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

Giveaway and Writer’s World: Writing Series Part I

BloodandRainFSReblogged from LoveBytes Reviews

I’m reblogging this with another contest because I got such great comments from readers and writers alike over at LoveBytes. (If you entered but didn’t win, feel free to enter again.) -Shira

A few weeks ago, a wonderful writers blog asked for discussion questions. I didn’t realize my question would generate such a lively discussion: How do you feel about series, both as a writer and as a reader?

There’s no way I can do justice to the subject of series in a single post, so why not a series of posts about series? I’ll explore the pros and cons of writing and reading series, as well as some of the reasons authors write them (you might just be surprised!). Since I want to hear your thoughts, if you comment on this post you could win your choice of an ebook (format of your choice) from one of my series (Blue Notes, Mermen of Ea, or the new Blood Series). I’ll choose a winner on February 27th at midnight from the entries.

I’m a writer and an avid reader (okay, I read less now that I write, but only because there’s a limit to hours in a day!). One of my favorite things to do is dive into a series, regardless of genre. As a kid, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover books held me captive for years. I still reread those books today, when I need a “comfort” read. Yes, I’ve given up on series, too. My latest DNF? The Southern Vampire (Sookie Stackhouse) books. Which brings me to my first series topic….

Living in a universe. For me, as both a writer and reader, the universe the writer creates is what draws me above all else to series. What is a “universe”? It’s both the setting of the series, as well as the characters who inhabit that setting.

Let me backtrack and get some of the publishing jargon out there just so we’re all on the same page. Although you may find variations, there are generally 2 major sequel formats, each offering a certain appeal. Each type of series exploit the series universe (characters and setting) in different ways.

  • A “sequel” series is the most popular of the series formats. Books must be read in order, and either follow a long plot arc, or follow chronologically (The Lord of the Rings trilogy is in this vein). My Mermen of Ea and Blood Series follow this model.
  • A “spinoff” series is generally set in the same universe but is made up of separate, standalone stories. My Blue Notes Series falls into this category. Within the spinoff series, you may find a continuing character having independent adventures (Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot detective mysteries come to mind), or you may have secondary characters from one book become main characters in the next (that would be Blue Notes).

The appeal of spinoff series is simple. Worldbuilding (creating the universe characters inhabit, whether real or imaginary) is time consuming if done properly. Once a reader or writer gets to know the universe, there’s a certain appeal to staying there for more stories. And what better way to connect with a universe than through the characters who inhabit it. In a sense, the characters become part of the universe. And when familiar characters reappear in books about secondary characters, the reader has an immediate connection to the new characters through them.

IntoWindIn my Blue Notes Series books about classical musicians, although each novel is a standalone work, certain characters appear in all the books. A common thread. Conductor David Somers is a bit of a fairy godfather (he even jokes around about that from time to time in the books) to some of the other musicians. He’s a familiar character to readers of the series, and he’s become one of my favorites. In a sense, he is part of the setting of the books, and ties them together in a very important way.

Sequel series are more of a challenge for some. These series require a reader to buy in to the universe and commit themselves to completing a far longer story. Sometimes these series end with what I often call a “comma,” a happily-for-now (HFN), or a pause. Sometimes they end with a cliffhanger (a subject worthy of a post of its own!), or a “to be continued” ending.

In my Mermen of Ea books, there’s a HFN at the end of the first book, and what some might call a cliffhanger at the end of the second. That series, like the Blood Series, is one long story told over 3 books. Although the end of Blood and Rain isn’t what I call a true cliffhanger, it’s definitely a “to-be-continued”.

I personally love both kinds of series, and I don’t mind a cliffhanger, as long as the tension is resolved eventually. I prefer 3 book series, and studies show most readers do as well. Draw a story out too long, and you’ll lose me. And yes, there are horror stories of writers dying before they finish series! I love a good cliffhanger, and I’ll wait impatiently for it to be resolved. I know there are readers who won’t start a series until it’s finished. I get that, but I have no self-restraint.BlueNotesFS If it sounds good, I’m going to read it regardless of whether it’s complete.

Interestingly, Marion Zimmer Bradley, in the Darkover series I told you about? She combined both these models. She created a universe in the form of a colonized planet, where humans interbred with the aliens who inhabited the world and developed psi powers (telekenisis, teleportation, telepathy, etc.). She wrote series within series, focusing on one part of Darkover history for 3-6 books, then moved forward or backward in time. Same universe, 300 years later. Same universe 100 years earlier. It’s part of what I loved about that series.

That’s the 10,000 foot view of series. Next month I’ll get into the weeds and blog a bit about technique and cliffhangers in particular.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me what kinds of series you read. Will you read an unfinished series? Why? Why not? I’ll pick a winner on February 27th at midnight from the comments. Want to read an excerpt from any of my series? You can find them all here: http://www.shiraanthony.com/series/http://www.shiraanthony.com/series/ Just pick a series and a book, scroll down and click “read and excerpt.”

Giveaway, Interview & Exclusive Excerpt: Andrew Q. Gordon is here!

LastGrandMaster[The]FSPlease welcome my guest, Andrew Q. Gordon! Andrew’s a wonderful writer, a great companion for conferences (we’ve had some great times together), husband to a sweetheart of a man, and “daddy” to one of the sweetest, smartest, and cutest little munchkins I’ve ever met. Andrew is on tour promoting the re-release of The Last Grand Master from Dreamspinner Press Publications, Dreamspinner’s brand new imprint! Don’t forget to check out the super cool blog tour giveaway, as well as an exclusive excerpt from the book.

Shira: So, Andrew, I’ve always been fascinated by how writers find inspiration for their work. How do you find your creative mojo? How do your ideas become a fully-fledged plot?

Andrew: I used to think I was weird until I started talking to other writers, because I’d see something or listen to a piece of music and I ‘see’ stories come from them. I’m not sure I can explain it other than once an image or idea takes root, I can run with it in my head forever. It might not end up being a good story, but it’s there.

How these jumbled thoughts get to be a full-on plot is something of a process. Typically, I have to write a ‘chapter or two’ to get the ball rolling. The act of putting the idea to paper requires fleshing it out and from that, the story grows. I’ll be honest, I don’t always know where the story is going. And I’m not going to say the story has its own life, but in my mind it will change as I write it. Maybe the original idea doesn’t work out with all the pieces, so I change it up and that sends it in a new direction.

This can be a bit of an issue with a series like Champion of the Gods if you haven’t finished the series before you start to publish the books. If you decide to move in a different direction, you can’t go back and un-write those books. In those cases, you can’t always go where you want.

Shira: How much preparation do you do before you start to write? What sort of things do you do to prepare to write?

Andrew: Very little, typically. While writing, I’ll stop and research things, but generally before I start I don’t worry about what I can and can’t do. My thinking is, books are fluid. I’m very apt to change things up before I get to the things I’ve researched. Better to look for it when I needed it, then waste my limited time. This has, however, been a problem when what I think is right isn’t and I’m forced to go back and re-do whole sections. But those are the exceptions, generally this method works for me.

Shira: When you’re working on a story, have you ever changed plot or character direction unexpectedly? What made you change?

Andrew: As I’ve said above, yes, probably all the time. Why? Hard to say. Most times it’s because what I intended to do doesn’t work. Either it’s too pat or contrived, or it’s not as interesting as I thought it would be once I wrote it down

Shira: When you submit a manuscript for publication, do you let it go until the editing process, or do you continue to tweak the manuscript until you start edits?

Andrew: I put it aside and work on the other hundred or so characters in my head. I figure they’re going to give me a slew of edits anyway, so why mess it now?

Shira: What is your favorite time and place to write? Why?

Andrew: With a three year old, any free time I get is when I write. It’s not ideal, but it’s what I have to work with. After ‘lil q was born, I started to write in the little office I have upstairs so I could hear her. Ideally, I find I get my best writing done in a coffee shop. There are far fewer interruptions and usually the wi-fi sucks so I have fewer distractions on-line too.

Shira: Did you hit any roadblocks in writing your new release? What were they and how did you overcome them?

