Nocturnal Lives

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

Tag: promotion (Page 1 of 2)

Another Title Discount

Good morning, all. Let’s get started with another sale announcement. I’ve lowered the price of Hunted to $0.99.

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

Here’s a snippet from Hunted:

THEY WERE HERE.

I knew it the moment I stepped outside. Despite all the precautions I’d taken, despite all the times I’d moved and left no forwarding address, they’d found me – again. It didn’t matter that I’d done everything possible to live off the grid. All it took was one small mistake and there they were.

Damn it. I really liked it here and now I had to move and move fast.

Assuming I lived long enough to do so.

Just moments before, I’d been thinking about the upcoming weekend. A couple of days off sounded good. I didn’t even mind the fact Dana had set me up on a blind date with her cousin. Not that I expected anything to come of it. Nothing ever did. Either my demons interfered or Michael’s trackers did – like now. Damn it, what’s a girl got to do to have a nice dinner and maybe some good sex?

Without breaking stride, I melted into the early afternoon foot traffic. A quick glance right and then left didn’t reveal my pursuers. But I knew there were there. I could feel their eyes on me. The back of my neck prickled. There was that itch between my shoulder blades. Instinct had kept me alive this long. Would it be enough now?

God, I was an idiot. I’d actually started believing Michael had forgotten about me or had decided it just wasn’t worth the effort to keep looking for my latest hiding spot. I should have known better. I’d embarrassed him when I refused his advances in front of the others. But that hadn’t been the end of it. He hadn’t let it go.

Bile rose in my throat at the memory of that long ago night. I’d learned what it meant to fight for your life then. If I closed my eyes, I could still feel his hands on me. I could smell the scent of him as he’d pulled me close. I’d fought back. That’s the one thing he hadn’t expected. It was over almost as quickly as it had started. That night I’d fled the only home I’d ever known, leaving him bleeding on the floor.

I’d run. I might not have looked back but I had kept a look out. I’d known Michael wouldn’t just let me go. But I’d never expected him to keep up the chase this long. God, would I never get my life back?

I’d arrived in Dallas almost a year ago, hoping to lose myself here. After fifteen years on the run, I was tired. I wanted nothing more than to settle down, find a mate and have a life. The thought of moving again, of having to establish yet another identity was almost more than I could bear.

Had I gotten careless because I was tired of running?

It didn’t matter what happened. The damage was done. If I wasn’t careful, I’d find myself once more facing Michael. This time there’d be no escape. He would view what happened so long ago as a direct insult to him, the clan’s Alpha. Michael had to bring me back. Otherwise the others would think he wasn’t strong enough to control a mere female. If he wasn’t strong enough to control a female, they’d question his ability to control the clan.

It didn’t matter that I had never been a “mere” anything where the clan was concerned.

None of that mattered. Only one thing did. I had to get away. The next person to bump into me could be the one I was running from. I’d never been one to act like a lamb awaiting the slaughter and this was no time to start. I might not be the Marine my father had been but he’d taught me well. He and my mother, God rest their souls, had taught me how to act under fire, real or metaphorical.

It was time to remember exactly who and what I was. I was the daughter of the former clan Alpha and his mate, who was an alpha in her own right. Let the fools Michael Jennings sent for me learn just what that meant.

If they wanted to play, I was more than happy to oblige.

I paused before the main display window for Neiman Marcus and glanced around, careful not to be too obvious about it. Yes, someone was definitely there. Again. As much as I’d like to believe whoever was watching me was more interested in my good looks – hah! – or even in stealing my backpack, I knew better. Despite all my attempts to tell myself differently, I’d felt their presence for a week now. Never at the same place and never at the same time – and never this close.

Damn it, I had gotten careless.

Fortunately, so had they. They were close enough I could scent them. Yes, them. There were at least three trackers close by. I probably ought to be flattered Michael had decided a single tracker wasn’t enough to bring me in. Hopefully, three wouldn’t be enough either.

I didn’t have time to wonder why Michael had suddenly changed tactics. Had something happened within the clan to force his hand? Or was he, like me, growing tired of the hunt

God, why couldn’t this be over? I like a good hunt as much as the next person. But only when I’m the hunter. This being the hunted didn’t sit well. One way or another, I had to end this game of cat and mouse. But I had to bide my time. Downtown Dallas wasn’t the place for a confrontation, at least not the sort I usually found myself involved in. So, unless I wanted our secret made public, I had to find some place secluded and I needed to find it quickly.

A hint of worry licked at my confidence. These hunters were better than the others Michael had sent for me in the past. They’d been able to track me no matter what I did to throw them off. That meant they were at least as good as I was, perhaps even better. So I had to be careful. No unnecessary risks. Well, at least no outrageously unnecessary ones. My whole life was one of risk. The fact that someone was stalking me – again – only proved it.

Fortunately Dallas, even downtown Dallas, wasn’t without out-of-the-way areas where I could put my plan into action. All I had to do was get to one before my unseen trackers decided to make their move.

I started down the block. Attorneys and their clients hurried down the street in the direction of the courthouse, briefcases swinging like weapons to part the crowd before them. Men and women in business suits strolled only slightly more leisurely back to their offices from lunch. One or two may have staggered, a bit worse for wear after one too many margaritas at lunch.

As the crowd pressed on down the street, I paused near the entrance to Renaissance Tower. I carefully shifted my backpack, settling it more comfortably over my left shoulder, leaving my right hand free. I wanted to be able to drop it without hesitation, or use it as a weapon, when the time came – and something told me that time would be soon.

I had to get off the streets.

A man bumped against me and I stiffened, relaxing only as he mumbled a quick, “’Scuse me” before moving on. One thing about Dallas, it’s a polite city. Even though I looked like the average college – okay, post-grad – student wandering the streets, people still greeted me and begged for forgiveness for whatever minor breech they thought they might have committed. Strange town this.

A slight smile touched my lips as I ducked inside the building. I knew it was a risk. There were any number of security cameras here, cameras that would capture my image. But they’d also capture the image of whoever followed me. It might not help me, but in the long run, it might help any who looked into my disappearance. That really was the best I could hope for.

The glass doors closed. For one moment I relished the cool air that greeted me. But I couldn’t stand there enjoying it. Too many others wanted inside, politely but insistently pushing past me. Then there were the trackers. I could feel them even if I couldn’t see them.

“May I help you, ma’am?” the uniformed security guard asked as I approached his desk. Then he looked up and grinned. This was the third delivery I’d made there this week. “Hi.”

He really did have a nice smile.

“Hi, Gil. I’ve got a delivery for George and Chandler from the Jessup Firm. They’re expecting it.”

I waited as he called upstairs to confirm my story. I hadn’t realized when I took the temporary job as runner for a local law firm that it would come in handy as a way to keep alive. I’d been surprised enough when it led to some very interesting dates. Now it seemed I had another reason to be thankful for those bottom feeders called lawyers.

“Twenty-fifth floor, Finn. Sign in and put this on.”

He pushed a clipboard across the desk in my direction with one hand and handed me a guest badge with the other. He glanced at the page as I scrawled my name on the first available line. I handed him back the clipboard and then attached the badge to the right front pocket of my jeans. There, I was official.

“When you going to finally agree to go have a drink with me, Finn?”

“When you don’t have a family to go home to, Gil.” That was one of my only rules. No married men, and especially no married men with kids.

