'I love you' is just the beginning of the story.

Countdown and Contest: “Into the Wind” (Mermen of Ea #2)

photoThree weeks and counting to the release of the second Mermen of Ea Series book, Into the Wind, from Dreamspinner Press!  May 5th all ya’ll! I’m waiting on final cover art, so no preorder link is available yet, but you can read more about Into the Wind here. In the lead up to release day, I’m running a pre-release, pre-blog tour giveaway here on my blog.

Up for grabs? Winner’s choice of a cool, nautical leather wrap watch, or a signed paperback copy of Stealing the Wind, the first book in the Mermen of Ea Series. US readers Nautical watchonly for this one, please.  I promise I’ll have some goodies for non-US readers in upcoming giveaways, though.

How do you enter? Leave a comment on this blog post and tell me what you like best about the ocean (feel free to let your imaginations run wild!).  I’ll choose a Stealing the Wind Cover - FINALwinner on May 4th from all the entries here.

Into the Wind is the direct sequel to Stealing the Wind, and takes up the story of Ian Dunaidh and Taren Laxley, shape-shifting mermen (Ea).  There are a few surprises in this book I hope you’ll enjoy, and the book starts off with a bang (literally), as the Phantom is attacked on her way to the Gateway Islands, where the crew hoped to locate the cruel pirate, Odhrán.

I’ll leave you with the blurb and an excerpt from the battle scene.  Enjoy! -Shira

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Blurb: Since learning of his merman shifter heritage, Taren has begun building a life with Ian Dunaidh among the mainland Ea. But memories of his past life still haunt him, and as the threat of war with the hostile island merfolk looms ever closer, Taren fears he will lose Ian the same way he lost his beloved centuries before. Together they sail to the Gateway Islands in search of the fabled rune stone—a weapon of great power the Ea believe will protect them—and Odhrán, the pirate rumored to possess it.

After humans attack the Phantom, Taren finds himself washed up on an island, faced with a mysterious boy named Brynn who promises to lead him to Odhrán. But Taren isn’t sure if he can trust Brynn, and Odhrán is rumored to enslave Ea to protect his stronghold. Taren will have to put his life on the line to find his way back to Ian and attempt to recover the stone. Even if he does find it, his troubles are far from over: he and Ian are being stalked by an enemy who wants them dead at all costs.

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DEAFENING CANNON fire rang out from the port side of the ship. Ian braced himself against the stair railing to keep from falling backward as the ship leaned deep and heeled hard to starboard. He heaved himself upward and crested the stairwell to the deck as the ship pitched again, forcing him to grab one of the barrels lashed to the deck to remain upright. Cannon shot landed off the bow, sending water over the forecastle and cascading down the already sodden deck. The acrid smell of gunpowder stung his nostrils and burned his eyes, and the familiar scent caused his adrenaline to skyrocket and set his mind racing.

“Renda! What the hell is happening?”

“She’s fired on us with no warning shot, Captain!” Renda, the ship’s quartermaster, barely looked at him as he struggled to steer the Phantom out of the line of fire.

“What colors does she fly?” Ian shouted as he ran toward the helm and lifted a spyglass to one eye.

“None, Captain! Her crew’s human! Navy ship!” Renda shouted above the cannon fire.

Ian felt it too. There were no Ea aboard the attacking ship. An entirely human crew? Only the Derryth navy sailed brigantines. But if he and the crew of the Phantom were fair game for the king and his navy, why didn’t they fly Derryth’s colors? They’d appeared out of nowhere. Had the mist been so thick that the men on watch had missed her?

Renda ceded the helm before Ian could think much more about it. For now, he needed to focus on their attackers and on gaining the upper hand. It had been more than twenty years since Ian had taken his ship into battle, but his crew was well seasoned. He prayed silently to his goddess that the winds would favor them.

“Derryth?” he asked Renda as he steered to avoid another blast from the enemy’s cannons. “Aligned with the Council? Or is this just a coincidence?” He’d expected to face the island Ea in battle eventually, but never had he expected them to use humans to chase them down.

Renda scowled. “No coincidence. Magic, seeing as the fog cleared just in time for them to attack. They had help tracking us down. A mage, no doubt.”

Humans did not possess magic. When had the island Ea recruited the humans to their cause? The thought made Ian’s blood boil. Humans had nearly wiped out their kind hundreds of years before, looking for the fabled rune stone, a weapon more powerful than the Derryth Kingdom’s largest cannons. Had someone told the humans they were heading to the Gateway Islands to find the reclusive pirate, Odhrán, and recover the very weapon that had nearly been the cause of their destruction?

No. He mustn’t think about that now. He needed his wits about him to keep his ship safe. Then he could think more about the implications. He focused once again on the ship and her crew. The feel of the wood beneath his hands and the stiff wind against his cheek always warmed Ian’s soul, even in the midst of battle. The bright, crisp scent of the salt spray awakened his senses and mind. He’d been born for this command, although he’d paid a stiff price for it. His father before him had been a sailor, although he’d long given up the seafaring life by the time Ian had learned to sail in the Derryth navy. Sailing was in his bones and his blood. The only thing he loved more than sailing on the water was swimming in it.

Renda shouted more commands to the men manning the ropes, then turned back to Ian and scowled. “Their ship is fast. She’s shooting the sun and she has the weather beam.”

Stealing our wind! Ian cursed beneath his breath. With the enemy positioned between them and the wind, the Phantom could do little to maneuver. If he hadn’t been forced to stay within the Council’s reach, tied to the island, he’d have long before found the best clockmaker in Derryth and purchased a sextant. He was tired of others sighting guns upon the Phantom so easily. Their ancient astrolabe might have sufficed twenty years  ago, during the civil war that cleaved his people in two, but it was useless against a better-equipped navy. As things stood, Ian could only guess at the angle of the enemy’s guns and what direction he might be able to steer the Phantom to avoid them.

He glanced skyward and was momentarily blinded by the sun’s brilliant reflection in the lookout’s spyglass. He moved his gaze to the mainsail and the seagulls that rode thermals alongside it. It had been a calm day until the enemy appeared. Now the wind raced the heavens. The telltales on the sails fluttered frantically with each powerful gust of the wind, making it difficult for Ian to determine the wind’s direction. He fought the helm in an effort to maintain their course as the sea swelled and the ship bucked. Worse yet, the Phantom was poorly situated in the wind on a close reach that placed the ship at a crucial disadvantage.

The enemy’s guns belched again and cannonballs spun past, spitting fiery tar and narrowly missing the main mast. The flames that licked from the metal nearly set the mainsail afire.

“They’re using pitch!” Renda shouted as the pungent smell of burning pine reached Ian’s nostrils.

Ian heard his father’s words echo in his mind. “There is nothing as deadly as fire at sea.” If one of those cannon blasts hit the Phantom, she’d go up in flames.

Heeling starboard as the Phantom was, her portside guns aimed high above the waterline. Each cannon shot fired was nothing more than wasted ammunition. They were outmanned, outgunned, and out-positioned in the wind. Damn. Ian considered his options quickly, mulling their position relative to the enemy and eyeing the wind in the sails. He had no choice but to bring the ship about and take aim with the starboard cannons. Yet if he turned and lost the wind, they’d end up in irons and stalled in the water.

“Are the starboard gun ports open?” Ian shouted.

Another blast from the enemy ship’s cannons landed within a yard of the Phantom. The ship shook with the impact, and several crewmembers scrambled to better tie down some of the supplies on deck.

“Aye, Captain! Ports open, guns loaded!”

A quick glance around the deck told Ian that his beloved Taren was not there. He reached out first with his innate senses and was relieved to feel Taren’s strong heartbeat as if it beat within his own chest. Their connection had continued to grow stronger over the past few months. Among Ea, a bond like theirs—what their people called soulbound—was rare. Where most Ea could only sense that one of their brethren was near, Ian and Taren could sense each other’s presence in particular. Sometimes Taren’s fear became Ian’s, and although Taren had not spoken of it, Ian guessed his own anger and frustration sometimes became Taren’s.

Ian looked up, searching the mastheads and rigging with his eyes, and found Taren atop the main mast. He worked furiously, tying Turk’s heads in the rigging as fast as he could and adjusting the sails to compensate for the heeling Phantom.

“Trim the sails! Man the starboard cannons and tell the gunners to fire when I come about!” Ian knew it would do little good. If they headed farther into the wind, they’d lose speed and stall. “Tell the gunners to fire when they can!”

“Aye, sir!” Renda barked commands and the boatswains flew into action with whistles and hand signals. When Ian saw that Taren had acknowledged his orders, he brought the Phantom hard about. She bucked the squall and swell as Ian fought the wheel to turn her, and she listed her worst yet, her masts lying but thirty degrees off the water.

Damn.

At midturn, a volley of cannon fire caught the Phantom’s bow, causing her to shudder angrily as wood splintered and flew, mortally wounding one of the crew in the chest. Bright red blood splashed the deck to mingle with salt water and run past the smoldering pitch.

Crian! Renda ran to help the injured sailor. Perhaps he could help the man long enough that he might transform and heal his wounds. But Renda’s slight shake of his head and icy expression told Ian there was nothing to be done. Crian was dead.

Ian’s gut clenched when he thought of Crian’s family. Why was he so surprised that he’d lost a man? Had he really believed this voyage would be anything but risky? He’d naively hoped their mission would be a simple one: find Odhrán, retrieve the rune stone, and return it to Vurin, the leader of Ea’s mainland colony, so he might better protect their people.

He searched the rigging for Taren again and couldn’t find him. He’d felt Taren’s steady presence only moments ago, but he’d been too preoccupied with the battle to keep track of him. At least he could still feel the steady beat of Taren’s heart. He finally spotted Taren aft, now atop the mizzenmast, clinging to guy ropes and swinging wildly with each turn of the helm.

Taren had left their cabin at dawn to work on the sails with the intention of increasing the ship’s speed. He loved to toil on the rigging, and Ian knew how his spirits soared with the feel of the wind on his face. Taren’s acrobatics never ceased to amaze Ian, but they nonetheless left him cold with fear. Taren was nothing short of a long-tailed monkey in the rigging.

“Taren! Taren!”

Ian’s shouts went unheeded—Taren couldn’t hear him over the chaos of the battle. Ian only hoped Taren had guessed what his next maneuver might be, and had good purchase on the ropes to keep him from falling.

The navy ship tacked in tandem with the Phantom and now aimed its sights at her stern. Ian couldn’t risk a blow to the most vulnerable part of the ship and had no choice but to adjust course again to avoid a hit. He spun the wheel the hardest yet to starboard.