Andrew: Most of the ‘problems’ stemmed from something I hadn’t researched (ironic that you asked about research, no?) when I began the story. To me, fantasy stories were long—as in three or more books long—and I had no idea about word counts. Stories were as many pages and words as they needed. And in truth, now that DSP Publications is around, those notions are not so far fetched. But when I started book one, there weren’t that many places you could publish LGBT fiction and most of those were MM Romance publishers. While I didn’t need to change the story to fit into the MM Romance Genre, I did need to change the word count.

As originally written, The Last Grand Master was more than twice as long as its final version. Editing in general might have cut a third of the words out, but getting it to a max of 120K required something of a re-write. It got harder fitting into the number for book two. Fortunately, DSP Publication has given me a greater word count for the remaining three books so I’ll be able to do more with books three through five.

Thanks for having me, Shira.

Shira: Thanks for stopping by and letting me pick your brains! Best of luck with the release!

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BLURB: In a war that shook the earth, the six gods of Nendor defeated their brother Neldin, god of evil. For three thousand years, Nendor and the Seven Kingdoms have known peace and prosperity and Neldin’s evil was nearly forgotten.

But then Meglar, wizard king of Zargon, unleashes the dark magic of the underworld and creates an army of creatures to carry out his master’s will. One by one, the sovereign realms fall as a new war between the gods threatens to engulf Nendor.

Leading the opposition to Meglar is Grand Master Farrell. Young and untried, Farrell carries a secret that could hold the key to defeating Meglar—or it could destroy the world.

Farrell is joined by Nerti, queen of the unicorns and Miceral, an immortal muchari warrior the Six have chosen as Farrell’s mate. As Farrell and his new allies make plans to counter Neldin’s evil, Meglar forces their hand when he invades a neighboring kingdom. Rushing to help their ally, Farrell and Miceral find themselves in the middle of the battle. Cut off from help, Farrell attempts an untried spell that will either turn the tide or cost he and Miceral their lives.

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Here’s the link to Andrew’s blog tour giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Excerpt:

Master Thomas stared at Miceral before bowing his head an inch.

“Master Thomas,” Farrell said, stopping an arm’s length from his teacher. “This is Miceral, son of Horgon, Chief of the Muchari. He’ll be joining us from now on, as he’s staying with me.”

As Farrell put on his jerkin, the older man gave no indication he cared about Miceral or whom he slept with. Extending his arm, he said, “Pleased to meet you, sir. Kindly stay out of our way while I work with the prince.”

Miceral nodded and unwrapped his own swords. Farrell watched him select two similar blades and swing both in a twirling motion. A firm slap on his ass from the flat of a sword elicited a short yelp.

“Stop watching your friend over there and concentrate on your own practice.” Master Thomas’s voice held nothing except the business at hand. Rubbing his “wound,” Farrell began to limber up, performing the stretching routine he’d been taught as a boy. When ready, he picked up his sword and bowed to his teacher.

After a perfunctory bow, Thomas attacked. Farrell used a lighter sword that played to his wiry build and natural quickness. After a few passes, Thomas stopped and lowered his sword.

“Your arm is too low.” Thomas moved Farrell’s sword arm approximately three inches.

Feeling foolish at the almost negligible adjustment, Farrell barely paid attention to the additional instructions.

Master Thomas moved in front of Farrell, and they resumed practice. Without warning, Thomas changed his attack, stopped, and repeated the drill of showing Farrell what he’d done wrong this time. Farrell chafed as the lesson continued. He wanted to show Miceral his skill with a sword, but his trainer consistently focused on his weaker points.

“Boy!” Thomas slammed the point of his practice sword into the ground, signaling a stop. “What in the Eight Gates of Neblor are you doing? Trying to show off for the pretty lad sitting over there?”

Farrell turned beet-red, glaring at his instructor.

Undeterred, Thomas scowled back. “We’re here to work on where you’re most vulnerable, not to do fancy moves to impress someone you hope to get in your bed tonight. Trust me. I saw what he can do. You’re not going to impress him. You aren’t that good.”

Humiliated, Farrell ground his teeth, eyes barely open. If this fool thought to insult him in front of Miceral without consequences, he—

“Master Thomas.” Miceral’s voice broke into Farrell’s thoughts. “If you wouldn’t mind, may I talk to Farrell a moment, please?”

The two locked eyes for an instant before Farrell saw his teacher nod.

Putting a hand on Farrell’s shoulder, Miceral drew them aside. “He’s correct. I am a distraction. I shouldn’t have come. I’ll go back to the rooms to wait for you.”

“No.” Farrell grabbed Miceral’s arm. “It’s not you, it’s him. I’m a much better wizard than he is a swordsman, and this is his way of humiliating me.”

Shaking his head, Miceral gripped Farrell by the biceps. “That’s not true. He’s trying to teach you how to work around your weaknesses. It makes no sense to work on what you’re good at and ignore where you need help. You were in the wrong. Master Thomas is a fine teacher. If you want me to stay, you need to apologize to him.”

Farrell’s head snapped back. “Are you joking? He’s a surly, grumpy old man—”

“Who’s trying to save your life by making you a better swordsman. He was right to call you out just then. He might have been a bit mean, but he got your attention.” Miceral suddenly smiled at him. “It was sweet of you to try to show off for me. I’m impressed. You’re a much better swordsman than I thought. But if you really want to impress me, then learn what he’s trying to teach you.” He kissed Farrell’s forehead. “Go on, apologize and get on with the lesson.”

TLGM BT Banner

BUY LINKS:

 DSP Publication – http://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-last-grand-master-by-andrew-q-gordon-53-b

AUTHOR BIO: Andrew Q. Gordon wrote his first story back when yellow legal pads, ball point pens were common and a Smith Corona correctable typewriter was considered high tech. Adapting with technology, he now takes his MacBook somewhere quiet when he wants to write.

He currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his partner of nineteen years, their daughter and dog. In addition to dodging some very self-important D.C. ‘insiders’, Andrew uses his commute to catch up on his reading. When not working or writing, he enjoys soccer, high fantasy, baseball and seeing how much coffee he can drink in a day.

AUTHOR LINKS:

Website: www.andrewqgordon.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/andrewqugordon

Twitter: @andrewqgordon

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AndrewQGordon

E-mail: andrewqgordon@gmail.com

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TOUR SCHEDULE

 2/10 – Cate Ashwood

2/11 – Susan Mac Nicol

2/12 – Tali Spencer

2/13 – Shira Anthony

2/16 – M.A. Church

2/17 – Charlie Cochet

2/18 – Raine O’Tierney

2/19 – RJ Scott

2/20 – Sue Brown

Dreamspinner 25% Off Sale

Juno_sale_DSPsiteDreamspinner Press is running a sale that will make you want to stay indoors and read (that’s me, just about every weekend). Everything in the store is 25% off right now, including my new release, Blood and Rain! Book 2, Blood and Ghosts, will be released in a couple of months now!

Or maybe you haven’t checked out my mermen. The Mermen of Ea Series is also on sale. Or maybe that’s “sail.” (Anyone hear crickets?) The last series book will be coming out this summer (June or July).

Have my fantasy series, but haven’t tried my contemporary musici series, Blue Notes? Now’s a great time. Those can be read in any order, so pick the one that speaks to you, and dive on in.

Kindle users, don’t forget you can sign up to have DSP send your books directly to your device (and get them cheaper than they would be on Amazon!).

Stay warm, ignore the snow, and read! -Shira

“Running with the Wind” (Mermen of Ea #3)!

photoI just signed a contract with Dreamspinner Press to publish Running with the Wind, the final installment of the Mermen of Ea Series! Tentative publication is June or July 2015.

I’m both excited and a little sad to be wrapping up the adventures of Taren Laxley and Ian Dunaidh, the two Ea (merfolk shifters) at the heart of the series. This last book may not be the end of stories in this universe, however, since I am considering a spinoff featuring two of my favorite series secondary characters.

