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.

 

All quite positive! Thank you all for reading and buying!

From CriminalElement.com:

What at first seems like a fun, magic infused mystery, turned out to be quite a bit more.  Joan is seemingly bound by not only her social status, but also her family obligations, and not only does magic mean a way out, it helps to gives her the courage to assert herself and take control of her destiny. There is a bit of light romance, but this is Joan’s journey, and the steampunk-tinged setting of Victorian London (and the clothes, oh, the clothes!) is icing on the cake.

Night Owl Reviews Top Pick!:

This is a fun introduction to what promises to be a very entertaining steampunk series featuring atypical main characters. I greatly enjoyed the focus on different cultures as it contrasts with the challenge of dealing with a society that is stratified by magic. This gives a very different view of historical England as it deals with both the complications and progress made as industrialization progresses plus the struggle to gain equality for women.

4 and 4 1/2 Star Reviews on Amazon.com:

“illustrates the author’s wondrous facility at creating a compelling and imaginative story.”

“Joan is a strong heroine and Sherringford is a man of mystery. The plot sucks you in deeply and quickly. Be prepared to read the book in one sitting!”

“Lawson has managed to incorporate both genres into a multi-layered world uniquely her own. After the midpoint I couldn’t put it down.”

And some blogs with exclusive excerpts from the last two weeks:

Revelry: Curse of the Brimstone Contract at Coffee Time Romance

World Building: Setting is Character at the Science Fiction Romance Brigade

Reader’s Day: Superhero Celebration at Samhain Publishing

Release Day Excerpts at Samhain Publishin

Happy Reading!

The publicity handbook says I should be doing all this *before* the book goes on sale but the weather and the power company that kept me in the dark for ten days had apparently never read the handbook.

So I thought I’d run a snippet for a few days this week, culminating in a contest/giveaway on Monday.

First up…Alec and Beth and their first kiss:

************

“I’m trying to get you to reconsider what you’ve been forced into doing for your entire life. There’s a whole world out there you haven’t seen.”

She walked over to the coffee table, reached down and brushed her fingertips over the gun. Her hand trembled. The gun lookedlike the same kind that her kidnappers had used, years ago. If he stayed with the Resource, Alec might become like those men, using any ends to justify the means.

“Hey! What’s with the nerves? Where’s my competent, no-nonsense counselor?”

The gun rose from the coffee table, floating in air. She turned and followed its flight. He snatched the gun out of midair with a smile and holstered it.

“See?” he said. “I control the guns, not the other way around.”

“And who controls you?”

His chest, Kevlar vest and all, rose and fell in a deep sigh. “I know someone in this room who’s trying to control me. What’s wrong, Beth?” He walked to her and lifted her chin with two fingers, his dark eyes crinkling around the edges.

“This is not a life you chose, this is a life that’s been imposed on you, from birth.”

“And?” His fingertips moved along her jaw, in a soft caress. I should move away. It feels too good. But he’ s listening.

“I’m scared. About this mission, about you being locked up inside the Resource forever.” Deathly afraid, so afraid her stomach felt like a heavy lump of coal. “There’s so much you don’t know about the Resource and about Lansing, so much you don’t understand. And you need to know it before it kills you.”

“Hey, I know Lansing can be a bastard. And that he’s overprotective and controlling. I’m working on it. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is my job.” Alec leaned closer to her face. “We can talk about that another time.”

“Do you really think there’s going to be another time?” Her voice rose, almost panicked now. She wasn’t getting through. “What if you get hurt tonight?”

“Look, this cell might have a dirty bomb. They need to be stopped, and I’m the one who can do it. I have to do this, right now.”

“Just that simple?”

“Yep. I walk away, people get hurt. I do my job, people are saved. That’s the deal, that’s my life. You analyze things too much.” He cupped her face in his hand. “But if it took this mission to find out you care, then good.”

She shuddered. Wrong, wrong, she shouldn’t let him touch her like this. Yet it felt like he touched her somewhere far deeper than her skin. A shiver, like the one from their first meeting, traveled from her neck to her toes, setting her nerves jangling. “This is wrong.”

