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Posts Tagged ‘Nocturnal Origins’

Nocturnal Serenade, book 2 in the Nocturnal Lives series, is now available. You can find it on Amazon or through Naked Reader Press. It should soon be available through Barnes & Noble as well as Smashwords and other outlets. The first book, Nocturnal Serenade, is currently available through Amazon. It will return to other outlets in the near future.

Here’s a quick blurb about 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.

To go with the release of Nocturnal Serenade, I have a great new cover for Nocturnal Origins. I liked the original cover — and you can still find it on the hard copy version of the book — but I think the new cover is more accurate to the novel. Many thanks to Sarah A. Hoyt for the design of both covers.

Next month, my short story Nocturnal Haunts will also be coming out from Naked Reader Press. It will be available for individual purchase as well as being included in the anthology Sisters in Blood (Kate Paulk, Sarah A. Hoyt and myself). As soon as I have a publication date, I’ll post it.

So, I guess that’s about it for now. Back to the keyboard to write some more.

Later!

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I have been busy the last few months trying to balance my work with Naked Reader Press and my writing and family and, well, life.  All too often, the writing has had to take a backseat to it all.  However, that’s changing, mainly because I have deadlines of my own looming large and I have to put butt in chair and get serious about writing again.

So, what’s coming up?  First, my very first short story ever accepted, Bump in the Night, is now available for purchase from NRP and will soon be available from Amazon, B&N and other e-tailers.  Bump first came out in 2008 as part of the anthology Better Off Undead.

Next up is Nocturnal Serenade, the sequel to Nocturnal Origins.  I’ve snippeted Serenade before, but in case you’ve missed it, I’ll add short snippet below.  This series is close to my heart.  It’s one of those where the characters are almost a part of me.  Other writers will understand what I mean.  These books aren’t ones that I have to struggle to write.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I have to fight to keep from writing only in this “universe”.  There is at least one more book in the series after Serenade.  Of course, that also depends on how well the series continues to sell.

There are also a couple of other projects on the fire, with deadlines also coming up.  I’ll let you know more about them in the near future.  In the meantime, Nocturnal Origins is available in both print and digital versions.  You can find it through the Naked Reader Press storefront or through Amazon, B&N, etc.  The great thing about NRP is that there is no DRM added to their e-books.

So, without further ado, here’s a brief snippet from Nocturnal Serenade, coming out in November from Naked Reader Press.

*     *     *     *

Elizabeth Santos Wheeler dropped her head into her hands and closed her eyes, fighting back a sob as she did.  This was all just a bad dream and she would soon awaken.  It had to be.  No other explanation, reasonable or not, made sense.  But what if it wasn’t?  What if it was real?  Then what was she supposed to do?

Damn it, why was this happening?  It had nothing to do with her, not really.  So why was she the one forced to deal with it?

Because you’re the one with the most money as well as with the most to lose.  That’s why.

Resentment warred with fear, anger with the maternal instinct to protect.  For the first time in so very long, she didn’t know what to do.  It was as though her worst fears had suddenly sprung to life and she simply didn’t know how to react, didn’t know if there was anything she could do to protect herself and those she loved.

Damn it!

She shoved back from her desk and climbed to her feet.  As she did, she glanced outside.  Beyond the window, darkness swathed the yard.  Only the light cast from her window and the pale lights surrounding the swimming pool broke the darkness.  The leaves of the ornamental fruit trees on the opposite side of the pool rustled gently in the light breeze.  The oak trees shielding the yard from the golf course formed a dark curtain against the night sky.  In the distance, a neighbor’s dog barked one, twice, as if calling for someone or something to answer.  Everything looked so normal.  Yet it wasn’t and it might never be again.

Her lips pressed together in a thin, angry line.  She moved from behind her antique Georgian desk and began to pace.  Her steps were muffled, almost silenced, by the thick carpet.  She no longer heard the soft strains of the music she’d put on earlier in the evening when she’d come upstairs to work.  Instead, the sounds of her teeth grinding and her heart pounding filled her ears.  She didn’t have time for this.  She should be focusing on the Allingham case, not this – this stuff of nightmares.

As she turned back, her sea green eyes fell on the photos scattered across the top of her desk.  No one else looking at them would be this upset.  They would know with a certainty that the pictures had been faked.  After all, the images showed the unbelievable, the unreal.

But she knew better.  No matter how badly she wanted to dismiss the photos as a simple prank, she couldn’t.  She knew the images captured by some unknown photographer could be all too real, no matter how unbelievable they were.  After all, she’d lived with this particular nightmare all her life, waiting, fearing for the moment it would manifest itself in either her or one of her children.  Now it had and she didn’t know what to do.

