Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: Nocturnal Lives (Page 2 of 3)

Indie Author Christmas Sale

Cedar Sanderson, friend and author, is spearheading a small curated Christmas Sale for indie authors and I’m honored to have been invited to take part. I don’t know about the rest of you, but books have always been one of the staples I gave for Christmas and other occasions when a gift was needed. That hasn’t changed with the advent of e-books. All e-books means is you have to be a bit more creative in how you “wrap” them.  So, without further ado, here is the 2015 Indie Author Christmas Sale.

Just in time for Christmas giving, here’s a list of books, stories, and other readables. Who doesn’t love to get a book in their virtual stocking? Bonus is that this gift won’t sit around collecting dust or taking up space. And you don’t have to go out and fight the traffic to buy it, or worry about shipping on time, and it’s as easy as a few clicks and knowing an email address.

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Dragon Noir (Pixie for Hire Book 3)

By Cedar Sanderson

On sale for the first time from Dec 17-23rd

The pixie with the gun has come home to see his princess crowned a queen and live in peace. But nothing is ever easy for Lom. A gruesome discovery on his doorstep interrupts their plans and sends Lom off on a mission to save not one, but two worlds. It’s personal this time and the stakes are higher than ever before. With friends falling and the enemy gathering, Bella and Lom must conquer the worst fears and monsters Underhill can conjure. Failure is not on the agenda.

Or if you would rather give the whole trilogy, Pixie for Hire: Omnibus Edition is now available in ebook form only.

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Young Warriors (Wine of the Gods Book 10)

by Pam Uphoff
Free for five days!
It’s traditional for young lords in the Kingdom of Ash to spend two years in the army. Xen Wolfson is a young wizard, and Garit Negue a young prince. And the world is filled with adventures and danger . . . and learning experiences.

Their world has been in sporadic contact with two different cross-dimensional worlds–generally as a target for conquest. When the Empire of the One returns, the young warriors are standing foursquare in their path.

***

Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4)

By Amanda Green

Brand New Release!

The one thing Lt. Mackenzie Santos had always been able to count on was the law. But that was before she started turning furry. Now she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy to keep the truth from the public-at-large. She knows they aren’t ready to learn that monsters are real and they might be living next door.

If that isn’t enough, trouble is brewing among the shapeshifters. The power struggle has already resulted in the kidnapping and near fatal injury of several of Mac’s closest friends. She is now in the middle of what could quickly turn into a civil war, one that would be disastrous for all of them.

What she wouldn’t give to have a simple murder case to investigate and a life that didn’t include people who wanted nothing more than to add her death to the many they were already responsible for.

The first three volumes (Nocturnal Origins, Nocturnal Serenade and Nocturnal Interlude
are available individually or as the Nocturnal Lives “boxed set”.) are also available.

***

Hilda’s Inn for Retired Heroes

By Cyn Bagley

In Delhaven, there is an Inn run by a retired mercenary. If you are a down-on-your-luck mercenary or men-at-arms, come to the public rooms and Hilda Brant, the owner, will give you a bowl of stew. If you want ale, hand over the coins. Hilda may give you floor space, but she expects you to pay in favors or coins.

Hilda isn’t prepared for the damage and chaos caused by a dragon, black mage, and elementals. And a very angry Lord Barton.

***

The High T Shebang (The Baby Troll Chronicles Book 1)

By Mark Alger

Dolly was reborn into a new body just last week. Right out of the birthing chamber, she was tumbled into a conflict that goes back to the stone age. Her creator, the Greek Goddess, Aphrodite, has disappeared, and the God in charge of her institution — the Babylonian Marduk — has called for her death. Her lover and Geppetto, Mitchell Drummond, is threading his way through political minefields to keep Dolly safe.

New in love, they soon find they can’t keep their hands off each other. Their sexual fever comes to worry them. They suspect there’s more to the situation than mere new love. Meanwhile, they have a job to do. Keeping up the pretense that all’s well and nothing’s going on is wearing thin. But in Upothesa, you’re not allowed to talk about secrets. Dolly is a secret. Trying to keep it together, Dolly and Drummond go on a mission to New Zealand to protect the Dolly’s secret and the life of a major TV drama star.

***

Collisions of the Damned: The Defense of the Dutch East Indies (The Usurper’s War Book 3)

By James Young

My God, we are losing this war.—Lt. Nicholas Cobb, USN

March 1943. The Usurper’s War has resumed, with disastrous results for the Allies. In Hawaii, the U.S. Pacific Fleet lies shattered after the Battle of Hawaii. Across the Pacific the Imperial Japanese Navy, flush with their recent victory, turns its gimlet eye towards the south and the ultimate prize for their Emperor: The Dutch East Indies.

For Commander Jacob Morton and the other members of the Asiatic Fleet, the oncoming Japanese storm means that the U.S.S. Houston and her Allied companions must learn to fight against overwhelming odds against an enemy who claims the night as their own. In the skies above Houston and the other old, tired vessels of the ACDA Fleet , Flight Lieutenant Russell Wolford and his men attempt to employ the Allies’ newest technology to even the odds. With full might of the Japanese Empire falling on them, the ACDA’s soldiers, sailors, and marines must fight to hold the line long enough for reinforcements to come.

***

Blackbird (The Colplatschki Chronicles Book 7)

By Alma Boykin

$.99 Dec 21-24, 1.99 Dec 25-28

One man becomes all that the Turkowi fear – and respect. Matthew Charles Malatesta, second son and rumored bastard of a mercenary, grandson of Duke Edmund “Ironhand” von Sarmas.  One man, who will fight to the last breath to carve a place for himself, who will create a court of learning and civilization, who stands alone between the might of the Turkowi Empire and all of Godown’s people.

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One In Infinity: A Reality Crossing Novella

By Amie Gibbons

On sale for $0.99 from 12/19 to Christmas

Turns out coincidences do happen, and it sucks when it leads killers from an alternate reality to your door…

Rose plans on partying her last weekend of freedom before her residency starts, but fate has different plans. When men straight out of a fantasy novel attack, she gets pulled into a blood feud between magical beings thanks to a random stroke of luck. Now she has to adjust to her new world view and help one of the men to save herself from a fate worse than death.

***

Tick of the Clock

By Travis Clemons and Michael Z Williamson

A man awakens in a 21st century Illinois hospital, holding very distinct memories of being shot in Switzerland decades earlier. The nurse calls him Detective Crabtree and says the DuPage County Sheriff will be by to check on him shortly. Yet he remembers his name being Sherlock Holmes.

When Sabrina Worthington is killed during a home invasion, her billionaire husband has an ironclad alibi. But Adam Worthington does not appear to be the grieving widower people would expect to see. Meanwhile, their former girlfriend keeps tugging on every possible string to convince the authorities to indict the man for murder.

By the tick of the clock, it would seem impossible for a man to be shot in the 19th century and wake up more than one hundred years later. It would also seem impossible for a man to shoot his wife while she’s at home and he’s at a theater thirty miles away. But when the seemingly impossible is properly analyzed, will Holmes determine the improbable truth behind her death and his life?

***

The Spaewife

by David L. Burkhead

Pricing will be $0.99 the 19th through the 26th.

A young mother hears the Norns. They tell her of terrible things to come. When Ulfarr wants her gift of prophesy to serve him, he takes her, murders her husband, and steals away her children. Can the young mother escape from Ulfarr’s clutches and save her children from him? Only the Norns know.

***

Via Serica

by Tom Rogneby

on sale from the 19th to the 26th for $1.99

Marcus Aemelius Paullus has a problem – he is playing with fire and falling in love with the wrong woman. Appius Plinius also has a problem – he has a unit full of warriors who continually get themselves, and him, in trouble. Caesar Augustus has a solution to their problems, but it may cost them their lives. Eastward lies fame, fortune, and the key to returning home. Deserts, mountains, marsh, and ocean lie between, occupied by barbarian cultures and hostile rulers. On this grueling journey, Marcus and Appius will find their courage tested to the limits. But before they’re done, the world will know the unconquerable spirit of Rome!

Nocturnal Challenge – Evolution of a Series

Back when I wrote Nocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1), I didn’t do it as the beginning of a series. In fact, that was the last thing I meant to do. It wasn’t a genre I usually wrote in. I was bucking the trend in how it was written. I figured it would be a one-off and I would move on. More than that, I had never considered doing a series. What I didn’t know was that book would spawn a main character I love to write and who still had stories to tell.

Now, five years later, Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4) is available for pre-order. As the link shows, this is the fourth book — and the fifth title — in the series. It is a direct continuation of the previous book, Nocturnal Interlude (Nocturnal Lives Book 3). For the first time, the series picks up immediately after the previous book ended. There has been no elapsed time and Mac is struggling to not only come to terms with what happened in the previous book but to find the best way to deal with the fallout without revealing the existence of shapeshifters to the world-at-large.