Hold on, Taren!

The ship protested the quick maneuver, her teak wood groaning and creaking under the strain as she stalled in irons. In his quick decision to turn hard, he’d been reckless. They were headed directly into the wind now and were dead in the water.

Ian looked up and found Taren as he kicked out like lightning and baffled the aft sail to back the ship. An eerie silence descended, and they waited to see if the Phantom would catch her wind speed. Not a whisper of wind touched the sail. Taren reached for the rigging and swung out hard, kicking angrily at the sail once again. The sail billowed once, twice, and Ian’s breath stuttered, his warning shout lodged in his throat. He knew precisely what the aft sail would do. With a whoosh and an earsplitting snap, she filled and the Phantom regained her air once again, leaping to top speed.

Ian watched in admiration as Taren swung down on the ropes just in time to avoid the snap of the sail. He landed gracefully on the deck a dozen feet away.

“Ian!” Taren shouted as he ran over to the wheel. Another shot from their attackers landed close to the Phantom, causing Taren to grab a hold of one of the nearby rails.

“Excellent work,” Ian said as he adjusted the ship’s heading. “Now if we can only make some headway—”

“Why don’t you send a few men down?” Taren panted hard, clearly winded. Ian sensed his excitement and his fear. No. Sensing wasn’t quite right. Ian felt Taren’s emotions as if they were his own.

“Down?”

“Send them down with axes. Crowbars. Something. Anything. Have them transform and attack from below.”

Ian frowned. “It won’t work.”

“Why not?” Taren demanded. “If we could—”

Taren’s words were cut short by a volley that landed even closer to the ship. Ian fought to maintain his course. “It doesn’t work that way,” he shouted over the din of the waves crashing over the bow. “It’s far more—”

But Taren was already halfway toward the bow before Ian could finish. “No! Taren! You don’t understand! You can’t just—” Ian had no one to blame but himself for Taren’s lack of knowledge of Ea battle tactics. He glanced around, hoping to find someone to take the wheel. He needed to stop Taren before he did something dangerous, but before he could call out to Barra, the Phantom’s guns fired and missed. The navy ship returned fire, and a loud crack sounded from overhead as the shot hit the mizzenmast and the aft sail caught fire. The mast shattered, sending beam and splinter out at light speed. The sound of the mast breaking into smithereens was the last thing Ian remembered before his world grayed, then faded to black.

 

TAREN TRANSFORMED as he entered the warm tropical water with a splash. He’d grabbed an ax as he’d run, ignoring Ian’s shouts. He didn’t need Ian to lecture him about the danger of attacking the brigantine from below. But if this worked…. He’d barely caught his breath when he had to dive deep to avoid a deadly blow to the head from the enemy ship’s keel as she passed over him. Pumping his powerful tail, he swam after the Phantom’s challenger. He knew Ian would be angry with him for taking such a risk—he could almost feel that anger burn hot within his own heart. He’d face Ian’s wrath later. Had the Ea become so complacent in their human forms that they’d forgotten what they were?

The enemy brigantine was sleek and faster than the Phantom. They’d been nearing the Gateways, the chain of islands just west of Ea’nu, looking for Odhrán, the pirate rumored to possess the rune stone, when they’d been set upon. Taren surmised the brigantine’s captain knew the Phantom would be in the vicinity, and had waited in the mist until she could gain the weather beam over them. Strange. Stranger yet, he’d sensed that the ship held humans when it passed over him. Why would humans pursue them? Had they learned of the existence of merfolk, or did they believe them to be pirates?

No. It’s more than that. This all felt so familiar, as if he’d dreamed it. Expected it. Sensed something he hadn’t understood until just now.

Several more cannon blasts narrowly missed the Phantom and landed in the water nearby, bringing Taren back to himself. He fought the rising swells and powerful current as the wind picked up speed, echoing his own growing apprehension and worry for Ian and the Phantom’s crew. He dove, pumping and flexing the powerful flukes of his tail to propel him toward the enemy ship.

He reached her rudder a minute later. As fast as she was, he fought to keep up with her as he swung the ax at the place where the pintles and gudgeons met to hold the rudder in place. He’d expected resistance when the axe struck the metal of the hinges. He didn’t expect the force that threw him backward and knocked the ax from his hand.

Magic? Vurin had taught him to sense it, but he’d been too distracted by his work on the sails to feel it before. But how would a human ship use magic? What a fool he’d been to assume Ian and the other Ea wouldn’t have sensed it as well.

Taren heard another explosion right before it reverberated through the sea, and he watched beneath the water as the Phantom’s keel turned sharply and she suddenly lost speed. Even with her crew’s skill, without the wind, the Phantom would have no chance of outrunning the enemy. Would Ian surrender to the humans? Could he? If the humans knew what they were….

Of course they know! They’re using magic. He needed to get back to the ship. Help them fight the humans. On the ropes, he could do something. Here in the water, he was helpless.

He broke the surface of the water and glided easily over a swell using his tail to keep his head above the waves. He couldn’t remain above the surface long. His Ea lungs protested the air, created as they were to breathe oxygen through water. But he needed to see the plight of the Phantom for himself.

He watched as half a dozen men climbed the brigantine’s masts. They were readying to raft alongside the Phantom and board her. In a minute, perhaps two, they’d swing from the masts and land on the Phantom’s deck. Taren’s heart grew cold with fear, and the air whipped around him as he prayed the wind would change direction. If the Phantom could gain even a modicum of speed, her crew might outmaneuver the humans.

The reverberation of multiple volleys of cannon fire radiated through the water and sent fear through Taren. The first missed its mark, but the second shattered the mizzenmast. Pain seared Taren’s heart and he knew Ian had been hit. Panic shot up his spine as he felt Ian lose consciousness. No! Goddess, no! Please, you can’t take him! Not when I’ve just found him again!

Taren prayed once more that the winds would shift. If the Phantom could gain some speed, he had faith their ship could outmaneuver the humans even with the damage to the mizzen—Barra, their navigator, knew these waters well, knew the reefs well enough to navigate between them, whereas the humans might not. If he isn’t too badly hurt.

The surface of the water rippled, although this time it was not on account of the battling ships. The wind. Had the goddess heard his prayer? He closed his eyes and imagined the goddess’s hand coaxing the wind to shift to favor Ian and his crew. He felt the wind stroke his cheeks, felt its fingers stir the water. Imagined the Phantom’s sails filling and the feel of the helm as it pulled against the rudder.

Taren felt the zing of magic caress his skin—a familiar sensation he tried to place—but his attention was drawn upward by the sound of an explosion. He looked up in time to see something dark speed toward him: another volley of cannon fire. He flexed his tail and swam down. The cannonball missed him by inches. As he sank beneath the water with a heavy heart, a flash of movement filled his peripheral vision, the outline of a tail. Before he could turn to get a better look, something hit him hard in the back of the head.

He valiantly fought the urge to surrender to the darkness, but his eyes fluttered closed.

Rest now, a voice in his mind commanded, and he knew no more.

 

IAN LAY flat on his back, looking up at the mizzenmast—what was left of it. The mast itself was cleaved in two, the upper topsail was missing, and the lower hung from the ropes over the mizzen sail. With the help of a strong arm, he pulled himself up to a sitting position.

“Damn him! I should chain him to the ship.”

Renda frowned at him with concern. “Are you all right?”

“Of course,” Ian growled as he ignored the pounding in his head and the warmth of the blood that trickled from his scalp. “It’s Taren I’m worried about.”

“You’re not all right.”

“And what would you have me do about it?” Ian stood, swayed, then steadied himself on Renda’s shoulder.

“At least let me stop the bleeding.”

Ian ignored Renda and stumbled back to the wheel. He’d expected to see Barra there, since he’d been shouting commands to the other men while Ian steered, but instead saw Keral, one of the other hands. At least he’d the sense to take over the helm while Renda fussed over Ian like a mother hen. The ship bucked and shuddered as Keral turned sharply to avoid another cannon blast. Ian gritted his teeth and grabbed Renda’s arm, thankful that he was nearby.

They were out of options. Even with the mizzen sails intact, they’d been outpaced by the smaller ship. With the mizzenmast destroyed, they would be far slower and the Phantom would be more difficult to steer. Ian was just about to tell Keral to give the order for all but his officers to abandon ship when a gust of air brushed his cheek. For a split second, he sensed something familiar about the wind, as if it had stirred a memory buried deep in his soul. Then the feeling fled and he realized the wind had shifted to the northeast. A moment later, he felt the Phantom’s remaining sails catch the wind. The ship began to pick up speed, moving away from the enemy ship, which had slowed so its crew might board.

“Hard to starboard,” Ian ordered. “Now!”

Keral spun the wheel and the ship heeled dangerously close to the waves. “Fire!” Ian shouted to the men manning the guns.

The pain in Ian’s head, which had until then been just a dull ache, lanced with reverberations from the cannon blast. At nearly the same time, he felt another pain at the back of his head

Taren!

Ian dropped to his knees and clutched his head as his heart beat so hard against his ribs that it hurt. Goddess! Taren!

“Let me help you.” There was none of the usual chiding in Renda’s voice as he gently pulled Ian’s hand from his left temple. Ian felt the warmth of Renda’s healing against his skull. With the touch, Ian’s pain abated.

“Taren,” he moaned when he came back to himself. He reached out with his mind and felt the beat of Taren’s heart. Slower than before, but steady. Knocked out, perhaps, by the last volley?

“You felt his pain?” Renda asked, clearly surprised.

Ian nodded. “He’s alive. But he’s unconscious. Injured. I must find—” “A hit, sir!” one of the men shouted over the howling wind.

With Renda’s help, Ian got back to his feet. He saw it now—the smoking wound in the enemy ship’s stern. She floundered, her rudder damaged and no longer able to control her course. Even if she used her sails to steer, the Phantom would be long gone. Ian murmured a prayer of thanksgiving to the goddess. Now, if he could find Taren, he’d rest easy.

Writer’s World: Planning a Book (The Messy Truth)

Thought I’d share a bit more of my writing process with you as part of my “Writer’s World” blog theme.  Since I just turned in the manuscript for Dissonance, the next Blue Notes Series book, and am deep into the planning stages of the last Mermen of Ea Series book, Running with the Wind, what better thing to talk about than the planning stage of a story.

ive-got-my-thinking-cat-onEveryone plans differently. But I’m convinced that if you want a story with a real beginning, middle, and end, you need to do at least a little bit of planning. Which leads me to the question I’ve been asked a few times in blog interviews: are you a plotter or a pantser?

