The Next Big Thing

Hello, lovelies! I hope the new year has been treating you like the amazing people you are!

I am participating in a blog hop called The Next Big Thing, where writers take a moment to answer a few questions and blog about their upcoming projects. It’s a great opportunity for writers to come together and promote not only their own stuff (heh…we do that ALL YEAR), but the work of others. We’re supposed to tag five other writers in this, but as I am coming to the game a tad late, I’m going to skip that part and just tag some folks you may or may not be familiar with, but whose writing is absolutely fantastic!

Without further ado…let’s get it on.

What is the working title of your next book?
My next novel is called A Gentleman’s Oath. It is the first in a new series I’m tentatively calling Six Degrees of Love. 

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea for this novel came from a combination of things – my own personal struggles with anxiety disorder, the relationship I have with my wonderful husband and that amazing scene in E.T. where the flowers die and then come back to life. I’m not kidding about the last part. He may not be the cutest thing ever created, but damn if he isn’t the most loyal.

What genre does your book fall under?
Regency romance (if not in terms of the year in which it takes place (1828), then definitely the “feel” of it)

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Ooh! This is the type of question I try hard not to think about too often, because I can only ever  come up with one name: James McAvoy. Forgive the pic quality…neither of these lovely people have a good selection of usable images (not without me possibly getting sued, anyway). :)

JM Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for the heroine…hmm…that one’s a little harder. I think I’d go the route of Saoirse Ronan. Her performance in Atonement was incredible (as was everyone’s).

SR Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A change in circumstances may transform a doctor into a duke, but the oath of a gentleman is forever…isn’t it?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
A Gentleman’s Oath will be published by Burning Book Press, my current publisher.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
It’s not finished yet!!! LOL So far, I’m about 10,000 words in. The goal is to have it ready for release by June.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Hmm..that’s a tough question. There are thousands of romance novels touching on everything from stuttering to malaria. I’m aiming for a character driven story that encompasses both personal and professional struggles, societal pressures and the gamut of emotions that come along with the uncertainty of  love. My guess is, if you read romance regularly, you’ve come across a story which does exactly that. It’s why we read the genre!

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The story is partially inspired by my own personal struggles with OCD and anxiety disorder, partially by my love for medicine and a tiny bit inspired by the need for something lighter than the third novel in my Scandals of the Heart series. Oh, and don’t forget E.T. ;)

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
I nerd out a little on the medical piece of it. I am neck-deep in old medical journals, but researching Regency medicine has been fascinating (not to mention given me a new appreciation for how far along we’ve come)! Also, anyone who has ever suffered with OCD or anxiety disorder will likely be able to appreciate my heroine’s experiences with them. The disorder may present differently for everyone, but I think anyone who has dealt with these can relate to the struggle…and the feeling of achievement that comes when you beat it (even for a moment). Just because they are always lurking in the background doesn’t mean every day isn’t a victory.

And those are all the questions and answers I have for now! I haven’t been able to find anyone new to tag (though I’m going to be bugging Starla Huchton until she gives in), but take a moment to check out the following writer’s Next Big Thing answers…chances are you’ll be adding new authors to your collection! Get your read on!!!

Tamsen Shultz
Raziel Moore
Aisling Weaver

And a Happy New Year…

Hello, lovelies! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and are ready to ring in the new year!

It’s been a crazy couple of months here, between the launch of the second editions of Trapping a Duchess and At Journey’s End, a new job and everything else. But I wanted to take a minute to thank you all for sticking with me through 2012.

I’ve been writing like mad these last few weeks, racing against a self-imposed deadline for Dancing with Darkness, the third novel in the Scandals of the Heart series. As is always the case with writing, it’s one step forward, ten steps back. I am struggling with this novel quite a bit more than I did with the others for a few reasons. First off, there’s been a natural progression in this series with respect to movement (TaD takes place entirely in London, while AJE moves around) and story arcs. I wish I could say I’ve done it all on purpose, but the truth of the matter is, I didn’t. One of the things that has always bothered me about Trapping a Duchess is that it sometimes feels as if it’s one long conversation placed upon a series of recycled  backdrops. Don’t get me wrong, I love Andrew and Sophie. But it is my first novel. For every great bit of dialogue, there is a section that is equally tedious; for each thoroughly enjoyable moment, a less-than-spectacular one. And the writing itself (very tell, don’t show), while grammatically correct, doesn’t exactly drag you into the moment. I’m not being plaintive; I’m being honest. It is what it is and I am okay with that. I feel like there is definite progress in At Journey’s End, and I hope you will find the same with each novel I write.

Which brings me back to my point. Lord Gabriel Wolter isn’t an easy man to put into a box. Wrapping my head around a hero with his history has been less than enjoyable at times. He’s a flawed character, and often so involved in himself that dragging him into the story is like moving a mule. What do you do with a man who’s been tortured, who’s struggling to find himself after being retired from the only way of life he’s ever known? What qualities must a heroine have to match him? How broken can I make them before the book feels as heavy as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? (Which, by the way, is not to say that I did not enjoy HPatOotP, just that holy cow was it ever depressing! It reminded me of the Grapes of Wrath, but with wizards, witches and teen angst).

