Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘snippets’

Something to think about

I had this morning’s topic all picked out and ready to go. I really did. It was an article from Author’s Guild about why author’s can’t make a living writing any more. But something about it bothered me. The article was several months old for one thing. For another, it didn’t say anything new. It was the same “evil Amazon”, “bad indie authors” and “worse, information shouldn’t be free” argument we have seen so much of coming from them. Deciding I needed a new topic, I did something I haven’t done in quite awhile: I wandered over to the Romance Writers of America website and found some information that is not only interesting but of the sort I wish other professional organizations made easily available to everyone, not just their membership.

If you scroll partially down the page, you will see a link to “Who’s Reading Romance?” Curious, I followed the link. Then I looked around a little bit more and found another link to genre statistics. I’m surprised by the information they give, not only by the detail of that information but because they make it available to anyone who visits the site instead of hiding it behind their membership log-in. That act alone is enough to make me consider renewing my membership with them. But that is for another time.

I won’t go over all the information they supply, but I do urge each of you to go take a look. Whether you identify as a romance writer or have romance as an element in your writing, it is good to keep this information in mind. (Caveat: the stats aren’t as up-to-date as those provided by Author Solutions but they still tell an interesting story.)

in 2015, e-books accounted for 61% of romance genre purchases (refers to traditionally published titles). Mass market paperbacks held a 26% share and publishers’ favorite hard covers held only a 1.4% share. Consider that and then consider how publishers are still trying to convince themselves that e-books aren’t a major part of the market and that demand, assuming publishers figure out reasonable pricing, won’t continue to grow their share of the market.

The typical romance buyer is female (duh), between 30 – 54 years old and from the South. Note this because it is something we don’t often see when looking at this sort of information. The average romance readers makes $55,000/year. Also — and this is very important — 61% read as much romance as they did the year before this study was done and 23% are reading more. That means the field is not suffering the loss of readership other genres are but it is continuing to expand — and this is for traditional publishing. I guarantee you, it is expanding on the indie front as well.

Some other interesting information:

  • Top romance subgenres by format read primarily:
    • Print: romantic suspense (53%); contemporary romance (41%); historical romance (34%); erotic romance (33%); New Adult (26%); paranormal romance (19%); Young Adult romance (18%); and Christian romance (17%).
    • E-book: romantic suspense (48%); contemporary romance (44%); erotic romance (42%); historical romance (33%); paranormal romance (30%); New Adult (26%); Young Adult romance (18%); and Christian romance (14%).
  • Top 10 popular romance tropes: (1) friends to lovers; (2) soul mate/fate; (3) second chance at love; (4) secret romance; (5) first love; (6) strong hero/heroine; (7) reunited lovers; (8) love triangle; (9) sexy billionaire/millionaire; (10) sassy heroine

I’ll admit, I like this information since, when I wander into the romance genre, I write romantic suspense. It means I’ve been reading the market right, always a concern for an author and especially an indie author.

Keep in mind this does refer to traditionally published books. Even so, there is some important information here:

Top 10 ways romance buyers are most likely to discover new romance authors or titles to read (ranked from most likely to least):

(1) Browsing in a bookstore
(2) In person recommendation from people you know
(3) Browsing online book sites
(4) Best-seller lists
(5) From books I’ve sampled
(6) Following favorite authors on social media
(7) From book recommendation lists
(8) Library or library staff recommendations
(9) Book review blogs and sites
(10) From online retail sites that recommend based on what I’ve bought/read before

Looking over this list, I find I do each of the above except browsing in a bookstore. Now the question becomes “How do we, as writers, utilize this information and especially this last list?” That’s the million dollar question and it is one that applies to all genres. Part of it is networking. We need to be better about not only doing our own blogging but recommending books and authors we know and like. We need to open our blogs to them and they to us. We need to use our social media sites like FB, Twitter and Google + better. Finding that happy medium where we keep our name and our work out there but without over-saturating our feeds. I’m trying to learn to do a better job but I’m still working on it.