A plotter is someone who plots out their entire story before writing a word of it. Some plotters even outline complete scenes and chapters. A pantser is someone who writes by the seat of their pants (yeah, love that one!). I’m a hybrid.  I almost always have a broad scope outline of the story I’m about to write. Then I pants it from there, working my way through chapters without a detailed outline of what the chapter will be about.  I’ll talk about that in another blog post – how I pants once I’ve got the “bones” of a story.

So how do I create the bones (prepare to write, really)? I’ll use The Melody Thief as an example, since MelodyThief2LGit’s a standalone book not dependent upon any other plots (as opposed to my mermen books, the three of which are really one longer story). Keep in mind that The Melody Thief is more character than plot driven (something I’ll talk about in a later post), so this is my approach for those sorts of stories.

Step One:  Imagine the characters. Easy enough to say, for example, that Cary Redding (the focus of Thief), is a cellist. Okay, but that’s only a little interesting.  What’s more interesting? Figuring Cary out. What drives Cary? Who is he? Who will he be paired with to make the story interesting (i.e. create tension between the MCs)? Then I do the same thing with the second MS, in this case, Antonio.

Step Two: Figure out the primary conflict or, in the case of a character driven story, what the main character(s) path of growth will be. This is tricky. I’m not a fan of static characters who never change, but it’s hard to pull off a story where both characters change by leaps and bounds (at least in a single book). So I usually focus on one in particular to do the most changing. For The Melody Thief, that was easy. Cary would be the focus.  He’s the most messed up and in need of saving.  He is the “melody thief.”  By the way, this step usually determines what point of view I write in (a topic for another day).

Step Three: Figure out where the character’s growth starts and where I want him to end up. How do I take him from Point A to Point B in his personal journey?  In the case of Cary, he starts out a mess because of his crappy childhood and insecurities. He feels undeserving of the accolades he receives from his music, but he loves to play. Lots of internal conflict here. How does that manifest? In the form of an addiction to anonymous sex and fear of commitment (because who would want to commit to him, as undeserving as he is?).  Where I want him to end up? I know I want him to have a HEA and end up in a long-term relationship. I’m not exactly sure at this point what that looks like. This is where the pantsing part comes in much later, when I’m writing.

Step Four: Create the plot to hang the growth on (plot bunnies!)evil bunny.  In this case, Antonio as rescuer (literally, when Cary is mugged and Antonio saves his life), forces the two MCs together. Then give the two MCs some real life challenges they have to face together so that they are forced to grow. Without spoiling too much, suffice it to say that Cary’s past and Antonio’s son, Massimo, become those challenges.

Step Five: Create touchpoints.  Plot points, really, that I know I want to hit.  Cary lying to Antonio about who he is and the shit hits the fan moment when the truth comes out, for example. Cary having to choose between a life with Antonio and a life he’d always dreamed of as a kid. Antonio having to face his own demons when he realizes he may lose custody of his son. Last, but hardly least, the final scene that wraps things up.  Yes, I always know what the ending will be, even if all the details aren’t clear.

That’s it. The birth of a story. Messy? Yep. Is this everyone’s process? Nope. But it works for me with these character driven stories. More to come on some of the topics I’ve hit upon in this post. I hope you enjoyed it!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the process. Feel free to ask questions! -Shira

Guest Blogger Chris T. Kat Talks Rare Shifters

WolfandHisDiva[The]2[1]Welcome, Chris! So happy to have you blogging with me today. And can I say I not only love your cover, but I LOVE your title (diva that I am!). I love the excerpt and can’t wait to sit down and read your new release. (BTW, I personally would like to be a hawk shifter, or maybe a dolphin.)  -Shira

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Shira, thank you very much for having me. I’m here to talk about my new release, The Wolf and His Diva, a m/m shape-shifter romance which was published by Dreamspinner Press on March 12th.

In The Wolf and His Diva, the two main characters, George and Billy, have the ability to shift not only into one but two animals. Both of them can shift into foxes. George’s second form is a wolf whereas Billy’s second form is a red squirrel.

As I pondered about the various possibilities in which animals my guys could change into, I wondered why some of them haven’t been chosen so far? Or maybe I just didn’t discover them? Anyway, what about…

  • A badger? Or a skunk? Or a raccoon? I really love their marking and think it would make for some funny scenes. Well, as long as the skunk doesn’t get upset.
  • The slow loris. Doesn’t it look a bit like a baby Ewok in Star Wars? They sure have the cute look down. How about someone threatens the slow loris’ love interest? A slow loris produces a toxin that’s capable of death by anaphylactic shock. Sounds like a good idea to me. :)
  • Any kind of monkey. I don’t think I’ve read a shape-shifter book in the m/m genre that deals with a monkey-shifter. There are so many possibilities here that I’m curious why no one tried it. The monkeys could be portrayed as cute but also as dangerous if they’re in a situation in which they feel threatened. Hmm, plot bunnies…

What kind of shifter would you like to read about and why?

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Buy links:

Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4765

All Romance Ebooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-thewolfandhisdiva-1447789-145.html

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Wolf-His-Diva-Chris-Kat-ebook/dp/B00IY66WM2

 

Blurb:

George Owens is comfortable with his life just the way it is. A wolf- and fox-shifter, George leads a reclusive lifestyle with his energetic and diva-ish mate Billy, a fox-and squirrel-shifter.

George has no desire to take over leadership of the pack, despite his father’s wishes. Edward Owens is feeling his age and wants to make sure the pack is in good hands should he not be able to win his next challenge. However, George is adamant that he wants no part of it.

But events rock George from his complacency, and he realizes he has to take a stand and fight for what he cares about. If he remains in the past and cannot change in order to do what he must, he risks losing everything he loves.

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Excerpt from Chapter Two (George is in his wolf-form):

Even though he didn’t expect an answer, George called, Billy!

He all but jumped out of his skin when something landed on his back. He let out a surprised bark and craned his head to see if a branch had fallen on him. He couldn’t find anything but caught a glimpse of something moving, accompanied by a featherlight motion on his back.

Relief flooded him when the movement ended between his ears, and two tiny paws grabbed the tips.

Hello there! Billy chirped.

Sheesh! You scared me to death! George growled.

Sorry! I was so surprised! See, I knew it would come in handy that my second form is a squirrel. I shifted during my fall and stopped rolling down farther. Unfortunately, I was covered in snow and decided to rescue myself on a tree to avoid more snow gluing to me.

You knew that? If I recall correctly, you whined for a whole week after you found out your second form is a squirrel, George replied.

Billy climbed down George’s head, turned around, and sat down slightly above George’s nose. Well, I wanted to be something cool too, and since the second form is often a larger animal, I was quite disappointed at first.

George’s eyes crossed as he tried to focus on the little red-furred squirrel. Billy, you know I hate it when you sit there.

Billy giggled but remained where he was. I love it when you get that odd look.

Either get up or get down, George grumbled.

The grumble held no heat, though. He was too happy that Billy wasn’t injured. His heart still pounded too fast in his chest, but he was sure it would take up normal activity soon.

Billy hastily climbed up and settled between his ears, his tiny paws again clutching them. Whee! Bring us home, my beloved!

 

 

Chris T. Kat

Chris T. Kat lives in the middle of Europe, where she shares a house with her husband of many years and their two children. She stumbled upon the M/M genre by luck and was swiftly drawn into it. She divides her time between work, her family—which includes chasing after escaping horses and lugging around huge instruments such as a harp—and writing. She enjoys a variety of genres, such as mystery/suspense, paranormal, and romance. If there’s any spare time, she happily reads for hours, listens to audiobooks or does cross stitch.

 

 

Links:

Blog: http://christikat.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/christi_kat

GoodReads:http://www.goodreads.com/ChrisTKat

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ChrisTKat

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Chris-T.-Kat/e/B008FQQH2Q

Writer’s World: What a Character!

StealingTheWindFSReblogged from The Blog of Sid Love….

I write, but I’m also a reader. I’m honestly not sure a person can be a writer without being a reader. I’ve read bad books, good books, and great books. I often find myself thinking about what makes a book a great book. Plot is important, no doubt. Quality of the writing is important too. But what, hands down, makes a great book? In my opinion? It’s all about the characters.

Easy to say. Not so easy to explain what makes a great character. But I thought I’d give it a try and let you know what I think about when I am working to create characters.

I personally love characters who have flaws and who grow over the course of a novel. My Blue Notes Series books are those types of characters. And even in my Mermen of Ea books, which are heavier on plot, you’ll still find characters who start at Point A in the story and arrive at Point B by the end.

What’s a character “flaw?” Normal, human things. Lack of patience. Lack of ability to communicate. Fear of commitment. Insecurities. Physical impairments. Look around at the people you know and you’ll see all of these things. With many of the characters I write, I do look around me to find inspiration. I know I’ve gotten it right when I have a least a few readers say, “I got so pissed because [Character] did [name your flaw]!” Yep. Flaws can drive you nuts. Or they can break your heart.

If a character is too perfect, I don’t get invested in them. I’m certainly not perfect, why should the people I read Aria-finalabout be? If a villain is pure evil, without any humanity, why do I care? In my opinion, the best antagonists are the ones who have redeeming, human qualities. The face-palm, why-are-you-doing-that sort of characters you want to hate, but you keep hoping will do the right thing. Three dimensional, and I care. Did I care about the villains in the James Bond movies? Meh. Not so much.

Let’s talk antagonists of mine for a moment, then. Because I just submitted the next Blue Notes Series book, Dissonance, to Dreamspinner Press and one of the MCs is Lord Cameron Sherrington, the antagonist from Aria. Cheating Cam. Cam who breaks Aiden Lind’s heart. And you know what? By the end of Dissonance, I loved Cam. Even adored him. Because he changes and he grows into a man deserving of happiness. Did I consider writing Cam’s story when I was first working on Aria? Nope. But he took on a life of his own, and he demanded his own story. Which leads me to my last tidbit about writing characters….

Original characters tend to develop as you write them. They often have minds of their own. I’ve had more than just a few characters I’ve written who have put their feet down, glared at me, and told me in no uncertain terms that they MelodyThiefwere not going to do what I told them they should do. Without spoiling the end of Aria, I can honestly say I didn’t intend Cam to do what he did. Not when I first planned the book. Another character who told me in no uncertain terms to “f-off” and let him follow his heart? Cary Redding in The Melody Thief. So much for the last half of that book! My outline went whoosh out the door and Cary got the story he needed. I think I have a few more gray hairs to show for that one!

