Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Beneath the Skin Contest

Okay, so the next book in The Wolf Within series, Scratch the Surface, is out on March 19.  That's next month!  I figure there has to be one or two of you out there who want to read it, but have not yet read the first novel, Beneath the Skin.

You could read the second one without reading the first one, but you know you really don't want to, do you?

So, to make things easier for you, I've decided to give away one e-copy of Beneath the Skin this week.

Beneath the Skin

This is not a complicated contest - all you have to do is comment here and tell me what you like about paranormal romances featuring shape shifters.  Beneath the Skin is a more than a romance, mind you.  There's a mystery that takes the main characters from a chateau in France to a boutique hotel in Houston, Texas.  Danger, drama, and yes, there is romance too.

I've come up with a very scientific method of determining the winner of the book - it involves a hat, some names on papers and a drawing.

I'll announce the winner when I post my Friday Flash this week.

Oh, and for those of you who have read Beneath the Skin, don't worry, I will also give away a copy of Scratch the Surface when it comes out, to celebrate!

So, come on, everyone, tell me what you like to read about shape shifters in paranormal romances!

In case you want a sneak peek at what you could win, follow this link:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Night Owl Review Chat Tonight

I'll be here tonight at 7PM  EST:

If you have some free time, stop by.  I'll be chatting about my books.  So will three of my fellow Lyrical Press authors.  :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Friday Flash - Power Play

Rob Green left me at the altar. I vowed, as I stood, humiliated, in my white dress and shimmering veil, that he would suffer for this. Forever.

On the outside, I pretended to understand. I cried fake tears and told him he was right to do it if he had doubts. I begged him to remain my friend, for as everyone knows; you should keep your friends close, but your enemies closer still. 

Bewildered, he found himself doing my bidding although I was so skillful, he never truly understood how I manipulated him, nor how I stood in the way of every victory he might have had since that fateful morning when he dared to leave me.

Why, who was there to whisper to him that his new girlfriend -- the one I’d introduced him to six weeks after what was supposed to be our wedding day -- was secretly seeing another man?

Who was there to encourage him to take the job he hadn’t the skill to keep? Who talked so glowingly of him at the bar that night when his potential boss sat nearby?

Who pretended to be unable to handle an over-amorous new suitor who happened to be an aspiring prize fighter and then called 911 when Rob lay, battered and broken, in the gutter?

Why, when his friends asked him to their parties, it wasn't that they felt sorry for him or that they felt obligated by the past, it was true friendship.  What else could it be when their lives and his life were so dissimilar?  They were, one by one, marrying and starting families.  They were advancing in their careers and had nice houses and fast cars. 

So he still lived in the basement apartment of his mother's house, drove a fifteen-year old Ford and couldn’t hold a steady job or girlfriend. It meant nothing.  

Who was there to throw the first fistful of dirt onto his coffin after he committed suicide at the age of thirty-four? 

Why, me, of course. It seems I had all the power in our relationship after all. 

He’s been gone now for six months and, it's strange, but  I’ve come to the realization that just as his life had no meaning to him in the end, I no longer have much of one of my own.

Yesterday I found the first strands of gray in my hair and wrinkles in my forehead. 

All my friends are married or seeing the men who used to want to be with me.

I haven’t had the time to have a career or a relationship because I’ve been too busy scheming to get even. 

I spend most of my free time lately at the cemetery.  The grass above his grave has filled in nicely and with my back propped against his headstone I can see straight down into the town I used to find so fascinating.

Nothing much interests me anymore.  It’s as if my reason for living has disappeared. 

But I got even. Nobody will ever leave me at the altar again. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Friday Flash - One More Mile

One More Mile

No one is ever prepared for the guilt.  Take me, for instance. I thought I had a handle on it. My wife was dying inch by inch.  One day as she thrashed in her hospital bed, raspy breathing, waxy complexion, her voice shredded with pain, I realized that I didn’t hate her sickness, I hated her.  I hated her for doing this to me as if it were her fault she’d gotten sick.

Guilt smashed into my gut and I told myself over and over that that it wasn’t her I hated, it was her illness.  The miserable, soul-sucking thing that came between us and turned us both into shadows of what we once were, but the truth was inescapable. I hated her.  I wanted her to die so I could have a life again.

I tried to remember the good times, but there were so few before the sickness grabbed her by the throat and began to squeeze.

It’s not like we spent years together.  There was only the one -- and not even a whole one -- before we saw that look in the doctor’s eyes as he pronounced her death sentence.

My friends told me it was reckless to get married three months after hooking up one drunken night at the bar, but we both thought it was forever.

Forever?  What a joke.

Before I realized I hated her, my guilt was directed at me.  Why did I get to walk around pain free while she was confined to a hospital bed, wracked with agony?

How could I possibly continue on with my normal existence?  Everything I did was a reproach.  Every book I read, every song I heard, every exchange with coworkers, every normal moment I had and she didn’t, I thought I felt guilty about. 

Then I realized I hated her.  That was terrible guilt, right there.  Yeah, I thought I knew what guilt was until, of course, she died. 

