Because life is too short to read crap

the king's tutor coverLike more than 20 million other people, I read e-books on a Kindle, and my favorite genre is romance. A quick search on Amazon for romance titles this morning yielded me 365,065 options to choose from. I know from experience that there are treasures to be found all the way up and down the charts. But the vast majority of these 365,065 e-books calling themselves romances are total, unmitigated, stinky, slimy, sloppy crap. The Wild West world of e-publishing combined with a media that continually broadcasts romance as that world’s most popular and therefore most potentially profitable genre have shaken stuff out of the bushes that would make Grace Livingston Hill say “Fuck this noise” and switch to thrillers. Well-meaning amateurs who couldn’t write their way out of a wet paper sack with a box cutter and a blowtorch have unwittingly conspired with cynical assholes who say flat out they hate romance as they write the dumbass porno to prove it. Together they’ve created a digital Bog of Eternal Stench where readers who actually love the genre can only cling to the few writers they already know they can trust and pray for daylight—and better pricing.

Life is too short to read crap. That’s the idea that inspired Little Red Hen Romance, a smallest-of-the-small-time e-book publisher that I hope will give me and readers like me a better option. The plan is to publish at least four new romance short story titles every month starting on May 1. The stories will be absolutely free for their first week of release (and only available through Amazon) then 99 cents forever thereafter (and available from B&N and iTunes, too). If things go well, we’ll do longer anthologies and maybe even full-length books, but for now, we’re trying it out with the shorties, 3000-8000 words each. But short as they are, every story will be an actual romance by a criteria that might be entirely subjective to me but that I really think a lot of readers have been missing. When I started thinking about what I wanted and wasn’t getting from new romance, I came up with a list of three things:

1 – Sparkling dialogue: Nothing kills a love connection for me faster than dull, flat, lifeless talk, and what passes for romance these days even on the bestest of bestseller lists is full of it. Before I can care about people falling in love, I have to like them; I have to want to listen to them; I have to see the sparks fly between them. Not every story has to be a laugh-a-minute romantic rollick (though there will definitely be some of that, too), but I promise, the characters in the stories from Little Red Hen will be able to carry on a conversation before they start stripping off their clothes—and after.

 2 – Tender sensuality: I love me some smut. Explicit sexuality has been a hallmark (and some would say the major selling point) for romance since the 1970s, and as a reader, I want and expect it. And I’m not squeamish about the mechanics—twosomes, threesomes, up, down and sideways, with handcuffs or without; I’ve read books that rocked my world from all of these, books that I would definitely call romance. What set them apart was the attitude of the characters getting it on toward one another, their reasons for hopping in the sack (or the haystack or the space bunk or that big ol’ hot tub full of banana puddin’) in the first place. Not every character who has sex in a Little Red Hen book will be madly in love when they start, but they’ll at least be considering it by the time they finish. The person or persons they’re sexing will have value to them as people, and their physical actions toward them will reflect that. Nobody is going to get genuinely humiliated in a LRH book (and no monster will ever “turn anybody gay” because that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard of in my life, and I work at a law firm). We in the Hen House want to turn our readers on and make their toes curl but let them still feel clean and able to look their preacher in the eye afterwards.

 3 – Heart-melting romance: This one is the most important. It’s what’s most often missing from the books I hate, and I think it’s what embarrasses the haters most about romance, far more than any kind of sexual content ever could. If a story is going to be a romance by the genre definition (not the literary, which is a whole different thing involving a much wider range of happy endings), it has to be a love story; it has to be the series of events which leads the characters into (or deeper into) love. It doesn’t have to end in marriage or a marriage proposal or a declaration of eternal devotion. But it’s got to mean more than an orgasm, a contract, or the acquisition of a business partner to pay the household expenses. It’s about people touching soul to soul, something I believe in very strongly. Otherwise, for me, it’s not a romance. Every Little Red Hen story, whether it’s historical, contemporary, paranormal, steampunk, straight, LGBT, funny, dramatic, or just plain weird will be a love story by this definition.