Anyway…despite these frustrations (and a few other writing in general ones), I am still at it. I’m a fairly stubborn sort, even if my characters think otherwise. But I’m also fighting the urge to put this novel on hold and write the story that’s been stealing my attention at every turn. Sometimes you gotta go against the grain…or words to that effect. The Scandals of the Heart series has been my focus for a long time now, and while I’m not walking away from it by any means, I think it might also be time to give something else a chance in the spotlight (or at least a shot at stealing the spotlight). What does this mean to you? Probably not much. Instead of a January/February launch of Dancing with Darkness, it would be June/July. And in the meantime, Gabriel and Penelope’s story might have a chance at a proper telling. And who knows, maybe in a week or two, the words will come to me, and I’ll be right back in it. This time smiling instead of making a constipated face.

Decisions, decisions, decisions. And, as usual, I’ve rambled on longer than I should have done. Thank you for all you’ve done to get Trapping a Duchess and At Journey’s End into the Top 100 (and keep them there). I am humbled…and a bit tickled, even if it has been one hell of a roller coaster ride.

Happy New Year from my home to yours!

~mich

At Journey’s End is HERE!!!

The moment you’ve been waiting for is here, lovelies! At Journey’s End is now available!!! If you are eligible for one of the complimentary copies, check your inbox. It should already be there!

For the rest of you, At Journey’s End is available for purchase through the Burning Book Press website or on Amazon.com. :) The best part is, I can finally reveal the new cover! Thanks to the AWESOME work of Starla Huchton at Designed by Starla, the second edition comes with this gorgeous cover. Absolutely stunning, isn’t it? I cannot WAIT for her to do the cover for Dancing with Darkness!

Lady Alexandra is pretty, intelligent, wealthy…and single. Haunted by a youthful indiscretion, she’s spent season after season avoiding marriage. When a revelation tilts her world on its axis, the future dreamed of is in her reach. Can she forgive the ghost of her past in order to secure her happiness?

Lord Winterley spent years regretting his callous treatment of Alexandra, so when the chance for redemption arises, he will go to any lengths to gain her favor. Forgiveness is the first of many obstacles he will face, including a dangerous criminal whose presence threatens her life. Will he risk losing her forever in order to catch a traitor?

Love may mark the end of their travels, but their journey is just beginning.

And so is yours! Get your copy today! :)

Happy reading, wonderful people! I hope you enjoy Alexandra’s story even more than you did her brother’s.  And I hope you’ll take the time to let me know what you think!

~mich

When a Burning Book is a Wonderful Thing

Hello again, lovelies! It’s October 8th and time to kick Monday in the arse with some phenomenal news!

As I mentioned last week, Trapping a Duchess has found a home with a new publisher. Burning Book Press aspires to offer readers fine literature – the exceptional quality that has long defined literary fiction – across multiple genres, including Contemporary Fiction, Erotica, Romance, Mystery, Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy.

The company launches with seven titles immediately available for purchase from their website, the Amazon Kindle store and Smashwords:

The Waiting Room – Remittance Girl
Normal – Ruby Kiddell
Confessions of a Rentboy – T.R. Verten
Finding Anastasia – Aisling Weaver
Fever: an anthology of micro-erotica – Wyeth Bailey, Ruby Kiddell, Raziel Moore, Aisling Weaver
Trapping a Duchess – Michele Bekemeyer
Erotikos – Raziel Moore, William Crimson, Ximena Mendez
My beloved first novel, Trapping a Duchess, is stepping out as a second edition with the banter you love, a bit more back-story and a few new and completely revised scenes. And that’s not even the best part! The sex is as hot as the new cover created by Starla Huchton at Designed by Starla.

I think she did an amazing job capturing the spirit of the book! If you’re looking for fantastic covers at a very reasonable price (she’s also super easy to work with, so…BONUS!), look no further than Starla!

Here’s the new cover for Trapping a Duchess:

Gorgeous, isn’t it???? I think so! Bravo to Star for such wonderful work!!! (just to tease you, she also did the cover for At Journey’s End, but you’ll have to wait to see that one!)  :P

So this is the big egg I’ve been sitting on for the last six months! I now turn it over to you!

Now go check out Burning Book Press. In addition to books available for purchase, there are free reads and blog posts!

I can’t think of a better way to set Monday aflame than with a burning book!

*smooches*

~mich

From a Little Spark May Burst a Flame

I bet Dante Alighieri was dancing around in his robe when he wrote that, kind of like I am as I write this. Well, to be fair, I’m sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the couch wiggling in my seat, but still, enthusiasm is enthusiasm!

And awesomeness is exactly that: AWESOME. I have big news, but it comes with a caveat. The news? Trapping a Duchess has found a new home. That’s right…I said it! A NEW HOME! The Duke of Tolland and his cheeky duchess-to-be have an official place to call their own. This is no typical home, mind; it’s a place where naughtiness rubs against the literary hard enough to start a fire.

My favorite first novel has undergone a transformation. The second edition has been reworked and has a brand-spanking new cover (it’s absolutely gorgeous!). I can’t wait for you to see it (and read it, naturally)!!!

