So, THE FIGHTER AND THE FALLEN WOMAN has been out in the world for a week now, and I can’t tell you how tickled I’ve been (and still am!) seeing it out and about. To celebrate FAFW’s week anniversary, I want to share the first scene with you, introduce everybody to Lady and King. Hope you enjoy!
In the twelve years Lady had been a mistress, a bangtail and a whore, she had never been afraid of a man’s kiss. Dockworkers with missing teeth, boys who didn’t know enough to open their mouths, bastards who turned what should have been something sweet into something ugly, she’d faced them all and earned her coin. This man before her now was something she’d never experienced—a man she wanted to touch her. The thought scared her worse than her first time.
“Pet, give the gent a proper kiss for luck,” her protector ordered with a naughty grin. “You want King to be lucky and win now, don’t you?”
Lady pushed her fear down with an ease born of practice and gave the men a sultry smile. “Of course I do, Mr. Adams, though I don’t think luck is going to have anything to do with it,” she said, eyeing the fighter from head to toe and back again. “This man has let you show once again that you own the very best, another champion to join me under the Adams name.” She leaned close and whispered in his ear, “Though I prefer to be under you all by myself.” She sucked his lobe between her lips, giving it a soft nip, and his throaty laugh sealed a moment’s safety to look at another man. To look at this man.
Framed by the timber and brick of the St. Katharine’s Warehouse, the walls glowing a hellish red in the flickering gas lamps, King looked like a mercenary kicked out of hell. He stood a few inches taller than she did, the two of them on opposite sides of six feet, and his square face was unremarkable except for the imperfection of a broken nose and what a gypsy woman she’d once visited called “eyes of an old soul.” He was dressed like a stevedore in his black boots, wool pants and faded blue shirt, and like somebody who worked on the docks, had the muscled physique to show for it. He wasn’t necessarily handsome, not in a traditional way at least, but Lady had never been attracted to the pretty men. She’d always felt drawn to the ones who looked like they’d been brawling since before drawing breath, broken and scarred. King fit that image and, more than once, Lady had wondered how she’d fit King.
Ever since that night almost three years ago when he’d helped her gain her balance as her broken ribs caused her to stumble on that last stair, and then whispered, “Willow bark. It’ll ease the pain,” Lady had discovered this newest bruiser of her protector’s had kindness tempered with his strength. Now, after years of keeping their touches to a hand into a carriage or an elbow on a slippery patch of wet cobblestone, she was being asked to perform one of the most intimate acts two people could share with this man she pictured when Mr. Adams fell asleep beside her. A kiss sounded so simple, but it would be safer to offer a drunk a fine brandy and then ask him to pass over the rest of the bottle. She felt herself looking at King’s lips as if a drop of that brandy still clung there.
“I do own the very best, indeed I do.” Mr. Adams clapped his hands and the sound was consumed by the crowd reacting to the introduction of the fighters. It snapped Lady out of her thoughts and allowed her to collect new ones. If she didn’t get her head back in Mr. Adams’s game, she’d pay a painful price later. “But I figure it can never hurt to have a little extra luck on your side, eh? But mind yourself it’s a little, King, not a lot. Where a bigger kiss might mean bigger luck, it’d also mean I would have to fight you myself.” Mr. Adams shook a finger at King in a joking manner, but there was no doubt that if King got too friendly with Lady without Mr. Adams’s permission, the joke would be over.
Mr. Adams pulled Lady close with one arm around her waist, his hand lightly grasping her hip. His head reached only to her shoulder, yet unlike most men, he seemed to enjoy having her tower over him, her blond curls tangling around his neck. He often said so before he tossed up her skirts.
