Spring Cleaning Challenge Part #2

Today is my birthday! And if you’d joined me last week you’d know I’ve given myself the present of cleaning up on old manuscript. I’m so happy my blog friends have joined me! Yippee!!! And I hope you will as well…

So, step 1, I pulled out my very first story. I’d written this 118,000 hot mess in stolen hours of lunch breaks and weekends.

Yet, rereading I felt the same excitement and fulfillment as I had creating the story. I laughed/groaned/cried at what I’d written. You know the freedom before I “knew” how to write. 😉

The Daring Debutante, a regency romance, is full of spies, alpha males and all kinds of editing nightmares. My heroine is/was flighty and out of control most of the time. Perhaps because when I wrote this, I felt the same? And her best friend tried stealing the story (I remember because I had to write her story, too!). The hero is a moody, dark egotistical man who I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole in real life, but I wanted to lick him, tuck him in my pocket and save him from himself. And his war friends…well there is plenty of trauma drama to last a whole series. Lol!

The overall plot was good…solid. I had a great concept.

I lacked detail, strong verbs, good dialogue and the growth of great characters. I had to make my heroine more likable in the first chapters. (She wasn’t!)

Here is my first chapter… and I have to say my work isn’t as nice/good as my friends. My edits look like I stabbed myself with the pen and bled all over my ms…wait…that’s how I felt!

Changes here are in bold.

Chapter 1

My dearest Athena,

I hope this letter finds you in good spirits. I trust you are trying to stay out of the mischief that follows where you go? Is Father well? Has he or our brothers forgiven me for joining the army, yet? Not that it matters, but send them my loving regards, and not to worry.

News travels so slowly and we’re marching so fast now, I do not know when I can write again. We have been on the move and the days are getting shorter and colder as they push us harder and harder. We are headed right deep into the heart of the enemy’s country.

I am well. The sense of fulfillment I feel here is hard to explain. My duty to ensure our victory nearly overwhelms me. I read the doubt in the faces of fellow comrades’. Most are distrustful and their apprehension is brewing like the storm clouds rushing over the top of us.

Yesterday, as we marched into a valley we witnessed the cavalry swooping up the crest of Clavinet to surround an entire French command. The commander’s accurate execution made all the troops mouths drop gape. I imagined it happened just like those Mongolian raiders we once read about on the floor of father’s study.

There is a true commander, and I would be honored to serve by his side. His absolute resolve to conquer whatever crossed his path was remarkable.

His name is Savage

Late summer, 1815 (Not sure if I should put here or above)

“Athena Wellesley!” The high pitched burst made the letter she was rereading flutter to the wooden floor. In a guilty whirl, her bulky ballgown almost throwing her off balance, Athena faced her best friend’s horrified expression.

Lady Katherine Warwick was the exact opposite of Lady Athena Wellesley in all regards. Her gown was white, unwrinkled, pristine. Artistically styled blond hair graced the top of her head, as plump ringlets brushed the tops of her bare shoulders. Her delicate features in perfect proportion with her small statue. But her normally beautiful serene face carried a look of displeasure.

Unfortunately, it was a face Athena saw too often of late from everyone.

“Yes, Kit?” Athena felt like a giant floppy sunflower next to a delicate pale rose. She made an attempt to fix her light brown hair which was already falling out of her chignon and shook out her new blue skirt that looked as if she’d slept in them. and slouched.

“You are not reading those letters again, are you?” Her small satin covered foot tapped impatiently as she watched Athena.  With a sigh, she walked further into Athena’s long rectangle shaped room. The pink flower wallpaper highlighted her petite friend’s cheeks. Kit, Shaking her head, held out a hand. “Give them to me before you become too upset to even leave.”

Athena passed over the small stack clutched in her left hand. As they slipped from her gasp, her stomach tightened. Nothing would upset her enough to not go tonight, but she couldn’t confirm those feelings with Kit. Her dear childhood friend would try and stop her from her plan. Bending, she picked up the yellowed paper of the floor, and gathered the letter and her thoughts. Standing once again, she muttered, “You should have at least warned me you were there before scaring the daylights out of me.”

“I did. You were engrossed in what you were reading.”

