Saturday, May 24, 2014

Updatey stuff. Plus book sample

Sorry for no updates lately but I am depressed right now to the point of hibernation. Nothing looks good IMHO.

So instead of me rambling for an evening about how shitty things are right now, here's a sample chapter of the upcoming book. Those of you who have bought Liberty and read it should find it familiar, but don't worry. I've decided to post more than one sample for this book this time around.

Enjoy it, my lovelies. It will be available July 4th, and should, all things going well, be open for pre-sales in June.

The problem with dating a fairy is that they don't really do personal boundaries.
Oh, there were other isses. Discovering that your Elven boyfriend hard boiled all the eggs in their shells between when you took them out of the fridge and when you cracked one for your customary poached egg sandwich. (The whites had still been steaming, the yolks had a coat of gray film and were badly overcooked. Even when he used magic, Marco shouldn't be allowed in the kitchen) Coping with the mayhem magic played with electronics--thank God she'd let her agent talk her into that high tech, high dollar backup system, otherwise she'd be less one manuscript. The way hair clippings dissolved into small piles of magic dust, a shimmery, glittery substance that could clog a dust buster in ten seconds flat. Many, many times over the last few months, she'd scrubbed out her vacuum filters and thought Really, how does Raziel do it?  
But the cultural stuff was really starting to get to her. Maybe if she were dating something that didn't look so goddamn human, it'd be different. She could drop her expectations a little. But Elves looked human enough. It was easy to make assumptions, like "we're equal in this relationship" or "he'll understand if we just order a pizza". Actually that latter one was usually fine. Marco Creed was a mechanic--oh, excuse me, a car modifier--and he understood that when you worked hard all day, you didn't want to cook nonsense just to make him happy. He didn't ransack her clothes so he could freak out over one low-cut blouse, comb through her books for titles to burn, check her letters, moderate her friends. He even understood that after a full day of debating word choices with editors, racking her brain for that one, perfect phrase, and doing wrist exercises to post-pone carpal tunnel surgery another year, she might not want to cook that three course meal and make sure all his shirts had perfectly starched collars. He just didn't get why Casey still wrote at all.
"You've got enough money. Call that chick up in Boston and tell her you quit. Put your feet up. God knows, you've earned it." He rolled the magically cooked egg between his hands, flicking bits of shell back onto his plate. Marco Creed was six-two of handsome. Alabaster skin, golden hair that poofed in perfect ringlets when it wasn't tied back and braided. Cornflower blue eyes. A build better suited to underwear models, chiseled abs and all. Right now, she wanted to punt him into next week.
Count to ten. Don't start yelling and screaming. It's not like he violated boundaries on purpose. Accidents happen. Right? "My bank balance, and my job, are none of your business. It's not like we're getting married." She tried to keep her voice calm. She really did. It still cracked on the last word.
Hurt echoed through his eyes. "But you've got enough money to buy your own house. A much nicer house. You could take a couple summers off. You--" he broke off, shaking his head, and took a sip of his coffee. It had gone cold during their argument. He grimaced and focused on the mug. After a few seconds steam rose from the surface. Magic was like breathing for Marco Creed. He wasn't wearing his glamor, either. The tips of his ears poked through the curls of his hair. “You should be taken care of. You shouldn’t need to do all this…other shit.”
The career she’d fought so damn hard for, dismissed as “other shit”. Count to ten. He doesn’t get what he’s saying. "The problem, Marco, is that the money won't last." She'd been repeating this theme for the better part of an hour. "I have a very small, comfortable buffer right now. I'd like to keep it intact. I have to write. Meet my deadlines, keep my contracts, and make sure that my editors are happy. And I'm hard up against the deadline now as it is."
"That's not for another four months." Marco said. "And a million dollars isn't small."