Her fingers trembled as she reached for the nearest photo.  Her chest felt as though an iron band had tightened around it, making it almost impossible to breathe. Instantly she was transported back to that terrible moment she she’d first seen the picture.  Despite the fading light caught by the image, she’d immediately recognized the subject of the photo.  In that moment, she’d died just a little.  Even as her brain tried to close down, to deny what her eyes saw, she knew the truth and she damned herself for it.

Sharp pain and the bitter taste of blood brought her thoughts back to the present.  Absently, she dabbed at the lower lips she’d been gnawing without realizing it.  But her eyes remained glued to the photograph she held in her right hand and a soft moan escaped her lips.

Why?  Dear Lord, why?

A young woman knelt on the ground, her head thrown back, her expression filled with agony as her hands ripped at her tee shirt.  Her green eyes, just a shade darker than Elizabeth’s, reflected terror at what was happening to her.  Even then, the change was obvious, if you knew what to look for – and, much to her regret, Elizabeth did.

The young woman’s hands were altering, her fingernails lengthening even as the features of her face blurred.  Muscles rippled and bunched as her body was reshaped.  Hair seemed to sprout from every pore, short hair that was more fur than hair.  All of this was documented in the other photos strewn across the desktop.

A soft sob caught in Elizabeth’s throat as the photo fluttered down to the floor.  No, the image was all too real and her nightmare had finally come to life.  What was she going to do?

Not even the note included with the photos helped her decide what her next step should be.  A single sheet of ordinary white paper with just a few lines printed on it mocked her, revealing nothing about the unknown sender or what he wanted from her.

Mrs. Wheeler:

I thought you might want to see what your eldest daughter is up to these days.  Being a parent is such a trial at times, isn’t it?  I wonder if your other children will show the same bad habits as their sister.  But don’t worry.  I’ll be in touch soon to discuss what needs to be done.

That was all.

Mackenzie, what happened?

Unable to stand it any longer, Elizabeth abruptly turned on her heel and started out of the room.  Then reality once more intruded and she hurried back to her desk.  She couldn’t leave the photos where they might be found.

Without really thinking about what she was doing, she scooped up the photo she’d dropped and then those scattered across the desk top and shoved them back into the envelop they’d arrived in.  Once she had, she locked them in the top drawer of her desk and pocketed the key.  At least they were safely hidden from view, for a while at least.  But how long would it be before the photographer made them public?

And what would she do when that happened?

Her left hand slammed against the light switch on the wall by the door as she passed, throwing the room into darkness.  She had to do something, anything to find out who had sent the photos.  The envelope had been delivered to her office.  Hopefully, the receptionist had made an entry as to who brought in the innocent looking brown envelope.  She’d check the log and then decide what her next move should be.

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This past month, I’ve been focusing more on my writing than in previous months.  Part of it is because I have deadlines looming large.  Part of it is because the job is still as demanding as ever but I’m more confident in what I’m doing.  Of course, I still need to clone myself — as well as everyone else at Naked Reader Press — to keep up with everything that’s going on, but I’d rather be busy than twiddling my thumbs.

As I’ve mentioned here and at Mad Genius Club, part of the problem with my writing has been the number of stops and starts I’ve had to make because stories wouldn’t cooperate or I’d suddenly realize the book I was writing wasn’t the one I was supposed to be writing, etc.  Anyway, I thought I’d give you a taste of some of the different voices/plots/characters demanding my time today.  Then, if you feel you need to call the men in the white jackets, go ahead.  I need a nice vacation for a week or so.

From Hunter’s Moon:

Death is inevitable.  Try as you might, you can’t prevent it.  Medical science and a healthy dose of luck might postpone it, but that’s all.  Sooner or later we all die.  It’s what happens next that’s up for grabs.

Just because there’s no way around it doesn’t mean I want to die one moment sooner than absolutely necessary.  For one thing, the way my luck runs, the next phase very likely would not find me traipsing happily through the Elysian Fields or whatever you call the afterlife.  No, it would be my luck to turn into one of the creatures I’ve spent most of my unnatural life hunting and killing, all in an effort to keep humanity safe.

Unfortunately, it looked like my life had finally run out.  It was bound to sooner or later but, given a choice, it would be later – much, much later.

