I’ve been deep in edits with a shapeshifter story, but hadn’t realized how frequently I feature animals in my other stories until I attended the World of Pets Expo this weekend.
Our guinea pig rescue group—yes, MGPR, a guinea pig rescue, as I had to confirm many times during my shift—sets up a booth alongside other small pet rescues, such as House Rabbit Society, Luna’s House, and a rat rescue I didn’t get the name of. I visited with a chinchilla. The bird fanciers are across the way. That’s our usual corner, but unusual for Pet Expo. At Pet Expo, small pets are in the minority: dogs rule!
People can more easily bring their dogs out in January’s weather, and they are less skittish in the busy setting. I’d only taken one photo of this little cutie, an Italian Greyhound, and frankly hadn’t thought a whole lot about the dogs.
But then an Irish Wolfhound walked by.
I knew what it was immediately—from photos…and my research for a story. Yes, I have featured an Irish Wolfhound in a science fiction romance, BUT…I had never seen one IRL!
I stopped them. “This is an Irish Wolfhound, right?”
“Yes.” (Actually she was quite pleased I recognized the breed.)
“May I take a picture?”
This lady was my height – 5’4”…The dog is huge, just as I wanted him to be. In my novel Passages, the wolfhound knocks over a guard, just by leaping his paws to the man’s shoulders.
His face was just as square, his hair just as wiry, and his temperament just as calm as I had learned through reading. Meeting him made me feel very good about my selection of a wolfhound for my novel. I was so pleased, I can’t remember the dog’s name, and I know I asked.
About an hour later, a man passed with a small black dog. OMG! “Is that a Schipperke?” I asked my rescue friends. They had no idea what I was talking about, and that man-dog pair was moving quickly into the crowd. I chased them halfway to the other side of the building before I could ask the person who knew. And the answer was yes.
‘Bosun’—the ship’s officer in charge of equipment and the crew—was this sailor’s second Schipperke. The first spent nine years living on his sailboat. Wow… I asked a few questions about the dog liking it, did he have good balance, and so forth, again confirming that’s exactly why I chose this species nicknamed the Belgium Barge Dog to live with Coral’s schooner-dwelling family in my YA Seaside Sorcery.
I had never thought of the Pet Expo as a place for writing research, but I’ll use it the next time I need to select a species I’ve never met. I was lucky in my research for my first choices of dogs I didn’t really know, but it’s smarter to actually touch the dog and talk to the person who lives with it. Now I have the feel of the coat under my fingers, the sense of size, the motion of the ears and tail…the real dog to work into my writing.
And in case you think I rescue guinea pigs and have ignored them in my writing, meet Hilda, one of a pair of the first shelter pigs I adopted. She is Gran’s pet in my YA Meadow Magic.
Here’s her entrance:
Fern strode through her grandmother’s cottage, late, today of all days. “Gran?” she yelled. Late because, like usual, Mom hadn’t left when she was supposed to and now Gran—
“Wheek, wheek, wheeeeek!” came a shriek from the front room and seconds later Gran’s guinea pig barreled around the comfortable old couch, her long grey and white hair brushing the polished floor like a dust mop. She ran straight to Fern, who caught her up and hugged her.
“Hilda, at least you’re home. How have you been?” Hilda licked Fern’s cheek, her little face barely visible under a shock of white hair. “Aw, thanks. I’ve missed you, too.” Fern streamed her fingers through the chubby animal’s soft fur. “I promise, when we finish our projects there’ll be plenty of time to pet you. But right now I’ve got to find Gran.”
Hilda burbled a string of chirps, her gaze locked on Fern’s face.
Weird. The pig had that look just like when Gran talked to her. Fern sighed. May as well give it a go, though she didn’t have time to waste. “Do you have a message for me?”
Hilda threw back her head and shrilled, her pink mouth stretching to reveal four sharp incisors. When Fern set her down, the pig scurried across the room to her den basket under the kitchen counter. She rooted around and in short order returned carrying a folded piece of stationary, a bit gnawed at the edges. The note inside read:
A few issues for our inspection have arisen, so I am off to a meeting. It might run into Saturday as well. It’s time for you to take charge. I know a seventeen year old can handle the remaining projects, but to ease your burden I have arranged some help for you.
