The First Harlequin Novel I Ever Read

Veronica sez: Pulled this post from the 2011 Archives: Australian rural romance has come a long way from this vintage romance I read many years ago! Today I’m interviewing some of the top rural romance authors over at USA Today Happily Ever After. That sent me off to find this old post about my first-ever Harlequin read. Hope you’ll check out the modern rural romances we talk about over at USAT/HEA!

Begin the Archived Post:

003Subtitled “When I Fell in Love with the Idea of Australia”

I still remember the first Harlequin romance I ever read – The Outback Man by Amanda Doyle. It was 1966, which is such another era, I don’t even want to go there, but oh wow, did I fall hard for the whole romance genre. Ms. Doyle and Henrietta Reid were my two must buy HQN authors in those days, but I enjoyed many of the others as well.

 Recently I tracked down a copy of Outback Man and read it in one sitting. I have to say I hadn’t retained much of the plot all these years – an alpha male, a shy but gutsy heroine, a blond bad girl with perfect nails, on a sheep ranch in the Australian outback. That was about it for my specific memories, other than fondness for my first…romance novel.

 I quickly remembered how much I had enjoyed all the secondary characters as well – the jackaroos, the old nanny, the well meaning Other Man who of course didn’t stand a chance of winning the affections of our heroine Lou, not when up against alpha male Steve. I had been entranced by the descriptions of Australian countryside and life in the Outback. (My apologies to all my Australian friends but that’s still sort of the image of the entire country I have in my head, for which I have to thank or blame Ms. Doyle!) The dances and picnics and gatherings sounded like such fun. I’m not sure I really absorbed how much hard, hot work went on at the station in between those events. And something about a daunting, giant, complicated stove. Wasn’t there always a scary stove for the heroine to master in this kind of novel?

And wow, talk about your skills – not only was sweet shy Lou amazing at sewing her own dresses with no pattern, apparently by hand, from random scraps of gingham in the storeroom, she was a trained accountant as well. I liked that, made her a good heroine for the time, I think, when women’s roles were in transition. A woman could balance the station’s books in the morning, conquer the scary stove at lunch and whip up a new frock by dinner in the 1960’s!

I did have a literal double take moment on page 65 though, when Lou “…faced it with all the miserable honesty in her miserable heart…she was in love with the Outback Man…” There was next to no development of this burgeoning emotion in the pages preceding page 65. Or else I missed it. Or else Lou got to have one of those rare bolt of lightning moments as to who the love of her life was. I don’t think my excellent Carina editor Alison would let me spring that on my readers quite so out of the blue today. Times and writing styles change!  But then the story moved forward rapidly of course.

Lou hung in there, even as the scheming, perfectly coiffed villainess tried to put her in the wrong, tried to strand her in the middle of the night with the Other Man, tried to make Steve lose interest in her, tried to frame her for theft…all to no avail as we arrived at the HEA, fade out on Steve and Lou in pure, chaste bliss, planning an outback wedding. Wish we’d gotten to see the wedding dress she was going to stitch up in her spare time! Yup, I still enjoyed it in 2011, can you tell? A fundamentally good story keeps it charms, even when time has moved on. Thank you again, Amanda Doyle!

Now You Want To Kill Me? Weekend Writing Warriors

Warriors logo revisedIf you’re here for the “SFRB Presents,” that post will be found here.

Here’s the link to the Weekend Writing Warriors central page, so you can visit all the participants sharing excerpts today…a fun way to sample new books and find new authors! (Also welcome to the Sunday Snippet visitors!)

Continuing with science fiction romance today. Here’s an excerpt from Lady of the Star Wind, an epic portal fantasy, which is undergoing a final edit and will be released after Star Cruise: Outbreak in the April/May 2016 time frame.

Sandy and Mark have been transported to an unknown world. This snippet is from  quite a bit further in the novel, after tey’ve left the mysterious mountain oasis, in the company of some new friends… Sandy was bitten by a snake, went into the green light with a woman unknown to her and now is sitting in a room she’s never seen before, with four women who seem to think Sandy is someone else…the Lady of the Star Wind…A new player, Haatrin, has entered the chamber and scolded the Moon Sisters.

“We meant no harm, Exalted One Haatrin,” Tresa said, getting boldly to her feet, “We merely wanted to renew our acquaintance with our old friend.” She cast an angry glance at Sandy. “But this woman is an impostor. We should let her continue into death’s embrace, since loss of life is how her body is reacting to Sherabti’s kiss in the mortal world.”

“Now you want to kill me?” Fight-or-flight response fully engaged, Sandy chose to go on the offensive, leaping to her feet. “I didn’t ask to be bitten by a snake, and I certainly didn’t ask you to bring me wherever this is. Send me back, make me whole, and we’ll call it even.”

Haatrin raised her hands, and the sisters subsided. “You were foolish and hasty,” she said to them, her tone chiding, “Now you must bear the consequences.”

Continuing on with this scene next week…



No One To Help You SFRB Showcase

SFRB ShowcaseOnce a month the Science Fiction Romance Brigade authors showcase snippets from new work, WIPs, cover reveals or other fun things. The link is here for all  the participants.

I’m sharing an excerpt from my SFR Galaxy Award Winning novel Mission to Mahjundar.