I admit it.  I was in a lousy mood.  Dealing with cops has never been my idea of fun.  Dealing with them in a dark alley before dawn and in the middle of a “job” ranks right down there with my least favorite things to do.  That’s especially true when the cop in question looks all of thirteen and is convinced he’s just seen me commit cold-blooded murder.

Damnation, I hate days like this.

Then there is this one that I’ve posted before from Skeletons in the Closet:

All my life, my mama’s tried to raise me to be a proper lady.  No, that’s not quite right.  She’s tried to raise me to be a proper SOUTHERN lady, full of refinement and grace, dressed in lace and delicate pastels.  To hear her talk, it’s been a futile effort that’s caused her more than her fair share of gray hair.  And, where the lace and pastels are concerned, she’s right.  Still, she’s managed to get me to say, “yes, ma’am,” and “no, sir”.  For the most part, I’m respectful of my elders, even when they don’t deserve it.  I even wear clean underwear whenever I leave the house – usually without any extraneous holes in it – because Mama is convinced some rampaging bus will find me and strike me down, necessitating a trip to the emergency room.

I swear, I think it’s her life’s dream that it will actually happen.  You see, in her world, a trip to the ER has only one ending.  The handsome, rich and oh-so-conveniently single doctor who saves my life will fall madly in love with me.  What she seems to forget is that in a bus vs. me battle, the bus will always win.  So, unless the doctor is also a re-animator, he’d be falling for a corpse and, well, ewwwwww!

Besides, having somehow managed to survive a close encounter of the nearly fatal kind, the last thing I’d be interested in is finding a man to settle down and raise a passel of kids with.  Not that it would deter Mama one little bit.  Hell, she’d probably arrive at the ER with her minister firmly in tow, a marriage license burning a hole in her hand bag, all ready to fill in the blanks and make me a married woman.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, my mama rarely lets reality interfere with her plans.

Don’t get me wrong.  I can usually deal with Mama’s plans and manipulations.  I’ve spent a lifetime figuring out how.  All I have to do is make sure I look both ways before crossing the street.  Of course, the odds of a bus hitting me here in Misty Creek are about as good as the odds of Hell freezing over.  So I figure I’m safe – at least for the time being.

Knock on wood.

From Jubilee Plot:

“Slainte!”

He leaned back and nodded slightly, satisfaction filling him.  Who would have guessed he’d have found so many kindred souls in America.  Kindred souls with money and the patriotic fervor only those driven from their homelands seemed to possess.  Kindred souls who would do almost anything he asked, if for no other reason than to strike a blow against the English who continued to refuse to admit Ireland was for the Irish.

Perhaps Ireland would finally be freed from its English oppressors.

It was strange, and certainly now what he’d expected, but he felt at home here.  Chicago was live with commerce and trade.  Everywhere he turned, someone had an opportunity to offer.  Sure and he knew some were merely opportunities to part him from his cash.  But now, after several days in the city, he was beginning to understand why so many called this the Land of Opportunity.  Where else could an Irish Catholic who fled his homeland with nothing but the clothes on his back be able to make his fortune?

But it was more than that.  Parts of Chicago were more Irish than Ireland.  Even here.  The poorly lit pub was filled with voices, many of which sounded as if they’d arrived from Ireland not much before he had.  Mixed in with the lyrical accents he knew so well were the broader, flatter accents of those who’d never stepped foot on Irish soil but who were just as Irish as was he, in heart and mind if not in location.  Irish Gaelic mixed with English, lulling him into a sense of security, almost as if he was home.  Add to that the smells of too many people in too small of a space, stale ale, whiskey and smoke and, well, he could be sitting in his favorite pub in Dublin.

Familiar it might be, but it wouldn’t do to be careless.  Even here in Chicago, home of one of the largest Irish populations in America, the Brits had their spies, something his companions didn’t seem to understand.  Little did they know that the Home Office, as well as the Metropolitan Police, had agents everywhere, doing all they could to derail the movement for Irish independence. 

The Brits might decry those patriots fighting for Irish independence as murderers and traitors, but they weren’t above murder or the use of double agents who thought nothing of leading brave Fenian men and women to their deaths.  Of course, he couldn’t explain how he knew this, not without risking his own life.  So he’d choose his words carefully and keep his eyes and ears open.  That tact had kept him alive all these years.  Hopefully, it would for many more years as well.

