California Dreaming

Well. We've arrived at the last day of my pity party. So I guess I'd better get this last contest link posted! Today's prize is a digital copy of any book in my backlist. I haven't decided how many winners I'll pick. It depends on how many entries I get! That is not to say I'm giving books away to everyone who enters! My publishers might object to that! But the more entries, the more prizes. That's all I'm saying.

Today I'm featuring books from my LA Love Lessons series. Because, they're the only books I haven't really talked about yet this week. But first the contest link.

An aspiring actress, an amnesiac heiress, a tarnished movie star...and the men who love them. Love like this could only happen in LA. 

Includes: Waiting for the Big One, Love, From A to Z, and Let Me count the Ways

The entire trilogy is now available in print! Available at AmazonCreateSpace and Barnes & Noble

I love the cover. I think it was the first one I designed myself. 

I wrote this series right after Oberon, still riding the California high!

Gabby Brown refuses to consider her best friend Derek for the role of soul mate because she fears sex will ruin their friendship. 

When she meets Zach, she’s convinced that he could be The One. But, Derek has ideas of his own, and they don’t include sharing Gabby with anybody.


Total amnesia is not what Richie Valenzuela had planned on when he drugged his cousin. A few missing hours, which could easily be blamed on April’s having had too much to drink, was all he was aiming for. And he certainly never expected the reclusive heiress to slip out the club’s back door with the sexy guitarist she’d been making eyes at all night. 


As the owner of The Body Electric, LA’s hottest new exercise studio, sexy, former film star Claire Calhoun has her pick of studly young men eager to do her bidding. Small wonder she’s used to calling the shots, both in and out of bed. But everything changes the night the actress-turned-entrepreneur has one mojito too many at a party and decides it would be fun to pick up her accountant, Mike Sherman. She's thinking fling. He's thinking forever. 


Waiting for the Big One is also available on audiobook!

Everyone in LA is waiting for The Big One - the big break or the big quake. Gabby's no different, but she's also waiting for the Big O - the elusive, G-spot, ultra orgasm. She thinks Zach, the super hot musician who's just moved into her building, might be able to give it to her. But her friend Derek, a martial arts instructor with whom she's co-writing a screenplay, keeps getting in the way.
Gabby refuses to even consider Derek for the role of soul mate because she fears sex will ruin their friendship. Derek has his own script in mind, and it doesn't include sharing Gabby with anybody.
When an early morning earthquake hits LA, Gabby realizes who her leading man has always been. As for the Big O...well...she's ready for her close up.


N is for Naughty!

Today I'm celebrating my connection with the Nine Naughty Novelists. In case you don't know us, we're nine authors who've been blogging together, writing together, partying and drinking wine together, laughing together...and occasionally getting on each other's nerves. As you do. 

In the process, we've created two insanely funny romance parody stories and a collection of  short stories set in New Orleans. 

We're throwing a little party this Thursday and we'd love for you all to stop by. 

                   You can join the fun here: https://www.facebook.com/events/366255046903250/

We'll be giving away books and other goodies, playing games, posting excerpts and eye candy. partying it up 9NN style. And if you don't know what that means..maybe this video will explain.

Also, don't forget to enter today's contest.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now I'm going to leave you with a few links and teasers to our collected works. *snort*

 Theirs was a love that nature never intended. Bigger than Texas. Hotter than Hades. Weirder than…a lot of other things you might have read about up until now.

Self-made zillionaire Rock Fangsworthy is your typical Texas cowboy…well, sort of. Typical in that the only thing this lethally sexy lady-charmer with the hair trigger temper loves more than his horse is his ranch, The Double Fang. Or maybe his boots. Less typical in the fact he's also a four hundred year old vampire with a shocking secret—he can't stand the sight of blood.

Buffi Van Pelt is just your average girl-next-door winery owner…or is she? The spunky single mom to twin boys also happens to be a winsome werewolf with secrets and troubles of her own. The winery that the gutsy good-girl recently inherited from her grandmother is on the verge of ruin. If Buffi can't find a use for the mysteriously tainted wine before time and her pantry's limited supply of red meat runs out, she and her pups will be left homeless, destitute and very, very hungry. Worse yet, her baby-daddy is the same hunky, bad-boy vampire rancher who's out to steal The Best Little Winery in Bloodsuck from under her paws.

Once upon a time their passion flamed hotter'n a summer's night in Dallas with three Cheerleaders and a side of habanero sauce. Tonight, love's lightning might just strike them twice…but only if the wine don't kill them first. 

Welcome, gentle reader, to this, our second literary offering entitled, If You Give a Duke a Duchy, or alternatively, Love's Savage Whiplash. 

This is not your ordinary Regency Novel--oh, no. Rather, it is a Tall Tale of Panting Passion wherein a Disaffected Duke runs away to Sea to become a Pirate and ends up becoming Love Slave to a Ninja Queen, whilst at home he is replaced by a Nefarious Highwayman and ne’er-do-well who is, in turn, Ultimately Redeemed by his love for a Poor but Virtuous Governess.

Once upon a time, there were nine naughty novelists. They were from all over the United States and Canada, and through the magic of the Internet, they came together for blog hijinks, friendship, and more. They bonded over their shared love of wine, chocolate, shoes, and good books. But they had never been in the same place at once. Until one lucky weekend in New Orleans.