The night she died, it rained.  A torrential downpour soaked me to the skin beneath my suede jacket as I dodged puddles in the parking lot and ran to the hospice doors.  A part of me – a huge part – had wanted to stay home that night and watch a movie.  Maybe pop a bag of microwave popcorn.   Six months of sickness had come and gone and we’d been deep into the seventh by that night.

Every time I had to go to that damn hospice, I dreaded and resented it.  Why couldn’t she just die already and let me have my life back? I wanted to believe I had some compassion for her so she’d be free of the pain, but I knew most of it was for me. I wanted to be me again. I wanted to be normal.  Was it so much to ask to be normal?

She was dead before I ever reached the hospice doors. So I wasn’t there when she died.  All she’d wanted the last few weeks was my promise I’d be there holding her hand when she passed over.  That’s how she put it – passed over.  As if she were going someplace that required a graduation or a special ticket.  She couldn’t say die like a normal person. 

I’d promised.  The thought of holding her wasted, skeletal hand was anathema to me.  But I’d sworn I’d do it.  And I would have.  I would have.  But death doesn’t work by a schedule or send an invitation so how was I to blame for the fact it was raining, I was tired and I just didn’t get there in time that night?

Guilt doesn’t pull any punches.  It goes straight for the KO. 

I thought I knew guilt before she died, but it was pale in comparison. I didn’t know how to handle it at first.  I thought it would go away the more time I put between me and that rainy night.  But it chased me.  It hounded me. 

Normal life was impossible because of the guilt. I’d wanted her to die and she had.  I hadn’t been there as I’d promised. If I’d been there with her, I could have absolved myself over the fact I wanted her dead.  But I hadn’t been there.

Sleep was impossible, so I drove the nights away in the Mustang GT I bought with the insurance money.

Oh, but the guilt chased me, and one night, it found me. 

Until then I’d believed I could outrace the guilt, I could drive away the guilt with my car. 

One more mile. One more mile and the debt will be paid.  One more mile and it will be over.

One more mile. That’s what she’s told me, night after night since she used my guilt to find me.  Every night when I drive, my dead wife rides shotgun in her hospital johnny, her shriveled thighs exposed. 

“One more mile, Carl.”   She wouldn’t stay in her grave. Guilt dug her up and guilt kept her in my car and I couldn’t outdrive her. “One more mile.” 

I’ll reach the bridge abutment in a mile and a quarter.  So I know what I have to do if after one more mile she’s still there.  Just a twist of the wheel and it will all be over.

One way or another, I’m driving away my guilt tonight.  One more mile.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Sale at Lyrical Press

If you haven't already read my book, Beneath the Skin, Lyprical Press is having a Valentine's Day 50% off sale on all books today.  There are a lot of good books here!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Question Mark - Friday Flash #2

Question Mark
He walked down the street as if he owned it.  Brown hair, brown eyes, tight jeans and a black shirt – nothing he wore was unusual. It was the way he wore his clothes that separated him from the other brown haired men with dark eyes walking down the same street.

He paused at the window of a bookstore, but moved on without entering.  As I passed the window, I glanced inside. Two romance novels and the latest self-help guru’s biggest seller. 
Which of them had snagged his attention?  Was he a secret romantic at heart?  A guy who read chick books?  Or did he believe in the gurus of this world and look to them for inspiration?

Two blocks later he ducked into a Starbucks, and after a few moments brought a steaming paper cup to the table by the window. The one with the faux leather arm chairs.  He relaxed into the chair on the right and looked through the window.  

I met his gaze and a half smile quirked his lips.  This close, he was incredibly attractive.  Intense eyes.  

I went into the Starbuck’s and bought a hot chai latte I didn’t want, and couldn’t drink even if I had.  I brought it to his table.

“Sit down,” he invited with a careless wave of his hand in the direction of the empty chair. So confident. I admired that.
I sat. 

His voice was soft and polite, with a hint of impatience. “You’ve been following me for three nights.”

“Four,” I said.

Another quirk of his expressive mouth. He found me amusing.  

“Four,” he amended with a shrug.  “The point is tonight you decided to make contact.  Why?”

“I’m tired of existing in the shadows of your life.  I want more.”

“I don’t know you. You don’t know me.”

“I know enough about you after four nights to understand I want more.”

He laughed at that and drank his coffee. I watched him swallow and bit the inside of my cheek until I tasted blood.

“What if I’m not interested?” He set down his cup and leaned across the battered table to tap my hand.  His touch was electric. The blood in my mouth turned molten.  

“I think you might be,” I said.

“Stalkers are not rewarded by obtaining the objects of their interest.  I suggest you stop this game now.” His dark eyes turned almost black and his eyebrows drew together in a harsh slash.

One minute amused, the next angry.  Good natured, but quick tempered. I filed that away for future reference.
“I’m not a stalker.” I rose to my feet and gave him a full smile.  One that revealed everything about me. 

 His eyes widened.

