“That’s right, a pregnant girl just whipped your bitch ass.”

From the science fiction adventure, Hard as Roxx, Chapter 25

Trint stood face-to-face with Buzz, the backs of their right hands touching. He had six inches on her, but he was not as tall as Roxx. This, she felt, put her at an advantage. Trint, after all their years together, had inherited her spouse’s odd way of sizing up a situation. The two combatants stood there for a few seconds with the blonde smirking down at her. He began to push against her hand, testing her strength, perhaps her resolve. She pushed back and saw a hint – just of trace – of surprise. She was stronger than she looked. Considering that from the side, she looked like a capital letter “B” with legs, being stronger than she looked didn’t take much doing.

Buzz smiled harder and nodded. “Well, hit me,” he said, looking at her hand.

Trint’s demeanor was even. “When there is an opportunity, I do not hit. It hits all by itself.” Then she punched him squarely in the nose.

He hadn’t moved yet.

That’s Master Lee, bitch.

He shook his head, and this time surprise took full control of his face. Anger hung above like a cloud. Trint resumed the same position as before. Buzz hesitated, looking as if he were trying to decide whether to continue the “fair fight” regime.

“Best two out of three?” she asked, smiling.

The blonde snarled and returned his hand. Trint punched him twice: once with the right and once with the left, which had been at her side. He almost managed to raise his defense at the second strike.

“Oopsy,” she said. “Oh-for-three. You lose.”

She stepped back, just as Buzz swung at her torso. She’d anticipated that once he discovered she was not an easy out, he would either get serious, and they’d have a real sparring match, or he would aim directly for her weakest spot – her baby.

He chose dream number two.

It was a mistake, as his downward swing sent him off balance, just enough for Trint to swing over him and shatter his nose. The sound of the breaking cartilage excited her, and she began to dance on her toes, her tongue sticking out.

I do not stick it out. It sticks out all by itself. Trint began to laugh.

Continue reading ““That’s right, a pregnant girl just whipped your bitch ass.””

The Briton and the Dane: Timeline – available on iTunes

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Dr. Gwyneth Franger is a renowned expert in early medieval England who is set upon learning the truth about the death of Lord Erik, the last descendant of the powerful House of Wareham.  Her quest becomes an obsession, a condition that began with the discovery of a portrait of the tall and valiant warrior with which she forms an extraordinary and inexplicable bond.

Digesting troves of mildewed scrolls and source documentation only enhances her belief that Lord Erik was brutally assassinated by a cabal of traitors in the pay of William the Bastard, shortly before the onslaught of the Norman Invasion.

On an archeological dig in Southern England, her team unearths an Anglo-Saxon fortress, a vast citadel built during the reign of Alfred the Great, which she believes was Lord Erik’s stronghold.  In the midst of her excitement, she is awakened one night from her slumbers by a disconcerting anomaly emerging from the site.

Dr. Franger finds herself transported back to the Dark Ages and at the side of the noble Lord Erik who commands an army of elite Saxon warriors, a swift and mobile force able to deploy quickly throughout the kingdom to ward off invaders.

Witnessing the unrest firsthand, Gwyneth senses that her instincts had been right all along, and she is determined to learn the identities of the treacherous blackguards hiding in the shadows, villains who may well be posing as Lord Erik’s friends and counselors.

Will Gwyneth stop the assassins?  Is she strong enough to walk away and watch her beloved Erik die?  Or will she intervene, change the course of history and wipe out an entire timeline to save the man she loves with all her heart?

iTunes

Mary Ann Bernal web page

Today’s Email from Amazon re Hachette

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I received the following email today and thought I’d share it.  Neither party is acting in  authors’ best interests, and so this blogger has no opinion on the subject.


Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read).  A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures.  And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com

Copy us at: readers-united@amazon.com

Please consider including these points:

– We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
– Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
– Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
– Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at http://www.readersunited.com

Help the Big Cats with a Book

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During the month of June, author Ngaire Elder has pledged to donate all profits from her wonderful children’s books to the Born Free Foundation in support of their Big Cat Nap Week 2014.

Cecilia Spark ebooks, audio books, and paperback books all qualify for the fundraiser.

Ngaire  writes, “I really am hoping that, together with your support and help, enough money will be raised to feed a few tigers, lions and cheetahs for a number of  weeks.

Drop by Ngaire’s Big Cap Nap post  for more information on the Big Cat Nap event and the Cecilia Spark fundraiser. You can help feel some lions and tigers and … er, cheetahs, for a number of weeks.

Dragon Quest

From Discovery.

From: http://americayall.com (click to visit the link). The fun part of the interwebs is that you can imagine any location, google your description, and find a photo of it.