There was much walking and sightseeing. There were beignets and hurricanes and Voodoo shops. Plans were made and projects were started. Copious amounts of writing occurred. Amazing food was consumed. Much laughter filled the air. There may have been wine involved. Okay, there may have been a lot of wine involved.


It's Mardi Gras in May!

Woo-hoo! It's Mardi Gras! Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Okay, so, yeah, I know it's not really Mardi Gras. I mean, c'mon, it's not even TUESDAY! But for one day we're going to pretend like it is. Because I'm in the mood to give away some beads and trinkets and books and a variety of New Orleans-themed goodies. Y'all with me?

All right then. Here we go. I've always loved New Orleans. I've been there on more than a few occasions and enjoyed myself each and every time. I also love tattoos, which is why I was thrilled when I was asked to be part of the Midnight Ink anthology. Although, of course, when I was asked, we didn't know it would be called Midnight Ink. All we knew was we wanted to write connected stories involving a tattoo shop in New Orleans. 

The collection turned out awesome, but it's no longer being sold. Which is sad--for me. Not so much for one of YOU, because it happens that I still have a copy of the collection which I will be giving away to one lucky person. 

I'll also be giving away several digital copies of Inked Memories, which is my story from the Midnight Ink collection. Inked Memories is also the start of a brand new series I'm currently writing and hope to start releasing within a few months. You can find more about the Inked in O-Town series on my website...because, hey, everyone needs inspiration, and I find nothing inspires me as much as pretty covers. 

But wait! I'm not finished yet! I'll be giving away a prize pack of New Orleans-themed goodies that I yet another series. Because I do love my series. 
picked up on my last visit there. AND a copy of Nine Nights in New Orleans, the short story anthology the Nine Naughty Novelists released after our trip to New Orleans...you're seeing a pattern here, aren't you? Go to NOLA, get inspired. My story in NNiNO, is titled Blame It On The Voodoo, and I'm working on a second story in what I hope will be

So enter below and please enjoy the following excerpt from Inked Memories. Oh! and don't forget all the other fun happening this weekend! 

And the Indie Box blog hop: https://www.facebook.com/tonyasindiebox

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Every memory leaves its mark.

All Sophie wants is a tattoo to commemorate her battle with cancer. What she gets is celebrity tattoo artist Declan Ross, the same sexy bad-boy who used to rock her world. This time, they’ve both got scars, and the ones you can’t see are still the hardest to cover.

Available in digital format at AmazonAll Romance eBooksBarnes & Noble, and Kobo

And in paperback at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

“If the last few years had taught Sophie anything,
it was that life was uncertain and one should always eat dessert first.”

Early December
The café’s owner must have seen her coming. Rousseau had Sophie’s usual order—iced coffee and a chocolate caramel roll—all ready and waiting when she walked through the door of Café Bwe. She smiled her thanks then quickly took her food back outside to her usual table on the banquette. She never ate inside if she could help it. That man was simply too gorgeous for anyone’s peace of mind—whether they were male or female. If she sat inside, she’d only end up drooling over him. Once again she found herself wondering how much truth there was to the rumors about him.

She’d heard it said his touch was magic, that his sexual healing could cure whatever ailed you, whether physical or emotional or anything in between. It had been awhile, however, since there’d been so much as a single whisper about him. These days, she suspected he was a reformed character, very much like herself.

Not that it mattered. Even if she’d believed the whispers, or believed in magic, even if Rousseau weren’t, by all accounts, happily married, the new Sophie would still have to think long and hard before she gambled what was left of her uncertain future on voodoo. Who knew what kind of price you’d have to pay for something like that?

The old Sophie wouldn’t have cared about any of that. Then again, the old Sophie would have been eating breakfast inside the café. She’d have done Rousseau in a heartbeat—probably right there on the counter—without thinking twice about the voodoo or the happily married.

The old Sophie had been kind of a bitch, now that she thought about it.

Not that one, cher, a soft voice seemed to whisper in her ear. He’s not for you.

Sophie heaved a sigh. Yeah, yeah. Tell me something I don’t already know. Not that one and not any other one either, as far as she could see. That was okay. She was used to it by now. She’d made her peace with the idea that she’d likely be spending the rest of her life alone at about the same time she opted against having her breasts reconstructed.

If she’d only lost one, things might have been different. She might have had a reason then to go through more surgery and another lengthy recovery in order to build a new breast that would kind-of-sort-of- no-not-really match her existing one. But to put herself through all that torture just to set herself up with an entirely fake rack? Two featureless mounds that would never look right or feel authentic and that would only serve as a constant reminder of what she’d lost? Yeah, that was so not happening.

How on earth was tacking two alien appendages onto her already ravaged body supposed to help her overcome her new aversion to viewing herself naked? There was only one thing they’d be good for—helping her to attract new lovers into her bed. Lovers who, in all likelihood, would be gone in a flash anyway, once they’d figured things out.

Seriously, who needed that?

She might as well spare everyone the disappointment in store for them by letting them know up front exactly what they were getting—or not getting—where her body was concerned. If they couldn’t accept her as she was, did she really want them anyway?

Brave words. Do you really mean them?

Yes, damn it, she did. Much as she mourned what she’d lost, if she’d had it to do over again, if she were to be presented once more with the exact same set of shitty-assed circumstances, she was pretty sure she’d make the very same choices.

