers of the sea dragons. Growing up, Val and Pharinet become lovers, and an intricate web of magic and betrayal engulfs them and everyone around them. 

I love this book, but it's definitely not for everyone. The nature of the sea dragons (are they real or just metaphors for the family's magic?) and the complex political intrigue make this an outstanding first book in the series. The rest of the trilogy drifts away from the ocean and the incredibly sinister dragons, sadly.





5. THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH

If I had to pick a favourite Lovecraft story, it would be this one (just edging out AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS). Our narrator, touring across New England, hears tales of ruined, strange Innsmouth, and decides to take a detour to the mysterious town. There unfolds a harrowing saga of malign underwater empires, and an ancient pact between men and monsters. It's part of the Cthulhu Mythos cycle and, yes, it absolutely did influence UNDERTOW, because it's great.

If I had to recommend you one book off this list, it would be this one. It's creepy ocean story personified, and still my go-to audio book when I can't sleep at night. I just love the story so much. For my money, it's better written than THE CALL OF CTHULHU, and tells a more complete tale. Get your creepy ocean story fix now!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Flashback Friday - Time to Lose It with Michelle Graham!

This Friday we're flashing back to the first in Michelle Graham's LOSING IT series. And there's good news! LOSING IT IN VEGAS is on sale for a limited time over at Evernight. So if you love the sound of Rowan and Bruce's story, you can pick it up for just 99 cents right now. So let's see what it's all about!


Many people remember losing their virginity as an awkward experience filled with pain and followed quickly by regret. Online hook-up site Losing It, hopes to change that. For those who’ve made it to adulthood with their virtue intact, Losing It matches virgins with experienced lovers who will make their first time unforgettable, with no embarrassing emotional entanglements.

Losing It In Vegas is the story of twenty-one year old Rowan Cassidy who is sick of being a virgin. With no romantic prospects in sight, she turns to Losing It to find her a man willing to do the deed and leave it at that. Bruce McGovern is between lovers and is stuck in a dry spell so he takes a chance with Losing It.

He and Rowan meet up in Las Vegas and somewhere in the midst of all the hot sex, feelings emerge that neither of them expected.

You can also grab your copy over at Amazon. And read on for an excerpt and a look at the latest in the Losing It series!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Wednesday Snippets - And now for something completely different


I know, I know. There was a plan. A schedule. A resolution. I was not going to start any new projects this year.

Well, I kinda started a new project this year. But just a short story! Sometimes an idea just grabs you by the scruff of the neck and shakes you, and the only answer is to start writing. This is a minor diversion from Imperial Demons, focusing on two things I love: creepy ocean stories and true crime/unsolved mysteries. So it's pure self-indulgence, but hopefully it'll make a good short story for you guys in the near future.

Here's a teaser for the tentatively titled On A Dark Tide. Enjoy!


Saturday, 8 April 2017

Retro Reading - The Mummy

After thoroughly loving my re-read of Help Wanted, I decided my next Point Horror should be one I didn't read as a teenager, so as to view it without those rose-tinted nostalgia goggles. I remember seeing The Mummy in bookshops during my Point Horror years, but I never picked it up. I'm not sure why, because I love Egyptian mythology, so this should have been a must-read for me. Maybe I was already weaning myself off Point Horror by the time this one came out?


Anyway! Our story is simple enough. Egypt-obsessed aspiring archaeologist, Lana, volunteers at her local museum to help run a priceless Egyptian exhibit. As she becomes more and more fascinated with the mummy of the boy-prince, Nefra, creepy things begin happening to and around her. Part of the exhibit is stolen. Someone - or something - is stalking Lana. And they may not be human - or even alive. Through in some dreams that might not be dreams and a too-smart cat, and you've got a recipe for spookiness!

Honestly, I started out thinking I wouldn't like this. The writing felt more juvenile than Help Wanted or The Silent Scream, but I think some of that is down to the nostalgia goggles. Lana came across at first as very young, and her Egypt obsession was painted as kind of childish. As the story develops, she improves, but I could never really get a feel for how old she was supposed to be, and she could have been anywhere between fourteen and eighteen based on her behaviour.

The central mystery - who stole the necklace from the exhibit and who is stalking Lana - is handled well in that there are several suspects who all seem equally likely. Disappointingly, it's another case of "the villain is psychotic!" and I really think there should be a disclaimer in these books somewhere that reads PSYCHOTIC DOES NOT EQUAL DANGEROUS/CRIMINAL. But I liked that the answer wasn't obvious, and that Lana pieces the clues together herself, without any wild last-minute confessions from the bad guys.

The Egyptian elements rely heavily on the motif that Egypt is an exotic, mysterious country where everyone believes in magic and curses, which...I don't know, probably isn't entirely a sensitive presentation. But I think any story written by a non-Egyptian person is probably going to take that route, because it's an idea that's so entrenched in Western society. There are paranormal elements in the story that turn out to be genuine - Lana's cat is the reincarnation of Nefra, and Lana's dreams really are dreams of her past life as an Egyptian princess. I liked that, in the sense that it was cool that it turned out the spooky stuff wasn't all Scooby-Doo style "bad guy in a mask" shenanigans.

There was a heavy emphasis placed on how Lana could so easily pass for an ancient Egyptian without anyone ever addressing what an "ancient Egyptian" looked like. I guess it's entirely possible Lana is a WoC, but mostly it just seems like she wears her hair a certain way (it's not said, but I'm assuming she's gone for the Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra cut), and everyone says "wow, so Egyptian!" I found that weird, especially as there are two Egyptian characters in the book who are explicitly described as "not white." It irked me that Lana, who is presumably white, is lavished with praise for being so beautifully Egyptian-looking.

What I did like was this:


There's a nasty tendency for certain Westerners to mock the broken English of people who speak it as a second language. I am always going to champion a book that makes the point that - hey, how many languages do you speak? So just going to leave that there.

That aside, this turned out to be a fun read. Hey, it had a magic cat! And I can definitely relate to a heroine who just wants to stay home with her cat.