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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ghosties and Ghoulies and Magic, Oh Yes!


All Hallows Eve is right around the corner. In Celtic tradition, that’s the date that separates the dark half of the year from the light. It’s a time for staying home with family. For introspection and regrouping. It’s also when the veils between the worlds thin, allowing spirits freer access to the living.
One of my problems with our modern, scientifically-based lives is all the traditions that have been tossed out as meaningless. I’m not religious in a traditional sense, but I am spiritual. So what does that mean? The least complicated definition I can come up with is I believe in something larger than my body and my mind. Something that ties them together. Whether you call it spirit, or the Collective Unconscious doesn’t much matter.

A working definition of gestalt, is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I think living creatures are like that. We are way more than neurons firing in certain patterns. It’s why no one has ever made a truly successful robot outside of Hollywood.

Our ancestors, superstitious as they were, had a much better understanding of the mystical quality of life than we do. Where we go racing to the Internet to look up explanations for things, they were content to accept the esoteric nature of certain events.

I’ve had enough odd experiences myself that I believe in the supernatural. Plus, I’ve had friends and patients relate hundreds of parapsychological events. Things that couldn’t possibly be explained away by science. Were we all victims of hysteria? I don’t think so.

On a deeply personal level, I don’t want a world where every single thing can be validated, explained or replicated using the scientific method. I like mysteries. It’s what drew me to depth psychology. Otherwise I would have stuck with cognitive behavioral interventions where you have patients journal and count things.

Not that writing things down doesn’t have a place in psychotherapy. It does because it’s a great tool to raise people’s awareness. But it doesn’t address the root cause of a problem. My observation is that problems have a way of cropping up with different names if we can’t figure out their origins.

Children are experts in the mysteries. But we drum the miraculous out of them pretty fast. Usually, by the time they’re around five, their wonderfully fluid imaginations have started to reflect cultural norms. Schools are just as guilty as parents. No kid wants to be different and they figure out pretty fast that talking about things that aren’t “real” is the kiss of death socially.

How about all of you? Have you had paranormal experiences? What did you do about them? Run like hell, embrace them, or some path in between.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Why Dragons?


Ever since I wrote To Love a Highland Dragon, the first book in the Dragon Lore Series, I’ve had many people ask why I chose dragon shifters. Just for the record, Dragon Maid is the second book and there will be one more to close out the storyline. The third one’s not written yet, but I have a fair idea where it will go.

 Dragons are creatures fresh out of myth and legend. They’ve had better endurance than other mythical creatures like unicorns, gryphons, and the Minotaur. I think there are good reasons for that. Unlike unicorns, which are fluffy and good (think the girl’s toy My Little Unicorn that was popular quite a while back), dragons have access to the full range of human emotion. They express fury and pain, but are also capable of love and loyalty. Gryphons tend to be associated with dark magic, as is the Minotaur.

There have been myths about dragons in nearly every culture. There’s an oriental dragon with a much more slender body, at least in artists’ depictions of it. There’s a Norse dragon, Nidhogg, and Dewi, the red, Celtic dragon goddess. One myth I read suggested the salvation of Earth lies in dragons because they purify wickedness. At least that might explain why the world is in such dire straits. No one’s seen a dragon for millennia!

On a slightly different track, I like the idea that wisdom has to be earned, as does just about everything else. So the human leads in my Dragon Lore series, Lachlan in To Love a Highland Dragon and Britta in Dragon Maid, forsook much to purify themselves and hone their magic so a dragon would want to bond with them. How they see the world is shaped in large measure by their bonds with their dragons. If any old human could find their way to Fire Mountain in search of a dragon, the bond wouldn’t be worth very much.

People have occasionally said to me, “Oh, it must be easy to write fantasy because you can take the story anywhere you want to.” My reply is always that magic systems have to be thought out and congruent. And magic has to have a price. So heroes and heroines, even those with magic, are still bound by certain rules. They can’t do everything with magic and if they expend too much, they need to rest and eat to refuel.

Dragons will always have a special place in my writer’s heart. Two of my other full length urban fantasy novels, Earth’s Requiem and Earth’s Blood also feature dragons prominently. Earth's Hope, last book in that series is done and with my publisher.