In the upcoming months, I’ll be revealing the book’s cover, as well as running some contests with some cool IntoWindmerfolk-themed prizes I’ve picked up along the way. I’ll also be sharing excerpts from the book with you. Oh, and before Running with the Wind is released, Dreamspinner will be publishing the second book in the Blood Series, Blood and Ghosts, which is currently in edits and will be released in March or April.

I’ll leave you all with the unofficial blurb for Running with the Wind. If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, Stealing the Wind and Into the Wind, both are available at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and other online booksellers. -Shira

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StealingTheWindFSBlurb: The stage is set for the final confrontation between the island and mainland Ea factions. Taren and Ian sail with Odhran to the Eastern Lands to investigate a lost colony of merfolk. Once they arrive, they meet the King of Astenya, who welcomes them as friends. Odhran, however, isn’t so quick to trust the descendant of the man who held him prisoner for nearly a decade, especially now that he has someone he must protect from harm–the mysterious winged boy he rescued from the depths.

Armed with the knowledge he believes will save the Ea, Taren returns to the mainland. With Ian at his side, Taren convinces Vurin that their people must unite with their island brethren before it’s too late. But when Seria and his men attack, Taren must call upon the ancient power of the rune stone to protect his comrades. Will Ian’s fear of losing Taren become reality, or does the goddess’s plan for Ian and Taren include a chance at happiness?

 

 

Looking Ahead at 2015 and “Blood and Rain” Blog Tour Winners!

Blood and Rain 400x600Happy 2015 everyone! I hope it’s a great year for you, your family, and your friends! It’s going to be a very busy year for me, and I thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve got planned.

This spring, look for Blood and Ghosts, the 2nd book in the Blood Series. The last book of the trilogy, Blood and Eternity, should be out by the end of 2015.

Also in 2015, look for Running with the Wind, the 3rd and final installment in the Mermen of Ea Series! I’m so excited to share the final book with you, although I’ll be sorry to say goodbye to the slippery men who inhabit the world of the Ea. I am considering a companion series based on secondary characters from the Mermen of Ea books, though, so I may have a chance to visit with them again.

My current WIP is a book I’m co-authoring with the wonderful Cody Kennedy, writing under his adult pen name, Aisling Mancy. It’s a contemporary drama set at the Carolina coast. Tentative publication is in the fall of 2015.

10850559_972727042741775_1386310541_nI’ll also be traveling this year. I’m planning to attend Romance Times (RT) in Dallas, Gay Romance Literature Retreat (GRL) in San Diego, Animazement in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I’m hoping to be able to swing a trip to Yaoicon in San Francisco this year. All in all, I’ll be putting in a lot of miles! But I love to travel, and I’m looking forward to it.

If you haven’t already picked up a copy, you can find my newest release, Blood and Rain, at Dreamspinner Press, AllromanceEbooks, and Amazon, among other booksellers. The series, three books in all, tells one long story with its main focus on Adrien Gilbert, the youngest son of a French vampire hunter family, and Nicolas Lambert, an ancient (born a vampire, not created) vampire. Adrien’s mother was killed by a vampire when Adrien was just a small child, and Adrien has grown to hate vampires because of it. Born a vampire, Nicolas is both powerful and kind. The last thing Adrien expects is to fall for Nicolas Lambert.

Special thanks to all the wonderful blogs who hosted the Blood and Rain Blog Tour and the very special giveaway. Below are the winners of the giveaway, who I’ve emailed. Artist Martin Brodour, the gifted man who made the amazing Ea pendant for the release of Into the Wind, made another unisex pendant to offer up on the giveaway as the grand prize!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’ll leave you all with an excerpt from Blood and Rain. Happy New Year! -Shira

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Blood Series: Book 1

Blood: Book One

Adrien Gilbert has spent several lifetimes searching for the love he lost. Born in the 1800s 3621890092_4175cd8c60_zinto a clan of fabled vampire hunters, Adrien once wanted nothing more than to tend his family’s vineyard in southern France or read a good book. But Adrien’s peaceful existence ends abruptly when his older brother, François, is murdered. Bound by his hunter’s oath, Adrien sets out on a path that will forever change his life when he agrees to execute his brother’s killer, the vampire Charles Duvalier.

After months chasing the elusive Charles, Adrien reluctantly makes a bargain with Nicolas Lambert, an ancient vampire. Adrien will escort Nicolas to Paris for his marriage to a rival clanswoman, and Nicolas will help Adrien find Charles. Nicolas’s quiet strength and gentle heart soon convince Adrien that Nicolas is nothing like the vampires he has sworn to destroy. As the wedding date draws nearer, a force intent on destroying the fragile peace between the vampire clans threatens to tear apart both the vampire realm and the world of the hunters. To secure both past and future for those he loves, Adrien must find a way to stop the looming war between hunters and vampires. But first he’ll have to let Nicolas go.

Note: Books in this series must be read in order.

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Excerpt:

“I know why you’re here,” Deniel said as he opened the door to let Adrien in.

 

Adrien rested his hand on the hilt of his sword, unsure if Deniel would attack him. He’d been taught to be vigilant, to act quickly to dispatch his target, but he hesitated, unwilling to attack without provocation even though it was his right.

 

“You admit you killed Mademoiselle Faucher?” Adrien asked. Deniel would not meet his gaze, his eyes focused firmly on the floor.

 

“I tried…,” he began after a long pause. “I thought sheep’s blood would satisfy my thirst. I hoped… I tried to stop before she….” His shoulders slumped in obvious resignation.

 

Adrien swallowed hard. He’d spent hours learning to fight. He knew the angle needed to dislocate a skull from a neck, the spot where his blade would meet the least resistance. He knew how to kill, but he’d only once before taken a life. He reached into his jacket, retrieved the carte, and tossed it at the vampire’s feet. What life? The life of a creature who kills to survive?

 

“Yves Deniel, you are sentenced to die by the authority of the Council of Hunters. Will you respect the Council’s will, or will you challenge me?”

 

“I was a farmer,” Deniel said in a soft voice that quavered slightly as he spoke. “We lived a good life here, my wife and I… before I became what I am.” He paused, glanced up at Adrien, then looked away again. “I went to the city…. We’d had a good harvest that year, and I had a few more francs to show for it. I only meant to buy a few tools… I stopped for a drink.” He shook his head. “I’m ashamed. The woman at the bar…. She was so beautiful. She spoke kindly to me and told me I was handsome. But when I awoke, she had changed me. God has punished me for my infidelity. I am what I am—a beast—because of my own selfish desires.

 

“Kill me,” Deniel whispered. “I’m pathetic. I deserve to die for what I’ve done. I can’t stop myself. I won’t challenge you.”

 

Tears streamed down Deniel’s face. Adrien gripped his sword tighter, but he didn’t draw his weapon. He’s right. He deserves to die.

 

“She wasn’t the first,” Deniel continued. He began to shake in earnest now, sniffling and sobbing like a child. “My wife… I thought I could transform her as I’d been transformed. I didn’t know… I didn’t realize I was too young, too weak….” He dropped to his knees and buried his head in his hands. “Please,” he begged. “End this before I kill again. You must… you’re a hunter… you must end this!”

 

Adrien drew his sword with a trembling hand. He would do this. Do his duty. He touched the blade to Deniel’s neck.

 

“Please. End it for me.”

 

Adrien’s eyes burned. He should feel nothing but hatred. Pity at best for having fallen prey to the female vampire who’d lured Deniel from the bar. Why did he hesitate? Why should he care that in his weakness, this pathetic man had given in to his baser urges? And yet few humans could resist a vampire’s alluring scent.

 

It isn’t for you to judge. Your duty is absolute.

 

He gritted his teeth and inhaled long and deep. He must do this. He set his left hand over his right to steady the blade, then drew it back and swung. He did not miss.

 

He stood, numb and unmoving, after it was done. Something on the ground caught his eye: the carte, splattered with blood. The smell of copper permeated the air and wound its way to his nostrils, sweet and slightly nauseating. He picked up the carte. He held it between his thumb and forefinger, smearing the blood. He stared at it for a moment, then allowed it to fall from his hand. It fluttered onto the vampire’s lifeless body.