The caveat? You have to wait a week for the details. Yes, I know – I am an awful tease. But you’re curious, aren’t you? Of course you are! So, let the countdown to October 8th begin with sharp little inhales of anticipation…I promise you won’t be disappointed. ;)

~mich

Old, New, Borrowed and Blue

Sounds like a recipe for a wedding, but it’s just a status update…

Something Old: As you probably already know, Trapping a Duchess and At Journey’s End are no longer available for purchase through Amazon (or anywhere else) at the moment. New versions (with new covers) should be available soon…and very soon I’ll be able to tell you where. It’s an exciting time for the Scandals of the Heart series, and your favorite characters have all been out shopping for new clothes. :) My promise to you: as soon as info is available, you’ll be the first to know!

Something New: Dancing with Darkness has hit its stride. Gabriel and Penelope are as daring and lovable as ever,  and writing them has been an absolute joy! Because you’ve been so very patient with me, I’m giving you a gift! The Prologue for Dancing with Darkness is available at the end of this post. :)

Something Borrowed: I’m still on the hunt for alpha readers. I need at least one alpha reader with experience reading romance (preferable historical) and one more who is familiar enough with this particular series to offer feedback on character development (am I writing about the things you want to know, are there any characters you would like to see more of, etc?). If you’re interested in either of these, please e-mail me at michbeks@gmail.com.

Something Blue: I would prefer if we were discussing something green, as that is my favorite color, but blue it is. I’ve noticed in writing Dancing with Darkness that it explores the loss of a parent through the struggle of a child. This wasn’t done by accident. The death of my father has left an indelible mark and I think that definitely shows in my writing. I’m hoping it won’t be too sappy. :) As today is the one year anniversary of my dad’s death (I miss you, dad), I fully expect those feelings to shine through.

Those are the updates I have thus far. Feel free to post comments as usual. I love getting them!

~mich

DANCING WITH DARKNESS

Prologue

Lock the door behind you,” Gabriel said as he tightened the last of the ropes.

Yes, sir,” said his second without hesitation.

Once Mr. Gibbons left, Gabriel moved to the window. On the lawn below, tree limbs struggled against a windy day. Dark clouds cloaked the horizon, a grim warning of the storm sure to break once his captive realized where she was. Across the room, she stirred, drawing Gabriel away from the window. With the curtains cracked open, the room’s light was directed over the bed, leaving plenty of shadows in which to hide. Her restraints, even when put to the test by struggle, would hold, but maintaining the upper hand required more than expertly tied bonds. With this woman in particular, fear would ensure him the advantage. He needed her sense of self-preservation to overrule her temper.

Miss Penelope Grayson’s eyelids opened; she’d been struggling against the effects of the laudanum for nearly an hour. She shifted, trying to adjust her position. When the rope pulled taut, restricting her movement, her eyes shot open. “Mmph,” she groaned before resting her head against the back of the chair and taking a series of deep breaths. She tried again to lift her hand. A frightened cry tore from her throat. She struggled against her bonds, panicked gaze darting side to side, searching her surroundings. For a long moment, Gabriel did nothing but watch, a predator toying with prey. He let the silence stretch, nerves beginning to thrum with the same energy she was wasting on the struggle.

Show yourself,” she said hoarsely, wriggling against the ropes.

Gabriel remained silent, biding his time.

I know you’re there. I feel you watching me.” Even through parched tones, her ferocity sounded through. She was a fighter, but he’d known that already.

His lips curved into a smug smile. Anticipation pumped blood through his veins, urging him to set the confrontation in motion, but he forced himself to remain still, intent on making the most of his advantage.

You aren’t frightening me.” The shake in her voice belied the gallant words.

Gabriel let her speculate for a few minutes longer, watching her chest for changes in breathing. Heaving breaths became shallow inhales, a telltale sign she was properly frightened. Satisfied, he stepped into her line of sight.

You!” she said, her eyes widening for about half a second before narrowing. “I should have known. Untie me, this instant.”

He gave her a feral smile. “I warned you about my curiosity.”

I don’t care about your curiosity,” she said, struggling with her bonds with enough force to move the chair. “Let me go. Immediately!”

You will explain a few things to me first.” He curled his fingers around the armrests of her chair, leaning forward to meet her gaze. She stilled instantly, even as her chest rose and fell with enervated exhales that blew across his face. Her breath was sickly sweet, her brow moistened with sweat. He held his position until she trembled, until he felt confident the gravity of the situation had reached her. “You can begin by telling me why you were at my brother’s home.”

And you can go to hell,” she said, then spat at him.

Ignoring the saliva on his face, he clucked his tongue and wrapped his hands around her arms, pulling her forward until the ropes dug into her skin. “This isn’t a game.” Her jaw clenched and her eyes filled with tears, but to his surprise she did not cry out. Hardened by experience, Gabriel ignored them. There was no reason for Miss Penelope Grayson, daughter of the murdered Major Paul Grayson, to be at his family’s house party under an assumed name. When they’d been introduced yesterday, she was calling herself Lady Cheever. He intended to find out why. “Why were you there?” Her gaze grew shuttered, her chin setting defiantly. “Answer me,” he demanded, giving her a shake violent enough to tear an agonized yelp from her lips. The legs of the chair screamed against the wood floor.