Sure, there are many other aspects of writing original characters. But these are the tried and true principles I always keep in mind when writing. So the next time you’re reading a book and shouting at a character, or your heart breaks for him, think about why you feel that way. What about him makes him real enough that you care what happens to him? Does he remind you of yourself or someone else you know? Can you empathize with him? If so, that’s probably a great character. And you’re probably reading a great book.

I’ll leave you all with a sneak peek excerpt from the next Blue Notes Series book, Dissonance, and a little taste of Lord Cameron Sherrington. Or rather, the man behind the façade. Because he hides his heart all too well. –Shira

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Blurb: British lord Cameron Sherrington has hit rock bottom. The love of his life, opera sensation Aiden Lind, is marrying another man, and Cam knows it’s his own fault for pushing Aiden away. Then someone tries to set him up and take away his family business. Facing possible deportation if he stays in the U.S. or arrest if he returns to London, Cam decides to run. But with no money and no place to stay, it’s not exactly the Hollywood thriller he’d imagined.

When Cam hears Galen Rusk play in a lonely subway station, he’s intrigued. But his assumptions about Galen are all wrong, and their unusual relationship isn’t exactly what Cam bargained for. Add to that the nightmares that dog him nightly, and Cam’s world is shaken to its core. Cam figures he had it coming to him, that it’s all penance due on a life lived without honesty. He just never figured he might not be able to survive it. Note: Blue Notes Series novels are standalone stories, and can be read in any order.

******

Four hours later, Cam stood on the platform of the No. 4 train listening to the sound of the train from the nextyellow line station echo down the tunnel. The sharp tang of urine mingled with a smell he imagined was the coating of dust and dirt from the rails as the trains created friction and heat. The floor began to vibrate beneath his feet and the squeal of metal against metal drowned out the conversations of the few people standing nearby. He looked down at the thick yellow line that ran along the edge of the platform. Some of the paint had been scraped away, and bits of gum and tar covered other parts of it. But it was there. For your safety, stay behind the yellow line.

He moved up a few steps until his toes were centered on the line. His eyes burned. He tried to convince himself it was the blast of cold air from the tunnel, or the smells, but his brain kept pulling him back to the black sedans parked outside of Riley’s apartment building. Waiting to take him into custody, and then what? Had Riley even hesitated before he’d called Homeland Security? Had his uncle called Riley to warn her? He deserved every fucking bit of shit the universe was sending him. Oh, no, he hadn’t done anything wrong.

Not this time.

He closed his eyes and tried to block the thoughts and images that seemed to replay in an endless feedback loop in his mind. Spending through his inheritance so quickly he’d had to beg the board of directors to cover his living expenses. The way they’d looked at each other—judging him, and rightly so. The Broadway-bound productions that had gone nowhere. The fast cars. The clothes. The men. His mother’s laughter when he’d asked her to send him some money. The $100 dollar bill that he’d spent on food, a hot shower, and clean underwear. The calls his uncle—the fucking CEO of his own fucking company!—wouldn’t return.

Fucking.

Fucking Jarrod on the antique sofa. The pain of betrayal in Aiden’s eyes. Aiden packing his suitcases, his eyes red from crying. How he’d told Aiden he’d regret leaving. The fear on Aiden’s face when he’d understood the implicit threat. How he’d meant that threat.

Fucking.

Fucking some sweet Italian arse aboard his family’s yacht the night before Aiden flew to join him. Hinting to some annoying twat of a reporter that Aiden had been unfaithful. Knowing full well how much it would wound Aiden. Faithful Aiden. Aiden who’d loved him.

Fucking pain.

This time, his own pain, because Aiden had only told the truth: Cam really didn’t know how to live with him, or anyone. Another threat. The feeling that he’d ripped his own heart out of his chest, still beating. Aiden, whom he’d loved.

God, I loved you!

Everything blurred. The guilt, the pain, the anger. All of it. He couldn’t think straight. Couldn’t see a way out of this. Didn’t want to see a way out, because if there was a way out, where would he be?

Alone. Pathetic. Locked in a cell no bigger than a box. A dark, damp place. He imagined hands reaching out to hold him down, keep him there. Hurt him. He’d never liked enclosed spaces, although he had no recollection of why. He thought about the cell again and shivered.

He opened his eyes. The toes of his shoes were even with the edge of the platform, his feet now fully on the yellow line. The train was close now. So close. He watched the lights moving toward him. Felt the air rush past his cheeks. He leaned forward….

A hand grasped his shoulder, sure and steady. He blinked and stepped backward as the train whizzed by, inches from his face.

“Are you all right?” The man had to shout the words over the din.

Cam’s heart pounded hard against his ribs, racing like the train. “I… ah… yes. I’m quite all right.” Total bullshit, and yet he managed to speak these last words with the confidence he lacked.

The man—Cam knew he’d seen him before somewhere—offered him a lopsided smile. Blue eyes. Dark blond hair. Cam saw he was holding a black fiberglass case.

The trumpet player. The one who’d been playing for tips. What was his name? Galen.

“Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” Galen asked.

 

Michael Mandrake’s Menspiration (and giveaway)!

Roughmm1[1]Welcome Michael Mandrake! Michael’s doing a blog tour and super cool giveaway for his new release, I Love It! the grand prize in the giveaway is a huge pile of goodies including:  1 ebook copy of ILIR, 1 Coffee Mug, 1 Starbucks Gift Card, Bag of Beads from New Orleans, 1 All Romance Gift Card, 1 N’awlins T Shirt, Jewelry Inspired by N’awlins Exotica, Booksmarks, Postcards, and pens from Sharita Lira/Muses. Look for the Rafflecopter link after Michael’s post! -Shira

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Good morning readers and thanks for listening to me ramble today. So, what am I talking about on this stop for the blog tour? MEN! That’s right, men.

Now, I’m not trying to give any lessons here about how they smell, what they’re made of, or anything like that. What I’m speaking of is how they inspire us as writers, artists, or even you, as a reader. How you ask?

Think about a man you really like, celebrity or not. Okay, besides your husband, Jesus, work with me here. *blinks* Does this man make you all gushy inside? Think naughty things? Are you dreaming about the man bending you over the washer in the laundry room while you wait for the clothes to dry? Or perhaps you’d like to be on a secluded island with him? Maybe. Then you’ve been MENSPIRED.

No, it’s not a real word, but it means that gorgeous hottie is someone you think about during a day dream, a relaxing bath, or a nap after you’ve sent the kiddies to school. He inspires your thoughts, invades your subconscious.

As creators, a lot of us have a man in mind when we write. The characters are fictional, but we build a guy in our brain and form a personality around him. I can’t speak for anyone else but for all 4 of my muses, we scout the net looking for a specific man to play the “role.” It’s usually something specific like his eyes, his build, or if he has something distinctive that bradpitt[1]says he should play this part.

Who have been some of our menspirations? We aren’t that cliché’, picking the ones everyone wants like George Clooney or Brad Pitt. Our “actors” have been men who are models or even musicians. Some have been actual actors, but they’re ones not everyone knows.

For N’awlins Exotica, I used Shemar Moore, an actor who plays a role in Criminal Minds and by the way, just because I wrote him as an m/m character, doesn’t mean I haven’t fantasized about him. *chuckles* Another is the model on the cover named Umid, who also inspired the twins books for the paranormal shemarmoore35side of this collection. He’s well known on the net because of that face and body but unlike Shemar, not a lot of people “know” him, per se. Still, he’s been on many covers by myself and other authors in m/m and het romance.

Now, there are many more but these are only a couple of examples. When we look for the menspiration, the appearance usually writes itself in the story and as we go along, we stop a moment to pick the person we’re thinking to visualize the action going on. Men-inspired. Inspired by a certain man, to do what we want.

Surely when you’ve had that naughty dream of Brad Pitt from Lonesome Dove , it was a thrill that made you laugh or got a little moist down below. It titillated you as a woman or man, and made you want to react. A quick round with the vibrator perhaps? Hope you got batteries. In a authors’ life it’s the same. We’ve been menspired to pen a few thousand words around a particular man and erm, we might be having a little fun afterwards too.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this fun and sexy post, and in the meantime, keep living and dreaming. Enjoy a little more info on my newest book in the N’awlins Exotica series, I Love it Rough.

ILIRbanner[1]

Here’s the Rafflecopter link: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blurb: Livin’ in N’awlins ain’t all that easy…

Kajika Fortier loves his job, the attention he gets from onlookers, and Frankie Choteau. However, his new partner’s jealousy, mood swings, and over protectiveness drives Kajika to the brink but at the same time, excites him to no end.

To complicate things further, a murderer is on the loose looking for blood. All three of the killer’s victims are strippers which not only makes Frankie nervous about Kajika’s safety but leaves him questioning his love for being a homicide detective. Coupled with the stresses of cold cases as well as some fellow officers shunning him for coming out, Frankie is having second thoughts about staying in New Orleans. Despite the encouragement from Vance, Kenina, and Orrin as well as new chief Quinn Murray, Frankie is wondering if his life’s passion really is to catch the killers.

Will the new couple survive these new issues that impede their nearly perfect union? Or will the relationship fail, thus leaving Kajika alone and a target for New Orleans latest serial killer? Detective Choteau and Kajika’s commitment to one another is being tested in more ways than one and they only have one another to lean on.

Buylinks:  Amazon, All Romance, Smashwords

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EXCERPT:

Kajika stepped out of the tub, grabbing the towel nearby to dry off. He’d been looking forward to spending the night and the early part of the day with his man, but duty called, causing Frankie to run out the door without saying anything more than ‘I’m gone’ and ‘I love you’.

Damn job.

Sometimes Kajika wished Frankie worked a nine to five instead of the dreaded detective position he held at the police station. They hadn’t had much time with the workload being so large due to shortage of staff, and it affected their relationship more than Kajika would’ve liked. At first he thought he could handle it; the excitement of his hot homicide detective out in the streets solving murders. Such a dangerous career but with it came nice money and accolades. Although Kajika was scared to death of blood and dead bodies, he loved hearing about some of Frankie’s cases, including the more intriguing ones that had yet to be solved. Tonight though, he would’ve traded all that in for his Frankie to be by his side.

In bed with me, where he should be.

Kajika finished wiping down and wrapped himself in his terry cloth robe to get ready for bed. He’d thought about staying up and watching some television, hoping that Frankie might return sooner than later, but he knew the truth. When called in, detectives don’t make it back home within a couple of hours. More like a few hours, or even half the day, would pass before he’d see his man again. As long as he came home safe, Kajika would deal with the amount of hours he spent away from their warm bed in Kenner, Louisiana.

On the way to the bedroom, Kajika wrapped his hair in the towel, drying his long strands. He glanced at the clock on the wall and grimaced when he noticed the big and small hand hovering over the two.