What I’ve discovered as I’ve written each book is the series is that the world the books take part in is changing along with Mac and her friends. In Origins, Mac’s Dallas was pretty much the same Dallas I know. The only difference was that there happened to be a few folks around who could shift into animals. Some of these people, ones like Mac, were what they called pures. Shapeshifters from a long bloodline who could control their shifts and who did not lose their humanity while in their animal forms. Others, the weres, more often resembled the werewolves from old Hollywood films. They turn more feral when in animal forms and that characteristic often followed them into their human lives as well. The weres felt they were at the top of the food chain and chafed at the restrictions put on them by the pures. While not exactly a good vs. evil sort of thing, that was how Mac could justify stepping outside of the law to deal with the weres, the lycans, that had been using Dallas as a hunting ground.

In no way was she comfortable stepping outside the bounds of the the law she had sworn to uphold. But she knew she was caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place. If she followed the letter of the law and arrested the lycan responsible for the murders, she ran the very real chance he would shift while in custody and then the secret would be out. If she had a problem accepting the fact there were people who could turn furry, how would the public-at-large react? The answer was easy — not well. So she did what she needed to do, she upheld shifter law if not human law. But it wasn’t something that set well with her.

Since that first book, the shifter world has started fleshing itself out. Past history has bred new conflicts, conflicts that threaten not only a civil war among shifters but war with the normals as well. Mac and company are now faced with a most difficult decision. Do they stand by, letting events continue on the road they are on or do they stand up and take action? Neither decision is without pitfalls.

Something else that is starting to become more clear in the series is the relationship between the human part of Mac and the others and the animal parts. From the beginning, I’ve known that the animal aspects were always present in the back of the minds of their human counterparts. In Challenge, that relationship is explored more than it has been before. Part of this is because Mac will need a better understanding of her animal aspect, not having grown up knowing what she could become. Part of it is because that is what the book demanded (yes, yes, I know. I’m the author. I should tell the book what it is going to be not the other way around.)

So what is the future of the series? There is at least one more book left. That next book (or possibly the one after it) will end the current story arc. However, I have a feeling that won’t be the end of my relationship with Mackenzie Santos. She is one of those characters that doesn’t take sitting in silence for long well. Right now, I have a short story, or possibly a novella, featuring her brewing in the back of my mind. This one will also feature her shifted animal, a jaguar, a creature almost as mouthy as Mac can be.

So here’s the plan. Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4) is available for pre-order. Publication date is December 15th. If you follow the link and pre-order it now, you won’t be charged for it until the release date. Here’s the blurb (and it will be tweaked before final release):

The one thing Lt. Mackenzie Santos had always been able to count on was the law. But that was before she started turning furry. Now she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy to keep the truth from the public-at-large. She knows they aren’t ready to learn that monsters are real and they might be living next door.

If that isn’t enough, trouble is brewing among the shapeshifters. The power struggle has already resulted in the kidnapping and near fatal injury of several of Mac’s closest friends. She is now in the middle of what could quickly turn into a civil war, one that would be disastrous for all of them.

What she wouldn’t give to have a simple murder case to investigate and a life that didn’t include people who wanted nothing more than to add her death to the many they were already responsible for.

Cover reveal

Nocturnal Challenge will be going up for pre-sale next week. Last night, the wonderful Sarah A. Hoyt designed the cover for me. The cover elements come from Dollar Photo Club. I’ll post those credits at the end.

challengecovernew

Sarah also redesigned the covers for the other novels in the series. Here they are:

origins cover

interludecover

serenadecover

And here is the cover image for the boxed set:

boxsetcover

Amur Leopard © michaelfitz / Dollar Photo Club

The woman is © chesterF/ Dollar Photo Club and the photos are part of this series of images.

A rainy day snippet

That is the number of days we have had rain this month. Now, I know there are parts of the country where that might not seem out of the ordinary. But here in the DFW area, it is unheard of. It started raining this morning around 0600 and is still raining. I’m not talking about a nice, soothing mist. Nope. Not at all. I’m talking about the sort of rain that is dropping inches of the wet stuff on top of the already record-breaking rains we’ve had this month. We may all have webbed fingers and toes before this is all over.

I’m starting snippets today for Nocturnal Challenge. This is the fourth book (and fifth entry) in the Nocturnal Lives series.

***

Perfectly manicured fingernails tapped an impatient rhythm against the steering wheel. Blood red polish reminded caught the sun and an almost feral snarl escaped her lips. The primitive part of her nature she usually kept under such tight control fought for release. The hunt called to her and longed to spill the blood of those who disrespected her. But that was blood she couldn’t shed, not yet at any rate. Gone were the days when she would have been free to hunt in the shadows, stalking her victim without fear of detection. Technology was now the enemy. Too many cameras and too many cellphones meant too great a chance of discovery and capture. That, at least, was one thing her prey had been right about.

Prey. How wonderful that word sounded. Too much time had passed since she had been on a real hunt. Taking down the occasional deer or rabbit didn’t count. They simply did not present the challenge a human did, especially not someone like Mackenzie Santos.

Santos! Damn the woman.

Mackenzie Santos had been a thorn in her side from the moment she first heard the name. Not that she should have expected any different. She had grown up watching her father, and her grandfather before him, do battle against Santos’ grandparents. If it hadn’t been for them, their kind would not be living in the shadows, fearful not only of discovery by the normals but of war with the lycans as well. No, they would have assumed their rightful place as the predominant species and ruled as they were meant to do.

Instead, her grandfather and father – and now she herself – had to work slowly and cautiously, doing whatever was necessary to remove any obstacles to their ultimate goal. The fact that made her life easier was an added benefit. Unfortunately, Santos and her warnings about how dangerous their current path was had started others of their kind thinking. Worse, they were asking questions. If she wasn’t careful, Santos would stir up enough trouble to derail all her careful plans – or worse.

Cassandra Wilkinson fought the urge to yell in anger. Her cheetah was already too close to the surface, pushing at the frayed edges of her self-control. The last thing she needed was to shift. Not only would it ruin the rental car she currently sat in but it would lead to questions best left unasked. Worse, it would prove the validity of all Santos has said. Still, if she managed to shift without being discovered, it would solve one of her biggest problems.

A predatory smile touched her lips at the thought of her cheetah catching Santos unaware and dealing with her in the most permanent of fashions. Unfortunately, the likelihood of that happening was about as slim as that of her getting out of the car, stripping and walking down the street to the Justice Center clad in only her designer boots. From what she knew of Santos, the woman rarely, if ever, let her guard down. Now that she had come into her own as a shapeshifter, it was even less likely someone would be able to sneak up on her. Then there was the ugly truth that Santos’s jaguar was bigger and stronger than her cheetah. Her cat was built for speed and distance. Santos’ jaguar was built for strength. That meant the only thing Cassandra would have going for her in a fight between the two of them was experience and she was not about to risk her life and all she and her family had worked so hard for on just that.

So a fair fight was out and that suited her perfectly. She never had liked going into a situation without stacking the deck in her own favor first. Normally, that wasn’t a problem. Fate, however, had dealt her a potentially losing hand and it had already cost her too much.

Damn Santos and damn that fool Yazhari even more. If he hadn’t let his ego get in the way of everything, she wouldn’t be sitting in a rental car less than a block from Dallas’ Justice Center. For years, the man had been her right hand and enforcer. She had come to count on him to clean up any little problem that might present itself. But not this time. This time he had failed her on so many levels that she still found it hard to believe. Not only had he chosen the wrong people to carry out his orders, he had then failed to deal with them quickly enough and permanently enough to prevent their activities from being discovered.

That carelessness had brought their activities not only to the attention of Santos but to the local pride leader as well. Cassandra didn’t know which was worse. Michael King always said the right thing whenever they spoke and always presented a respectful and obedient face in their dealings. Not that it fooled her. She had long suspected that he no longer fully supported the Conclave. That belief had only deepened once Santos joined the pride. Not only had King quickly named the woman as his third, his enforcer, but he had joined her in arguing before the Conclave that it was time for their kind to be more careful to avoid discovery. Together they talked about scientific advances that made it more likely than ever that their existence would be discovered. Cassandra knew they wanted to find a way for their kind to go public without causing a panic but she was not ready for that. Not yet, at least, and not until she was confident in her absolute power over pures and lycans alike.

So she had sent Yazhari to Dallas to deal with his people and take whatever steps were necessary to prevent the local shapeshifters from realizing her connection to what had been happening. She had spent too much time, effort and money in carefully planned attacks across the country, all aimed at solidifying her hold not only on the Conclave but over all their people. This was not the time for anything to go wrong, much less to point back at her. So, trusting Yazhari to deal with it as he had dealt with so many other problems for her, she had left it in his hands.

And now she had an even bigger problem on her hands than before.