“Leaving now—Gran!” Fern slapped her forehead. “Ohmigod, me in charge? And help? Sheesh. As if you could dig up help on this island, thank you very much.” Fern read the note again. What issues? Did this mean in spite of all their work on the Meadows, the Council still might take Gran’s land and give it to another family? With her home at risk, Gran had left Fern in charge?
“Oh.” How had she forgotten Hilda? Hilda giving her the… Fern eyed the guinea pig. No. No way.
Hilda took a few steps toward the refrigerator. “Wheek!”
Fern blinked. “Uh, sorry? You want a treat?” She dropped the note on the counter and found a carrot. Hilda took it and trotted off to her basket. Huh. Guess that was—Fern shook her head. She had work to do, whether the guinea pig could… uh, whether Gran… Hmm. “See you later, Hilda. Even with Gran gone, I’ve got to cut those trees on our list.” The List. Yeah.
Isn’t she smarter than the average pig? She’s owned by a witch. :) Thanks for reading!
P.S.: I belatedly realize I should have included an excerpt of one of the dogs. *eye roll at myself* I was at Pet Expo as a guinea pig volunteer – so my head was still there. Dog excerpt coming soon!
*cracks knuckles* Yeah, it’s hard. But time to get down to it.
I don’t usually do resolutions. Or goals. But this year I’ve decided to tie myself to a few.
Number one I just completed, am pretty excited about, and comes with a countdown of ninety days. April 5th.
Not my taxes, obviously. Here’s a hint:
Yes, I submitted a short story to The New Yorker. Per their website, I will either hear in 90 days, or not.
However, I have joined the ranks of millions of other writer hopefuls. I had to try. See, I’ve had this little 4K story kicking around for a couple of years. It was so fun to write, I casually said to my DH, “I’m going to send it to The New Yorker.”
He reads The New Yorker, as do his siblings, as did his parents. Something along the lines of a century of combined reading of The New Yorker have gone on in this family.
Not in mine. We are avid readers of commercial fiction.
DH’s mother submitted short stories to The New Yorker. While she was published in many other magazines, her success at The New Yorker only advanced to the “personalized” rejections stage.
With that history of little hope or success, DH himself sent a carefully crafted Letter to the Editor, short and with a personal story about his encounter with a featured singer.
It. Was. Published!
Huge success, toppling the decades of his mother’s efforts, one he deemed never to be repeated, just savored. With those reminders, I procrastinated on my submission. But when a fellow writer began to rack up acceptances for his short stories in preparation for querying his novel, I came back around to the thought Why not?
According to Fiction Writing’s article Submit to The New Yorker:
Odds of Publishing Something in the New Yorker:
The odds, of course, all depend on who you are. If you’ve never published anything, the odds are very, very slim. The New Yorker publishes only one story per issue (devoting one issue per year to new fiction), and it’s safe to say that pretty much every ambitious American writer tries them at some point or other. And while The New Yorker does take chances on new writers, it tends to draw from a stable of established writers, like Munro and Murakami.
That said, if you’re one of the young writers they take a chance on, your career is made, so it’s worth trying.
Rahul Kanakia’s post of well thought out ideas for getting a foot in The New Yorker door claims it’s a 1 in 40,000 chance. A bit deterring.
However, back in August, I decided 2015 will be the year I am published. So, what the hey, I started with a submission to The New Yorker.
Whether or not that happens–probably not–I will be self-publishing my paranormal historical romance series, starting this spring with The Unraveling. My goal is to have the series out over the course of the summer. And after my success with NaNo, to blaze through a draft of another series I’ve had in mind, a futuristic set on floating islands.
But for now, I must keep my head out of the clouds, fingers on keyboard, butt in chair.
Have you set your new year’s goals?
Today I’m pleased to feature the release of Nancy Weeks’ In the Shadow of Vengeance, a romantic suspense by a fellow Maryland Romance Writers author!
Detective Noah McNeil has his cases under control, but the same can’t be said for his personal life in Fells Point, Maryland. Elizabeth Merlot, the mother of a troubled teen Noah is mentoring, is freezing him out of the family’s lives – especially criminal given how hot this single mom is.
Elizabeth Merlot can’t afford to let the handsome detective close to her son lest he discover she’s in the witness protection program. Until the day, that is, when the teen tries to fend off a gang attack and her entire world of secrets begins to crumble – and Noah may be the only one who can save their lives. Don’t miss this exciting conclusion to the McNeil family saga!