“Yes, well,” Athena would not feel guilty about reading the only thing left of her brother and with her highbrows raised, she traced one brown arch of her brow and rubbed the linen of the paper in her other hand. She would not feel guilt. “Yes, I was reading those Poll’s letters again. but it’s the last one Poll ever wrote to me. I like to read it them. It makes me  I feel closer to him when I do.” And somehow closer to the man she was going to search out tonight. Athena folded the thin, badly creased letter and placed it in the original envelope with practiced ease before she held it out for Kit and closed her eyes.

Katherine sighed, walking further into Athena’s long rectangle shape room. The giant pink flower wallpaper dwarfed her petite friend. (Moved this up earlier in story)

Athena barely felt her  the tender friends touch on her bare hand before she heard. “I don’t wish to sound so harsh. Poll’s disappearance has affected you greatly. It has all of us. But, now is not the best of times to dredge up memories. They’ll only make you feel more distraught. And Tonight is a night for celebration. The end of the long war. I want you to enjoy yourself like you did before—”

“Before Poll’s disappearance?” Athena finished.  

Kit nodded and grabbed her hands. Her strength and kindness seeped through her white gloves and Athena had to let go before she did something silly, like cry.

Turning with a clearing of the throat, the lump bearable, she spoke. “I wish I could, Kit. I really do. But I remember him before he left. His pride in his new red uniform and his hair, so like mine, cut close to his nape.”

“You were always so close. Apollo and you were inseparable as kids while the older boys left you alone.”

“Yes, we were. Res and Seidon were terrible. Especially to us. Poll was my rescuer.” Now she’d do what she had to, to see to his return. It was only fair.

“Athena?”

She didn’t want to hear what she knew was coming. Not from Kit.

“Yes, a celebration. If only Poll could have be here. So handsome in his red uniform and radiant from his success.” Athena smile sadly. Remembering her favorite brother, his red hair so like hers, before he’d left four years ago to go fight. Out of the five children, Poll was the closest to Athena.

Athena clapped her hands once, snapping them back. “We must leave or we’ll be late and then you’ll never get the opportunity to travel alone.”

Kit’s smile covered her uncertainty.(need better word here), but she let the issue slid.

Athena gathered her items. She knew how exciting being unchaperoned seemed to Kit. When one was under constant supervision from their parents, it could feel stifling. Something Athena knew nothing of since her father rarely left his study and her mother had died long ago. Athena’s Aunt Mary, who was supposed to have taken them, had a sudden departure due to some silly misunderstanding between her and her friends. A godsend to Kit. Mary, a meddling woman, couldn’t resist the temptation to found out about the mishap first hand had left the girls to their own. Both women were reliable, responsible young ladies. Kit being so much more than Athena.

“I know you’re looking forward to the ride, and I am sorry for not offering a better reception to your moment of freedom.”

“No. I must apologize to you. Your brother welfare is more important than my own. And I only wish for you to smile again without worry.”

“Never, say you’re not as important, Kit. You’re my best friend and the only one I can talk to. Without you I don’t know what I’d have done during these long months of no news and being shut down from the rest of the family.” Emotions started bubbling in the back of Athena’s throat. Poll, her missing brother, was presumed dead. Even her father and brothers presumed the worst. She did not-would not-until she had solid evidence of the fact.

She closed her eyes and massaged the wrinkle on her forehead right between her eyes. If she wasn’t careful she would give herself a megrim. “I refuse to think of Poll being dead and only sought his letters as a comfort before going into the den of lions where I’d hear of nothing but sincere apologies about our loss.” Athena’s family was wealthy and well off socially. Prey to the gossipmongers who wished them ill, but claimed otherwise.

Kit tilted her head. Pale blond ringlets blended into her white puffy sleeve. “Athena, what is it that you always tell me when I am feeling sad ?”

Athena worried her lip and then shrugged. “Who caused you such discomfort and what shall I do to repay them?”

“Ahh! You’re spirit is returning.” Kit patted her back. “And most of the time, you do so without asking since you have appointed yourself my champion when you found me crying in the orchard long ago.” Gathering Athena’s hand she made her sit on the vanity bench so they were eye level.

Athena laughed as she remembered. (Should I elaborate or delete?)