Life was more than just her breasts. She was more than just her breasts. If she had to sacrifice a part to safeguard the whole, so be it. As long as she could open her eyes every morning and continue to put one foot in front of another all day, as long as she could stay healthy, stay cancer free, stay alive, she intended to at least try to enjoy the moments she was given and live each one to the fullest. She might not be raking in as many beads as before at Mardi Gras, and her steadiest beau might always be the one who lived in the drawer of her bedside table, but on the plus side, she was saving one helluva lot on sports bras.

Sophie started as a passerby stumbling along the banquette suddenly lost his footing and slammed into her table. She grabbed for her coffee to keep it from spilling when the wrought iron table tilted precariously under the man’s unsteady weight.

“Watch out!” Glancing up, she found herself staring into the bleary blue eyes of a drunken, storefront Santa. Well, that was life in the Quarter for you, she supposed as her heart continued its attempts to beat itself right out of her chest. The smell of whisky and peppermint schnapps wafting off the man was so strong it made her head spin. She pressed her free hand to her chest, willing her heart to slow the fuck down.

Santa blinked back at her, still resting his weight on the tabletop, a crumpled piece of paper clutched in one fist. A slow smile curved his lips. Eyes twinkling, he leaned in closer and leered.

“Well, hey there, boo.Where y’at? You bein’ naughty or nice?”

Before Sophie could even fashion a reply, Rousseau appeared in the doorway. He scowled menacingly at the man. “Get out of here. Quit harassing my customer.”
Santa straightened up, his expression one of affronted dignity as he glared at Rousseau. “Ain’t harassin’ no one. She tripped me.” 

 “I did no such thing,” Sophie spluttered. She flashed the man an indignant look, then watched in relief as he lurched stiffly away. A flicker of motion from her tabletop caught her eye. The badly creased paper Santa had left behind fluttered weakly in the slight breeze. “Hey, wait!” she said as she snatched it up, intending to return it. Then she took a closer look.

 Midnight Ink. New Beginnings Special. Discounted rates for survivor and memorial ink. Are you ready for a new beginning? Say it in ink. Call, or visit us online for more information…

It’s a sign, that same soft voice insisted.

Oh, it was a sign all right. Sophie bit back a sigh. Hearing voices was a definite sign that she was losing her mind. Still, she couldn’t help but appreciate the irony. It wasn’t as if New Orleans was hurting for tattoo shops, so what were the odds she’d be handed a flyer for the very shop where she’d gone for her own tattoos?  Come to think of it, maybe it was a sign after all.

 “What you got there?” Rousseau asked as he ambled closer. He tilted his head to read the flyer. “Are you thinking of getting another tattoo?”

Was she? She already had several, but she hadn’t added anything to her “collection” in several years.

“Oh, I don’t know.” But even as she said it, an image flashed through her mind of a picture she’d recently seen online. It had shown a woman’s heavily tattooed torso, flowers and elaborate scrollwork covering over the scars from her mastectomies.

That tattoo hadn’t really been Sophie’s style, but the idea of once again being able to celebrate her body, of enjoying it, flaws and all, of showing it off rather than always feeling the need to hide it away beneath layers of clothing, that had appealed to her. A lot. She wasn’t even sure if it was possible for her to feel that way about herself ever again, but if it was, if there was any chance at all…

Sophie felt a thrill of excitement as the idea took hold. A new beginning, huh? Well, why the fuck not? “You know what?” Smiling, she unzipped her jacket pocket to get to her phone. “I think maybe I am.”

Sophie dialed the number quickly before she could chicken out and change her mind. It was before noon, so she wasn’t even sure the shop would be open yet, but the phone was picked up on the second ring.

“Midnight Ink.” The lilting voice on the phone was female; she sounded young and perky, carefree—everything Sophie wasn’t. Sophie’s heart lurched. Shit was about to get real.

“Hi. I’m, uh…I’m calling about your new beginnings special.” Sophie fingered the flyer in her hand.
“I…I had surgery a couple of years ago for breast cancer, and I’m interested in getting a chest piece done. You know, to cover the scars? Would that qualify for your special rates?”

“Yes, of course,” the voice replied, no longer quite so perky. “Um…let me see where I can fit you in, okay? Did you have a particular artist in mind? Or a particular time frame that was better for you?”

“No. Not really. I mean, I just saw your flyer and…I haven’t actually had time to think about it all that much.” Sign or no sign, Sophie suddenly found herself wondering if getting a new tattoo was such a stellar idea after all. Memories of the last time she’d gotten inked flashed through her mind bringing heat and longing and even more uncertainty.

Declan’s voice teasing her through the worst of it; his hands, firm yet gentle on her flesh, reassuring; the expression on his face, focused, patient, intent

Sometimes a tattoo was not just a tattoo; it was personal, almost too personal to trust to a stranger.  At the moment, it seemed that her exhibitionist streak had gone the way of her breasts. Could she really go through with this? Did she really want to bare her chest to a stranger when she could hardly stand to look in the mirror at herself? Maybe she could ask about a female artist? Maybe that would help. Or maybe she should just forget the whole idea. “Maybe I should think about it some more.”

“Hmm. Okay, well, actually, it looks like all our regular artists are pretty booked up right now,” the voice on the phone told her.