And here’s my interview with author Nancy C. Weeks about this determined hero and reluctant heroine in her exciting new release. Welcome, Nancy!
Nancy: Hi Laurel. Thank you so much for inviting me on your blog today. I’m thrilled to be here to tell your readers about my new release, In the Shadow of Vengeance.
Laurel: Great to have you here. So, In the Shadow of Vengeance is the last book in the series. That story must have been bittersweet to write.
Nancy: I have spent the last four years working on my ‘In the Shadow’ series. With each book, I fell deeper in love with my five McNeil brothers and the women who turned their world upside down. It was a tearful moment when I typed THE END to In the Shadow of Vengeance. Of course, now that it’s out so the world can read, I can’t remove the silly grin from my face. I loved writing Noah McNeil and Elizabeth Merlot’s story. And since this was the last book in the series, I brought back the amazing characters from the first four books. Today, I invited Jennie McKenzie McNeil along with me so we can hear her impression of her brother-in-law, Noah.
Laurel: Wow, it’s a pleasure to have you with us, Jennie. You’re now happily married to Noah’s twin brother, Jared. If I remember correctly, you and Noah didn’t always get along?
Jennie: Thanks, Laurel. And no, my brother-in-law didn’t like me very much in the beginning. Who could blame the guy? Noah is very protective of his family and I was a serious threat to Jared. Thankfully, that’s all in the past. He’s now one of my best friends and a great brother.
Laurel: Tell me about your relationship with Elizabeth Merlot. You knew her before Elizabeth and Noah ever met, right?
Jennie: I had both her children, Erin and Danny in my class and we formed a friendship—before the unthinkable happened. The man obsessed with me used Danny as leverage against me. I’ll never forgive myself for placing Danny in the path of Elías Mendoza. And Noah… he was almost killed. After Danny was returned home, he and Noah seemed to bond for a few months.
Laurel: Did Noah and Elizabeth start a relationship because of his connection to Danny?
Jennie: Sadly no! My BIL can be a real idiot sometimes.
Laurel: Well, if he wasn’t interested…
Jennie: Oh, he was interested. Noah use to date a different woman every week. After meeting Elizabeth, the spinning door of one-night-stands stopped completely. No, he cared about Elizabeth Merlot, but he was just too pigheaded for his own good.
Laurel: Pigheaded? LOL. How so?
Jennie: Noah has this thing about secrets and he hates lies. He can be the most stubborn, opinionated—he sees everything in black and white. Elizabeth is reserved and doesn’t share much about her past for good reason. If he would have given her a chance to get to know him, then maybe she would have opened up to him sooner. Noah is definitely attracted to Elizabeth but he doesn’t trust her.
Laurel: Then what does Elizabeth think about Noah?
Nancy: I can answer this one with the excerpt I’ve sent along. Elizabeth doesn’t want Noah in Danny’s life and she has good reason to keep Noah at arm’s length. But sorry, can’t say more about that without spilling the plot.
Jennie: Noah and Elizabeth’s journey toward each other ends up changing how they view the world and their beliefs. I felt so helpless watching it unfold from the sidelines. They really went through some difficult situations. But I’m saying too much…
Laurel: No, you’ve left us hanging. J There is going to be a happy ending, right?
Nancy: It’s a romantic suspense so…of course! I write novels filled with a balance of gripping excitement, intrigue and heartwarming romances that will take your emotions on an incredible roller coaster ride. Sometimes you may even find a hint of the paranormal, but you can always count on a happy-ever-after.
Laurel: Since In the Shadow of Vengeance is the last book in your series, should my readers read the 5 books in order?
Nancy: Each book in the series is a stand-alone novel and they don’t have to be read in order. With that said, I think readers will get a much richer understanding of Vengeance if they read In the Shadow of Evil first. That book is where the series began. And wonderful news!! In the Shadow of Evil has been placed on sale for only 99 cents from 12/22 to 12/29!! OH… and watch my WEBSITE for a free read of the beginning chapters of In the Shadow of Vengeance.
Laurel: And here’s the cover you should be looking for:
Laurel: Thank you, Nancy and Jennie. We also have that excerpt below…and it appears the nasty villains weren’t the only obstacle Nancy’s hero and heroine faced!