She gave him a look. "Editing," She said. You didn't send your first draft to your editors. Not if you were a pro. And for her, a million did feel small. It'd been one point seven when she'd sold the land, and that point-seven had evaporated like summer rain on concrete. Another health emergency would run up six figures, easy. And what if it were something major, like a car accident? A bad tear in her already ruined right knee? She’d already had one replacement, thanks to her ex-husband’s skill with a rolling pin. The odds of needing another in the next ten years were so good, her doctor had told her to bank on it...literally. For the first time in a very, very long time she had something she could count on. If anything went wrong, she’d still be safe. She’d be square.
 Maybe if she'd been in better health, she wouldn't have worried, but she wasn't a goddamned immortal elf. Even getting magical healing second hand was a risk for a mortal. Mortal blood and faerie power didn't mix well. Yes, she would have liked to upgrade her house, get an elaborate car, live on the high side of life. But she had to be a grown-up. When she'd sold most of her land last year, she'd paid that last round of medical bills off, gotten her credit back in order, and sat on the rest.
And slowly but surely, that "rest" was draining out. Her books sold, but they didn’t sell that well.
"I just want to get to take you out once in a while." He said. Jesus. Was a several-century old fairy whining?
"You took me out last week, Marc. I. Have. Responsibilities. So do you. I talked to Tim last week, you're overdue on delivery for a couple of cars."
Street racing was technically illegal, but Marco still specialized in turbo kits and high dollar exhaust systems. It was all street legal, but he also held "theoretical" classes with young idiots where he showed them the handful of mods needed to take things to the next, illegal-as-hell, level. She kind of understood it. Out of the Corpus Christi Fae population, Marco Creed and Timothy Anderson held the best paying jobs. Abbey MacShay, the local Merrow, held the next best; she was a marine biologist working at the Texas State Aquarium. The nominal leader, Razielara, held up the rear. Raziel was on government support, unapologetically. Which would have sit better with Casey if the woman wasn't driving a Spectraflare Jaguar.
Raziel is at least a thousand years old. She's been on earth nearly a hundred years. She's probably got money squirreled away on every single continent, and it's still my taxes keeping her afloat. Life is not fair.
"I'm busy." Marco said.
"You're distracted. By me." She sighed, and decided to try a different tack. "I like you, Marc. I like you a lot." But I don't love you, she didn't say. They both knew it, same as they both knew that Marco didn't love her. It was their unspoken agreement: Sex, and mutual respect, and a little emotional companionship, but not that forever-and-a-fairy-tale happy ending. That wasn't in the cards. "But I don't want to mess up your life." And I sure as hell don't want you messing up mine.
“Wouldn’t you like to have time to get your house in order? I’m not saying it should be like Raziel’s place, but…you have to admit, the living room’s the nicest room here.”
Not just no, but hell no. “I don’t want the rest of my house to look like that. This isn’t a magazine show floor. I live here, I work here—”
“It’s a vacation cabin for God’s sake. You could buy a place on Ocean Drive, get it fixed up nice.”
Marco sighed. The silence stretched between them like sour taffy. Marco in particular looked like he’d eaten a lemon. Casey had a thousand things she’d like to say. Dude, you knew it was this way when you started dating me, maybe. Or it’s my life, I live it my way, either deal or butt out. But she didn’t say them. The thought of being that…heedless, reckless, careless, free, whatever you wanted to call it, sent numbing tingles through her lips and fingertips. Why is it that every relationship I’m in makes me feel so goddamn powerless?
Finally, Marco broke the silence. "Fine. How many words do you need to do today so I can take you out to dinner?"
He didn't get it. He never would. She imagined ideas bouncing off those golden curls like paper-airplanes. "Two thousand." she said. It might as well be a white flag.
"Great," He said, and broke into that thousand-watt-smile that made her knees turn to Jell-o. Everything else aside, the guy was hotter than sin. "I'll pick you up around six, then?"
Casey Winter, you have no spine. She sank into a chair. "If I get the work done."