For whatever reason — whether it was ego or something else, she didn’t know and she didn’t care — he had tried to kill Santos. If he had been successful, Cassandra would not have minded. At least not as long as he had done nothing to implicate her in the process. But he had failed and, worse in many ways, he had managed to get himself killed in the process. Now it was up to her to deal with the fallout and to find a way to make sure Santos and King, as well as their supporters, did not look too closely in her direction as she did.

She just hoped it wasn’t already too late.

She leaned forward and focused on the front entrance of the Justice Center as the doors opened once again. Satisfaction coursed through her as she caught sight of her prey. Mackenzie Santos stepped into the late morning sun. She moved a few steps away from the doorway and paused, looking around. As she did, two others, a man and a woman, joined her. For a moment, Cassandra studied them before turning her attention back to Santos. The two didn’t matter. Not when it looked like Yazhari might not have completely failed her after all. Santos’s right arm was secured in an immobilizer, strapped to her side and across her abdomen. Even from a distance, Cassandra noted her limp and the swelling and bruising to her face. Injured as she was, the battlefield now favored Cassandra. Good. Very good.

Without a second thought, Cassandra stepped out of the car. A moment later, she moved quickly down the sidewalk toward the three. Senses alive and alert, she fought back her smile. The closer she got to her target, the more convinced she became that her plan would work. So far, neither Santos nor the coyote shifter with her gave any indication they sensed her approach. Luck might finally be in her favor.

Unfortunately, it didn’t hold. She knew the moment Santos realized she was there. The younger woman stopped and pivoted in her direction. At the same time, her left hand went to the small of her back where Cassandra assumed she had a weapon. A split second later, Santos’ companions reacted. The man, the coyote shifter, turned, his right hand disappeared under his suit jacket. The woman, a normal, stepped forward, placing herself between her and Santos. Interesting. Could the woman know who, perhaps even what, Cassandra was? That was something she would have to think about later. First things first.

“Hello, Mackenzie. I think it’s time we talk,” Cassandra said, her voice silky smooth but the weight of command obvious.

***

Nocturnal Challenge will be available July 2015. Check out the other titles in the series:

nocturnaloriginscoveralternatenewNocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1)

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

nocturnal SerenadealternatenewNocturnal Serenade (Nocturnal Lives) (Volume 2)

Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

nocturnal interludenewNocturnal Interlude (Nocturnal Lives Book 3)

Lt. Mackenzie Santos swears she will never take another vacation again as long as she lives. The moment she returns home, two federal agents are there to take her into custody. Then she finds out her partner, Sgt. Patricia Collins, as well as several others are missing. Several of the missing have connections to law enforcement. All are connected to Mac through one important and very secret fact — they are all shapechangers. Has someone finally discovered that the myths and bad Hollywood movies are actually based on fact or is there something else, something more insidious at work?

Mac finds herself in a race against time not only to save her partner and the others but to discover who was behind their disappearances. As she does, she finds herself dealing with Internal Affairs, dirty cops, the Feds and a possible conspiracy within the shapeshifter community that could not only bring their existence to light but cause a civil war between shifters.

515VFhr3iVL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Nocturnal Haunts (Nocturnal Lives)

Lt. Mackenzie Santos has seen just about everything in more than ten years as a cop. The last few months have certainly shown her more than she’d ever expected. She’s learned that real monsters don’t always hide under the bed or in the closet. They walk the streets and can exist in the best of faimlies.

When she’s called out to a crime scene and has to face the possibility that there are even more monsters walking the Earth than she knew, she finds herself longing for the days before she started turning furry with the full moon.

And the barriers come tumbling down

Finally, after weeks of fighting this novel for various reasons — and I won’t go back into them. You guys know what’s been going on — it looks like the barrier is finally down. Or maybe I have just finally given up trying to make the book obey and let me write it the way I want to. Whatever the reason, I’m not going to complain, at least not too much. I’m just glad to be writing again.

What I had forgotten during this time of drought is that I’m not the only writer to experience this sort of thing. Intellectually, I knew it. But that didn’t help all the much as I was pounding my head against the keyboard, trying to get something to come out that made sense. But that realization was brought home this morning when I read Peter Grant’s post over at Mad Genius Club. It seems Peter had been facing much the same thing, and for even longer, than I have. I’ll even admit that, in a perverse sort of way, it was good to see that I wasn’t the only one going through the drought. That said, I am even more glad he has pushed through it and is writing the next book in his Maxwell Saga.

(If you love science fiction, I highly recommend the Maxwell Saga. Take The Star Road (The Maxwell Saga Book 1) is the first volume. If you haven’t read it, why not? Go get it now. You won’t be disappointed.)

But his post also got me thinking. He talked about how he has learned that sometimes you have to alter how you do things. Sometimes you have to be careful not to plot yourself into a corner. You have to give yourself the flexibility to let your characters do what needs to be done without you putting what turns out to be artificial barriers in their way.

In a way, that is what I had done, not exactly with this book but with the way I ended Nocturnal Interlude. For the first time, I ended a novel on a cliffhanger. That meant I was very limited in how I could start Nocturnal Challenge. I hadn’t thought about that when I finished Interlude. Nor did I argue with my characters when they stomped their feet and said that was where the book needed to stop. (No, I’m not insane. I’m a writer. My characters talk to me and often disobey me.)

So, when I found myself having problems getting started with Challenge, I fell back onto an old habit. I tried to outline, as in doing a very detailed outline, of what needed to happen in the book. I already had the basic outline in my head. But, frustrated because the opening just wasn’t happening, I decided a general outline wasn’t enough.

And I wrote myself into a corner. Again and again and again.

And it didn’t work.

What did, finally, was to stop fighting the book and do what came naturally. Of course, this being me, it wasn’t writing the book in a linear fashion. As I noted the other day, the last section of the book wanted to be written. So I did. That was enough, it seems, to break open the dam. Now that the ending is finished, I’ve been able to go back and start on the beginning. It is still rough — hey, it’s called rough draft for a reason — but it is something.

So, here is the opening scene from Nocturnal Challenge. (Note, it is a rough draft and it will have errors and it will probably change by the time it goes through all the edits and is finally published.)

***

Perfectly manicured fingernails tapped an impatient rhythm against the steering wheel. Blood red polish caught the sun and an almost feral snarl escaped her lips. The primitive part of her nature she usually kept under such tight control fought for release. The hunt called to her and longed to spill the blood of those who disrespected her. But that was blood she couldn’t shed, not yet at any rate. Gone were the days when she would have been free to hunt in the shadows, stalking her victim without fear of detection. Technology was now the enemy. Too many cameras and too many cellphones meant too great a chance of discovery and capture. That, at least, was one thing her prey had been right about.

Prey. How wonderful that word sounded. Too much time had passed since she had been on a real hunt. Taking down the occasional deer or rabbit didn’t count. They simply did not present the challenge a human did, especially not someone like Mackenzie Santos.

Santos! Damn the woman.

Mackenzie Santos had been a thorn in her side from the moment she first heard the name. Not that she should have expected any different. She had grown up watching her father, and her grandfather before him, do battle against Santos’ grandparents. If it hadn’t been for them, their kind would not be living in the shadows, fearful not only of discovery by the normals but of war with the lycans as well. No, they would have assumed their rightful place as the predominant species and ruled as they were meant to do.

Instead, her grandfather and father – and now she herself – had to work slowly and cautiously, doing whatever was necessary to remove any obstacles to their ultimate goal. The fact that made her life easier was an added benefit. Unfortunately, Santos and her warnings about how dangerous their current path was had started others of their kind thinking. Worse, they were asking questions. If she wasn’t careful, Santos would stir up enough trouble to derail all her careful plans – or worse.

Cassandra Wilkinson fought the urge to yell in anger. Her cheetah was already too close to the surface, pushing at the frayed edges of her self-control. The last thing she needed was to shift. Not only would it ruin the rental car she currently sat in but it would lead to questions best left unasked. Worse, it would prove the validity of all Santos has said. Still, if she managed to shift without being discovered, it would solve one of her biggest problems.

A predatory smile touched her lips at the thought of her cheetah catching Santos unaware and dealing with her in the most permanent of fashions. Unfortunately, the likelihood of that happening was about as slim as that of her getting out of the car, stripping and walking down the street to the Justice Center clad in only her designer boots. From what she knew of Santos, the woman rarely, if ever, let her guard down. Now that she had come into her own as a shapeshifter, it was even less likely someone would be able to sneak up on her. Then there was the ugly truth that Santos’s jaguar was bigger and stronger than her cheetah. Her cat was built for speed and distance. Santos’ jaguar was built for strength. That meant the only thing Cassandra would have going for her in a fight between the two of them was experience and she was not about to risk her life and all she and her family had worked so hard for on just that.