You told me Do not to pay attention to what others are babbling about for they don’t know what they are talking about.”

“They don’t know. They weren’t there.” Her thoughtsinstantly returned to her brother.

“Don’t hop to conclusions.” Kit’s patient understanding voice was too much.

Athena gave her a cross look. Kit’s blue eyes searched Athena’s light brown until she had to look away. If anyone had a clue what she was up to tonight, it would be Kit and that would be disastrous. She’d try and talk reason into her. Athena dropped her gaze and stood She stood and picked up the rest of her items.

Kit stayed kneeling. “Athena, I don’t want to say it, but what if you can’t fix this? like you try to do with everything else. I know your tenacious efforts looking into Poll’s disappearance have been intensive. I admire them. I do. It’s just that it has been so long with no word. I understand it’s not in your nature, but you just might have to come to terms with the worst and move on. Begin to live your own life.”

Athena turned. “Move on? How can I move on? I can still feel his presence in the next room hiding away for a moment of peace. I can’t give up until I feel the same peace.” She patted her friend’s hand at her compassionate look. “Kit, I appreciate what comfort you give me. However, I will not give up. I know he is alive and I will find him.”

Kit stood, shook out her skirts, and said sighed, “I know you will. You always do what you set your mind to.

Athena slipped her gloves on as well as a bright, shiny smile. “I apologize for my atrocious behavior. I promise for tonight, I will put on a bright face, go to the ball, not worry a moment about Poll and have a smashing grand time.”

With a look that stated how unlikely Kit thought that was, she followed her Athena from out of the room.

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It’s In The KISS!

You should be kissed and often and by someone who knows how. ~ Rhett Butler, “Gone With the Wind”

Today – Get Kissed Often as HerStoryCalls bloggers/writers share with you the first kiss from one of their novels……….

couple portrait kissing

Ane

Excerpt from “Return to Angels Cove”.  Natalie is running from an abusive relationship.  She’s made a new life for herself and guilty about running away, is unsure whether or not she deserves good things in her new life.

“What?  Do I have sauce on my face or what?”  She brushed at her cheeks with the towel she pulled from the waist of her worn jeans.  Jonathan rose from his chair and said,”Here, let me help you.”  He dropped the towel to the floor and grasped Natalie’s face gently between his hands.  He tilted her face up to his and brushed his lips against hers, ever so softly.  He drew back slightly and looked down at her lowered lashes.  He leaned forward again pressing his lips against hers brushing his tongue against her lower lip.  He felt a spark begin low in his belly and he drove his lips to hers a third time, demanding more, hoping for her total surrender.

Natalie sighed into the first sweet kiss and felt the ember of desire spark to life low in her core.  She’d been attracted to men in the past, she had needed them too, but she had never wanted a man the way the waves of desire for this man rolled over her.  She came alive with the wanting of him.  Her arms snaked up around his neck and pulled him into her hot embrace.  He slipped his arms down her sides and up the back of her slender form.  His hands roamed freely over her body while she clung to him in desire.  He slid his hand below the waist of her worn tight jeans and pulled her closer to him, grinding her to him.  Finally the kiss ended and they broke apart, gasping and flushed with desire.

Young couple kissing in a nightclub

Laurel

Here’s an excerpt from my medieval romance, The Angel’s Assassin – coming soon!

She moved to sit up, but he caught her cheek in his palm, stilling the movement.

For a moment, there was hesitancy in her eyes, wariness.  Then, she closed her eyes and pressed her cheek against his hand, nuzzling it.

He was lost in those lips, in the feel of her warm skin against his palm and he wondered what it might be like to wake up with such a beauty in his arms every morning.

He shook himself firmly of such thoughts, a dark scowl sweeping over his brow.  Those thoughts were madness.  He needed focus.  “Why didn’t you run?”

Aurora scanned his face in a silent caress.  “I could not leave you.”

Damien growled low in his throat.  She put herself in danger because of him…to save him.  Perhaps the only person in his entire life who wanted to save him.  Every single other one would have left him to die.  He was not worth saving.  He could never hold even the tiniest of sparks to her radiance, her goodness.  And still, she stared at him with such wonder and kindness and relief.  He could not resist her.  Not a moment longer.  He curved a hand at the nape of her neck and pulled her to him, fiercely claiming her lips, wanting…needing to touch her.  He pressed his hot lips against hers, sliding over her wet coolness.  God’s blood, even now, half poisoned and recovering his strength he grew hard for her.

