Coming Up for Air

It dawned on me a couple of days ago that I haven’t written a post since the new year began. So, first and foremost, happy belated New Year!

I am *so* not a person who makes new year’s resolutions, but since I always tend to bite off more than I can chew when I set my goals every year, I’ve decided to try to be a little more realistic about what I can and can’t accomplish in 2013. What I am sure I *can* do is finish my second book for Entangled’s Brazen line (Rules of Possession) and at least one other title before the end of the year. My first Entangled book, Skin in the Game, is through its first round of revisions, though I’m biting my nails a bit because my editor has had it for several days and I haven’t heard anything. As soon as I have anything firm regarding a release date for that title, I promise I will post it.

My other goal this year is to take off the twenty pounds I put on in the past 3-4 years. I’m not doing this for appearance sake, but because ever since I started gaining this weight, I’ve found my hips hurt when I’m trying to sleep. This means I wake up multiple times per night to turn over to the side that doesn’t hurt (or doesn’t hurt as much). It’s possible the cause of this pain is something other than my weight, of course, but the coincidence makes me suspect that there’s a relationship, so before I go whine to the doctor, I want to try the obvious solution. Unfortunately, my schedule doesn’t lend itself to more exercise to get rid of the weight, so I’m having to rely on calorie reduction, and let me tell you, it is making me cranky. (On the plus side, the hero of Rules of Possession starts out the book in a rather cranky frame of mind, so I feel like I totally get him!)

Finally, sometimes, I look at my kids and wonder why the writing gene seems to have passed them over. I come from a fairly longish line of writers–my father wrote a couple of novels based on his experiences in the US Border Patrol, my mother’s father wrote a mystery novel, and a great uncle on my father’s side was a published poet. But here I am with my three kids, whose apparent vocations are (oldest to youngers) theoretical physicist, veterinarian, and chef. The theoretical physicist is a very competent writer, but he has no interest in creative writing. The veterinarian muddles through writing and is a voracious reader, so perhaps there’s still hope there in the future. But chef, who is 10 and in the fifth grade, is the kid teachers have always complained about. “He’s so bright and articulate, but he won’t actually *write* anything.”

I think, however, that this might be changing. He’s had a bunch of writing assignments in various subjects in the past month or so, and it seems to me he’s finally found his voice. He has stopped trying to be formal and academic, and the results are fantastic (and funny). I’ll leave you with the piece he wrote last night, which cracked me up (although perhaps that’s because I hate homework almost as much as my kids do).

Why Homework Is a Problem

“AAAHHH, homework! I haven’t had any sleep for twenty straight hours and it’s 1:00 a.m.!”

Hear that? That’s the sound of an unhappy camper because he can’t get any sleep at all. That’s my point right there, right in the lead up there. You see, kids are usually on a sleep schedule. Like, at around 8:50, it’s time for bed. But nope, not until your homework is finished. Which messes up our sleep time thus decreasing performance in school. Another reason is don’t we do enough practice already in school? Because obviously, the next day we’re going to be working on something different.

Also, without homework, kids would get to spend time with their family more as well. Like let’s just say your mom says, “All right, it’s time to go,” and then you say, “Oh, I can’t, I have a project to do.” Well, that means that your family can’t go and neither can you. Another thing is, let’s say your mom walks in the room while you’re working on homework and says, “It’s time to clean your room.” Well, according to my calculations, hold on, I’m still doing the math. Ah! Got it? My calculations are that you wouldn’t be able to do the chores.

Now, as you can see homework is a problem because no sleep, no trips, no ANYTHING. So what do you say let’s get rid of home–

This story was just a fiction story and the district not going to get rid homework. And also this is a really stupid story as well.

“Hey, I heard that!”

5kFriday WIP Words

I’m trying to work my way up to writing 5,000 words every Friday. With my current work schedule, Fridays have become the writing days. I’ve never yet managed more than about 4,000 words in a single day, but I’m hoping with practice, I can exceed that and get to the 5,000-word mark.