Sophie exhaled. Her shoulders sagged—relief, mixed with just a trace of disappointment. “Oh. All right. Well, thanks anyway for checking. I guess it’s not meant to be. Maybe another time then.”

“Whoa, hold on there. Not so fast. I wasn’t done yet. I’m sure we can squeeze you in somewhere. You know, we’re also making appointments for our guest artist, Declan Ross. He’ll be tattooing here for a few weeks. Is there any chance you’d be interested in working with him?”

“Declan’s back?”  Talk about signs! This one was billboard-sized and covered in day-glo neon. “Isn’t he…I mean, I guess I thought he was still out on the West Coast.”

“Oh, yeah. Well, I mean, he’s not here yet. Like I said, he’s coming in primarily for the fundraiser at the end of the month. So…I take it you’re interested then?”

Having Declan here—that was a game changer. If he was the one tattooing her, it would be just like old times. And the chance to see him again… That alone could make it all worthwhile. Maybe she could do this after all. “Yes. Yes, I think I am.”

“Well, good! Why don’t you go ahead and give me your information, and we’ll get you signed up.”

“Yeah, okay. Sure,” Sophie answered, barely aware of what she was saying. Declan was coming back. It was the last thing she’d been expecting. And, now, in just a few weeks she’d be seeing him again.

Now, that one you can have, cher. This time, Sophie would swear the voice laughed out loud. That one’s all yours. He’s got your name written all over him.  


Coming Home

Welcome to Day Five of my week-and-a-half-long pity party. Well, y'all already knew I don't do short, right? Actually, I do occasionally. And, also, I am kinda short myself. But in general, short and me, we don't really have much to say to each other. Ah, the irony.

Speaking of irony, the Oberon series is all about coming home, and here I am all week complaining because I was home and didn't want to be. So since we're talking about being careful what you wish for, today's excerpt is a scene from the beginning of A Taste of Honey (book 4 in the series).  

But first, please, please, please, download your FREE copy of Such Fleeting Pleasures. I'll be pulling this offer as soon as the limit is reached, so if you want it, don't delay!

            In a lot of ways, Oberon is typical of any one of several small towns to be found along California’s Central Coast.  Clinging to sheer, corrugated green cliffs above a windswept strand of pale, golden sand, it lacks a little of the endless sunshine boasted by its neighbors to the south, enjoying instead a milder, more temperate climate and, for much of the year, a lot of fog. 
The area surrounding the town lacks one other very important California mainstay as well: the plethora of freeways that grace most of the rest of state are largely absent here.  Bounded on the west by the broad, brilliant blue crescent of San Bartolo Bay, and to the east by the majestic bulk of Mt. Totawka, the ‘sacred mountain’ of local lore, Oberon is virtually isolated.  Set amid a tangled network of canyons and creeks, undeveloped wilderness and--wherever the landscape and the environment have cooperated--acres of agricultural fields, it’s a hard place to get to.  It can be an even harder place to leave behind.
            But if Oberon was ever the type of funky beach town where teenaged girls with sun bleached hair, driving station wagons with surfboards tied to the roof was a common sight, it certainly is not that way anymore.  So when Lucy Greco-Cavanaugh did happen to spy one, rolling down Main Street one sunny morning late in April, followed only a few minutes later, by a longhaired young man in a VW convertible rabbit, also with surfboard, she knew something strange was up.
  Perhaps someone was making a movie, she reasoned.  Or maybe--and being a lifetime resident of Oberon this was of course the theory she favored--a sudden tear in the fabric of space-time had inadvertently allowed her to take a nostalgic glimpse back in time to the California-dreamin’ fantasies of an earlier age.
            Not coincidentally, this time displacement theory was one that she found herself applying to more and more events of late.  She was thirty seven  years old, and she had memories that spanned most of those years, albeit, with varying amounts of clarity.  But somehow, lately, it was almost as if all those memories didn’t quite add up the way they should.  For several months now, she had been aware of  a vague sense of dissatisfaction growing within her, coupled with a worrisome preoccupation with the past.  As if some invisible anchor line that had once kept her mind tethered in the present had been cut.  No matter how hard she tried to stay focused, her mind kept drifting back to places it had already been.
            Perhaps it had to do with the fact that while everyone around her seemed suddenly immersed in fresh new lives and new loves, she’d had to content herself with more of the same old, same old.  Not that there was any part of her life that she wanted to change, she reminded herself sternly.  She took a moment to rap her knuckles against the side of one of the wooden half barrels that served as planters on the terrace of the tea shop where she and her two best friends were having breakfast.  The same old everything she had was pretty damn great. 
            She had two wonderful kids, satisfying work, a comfortable house, and she’d been happily married to the love of her life for the past sixteen and a half years.  It was just that, after all those years, everything seemed to have gotten the slightest bit stale.  She couldn’t help but remember how things used to be--
            “Okay, Lucy,” Marsha  snapped,  “What’s wrong?  You’ve been sitting here sighing to yourself for the past half-hour.  You’re driving me nuts.”  
            Lucy frowned as she reached across the table for the pot of lavender honey.  “Nothing’s wrong,” she answered.   She could feel both Marsha and Scout eyeing her curiously as she occupied herself for several minutes deliberately drizzling the honey over the buttered French baguette on her plate, but she refused to return their gazes.  “And anyway, I was not sighing.”
            “You were sighing,”  Marsha insisted.  “Wasn’t she sighing, Scout?”
            Lucy looked up impatiently as Scout turned weary hazel eyes in her direction.  “What can I say, Lucy?  It sounded like sighing to me, too.”  Scout shrugged, absently stroking her baby’s head.  Three week old Cole, who was turning out to be one of those preternaturally alert infants who have to be held all the time, had finally fallen asleep at her breast. 
            “Well, you’re wrong.  Both of you.”  Lucy took a big bite of bread and honey, and stared defiantly at her friends: Marsha with her new boyfriend, and Scout with both a new husband and a new baby.  There was no way she was ever going to discuss what was bothering her with either of them.
            She couldn’t believe that, with everything she had to be grateful for, she could still be so petty.  She couldn’t believe that she would actually begrudge her two best friends a little happiness.  But the plain fact of the matter was that she was so jealous of both of them, it was a wonder she wasn’t as green as an avocado.  She saw the way Sam acted around Marsha, the way Nick looked at Scout, and she knew that once, she and Dan had been that way, too.  Somewhere along the way it seemed they had lost that. 
            And she wanted it back.  Oh, how she wanted it back!  But, after all these years-- she wasn’t sure that was even possible.                         
You couldn’t recreate newness could you?  You couldn’t expect to discover anything too different about the same old person you’d been regularly and intimately exploring for almost two decades.  And how could anyone ever hope to recapture the exquisite torture of doubt and uncertainty that so often accompanied the first stages of  love?  She wasn’t even sure she wanted to--except when she remembered the way the agony transformed into ecstasy…
            Be careful what you wish for, a soft voice seemed to whisper in her head.  She shivered as a  gust of wind swept across the terrace setting the wind chimes to tinkling in the trees around them.  Lavender spikes swayed on their long stems and the tiny pink Cecile Brunner roses that covered the arbor over their heads shed a few more petals onto the table.  Cole whimpered slightly.  Lucy watched as Scout wrapped his blanket more snugly around her baby and Marsha picked the petals out of her teacup.  
            “So...I think the honey turned out pretty good, didn’t it?”  she asked as she swallowed the last of her bread, and determinedly pushed any other thoughts out of her mind.  Beekeeping was a recent sideline she had started, she’d needed something new to occupy her mind, after all.  This lavender honey had been one of her first forays into flavored honey.
            “Good?  Lucy, it’s sensational!”  Scout assured her.
            Marsha chuckled.  “I think Sam thought he’d died and gone to heaven when he first tasted it.  He can’t get enough of the stuff.” 
             Lucy poured honey on another slice of  bread and felt her mood plummet again as she registered the suspiciously rosy pink color that suddenly tinted Marsha’s cheeks.  Besides the lavender, she’d also experimented with rosemary, ginger, vanilla, sage and white truffle honeys in recent weeks.  And although Dan had expressed his approval of all of them, he had yet to take any of them beyond the kitchen.  She heaved another sigh.  No doubt about it.  Something was seriously amiss in her marriage. 
            “Lucy!”  Marsha glared at her in exasperation 