 

 

 

 

Blood and Rain: Christmas with a Vampire

Blood and Rain 400x600It’s just about New Year’s Eve, the last day for the Blood and Rain Giveaway on Rafflecopter. Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win the amazing unisex Council of Hunters pendant by artist Martin Brodour! Here’s the link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cf0ba9497/ You can snag the book at Dreamspinner Press, AllromanceEbooks, and Amazon. Buy the book at Dreamspinner Press right now, and you’ll get a 20% discount in the ebook format!

To celebrate the holiday, ancient vampire Nicolas Lambert was asked to speak about Christmas, so I thought I’d share his memories of Christmas in France. I hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! -Shira

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This year, Christmas came and went, and I barely noticed its passing. For nearly 200 years, I’ve spent Christmas with my brother, Jean, at my family’s home in Lyon, France. This year, I’m outside of Paris at the home of my future bride, Rosina Rousseau. And although our two families are no longer at war, the atmosphere is thick with intrigue and lacking the warmth of Christmases past. Rosina is a kind and generous woman, but my heart is already spoken for, and the joys of the season seem very far away.

Both my parents were killed in the war between our clans when I was just a baby. Still, I remember that as a child, I’d set my tiny shoes before the fireplace in the old library, hoping Père Noël (Father Christmas) would look kindly on me. The next morning, I’d awaken to discover them filled with treats—candies and small toys I now know my brother purchased in the small Christmas market in the city center.

As an adult, I recall Christmas dinner in the great hall, though there were few guests and the table always felt far too large. We were at war, and Jean would let no one but our most trusted friends and relations into our home. I know he feared for my safety, and I don’t begrudge him his concern. In spite of their modest size, those festive meals were marked by more food than we could eat. Venison, fowl, cook’s wonderful bread, and my favorite dessert: a bûche de Noël (Yule log), decorated with marzipan mushrooms and sugar trees.

While the ancient vampire clans have never practiced human religions, I remember watching families walking home from churches on Christmas Eve, laughing and singing happily in the streets. I often watched them through the windows of their homes as they feasted afterward. That feast, called le Réveillon (awakening) is a symbolic awakening to the meaning of Christ’s birth.

This year, my heart is heavy. The man I love, the vampire hunter Adrien Gilbert, is far away and I’m not sure I’ll see him again. Worse yet, I may see him on my wedding day. That will be the day I must give him up forever for the sake of peace. Some nights, I look out at the stars and think of him. I wonder what my life would be like if I wasn’t duty bound to marry. I also wonder if he, too, is looking up at the sky and thinking of me.

Reblogged from Molly Lolly Reviews.

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Excerpt:
Adrien licked the skin of Cole’s neck, feeling the blood pulse there, hearing it call to him. Cole tilted his head in anticipation, opening himself to Adrien.

Adrien buried his teeth in Cole’s skin. Blood flooded his mouth and danced on his tongue, sweet and salty. Too long. His body was far more vampire-like in its craving for blood than when he’d first been given the gift of an ancient vampire’s soul. He wondered if it was the same for other immortals.

Adrien tried to ignore the images that flashed through his mind—the sound of silvery laughter, a mother’s loving caress. Cole’s memories. Adrien despised this forced intimacy, but he’d come to see it as the price of blood. Something to be tolerated.

It hadn’t always been that way. When he’d shared Nicolas’s blood, Adrien had experienced great joy. He’d seen himself through Nicolas’s eyes and felt the depth of Nicolas’s love. Each drop of that precious liquid had opened new doors. Each taste offered insight into Nicolas’s heart and soul. A beloved memory. A mystery—the mystery of Nicolas—unfolding with every swallow.

Adrien drank his fill, then claimed Cole’s mouth. This kind of contact he could stomach. He didn’t need sex to survive, but he enjoyed the release. Cole unbuttoned Adrien’s black silk shirt and his cock swelled against Adrien’s thigh. Adrien moaned as Cole skated his fingertips over his chest.

“I have never known a hunter to crave blood,” Cole whispered in his ear. “I thought only we experienced the bloodlust.”

“You were wrong,” Adrien said as he pulled Cole’s shirt over his head and mouthed a pretty pink nipple. Sex was always better after he fed, and Adrien’s cock was already hard at the thought of fucking such a lovely ass. He drew Cole’s body against his, walked backward into the living room, and pulled Cole with him onto the rug. Soon they were naked and he was no longer a hunter or an immortal, he was simply a man, seeking release, seeking pleasure.

For at least an hour after, Adrien lay on the floor and allowed the night air to caress his bare skin. He closed his eyes and dozed.

“Adrien.”

The voice awakened him. Nicolas’s voice again. Why sleep if it only served to reawaken the pain he sought to suppress?

He stood and pulled on his jeans. He walked onto the balcony in his bare feet, then climbed to the roof of the penthouse.

Pathetic.

Having reached the edge, he spread his arms. He leaned forward and fell unimpeded, riding the wind like a sigh. The glass of the building sailed by him, the breeze buffeting his face. He hit the water and sank into the cold blackness. He wished he could die.

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.

Author Contact:
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

Where To Buy:
Dreamspinner: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5805&cPath=55_484
ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-bloodandrain-1686465-145.html

Reviews: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Writer’s World)

write-a-review It’s been a while since I’ve written a “Writer’s World” post, so I thought I’d weigh in on a longstanding and important conversation about book reviews.

This past Sunday, PizzyGirl over at Prism Book Alliance posted a blog about negative reviews that I shared on social media. You can read the post here. In a nutshell, she posted a not so flattering review of an author’s book, and she received some serious backlash in response. The timing of her post was a bit of a perfect storm for me, since my newest book, Blood and Rain, has just been released by Dreamspinner Press, and I’m in that “will they like it or will they productreviewhate it?” mode that leaves me feeling like I’m not quite standing on solid ground.

Before I get into my personal feelings about reviews, I thought I’d break them out into three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Good, of course, are those are the 3-5 star reviews (yes, a 3 star can be a good review!) where the reader really liked the book. The bad is pretty easy to spot, as well. 1-3 star reviews where a reader didn’t like the book. Then there’s the ugly. These are the reviews that are just plain nasty, including those that attack the author, are snark-filled, tell a prospective reader nothing, and make anyone reading them want to cringe (or at least, anyone with a conscience). The first two categories, “good” and “bad” can be helpful to readers trying to decide whether to read a book. The last category is pretty much worthless to anyone.

Time to add the author into the mix. I have two jobs–I write full-time, and I spend nearly every waking hour when I’m not at my real life job (public sector attorney) writing. Why does that matter? Because I work very hard to write books readers will like, and when they don’t, it smarts. No doubt about it. Do I read reviews? Yep, although there review_scottare times I wish I wouldn’t, since they can really mess with my focus. Yes, focus. I’ve got that cheerleading squad in my brain that pushes me to write, and when I get a bad review, the squad has to work overtime. Doesn’t matter how many glowing reviews I get, it’s that one bad review that I remember. Why? Because I write not only for myself, I write for readers and I want them to enjoy my books.

So let’s talk “bad” reviews. They’re really not so bad. Sometimes, I learn something from them about what readers like. And believe me, I do listen! Most of the time, I’ve realized bad reviews do not reflect bad writing, per se, but differing personal tastes. Case in point, my first novel, Blue Notes. I’ve had a number of people say it’s one of their favorite books ever. Ever. Which totally blows me away. But  take a look at the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, and you’ll see there are readers who said it was boring, or too slow, or, my favorite, that it must have been “Twilight” fan fiction (yeah, no, don’t like Twilight and it was never fan fiction). How can you square such differing opinions? Let me use my favorite food example. I LOVE chocolate. Any kind. My husband? Can’t stand the stuff. I don’t get his taste, he doesn’t get mine. Apples and oranges. I can’t force you to like an apple if you prefer oranges. We’re all different. It’s really that simple.

