My Heroes by Lynn Lorenz

I love the military. Grew up all around them in my family. My grandfather served in WWI and WWII, due to lying about his age to get a job with the railroad. He was born in the country where they didn’t hand out birth certificates in the 1890’s, his actual date of birth was a long argued point for years. My father joined the Navy and served in WWII. My uncle-in-law was air force, and so were his two sons.

I grew up visiting Eglin AFB in Florida during the summers, to hang with my aunt and uncle and my cousins and remember going to the PX and the on base movie theater. They lived in on-base housing, but it was a nice townhouse. I was always amazed when my aunt would drive through the gates and the soldiers would salute her. I didn’t realize at the time my uncle was one of the highest ranked non-commissioned officers on base. He trained fighter pilots during Vietnam. They lived in Okinawa for several years and we threw a huge seafood boil when they came back to the states.

All of these military men in my life were men I looked up to – my heroes. And like many of those men who served in WWI and WWII, they never really talked about it. But my paw-paw was big in the VFW, and I grew up knowing all about the organization. They have a soft space in my heart, and it’s one of the charities that I support.

So it’s no wonder I love to write about military men, either as Lynn Lorenz or as Theodora Lane.

ItTakesAHero_200
One of my first military books was It Takes a Hero, about a soldier wounded in Iraq. He loses half his leg and has to deal with it once he’s stateside. Here’s a brief exerpt…
I placed another unanswered call to George. I worried he hadn’t gotten the news about me, that he was still in Mosul wondering where the hell I was, or if I’d bugged out and left him there to sweat out the hot nights alone.
Then, I worried he was lying injured in some field hospital. Or dead.
Or horribly wounded, just down the hall from me.
Drugs make you have terrible dreams, you know.
I dreamed it was George, not Quint, that I’d pulled from the street. That I’d turn him over and he was dead. Glazed blue eyes staring up at me.
That he and I kept missing each other as we pushed our wheelchairs down the corridor. I’d just glimpse his close-cropped blond hair as he turned a corner. Pushing hard, I’d reach the corner, only the hall would be empty.
Every night, I woke up in a cold sweat.
But I never dreamed about my leg. Funny, huh?
And every night after waking up drenched, I cursed God. I’d never been what you call churchgoing, but I did believe. Out here in the desert, with the bullets flying, you find God real damn fast.
I’d found Him on my first mission patrolling the streets.
I lost Him lying in that bed.
* * * * *
Five days before I was going to be sent stateside, George walked into my room.
I’d been staring at the place where my foot should have been when I heard his cough.
He lingered in the doorway, as if amputation were contagious. For a moment, I thought he would bolt, then he stepped in. God, he looked so good. Alive and healthy, his all-American good looks made even more handsome by his uniform, but I’d always been a sucker for a man in uniform.
“Got here as soon as I could.” He fidgeted with his hat, his eyes locked on the part of me that was missing.
“I’ve been calling you.” Shit. Where had I picked up that pathetic whine?
He shrugged. Swallowed. Still didn’t look me in the face.
“Tony, I’m so sorry,” he whispered.
I wanted to ask him about what. That he hadn’t bothered to call me after I’d left a message every day for two weeks? That I’d lost my leg? That he was leaving me?
“I’m so sorry,” he repeated.
“You said that.” I held my voice steady.
Seems that was all he had to say.
At last, his eyes met mine and I saw his terror. His fear. His repulsion.
Oh yeah, it was over.
Hell, he’d never said he loved me. I’d never said it to him, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I’d hoped he felt something for me. Felt I was more than a fuck buddy, just a warm body to pass the time with in the desert.
He looked back at my leg. Did he see himself pushing me around in that damned wheelchair, or the horror of having to touch the stump hidden under the sheets?
He reached out and touched my arm.
That was all the good-bye I got. He turned and left.
All the way to Germany just to dump me. At least, I lied to myself, I meant enough to him to do it in person.
I couldn’t blame him. Who wanted to be saddled with a cripple?
He had his career. We both did. Or I had. Twelve years into my thirty, I’d planned to retire at fifty-five, full pension, full medical, and start a new life still relatively young.
Instead, my career was over.
Still, I got the full medical.

In Pacific Nights, I wanted to write about WWII. It was an era that I’d grown up hearing about, watching movies of it, and hearing and dancing to the music. So of course, I wanted to do my own gay version of South Pacific, where two men are plunked down on a island to watch the enemy.

Here’s a bit of that story… (Sorry no cover yet. It’s between publishers)
“Change of plans. We’re jumping.”
“Jumping? What? Where’s the ship? I thought we were going to land and take a boat to the island?” He sat up and rubbed his eyes under his spectacles.
“Didn’t I just say change of plans?” Mike swore. “The landing strip is under fire. We have to jump from here.”
Hamilton struggled to his feet and caught his balance as the plane pitched and rolled. “How?”
“Parachutes. Jesus, I thought they said you were a fucking genius.” He guffawed and tossed the harness and the canvas chute bag at Hamilton, nearly knocking him down. “Put these on, Einstein.”
Hamilton stared at it. Then he shrugged on the harness and adjusted it around his legs. “How does it work?” The thing hung on him, unbuckled, almost too big for his slim frame.
Mike stared at him. From the scene the man had made in Masker’s office when he’d been told Mike would be on the mission with him, Mike knew he’d be trouble. The professor had taken one look at Mike and refused him, as if he’d had a choice. For Mike’s part, he didn’t like the idea any more than Hamilton. The professor had that air about him, as if everyone else was a lowlife, and being a lowlife himself, it ate at Mike.
He might be a lowlife, but he was the lowlife who was going to keep Hamilton alive on that island.
Mike stepped closer and fastened the chute to the harness. He touched the first pull. “Here’s the major chute rip cord. Once you’re out the door, count to five, then pull it. If it fails”—he looked up and caught Hamilton’s light blue eyes staring back at him—“pull this one.” He put his hand on the reserve cord. “It’s the emergency chute.”
Those eyes took him in with such intensity he had to look away, just like Hamilton had stared at him across Masker’s desk. That assessing look unsettled Mike.
“Got it. Count to five and pull.” Hamilton nodded. “When?”
“Coming into position!” the navigator shouted from the cockpit.
“About now.” Mike told Hamilton.
Fear flashed in the professor’s eyes, then his gaze darted to the still-closed door.
“Don’t worry. I’ve done this loads of times. You’ll be fine.” Why he felt he had to reassure the professor was beyond him, but what did it hurt? Still, if it had been anyone else, he’d have kicked his ass right out the fucking cargo bay door.
“Right.” Hamilton straightened and gave Mike a sharp nod.
Mike turned and waved at the private to stand ready. The kid pushed the first crate into position. Mike threw back the lever and pushed the door open. Wind rushed through the cargo hold, loose papers flew, and the noise made his eardrums ache.
“Ready!” Mike watched the cockpit for the signal.
The navigator leaned back, listening for the mark, and shot his thumb up.
“Crate one away!” Mike shouted.
The kid pushed it out the door, and the crate disappeared into the darkness, the tether ran out, then snapped back, opening the chute. He caught it and hooked it to the next one with swift efficiency.
“Crate two away!”
The second crate fell, and the private hooked up the last one.
“Crate three away!”
The last crate had disappeared into the blackness, and Mike turned to the professor. “You’re next.” He grinned around his cigar. He wanted to see what the guy was made of, and if anything showed a man’s mettle, it would be jumping out of a plane in the dark over a small, uncharted island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
The professor removed his glasses, folded them, and placed them in a pocket of his jacket, pulled on his helmet, then moved into the opening, his hands gripping the metal frame of the door.
“On my mark, Professor.”
“Call me James.” Mike could barely hear the words over the roar of the wind and the engines.
Braced against the wall of the plane, Mike glanced at the cockpit. The navigator and the pilot were working on something. As they conversed, he waited with one hand on Hamilton’s shoulder. The heat of the man’s body came through the drab green shirt and flak jacket. Ropelike muscles flexed beneath Mike’s hand, and he felt the rapid rise and fall of Hamilton’s chest. Mike wanted to pull away but kept his hand in place.
The plane tilted as it made a slow curve around for the second pass. The night whipped by outside the cabin. There was a half-moon, enough light to see by, but not bright enough to be dangerous. Not like the deadly spotlight of a full moon, thank God.
If they made it to the ground alive, everything should be fine. If there were still no Japs on the island. If they weren’t patrolling the waters. If they hadn’t heard the plane.
Too many goddamn ifs.
The navigator turned back to Mike and put his thumb up.
“Now!” Mike pushed, but the professor didn’t go; his white-knuckled grip on the edge of the door held him back.
“Let go! Jump!” He pushed again, but the guy didn’t budge.
“I can’t!” Hamilton’s pale eyes met Mike’s dark gaze and Mike read the fear and the trust in them.
“We’ll go together.”
The professor nodded. Mike stepped up beside him. “On my mark at three.”
“One. Two. Three.”
Both men stepped out of the plane and into the night.

And I have a new m/f series I’m finishing the first book on, about a band of ex-special forces guys who do rescues. But I also have a space military story The Ambassador’s Daughter with a heroine whose family has a long history of soldiers and who is an former Earth Marine. She can kick ass if she needs to, but fitting in is difficult on her new world.

The_Ambassadors_Daughter-Theodora_Lane-200x320Here’s the scene where her father explains her heritage to her prospective in-laws….
At this, Lady Diane gave a small soft snort. Jonathan slowly brought his gaze to her and spoke softly. “Do you have something to say, Lady Diane?”
She raised her chin and glared at him. “Indeed I do, Ambassador. You may be sure my son is a match for your daughter, but I’m not sure the opposite is true. I had hopes Stephen would find a more…traditional woman to marry.”
“When you say ‘traditional,’ you mean, from here on New Commonwealth?”
“Yes. He may be swayed by your daughter’s exotic ways, but in the long run, I wonder if she will fit in here on New Commonwealth.” She smiled, but her blue eyes were steely.
Brett frowned and looked at Stephen. He stared open-mouthed at his mother.
The duke still sat back, his chin now resting on his fist, taking in the scene.
“If I know my daughter, fitting in will be the least of your worries. Brett doesn’t ‘fit in’, she leads, madam.” Jonathan leaned back in his seat.
“She may lead on Old Earth, but here, the women follow what society dictates. Miss Butler may find herself fighting a battle she can never win.” Jonathan locked his eyes on Lady Diane and exhaled. Her eyes were so blue. He hadn’t noticed before. He blinked and then leaned forward to make a point.
“Lady Brandon, let us concede that will be something Brett will have to deal with herself. Hopefully, with your guidance, she will find it an easier time than you suppose?”
“There was also the hope that Stephen would find someone with impeccable bloodlines.” Diane again stared at Jonathan; her gaze never went to Brett.
“Madam, if you are implying Brett’s bloodline is less than any woman on New Commonwealth, you are very much mistaken.” Jonathan’s voice dropped as he sat up straight and placed both hands on the table.
“Am I, Ambassador? Just because you were rewarded for your military deeds I can’t assume that your bloodlines are of the right quality.” She placed her chin on her hand, elbow on the table, and waited for his rebuttal, as if enjoying sparring with him. Her lips curved up in a slight smile.
Jonathan took a deep breath, held it, and then slowly let it out. God, the woman is infuriating. She needs to be either spanked or…kissed. Maybe both.
He spoke slowly, and his voice was very soft. “Madam, Brett can trace her lineage back to Colonial America, to the 1700s. She is a registered member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and a Daughter of the Confederacy. Her forbearers fought in the Spanish American War, in World War I, lived through the attack on Pearl Harbor, and died on the beach at Normandy in World War II. They fought in Korea, Vietnam, and in the Gulf Wars. She has great-grandfathers on both sides that fought in the First Interstellar War. Her bloodlines are without question, madam.” He finished with a sharp nod to Lady Brandon.
Softly, Brett added, “And her father led the Old Earth space fleet to victory and was injured in the line of duty ten years ago against the Ottoman jihad.” She smiled at Jonathan lovingly. He reached out and touched her hand where it lay on the table next to his.
“And Brett served for six years with honor, earning the rank of major.” He finished with a squeeze of her hand. “Look where you will, Lady Brandon, you will find no one better.” His gaze fell back on Lady Diane. Hopefully, she’d listened to the litany of Brett’s bloodline and realized that as much as Lady Diane was of royal blood here on New Commonwealth, bought and paid for by her forefathers’ money several hundred years ago, Brett was a type of royal blood on Old Earth bought and paid for by her ancestors’ lives.
“Ambassador Butler, in the old days, a young woman came with a dowry. It was expected that she would bring certain assets to the marriage. Nowadays, we don’t practice that anymore, I’m afraid. However, I wonder just what Brett will bring to this marriage?” Lady Diane sat back and waited for his reaction.
“Dowry, eh?” Jonathan rubbed his chin. “Well, there’s the ranch in the hill country, that’s twenty-five thousand acres, her mother’s homestead, and four thousand head of prime Black Angus cattle; all her mother’s jewels, which she is already in possession of, although she rarely wears them. The income from the ranch, of course, is yours also, Brett. Last time the accountants ran the estimates of fair market value, it was,” he paused, closed his eyes, and tallied it up in his head, “just over fifteen and a half million North American dollars. Is that dowry enough?” He tilted his head at Lady Diane and frowned.

So yeah, love the military. They are my heroes. Back in the day, very few women served, but I sure respected those wives like my aunt and my grandmother who stayed home, worked, raised kids, made meager pay stretch, and waited for their men to come home, one way or the other. God, that’s some kick-assery, for sure.

Memorial Day is just a day off work to some, but for my and my family, it’s a way to honor and show respect to those living and dead, who have served and do serve our country.

Who are your heroes?

Tami Lund and Making Summer Plans

It’s that time of year. The school year is winding down, parents and children are preparing for summer.

Last week, we should have been at a seventh grade band concert. My son played trumpet, was fourth chair. He aspired to move higher, yet at the same time acknowledged the three in front of him were, “Really good.”

He should have been prepping for finals now. We would have been waiting on word from the school—what would they do with the seventh graders who were in eighth grade algebra this year? Will they teach geometry at the middle school, or will they bus the kids to the high school? I had been so proud and impressed with his math skills. Oh what he could have done with his life…

I wonder if he would have wanted to attend the eighth grade graduation? He had a few friends who were eighth graders. Would he have wanted to be part of that celebration? It would have made for a busy second week of June, because my daughter is “graduating” from elementary school, as well. There’s something going on nearly every day that week, it seems. I suppose it’s a bit easier only having to manage one kid’s schedule.

Not that I wouldn’t change that situation in a heartbeat, if given the chance.

I wonder how the summer would have gone. We were still hem-hawing over whether to leave the two kids home alone while we were at work. He was responsible enough—to a point. The biggest problem would have been the lake at the end of our road and the temptation to hang out there all day, every day. The idea makes me nervous without an adult chaperone, even if he would have been nearly fourteen years old.

Now we have to figure out summer childcare… again. It’s such an annoying process when your kids are on the verge of not needing it, yet aren’t quite there. And it’s made worse when something devastating happens and suddenly you can’t imagine ever letting your child be alone, ever, for the rest of her life. She’s all I have left, after all.

Normally, I look forward to summer with all the excitement and anticipation of a child, but this year I almost dread it. In July we are laying his ashes to rest. A few days later will be Independence Day, arguably his favorite holiday of all. Oh how that kid loved his fireworks. So much so that we had a picture of one engraved on his headstone.

A few weeks later, we will embark on our annual weeklong summer vacation, when we join my siblings and their families and my father and we all rent a place on a lake and we just… hang out. Together. My son always loved this vacation; it was one of the few times I think he was truly at peace. One of my favorite pictures of him is from last summer. He was lying in a hammock next to the lake, a can of Coke in his hand, a pleasant smile on his face. It will be strange spending that time without him. I really hope we do not all wallow in the sadness of his absence.

Creating new memories from traditional moments is the hardest thing of all, I think. Entirely new experiences are easy; there is nothing to base anything on, nothing to do but enjoy it. A few weekends ago, my new, smaller family unit took an impromptu trip to Florida.

(Note to Midwesterners: May is the time to go to Florida. Plane tickets are crazy cheap.)

It wasn’t until we returned home to Detroit that I realized I had hardly thought of him at all that weekend, and I hadn’t cried once. That’s because there were no reminders, nothing to associate with him. Everything was about the three of us, discovering a new vacation spot, carving brand new memories.

Of course that all changed the moment we pulled into the driveway and I saw the wind chimes we had been given as a memorial gift, his bike on the back porch. I walked inside and the first thing I noticed were all the pictures. His closed bedroom door at the end of the hall. The kitchen, the living room, the basement—it’s all the same. None of it has changed since he changed my life so explicitly ten weeks ago.

And yet, everything is different.

I had a momentary urge to go through the house and collect all the pictures, all the mementos, and store them away somewhere. Just so I would not be reminded every moment of every day. It had been so refreshing, for those few precious days we were in Florida, to not have him, what he did, control my life, my emotions, my actions.

Although, in truth, what happened did control my actions when we booked that trip. We never would have randomly flown to Florida with two weeks’ notice if our family had still been intact. There would have undoubtedly been something going on, and besides, we wouldn’t have been able to afford it, even with ridiculously cheap airfare. It would never have occurred to us. Oh how life has changed.

So I didn’t put the pictures away. I left the mementos hanging on the wall, sitting on my windowsill. And I sat outside on the porch and listened to the wind chimes, gently tinkling in the breeze. And yes, I wished things were different. I do that every day, a thousand times a day.

And then, when my wine glass was empty, I stood up and went inside and started dinner.

Because time marches on, and for the living, so does life.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, and is using blogging as therapy while trying to figure out how to live life after the tragic death of her teenage son. When she isn’t doing that, she’s writing happily ever afters, which can be found on her website, www.tamilund.com.

 

Food Disasters with Sara Daniel

SaraDaniel_headshot_9-2012_cropped - smallIf my life were a reality show, Food Disasters would be the title. My specialty is making things go wrong. Generally, I screw up the usual things—leaving garlic bread in the oven until it’s black, forgetting a pan of milk on the stove until it turns a weird yellow color and the bottom of the pan is beyond cleaning, leaving eggs boiling for so long that all the water dries up. Most of those oops moments happen because I’m writing or editing or setting up (ah-hem) blog posts. I lose track of time and forget I have something going on in the kitchen.