Are dragons special to you too? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Bring on the Witches!


Witch’s Bane
The Witch Chronicles, Book 2
By Ann Gimpel

Book 1, Witch's Bounty, is an Amazon Top 100 bestseller in Fantasy Romance

Genre: Dark Paranormal Romance

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Two stubborn people—a witch and a mage—come together with a fierceness borne of desperation. Can passion trump their intense need for independence? Will they live long enough to find out?










Roz, Jenna, and Colleen are the last of the demon-stalking witches. So far, they’ve escaped disaster, but their luck is running low. When demons strike in the midst of Colleen’s wedding, Roz launches desperate measures because she and her sister witches are Earth’s only hedge against being overrun by Hell’s minions. As she shape-shifts to keep one step ahead of the demons, at least it takes her mind off her other problems. Personal ones. She burned through a couple of marriages with a string of loser men before, after, and in between. Though she wants to be happy for Colleen, the jealousy bug bit deep and hasn’t let go.

 In Roz’s secret heart she’s attracted to Ronin, one of the Daoine Sidhe. He’s so profanely beautiful she can barely breathe around him, but he’s also headstrong and arrogant. Not good partner material, she tells herself, unless she wants to end up dusting her heart off one more time.

 Ronin set his sights on Roz when she was at his home in the U.K. for a strategy meeting and he can’t get her out of his mind. Unfortunately, she’s so prickly getting close to her requires scheming. He casts an enchantment to lure her at Colleen’s wedding, but she senses the spell and rebuffs him.

 Roz is used to calling the shots. So is Ronin. Sparks fly. Tempers run hot, right along with an attraction too strong to be denied. Roz and Ronin come together with a fierceness borne of desperation, but demons are determined to rid themselves of the witches for good, no matter what it takes.

 Excerpt:

Ronin Redstone unwound his arm from Roz and gripped his hands together in his lap to lessen the temptation to touch her again. Where he figured most of the guests were anxious to see the bride, he’d been interested in Roz. Probably too interested since he’d bounced to his feet the moment she entered the room and had even spun the mildest of spells to coerce her to sit near him. He pressed his lips into a flat line as he wrestled with his thoughts. Ever since he’d met the tall, imposing witch at his home in northern England a couple of weeks before, he’d been able to think of little else. She even entered his dreams with her silky black hair, pronounced cheekbones, and hawk-like nose. In those dreams, she was naked, her bronze skin glimmering in moonlight.

Her heady scent, pine forests and jasmine, tickled his nostrils and made him wonder what she’d feel like in his arms. Once he kicked the door open to that slippery slope, his cock sprang to life, clearly eager to find out. He tried to clip his libido before things whirled out of control and she noticed his arousal, but his cock wasn’t in the mood for negotiation—or retreat. He wove the tiniest don’t look here spell and draped his lower body with it.

In years past, he’d simply have created a love charm, imbued it with compulsion, and bedded the woman. That probably wasn’t a good idea, though. Roz would sense his magic, be outraged he tried to coerce her, and that would be the last he ever saw of the striking witch. Never mind she had good reason to not want much to do with him since he’d been one of the key players two hundred years ago who’d suggested foisting demon stalking onto the witches. He tightened his jaw muscles. Who could have guessed his little machination to get his kin out from under a highly unpleasant task would nearly be the death of the few witches who’d inherited the power through a magical version of gene splicing? Of course, he’d also been the one to send Duncan to fetch one of the witches to quell a demon uprising in the U.K. last month. That was how they’d discovered only three of the special witches remained…

No wonder she’s not overly fond of me. Ronin grimaced, not liking the truth in his thoughts. An inner voice huffed, reminding him it wasn’t his fault the witches in question hadn’t produced more offspring, but he shushed it.

Surely I can at least charm Roz out of that sour expression on her face.

He forced his breathing into a regular pattern and glanced toward Duncan and Colleen at the front of the room. The resident witch had completed her part of the ceremony and Titania was speaking in Gaelic so old he had trouble following it. The Sidhe binding ceremony lasted at least half an hour, so he let his thoughts drift. Anywhere but to his cock, which still throbbed uncomfortably.