“Now, Mr. Adams, no fighting your best man.” Lady managed a throaty laugh while she slid her arm around her protector’s shoulders. “You want him to be in the best possible form for tonight, don’t you?” She looked at King and waited for him to act his part in this little drama. She’d managed to play her role. The last thing she needed was Mr. Adams to be in a temper because King didn’t play his. Lady could act blasé about the kiss she was scared to give, but it would be so much easier for both of them if King said his lines. Yes, he was a powerful fighter and Mr. Adams liked that King was always winning, but winning was nothing without adoration. If King didn’t bring in money and make Mr. Adams smile while doing it, he would be killed. Lady woke every morning knowing that same fate could be hers if she didn’t keep Mr. Adams happy. Very happy.
King cracked a smile and Lady felt herself slump with relief. To cover her gaffe, she turned in Mr. Adams’s arms, trailed her finger down her protector’s chest and cocked her head coquettishly at King.
“Have no worries, miss. I’m set to win tonight, especially with such good luck in my corner.” He inclined his head toward her.
“Yes, you are.” Mr. Adams pointed a stubby finger at King, his whole manner suddenly more intense. Lady prayed it was merely excitement for the fight. “You’re going to win this tournament of mine and be crowned toughest bloke in the world.”
Lady beckoned to the betting man with a wave of her hand, hoping to return Mr. Adams to a more relaxed state. “If King says he’s going to win tonight, then I’m calling that a guarantee. And if I know Mr. Adams, he would say such a guarantee is worth wagering on.
“Five pounds on King to win,” she told the betting man and reached into the neckline of her dress for the bill. She took the scrip he gave her and tucked it back into the same place with some extra patting and smoothing.
“Aw, pet, spending your hard-earned blunt on my fighter? That means a lot to me, it does.” Lady simply waited for what was next. “Of course, you earned it after I spent my hard-earned blunt on you.” He finished with a braying laugh, thrusting his hips against her thigh.
Lady looked both coy and wicked, like she was supposed to. She stole a glance at King and saw his face harden before he forced an appreciative laugh. There was a part of her, perhaps the blushing girl she never was, that always felt a brief thrill that this man cared enough to be outraged on her behalf. The woman she’d become took that thrill and buried it in the same grave as the blushing girl. King had the strength to protect her and, more importantly, she felt deep down that he cared for her enough to want to do so, but for him to take any action greater than he already had would have terrible consequences. A gentle hand to support her, a handsome face to picture in the dark—that would have to be it. Anything else was too dangerous. She was a rich man’s mistress and he was a rich man’s thug, and the two did not mix.
“Thank you for your confidence, miss.” King took a step backward. “Mr. Adams, I need to go be announced. That is, if you don’t need me for anything else.”
“No, you’re fine. I know most everybody here.” He opened his coat to show the slim, leather-wrapped handle of a knife he wore at his waist when he went out. “I’ve got this if somebody gets too close, and that’s if they even get past Shade.” Mr. Adams jerked his head toward the shadows and Lady watched King follow with his eyes. She could tell when he spotted Mr. Adams’s other bruiser. He looked back at Mr. Adams, and Lady watched King’s face tighten, his shoulders pull back as though standing at attention, and she felt something icy crawl in her belly without even having to look at Mr. Adams.
“But if it’s not too much trouble to ask,” her protector said slowly, “it would make me feel better if you got that lucky kiss.”
She’d only heard that tone in her protector’s voice once before and the sound of it still caused her breath to seize, her ribs to ache. The injury had long since healed, yet her deepest fears knew that one brought about the other. King may not face the same fears, but she couldn’t chance that Mr. Adams would find new ones for both of them if they kept refusing.
“Perhaps you have found your fighter’s secret, Mr. Adams.” Lady had been trying for lightly mocking, though truth be told, she was just happy her voice didn’t tremble. “He’s scared to kiss a girl.”
“Trust me, King, this lady’s kiss is sweet. Nothing to be frightened of at all,” Mr. Adams said and chuckled in a moment of shared masculine appreciation. Except King didn’t look like he appreciated anything. He looked like he fought everything, from the invisible tether Mr. Adams held to the dreams he had at night.