So a fair fight was out and that suited her perfectly. She never had liked going into a situation without stacking the deck in her own favor first. Normally, that wasn’t a problem. Fate, however, had dealt her a potentially losing hand and it had already cost her too much.

Damn Santos and damn that fool Yazhari even more. If he hadn’t let his ego get in the way of everything, she wouldn’t be sitting in a rental car less than a block from Dallas’ Justice Center. For years, the man had been her right hand and enforcer. She had come to count on him to clean up any little problem that might present itself. But not this time. This time he had failed her on so many levels that she still found it hard to believe. Not only had he chosen the wrong people to carry out his orders, he had then failed to deal with them quickly enough and permanently enough to prevent their activities from being discovered.

That carelessness had brought their activities not only to the attention of Santos but to the local pride leader as well. Cassandra didn’t know which was worse. Michael King always said the right thing whenever they spoke and always presented a respectful and obedient face in their dealings. Not that it fooled her. She had long suspected that he no longer fully supported the Conclave. That belief had only deepened once Santos joined the pride. Not only had King quickly named the woman as his third, his enforcer, but he had joined her in arguing before the Conclave that it was time for their kind to be more careful to avoid discovery. Together they talked about scientific advances that made it more likely than ever that their existence would be discovered. Cassandra knew they wanted to find a way for their kind to go public without causing a panic but she was not ready for that. Not yet, at least, and not until she was confident in her absolute power over pures and lycans alike.

So she had sent Yazhari to Dallas to deal with his people and take whatever steps were necessary to prevent the local shapeshifters from realizing her connection to what had been happening. She had spent too much time, effort and money in carefully planned attacks across the country, all aimed at solidifying her hold not only on the Conclave but over all their people. This was not the time for anything to go wrong, much less to point back at her. So, trusting Yazhari to deal with it as he had dealt with so many other problems for her, she had left it in his hands.

And now she had an even bigger problem on her hands than before.

For whatever reason — whether it was ego or something else, she didn’t know and she didn’t care — he had tried to kill Santos. If he had been successful, Cassandra would not have minded. At least not as long as he had done nothing to implicate her in the process. But he had failed and, worse in many ways, he had managed to get himself killed in the process. Now it was up to her to deal with the fallout and to find a way to make sure Santos and King, as well as their supporters, did not look too closely in her direction as she did.

She just hoped it wasn’t already too late.

She leaned forward and focused on the front entrance of the Justice Center as the doors opened once again. Satisfaction coursed through her as she caught sight of her prey. Mackenzie Santos stepped into the late morning sun. She moved a few steps away from the doorway and paused, looking around. As she did, two others, a man and a woman, joined her. For a moment, Cassandra studied them before turning her attention back to Santos. The two didn’t matter. Not when it looked like Yazhari might not have completely failed her after all. Santos’s right arm was secured in an immobilizer, strapped to her side and across her abdomen. Even from a distance, Cassandra noted her limp and the swelling and bruising to her face. Injured as she was, the battlefield now favored Cassandra. Good. Very good.

Without a second thought, Cassandra stepped out of the car. A moment later, she moved quickly down the sidewalk toward the three. Senses alive and alert, she fought back her smile. The closer she got to her target, the more convinced she became that her plan would work. So far, neither Santos nor the coyote shifter with her gave any indication they sensed her approach. Luck might finally be in her favor.

Unfortunately, it didn’t hold. She knew the moment Santos realized she was there. The younger woman stopped and pivoted in her direction. At the same time, her left hand went to the small of her back where Cassandra assumed she had a weapon. A split second later, Santos’ companions reacted. The man, the coyote shifter, turned, his right hand disappeared under his suit jacket. The woman, a normal, stepped forward, placing herself between her and Santos. Interesting. Could the woman know who, perhaps even what, Cassandra was? That was something she would have to think about later. First things first.

“Hello, Mackenzie. I think it’s time we talk,” Cassandra said, her voice silky smooth but the weight of command obvious.

***

In case you haven’t picked up the three previous books in the series, or the novella, here they are.


nocturnaloriginscoveralternatenewNocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1)

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

nocturnal SerenadealternatenewNocturnal Serenade (Nocturnal Lives Book 2)

Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

nocturnal interludenewNocturnal Interlude (Nocturnal Lives Book 3)

Lt. Mackenzie Santos swears she will never take another vacation again as long as she lives. The moment she returns home, two federal agents are there to take her into custody. Then she finds out her partner, Sgt. Patricia Collins, as well as several others are missing. Several of the missing have connections to law enforcement. All are connected to Mac through one important and very secret fact — they are all shapechangers. Has someone finally discovered that the myths and bad Hollywood movies are actually based on fact or is there something else, something more insidious at work?

Mac finds herself in a race against time not only to save her partner and the others but to discover who was behind their disappearances. As she does, she finds herself dealing with Internal Affairs, dirty cops, the Feds and a possible conspiracy within the shapeshifter community that could not only bring their existence to light but cause a civil war between shifters.

515VFhr3iVL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Nocturnal Haunts (Nocturnal Lives)
(novella)
Lt. Mackenzie Santos has seen just about everything in more than ten years as a cop. The last few months have certainly shown her more than she’d ever expected. She’s learned that real monsters don’t always hide under the bed or in the closet. They walk the streets and can exist in the best of faimlies.

When she’s called out to a crime scene and has to face the possibility that there are even more monsters walking the Earth than she knew, she finds herself longing for the days before she started turning furry with the full moon.

Life interferes but you have to find a way around

Earlier I blogged about how expectations and goals sometimes run afoul of real life. Unfortunately, that does happen to all of us and it doesn’t matter what our profession is. No matter what is happening at home, you have to find a way to push through. There are bills to pay and commitments to fulfill. But that doesn’t make it any easier and, honestly, sometimes you simply can’t see how you will do what needs to be done. Other times, you are actually getting things done but real life is battering you so much you don’t realize it.

That is how life has been for me the last few weeks. Between events that have impacted my “family” (put in quotes because these events have included those I have chosen to be my family as opposed to blood relations) and medical issues my mother has been facing, I have felt like I couldn’t see the proverbial forest for the trees. There have been times when I’ve wanted to scream in anger or pound my head against the wall in frustration. Sometimes it has been because of the events that have been happening and other times it has been because I haven’t been able to work. My mind simply hasn’t let me sit down and write.

And that is the point of this post. It suddenly dawned on my yesterday when I was talking with a friend via Facebook that I have been working. It just hasn’t been my normal creative process. While I haven’t been able to sit down and “write”, I have been plotting and making notes, much more detailed notes than I usually do. As a result, I have several tens of thousands of words detailing the last half of Nocturnal Challenge. I have other notes about the opening and that is something I am glad about because I had been having problems figuring out the right way to get back into the book. The end result, I hope, is that when life finally settles down — which will hopefully be over the next week — I will be able to take my notes and turn them quickly into the full novel.

I have discovered something else during the last few weeks. I have been carrying my Surface Pro 3 with me everywhere — when you sit in as many waiting rooms as I have recently, you have to have something with you. Until now, the SP3 had mainly been used when I went to the library and didn’t want to carry the laptop with me. With having to go with Mom to the different doctor’s appointments, etc., I have been making better use of the SP3’s OneNote handwriting capability. This is the first tablet of any sort that I’ve owned where handwriting has been a viable option. As a result, I have lengthy plot notes and, because they are handwritten and not typed, I won’t feel like I have already “written” the novel when I actually sit down to do just that.

Anyway, that’s where I am right now. Distracted but working, just not working in the normal manner.

Nocturnal lives boxedIn the meantime, if you like urban fantasy and police procedurals, you might want to check out the Nocturnal Lives (Boxed Set). It includes the first three volumes of the Nocturnal Lives series (Nocturnal Origins, Nocturnal Serenade and Nocturnal Interlude).

Nocturnal Origins
Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

Nocturnal Serenade
Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

Nocturnal Interlude
Lt. Mackenzie Santos swears she will never take another vacation again as long as she lives. The moment she returns home, two federal agents are there to take her into custody. Then she finds out her partner, Sgt. Patricia Collins, as well as several others are missing. Several of the missing have connections to law enforcement. All are connected to Mac through one important and very secret fact — they are all shapechangers. Has someone finally discovered that the myths and bad Hollywood movies are actually based on fact or is there something else, something more insidious at work?

Mac finds herself in a race against time not only to save her partner and the others but to discover who was behind their disappearances. As she does, she finds herself dealing with Internal Affairs, dirty cops, the Feds and a possible conspiracy within the shapeshifter community that could not only bring their existence to light but cause a civil war between shifters.

Some reading recommendations

I’ve been remiss on blogging lately and I apologize. I’m going to try to get back into the swing of regular posts next week. To kick things off, here are some books I highly recommend as well as a few of my own which, of course, I think are pretty good too.  😉

First up is Murder World: Kaiju Dawn by Jason Cordova and Eric S. Brown.Captain Vincente Huerta and the crew of the Fancy have been hired to retrieve a valuable item from a downed research vessel at the edge of the enemy’s space. It was going to be an easy payday. 