Charlie awoke to a damp, cool morning. He was lying on the frosted grass of a plateau, overlooking a series of rambling hills that curved into the distance. A deep pass, once a river, carved its way through the base of the mountains. Over untold millennia, the river had deepened the valley and wind abraded the mountains into a series of steep hills. A dense forest of ancient pines hugged the hillside, all but blanketing the valley. From his vantage, the dried riverbed looked like a jagged scar cut through a field of green. Despite almost constant moisture in the valley, the hills shed their vegetation as their altitudes increased. Near the summits, they were little more than dark rock and low scrub brush. A dense fog obscured all but the peaks of the furthest hill. The skies were cold and gray with only muted sunlight filtering through the high clouds. The entire setting was laid out as if it were a painting rendered in shades of gray. Charlie inhaled, taking in the thick, clean air, and then exhaled, his face ringed by water vapor heated by his lungs. “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” he said to no one.

Even though he had spoken in hushed tones, he could hear a faint echo reverberating from the distant hills. Not knowing what lay in the valley before him, he resisted the urge to shout his name and claim the valley for his. His training had taught him to be wary. He was a hunter, but could just as easily be prey. Charlie touched the ground next to his makeshift bed of soft pine needles and picked up his heavy oak staff. A large arrowhead made of heavy iron formed the business end of the weapon.

Charlie wore brown cloth breeches and a cloak made of deerskin, collared with white ermine. He strained his memory, trying to recall on which adventure he had trapped the weasels and stripped the fur that now caressed his cheek. It was late autumn now, and the fur was white, so surely it had been the prior winter. Charlie stamped out the remainder of the campfire with his heavy boots and began the descent towards the valley and the mountain pass where the Great Beast was said to winter. It would be a good hunt—for either the dragon, or himself.

Edit, Write, Edit

©Elnur Fotolia.com
Note: This dork is NOT my Eddie, nor is this the cover.

So, I’ve been busier than usual. I wouldn’t have thought that possible, to be honest. First, my wonderful editor has completed work on my completed draft, The Brooklyn Trace, which some of you may remember began as “Skip Tracer” here on this blog. I’ve posted a sample below because … reasons.

The morning of our flight to New York, well before sunrise, a perfumed, naked Mina woke me up by slipping into the small bed with me. I remember being in a dream wherein I was an antelope being chased by a herd of cougars, and the next thing I knew I was completely naked and this gorgeous woman was kissing my neck and telling me to wake up because I’d somehow made her horny. In between kisses and being submerged in her oceanic expanse of passion I probed, trying to discover what I’d done to trigger her arousal.

Her answer was, “You can be so dumb sometimes,” followed by, “Hush. You’re spoiling the mood.”

Now, the way I see it, when a pretty girl wants to be in control and you are both nude, you yield. So I did. She was a tidal wave, this woman, lashing my shores until I feared that by the time she ebbed there would be nothing left of me but a driftwood shell. Afterward she rolled sweetly into my arms, smiled up at me, and fell into sleep. Even a hard case like me has to admit that was the best part.

Next on the agenda is to write a blurb, summary, and query letter. I think I’m going to try my hand at traditional publishing with this one because the plot is more mainstream and indie publication is just more work than I care to put into book selling. I have time to a) write or b) sell. I don’t have time for both. If I don’t get the type of response I’m looking for, then I’ll revert to doing it myself. We shall see.

I made my editor cry on this one, so I’m hopeful. (No, not because I failed to pay on time, smart ass.) It’s because of all the “feels” in the book. (I adore this editor, btw.) The book is funny, sexy, touching, full of action, and at times, sad. I like it, and think you will to.

Next up is my new girl.

Dark Cover
Jeanne Dark – coming soon! Look for her.

I’ve been in love with her for over a year, but she’s still playing hard to get. To break the tedium of all those seconds in between working at my day job, sleeping, and missing my angel, I’ve been slowly working on her book, which is named after my lead, Jeanne Dark. I’ve completely finished the plot outline, so it’s just a matter of writing the book. I’m 40,000 words in. You can find excerpts here, here, and here if you’re interested.

Technically, you can find them there even if you’re not interested. It’s like the tree falling in the woods question — it makes a sound whether you’re there or not.

But I digress.

Since writing Jeanne and Foss’s book is much, much harder than the previous books (there seems to be an inverse relationship between how hard it is to write and how proficient one is at it) I’ve begun editing Discovery.

Now, some of you may be wondering why, since it’s in its 2nd edition already. The answer is simple: I’m not happy with sales. My conscience has been telling me I’ve been marketing The Stream series all wrong. I must admit she’s right.

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Indeed, even the name of the series and the books will likely change in the new edition. Something distinctly more dragonish and fantasy evoking, I imagine. I’ll also probably seek out publishers in the UK. When the 1st two books were finished (2009 – 2011) the Fantasy Fiction world was ensconced with vampires, werewolves, and zombies. That’s all that sold (other than Harry You-know-who) and all people were interested in. Perhaps the time is ripe.