I gave a little wave and moved toward the elevator bank. I needed to be smart now. More than my own future depended on it. I didn’t want to be the one responsible for letting the world-at-large know that shape-changers really do exist and that we walk among them. Michael might be willing to risk it but I wasn’t.

Ten minutes later, my delivery made, I stepped into the corridor and glanced around. No one else was visible. But that didn’t mean anything. My pursuers could very easily be waiting for me in the lobby. It would be easy enough to flank me as I stepped off the elevator. They’d rely on the fact I wouldn’t want to create a scene. By the time we were away from the crowds, it would be too late – at least for me.

They could be closer, hiding in the restrooms down the hall or in one of the stairwells. I doubted they had given up, but I could no longer feel them bearing down on me. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or not. All I knew for sure was I had to get out of the building without being forced to either surrender or reveal much more to the public than any of our kind wanted to.

The elevator doors slid open and I tensed. Instead of the demons from my past appearing, a couple of well-dressed women stepped out instead. From their whispered conversation, I knew they were talking about a different kind of assignation than the one I’d been expecting. No, they were comparing notes on their love lives, oblivious to all around them.

Inspiration hit. I reached out and stopped the door before it could close. I punched the buttons to make the elevator car stop on the twenty first, nineteenth and tenth floors before coming to a stop in the lobby. Unless I missed my guess, the car would stop on at least one other floor along the way which was all to the good. The more stops it made, and the more people who got on and off, the more difficult it became for my pursuers to realize where I had actually gone

Now, to get out of the building. Then I could make sure that any confrontation happened on my terms and not theirs.

I resisted the urge to run as I walked toward the stairwell door. I could hurry once there. Then I’d take the stairs up six floors and then take the elevator down. Everything above the thirtieth floor used a different bank of elevators than the one I’d come up on. Those elevators opened out of sight of the main lobby. Even better, they opened just across from the stairwell door that led down to the parking garage. If I could just cross to that door, I’d be in the garage before anyone knew it.

Of course, that was a very big IF….

The elevator doors opened and I let myself be swept out by the other passengers. I glanced around, every sense alive and seeking. Much as I’d hoped my shadows had given up, at least one was still there. I could feel him. He was close, too close for comfort. But where? Why couldn’t I see him?

Praying the explanation was as simple as whoever it was happened to be on the opposite side of the elevator bank and blind to my return, I looked for the stairwell door. All I had to do was get to it. That’s all. Only ten feet separated me from potential freedom.

With my backpack thumping against my side, I hit the door at a dead run. Now we’d play it my way. Let’s see just how good he – or she – happened to be. I’d bet my life – hell, I was betting my life – that he hadn’t. Dear God, I hoped I wasn’t backing the wrong horse this time.

I pelted up the drive, climbing, climbing until I saw daylight. Cars lined up at the gates, waiting for their tickets to enter or to pay so they could exit. I slipped between them, emerging onto the street. Even then I didn’t slow. I couldn’t. Not when I could hear someone behind me. Running feet, labored breathing. Good. He wasn’t in the physical condition I was and he’d pay for it. Then he’d tell me what I wanted to know or pay an even greater price.

I veered to my right into another parking garage, an above-ground one this time. We’d already run more than a city block, not counting the time in the bank’s parking garage. I could feel my pursuer flagging. Good. Just a little longer. I had to be careful about where I chose to confront him. But soon, very soon, this would be over.

There’s something about the hunt that excites at the primal level. It doesn’t matter if you’re the hunted or the hunter. At least it doesn’t matter to me. My senses seem to sharpen as my pulse increases. My mind clears and a sort of calm settles over me. I know how good I am. I’ve managed to survive combat situations and too many chases like this one because of it. This hunter, if you dared call him that, was no match for me.

I raced up the ramp, one level and then two. My running shoes, carefully selected for just such an emergency, cushioned my steps. Only a muted slap-slap-slap with each footfall betrayed me. Even though my pulse raced, my breathing was barely labored. I was born for the hunt.

I hit the door leading to the stairwell. Time to add some distance between us. The door slammed behind me, just as I wanted. I wanted him in the stairwell. I wanted him to wonder which direction I’d gone. When he started up the stairs, he’d be even more tired. That would make him an easier target when the time came.

Three flights up, I slammed through another door. I didn’t think about anyone else who might be on the other side. This was between me and the man following me. The world had shrunk to just the two of us. There wasn’t time to worry about anyone else. Not until this was over. Until he was over.

Then I could worry about consequences.

I slowed, my eyes scanning the level. Almost every parking space was filled. The cars and vans increased the shadows on the level, making it easier to hide. And hide I was going to do. Now was the time for patience and cunning. Maybe it was even time to play with the fool a bit before pouncing. This mouse had very sharp teeth and the cat had better be battle-hardened before going after it.

He was close. I could feel it even as I heard him coming nearer. The fool. Why wear boots if you’re trying to stalk someone? Every step he took reverberated, even through the closed door. Soon, very soon, it would be over.

I crouched behind a van near the top of the ramp, hidden in the shadows. My backpack rested on the concrete beside me. Down the aisle, the stairwell door clanged shut, followed almost instantly by a sharp curse. I couldn’t help smiling. It just kept getting better.

I remained where I was, secure in the knowledge the shadows were, as always, my friend. For a moment, the only sounds were those of my heart beating and my slow, even breaths. There! A step. Then another. His pace quickened. He wasn’t running, but it was close. If I’d had any doubts about being followed, I no longer did.

Waiting, listening as he moved up the aisle, memory intruded. This was wrong. There had been at least three of them when I’d ducked into the bank building. Why had they split up? More importantly, where had the others gone? I might have little respect for Michael but he wasn’t a fool. He’d have sent a team that worked well together. So why was this team breaking all the rules?

Leaving my backpack, I edged around the rear of the van. The backpack, if the tracker found it, would delay him further. It would divert his attention and give me the chance to act. But I had to take care not to blow my chance before it arrived.

I crept behind another vehicle, this one big and black. Some sort of SUV. I really didn’t care what it was as long as it offered me protection. Now was when hunter became the hunted and the thrill of it raced through me. If only we were away from town where this could become a real hunt. It had been too long since I’d allowed my jaguar out and now it strained against my control, confident it was better at this game of cat and mouse than I.

Hell, it probably was, not that I dared do anything about it now. The trackers might be willing to risk exposing our existence, but I wasn’t. I couldn’t. There were too many others who’d suffer if the normals discovered the things of their nightmares walked among them.

Footsteps neared. Slower now, more relaxed. It was almost as if someone was taking a leisurely stroll down the aisle. Had I misjudged? Was it possible my stalker had been playing me? No, I didn’t believe that. There had to be another explanation.

I shrank further into the shadows. My heart hammered. Fear clawed at my throat. For one moment, I closed my eyes. I prayed this was all some horrible dream I’d soon awaken from. But it wasn’t. I’d learned long ago that the only nightmares are the ones we’re forced to live, day after day after day.

A car door opened just a few yards away and I started nervously. My hands flew to my mouth in a desperate attempt to silence my gasp. It wasn’t him. By all that was holy, it wasn’t him. It had been an innocent, that’s all. Whoever it was, they weren’t a part of this. All I had to do was wait for them to leave. Then I could finish this, once and for all.

If I had time. For all I knew, the hunter had heard my gasp and even now was using the sounds of the car starting and backing out of its space to distract me as he closed in on my location. Dear God, what should I do?