But what Captain Huerta and the men, women and alien under his command didn’t know was that they were being sent to the most dangerous planet in the galaxy. Something large, ancient and most assuredly evil resides on the planet of Gorgon IV. Something so terrifying that man could barely fathom it with his puny mind. Captain Huerta must use every trick in the book, and possibly write an entirely new one, if he wants to escape Murder World. 

This is the second Kaiju book by Cordova and Brown that I’ve read. The first was Kaiju Apocalypse. Apocalypse was good. Murder World is great. The characters were folks I’d like to go to a bar, buy drinks for and spend the evening listening to their stories. They are the type of folks I’d trust at my back and want at my side in a fight.

There was a realism to the story that struck home. How many of us have agreed to do something, usually against our better judgment, only to find out when it’s too late that some pertinent information has been withheld? That is exactly the situation Huerta and his crew find themselves in. Add in a kick-ass second in command, a rather pissed off (and rightfully so) ex-wife, mercenaries and Kaijus, and you have a very fun read. I highly recommend Murder World.

Next up is War to the Knife by Peter Grant. This is the first book in a new series by Grant but, from what I can tell, this series very well may tie in with his Maxwell Series, something else I highly recommend.

Laredo’s defenders were ground down and its people ruthlessly slaughtered when the Bactrians invaded the planet. Overwhelmed, its Army switched to guerrilla warfare and went underground. For three years they’ve fought like demons to resist the occupiers. They’ve bled the enemy, but at fearful cost. The survivors are running out of weapons, supplies, and places to hide. 

Then a young officer, Dave Carson, uncovers news that may change everything. An opportunity is coming to smash the foe harder than they’ve ever done before, both on and off the planet. Success may bring the interplanetary community to their aid – but it’ll take everything they’ve got. Win or lose, many of them will die. Failure will mean that Bactria will at last rule unopposed. 

That risk won’t stop them. When you’re fighting a war to the knife, in the end you bet on the blade.

I have yet to read anything by Grant that I haven’t enjoyed. This book, in a lot of ways, reminded me of reading Louis L’Amour. This is a good thing. There is a gritty realism to Grant’s characters and settings that L’Amour was the master of. L’Amour was also the consummate storyteller, something else Grant is proving himself to be.

This book celebrates the human spirit. So, cutting to the chase, if you enjoy stories of determination and individual action, of fighting for what you believe is right, this is the book for you.

Other books I’ve talked about before but still highly recommend:

Stardogs by Dave Freer
Revolution rises! 

The Interstellar Empire of Man was built on the enslavement of the gentle Stardogs, companions and Theta-space transporters of the vanished Denaari Dominion. But the Stardogs that humans found can’t go home to breed, and are slowly dying out. 

As the ruthless Empire collapses from its rotten core outward, an Imperial barge is trapped on top of a dying Stardog when an attempted hijacking and assassination go horribly wrong. Trying to save its human cargo, the Stardog flees to the last place anyone expected – the long-lost Denaari motherworld. 

Crawling from the crash are the Leaguesmen who control the Stardogs’ pilots by fear and force, and plan to assassinate Princess Shari, the criminal Yak gang, who want to kill everyone and take control of a rare Stardog for their own, and an entourage riddled with plots, poisons, and treason. But Shari and her assassin-bodyguard have plans of their own… 

Stranded on the Denaari Motherworld, the castaway survivors will have to cooperate to survive. Some will have to die. 

And some, if they make it to the Stardogs breeding ground, will have to learn what it means to love. 

Pixie Noir by Cedar Sanderson
You can’t keep a tough Pixie down…

Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job… 

“They had almost had me, that once. I’d been young and foolish, trying to do something heroic, of course. I wouldn’t do that again anytime soon. Now, I work for duty, but nothing more than is necessary to fulfill the family debt. I get paid, which makes me a bounty hunter, but she’s about to teach me about honor. Like all lessons, this one was going to hurt. Fortunately, I have a good gun to fill my hand, and if I have to go, she has been good to look at.” 

While you’re looking at the books above, I’d appreciate it if you took a moment and considered buying my books as well.




 

Why a pen name?

Yesterday was my day to blog over at Mad Genius Club and I discussed the Road to Indie. I discussed the thought process in taking Vengeance from Ashes indie instead of submitting it to NRP or another publisher. I talked about the actual process of writing, editing, converting, getting cover art, etc. Then I came to the decision to use a pen name.

I already knew there might be some comments about using a different pen name for VfA. But it was a decision I didn’t make lightly. Since I write several different genres, I wanted to make sure that those who read my urban fantasy or paranormal romance didn’t come to VfA thinking they’d be getting shapeshifters and/or romance. So I talked with some folks I trust and thought and decided that it would be best if the book came out under a new pen name.

Now, what I hadn’t anticipated was the confusion some folks who had been following the snippets would have finding the book — because I had posted it here under my name and hadn’t given them advance notice of the change. Fortunately, that was an easily corrected hurdle.

What I hadn’t expected was someone basically condemning the choice to go with a pen name that could be read as male. It was a conscious decision on my part to do so. The reason is simple — there are still people, male and female, who feel that a woman can’t write military science fiction. Then there are those who have been burned by science fiction that has been been so heavily “messaged” by the SJWs and GHHers that they will shy away from anything in the genre written by a woman. So, I chose a nickname and a family surname and didn’t give it another thought.

Until yesterday.

The truth of the matter is, my decision has nothing to do with the “fanboys” we read so much about right now. I’ve never been hassled or harried or harassed by a guy in fandom. I know some have, but I also know men how have been harassed — sexually and otherwise — by women in fandom. So, my choice of Sam Schall as a pen name had nothing to do with that.

Nor am I particularly afraid that folks will realize a woman wrote VfA. If I were, I’d have filed a DBA and the copyright page would have Sam Schall on it instead of Amanda S. Green.

It all comes down to this: I’m in the business to make money. So I have to look at factors that will help me make the most money per book. If that means having a pen name for my science fiction that some might feel is a male name, so be it. That pen name keeps the readers from becoming confused about what sort of book they are getting.

Besides, the pen names help me. I know it sounds crazy, but each pen name has a certain feel to it when it comes to writing. Ellie Ferguson, the pen name I use for the paranormal romances and romantic suspense novels, is a bit of a ditz. That really comes out in the romsus books. She listens to foofoo music (if I never hear ABBA and the Mama Mia soundtrack again, it will be too soon) when writing.

When writing under my real name, the music is more techno and the prose more detail oriented because I have to remember police procedure. As Nocturnal Interlude showed, there’s a darker side to what I write. In my mind, at least, there are more layers to the characters and their motivations than there are in Ellie’s.

Sam (which as my childhood nickname was short for Samantha. Don’t ask) is more of a natural extension of me than of Ellie. The detail is there as is the procedure. But the military aspect of the novel and the drive of the characters, especially Ashlyn Shaw, goes beyond even what we see with Mac Santos in the Nocturnal Lives series. There is a dark side to Ash that the reader gets glimpses of in Vengeance from Ashes that will come more to the forefront in the next book. She’s been damaged by what happened to her and her people. Even though she’s fighting through it, determined to do her duty even as she is equally determined to find out why they were betrayed. There is going to come a point when she discovers the truth and how that plays out I’ve not yet determined.

So, yes, I have pen names. They are like hats I put on depending on what my current project happens to be. There’s no magical reason why I chose each name, other than the fact they are all based in my family somehow. I’m not trying to hide the fact I’m female. All I am trying to do is maximize my income. I’m a writer with cats and a dog that like to eat. 😉

 

On editing, rewrites and when stories take a left turn

Since the first of the year, I’ve been periodically posting snippets from Vengeance from Ashes, a science fiction novel I’d been working on. I’d posted probably close to a quarter, maybe a bit more of the novel when the snippets stopped. It wasn’t because the book was ready to go to my editor. I wish that were the case. No, they stopped because I realized the book had gone off-course. (I was, at the time, maybe 2/3rds of the way done with the book, or so I thought.) Somewhere along the line, the book had taken a left turn that made no sense for the characters or for the ultimate story arc, not only for the book but for the other two planned in the series.

That meant I had to go back and try to figure out where things had gone wrong. But it was more than that. Not only did I have to figure out where things had gone wrong but why. Finally, I had to decide if the book, as it stood, was salvagable or if it was one of those things where I made my notes and just started over.

This was something new for me — or at least new since the time I started actually writing for publication. I’ve had a couple of project where I’ve had to go back a chapter or three to fix a plot problem but I’ve not painted myself into a plot corner this badly since everything I wrote was shoved under the bed when finished. I know now that part of the problem was that I was writing while sick, a lot sicker than I realized I was. That is one of the pitfalls anyone faces when caring for other people. In making sure that other person is taking care of himself, you tend to let your own health go down the tubes. Let’s just say I did it badly enough that I am still fighting my way back to health like so many folks right now.