The Stream

The Stream is probably more Visionary Fiction than Fantasy Fiction, and I’ll try to make that clearer. It’s pretty obvious by the 3rd book. It was obvious to Maria right away, but less so to others. I’m thinking I might bring the dragons out sooner. They don’t appear until midway through the 1st book now. Of course, that would mean making it longer, which I don’t want to do.

The difficulty is that I’ve changed and my writing has changed. While I’ve always gotten good reviews for Discovery, I’m finding myself doing a lot of rewrites early on. Frankly, I don’t know who this Bill Jones guy is, but I don’t like his style much. (Well, I do, it’s just different than my more-evolved style.) It’ll be a line to touch up the rough bits without chucking it all in the rubbish bin. We’ll see how I make out.

Anyway, that’s me. What’s up with you?

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Foster Meets Rosie Alone

Back to working on my new book, Jeanne Dark. This one is the hardest thing I’ve ever written, and the most fun. It’s the hardest because I’m working with the most complex character set I’ve ever attempted. It’s also more than just a mystery; it’s literary fiction full of suspense, political intrigue, and plot twists. The fun part is that it’s also a collaborative work; I’ve the good fortune of having my partner provide insight to Jeanne that I’d not muster alone. Foss is my beast, however, enamored with his partner, and troubled by secrets he wished he didn’t know and a raging passion that wants release.

Here, he meets a suspect in her place alone for what he’s convinced himself is follow-on questioning. Rosie, the interviewee, has other ideas, however. As always with the Dark excerpts, this is raw, just-written stuff.  Here’s my vision of Rosie, in case you’re interested. That’s right, Lucy Damned Liu. Have mercy.

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— start of excerpt —

Once at the door, it was fairly easy to pick the lock and invite myself in. I took the leap that a place that didn’t bother to install a security light or cameras wouldn’t have invested in underground wiring for an alarm system. I was right. Were I a burglar, I could have picked this place clean. I made it to apartment 2C, Rosie’s flat, without encountering anyone.  It was just where I’d predicted – in the front, third from the right. At least I’d been watching the right place. Given we’d had Rosie in for questioning, it was reasonable for me to have simply called her and requested a follow-up meeting. However, I wanted the real girl, not the suspect whose guard would likely be up. If I was to get anywhere, she needed to see me as more than a cop-for-hire. If I was lucky, she’d assumed I’d come to take her up on her offer. Part of me wondered if I had. I told that part to shut the hell up.

I straightened my tie, growled at myself for preening, and rapped on the door. That took fully ten seconds, as I went back and forth in my head about whether to give her a forceful “policeman’s knock” or use the gentle approach. Stupidly, I’d not decided on my interview strategy beforehand, being preoccupied with insane French women. Given Rosie’s belligerence at Scotland Yard, I opted to approach this as the “good cop” come to follow-up and see what happens. I rapped on the door, using just the knuckles of two fingers. Rosie opened the door almost immediately.

“Bloody hell,” she said, “it took you long enough to come up.”

I tried to pretend she’d not caught me off-guard by jerking the door so quickly. “Mind if I come in?” I asked.

“I’d be disappointed if you didn’t. I got all pretty just for you.”

She pulled the door open the rest of the way and I stepped in. All I saw for five seconds was the sexiest pair of legs I’d ever seen. They started at her perfect little feet, which were adorned in high-heel slippers with little puff balls on the tops, and ended at her hips, which were barely covered by a tiny, asymmetrical skirt with a split all the way to her waist. She complemented them with a sheer, black blouse that revealed taut abs and a frilly black bra. Rosie smiled as she caught me looking, and pushed the door shut behind me. Rather than move, she stood there, leaning against the door frame with her stunning body sideways towards me. Her hair was loose, flowing to her mid-back. It seemed longer than when I saw her before, although I struggled to picture her any other way than she was right then. One thing was certain; my visit was more of a surprise to me than it was to her. The woman was dressed for company. In my current state, I was pretty damned inclined to give her some.

“Can I get you something?” Her voice was a warm purr. “I have wine, beer, vodka …” She took a step towards me and placed a too-warm hand on my tie-burdened chest. “Or, we can just go in the bedroom and have fun until the sun comes up. I’m off tomorrow.” She looked up at me and gave me an intense stare. “I can be a lot of fun.” I didn’t doubt it for a second.

I stood stupidly for three beats, with my head wanting to pick “fun.” She needed to be interviewed, and I wanted to interview her something fierce. I wanted to interview all of her sexy little bits, starting with those pretty feet and ending with the pink tongue that was teasing the tip of her top lip. Being the pro that I am, however, I managed to shake my head and say, “I only came here to talk, Rosie.” I almost believed it myself.

She smiled at me and stepped back. “Sure you did.” She winked, approached me, and kissed my cheek. “After then,” she said, whispering in my ear.

This woman was trouble, and my favorite kind at that.

— end of excerpt —

Whom am I channeling for Foss? Mostly a lantern-jawed version of this guy.

Idris Elba
Idris Elba

Will Foss remain a pro? I don’t know; you gotta read the book. 😉