As de facto leader for the Sidhe, a post he held more because no one else wanted it than because of any special skills on his part, he sensed they stood at the edge of a cataclysmic event. Abbadon and his henchmen, the Irichna demons, had grown appallingly strong. Capturing them one at a time and shepherding them to the Ninth Circle of Hell where they were trapped for all eternity wasn’t a workable solution anymore. There were too many of them, and maybe not enough space in the bottom of Hell.

Because he was afraid of a firm answer regarding Hell’s demon storage capacity, he hadn’t asked Titania, though surely she’d know. If they couldn’t dump Irichna behind the Ninth Circle’s gate, he had no idea what they’d do with them. And if Abbadon consolidated his full power, Earth would be laid waste. Ronin clamped his jaws together. Apocalypse didn’t come close to describing what would happen if Abbadon were freed from protecting his demons and could concentrate on taking over Earth.

In addition to not inquiring too closely about the Irichna, I also haven’t asked about Oberon. Ronin grimaced again. If the King of Faerie were truly so tired of immortality he’d let himself fade into the Dreaming, Ronin didn’t want to know about that, either.

When did I turn into such a craven I avoid unpleasant answers?

Even though he wasn’t expecting one, a response popped up anyway. He’d loved a human woman once, but she’d died bearing their son, who’d perished right along with her. The major vessel serving her heart had ruptured, and no amount of Sidhe magic could heal her or breathe life into their dead child. Ronin withdrew from the other Sidhe after that, mostly because he didn’t want to hear their lectures about the whole debacle being his own fault. After all, they weren’t supposed to mate outside their blood. When he finally picked up the reins of command a couple of centuries later—or maybe it had been three—he held himself aloof and avoided confrontations with anyone, about anything.

He ground his jaws harder together. His internal inventory was damned depressing; it forced him to take a harsh look at himself, and he didn’t like what he saw. He glanced at Titania. She clasped Duncan’s and Colleen’s hands between her own, and his eyes widened. Had he truly spent the entire ceremony sunk in memories and self-pity?

It would appear so, he thought dryly. In moments, Titania would utter the final words, Duncan would kiss Colleen, and the ritual would be done. He barely had time to wonder why Titania hadn’t kicked up more of a fuss about Duncan marrying a mortal, when the bridal pair kissed.

The tiniest sigh escaped Roz, and he looked sidelong at her. Her full lips were parted in half a smile, and she looked captivated by the ancient binding that had unfolded, mostly without him paying one whit of attention to it. She leaned toward him, her earlier ire apparently forgotten. “They make such a lovely couple,” she whispered.

Ronin narrowed his eyes and looked hard at Duncan and Colleen, wrapped in one another’s arms and kissing enthusiastically. He didn’t know about the lovely couple part, because he didn’t view the world that way. “They do look happy,” he whispered back because he thought he ought to say something.

Bubba, who’d been standing off to one side, made a grab for a bag Ronin hadn’t noticed before. The changeling reached inside and Ronin’s internal alarm went off. The changeling was about to throw something at the couple. Had the creature been co-opted by demons? It wasn’t unheard of since their race contained a smattering of demon blood. Afraid if he hesitated he’d be too late, Ronin pulled strong magic and rose to his feet.

Before he could loose it, Roz fastened a hand around his lower arm. “It’s just rice,” she said, her voice still low. “He’s going to throw rice at them. Stand down.”

Ronin met her dark, luminous gaze. “What sort of custom is that?” he demanded. Magic thrummed around him, making the air shimmer in iridescent hues. The changeling indeed tossed rice high in the air, showering everyone within a ten-foot radius of him, laughed uproariously, and then did it again.

“An old one.” Roz tugged on his arm and he sat reluctantly. “Bubba adores Colleen. He’s laid his life on the line for her a bazillion times. He’d never hurt her.”

“Better safe than sorry,” he muttered, feeling like an ass. “How was I to know?”

“It’s okay.” She let go of his arm and patted one of his hands.

As long as he was in an apologizing mood—they were rare for him—Ronin exhaled sharply and said, “I’m sorry I, um, suggested you sit next to me.”

She cocked her head to one side and quirked a brow. “If you’d only suggested, it would have been fine, but you did a tad more than that.”