“Shit. Now I know I won’t see you until breakfast.” Kajika clicked his teeth and stomped on the trail of rose petals, angered by their night being interrupted. He pushed their bedroom door closed and leaned against the wood. “Damnit. We haven’t done a whole lot other than late night cuddling, quickies in the bathroom or on the kitchen floor. I need more than that, Frankie…I need−”

A long buzz sounded from the dresser, and Kajika moved quickly to see who was calling.

Frankie.

Frankie, or at least Kajika hoped it was, calling him with the news he’d be returning home sooner than expected. Although farfetched, Kajika could still wish his husband to be back early. He gulped hard and said a little prayer before clicking the connect button. “Hello?”

Silence then a sigh. “Babe, it’s me… I… I got some real bad news to tell you, sweetheart, but I’d rather you hear it from me as opposed to anyone else.”

Kajika released a deep breath and shrugged. “Are you okay, love? Something bothering−”

“Naw, I’m good, boo, but−” Frankie stopped a moment and blew hard through the phone.

Kajika plopped on the bed and crossed his legs, wondering what the heck his man was talking about. Bad news? What could it possibly be? Kajika nibbled on his bottom lip while he toyed with the frayed threads on his housecoat. “What is it, lover?”

“Babe, the murder I got called in for was…” Frankie ceased speaking again and sounded a little choked up about it.

Kajika held his breath and blinked twice in succession. “Who Frankie? Come on, just spit it out, right…who…”

“Lana Miles, babe. Lana’s been strangled to death.” Frankie spoke quickly to get the words out.

Kajika stared straight ahead, and his heart caught in his chest. Oh my God! Unable to cope with what he’d just heard, he dropped his phone and immediately the tears welled under his eyelids. Lana? Oh my God, who killed her? She was a good person…she…

“Kajika? Babe, you there? You okay, love? Talk to me, honey.”

ILIRbanner[1]

Michael Mandrake pens complex characters already comfortable with their sexuality. Thorough these, he builds worlds not centered on erotica but rather the mainstream plots we might encounter in everyday life through personal experiences or the media. To find out more please visit http://tabooindeed.blogspot.com.

Author Sharita Lira: In one word, crazy. Just crazy enough to have 3 different muses running around in her head, driving her to sheer exhaustion with new plot bunnies and complex characters. This happily married mother of two beautiful children loves music, computers, reading, and still enjoys reading and writing fanfiction. She’s a proud member of the Erotica Readers & Writers Association, as well as an advocate for rights of LGBT citizens.  She’s also a contributor to the heavy metal ezine Fourteeng.net. For more information, please visit http://www.thelitriad.com as well as her Facebook fanpage, The Literary Triad.

The Literary Triad - http://www.thelitriad.com/#!

Michael Mandrake – http://tabooindeed.blogspot.com BLMorticia – http://blmorticia.wordpress.com

Rawiya - http://rawiyaerotica.wordpress.com

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Blog stops for the I Love It Rough Tour

2/22 Mantasy Remmy Duchene

2/23 The Rainbow Studio

2/24 Wednesday Briefs Site

2/25 Lily Velden

2/26 Its Raining Men

2/27 Full Moon Dreaming Julie Lynn Hayes

2/28 Nature of the Heart Renee Stevens

3/1   Dawn’s Reading Nook

3/2   SweetNSexyDivas

3/3   Cia’s Stories Cia Nordwell

3/4   Raine O’ Tierney  

3/5   Wicked Sexy Writers

3/6   Naughty Nights Press Blog

Are Cafe

3/7   Decadent Delights MA Church

3/8   JC Wallace

3/9   Chris T Kat

3/10 LM Brown

3/11 Rob Colton

3/12 Shira Anthony

3/13 Dreamz of Dragons AR Von

3/14 Talismania Brilliant Disguise Tali Spencer

3/15 QueerTown Abbey

Writer’s World: The Truth About Editing

editing2On this cold winter’s morning in usually warm North Carolina, as I slog through the second round of edits for the upcoming, Into the Wind, I thought I’d share a bit of the writing process seen through this writer’s eyes.  I’ll blog about the process as I experience it, and not in any particular order, but so you, the reader, can get a sense of what it’s all about.

There’s not much I love more than to hear a reader’s excitement when I post that I’ve just submitted a new book to my publisher, or that I’m working on edits for an upcoming release. Often the response is “Why is is taking so long???” Sometimes, honestly, it does photofeel like forever from the inception of a book until I see it in print. In truth, though, it’s usually less than a year from the time I write the first word until I hold that paperback author copy in my greedy little hands! The editing process itself takes about 4 months from first edits to release.

I am particularly fortunate to have a great executive editor I work with on my Dreamspinner Press books. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t looked any further than Dreamspinner when shopping my books around (there are many other reasons I continue to choose Dreamspinner, of course, but this is one of the biggest for me). The executive editor manages teams of editors who read and edit manuscripts before publication.  What does that mean for me, the writer?

Round 1. First, the main/supervising editor sends me a marked up manuscript. I call this the “ouch!” stage. Starting out, I remember looking at my manuscripts with all the markups and wincing. I’ve since learned that all those tracked changes and comments in the margin are good for me! imagesWe’re talking basic copy editing, but much, much more.  Then there’s dreaded “content editing” I’ve come to depend upon (and even enjoy). That’s the “I didn’t understand why [insert character name here] did this.” Or the, “I think you’re missing a connection here in this character’s development.” Or the, “This makes no sense at all!” Let me give you an example.

The Melody Thief is one of my strongest books. At least I think so. But I’m convinced it’s strong because it had great editing. It was also one of the first books I asked for content edits on. My first round edits came with a suggestion: show Cary Redding becoming less of a boyfriend living with Antonio and his young son, and more of a father. Not spoiling much here to say MelodyThief2LGthat Cary was nowhere near father material at the beginning of the story, but by the end he truly becomes a father to Massimo. My editor’s suggestion? A brand new chapter showing how Cary finally steps up to the plate. And Massi isn’t exactly in cute/sweet mode. That chapter, written during edits, became my favorite of the book. Massi has a hissy fit, Cary puts his foot down, and Massi is not a happy camper. But at the end of the chapter, Massi and Cary move into father/son territory. That’s not the first (or last) time I’ve added significantly to a book during edits, but it’s one of the best examples of how helpful an editor’s suggestions were.

Round 2. Round 3. After the first round of edits, we do a little back and forth dance at least twice more. Each round of edits is done by a new editor, supervised by the main editor. I respond to comments and questions, I make changes, I add new text as needed. Back and forth and back and forth for three rounds, then I get the “galley.”

Galley Proof. For those who may not know, the galley is a mock-up of what the actual book will look like including photos, fancy chapter headings, and even front and back matter (glossaries, dedications, that sort of thing). At this stage, it’s all about catching the obvious typos that we’ve missed and making sure the formatting looks all right. No changes made in the galley itself, I write my changes in a separate document (I use a chart with page numbers, original text, and suggested corrected text). At this point, it’s out of my hands. I don’t see the book again until it’s published, although the editing staff do at least one more check after that. I personally review my galley proofs by reading the book on screen and listening to it on my Kindle at the same time (I can upload Word docs to my Kindle, which has a text-to-speech feature). As a former musician, I find I catch typos better if I listen and read, rather than just read.

A good editor can help a willing writer improve his/her style of writing. I say “willing,” because if a writer is so convinced s/he doesn’t need improvement, forget about it! I’m convinced my writing style has changed for the better with my editors’ help. Style is not just about comma placement or sentence structure, either. It’s about finding a personal “voice” in writing that suits the writer. I prefer clean, clear, crisp writing. Active voice, simple or no dialogue tags so they don’t get in the way of the conversations between characters. I’ve refined my style with the help of my editors. Pick up a Shira Anthony book written in the last two+ years, and you’ll hear my voice, whether it’s a story about musicians in Italy or mermen in an alternate universe fantasy. It sounds like Shira.

Lest you think editing is all roses, think again. Editing takes hours of work, both on the editors’ part, as well as mine. Writing entirely new chapters while you’re trying to get your latest manuscript out the door (Dissonance and Into the Wind, *cough, cough*)? Hair tearing-out time! Rewriting an entire chapter from a different point of view because your editor (and you, begrudgingly agree) suggests it will help balance the different points of view in the book? Time to bang your head against the wall. Readers who say they love how easy to read your books are? Yep. Makes it worth all the angst, thinning hair, and head-dents. Truly.

Want to take a peek at my latest book in edits? Here’s a passage from Into the Wind for you. Not the final version, I’m guessing, but getting close now. Is it better than the original version I sent to Dreamspinner in December? Damn straight! Hope you enjoy it! -Shira

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Blurb: Since learning of his merman shifter heritage, Taren has begun building a life with Ian Dunaidh among the mainland Ea. But memories of his past life still haunt him, and as the threat of war with the hostile island merfolk looms ever closer, Taren fears he will lose Ian the same way he lost his beloved centuries before. Together they sail to the Gateway Islands in search of the fabled rune stone—a weapon of great power the Ea believe will protect them—and Odhrán, the pirate rumored to possess it.

After humans attack the Phantom, Taren finds himself washed up on an island, faced with a mysterious boy named Brynn who promises to lead him to Odhrán. But Taren isn’t sure if he can trust Brynn, and Odhrán is rumored to enslave Ea to protect his stronghold. Taren will have to put his life on the line to find his way back to Ian and attempt to recover the stone. Even if he does find it, his troubles are far from over: he and Ian are being stalked by an enemy who wants them dead at all costs.

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Taren transformed as he entered the warm tropical water with a splash. He’d grabbed an ax as he’d run, ignoring Ian’s shouts. He didn’t need Ian to tell him about the danger. There’d been no time to argue over the danger involved in attacking the brigantine from below. But if this worked…. He’d barely caught his breath when he had to dive deep to avoid a deadly blow to the head from the enemy ship’s keel as she passed over him. Pumping his powerful tail, he swam after the Phantom’s challenger. He knew Ian would be angry with him for taking such a risk—he could almost feel that anger burn hot within his own heart. He’d face Ian’s wrath later. Had the Ea become so complacent in their human forms that they’d forgotten what they were?

The enemy brigantine was sleek and faster than the Phantom. They’d been nearing the Gateways, the chain of islands just west of Ea’nu, looking for Odhrán, the pirate rumored to possess the rune stone, when they’d been set upon. Taren surmised the brigantine’s captain knew the Phantom would be in the vicinity, and had waited in the mist until she could gain the weather beam over them. Strange. Stranger yet, he’d sensed that the ship held humans when it passed over him. Why would humans pursue them? Had they learned of the existence of merfolk, or did they believe them to be pirates?