The fact his four companions seemed unconcerned about meeting in a crowded pub to discuss their “business” didn’t sit well.  The Shamrock and Shillelagh might be considered safe by those who frequented it, but its connections to Clan na Gael were well known, not only to those who believed in Irish independence but to those who opposed it as well.  A stranger might not be made to feel welcome unless vouched for by one of the regulars, but who was to say one of the regulars wasn’t a spy — or worse, a traitor.  Even if the stranger posed not threat, there were too many people around, too many ears to hear what he and his companions had to say.  All it took was a slip of the tongue, innocent or not, by someone who happened to overhear the wrong thing to foil their plans. No, he’d feel much better if they were meeting somewhere isolated and easily secured.  Unfortunately, he’d left the place of their meeting to his companions and it was too late to change it now.

“You’re not drinking, Francis.”

“Wasn’t I too busy thinking about the pretty lass back home?”  Let them think what they would.  They were amateurs at the conspiracy game.  If he told them how worried he was, it might queer the deal.  He couldn’t risk that.  So, he’d lie.  It was only a white lie after all, one designed to protect them all, whether they realized they needed protecting or not.  “Slainte!”  He tossed back his whiskey, savoring the smoky taste before signaling for another round.  “Now, Paddy, you said you had news –“

Francis Millen paused, shaking his head, as, with a puff of smoke and squeak of metal wheels against wooden floor, a small servercart rolled up to the table.  America truly was a strange land.  He’d seen some mechanicals in London and Dublin before, but not like here. It seemed as if the mechanicals were almost everywhere, in every shape and size.  Steam powered airships floated through the skies.  Mechanicals that looked like oddly built spiders scurried up the sides of buildings, sealing cracks in windows and conducting other minor repairs. In this country, technicians and engineers were encouraged, even respected, and they took advantage of it.  Even in the pubs their strange machines seemed almost commonplace.  A quick glance at the bar showed the pub owner, a large controller in his hands, guiding the servercart amongst the tables, stopping from time to time so the patrons could grab their drinks.  Each time the ‘cart started, it gave a puff of steam from its smokestack, much like a train engine’s, adding to the smoke already hanging in the air from cigarettes, cigars and the occasional pipe.

“Well, you’ll be home to her soon enough, Francis,” Patrick Murray assured him, snagging another whiskey from the ‘cart before it moved on.  “We think we’ve a solution to your problem.”

Add to all of these Russian Nights , my historical fantasy/alternate history, Nocturnal Serenade, the sequel to Nocturnal Origins, a space opera that is really starting to bother me because it’s been neglected for so long, a mystery and the project I hinted at yesterday but can’t say too much about just yet.  So, is it any wonder I sometimes want the voices to shut up just so I can hear myself think?

 

 

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Sorry to be late this morning.  I’ve been taking care of some business for NRP before breaking long enough to blog. I know this is my writing blog, but I do want to give everyone a heads up that we’ll be  making some announcements soon and I’m really excited about it.

I also want to thank everyone who has purchased Nocturnal Origins and have been helping spread the word.  Please, keep it up.  You guys are my best form of PR and I do appreciate it.

Now, since it is Thursday, here’s another snippet from Russian Nights.

*     *     *     *

“Katya, please, go upstairs and make sure your brother is getting dressed for dinner.  You know your papa will be home soon.”

            Irena Baranova stood in the doorway to her husband’s study and shook her head.  She’d made this simple request once already.  Not that Katya had heard.  The girl – no, she had to quit thinking of Katerina as a girl.  She was a young woman now – had her nose in a book.  As was almost always the case when she read, Katya was oblivious to the world.

Not that Irena minded.  They had a few minutes before Feodor returned home.  Time enough for Katya to finish the page and then see to her brother.

            Eighteen year old Katerina Yelizaveta Baranova sat in a well-worn chair before the far window.  The heavy draperies were pulled tightly against the falling darkness outside.  The dark of the room was relieved only by the glow from the lamp next to Katya.  Not that Katya realized how late it had become.  Once lost in a book, nothing else existed for her.

            Aggravated as she should be, Irena couldn’t help smiling as she looked at her daughter, her eldest child.  Tall and willowy, it was hard to guess it from the way Katya sat curled in the chair, much like Kisa, the family cat.  Katya’s thick auburn hair fell in soft waves below her shoulders.  She might not be beautiful in the classic sense.  But Irena knew she’d grow more beautiful as she matured, something other women would resent with the passing years.  Until then, there was a strength to Katya’s features, softened by compassion, that couldn’t be ignored.

            “Katya,” she repeated, a hint of impatience creeping into her voice.

            “Mama.”  Katya looked up from her book, her expression a mix of affection and aggravation.  “Sasha’s probably got his nose pressed to his window, watching for Papa.  You know how he misses him.”