She wouldn’t let him fight her, though, no matter how scared she was to do this. She stepped up to King, putting Mr. Adams at her back and out of her mind. “Come, King, it’s only a kiss,” Lady said, deliberately pitching her voice low. She would give the kiss and pray her trembling barriers would hold, keep her safe against the desire to close her eyes, breathe in his scent, and feel for one moment that a fighter and a fallen woman had a future together.
“Lady, you should know when it comes to you, it’s never only anything,” he whispered so that only she could hear. “It’s everything.”
Lady braced herself for a deeper look into King’s eyes and saw flecks of gold in the brown, a fading bruise ringing his left, and a wariness that matched hers. Beneath all that was a cold, empty place, but she couldn’t tell if it was his or a reflection of hers. She quickly lowered her eyes, praying he hadn’t seen anything tonight other than a reluctant whore. With a quick intake of breath, Lady glanced at King’s mouth, closed her eyes and pressed her lips to his.
Warmth. Protection. Life. Lady could taste it on his lips, could feel it pulse around him like fire. For an instant, her entire body was flooded with heat and she longed to throw herself into it, knowing he would catch her and hold her close, protecting her from the flames while making her burn. It made her reach out, her fingers fluttering in the hidden recess between them, and she felt his hand already there, straining between sense and desire. He grabbed her hand only for an instant, but it was long enough to brand his touch on her skin before he let go.
Lady pulled back and her eyes drifted open, her held breath slipping from her mouth and into his. King was right. This would never be only a kiss.
Yes, there are many blog posts scheduled to talk about the release of my debut historical romance novel, THE FIGHTER AND THE FALLEN WOMAN, and various details, thoughts and comments about it, but not today. You see today, the day after Release Day, something wonderful happened.
I’ve talked before how music inspires my writing, even talked about it recently on the Carina Press blog for FAFW (see, got some promotion in!). As other books come up, I’ll talk about their songs and inspirations (including one full book inspired by a song I heard on Dancing With The Stars and the way the universe lined up on that one), but not today. Today is that something wonderful I referred to above.
So this Tuesday morning I’m driving to work, listening to an Ed Sheeran shuffle of both X and + (his two albums of those names) and a song came on that got me. If I may quote my own webpage, “felt as though it bruised something deep within.” A hero popped into my head, a dark and tortured hero to rival any I’ve written or have planned to write (and trust me, not of them get softer and fluffier than King. We’re talking dahr-har-har-hark!) I knew this was a hero who deserved his story because a) for a second I wondered if he was too dark, too fucked-up to be a hero in a romance novel, which meant he was absolutely a hero I had to write about, and b) who needs a happy ever after more than somebody who is that far gone, that destructive (both to himself and others)?
Sidenote: I’m not linking the song now not because I’m worried that somebody will steal my idea or anything like it, but this stage of the game the idea is fresh and new, and I need to bury it deep in the fecund soil of my writer’s brain to steep and grow stronger. I can only do that if I keep everything in the dark ground and out of direct light.
“So you had a book idea from a song. Big deal!” some of you may yell. “You’ve been there, done that. Tell us something new.” Okay, I will.
Yes, I’ve had ideas spring from a single song before, but this one was different. I heard the song and had the idea. Usually that’s as far as it goes for a while. Nuh-uh. Not today. Within 15 minutes, I had 2 more songs for the soundtrack, the visual hanger for my hero and the title of the book, which is also the central theme. I even had the big crisis moment that precedes Turning Point 2, aka the midpoint of the book. That much information about a book, enough to really jump-start the whole damn story? That has never happened before. All from one song. I am so excited about this hero that I want to move him up the queue and start writing his story much sooner than some of the others, but I also know I need to let him steep for a little while, find him the perfect heroine and a few other necessary points. Then I can write him.
I cannot wait.
So, my very first book comes out on Monday. Needless to say, I have been planning the celebration since…well, for years, actually, but that’s another story. Let’s just say an official celebration plan has been in the works since I got my release date.