Stop,” she said between a broken exhale and a painful swallow. “There is no need for torture. Free me and I will tell you everything. I promise.”

Oh, you promise, do you? Well, that changes everything.” With a snarl, he yanked her closer.

Ow!” she said, tears spilling down her cheeks. “My lord, please!”

Why were you there?”

I needed help!”

I want the truth.”

That is the truth. Please! Let me explain.”

He’d heard that desperate tone before, from men and women alike who were at their breaking point. Reigning in his fury, he released her, but did not step away. “You’ve already lied to me once. Why should I give you a chance to do so again?”

I had my reasons for deception, and if you untie me, I promise you’ll have them.”

After more than ten years working for Whitehall, Gabriel trusted his gut implicitly. So when he stared down at her and his battered memory warned him to proceed with caution, he listened. “You’re going to tell me everything I want to know.” Since the last time he’d seen her, years before, she had lost weight, nearly three stone, and had changed the color and cut of her hair. Her eyes, however, were still the same. Even if the length of her lashes and sculpted brow were common, the shade of her irises—peonies set against a clear, blue sky—were unforgettable. Mostly blue, but with a tinge of violet, they defied nature and demanded notice.

He pulled a knife from his boot, inwardly preening at the way her widened stare locked on it. “If you so much as inhale too sharply, you’ll be exhaling through a hole in your neck. Do you understand?” The threat was empty, but fear was his ally, so he waited for her acknowledgment.

Yes,” she whispered.

He sliced through her bonds, releasing her hands. When he was finished, he sheathed his knife, dragged the spare chair in front of her and sat.

I don’t suppose I could bother you for a. . .” she started to ask, then seemed to think better of it. “No, I don’t suppose I could.” She swallowed almost convulsively.

Gibbons,” Gabriel called out. His trusted second opened the door at once.

Yes, sir?”

Fetch me a pitcher of water and a glass.”

Right away, sir.”

She gave him a wan smile as she rubbed her arms. “Thank you.”

What brings you here, Lady Cheever?”

To England or to this part of the country in particular?” she asked, sounding slightly calmer and confident than before.

To my brother’s estate,” he said through gritted teeth.

Why wouldn’t I want to come?”

Though there was a tiny part of him who relished her boldness, it was the experienced interrogator who crossed his leg over his knee and pulled the knife from his boot. He rested it on his knee, hand wrapped around the handle as if anxious to put the blade to use.

She pressed herself deeper into her chair. “What are you doing with that?”

She sounded concerned, but not frightened; he let the light play over the blade. “In my line of work, answering questions with questions is a sign of evasion, which often requires a certain coercion to encourage honesty.” At her widened eyes, he added, “I am willing to provide incentive, if that’s what you require, but I assure you, the process will be painful. The choice, my lady, is yours.”

She cleared her throat, but lifted her chin. “I understand.”

Do you?” he asked, pinning her with a deadly stare. At her nod, he asked, “Why were you at my brother’s estate?”

I had no place else to go.”

Gabriel hid his surprise. He expected her to give some lame excuse about how tedious London was during the off-season, or to proclaim that she enjoyed the fresh air offered by expansive hills. She had not, after all, offered up her true identity. “No place else to go,” he echoed through a bland expression. “As the daughter of a peer, I find that difficult to believe.”

I am no more the daughter of a peer than you are a gentleman,” she said, sounding impatient. “And neither one of us has the luxury of pretending otherwise at this point. My name is Penelope Grayson.” Her name could have been a weapon for the force she put behind it. “My father was Major Paul Grayson, your mentor, superior and friend. So, unless you have some other reason for wanting to do me bodily harm, I would appreciate if you would put the knife away. I assure you, you won’t have need of it. I don’t have anything left to hide.”

The earnestness in her eyes, coupled with the confession of who she was, changed the timbre of the conversation. With a single, curt nod he sheathed the knife. “Why the assumed name?”

Because I couldn’t use my own. There is a bounty on my head.” At his disbelieving look, she bristled. “You asked for the truth, my lord, and I am telling it. Whether or not your believe it is your choice.”

Declaring something as true proves nothing. What proof do you have to support your claim?”

You need proof, after what happened to my father?” She looked genuinely disgusted. “Perhaps you and Truscott are one and the same, then.”

Anger clenched his insides tight, but he swallowed his venomous response. “Your father’s death was an unfortunate occurrence, but it does not prove Truscott’s involvement.”

My father’s murder proves everything,” she bit out. “Most of all that money will always be more important to men than morals.”

Not to the right men,” he said calmly.

My father thought you were the right man. Perhaps he was wrong?”

He shot her a warning look. “Truscott’s allegations won’t be dismissed without evidence.”

Her eyes flashed. “I shouldn’t need evidence! Papa served his country until the moment of his death. If you think otherwise, if you believe Truscott’s lies, then you aren’t worthy of the respect he afforded you,” she said, cheeks flushing with anger.

He kept a calm tone. “What I believe means nothing to the high court, Miss Grayson. The way Truscott paints it, it was your father who was the traitor, not he.”

I refuse to sit here while you malign his name.”