Patience. I had to stay patient and not move too soon. I couldn’t risk getting careless now, with the end so close.

A red sedan slowly passed my hiding space. Behind the wheel sat an attractive, gray haired woman. From where I crouched in the shadows, I could see she hadn’t locked her doors. It would be so easy to slide into the backseat as she drove past, to force her to drive me out of there and away from my pursuer. It was so tempting. . . .

No! That wasn’t the way. It was far too dangerous to involve someone else, someone outside the clan. In this day and age of lo-jack tracking on cars and global positioning software in cell phones, it wasn’t a risk I was willing to take. One phone call to the police and they’d know within minutes where the car was. I might be willing to do a lot of things but risking a police shoot out wasn’t one of them.

The car disappeared around the curve and I sank back against the wheel of the SUV. Where was he? My ears strained and my heart pounded. No matter how many times I’d been in this position – and I’d been there more times than I cared to count – it never got any easier. But this time was different. I could feel it. The hunter was alone and a one-on-one fight suited me just fine.

I wouldn’t kill him unless he forced me to. Not that I wouldn’t do whatever was necessary to find out how he’d found me. Once I knew that, I could disappear into the shadows again and move on, another town and another identity.

Again.

Leather scraped concrete and my muscles tensed. I waited, ready to pounce. All he had to do was come a little closer.

Wait. Something was wrong. This was all happening too easily. Was it possible this was all some sort of elaborate trap they’d laid to capture me?

Fear licked at my confidence and without thought I glanced down, frantically searching for that tell-tale red dot of a laser scope. Nothing. If anyone besides the two of us were there, they hadn’t tagged me, at least not yet. Maybe I was worrying for no reason.

I dropped to my stomach and looked under the cars, searching for another set of feet, for anything to prove or disprove my fears. Nothing. Only the boots and jeans of the lone tracker.

I sat back up and drew a slow, deep breath. My lips pulled back, baring my teeth and a low, primal growl fought for release as my jaguar fought for control. My muscles all but quivered in anticipation as each step brought the tracker closer, ever closer.

From where I crouched, I saw his legs first. Faded blue jeans. Black, worn boots. Interesting. That wasn’t the usual attire of the trackers but it did make sense if this one was trying to blend in. Maybe he wasn’t quite the amateur I first thought. Or maybe not. Although he moved slowly up the aisle, checking first one direction and the other as he scanned between the parked cars, his hands were visible and very empty. My well-trained eye saw no hint of a weapon anywhere on him. Good. That would make things much easier.

I slipped further into the shadows cast by the SUV and the wall behind me. All I needed was for him to take another couple of steps forward. That’s all. Then I’d be in his blind spot and could move. He’d never know what hit him. By the time he figured it out, it would be too late and they would both be well away from there and anyone who might be looking for him.

Silently, I rose from my crouch and stepped into the aisle, ready to attack. My head jerked up, the scents of the other trackers suddenly assailing me. Damn it! It had been a trap. Somehow, I’d played into their hands. But how? How had they known this was where I’d come?

My mind may have frozen, but my body acted on instinct. I turned and took first one step and then another. I had to run. It didn’t matter where. All that mattered was getting out of there. I’d made the worst mistake possible. I’d become over-confident and I’d fallen into their trap.

The screeching of tires filled the air. A moment later, a black Mustang slid to a stop beside me.

“Get in!” the driver yelled as the passenger door swung open

For a moment, hope flared. Escape was at hand.

Three sharp jabs hit my back, like needles or nails, as I dove into the car. Then my system lit up. It felt as if a thousand – no, a million – hot needles suddenly pierced me. Every nerve seemed to catch fire. No longer would my body answer my commands. Muscles tensed, spasmed and I slumped forward. There was pain – I think there was pain – as I hit the dashboard face first. Then I was thrown back against the passenger seat as the Mustang sped off.

Breathe. I had to breathe. But my lungs wouldn’t work. Panic filled me. This is what Hell must be like. A mind alive and terrified in a body that does nothing but scream in agony. Dear God, was this really the day I’d die?

***

Yesterday, I announced that I’ve put Wedding Bell Blues on sale for $0.99.  Nocturnal Origins is also still on sale for $0.99.

Business

This is going to be a short post today. Over the weekend, I had a long talk with myself and one of the things I need to do is take care of business. In this case, it means more than writing, although that’s a big part of it. I need to go back and check my sales trends for the last quarter, six months and year. If adjustments need to be made, I need to figure out what they are and start taking steps in the right direction. That might mean changing the price on some items and updating covers on others.

It also means looking at my marketing plan and bringing it up-to-date. For those of you who have been following me here and at Mad Genius Club, you know I hate promoting my own work. I know. I know. It’s silly. I’m a writer. That means I ought to be shouting from the rooftops when I have a new book coming out. It also means I should be reminding everyone about my books and short stories that are already out. Unfortunately, like so many writers, I’d rather keep my head down and just write.

Part of that is how I was raised. My folks would have smacked me up side the head, figuratively if not literally, if I started bragging about my accomplishments. Oh, it was okay for them to brag on me but not for me to do it. So, after that upbringing, it’s hard to break the habit. But, I have to remember that I’m not bragging on myself when I promote my books. They are my business and that promotion is advertising.

So, I need to look at what I’ve been doing and deciding what works, what doesn’t and what would if I was really doing it the way I should. That means adulting and being businesslike and that makes for a grumpy Amanda. 😉

In the meantime, I have a favor to ask. If you’ve read my books, please go to Amazon and leave a review. Believe it or not, reviews really do help with the promotion end of the business because Amazon has certain levels we have to reach on the number of reviews and how many stars before they start including the books on the “if you liked this, you might like that” sort of recommendations.

Now, I’m off to be businesslike today. Back tomorrow.

Freebies and an update

Here’s hoping everyone is having a wonderful holiday season. Mine was made especially good because my son was home for Christmas for the first time in three years. Now, however, it is time to get back down to work and get busy and back on schedule — at least for me.

So, to start, I have three books set for free through tomorrow.

Hunted (Hunter’s Moon Book 1)

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

 

***

Nocturnal 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.

***

Wedding Bell Blues

Weddings always bring out the worst in people. Or at least that’s the way it seems to Jessica Jones as her younger sister’s wedding day approaches. It’s bad enough Jessie has to wear a bridesmaid dress that looks like it was designed by a color blind Harlequin. Then there’s the best man who is all hands and no manners. Now add in a murder and Jessie’s former lover — former because she caught him doing the horizontal tango on their kitchen table with her also-former best friend. It really is almost more than a girl should be expected to handle. . . .

 

I will be placing Dagger of Elanna, the second book in the Sword of the Gods series, up for pre-order later this week. Release date will be mid- to late January (at the latest). I still have to study the calendar a bit to decide the final release date. (As well as making sure there is plenty of time to make sure there are no glitches in the print release at the same time.)

Once that is uploaded, I’ll put the finishing touches on a short story in the Honor and Duty universe before moving on to finish up Nocturnal Uprising (working title) as well as the second installment of Skeletons in the Closet. The short story should be up by the end of January. Hopefully, the next installment of Skeletons will be shortly after that, perhaps end then of February. Then, after Uprising will be Victory from Ashes, the final book in the current story arc of Honor and Duty. After that will be the next Eerie Side of the Tracks novel. Of course, now that I’ve set all that in my calendar, you know what’s going to happen. Myrtle the Evil Muse will hit me over the head with yet another story idea that has to be written NOW!