Yes, I am ready for Spring and a stop of the seesaw weather that keeps me from getting completely well. But back to the story.

This time, I realized that the wrong turn started in the snippets I’d posted. That’s one of the reasons I’ll periodically remind folks that the snippets posted might not necessarily reflect the final published product. In this case, it really applies. I’ve had to go back to the beginning of the book to lay the cookie crumbs for what comes later and then do major rewrites from chapter four on. This is a very different writing process from anything I’ve done before. I’m usually one of those who doesn’t do any editing or rewriting at all until the book is finished. Oh, there have been a few times where I’ve had to go back a chapter or two just to tweak something because I did see that corner coming up and didn’t want to write myself into it. But this was a full-stop, the book isn’t working and now you have to go find out why, situation.

So, that’s why there have been no snippets of Vengeance the last few weeks. At this point, I’m not sure whether I’ll resume the snippets or not. For one, I’d have to go back and repost the edited chapters so the new material made sense. Otherwise, it would look like I’d lost my mind and my characters were now doing things or talking to folks they shouldn’t be.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m not sure what to snippet right now. I posted a snippet to Hunter’s Home earlier. Home is the next book in the Hunter’s Moon paranormal romance/urban fantasy series I’m writing under the Ellie Ferguson pen name. I could continue those snippets but the book will be out in a couple of weeks. After that, the next book due to come out is Vengeance. But, well, you know the issues I’m having about snippeting any more from it.

So, if I continue weekly snippets, they can be from either the romantic suspense that is next up on Ellie’s plate. It’s a sequel of sorts to Wedding Bell Blues (I say that because it isn’t direct sequel. It will be more like the books in the Hunter’s Moon series. The main characters from WBB will be supporting characters in the new book, Monday Morning Blues.) Or it could be the sequel to Nocturnal Interlude. I guess what I’m asking is if you have any preferences.

huntershomecoverIn the meantime, here’s another snippet from Hunter’s Home.

(Just a reminder that this is the rough draft of one of my current works -in-progress. What appears here has not yet been edited in any form and I guarantee there will be changes before it is published. Also, as always, this work is © Amanda S. Green, 2014. All rights reserved. Do not copy, distribute or otherwise disseminate without the author’s name and a link to this page. You do not have the right to alter it. You do not have the right to claim it as yours. For permission to do anything other than quote it for review or recommendation purposes, email me.)

*     *     *

Chapter Two

I closed the door behind my last client of the day sighed in relief. Every muscle ached. Other than a brief break for lunch, I’d had clients back to back, which was probably a good thing. It meant I hadn’t had time to think about my father, much less worry about what he might try next. It also meant I hadn’t had time to check in with Finn and make sure she’d gotten home all right after leaving the shop before lunch. Maybe I’d do that now, before cleaning up my work space and getting set up for the next day.

I pushed away from the door and then stopped, fishing my keys out of my pocket. I’d had enough surprises for the day. Locking the door, I nodded slightly in satisfaction. There. Now no one could get inside unless I let them in or they drove a truck through the front of the shop.

I was halfway across the waiting area when a knock at the door stopped me. I closed my eyes and counted to ten, convinced that when I turned, I’d see my father standing there. That would be just like him. He’d been furious with me because I hadn’t instantly done as he wanted. Worse, he’d been embarrassed when he realized just who – and what – Finn was. I didn’t want to think about how he might react now.

Relief filled me followed quickly by wry amusement when I turned and saw a tall woman, her brunette hair pulled back into a tail, standing on the other side of the door. Maggie Kincade grinned and waited as I hurried to unlock the door. The moment I had, she stepped inside. It didn’t surprise me when she turned the key in the lock before handing it back to me. Then, before I could react, she reached out and grabbed my chin, tilting my head this way and that, much as Finn had earlier.

“He really clocked you a good one, CJ.” Her eyes flashed angrily.

No doubt about it. Finn had called her after my father’s little show that morning. I’d expected it but that didn’t make it any easier. The morning’s events embarrassed me more than they angered me. I didn’t like knowing one of my clan leaders – and my best friend – had witnessed my father in all his foolishness.

“I should have ducked.” I gave a slight shrug and turned toward the door leading to the work area and my office. Maybe she’d take the hint that I didn’t want to talk about it.

“CJ.”

Or maybe not.

I didn’t say anything. Instead, I made my way back to my work area, knowing Maggie would follow. As I did, I knew I was lucky. If I’d tried that with Finn, I wouldn’t have gotten far. Finn didn’t like being put off. Maggie, on the other hand, would follow and wait until I was ready to talk.

At least I hoped she would.

“All right, CJ,” she said almost ten minutes later as I finished putting away the last of my equipment. “Talk to me.”

“What’s there to say, Maggie? It’s obvious Finn called you and told you what happened this morning.”

“Sit down.”

She nodded to the stool I used when working. For a moment, I balked. Then, knowing it wouldn’t do any good to stand there like a resentful teen, I hooked the stool with my right foot and pulled it close. I’m sure the look I gave her as I did translated into “Happy now?” Why couldn’t she just let the subject drop?

“As your friend, all I want to know is if you need me to file a restraining order against that son of a bitch.”

Well, that surprised me. I’d been expecting a lecture or at least questioning about why I hadn’t called her as my pride’s female alpha. Instead, there was no censure in her expression and no anger, only concern.

“No, but thanks for asking.” I gave a slight smile. “He wasn’t always like that, Maggie. Before my mom died, he seemed happy with life. Her death changed him.”

“You’ve never really told me much about your childhood. How old were you when your mother died?”

“Almost ten. We were living outside Bozeman. The pride has an enclave of sorts there. It’s a small town basically where most of the pride lives. There’s a large working ranch, larger than the one you and Jim have. There are also shops, a school, a bank, that sort of thing. There are some families in the pride that don’t live there and, of course, much of the clan doesn’t. The arrangement is a good one because the pride doesn’t always have to be on guard against discovery of what we are. It was also fun as a kid because it meant I had plenty of playmates and surrogate parents.

“From what I’ve been told, Mom moved to town before she married my father. She was one of three or four normals living there. But I never saw anyone treating her any different from one of our kind. They loved her and she loved them. She was teacher and, even though she wasn’t one of us, she worked with the pride’s youngsters as they neared their first shifts. She understood what they were going through as teens, all the hormones and emotions. Because the kids trusted her, they accepted her help and often came to her when something was bothering them. She might not have been able to shift but she was one of us in every other way.”

And I’d loved her.

“What happened to her?” Maggie’s voice was soft, gentle. She wasn’t going to push.

“Winters in Bozeman can be brutal. She’d gone into town to teach. It’d been cold that morning but no snow or anything. That changed. There was a freak storm that dropped what seemed like feet of snow. School was let out early but Mom stayed until the last of her students had been picked up. Then she called and said she was heading home. Dad told her not to. He was worried about the roads. So he told her to stay in town. But she wouldn’t. She’d promised that she’d help me with a project for school and she wasn’t going to break her promise to me.” I closed my eyes and fought back the tears as I remembered that terrible night and the guilt I’d lived with for years.

“She was less than a mile from home when a semi going in the opposite direction lost control and hit her car. Even if she’d been one of us, she’d not have survived the crash.

“Dad changed after that. For a long time, it was like the life had just gone out of him. He simply went through the motions. Then, about three years after Mom died, he started seeing Angelle Dumont. She was the daughter of the clan’s former alpha and had a reputation for sleeping with any male she thought could help further her quest to be leader after her father stepped down. Dad had started advising her father, and others in the clan, on investments and they seemed to feed off of one another. He liked being the mate to the former clan leader’s daughter. There was a certain cachet to it that appealed to him. She liked the fact that Dad suddenly had ambitions to take over the pride, and possibly the clan.

“The only problem with all that was that neither of them were, or are, alphas.” And that had been the real sticking point and the cause of all the rest of the trouble between my father and me.

“What happened?”

“When they realized they’d never be chosen as to take over pride or clan, they started looking for alternatives, namely me and Mark Blackwell, son of the pride leaders. The problem with that is Mark and I were more like brother and sister and the thought of being mates – or anything else – was wrong. That didn’t stop my father from trying to get Mark’s parents to agree to a pledging. Something he obviously still thinks happened, even though Mark is married to a wonderful young woman who reminds me of my mother in a lot of ways.”

“I think I get the picture. Your father has decided that it’s time you come home and do your duty, at least your duty as he sees it. Well, I think our clan might have something to say about that.” Maggie stood and reached down to pull me to my feet. “Go grab your bag. It’s time to go.”