Flutes and guitars began to play Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.” Colleen and Duncan turned and floated up the center aisle with Bubba right behind, still throwing rice. Even Ronin had to admit they looked radiant. He’d known Duncan his entire life, and he’d never seen his fellow Sidhe look so carefree and besotted with joy. In one wild, unrestrained moment, before he glossed his emotions over with rationality, he wanted the same for himself.

Ronin felt Roz’s gaze still on him and knew he couldn’t ignore her comment. “You’re right,” he said stiffly. “I did do more than that.”

She repositioned herself so he had to look at her. “Why?”

Because I’ve wanted to strip you naked and worship your body from the day I met you. He cloaked his mind, hoping he’d been fast enough and she hadn’t read his thoughts. “I’m not quite sure,” he stumbled over the words, because they weren’t the truth.

Her dark gaze never left him as she weighed his statement. Finally she nodded, almost to herself. “When you figure it out,” she said and winked broadly, “be sure to let me know.”

Heat rose from his neck and swooshed over the top of his head. Damn! He was a Sidhe and a warrior. It was unseemly to blush like a love-struck maid. He opened his mouth to stammer some sort of reply, but she got up, along with the rest of the guests. “Come on,” she said. “I’m starving.”

He’d been afraid the second the ceremony was over, she’d race away from him as far and as fast as she could, but she’d just invited him to eat with her, at least he thought she had. He bit back a smile until just the edges of his mouth twitched. Maybe she didn’t abhor him as much as it seemed when she’d shot him that poisonous look once she sensed his magic.

I learned something. I have to ask her, not simply push her to do what I want. He hurried after her swishing skirt, not wanting to lose her in the crowd. He could always locate her, but the less magic he used until she got to know him, the better.

*

Roz caught up to Jenna just inside the dining area and hugged her. “Wasn’t it just perfect?” she gushed, still caught up in the mystical pull of dual wedding ceremonies.

Jenna hugged her back and nodded. She disentangled herself and eyed her friend. “What the hell, Roz? It isn’t like you to fall all over yourself.”

Roz settled her face into its usual, stern planes. “There. Is that better?”

Jenna grinned. “Yup. There’s the grumpy witch I know and love. What happened to you anyway? I looked back and you were trailing after that hunky Sidhe.”

“He snared me in a spell.”

“Ooooh.” Jenna clapped her hands together. “He must be interested.” She leaned close. “What did he do during the ceremony?”

Roz felt her face redden. “Nothing. I got mad at him once I realized he’d bamboozled me. Hush. Here he comes.”

“Awesome.” Jenna practically vibrated with enthusiasm. “He can eat with us.”

“I already invited him.”

A knowing look crossed Jenna’s face and she opened her mouth, but Roz hissed, “Can it, sister,” just before turning to Ronin and asking, “Where would you like to sit?”

He half-bowed—a courtly, old world gesture that drove home just how old he was—lifted Jenna’s hand to his lips, and said, “Nice to see you again, Miss Jenna. Anywhere the two of you wish to settle is fine with me.”

“Maybe we should get our food first,” Jenna suggested brightly, “since the tables will fill fast.”

“Good idea,” Roz snapped, feeling unaccountably jealous. Ronin hadn’t kissed her hand, but he’d been quick enough to snatch Jenna’s.

“If you don’t want him…” Jenna spoke in their telepathic speech.

“I thought you were interested in Tristan.” Roz led the way to a buffet table and picked up a plate.

Jenna smirked. “I am, but he’s not here.”

Roz dished up an interesting looking salad, brimming with shrimp and crab, and followed it with a few slices of rare beef and a roll. They found a table beneath a leaded glass window and laid their plates down.

“I’ll get us something to drink.” Ronin smiled. “Preferences?”

“What are you getting?” Roz asked, avoiding Jenna’s gaze.

“Mead,” he answered. “It’s what I prefer.”

“I’ll take Irish whiskey,” Jenna trilled and settled into her seat.

“Just bring me a glass of one or the other,” Roz muttered. “I’m not picky.” As soon as Ronin was out of earshot, or close enough, she glared at Jenna. “Leave him alone.”

“But you’re not even sure you’re interested in him,” Jenna protested.