The “ugly” reviews are the easiest to stomach to some extent, because they’re truly 04c9ea33c9dcadf91702bc963d09df46not worth very much to people considering reading your book who are looking for direction. These are sometimes called “troll” reviews. They don’t explain what it was about the book they didn’t like. Some of my favorites? A 2-star review with the text, “I don’t like reading May/December romances” for a book that was clearly a May/December. Why read it? I’ve seen the same with M/M/M romances or BDSM. Why bother reading something you aren’t into? I’ve had a few of these where it was clear the reader didn’t realize they were picking up a gay romance (as opposed to het romance) and then gave it a 1-star and said, “This book isn’t for me. I didn’t realize what I was picking up when I started it.” What good is that to a reader?

But “ugly” reviews are the ones that make your fingers itch to respond to. I won’t, regardless of the temptation. Someone who can’t understand that the tone of a review is mean, or that the content does nothing except bash and author won’t ever be convinced by something I have to say about it. Period.

I know a lot of authors. I know some who will not look at Goodreads reviews. I know some who pay people to collect good reviews so they don’t have to wade through potentially bad ones. It’s tempting to do both of these things, but this is where I’ve laid down the gauntlet to myself: I want to encourage reviews, the good and the bad, regardless of my emotional reaction to them. Authors need reviewers (readers and blog reviews). And we need them to be honest. Kind, too, but honest first and foremost.

Does it hurt when a fan writes a lukewarm or even negative review of a book I’ve written? Damn straight. Do I get angry? No. I take a deep breath, shrug off the “ouch”, and appreciate that they’ve taken the time to review. To me, it means they care about books, and about sharing the reading experience with others. With the ugly reviews, I do my best to be 2d723db58dfae5bcea025e456f33ccf8sanguine. As a reader, those are the reviews I wouldn’t pay much attention to anyhow. Do I condone them? Not at all. But given the anonymity of the internet, I think they’re here to stay.

For 2015, I’m going to make myself a promise. Well, two promises, actually. First, I’m going to continue to read my reviews, good, bad, and ugly. Second, I’m going to “like” them all, regardless of the content. Because, let’s face it, without readers my books will just sit on my own bookshelf. My “like” doesn’t mean I agree with the review or that I don’t get the ouchies reading it, it just means that I respect the reviewer for his or her opinion.

If you’re a reader, please consider reviewing the books you read. Just a sentence or two and a rating can go a long way to help others decide which books to read, and it may really help your favorite authors sell more books (yes, some of us really do this for a living).

I welcome comments from writers and readers (and those of us who are both). I think this is an important discussion to have! Happy holidays, everyone. -Shira

 

“Blood and Rain” Blog Tour & Giveaway

Blood and Rain 400x600Blood and Rain is here! Today, Monday December 15th, is release day! Didn’t preorder a copy? You can snag the book at Dreamspinner Press, AllromanceEbooks, and Amazon. But the book at Dreamspinner Press right now, and you’ll get a 25% discount in the ebook format! Buy it at Dreamspinner Press in paperback, and you could get one a copy with vellum sheets signed by me (first 10 copies only).

The Blood Series features three MM couples, and the story has three HEAs (not a surprise, since I won’t write a book without one). Of course, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a long road to get to happiness! The series, three books in all, tells one long story with its main focus on Adrien Gilbert, the youngest son of a French vampire hunter family, and Nicolas Lambert, an ancient (born a vampire, not created) vampire. Adrien’s mother was killed by a vampire when Adrien was just a small child, and Adrien has grown to hate vampires because of it.  Born a vampire, Nicolas is both powerful and kind. The last thing Adrien expects is to fall for Nicolas Lambert.

10850559_972727042741775_1386310541_nBlood and Rain focuses on Adrien’s orders to execute the vampire who murdered his brother. In return for his pledge to escort Nicolas to be married–an arranged marriage meant to solidify a shaky peace between vampire clans–Nicolas agrees to help Adrien find his brother’s killer. Along the way, Nicolas gives Adrien the gift of immortality. But what good is eternal life if Adrien can’t be with Nicolas?

In the second book in the series, Blood and Ghosts, due out in Spring of 2015, Adrien realizes that Nicolas’s gift of immortality comes with certain new abilities, including the power to manipulate time.  When Nicolas is kidnapped, a pawn in a scheme to create a new world order where vampires are subservient to hunters, Adrien searches for Nicolas in the past and the present.

Release day also means the first day of the Blood and Rain Blog Tour and a very special giveaway. Artist Martin Brodour, the gifted man who made the amazing Ea pendant for the release of Into the Wind, has made another unisex pendant to offer up on the giveaway as the grand prize! Based on the Council of Hunters crest, it features a crescent moon cut in half by a vampire hunter’s sword. Second prize is a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift certificate good for any purchase at the DSP store.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Here’s the list of blog tour stops where you can comment and earn entries in the giveaway:

15-Dec Joyfully Jay
16-Dec Prism Book Alliance
17-Dec Rebecca Cohen Writes
17-Dec Rainbow Gold Reviews
18-Dec Love Bytes
19-Dec Smoocher’s Voice
19-Dec Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
22-Dec Amanda C. Stone
23-Dec Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves
24-Dec Emotion in Motion
25-Dec Molly Lolly
26-Dec Book Suburbia

*****

 Blood Series: Book 1

Blood: Book One

Adrien Gilbert has spent several lifetimes searching for the love he lost. Born in the 1800s 3621890092_4175cd8c60_zinto a clan of fabled vampire hunters, Adrien once wanted nothing more than to tend his family’s vineyard in southern France or read a good book. But Adrien’s peaceful existence ends abruptly when his older brother, François, is murdered. Bound by his hunter’s oath, Adrien sets out on a path that will forever change his life when he agrees to execute his brother’s killer, the vampire Charles Duvalier.

After months chasing the elusive Charles, Adrien reluctantly makes a bargain with Nicolas Lambert, an ancient vampire. Adrien will escort Nicolas to Paris for his marriage to a rival clanswoman, and Nicolas will help Adrien find Charles. Nicolas’s quiet strength and gentle heart soon convince Adrien that Nicolas is nothing like the vampires he has sworn to destroy. As the wedding date draws nearer, a force intent on destroying the fragile peace between the vampire clans threatens to tear apart both the vampire realm and the world of the hunters. To secure both past and future for those he loves, Adrien must find a way to stop the looming war between hunters and vampires. But first he’ll have to let Nicolas go.

Note: Books in this series must be read in order.

******

Chapter One: On the Edge of Forever

Miami, Florida

Sunset wove fingers of purple and red through bands of clouds and vapor trails that crisscrossed the sky. The scent of exhaust from trucks and cars mingled with the tang of salt from the ocean. People scurried about as they returned from work, trying to finish last-minute errands before dinnertime, all oblivious to the lone figure perched atop the high-rise at the edge of the Miami River.

Adrien Gilbert gazed down at the tiny figures below, vaguely aware of their presence. For more than a century, he had seen generations of humans be born, reach adulthood, start families, grow old, and die as their loved ones watched, helpless to slow time. He had grown numb to the cycle of life—a cycle to which he was immune. He was an immortal, a hunter who had shared the soul of an ancient vampire. His beloved soul.

He closed his eyes, trying to picture that perfect face. It had grown strangely difficult to remember over the years, and yet he could still easily remember the face of his mother, who had been killed when he was just a child.

I won’t forget you… Nicolas.

It would have been far easier to give in, to erase Nicolas from his memory forever. Certainly far less painful than knowing Nicolas was out there somewhere, unable to find the way back to him. Less painful, too, than admitting he couldn’t find his way to Nicolas. He would suffer the pain of knowledge; it was a small price to pay to preserve the memory.

I’m sorry.

The irony that a hunter sworn to protect humankind would suffer the loss of a vampire so keenly was hardly lost on Adrien. He’d believed that in spite of the treaty between hunters and the hunted, vampires were not to be trusted. He’d believed his duty as a hunter was simple, straightforward: kill those who threatened humanity, tolerate those who did not. But that had been before he’d met Nicolas. Before he’d lost his heart. Before Nicolas had given him immortality.

