Sunday, November 13, 2011

Forever True?



As a writer, I most certainly want readers to enjoy my story.  With that said, I think there's a difference between writing a story that will make readers happy and writing a story that stays true to the characters and the way the story is meant to unfold. 

I think sometimes it's hard to stay true to our characters, especially when they want to go in a direction that may not make readers happy.  As a writer, what do you do? Do you write the story so it'll sell books and keep controversy to a minimum or do you listen to your characters and let them take the lead, even if you don't agree with "their" decisions.

As a pantser (a type of writer who does not plot things out, but rather writes by the seat of his/her pants), I let my characters take the story where they want to take it.  Sometimes it leaves me shaking my head and cringing.  The decisions my characters make aren't always the decisions I would have made for them.  Sounds silly, right?  After all, I'm the one writing the story.  And yet... I feel as though I'd be untrue if I wrote something that didn't fit what my character would do, or the decisions she/he would make.  I also think there's something to be said for writing the story you want to write, without being influenced by what others will think of you or your story.

If you've read my book, Viridis, there's a scene in there that left me cringing, and you'll likely know the one.  Would I have done what Phoebe did?  I don't know.  But what I do know is that the decision she made was true to her character, based on her fears and emotions at that point in the story.  Truth be told, I originally wrote the scene so I would know what Phoebe went through, but had no intentions of putting it in the book, for fear that readers would freak out.  However, my agent convinced me otherwise, explaining that Phoebe's reactions to what occurred seemed like an over-reaction if the reader didn't get to see what actually happened. I took her advise and put it in, and though I feel I remained true, sure enough, not all readers have been happy.

Once more, Devil on a Sparrow's Wing, book 2 in the series, left me thinking and rethinking the ending.  It would certainly be easier to pick an ending that would be less controversial, and yet... any endings other than the one chosen would not have been true to my characters.  I can only hope that my readers will know my characters well enough by then, and will understand it was what my characters would have done.

It isn't easy to stay true, especially when you know they'll be some backlash.  But I'm happy that I've stayed true to my characters, even if my story isn't everyone's cup of tea--not to say I won't try to make everyone happy if there's a way to do it and still keep in line with what my characters want.  ; )
 
How do you get around this sort of dilemma?  Do you find a way to tweak things so everyone's happy, including your characters and your readers, or do you throw caution to the wind and just write your story without giving it any thought?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Devil on a Sparrow's Wing



It's been a crazy few months, but I feel like I can finally check a couple things off my list.  I managed to send my steampunk clothing craftbook to my editor, and also wrapped up edits on the second book in the Viridis series.  I'm happy to let you all know that Devil on a Sparrow's Wing is now available on Amazon and Smashwords!  Barnes and Noble will also have it available soon, but their upload process takes a while.

Although this is the second book in the series, it works just as well as a stand alone novel, so no worries if you haven't read Viridis yet.

Not sure if it's for you?  Well, I'd never have you buy without a sample!  I do hope you'll enjoy.

Devil on a Sparrow's Wing

Chapter One
Edinburgh, May 1866
  
Phoebe stood there at the helm of Gavin’s airship, arms crossed and her temper up, as Seth argued with her. 

“It could be dangerous and I’d rather not have to worry about ye.  I cannot concentrate on the matter at hand if I’m distracted by trying to keep ye safe.  Gavin,” he turned to his friend for support, “can ye not talk some sense into her?”

Gavin balked.  “How am I to talk sense into the lass, when she’s your wife?”  A teasing smile crept across his lips. 

“I’ll not have you talking around me as if I’m not even here.”  Phoebe’s cheeks flushed with her annoyance.  Nothing was more infuriating than having others make decisions for her.  “And it makes no difference whose wife I am.  Do you hear me, Seth Elliott?  Wife or no, I’m still my own person, and I’ll not have you dictating whether or not I’ll be allowed to go to a meeting regarding my herbal.”