            “Which is why I need you to make sure he’s not so busy watching for your papa, he’s forgotten to get ready for supper.”

            “Mama, you worry too much.”  Katya carefully marked her place before closing the book and placing it on the table next to her chair.  Then, with a cat-like grace Irena envied, she uncurled her legs and climbed to her feet.  “But I will go hurry Sasha along.  I want to make sure he’s worked on his lessons for morning any way.”

            Katya lightly kissed her mother’s cheek before leaving the study.  Irena looked after her, no longer trying to hide her smile.  Katya was just one example of why no one would mistake them for a “typical” Russian family, noble or not.  In fact, being an atypical Russian family was something both she and Feodor, her husband these last twenty years, prided themselves on.  Just as they prided themselves on raising an intelligent, independent daughter.

Of course, there were times she might wish Katya was just a bit less independent. . . . But not often.

***

            “Papa’s home!”

            The door to her brother’s bedroom flew open and the boy hurtled into the hallway.  With the ease of much practice, Katya stepped to the side, all but hugging the wall.  Her right hand reached out and closed around Sasha’s arm as he rushed past, pulling him to a halt.  Twelve year old Aleksander glared up at her, outraged that she’d stopped him.  Then, as she reached out to ruffle his dark hair, smiling in affection, he ducked his head and grinned in response.

            “Papa may be home, but do you want to greet him by bouncing down the stairs on your head?” she teased.

            “But my head is hard, Katya.  You keep telling me that,” Sasha said with a cheeky grin.

            “So I do, Sashel.  But think how sad it would make Mama if you bled all over your new shirt.  And what of Anna who would have to clean the mess?”

            “Well –” He tilted his head to one side as he looked up at her, a slight smile tugging at the corners of his mouth even as he pretended to consider it all.  “I guess it would make for a homecoming Papa might not enjoy.”

            “Then, shall we go down now and give him one he will enjoy?”

            Together they made their way downstairs a bit more slowly – although, to be honest, not that much more – than Sasha wanted.  After all, he wasn’t the only one anxious to see their father after Feodor’s week long absence.  But there was one person in the household who had missed Papa more than either of them and that was their mother.  Knowing that, Katya hoped she’d managed to stall her brother long enough for their parents to have a short but private greeting because it would be their last time alone until Sasha went to bed and she retired to her room and her own studies.

            As they entered the salon, Katya smiled to see how her father still held Mama close, love clearly reflected on both their expressions “Papa!” Sasha rushed across the salon and flung himself into Feodor’s open arms.

            “Irena, I do believe our son is glad to see me,” he said, his brown eyes twinkling.  “But how about our daughter?  Have I been gone so long she’s forgotten me?”

            Katya grinned and hurried to join her brother in their father’s embrace.  “Never, Papa, but little Aleksander here didn’t look like he’d make room for me.”

            Feodor cupped her chin in his big hand and kissed her cheek.  “It is good to be home.  Now, I know your mother and Anna have supper almost ready.  Why don’t the two of you help set the table while I freshen up?”

            Katya hid her smile to see how badly her brother wanted to protest.  After all, Papa had just gotten home.  But neither of them had been raised to either backtalk their parents or take for granted anything they had.  That was one thing that made their family different from so many of those of Katya’s friends.  Despite the fact her parents came from old, aristocratic families, they had taken great pains to make sure both Katya and Sasha understood that did not entitle them to anything they did not earn for themselves. 

            Because of that, they did not have a houseful of servants.  Instead, they had Anna Petrovskaya, their live-in maid who helped Irena with the cleaning and cooking, and her husband, Viktor, who acted as butler and chauffeur.  Both had come with the family when it moved to St. Petersburg in 1906 when Feodor began working for Peter Stolypin, then Minister of the Interior.

If an occasion arose when they needed additional help, Irena hired it.  As a result, both Katya and Sasha had learned early on how to pick up after themselves and care for the home.  After all, if they were lucky enough to have a home and nice things, they should learn how to care for them themselves.

            “Come along, Sasha.”  Katya smiled once more at their father and winked at their mother.  “You can talk to Papa over supper.”

            Later, they retired to the sitting room, as they did most evenings when the entire family was home.  Unlike many of the other families of their acquaintance, they did not follow the trend of the children being sent to their rooms or the nursery while the adults went their separate ways.  No, Irena and Feodor believed in the importance of spending time with their children, sharing the events of the day with one another.