No. It’s more than that. This all felt so familiar, as if he’d dreamed it. Expected it. Sensed something he hadn’t understood until just now.

Several more cannon blasts narrowly missed the Phantom and landed in the water nearby, bringing Taren back to himself. He fought the rising swells and powerful current as the wind picked up speed, echoing his own growing apprehension and worry for Ian and the Phantom’s crew. He dove, pumping and flexing the powerful flukes of his tail to propel him toward the enemy ship.

He reached her rudder a minute later. As fast as she was, he fought to keep up with her as he swung the ax at the place where the pintles and gudgeons met to hold the rudder in place. He’d expected resistance when the axe struck the metal of the hinges. He didn’t expect the force that threw him backward and knocked the ax from his hand.

Magic? Vurin had taught him to sense it, but he’d been too distracted by his work on the sails to feel it before. But how would a human ship use magic? What a fool he’d been to assume Ian and the other Ea wouldn’t have sensed it as well.

Taren heard another explosion right before it reverberated through the sea, and he watched beneath the water as the Phantom’s keel turned sharply and she suddenly lost speed. Even with her crew’s skill, without the wind, the Phantom would have no chance of outrunning the enemy. Would Ian surrender to the humans? Could he? If the humans knew what they were….

Of course they know! They’re using magic. He needed to get back to the ship. Help them fight the humans. On the ropes, he could do something. Here in the water, he was helpless.

He broke the surface of the water and glided easily over a swell using his tail to keep his head above the waves. He couldn’t remain above the surface long. His Ea lungs protested the air, created as they were to breathe oxygen through water. But he needed to see the plight of the Phantom for himself.

He watched as half a dozen men climbed the brigantine’s masts. They were readying to raft alongside the Phantom and board her. In a minute, perhaps two, they’d swing from the masts and land on the Phantom’s deck. Taren’s heart grew cold with fear, and the air whipped around him as he prayed the wind would change direction. If the Phantom could gain even a modicum of speed, her crew might outmaneuver the humans.

The reverberation of multiple volleys of cannon fire radiated through the water and sent fear through Taren. The first missed its mark, but the second shattered the mizzenmast. Pain seared Taren’s heart and he knew Ian had been hit. Panic shot up his spine as he felt Ian lose consciousness. No! Goddess, no! Please, you can’t take him! Not when I’ve just found him again!

Taren prayed once more that the winds would shift. If the Phantom could gain some speed, he had faith their ship could outmaneuver the humans even with the damage to the mizzen—Barra, their navigator, knew these waters well, knew the reefs well enough to navigate between them, whereas the humans might not. If he isn’t too badly hurt. Even though his connection to Ian had grown stronger since Taren had come to live among his people, he could only sense that Ian was alive, nothing more.

The surface of the water rippled, although this time it was not on account of the battling ships. The wind. Had the goddess heard his prayer? He closed his eyes and imagined the goddess’s hand coaxing the wind to shift to favor Ian and his crew. He felt the wind stroke his cheeks, felt its fingers stir the water. Imagined the Phantom’s sails filling and the feel of the helm as it pulled against the rudder.

Taren felt the zing of magic caress his skin—a familiar sensation he tried to place—but his attention was drawn upward by the sound of an explosion. He looked up in time to see something dark speed toward him: another volley of cannon fire. He flexed his tail and swam down. The cannonball missed him by inches. As he sank beneath the water with a heavy heart, a flash of movement filled his peripheral vision, the outline of a tail. Before he could turn to get a better look, something hit him hard in the back of the head.

He valiantly fought the urge to surrender to the darkness, but his eyes fluttered closed.

Rest now, a voice in his mind commanded, and he knew no more.

 

 

Ian lay flat on his back, looking up at the mizzenmast—what was left of it. The mast itself was cleaved in two, the upper topsail was missing, and the lower hung from the ropes over the mizzen sail. With the help of a strong arm, he pulled himself up to a sitting position.

“Damn him! I should keep him on a leash as often as he sees fit to dive overboard.”

Renda frowned at him with concern. “Are you all right?”

“Of course,” Ian growled as he ignored the pounding in his head and the warmth of the blood that trickled from his scalp. “It’s Taren I’m worried about.”

“You’re not all right.”

“And what would you have me do about it?” Ian stood, swayed, then steadied himself on Renda’s shoulder.

“At least let me stop the bleeding.”

Ian ignored Renda and stumbled back to the wheel. He’d expected to see Barra there, since he’d been shouting commands to the other men while Ian steered, but instead saw Keral, one of the other hands. At least he’d the sense to take over the helm while Renda fussed over Ian like a mother hen. The ship bucked and shuddered as Keral turned sharply to avoid another cannon blast. Ian gritted his teeth and grabbed Renda’s arm, thankful that he was nearby.

They were out of options. Even with the mizzen sails intact, they’d been outpaced by the smaller ship. With the mizzenmast destroyed, they would be far slower and the Phantom would be more difficult to steer. Ian was just about to tell Keral to give the order for all but his officers to abandon ship when a gust of air brushed his cheek. For a split second, he sensed something familiar about the wind, as if it had stirred a memory buried deep in his soul. Then the feeling fled and he realized the wind had shifted to the northeast. A moment later, he felt the Phantom’s remaining sails catch the wind. The ship began to pick up speed, moving away from the enemy ship, which had slowed so its crew might board.

“Hard to starboard,” Ian ordered. “Now!”

Keral spun the wheel and the ship heeled dangerously close to the waves. “Fire!” Ian shouted to the men manning the guns.

The pain in Ian’s head, which had until then been just a dull ache, lanced with reverberations from the cannon blast. At nearly the same time, he felt another pain at the back of his head

Taren!

Ian dropped to his knees and clutched his head as his heart beat so hard against his ribs that it hurt. Goddess! Taren!

“Let me help you.” There was none of the usual chiding in Renda’s voice as he gently pulled Ian’s hand from his left temple. Ian felt the warmth of Renda’s healing against his skull. With the touch, Ian’s pain abated.

“Taren,” he moaned when he came back to himself. He reached out with his mind and felt the beat of Taren’s heart. Slower than before, but steady. Knocked out, perhaps, by the last volley?

“You felt his pain?” Renda asked, clearly surprised.

Ian nodded. “He’s alive. But he’s unconscious. Injured. I must find—”

“A hit, sir!” one of the men shouted over the howling wind.

With Renda’s help, Ian got back to his feet. He saw it now—the smoking wound in the enemy ship’s stern. She floundered, her rudder damaged and no longer able to control her course. Even if she used her sails to steer, the Phantom would be long gone. Ian murmured a prayer of thanksgiving to the goddess. Now, if he could find Taren, he’d rest easy.

Release Day and Contest: Blue Notes, 2nd Edition!

BlueNotes[2ndEd]LGIt’s release day and a first for me: a second edition!  It’s also the last day of my special Blue Notes giveaway where you could win the last of my 2014 Dreamspinner Press cover calendars.  To enter, just comment on this post!

Yes, the original Blue Notes, the first book in the Blue Notes Series, has been released in a brand-spanking-new 2nd edition.  Totally re-edited so it shines, the new edition also contains about 3,000 words of new text based on the short story, “Knowing,” which some of you may have read as part of the Gay-Straight Alliance’s Goodreads Group. That short story details a bit of attorney Jason Greene’s past growing up in Cleveland, Ohio (my home town!), and his first and only same-sex sexual encounter before he meets violinist Jules Bardon in Paris, France, many years later.

For readers who purchased the original book from Dreamspinner Press, you’ll find the new edition sitting on your bookshelves, should you like to re-read the story. Of course, all the Blue Notes Series books are standalone stories. Secondary characters in one story may appear later on in their own stories. In fact, you’ll find several characters in Blue Notes who already have their own stories: conductor David Somers and violinist Alex Bishop (Prelude), attorney Sam Ryan (Aria), and Italian attorney Antonio Bianchi (The Melody Thief) all make appearances in the original story.

Haven’t purchased the book yet? It’s 25% off on Dreamspinner Press’s website until midnight, February 19th (that’s today). So pick up a copy in ebook or paperback, and you’ll get a great release day deal, too!  All the other books in the series are discounted, as well for Valentine’s Day!

I’ll leave you all with an excerpt from the first chapter of Blue Notes.  Hope you enjoy it! -Shira

******

Blurb: Blame it on jet lag. Jason Greene thought he had everything: a dream job as a partner in a large Philadelphia law firm, a beautiful fiancée, and more money than he could ever hope to spend. Then he finds his future wife in bed with another man, and he’s forced to rethink his life and his choices. On a moment’s notice, he runs away to Paris, hoping to make peace with his life.

But Jason’s leave of absence becomes a true journey of the heart when he meets Jules, a struggling jazz violinist with his own cross to bear. In the City of Love, it doesn’t take them long to fall into bed, but as they’re both about to learn, they can’t run from the past. Sooner or later, they’ll have to face the music.

******

JASON GREENE leaned back against the headrest and watched the clouds beneath the wing of the airplane. Used to traveling business class, with all six foot three of him now wedged into the narrow coach seat, he cursed every aeronautical engineer who had ever suggested refitting wide-bodied jets to accommodate more passengers.

He eyed the center section of the cabin with longing, regretting that he’d chosen a window seat. Several college students with more foresight were already stretched out on the few empty seats in the back to sleep during the long flight from Philadelphia to Paris. In the final analysis, however (and, exceptional lawyer that he was, he always analyzed), it was his fault alone that he should suffer the indignities of traveling like an eighteen-year-old again; it was his foolhardy last-minute decision that had landed him here.

What the hell were you thinking?

The thought had run like an endless loop through his exhausted mind for the past three hours. He knew the answer, of course: he hadn’t thought at all, he’d just reacted. He’d done a lot of that lately.

A female flight attendant—blonde, attractive, and in her midthirties—stopped at his row with a stack of plastic cups and a pitcher of water. “Something to drink?” she offered, her voice a sensual undertone. No doubt she appreciated the lone well-dressed man amidst the myriad students wired to iPods, iPads, and other devices.

He’d come to dismiss such attention; he’d long engendered this kind of response from women. With his wavy auburn hair, strong jaw, and bright-green eyes, he was, as his grandmother often reminded him, “quite a catch.” Add to that a salary well into the six-figure range and his job as an equity partner at a large Philadelphia law firm, and Jason Greene had never had much trouble finding women to date. Except that he hadn’t quite managed to keep the woman he’d fallen in love with happy.