A whimper escaped her lips and Damien wasn’t sure whether it was desire or protest.  He loosened his grip on her, not wanting to punish or hurt, only wanting to drink of her nectar, her kindness, to absorb some of it into his black soul.  Maybe then…maybe then he would be worth saving.

She pulled back and there was a pout to her thoroughly kissed lips.

He saw the unease edging her eyes, the concern.  He had frightened her.  She, the one woman in the entire world he didn’t want to scare.  The look in her eyes saddened him and he looked away.

The words from the darkness of his dream came to him.  She will see you for the ugliness you have in your soul one day and she will turn her back on you.  The memory caused great concern and dissension.  Did she remember what he had done to the assassin?  The violence?  The blood.  Had it tainted her?

He did not want her to look at him with fear, but he had known one day she would.  One day she must.  But not so early.  Not so soon.

Aurora climbed to her feet.

“Where is my sword?” Damien demanded, searching the forest floor.  He could not look at her.

“Here.”  It had been hidden beneath the flare of her dress when she was lying down.

Damien nodded in satisfaction.  He picked it up, pausing as he looked into her eyes.  They sparkled a pale blue in the moonlight.

Aurora stared at him for a long, pensive moment.  Then, her eyes lowered in thought until they reached his thigh where they lingered.  The furrows of her brow deepened.  “How do you feel?” she asked.

“Well enough to see you back to your castle.”  He sheathed his weapon and took a step toward Acquitaine.

“Damien,” she called.

He hesitated.  He didn’t want her to fear him.  Would she condemn him now for his violence?  The silence stretched.  Finally, he turned to her and his breath caught in his throat.

She stood in middle of the forest, bathed in a pool of moonlight.  Her blonde hair, loose from any constraints, fell to her waist in thick waves.  Her back was straight, her tiny body alluring and curvy and delectable.  But it was her eyes that captured his attention.  He saw no fear in her eyes.  It was concern.  Had he mistaken fear for concern?

Damien had never felt such an overwhelming need for anything in his life.  He trembled with his want of her.

A swirl of emotions played over her face.  Concern, regret, helplessness.

It took all of Damien’s willpower not to go to her and sweep her into his embrace.  He didn’t want to scare her.  He didn’t want to harm her.  He didn’t want to taint her.

“I will never leave you,” she finally confessed and tears entered her eyes.

Kissing couple in hay.

Michelle

Ainsley rubbed her nose against the soft fur of his chest and breathed deeply.  He took a deep breath and sighed against the top of her head, raising her eyes towards his they studied each other in a sleep-hazed gaze.  He brushed the hair from her face and cupped her cheek with his large hand. She relished in the warmth of his embrace and allowed herself to feel this physical confirmation of life.

His dark musky eyes studied her, meeting her stare with a look of longing she’d not seen before.  Lowering his head he brushed his lips against her brow, her eyes slid closed. She liked when he kissed her forehead, it was reassuring and non-threatening.  He paused and tilted her head towards his, like satin against bare skin, his lips glided over hers. Unconsciously Ainsley arched towards him, needing more, savoring the feel of his warm body against hers.

He groaned, his arms tightening around her waist to hold her firmly against him. Nudging her nose upwards with his, he pressed his lips to hers again. This time she reacted to his caress and met him half way.

Roderick’s tongue touched the edge of her bottom lip, she gasped at the delicious sensations that spread through her body. Heat flared in her stomach and ticked with things unfamiliar and unknown.  Opening her mouth to him, he took quick possession and slid his tongue against hers.

Lost in this touch so foreign and wonderful she mimicked his motion and tentatively brushed her tongue against his.  A moan bubbled from his chest, and he tightened his grip on her. His reaction flared the flames in her belly and she felt more confident. Giving up her inhibitions and fears, she returned his kiss.

Sliding her hand across his chest, she reached his neck and pulled him closer. Reveling in the heat of his body and the passion in his blood, she’d never in her life felt so content and alive. Twining her fingers into the hair at the nape of his neck, she felt the silkiness of his midnight mane under her palm.