Marco nodded. Then he went into the patented Marco-Goes-To-Work-Sprint. Aided by a little levitation and a small burst of magic when it came time to shave, he had his clothes on and was out the door inside of five minutes. And it was that last part she listened for, savoring the sounds like they were some orchestral medley. Footsteps across her porch, footsteps across fresh tarmac. Car door open. Car door closed. Rev of engine, and the dopplar effect as Marco drove away.
Her living room was hers once more.
I am absolutely pathetic. Casey thought. No spine at all. she groaned, and put her elbows on the table. Sheets of paper towered around her. Pieces of her next novel, in theory. In practice? A bunch of unrelated scenes, characters, vinaigrettes, and scribbled down ideas. Ever since she'd found out Fairies were real, her own stories had dried up.
I've written eight novels. Two of them have breached the bestseller lists. That's pretty good, right? Shouldn't that be enough? Not when you had medical bills up the yin-yang. And not when your publishing contract was for another two books in the same world. She flipped open her laptop, studying the blinking cursor at the end of a half-finished sentence. Leythorne the Gray Prince and his adventures in Ambercross. May they all jump into a fire and die. No. She didn't really feel that way. Tomorrow she'd be ready to kick fictional ass and come up with new names. Right? Right.
Two thousand words. It's two thousand more words, and then you'll be at the 120K mark, and you'll be able to disassemble and reassemble this mess into a brand new book. You'll get Emma off your back and--
The phone rang. She dove for it, digging the little gray square out of her purse. She'd spent a little of the land money on herself. She'd finally gotten a car that was built in the last ten years, and her very first smart phone. Which was currently trumpeting the Ride of the Valkyries. Emma Parker was on the other end.
Tell her it's coming. Tell her you're working on it. Tell her that gnomes ate it. There weren't any gnomes living in Corpus, but there was a nice population up in Seattle, or so she'd heard. She answered the phone.
"Word count." Emma said.
"One-eighteen." Casey said. "And it's very nice to hear from you too. I'm doing well. How are you?"
"Worried about my latest client. Is That Man treating you okay?"
That Man. All caps required. Emma had been cautiously optimistic about Casey dating again, but emphasize that caution. Casey’s marriage had ended with a broken knee, cheekbone, skull, fingers, ribs, and a long history of violence that really should have clued her in long before the Reverend Jack picked up that rolling pin. Most women would have left the first time he struck them. Casey had stayed. She was very aware that the odds of her picking another abuser were very, very high. So, unfortunately, was Emma.
I like Marco. And he's not bad. He's just...prickly. And oblivious. And for an elf, kind of a slob.
Agents did not, as a rule, poke into their clients' personal lives. That said, Casey had spent a very tense three months living on Emma Parker's couch. When one of Jack’s parishioners firebombed Casey’s new apartment, Emma had lost every ounce of professional distance. Some of this had been regained, but not all of it.
And really, do I have any right to fight with Marco over personal boundaries when I don't enforce them with anyone else? She knew what Emma would say. Yes. Yes, you fucking do.
"He's fine. Hasn't hurt me yet."
"Star-shine, there are many, many kinds of abuse," Emma said. "And just because the New Jack Winter introduced you to the worst doesn’t mean those others don't count. Your output's dropped since you met this guy."
Since I discovered fairies were real, she mentally amended. It was very hard to write a story about magic when you knew there was a good chance you were writing about something real. What if you slandered somebody really important? She already had a bunch of mermaids thirsting for her blood, and a wizard who probably wouldn't mind if she got cut into pieces. It wouldn't do to get another big power pissed at her.
But Emma wasn’t done. "The last time you dropped under a couple kay a day was when Jack started whaling on you."
"Wow, that's a tactful way to put things." And absolutely true. It was hard to do a few thousand words a day when you were trying to staunch your split lip with a paper towel, lest the blood short-circuit something inside the laptop. She knew about ten thousand ways to get those little, telling, rust colored stains out of a dry-clean only blouse. After all, their dry-cleaner went to Jack’s church. Somebody might talk.
Emma waited a few beats, as if she knew that Casey was struggling out of that old, sick mindset. She probably did. "Well, that's not why I called. There's a couple things cooking up here, and I'd like for you to come up to Boston for a week."