MissionToM2-FJM_High_Res_1800x2700 (2)Princess Shalira is blind as the result of a botched assassination attempt on her when she was a child. Mike is the Sectors Special Forces operator she loves and this is an ambush by an unknown enemy on the two of them and their companions. (Book blurb below the excerpt.)

Shalira felt the reins suddenly go slack in Mike’s hands and her horse slowed, ambling to the left to nibble at something. “Michael?” Reaching one hand to where he ought to be, she found nothing.

In the next moment, a sharp pain arced through her arm and she recoiled, nearly slipping from the saddle, feeling as if she’d been bitten by an insect. A second sting as something lodged in her thigh. She yanked the projectile from her clinging skirts, which had blunted most of the impact. It felt like a heavy oblong wooden bead, feathered, with a sharp metal tip.

Throwing the dart to the ground, fear growing, she rose in her stirrups, listening intently, craning in all directions as she softly called his name. “Michael, what’s happening? Saium?”

As the mare continued to move lazily from one browsing spot to the next, she heard strange men shouting in some unfamiliar dialect, voices rough with anger or excitement, but no sound from her own companions.

Panic swept over her like a cascade of ice water. Clenching her fists, she pressed them to her mouth in horror as memories of the terrible incident in childhood flooded through her mind. Unable for a moment to distinguish between the awful memories and the present, she slipped from the saddle, intent on hiding herself. Keeping hold on the stirrup as she landed, to prevent the horse from wandering off as much as to steady herself, she shook her head, trying to dispel the flashback. I’m not a child any more, my brother’s been dead for fifteen years, Vreely’s dead, this isn’t happening.

 A warm, burning sensation spread through her body from the two places where she’d been “stung”. Dizzy, she clung to the reassuring bulk of her mare, fingers clenched on the edges of the saddle blanket. The horse swung its head for a moment to sniff at her before making a huffing sound and resuming its grazing.

I need to see, I need my eyes. She prayed desperately, but vision refused to come. I should get back on the horse, attempt to flee. But without someone to guide her, she wouldn’t get far.

The sounds of assault were dying down, and a moment later Shalira sensed four or five people surrounding her. She heard their soft footsteps on the grassy woodland floor as they approached, smelled their sweat and some kind of paint. The newcomers stopped a few feet away from her.

Shaking with terror, fighting the memories of her childhood, Shalira called for Michael again, to no avail.

“Your men can’t help you, pretty one,” said a guttural voice directly in front of her.

Shalira recognized the dialect, a common trade talk used in the marketplaces all over Mahjundar. “Who are you?”

“You’ll know us soon enough,” said the man, an unpleasant glee underlying his words. At the same moment, two others grabbed her arms. Weakened from whatever drug had been on the tip of the darts, she struggled against their hold, trying to twist and kick her way free. “I demand you release me!”

Someone grabbed at the Windhunter collar, jerking the chain in an attempt to yank the jewelry from her neck.

“Don’t touch her, you greedy fools!” yelled another warrior, much older from the timbre of the voice. “Can’t you see she’s blind? And wears the symbol of the Lady as well as the necklace you’re trying to steal? You’d better heed her demands, and release her.”

Apparently the newcomer had authority to back up his commands. The two men imprisoning her released their grip, and she staggered against her horse, then slowly fell, knees giving way from terror and the drugs.

The story:

An attempted assassination left Princess Shalira blind as a child and, now that she’s of marriageable age, her prospects are not good because of her disability. She’s resigned herself to an arranged marriage rather than face life under the thumb of her cold stepmother. But then she meets Mike Varone, a Sectors Special Forces officer sent to Mahjundar by the intergalactic government to retrieve a ship lost in her planet’s mountains. After Mike saves Shalira from another assassination attempt, she arranges for him to escort her across the planet to her future husband. She’s already falling hard for the deadly offworlder and knows she should deny herself the temptation he represents, but taking Mike along to protect her is the only way she’ll live long enough to escape her ruthless stepmother.

Mike, for his part, resists his growing attraction to the princess; he has a mission on this planet and rescuing the vulnerable but brave princess isn’t it. No matter how much he wishes it could be.

But what should have been an easy trek through Mahjundar’s peaceful lands swiftly turns into an ambush with danger around every turn. Shalira’s marriage begins to seem less like an arranged union and more like yet another planned assassination. The more they work together to survive, the harder it becomes to stop themselves from falling in love. Caught in a race against time, can they escape the hostile forces hunting them and make it off the planet?

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Ballet 422 Dance As A Creative Process

Ballet 3422 posterOne of the reasons I love my Netflix subscription is that I find documentaries to watch that I never would have seen otherwise. “Ballet 422” is my most recent journey. Here’s the description from the Internet Database of Movies: From first rehearsal to world premiere, Ballet 422 takes us backstage at New York City Ballet as emerging choreographer Justin Peck crafts a new work. The dance is entitled “Paz de la Jolla,” based on “Sinfonietta La Jolla” by Bohuslav Martinu, and will be the 422nd new ballet created for the company.

I had four reasons for wanting to watch this:

I enjoy ballet, as an uninformed observer of beautiful dancing.

I love behind the scenes stories.