Gabriel eyed her for a long moment, amused by her bravado. “As a captive audience, you don’t have much of a choice.”

My father is innocent.”

I know he is, Miss Grayson,” he said gently. “Unfortunately, your proclamation doesn’t satisfy the burden of proof. The major was and still is, as far as the King is concerned, guilty of conspiring to commit treason.”

Then the King, along with anyone else who buys Truscott’s lies, is a fool.”

Against his will, Gabriel smiled. “An inarguable fact, but he is still our monarch. His word, as you know, is law. Without solid evidence proving Truscott’s treachery, there is little that can be done to change his opinion.”

Her voice was solemn. “I don’t need a reminder, my lord. I’ve lived with the burden for nearly two years.”

Where have you been all of this time?”

Traveling,” she said, rubbing her wrist. “Moving from one place to the next in an effort to stay hidden. But I’m out of resources, out of places to hide. I need help.”

You hoped my family would offer protection?”

I hoped your family would lead me to you.” Her chin tilted, a warrior’s determination flickering in her gaze. “I won’t let Truscott get away with what he did. Not to my father, and not to you.”

Inside him, something dangerous flickered. “Do you really believe that’s what your father would want?” he asked, folding his arms over his chest. “You, exposing yourself to the dangers he worked so hard to keep at a distance?” Her careless shrug raised his hackles. He wanted to find every button he could and press and push and poke until she admitted her quest was a fool’s errand. “If you wanted my help, why not come to me directly? Why involve my family?”

She gave him an arch look. “I wasn’t even sure you were still alive.” She looked as if she wanted to say more, but Gibbons entered at that moment, hefting a large tray. To Gabriel’s dismay, a cold repast of meats and cheeses accompanied the water he’d ordered.

At his lifted brow, the man merely shrugged. “Nan thought your miss might be hungry. I was in too much of a hurry to argue with her. You know how she gets.”

Miss Grayson smiled. “Thank you.”

That will be all,” Gabriel said, interrupting the moment before it had a chance to undermine the progress he’d made.

Yes, sir.”

I’m sure your Nan didn’t mean any disrespect,” Miss Grayson said after Gibbons left the room. She glanced pointedly at the tray. “I’m not hungry anyway, so you needn’t worry I’ll make you look bad by taking advantage of her generosity.”

Gabriel set the tray on the bed beside her. “I believe we’ve established that you’re not a criminal, Miss Grayson, therefore starving you is unnecessary.” The extra drops of laudanum he added to the tea she requested had knocked her out cold. As he abducted her in the middle of the night, she likely hadn’t eaten for nearly a day. Something that felt unnervingly like guilt spiked through him. “You should eat something.” The corners of her mouth tilted upwards as she plucked a piece of cheese off of the tray and he was caught off guard by a sudden feeling of attraction. He quashed it instantly. “The missive I received asking for help. You sent it.” She nodded. “Why?”

She finished chewing, then took a long sip of water. “My father bade me send it.”

Why you?” he asked, unable to reconcile the man who worried constantly over his daughter’s welfare with the major who would risk her safety to ensure Truscott was caught. He wasn’t lying when he said that Grayson worked hard to keep her out of harm’s way.

Quite frankly,” she said around a bite of ham, “I think he had run out of people he could trust. You were away by that point. With Truscott in charge of the correspondence, he couldn’t post a letter from command. I was the best way to get word to you.” She spread her fingers and gave a one-shouldered shrug. “It’s as simple as that.”

He had to have known Truscott would come after you.”

My lord, I haven’t the foggiest idea of what my father did and didn’t know. I only know that he asked me to help and I did. I never expected—” she said, the words held back by her quivering lower lip. With a deep inhale, she began again, violet eyes filling with tears. “I never expected you wouldn’t come to his aid.”

He cleared his throat, determined not to relive the detour, the time he’d spent tortured at the hands of Truscott’s men. His right ring finger, torn off during one of their vicious interrogations, throbbed with a phantom pain. “I had no choice in the matter.”

She nodded, wiping her tears away. “Once I was certain Lord Winterley had you, I fled the country, but I didn’t know―”

The admission was like a punch in the chest. “Wait. What do you mean, once you were certain? How did you know Winterley had found me?” His mind raced, flashes of his fateful journey home lighting up another layer of memories. Was it her he’d seen slinking into the shadows?

Her brows furrowed. “I gave him the address and waited nearby. I figured you were my only hope to clear my father’s name, and I couldn’t leave without knowing you were safe.”

What?” he asked. He didn’t often find himself rattled, but the idea of her walking alone through the slums where he’d been tortured shook him to his core.

There’s no need to shout, my lord,” she said, either oblivious to or openly disregarding of the furious look he was giving her.

Whichever, Gabriel wanted to muzzle her. “You not only gave a stranger a note indicating my location, but you then proceeded to follow him there?” he asked, his voice steely.

She nodded, though a little less enthusiastically than before. “Well, not entirely a stranger, as I knew of your acquaintance with the viscount through my father.”