For more information about the press or the individual titles coming up at our launch on May 1, please drop by the website at http://lucybluecastle.wix.com/littleredhenromance or come like us on Facebook. And by all means, come hang out at our Facebook launch party on Wednesday, April 29, at 8 pm EDT—yes, we’ll mention the books, and yes, there will be preview giveaway swag, but mostly it’ll be a bunch of romance lovers chatting and snarking and having fun, and we’d love to see you there: https://www.facebook.com/events/807514879343283/

Back to my regularly scheduled being a writer thing . . .

alpharomeo_original

Whatever happens with Amazon/Hachette and the rest of the terrified and terrifying world of publishing as we know it, I’m still writing books and still being lucky enough to get’em published.  My brilliant and beguiling editor/publisher, Traci Markou of Purple Sword Publications, emailed me this morning to say my next book, a non-paranormal contemporary romance called Alpha Romeo, is being formatted today.  So I thought I’d share a nibble.

Just to set the scene, my heroine, Scarlett Cross, is the daughter of a big-time Hollywood movie star who’s just starting her own career as an actress.  She is the second girl lead in a teen slasher flick that’s about to come out.  Romeo Kidd is the guy she loves, her co-star in the movie.  Sebastian, the male lead in the movie, is her half-brother, and Loki, the female lead, is her nemesis, a big star in her own right who was Romeo’s girlfriend first.

* * * * * *

The studio held the wrap party for The Funhouse at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.  But it wasn’t so much a party for the people who’d finished filming as a publicity stunt to let the crowds and the paparazzi on Sunset Boulevard get their first gawp at the fresh meat in the cast.  Sebastian and I arrived together in the back of a chauffeured limousine, and even though there was no official red carpet, the sidewalk was lined with photographers.  Sebastian jumped out like an old pro, but I hung back.  I had walked carpets with my father dozens of times, but I had always been in the background.  Nobody had ever cared if they got my picture before.

“Come on, Sissy.”  Sebastian gave me his hand and helped me out of the car.  A pair of studio handlers came hurrying over to flank us like something between bodyguards and ladies in waiting.  They didn’t even speak to us, just started herding us down the aisle.

I had just caught sight of Romeo ahead of us when for the first time in my life a photographer shouted, “Scarlett!”  Romeo turned around, and our eyes met at the exact same second the flash went off.  Two seconds later, I was surrounded by flashing lights and the shouts of strangers calling my name and giving me directions.  “Look this way! Turn around! Come on, honey, smile!”

I tried to get a tighter hold on my brother, but he was moving back, giving me room to pose.  I felt panicked, turning in a jerky circle like a doll on a broken music box, trying to hear what they were saying. I turned and saw Romeo again, and he smiled.

I smiled back.  I consciously relaxed my shoulders and turned back toward the cameras.  “That’s it!” one of the photographers shouted, and I turned my smile on him.  I was still terrified, but I wasn’t paralyzed any more.  I did a silly little twirl to make the frilly skirt of my party dress swirl out, then stopped and laughed.  The flashes went off even faster.  Photographers from further down the line were moving in to focus on me, jostling for position.  I reached for Sebastian again, drawing him close to me and cuddling up to his side, laying my head on his shoulder.

“Scarlett!”  I heard Loki’s voice right behind me.  I barely had time to turn around before she had caught me up in a hug like I was her long lost sister.  “Look at you!”  She drew back and framed my face in her hands.  The photographers went wild.  “You look beautiful.”  She touched her forehead to mine, a lipstick-safe kiss.

“So do you.”  She took my hand and turned to the photographers with a dazzling smile of her own.  She did look beautiful; her black Alexander McQueen made my blue off the rack look like a little girl’s birthday party frock.  “You always do.”

“Romeo!” she called, letting go of me to run to him.  She hugged him the same way she had hugged me, and Sebastian nudged me from behind, urging me forward.  Romeo caught my eye over Loki’s shoulder and winked, making me laugh.

“Hey Scarlett!”  I heard my name again over the general roar, this time coming from the crowd of photographers.  “Scarlett!”  A tall, skinny man in a white dress shirt buttoned all the way up had pushed his way to the front of the pack.  He had a press badge sticking out of his pocket and a camera hanging around his neck.  He saw me see him and raised the camera.  “Do you remember your mom?”

“Yes.”  His flash went off.  “Of course I do.”