Buy In the Shadow of Vengeance here
Nancy C. Weeks lives in suburban Maryland with her husband of more than thirty years. With her two grown children out of the nest, she loves spending her days on her deck writing as the local bird population keeps her company.
Find Nancy at:
Excerpt of In the Shadow of Vengeance
Elizabeth’s emotions of gratitude flip-flopped. She could almost feel the blood boiling in her veins. “No, I expect you to let the cops do their job.”
“I’m a cop, Elizabeth. Danny means something to me. I’m not going to sit on my fucking hands and wait until the BPD finds the manpower to look for this bastard.”
The fury she had been holding in all evening erupted. She dashed from behind the chair and rammed a finger into his chest. “I don’t know who you thought you were speaking to just now, Noah McNeil, but I don’t allow that language in this house.”
“Not in my face, they don’t. And definitely not that word.”
He slammed his hands to his hips. “What word?”
“You know what I’m talking about. It’s offensive and distasteful. Find another way to express yourself in my home or get out.”
A hint of laughter appeared in his eyes. The jerk was laughing at her. She never considered herself a violent person, but it took every ounce of control to keep from slapping that grin right off his stupid face.
The damn man was thick as a brick. If those men beat up a harmless kid like Danny, what would they do to a smartass cop?
“You think your badge makes you invincible? This guy is in a gang, you hardheaded buffoon. He has mean friends, and his friends have meaner friends.”
This time he let out a loud laugh. “Oh, that’s adorable.”
Before she could react, he curled his hand around the nape of her neck and lowered his head, his lips barely touching hers. The laughter was gone, and for some reason, she didn’t yank out of his hold but stood completely still. Her mind screamed to back off, but her curiosity got the best of her. His lips brushed over hers, sending an electric jolt to her toes. The hand at her waist tugged her against him while his lips went back for another taste and then a third. “Damn sweet. You’re worried about me.”
Elizabeth lost all common sense. She yanked him closer and they molded into each other. For such a big man, his lips were surprisingly soft and so gentle. The taste of mint combined with his spicy herbal scent overpowered her senses. A primal need she had forgotten existed took over, and she kissed him back as she clung to him, his shirt fisted in both hands. Her body came alive. He shifted then broke their connection. Reality returned and common sense slammed back into her, taking her breath away.
What was she doing kissing Noah McNeil? She wanted to kick herself all the way back to Nebraska.
“I’m so touched you care, Elizabeth.”
“You kissed me,” she choked out and shoved at his chest. “Why?”
“You kissed me back. It was real sweet, but way too short.” He shifted his weight and bit back a grin. “Is that not allowed in this house either? I think I’m going to need a list.”
“You don’t just go around kissing people, detective.”
A friend and fellow science fiction romance writer, Laurie A. Green released the cover of her debut novelette yesterday in an exclusive post on the Science Fiction Romance Brigade. There, she explains more about what exactly a novelette is, and her upcoming SFR series, but I wanted to give her a shout-out here for this spectacular cover.
Yes, indeed, that’s a beautiful space cover!
Here’s the short description of Farewell Andromeda:
Fresh off a painful jilting, the last thing deep space pilot Tiharra Bell needs is another romantic entanglement. Certainly not with the galaxy’s most famous astronomer—who also happens to be single, inconveniently handsome, and a resident of the remote Andromeda Station. But Tiharra soon discovers two terrible truths about Dr. Dante “Donner” Dane—1) he’s not the man he appears to be and 2) he doesn’t have long to live. Before her fourteen-day layover is complete, she’ll put her life and career on the line to protect his heartbreaking secret.
Farewell Andromeda is scheduled for a mid-January 2015 release. If you’d like to receive news on the release or Laurie’s upcoming Science Fiction Romance series, please visit her website at Author Laurie A. Green to read more and sign up for her newsletter.
Laurie A. Green is a three-time RWA® Golden Heart® finalist and Science Fiction Romance enthusiast who founded the SFR Brigade community of writers, which now totals over 500 members. Her extended family includes her husband, David, four dogs, three cats and several horses, all who reside on a ranch in beautiful New Mexico. When she’s not writing, networking, or searching out the perfect cup of Starbucks, she’s usually busy exercising her left brain as a military budget director.