Adrien had everything a human might wish for. The small transportation business he’d started when he moved to the United States over a hundred years ago had blossomed into an international empire with cargo ships, airplanes, trucks, and dozens of storage facilities around the globe. He owned homes in Europe, Thailand, Japan, the US, and a dozen other places he rarely visited. Despite his prosperity, the men with whom he shared his bed—human, vampire, hunter—rarely stayed long. He had seen to that, with his aloof manner and his cold heart. One man had ever touched his soul.

 

 

The evening had started, as it always did, on a far better note. Adrien had stopped by one of his favorite haunts, an upscale martini bar not far from the city center. He’d developed a penchant for gin over the past few decades, enjoying the quick work it made of his long-term memory. Three or four martinis and he could forget, even if only briefly.

The bar was small and full of people. A Sinatra song played in the background as he walked over to the stainless-steel bar, filled with men, some of whom he’d already discarded, others new faces. Eager, all of them. He sensed their eyes on him and felt the hunger they didn’t understand. He understood that hunger. The scent of his blood created it in them. The same irresistible scent that had lured many a human to fall prey to the vampires now drew them to him.

He sat down at an empty barstool and nodded to the bartender, who set to work making the driest martini possible with his most expensive gin, dropping in a tiny bit of lemon peel instead of an olive. He handed Adrien the drink without saying a word, and Adrien brought the glass to his lips.

“Nice,” a male voice said from behind him.

The man was beautiful, tall, with shoulder-length black hair and deep green eyes. He wore pair of tight-fitting jeans and a crisp button-down shirt that emphasized his muscled chest and narrow waist. Late twenties, perhaps. A new face, but a familiar presence.

“It’s not bad.” Adrien took a sip of his drink and pretended not to care. It was easy.

“I wasn’t talking about the drink.” The man lifted his drink to his full lips but watched him intently.

“I wasn’t either,” Adrien replied without missing a beat.

“I’m Cole.”

“So you are.”

They left the bar together for his apartment, where his housekeeper had already set a table for two. A bottle of Puligny-Montrachet chilled in a cooler by the table. Between them, they finished that bottle, although Adrien drank very little. Alcohol affected immortals far more than humans or vampires.

After dinner Cole stood and walked over to the railing, looking out over the river below. “You know what I am.” Cole’s voice was as smooth as the wine.

“Yes. I know what you are.” Adrien had sensed Cole was a vampire the moment he’d seen him. No self-respecting hunter would have missed the subtle electricity in the air or the scent of mingled blood. He lifted Cole’s hair off his neck, then trailed his lips over his silky skin. Cole smelled good—an earthy and primal scent that caused the bloodlust to rise in Adrien. Once, he had embraced his lust for blood.

When he’d first become an immortal, Nicolas’s blood had done far more than sustain him. They had shared their bodies, their blood, and their souls. The blood had been their bond, the bloodlust a welcome reminder of Adrien’s love for Nicolas. Now the lust for blood had nothing to do with Adrien’s heart. It was another bitter reminder that his body would not let him perish, even though he cared nothing for living.

It’s been too long.

Cole moaned. The deep, throaty sound made Adrien’s mouth water in spite of himself. Adrien despised his body’s response, but he’d long ago learned he couldn’t fight it. Once, he had gone nearly twenty years without giving in to the call. He’d been weak, pathetic, barely able to think. He’d prayed he would die. He’d lost consciousness, but he’d awoken to find himself drinking his fill. He’d come perilously close to killing the human whose blood he’d feasted on, but he’d managed to stop. However miserable his existence, Adrien would only feed on vampires—he’d not break the oath he’d taken to protect humans when he’d become a hunter.

Adrien licked the skin of Cole’s neck, feeling the blood pulse there, hearing it call to him. Cole tilted his head in anticipation, opening himself to Adrien.

Adrien buried his teeth in Cole’s skin. Blood flooded his mouth and danced on his tongue, sweet and salty. Too long. His body was far more vampire-like in its craving for blood than when he’d first been given the gift of an ancient vampire’s soul. He wondered if it was the same for other immortals.

Adrien tried to ignore the images that flashed through his mind—the sound of silvery laughter, a mother’s loving caress. Cole’s memories. Adrien despised this forced intimacy, but he’d come to see it as the price of blood. Something to be tolerated.

It hadn’t always been that way. When he’d shared Nicolas’s blood, Adrien had experienced great joy. He’d seen himself through Nicolas’s eyes and felt the depth of Nicolas’s love. Each drop of that precious liquid had opened new doors. Each taste offered insight into Nicolas’s heart and soul. A beloved memory. A mystery—the mystery of Nicolas—unfolding with every swallow.

Adrien drank his fill, then claimed Cole’s mouth. This kind of contact he could stomach. He didn’t need sex to survive, but he enjoyed the release. Cole unbuttoned Adrien’s black silk shirt and his cock swelled against Adrien’s thigh. Adrien moaned as Cole skated his fingertips over his chest.

“I have never known a hunter to crave blood,” Cole whispered in his ear. “I thought only we experienced the bloodlust.”

“You were wrong,” Adrien said as he pulled Cole’s shirt over his head and mouthed a pretty pink nipple. Sex was always better after he fed, and Adrien’s cock was already hard at the thought of fucking such a lovely ass. He drew Cole’s body against his, walked backward into the living room, and pulled Cole with him onto the rug. Soon they were naked and he was no longer a hunter or an immortal, he was simply a man, seeking release, seeking pleasure.

 

 

Adrien lay there afterward, only partially satisfied. Nothing new. Sex was like the bloodlust—it always left him wanting more. Cole brushed his fingers over Adrien’s chest, then his neck. He licked Adrien’s earlobe, then ran his tongue over Adrien’s Adam’s apple.

“May I?” he asked.

“No.” He would willingly share his blood with only one person.

“Too bad.” The vampire was clearly disappointed. “I would have liked to have known the secrets of your blood.”

Adrien watched Cole dress but said nothing.

“Perhaps another time, then.” Cole turned and smiled at him before he walked out the door.

For at least an hour after, Adrien lay on the floor and allowed the night air to caress his bare skin. He closed his eyes and dozed.

“Adrien.”

The voice awakened him. Nicolas’s voice again. Why sleep if it only served to reawaken the pain he sought to suppress?

He stood and pulled on his jeans. He walked onto the balcony in his bare feet, then climbed to the roof of the penthouse.

Pathetic.

Having reached the edge, he spread his arms. He leaned forward and fell unimpeded, riding the wind like a sigh. The glass of the building sailed by him, the breeze buffeting his face. He hit the water and sank into the cold blackness. He wished he could die.

Preorder Blood and Rain now at Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5805&cPath=1303

 

 

 

 

 

Counting Down to “Blood and Rain”

Blood and Rain 400x600Blood and Rain will be released in just over a week now, on Monday December 15th! You can preorder a copy at Dreamspinner Press, AllromanceEbooks, and Amazon (starting later today, 12/6/14). Preorder the paperback from Dreamspinner Press, and you’ll get 25% off the list price. The first 10 copies or so will include vellum sheets signed by me.

Set in the present day US and in the late 1800s in France, the Blood Series features three MM couples. The main focus is on Adrien Gilbert, the youngest son of a French vampire hunter family, and Nicolas Lambert, an ancient (born a vampire, not created) vampire. Adrien’s mother was killed by a vampire when Adrien was just a small child, and Adrien has grown to hate vampires because of it. The last thing Adrien expects is to fall for Nicolas Lambert. Born a vampire, Nicolas is both powerful and kind.

10850559_972727042741775_1386310541_nWhat Adrien doesn’t realize is that the differences between hunters and vampires are far fewer than he’s been led to believe. Adrien’s travels take him to Paris and beyond. Far beyond, in fact, since hunters can become immortal with the help of the ancient vampires. In the second book in the series, Blood and Ghosts, due out in Spring of 2015, that travel becomes a “when” rather than a “where” when Adrien searches for a missing Nicolas in past and present.