Today's contest: Now through Friday, enter below for a chance to win an Oberon mini-basket similar to this one...


Birthday Wishes and Vampire Dreams

This post is late. I meant to post it yesterday, which is my daughter's birthday. And the reason I was posting about vampires on her birthday  is because it was her idea that I write about vampires in the first place. It turned out to be an excellent idea, IMO, because even though I was initially skeptical, I've grown to absolutely LOVE my vampires. I'm finishing up book six in the series right now and then there's only one book left and I am going to MISS my vampires so much once I'm done with this series. 

Anyway, moving on...

Let's recap. Last week I was supposed to be attending the RT Booklovers' Convention in Dallas Texas. I didn't make it, and I'm not real happy about that. Especially when I saw pictures of my poor neglected signing table looking all forlorn and encroached upon. See what I mean?

Anyway, as you can see, I was going to be signing three of my Children of Night books. What I like to think of as my boy books, since A) there are guys on the covers (duh!) and B), the romance in these three books is predominantly m/m.  The other two are mostly m/f.

And, yes, btw, take it from me: writing a series that is that hard to categorize? Not too bright from a marketing standpoint. But what can you do? The heart wants what it wants and what these guys wanted was each other. Who am I to argue? 

One of the reasons I was skeptical about writing vampires is all the conflicting traditions. Every writer has his or her own take on vampires--what they can or can't do. They need to sleep in their native soil--why's that? They die each day at daybreak only to revive after dark--how come? They can't see their reflection in mirrors--oh, FFS! How is that even possible? 

Frankly, I'm pretty sure my daughter regretted starting me down this path because I complained endlessly about all of these things until I hammered out the details of what my vampires can and can't do and why they can or can't do them. 

I'll let you in on the secret. My vampires don't even know this, but their species originated from an alien, parasitic species that crash landed here on earth and managed to survive by infesting the bloodstreams of their human hosts. They don't like sunlight or hot dry climates because they come from a planet that is cooler, wetter and darker. They don't like garlic because garlic thins the blood (truth!). They aren't dead--cause that'd just be creepy--but because they fall into a coma-like state while their body metamorphosizes, people used to think they had died and later came back from the dead. Like zombies. They age, but so very, very, very slowly that it's hard to tell. Their cells replicate virtually without error and they actually become stronger with age--kind of like trees--rather than weaker. 