Katya smiled indulgently as she watched her brother all but run across the room to settle on the floor next to their father’s favorite chair.  How many nights had he spent sitting there, looking up at Feodor, raptly listening to their father talk about any variety of topics?  Not that she blamed him.  Katya had spent her fair share of nights sitting there as well, at least she had until her mother had taken her to one side and explained how important it was for Sasha to have some of their father’s attention now that he was growing up.

            “So,” Feodor began as he leaned back and reached for his snifter of brandy.  “How have things been while I was gone?”

            “You know how it is, dear,” Irena began, her blue eyes twinkling as she glanced first at Sasha and then at Katya where she curled on the far end of the sofa opposite her mother.  “The children miss you, but try to act as if they don’t.”

            “Mama!” Sasha protested, a blush creeping across his fair cheeks.

            “Don’t let your mama tease you, Sashel.  I know you do your best to be the man of the family, and I appreciate it.  I feel better when I have to leave, knowing you are here looking after your mother and sister.”

            But he didn’t, not really, and Katya knew it.  Just as she knew he wished she had been born a son.  Oh, he loved her.  There was no doubting that.  He made it clear every day.  Still, she knew he’d feel better if she had been a son, just as she knew some sort of trouble was coming and it worried her father.  But what could she do?  He wouldn’t talk to her about it.  Nor, she suspected, had he discussed it with her mother and, until he had, there was very little any of them could do to help.

            “Katya.” Concern touched Feodor’s voice and she shook herself.

            “I’m sorry, Papa.”

            “You were a world away, child.  Is everything all right?”

            “It is.”  She smiled to reassure him.  “I was just thinking about today’s classes.”

            “Are you sure you weren’t thinking about some boy?” he teased and it was her turn to blush.

            “I’m positive,” she answered firmly.

            “Feodor, quit teasing the girl,” Irena scolded, her eyes sparkling with good humor.  “Katya has been quite busy this week helping with Sasha’s studies as well as attending her classes at university.”

            “Good.” The smile he turned to his daughter had Katya all but preening in pride.  “And, Katya, I promise we will discuss sending you to either Uncle Stefan in New York or Aunt Katerina in London to attend university there very soon.”

            For a moment, Katya just sat there, looking from one of her parents to the other. Then, as the full import of what Feodor said sunk in, she all but flew from the sofa to throw her arms around her father’s neck.  She couldn’t believe it.  She’d hoped — no, she’d prayed — to be able to go to university in England or America, but she’d never thought she’d be allowed.  It cost so much money and her parents had said many times they did not want her so far away.  Now, all of a sudden, it looked like her dream might come true.

            What had happened to change Papa’s mind?

            “Thank you, Papa, Mama.” She returned to her seat, pausing long enough to give her mother a hug equally as enthusiastic as the one she’d given her father.

            “No promises, Katya.  We will have to see.  But I do promise your mother and I will discuss it with you soon.”

            She nodded, knowing she shouldn’t get her hopes up, but unable to help it.  Even discussing it was more than she’d ever expected.  Whenever she’d brought up the possibility before, one or the other of her parents had always changed the subject.  She didn’t care why they suddenly seemed to have changed their minds.  Not if it meant possibly being able to live out her dream.

            “I understand, Papa, and thank you.”

            “Tell us, dear, how bad was the trip home?” Irena asked.  Her fingers lightly traced the floral pattern of the teacup she held.  A hint of concern colored her voice.  Katya understood.  They’d both worried the weather would delay Feodor’s return.

            “Uneventful.  Of course, if I’d left Moscow any later, I might not have made it home today.  The closer to the capital we came, the worse the weather.  I admit, I worried about ice on the rails.”  He sipped his brandy and the reached down to ruffle Sasha’s hair.  “And how was your day today, Sasha?”

            For the next few minutes, the boy described in infinite detail everything that happened at school.  Both Feodor and Irena listened, occasionally asking a question.   Katya wasn’t surprised when her brother commented on the number of his classmates who had not been in school, taking advantage of the weather to stay home.  Nor was she surprised when he named several of them.  Too many of his classmates came from families who felt the rules did not apply to them unless the Tsar said they did.  That attitude would only lead to more trouble for Russia.

            “And your religion class?”

            For a moment Sasha didn’t respond and Katya frowned in concern.  He generally enjoyed his classes with Father Dmitri and couldn’t wait to tell them what he’d learned that day.  Worried, Katya leaned forward, waiting.

            “Sasha,” Irena prompted.  “Did something happen today?”

            “I don’t know, Mama.”  A frown creased his forehead.  “Father Dmitri taught us more about God’s covenant with man.  It was interesting.”

            “Sashel, what is it?  What troubles you?” Feodor asked.

            “We had a visitor today, Papa.”

            Katya glanced from her father to her mother and back again.  This was the first she’d heard of a visitor and, judging by her mother’s expression, the first Irena had heard of it as well.  Still, that didn’t explain Sasha’s reluctance to talk about the class.  Could something have happened, something Father Dmitri hadn’t spoken about with Irena when she collected Sasha from the cathedral?

            “Who, son?”

            “Father Grigori.”

            For a moment, no one said anything.  Then Feodor cleared his throat and spoke softly, gently.  “Grigori Rasputin, son?”

            “Yes, Papa.”

            “Did he say anything?”

            “He said he wanted to know how our studies were going and he listened to us recite scripture for a few minutes.  Then he left.”

            “Sasha, what else?” Irena asked.  When he didn’t reply, she moved to kneel before him, taking his hands in hers.  “Sashel, you know you can tell us anything, no?”

            He nodded once, almost reluctantly.

            “Then what troubles you?”

            “I know it’s wrong to fear him, Mama, but I do.  He scares me.”

            “Sasha.” Katya couldn’t help herself.  She moved quickly to kneel next to their mother, closing the protective circle around her brother.  No one, no matter who they were, was allowed to scare him.  “It’s all right.  There is nothing wrong with fearing him.  To be honest, he scares me too.”

            For a moment Sasha said nothing.  Then, when he looked up at her, his blue eyes that were so much like their mother’s filled with tears.  “Really?”

            “Really,” she confirmed.  “He is so different from Father Dmitri and the other priests.  Maybe because he’s so intense.  Maybe because of his role with the Royal Family.  But, yes, he scares me.”

            She did her best to let him see she spoke the truth.  Grigori Rasputin did frighten her.  She’d met him once, in Nevsky Prospect when she and their mother had been shopping.  That day, she’d realized Irena didn’t like the holy man despite the fact her mother had been nothing but respectful as she introduced him to her daughter.  That alone would have been enough to keep the memory sharp.  But it was her own reaction to him that surprised her, and that came rushing back. 

Never before had she reacted so strongly to anyone.  Nor had she ever wanted to avoid being near a person as she did the holy man from Siberia.  It had been all she could do not to turn and cross the street, leaving her mother to deal with Rasputin on her own.  There was something about him that was wrong.  She knew it, even if she didn’t understand it.

And now the man had been near her brother and had scared him.  Why?

            “Your sister is correct, Sasha.  It isn’t wrong to fear Rasputin.  But it also isn’t something to discuss outside of the family.  Not even to Father Dmitri,” Feodor said, his expression troubled as he looked over his son’s head to Irena.  Seeing it, Katya swallowed hard, a knot of fear growing deep inside her.  “Did he do or say anything else?”

            “No, Papa.  Only that we were credits to Father Dmitri’s fine teaching.  But it didn’t really sound like he meant it.”

            “Don’t worry about it anymore, Sasha.  You’ve done nothing wrong.”  Feodor pulled him to his feet and gave him a hug.  “Now, it is bedtime for you, my young man.  Go up with your sister.  She’ll help you get ready.  Your mother and I will be up shortly to kiss you good night.”

            “Papa’s right, Sasha,” Katya said, taking her cue from their father as she climbed to her feet.  “I will take a look at your lessons while you change.  Then you can read to me for a change.”

            He grinned, almost despite himself, and slipped his hand in hers.  With one last look over her shoulder at their parents, Katya knew she wasn’t the only one worried by Rasputin’s sudden appearance in Sasha’s class that afternoon.  Unfortunately, she had a feeling neither Feodor nor Irena would discuss their concerns with her, at least not yet.

            And that worried her more than the rest of it.

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the second Monday of the week?  It feels that way.  After a weekend filled with fun guests — and the massive and manic cleaning beforehand — and finally some rain, yesterday dawned with a new week’s worth of things to do, both personally and professionally.  Part of it was deciding how to handle my various blogging responsibilities.  Like so many writers and other folks in the publishing industry, I find myself active on more than just one blog.  That often winds up cutting into my writing time.  So, decisions needed to be made.  Basically, I’ll be blogging at The Naked Truth Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  I do my turn at Mad Genius Club every Sunday and the occasional Saturday.  That leaves Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays here.  Mind you, that is all subject to change as scheduling and breaking news dictates, especially for this blog and The Naked Truth.  But, it’s what I’m going to try for. . . we’ll see how it works.