“And how would you know that?” Roz stuffed a forkful of salad into her mouth, chewed with a vengeance, and swallowed.

The other witch dropped her gaze, looking sheepish. “I, um, peeked.”

Roz slammed a fist on the table hard enough the dishes rattled. “You looked inside my head without asking?”

“’Fraid so. Sorry.” Jenna started eating with a studied nonchalance.

Roz exhaled and then did it again. Both of them were lonely; getting angry with her longtime friend wouldn’t serve any purpose other than creating bad water under the bridge they’d have to clear at some point. “Jenna. It’s the wedding ceremonies. All the old magic in them makes us want what Colleen and Duncan have.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Jenna’s hazel gaze met hers and she looked repentant, her brows drawn together. “I’m sorry.”

“Me too.” Roz smiled crookedly. “Let’s not fight. Not today.”

Friday, July 25, 2014

Shifters + International Espionage = Dynamite!


Forever and a Day
The Company Store, Book 2
by Ann Gimpel

Sequel to the runaway bestseller Miranda's Mate!

Taliesin Publishing
Release Date: 7/1/14

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ARe
Taliesin

Espionage operations and runaway love travel halfway around the globe as Tamara and Lars stay one step ahead of death. Tension heats to boiling, but it’s not half as hot as the attraction licking at their heels.


 

 

 

Blurb:
Tamara MacBride has a much bigger problem than hiding her shifter side from the world. By the skin of her teeth, and with a smattering of Irish luck, she manages to kill her sister’s murderer. Escaping from the scene of the crime is proving much harder than she anticipated. Just when she thinks she might be safe, her cab driver shrieks and slumps over the wheel. She cowers in the back seat, too scared to run, expecting the next bullet will be for her.
An unknown assailant terminates Lars Kinsvogel’s target. Pleased by the outcome, after all dead is dead, Lars exchanges the glitz of Monto Carlo for a nearby airport intent on collecting the private plane he left there. He’s no sooner arrived when a cab jumps the curb. His instincts blare a warning, but Lars ignores them and trots over to investigate. There’s not much he can do for the cabbie, but his passenger is still very much alive—and absolutely stunning. It takes some tall talking, but she agrees to come with him.

Espionage operations and runaway love travel halfway around the globe as Tamara learns to accept her shifter side, and Lars embraces what’s been missing from his long life. Initially reticent to trust one another, it takes a series of crises and a near-fatal accident for them to take a chance on love—and each other.

Excerpt:
Lars Kinsvogel sucked in an annoyed breath. Anxiety and greed thickened the air in Monte Carlo’s Place de Casino, and he stifled a choking sound. Damn his hypersensitive shifter senses. If it weren’t for them, the desperation hovering around him wouldn’t be quite so palpable. Casinos were always like this, though, a haven for the rash and reckless. What had likely begun as a harmless pastime turned into hardcore addiction for an unfortunate few, forcing them to return again and again despite diminishing returns.

Hope springs eternal. All the poor sods need is one more spin of the wheel, another hand of cards… Lars looked up, right into the croupier’s beady gaze.

“Would monsieur like to place a bet?” The croupier grinned with all the warmth of a hammerhead shark, displaying a mouthful of bad teeth. What was it with the French and their aversion to dentistry? Lars shook his head and made shooing motions with one hand. He’d have to either join the baccarat game soon, or move on, but he could get away with loitering for a few more minutes without drawing undue attention to himself.

His target, a powerfully built man with Asian features revealing his half-Chinese ancestry, had an arm slung around a striking brunette. Maybe she was one of the hookers who worked the casino circuit, maybe she was a steady thing for the man. Lars considered it and decided she could be both. Around five feet eight, she had a lush, curvy body, hair cut into a stylish bob that fell a few inches past her shoulders, and memorable eyes the color of a restless ocean. A short, black sheath hugged her like a second skin. Open nearly to her waist, it displayed half her full breasts. Even though Lars’ appraisal was surreptitious, he forced his gaze elsewhere. The woman was sex incarnate, and he didn’t need anything diverting him from his objective.