My vampires do have a few weaknesses. They're inordinately flammable. If they're drained of blood they'll die. There's even a vampire "blood plague" that was engineered by alchemists during the middle ages, and which nearly succeeded in wiping the entire species out. 

My vampires are made, not born. Born Vampires are a myth...except when they're not. My twins, Julie and Marc Fischer, are the only two born vampires in existence. The truth about their heritage is a secret that's been kept from everyone--even them.     

It occurred to me yesterday that almost all my books are about family relationships--and whether those families are bound by blood or by the heart is immaterial, IMO.

The twins were raised in secrecy and isolation by their sire, Conrad and his long term partner, Damian. I'm having a contest this week and giving away a signed print copy of either book 2, 3 or 4 in the series (IOW, the books I was supposed to be signing this weekend!) as well as a digital copy of book 1.  The sign up is right below this, but keep reading after the jump, because I'm posting one of my favorite scenes from In the Dark (book one). This is a flashback to when Damian first learned about the twins. Enjoy and good luck!

San Francisco, CA
Monday, November, 3, 1969

Damian stood on the sidewalk outside the gate of the Italianate Victorian mansion, staring irresolutely at the building before him, trying hard to quell the queasy nervousness he was feeling. So it had been a hundred and thirteen years since he’d last seen Conrad, was that any reason for him to be trembling inside like a virginal debutante hoping she’d be asked to dance? It wasn’t likely the man had changed. No doubt Conrad was still the same tyrant he’d always been. Short-tempered. Overbearing. Domineering. Ruthless…

“So then why are you here, you fool?” he asked himself. Good question. Why had he dropped everything and rushed to Conrad’s side the minute the selfish bastard snapped his fingers? “You’re acting just like the good little lap dog he always wanted you to be.”

But, the answer to that was obvious. He was here because it was Conrad who’d asked him to come. Conrad, who never forgot and never forgave and never took anyone back, who couldn’t possibly be reaching out to Damian now in hopes of reconciling with him…but who could hardly have had any other reason for contacting him, either.

“Idiot,” Damian chastised himself, as he leaned on the doorbell. After all this time, he should know better than to get his hopes up too high. He should have ignored the summons, pretended he’d never gotten the entirely too cryptic message and stayed at home.

Ah, but that was the problem, wasn’t it? Because, however much he might wish it were otherwise, home was still exactly the same place it had always been for him. Wherever Conrad was.
Chi è esso?” Conrad’s rich baritone sounded exactly the same, as well—even despite the distortion caused by the intercom. “Who is it?”

Damian’s heart contracted. He bit back a shaky sigh. “Es-es yo,” he replied, his voice faltering just a little. “Damian.”

The intercom shut off with a snap and a buzzer sounded as the gate was unlocked—for all of an instant. Damian grabbed for it just in time and headed toward the house muttering beneath his breath—roundly cursing himself and Conrad and whatever unlucky stars had happened to have been in alignment on the day they’d first met. “I should have never have allowed myself to become involved with such a…with such a peasant.” That had been his first mistake.

The front door was ajar. Damian froze with his hand extended toward the doorknob and his pulse racing with the thought that it could be a trap he was walking into. For just an instant he considered retreating. But, what the hell? He’d come this far, what was a little more lunacy?

Still, as he pushed through the door and stepped into the darkened entrance hall the sound of his own heartbeat was so loud in his ears it drowned out any other sound. “Lucy, I’m a-home,” he called in his best Ricky Ricardo impersonation, almost jumping out of his skin when Conrad growled softly, 

Damian spun around to face him. For a very long moment he just stared, unable to do anything but drink Conrad in, as though his eyes had been starved for the sight of him. Finally, inexcusably late in the day, his self-preservation instincts kicked in. Fear had him drawing back, straightening his spine—even as his insides continued twisting themselves into knots. There was a faint frown on Conrad’s stern face, a wary gleam in his glittering, ametrine eyes. Damian’s own eyes widened in uneasy surprise when the squirming bundles in his old friend’s arms finally registered.

He waved one hand at the babies in a seemingly careless gesture as he joked, “Why, what are these, mi querido? Appetizers? But, they’re so small! You cannot possibly be planning on our making a meal of them?”

Conrad’s eyes blazed with a look that was just this side of insanity. He laid back his lips and snarled savagely, “They’re not food, you imbecile.” Then he turned on his heel and stalked away. “Shut the door,” he hurled over his shoulder as he disappeared down the hallway.

Shaking his head, once again, at his own stupidity—for not leaving while he still had the chance—Damian did as he’d been told and then followed Conrad into the large room that had been intended as the mansion’s formal dining room. Flames leaped and crackled in the ornate marble fireplace. 

Another unwelcome surprise. Even though today was the first decently overcast day the city had seen in weeks, it was certainly not cool enough to warrant a fire.

Perhaps Conrad had another purpose in mind for the blaze? Fire could serve as a weapon, could it not? Or as a devastatingly efficient means of destruction. But who, or what, might he be intending to burn in its flames tonight?

“Conrad, what the hell is going on?” All kidding aside now, Damian studied his friend with mounting concern. Conrad, his face drawn, sat slumped in an armchair uncomfortably near the hearth, and within arm’s reach of the crib into which he’d placed the two infants. “You look terrible.”