With a growl he tore his mouth away from her, his forehead coming to rest against hers, his chest heaving hard, his fingers that cupped her head and tangled in her long tresses shook.  His eyes pinched in tension as he tried to regain control.

Ainsley slowly released her grip on his hair and slid her hands down his thick shoulders. “Roderick,” she croaked, voice unsteady and heart beating wildly.

Excerpt from:  Survival of the Fittest – one of my first manuscripts ever finished.

Old Time Kiss

Summer

Summer’s Unpublished Novel

I’m so excited sharing this first kiss excerpt from my historical novel,  A Duke Will Do. The Duke of Montrose and Margaret McNaughton are locked in a root cellar during a ball. Cloaked in darkness they fight their attraction as they grow closer seeking an escape. The problem…Margaret needs the Duke to save her clan. The Duke…doesn’t care…about anything.

Enjoy.

“How do you occupy your time?”

“Drinking.”

“That’s what you want to be known for?” Margaret’s incredulous exclaim almost made him wince. “You’re fine with the label of a drunkard?”

“What are you? My conscience?” He growled and searched his pockets again. There had to be something in there in which to strangle the chit. To hush her silky voice. “Forgive me, but I’m not one of your people. I don’t want nor wish to be saved.”

“No, you want people to think you’re a rake and nothing matters but a good time. You don’t want the responsibility of anything to tie you down.” Her soft husky voice was a shard of reason running down his spine, cutting like a sword. He hated the feeling as much as the next question. “Why?”

Why should she care how he was remembered? He didn’t. The war changed him, hardened him in ways inconceivable. Nothing mattered.

He was nothing. Not now.

Margaret didn’t deserve an answer. He grunted.

Her touch, a hesitant brush on the back of his hand was like a fire hot brand. With a hiss he jerked away biting his lip once again glad of the darkness.

She sighed, clicking her tongue.

Making tight fists he moved away from her. He sat with his back against the dirt wall willing the coldness to seep through his jacket and cool him down. When she made that noise again with her tongue he clenched his teeth hoping he could dissapear. That she’d disappaear.

“I don’t care what anyone thinks.” The words sounded convincing to him.

She gave a tiny snort as if she knew. Knew he lied.

How dare she! She would not weasel her way past his nonexistent principles and spark long dead scruples. He was happy the way he was. Happy not caring. Not knowing what was whispered behind his back. The process to drown his problems away in hard liquor had taken a long time. He wouldn’t resurface because he felt a twinge of lust for this redheaded minx.  She couldn’t bring them back in one night with one touch.

“Then why did you go out of your way to help me.”

“Oh, no. Oh, no, you don’t.” He scrambled to his knees and grabbed her shoulders. “Don’t you dare try to place me as your rescuer. I followed you out here to do the same thing as Hensley.”

“Then why haven’t you? Taken advantage of me?”

“I thought you’d never ask.”  Monty leaned forward and silenced her with his mouth. She needed to be taught a lesson.

Chapter 5

Dear Lord, Monty tasted of cigars and whiskey, and pure sin.

The lightning touch of his caress was hard, hot, and made her ache in ways she never thought possible. Her body craved something she couldn’t name and for once in her life she felt desirable, wild and perhaps a tad wanton. Her instant judgment of acting reckless didn’t consume her. Not as much as his touch did.

Margaret should resist him. She really should. Or at least put up some sort of fight to protect her virtue.

Instead, she raised her arms, slid them inside his jacket and wrapped them around his wonderfully broad back.

“That’s it,” he growled in sexy encouragement. His big callused hands bunched deeper into her skirts as he pulled her up on to her knees and closer to him so their bodies were in line with one another. The touch of his solid thighs against her middle made her knees quake causing her to grip tighter else she’d fall over. The supple muscles of his back rippled under her hands as she spanned her fingers out.

He answered with a swipe of his tongue along the seam of her lips.

Indulgence slithered through her like a decadent pastry lathered in cream and she opened her mouth answering his passion. The treat of this kiss was her compensation. After such a disastrous evening, something good had to happen.

Her worries could wait. This man couldn’t.