For a moment, I just looked at her. The sudden change in topic surprised me. Then I narrowed my eyes, wondering what she was up to.

“Maggie?”

Instead of answering, she disappeared into my office. A moment later, she tossed me my backpack and jacket. My motorcycle helmet dangled from her left hand. She watched as I shrugged into the black leather jacket, a slight smile touching her lips as she recognized it as one she and Jim had given me a few months earlier. When they’d presented it to me, Jim told me he’d worked too many accidents where motorcyclist had met the pavement and lost. The jacket, with its matching helmet, were top of the line protection and should, assuming I didn’t do something completely insane, keep me safe.

“Now let’s get out of here. I’m ready for a drink.”

I nodded and reached for my keys. After the day I’d had, a drink sounded really good.

Except I knew there was more behind her visit the moment we left the shop. Parked next to my Harley wasn’t her black BMW M3 convertible. Instead, she’d driven Jim’s work truck, a huge Dodge Ram. The back gate was down and a ramp was angled down to the concrete of the parking lot.

Something was definitely up and I wasn’t sure I liked it.

“All right, Maggie. What’s going on?” Arms crossed, I waited. I wasn’t going anywhere until she explained.

“We’re going to the ranch, CJ.” She held up a hand before I could protest. “Your father actually did contact Matt. So there’s a meeting between your pride leaders and your clan leaders and your father tonight. I told Finn I’d pick you up and make sure you understood that there is no way in hell we’re letting him think for one more moment that he has any power over you.”

I couldn’t believe it. I’d never really thought my father would do as Finn said. I certainly didn’t think he’d actually contact Matt. Something had to be behind this sudden desperate attempt to get me home. But what? And why hadn’t I called Mark or someone back in Montana to find out what was going on?

Well, I knew that answer. I hadn’t really wanted to know. Now I had a feeling I was going to regret that decision.

“And the pickup?”

“Finn was adamant about one thing. You aren’t to ride your Harley until we’re sure Reamer is out of the area. She doesn’t trust him and, after what happened this morning, neither do I.”

“Maggie, she’s overreacting.” Besides, there was no way I’d give anyone the satisfaction of knowing they’d scared me enough to alter my regular routine.

“Overreacting?” Now it was Maggie’s turn to stare at me in disbelief. “CJ, he hit you. There’s no telling what he would have done if Finn hadn’t been here.”

“What would have happened is I’d have tossed him out on his ear.” I ground it out, anger building once again. “You are my friend and the female alpha of my pride. But I will not change how I live just because my father lost his temper. And, before you say anything, it isn’t the first time he’s hit me. I don’t know how you were raised, but I was slapped more than once but never like today. Well, that’s not quite right. He did it one other time and that’s when I left home. Before that, he’d never really hurt me. He was usually too busy ignoring me and trying to secure a position of power in the pride and clan.”

“Fine, but you will do this tonight. This isn’t just me. It’s Finn and it’s Matt. Believe me, Matt is furious and not just because that SOB hit you. He’s in full alpha mode right now because Finn was there and it scares him silly to think of what might have happened to her and their baby if your father had tried to attack her. So you will help me load your Harley into the back of the truck and then we’ll head to the ranch. You want to fight with anyone, you can do it with Matt – and with Jim who is just as angry as his brother.”

With that, she stalked to the Harley and started maneuvering it into position at the base of the ramp. Sighing, knowing it was a lost cause to argue with her, I moved to help. Maybe by the time we reached the ranch, I’d have figured out how to reassure my friends and alpha that I really was all right.

“CJ?”

We’d been driving maybe twenty minutes. In that time, neither of us had said much. What was there to say? Since I’d arrived in Dallas so long ago, I’d worked hard to build a life for myself, both in the pride and as part of the normal world. I’d proven my worth to the pride, and to the clan, not only as a tattoo artist but also as an archivist. I’d made friends and had an extended family that filled the gap left in my life after my mother died.

Now those friends wanted to stand up for me against my father. I loved them for it but I’d never been one to let others fight my battles for me. Besides, Maggie had said something back at the shop that had made my blood run cold. For a moment as my father and I argued, I’d known Finn was ready to step between us. Hell, she’d actually done so at one point. What if he’d lost his temper enough to actually strike her? If he had and anything had happened to her or the baby, my father’s life would have been forfeit. There wouldn’t be a hole deep enough or cave dark enough for him to hide in.

“I’m fine, Maggie. Just tired.”

“I’m not going to push. But I do want you to know that we love you.” She reached across the cab and gave my hand a quick squeeze. “But because we love you, we worry about you. So you have to understand that as soon as Jim found out what happened, he started a background check into your father. I hope you aren’t angry at him for it but it was that or go looking for your father and I think you’ll agree a background check is the better alternative.”

I nodded and smiled. It most definitely was the better alternative. As a cop, Jim had seen too many women who had been abused by husbands or pimps or whoever. He’d told me not long after I’d joined the pride that there were two types of men he’d as soon shoot as arrest – those who abused a woman and those who abused a child. So it wasn’t difficult to imagine his reaction upon hearing what had happened that morning.

“I know, Maggie. It’s just that I haven’t had to deal with my father in a long time and, to be honest, I’m more than a bit mortified that Finn had to be there to see what happened this morning.”

“But there’s more.”

“Yeah. I might not be an alpha like you or Finn but that doesn’t mean I like having you step in to fight my battles for me.”

“That’s your pride talking, CJ.” She flipped on the turn indicator and pulled off the highway. We weren’t far from the ranch now. “You know better than that. The only reason we are getting involved as your alphas is because your father struck you and then tried to force you to do something you didn’t want to do. Frankly, striking you is what brought it into our jurisdiction. Add to that the fact he’s here without letting Matt know and there is no way we could ignore what happened.”

I knew she was right. There are certain rules shapeshifters operate under, rules put in place for our own protection. One of them is that we let the local clan leader know when we are in their territory. In the last eighteen months, that’s a rule Matt has demanded we all adhere to. Between finding Finn being chased by trackers sent after her by the shifter who had been responsible for her parents’ death and then Maggie coming into the territory in search of a renegade shifter and his ferals, he’d seen just how important that rule was.

“I know and I love you guys for caring.” I rested my head against the back of the seat and sighed. “Maggie, I just don’t understand why he suddenly showed up. My brothers or friends back in Montana would have let me know if there was trouble.”

“So we ask him tonight and then we make it clear that your home is here for as long as you want and no one has the right to force you to go anywhere you don’t want to go.”

She spoke so confidently I had to smile and the knot of tension in my stomach began to unwind. This was home and all I had to do was remember that.

Ten minutes later, we were making our way up the long drive to the ranch house. I didn’t surprise me to see Maggie’s BMW parked out front. Next to it was Finn’s Mustang. What did surprise me was the sight of the sleek black Camero with Oklahoma plates parked next to the Mustang. Before I could say anything, not that I knew what to say, Maggie parked the truck and reached over to touch my arm.

“What? Why?”

Maybe those weren’t the most brilliant questions I’d ever asked but they were the best I could do.

Any other questions I might have asked were forgotten as the front door to the house opened and several people stepped outside. One part of my mind registered the fact that Finn stood next to her grandmother. Irene Walkinghorse, clan leader for Oklahoma and possibly the strongest alpha alive, slid an arm around her granddaughter’s waist and smiled up at her.

I knew all that but my attention was focused on the man who emerged from the house just after Finn and her grandmother. He was tall, not as tall as Jim, but he stood a good four inches taller than my five feet ten inches. His black hair, the color of a raven’s wing, was pulled back and I knew it would be in a braid that fell below his shoulders. His dark brown eyes were focused on the truck and my breath caught as a slow smile spread across his expression. At the same time, my cougar leapt forward, eager and more than a bit perturbed there were so many other people around.

Not that I blamed her one bit. But what was Rafe doing here?

“Maggie?” My voice was little more than a hoarse whisper.

“Don’t look at me, CJ.” She smiled and switched off the engine. “Finn made several calls this morning. I suggest you talk to her about it.”

That was all the explanation I needed. I don’t remember opening the truck door. I know I told myself not to rush forward. I needed to find out what was going on. But it was hard, so very hard, when both my cougar and I wanted to do nothing more than race to where Rafe stood. I wanted to feel his arms around me and I needed to hear him remind me that there really was nothing to worry about.

At least I could fall back on protocol. Finn was the clan’s female alpha and needed to be greeted as such. More importantly, her grandmother was one of the most respected leaders of our kind. Not even the desire to be with Rafe could make me forget to show her the respect and obedience she deserved.

Six feet from the porch, I dropped to my hands and knees. By the time I reached the steps, Finn and her grandmother had descended to them. I paused before Finn, showing my submission to her, my clan alpha. When I felt her lightly touch my shoulder, I lifted my head. Her palm was there and I rubbed my cheek against it. Then I moved to where her grandmother stood, dropping to my belly before her.