“Yes, some water, please,” he replied, offering the flight attendant the same pleasant, reassuring smile he’d offered his clients for the past ten years. The same smile he’d offered Diane upon his return home to their high-rise apartment each night, having missed dinner yet again. It was far more effective with the flight attendant.

She handed him a cup of water. “Business or pleasure?” Perhaps she mistook his politeness for something more like interest. (He wasn’t interested—he’d had enough of women to last him a lifetime.)

“Neither,” he answered, forestalling any further discussion. She responded with a slight chuckle, then moved on to the next row back.

He closed his eyes and pressed the button to recline his seat. It only moved about an inch. He looked around. He hadn’t noticed his seat was right in front of an exit row. Figures. He shook his head. Resigned to his fate, he grabbed the extra pillow off the empty seat next to his and pushed up the armrest to give himself more room. He pulled the slippery blue polyester blanket over himself and shifted on an angle to tuck his long legs under the aisle seat in front of him. It wasn’t comfortable, but it would do.

He looked out the window once more. It was dark now, and here, above the clouds, he saw stars. He closed his eyes and rearranged the pillows so that his head rested against the cool bulkhead. He drifted off into an uneasy sleep with the drone of the engines in his ears.

ONLY A day before, he’d been dressed in a charcoal-gray Armani suit with a yellow-striped Brooks Brothers tie, looking out a wall of windows at the thickening gray clouds over Philadelphia. The forecast called for snow. Again.

“You want what?” Scott Reston, the managing partner of Halwell, Richardson & Dailey, leaned back in his chair and gaped at Jason as though he were an alien.

“I’m taking a leave of absence,” Jason repeated calmly. “Starting tomorrow.”

Tomorrow?” Scott’s voice resonated with shock. “Jason, I know you’re pissed that Diane—”

“I’ve worked my ass off for this firm,” he countered before Scott could complete his sentence, all the while maintaining his calm resolve. His jaw tightened in spite of his control.

“I’ve been pulling in enough billables to more than cover a few months off.”

“Months?” The word came out in a half-strangled gasp. “You want months? Look, Jaz, if you need help, I can put the new kid—what’s his name, Sanderson?—on some of your cases.”

“It’s not about the caseload. I haven’t taken time off in years, except the trip with Diane to her sister’s wedding. I need—”

“Then take a few weeks,” Scott interrupted, no doubt hoping this settled the matter. “Go somewhere warm. You can use our apartment in Cancun if you want. Maybe you can pick up some cute Mexican babe while you’re—”

“Two months, Scott.” Jason lapsed into his commanding courtroom voice without a second thought. “The other partners won’t question it if you’re on board. Hell, if you want, I’ll take a smaller draw this year.” The rumble of Jason’s deep baritone caused one of the paperweights on Scott’s desk to vibrate.

“Hell, Jaz Man. It’s me, remember? The guy you pulled all-nighters with in law school? That lawyer shit won’t work here. And since when do you let a bitch like Diane—”

“Drop it.” Jason knew his tone was colder than the icicles that hung on the eaves outside the building, but he didn’t give a shit. This was one subject he wasn’t going to get into with Scott—or anyone else, for that matter. “This wasn’t her fault.”

“The fuck! She cheated on you.”

“I said, drop it. Whatever she did, she had her reasons.”

Reason one: too many hours spent at the office. Reason two: too few hours spent at home. Both your fault.

“Jaz Man….” Scott groaned and leaned back in his chair with the same party-boy look Jason remembered from law school. “Jaz, you’re killing me. I’m up to my neck in depos in the Alvarez case, and TransAllied just sent me a class-action complaint in a race case out of Cleveland. You’re the only one licensed up there.”

“Nothing’ll happen in the next two months on the Cleveland case, and you know it,” he shot back. “I’ll remove it to federal court, and one of your new hires can start on a motion for summary judgment and getting documents together for discovery. And if the judge wants a local guy in on the scheduling conference, you can call my buddy Phil Lane up there to handle it. He owes me one.”

Scott’s frown deepened. “I can’t convince you that you’re a crazy asshole, can I?”
“Unlikely,” he replied with a self-deprecating laugh. “You’ve had more than ten years to try.” He took a deep breath, allowed his shoulders to relax a bit, and made an attempt to soften his expression. “Look, Scotty… I need this. It’ll only be for two months. I promise I’ll come back and make it up to you. Just two months.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Scott exhaled, sounding a bit like a pipe releasing steam. “Fine. I’ll take the heat from the big guns. With all the money you’ve been pulling in for the past few years, they’ll squawk a little, but they’ll be more worried about losing you for good.”

“Thanks.” Jason turned to leave.

“So where’re you going? Backpacking in South America? Some desert island in the Caribbean?” Scott asked. “Buddhist retreat in Tibet?”

“Paris.” Jason stopped at the door with his fingers curled around the handle.

“Paris in January?”

“Yeah.”

“Cold as hell, I hear.”

“Yeah. Something like that.”

******

You can purchase Blue Notes (2nd Edition) here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4720

The Power of Love Blog Tour and Giveaway!

blog hop picWelcome! If you’re stopping here first, please be sure to check out all the other wonderful blogs participating in the Power of Love Valentine’s Day Blog Tour. Each author is offering up goodies to lucky readers who visit their blogs.You can find them all here (full list at the bottom of the post!): http://powerofgaylove.blogspot.com/p/the-main-event-page.html

My prize?  Well, I have two, actually.  The first is for U.S. readers only: a beautiful pair of treble clef earrings or, ifzu6894120_main_tm1388713004 you’re not into earrings, a paperback copy of your choice of my Dreamspinner Press novels. The second is for non-U.S. readers only: a $10 Amazon.com gift certificate so you can buy yourself something fun or fill your Kindle to overflowing. Enter by commenting on my blog (don’t forget to let me know if you live in the US or not!). I’ll draw winners after midnight on February 16th.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I hope you enjoy the post and the excerpt that follows. -Shira

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Saint_Valentines_Day_Candy_Valentine_s_Day_013165_Ever since I can remember, I’ve always looked forward to Valentine’s Day. When I was in high school, I remember putting on a big party for friends (and boyfriend at the time) in my parents’ basement. I hung cute decorations from the ceiling, made a heart-shaped cake, filled bowls with candy, even bought a red dress to wear. Each year, such high hopes. And each year, such a disappointment. It wasn’t the magical, soul-satisfying, romantic moment I hoped it would be.

In retrospect, I think I’ve realized that to expect so much from a single holiday was pretty silly of me. Still, it’s hard to avoid the hype. For the past six weeks (ever since Christmas, really), I’ve been seeing ads for candy in the newspaper, sexy lingerie at my beloved Zulily.com, fancy dinners out on Groupon, and jewelry sales at malls. How can you not get all excited?

Lest you start to think I’m Scrooge, think again. I’m one of the most hopeful romantics Valentines-Day-background_mainyou’ll ever meet! Just ask my friends. I’m the first one to encourage romance, whether it’s rooting on a friend on a blind date, watching someone’s kids while they go on a date night out, or working on writing someone a happy ending. I’m an incurable romantic who truly believes in happy endings. I don’t write stories without them (although I’ve been known to write a few cliff-hangers in my day!).

So why do I think Valentine’s Day is usually a disappointment? Because a single day does not romance make. Think about it. Was the last romance you read a one-day deal? Even with insta-love, romance novels are more than a day long. Romances are about staying in love. And much as I love a happy ending, I believe even happy endings aren’t a particular landing spot in time, but a continuing, loving commitment.

StealingTheWindFSSo do I still celebrate Valentine’s Day with gifts and candy and special hugs and kisses?  You bet. But I consider the day just another arrow in Cupid’s quiver. Want to sweep your partner of his or her feet? Wear that sexy g-string and matching bow tie or silk boxers. Buy that special someone a gift to make them feel special. But know that the romance is ongoing, and it takes thought and care to feed it well. Valentine’s Day is the icing on the cake. You have to bake a good cake first!

And speaking of romance novels…. I love writing stories about ongoing happily-ever-afters, and about love that grows stronger through challenges and over time. From Taren and Ian, my mermen shifters in Stealing the Wind (soon to be continued in Into the Wind), to my Blue Notes Series books, I celebrate love that lasts and survives.

My Blue Notes Series is BlueNotes[2ndEd]LGall about that kind of love and commitment. Each novel is a standalone with interrelated characters who populate the universe of music and musicians. One of the most romantic of the series is the first: Blue Notes. And on February 19th, Dreamspinner Press will be releasing a 2nd edition of the novel. You can pre-order it now at 25% off on the Dreamspinner Press website.

So I’ll leave you with a bit of romance from Paris, the City of Love, this Valentine’s Day weekend. An excerpt from the 2nd edition of Blue Notes. Happy Valentine’s Day, and may you find romance to last a lifetime! But first, here’s the full list of all the blogs! -Shira

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Blurb: Blame it on jet lag. Jason Greene thought he had everything: a dream job as a partner in a large Philadelphia law firm, a beautiful fiancée, and more money than he could ever hope to spend. Then he finds his future wife in bed with another man, and he’s forced to rethink his life and his choices. On a moment’s notice, he runs away to Paris, hoping to make peace with his life.

But Jason’s leave of absence becomes a true journey of the heart when he meets Jules, a struggling jazz violinist with his own cross to bear. In the City of Love, it doesn’t take them long to fall into bed, but as they’re both about to learn, they can’t run from the past. Sooner or later, they’ll have to face the music.

******

Jules took a deep breath and closed his eyes once more, gently laying bow to string and beginning the opening phrases with their insistent, rhythmic repetition sounding below the melodic line. The simplicity of the piece was both stunning and heart wrenching. Each phrase built upon the next, rising in intensity and in pitch. It reminded Jason of a prayer, powerful in its stark beauty, and he heard Jules’s soul poured out into every note. And then it was over and Jason was left sitting in silence, staring at Jules as he had in the club, transfixed.

“Well? What did you think?” Jules asked.

The words woke Jason from his reverie. “That was… beautiful, Jules.” There were tears in his eyes, and yet he could not put into words why the music had so stirred his heart. In that moment, he saw the kid in a different light—no, “kid” definitely was not the right word. The look in Jules’s eyes was anything but childlike.

What are you thinking, Greene? You’re letting this get away from you.

Jules rested the violin and bow on the case and sat down next to Jason. He hesitated for a moment, watching Jason with uncomfortable intensity, then reached for Jason and brushed a single tear from his cheek. For Jason the touch was electric and his physical response unexpected.