Kudos to RWA for remembering that the best way to get new members is to give them something free — in this case, information — to hook them. Sort of like the Baen Free Library. Or, also borrowing from Baen, snippets from something you’ve written. Since I need to follow my own advice, here’s a short snippet from Slay Bells Ring:

“What’s wrong?”

I sat at the kitchen table and looked longingly at the coffeemaker. I had pressed the brew button as the phone rang. I’d reached for the receiver instinctively, even before my brain registered what I was doing. It didn’t matter that I had finished a three week long capital murder trial the previous Friday and had the day off. If one of Austin’s movers and shakers – or, more likely, one of their kids – had managed to run afoul of the capital’s finest, there was always the chance I’d be called out to make sure the little darling did not get out of jail. My boss loved trotting his top prosecutors out in front of the media to prove he didn’t play favorites when it came to the rich and politically powerful of Austin.

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

“It’s your mother.”

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

“Oh God, Annie, I don’t know.”

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

“Just tell me what’s happened, Gran.”

“Annie, she’s been arrested.”

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

“Say again.”

“Your mother’s been arrested.”

“Why?”

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

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

Drew? Why hadn’t my twin called me?

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

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

“What?”

I must have heard wrong. For one thing, if my mother ever decided she wanted anyone dead, she’d find someone to do the deed for her. She’d never risk getting her hands, or her designer clothes, dirty. For another, she was smart enough not to get caught, at least not by the local cops. Okay, my brother might be a member of the Harkin County Sheriff’s Department, but murder wasn’t something they saw very often. In fact, there was little serious crime in the county. So, unless they caught someone standing over the body with the smoking gun or dripping knife in her hands, they’d be hard-pressed to make a case without help from an outside agency.

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

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

 

Here a snippet, there a snippet

(Kilted Dave is suffering the pre-holiday ritual so many parents have past and present. His two precious little ones are ailing. Nothing serious, just enough to make them — and the rest of the household — miserable and tired. So I volunteered to jump in and help out. The only problem is, I’m pre-coffee and don’t have a topic. Sooooo, I’m going to do what any good writer would do. I’m going to post a snippet and then link you to the book. After all, I’m sure there’s at least one Christmas gift you still have yet to buy. Yes, shameless plug but, as I said, I’m still pre-coffee.)

Witchfire Burning (Eerie Side of the Tracks Book 1)

It’s never easy going home, especially when you left under less than ideal circumstances. But that’s the situation I found myself in. It might never have happened if it weren’t for my daughter, the light of my life. Four months ago, Ali turned five. A month after that I finally admitted she presented challenges I didn’t know how to deal with. Fortunately, at least in some ways, my mother did know how to handle my special little girl. Like it or not, that meant returning home to Mossy Creek, Texas, smack dab in the middle of the buckle of the Bible belt.

And that made life very interesting for the citizens of Mossy Creek where normal was not something you encountered every day.

So I called my mother, scheduled a leave of absence from work and made our plane reservations. There were a few stops and starts and the trip had been delayed twice. But now our bags were packed and Ali and I were about to walk out the front door. That’s when my pocket started vibrating. Well, to be honest, it was the cellphone in my pocket that started vibrating but you know what I mean. For a moment, I considered ignoring the call. I knew from the ringtone it wasn’t my mother or any of the rest of the family. As far as work and most of my friends knew, Ali and I had already left town. Even so, years of conditioning had my hand digging into my jeans pocket before I realized it.

“Momma, we have to go!” Ali tugged at my free hand, pulling me toward the door.

“Hang on, sweetheart.” I glanced at the display, recognizing the area code if not the number. “Go make sure you didn’t leave anything you want to take with you. This won’t take long. I promise.” I waited until she raced toward her bedroom before answering the call. “Hello?”

“Moira Quinn O’Donnell?” a woman asked.

“Yes.” A hint of concern fluttered in my stomach. She might have been calling to sell me siding or solar panels or the like but I doubted it. Something about her voice not only sounded serious but official. Besides, she had used my full name, something very few knew.