DancerOfTheNile_1600x2400I wrote a novel entitled Dancer of the Nile and while I was researching it several years ago, I tried to get into the headspace of a dancer. I’m going to write the sequel this year and I thought the movie might help me ‘get it right.’ Granted, my character Nima isn’t dancing anything remotely similar to ballet in 1850 BCE ancient Egypt, but I have a feeling at its soul dancing is a timeless activity, and a dancer from any era and genre could understand another dancer.

I could no more create a dance than I could write a song and I was fascinated by the idea of watching a ballet come into existence. The creative process required fascinated me. People are always asking me how I go about writing my novels and here I was, wondering the same thing about a dance.

I’m not a dancer. I’d love to be but I have the form of dyslexia where I don’t know left from right. I also can’t remember sequences of steps. Hence my utter failure to achieve glory on the high school drill team! I also can’t read music – that discovery in 6th grade was the first time I’d totally failed at anything scholastic. Musical notes might as well be hieroglyphics to me, although I could probably learn the latter long before I’d ever understand music. The three things I learned to play on the piano I had to learn in terms of which keys to press next. I LOVE music. I’m always singing or humming my favorite songs. But the creative process of music isn’t a gift I was given.

005So as the documentary begins, dancer Justin Peck, then 25 and a member of the corps de ballet at the NYC Ballet, has been chosen to create a dance for three principal dancers. This will be his third new dance. He’s already chosen the music when we meet him so there he stands, alone in the practice room in front of the mirrors, pondering, moving only a little bit, trying out bits and pieces of what he’s envisioning. He sketches moves and positions in a notebook.  In a wonderful interview with CBS, he states, “I try and create choreography that’s in conversation with the music that the audience is hearing.” He further remarks, “…a lot of times I’ll start to think about choreography in relation to a certain piece of music and I’ll immediately start to see a certain dancer in my mind.”

Over time, he and an assistant choreographer start working with one ballerina, who tries out steps and combinations for him, adding her suggestions and feedback as to what feels right. As days go by, we then get multiple dancers in the practice001 room, as Justin progresses in the development of his dance. I was interested in what a collaborative process it was, although he didn’t hesitate to say no if a suggestion didn’t flow with his vision. He corrected people (nicely but firmly) on the tiniest movements if required. He adapted to what people could do and couldn’t do, in terms of artistry and flow of his specific dance. From the CBS interview:  “I’ve always thought of the process of creating ballets as being this kind of team effort.”

As a novelist, I wondered if people were enjoying this collaboration? I would think dancers would love to be the first to perform a new piece, created with them as the template. But was Justin’s move into choreography something others would be jealous of? There are so few places in the highest, rarefied circles of classical ballet, as I understand things. How did he feel about making this transition to creating dance? He still dances himself – we get to see bits and pieces of him performing  – but we also caught a glimpse of the dancer’s mortality as he received treatments for some issue. I wondered if he felt the chance to create ballets was bittersweet? He is apparently a soloist dancer as well, according to information I found online.

004We saw the costume designers at work, from first concepts to finished outfits. (Pilling? They actually worried about pilling?) We saw the intricacies of the stage lighting design for the specific dance. All I can say there is WOW. High tech.  We saw rehearsals. My mind boggled at the idea of creating steps for all these people to perform simultaneously, keeping the dancers in constant, beautiful, different motions, and telling the story besides. May I say WOW one more time???!

There was a very evocative moment when Mr. Peck rode the subway home late at night, dressed like any other young guy going home from college maybe, yet he can do these amazing things as a dancer and a choreographer.

I wished the documentary had included more narration or subtitles at least. Several times obviously Important Personages either watched the dance in rehearsal or gave Mr. Peck advice, or both, yet not being a ballet cognoscenti I had no idea who they were.

A word about the dancers themselves. They…are…amazing. There was one moment where a ballerina goes en pointe and I just wanted to gasp at the incredible grace and perfection, and transformation of an ordinary human into some magical being. And this was in rehearsal gear, no makeup, no enhancements, just her. And her hardwon perfection. To me it was worth watching the whole documentary just to see that one thrilling moment.

I found it very interesting that one of the Important Personages clued Mr. Peck into the fact that the orchestra hadn’t been all that crazy about his choice of music. This happened006 late in the game, toward the end of rehearsals. It was suggested he go speak to the orchestra, let them know how much he appreciated them. This appeared at the time to be a totally alien concept to Mr. Peck but he gamely did so. I was fascinated by this whole interaction. Without the music, there is no ballet. Without the orchestra, there is no performance on the big stage. (The dancers had a wonderful pianist playing for them at rehearsals.) So my novelist’s brain was transfixed by this glimpse into the relationship between the dancers and the musicians. It was also interesting that the conductor seemed surprised and a bit reluctant to agree to Mr. Peck’s request, but did. I could write a whole other post about how fascinating it was to watch the conductor working with the orchestra.

I’m used to actors telling each other to break a leg before a performance, which obviously wouldn’t be too comfortable for dancers to say. Instead, they were constantly saying merde to each other. I found various theories online as to why this word but the one I liked most (and saw most often) was that in 1800’s Paris, if a performance was really great, the members of high society would flock to see it and their carriage horses would pile up a lot of merde out there in the street while waiting.