One of the studio handlers moved in front of me, blocking his shot.  The other one touched me on the elbow.  “Come on, Miss Cross,” she said into my ear.  “It’s time to go inside.”

“What?”  I felt a little faint.  “Who was that guy?”

“Never mind,” the handler said.  She was trying to nudge me along, but my feet were planted.

“Why did he ask about Stella?”  I wanted to see his face again–something about him was familiar.

“Hey sweetheart.”  Romeo took my hand, gracefully brushing the handler aside.  “You okay?”

“Yeah . . . no . . . I’m not sure.”  Clinging to his hand, I pushed the other handler out of the way to look for the weird photographer, but he was gone.  I looked up at Romeo.  “I guess I’m okay.”

He squeezed my hand.  “Let’s go inside.”

As we walked through the lobby, I saw Sebastian talking to a smiling older couple dressed in casual dinner clothes–tourists staying at the Roosevelt, no doubt.  I waved as we walked by, and he waved back.  Loki was doing an interview just outside the doors to the pool bar where they were holding the party.  The whole patio was crawling with reporters.  “I see more press than actors,” Romeo said.  “And there are barely any crew guys here at all.”

“I know, right?”  I was glad I still had a grip on his arm.  I had never been interviewed before and wasn’t keen on it now.  “Sebastian said in the car it would probably be like this.  They’re really pushing to sell the movie.”

“Yeah.”  He didn’t sound any more enthused than I felt, and he was keeping a pretty firm grip on my arm, too.  “I reckon we’re the product.”

“Just the commercial.”  I had been hearing about the reality of being a movie star since I was four years old; I had just never thought about it as something that applied to me.  “But all we have to do is be beautiful.”  I smiled up at him.  “Trust me, you’ve got it covered.”

“Hey, you.”  He turned and wrapped his arms around me, and I giggled, sliding my arms around his neck.  He pushed me behind a potted palm and kissed me.  I could hear cameras hissing and see lights flashing even with my eyes closed, but I couldn’t have cared less.

“Hey kids!”  Sebastian appeared out of nowhere, reaching past Romeo to pull me back out into the open.  Loki was right behind him.  “No fair lurking in the shadows.  We have to circulate and be charming.”  Cole’s voice suddenly rose over the noise of the crowd–he was ranting at someone on the other side of the patio.  “Or we could just go watch the train wreck,” Sebastian snickered.

“Oh god,” Loki moaned.

“Relax,” Romeo said.  He and Sebastian were both grinning; they both thought Cole was a stitch.  “He’s just giving them a show.”

One of the producers, a friend of Calvin’s Sebastian and I had known since we were babies, came hurrying up to us, looking frazzled.  “Wanna help me save an idiot’s life?” she said, her cheeks flushed pink in spite of the chilly breeze coming off the pool.

Sebastian kissed her cheek.  “Relax, honey.”  In that moment, he looked and sounded exactly like our father.  “Cole’s just being himself.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.”  She took my hand and squeezed it, and her palm was sweaty.  “Come distract him, kids, won’t you?”

“Yeah, of course,” I said.  I reached for Romeo, but Loki blocked me.

“You and Sebastian go ahead,” she said. “I’ve got some people I want Romeo to meet.”

I didn’t like it, but there wasn’t much I could do without causing a scene.  “I’ll see you later,” I told Romeo.  He had just enough time to smile and wink at me before the producer whisked me away.

A nifty holiday gift from Purple Sword Publications

purple sword samplerPrefer to taste before you buy?  Purple Sword Publications knows you do, you naughty minx, and they’ve put out a sampler o’ sexy reads just for you.  Excerpts from all their best paranormal and fantasy erotica and romance from 2013, all in a pretty purple package, all for free.  (Including a few hot bites from my own Purple Sword book, Strange as Angels (https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-strangeasangels-1297349-340.html)

Get your (free -did I mention it’s totally FREE?) sampler here:

https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-purpleswordsampler2013-1374862-166.html

Tender Bites Contest Running All Month Long

Don’t forget, kittens, I’m doing a contest!  The rules are simple – review Tender Bites somewhere on the interwebs, email me the link at lucybluecastle@gmail.com, and you’re entered to win.  At the end of the contest I will literally put everybody’s email address into a literal hat and draw out a winner.  And the winner will get autographed paperback copies of all three books in the Bound in Darkness medieval vampire romance series, written, obviously, by me.  (To get a peek at what those are exactly, click this link:  https://lucybluecastle.wordpress.com/bound-in-darkness/)

The Details:

1 – Reviews do NOT need to be positive to be considered contest entries.  One review = one entry, regardless. 