“Bach always touches my soul,” Jules half whispered. His fingers still rested against Jason’s cheek. “He must have known great love, and great pain, to write something so powerful.”

Jason realized that his own pain must be showing on his face, because Jules, too, looked sad.

“I’ve never been religious”—Jules’s gaze never left Jason’s— “but I played this piece in a tiny church once. It was like God was there with me, speaking through me.”

When Jason remained silent, Jules leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the lips. Jason’s breath stuttered and he grew hard from the gossamer touch. He wanted to laugh, to cry, to take Jules in his arms. In that brief instant, he wanted to let go. Let it all go. He wanted to keep feeling the way Jules’s music had made him feel: alive and free. He didn’t want it to end.

At a loss to explain the intense emotional and sexual response of his own body and equally unable to stop himself, Jason reached for Jules and returned the kiss. Jules’s lips tasted of wine and musk, and Jason hungered for more.

What are you doing? With this thought, he pulled abruptly away from Jules, stared at him for a moment, then frowned and stood up. His heart pounded in his chest, and he felt dizzy.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, his throat dry. “I shouldn’t have… I’m tired. I’m going to sleep.”

“Of course.” Jules appeared to be just as stunned by their brief embrace as Jason was.

******

Bio: Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer in her last incarnation, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.

Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 35’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.

Shira can be found on:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shira.anthony
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4641776.Shira_Anthony
Twitter: @WriterShira
Website: http://www.shiraanthony.com
E-mail: shiraanthony@hotmail.com

Blue Notes 2nd Edition: Paris, je t’aime

paris-street-signs

Paris, not far from Trocadero, my favorite spot for viewing the Eiffel Tower

This post is reblogged from The Blog of Sid Love, where I blog monthly on the 10th of the month.  Don’t forget that I’m still running a giveaway for a 2014 wall calendar with all my gorgeous Dreamspinner Press covers until Wednesday, February 19th, at midnight! To enter, just comment on this post. Good luck! -Shira

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It’s February, nearly Valentine’s Day, so what better topic to tackle than the allure of Paris, the City of Love? To say that I love Paris is an understatement. I adore Paris. I also know it quite well, having lived in Paris as a very young child, and then spending several years France as a teenager. My parents are not French, but they might as well be. They are quintessential Francophiles and they still spend their summers in the Alps, in a lovely city on a lake called Annecy.

boulevard_pA_riphA_rique_Porte_Maillot

Paris’s Périphérique

In my early 20s, back when I was still singing, I spent several weeks in Paris. There I met a gorgeous Frenchman (another musician, of course!) and we had a brief but very torrid affair. I remember rides around the Périphérique (the freeway that loops around the city) on the back of his scooter (“moto”). I also remember dinners in his loft apartment with friends, afternoons spent lounging at a café, nursing our coffees while people watching, and making love at night to the sounds of jazz and be-bop. Have I mentioned I love French men? Philippe was the first of several Frenchmen I dated before I got married. There’s just something about their comfortable, casual attitude, good looks, and the way the French language sounds when they speak that makes them so damn sexy….

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The Chateau (Palace) in the Luxembourg Gardens

About five years ago now, two girlfriends and I spent two weeks in Paris. We stayed at my brother-in-law’s apartment near the Jardins du Luxembourg, a gorgeous park complete with long, gravel walkways, gardens, a reflecting pool, and, of course, a chateau. A fifteen minute walk from the Seine and Notre Dame de Paris, the area is one of my favorites. We shopped, went sightseeing, and ate very well. It was January, after a heavy snow (unusual for Paris, which tends toward milder weather), and the skies were overcast and gray. It didn’t matter. Each time I walked out of the apartment, I imagined romance. In fact, I imagined a very particular romance: the romance that was the inspiration for the first book in my Blue Notes series of music-themed gay romances. I imagined Blue Notes.

BlueNotes[2ndEd]LG

Cover by Anne Cain

On February 19th, Dreamspinner will release a 2nd edition of the original book. The new version of Blue Notes is re-edited, reworked, and contains new text based on my free story, “Knowing.” Editing Blue Notes has made me long to take a run in the gardens, walk along the Seine and shop at some of the booksellers there, drink hot cocoa and eat crêpes in a tiny restaurant hidden on one of the side streets. I long to browse the manga stores, sit and listen to jazz in a smoky club, and experience the sounds and smells of the city (yes, even the not-so-pleasant ones!).

Blue Notes is probably the most romantic book I’ve written. How can it not be, when it tells the story of a disillusioned American attorney who runs from his life in the States to discover love and happiness in Paris, the most romantic city I know? When Jason Greene meets jazz violinist Jules Bardon in a hole in the wall jazz club, Jason’s life changes in ways he could never have imagined. With Jules’s help, Jason opens himself up to the possibilities of life, love, and even music. There is much of me in Jason, since I’ve given him my own background growing up in France, as well as a bit of my own musical history.

But you don’t need to be a musician to understand the music or the romance in Blue Notes. The connection between Jules and Jason is about far more than the music, although the initial attraction is inextricably intertwined with Jules’s musical voice. Blue Notes is about finding yourself and letting go. And what better place to do it than in a city as beautiful and storied as Paris?

I’ll leave you with a short excerpt from the book which I hope will give you a taste for my own love of Paris and all it has to offer. –Shira

BlueNotesSeries_FBbanner_DSP[1]

THE NIGHT sky had begun to clear as Jason left the small café where he’d eaten dinner, and he wandered up toward Île de la Cité, hoping to catch a view of the Eiffel Tower. Crossing the Seine at ten o’clock, he watched as the tower was illuminated in a shower of sparkles. His sister had told him the Parisians had so enjoyed the lighting for the millennium that they’d insisted the special effects continue for the foreseeable future. Leaning against the wall that ran along the river’s edge, Jason thought of nothing but the lights as he ignored the damp chill of the evening.

When the light show ended, Jason headed back down boulevard Saint-Michel in search of some of the jazz clubs he’d discovered hidden amongst the tiny streets years ago. Normally he’d have asked a friend for a recommendation or consulted a guidebook on his phone. But tonight he didn’t do either. Other than hopping the plane to Paris, how long had it been since he’d done something spontaneous? Other than the night he’d walked in on Diane having sex with someone else, his entire life had become predictable. Boring.

Why not?

He had nowhere to go, nobody waiting for him, no deadlines to meet. He could sleep late. A few drinks and some good music would help him sleep a lot better anyhow. He grinned and walked onward, cold hands shoved into his pockets.

Why the hell not?

He spotted a club as he turned the corner—a small, grayish- looking dive with a purple neon sign above the entrance, nestled between a bakery and a store that sold Japanese manga. Inhaling the fragrance of pastries baking in the boulangerie, he walked over to peer inside. He couldn’t see anything, but the sounds of modern jazz wafted onto the street. He glanced up and read the sign: “Le Loup-Garou.” The Werewolf.

A fitting name for a hole like this. And just the kind of place where you’d expect to hear great music.

******

You can find the entire Blue Notes Series at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AllRomanceEbooks, and most other book retailers. Here’s the link for the pre-order of the 2nd Edition of Blue Notes: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4720&cPath=55_484

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About Shira: Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer in her last incarnation, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.

Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 35’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.

Shira’s Blue Notes Series of classical music themed gay romances was named one of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Word’s “Best Series of 2012,” and The Melody Thief was named one of the “Best Novels in a Series of 2012.” The Melody Thief also received an honorable mention, “One Perfect Score” at the 2012 Rainbow Awards.

Shira can be found on:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shira.anthony
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4641776.Shira_Anthony
Twitter: @WriterShira
Website: http://www.shiraanthony.com
E-mail: shiraanthony@hotmail.com

A giveaway and a look forward to the first half of 2014!

BlueNotes[2ndEd]LGIt’s barely February, but already this year is shaping up to be a busy one for me.  Lots of travel, a few releases, and more to look forward to in the second half of the year.  And speaking of years, I’ve got a lovely 2014 calendar to give away with all my gorgeous Dreamspinner Press covers (my last one!).  Just leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win.  I’ll draw a winner on February 19th.

Which brings me to February 19th – my first release of 2014.  Or re-release, you might say, since this is a brand spanking new edition of the original Blue Notes!  The 2nd Edition contains new text based on my short story, “Knowing,” and a wonderful new edit to polish it up.  Haven’t read any of the Blue Notes Series yet?  They can be read in any order, but Blue Notes is a perfect place to start.  The 2nd Edition is available for pre-order now at Dreamspinner Press.  Readers who purchased the 1st Edition will be entitled to a free ebook copy of the 2nd Edition.

Next up on the writing schedule is the release of the sequel to Stealing the WindInto the photoWind is book 2 in the Mermen of Ea series that chronicles the story of Taren Laxley and Ian Dunaidh, mermen shifters who inhabit an earth-like world filled with magic and adventure on the high seas.  Into the Wind will be released in May, 2014.  Look for the last book in the trilogy in early 2015.  Taren has come to live amongst the mermen/shifters, but war between the island and mainland factions of the Ea is brewing.  Ian and Taren set sail to find the fabled run stone, which they hope will help protect their people.  You’ll meet a few new characters in this story, but at its heart is the developing relationship between Ian and Taren and the challenges they face.

david garrett 1First up for travel for me? A trip to Chicago to hear the incomparable David Garrett in concert and a girls’ weekend with my friend and co-conspirator, Venona Keyes.  I’ll be drooling over David on March 15th in downtown Chicago.

Also happening the first half of this year?  Rainbow Con in Tampa over Easter weekend (April 17-20th), where I and a ton of other rainbow writers will be meeting to mingle with readers and attend great panel discussions.  I’ll have a table with goodies and paperbacks for sale. Or bring your already purchased copies and I’m happy to sign them!

And if that isn’t enough excitement, I’m headed to Portland, Oregon for this year’s StealingTheWindFSDreamspinner Press Author Workshop the next weekend (April 25-27th).  I’ll be hanging with all the wonderful Dreamspinner staff and authors for a great weekend of panels and socializing.  I had such a great time at last year’s event – I can’t wait for this year’s!

Things to look for in the second half of 2014?  I’m planning on attending GayRomLit2014 in Chicago in October.  I may make it up to San Francisco for Yaoicon, as well.  I’ve also got a few projects in the works that I hope to submit this year, including a contemporary romance I’m working on with the wonderful Michael Halfhill, and the first book in my vampire series, Blood and RainBut more about those goodies later, along with more information about the next Blue Notes Series book, Dissonance, that I’m working hard to finish up.

Don’t forget to comment to be entered to win the calendar! And stop back for more goodies around release day for the 2nd Edition of Blue Notes! -Shira

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