Conrad ignored the question and waved Damian toward a second armchair, on the other side of the fireplace. “Sit down.”

Damian crossed to the chair, but he cast a worried glance at the hungry flames as he did. His nerves were shrieking warnings. What was it that most alarmed him, he wondered; the doubtlessly deadly blaze, or his potentially murderous companion? He’d never seen Conrad in such a mood as this and he didn’t trust it. Standing in front of the chair, he hesitated. “Conrad,” he murmured pleadingly. 
“What is this? Why am I here?”

Conrad roused himself. Eyes flashing darkly, he fisted one hand on the arm of his chair, leaned forward and fixed Damian with a menacing glare. “It’s a long story. If you want to hear it, sit down!” Their eyes met. As his gaze focused on Damian’s face, it seemed as though a little of the madness left Conrad’s expression. His face relaxed. A small smile appeared and graced his lips. “Please?”

Too surprised to reply, Damian plopped into the chair behind him—quickly, before his legs could give out. It was the shock of being addressed so cordially, he told himself, refusing to even consider the awful possibility that it could have been Conrad’s smile that had once again made him go weak in the knees. No. I can’t. Never again.

For another long moment the two men stared wordlessly at each other. Finally, seemingly satisfied with whatever he’d seen in Damian’s face, Conrad dropped his gaze. He slumped back in his chair and sighed. “It’s good to see you, caro.” And then, again without giving Damian any chance to recover from this latest shock, he launched into his tale. “There was this girl…”

“And you’re certain they were born this way?” Damian asked, when Conrad had reached the end of his story. “No. It can’t be. You must be mistaken.”

“So, what then?” Conrad drawled sarcastically. “You think they were turned in the hospital, perhaps? How? And by whom? The same beast who attacked their mother, perhaps? Even assuming that was possible, why would anyone do such a thing?”

Damian shook his head. “No sé, but…what are you going to do with them?”
Conrad shrugged. Turning his head he gazed at the twins, his expression one of pain, hopelessness, resignation. “There’s only one thing I can do. I’ve given my word. I’m going to raise them.”

“You can’t,” Damian replied automatically. “I mean, how can you? If anyone finds out…they-they’ll kill them. They’ll kill you.”

A scornful smile curved Conrad’s lips. “They can try—others have. But who, exactly, do you mean by they?”

“Everyone,” Damian snapped. “Or, almost. The ignorant. The superstitious. The fanatics. The traditionalists. Everyone for whom the very idea of born vampires is, is, is…”

“Impossible?” Conrad suggested mockingly. “An abomination? The first sign of the Apocalypse?”

“A threat to the status quo. An unacceptable risk. Too potentially valuable—or potentially destructive—to be allowed to live. You, of all people, should know that.”

Conrad’s eyes turned glacial. “And are you very certain it’s they you meant to say, my dear? English never was your best language. Perhaps you meant we?”

For an instant, disappointment stole Damian’s breath away. “You think so little of me?”

“No.” Conrad shook his head. “No, of course I don’t. I don’t know why I said that. You must know I would never have asked you to come here tonight if I believed that to be the case.”

“Why did you?”

Conrad hesitated. “I need help,” he said at last with a small shrug. “I’m committed to keeping them alive but…I don’t see how I can do it alone.”

Surely, I misunderstood? Damian stared at Conrad, too shocked to speak. Surely, he is not expecting me to risk my life—my life—to help save his dead lover’s bastard spawn? “You loved her that much?” he asked, his heart contracting in pain, once again, when Conrad nodded.

“Yes, I did. I loved her very much. I’m sure I always will.”

That should have been enough, but still Damian was unable to keep from torturing himself; from poking at his wounded pride, his wounded dignity. His wounded heart. Dios mio, what next will he ask of me? “So who else have you appealed to?” he drawled, practically asking to be hurt once more. 

“Tell me, Conrad, how many others had to turn you down before you even recalled my existence?”

Conrad’s eyes widened in surprise. “There were no others. You were the first person who came to mind. As of right now, you’re the only person who knows anything at all about this other than me. I’m sure you’ll understand that, if possible, I’d like to keep it that way.”

Damian nodded. “Of course.” Well, that’s something, he thought, feeling slightly mollified—but only slightly. Because, most likely, all that really meant was that Conrad had figured him for the biggest sucker of the bunch, the idiot most likely to go along with so hopeless a plan.

For that reason alone, Damian wanted to refuse him.

But he couldn’t. Not after a hundred and thirteen years spent regretting having walked away the first time. Not while Conrad was so clearly hurting, so obviously in trouble. And especially not when refusing would only mean that someone else, rather than Damian himself, would be the one to comfort him. Lap dog, he thought, silently berating himself once again for his weakness. Perhaps if you roll over and beg nicely enough, he’ll even consent to give you a pat on the head every now and again?

“I will be your friend,” Damian told him, scraping together all the dignity he could muster. “And I will be your partner in this…this madness. I will do whatever I can to keep your secret, to help you raise them, to safeguard their lives. But I won’t be your lover again. That’s over with.”

Conrad nodded acceptance. “I understand. I wouldn’t have asked it of you. I’m through with such things myself. Love…in the end, I find, it brings nothing but sorrow.” And then, to Damian’s consternation, he put his head in his hands and wept.