2 – If you do more than one review or post your one review more than one place, send me each link separately – every link counts as its own review and its own entry in the contest. 

3 – You don’t have to buy your own copy of the e-book to review it – how would I even know?- but I do insist that you actually read it.  If it’s obvious from your review that you haven’t read it yet, that you’re reviewing the promo materials or me as a writer in general or life its own self, I won’t enter it, and you can’t make me.  I can’t imagine anybody doing that, but gurus tell me that stuff I can’t imagine happens online every day of the week, so I figured I’d just mention it.

4- The contest is open as of right now, and closes at midnight on December 1, 2012.  I’ll do the drawing later that day and post the results here.  Obviously make sure I have a good email address for you with your entry so I can email you if you win. 

And that’s it.  Or at least I think that’s it – if you have any questions or I’ve left anything out, tell me so in the comments so I can address it.  Thanks, kittens!  Tell me what you think!

Tender Bites Contest – I’m suppressing the urge to use yet another exclamation point . . .

Don’t forget, kittens, I’m doing a contest!  The rules are simple – review Tender Bites somewhere on the interwebs, email me the link at lucybluecastle@gmail.com, and you’re entered to win.  At the end of the contest I will literally put everybody’s email address into a literal hat and draw out a winner.  And the winner will get autographed paperback copies of all three books in the Bound in Darkness medieval vampire romance series, written, obviously, by me.  (To get a peek at what those are exactly, click this link:  https://lucybluecastle.wordpress.com/bound-in-darkness/)

The Details:

1 – Reviews do NOT need to be positive to be considered contest entries.  One review = one entry, regardless. 

2 – If you do more than one review or post your one review more than one place, send me each link separately – every link counts as its own review and its own entry in the contest. 

3 – You don’t have to buy your own copy of the e-book to review it – how would I even know?- but I do insist that you actually read it.  If it’s obvious from your review that you haven’t read it yet, that you’re reviewing the promo materials or me as a writer in general or life its own self, I won’t enter it, and you can’t make me.  I can’t imagine anybody doing that, but gurus tell me that stuff I can’t imagine happens online every day of the week, so I figured I’d just mention it.

4- The contest is open as of right now, and closes at midnight on December 1, 2012.  I’ll do the drawing later that day and post the results here.  Obviously make sure I have a good email address for you with your entry so I can email you if you win. 

And that’s it.  Or at least I think that’s it – if you have any questions or I’ve left anything out, tell me so in the comments so I can address it.  Thanks, kittens!  Tell me what you think!

Budapest

 Okay, kittens, here it is – the last preview tidbit from Tender Bites before it goes live on Amazon tomorrow. 

“Budapest” is the most contemporary story in the collection; I envision it happening pretty much right now.  In every vampire story I’ve done before, the vampires have either been isolated predators or, as in the case of the Bound in Darkness series, all connected to one another through a single quest or event.  In “Budapest,” I’ve played with the idea of a vampire society that isn’t exactly open but isn’t isolated, either, a system of connection between vamps and how that would affect their relationships with one another and the mortal world.  It’s one thing to say “I’ll love you forever” to someone whose body at least is going to eventually die; it’s something else when you and your beloved one are literally, physically immortal.  It’s not a new idea, obviously – I may be the only vampire writer on the planet who hasn’t gone here yet.  But this is my take. 

Budapest

Last Tuesday

Cat climbed out of her lead-lined coffin, stumbled, and nearly fell flat on her face.  It was barely sunset; she was still mostly asleep.  The pounding on the door started again, louder this time.  “Who is it?” she demanded, her eyes darting around the barely-familiar hotel room.  Where the hell had she put her sword?  She grabbed the gun with blessed bullets from the nightstand instead—less reliable, particularly against atheist vampires, but hopefully in Budapest, that wouldn’t be an issue. 