What can I say? When you grow up with the name Moira and your mother insists on the proper Irish pronunciation and you live in Texas, let’s just say it is easier to go by your middle name, especially if that name is easily pronounced.

“Ms. O’Donnell, my name’s Carli Sanderson. I work with Julianne Grissom.”

My brows knitted into a frown. “What can I do for you, Ms. Sanderson?”

“Ms. O’Donnell, I don’t want to worry you, but have you spoken with your mother recently?”

That flutter of concern spiked and I swallowed hard. Whenever someone started a statement with “I don’t want to worry you,” it usually meant there was something to be worried about. If that wasn’t enough, Julianna Grissom and I were friends going back to childhood. If trouble wasn’t brewing, the call would have been from Annie Caldwell. Julianna Grissom was her very professional, all attorney persona. I closed my eyes and counted to ten. Then I looked toward the hallway, making sure Ali was still safely in her room. Whatever was going on, I most definitely did not want to worry her.

“I spoke with her two days ago. Why?”

“Ma’am, Ms. Grissom asked me to check with you. We don’t know any of the particulars, only that the Sheriff’s Department attempted to do a welfare check on your mother after she failed to meet friends yesterday. While there’s no evidence of foul play or, to be perfectly honest, of anything being wrong, they haven’t been able to make entry into the house to be sure.”

I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I had a pretty good idea why the deputies hadn’t been able to enter the house. Unless I was badly mistaken, they hadn’t even been able to enter the yard. That was just one of the reasons why I’d moved to Montana more than ten years ago. In Mossy Creek, when someone said you lived on the wrong side of the tracks, they weren’t talking about your financial status or social standing. Far from it, in fact. Life in Mossy Creek had been different from the day the town was founded. Mundane mixed with supernatural and, well, my mother might not be Serena Duchamp but she had been known to cast more than a spell or two.

Then there was the house. I swear it is more alive than a lot of folks I could name. If it did not want to let someone in, nothing, not even a battering ram, would get the doors open. The only thing keeping me from panicking was the belief the house would not keep help out if my mother needed it. Me, it never hesitated to try to lock me out. But Mom belonged there and it would protect her.

At least I hoped it would.

“What can I do?”

“Ms. Grissom said you were coming to town today. Is that still your plan?” Sanderson asked.

“It is.” I glanced at my watch. Ali and I were going to have to hurry if we wanted to make our flight. “Assuming no problems with our connecting flight, my daughter and I should be in town by five.”

“With your permission, I will let the sheriff know. Ms. Grissom would like you to stop by the office when you get here. Hopefully, we will know more by then.”

“All right.” I thought for a moment. “Have you checked with either my sister or my brother to see if they’ve heard from our mother?”

“They are my next calls, ma’am.”

“All right. Tell Ms. Grissom I will give her a head’s up when I reach Dallas.” I didn’t wait for her to respond. Instead, I ended the call and stuffed the cellphone back into my pocket. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach but there was nothing I could do about it, at least not until I reached Mossy Creek. But it did necessitate a slight change in what I packed and in my plans not to check a suitcase.

“Ali, you about ready?” I called from my bedroom as I knelt just inside my closet. There, bolted to the floor, was a safe. Inside were my service weapon, several other handguns along with my badge, ID and a few other items. Blowing out a breath, I retrieved an HK .45, pancake holster, ammo and my badge and ID. “Ali?” I repeated as I secured everything in a small, hard-sided case which I locked and then dropped inside my bag that now would have to be checked.

“Momma, can I take Ruffles?” She stood in the doorway, a battered teddy bear almost as big as her in her arms.

“No, baby. Not this time. Why don’t you take Freckles instead?” I asked, referring to a smaller but equally beloved teddy bear.

“Okay.” She grinned and raced back to her room.

Five minutes later, we pulled out of the driveway and I did my best to put Sanderson’s call out of my mind. This was Ali’s first plane ride and I knew she was excited. The last thing I wanted was to worry her. After all, as far as she knew, this was a fun trip to see her grandma. She did not need to know that grandma had apparently gone missing and we might not be able to get into the house because it didn’t like me.