I’ve been deep in edits for my first book, The Unraveling. And amid various concerns, one that pops out is my heroine, the city artist Annmar, doesn’t meet the rural-dwelling hero until chapter eight! Ach! Here is their meeting:
They ascended and the platform kept pace, its crates filled with squash and tomatoes. The chain clinking made conversation impossible. By the time they reached the top, the idling windlass hissed quietly. The gray-haired man held the platform steady while men and a few girls grabbed the crates and swung them into the space beyond. One of the young men sported a strange haircut. His dark brown hair was short over his ears but the back trailed down his tan shirt. He turned and met her gaze.
Annmar caught her breath. His brown eyes were like none she’d seen, wide and slanted, the rich chocolate color making a strong focus in his paler brown sugar skin. Face on, his shorn hair made his rounded ears prominent, nearly animal-like and cute.
Oh, to capture this strange, no, exotic look… Her finger slid along the side of the sketchbook and found the pencil splitting its pages.
He grinned, the smile open, friendly and playful all at once.
Before realizing she’d done it, Annmar smiled back. He was gorgeous. And her age. Much more suitable than Mr. Shearing would ever—oh, my! Her chest and neck heated.
Something hit her foot and clattered away with a familiar sound; she ducked toward the windlass to pick up her pencil. Straightening, her gaze caught the gold-edged, green lettering emblazoned across the machine’s water tank: Shearing Enterprises.
The flutter of excitement died. So there would be reminders, even here.
Mistress Gere gripped her elbow and guided her inside. “I’ll introduce the staff at dinner,” she said. “After you’ve seen your room and had a chance to freshen up.”
The workers ferried the crates past overstuffed chairs circling a woodburning stove and piled them on one side of an open room. Swings, ladders and ropes led upwards to more ladders set in mazes with crisscrossed beams in the second-story rafters. The height had Annmar swaying. Who would risk their necks up there?
Mistress Gere murmured, “A gathering place in poor weather.”
Behind her, someone called “All clear!” and a hiss erupted.
“Come into the production kitchens,” Mistress Gere shouted above the chain’s clinking, and led the way through swinging doors that swished closed, blocking the noise. An herbal-scented moisture hung in the empty kitchen, one far larger than any Annmar knew.
The door opened again and in walked the fascinating young man, wiping his palms down heavy brown trousers held by worn leather braces.
He was big. Much bigger than she’d realized from across the platform, the firm muscle of a broad, well-defined body. His rolled sleeves revealed fine, dark hair covered the lovely brown arms he loosely swung. He planted his feet before them.
“This is the artist from the city?” His deep voice nearly purred.
“Yes.” Mistress Gere crossed her arms, but couldn’t keep a smile from curling her lips. “I should have known you’d be in here as fast as you could manage, my boy. Annmar, may I introduce Daeryn Darkcoat, perhaps the most gregarious individual among our farm family. Daeryn, Annmar Masterson, who as you noted, is a city girl and not at all used to our casual country ways. You will keep to the borders of her territory until she gives you permission to enter.” The tall woman fixed him with an eye-to-eye look.
Annmar blinked at the bizarre introduction, so forthright. But Daeryn, which Mistress Gere pronounced day-rin, seemed to take it in stride. He nodded, a single dip of his chin. “Yes’m.”
He didn’t pause between that acknowledgement and extending his hand. His gaze searched hers curiously and he smiled, not the grin of before, but almost shyly.
Her stomach flipped. Sweet wasn’t how anyone would normally describe a young male who had so clearly crossed into manhood, but that was her exact thought. She wiped her clammy palm discretely in her skirt folds before shaking his.
“Pleased to meet you,” he said. “Are you finding the Basin to your liking?” His rough-skinned hand clasped hers in neither a strong nor a weak manner, but one that conveyed gentleness for its size.
His warmth felt nice and her head muddled a bit. “I, uh, I’m happy to have arrived, to be here. Yes. It’s all been…fine,” her mouth murmured.
Then too quickly, he released her. Somehow Mistress Gere took over the conversation, discussing an animal problem in the fields and listing several possibilities she wanted Daeryn to look into. His brows came together over narrowed eyes, changing his face into a calculating contemplation that had Annmar glad she wasn’t the source of the problem.
So, is he worth the wait?