Release day also means the first day of the Blood and Rain Blog Tour and a very special giveaway. Artist Martin Brodour, the gifted man who made the amazing Ea pendant for the release of Into the Wind, has made another unisex pendant to offer up on the giveaway as the grand prize! Based on the Council of Hunters crest, it features a crescent moon cut in half by a vampire hunter’s sword. Second prize is a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift certificate good for any purchase at the DSP store. The giveaway link will be active on December 15th here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
The Blood series is a romance/adventure about vampires and vampire hunters with some pretty unusual abilities. It chronicles three MM couples and a looming war between the hunters and the hunted. An excerpt and official blurb are below. Stay tuned for more blog tour information with a list of stops where you can get entries and have a chance to win Martin’s pendant. Also, please join me on the Dreamspinner Press Facebook page on Sunday, December 14th, from 2-5 p.m. E.D.T. for an author chat. I’ll have excerpts and flash contests you can join in on. Enjoy! -Shira

******

 

Blood Series: Book 1

Blood: Book One

Adrien Gilbert has spent several lifetimes searching for the love he lost. Born in the 1800s 3621890092_4175cd8c60_zinto a clan of fabled vampire hunters, Adrien once wanted nothing more than to tend his family’s vineyard in southern France or read a good book. But Adrien’s peaceful existence ends abruptly when his older brother, François, is murdered. Bound by his hunter’s oath, Adrien sets out on a path that will forever change his life when he agrees to execute his brother’s killer, the vampire Charles Duvalier.

After months chasing the elusive Charles, Adrien reluctantly makes a bargain with Nicolas Lambert, an ancient vampire. Adrien will escort Nicolas to Paris for his marriage to a rival clanswoman, and Nicolas will help Adrien find Charles. Nicolas’s quiet strength and gentle heart soon convince Adrien that Nicolas is nothing like the vampires he has sworn to destroy. As the wedding date draws nearer, a force intent on destroying the fragile peace between the vampire clans threatens to tear apart both the vampire realm and the world of the hunters. To secure both past and future for those he loves, Adrien must find a way to stop the looming war between hunters and vampires. But first he’ll have to let Nicolas go.

Note: Books in this series must be read in order.

Coming December 15, 2014

******

Chapter One: On the Edge of Forever

Miami, Florida

Sunset wove fingers of purple and red through bands of clouds and vapor trails that crisscrossed the sky. The scent of exhaust from trucks and cars mingled with the tang of salt from the ocean. People scurried about as they returned from work, trying to finish last-minute errands before dinnertime, all oblivious to the lone figure perched atop the high-rise at the edge of the Miami River.

Adrien Gilbert gazed down at the tiny figures below, vaguely aware of their presence. For more than a century, he had seen generations of humans be born, reach adulthood, start families, grow old, and die as their loved ones watched, helpless to slow time. He had grown numb to the cycle of life—a cycle to which he was immune. He was an immortal, a hunter who had shared the soul of an ancient vampire. His beloved soul.

He closed his eyes, trying to picture that perfect face. It had grown strangely difficult to remember over the years, and yet he could still easily remember the face of his mother, who had been killed when he was just a child.

I won’t forget you… Nicolas.

It would have been far easier to give in, to erase Nicolas from his memory forever. Certainly far less painful than knowing Nicolas was out there somewhere, unable to find the way back to him. Less painful, too, than admitting he couldn’t find his way to Nicolas. He would suffer the pain of knowledge; it was a small price to pay to preserve the memory.

I’m sorry.

The irony that a hunter sworn to protect humankind would suffer the loss of a vampire so keenly was hardly lost on Adrien. He’d believed that in spite of the treaty between hunters and the hunted, vampires were not to be trusted. He’d believed his duty as a hunter was simple, straightforward: kill those who threatened humanity, tolerate those who did not. But that had been before he’d met Nicolas. Before he’d lost his heart. Before Nicolas had given him immortality.

Adrien had everything a human might wish for. The small transportation business he’d started when he moved to the United States over a hundred years ago had blossomed into an international empire with cargo ships, airplanes, trucks, and dozens of storage facilities around the globe. He owned homes in Europe, Thailand, Japan, the US, and a dozen other places he rarely visited. Despite his prosperity, the men with whom he shared his bed—human, vampire, hunter—rarely stayed long. He had seen to that, with his aloof manner and his cold heart. One man had ever touched his soul.

 

 

The evening had started, as it always did, on a far better note. Adrien had stopped by one of his favorite haunts, an upscale martini bar not far from the city center. He’d developed a penchant for gin over the past few decades, enjoying the quick work it made of his long-term memory. Three or four martinis and he could forget, even if only briefly.

The bar was small and full of people. A Sinatra song played in the background as he walked over to the stainless-steel bar, filled with men, some of whom he’d already discarded, others new faces. Eager, all of them. He sensed their eyes on him and felt the hunger they didn’t understand. He understood that hunger. The scent of his blood created it in them. The same irresistible scent that had lured many a human to fall prey to the vampires now drew them to him.

He sat down at an empty barstool and nodded to the bartender, who set to work making the driest martini possible with his most expensive gin, dropping in a tiny bit of lemon peel instead of an olive. He handed Adrien the drink without saying a word, and Adrien brought the glass to his lips.

“Nice,” a male voice said from behind him.

The man was beautiful, tall, with shoulder-length black hair and deep green eyes. He wore pair of tight-fitting jeans and a crisp button-down shirt that emphasized his muscled chest and narrow waist. Late twenties, perhaps. A new face, but a familiar presence.

“It’s not bad.” Adrien took a sip of his drink and pretended not to care. It was easy.

“I wasn’t talking about the drink.” The man lifted his drink to his full lips but watched him intently.

“I wasn’t either,” Adrien replied without missing a beat.

“I’m Cole.”

“So you are.”

They left the bar together for his apartment, where his housekeeper had already set a table for two. A bottle of Puligny-Montrachet chilled in a cooler by the table. Between them, they finished that bottle, although Adrien drank very little. Alcohol affected immortals far more than humans or vampires.

After dinner Cole stood and walked over to the railing, looking out over the river below. “You know what I am.” Cole’s voice was as smooth as the wine.

“Yes. I know what you are.” Adrien had sensed Cole was a vampire the moment he’d seen him. No self-respecting hunter would have missed the subtle electricity in the air or the scent of mingled blood. He lifted Cole’s hair off his neck, then trailed his lips over his silky skin. Cole smelled good—an earthy and primal scent that caused the bloodlust to rise in Adrien. Once, he had embraced his lust for blood.

When he’d first become an immortal, Nicolas’s blood had done far more than sustain him. They had shared their bodies, their blood, and their souls. The blood had been their bond, the bloodlust a welcome reminder of Adrien’s love for Nicolas. Now the lust for blood had nothing to do with Adrien’s heart. It was another bitter reminder that his body would not let him perish, even though he cared nothing for living.

It’s been too long.

Cole moaned. The deep, throaty sound made Adrien’s mouth water in spite of himself. Adrien despised his body’s response, but he’d long ago learned he couldn’t fight it. Once, he had gone nearly twenty years without giving in to the call. He’d been weak, pathetic, barely able to think. He’d prayed he would die. He’d lost consciousness, but he’d awoken to find himself drinking his fill. He’d come perilously close to killing the human whose blood he’d feasted on, but he’d managed to stop. However miserable his existence, Adrien would only feed on vampires—he’d not break the oath he’d taken to protect humans when he’d become a hunter.

Adrien licked the skin of Cole’s neck, feeling the blood pulse there, hearing it call to him. Cole tilted his head in anticipation, opening himself to Adrien.

Adrien buried his teeth in Cole’s skin. Blood flooded his mouth and danced on his tongue, sweet and salty. Too long. His body was far more vampire-like in its craving for blood than when he’d first been given the gift of an ancient vampire’s soul. He wondered if it was the same for other immortals.

Adrien tried to ignore the images that flashed through his mind—the sound of silvery laughter, a mother’s loving caress. Cole’s memories. Adrien despised this forced intimacy, but he’d come to see it as the price of blood. Something to be tolerated.