But back to the documentary, we do get to see Mr. Peck watching his new dance performed to a very warm reaction from the audience. He then hastens backstage to get ready for his own performance later in the evening, in a different ballet.

Here’s an excellent description of the new ballet itself:

We never get to see the entire performance in the documentary, sadly. I have no idea how long the piece takes to perform.

I definitely got my wish for some insight into dancers themselves, and the creative process for bringing the world a beautiful new dance.

(I’m illustrating this post with some of my Victorian trade (advertising cards) from the 1800’s.) The trailer for the movie is below…


Reaction Not As Expected Weekend Writing Warriors

Warriors logo revisedHere’s the link to the Weekend Writing Warriors central page, so you can visit all the participants sharing excerpts today…a fun way to sample new books and find new authors! (Also welcome to the Sunday Snippet visitors!)

Continuing with science fiction romance today. Here’s an excerpt from Lady of the Star Wind, an epic portal fantasy, which is undergoing a final edit and will be released after Star Cruise: Outbreak in the April/May 2016 time frame (fingers crossed that I can keep my schedule). I’m working with the awesome Fiona Jayde on a cover now!

Sandy and Mark have been transported to an unknown world after breaking the Globe of Amarkana (you may remember those excerpts earlier in the year?). This snippet is from  quite a bit further in the novel, after Mark and Sandy have left the mysterious mountain oasis, in the company of some new friends… Sandy was bitten by a snake (who we learn today has a name), went into the green light with a woman unknown to her and now is sitting in a room she’s never seen before, with four women who seem to think Sandy is someone else…the Lady of the Star Wind…

After a moment, Amrell raised her eyes to the newcomer and spoke, “As we were telling our guest, we knew she waited in the temple so we sent Sherabti to welcome her as in days of old. Her reaction was not as expected, so I decided to personally conduct our friend and her consort to this meeting place.” Biting her lip, Amrell frowned. “His response was also odd, as if his blood fought Sherabti’s elixir. I couldn’t bring him through the barriers into this place.”

“Is Sherabti the snake? You had the snake bite me to get me here?” The adrenaline of outrage gave Sandy energy, broke the spell holding her so calm. These women were more dangerous than she’d realized.

More from this scene next week!

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What Have You Done? Weekend Writing Warriors

Warriors logo revisedHere’s the link to the Weekend Writing Warriors central page, so you can visit all the participants sharing excerpts today…a fun way to sample new books and find new authors! (Also welcome to the Sunday Snippet visitors!)

Continuing with science fiction romance today. Here’s an excerpt from Lady of the Star Wind, an epic portal fantasy, which is undergoing a final edit and will be released after Star Cruise: Outbreak in the April/May 2016 time frame (fingers crossed that I can keep my schedule).

Sandy and Mark have been transported to an unknown world after breaking the Globe of Amarkana (you may remember those excerpts earlier in the year?). This snippet is from  quite a bit further in the novel, after Mark and Sandy have left the mysterious mountain oasis, in the company of some new friends… Sandy was bitten by a snake, went into the green light with a woman unknown to her and now is sitting in a room she’s never seen before, with four women who seem to think Sandy is someone else…the Lady of the Star Wind…

Maybe a star wind was what Lajollae had used to send her to this world? Somehow, the idea made sense in Sandy’s current situation. Her reception by these women was cordial enough on the surface. Again, that nagging internal alarm sounded. Mark wasn’t here, and she didn’t know where he was, much less where she was, so things couldn’t be fine. She dug the fingernails of her right hand into her palm, hoping the tiny prick of pain would help her throw off the lassitude.

What have you done?” The new voice rang strident and accusatory. Sandy shifted in her chair to see a fifth woman entering the room.

The four Moon Sisters went to their knees, heads bowed.

I’ll keep going with this scene for a few more weeks….next week the Moon Sisters explain why they  brought Sandy to this room.

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10 Things I Love About The 100 TV Show

1/24/16 Veronica sez: The giveaway is now closed and Cathy has decided to send a signed copy of her new book to each person who did comment! Thank you for visiting the blog post :)

Having recently binge watched the CW science fiction TV series “The 100,” I was very excited about the premiere of Season 3. I wrote a recap for USA Today Happily Ever After but here’s my Top 10 Things I Love about the series in general.