“Richard,” the door replied.  “Catriona, let me in.”

“Oh for pity’s sake . . .”  She fumbled the deadbolt open and reached for the handle.  “What are you doing here?”

“You’re not an easy girl to find,” he muttered, pushing past her.

“That was rather the idea,” she retorted. 

Richard was the oldest friend of her momentarily estranged lover, Indo.  In fact, rumor had it Richard was the oldest friend any vampire had, that he was the oldest vampire left roaming the earth.  She had never thought he looked the part.  Tall, thin, and blond with a patrician nose and the perpetual squint of a perpetual scholar, he always looked like an unmade bed.  Tonight he was even more rumpled than usual, his wrinkled coat far too thin for the chill winds of Eastern Europe in November.  Her nostrils flared, picking up the smell of blood, faded faint but still distinct, the smell of a powerful death – vampire blood, not human.  His black coat was covered with it.  This was not normal.  She had known Richard for three hundred years, and she had never once seen him take a living victim.  He had been the first vampire of her acquaintance to attempt to live on cow’s blood, and he was rumored to be one of the so-called “Blessed Nine” scientists and alchemists who had been working for decades on creating a synthetic.  If he were stained with vampire blood, something bad had happened.  “Richard, where is Indo?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea.”  Indo had left her six months before, swearing once again she was too wicked, too savage for bearing.  She had accidentally taken too much from a perfectly willing thrall and put the stupid girl in the hospital where she had recovered completely in the space of a day.  But Indo, Enforcer that he was, had completely overreacted, as he always did, and had taken off in a huff.  He always went to Richard when they had these fights.  Richard was his sanctuary, his monastery, his ashram, his calm.  But now Richard was covered in vampire blood, and he looked anything but calm.   He was prowling the room like a cat, peering into the bathroom, the closet.  “I suppose he could have gone back home to Tokyo.”  He yanked back the drapes, exposing her impressive view of the city.  “I honestly don’t know.”

“But he is alive.”  She put her hand on his shoulder.  “Richard?”

“Of course Indo is alive,” he said bitterly, his eyes searching the dark as if for predators or prey.  “If anyone ever truly threatened to kill Indo, I have no doubt some sort of samurai angel with a golden katana and a thousand tongues of fire would rush immediately to his defense.”

Cat suppressed an unbecoming snort.  “Did the two of you have a tiff?”

He gave her a look that could have wilted a cactus.  “You could say that.”

“Oh dear . . . . So what do you want me to do about it?”  She started to move away, but he caught hold of her robe, silk clenched in a dirty fist.  “What’s wrong with you?” she asked, worried all over again.

“I’m very tired, Catriona.”  He was looking at her in a way he’d never looked at her before.  Other men had, of course – humans who thought they were predators before they realized they were prey; vampires who mistook her delicacy for weakness.  It was a hungry look, a conqueror’s look.  It looked strange on Richard . . . strange because in the dim light of the hotel room, it fit his face so well. 

She reached down and disengaged his hand from her robe.  “Maybe you should tell me all about it.”

He clamped his hand around her wrist like he was grabbing a sword hilt, hard and sure and painfully tight–none of the adjectives she would ever have associated with being held by Richard.  She had never realized how big he was before, how powerful.  He had always seemed hunched, a spider, a scholar.  Now he was standing up quite straight, and she realized how broad he was at the shoulders, how big his hands were.  “No.”  For once he wasn’t squinting in the slightest.  She had never noticed how blue his eyes were, how intense his gaze could be.  “I don’t want to tell you anything about it.”  He dragged her closer, his free hand going to the draped closure of her robe.  “I don’t want to talk.”

The Artist

The penultimate preview peek at Tender Bites, my new vampire anthology – one more after today, then Saturday, it’s out.  Also, check back here on Saturday for details on a nifty new contest to go along with my first ever self-published e-book launch – it’s kind of like a wedding, something old, something new . . . .

As for this particular story, The Artist, I have a confession to make – I love’em all, but I think this one is the sexiest.  It’s my take on the classic vampire seduction with a slightly harder edge.  Want a taste?