Something to keep your mind occupied

This morning, when I turned on the news, one of the local medical reporters was talking about how everyone’s stress level was going to be up today. Her suggestion was to find something to do, something you enjoyed, and to stay away from social media, etc. Well, I’m all for doing my civic duty so here is a list of some of the books the Mad Genius Club have published. (Okay, I’ll grab at any excuse to do a promo post. VBEG)

Dave Freer:

TOM

Tom is a cat in trouble. The worst possible kind of trouble: he’s been turned into a human. Transformed by an irascible old magician in need of a famulus — a servant and an assistant, Tom is as good at being a servant as a cat ever is. The assistant part is more to Tom’s taste: he rather fancies impressing the girl cats and terrorizing the other toms by transforming himself into a tiger. But the world of magic, a vanished and cursed princess, and a haunted skull, and a demon in the chamber-pot, to say nothing of conspiring wizards and the wickedest witch in the west, all seem to be out to kill Tom. He is a cat coming to terms with being a boy, dealing with all this. He has a raven and a cheese as… sort of allies.

And of course there is the princess.

If you were looking for ‘War and Peace’ this is the wrong book for you. It’s a light-hearted and gently satirical fantasy, full of terrible puns and… cats.

*

Changeling’s Island (Baen)

Tim Ryan can’t shake the feeling that he is different from other teens, and not in a good way. For one thing, he seems to have his own personal poltergeist that causes fires and sets him up to be arrested for shoplifting.

As a result Tim has been sent to live on a rundown farm on a remote island off the coast of Australia with his crazy grandmother, a woman who seems to talk to the local spirits, and who refuses to cushion Tim from facing his difficulties. To make matters worse, Tim is expected to milk cows, chase sheep, and hunt fish with a spear.

But he’s been exiled to an island alive with ancient magic—land magic that Tim can feel in his bones, and sea magic that runs in his blood. If Tim can face down the danger from drug runners, sea storms, and the deadly threat of a seal woman who wishes to steal him away for a lingering death in the land of Faery, he may be able to claim the mysterious changeling heritage that is his birthright, and take hold of a legacy of power beyond any he has ever imagined.

Amanda S. Green:

Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1)

War is coming. The peace and security of the Ardean Imperium is threatened from within and without. The members of the Order of Arelion are sworn to protect the Imperium and enforce the Codes. But the enemy operates in the shadows, corrupting where it can and killing when that fails. Fallon Mevarel, knight of the Order of Arelion, carried information vital to prevent civil war from breaking out. Cait was nothing, or so she had been told. She was property, to be used and abused until her owner tired of her. What neither Cait nor Fallon knew was that the gods had plans for her, plans that required Fallon to delay his mission. Plans within plans, plots put in motion long ago, all converge on Cait. She may be destined for greatness, but only if she can stay alive long enough.

*

Witchfire Burning (Eerie Side of the Tracks Book 1)

Long before the Others made their existence known to the world, Mossy Creek was their haven. Being from the wrong side of the tracks meant you weren’t what the rest of the world considered “normal”.

Normal was all Quinn O’Donnell wanted from life. Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks”, she had been the only normal in the family. The moment she was old enough, she left and began life as far from her Texas hometown as possible. Now she has a job she enjoys and a daughter she loves more than life itself. Their life is normal, REALLY normal, until her daughter starts calling forth fire and wind.

Quinn knows they must go back so her mother can help five-year-old Ali learn how to control her new talents. But in Mossy Creek nothing is ever simple. Quinn’s mother has gone missing. Secrets from Quinn’s past start coming back to haunt her.

And the family home is more than a little sentient.

Can Quinn keep everyone — particularly Ali — safe? And will she ever get back her illusion of normalcy?

Sarah A. Hoyt:

Dragon Blood: A Collection of Short Stories

From the trenches of WWI where the Red Baron just can’t help turning into a dragon, to the desert sands of a future world where humans have become something else, from a coffee shop between worlds where magicians gather, to a place where your worst nightmare can love you, let Dragon Blood take you on a series of fantastic adventures.

With an introduction by Pam Uphoff.

This collection contains the stories: Rising Above, From Out The Fire, Yellow Tide Foam, Hot, The Blood Like Wine,The Least Of These Little Ones,
Scraps Of Fog,Something Worse Hereafter,The Littlest Nightmare,Dragon Blood

*

Through Fire (Darkship Book 4)

Against all odds, spaceship mechanic Zen Sienna finds herself in a fairytale palace, being courted by the ruler of vast lands. But when revolution erupts and heads start to roll, Zen finds that the life of a storybook princess is not be all fancy balls and happy endings. Swept up in a whirlwind of fire and blood, Zen must earn her citizenship on Earth and find her place in a world on the brink of revolution.

Kate Paulk:

ConVent (The Vampire Con Series Book 1)

A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. Whoever picked this team to save the world wasn’t thinking of sending the very best. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good is being staged in science fiction conventions, amid people in costume, misfits and creative geniuses, any convetional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose — literally.

ConVent is proof that Kate Paulk’s brain works in wonderfully mysterious ways. A sarcastic vampire, his werewolf best buddy, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. The “Save the world” department really messed it up this time.

*

Impaler

Impaler by Kate Paulk revisits the tale of Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad Tepes and Vlad the Impaler. This is the tale of historical fact mixed with fiction and a touch of fantasy. But this is most definitely not the tired tale of vampires skulking in the night, lying in wait for innocent victims. Impaler tells the tale of a man devoted to family and country, cursed and looking for redemption. December, 1476. The only man feared by the all-conquering Ottoman Sultan battles to reclaim his throne. If he falls all of Europe lies open to the Ottoman armies. If he succeeds… His army is outnumbered and outclassed, his country is tiny, and he is haunted by a terrible curse. But Vlad Draculea will risk everything on one almost impossible chance to free his people from the hated Ottoman Empire.

Jason Cordova:

Kraken Mare

Sergeant John Manning was a simple Marine who liked spicy foods, big guns, and even bigger explosions- so long as those guns and explosions weren’t pointed in his direction.

When offered a well-paying job after being unceremoniously drummed out of his beloved Corps on a medical discharge, he jumped at the opportunity for good money and the prospects of a bright future. For the first time in recent memory, John had a chance at life.

Then his life turned into a horror movie.

The secret research station hidden on the moon of Titan was not just any government facility. It harbored dark secrets and frightening realities. The scientists here have not only studied more than just the local fauna, but have discovered something far more important. A discovery which would shock the very foundations of the universe. Something out of a nightmare.

The depths of Kraken Mare hid a horrifying truth, and the unwitting Marine stumbled right into it.

Pam Uphoff:

A Tale of Three Interns (The Directorate Book 2)

#2 in the The Directorate series

A Novella.

Ebsa, Paer and Ra’d have survived their first year at the Directorate School. No doubt this summer internship will be boring. It’s not like they’d let them do anything dangerous . . . like assist in a study of dinosaurs.

Peter Grant:

Take The Star Road (The Maxwell Saga Book 1)

Nineteen-year-old Steve Maxwell just wants to get his feet on the star road to find a better homeworld. By facing down Lotus Tong thugs, he earns an opportunity to become a spacer apprentice on a merchant spaceship, leaving the corruption and crime of Earth behind. Sure, he needs to prove himself to an older, tight-knit crew, but how bad can it be if he keeps his head down and the decks clean?