“Oh, come on,” he protested, but there was doubt in his tone.  Doubt and the beginnings of reluctant interest. 
“You know where to find me,” I said and walked out. 
 As I passed the window, he pressed his palms to it and his expression hovered somewhere between terror and desire.

“But I don’t know.” His voice was desperate through the glass.  The other Starbucks patrons stared.

I gave him another smile, this one more demure, and walked away.

Two blocks later I heard his footsteps behind mine.  I smiled and kept walking.  Perhaps I’d allow him to catch up in a block or two.  Or a night or two.  It didn’t matter.  I had all the time in the world.  Maybe he did as well.  One night soon he’d walk by my side, or he’d be a part of my past. He was mine now.  For now or for eternity, that was the question.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Flash - A Glimpse into Stanzie's Wolf

Happy Friday!  Thanks for stopping by to check out my first attempt at Friday Flash.  This story is set in my wolf shape shifters' world and takes place between the first novel in the series, Beneath the Skin, and the second one, due to come out this March, Scratch the Surface.

Shifting Perspective

The snow squeaks beneath my booted feet as we walk into the forest.   Winter at night in a Massachusetts forest can be a coldly beautiful thing.  Murphy’s fingers are warm against mine.  I love it when he holds my hand, but he rarely does – mostly when we’re about to shift.  I think perhaps the moonlight and the anticipation free him.  The same way they do me.

His eyes shine amber in the darkness.  Mine are silver blue. I can see the scruffy bark on the skeletal trees, shriveled leaves sticking up through the snowdrifts. Pinpricks of stars against an icy black velvet sky through the lacy canopy of tree limbs.

The air is squeaky clean and it hurts a little to breathe because it is so cold. 

I steal a look at Murphy’s face in the moonlight.  He is smiling, his gaze fixed on the trail ahead. I like that about him, he doesn’t live in the past like I do sometimes. He’s always straining toward the future.  A future he wants to share with me.

 “Remember that she doesn’t have to find the words for everything all at once.”  Murphy’s voice is pitched soft to blend in with the winter darkness.  No one is here, the park closed at sundown and it is long past that, but there is a strange majesty about the forest at night.  It demands soft voices and strict attention.
He’s talking about her.  My wolf. She’s not like his.  She has no real concept of the future and only a tiny handle on the past.  She exists in the here and now, but she is childlike and stubborn.  Not like other wolves. 

Together, Murphy and I are trying to bring her up to speed. Make her like the other wolves in the Pack. He is confident, but me, I’m not so sure.  I’m afraid.

Afraid to change. Afraid to lose her uncomplicated joy. Afraid that if she is normal, she won’t be who she wants to be.

Lately, my wolf doesn’t play the way she used to.  She gets fixated on the things she does not recognize.  What is the word for that? She will think.  The answer could be a rock. A blade of grass.  A rabbit. She recently learned the word for snow, but even that wasn’t enough.  The next time I shifted after she learned that word, it was snowing and she could not think of snowflake. She knew there was another word for a piece of snow, but she could not find it in her head. She thinks the words live in her head. She’s very literal, my wolf.

When she can’t find the words, she gets mad.

Anger is a new emotion for her. She never used to get mad.  She was always so happy to run and play and her life was an unfettered, gorgeous joy.

Now it is hard. It is frustrating.  She gets angry and when she is, she can’t think. So sometimes she scratches at her head with her front paws and tries to drive the mad out so she can find the hidden words. She thinks they hide in her head to make her mad. The more she tries to find them, the angrier she becomes.  Until there’s no more room for joy or for play. Just the relentless pursuit of hidden words.

Well, she is a hunter, my wolf. She used to hunt joy, now she stalks words.  It doesn’t seem fair to me.  But I don’t think she understands the concept of fair.

Does she remember the joy or is that just me, grieving for her?

Murphy says she’s trying too hard.  That if she’d just relax, they would come to her. 
Tell her to relax, Stanzie, he tells me.

How do I make her do anything?  She is her own entity.  She has her own thoughts, her own heart. I am only a bystander, watching the show.

Murphy says that isn’t true. We are the same thing.  Two parts of one whole.  But I can’t grasp that.  Sometimes I want to scratch the stupidity out of my head so the knowledge can pour in. Everyone but me in the Pack knows these things. Their wolves aren’t like mine. 

How do I make mine like theirs? Is it possible?  Is the price of fitting in worth losing the joy?  Can there be a middle ground where they meet? 

I don’t know.

We reach a clearing and Murphy drops my hand so he can shrug off his jacket and unbutton his shirt.  I struggle out of my boots and jeans, breath pluming as I try not to swear. It is so cold.

Please be happy, I tell my wolf and let the shift take me over.

It feels like cold fire at first. Tingly. Stretchy. Muscles slide and reform. Bones shift and mutate. Fur sprouts. The cold goes away. For a moment I am in blackness, another dimension where most of the change occurs. I can’t hear anything, but I can feel my thudding heartbeat .  One, two, three, four and then…

Beneath the SkinScratch the Surface