“No, no, mi querido, don’t!” Crossing the room, Damian perched on the arm of Conrad’s chair and pulled him close. But the smell of Conrad’s skin and the weight of his head as it rested against his thigh had Damian struggling to keep his fangs sheathed. Ay, dios mio, I must be insane to be doing this.

“If only I could have done something to save her,” Conrad murmured, his words instantly quelling Damian’s lust. “If only— Ah, but you should have seen her, Damian. She was so young, so full of life…”

Si, amigo,” Damian murmured as he stroked his fingers through Conrad’s hair and resisted the urge to make off-color jokes about life and blood and babies and other things the dead girl might have been full of at one time or another. He doubted Conrad was in any mood to appreciate that sort of humor right now. “I’m sure she was.”

A shudder ran through Conrad and he groaned. “You’re right, you know, it is madness. I don’t know what I was thinking asking you here. I should never have involved you in this. And, now…oh, my dear, however are we going to manage?”

At that, Damian almost smiled. “Are you asking me for my opinion, mi amor?” Perhaps a hundred years has changed him, after all. His gaze cut to the twins, asleep in their crib, looking far too peaceful, innocent and trusting, especially considering how much heartache they’d already caused and how slim their chances were for survival. He felt an odd and completely unexpected feeling of fellowship, of kinship, possibly even affection, for them both. And he did smile then. There’s not a chance in hell we can pull this off, but at least we can go down fighting. At least we’ll be together when the end comes. I’d always hoped that might be the case.

Laughing softly, he leaned down, pressed his lips briefly to Conrad’s temple and murmured, “But, what is it you’re so worried about? Look at us, Conrad. Such a happy little family—are we not the perfect picture of domestic bliss? Why, I’m sure this is just the start of another grand adventure.”


Discounts, Downloads, Giveaways, and an Open Invitation to Party like There's No RT!

So a funny thing happened on my way to RT this past week. I ended up with a dental emergency and canceled at the last minute--really at the last minute. My bags were packed, my car was parked, my dog was boarded, my plants were watered, my mail was on hold, my family was otherwise engaged--all of which helped to contribute to the logistical nightmare that ensued. 

Well, not the plants so much, but everything else. However, there will be more about that later.   

The end result was that I was left Home Alone since Tuesday...or mostly alone, anyway, because I did have my dog since I selfishly cut short his Doggy Vacay at the fabulous Dog Balancing Hotel (which may be his favorite place in the world, other than dead center in the middle of my bed, so that there's no room for anyone else. dogs. gotta love 'em.) so that he could keep me company because why should I be the only one to suffer?

Here he is in his Steampunk gear. It's a terrible picture but, hello, Steampunk! Isn't he cute?

Anyway, it's taken me up until today, Saturday morning, to figure out what to do about all the fun that he and I were/are missing out on; and also what to do with all the swag and goodies and giveaways and books I was planning on giving away (some of which is chocolate--no good for him and not such a great idea for me right now either, given the condition of my poor tooth) and which are now, for the most part, cluttering up my already cluttered house. 

By the way, I blame the delay on figuring stuff out partially on the antibiotics and pain meds I'm taking, as well as the judicious application of the wine that I was supposed to have been drinking in Dallas this week...but, yeah, there will be more about that later too.

In any case, the answer turned out to be actually quite simple: throw a fabulously epic pity party. In actuality, of course, I've been partying very nicely on my own all week, thank you very much, but misery does love company, so I'd like to welcome everyone I know to party with me all week long! woo-hoo!

My original thought was to confine the party to this weekend, because, after all, RT ends tomorrow. But given that I'm still in the process of making arrangements, and making up graphics, and finalizing details, and contests and giveaways and prizes and...did I happen to mention I'm also on deadline? Yeah. More about that later too. So who knows when I'll actually get this party started!  So I've decided to keep things going through Memorial Day Weekend, with time-sensitive deals and blink-and-you've-missed-it giveaways (like the one directly below) occurring throughout. 

So, without further ado, here's discount #1. See the pretty card pictured below? Yeah, Carina sent me those. They offer a very generous 50% discount if you buy anything from the Carina Press website, but they're only good through tomorrow. Guess who won't find enough people IRL to hand these out to in time? Yep, that'd be me. So I'm doing a virtual hand-out. Here ya go!

50%! That's HUGE. And it's good for any book they sell! Of course, I'd love it if you bought mine. But I also recommend checking out any of my Antho Sisters, JK Coi, Stacy Gail or Jenny Schwartz. Or my NNN blogmate, Kate Davies. Or any of the fabulous authors on the Here Be Magic blog ...and yeah, there's too many of them to link to here, but seriously: check them out! 

BUT DO IT QUICK! Because, like I said, this deal is only good until tomorrow night. May 17, which happens to be my daughter's birthday (Big Hint: that will be the subject of tomorrow's contest/giveaway). 

And if 50% is not enough of an enticement, how about a free copy of This Winter Heart to sweeten the deal? Check out the Rafflecopter contest link below to learn how you can enter.

And, speaking of free, last week's  FREE DOWNLOAD of Such Fleeting Pleasures is back!  Here's another card I was planning on handing out all week in Dallas.

So that's it for today. Welcome to the party! Grab a drink, grab a reading device of your choice, and enjoy! The official site will be on Facebook, in my Crone's Nest Group, but be sure to check back here as well, during the next week, to see what new deals are in the works!