As part of this, I thought it might be fun to give you a peek into what I’m writing every Friday. Right now, I’m hard at work on Incarnate, which is the first novel in my historical urban fantasy series, The Reapers. Here’s a sneak peek at the scene I’m working on today.

“So,” he asked, “should my sergeant expect to chase you around London for the remainder of the day or can he bring a newspaper and catch up on his reading?”

The opportunity at misdirection was too good to let pass. “Oh, I should think he would be quite safe in bringing a newspaper. I expect to spend the remainder of the day communing with the spirit world in preparation for your séance.”

As she spoke, Elodie skirted a well-dressed elderly woman walking a small, mangy-looking dog in a red sweater.

“Why, Miss Capshaw,” the lady exclaimed as Elodie passed her, “how delightful to run into you.”

Elodie drew up short. Lady Beckwith. Of all the abysmal luck.

Plastering a smile to her lips, Elodie swung around to greet her former client. “Good morning, Lady Beckwith. What a pleasant surprise.” Well, at least the surprise part was truthful.

The dowager countess looked from Elodie to Inspector Ross and back again. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your gentleman friend?” she asked, a sly edge to her tone.

Elodie managed not to roll her eyes. “Lady Beckwith, this is Inspector Ross of Scotland Yard. Inspector Ross, this is the dowager Countess of Beckwith, a client whose case I recently completed.”

“Inspector?” the elderly woman repeated, sounding slightly disappointed by this news.

Elodie nodded. “Yes. We’re working on an investigation together.”

“I would hardly characterize what we are doing as ‘working together’,” Ross muttered.

Elodie shot him a murderous glare. He grinned back. She pressed her lips together in a frown. He shrugged.

“As it happens,” Lady Beckwith went on, seeming blithely unaware of their silent conversation, “I got your letter regarding my case just yesterday, and you were quite right; the condition of my boiler was quite appalling. We are fortunate we were not all blown to kingdom come, so I really must thank you.”

“Well,” Elodie said, relieved to discover that her findings had pleased the woman, “that is excellent news. And now, if you’ll excuse us—“

“Oh, please, Miss Capshaw. I couldn’t help overhearing you say something about doing a séance for the inspector.”

Please, don’t say it.

“But I am sure you told me you don’t do séances.”

Too late.

Ross looked at her, eyebrows raised. “Is that so?”

Elodie closed her eyes, her stomach sinking. She could hardly claim she’d never said such a thing to Lady Beckwith in the woman’s presence. Equally, she could not deny the fact that she had agreed to do a séance for Inspector Ross when he was standing right there and knew the truth. She had best think fast, or she would be well and truly buggered. But then, the truth—or something very close to it—was always the best approach.

“It is true that I don’t do séances under normal circumstances,” she admitted, “but that is because I know where the spirit resides. It is always easiest to contact ghosts directly in their own environment, and a séance is not necessary.” As she spoke, she warmed to her explanation. It just might work. “But when it comes to spirits whose whereabouts are unknown, as in Inspector Ross’s case,” Elodie continued, “a séance is the only way to reach them, and so I am making an exception for him. I do hope you understand, Lady Beckwith.”

“Oh, but Miss Capshaw,” Lady Beckwith exclaimed, beaming with delight, “that is excellent news!” Her dog, sensing his mistress’s excitement, emitted a high-pitched yap. “You can use a séance to locate my dear, departed Lord Beckwith.”

Teaser Tuesday at Limecello’s Blog and Other Tidbits

As the post’s title says, I’m over at Limecello’s blog today with a Teaser Tuesday excerpt from Taking Liberties (releasing December 1, available for preorder now at Amazon and B&N). I’m giving away digital copies of The Reiver and/or Carnally Ever After and/or a print copy of Behind the Red Door if you live in the States (please, help me get some of these books off my shelves so I have more room for OTHER writers’ books, lol).