Jaret Chen pressed chips into his companion’s hand and urged her to pick a number. He gave one of her breasts a familiar squeeze, which earned him a smile, perfectly rouged lips stretching over impossibly straight teeth—and a slight shake of her head. Color stained her tanned skin. Lars realized he was looking at the woman again, wondering how her breasts would feel beneath his fingers. She seemed uncomfortable with Jaret’s frank exploration of her body, so she probably wasn’t a pro. For some unexplained reason, Lars felt relieved. The woman was too elegant to earn her living lying on her back.

He snorted to himself and studied the flashing display above the baccarat table. Maybe the woman wasn’t French. That might explain her perfect teeth—and her discomfort with having her body mauled in public. At least she held Jaret’s attention. So far the drug dealer hadn’t spared him so much as a sidelong glance. Lars had never met the man, but knew a great deal about him from an extensive dossier provided by The Company, Lars’ international security employer. Deeply involved in the heroin trade from the Middle East, across the Mediterranean, and into Europe, Jaret was one of the principals in a large operation—and Lars’ current project.

He sized the man up. Maybe six feet, he had a barrel chest. Strongly muscled arms strained against the fabric of his cream-colored silk dress shirt. His art deco tie had been loosened. Dark eyes, pronounced cheekbones, and straight dark hair cut short blended with his business attire. For all intents and purposes, he was indistinguishable from the phalanx of wealthy—and wannabe wealthy—men circulating through the casino. Lars glanced at his own cream-colored silk shirt and black linen pants. With the exception that his tie was still firmly knotted, he and Jaret were dressed as twins.

Guess neither of us wanted to stick out in anyone’s memory.

Lars glanced at his Rolex. Close to midnight and time to move on. He’d seen enough. Now it was a matter of figuring out where and when to strike. These things always went more smoothly when they were nearly invisible. He melted into the crowd and made his way outside. The casino fronted the French Riviera; Lars stood looking out at the Mediterranean for long moments. The water was quiet tonight, waves barely slapping the white sand beach. His cell phone, set on silent, vibrated against his hip, and he tugged it from a pocket to look at the display.

Private. Damn! Could be anyone.

Lars punched the answer icon, held the phone to his ear, and waited. No need to say anything until he knew who was on the other end.

“Are you somewhere you can talk?” Lars inhaled sharply as Garen LeRochefort’s voice came through the phone’s speaker. Another shifter, Garen had founded The Company hundreds of years ago. The mechanics of the spy game had changed drastically between the late seventeen hundreds and modern times, but the basics—kill or be killed—hadn’t altered much. Everyone who worked for The Company was some type of shifter. Lars’ animal form was a mountain lion, Garen’s a wolf.

Lars loped farther down the beach until he cleared several couples engaged in deep, hungry kisses. “What has happened?” Something must have, or Garen wouldn’t have risked contact.

“You need to leave.”

“But I have not—”

“Doesn’t matter,” Garen cut in. “I’ll explain when you’re back in the office on a fully scrambled line.”

Lars thought about his twin engine Piper Seneca waiting at the Nice airport, fifteen miles from Monte Carlo. It gave him freedom to come and go, and was much cheaper to operate than the business class jets he also owned. “Maybe I could still—”

“No!” The one word thundered so loud, Lars moved the phone away from his ear. “Don’t even go back to your room.” Garen hesitated. “Old friend. Trust me on this.” The line went dead.

Lars stared at the iPhone’s display and dropped the cellular device back into his pocket. He’d been compromised. He wasn’t certain quite how, and a part of him was curious as hell. He kept walking, swinging in a wide circle to head back toward the Hotel de Paris. Garen had said not to return to his room, but if he were careful, maybe he could learn something critical that would help their side.

Ja, forewarned is forearmed,” he muttered. Keycard in hand, he let himself into a side door of the rambling old structure, got his bearings, and started cautiously up a stairwell. His suite was on the second floor, at the very end of the wing facing the Mediterranean. He’d always loved the old hotel with its thick, patterned carpets and antique lighting and furnishings. Staying next to the walls, he used a bit of shifter magic to cast a don’t look here spell. It wouldn’t keep someone determined from seeing him, but it didn’t require much magic, either.