The Artist

San Francisco, 1997

Dante wandered lonely as a cloud down the foggy San Francisco street, a black and brooding wisp of storm cloud that obscured and revealed each moonbeam pool of streetlight as he passed.  A subtle change had come over him lately, an ever-deepening malaise.  The vampire who had made him so many centuries before had warned him this would eventually happen, but he hadn’t believed it.  He had thought he would revel in his power for all eternity.  But lately, he hadn’t so much reveled as endured.  Nothing interested him; nothing excited him; even the taste of blood and the thrill of the kill had lost their spark. 

A happy cackle of feminine laughter danced out of an open doorway to rush to his defense.  Turning to the painted glass, he felt the cloud that surrounded him fading back into the fog . . .

The girl at the bar laughed again, one forearm resting lightly against her lover’s shoulder as he hovered by her stool.  Her clothes were as black and primitive cool as the vampire’s weary mood – black mesh shirt, black lace bra, black jeans so tight his eyes could trace the slit of her sex behind the denim.  But her black leather boots were nestled heel to terrifying heel on the bar at her elbow, leaving her little feet with their blue-polished nails bare to the scrutiny of the world.  And her red hair was as striking and utterly natural as her laugh.  A smile teased the corners of his mouth.  She was a darling, a cheeky little lamb tricked out in the black duds of the contemporary she-wolf.

In other words, just the ticket.

She leaned over to catch her mortal lover’s whisper and caught sight of the vampire watching from the window.  Her eyes widened as she made a droll face at him – waddya lookin’ at? the twist of her mouth demanded.  But her eyes weren’t nearly so tough or so funny.  When Dante continued to stare, unsmiling, unblinking, refusing to be moved, her eyes lost every defense.

“Francesca?” the man at her side asked, looking over his shoulder to see what had captured her attention so completely.  The vampire faded back from the glass, disappearing from their sight.  He watched the girl, Francesca’s expression cloud for a moment, vaguely confused and disappointed.  Then she turned back to her mortal beloved.  Francesca . . . don’t worry, he thought.  I won’t keep you waiting for long.

An hour later, he watched from a darkened doorway across the street as the happy little couple had a happy little argument on the sidewalk in front of the bar as their friends stood a discreet three or four yards away pretending to study the stars they couldn’t see through the San Francisco fog.  With a few well-chosen and deadly verbal assaults, Francesca and her lover negotiated a grudging peace as regards the rest of the evening, never dreaming a depressed and hungry vampire was hanging on every word.  They finally decided that he would go on with their friends and see another band while she took the car home and got some apparently pressing work done – a reasonable and sublimely convenient compromise, the vampire thought.  His smile would have made a strong man shudder had one been close enough to see it.

He closed his eyes and counted slowly, an ancient demon’s version of a mortal baby’s game.  Ninety-seven . . . ninety-eight . . . ninety-nine . . . one hundred.  He opened his eyes.  The sidewalk across the street was now empty except for a kid in an apron sweeping up cigarette butts.  Dante turned his face up to the moon’s caress and sniffed the air until he found her scent . . . crumbles of chocolate scattered amongst the crushed, wet petals of a rose . . .

He smiled again, fangs glittering in the dim, misty light.  Ready or not, sweetheart . . . .

Little Boy Lost

Day 3 of previews for Tender Bites, my anthology of romantic vamp stories officially releasing on Saturday, October 13, 2012, exclusively through Amazon.  This story is a little different from the others in that the romance at its center is between two men, and it doesn’t have a traditional happy ending.  It also has the scariest vampire bite I’ve ever written.  But for me, it is also one of the most affecting tales I’ve ever written.  I really hope you agree.

Little Boy Lost

 

Chicago, 1986

Zack watched with a mixture of fury and relief as the battered muscle car tore away from the broken curb.  As soon as it was far enough up the ramp to make coming back to kick the shit out of him more trouble than he was worth, he tossed the nearly-empty beer bottle he was holding after it.  “Assholes!”