There will be spoilers if you haven’t already seen the first two seasons…

  1. Bellamy. Ok, he’s good to look at, I love his voice and wow, has the character gone through a growth arc over the seasons. He always stays true to his primary focus, watching out for his sister (although S3 previews seem to indicate they may disagree violently on  what’s best for her this year.) I like that he’s tough, a good fighter and a person you can count on. I thought it was so moving that he wouldn’t let Clarke destroy the Weather Mountain people all by herself when the moment came. He put his hand over hers on that fatal lever and shared the responsibility.
  2. Raven and Wick. I REALLY liked Wick’s character when he was introduced. He has a great sense of humor but SO serious underneath and I thought Raven deserved some happiness all her own. That girl’s been through a LOT! I hope nothing bad happens to their relationship – or to Wick. This series doesn’t hesitate to kill characters off, even major ones. The previews don’t look too promising on this point. And apparently in interviews recently the show runners have said no more Wick.
  3. Olivia and Lincoln. These two are the Romeo and Juliet of the series, although a lot tougher, better armed and not nearly as poetic. I want them to be happy but they don’t really fit into either world right now – not the Sky People nor the Grounders. I fear there’s more trouble coming their way.
  4. Abby and Marcus. It’s been nice to watch their relationship grow. I thought he was a goner several times  and that made me sad. I’ll be chewing my nails in S3 over this, I can tell!
  5. Indra, the Grounder. I have a feeling she really disagrees with things her Commander has done and I think she might be a wild card.
  6. Maya. I’m going to miss her. She tried so hard to do the right thing. I have a feeling Jasper is going to take some dire actions over his mourning for her. Along with her, Jasper and Monty are two of my favorite characters. I like that they’ve gotten to do more and more…
  7. The costume designer. I don’t know the ins and outs of who should have the credit here because the Internet Database of Movies lists a lot of people with titles relating to costumes, but they are GENIUS. I love the way the Sky People and the Weather Mountain people wore clothing that was ‘vintage’, with holes and patches and you had to think about the fact that these garments must have been handed down for the last 97 years, because new ones really weren’t being made. And I think the way the Grounders dress in leather and metal and chains and studs emphasizes the nature of their society.
  8. The Grounder language. I love reading the subtitles while I’m listening to them talk and you think you catch a word here and there that is almost English but not quite. Well done. Kudos to the actors for speaking it as if they’d been doing it since birth.
  9. The secondary characters who come and go, both in the Grounders’ ranks and in the Sky People. There have been a lot of really good short character arcs – Marcus’s Mom, Charlotte the VERY disturbed 13 year old in S1, Anya the Grounder, Maya’s Dad….Dr. Tsing (“you’re all very special to us” – yeah RIGHT!)
  10. OK, last but definitely not least – Clarke. She’s a strong, kickass heroine trying to do her best. I like that she has doubts sometimes, things don’t always go her way, I wish she’d lean on Bellamy a bit more…she provides an indomitable anchor for the series to revolve around!


Cathy Pegau Talks Change, Alaska & Murder on the Last Frontier

MotLF Covercopy.jpgVeronica: Today’s guest is my friend, author Cathy Pegau, talking about a change in her writing choices, moving from science fiction to murder mystery. We have an excerpt and a giveaway for her new book:  Murder on the Last Frontier. Take it away, Cathy!

Cathy: Change is good.

Variety is the spice of life.

Try the goat now and again (I’ll explain in a bit…).

For years, I considered myself a speculative fiction writer and that alone. Everything I wrote, every plot bunny that leaped out and attacked, had some sort of fantasy, science fiction, or paranormal bend to it. I love that stuff. Love reading it, love writing it.

I enjoy reading other genres as well, but had never considered writing in them. Tackling a mystery or historical was intimidating, knowing they took a lot more research, organization, and plotting than I thought I had in me. I wrote my science fiction romances, worked on sword and sorcery fantasies, and sketched out plots and characters for paranormals.

Then something happened.

While researching local history for a post-apocalyptic story set in the not-so far future (it makes sense, trust me, but I won’t go into it here) I became completely caught up. The changes in my community from Native village to booming railroad terminus for the copper industry and fish canneries to its current small town vibe intrigued me. There was a colorful past that was ripe with potential, including the death of a “sporting woman” that triggered my imagination. As I listened to that particular tale, my brain came up with a story behind the murder and wouldn’t let it go. Would. Not.

But I was a science fiction author! I was planning a post-apocalyptic book or two or three! I had half-finished manuscripts with demon hunters and sword-swingers and starship captains! Why was my muse suddenly pushing a story set in the early 1900s? Why was the protagonist who drove the story a suffragette and journalist? Why couldn’t I set this thing aside, as I’d been able to do with other plot bunnies?

I have no idea. So I ran with it.

I dove deeper into the history of my town. And I fell in love. With Cordova, with the people who had been here for ages, with those who had come up to find a new start. I fell in love with Charlotte, my main character, who follows her brother to Alaska under the justification of writing a series of articles about women who set out for the Last Frontier, and has her own reasons for fleeing “civilization.” Man, talk about changes. And nary a woo-woo aspect to be found.

What prompted this shift in genre?

Maybe I was getting a little burned out on speculative fiction. I love it, always have and always will, but it was time to try something new. Like checking out a new restaurant, or at least trying a different dish at your favorite place. There’s an Indian restaurant we frequent when we go to The Big City. Most of the time, we order the lamb or one of a few other items from their vast menu. Then one day, they had goat on the specials menu. I’d never had goat. What the heck? When would I get the chance to try goat again? So I ordered it. Was it the best thing I’d ever had? Well, it was the best goat I’d ever had, and not bad at all. Plus, it got me out of my restaurant “rut.”

I felt a similarly about my writing, I wasn’t in a rut, exactly, just feeling the need for…different.

I wrote different, at least as far as genre was concerned. No gadgets, no swords. No space ships, no dragons. For these books, there’s steamships and Linotypes. Coal stoves and pocket watches. The research has been intense and frustrating, and I’ve enjoyed almost every minute of it. I haven’t stopped writing speculative fiction, by the way; I’m just expanding my repertoire.