Heaven help me, how was I going to explain the house, not to mention everything else, to a five-year-old?

***

Witchfire Burning takes place in the same “universe” as Slay Bells Ring and Skeletons in the Closet (Eerie Side of the Tracks). Slay Bells Ring hints at the supernatural that is a part of Witchfire Burning and Skeletons, well, Skeletons is something else. It has humor, the supernatural and dead who return to their homes the day after their funerals. They aren’t zombies but they aren’t alive, not in the strictest manner of speaking. Oh, and one of the characters sends the Catholic priest who came to exorcise her and the rest of the family running back to his parish, after giving him a lecture about how no self-respecting demon would possess the body of an old woman. Of course, Granny still regularly attends Sunday services, reads the Bible and is a good, God-fearing woman. She just happens to be dead. And she’s the “sane” one of the family.

 

Sequels and a snippet

adjustment2I have a love/hate relationship with my muse. From what I can tell, I’m not unique in that. Most writers seem to feel the same way. In my case, it’s because I love to write but I hate when it comes time to writing sequels. That’s the situation I find myself in right now. I know the plot. I can see it in my head. I’ve been living with it for two months now. But getting it from my brain to the page has been next to impossible. That’s the really frustrating thing. As a result, I begged — well, browbeat might be more accurate — Sarah into reading the first scene of Duty from Ashes, the sequel to Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1). She did and then she told me to quit dithering — yes, I cleaned it up some. She was a bit more, um, direct than that — and finish writing the book. Since I always do what my mentor tells me, I’m going to try to do just that. In the meantime, here’s the opening scene from Duty from Ashes, book two in the Honor and Duty Series.

 *     *     *

Smoke filled the air and the ground seemed to shake beneath her boots as another explosion sounded. It was close this time. Too close. Cursing, she ducked behind the makeshift barricade she and her team had erected outside the school and tried to catch her breath. As she did, the tell-tales from her battle armor warned that her heart was racing and her breathing was labored, not that she needed the onboard computer to confirm what she already knew. This was her worst nightmare come to life and, just like the last time, there had been no way to avoid it.

But she’d be damned if it ended the same way as before.

Not this time.

Carefully, she edged forward until she could see around the edge of the barricade. As she did, dirt and rock kicked up just inches from where she knelt as yet another round of enemy fire filled the air. Even as her team returned fire, she scanned the area, flipping through the various screens of her HUD. Then her lips pulled back into an almost feral smile.

There!

Finally, she’d located the last of the areas where the enemy had dug in. Now it was her turn to show them just how foolish they’d been to think they could get the drop on her and her team.

“Boomer, two o’clock. The culvert near the edge of the first building.” Once again, she cycled through the various filters on her HUD, taking careful note of what each told her. “Scans show six there. Looks like one SAM and three unknown heavy weapons. We’ll give you cover fire so your team and move into position. Hold your fire until I give the order. We need to take those guns out before they decide to turn their attention to the school.”

“Roger that, Angel.”

“Hound, second target’s yours. Same building. Four stories up. Third window from the corner. I spotted at least one sniper.” Once again, she cycled through her filters, scanning the building. As much as she’d like to just level the building and be done with it, she couldn’t. Not if there were civilians inside. “I’m not picking up any other life signs in that area, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have mechs of some sort up there. So don’t worry about being too gentle with your shot. Just remember your target zone.” She waited for his response, knowing he was calculating the best way to carry out her orders.

“Got it, Angel. I’ll be ready on your order.”

Her heart beat a little slower. So far, so good. Her team still had a chance to get out of this alive and, with a little luck, they’d manage to save those civilians sheltering in the school as well.

Knowing their next move could mean victory or defeat, she called up the last data they’d received on the enemy’s movements. As she studied it, her mind did the one thing she’d been fighting to avoid since the battle began. It went back to that terrible day more than two years ago. She’d been in this exact location, fighting this same battle. Only then she’d been given compromised intelligence. As a result, she and her squad, a different one from this time, had walked straight into a trap. So many had died. She and the six who had managed to make it back to the shuttle for extraction had been lucky to get out of there alive. At least that’s what she’d told herself. Of course, that had been before they were arrested, brought up on bogus charges, court martialed and sent to the Tarsus military prison.