Skating out of Tony’s party with somebody’s cokehead daughter had seemed like such a good idea at the time.  He lit a cigarette then stumbled toward the water’s edge, his slick-bottomed tuxedo flats sliding on the oily sand.  Take in a rave, taste a little forbidden fruit, reminisce about how the other half lived for a few hours.  Shake the dust of queenly good taste from his mane for a little while.  He ran a beautifully manicured hand through the sweat-damp spikes of his hundred-dollar haircut with a snort.  Kick it, Stallion, he thought, flinging the half-smoked stogie into the drink with a hiss of drowning fire.  Time to call Tony and beg forgiveness and a taxi home . . . God bless the calling card and the child who’s got his own.

Picking his way through the trash scattered on the grassy bank, he saw a pair of headlights appear about a quarter of a mile down the shoreline, a double beam that glistened like fairy dust on the water before swinging wide away.  Civilization! he thought with mock-dramatic relief.  Come, sahib –where there be cars, there be phones . . . Staggering a little, he headed for the disappearing lights.

And found exactly nothing.  Wherever the car had come from or gone since Zack saw it, the poor fucker must have been lost.  “Fuck!” he shouted at the seagulls, kicking at the sandy black dirt under his feet.  “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!”

He flung himself down on the ground with reckless disregard for his spiffy new Armani–hell, he it was hardly as if he’d paid for it—and lit another cigarette.  This was just great.  This was poetic justice.  Here he was, everybody’s darling dear, alone at midnight in some derelict’s dream of a cemetery.

And where, pray tell, did that come from? he thought with a start, his eyes going wide.  Not a headstone in sight, all weeds, no flowers.  Still, the cold, damp air had a definite whiff of the crypt to it, and the ground seemed awfully loose, particularly just at his heels.

“Asshole,” he muttered, taking another drag on his cigarette.  The general air of gloom he had meant to escape by going raving had caught up with him, obviously.   Which was hardly surprising—the angel of death spent so much time in his neighborhood lately, somebody should charge the fucker rent.

He needed to get up and head back to the road.  He could hear the traffic in the distance; it couldn’t be that far.  But he was so tired . . . he had been so tired for weeks now, his brain running over and over the same tired track.  He had to get back to the road . . . he could thumb a ride into the city—now that’d be a blast from the past.  Maybe he’d hook up with an outbound trucker instead, climb in a strange rig and leave Chicago and her misery behind him.  The fact that he had maybe ten dollars in his wallet was no more than a minor technicality, right?  God knew he had gotten by on less.  Let somebody else hold Tony’s hand when the angel came calling again.  That was cold, yes—but hell, it wasn’t as if the money wouldn’t draw flies enough to replace him if he left.  Flies to feed on the corpse . . . his sudden tears stung like a son of a bitch.  His eyes were still sore from all the smoke at that fucking rave.  Sorry, love, he thought, dashing them away.  Sorry it happened, sorry I can’t fix it, sorry I’m such a selfish, shitty little prick . . .

This touching unspoken confession was cut off by the ground beginning to boil.  For a moment, he just stared at the tiny volcanoes of dust erupting between his shoes, unable to process the data his eyes were sending to his brain. 

Gotta be the coke, he decided, sliding backward on his ass, his heels digging dimples in the shimmying dirt.  “Oh shit.”  His cigarette burned to ash between his fingers as he watched, frozen, as a beautifully sculpted hand slowly reached up through the earth, white as moonlight against the black.  “What did that little bitch slip me?”  The idea that what he saw could be real, that someone was crawling out of the ground (the grave?) was too bizarre to consider.  He was tripping; stress had been working overtime on him for weeks with the Bolivian army at her back, and he was wigging the fuck out at last. 

“Too many funerals, not enough laughs,” he muttered as the hand became an arm, reaching upward, reaching for him.  Where had he heard that before?  Tony had said it, but when, and in what context?  His errant mind worked the pointless question like a sore tooth as the second hand appeared, clutching at the ground for something to pull the rest of what was still down there free.  “Oh yeah . . .”  His fingers were burning now, but he couldn’t blink, much less fling the butt away.  “I remember . . . I asked Tony why he came north, why he left Miss-Sippy—that’s the way he pronounces it even after thirty years in Chicago.  It’s an affectation if you ask me, but it’s cute, so who complains, right?”  The fingers crept closer, tearing up the grass.  “And that’s what he said home was like . . . too many funerals, not enough laughs—“

The hand clamped around his ankle, and his babble turned fast to a scream. 

Sanguine Kiss by Alexandra Christian – read it!

Today I’m turning over the crunchety, chocolatey blogness to somebody else – romantic erotica goddess Alexandra Christian.  Lex’s latest e-book, Sanguine Kiss, comes out today (September 12), and I trapped her in a small room and made her talk to me about it and her writing life in general. 

LB:  In 50 words or less, what’s your book about?

Sanguine Kiss is about a woman, Gillian, who is ditched by her lover in a most unsavory way.  Feeling rejected and replaced, she walks out on a bridge with the intention of jumping.  Before she can do it, she’s confronted by the sexy and arrogant Seth.  He offers her a better way of escaping the bonds of her mortal life.  He’s a vampire, bored with eternity and longing for a companion.  Gillian is all too keen on accepting his gift, but first she has some unfinished business.

 LB:  Is this your first vampire story?  What inspired you to write about vampires right now?

This is my first vampire story to be published.  I’ve always been a fan of the genre, both in literature and film.  Vampires are the ultimate sexy anti-hero, but in recent years, like many vampire enthusiasts, I’d become disillusioned with the whole genre.  Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, and other books that are basically “My Big Fat Vampire Wedding” have been essentially de-fanging vampires by not letting them be the brutal predators they are.  It’s disappointing because you’re cutting off your hero’s testicles before the story even begins.  I became determined some years back to write a romance that had a ferocious vampire who likes blood and sex, yet still has a moral compass and isn’t afraid to rip your throat out.  Vampires should be scary, and there are several times in Sanguine Kiss where Seth is not only sexy but damned scary.

 LB:  Do you have a favorite vamp from literature or popculture? 

There are so many, it’s hard to choose.  Anyone who has ever met me is very much in touch with my love of the cheezy ’80s movie The Lost Boys.  The character of David in that movie is the epitome of the sexy vampire.  He likes girls, he’s fuckin’ scary, and he’s a killer.  He also has this joy about being immortal.  He doesn’t sit around whining about how miserable he is.

LB:  So why are we going to fall madly in lust with your vampire hero?

Seth is, at first glance, the ultimate romance novel hero.  He’s muscular, long dark hair and these incredible piercing eyes.  He commits his first heroic act by page five, but quickly dispenses with the boy scout routine.  He’s beautiful, arrogant, rich beyond our wildest dreams, and has this hyper-intelligence that is at first unnerving.  He has this inherent dominance that lets Gillian know he’s an Alpha from the first time they speak, but it isn’t something that he has to assert.  It’s simply a fact that we just accept. 

LB:  What’s your writing ritual?  What’s your favorite place and/or way to write?

I try to write every day, though sometimes it doesn’t work out.  My usual place is sitting on the couch with my dog, Murphy, sleeping at my side.  I have to have music in my ears, and I ALWAYS have a playlist to go along with each story.  In fact, any of my readers that subscribe to Spotify can listen to my “Dark Sexy” playlist, and they’ll be listening to the Sanguine Kiss playlist.  My favorite place to write, though, would be a coffeeshop with my writing buddies.  We have a weekly group that goes to our local Starbucks faithfully every Thursday night.  Those nights are usually my most productive times.  I don’t know if it has something to do with the pressure of knowing I have to be out by 10 pm or the unconscious competition with my peers or maybe just the double shot of espresso in the White Chocolate Mocha.

 LB:  What are you writing right now? 

I have several projects in the works right now.  I have another vampire story coming out this month with Mocha Memoirs Press that’s actually the beginning of a series about a nightclub that’s kind of like a singles’ bar for the paranormal.  I’m working on another series that involves different fetishes. I hope to be able to announce more about that one later this month.  I’ve also got two novels in their early stages:  a pirate adventure with mermaids and a voodoo retelling of the obscure French fairy tale, “The White Cat.”  I’m also collaborating  on a steampunk novel with the amazing Lucy Blue.  I’m really excited about that one!  At any rate, I’m a busy girl these days. 

LB:  It all sounds amazing – very best of luck with all of it.  And yeah, you have my sympathy about that co-writer of yours . . . .  

So there you go, kittens – new vampy delectable!  I can’t wait to read it.