Now, as Carina Press publishes on Monday, I decided to do one level of the celebration the Sunday night before. Montana and I have a great little restaurant that we’ve been to before and is perfect for this occasion (bacon wrapped figs–need I say more?) and my celebration necklace is polished and ready.
But, in the way of Life, that celebration isn’t going to happen. Nothing horrible or bad–just a nasty cold that took me out for the better part of the week, and is still working me over pretty hard. The couch has been my best friend this week, gallons of tea and a mountain of tissues at hand. Comfort reads have been utilized (Marilyn Brant, Heidi Betts, Sherry Thomas, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Julia Quinn to name a few…), Netflix has been left on autoplay, and a pillow is never far from hand for when I need to fall over into a nap.
So the celebration has been postponed until next weekend and I like to think there’ll be many more to come and, the ‘verse willing, some with you wonderful folk. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for some DayQuil and a nap.
See you Monday.
So I was watching the Oscars last night and one thing trending during the red carpet portion of the evening was #AskHerMore. It was basically a plea for those doing the interviewing of the stars (particularly the women) to not just ask about the dress, but about the woman wearing it. It was a fun hashtag to watch, with some amazing thoughts and ideas being tweeted. (One of my absolute favorites was from @RebeccaSchinsky, who tweeted: My kingdom for a red carpet “What are you reading?” #AskHerMore)
But it all got me thinking–there’s another similar situation where (primarily) women are treated as mindless airheads, not asked substantial questions but instantly judged by one single aspect of their appearance: the romance novel they’re holding in their hand.
So what if more people adopted an #AskHerMore philosophy, especially when it comes to romance reading and writing? We could call it #AskMeMore. Under that hashtag, people could ask romance writers why they chose that genre, what drew them to it. #AskMeMore could be used to ask romance readers what kind of story they like–sweet or spicy? A Harlequin Presents or a self-published novella? Is it all about the Happily Ever After or is there something else that keeps a reader going back to a genre over and over?
I’m not trying to judge or be all sanctimonious or anything else, just encouraging open conversations before drawing conclusions about a person who lists Loretta Chase or Nora Roberts as their favorite author. Women on the red carpet are so much more than their dresses and romance readers and writers are so much more than the covers on their books.
So, three weeks until the official release of THE FIGHTER AND THE FALLEN WOMAN. I’m so excited, but I haven’t been able to throw the months-long party I’d hoped to. There’s a lot of Real Life intruding in the happy, glittery, rainbow world of my debut book release, but I am dealing…
Ahem. Where was I?
Oh, that’s right–debut and Real Life and stuff. Well, speaking of Real Life, I’m going to let you all in on a secret of the publishing industry, one that I’ve wondered about as long as I’ve been trying to be published. Ready?
Lean in close, now…
(looks to the left) (looks to the right)
Okay, I’m going to tell you The Secret…
There are no elves. Yeah, those kinds of elves, the kinds that made a gazillion shoes overnight and the kinds that made every toy in Santa’s bag–magical, hard-working, making-miracles-happen elves. They don’t come with the contract, the aren’t willed down to you by authors not needing them anymore, and they sure as hell aren’t for sale on eBay.
I’m bummed about the lack of elves, too, because I sure could have used their help in blogging, creating some kick-ass promo material, and building a robust social media platform. (And that’s just the start–hey, if I have a magical elf, you can bet I’m going to shoot the moon. For starters, I would always have my favorite tea at the perfect temperature, an unending supply! Ah, the possibilities…)
So, I will struggle through the normal 24/7 constraints us elf-less must endure. The blogs may not be as many as I’d like, the promo material may be smaller, and my social media platform may end up at Honorable Mention instead of Grand Champion, but I am going to take some time to enjoy these next three weeks. I can forgo a video trailer and the tweeting of it if it means a few minutes to enjoy this wonderful stretch ahead.
And for that? I can make my own tea.