Another thing I think I’m going to try is a regular snippet schedule.  It will keep me focused on my writing which is, I’ll admit, taking a backseat all too often to my duties at NRP.  So, I think I’ll start that today.  However, what isn’t going to be snippeted is the super sekrit project, mainly because I don’t know where it is going just yet.  Also, snippets will be rough, very rough, and will most likely change between when they appear here and in the final product.

Also, because of the problem of making sure the work being snippeted isn’t “published” before I get around to submitting it, snippets may not always be in order and I will never snippet more than 1/4 – 1/3 of the novel.  However, if you’re really interested in it, you can email or leave a comment asking to be a beta reader.  As any writer will tell you, beta readers are invaluable.

So, now to decide what to snippet, especially since I have dueling books in my head right now.  While I think about that, pardon me while I squee again.  Nocturnal Origins is doing pretty good so far as an e-book.  Actually, I’m thrilled with the preliminary numbers I’m seeing, but would, of course, love them to be better.  What author doesn’t?  And I’m absolutely ecstatic about the reviews it’s gotten so far.  I have to give a special shout out to Barb Caffrey at Shiny Book Review and say thanks for her review.

But the squee is for the fact the print version of Nocturnal Origins is now available (TPB).  You can order it from Amazon here.  It will soon be available from Barnes & Noble and you will be able to order it from your local bookstore as well.  There really is a special feeling to know your book is available in print.

I guess I’ll go figure out what to start snippeting.  Snippets will begin Thursday.  In the meantime, if you’ve read Nocturnal Origins and enjoyed it, please tell your friends.  I’m a firm believer that word of mouth really is the best advertising any author can get.

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Ooooh, Shiny Book

(Disclaimer: No books were harmed in the writing of this post. No vampires were made shiny and no werewolves were turned emo. Had either of the latter two occurred, said vamps and wolves would have been humanely extracted from the world of the written world for their sakes as well as for the sake of all readers out there.)

I must start with a confession. I am an e-book addict. You all know that. I’ve made no secret of how I love being able to put hundreds, thousands of books on my kindle or iPod touch and carry them with me. I love the convenience of being able to use my kindle to shop directly if I suddenly feel the need to have a new book and I just can’t wait on it any longer. Besides, why would I work for a digital press if I didn’t believe in e-books, right?

So what, you ask, do I have to confess? Well, I fell in love the other day. No, not that sort of love, although I did want to sleep with the new object of my affections. (Quit laughing, Sarah) Ah, I can see the looks of puzzlement in some of your faces and I see Kate covertly trying to find the number for the men in the white jackets. No, I haven’t lost my mind. But I have discovered something many others before me already knew.

Thursday I received the bound proof of Nocturnal Origins. It was like Christmas morning all over again. My hands shook as I ripped into the box. My breath caught as I carefully lifted the book from inside and turned it over. There, finally, one dream come true. I actually held a book with my name as author.

And it was soooooooo cool.

That isn’t to say I was more proud of the hard copy version of Origins than I have been of the e-book, because I’m not. But there is something about holding a book in your hands and seeing the physical manifestation of all your hard work.

Does this mean I’m not as big of an advocate of e-books as I was before Thursday? Absolutely not. But that feeling reminded me of something — there really is something special about “real” books. For those folks who are tactile, physical books will almost always be more enjoyable than e-books. What we are going to see over the next few years is a balancing out of the industry — I hope. E-books will gain more respectability while physical books will be ratcheted back some. I think we’ll see more of the POD hubs cropping up in bookstores and other outlets so stores don’t have to keep a lot of stock on hand. The customer simply orders the book while in the store, goes to have a cup of coffee or something, and comes back later to pick up his book. Technology like this may very well be one of the saviors of the print end of publishing.

In the meantime, however, let me have a moment to just go, “SQUEEEEEEE!”. I promise to be back to normal — or as normal as I ever am — next weekend.

(cross–posted from Mad Genius Club)

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Wow, it doesn’t seem possible that Nocturnal Origins has been out for a month.  Thanks to everyone who has bought it, read it and spread the word.  You’ve been great.

I know there have been some of you who have been waiting for the print version of Origins and I wanted to let you know that it will be available soon.  I have seen the page proofs and the cover design.  If everything goes as expected, it should be available in a week or so.  I’ll keep you guys in the loop.

So, while you wait, do you want more snippets?

(Yes, I’m trying to find reasons not to work on the top secret project that shall not be named because Nocturnal Serenade wants to be written and the tsp is dragging its feet.)

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