“The mission isn’t wrong,” he said, misunderstanding her. “Relax.” His face was less than an inch from her lips and his breath fell on her cheek. Her skin felt inflamed, sensitive to the slightest movement of his hands.He kissed her.

His lips were softer than she had expected, tender, not at all like his casual, even macho, confidence. She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around his neck, feeling those strong muscles and pulling him against her, intensifying their contact, even as her mind screamed in protest. This is not what I came for!

Her body became enveloped in that strange energy, alive as never before. It was like the kiss had a second level, one which she responded to instinctively, creating a living connection between them. He drew her lips apart with his tongue, still tender, still allowing her the chance to back away. But she opened her mouth to him instead, her whole self consumed with wanting to touch him, her face flushed with desire. She grabbed the buckles of his body armor for balance, her equilibrium lost along with her reason.He crushed her against him, no longer tender, a bruising kiss demanding conquest. She allowed him full control, despite the buckles digging into her shoulder. He lifted her completely off her feet and brought her up to his eye level.

“Beth,” he breathed, brushing his lips against her neck before moving back to her mouth.

Her mind whirled, too lost to remember that she should stop him. She wanted him too much. The air heated up, warming them.

The papers on the coffee table began to smoke.

 

*******************

Phoenix Rising at Samhain.
Phoenix Rising at the Kindle Store.

I’m pleased and psyched to announce the sales of my novella, Luminous, to Samhain Publishing!

I wrote this novella originally intending to submit it to the Samhain superhero romance anthology. The call for submissions gave me permission to play with any type of superhero story, so I went the urban crimefighter route.

I figured, it’s not like DC was going to give me Batman to write soon, so I might as well try my own version of Gotham City.

The hero is a police lieutenant, Aloysius James, who (I admit) was inspired by James Gordon of Batman: Year One. 

The heroine is Noir, a woman who was turned completely invisible by a mad scientist trying to develop a cure for her monstrous brother. She’s dressed all in black. For comic fans, think of a female version of Cloak from Cloak and Dagger or DC’s The Shade.

Noir turns to Al for help in finding the scientist and the monster.  Al agrees because he needs to rescue a young man taken from a brutal crime scene by the monster. Then they run around the city having adventures, being shot at, and bonding.

I’ll tell you, writing a sex scene where one character is invisible was a challenge but also a lot of fun.

The reason I didn’t submit this to the superhero anthology is that I realized at the end that I could tie it into the world of Phoenix Rising and the only Phoenix Institute books that I have planned. So I sent it instead to my editor at Samhain, the lovely and talented Jennifer Miller, and she offered a contract. It’ll be out in May of next year.

It seems I’m now officially a series writer. YAY!

In other news, I was checking on whether Phoenix Rising was up yet on the Samhain website. I thought it might be too early to be up as a “Coming Soon” because it’s not due until November 8th but there it is!  It’s also up on Amazon, under the Kindle section.

And now I really have to finish the next book in the series. It’s coming along. 🙂

The blurb elves at Samhain Publishing outdid themselves with this one. I cannot wait to get the cover. 🙂

Tagline:

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

Blurb:

Since birth, Alec Farley has been trained to be a living weapon. His firestarter and telekinetic abilities have been honed to deadly perfection by the Resource, a shadowy anti-terrorist organization—the only family he has ever known. What the Resource didn’t teach him, though, is how to play well with others.

When psychologist Beth Nakamora meets Alec to help him work on his people skills, she’s hit with a double-barreled first impression. He’s hot in more ways than one. And her first instinct is to rescue him from his insular existence.

Her plan to kidnap and deprogram him goes awry when her latent telepathic ability flares, turning Alec’s powers off. Hoping close proximity will reignite his flame, she leads him by the hand through a world he’s never known. And something else flares: Alec’s anger over everything he’s been denied. Especially the passion that melds his mind and body with hers.

The Resource, however, isn’t going to let anything—or anyone—steal its prime investment. Alec needs to be reminded where his loyalties lie…starting with breaking his trust in the woman he’s come to love.

Warning: Contains telekinetic sex, nuclear explosion sex hot enough to melt steel, and various and sundry swear words.

Phoenix Rising will be released November 5. Yay!

P.S. I love writing the warnings for Samhain. So much fun.