He never counted on the interstellar trade routes having their own problems, from local wars to plagues of pirates – and the jade in his luggage is hotter than a neutron star. Steve’s left a world of troubles behind, only to find a galaxy of them ahead…

David Pascoe:

Tales of the Unquiet Gods

Unearthly darkness stalks the streets of Manhattan. Glowing eyes haunt forgotten tunnels. In the daylight, inhuman shadows grow ever deeper and … hungry. Six are chosen to confront this gnawing evil, and given help from an unexpected power. Hunting them come walking shadows and fallen godlings, abominations and darkling creations seeking to devour their very souls. Follow a busker, a bouncer, a homeless vet, and a cop as they the battle the darkness without and the despair within, for the fate of the city and the souls of those they love.

Cedar Sanderson:

Jade Star (Tanager Book 1)

Jade is determined to die. She is old, and useless, when she points her tiny subspace craft at the cold stars. She wakes up in the care of others who refuse to grant her death, and instead give her a new mission in life.

Jade isn’t happy, and she only gets angrier when she learns that her mysterious new home hides a horrible secret. It’s time for this old lady to kick butt and take names. Aliens, death, destruction… nothing trumps the fierce old woman who is protecting her family.

A Tanager Novella

*

Pixie Noir (Pixie for Hire Book 1)

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.”

Brad Torgersen:

The Chaplain’s War

A Chaplain’s Assistant, serving in Earth’s space fleet, is trapped behind enemy lines where he struggles for both personal survival and humanity’s future.

The mantis cyborgs: insectlike, cruel, and determined to wipe humanity from the face of the galaxy.

The Fleet is humanity’s last chance: a multi-world, multi-national task force assembled to hold the line against the aliens’ overwhelming technology and firepower. Enter Harrison Barlow, who like so many young men of wars past, simply wants to serve his people and partake of the grand adventure of military life. Only, Harrison is not a hot pilot, nor a crack shot with a rifle. What good is a Chaplain’s Assistant in the interstellar battles which will decide the fate of all?

More than he thinks. Because while the mantis insectoids are determined to eliminate the human threat to mantis supremacy, they remember the errors of their past. Is there the slightest chance that humans might have value? Especially since humans seem to have the one thing the mantes explicitly do not: an innate ability to believe in what cannot be proven nor seen God. Captured and stranded behind enemy lines, Barlow must come to grips with the fact that he is not only bargaining for his own life, but the lives of everyone he knows and loves. And so he embarks upon an improbable gambit, determined to alter the course of the entire war.

*

Lights in the Deep

Ten astounding tales by triple award nominee Brad R. Torgersen. Go on fantastic new adventures at the bottom of Earth’s oceans and at the edge of the solar system. Meet humans who are utterly alien and aliens who are all too human. Originally featured in the pages of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine as well as Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, these stories are gathered here for the first time, along with anecdotes and other commentary from the author. Introductions by Stanley Schmidt, Mike Resnick and Allan Cole. Features the stories Ray of Light (2012 Hugo & Nebula nominee), Outbound (2011 Analog Readers Choice Award winner), and Exanastasis (2010 Writers of the Future Award winner).

Cross-posted from Mad Genius Club.

On Writing and Promotion

I don’t know a single writer who wouldn’t rather write than promote. That is especially true in this day of the ever-changing publishing landscape. Indies, and even authors who sign with small presses, know that part of our job is to promote our work. What so many who are trying to break into the business don’t understand is that signing a contract with a major publisher doesn’t remove promotion from their job description.

One of the biggest fallacies some still cling to is that traditional publishers will spend the big bucks to promote books that aren’t earmarked as best sellers. We see shows like Castle and read books where authors are sent on grand tours by their publishers and it is all on the publisher’s dime. The truth of the matter is, unless you are a best seller or someone who is being tagged as one, all you can really count on from your publisher in the way of promo is getting you into the catalog buyers for bookstores see.

So, whether you are traditionally published or going indie, you have to have a marketing plan. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill you can take to make you a marketing genius. What works for one author probably won’t work for another. But there are some things you can — and cannot – do to increase your visibility and appeal to readers.

Okay, okay, I know. I’m not the greatest at marketing. But I do try. Or maybe I should put it another way. I do my best not to piss off my readers with what marketing I do. I know some of my blog posts might do that, especially in an election year when everyone seems to be on edge. That is one reason I cut back on blogging for a bit. I needed to get my own perspective back.

Anyway, this post is sort of an add-on to what I wrote for MGC earlier this week and it is partly a response to something that happened to me yesterday.

For those of you who do Twitter, I’m sure you’ve seen those authors who pepper your feed multiple times a day with tweets about their new work, or something they’ve just put on sale, or what they are writing right now. That quickly becomes, for me at least, like spam e-mail or the junk mail that clutters your physical mailbox. Do it often enough and I’ll start remembering the name and put it into the “annoying list” and think twice about buying anything from that author.

Mailing lists are the same. I belong to the mailing lists for several authors and I look forward to mailings from them because they are newsy. They give me information I’m interested in: where the author will be making an appearance and when, announcements of upcoming releases, etc. These e-mails come, at most, once a month unless there is special news to be announced.

In other words, they don’t turn into junk mail.

Fill my inbox up with multiple copies of the same promotional e-email, fill it up with e-mails that don’t give me new information that makes me want to buy your work, and you are failing in what you are attempting to do.

The biggest way to turn me off of your work is to sign me up for your mailing list without first asking my permission. That ranks right up there with adding me to Facebook groups/pages without first asking. It shows that you don’t have enough respect for me as a fan or, frankly, as anything else to ask if I’m interested. It is also the surest way to get on my shit list.

Promotion is supposed to encourage people to buy your work, no matter what your medium is. When it does the opposite, you have failed and you need to step back and look long and hard at what you are doing and ask yourself if you screwed up. If the answer is yes, you apologize and then change.

I think the problem is that there are those of us who look at adding people to groups or pages or lists without permission is like making a cold call. For those of you who haven’t had to do this before, it is going through a directory of some sort and calling businesses or people who might be interested in your services and then trying to sell them on it before they hang up on you. The problem is, most businesses are used to this sort of thing and take it in stride. They tell you “thank you but no” and, if you understand your job, you move on to the next call.

Now think about how you feel when you get that cold call just as you’ve sat down for dinner. You resent it, in all likelihood. You remember if that person or company continues to call or if they push to try to keep you on the phone. If you’re like me, you remember those calls and they move to the end of the list of who I’d call if I needed the services they offered.

In other words, treat your readers and those you want to become your readers with the same respect you want to be treated.

Now I need to get off the internet and figure out my next marketing plan and finish writing the next book. In the meantime, why not check out my Amazon page?

Tuesday morning thoughts

Today is my day over at Mad Genius Club. I’ll admit it. I climbed on my soapbox this morning after seeing an article about how a writer quit her day job weeks before her first book came out (she signed with a traditional publisher) and who now is faced with the harsh reality of bills needing to be paid. She now finds herself in the same situation so many writers are faced with — work a “real” job to make sure the bills are paid and food is on the table and not be able to write as much as she’d like or not work and then have the stress of life shut down the writing. You can see the post, and my comments, here.

I’ll be the first to admit, promotion is my weak suit. I would much rather be writing books than a blog post and I abhor Twitter. So I’m looking at other ways to promote my work, ways that won’t break the bank and yet will get the word out there. I also don’t want to fill your email boxes with ads and announcements that you already see here or elsewhere. Yes, mailing lists have their place and some authors do them very well. Others seem to feel obliged to send something out on a weekly or monthly basis, even if they have nothing to say or announce. I would rather be in the former rather than the latter. So, before I go that route, I want to study it some more.

In the meantime, it is writing, writing and more writing. I’m going to try something a bit different with one of my works. This is one of those “you have to write me before you can do anything else” titles. I’ve snippeted Skeletons in the Closet here before. You can find the first snippet here. I think what I’m going to do with it is put it out in a series of two or three novellas. Part of the reason is that, unlike some of my other work, Skeletons does fit that mode. So the first one will be released in a week or two.  Approximately two weeks after that, I’ll release the still untitled book that had to be written that sort of blends the worlds of Skeletons with the world of Slay Bells Ring. Skeletons is very definitely a blend of urban fantasy and modern fantasy. Later installations may add some romance to the mix. Slay Bells is romantic suspense. The untitled is a blend of all that and they all take place in the same small and very fictitious town.

But not to worry. Dagger of Elanna, the sequel to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1), is coming along very nicely. For those of you who said you wanted more of Fallon in this book, you’re getting your wish. He listened to you and shoved his way in, telling me he was here to stay. VBEG. If everything goes according to plan, Dagger should be heading out to the editor in a month and will be out shortly after that.

Victory from Ashes is taking shape as well. I’ve roughed that one out and will probably tackle it after Dagger. Yes, I know Nocturnal Uprising, the next book for Mac Santos and company, should be the one coming out after Dagger but that books is vexing me right now. I know what I want to do but it doesn’t feel right yet. That means my subconscious is still working out some of the twists and turns. It is possible that things will shake out by the time I finish Dagger but I’m not willing to bet on it. Still, my plan is to have it out by late winter.early spring next year.

What I have to do later this week is take a day or two and redesign my website and link it better with this blog. This is an artifact of having started writing with a closed pen name. Even though I continue to use the pen names, they aren’t closed and there is no reason why I shouldn’t pull everything together under one site. But that, like doing regular promotion, isn’t as much fun as writing. That means I have to remind myself to do it.

Anyway, I’ll be back tomorrow with another snippet from Dagger. I hope you guys are enjoying it. More later, too, on the release of Skeletons and the rest of it.

A snippet and a sale

Later this week, Slay Bells Ring, a romantic suspense novel written under the pen name Ellie Ferguson, will be released. I’ve posted a couple of snippets before but thought I would re-post them, especially since some changes (minor for the snippets) have been made. Now, for the usual reminder. This snippet, as with everything on the site, is mine and is copyright 2015. 

I’d also like to remind everyone of the Indie Author Christmas Sale. For the full post, click here. My newest release, Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4), is listed as part of the promotion.

And now for the snippet from Slay Bells Ring.

***

slay bells ring coverWelcome to beautiful Mossy Creek!

I stared at the green and white sign, my stomach a knot of tension. Once I drove past, I’d be caught. There would be no turning back. But it wasn’t too late, not yet. I could still turn around and drive as far and as fast as possible from the small town where I’d grown up. I’d done it before. I could do it again.

Unfortunately, circumstances changed and I had grown up. That meant running didn’t come as easily as it once had.

My fingers drummed against the Mustang’s steering wheel and shook my head. Twelve years ago, I’d left Mossy Creek to attend college. I’d sworn then that I’d never return, at least not for more than a day or two at a time. There had been more to it than a high school graduate’s desire to strike out on her own. God, there had been so much more. Even then, I knew I needed to get away from the watchful eye of my parent – note the singular.

The truth was I needed to get away or I’d be forever lost in my mother’s shadow, and believe me, my mother casts a very wide shadow, at least metaphorically speaking.

So I’d worked hard all through high school, making sure my grades were the best they could be. I knew I’d have to get a scholarship out of state because Catherine Eugenia Metzger Grissom Anderson Carlisle had her mind set on me attending the University of Texas at Austin, THE university, and joining the Pi Beta Phi sorority is her legacy. After all, I had a duty to keep up the family tradition, didn’t I?

The only problem with that was the tradition began and ended with Mama. Not that it stopped her from trying to force the issue.

Fortunately for everyone concerned, she hadn’t been able to get my scholarship to the University of Maryland revoked. Believe me, she tried. World War III, should it ever happen, will look mild in comparison to the arguments we had those last few months before I left town. It got so bad toward the end that I’d been tempted to accept a scholarship to Texas A&M just to see the look on her face when I told her that her only daughter was going to attend UT’s most hated rival other than the University of Oklahoma. The only reason I hadn’t done just that was the simple fact that College Station was much too close to home for comfort.

Well, that and the fact that Sam Caldwell would be there, but that’s another story, one I’d closed the book on long ago.

So I packed my bags and bade a not so fond farewell to Mossy Creek, bound for College Park, Maryland instead of College Station, Texas, ready for my life to begin.

Only to find myself just shy of my thirtieth birthday staring at the city limit sign marking the edge of Mossy Creek and wondering if I could just turn around and drive off, never looking back. Not that it was really a choice. I couldn’t ignore this latest summons home, not if I wanted to be able to live with myself.

The sooner I slid the transmission into drive, the sooner I find out what was going on. Life would’ve been so much simpler if I hadn’t answered the phone that morning.

 

Chapter One

“Juliana, you have to come home.”

My heart stopped. No one called me Juliana anymore. Heck, no one had called me that since I was little girl. Growing up, I’d been Anne or Annie – usually Annie, at least at school. I’m still surprised that alone hadn’t landed me in therapy for the rest of my life. Try growing up in a small town as a girl with curly red hair who also happens to have a twin brother named Andrew and who, back then, was called Andy. Is it any wonder the two of us have more than a few mother issues?

Now that I’m grown, when someone calls me by my full name, I know there’s trouble. When it’s my grandmother, I know it’s bad trouble. That’s doubly true when the call comes in before six on a Monday morning just a few weeks before Christmas. The last time I’d received such a call, my grandfather had suffered a stroke. He died before I could get home.

God, what had happened now?

“What’s wrong?”

I sat at the kitchen table and looked longingly at the coffeemaker. I had just pressed the brew button when the phone rang. Instinct had me reaching for the receiver almost before my brain registered what I was doing. It didn’t matter that I’d just finished a three week long capital murder trial and had the day off.  If one of Austin’s movers and shakers – or, more likely, one of their kids – had managed to run afoul of the capital’s finest, there was a good chance I’d be called out to get the little darling out of jail. I’d have preferred it to this.

“Gran?” I prompted when she didn’t immediately respond.

“It’s your mother.”

What started as a general sense of dread flared and I fought down the panic that replaced it. “Is she all right?”

“Oh God, Annie, I don’t know.”

I relaxed a little. If she was back to calling me Annie, things couldn’t be too bad. Could they?

“Just tell me what’s happened, Gran.”

“Annie, she’s been arrested.”

I swear I moved to receiver away from my ear and stared at it, halfway expecting to find it had changed into a banana or something. It certainly couldn’t be a telephone and I most definitely couldn’t have heard correctly. There was no way, absolutely no way in the world, that my oh-so-proper mother could have been arrested.

“Say again.”

“Your mother’s been arrested.”

“What?”

I couldn’t fathom it. My mother’s no saint, but she certainly isn’t the sort who goes around getting into trouble with the law. Man trouble? You bet. Butt heads with the family? Absolutely. She’d make that into an Olympic event if she could. But she had never done anything more serious than get a speeding ticket. The only possible explanation I could think of that would explain why she might have been arrested was that she’d had too much to drink and had been picked up for DWI. That wouldn’t surprise me, not with Mama’s love for a good cabernet and the current push across the state to get drunk drivers off the road. But even that didn’t feel right.

“Annie, it’s bad.” Gran choked back a sob and I waited, doing my best not to yell at her to get to the point. “Drew just called to tell me.”

Drew? Why hadn’t my twin called me?

I got to my feet and, taking the receiver with me, hurried to my bedroom. I had to do something. I’m never my best in the morning, but dropping something like this on me before coffee and then not getting to the point . . . .

“Annie, they’re saying your mama killed Spud Buchanan.”

“What?”

I must have heard wrong. For one thing, if my mother ever decided she wanted anyone dead, she’d find someone to do the deed for her. She’d never risk getting her hands, or her designer clothes, dirty. For another, she was smart enough not to get caught, at least not by the local cops. Okay, my brother might be a member of the Mossy Creek Police Department, but they were still small town cops. Unless they caught someone standing over the body with the smoking gun or dripping knife in her hands, they’d be hard-pressed to make a case without help from an outside agency.

“They’ve charged your Mama with Spud Buchanan’s murder,” Gran repeated. “From what Drew told me, they found her dressed in her nightie, standing over his body.”

The world came to a screeching halt. There could be only one explanation for what was happening. I had fallen down the rabbit hole and into some warped alternate reality. It wouldn’t be long before the Cheshire Cat showed up, followed shortly by the Queen of Hearts demanding my head.

“Back up, Gran, and tell me everything. They found Mama in her nightgown, standing over the body? Where?”

“At Spud’s house.”

I hadn’t fallen down the rabbit hole. This wasn’t even an alternate reality. There couldn’t be one warped enough that my mother would be sleeping with her worst enemy. No, some sort of bizarre cosmic ray had bombarded the Earth as I slept and transformed Mama into a black widow in human form. Mate and then kill. At least that would make some sort of sick sense given the history between her and Spud.

“Gran, I’m not trying to be dense here –” Or maybe I was. I hadn’t had my coffee yet, after all – “But are you telling me Mama has been sleeping with Spud Buchanan?”

“I don’t know, Annie. All I know is what Drew told me. The police received a disturbance call from one of Spud’s neighbors. When they got there, they found him dead and your mama standing over him. They arrested her and took her to jail.”

God, it just kept getting worse and worse. If this was a nightmare, I was ready to wake up.

“Please tell me she called an attorney.”

“Honey, this is your mama. She doesn’t think she needs an attorney.”

Crap.

That was just like my mother. She would firmly believe that her social standing and connections would see her through this.

“All right. Get one of the local attorneys over to the jail. I don’t care how you do it or how much it costs. I’ll foot the bill. Just make sure Mama doesn’t say anything to the cops. That includes Drew.” I opened my closet door and tossed a pair of jeans and a T-shirt onto the bed. Then I stopped, thinking hard. I might not be expected at work today but I was tomorrow. No way would this mess be cleared up by then. So I’d need to talk with the office and make arrangements for my cases to be covered for the next few days. Hopefully that would be enough time to take care of this latest mess Mama had gotten herself into. “I’ll get home as soon as I can, Gran, but it won’t be before noon at the earliest. Call my cell if anything else happens.”

“Thank you, Annie. I know I’m asking a lot.”

“Gran, you didn’t ask. Besides, she’s my mom. Of course I’m coming home.”

“Come by the house when you get here.”

“All right.” I ran a hand over my face. Maybe I’d wake up and find this at all been a bad dream. After all, I had had that three day old Chinese take-out just before going to bed. That could be the reason for all this, right? “What else did Drew have to say?”

“Nothing. No, that’s not quite right. He said he had to get off the line before the DA in charge of the case realized he’d called me.”

That sounded ominous but I didn’t give it much thought, not then at any rate. I knew from personal experience that most ADAs wouldn’t appreciate a cop calling the suspect’s family and it wouldn’t help that the cop was part of the family as well. Hell, I’d lay into any cop working one of my cases who did that. “Try not to worry, Gran. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Be careful, Annie.” She paused and I waited. “Thank you.”

“No need, Gran. Now go find Mom an attorney. I’ll call you once I’m on the road.”

*     *     *

That had been almost seven hours ago. I’d spent the intervening time rearranging my court schedule and finding other members of the office to cover for me. Then I’d had my “little talk” with my boss, the elected District Attorney for Travis County. I knew before we spoke what the ultimate result would be. David Carlton-Hughes had one cardinal rule: nothing took precedence over the job. As far as he was concerned, because I was leaving town without advance notice, he could no longer count on me. Funny thing is, hard as I’d worked to move up in the professional ladder, the news about Mama put things into perspective. Family would always take precedence over work. It had to. I’d miss the friends I’d made in the office but I wouldn’t miss the politics or the grind.

With a sense of something very near freedom, I had finally climbed into my car and started the drive from Austin to Mossy Creek, a hole-in-the-wall halfway between Dallas and the Oklahoma border.

And, for once, luck had been with me. Despite speeding – nothing new for me – no flashing red lights had appeared in my rearview mirror. Hopefully that was a good sign. So why did it feel like this was just the calm before the storm?

So here I sat, staring at the sign welcoming everyone to beautiful Mossy Creek as the traffic reporter on the radio talked about how bad the traffic was, especially for a Monday.

Have I said how badly I hate Mondays?

Promotion

(This is a repost of today’s Twisted Writers entry.)

I remember when I was younger, there was a locally owned bookstore that I loved to frequent. The owners were always there. The employees knew the stock and could carry on an intelligent conversation about books. They knew the different genres and could make informed recommendations about what to read. After your first visit or two, when you returned, you would be greeted by name and whoever was on duty at the time would ask if you had read the latest in your favorite genre.

But there was something else about the story that stands out. This little hole in the wall often had well-known authors in for book signings. I didn’t think much about it then but now, as a writer, I do. Back then, I simply appreciated the fact I would get to meet a favorite author and have her sign a book — or three. Now those memories are merely a sign of how things have changed in the publishing industry.

Word of mouth in publishing is just as important, maybe moreso even, than it is in any other industry. You see, when a publisher says it will promote your book, tat doesn’t mean you get to go on a book tour or that you will have TV and radio ads or even print ads. Not unless you have been tapped to be the next Stephen King or you are already a best seller. What it means is there will be the basic information sent to the buyers for bookstores and maybe a few trade ads and reviews. A number of authors I know have had their publishers say they want the author to go on a tour but that it will be on the author’s own dime.

That is one reason why, as an indie author, I tend to smile and shake my head when someone tells me I would get so much more promotion for my work if I went the traditional route. I know better. But it does leave me, and all the others like me, having to find ways to get that word of mouth going. The problem is, I would much rather be writing.

Fortunately, Amazon has offered writers a couple of ways to promote our books. The only catch is that the title has to be exclusively on Amazon for it to qualify. If a title is enrolled in the KDP Select program, those Amazon customers who are members of the Kindle Unlimited program can borrow our books for free. The nice thing about this is, we still get paid as long as the customer reads a certain percentage of our book. The icing on the cake is that some of those customers will turn around and purchase the book, so we get paid twice.

KDP Select also allows us to offer our books for free or put them on what Amazon calls a countdown program for up to five days every three months. While I don’t recommend putting the same titles on sale or for free that often, it is a good promotion tool. It can help spur lagging sales and it can help by allowing you to temporarily drop the price of a book when you have a new book in the series coming out.

So now I can hear you asking why I’ve taken time to tell you all this. Well, that’s simple. This is my word of mouth to you. I currently have three books I’m doing a promotional deal on. The deals run through tomorrow. Each of the three are first books in a series. Each series will have new titles coming out between now and the end of the year. Besides, after Tax Day, I figured everyone needed a break  ;-)

HuntedHunted (Hunter’s Moon Book 1)
(Written under the pen name Ellie Ferguson)
Free through Sunday

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

nocturnaloriginscoveralternatenewNocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1)
(Amanda S. Green)
99 cents through Sunday

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.

coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1)
(Written under the pen name Sam Schall)
99 cents through Sunday

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back. Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long. But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Weekend Promotion

I haven’t done a promotion for awhile, so I thought this weekend I would. The first books of each of my three series are available at discounted prices. If you like paranormal romance/suspense, urban fantasy/police procedural or military science fiction, there is something for you.

HuntedHunted (Hunter’s Moon Book 1)
(Written under the pen name Ellie Ferguson)
Free through Sunday

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

nocturnaloriginscoveralternatenewNocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1)
(Amanda S. Green)
99 cents through Sunday

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.

coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1)
(Written under the pen name Sam Schall)
99 cents through Sunday

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back. Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long. But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Pushing through and a few thoughts on “that” movie

That off-tune rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus you heard yesterday was probably coming from me. For the first time in much too long, I was able to write. I’m not talking putting a few words down on the page that would end up on the proverbial editing room floor. No, I managed to actually sit at the desk and write. Final output was close to 8,500 words by the time I shut down last night. So here’s hoping this is a sign that things are finally getting back to normal and I can push out Nocturnal Challenge in short order because Honor from Ashes is now starting to demand attention and I want to get to it. Those books have been surprisingly fun to write and, as is always the case where my books are concerned, have taken me on a journey that is different from what I first anticipated. But that is good because it keeps them fresh for me and, hopefully, for the readers.

Anyway, it seems like no matter what form of media you look at or listen to right now, you are being bombarded with ads for 50 Shades of Grey movie that opens tomorrow. I find it highly ironic that a book that really doesn’t portray romance — despite what the publisher and movie makers would have you believe — is being released right before Valentine’s Day. I’ll even admit that I have never understood the so-called popularity of the books. Oh, intellectually I do. The publisher spent a ton of money pushing the book and telling women that the series was their chance to be naughty. How they ate it up and thus was born the mommy-porn movement.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time or space on the books. I read them on a dare and didn’t like them. They were not well-written and the sex wasn’t hot. Frankly, I’ve read better written and more entertaining slash fiction than these books. But, in the end, my main objection comes down to this: Christian Grey, as portrayed in the books, is nothing but a stalker and the sex is basically non-consensual. Ana Steel is a weak-willed and unbelievable young, modern woman. Their relationship is not healthy and yet this is what the publishers and the author and now the movie makers want us to aspire to.

Sorry, but no. Kink is fine between consenting adults who know what they are doing. 50 Shades is not that.

So I guess you can imagine my reaction when a local reviewer gave her thoughts on the movie. Initially I was worried when she said that she was surprised to say that the movie really was better than the book. I think my groan could probably have been heard two cities away. But then she clarified. It was better than the book but “that’s not saying much. . . the books read like they were written by a bunch of drunk sorority girls.”

Yes! Fist pump. She got it in one.

And yet the series got so much money pumped into promoting it and publishers actually halted production on other books in order to re-brand them to look like the 50 Shades covers all while much better books were overlooked and even rejected by the publishers because they weren’t falling into the cookie cutter shapes of what was, in reality, nothing more than bad fan fiction. Sigh.

And publishers wonder why so many authors are turning to self-publishing and why so many readers are flocking to them.

So this is where I guess I need to do a bit of promotion. I hate promoting. I’d much rather be writing. Anyway, the kitties need new toys and catnip. Worse, DK (demon kat) needs a new kitty safe laser toy. So, for the sake of my ankles — and other parts of my anatomy they threaten to attack when I’m sleeping — I’d appreciate it if you would consider buying one of my books. Here is a short list to get you started:

coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1)

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

 

Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2)

Duty calls. Honor demands action.

Major Ashlyn Shaw has survived false accusations and a brutal military prison. Now free, she finds her homeworld once again at war with an enemy that will stop at nothing to destroy everything she holds dear. Duty has Ashlyn once again answering the call to serve. She has seen what the enemy is capable of and will do everything she can to prevent it from happening to the home she loves and the people she took an oath to protect.

But something has changed. It goes beyond the fact that the enemy has changed tactics they never wavered from during the previous war. It even goes beyond the fact that there is still a nagging doubt in the back of Ashlyn’s mind that those who betrayed her once before might do so again. No, there is more to the resumption of hostilities, something that seems to point at a new player in the game. But who and what are they playing at?

Will Ashlyn be able to unmask the real enemy before it is too late?

Nocturnal lives boxedNocturnal Lives (Boxed Set)

This “box set” includes the first three novels in the Nocturnal Lives series.

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.

hunted setHunted by Moonlight (Hunter’s Moon)

This “boxed set” contains the first three novels in the Hunter’s Moon series.

Hunted:

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

Hunter’s Duty:

Maggie Thrasher is looking for a man, not to love but to kill. Duty to her pride and loyalty to her family demands it. Joshua Volk has betrayed pride, pack and clan. All he cares about is destroying the old ways and killing anyone, normal or shape-changer, who gets in his way. Jim Kincade is dedicated to two things: upholding the law and protecting the pride from discovery. When Jim is called to the scene of a possible murder, the last thing he expects is to discover the alleged killer is a tracker from another pride. Now he’s faced with a woman who is most definitely more than she appears. Complicating matters even more, there’s something about her that calls to him and his leopard is determined to claim her for his own. Joshua Volk is looking for revenge. Maggie killed one of his own. His vengeance will bring Maggie’s worst nightmares to life. Is the passion between Maggie and Jim enough to defeat Volk’s plans or will Maggie’s determination to fulfill her duty to her pride be the death of them both?

Hunter’s Home:

They say you can never go home. That’s something CJ Reamer has long believed. So, when her father suddenly appears on her doorstep, demanding she return home to Montana to “do her duty”, she has other plans. Montana hasn’t been home for a long time, almost as long as Benjamin Franklin Reamer quit being her father. Dallas is now her home and it’s where her heart is. The only problem is her father doesn’t like taking “no” for an answer.

When her lover and mate is shot and she learns those responsible come from her birth pride and clan, CJ has no choice but to return to the home she left so long ago. At least she won’t be going alone. Clan alphas Matt and Finn Kincade aren’t about to take any risks where their friend is concerned. Nor is her mate, Rafe Walkinghorse, going to let her go without him.

Going home means digging up painful memories and family secrets. But will it also mean death – or worse – for CJ and her friends?

 

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