“Stand up, child. You never need to stand on formality with me.” Irene Walkinghorse’s voice was full of amusement as she reached down and helped me to my feet. “You are my granddaughter’s friend, her sister in many ways. That makes you family.”

“Thank you.” My throat tightened with emotion. “But why are you here?”

I wanted to look at Rafe but didn’t dare.

“I called her,” Finn said. “I thought she might have some information about your father that would be useful. After we talked, I put in a call to Rafe. I figured you might want him with you tonight.”

I didn’t know whether to groan or roll my eyes. I think I did both. Here I thought I’d been so circumspect about my relationship with her cousin. We’d been careful not to be seen together in the area. At least I thought we had. Whenever Rafe came to town, we would meet at my house, staying in and enjoying one another. He’d cook – necessary since my culinary expertise ran to burning boiling water – and then we’d watch a movie, play board games or engage in other, much more enjoyable activities.

When I finally dared to glance at Rafe, he looked as stunned as I felt. Then he grinned and, with a quick shrug, stepped past his grandmother and cousin and came to my side. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to reach out and twine my fingers with his as soon as he was within reach. Then, seeing how Finn watched us, a grin on her face, I blushed and ducked my head.

So much for trying to keep our relationship secret.

“Are you all right?” Rafe pulled me close and looked down at me, his expression darkening to see the bruise along my jaw and the swelling to my nose.

“I don’t know.” I rested my cheek against his chest. “Right now I feel like I’m in the middle of a dream and I can’t quite decide if it is going to be a farce or a nightmare.” When his fingers gently lifted my chin, I slid my arms around him and forgot the rest of the world for a moment. “I’m glad you’re here but I still don’t understand.”

“You’re not usually this slow but I guess it’s understandable. I still get that way around Matt,” Finn said with a soft chuckle. “CJ, it wasn’t hard to figure out what was going on with you two. Anyone with eyes in their heads realized there was something special between you the day Matt and I got married. You two were joined at the hip and when you weren’t, you were watching the other like you’d jump anyone else who tried to even talk to them.

“Then, about six months ago, Gran wanted to know why I kept asking Rafe to come down to Dallas. Seems I’d been asking him down on a regular basis almost since Matt and I returned from our honeymoon. She didn’t object. She was just curious about what was going on, especially since those weekends when he wasn’t down here, he was often unavailable for anything but emergencies. Funny thing, when I started thinking about it, you were often unavailable those weekend as well.”

“Uh—“

“CJ, don’t pay attention to her,” Irene said with a smile. “All I want to know is if you love my grandson.”

Oh boy, she certainly didn’t mince words. I looked past her and saw Matt watching me, a look of understanding on his face. A slight smile touched my lips as I realized he’d probably undergone a much more intensive interrogation from Finn’s grandmother when they first met. At least I knew the answer to that question and maybe it was time to quit denying it, even to myself.

“I do.” I lifted Rafe’s hand to my lips and kissed it. Then I released it. I dropped to my hands and knees once more and crawled to where Irene stood. Relief filled me as Rafe quickly mirrored my actions until we knelt here, shoulders and hips touching. “I love your grandson very much.”

“And I love her, Grandmother.” There was no hesitation or doubt in his voice and my heart soared.

“Gran, I think they need some time to talk,” Finn commented and motioned for us to get to our feet. “Your father will be here in a couple of hours, CJ. I suggest you and Rafe spend the next hour discussing what you want to do.”

“What my granddaughter is trying to say is that, while we don’t want to pressure either of you, this will be much easier to deal with if you acknowledge that you are mates before you father arrives, CJ,” Irene took up. “But that is up to the two of you.”

“Use the first guest room. It’s made up,” Maggie said. “We’ll be in the barn.”

With that, everyone walked off, leaving Rafe and I staring at one another. Then, realizing they were right, I reached for his hand and together we started inside. Hopefully by the time we were behind closed doors, I’d have some idea what to say.

*     *     *


 

Setting Goals

One of the things I’ve noticed with a lot of writers, myself included, is that all too often we don’t set hard goals for ourselves. We have the best of intentions. We’re going to finish that book or story we’ve been working on. We’re going to submit to X-number of markets and to to Y-number of conventions. Some of us even set word count goals. We’re good about sticking to these for a bit and then, slowly but surely, those goals begin to slip and we fall back into the old habits.

Over the past nine months, I’ve been working hard to set and keep certain writing-related goals. As a result, my productivity has increased and, along with it, my sales. Both are very good things. But it has also been difficult, especially because there have been a number of external forces doing their best to keep me not only from meeting my writing goals but my work goals as well. So the goals sometimes get pushed back — but only temporarily. And, more importantly, now that life seems to finally be getting back to normal (knocks on wood), I can see the light at the end of the tunnel on work goals and that means the writing goals will be able to fall into place as well.

So, what are my writing goals?

I almost hate to put them down because, sure as I do, something is going to happen that will throw a wrench in the works. However, I’ve learned something else the last few months. If I share my goals and let other people help hold me accountable for them, I do tend to get back on track quicker than when it was just me. It’s not quite as easy to procrastinate when people are asking what the status is on a certain project.

My first goal is to finish Hunter’s Pride, the third book in the Hunter’s Moon series written under the Ellie Ferguson pen name. Pride is currently 3/4 finished and should be going out to beta readers and my editor in a week or so. This book is a bit different from the others in the series and that’s made it both more difficult and more fun to write.

After that is the sf/space opera I’ve been snippeting here. My best guess on it is that it is 2/3 finished. Yes, I’m working on them at the same time and, yes, there is some mental whiplash but so far it is working. This particular project is the one that has me scratching my head though. I’m torn between putting it out on my own or through NRP. Another part, the fangirl part, wants to submit it to Baen and take my chances there. So, I’m probably going to ask my mentor and a few others what they think when I finish the rough draft. There are pros and cons to both approaches but, as I’ve said here and on Mad Genius Club many times, Baen is the only traditional publisher I’d consider right now. The others I’m watching to see how they adapt to the change in market.

I estimate the space opera will be finished in another month to six weeks.

After that, I will probably go back to writing something under the pen name. There is a real mental switch I throw between writing as Ellie and writing as myself. (Hey, I’m a writer. I’m allowed to be a bit weird.) Besides, my editor — more precisely, the treasurer for NRP who also happens to be her husband — wants me to do a follow-up to Wedding Bell Blues. WBB was written basically on a dare and has been both the bane and the blessing of my writing life. It proved to me that I can write outside the sf/f genres I had been doing and tossing under my bed for years. It also proved that I could make good money as a writer. But romantic suspense with a touch of humor was a stretch for me when I first did it. However, I know I can do it now. It’s just putting butt in chair and doing it.

The problem comes in with deciding if I want this third book in the year’s goal to a true sequel to WBB or just a “related” book. My gut feeling right now is to make it a “related” book where the lead characters from WBB are walk-ons only and not the main characters in this new work. I even have the first 100 pages or so of something already written than could be adapted. Yes, one of those popcorn kittens might actually find a home with this.

The final book I’d like to finish before the end of the year is the follow-up to Nocturnal Interlude. For one thing, I have already been threatened with bodily harm if I don’t bring the next book out soon. For another, I want to write this book. This whole series has been a project of my heart. It is the one series that, while it sometimes throws me for a loop as I write the books, it isn’t a chore to write. That’s not to say I didn’t fight Interlude more than the other titles in the series. I did. But that was because I didn’t want to follow my gut on it and that is never smart. I’m starting to understand that there are times I just have to trust myself and my muse and quit second-guessing everything as I write.

I can hear some of you thinking I’ve lost my mind. After all, I’m proposing writing somewhere between 300k-400k words this year. When you put it that way, it does appear to be a daunting task. However, when I have a plan and I have a feel for a book, it is very doable. In the last two and a half weeks, I’ve written 57k words on Hunter’s Pride in only a few hours a day.  A lot of it has been written in waiting rooms and other places that aren’t my normal workspace. Then there’s the fact that I am 65k words into the space opera. Those are huge chunks out of my goal already.

More importantly, I’ve discovered that doing this blog daily has helped my word count as well. It is as though it has become the jump start to my day. I can do a 1k word post in half an hour or so — it depends on how many interruptions I have and how often I have to get up to let the dog in/out/in and get more coffee.

So, what is my standard day? I get up, pry the eyes open, check the news — after getting coffee — and then do my post. The next few hours are spent on work for NRP. Then I sit down to write. Around five (sometimes sooner depending on housework needed, errands to run, etc), I stop for the day and spend the evening with family. After everyone goes to bed, I write or edit for another hour or so. I haven’t changed my sleep patterns nor have I given anything up. In fact, I am doing more and getting more accomplished by setting goals and routines.

Here’s crossing my fingers to hope I can keep up with it.

 

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