No matter what the sales figures or reviews end up for this series, I’m glad I took the chance in trying something new and thrilled that I was given the opportunity to get it out there. Because as much as you love your favorites, you should check out the rest of the menu now and again.

GIVEAWAY TIME!!! Tell me a little something about changes you’ve made and a random commentor will win a signed copy of Murder on the Last Frontier! I’ll choose a winner sometime after Sunday 1/24 and let you know, so have a valid email handy : )

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About the Author: Cathy Pegau lives in Alaska with her husband, kids, critters and the occasional black bear that roams through the neighborhood. She has three science fiction romances out through Carina Press. Her latest, a historical mystery and book one of the Charlotte Brody series, Murder on the Last Frontier (Kensington, Dec 2015) is available in paperback and ebook . Borrowing Death (Book Two) hits the shelves in late June 2016.

Find Cathy at , on Facebook ( ) , or on Twitter (@CathyPegau).

Blurb for Murder on the Last Frontier:

There’s many who feel the Alaska Territory is no place for a woman on her own. But Charlotte Brody, suffragette and journalist, has never let public opinion dictate her life choices. She’s come to the frontier town of Cordova, where her brother Michael practices medicine, for the same reason many come to Alaska—to start over.

Cordova is gradually getting civilized, but the town is still rougher than Charlotte imagined. And when a local prostitute—one of the working girls her brother has been treating—is found brutally murdered, Charlotte learns firsthand how rough the frontier can be. Although the town may not consider the murder of a prostitute worthy of investigation, Charlotte’s feminist beliefs motivate her to seek justice for the woman. And there’s something else—the woman was hiding a secret, one that reminds Charlotte of her own painful past.

As Charlotte searches for answers, she soon finds her own life in danger from a cold-blooded killer desperate to keep dark secrets from seeing the light of day…

Excerpt, Chapter One of Murder on the Last Frontier: 

Cordova, Alaska Territory, 1919

The stench of rotting fish, salt, and tar rose from the dock and the water surrounding the S.S. Snow Queen, nearly making Charlotte Brody gag. Even if she’d had a free hand, she would have refused to press her handkerchief to her nose. She was in Alaska now, and Alaskan women were made of sterner stuff. They also probably breathed through their mouths to preserve their senses.

The midnight arrival had infused the steamship with bustling energy. The crew dashed about, doing whatever tasks were necessary when they made port. Disembarking passengers followed the signs and lanterns on the deck to the gangplank.

Clutching her satchel against her side to keep thieving hands from its contents, Charlotte grasped the rain-slick rail and made her way down the incline. The chest-to-back press of her fellow travelers was a situation calling for the protection of a scented handkerchief if there ever was one. Most of the passengers, herself included, hadn’t seen a real tub in the seven days since leaving Seattle. There had been facilities for a washup each morning, but a long soak in a hot bath was definitely in order, and soon.

A gust of icy, wet wind blew in from the bay, plastering stray hairs to her cheek and sending a chill through her. Three weeks ago, Charlotte had been wilting in the heat and humidity of Yonkers. Now, she was shivering. Late August in Alaska was nothing like the summer days back East.

The Snow Queen bobbed against the pier, rocking the gangplank. Charlotte tightened her grip on the rail, taking care not to run into the sack slung over the shoulder of the man in front of her. If it weren’t for the rain, the angle wouldn’t have been nearly so treacherous. She shuffled along, grateful that current fashion put the hem of her skirt well above her ankles so it wouldn’t catch on the rough planks or under her heels.

Michael was down there somewhere. The Snow Queen’s late arrival due to storm delays wasn’t unusual, and the good-sized crowd on the dock attested to Cordovans’ patience.

“Alaskans are used to things getting here when they get here,” the captain had said during dinner one night.

Well, I’m here now.

A shimmer of anticipation skittered across Charlotte’s skin and tickled her stomach. Her parents had tried to talk her out of going, but she was determined. Sidestepping the real reason she needed a change, she’d barely managed to keep her argument even-toned under their disapproval.

Eventually, they’d conceded, but only because Michael would be there. Not that their parents could have stopped her. At least the dark cloud of discontent had been lifted between the three of them.

Just a week’s travel by train from Yonkers to Seattle, then the steamer to Alaska, and here she was. The Last Frontier.

The scenery on the way up the coast had been breathtaking. Glorious mountains, stretches of blue-white glaciers, even a number of small icebergs that made a few passengers fret. The Titanic disaster was still quite fresh in people’s minds.

Charlotte hadn’t been concerned. The extended daylight hours so far north meant hazards were easier to avoid. She often stayed out on deck, bundled against the chill and unaware of the time, watching porpoises swimming in front of the bow, sea otters floating on their backs as they bobbed on the waves, and large brown bears ambling along the not-so-distant beaches. She was familiar with the gulls that followed the boat, but the sight of bald eagles soaring overhead was a first for her. One time, a great leviathan had breached off the port side, close enough to see barnacles clinging to its lower jaw. Charlotte thought her heart had stopped as the beast threw itself up into the air and crashed to the surface, spraying water onto the lower deck.

“Charlotte, over here!” Michael’s familiar voice called up to her over the crowd.

Her gaze darted among the upturned faces illuminated by the pier lights. Michael waved his fur cap, his blond hair fluttering in the sea breeze and a grand smile on his moustached lip.