It hadn’t always been that way. When he’d shared Nicolas’s blood, Adrien had experienced great joy. He’d seen himself through Nicolas’s eyes and felt the depth of Nicolas’s love. Each drop of that precious liquid had opened new doors. Each taste offered insight into Nicolas’s heart and soul. A beloved memory. A mystery—the mystery of Nicolas—unfolding with every swallow.

Adrien drank his fill, then claimed Cole’s mouth. This kind of contact he could stomach. He didn’t need sex to survive, but he enjoyed the release. Cole unbuttoned Adrien’s black silk shirt and his cock swelled against Adrien’s thigh. Adrien moaned as Cole skated his fingertips over his chest.

“I have never known a hunter to crave blood,” Cole whispered in his ear. “I thought only we experienced the bloodlust.”

“You were wrong,” Adrien said as he pulled Cole’s shirt over his head and mouthed a pretty pink nipple. Sex was always better after he fed, and Adrien’s cock was already hard at the thought of fucking such a lovely ass. He drew Cole’s body against his, walked backward into the living room, and pulled Cole with him onto the rug. Soon they were naked and he was no longer a hunter or an immortal, he was simply a man, seeking release, seeking pleasure.

 

 

Adrien lay there afterward, only partially satisfied. Nothing new. Sex was like the bloodlust—it always left him wanting more. Cole brushed his fingers over Adrien’s chest, then his neck. He licked Adrien’s earlobe, then ran his tongue over Adrien’s Adam’s apple.

“May I?” he asked.

“No.” He would willingly share his blood with only one person.

“Too bad.” The vampire was clearly disappointed. “I would have liked to have known the secrets of your blood.”

Adrien watched Cole dress but said nothing.

“Perhaps another time, then.” Cole turned and smiled at him before he walked out the door.

For at least an hour after, Adrien lay on the floor and allowed the night air to caress his bare skin. He closed his eyes and dozed.

“Adrien.”

The voice awakened him. Nicolas’s voice again. Why sleep if it only served to reawaken the pain he sought to suppress?

He stood and pulled on his jeans. He walked onto the balcony in his bare feet, then climbed to the roof of the penthouse.

Pathetic.

Having reached the edge, he spread his arms. He leaned forward and fell unimpeded, riding the wind like a sigh. The glass of the building sailed by him, the breeze buffeting his face. He hit the water and sank into the cold blackness. He wished he could die.

Preorder Blood and Rain now at Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5805&cPath=1303

 

 

 

 

 

Cover Reveal: Anne Barwell’s “On Wings of Song”

OnWingsofSongMy guest today is the lovely Anne Barwell, my fellow Dreamspinner Press author. She’s here to reveal the cover to her upcoming release, On Wings of Song, which is now available for pre-order at Dreamspinner Press! And what a gorgeous cover it is, by cover artist T.L. Bland (Dreamspinner’s cover artists are the best, truly!). Be sure to read down for an excerpt from Anne’s book.

Welcome, Anne! -Shira

******

 

Thanks, Shira, for hosting me today J

One of the most exciting parts of having a story published is the cover. I’d decided before I wrote On Wings of Song that I wanted TL Bland to do the cover for it, as she’d done such a great job for Shades of Sepia.

I often start thinking about what I want on a cover while I’m still writing the story. I know it’s kind of horse before cart—out of order—but it’s part of my writing process, although what I want sometimes changes with the story.

Music plays an important part in On Wings of Song, so it needed to be represented somehow. It’s very much a part of who Aiden is until the war rips it away from him. I’m on a music bent this year, but that’s part of who I am and what I tend to write. In some stories it’s more of a background thing with characters being musicians, but with this one, it literally needed to be centre stage.

Jochen and Aiden swap uniform buttons during the Christmas Truce, as they have nothing else to exchange as gifts. Many soldiers on that day gave each other buttons. When I read about it while I was researching the Truce, I knew it was something I wanted to include in the story. Those buttons become much more than a memento for both men, and therefore needed to be represented on the cover too. Finding decent photographs for them was more of a problem than I thought it would be, given the rarity and age of them now. There are plenty of descriptions out there, but not many photographs.

The first part of On Wings of Song takes place during WWI, and six years pass before Aiden and Jochen see each other again. That feeling of a mix of past and present is captured perfectly with the sepia tones of the cover and it being two scenes rather than one. The characters are spot on—I usually cast my characters before I write. That way when I’m asked to provide descriptions, I have something visual as well as text.

I’m thrilled with the cover. I showed it to someone at work—I work in a library so we’re all about books—and was told that it looks like one of mine. I hadn’t thought of that before, of covers representing the kind of books I write, but it makes a lot of sense. The books I write are in part a reflection of who I am, and the covers are very much a part of that too.

TL Bland has done a great job in capturing the story and essence of On Wings of Song. It’s not only a great cover, but fits perfectly as part my growing collecting of covers I have framed on my wall.

You can see more of TL Bland’s work at her website: http://www.thruterryseyes.com/

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On Wings of Song

Buy link:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5869

Blurb:

Six years after meeting British soldier Aiden Foster during the Christmas Truce of 1914, Jochen Weber still finds himself thinking about Aiden, their shared conversation about literature, and Aiden’s beautiful singing voice. A visit to London gives Jochen the opportunity to search for Aiden, but he’s shocked at what he finds.

The uniform button Jochen gave him is the only thing Aiden has left of the past he’s lost. The war and its aftermath ripped everything away from him, including his family and his music. When Jochen reappears in his life, Aiden enjoys their growing friendship but knows he has nothing to offer. Not anymore.

******

Excerpt:

“I’ve seen it,” Aiden said quietly. “I wish to God I hadn’t.” He looked directly at Jochen.

Jochen met Aiden’s gaze. He’d seen an echo of Conrad’s fire in Aiden when he’d talked about his music earlier that afternoon.

 

“Don’t die on the wire, Aiden.”

 

“I’ll try not to.” Aiden’s words were an empty promise. They both knew it, but what else was he going to say?

 

The red-haired man Aiden had spoken to about arranging the burials walked over to him. He too held a shovel, and he wiped perspiration from his brow despite the cold. “There’s going to be a combined service for the dead,” he told them. “In about ten minutes in no man’s land in front of the French trenches.”

 

As they made their way over, men were already beginning to gather, soldiers from opposite sides sitting together, conversation dwindling to a respectful silence. A British chaplain stood in front of them, a Bible in his hand, a German beside him. Jochen recognized him, although he didn’t know his name. The young man was only a few years older than Jochen and was studying for the ministry—would he ever get the chance to complete those studies?

 

Jochen and Aiden found somewhere to sit a few rows back from the front and joined the company of men. The German spoke first. “Vater unser, der du bist im Himmel. Geheiligt werde dein Name.”

 

The British chaplain repeated the words in English. “Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.”

 

They then spoke a few words each, some from the Bible, the rest from their hearts. Their congregation was silent apart from a few quiet “amens.” Jochen saw a couple of men wipe tears away. He was close to it himself.

 

Finally the chaplain bowed his head in prayer. When he’d finished, he spoke quietly to the man who had come to stand next to him. It was Captain Williams. He nodded and looked over the crowd, his gaze fixing on Aiden.

 

Aiden must have guessed what Williams wanted. He inclined his head in response and then stood. Jochen glanced between the two men, confused. What did Williams expect Aiden to do?

 

“Aiden?” Jochen asked softly.

 

Aiden smiled at him and began to sing. “O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining….” He lifted his head, his voice strong and clear, each note building on the last to create something truly beautiful, something angelic. Aiden’s eyes shone; his body swayed slightly in time with the music. He was the music.

 

His audience sat in awe. Jochen could feel the emotion rippling through the men around him, tangible, as though he could reach out and touch it. He felt something inside himself reach out, wanting to be a part of it, to be carried along the wave of pure music, to grab it and never let go.

 

 

Bio:
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.

 

Links:

Blog: http://anne-barwell.livejournal.com/

Website: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/

Coffee Unicorns: http://coffeeunicorns.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anne.barwell.1

Dreamspinner Press Author Page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_426

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