But not all my disasters end up charred. A couple months ago, I thought I had a lovely dish of salmon cooking in the oven. When I went to take it out, I discovered I had a lovely dish of raw salmon sitting  on the counter. This, of course, happened on a day when we needed to eat and run off to evening activities.

I can even manage to mess up my favorites. You can read here about my adventures in accidentally substituting watermelon-flavored candies instead of peppermints on candy cane cookies one unforgettable Christmas.

A month ago, I took my food disaster ability to a new level. We were having a party—big enough where we had to rent a room in a public building. We could bring food in, but there were no kitchen facilities available. Folks, I was insanely organized. I scooped out the stores. I made spreadsheets and pages of plans. I checked out serving amounts and made sure I had enough food for 100 people. I certainly did. I had so much that I overflowed my aluminum trays.

SaraDaniel_TheBadBoysGift_200Let me tell you, Italian beef smells really good the day you spill it in your minivan. It doesn’t even smell too bad the next morning. But then the car sits out in the hot sun, and that delicious gravy seeps through the carpeting in your trunk and settles in for the long, smelly haul.

After a month, two rounds of steam cleaning, an extra-large box of baking soda, a jug of vinegar, and “fresh linen” scented vent-clips haven’t made a dent in the nasty smell. I pleaded on Facebook for ideas. The only one I haven’t tried is the suggestion to trade the car in.  I’m headed out in a few minutes to try a third round of steam cleaning, and after that, I believe the next plan might be to embrace the stench, love the stench.

In happier news, The Bad Boy’s Gift is still free on all e-retailers. Pick up your copy today and enjoy. Hopefully, the bad boy’s gift to me will be a new Italian-beef-free car. Hey, a girl’s got to have her fantasies!!

Buy Links:
Amazon
All Romance eBooks
iBooks
Kobo
Google Play
Barnes & Noble
Want a bad boy 2

 

New Release by Emilia Mancini

Yes, I know. It’s about damn time I had a new release with Emilia Mancini on it rather than that pesky sweet contemporary side of me. This isn’t exactly a new release, but close enough we’re going with that. Eyes of the Wolf was part of an anthology, but now I’m releasing it as a short story, so, yup, we’re going with new release.

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And I know just what you want…

Blurb:

Private detective Jake McDonnell has been hired to make sure Maria Rodriguez isn’t involved in illegal activities. He’s certain she’s on the up and up until he catches her heading to the seedier side of town. He follows, curious why she’d be walking into a dimly lit warehouse. What he discovers will leave his senses reeling and his body aching.

eyes of the wolf_coverAnd your R-rated Excerpt for Eyes of the Wolf:

As much as I didn’t want to believe Maria was involved in illegal activities, good, honest people didn’t hang out in the warehouse district on Friday night.

I sat in the car watching her walk through what could easily pass as the worst part of town to a door that didn’t even have proper hinges or a knob. She knocked. The thin piece of metal scraped the ground as it opened. She spoke to a man in a suit and tie, then disappeared inside.

I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel debating. She’d tell her mother to fire me if I tried to follow her. But, hell, I’d be out of a job anyway if she were murdered by gang members. Driving into the shadows, I parked and rushed to the door.

The metal sheet scraped open at the sound of my knock and a man looked me over. “Password?”

Password?

“Uh,” I stuttered out. “I don’t…I don’t know.”

He jerked his head toward the darkness behind me, silently telling me to get lost.

I pulled my wallet out, and he chuckled. “You don’t have enough in there to get by me. Get outta here.”

As the door closed, I tried to get a glimpse inside but the only thing I could see was black cloth blocking the view inside the warehouse.

Fuck.

Maria was safe. At least I knew that. She was inside a secure building with a guy the size of a sumo wrestler blocking the door. Nobody was getting in that shouldn’t. That was only mildly comforting considering I had no idea who could get in.

Now that I knew she was in a secure location, I told myself to return to the car and wait for her. But if I didn’t have a clear report for Mrs. Rodriguez on what her daughter was up to—especially now that I had my doubts about Maria’s actions—I had a feeling the woman would have my balls in a jar.

Stuffing my hands in my pockets, I walked away casually, but the moment I neared the corner of the building, I glanced back. No one was in sight, so I rounded into the dark-as-fuck alley and pulled my keys from the pocket. The flashlight attached to my keyring was small, but efficient enough to keep me from tripping over discarded bottles and cans. I flashed the light over the side of the building as I went. Not a single damned window.

I was about to give up when a door farther down the alley opened. A guy came stumbling out and lit a cigarette. The lighter illuminated the mask covering the top half of his face. I was thrown for a moment, not expecting that, but then a woman came out of the door and threw herself at his back. She didn’t close the door behind her, letting light stream into the dimly lit passage.

I stood, motionless, not wanting to get caught. As I watched, the woman—also wearing a mask that hid the top of her face—pushed the man to the wall and dropped to her knees in front of him.

Holy shit.

His pants were down in a flash, and his cock was in her mouth even faster. He stuck on hand into her hair as he smoked with the other. After a few moments, he tossed the cigarette aside and used both hands to hold her head as he fucked her mouth. He pumped in and out so hard I was afraid he was going to hurt the woman, but she didn’t seem to mind. When he started to pull away, she gripped his hips and drove his prick down her throat again.

Sweet Jesus, I can’t remember the last time I got a blowjob like that. My dick twitched in my pants, reminding me that it’d been far too long.

The next time he pulled from the woman, she let him, but only because he yanked her to her feet, shoved her against the wall, and pushed her skirt up. The light streaming out of the open door revealed that the woman wasn’t wearing panties. The man gripped her hips, much like she’d done to him, and rammed himself inside her without so much as a gentle nudge. She grunted, groaned, moaned, and he pounded and called her whore, bitch, and a few other unflattering terms that she seemed to be getting off on.

I debated, only a moment longer, before easing toward them. While they were distracted with their dark-alley mating ritual, I slipped inside the open door to a room where masked people were preparing food. I couldn’t call it a kitchen because it wasn’t one. There were tables—prep stations—but not a kitchen. And the people there weren’t cooks. They were putting premade finger foods on trays and opening bottles of booze, refilling glasses, and hurriedly filing in and out of the room.

“Sir,” someone called with a thick accent that I couldn’t place.

My heart skipped a few beats. Busted.

I turned to face him. He, too, was wearing a mask. What the fuck? He waved his hand in front of his face, but he didn’t look at me. I didn’t understand what he meant until he glanced up, then quickly looked away again.

“You’re not supposed to take your mask off, sir.”

Oh. “I, uh… The string broke. I tried to fix it, but…”

He nodded toward the corner. “Take one of ours. We have extras.”

Even the waitstaff wore masks? I snagged one from the pile. It wasn’t nearly as extravagant as the couple in the alley, but it was apparently enough. I slid the cheap plastic mold on and nodded my thanks before walking by the tables. I followed a masked waitress out and stopped in my tracks.

Well-dressed women and men, some in suits like Ms. Rodriguez had been, others in evening gowns and tuxes, and some in more casual attire like the two in the alley, were mingling. All were in masks, all drinking, eating finger foods, and acting as casual and comfortable.

That wasn’t what shocked me. What shocked me was that intermingling with the well-dressed and masked partygoers were naked men and woman, some standing around talking, some being fondled, some outright fucking on tables and chairs and against walls. And no one seemed to be bothered in the least.

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And sometimes Holley writes sci-fi romance.

Deep Space Banner

©Nikki Zalewski – Adobe Stock

I have a secret identity. Sort of.

I mean, it’s not really a secret so much as…obscure right now. It’ll be less obscure in the next month or so. I hope.

I spun off the pen name H.E. Trent because sometimes I want to write books that don’t fit my established style and tone. Also, sometimes I want to write books that don’t have an  established percentage of romantic content in them. Sometimes, I need there be as much pain and suffering as there is love.

So.

Starting in August, I’m rolling out a new series called The Jekh Saga. It’s set in the near-future on a colony of Earth called Jekh…and suffice it to say, all isn’t well. Space is the new [corporate] Wild West, and it’s dog-eat-dog on the frontier.

The series is a little more political than my typical fare, a little darker, and a little more episodic. So, while each [long] book will contain a full romance, it’ll also have a bunch of other stuff happening that won’t necessarily resolve quickly. The first three books will all be out by December, because I know how infuriating having to wait for series installments is.

Sorry to be vague! In the coming weeks, though, I’ll be telling you more about Jekh and the headstrong, meddling McGarry siblings who end up there. I’m excited to be heading in a newer, more noir direction, and I hope a few of you hop on for the ride!

(And don’t worry – I’ll still have plenty of Holley stories coming out, too. After all, variety is the spice of life.)

Celebrating My Birthday

Birthday-Cake-Pictures-with-Candles-500x428I’m celebrating my birthday all this week…and even got in a few days last week.

Why? Because if I don’t celebrate it, no one will.

I’ve had enough birthdays to create a bonfire atop any cake which means I’ve learned a few things.

  1. If I make a big deal about the number of years I’ve stayed alive on this earth, so will everyone around me.
  2. People like to celebrate the birthdays of others. I will always be thankful all my family got together to celebrate my parents’ 80th birthdays. (They were only a few weeks apart.)  We lost my Mom before she saw her 81st.
  3. We’re taught from day we reach that magical 1 year that birthdays are a good reason to have a party….and the bigger the number, the bigger the party.
  4. bday giftsBirthdays usually mean presents and who doesn’t like free stuff?
  5. I’ve also learned it’s much better to ask for what you really want. Left to the imagination of others, you’d be surprised (and not in a good way) what some people will buy you for your birthday.
  6. At some point, your own birthday means less to you that it once did. I’ve actually forgotten it was my birthday or how many years old I was. That happened when I was more concerned about keeping my children alive and celebrating each year that I didn’t break them. (I’m still looking for that damned instruction book they supposedly came with!)
  7. At some point in your life, you will lie about your age. When I was 14 I had an ID that claimed I was 18, the drinking age in NY at the time. I actually looked older at 14 than I did at 20. (Bet you thought I was talking about the other end of that timeline!)
  8. I’ve never had a surprise party but I’ve hosted plenty of them. Now would not be a good time to throw me one, though. I’d either croak from a heart attack or start shooting people. (Uh, gun girl here.)
  9. You’re never too old to start a new career. I was over fifty before I read my first romance novel and wrote my first one at fifty-five. I have career goals for sixty that I intend to meet in the next year!
  10. The larger the number, the more parts of your body fall apart. Thus my hip replacement scheduled for July. But I’ve decided I “earned” that new hip. I started roller skating at three years old, skiing at about eight years old, horseback riding at ten, modern dance classes in high school, Navy PT in college,  and taught aerobics for years, high impact my favorite. I guarantee I’ve fallen on my ass more times than I could ever remember, sprained that ankle at least once a year and tore up the knee on that side several years ago.

I’ve lived my life. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to stop living life to the fullest possible. (Did you catch that last qualifier?)

Now I want to hear about a memorable birthday in your life. 

One last thing I’ve learned, it’s just as nice to give at your birthday as it is to receive…so I’ve put my books on sale!

Sale banner layers copy

 

 

Craving with USA-Today Best-seller, Helen Hardt

These days, it can be hard to know what to read. There are so many books out there, millions published every year, and discovering new favorites takes time and energy. Reader events, Goodreads, blogs, the best-seller lists–these are places I go to read long excerpt, reviews, and really get to know an author’s style and genre before I one-click myself through an entire series, or before I fill my bag with paperbacks (and the occasional hardcover!)

I was in a fantastic bookstore the other day in the Los Angeles-area called The Ripped Bodice.  The store is dedicated to romance–so many genres, so many authors. Whether indie-pubbed or traditionally published, I loved exploring new authors and of course finding some of my favorites, like Helen Hardt.

RippedBodice

The Ripped Bodice, Culver City, California

And wouldn’t you know it… Helen’s latest release, Craving, Book 1 in the Steel Brothers Saga, hit the USA Today Best-seller list.  Not surprising! Helen’s hot heroes and passionate heroines are… well, check just some of her reviews out:

 

“Hardt delivers a brand-new series with rugged cowboys and scintillating sex. Talon and Jade’s instant chemistry heats up the pages…”
-~RT Book Reviews
“This book is so raw and addictive! Hands down my new favorite series this year.”
-~ Meredith Wild, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
“Ms. Hardt weaves magic with her keyboard and what remains is a beautifully written first installment about two people who are broken but not destroyed… How Hardt weaves the past with the present, while keeping the reader guessing about the secrets the brothers barricade from others, is flawless.”
-~Heroes & Heartbreakers

 

Enjoy an exclusive excerpt from Craving here: Excerpt from Helen Hardt’s Craving, Book 1 Steel Brothers

Blurb:

After being left at the altar, Jade Roberts seeks solace at her best friend’s ranch on the Colorado western slope. Her humiliation still ripe, she doesn’t expect to be attracted to her friend’s reticent brother, but when the gorgeous cowboy kisses her, all bets are off.

Talon Steel is broken. Having never fully healed from a horrific childhood trauma, he simply exists, taking from women what is offered and giving nothing in return…until Jade Roberts catapults into his life. She is beautiful, sweet, and giving, and his desire for her becomes a craving he fears he’ll never be able to satisfy.

Passion sizzles between the two lovers…but long-buried secrets haunt them both and may eventually tear them apart.

 

craving cover

 

Craving buy links:
Helen Hardt
Please join me in congratulating Helen on hitting the USA-Today best-seller list! And then excuse me, I’ve got some reading to finish…

Things I Probably Shouldn’t Say by Lynn Lorenz

I’m too tired for this. Most days I give no fucks.
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Ten years ago, no one knew anything about authors. Maybe if you were big enough, you went on a morning news show. But readers contact you? Nope. Much less every day, or once a week, or have an email you could write to, or a FB author page you could ask questions on. It was sort of nice, I think, having that privacy, that anonymity.

Nowadays, we expect authors to be at our beck and call – doing the promo wild thang – making sure readers knew us, our cats/dogs/kids, and could chat about our upcoming books and the hot guys from the last book, and not just on promo loops or FB party days, but All The Time.
writer distracted by internet

And that’s fine – for those of us who want to do that. I’m out there, and frankly before FB, I had much more interaction that mattered through email. I’m not talking about likes, or reactions on posts that most of my friends don’t ever see. I mean the fan/reader emails about my books. I had tons of reviews, most of which have been deleted from Amazon recently. I have hundreds of those love letters saved, but around 2-3 yrs ago, they sort of dried up. As FB rose in prominence as the way to contact authors, emails (for me) waned. I still get a few, but not like I did from 2008-20012 or so. And I loved getting them. So much I saved them.
got mail

Mostly because there were only a few writers who wrote gay romance. People got to know us by email. And we knew each other, because the writing community was so small. Not so much now. You might think it’s small, but trust me, there are dozens and dozens of authors whose names I don’t know, have never heard of them or they heard of me. It’s like it reached critical mass and exploded. And that’s okay. Don’t we say, there’s room for all of us?

Look, just because an author doesn’t want to maintain a place where readers have instant access to them, and believe me, FB and promo eat up a huge amount of our time, is no reason to think something nefarious is going on. It might be. But then again, it probably isn’t. A lot of writers are not social creatures. A lot of interaction really bothers them – they shut down, turn off, and for some it fucks with their creativity and writing.
vamp

My way of dealing with the push and pull of “promo/put myself out there,” is that I’m thinking of hiring a PA just to deal with some promo/contests/etc, because I’m swamped with it and have little time to actually write. (anyone have a suggestion for someone who wants to intern for no/little money, let me know.)

I’m here for the writing. The stories. The characters and their heartbreaks. Their HEA. And I do love to talk to readers. I could talk for days about books and romance and how and why I write.

But if someone, or several someones, decide to write the books with a team of people to help them, so what? It’s one way. Personally, I could never give up control of my books. Ever. That’s why I don’t write with a partner. It’s mine! Gimme! Don’t touch the precious!
myprecious

When I was writing like a dynamo, I was doing a novella a month, a novel in three months, but it was with publishers, and subject to their control of edits, formatting and publication. I wrote 40 books from 2008-2015, but I had at least 8 more books sitting in files that I haven’t even touched. I’ve self pubbed a few books, and let me tell you, if you’ve got that book written and edited, it takes little to format and upload. But it does take time. Cover art can be done in a few days. And that takes money. So, time and money.

That being said, if a group of people decide to work together to put out a book out under one name, I don’t care. But readers might, especially if they find the writing is inconsistent or there is shoddy editing. They might complain, but they have the right not to buy any more of those books. No one is forcing them to buy. There is Amazon Sample, after all. Just sample it, if it’s not up to par, don’t buy it. Personally, I never buy books without sampling and it’s saved me a ton of money. (This excludes my very small list of authors I’d buy sample unseen.)

You might not know it, but a lot of big name writers in mainstream fiction write a first draft and then turn it over to their publisher, who has it edited, and fleshed out. It’s a thing. So, to me, it sounds like a writer created her own personal publishing company, each person takes a different role, she writes, someone edits, someone may flesh it out, a formatter, a cover artist, etc. Voila, book!

And if several writers did this, then there would be enough books to churn out every week for quite a while. So they could take advantage of the Amz analytics to create best sellers. So these people are smart, they’re using the system, which everyone knows about, to win. They’re using the price point and KU, and Amazon first to “capture the market” so to speak.

How they split the money is another thing, and totally up to them.FB_IMG_1446351213291

And I understand with all the recent to-do with author identity, plagiarism, etc. going on in our community, some are quick to wonder and speculate. I get it. We’re all gun-shy, sitting on the edge of our seats, waiting for the next shoe to drop.
But is this deceiving anyone? Not really. Did you really need to know there were several persons writing the books or one person with several helping? Not really. This has been going on in the publishing industry for ages.

Is this because they’re hitting the bestselling lists? Probably. Are they gaming the system? Not really. Are they going to stay on top forever? Probably not. Does it mean they’re plagiarizing? Probably not. Does it mean they’re converting m/f to m/m? Probably not.

So maybe we should stop waving our arms, clutching our pearls, and just let it go.
let it go No author owes readers interaction. We never did before, and we still don’t. Interaction is the writer’s prerogative.

Frankly, I’d rather have people email me or post on FB about their experience reading one of my books, good or bad. That they posted a review cuz they loved it so much. That’s what means the most to me. I’ve been a bestseller. I’ve had books bomb. I’ve had months of fantastic sales, and months where I couldn’t buy a Starbucks Vanilla Bean Frappuccino and I love those suckers. It’s knowing someone liked me, they liked me! that means the most.

I’m here for the long haul. Have been since 2008. I’ll ride the ups and downs, the “who are you” and “What do you write?” and the “I’ve never read one of your books” and the “OMG! It’s Lynn Lorenz!” moments. The collapse of a few publishers and the mad dash to get those books back out there. The loss of half my backlist and my income, until it is re-issued or I get around to self-pubbing them.

I might be a “has been,” or not the flavor of the day, or not the name on everyone’s lips or have people begging to review my books, but I’ll hold my body of work up against anyone’s. I consider myself one of the old timers, and I’ll keep writing. It won’t be as fast or prolific as it once was, but it’ll be out there.

In the meantime, please, remember authors are people too, and have lives, and can’t always interact and write at the same time, like walking and chewing gum. And if they get creative in publishing, or write dino-sex books, or whatever, to get their names out there and make some money, that’s okay too.

I wish people would get over this idea that making money by writing is a bad thing. It’s a good thing, it’s a tangible reward for doing something right. It’s how we get paid, folks. Making money is necessary. If we didn’t make money, we’d probably have to stop writing and get a second job. That was my position all those years ago. I wanted to tell stories, but I needed more income, without going to a horrible part time job. I was fortunate that people loved my books.

Its bad enough our books are stolen by people who claim to love our books, either by piracy or read and return. Let’s hope Amazon will stop that practice, or at least clamp down on offenders.

The attitude, of “they’re in it for the money” is like, to me, yeah, what’s your point? Yes. I write to earn money. What about it? I also write for other reasons, all good. Reason like here’s a cool story and love is love and everyone deserves a happily ever after. Can’t I write for all those things?

Damn, this went on freaking forever.

One more thing. Let’s be kind to each other.

Tami Lund-The Grieving Author Finally Starts Writing Again

As I sit down to write this blog post, I’m debating whether to talk again about the recent tragedy in my life. It would be easy to do. Writing is therapeutic, and when something of such magnitude hits with no warning and no handbook on how to manage my emotions (yes, I know there are plenty of handbooks, but I failed to read them before it happened, because, you know, I didn’t exactly expect to ever have to deal with this sort of thing), it’s easy to get caught up in it, to dwell, to get stuck and not move forward.

And then, one morning, I found myself writing. Not about life, not another blog post, but about the made up world I’d created in my books. I write this series called Lightbearers, and there are currently five published books—a prequel plus four full-length novels. I’ve been working on number five (Or is it six? I’m not sure of the rules when it comes to prequels.) on and off for months, but there’s always been something else pulling at me, demanding my attention, so the process has been a tad slow.

Until the words finally started flowing. The book is roughly fifty-k words with a solid happily ever after. Based on the other books in the series, I need to add another fifteen thousand words, give or take. Assuming the words continue to flow, that should be easy. There’s a drunken sex scene that needs to be fleshed out, and another scene I think needs an entire rewrite.

There are also the descriptions, painting the scenery, letting readers know what the world looks like through my eyes. Usually, I tend to write the basic plot first, then go back (multiple times) and flesh out the details—describing the mansion in which much of the book takes place, the woods where my two main characters escape and fly free for a while (literally, since this is a PNR book and they can therefore do that).

Sometimes, when I reach a steamy scene, I’m not always in the mood to write it (insert jokes here—or perhaps Archer saying, “Phrasing?”), so I’ll tag that section with a note to come back later—when I’m ready to share some sexy times with my characters.

This process tends to be the way I write in general. Many would call me a panster, and that’s a completely accurate description. Here’s my writing process with regard to this series:

Lightbearers-January2016

Came up with the idea for book one, Into the Light. Decided I wanted it to include shifters (because who doesn’t love sexy alpha—and beta—shifters?), but I wanted the other “beings” in the book to be something… different. I love the fae (and they show up in the prequel – which wasn’t written until eleven other books had been started—and are formally pulled into the series in book seven, at which point they stick around for the long haul). But I wanted to try something different.

Okay, I’m not gonna lie. I took an RWA class and the instructor said, If you want your books to sell, give the readers something unique. So Lightbearers were born, arch enemies of those bad, bad shifters, thus forming the Romeo and Juliet concept of Into the Light, book one in the Lightbearer series.

While writing Into the Light, I introduced Finn, a shifter who I initially wasn’t sure would be a good guy or bad guy—or if he would even survive to the end of the book. He did, and ultimately was a good guy, in fact, a strict rules-follower—and the perfect match for feisty Lightbearer, Cecilia, a woman who prefers to break instead of follow rules. Thus, the premise for book two, Dawning of Light, was born.

In Dawning of Light I introduced Carley, Lightbearer chef to the king, and I felt so bad for her plight (her parents forced her into mating with a real asshole of a Lightbearer), I decided she deserved a happily ever after of her own. Oh, and look, Finn had a brother. Reid had a few skeletons in his closet, most of which were completely incompatible with the skeletons in Carley’s closet…Perfect. So Light Beyond the Darkness, book three, was born.

By this point, Lightbearer healer Alexa had shown up in every single book, and I really liked her, so I knew she needed an HEA, too. But how to do it? For years she had been shacking up with fellow Lightbearer Jake, but had refused to commit to becoming his mate, and by Light Beyond the Darkness they were on the outs, and both were hurting but refusing to face their demons.

Sounds like another HEA in the making… Except I wasn’t sure if I wanted Alexa and Jake to get back together or if I wanted to mate her to a shifter, too, like the previous three lucky Lightbearer ladies. And the pack of shifters I had been pulling from had disintegrated by this point, so if I was going to do that, I needed to introduce a new shifter pack. Hence, the Detroit shifter pack, and Josh Tigre, the pack leader who was introduced in the first book, became the subject of book four, Change in the Light. To shake things up a bit, I decided Josh should be paired with a human, but she had to be a badass who was frustrated because she’d been forced into a situation in which she had no control.