In other news, I’ve managed to figure out how to carve out about an hour of writing time each weekday (not that I always use it wisely, of course!). Despite my penchant for engaging in the Twitter “write-off’s” tagged as #1k1hr (one thousand words in an hour), I’ve never actually managed to write that many words in 60 minutes; I think my record is around 800 words. Still, if I can manage a solid 500 words a day, I should finish The Lesson Plan before Thanksgiving (especially given the help of Veteran’s Day this Friday and vacation the entire week of Thanksgiving) and get it off to my editor. Depending on how long it takes her to get through the edits and me to make the changes and format the files, I anticipate the novella will be out by mid-December.

If you’re in line to receive an eARC, you should be expecting to see it in early December. If you’re not sure you’re on my eARC list and/or know you’re not and would like to review The Lesson Plan, you can either leave a comment on this post letting me know or email me by using the Contact link. I’ll send out eARCs to anyone (I’m not gonna vet you like publishers do on NetGalley), but I do request that you promise to review the novella somewhere, be it a review blog, your personal blog, Goodreads or a retailer site.

The Evolution of a Cover

Those of you who follow me on Twitter have probably already seen at least one version of the cover for my forthcoming Edwardian-set urban fantasy (you can read the first scene of the book here). I’ve been positively giddy about the art for this book ever since Nathalia Suellen agreed to do the work for a price that was within my price range.

Nathalia’s work came to my attention a few months ago when Harper Collins “cribbed” the art she had previously sold to LK Rigel for a book titled Spiderwork to use on an Alex Flinn book; they’ve since changed the cover, but the story can be read at Dear Author. As I was perusing Nathalia’s portfolio, I didn’t really expect to find anything that would be appropriate for my books because she specializes in artwork of a fairly “fantastical” variety and most of my stories are pretty solidly grounded in the real world. But then I came across this image:

Immediately, I thought of INCARNATE, an urban fantasy set in 1902 London that I’d written about 15,000 words of. This picture immediately made me think of the book’s heroine, Elodie. I loved her jaunty pose and the eerie city in the fog. The dress and top hat seemed perfect for the period as well as for the character. I loved it so much, I actually mocked up a cover based on it, just because I had to SEE it with my name and book title on it.

I contacted Nathalia almost immediately and was crushed to discover that the artwork in question had been done on commission and was not available for sale. My heart broke, because I was sure that was the end of it. But then Nathalia offered to do the cover from scratch for me, and I jumped at the offer. Even though the book was well short of complete (and still is), I couldn’t let the chance slip by, especially since I’m convinced Nathalia is so talented, her work is going to be out of my price range before much longer. (When the major publishers get a gander at the cover she’s done for me, I think they’re going to be beating down her door!)

The basic parameters of the cover were set by the original piece I’d been interested in. The female model would have a black dress and a top hat. The color palette would be primarily black and sepia. I turned the project over to Nathalia and waited with great impatience to see what she would come up with.

The first draft came in mid-October:

I was floored, but there were a few minor problems. First and foremost was the fact that the heroine of INCARNATE has dark hair and the cover model here is blonde. I also thought it would be nice to have something in the background that gave a sense of setting, so I suggested a recognizably London city-scape would be good. Finally, Beverley Kendall felt that the model’s face is perhaps a trifle too pale, and when I thought about it, I agreed. I sent Nathalia my list of changes and waited.

When the next version came and I opened the file, my heart literally skipped a beat.

I was stunned. Just floored. If the first version was wonderful, this was beyond my wildest dreams. It perfectly captured the mood I wanted for the book. There were just a few MINOR issues, mainly that I wanted my name to be bigger and I realized that in addition to the tagline, I needed something on the cover to indicate the book is the first in a series. I figured this would just be a matter of changing type sizes and moving some stuff around, and that the next version would look almost identical to this one.

Um, wrong. Because Nathalia upped her game AGAIN:

Can I say WOW? Just holy ZOMG WOW!