Okay, so here’s the deal–my day job is hideous (I know–first world problems, but they’re real to me, so there ya go) and drains me both mentally and physically. I’m looking for something else, but in the meantime, that’s the deal. Right now it’s Saturday morning of a 3-day weekend and I would like nothing more than to curl up with my tea and read one of the mountains of books in my TBR pile or watch The Mummy or Pride and Prejudice or any number of a thousand DVDs and simply rest, but that’s not what I am.
I’m a writer. That means on this lovely, quiet Saturday morning, I’m going to write. Be it one paragraph or a word count in the thousands, I am going to write.
WARNING: Extreme and innumerable amounts of favoritism in this post. If such thing offends you, you really shouldn’t be here in the first place. Just WAIT until I start my Doctor Who posts…
Now, check out his amazing piece of artwork, my friends:
Holy Smexxy Pants, that is one gah-hah-hah-GORGEOUS cover, isn’t it? It is hauntingly beautiful and achingly-in-a-good-way gritty and just gets me all fluttery every time I look at it. (I think it has magic powers, but am willing to admit that may be just me.)
Eight weeks until THE FIGHTER AND THE FALLEN WOMAN is released into the wild and this delicious cover is attached to my dark Victorian romance. I am excited, nervous, a tiny bit terrified and so damn ready.
Welcome to the countdown.
It’s the 4th of July and in the states, that means it’s Independence Day, the day our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, declaring our new nation’s independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. I celebrate with the rest of my country and eat hot dogs and watch fireworks, thinking of what this day really means. To many, they would say Freedom.
Here’s what I am adding to today. While watching your town’s parade or listening to a Sousa march, or even while at work or spending a Friday night watching your favorite movie if you’re not into celebrating or in a different country, I challenge you all to do this: Declare your freedom.
That’s right. State your independence loud and clear–say you’re not going to be victim to self-doubt, that you will finish that story, that you can do it.
Declare to the world that You Are A Great Writer. Write it down. Scream it out loud. Embroider it on a pillow. Just believe it. Because you are.
I can’t help it. Every time I think or hear the phrase “Respect the streak.” I think of Bull Durham. (Side note: Bull Durham has many life lessons, and I’m sure I’ll address them in the future, but for today, we’re going to stick with what to do with a streak.)
For those of you who have not seen Bull Durham (judgement withheld) or have forgotten this part of it, Crash (Kevin Costner) and Annie (Susan Sarandon) are having a fight about Crash’s mentoring of Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), specifically as it relates to Annie and Nuke’s sexual relationship. This is the gist of that fight:
Annie: Oh fine.
Crash: You know why? Because they don’t – -they don’t happen very often.
Crash: If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you are! And you should know that!
Wise words, Crash. Wise words, indeed. But why I’m bringing this up today is this–I’m on a streak. It started last Friday, so out of the blue I still can’t believe it. Now, part of the wisdom of Respecting the Streak, is a bit of superstition. If you believe you’re writing well for whatever reason, then you are! What I mean by that is I’m not going to say anything more about the streak, because I believe that talking too much about it drains it of its juju and I want to keep on drinking this particular glass of juju. May it never empty.
Respect the streak, people.
Yes, it finally happened. I got THE CALL. And, I found, just like the Kübler-Ross Five Stages of Grief model, there are Five Stages to THE CALL.
Betcha didn’t know that, did you? Well, neither did Wikipedia. If you can believe it, they had nothing on the Five Stages of The Call. (And I thought I could trust the internet…)
So, for your edification, here they are:
1. Not surprisingly, the first stage of THE CALL is the same as the first stage of grief: Denial
2. Where grief goes to anger, the second stage of THE CALL goes to Belief.
3. Bargaining is stage three of grief, but the third stage of THE CALL is Joy.
4. Grief’s depression is nowhere near THE CALL’s fourth stage–Realization (a.k.a. Really Sinking In.)
5. And then there’s stage five. Grief’s fifth stage is acceptance, and it’s rather similar to THE CALL’s–acceptance of what just happened, a.k.a. CELEBRATION!!!
Take that, Wikipeida.