A dozen questions shot through his mind, but one stood out from all the rest. “Did it occur to you that you were endangering yourself? That you could have been raped, or murdered, or worse?” A good interrogator did not become emotionally involved, did not allow feelings of any kind to show. But try as he might, he couldn’t keep the disdain from his face, nor the bitterness from his tone.

She leveled an annoyed stare in his direction. “Did it occur to you that if I left, you wouldn’t be alive to badger me about it?”

Gabriel couldn’t remember a time when he’d been forced to employ so much restraint. Not when he learned that Truscott was still alive, nor when he trailed one of the bastard’s men and wreaked his vengeance without regard to a group of startled onlookers. But this moment, right now, faced with this slip of a girl whose expression was far too smug for her own good, he risked losing control completely. “The only thing that occurs to me,” he said, brushing an invisible piece of lint off of his sleeve for no other reason than to relieve the tension in his arms, “is that you are fortunate Truscott didn’t catch you.”

Her laugh held a faintly mocking edge. “No, my lord. My not getting caught was fortunate for both of us.”

Gabriel didn’t have a chance to respond before Gibbons burst into the room.

My lord. You better come quick. All ‘ell’s broken loose at the duke’s place.”

What has happened?” he asked, forcing himself to remain seated. “Has the duchess gone into labor?”

No, sir. It’s Lady Alexandra. She’s been snatched.” 

The Beginning of a Story

My favorite stories begin with a dream. Not even a dream, really, but an idea or a feeling that something life-changing is about to happen. The thing is, it’s not difficult to find that feeling in a story. It is harder, however (in my experience, at least), to find it in life.

My husband and I just returned from our first international family holiday. We spent a few months planning the trip and then had to wait nearly a year for the damn thing to happen. The wait was long, but totally and utterly worth it. In case you don’t know, my husband is British (Cornish, to be specific). We met online a few years ago and were married in February 2011. I had occasion to meet his lovely mum Pam and her husband Brian in November of 2011 when they came to Florida to visit. By that time, our first family holiday to Xlendi Bay (which is on the island of Gozo in Malta) and London had already been booked.

We spent fourteen wonderful days in Xlendi and three in London. And while I could (and did) spend hours on Pam and Brian’s balcony staring out over the Mediterranean Sea, I couldn’t wait to get to London. To be honest, I couldn’t wait to see England period. I’ve wanted to go there for so long I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to go…it’s almost like I was born on the wrong continent. Don’t get me wrong, I love America. And for a good number of years, I actually enjoyed living in Florida. But as Orlando has grown and tried to “keep up with the Jones’s” (as my mom likes to say), my enjoyment of Florida has faded. I imagine it is a wonderful place to visit for people whose homes are elsewhere. I’m not talking about a house. You can get a house anywhere. I’m talking about that place (and I believe there’s a place like this for everyone) you recognize as home, even if you’ve never been there. The streets, though completely foreign, are entirely familiar. You feel it in your heart and you know, in the same way you know when you’ve found your soul mate (or as they say in When Harry Met Sally, “You know the way you know about a good melon”).

When we landed in England, I felt it. I recognized the feeling because it’s the exact same way I felt when I met my husband. Instant, irreversible connection. Like I’d been there all my life…or my heart had been, at least. At any rate, it was surreal. The streets were familiar. The people were familiar. The shops, the way of life, all of it was familiar. And all of it was like a warm bath on a cold night.

Three or so years ago, my now ex-husband and I took a family holiday to Tennessee. Along with my mother and her husband Joe, my sister Courtney and Joe’s daughter Haylee, we stayed in a three-story log cabin. We were there for twelve days. By the third day, I was homesick. I was surrounded by family and truly enjoying the time with them, and still I was homesick. All my mother could say was, “Tennessee feels like home to me.” I remember looking at her and thinking, “She’s lost her mind. Yeah, it’s nice, but home? No way!” I couldn’t understand, no matter how hard I tried. My entire family (going back generations) has lived in Florida. I’m talking great-great-great-great grandparents. My family has always lived in Central Florida – all 75+ of us (my grandparents have 11 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren). We are horrible adventurers. If it was up to us to discover a new place to live, we’d just drive in a big circle and land right back in the same place.

A year after that trip, my mother and Joe moved to Tennessee. I have never seen my mother happier. While I have been happy for her (she’s my mother, after all, so her happiness is really all that matters), I struggled to understand how she could just pack up, move and suddenly be happy. Gone was the woman who sat at home smoking on the weekends, replaced by a glowing woman who jumped in the car with her husband on a moment’s notice and started driving simply because they “saw a road we hadn’t ever been down.” It makes me smile to think about how blooming happy she is, but lately it’s also made me a little sad, because while she found the place her soul instantly recognized as home, I hadn’t. Yes, I said hadn’t. Past tense.

England is that place for me. As I haven’t seen most of the country, I’m not entirely sure where in the UK I want to live. I’m not at all worried, though. My youngest is still only nine, so moving her out of the country right now (or moving away from her) isn’t an option. The way I see it, I have at least seven years to roam around the UK and find a spot to declare my own. There will be immigration stuffs to handle (as there was when my husband came to the states), but that, too, is no obstacle.

Why am I telling you all of this? Honestly? For two reasons. One: I haven’t written in almost a month and needed a warm-up. :P Two (and more importantly): I wanted to share some of the best parts of my trip with you. Time with family aside, there were about three pivotal moments for me, moments where my little girl self was laughing and crying all at the same time, tilting her head up towards the sun.

The first occurred when we were walking along and I realized I was standing at the back of Buckingham Palace. I hadn’t even realized where we were and then all of a sudden we were there. I don’t really have a thing for Buckingham Palace, or at least not a huge fascination, but still…I looked up and there was a sign for the Royal Mews. And I couldn’t stop staring (which only lasted for about forty-six seconds because Vampira, my fourteen year old, decided to have a panic attack at that moment and so my attention was diverted). She was a bit overwhelmed by the number of people, cars, buses and whatnot. I never did get to see the front of Buckingham Palace, but I’m sure it’s quite lovely. I doubt, however, that I’ll find it any more fascinating than I did the back side. :)

The second occurred when I walked into Hyde Park. It probably seems like a silly thing to most of you, but as a romance novelist (and, I’m learning, something of a nostalgia junkie), I’ve wanted to take off my shoes and walk in Hyde Park for ages. And that, my lovelies, is exactly what I did. My toenails were still painted fluorescent green and my feet looked much older (and tanner, thank you, Xlendi Bay) than I ever imagined they would when I finally crossed Walk Barefoot Through Hyde Park off of my bucket list, but it was glorious so I whipped my iPhone out and took video. Of course, my family wouldn’t be my family if they didn’t interrupt said video by acting like zombies and making groaning sounds, but it was still glorious.

The third occurred when we made our way to 37 St. James’ Street, where White’s Gentleman’s Club was supposed to be located. The exterior of the building hadn’t changed, but there were no signs, so I assumed it was something else. It has been hundreds of years, after all. Thing is, my husband is absolutely amazing, and when the Doorman slipped out to politely inquire why the hell we were all standing there staring at the building (my girls with bored looks, me in awe and my husband with a broad smile because I was giddy as a schoolgirl), he explained that I wrote romance novels and that White’s featured in them quite frequently. This is the point where the Doorman explains that 37 St. James’ Street is STILL White’s, STILL a gentleman’s club and that they were having a Diamond Jubilee event where the club’s members were allowed to bring their wives inside. As I’m not married to any of the club’s members, I didn’t get to partake in that bit of fun, but the wonderful Doorman (no, I cannot remember his name, unfortunately) did open the door long enough for me to peek into the foyer. Then he promptly shut them so I could take a picture outside. LOL And even though the picture has Her Highness (the aforementioned nine year old) standing next to me holding a Starbuck’s Double Chocolate Frappuccino cup (and pulling a face), I will always relish it.

Three dreams realized in one day! There were a hundred other places I wanted to see (the Tower of London, Oxford Street, Bond Street, Regent Street, Grosvenor Square, Parliament, the Clock Tower and any part of Mayfair, just to name a few), I will never forget that first trip. The best part is that now, when I’m writing Gabriel’s story, I don’t have to look at maps and wonder what it would be like to stand there. I have a basic idea…even if the scenery has changed quite a bit.

Actually, that’s the second best part. The best part was finding myself, finding my home. And falling in love for the second time without having to sacrifice any part of the first.

I wish the same for all of you.

~mich

 

The End of a Chapter

I’m a few days late, as usual, but I wanted to give you an update about the state of Trapping a Duchess and At Journey’s End, now that my publisher, Republica Press, has closed its doors. I will miss Emma and Aaron greatly, and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors.

For the time being, both titles will remain available for purchase on Amazon (in both print and digital formats) and, of course, on my website (if you prefer signed copies). As of June 2012, both Trapping a Duchess and At Journey’s End have been removed from Amazon (and my website). Keep an eye out for upcoming news! Things are happening here like crazy!

There are great things happening over here and soon, I’ll be able to share them with you. In the meantime, however, bear with me. :)

Many of you have asked about the podcast for At Journey’s End. I’m sorry to say that, for now at least, the podcast has been put on the back burner indefinitely.

The most important thing to me at the moment is getting Dancing with Darkness (Penelope and Gabriel’s story) finished. This last year has been full of love, loss and lunacy, all of which affected my writing. Now, however, the story is unfolding at light speed (or candlelight speed, as it were) and I hope to have it in a readable state within the next three to four months.

Thank you for sticking this series out. And for putting up with me as a writer.

It means more to me than you could ever know.

~mich

P.S. As is always the case, one novel leads to another. In the process of writing Dancing with Darkness, I’ve come up with an outline for Vixen by Night, which is the fourth (and final) book in the series. It is, of course, Simon’s story. And all I’m going to say is this: Vixen’s heroine, Lady Olivia Drake, is going to be a character you will never forget.

Houston, We [REDACTED] a Problem

If I’ve learned anything this past week regarding the Paypal terms of service debacle, it’s this: If you believe in a cause, then it’s worth the fight.

It seems logical, doesn’t it? And yet there have been many times when I’ve thought, “I can’t scream loud enough to get the attention of a company that large.” I’m just one voice.

But you’re never just one voice. The world is too big. One Who may not be loud enough for the Grinch to take notice, but get them all together holding hands singing “fah who for-aze” and lo and behold, CHRISTMAS IS BACK!

Today, Paypal issued an update (or at least an intent to update) their Acceptable Use Policy. You can read the full blog post here. The short short version is that they’ve clarified that they will ”focus this policy only on e-books that contain potentially illegal images, not e-books that are limited to just text. The policy will prohibit use of PayPal for the sale of e-books that contain child pornography, or e-books with text and obscene images of rape, bestiality or incest (as defined by the U.S. legal standard for obscenity: material that appeals to the prurient interest, depicts sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value).

Is it a victory? Yes, and no. Erotica in text form is safe (for now), but as Grim points out, there is definite potential for censorship of art, comic and games. Worse, Paypal has offered no assurances that this visual content will be judged by the standard (the courts and the Miller Test), but rather by Paypal themselves.

One step forward, two steps back? That might be an overstatement, but the bottom line is that we’ve won the battle, but not the war. In the upcoming months, lending our voices will be as important as it was this past week. Censorship, as a concept, isn’t genre (or media) specific.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not about to put away my bottle of Riesling just because we only took a few steps on the moon. Getting there was the victory.

I, for one, could not be more thrilled to have been a part of the mission.  That being said, I want to thank everyone who lent a voice, especially the lovely Remittance Girl, who organized a fantastic group of folks at Banned Writers (of which I am proud to be a part); Eden Connor, whose awesome interviews provided personal insight from erotic writers; Mark Coker over at Smashwords, whose articulate (and professional) correspondence proved invaluable; and to the long list of co-signatories who fought the good fight by our side.

Thank you!!!

~Mich

 

Tough or Not, It’s a Subject Worth Explaining

This morning, I was stumbling about in the kitchen, waiting for the coffee maker to drip out a pot of liquid tranquility.

A quick check of my e-mails proved the whole PayPal issue wasn’t just some annoying dream. Twitter proved pretty much the same, except with a slight difference: not a single mention of what I consider to be an attack on our rights. No bother, I think as the smell of coffee fills the air. I send out a tweet, get a snarky response and move on.

“What’s wrong?” my thirteen year old (who we lovingly call Vampira) asks.

“Oh, it’s just this thing PayPal is doing.”

Instead of responding with her usual “okay” and a discussion about something going on in her life, she gives me one of those prompting looks.

I was raised in a home where very few subjects were taboo, and have done my best to do the same with my own kids.

With an impressive lack of Godzilla-like roaring and stomping, I explain the issue to her. She listens attentively (though, admittedly, with wrinkled nose) as I list the content PayPal has chosen to ban. Her disgust at these topics is evident; she is, after all, thirteen. Still, I can practically see her mind churning as she asks questions and listens to my answers.

A note: I’ll go as far as to explain how I feel and why, but I’m not going to push my opinions down her throat. If she says she agrees with PayPal, we’ll just agree to disagree (kind of like we did when she was in kindergarten and insisted that George Bush was the best president ever and anyone who voted against him was the devil).

Then she hits me with this:

Her: “So, wait. You said no selling anything that has…sex with animals.” (Cringe)

Me: “Right.”

Her: “Do they mean animal animals or anything that’s not human?”

Me: “They don’t specifically define animals.”

Her: “So, they could be talking about werewolves, or vampires?”

Me: “I guess, technically, yes. Why?”

Her: “Twilight kind of has that. I mean, it’s not exactly the same, but…Edward is a vampire and Jacob is a werewolf. Werewolves are animals.”

Me: “True, and if they wanted, they could make that an issue, but the bigger problem is that PayPal isn’t the one selling the books. Their job is to take my money and give it to someone else. If you had a company and you decided you didn’t want to sell content like that, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. That’s your right as a business, just as it is my right as a reader not to buy it. But the company who’s basic function is to take my money and hand it to someone else has no business regulating my purchases or what you want to sell.”

She understands, but has a zillion questions.

This launches us into a discussion on Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet and movies like “Last House on the Left.” She brings up the fact that the rape scene in that movie is pretty intense. I counter by saying that because it’s not meant to be erotic, it’s different. Her nose does that crinkly thing again, and this time she says, “so it’s okay to use rape as a tool to get people emotionally involved, but only if the woman doesn’t enjoy it and only if the guy dies in the end?”

A definite over-simplification, but she’s thinking.

From this point on, our discussion is one of those winding, country roads that feels like it will never end, but by the time we arrive at our destination, we’re happy to have taken the long, scenic route (lined with question-trees and rolling-valley-implications).

It isn’t the first time we’ve talked about censorship or regulation, or any of those “political” subjects we hope our children will take an interest in. It is, however, the first time I’ve walked away with the feeling that she truly grasped the heart of the issue. That, in her own roundabout way, she is invested in the cause.

In the midst of the battle, it is a momentous step.  I am proud of her, not only for realizing what’s at stake, but for not letting the grossness (her word, not mine) of the topic stop her from delving in and wading through.

It’s more than I can say for some of the adults I know, who haven’t gotten involved because-in their creative minds-it isn’t an issue which affects them.

Today, even as my fellow writer flag disappoints, my proud mommy flag flies high.

~mich