Damn it! She couldn’t think about that. She couldn’t let the past distract her from what was happening right now. Not if she wanted her team to survive.

“We’re almost in position, Angel,” a voice reported over her comm a few moments later. Master Sergeant Kevin “Loco” Talbot. Another asset, an invaluable one, and one she hadn’t had on that previous mission.

“Roger that, Loco. Let me know when you are.”

She paused, waiting to hear from the final team she’d sent out. As the seconds drew out into minutes that seemed like hours, her concern grew. She’d been forced to split her forces before with disastrous results. Was history repeating itself?

She licked her lips and fought the urge to message the last team. It was difficult, but she didn’t. Instead, she reminded herself that they needed to move slowly and carefully to avoid detection. At least she hadn’t heard anything from the direction they’d taken that might indicate they’d been discovered. Surely that had to be a good sign.

Stop it!

She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Her emotions and doubts were running too high. She had to get them under control. This was her command, her mission. If she couldn’t hold it together, they would fail. But she couldn’t think about that. She couldn’t let herself be distracted by the dead, hers and the civilian lives that had been lost in that previous battle. This wasn’t the time to let distractions in.

Finally, just as she was about to give up and demand an update, her comm came to life.

“We’re in position, Angel. We have four bogies ready and we’re ready to paint them,” Captain Lucinda Ortega reported.

“Hold position, Sorceress. I say again, hold position until we confirm air support.”

“Roger that, Angel.”

“Eagle, are you ready to paint your target?”

“Eagle is ready, Angel,” the squad’s sniper replied.

“Alpha Team, prepare to lay down cover fire. Boomer, the moment we do, you and your team haul ass and take out those heavy guns and that SAM.”

“Roger that, Angel. Beta Team is ready.”

She nodded, not that the demolitions expert could see her, and drew a deep, steadying breath. A quick check of her battle rifle and she was ready. It was now or never. With a glance at the four Marines crouching behind the barricade with her, she snugged the butt of the rifle against her shoulder.

“Now!”

She leaned around the corner of the barricade and opened fire. Instantly, the sounds of weapons – battle rifles, railguns and more – filled the air. Three of the four teams laid down heavy fire to cover the fourth team as it moved into position. On her HUD, three small green lights moved quickly toward the target zone. So far, so good.

“Almost there,” Boomer’s voice said in her ear.

“Keep it up, Devil Dogs. Don’t give those bastards time to breathe, much less regroup.”

“Fire in the hole!”

Boomer’s shout was the only warning they’d get. Instantly, she set her visor to block the flash from the explosion even as she kept firing. At least this time when the ground shook, it would be working for them instead of against them.

“Keep firing!” she ordered. “Eagle, Sorceress, stand ready. I repeat, stand ready. Paint the targets on my signal. Once the air strike begins, we move in.”

Without waiting for the teams to respond, she activated her ‘link once again. “Angel to Kali, we are a go for the airstrike. I repeat, we are a go for the airstrike.”

She waited, scanning the battlefield in front of her for any movement. Smoke and dust from the explosion filled the air. From the distance, she could hear the enemy. Some called for help. Some, those caught in the blast and not lucky enough to be granted a quick death, cried out for their mothers. A small part of her felt sorry for them. But another part, the soldier in her, knew it was either them or her and she much preferred living.

As she knelt there, ready to swing her rifle toward anyone who came her way, she imagined each member of her team wanting to look skyward, but keeping their eyes on the enemy locations, as they waited for the air support to come.

Air support that hadn’t come that first time. Would it now?

“Angel, this is Kali. We are on approach. Paint the target. I say again, paint the target.”