As an aside, I had a lot of fun writing Change in the Light, knowing the heroine wasn’t aware of the paranormal world in which she was mingling. I dropped lots of hints and clues, all of which she was completely oblivious to, until the end. In fact, the name of the book stems from a particular scene in which she is beginning to suspect there’s something not quite entirely human about the guy she’s fallen for…

Yes, Alexa’s story is still hanging out there, but for some reason, as I wrote Change in the Light, I totally fell for Matt, Josh’s cousin and beta, and I knew I needed to write his story, too. Now here’s where it gets really wonky: for some unfathomable reason (no kidding; I have no idea how this idea popped into my head), I decided Matt needed to go toe-to-toe with… A Cupid. Yep. Those creatures who help people find love. Because Matt refused to believe he would ever find love. Doesn’t want to. Not interested Nope. Never.

At least not until Adora, his very own personal Cupid, dropped into his life and insisted it’s her job to find him a mate.

This is the one I’m working on now. I’m tentatively titling it Cupid’s Light. Every book’s title is a play on the word “Light” for, you know, the Lightbearers. Into the Light is about Tanner not only discovering Lightbearers exist, but making choices that go against everything he was raised to believe. In Dawning of Light, Cecilia loves to sneak out and greet the sunrise every day, and the dawning of realization she doesn’t have to go through life alone is slow in coming. Light Beyond the Darkness starts with both Carley and Reid in very, very dark places, and of course, since it’s a happily ever after, they manage to find their way to the light, aka, love and happiness. Change in the Light, as I mentioned above, is about a shifter (Josh) and a human (Rachel) figuring out how to make things work despite being two entirely different species, and is also about Rachel learning about this world she never believed existed.

Based on this, I’ve come up with the title Cupid’s Light for the next book, but I’m open if something more descriptive hits me before it’s done. (Or if someone has a better title idea, hint, hint…)

Oh yeah, and Alexa… well, her happily ever after is coming, finally. She’s the heroine in book six, tentatively titled Lost in the Light. She’s going to have a chance to go live with Josh’s shifter pack in Detroit, and will be assigned her own Cupid, Adora’s brother, Shaid. No, the same thing that happened to Matt won’t happen to Alexa. Shaid is, in this book, more comic relief than anything. In truth, Shaid thus far hasn’t been assigned his own HEA, but the more I write of his sister’s book, the more I think I need to do something for him. So if you fall in love with his carefree, sometimes bawdy ways in Lost in the Light, hang tight. I’m working on it.

In the meantime, I’m going to get back to Cupid’s Light. I have a drunken sex scene to write…

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, and writer of happily ever afters. If this blog post has intrigued you enough about the Lightbearer series, the prequel, First Light, is free at nearly every e-book retailer…

 

 

A Quadfecta of Bad Boys from Sara Daniel

I had to Google “quadfecta” to find out if it was a real word. Turns out, I am not the first person to coin the term.

Bummer.

Beer pongers beat me to it with a complicated quadfecta maneuver involving landing on the top of four cups simultaneously. However, according to the Urban Dictionary, the quadfecta’s never been done in “recorded history of the game.” If they can’t even do one, they hardly deserve credit for the word. (Imagine me thinking this in the snootiest voice possible.)

Yourdictionary.com offers that horse racing gamblers use the term for someone who correctly selects the winners of the first four racers in the correct order. I would assume someone in the history of horse gambling has managed to pull off that feat, but in my single outing to Arlington Race Track, I certainly didn’t come close.

So, let’s talk about a quadfecta that’s real and happening right now, today, this very minute, that you can be a part of. The fourth book in The Bad Boys of Regret Hollow series, the final of the four launch titles and the first book never released under any other title or by any publisher, releases today. “Sara Daniel has written a beautiful story…full of sauciness,” says reviewer Isha Coleman. So, there you have it. A beautiful, saucy quadfecta.

SaraDaniel_TheBadBoysGoodness_200The Bad Boy’s Goodness

He’ll do whatever it takes to save her from himself.

Just once, straight-laced teacher Bethany Wilkerson wants to make love with a man who’s not a dud in bed. When she finally meets the perfect man, he turns her down. Humiliated, she studiously avoids him for months…until she’s stranded at his house during an ice storm.

Ken Hawkins might have cleaned up on the outside, but on the inside he’s still a bad boy from the ghetto who will never be good enough for Bethany. Keeping his distance is a lot easier when she’s not parading through his house wearing nothing but his sweatshirt. No matter how hard he tries to reform, he’s not a saint.

The more Ken tries to convince her of his rotten core, the more Bethany believes in his innate goodness. But until she can convince him to believe in himself, he will continue to push her out of his life.

Buy Links:
Amazon
All Romance eBooks
iBooks
Kobo
Google Play
Barnes & Noble

Want a bad boy 2

Remember, The Bad Boy’s Gift is free, The Bad Boy’s Guilt is on sale for 99 cents for a limited time, and The Bad Boy’s Guarantee is only $2.99. There’s NEVER been a better time to visit Regret Hollow.

 

Mother’s Day!

mothers dayIn South Florida, summer usually starts in April. That’s when we see the end of our low humidity and perfect breezy 70 degree weather and the start of our oppressing, sticky summer days. This year was extraordinary in that as of yesterday—Mother’s Day, no less—we woke up to 60 degree weather and the most amazing perfect day weather-wise!

But, of course, what makes Mother’s Day isn’t the weather—it’s having your loved ones around. My mom, who lives in Trinidad, managed to be here (ostensibly for a medical checkup), along with two of my three sons. We had a lovely brunch in Delray Beach at Max’s Harvest, and a great grilled steak dinner later on.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that I’ve never written a Mother’s Day into a story. Hmmm. Now, of course, I have to find a way to make the holiday a crucial part of a plot line. It’s too late for my current work-in-progress—Wolf Raider. And I can’t, for obvious reasons, inject the day into my current Viking tale, Wùlfe.

Therefore the challenge falls to my new contemporary series, Sanctuary, and book one—Seathe. Seathe’ s tale is a fast-paced (think breathless) romantic suspense set in the Caribbean. Genie’s BFF (Genie’s the heroine) is nine months pregnant when the story begins.

Think it’s too cheesey to have her birth her baby on Mother’s Day???

What’s your opinion?

Have a marvelous Monday!

Cheers,

Jianne