Thank you for joining us today!  Please give us your feedback and share with us your first kiss!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

With Love,

HerStoryCalls Authors

Era, Setting, Check Please!

Are you one of the lucky writers?

You know exactly the moment in time for your novel. The decision to write that Medieval or Paranormal or Western Contemporary was never any problem. You just knew.

What made the choice so easy? Was the love of your subject what pulled you there or perhaps you grew up on a ranch and that was the logical choice? All the critiques say write what you know.

I say write what you love.  

You didn’t grow up in Medieval Scotland or Regency England, anymore than Johanna Lindsey, but research is at your fingertips. Surprise yourself. Take your heroine struggling to gain her freedom and toss her into a time where she would have been repressed in ways we personally couldn’t understand. Show her fight intensified due to the Era and times she lived in. In “chivalry” times.

Ah, the times were anything but great. The Earls and Barons were tied to their overlord and fought when their King snapped his fingers. His will, their command. And women and serf, aka working class, well, they weren’t allowed to be liberated in any way. Laws were made about what workers could wear. Families were told how much they could spend according to their income on clothing. Regency times were not much different to our thinking but the women had more power. They could inherit their money and be free by twenty-one as long as she didn’t marry. Then it was her husband’s.

So, have you ever thought about changing your setting? The Era?

Perhaps your spunky, slightly defiant charge doesn’t know what she wants. How would you make her grow? What era, setting would you choose?

Would you pick a singing nun in the hills of Austria during WWII? The Sound of Music is one of my favorites. 😉

Or do you throw her to the wolves to battle the sexism of an elite male chauvinistic team in the twenty-first century? GI Jane deals with this everyday undergoing Seal Training.

So do you stick to Mainstream or write what you know? No! Go outside the box and write what’s in your heart. Pen what you love.

Pick your character, pick your era and setting and let’s go! Check please!

Special Guest Blogger today!

Thank you  and Welcome to Best Selling Historical Romance Author Cheryl Bolen!

Ane has asked me to share a bit about my epublishing journey. I think I can give a decent perspective on this because I have fairly successfully published both print books for major New York publishers, with a small e-press, and now as an indie ebook author.

If someone had asked me a year ago if I’d ever self publish ebooks, I would have emphatically said, “No way, Jose!”

My first print book came out in 1998 and worldwide has now sold almost 200,000 copies, even though it’s been out of print in this country for 13 years. Two years after that, while still publishing with print publishers, I signed a contract with one of the early epublishers. While my first print book got a $5,000 advance against 6 percent royalties, my first ebook got no advance, but 35 percent royalties. I had decided epubbing was the only way to go with that out-of-the-box (World War II romance) book because none of the big boys wanted that setting. I soon found out, though, that the world wasn’t ready for ebooks. That ebook made me less than $30 – about the same amount I paid to purchase its copyright!

I said I’d never epublish again.

Then in the past two years came Joseph Konrath, Amanda Hocking, Bob Mayer, and my Bay Area RWA chapter mate, Anne Marie Novark, all of whom were successfully self publishing their books and doing very well.

I’d had the foresight to request reversion of rights on all my books for which reversion was eligible: five. I will be unlikely to ever get rights back on one of my books because of the Harlequin contract, and I have to wait until 2015 for a pair of others. I have recently received another reversion and await another one.

Spurred by the others who’d so successfully dipped their toes in the epublishing waters and rudimentally educated through RWA PAN loops, I turned the epublishing prospects over to my brilliant, computer-savvy husband.

He did all the work signing me up for Amazon’s Kindle Direct, Barnes & Noble’s Pub It, Smashwords (for Sony, Kobo, and I-Store), and he formatted the books for the various outlets. In addition, working together (my ideas, his know-how), he designed the covers (because my publisher owned the previous covers).

In late May (2011) we were ready to launch. We started out with the first three of my four-book Brides of Bath series, priced at $3.49, and a fourth book at 99-cents. All of them were Regency historical romances that had previously been print published. With 99-cent books, the publisher/author only gets a 35 percent royalty. If it’s $2.99 or more, the publisher/author gets 70 percent of the selling price. In June I once again made my WW II romance, It Had to be You, available for 99 cents.