The voice coming over the battle-net was like an answer to her prayers. She relayed the message to the rest of her squad. As she did, she inched further around the edge of the barricade. Once in position, she raised one gloved fist, knowing the others were watching for her signal. Then she waited, knowing any number of things could still go horribly wrong and praying that they didn’t.

Moments later, the sounds of the fighter wing racing in their direction filled the air. The target, six heavy ground transports that had been moving closer and closer to the Devil Dogs exploded into a wall of flames as the fighters dropped their payloads. Instinct and training had the Marines diving for cover, any cover, as shrapnel from the transports flew through the air. Screams from the enemy soldiers unlucky enough to be caught in the open followed. Then, before the screams died out, she gave the order to move in.

“Take out those snipers!” she yelled as she sprinted across the clearing in the direction of the school.

Damn it, this time she would save those huddling inside.

Hound, moving at a speed no human could without the assistance of powered battle armor, leapt from where he’d been taking cover. The moment he landed, he turned and leveled the grenade launcher that was currently his armor’s primary weapon at the target. The building she’d identified for him a few minutes earlier was soon missing part of its far side. Smoke billowed from the area where the sniper had been holed up. Someone would need a new office or apartment when this was all over. But, hopefully, they’d survived the fight and would be able to return home soon. Even as the thought came, she knew the truth could be far different. War was never clean, no matter what the politicians wanted. There was always the possibility of collateral damage, especially when the enemy had no compunctions about hiding behind a shield of innocents.

Ahead and to her left, a head popped up from the culvert. A split second later, it exploded. She smiled slightly as Eagle gave a war cry that almost split her skull. She’d remind him later about how that sort of thing sounded through the battle-net. Not that she blamed him. They’d spent too much time hunkered down behind makeshift barricades and hiding in the shadows. It felt good to finally be on the move again. Now it was time to make the enemy pay for all they’d done.

“Angel, to your right!”

Loco’s warning came at almost the same moment that her armor’s sensors warned her of someone or something suddenly appearing and moving in her direction. She turned, bringing her combat rifle to bear. Her finger slipped behind the trigger guard and she felt her combat implants coming to life as she focused on the figure running hell bent for leather in her direction.

“Hold your fire!”

Without waiting for confirmation, she broke into a sprint, racing toward the small figure. The child couldn’t be more than five or six. Where he had been hiding during the fighting she didn’t know and, just then, she didn’t care. Not when her armor’s onboard computer was telling her that several of the enemy were bearing down on them.

She had to get to t child before he was hurt – or worse.

Without conscious thought, she switched out her battle rifle for her sidearm. Using the targeting system of her HUD, she laid down fire in the direction of the nearest enemy soldier. A scream of pain followed. Good. One down but who knew how many more to come.

Three more steps and she scooped the child up in her arms. He cried out as an enemy trooper appeared to the right and opened fire. Reacting on instinct, Angel shifted the child so he was shielded by her armor before returning fire. Then she pivoted, running in the direction of Loco and the rest of his team. They were laying down cover fire, forcing the enemy troopers to duck back down into the trench. At the same time, Sorceress was calling in air support. But that was all in the background. Angel was focused on the child in her arms and getting him to safety.

“Down!”

Loco’s tone of voice was all the warning she needed. She dropped, sliding feet first toward the barricade. At the same time, Loco stepped forward, Tank and Hound on either side of him, and all hell seemed to break loose. As they opened fire with everything they had, so did the rest of the squad. If that wasn’t enough, three Sabres, the newest and most deadly fighters the Fuerconese Navy had in operation, screamed overhead and opened fire on the culvert.

The ground shook again and another explosion – no, a series of explosions – deafened them. Then there was silence, the kind of silence that really wasn’t. Her pulse pounded and her breathing was ragged. The crackling of fire mixed with the heavy smoke that filled the air. She heard someone, one of her people, offering up a quick prayer of thanks. Someone else uttered a curse. For once, she agreed with both sentiments. Then she heard the boy whimper. Much as she wanted to reassure him, she couldn’t. Not yet. She had to make sure the area was secure first.