Boston. Close proximity to Emma Parker. Also driving distance to Atlanta, which meant Jack Winter could easily find her if he wanted to. She toyed with the hem of her shirt. "What’s on the menu?" She asked.
"Nothing major. I just want you to meet a few people. Smile, nod, be your stellar self. Show 'em what an overlooked treasure you are."
Casey could never be sure if Emma were being sarcastic or not. "Why?"
"Hey, maybe I want to show off my stable."
"Why?" She pulled cotton puffs out of a frayed hole in her jeans.
"There's going to be a couple Hollywood people in town for a while, and I know they're in the market for something fresh. You're right up their alley, and they've indicated an interest. I'm not sure how serious it is, but I'd like to show you off a little."
"And maybe have me under your thumb so I can finish this book?"
"Oh God, no, star-shine. That's just a remarkable bonus. So is getting you away from That Man for a few days."
Right. "Emma, I would love to, but I have absolutely no interest in going to Boston."
"It doesn't have to be this next week, you know. These guys will be in town for months. You can make out with That Man as much as you want, long as you show up before June."
It was April. "I'm not going, Em."
"It'll be fun. I'll cook Indian for you."
Emma was a very short, very plump black woman who could make a jalapeno sit up and beg for treats. This was more of a temptation than she realized. "No."
"I'll drive you to New York."
Broadway. Bookstores. Little cafes that serve everything from expert coffee to hundred dollar bottles of champagne. "I am not going to Boston, Em. No. Full stop. I've got no reason to go. I've got too much on my plate down here. I'm not going." Pause. Amused silence on the other end of the phone. "I'm not."
She laughed. "Alright. Your choice sunshine. Call me back if you change your mind."
Click. The phone went dead. Casey stared at it. Was it really possible to hate technology with every fiber of your being? She turned back to her laptop. Hit the spacebar so the screen came back up. Stared at the unmoving, merciless cursor as it blinked at her. Mocking her. Make me write, it said. Make me create your wildest dreams.
I don't have any dreams anymore. I just have reality. She typed the words Ugly, dull reality into the computer, then deleted them. Then she finished a paragraph that lead her hero, Leythorne of the Isles, across a field of snow towards the dumb shit who had just robbed his bank. She'd warmed up a bit by the second sentence. By the end of the third paragraph, she had almost forgotten--
The phone chimed off with Witchcraft. Frank Sinatra. I probably need to find her a better ringtone. She looked down at the phone and the name Rachel Hunt looked back. Maybe sirens. Alert bells. Code red. Code red. Missiles incoming. She answered it. "Hello?"
"Good morning, Ms. Winter. I trust it’s been well?"
Casey went cold.
Razielara, the Gray Fox, had been a Faerie noble. Not a Lord—the Sidhe-Lords could have eaten her for breakfast, during their hay-day—but not somebody you dared insult, either. Now she was simply the manager for the Faerie Exiles in Corpus Christi. Raziel to her charges, Rachel Hunt to the government and authorities. She was Elestrin, far more powerful than Marco or anyone else in Texas. The next nearest Elestrin, unless Graphile had come back to town, was the Exile manager in Tulsa. They respected each other’s distance for a reason. There were alligators more warm and fuzzy than Raziel.
She did not ask about your day. "It's great. What's going on?" Can I tell her I need to call Emma back?
"Nothing local. I do believe, however, that I will require your services out of town.”
 In the breif silence that followed, Casey realized that Emma’s phone number was listed on every publishing website known to man. Raziel might not like modern technology—the woman used beepers for the love of God—but even she owned a computer. And while Casey didn’t think either woman could bully the other, an alliance between the two wasn't beyond reason. The pit of her stomach plummeted down to the Earth’s inner core. She wouldn’t. She didn’t.
"I will need you to accompany me to Boston this next weekend." Raziel said.
Casey closed her eyes and sighed. Something in this universe really, really hates me.

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