Now, of course, I’m feeling a lot of pressure to make sure the book I’m writing lives up to this amazing cover. As I mentioned up-thread, I’ve written the first 15,000 words (about 20% of the story), but I still have to complete The Lesson Plan, which is already more than a month behind schedule due to my new second career as my children’s chauffer. I’d love to be able to say I know exactly when the book will drop, but the truth is, I don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver, so I’m going to guess it’ll be no later than fall of 2012, with my fingers crossed for summer.

Wish me luck!

Now It Gets Scary

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve decided to follow the self-publishing path for a while and see where it takes me. I am currently writing The Lesson Plan, a novella (about 25,000 words, give or take) that’s related to Grace Under Fire and Taking Liberties, the two stories I sold to Spice Briefs. I’d originally pitched the idea for The Lesson Plan to my editor at Harlequin, but he chose Taking Liberties instead, and I’m rather happy about that because I’m happy to write it free of the pressure to get it in under 15,000 words. Having a little more space to play with is very freeing.

But it’s also SCARY.

When I put out The Reiver, I had literally NO expectations. I hoped to make back the cost of the cover art. That was it. Through a combination of blind luck and the fact that I picked a great cover artist, the story has now outsold anything I’ve ever published–even, I believe, combined print and digital sales of Behind the Red Door, although of course my numbers on that book’s totals are about six months out of date, so it may be closer than I think–and even managed to get me into the Top 20 in Historical Romance on Amazon for the past few days.

So, as I write this new story, I worry. Because now, I have expectations. This is, after all, a brand new, never-before-released novella. It will be several times longer than The Reiver. I paid more for the cover art (and was happy to do so, because it makes me swoony, lol), and I will be paying for professional editing as well as taking much more time with formatting and validation (simply because it’s longer and has chapter breaks, I MUST spend more time). All of this means I will have more invested upfront, which means there will be more pressure to earn it back.

But more than that, I am more emotionally invested in this story doing well than I ever was in The Reiver. That title’s sales seem like proof of concept in some ways, but what if they aren’t? What if they’re a fluke? What if the people who bought that story have no interest in The Lesson Plan and don’t buy it? What if NO ONE buys it?

Gah. /flails in self-doubt

The problem with success of any kind is that it doesn’t always breed more success. Sometimes, it just breeds a more spectacular opportunity for failure.

P.S. My target release date for The Lesson Plan is October 25. If I miss it, it’s all on me. Yikes!

My One Writing Resolution for 2011

I’m bad at New Year’s resolutions, which is why, as a rule, I don’t make them. It’s not just that I seldom KEEP my resolutions that makes me eschew them, however. It’s also that I figure if it’s a good idea to do (or not do) something, it’s just as good an idea on December 31 as it is on January 1 and why wait?

Notwithstanding, I did realize I have one goal for myself in the coming year, although I had already implemented it before the end of 2010. Quite simply, it’s this: NO NEW SHINIES. In 2011, I will allow myself to write anything that already has at least a page written, but I will not start any new manuscripts. No matter how awesome a new idea seems, no matter how tired I am of the stories I have to choose from.

The reason I’m making this pact with myself is simple: I’m a great starter and a lousy finisher. I’ve always been this way, and I’ve always known it was a tendency I’d have to struggle against. But now, with 2010 behind me and only two completed manuscripts to show for that entire year (although I wrote several hundred thousand words, I’m sure), it’s very clear to me that I have to confine myself to the books I’ve already started writing. And there are a LOT of them. I mean, A LOT. In fact, in no particular order, here is a list of manuscripts I could tackle this year if I ONLY choose from the ones I have started (not including my active WIP, a category-style romance I’m determined to have done by mid-February at the latest):

  • Single-title contemporary romance, currently at 20,000+ words
  • Middle grade mystery, currently at 16,000 words
  • Historical (Edwardian) urban fantasy, currently around 10,000 words
  • Book 1 in futuristic series, currently at 7,000 words
  • Historical (Regency) romance, currently at 8,250 words
  • “Boy” YA, currently at 5,000 words
  • Category romance, currently at 3,000 words
  • Contemporary romance novella, currently at 4,500 words
  • Short historical (Ancient Greece…yes, really) romance, currently at 2,500 words

And those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head. There are undoubtedly a dozen more at one stage or another, just waiting for me to give them my attention. Which means there is absolutely no excuse for starting anything new this year unless (and this is a caveat I don’t would love to have to employ but don’t particularly expect to) I were to finish and sell one of the books on this list, in which case, I might be obligated to write more in that vein to satisfy the contract.

So, that’s my goal for 2011. It’s simple and straightforward and I will consider it a major success if I can adhere to it. (My fingers are already itching!)

Writing Is Not My Job

I know a lot of authors who consider writing their “jobs.” I have nothing against this mindset. If it gets you to sit in your chair and put your hands on the keyboard on a regular basis, if it gets you to finish your manuscripts, if it gets you to take writing seriously, I’m all in favor of it. And for some writers, writing really is their job–after all, it’s their primary source of income.

In the past few months, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that writing is not my job and most likely never will be. A few years ago, I’ll admit that I dreamed of selling for good money and being able to quit my day job to write full-time. When I sold Behind the Red Door to Kensington, far earlier in my “career” than I ever anticipated selling anything to a New York publisher, I thought maybe I was on my way to achieving that goal. Now, not quite two years later, the possibility seems more remote than ever.

But my reason for concluding writing isn’t my job isn’t really because I haven’t made a lot of money from it. It’s also because, quite honestly, I don’t want to see writing as a job.

Here’s the thing about jobs. A job is something you do to earn money, to make a living. A job is something you’re obligated to do in exchange for a paycheck. And even if you love your job (and I do love mine), you probably wouldn’t do it if no one were willing to pay you a reasonable wage for it. I know if my employer suddenly told me they wanted me to earn my wages the way the publishing industry does–if they decide they like my work enough to buy it–I would quit. As great and rewarding as my job is, I wouldn’t keep doing it without a guarantee of remuneration.

And it’s for this very reason that writing is not a job for me. Sure, I can (and sometimes do) earn money from my writing, but remuneration isn’t the reason I write. I write because I’m driven to. Because I have to. Because if I don’t, I’m miserable.

On other words, writing isn’t a job for me. It’s an avocation. And no matter how “successful” I do or don’t become as a writer, I want it to stay that way.

Writing What You Don’t Know

I’m a little less than three thousand words into a new project, and already I’m angsting about its direction. Now, I’m always a trifle neurotic about whatever I’m writing, but usually the actual worrying about whether I’m “doing it right” waits a little longer than one chapter to settle in. The “OMG, what if this sucks?” anxiety normally sets in at around 10-15k.

I know why this is happening, though. It’s because this book ventures into territory I haven’t explored before–not just in writing, but in reading as well. I think I can say that the story revolves around vampires without revealing too much about the premise, so with that much in mind, I will admit my deep, dark secret: I don’t read vampires.

Oh, I’ve read some of the vampire classics, including the book I really think of as the definitive modern take on vampire life, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and, of course, all of Emma Petersen‘s vampire romances (because she’s my best bud, critique partner, and awesome too boot), but in general, I’ve never been that interested in the vampire genre. I’ve never read either Stephanie Meyers or Charlaine Harris nor have I seen the movies/TV series based on their books. What’s more, I don’t intend on starting now.

I just heard your gasp of horror. But Jackie, if you’re going to write a vampire book, shouldn’t you read a lot of vampire books so you know the genre?

Well, yes, there’s something to be said for that approach. In general, I write the genres I like to read. I cut my romance-reading teeth on historicals and, therefore, when I started writing them, it was natural for me to write historicals. It’s what I’m familiar with and what I love as a reader, so of course, it’s where I went.

So, why not apply the same strategy to my foray into the vampire world? Mainly because, as much as I fear that my interpretation of the vampire genre will be either too dark or not dark enough, I worry even more about having my vision influenced by other writers and therefore “diluted” in some way. I don’t want the what I hope is my vampires’ uniqueness leached out by getting commingled with too many other people’s take on them.

Which is why I’m taking the scary step of writing what I don’t know. Yes, it’s risky and a little panic-inducing, but on the whole, I think it’s the right way to approach this project.

What do you think?

Worldbuilding: How Do You Do It?

The backstory to this post is that I have what I (and everyone I’ve shared it with) think is a really cool idea for a YA novel. At this point, it’s a concept without any real plot and, even trickier, requires me to build a non-existent, paranormal world, something I haven’t really ever done before. Some of my friends have encouraged me to just start writing and let the worldbuilding and plot come as I go, but I have a hard time doing that because for me, internal logic and consistency in worldbuilding is epically important. I simply can’t write the story until I have most of the details of how the world behaves and what it looks like.

The biggest problem I’m having with this whole worldbuilding gig, though, is that I really don’t know how other writers do it, so I have no idea how to go about it myself. I’m not the sort of writer who tends to outline stories, although I do consider myself more of a plotter than a pantser when it comes to writing. It’s just that instead of outlining the story on paper (which to me feels a little too much like writing the actual story, and then I find the process of actually writing it boring and redundant), I tend to work it out in my head and hold it there. This doesn’t mean I have every scene in mind when I start out or anything as regimented as that, but it does mean I have the major turning points sorted out and know what I’m working toward at each step along the way.

Sometimes, I think my inability to outline (which I’ve had since I was a kid in school; I always wrote the term paper first, THEN wrote the outline, even if the teacher demanded the outline be handed in before the term paper) is a shortcoming because it means I sometimes get stuck. The past couple of weeks have been “stuck” weeks. Every story I’m working on reached a point where I just wasn’t sure what should happen next. I knew what plot points I had to cover, but coming up with a scene that actually covered those point without being nothing but plodding exposition was driving me crazy.

I feel a bit the same way about my worldbuilding issue. I have some broad outlines and a few details, but I have no idea how to organize them into a clear, comprehensive “picture” of the world I want to write about. So, I’m asking authors out there (especially those who’ve got experience in writing paranormal stories) how they go about it. Do you jot things down as they come to you? Write a “bible?” Or just make it up as you go along?

I know there isn’t any one “right” way to do this. But having not done it before, I’d like to know what ways have been the right ones for other people.

All the WIPs I’ve Loved Before (and Still Do)

I get asked pretty often what project I’m currently writing. It’s a hard question to answer, because I’m seldom writing just one thing. Whether it’s a good or bad thing, I’ve always got more than project cooking at any given time. When it comes to writing, I’ve realized that I’m polyamorous, and while that means I find it difficult to “commit” to any particular manuscript, it also means that when I hit a roadblock in one story, I can always switch to another one for a while. 

Here, then, in no particular order, are some bite-sized samples of all of my “active” projects:

Prohibition Era Romantic Suspense

It just figured that Mitch would be the one to get stuck arguing with a clerk over payment, freezing his fucking ass off to avoid offending a former client, and getting pushed around by a couple of thugs. All while Carter was back here, getting a taste of some damn fine pussy.

A pussy, Mitch pointed out to himself with no small amount of censure, that his partner had no business coming anywhere near, seeing as how she was a client. How was he supposed to maintain a professional distance from the woman after this?

Especially when she panted breathily, “That was amazing.”

“It most certainly was.” Mitch released the door knob and slammed it shut behind him.

Carter’s eyes met his over the redhead’s shoulder, and his lips moved silently. Mitch knew what he said, anyway.


Damn straight.

Regency-set erotic novella (m/f/m menage)

As Grace floated back to earth, her limbs weak and tingling with bliss, the only thing she could think was that someone owed her an apology for making her believe ravishment would be a bad thing. If this was being ravished, then she was all in favor of it.

Atticus brushed her curls, which were dampened with perspiration, away from her forehead and smiled down at her, a triumphant sort of joy writ upon his features.

Meanwhile, Colin extracted a kerchief from a pocket and patted her nether curls, which were far more than merely damp, gently to dry them. When he was done, he drew the same kerchief over his mouth and chin.

“Was that sufficient information, my dear?” he asked as he hoisted himself up to sit beside her once again.

Regency-set mainstream novel

A bespectacled woman sat in an armchair in front of the fire blazing in the large stone heart, reading—of all things—a newspaper. Not the scandal sheets, but the London Times. Clad in a plain pale blue frock, her hair covered in a lacy white fichu, she hadn’t seemed to hear him approach. Instead, she ran a finger down the center of the paper, nodding or shaking her head at turns.


Who was she? Surely not a close relative or friend of Lord and Lady Parminter, based on the simplicity of her dress. Since she was staring down at the paper, he couldn’t make out her features, but given the spectacles, he imagined she must be roughly his soon-to-be mother-in-law’s age. Likely a spinster cousin who had passed through her youth with neither dowry nor good looks to recommend her. Although, he had to admit as his gaze swept her figure, she possessed a rather fine pair of breasts for a woman who was getting on in years.

His stomach interrupted his thoughts with an unpleasant, empty roll, and it occurred to him that perhaps she had become so engaged in her study that she had forgotten about breakfast. And if he offered to accompany her to the dining room, he wouldn’t have to make a fool of himself by asking directions.

He cleared his throat, loud enough to ensure she heard him but not so loud as to be vulgar.

She looked up, removing the spectacles as she did so.

For ten full seconds, every one of Robert’s major bodily functions ceased operation. His lungs seized. His heart stopped. His mind went blank. Even his stomach ceased its incessant grumbling.

She definitely wasn’t old. And, God knew, she had more than enough good looks to recommend her, though it was her eyes that arrested him more than any other feature. Dark blue gray, they were the color of clouds before a storm. Fringed with thick, smoky lashes, their depths sparkled with pure intelligence and utter guilelessness. Whether or not it was empirically true, he was looking into the face of the most beautiful woman on earth.

A woman he had to have.

…and for something completely different:

Middle grade paranormal mystery

Brooke Forrester’s thirteenth birthday began like pretty much any other day. Which was to say, crappy.

She overslept, which meant skipping either breakfast or a shower to catch the bus.

Her younger brother, Garrett, who didn’t have to be at school until a full hour after she did, raced into the bathroom ahead of her and slammed the door in her face, then hogged it for a full fifteen minutes.

And when she finally got in to brush her teeth and hair, she found a ginormous zit growing in the middle of her forehead. By lunchtime, it would be the size of a Hummer and just about as environmentally friendly.

No one said “Happy Birthday” to her, not even her mother, who’d only pecked Brooke on the cheek before dashing out the door, muttering about a meeting she couldn’t be late for.

Brooke made it down to the kitchen just in time to grab a bagel and say goodbye to her dog before running to the bus stop.

As usual, the shaggy, brown-and-white mutt was waiting outside the front door for her, wagging his tail. When she walked out onto the front porch, he jumped up, resting his two front paws on her thighs.

Brooke scratched him behind his pointy ears. “At least you still love me, Mr. Pettybones.”

The dog looked up to her with soulful brown eyes and said, “I do love you, but from now on, I want you to call me ‘Jim’.”

So, any favorites from among those options? Which one do you hanker most to read?

Also, I’m going to be up in Yosemite from this afternoon until Tuesday night. I’ve turned off comment moderation while I’m gone, so play nice!

Finally, my interview with author Leigh Court, who is giving away a copy of the Secrets Volune 27 anthology in which her latest novella, THE BET, appears, will be up early Tuesday. I won’t be here to tweet or facebook it, so please be sure to remember to drop by!