A moustache? Her brother sporting a moustache? Mother would have had a say about that.

But Mother and Father were thousands of miles away.

Charlotte smiled, as happy to see Michael as she was relieved to leave the past back East, and released the rail to wave back. Her boot caught on the edge of the next plank, and she stumbled. Strong hands grabbed her long, wool coat from behind to keep her from falling into the man in front of her.

“Easy, miss,” the gravelly voice behind her said, not unkindly, as she was set back on her feet. “No call for ye flyin’ into the drink.”

She glanced over her shoulder at the burly man who had saved her. “Thank you, no.”

He touched his hand to his wide-brimmed hat and grinned. Or she assumed he grinned. The corners of his blue eyes creased and the tangle of graying brown facial hair moved in that manner.

Charlotte resumed her grip on the rail and safely made it to the bottom of the gangplank. Passengers veered off into the crowd waiting beyond the low wooden safety barrier. Michael shouldered his way to the front. The green mackinaw over his black suit was dotted with rain. She hurried over, dropped her bag, and threw herself into his arms.

Michael laughed and lifted her off her feet in a tight hug. He might have swung her around, but there were too many people within kicking range for such a thing. The town doctor shouldn’t create patients.

“God, I’ve missed you, Charlie,” he said, setting her on her feet.

Charlotte slapped his chest playfully. “I’ve missed you too, but not so much that you can call me by that nickname.”

She was an adult now. Charlotte Mae Brody had made it to Alaska on her own and could take care of herself.

Michael rubbed his chest, still chuckling. “Fair enough.” He hefted her satchel and gave an exaggerated grunt. “Goodness, what do you have in here? Bricks?”

Charlotte slipped her hand around his other arm. “Books. Be glad I packed my typewriter in my trunk.”

They both glanced up at the block-and-tackle winch conveying pallets of cargo from the ship’s hold. Longshoremen swung the heavy load expertly to the dock where workers sorted passenger bags onto open horse-drawn carts.

“Sullivan’s rooming house has a storage shed,” Michael said. “Your things should be there later. They’ll be safe until morning when we can get them to your room.”

Michael had told Charlotte he’d secure her a room as soon as she announced her intention to come to Alaska. Living at Sullivan’s, he’d explained, would be more comfortable, as his own home, with its attached office and exam room, would be too small for the two of them.

“That’s fine. I packed the necessities in my satchel.”

“Yes, along with the bricks.” They laughed again, and Michael guided her away from the ship. “There isn’t much in the way of transportation to town. You up for a midnight stroll?”

A lone motorcar idled in front of the steamship company’s office. Several people argued or haggled with the driver—and each other—for a ride in the six-passenger Model T. Even if there had been plenty of taxicabs, Charlotte would have refused a ride, as she felt quite awake and energized.

“I’m not in the least tired.” She started toward the road, following the majority of folks who had disembarked. If Alaskans walked to town at midnight in the rain, so would she. “How far is it?”

“Half a mile or so.”

The packed-dirt road was slick with mud. Michael drew his flashlight from the deep pocket of his coat to navigate around puddles. Walkers ahead and behind them had kerosene lanterns or flashlights as well. The chatter of conversation and the occasional burst of laughter accompanied them as Charlotte brought Michael up-to-date on family and friends.

The road followed the shoreline, curving in and out of patches of spruce trees to provide glimpses of the town ahead. Vague outlines of buildings and several streets lit with electric or gas lamps indicated it was larger than she had assumed.

“How many people live here?”

“One thousand or so, including the Natives who mostly live along the lake and homesteaders who live outside of town but use its services.” He narrowed his gaze as if evaluating Cordova from a distance. “Things are a little different in these parts, Sis. It takes some getting used to.”

“You know I’ve never been afraid of a challenge, Michael. I want to know what it’s really like.” She pulled him closer. “Not what you prettied up for Mother and Father, or what you glossed over for me. I want the real story of living here.”

Jody Wallace DREAMWALKERS Turns the Tables on Veronica

Tanglible jodyVeronica: I invited Jody to be my guest today since her DREAMWALKERS series is currently on sale. She turned the tables and wanted me to be the subject of the interview, so here goes!

Jody: The premise of the Dreamwalkers series is that certain human brains are so vivid that their nightmares can come to life and eat people. The heroes and heroines (so far) are the folks who fight these monsters and hide their existence from the rest of the world. Oftentimes these nightmares take the shape of popular culture creations, but sometimes there are classics.

What are the scariest movies, TV and books you can think of?
Veronica: Probably ones I don’t watch! I’m not into horror movies much – I find the images linger after the show is done. I did like Joss Whedon’s “Cabin in the Woods.” I used to love Stephen King novels but then there came a point I had to stop reading them because they just got too dark. The Shining is probably my favorite. I should mention the photographer who did my author headshots is also an actor and appeared in one of the Friday the 13th movies, so there’s a little horror connection. But he’s a lovely person in real life!

What monsters do you think your brain would create or has created in your books? (Caveat: real world human monsters don’t tend to get created, just things like vampires and mega spiders, and the size of the monster tends to be between 3-12 feet. If your nightmare is more of an “event”, like falling or appearing in public naked, I bet there’s a monster that represents that kind of horror!)

