First up, a 4-star review from Night Owl Reviews on Ghosts of Christmas Past:

“The strong compelling characters grab the reader’s attention from the very beginning and the fast paced and smooth flowing plot keeps readers shivering in apprehension with suspense, excitement and passion.”

Love Al and Noir. Plus, hey, you don’t need it to be Christmas to read it!

Phoenix Inheritance was reviewed at the big romance reader site, Dear Author. I love that the reviewer completely got the story. My publisher made this cool image for me, so I’ll share the whole review. As for my prose? Well, lyrical language isn’t a specialty though every now and then I turn a pretty phase. To me, story is all.

PhoenixInheritance_Review_3.11.2015_DearAuthor

fools for love retouched

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” –As You Like It, William Shakespeare.

SF Romance Station is running a HUGE sci-fi romance reading giveaway throughout the month of April. Check out the prizes below. Each winner will have their choice of a gift card for either Nook, Kindle, All Romance or iBooks, plus they will win great eBooks from participating SF Romance authors. You can see all books below!

Be sure to join the Facebook party, too, for discussions, silliness, and, well, fun. :)

But, now, on the theme…this one was hard for me because to me, being foolish, means being stupid. But that’s no so, especially when it comes to relationships.

In so many ways, falling in love is the most foolish act of all.

It takes a leap of faith to believe that the person you love somehow loves you back in equal measure. In a sense, every romance novel character who falls in love is a fool.Shards_of_honor_cover

The first example that jumped to mind isn’t from my own work but from Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold. Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan are on opposite sides in an intergalactic war. Even so, they’ve managed to save each other’s lives. But when Cordelia returns to her home planet, nothing is right. Her superiors believe she’s a hero, the spy agency believes she’s been brainwashed to serve Aral’s people (untrue), and even her mother doesn’t trust her own judgment.

Cordelia flees, wearing casual clothes and with only her slippers on her feet. She goes to Aral, taking a leap of faith that she can be herself among his people.

Undoubtably, the most foolish thing any of my characters have ever done is when Beth kidnaps Alec in Phoenix Rising. Beth sees this smart, powerful, and, most of all, kind, man that she’s come to love being trained by his superiors to became a weapon in a war. She can’t stand it and kidnaps him, having no idea if he’ll listen to her when he wakes up, if he’ll ever trust her again, but she knows whatever the outcome, her own life won’t be the same.

He was born to be a weapon. For her, he must learn to be a hero.

He was born to be a weapon. For her, he must learn to be a hero.

“How would you like to go farther than the clearing?”

Was she asking him to her place?

“That could be good.” He put his arm around her shoulder as they reached the bottom of the hill. The
connection between them was a steady hum. He was close to full arousal and wondered if she was too. But she seemed more distracted than anything else.

Gravel from an old service road crunched under his boots. “How would we get to your place? It’s too far to walk.”

She paused, as if thinking hard about the answer. “A friend left me a car around here,” she said. “At least, I think it’s around here.”

“You’re kidding.”

She leaned against him. He pulled her close. “You want me to go home with you?” He held her out from him, searching her face to see if she’d object. This was better than he hoped.

“In a way. The house where I want to take you belongs to a friend but he lets me use it.” She put her hand on one of the large pine trees, looking around, squinting. She took two steps, and banged her knee into something that made a hollow metallic clunk.

“You okay?” he said. “That was no tree.”

“No, it’s our ride.” She rubbed the knee. “This way, we can leave without anyone following. I wanted to surprise you.”

“I’m surprised.” He knelt down to look closer, and dropped her hand. She’d walked into the front fender of a car that was covered by a green tarp.

“Cool camouflage.” He peeled back the tarp. A Honda. He’d been hoping for a sports car. But at least he was leaving with Beth to go to her place, where they could be alone with no watchers.

“Thanks.” She punched in a code on the driver’s side lock.

He got in the car as she pulled the rest of the tarp off. She dropped the tarp in the backseat, sat down behind the wheel, picked up the keys from the driver’s seat and turned over the ignition.

“Wait, how’d you get a car out here?”

“Just lucky, I guess.” She reached down into a side pocket on the door and slipped something into her hand.
His back stiffened. This whole thing was weird. He hadn’t been seduced many times but this suddenly didn’t feel like it should. He grabbed her right hand.

“Counselor? What’s really going on?”

She turned, eyes wide. “I—” Her hand closed over whatever was in her palm. “I work with the CIA on occasion, so I’ve learned to be careful and plan ahead. The car was left here by a friend in case I needed it.”

“Plan ahead for what? Why would you need to hide a car from the Resource? It can’t be just to have sex with me.” He gripped her hand tighter.

“The Resource isn’t as benevolent as you think, especially its director.”

“What exactly are you afraid of?”

She tried to pull her hand free. He tightened his grip. Lansing had warned him the CIA would like to
get hold of him. Maybe that’s what she was doing. And he’d walked right into it because she’d let him put his arm around her shoulder. Daz would never let him hear the end of that one.

“Alec, it’s complicated. It’ll take too long to tell it here, especially given how quick they’ll miss you. As soon as we get where we’re going, I’ll tell you. But I swear, I will not hurt you.”

“Not good enough.” He dug his fingers into her wrist. “Talk to me now, before we go anywhere.”

She tried to pull her hand free. He let her pull him closer to her, intending to pin her to the seat and get some real answers. But she twisted and her left hand came forward. He caught a glimpse of something sharp just before she plunged it into his shoulder. He jerked backward and hit his head on the rearview mirror. He looked down at his shoulder. A syringe was stuck in there, just above his collarbone.

Oh, fuck, another tranq?

“You—” He grabbed the syringe and pulled it out. Blood trickled down his T-shirt. Lethargy started to spread through his arm. Drugged. Again. “Why? I trusted you!”

“I’m sorry. We need to get away from this place. Fast. I won’t hurt you.”

“Yeah, well, this needle doesn’t scream harmless.” He jerked away from her and banged his back against the passenger door. He took a deep breath. Already, his arms and legs felt twice as heavy. He fought to keep his eyes open. “I’m out of here.”

He fumbled for the door lock. Bad enough to have Daz drug him but now he’d been fooled by someone half his size. And Lansing had been right again. He couldn’t trust people from outside.

Alec set his jaw and pushed Beth against the driver’s side door with his TK. She let out a muffled cry of pain. His vision started to go blurry at the edges. Okay, let’s see how she liked a fire show, close-up.

Something shifted inside his head, like a finger scraping against an open wound. He put his hands over his ears to block it out, almost doubling over. What drug did this?

He felt the car lurch into gear as he lost consciousness.

When Alec wakes up, Beth knows she’ll have an angry, possibly uncontrollable firestarter on her hands. One she can’t keep locked up, or she’s no better than the people using him, and one who might turn her into those same people.

It’s a supremely foolish act on her part. But so was falling in love with Alec.

Now onto the PRIZES!

prizes fools

To Enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: this is a universal entry form, meaning you can only fill it out once, not on every blog in the April even that you’re visiting. :) However, many of my fellow bloggers are giving away prizes on their individual posts as well. Check out not only that but some wise and witty words about science fiction romance.

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The event will last from 12 Noon Eastern Daylight Time until 12 Midnight Eastern Daylight Time USA, which should allow Brigaders around the globe an opportunity to join in.

We hope everyone will want to stay, chat, interact and participate in the event for as long as possible. Some amazing books will be up for grabs.

When the party begins, click on the link!

PhoenixInheritance72lgWe’re up to book 4.

Wow. Part of me is pumping my fist and thinking “hells, yeah!” especially with the recent SF Romance Galaxy Award for the Phoenix Institute series. The other part of me is just grateful: for my editor, for my readers, for my friends and family who’ve supported me through my writing career.

This book is different. Well, they’re all different. But there’s a great deal of personal blood and sweat in the pages of this one.

By that, I don’t mean the book drove me crazy or was hard to write. I mean that this one hit home hard.

Usually, I can keep my writing separate from my personal life. My writing is all the fun stuff I read about that I want to write about and I have a glorious time doing it.

Phoenix Inheritance, however, is my first book with a kids, dogs and a cat. Like me.

Have I gone sentimental? Yes but for  a good reason. We were going through stuff at my house that’s reflected in the issues Renee and her son autistic son Charlie are having in the story.  A more elaborate explanation is over in my post on Superheroes and Mental Illness at TheMarySue or at SF Signal in my post in Special Needs in Strange Worlds.

Don’t worry, however: things still blow up in this book and there’s still sexy times, though of the more human variety, since neither Renee or Daz Montoya, the hero, have superpowers. They’re still heroes, however, and I wrote about how Daz came to be my series’ version of Batman over at EverydayFangirl.

I hope you all enjoy Phoenix Inheritance and come to love these people as much as I did. In the meantime, I’m also running a Goodreads contest to win a print copy of Ghost Phoenix, Book 3. And I’ll be along later with some excepts and other goodies, like the hidden Easter eggs in my books.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ghost Phoenix by Corrina Lawson

Ghost Phoenix

by Corrina Lawson

Giveaway ends March 13, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

Final author’s note: As always, I write my books so they can be read as stand alone novels. That’s because I’m one of those readers who will pick up any book in a series and read it and I wanted my series to be accessible for people like me.

autistic kids, superhero romance, SF Romance

 

Isn’t it pretty?

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Those of us who carry the banner for science fiction romance look forward to the annual SF Romance Galaxy Awards, organized by Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express.

This year, I’m thrilled to have the Phoenix Institute as one of the award winners. And I can’t resist quoting the award post in full.

ETA: And Ghost Phoenix is now out in paperback. Check it out at Amazon, B&N, and Samhain Publishing!

“This series is kind of an X-Men/Batman crossover, if everyone is not just gender-bent but also talent-switched. And even that Batman analogy requires that Batman’s gifts be more super and less obsessed-neurotic based. But still awesome.

The Phoenix Institute starts out as “The Resource” run by one of the very definitely bad guys. His mission is to find people born with super talents and train them to be super soldiers obedient to his every whim. His evil plan is foiled by supers that got away, aided and abetted by one of his own. If Professor Xavier was a firestarter married to a telepath, you get the Phoenix Institute. Pun is intended, the Phoenix Institute rises from the ashes of the Resource and reaches out to supers everywhere, while righting the very big wrongs perpetrated by its predecessor.

On the main series, we have a telepath who rescues the firestarter, and a self-healer who finds his way back to the woman he left behind, who just happens to be in a long line of charismatics. We end with an invisible woman who falls for her clean cop in a dirty city, and a teleporter thief who saves an immortal queen. The alternate history angle in Ghost Phoenix is surprisingly twisty and results in a happily ever after that may just really mean “ever after”. This is paranormal romance with a delightful superhero twist, made even better by continuing into 2015.”

–From Marlene Harris.

Add that to the Patriots victory last night and that I hit 50,000 words on the “cliff-jumping” work in progress and it was an excellent weekend.

That next work coming? Phoenix Inheritance, coming out March 3, already up for pre-order.

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Out March 3.

To save their son, they might have to sacrifice their love—and their lives.

Phoenix Institute, Book 4

Ex-Navy SEAL Daz Montoya and rescue dog handler Renee Black have made a career out of saving people. But when their whirlwind affair resulted in pregnancy, Daz’s verbal fumble tore their budding relationship apart.

It’s been a tough eight years for Renee, raising Charlie alone with his autism-fueled impulsiveness, but she’s managed—until now. When she has to chase him to the edge of a cliff in a snowstorm, seeing the face of their rescuer is just the rotten cherry on top of an already rough day.

In the close confines of a snowbound cabin, Renee and Daz rediscover the heat still simmering between them. But while Renee welcomes Daz’s renewed determination to help Charlie however he can, she’s reluctant to trust him with her heart.

With the Phoenix Institute’s help, Renee and Daz discover their son’s gift for animal telepathy is real. And that to save him from old enemies that would kill to control him, they must join forces—and risk losing everything they’ve ever loved.

Warning: This novel contains explicit reunion sex and characters used to mixing a little danger in with their romance.

In a world where Game of Thrones can leave me wrung out emotionally, Hart to Hart (1979-1984) has been a refreshing change of pace the last two weeks.

Hallmark Channel ran a Hart to Hart marathon over the holidays and I let them build up on my DVR out of curiosity.

I had vague memories of the show as a kid as enjoyable and my mother loved it, as she had a thing for Robert  Wagner. (Can’t blame her there.) I’ve burned through all the episodes in two weeks, helped by the fact that I can fast-forward through most of the villain parts.

Conclusion: It’s light comedy with forgettable plots that floats entirely on the chemistry of the leads, Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers, as Jonathan and Jennifer Hart.

However, that chemistry is still damn effective after all these years,

So what did I learn from the adventures of the Harts?

1. Roleplaying is good for the sex life.

I’ve lost track of how many times the Harts either wear costumes or assume a different identity undercover. My favorite role-playing episode by far was when Jonathan lost his memory. He didn’t remember his life but accepted that he was who he was when he found his house.

Which led to a bedroom scene in which Jennifer decided it would be fun to make love to a husband who didn’t remember her, since it would be like having sex with an entirely different person.

To which Jonathan replied, “You are lovely.”

Fade to black.

And it’s not just our happy couple who love the roleplay.

In one episode, Max had to put on a ball gown to enter a costume party (don’t ask about the plot) and when he left the bathroom where he’d put on full drag regalia, a couple making out on the bed asked, “Where did you come from?”

“Out of the closet,” Max says. (That the couple making out on the bed are dressed as Batman and Wonder Woman is the cherry on the top of that particular sundae.)

Max later accepts a date from another man and returns home to complain (in very Some Like It Hot fashion) that men have issues.
You can see a quick shot of Max in the dress at the 3:00 minute mark in this clip.

2. The plots? Forgettable. But the Harts banter is forever.

While pretending to be strangers:

Him: “If I roll over and make love to you, will you call the police?”

Her: “Only if you need help.”

While Jennifer is undercover at one of the Hart Industries properties:

Her: Careful, you’re going to expose me.

Him: Only in private.

And then there’s the bit, twice repeated, where they’re in a hot tub and she asks him to “move his foot.” The look on her face leaves the rest to the imagination.

There are times when I can’t believe the stuff they got past the censors.

Jennifer with a statue: If you rub his tummy, it’s supposed to bring good fortune.

Jonathan: If you rub my tummy, you can have anything you want.

3. Choosing a classic style keeps the look fresh.

Perhaps as a nod to its inspiration, The Thin Man movies, Hart to Hart has a distinctive, classic style.

Jonathan’s suits would be in style today, though the double-breasted look that he wears sometimes might tag him as retro. I’m also impressed that the majority of Jennifer’s elegant dresses are classic, including a Grecian-inspired one that would’ve looked good on Audrey Hepburn.

One then-contemporary style that I miss are the open collars for men. Because Robert Wagner rocks that look.

Which brings me to the refreshing lack of manscaping. Wagner’s in good shape but he looks, well, like a good looking guy who dresses snappy. He has chest hair. His flat stomach sports no chiseled abs.

(Yes, he’s shirtless a few times. I studied that. Hey, I needed information to write this post, ya know. :)

The show only flails when it tries casual wear. Some 1980s trends (collars up on Polo shirts) are unfortunate.

Similarly, the luxury cars driven by the Harts, especially Jennifer’s yellow Mercedes-Benz convertible, would fit in today. But, oh, the American vehicles! Ugly as sin. Not a good era for Detroit. These clunky monsters (usually driven by the bad guys) inevitably date the show.

Both Hart vehicles are in evidence in this clip from the pilot which, incidentally, is the first time the viewer sees Jennifer Hart. Pretty sure she likes winning.

The verdict on the interior decorating is a bit more mixed. The Harts’ kitchen suffers from a bad color and lack of modern devices but the rest of the Hart house is again, a classic style, and the paintings on display are either Van Goghs or Impressionists.

Compare this to a show that also ran on the chemistry of the leads: McMillan & Wife. It tried so hard to be topical that it only looks laughable (style-wise) now.

But, I admit, Jennifer does sometime suffer from 1980s hair, though hers is somewhat restrained.

4. A good score can make any action seem tense.

The show does comedy and banter well. Not so much plotting or even the action sequences, which rely on very old-school (and glaringly obvious) special effects. But the music, the theme song and score, are terrific, memorable, and still fun. The theme is by Mark Snow, who also did the theme to the X-Files, and from what I could gather on the IMDB, scored 106 episodes of Hart to Hart.

5. While Jonathan is often a sex object, Jennifer usually isn’t.

By this, I mean that it’s usually Jonathan showing more skin than Jennifer, especially in a very funny scene where they’re in a Mexican prison and Jennifer notices the female guard is admiring her husband. So she insists he strip to the waist to get the guard’s attention.

Meanwhile, Jennifer’s cleavage is incredibly restrained, as is her overall look.

6. Jennifer is a full partner.

One wonders if creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz’s work on the Superman movies in the 1970s influenced Jennifer Hart’s chosen profession as a journalist. It also made me wonder if we have Mankiewicz to thank for the “I’ve got you,” “You’ve got me, who’s got you?” and “I like pink, Lois,” lines from those movies, because that sounds exactly like the banter between the Harts.

Whatever it was Mankiewicz’s doing or not, Jonathan never condescends to Jennifer, sees her as a source of essential information and never indulges in the “stay here while I go protect you” spiel. Usually, he’s fully on board with sending her out undercover or bringing her to the breaking and enterings they indulge in while solving crime.

Aside: breaking and entering seems to be foreplay for them.

Granted, Jonathan does more of the fighting but Jennifer takes out quite a few people by bashing them over the head with nearby objects. This seems to be her signature fight more and it’s quite effective.

7. Location shooting adds to the atmosphere.

Sure, a lot of the “effects” were shot in-studio but many of the scenes take place outside, in and around Los Angeles. I wish I knew more about LA architecture so I could recognize some of the buildings and parks which, I suspect, don’t exist any more.

8. The sexual chemistry works because of eye-sexing.

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Jonathan absolutely flat-out adores Jennifer and that’s evident every time they’re in a scene. He’s watching her, she’s watching him, and they’re very aware of each other at all times. For those who say married couples can’t generate heat, watch the way Wagner and Powers play off each other. They absolutely sell adoring each other every single time.

9. We’re really upped the ante on gun violence since 1979.

Guns were different back then.

The first time I saw a revolver in this show, I blinked. I’m so used to seeing newer weapons that the sight of  older.38 caliber revolvers surprised me. Oh, sometimes there’s a larger revolver–I spotted the .44 Magnum in one scene—but mostly the .38’s are used by heroes and villains alike, even when they’re shooting at cars.

Rifles (single shot) are used a few times, but not machine guns. (Maybe the increase in weaponry is the fault of the A-Team? Who knows.)

10. This last is very, very important: Don’t become friends with the Harts.

If you do, that immediately ups your chances of injury or death. Especially don’t work for them, as you’re likely to be kidnapped, framed for murder or disappear.

Now I want to go write a breezy couples comedy set in the 1970s. Someday.

WriteHardDieFreeI’ve never been happier to see a year end and a new year begin. Serious illness  laid my family and myself low several times and then we lost two of our kitties. All I wanted from 2014 was to survive to 2015.

That achievement unlocked, like everyone else in January, I’m taking stock of the new year.

I’ve decided this is the year where I jump off the cliff.

PhoenixInheritance72lgFirst, I’m talking more openly about the challenges my family faces as our kids deal with autism and other special needs issues. I put so much of this into Phoenix Inheritance that talking about it is unavoidable.

I want this book to get as much audience as it can because, if a fictional version of my story can reach and help people, then all that blood on the page is worth it.

I had three new books come out last year, shining bright spots amid the chaos.

This year, I have one new book, Phoenix Inheritance, coming out on March 3, and The Curse of the Brimstone Contract and Ghost Phoenix will be coming out in paperback. But after that, nothing is on my publishing schedule.

Why?

Because I’m writing something new, something I’ve wanted to write for two years and put it off because other writing obligations and health issues had priority.

It’s time.

The tentatively-named The Crystal Tower is an urban fantasy, a modern-day Arthurian tale set in a city on the verge of falling apart, like Detroit, or my fictional Charlton City in Luminous and Ghosts of Christmas Past. The lead is Aurelia (Lia) Artos and there’s an equivalent to the Holy Grail and Excalibur involved. No vampires, no werewolves or other shifters, no witches, etc. There is an element of a Cherokee legend that, I hope, adds an entirely new twist to the familiar story.Someone mentioned Neil Gaiman’s American Gods to me as a possible influence and I put my fingers in my ears because I haven’t read it and now I don’t want to read it because while Gaiman is awesome at whatever he does, I have to do what I do without trying to imitate him.

I’m only half-finished with the rough draft so I’m reluctant to say more but I know that the events that happened in Ferguson, Missouri are filtering into this tale. I’m not going to duck racial politics but meet them head on. To do otherwise would be a slap in the face of those dealing with this in their daily lives.

I’m not sure what’ll happen after I jump off this cliff.

I may crash and burn.

But I know that the way down is going to be glorious.

Oh, did I mention I also want to write a novella that goes with the steampunk, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract? And it will have a romance with characters over 40? Yes, one appeared in Curse and one is mentioned numerous times. I have it outlined.

And I have to finish that comic book horror mini-series that’s been on the back-burner. That one scares me to write.

All the more reason to add it to this year.

 

 

 

 

The not-so-secret ingredient.

The not-so-secret ingredient.

As I sat down to write this post, being tagged in this awesome cookie exchange by my friend, author Gin Jones,  I pondered which of my characters would actually make fudge.

Alec Farley, the firestarter from Phoenix Rising, would likely burn the fudge on his first attempt but he’d persevere. Philip Drake of Phoenix Legacy, the man who can become whatever you need, already knows how to make it and has modified it to feature several different flavors. He makes it for the love of his life, Delilah Sefton, who loves the fudge but is trying to figure out how to make it a mixed drink of some sort.

I bet Marian Doyle of Ghost Phoenix has made it but she doesn’t like baking and would rather buy gourmet chocolate in Little Italy. And Renee Black from the upcoming Phoenix Inheritance makes it with her son, Charlie. They (of course), lick the remains on the fudge on the saucepot, even at risk of burning their tongues.

Meantime, Al and Noir of Luminous and Ghosts of Christmas Past ask:

What the heck is Marshmallow Fluff?

To those who don’t know, it’s a mix of corn syrup, sugar and egg whites. It’s even gluten free!

Here’s the base recipe for Never Fail Fudge, which is on every jar of Marshmallow Fudge:

2 1/2 cups sugar
4 tbsp margerine or butter
5 ounces of evaporated milk
1 jar of Marshmallow fluff, 7.5 ounce size
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 package (12 oz.) of semi-sweet chocolate

My additions? Always, always use real butter. And buy Ghiradelli or other gourmet chips. They don’t have to be chocolate either. I’ve made this with peanut butter and white chocolate chips too. When I used white chocolate, I crushed up small candy canes and sprinkled the crumbs on top when the fudge was still hot.

To make:
1. Combine first 5 ingredients Stir over low heat until blended.
Advice: Trickiest part? Getting the fluff out of the jar. I run my spoon under hot water first so it doesn’t stick.

2. Bring to boil over medium heat, being careful not to mistake air bubbles for boiling. (That’s because Fluff is full of air). Boil slowly, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.
Advice: Stir, stir, stir. Never stop stirring. How do you know when it’s done? When hard residue begins to build up on the edge of your stirring spoon. But always do it for at least five minutes.

3. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and chocolate until melted. Pour into a buttered 9X9 inch pan and cool.
Advice: If the mixture is super-hot, the vanilla will boil and spit when you add it. Put in the chips first to cool it down, then add the vanilla. Stir, stir, stir and the chips will blend in nicely. And make sure you transfer it to the pan right away because it will start hardening quickly.

Also, I grease the pan, cover the pan and side with wax paper, and then pour in the mixture. This allows you to basically lift the fudge out of the pan with ease for cutting.

Voila!

You’ll notice I forgot the wax paper this time. And this is a 13X9 pan because I made a double batch. Also, yes, we did sample some, just to make sure it tasted good before we cut the fudge to give away as gifts. I know, I know. A rough job, tasting, but someone had to do it.

Fudge, made with semi-sweet Ghiradelli chips!

Fudge, made with semi-sweet Ghiradelli chips!

Phoenix Inheritance may be the geekiest book I’ve ever written.

It’s definitely the most personal. One, because the heroine is very much a geek, like me, and loves all her geeky attire. But mostly because Renee Black deals with her autistic child on a daily basis, often without help, and I know what that’s like. Without giving away too much of my children’s privacy, I’ve been in her shoes any number of times. For that reason, I’m terrified at the book’s possible reception.

I also know it’s a book I had to write.

As part of the SF Romance Brigade Showcase, here’s the first scene with Renee and my lovely cover, with Daz. The book is already up for pre-order on Amazon and comes out March 3, 2015. And check out the showcase link for other science fiction romance sneak peaks, covers, and other fun news.

Renee Black stored the last of her full gas canisters in the backyard shed. There. That was enough to keep the generator going for days. Even if the early snowfall materialized and knocked out power, she and Charlie would be all set.

The old-fashioned ring tone of her cell phone echoed in the quiet air of her backyard and she tugged the phone out of the pocket of her military-style peacoat.

Please don’t be Charlie’s school, please don’t be Charlie’s school.

It was Charlie’s school. “Hello?” “Ms. Black? This is Principal Partnope.” “Yes? Is something wrong? Is Charlie okay?” “Your son is fine now, Ms. Black, but we really need you to come immediately. How soon can you be here?”

“What happened?” She hated when they did this, told her to come down without telling her exactly why.

“We’ve had an incident. It’s best we discuss this in person. Will you be able to come?”

“I’m already on my way.” She dug out the keys to her pickup from the coat. “Is my son okay?”

“He’s calm and safe now.” Now. Implying he hadn’t been before. Oh, Charlie. How bad had it been this time?

“What happened?” she asked again.

“I’ll explain when you get here. Thank you, Ms. Black.”

He hung up on her. Dammit. The least he could do was give her some hint what had happened instead of making her run fifty million scary scenarios in her head on the way. She whistled for Thor and Loki. Her search-and-rescue-trained German Shepherds came bounding over from the other side of the yard. She knelt down and hugged them, noting the white on their muzzles, which struck her as especially prominent today. They were elderly dogs by regular standards and especially old for SAR dogs, as the work took a toll. Any day they could get outside and romp was a good day for them. She dreaded the coming of winter. They felt the cold so much now.

“I heard you barking at some animal, boys. What did you find?” They didn’t chase squirrels. They knew better. Maybe it was the stray cat Charlie had spotted over the last few days.

“I guess it doesn’t matter. In the house you go!”

She pointed and they headed inside through the open garage and through the doggie door. She pulled her truck out, closed the garage door, and drove down her long, winding driveway at a higher speed than she should have. She’d made this kind of trip far too often lately.

Charlie needed routine and order. He was already on a 504 Plan—special accommodations—because of his diagnosis of autism. She stayed hyper-alert around Charlie because if she spotted the signs of an incoming meltdown, she could head it off. But Charlie’s teacher had a full classroom and couldn’t do the same.

She’d asked the school for full psychological testing that might result in Charlie being classified as special ed and being given an aide who could watch him fulltime at school, like she did at home. Charlie’s teacher, Mr. Lamoreux, was on her side but he kept saying the principal, Partnope, was against it. Partnope had given her an entire litany of excuses as to why they should put off testing.

“He’s not that impaired.” “His grades are very good.” “His behavior chart, full of rewards, will be a big help.”

A big help? It obviously hadn’t helped today.

Every time she convinced herself her son was stabilizing, the school called again. It was one step forward, two steps back.

A text alert blared from her phone. She ignored it while she drove along the twisty corners of the back road. Only when she entered the center of Bernard and stopped at the main traffic light did she glance at the text. It was from the school too, but this time a general message informing parents the school had an early release because of the impending snow.

The light turned and, as she went through the intersection, she noticed the traffic was heavier than usual. Likely everyone was preparing for the storm.

Once she reached the school, finding a parking space was nearly impossible. She finally parked the truck on the grassy divider between the two main lots. The office buzzed her in the front door without even asking for her name. After her many visits over the past two months, the staff knew her by sight. She ran her hand over her hair to smooth it down and unzipped her jacket.

Only then did she realize she was still wearing her Captain Marvel “Princess Sparklefists” superhero T-shirt.
She bet Principal Partnope wouldn’t get the joke. Add that to the old peacoat and her looking ragged because of this morning’s work outside, and she’d earn Partnope’s disdain again. Maybe if she wore designer clothes and shoes like half the women in town instead of her jeans, work boots and her geeky T-shirts, the principal would take her more seriously.

Steeling herself for yet another confrontation, she opened the front door to the school office. Dorothy, the office manager, smiled at her. “Good to see you, Ms. Black.”

Dorothy, impeccable as always in a pretty sweater, seemed glad to see her. “Good to see you too. Where’s Charlie? Is he okay?”

“He’s fine, Ms. Black. He’s been asking for you.”

“Thanks.” Not for the first time, Renee wished Dorothy ran the school. Charlie liked her and listened to her. “What happened? Where is he?”

Dorothy pulled a pencil from behind her ear and pointed with it. “He’s in the conference room over there. He promised to draw me a picture of Thor.”

“Great. Did he mean my dog or the superhero?”

“You know, I didn’t ask. But I’d love either.”

Renee turned to the conference room but Principal Partnope came out of his office and intercepted her. “I’d like to talk to you first, before you see Charlie. This was a pretty serious incident.”

“I just want to make sure he’s okay, thanks.” She pushed open the door to the small conference room. Charlie sat there with a supply of crayons and blank paper in front of him. He smiled and ran over to her. She hugged him tight.
She drank in the sight, smell and feel of her son, his dark unruly hair, his brown eyes, his favorite Batman T-shirt and the whiff of peanut butter on his breath. I love you, kid.

Yes, she definitely needed this hug before talking to Partnope. She knelt down to look him in the eye.

“I like your T-shirt,” he said. “Is it new?”

“Just came yesterday. Along with your new Batman Beyond shirt.” “Awesome.” But he stared at the floor instead of at her. He shuffled his feet. “I did something really bad, Mom. But it was their fault. They were mean to me.”

“What did you do?” “I hit Mr. Revis,” he whispered.

“Who’s Mr. Revis?” she asked.

“Our substitute teacher this week.”

“Right.” Mr. Lamoreux was out for several weeks after having broken his leg. “What happened?” she asked.

Charlie waved his hands. “He was really mean. He tricked me!”

Mr. Partnope poked his head into the room. “May we talk now, Ms. Black?”

“All right.” Now that she’d seen Charlie, she could deal with whatever this was. “Charlie, I’ll be right back. Are you finishing that drawing for Miss Dorothy?”

He nodded. “Yes! I promised her I’d finish before school gets out.”

“Good.”

Once in the principal’s office, Partnope sat behind his very official desk. He looked like a bureaucrat with his thinning hair, thin red mustache and conservative tie. She preferred Mr. Lamoreux, who sometimes wore loud ties and shirts that broke the mold.

“Would you please sit down?” Partnope asked.

Renee thought about standing but decided since Charlie admitted he’d hit his teacher, looming over the principal and taking out her frustration with the situation was the worst thing she could do.

“That’s an interesting T-shirt, Ms. Black.” His gaze flicked over the shirt. It featured Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, in a red, blue and yellow costume with her energy power blazing at her hands. Hence, Princess Sparklefists.

“Thank you, it’s one of my favorites.”

“Interesting.”

“I think so.” She took a deep breath. She wouldn’t rise to the bait. “Why did Charlie hit his teacher? What happened?”

“I’m glad he admitted it. A lot of kids don’t.” Partnope laced his fingers together. “First of all, you should know that we take any assault on a teacher extremely seriously.”

She nodded. “Of course. Was the teacher hurt?”

“No, I don’t believe he was injured at all. Still, we might have to suspend Charlie.” She took a deep breath. She wanted to protest because she was sure Charlie’s impulse control issues had caused him to overreact, but it would be far better to hear this out first. “Could you please tell me what happened?” she asked again.

“Mr. Revis gave the students a surprise quiz today.” He paused. She nodded but what she wanted to do was say that didn’t they know Charlie hated surprises? She’d talked to all the school officials about it, including Partnope. Teachers were supposed to give him advance warning of any quiz. “And Charlie failed this surprise quiz?”

“It wasn’t that kind of quiz,” Partnope said.

He handed over a sheet of paper that started with Read this over fully first, and included all kinds of instructions about drawing shapes and writing sentences. It was busy work but work Charlie knew how to do. It wasn’t until she reached the last sentence that she knew why Charlie thought they’d been mean to him.

“It says at the end that no one has to do any of the problems.”

“Yes. The very first instruction was to read the paper fully and the last instruction is that they don’t have to do any of the work. This is a test we give to make sure students follow instructions and read their papers fully.”

“How many students in third grade read this all the way to the end?”

Partnope’s eyes narrowed. “Only two.”

“And after Charlie did all the work and got to the last sentence and realized he didn’t really have to do any of it, he lost his temper?”

“Exactly.” Partnope nodded. “He rushed to the front of the class, screamed at Mr. Revis for tricking him, kicked him in the leg and ran out of the room.”

Renee rubbed the bridge of her nose. Of course, Charlie would see this as being tricked and react. The whole quiz was a trick. Still, he shouldn’t hit anyone. But his reaction was entirely predictable and could have been avoided by letting him know beforehand.

“What happened after he ran out of the room?” she asked.

It was Partnope’s turn to take a deep breath. He cleaned off his glasses. “Charlie ran out of the school, toward the road.”

“Toward the road?” The elementary school was located on one of the town’s busiest streets.

“He was out the door before anyone could catch him. We did get to him before the road.”

“How did you get Charlie inside?” she asked, hearing the hoarseness in her voice.

“Dorothy called to him. He slowed down. Then she asked him to come back and sit next to her for a while.”

Dorothy. She had no way to repay the woman for this. “And he did?”

“Yes, he listened to her. And then she asked him for a drawing because she knows he likes to draw. Once your son was settled, we called you. Thank you for coming so quickly.”

“I understand your concern.” She tucked her hands into her lap, having no idea what to say. She was frustrated at the school for a situation that could have been avoided, worried about Charlie for running outside and just completely sick to her stomach because she had no idea how to stop it from happening again.

As bad as it had been at school so far, she’d thought he was at least physically safe there.

 

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