He entered the second floor a few doors from his own and scanned the empty hallway, his senses on high alert. Midnight was early in Monte Carlo, a city where people frequently stayed up through dawn and slept the day away, so he fully expected to see other guests, but the hall was mercifully empty. He padded silently toward his door and examined it, wishing he’d set a trap. He inhaled, trying to sort scents, but there were too many to make sense of. He could leave, just walk away like Garen had almost ordered him to, but Lars had never been a coward, and he was more intrigued than frightened. He’d spent years worming his way out of dicey situations. This was just one more, and he was damned if he’d walk away from his things. Not unless he had to.

He took a deep breath, tugged his guaranteed-not-to-set-off-metal-detectors .32 caliber revolver from its ankle holster, and shoved the key card into the slot in the door. A tiny electric motor hummed and the deadbolt snicked out of the way. He turned the latch, kicked the door open, and turned from side to side scanning the sitting room of his suite, gun at the ready. Lars waited in the doorway, barely breathing, and then he heard a muted click, followed by an unmistakable whirr, and knew.

A bomb.

He cursed in German, not knowing if he was more annoyed with the turn of events or with himself for not taking Garen’s advice and getting the hell out of there.

 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Warm Welcome to Historical Romance Author, Haley Whitehall!


The Legend of Silverheels
I do a lot of research for my historical romance stories. I actually find the research the most interesting part of the writing process. I have a history degree and am a historian at heart. When writing Wild and Tender Care I had to research small pox outbreaks in the Old West. It was here I learned about the legend of Silverheels.
 
Silverheels was a dancehall girl who worked in the mining town of Buckskin Joe in Colorado. She was nicknamed Silverheels because she liked to wear silver slippers and was well-respected by the miners. History does not know her given name. In 1861, a smallpox epidemic broke out in the mining community brought to the town by sheepherders.
 
Silverheels nursed the miners, fed them, cleaning their homes, did their laundry etc. Eventually she came down with smallpox as well. When the outbreak passed the miners wanted to celebrate and thank Silverheels for taking care of them, unfortunately she was nowhere to be found. Most likely she thought she could no longer practice her trade as a dancehall girl now that she had a pock-marked face.
 
It is tricky to actually base a story on a real person. I, however, was inspired by Silverheels and she helped me develop my strong, feisty and caring heroine Ida Page.

Here is an excerpt from Wild and Tender Care:
The following day she focused on her usual pile of laundry. Scrubbing a pair of trousers, she did not know anyone had approached until she heard a man cough.
 
Stomach tightening, her spine snapped straight.
 
Dr. Steere nodded to her. “Miss Page, I did not mean to sneak up on you.”
 
“That’s quite all right, Doctor,” she said, her insides slowly unwinding.
 
“I see you are enjoying the sunshine.”
 
“If you consider running clothes over a washboard as enjoyment.”
 
He glanced up at the sun. “Colorado Territory does have pretty skies, don’t you think?”
 
What was this, a feeble attempt at small talk? She didn’t have the strength to keep up the charade any longer. It was much easier to be friendly. “A blue sky is a blue sky.”
 
He shook his head. “But this sky has horses and castles and giant flowers.”
 
She peered up at the clouds dotting the stretch of endless blue. Looking for shapes in the clouds had been a fun game when she was little. She pointed to a large cloud. “That one looks like a boat.”
 
Dr. Steere sidled up to her and followed her finger to where she was pointing. “Yes, it does.”
His masculine musk filled the air, surrounding her. A deep-seated ache migrated through her body and settled between her thighs. It had been a long time since she’d been with a man. Even though whoring had been her business, she’d learned to derive pleasure from her clients. A pleasure she’d been long denied. Dr. Steere was not like any of the usual men who had called upon her nightly services. His presence alone aroused her. She didn’t even need his touch to remind her body what to do.
 
Her long-suppressed need for male companionship rose to the surface. Watching him out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the corners of his lips twitching. Had he caught her looking at him?
 
If this was a game for him, she’d be happy to lose. Her heart raced, beating with eagerness to be with him. It would be more than sex with him. They had a deeper connection. He wanted to court her, make her his wife, and she longed for him to drop on one knee and ask her.
 