Still cradling the child in her arms, Angel twisted around so she could look in the direction of the culvert. Nothing moved except for the smoke rising from it. Without warning, the silence was broken by a single shot to her left. Instantly, half a dozen battle rifles responded. Then nothing.

Barely daring to hope that it was over, she went to active scans. For several long moments, she studied the readouts on her HUD. The locations they had tagged as being held by the enemy were either showing red, indicating they were too hot for anyone – even armored – to survive or there were the tell tales of the dead and dying. Could it finally be over?

“Sound off!” she ordered as she carefully climbed to her feet.

As she did, the medic assigned to her squad hurried forward to take the child from her. Except the child had other ideas. He wrapped his arms and legs more firmly around her and burrowed in. with a jerk of her head, she motioned the medic off. She could spare the child a moment as she caught her breath and her people reported in.

One by one, each member of her team sounded off. A few sounded the worse for wear but she’d lost no one that day. Thank God. The nightmare hadn’t replayed in all its horror. It had come close, though, and she wanted to know why.

Relieved, she looked down into the child’s face and the world came to a crashing halt. No! He couldn’t be there. Damn it, he couldn’t be there. As bad as that time had been, that would have made it worse, so much worse.

“End sim!” she ordered, ripping off her combat helmet. “I said to end the damned sim!”

*     *     *

Needless to say, this is a rough draft, so there may be changes between this and the final version. Now, to get back to work before Sarah puts on her pointy boots and comes after me for not minding her.   😉

 

 

After the novel’s over

by Kate Paulk

So, I wrapped up the first draft of ConSensual today.

It’s the sequel to ConVent – which is one first, as this is the first time I’ve written a novel as a sequel. It’s also going to need rather more editing than many of my drafts, partly because I wrote the first half about 2 years ago, then the rest in the last few months (long story. Complicated, messy, and not entirely mine to tell, so nyah. You get to wonder). Also the final naming of a lot of the “color” hasn’t been set – because ConSensual, like ConVent is set at a convention, I have to be careful that the only recognizable people in there are the ones who gave me permission to Tuckerize. Everyone else is either made up, blended, or a mongrel caricature of both methods.  And that’s just the editors…

Er, sorry.

Anywho, just as a teensy celebration, here’s a wee snippetses from ConSensual.

Nothing says you’ve left normal reality like walking into a hotel lobby and seeing a Clone Trooper chatting with a Sith Lord. The sign on the back of the Clone Trooper’s armor, ‘Come to the Dark Side. We have cookies. Tonight. Room 1226’, was really just corroborating evidence.

The lure of Dark Side cookies notwithstanding, I took myself to the reception desk and got myself signed in. I’ll give them this: the staff didn’t seem at all upset by the strangeness manifesting in their hotel. Maybe it’s a southern USA thing, but none of the southern con hotels I’ve been in have ever been anything less than welcoming.

Well, unless the convention was sharing space with one of the more fundamentalist religious conventions.

ConSensual being one of the bigger southern conventions, I doubted that would be an issue. It was held in one of those sprawling southern cities that takes about five times the land area of a northern city to hold the same population, and usually has so many hotels it’s not hard for any one event to make an exclusive booking.

Whatever they do with them outside the convention season isn’t my business.

I can never keep the hotels straight. This one was one of those modernist faux-elegant jobs with lots of shiny metal and glass, a multi-level gallery area where all the ballrooms and convention areas were, the inevitable bar and house of bad coffee, and the tower containing the actual rooms off to one side.

Since it sat in the middle of one of the less salubrious parts of the city — or at least it looked that way coming in on the airport shuttle — I expected there would be some interesting late night encounters.

I dropped my backpack off in my room: as always, several levels away from the party floor. I’d been able to book the northern side of the hotel this time. After the last con, where a murderous lunatic had crushed garlic into the air vent and opened the curtains while I slept, I was a little paranoid about sunlight and other things.

Yeah, I’m a vampire. I drink blood. Most of the rest is myth, but I am violently allergic to garlic, and while I’m old enough to go walking in the sun that doesn’t mean I like it.