Veronica: I have an evil alien species in my Sectors Science Fiction Romance series, never described in too much detail but humans are said to go insane looking at them. The hero fought them off in Wreck of the Nebula Dream, for example. I think the Alien in all “Aliens” movies would be pretty much of a nightmare to face, don’t you?

What kind of dreamwalker hero or heroine do you think would be required to dispatch your nightmares? (Romance optional!)

Veronica: I always go for the Special Forces soldier, so he’d have to have the additional skill of entering the dream and taking weapons with him. Hmmm….

Disciple jodyBonus question: What pop culture monsters do you think the dreamwalkers have the most trouble killing?

Veronica: The ones that get the most press? Have the biggest box office on opening weekend? I don’t know!

(Jody sez: My biggest influences in this series were Joss Whedon, Supernatural, and all the funny T-Rex memes out there.)

There are two Dreamwalker novels:
TANGIBLE (courtesy of Samhain Press): When Zeke Garrett is reactivated to mentor the next dreamer that pops up on the Somnium’s radar, he’s sure it’s a mistake. The covert organization is still struggling to conceal the fallout from his last assignment, a fatal catastrophe.

From the first blast of her pepper spray, he realizes this neonati, whose nightmares manifest vampires straight from the pages of pop-culture, is more than he bargained for—a potential dreamwalker. But before her training can begin, he has to convince the stubborn, mouthy woman she’s not dreaming.

Maggie Mackey hasn’t slept well in a month, but that doesn’t explain how the monsters from her nightmares suddenly seem so real. Or why, when a team of intimidating, sword-wielding toughs rescue her, their leader captures her mouth in a swift, knee-weakening kiss.

Once he tears himself away, Zeke’s mental forehead smacking begins. Their embrace has confirmed they have a rare tangible bond, a phenomenon which fooled him once before. Somehow he must tutor the woman of his dreams without getting attached. Otherwise her nightmares could become his own.

Warning: Contains lots of cussing, pop culture references and monsters with nasty, big, pointy teeth.


DISCIPLE (courtesy of Samhain Press): When student dreamwalker Maggie Mackey was first discovered by Zeke Garrett, now her mentor, their sexual attraction blazed off the charts, as did their tangible dreamspace bond.

Three months later, their relationship is as stalled out as Maggie’s training. Zeke isn’t sure what’s to blame. His clumsy mentoring, Maggie’s stubbornness, or something more sinister.

When the pair is summoned to a restricted outpost for troubled and sick dreamwalkers to investigate the deaths of several patients, a nightmare from Zeke’s past resurfaces to further complicate Maggie’s training. In fact, there’s a better-than-good chance she’ll be yanked away from him and reassigned to a curator. Disciples sent to curators are rarely heard from again.

To survive the secretive inner workings of their organization and the deadly new force emerging inside the sphere, Maggie and Zeke must confront their inner demons as well as their feelings for each other. Because in the world of the dreamwalkers, inner demons never remain politely inside one’s tortured soul. They prefer to manifest…and eat people.
Warning: Book contains sex, cursing, more cursing, T-Rexes, dire peril and explosives.


About the Author:
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Jody Wallace grew up in the South in a very rural area. She went to school a long time and ended up with a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. Her resume includes college English instructor, technical documents editor, market analyst, web designer, and general, all around pain in the butt. She resides in Tennessee with one husband, two children, one grandma, six cats, and a lot of junk.

Let Me Handle This Weekend Writing Warriors

Warriors logo revisedHere’s the link to the Weekend Writing Warriors central page, so you can visit all the participants sharing excerpts today…a fun way to sample new books and find new authors! (Also welcome to the Sunday Snippet visitors!)

Continuing with science fiction romance today. Here’s an excerpt from Lady of the Star Wind, an epic portal fantasy, which is undergoing a final edit and will be released after Star Cruise: Outbreak sometime early next year.

Sandy and Mark have been transported to an unknown world after breaking the Globe of Amarkana (you may remember those excerpts earlier in the year?). This snippet is from  quite a bit further in the novel, after Mark and Sandy have left the mysterious mountain oasis, in the company of some new friends… Sandy was bitten by a snake, went into the green light with a woman unknown to her and now is sitting in a room she’s never seen before, with four women who seem to think Sandy is someone else…I should explain that there is an actual key is carved from amethyst and worn as a necklace.

“I’m the senior in the sky at the moment, let me handle this.” The leader, Amrell, seemed annoyed, frowning, tapping her toe on the mosaic floor. Gazing at Sandy, she said, “How came you to own the key?”

“I found it in the Oasis of the Travelers, inside the mountain dwelling when we arrived,” Sandy said. “Mark and I were sent to this world by Lajollae, with one of her globes. Maybe you know of her?”

Her audience gasped. The three who’d remained standing hastily sought chairs.

“We believed you were the Lady of the Star Wind, returned at long last, reborn perhaps,” said Amrell, rubbing her forehead. “We’ve much missed your—her company, and when it became known you were waiting in the temple, we had no other thought but to bring you here as we did in olden times.”

I’ll keep going with this scene for a few more weeks – there’s quite a bit more. I’m really impatient to release this one! But STAR CRUISE: OUT BREAK is my priority….

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