She could enjoy his strong, steady presence all day especially if it led to the bedroom. Damn, this was a precarious situation. He wanted her and her body wanted to be with him, but she knew the people of Big Rock better than he did. Was she ready for the storm that would follow?
While she was in charge of her own life, not the good Christians passing judgment on her, she did have to live within their community. Would it be more or less painful to live as Mrs. Steere?
 
Clearing her throat, she got his attention. “What is your business here, Dr. Steere? I take it you no longer require directions around town.”
 
“No, you explained the surroundings very well. It will just take time for me to get to know everything.” The way he looked at her left no question of whom he wanted to get to know.
 
Her pulse skidded out of control and her core heated. She put both her hands in her apron pockets to keep from running them up and down Dr. Steere’s broad shoulders.
 
She gulped air, grasping for her resolve to keep things strictly professional. “Did you come out here merely to discuss the clouds? I figured a doctor would have more important things to occupy his time.”
 
He put a hand on his chest. “The lady’s wit strikes again.”
 
She scowled. His sarcasm was not becoming.
 
“I was actually hoping you could get out bloodstains.” He took off his frock coat and then his vest, standing before her in a white shirt, tie, and trousers.
 
He was stripping in front of her. She couldn’t believe it! Yes, she’d seen many men strip for her before but that had been in the privacy of her room, not on the front lawn where anyone could see. Heat spread from her ears all the way down to her toes, and yet she could not tear her eyes away from the enthralling sight.
 
She wetted her lips and clenched her thighs, already feeling the moisture down below. He slipped off his tie and then proceeded to take off his white shirt.
 
Speechless, she gaped at his toned chest covered in a dusting of black hair.
 
“I suppose I should have changed at the office,” he said in an apologetic tone. “I wasn’t thinking.
 
I knew it was best to clean the bloodstain quickly. I was changing the bandage on a patient and my sleeve fell down.” He handed the shirt to her.
 
The right sleeve was coated in blood, still damp.
 
Somehow her lust-filled mind still managed to form a coherent sentence. “I will see what I can do.”
 
“Thank you. After medical school and the war I don’t have too much savings. I figure I’ll be scraping by until I build up a good practice. Of course, I realize many patients pay in kind out here.” His gaze migrated lower, pausing for a hairbreadth at her thighs and she pulsed with need.
 
“How much do you charge?”
 
“Charge?”
 
He pointed to the shirt she was holding. “For the washing,” he said, a taut smile tugging at his lips.
 
“Oh. Two bits.”
 
He nodded and began buttoning up his frock coat to hide his bare chest.
 
“I-I can deliver your shirt tomorrow,” she stammered.
 
“That will be fine, Miss Page. You know where my office is.” He walked all the way to the street and then stopped and turned around. “A doctor keeps long hours,” he called to her. “My door is always open.”
 
Blurb:
 
Ida Page has seen the worst the west has to offer. Snubbed by the citizens of Big Rock, Colorado, ever since the town cleaned up its act and became civilized, she has tried to change with the times. No other line of work available, she became a laundress after the mayor shut down the whorehouse, but the good people will not allow her to forget her past as a shady lady. She has given up on ever being accepted, let alone falling in love, until a handsome half-breed stranger arrives in town.

After the War Between the States, William Steere has been looking for a town to build a medical practice. He answered a newspaper ad placed by the mayor of Big Rock and hopes their desperate need for a doctor will overrule their race prejudice against his half-breed status. At the Independence Day picnic, he is introduced to all the town citizens except for one woman sitting off by herself. This redhead draws him to her with merely a gaze.

Can the two outcasts find love and acceptance in each other's arms or will the town’s cruelty and a smallpox epidemic tear them apart?
 
Buy Links:
Liquid Silver Books    ~    Amazon US     ~    Amazon UK     ~    Barnes and Noble     ~    ARe
 
Author Bio:
Haley Whitehall lives in Washington State where she enjoys all four seasons and the surrounding wildlife. She writes historical fiction and historical romance set in the 19th century U.S. When she is not researching or writing, she plays with her cats, watches the Western and History Channels, and goes antiquing. She is hoping to build a time machine so she can go in search of her prince charming. A good book, a cup of coffee, and a view of the mountains make her happy. Visit Haley’s website at http://haleywhitehall.com.
 
Where to find Haley Whitehall: