autistic kids, superhero romance, SF Romance

 

Isn’t it pretty?

SFRGalaxyAwards_icon

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.

PhoenixInheritance72lg

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.

 

A nice start to my holiday shopping day with a great review of Ghosts of Christmas Past over at Long and Short Reviews:

“The romance between Noir and Al began before the book started but I had no trouble picking up what was happening.

The love is there, but so is the mounting tension. Personal barriers, police vs. transient population, politics and greed all play a part in this great novel.

I will be going back for more books from this author and she is on my must read list for urban fantasy.”

Full review here.

And, about that cover…

 

Ta da…the cover to Phoenix Inheritance, due out on 3/3/2015!

 

I have a book out today, Ghosts of Christmas Past.

I’m proud of it, I love the characters of Al and Noir, I love that it’s a Christmas story, and I love that I was able to integrate A Christmas Carol into the plot.

But a part of me feels like it’s a little gauche to celebrate my personal victory today with the tragedy of what’s happening in Ferguson and the continued tragedy of deadly race relations in America.

My story features a cop as the hero, an African-American detective who’s one of the few honest men in his city, like Jim Gordon on the Gotham television show.  Why is he African-American? Why wouldn’t he be in an urban city like my Charlton City aka the Double C? And there seemed something off to me about a white cop trying to impose order on a racially mixed city, even a fictional one.

When I was writing this story, I tried hard to make the setting realistic, to make certain anything that happened could potentially happen in our world. In one sequence, Al stops the corrupt SWAT team from tossing flash-bang grenades into a restaurant full of civilians.

I thought this might be pushing the boundaries of what could happen in an American city.

Then Ferguson happened.

And suddenly, my corrupt SWAT team paled in comparison to the sight of police officers, 99 percent white, in full riot gear imposing order on the mostly African-American citizens of a city.

I don’t want reality to be worse than a horrible situation I create for fiction.

But this is another reason that Aloysius James is who he is. Because as long as we (society) view the world as black and white, as long as some people are seen as the other, then we’re going to continue to have these problems. We need change.

I’m not patting myself on the back. I think adding in diverse characters to my stories, like Al, or the Japanese-American heroine in Phoenix Rising or the Native American heroine in Eagle of Seneca, or a mixed race hero in the upcoming Phoenix Inheritance, is the absolute MINIMUM any writer can do.

Because, at this point, using only straight white characters in stories is ignoring reality. A writer has to deliberately eliminate part of the reality outside our windows, on the internet and on our televisions screens, in order to create an all-white world.

Acknowledging reality’s truth is the least I can do.

 

 

Out tomorrow!

Also available for Nook and at Samhain Publishing.

Here’s Lucy/Noir’s first point of view chapter, chapter two in the book.

*******************
Lucy wasn’t sure which was worse—that she couldn’t get Al to admit exactly how much of a dumbass he was being or that she was terrified of him being right.

At this point, she was shocked he’d ever unbent enough to have sex with her in the first place, with his talk of giving her space. He thought she’d change her mind about him. Now that this was real, a normal relationship, he was having trouble because he didn’t trust what she felt.

They were together because they had a connection, not because of any weird mess in her head. You’d think he’d know that.

At least, they had a connection when he was around. Okay, so maybe they had two issues. And he was using the second to cover up the real problem, which was he was terrified to truly commit. He made room for her in his place but not in his life, certainly not the way he lived it. He thought she’d walk so he kept her at arm’s length except in bed.

Space? Hah!

She drew in a deep breath, the cold air freezing her teeth. She wasn’t just hanging around the Double C for Al, as her parents seemed to think she was. She’d built something here, even if she couldn’t quite figure out how to square it with her old life. This was important.

Hanging around in that transient-artist place. Damn Al for saying that.

As she walked the final block, she pulled her fedora lower to stop the snow from dripping onto her face. She’d grown to like hats from her time in costume as Noir. She wore Noir’s black leather duster and boots too. Noir was a part of her. She had her name and most of her memories back but she didn’t completely feel like Lucy yet.

Were Lucy and Noir the same person?

The blast of air that heated her face the instant she walked inside the colony was a welcome break from that thought.

And then she laughed at the clashing holiday displays that had sprung up overnight in their little art collective. To one side sat a metal tree made of old car parts, strung with blue lights that reflected the chrome and steel, and topped with a Smurf. That had to be Cassandra’s doing. To the other side, there was a tree made totally of newspaper clippings. She stepped closer and realized all the clippings talked about atheism and the evils of religion and how even Christmas trees were pagan.

But in the middle? A traditional tree topped by a star, full of handmade paper ornaments. Was it revealing her normal suburban upbringing that she liked that one best? This was the first year she’d celebrated Christmas in a long time. Hell, it was the first Christmas she would even remember since she was seventeen.

Five days until release day for Ghosts of Christmas Past! A little taste of the first chapter.
*****************

“Dinner smells good,” she said. “That’s the only good thing about it.” “It’s nice of you to cook.” “This is my uncle’s chili recipe. He makes it for the guys in the firehouse. Maybe you can tell me what’s missing.”

He offered her a taste on the edge of the wooden spoon. She tentatively flicked out her tongue over it and that gave him images not related to food at all. She wrinkled her nose. Yep, it was definitely awful.

“Needs more tomato,” she offered.

Unable to resist, he bent his neck and kissed her. All resistance melted as he pulled her close, the soft, honey scent of her filling his soul.

She drew back and put her head on his shoulder. “Right, I should close the curtains,” he said.

She laughed, a sound of joy so pure it made his heart ache. “I could care less about who sees us.” He brushed her hair back and kissed where her shoulder met her neck, caressing it with his tongue. She pulled away from him again. He got the right message this time.

“Still stuck on the phone call?” Family. Always a mood killer. But working through this was part of her recovery. Listen and support. He knew that part of the psych drill too.

“I don’t seem to know what to do with them lately, even though I’ve visited at least twice a month since…”

He stroked her back. She never liked finishing that sentence. “Since you regained most of your memories of being Lucy, you mean.”

She entwined their hands. Restoring all those lost memories had required the help of a trained telepath. They were damn lucky to have found one in Beth Nakamora. The bonus to remembering everything, including all those horrible things in her captivity, had been learning how to switch her invisibility on and off. Noir claimed dealing
with that pain all over again had been worth learning the control. He wondered. But he didn’t push. Listen and support. That had been the mantra Beth gave to him as Noir’s boyfriend.

“What do you want?”

“We’re throwing a huge holiday party at the artists’ collective. I want to be there. And I want to stay here in the Double C and spend Christmas with you.”

For that statement alone, he’d give her the world. Yet what if his world was too small for her? All he had was this small apartment and a job that never gave him much time for a private life. She had the talent to go places, and she had so much time to make up.

He caressed her neck with his thumb. “I love you.” God, I love you, Noir. But Lucy might well decide that while he was part of her present, he wasn’t her future. He had to face the possibility that their relationship was simply a step in Lucy’s recovery.

“Yes, we’ll get a tree, but whether it’s your parents’ house or the artists’ party, I can’t go with you. I’ll be on duty.”

She pushed his hand away. “You could take time off if you wanted. I’m not sure you do.”

“What? That’s crazy.”

“Is it? I mean, you want the sex—I want the sex—but you don’t seem to want much else out of this. Okay, sometimes you want help with a case.”

Crap, this was going to be a mess now, wasn’t it?

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