Seth ran a hand down her arm, diffusing some of the tension between them.  “Can ye blame me for wanting to keep you safe, a ghaoil?  Of course we’re here because of Sanctis, but it does not change the fact that this could be a dangerous situation.  We’re meeting with the heads of Am Freiceadan for the first time and I cannot be sure of the situation. 

Am Feiceadan, known as The Watch, was the group responsible for giving Scotland the edge it needed to win its independence from England, its members notorious for their fighting prowess. They could also be instrumental in helping the Cause, an underground movement trying to better the lives and circumstances of London’s poor.

However, Phoebe was not swayed by his argument.  “So you think they’ll assault and murder my person in the middle of the tavern?”  Her eyebrows perked up in question.

Gavin finally spoke up.  “Let her come, mo charaid.  No harm will come to her.  I’ve dealt with these men before, and they wouldna hurt her, aye?”  Gavin winked at Phoebe, and she couldn’t help but smile.  “Besides, she’s liable to get in a world of trouble if we leave her here alone.” 

Seth shook his head, cursing under his breath, accepting defeat.  “Aye.  Ye can come then.”

As if he had a choice in the matter.  Phoebe threw her arms around his neck and gave him a kiss on the cheek, before whispering in his ear with a nibble.  “I’m glad you’ve come to your senses.  I promise, you’ll barely know I’m there.”

“My love, ye could walk into a room with a hundred other people, and I would instantly know ye’re there.”  His arms went around her waist, kissing her full on the lips.  “Since I knew ye’d likely insist on joining us, I’ve made ye a little something.  If ye’ll excuse us a moment, Gavin.”

Once in their room, Phoebe watched as Seth rummaged under the bed, returning victoriously with a silk wrapped package.  He handed it to her with a grin on his face and a sparkle in his eyes.  “For you, my love.”

The delicate rose ribbon fell to the side as she peeled away the cream colored silk.  “Seth, what have you done?”

“Do ye like it?”  He stepped up behind her to peek over her shoulder, his body so close, it was all she could do to not lean against him. 

She held it up to take a better look.  “It’s a leather corset?”

“Not just a corset, a ghaoil.  I’ve designed it to withstand charges from fuse guns, and even a knife or traditional gun would have a hard time penetrating it.”

She spun to face him with a smile upon her lips, his arm going around her waist to hold her close.  “What would I do without you, my dearest tinkerer?”

An eyebrow perked up.  “One can only imagine.”  A laugh escaped him.  “Here.  Let me give ye a hand getting into it.”

Phoebe loved that the recent months spent in Gavin’s company had Seth’s words falling back to their more natural Scots, the lilt in his voice melting every fiber in her being.  She could hear him talk all day long and never tire of it.  

“Ye see, it can be worn both under a gown or over it.  And knowing ye often travel without a maid, I designed it so it doesna lace like a traditional corset.  Ye’ll be able to get yerself in and out of it with few problems.”  He showed her how the corset buckled on each side.

It was actually quite heavy.  Though the exterior was made of a deep brown leather and the inside was lined with a burgundy silk, there was another thick layer in between the two.  The leather pieces had been riveted together with hundreds of little brass rivets.  It was quite unlike anything she’d ever seen.

She went to her wardrobe and chose a silk burgundy gown with a nicely bustled back, the color complementing her mahogany locks and porcelain skin.  Seth moved to her side to help her out of the corset and gown she was currently wearing, but when he started to trail kisses down her bare shoulder, she forced herself to take a step away from him.  “We will be quite late if you keep up your antics, my love.” 

“Ye canna blame me, aye?”  Seth snaked his arm around her waist, pulling her close for a kiss.

“Could you give me a hand, please?”  Ignoring Seth’s look of disappointment, she slipped into the gown she’d chosen and handed him the corset. 

He wrapped the corset around her waist.  “Ye see, ye adjust the buckles like so.  Start with one side and then move to the other.”  He fastened the buckles, and then turned her towards the full-length looking glass.

“Oh Seth, it really is stunning.”

“Ye’re the one that’s stunning, my love.”

*** 

Phoebe now sat happily sandwiched between Seth and Gavin, as Seth maneuvered his steam coach down the cobbled streets and into the center of Edinburgh.  Busier than she had expected, the walkways were teeming with people coming and going.

It was quite fascinating to see the revival the city had undergone, now a tinkerer’s haven, transformed from its traditional past.  So much had been accomplished, and she knew Seth was sorely tempted to move his shop here and away from London. 

Phoebe put a hand on his arm.  “I’ve never seen anything of the like.  Perhaps one day we could live here.  It really would be the perfect place for you to be tinkering.” 

Seth glanced at her, his brow furrowed.  “We couldna do that when ye have Viridis back in London.”
Viridis, Phoebe’s club back in London, was named for Phoebe’s first herbal concoction, bearing the same name.  Much to her surprise, Phoebe and her drink had taken London by storm and become an instant success. 

“I could always leave it in someone else’s care, though I’ve no doubt the revolution may very well alter even the simplest of plans.”

Seth glanced away from the road again.  “Phoebe, I’d never ask ye to do such a thing.”

“I know, love, but we could always open a second club here, could we not?  I’ve never seen a more amazing city.”  Phoebe was excited to see all the marvels as she looked around the city.  “Look over there.”  Phoebe pointed to a large brass and glass coach dangling from a metal rail as it sped along between the buildings, leaving a trail of steam dissipating behind it.

All around them tinkerings abounded.  A glass tube on the exterior of a rakishly tall building carried people up its side, airships dotted the sky, and towers reached to the heavens.  There was even an abundance of other steam coaches on the road, in a multitude of shapes and sizes.  Their ride through Edinburgh was remarkable, but it was not long before they arrived at the tavern where their meeting was to take place.

“Here ye are, love.”  Gavin gave Phoebe a hand out of the steam coach as Seth came around to join them.     

Seth tucked her hand in the crook of his elbow, his eyes alight as he took her in, his touch lingering.  “Are ye ready, my love?”  Seth’s voice held a hoarse edge of need, making her want to abandon the meeting all together and drag him back to the airship.

“I am.”

He leaned down and kissed her quickly, before turning his attention to Gavin.  “This is yers, aye?  Ye’ve had dealings with them before, and it’ll probably be best if ye do most of the talking.” 

Gavin gave Seth a quick nod in answer.  “Aye.  Will do.”

They followed Gavin into the tavern, and after a preliminary glance around, headed to the back of the room where two men stood upon seeing their approach. 

One man couldn’t have been more than thirty-five, strong and fair of face, with an unruly thatch of red hair.  The other man had to be in his late forties, with a weathered face and brown hair streaked with grey.  The thing that caught Phoebe’s attention, however, was the tinkering the man wore in place of his left arm, the shirtsleeve rolled up and out of the way to allow for the metal joints and mechanics to operate freely.

It was remarkable.  Like nothing she’d ever seen before, it was difficult to not look.  The hand was made of wood and metal, each joint articulated.  The fingers moved independently from each other, most likely by a series of thin wires and pulleys hidden within, if she were to guess based on its movement.

Neither looked like the type of man you’d want to go up against in a fight, good hand or not, and both men were kilted in their plaids, as were Seth and Gavin.  Since Scotland had gained its sovereignty from England, the kilt had become a symbol of pride and independence. 

Phoebe had never seen Gavin, a full-blooded highlander, in anything but a kilt.  Seth, who happened to be half Scot, normally wore breeches when in London, but when he came north, he always wore the tartan of his mother’s clan—and there was something about seeing him in a kilt, tall and strong, that made her heart race.

Gavin made the introductions, starting with the older of the two men.  “Niall Campbell and Conall MacAllister, I’d like to introduce ye to Seth Elliott and his wife, Lady Phoebe Hughes Elliott.”

The men shook Seth’s hand, and then turned their attention to Phoebe.  Niall took her hand with his good one and bowed over it, but Conall was far more forward, kissing her hand with a lingering touch. 

Phoebe blushed, and though she felt Seth shift at her side, she hoped he’d not make a fuss.  It could ruin their chances to secure help for the Cause.  With the revolution looking as if it might erupt at any moment, they desperately needed to secure weapons and men if the Cause was to be successful. 

Pulling out a chair for Phoebe, Seth took the seat next to her, Gavin once again sitting on her other side.  They ordered a round of ale for all, still too early for a meal.

Conall smiled at Phoebe.  “It’s a pleasure to finally meet ye, m’ lady, though I’ll admit, I hadna 
expected the creator of such a revolutionary herbal to also be one of such beauty.”  His eyes ran over her figure before flicking over to Seth for a moment.  “Yer husband is a verra lucky man.”

Phoebe’s back stiffened, not quite sure how to react, but before she could speak, Gavin came to her rescue.  “Conall, it’d be greatly appreciated if ye’d stop being a shite and concentrate on the matter at hand, aye?”

Conall let out a hearty laugh, giving Phoebe and Seth a bow of his head.  “My apologies.  I meant no offense.”

Niall glared at Conall, before continuing.  “Ye’ll have to forgive my companion.  It seems he lost his manners when he crawled out of the gutter this morning.” 

Niall shifted in his seat before continuing, his eyes now focused on their group.  “I’d like to get to the matter at hand, and will speak frankly with ye, aye?  Our group fully supports what the Cause is doing but I’m afraid we canna get involved in another war with England if it willna benefit us in some way.”  Holding up his mechanical hand, he added, “The cost of it is still too fresh in the minds of those who were there.”

“Aye,” Gavin added.  “We’d not be bothering ye if we didna have something to offer in return.  When we spoke, I told ye about the herbal.  We’d be willing to exchange ten barrels for yer help in the way of arms and experienced men.”

Conall motioned to Phoebe.  “If the lady would be so kind to explain the effects of the herbal— Sanctis, is it?— it would aid us in our decision.” 

Phoebe nodded.  “Of course.  It’s an herbal elixir that’s mixed with spirits, and derived from an alteration of my formula for Viridis.  Are you familiar with Viridis, sirs?”

It was quite obvious by Niall’s blush, if such a man could, and by the smile tugging at Conall’s lips, that they had at the least heard the rumors.  It was Conall that answered her question.  “If ye wouldna mind telling us about it, it’d be much appreciated.”

Ignoring the men’s reactions, Phoebe continued, very matter of fact. “Viridis is derived from a combination of herbal extracts, and tends to leave one with a feeling of euphoria while sensitizing the skin.”  She would not add that the rumors were indeed true, and that when taken in its undiluted form, an orgasm could be brought on by a single kiss. 

 Niall’s blush now extended to the rest of his face.  “And the difference between Viridis and Sanctis?” 

“The alteration to the original formula resulted in an enhancement of the senses, sight and sound being primarily affected, though you probably would not want to experience any extremes in temperature.”  She tucked a stray curl behind her ear before continuing.  “I was able to eliminate most of the skin sensitivity and euphoria inherent in Viridis, though not completely.  You may also experience an increase in strength and stamina, though it tends to come about once you’ve used it repeatedly.”

Niall sat forward, running his hand over his chin.  “Are there any unwanted effects that ye ken of?  I’d hate for my men to drop like flies, aye?”

Phoebe shook her head, no.  “Not that I’m aware.  I cannot say for sure, though I doubt it would cause anyone to drop, as you so put it, like a fly.  The herbal is still relatively new.  Viridis does not have any unwanted effects, and I’d be tempted to say the same will prove true of Sanctis, based on the fact that they are similarly derived.  I brought some with me, if you would like to try it firsthand.”

Niall nodded.  “We would love for ye to join us in a drink.”  Phoebe knew it was his polite way of ensuring they would not be poisoned, and could not help but smile. 

Seth reached into his leather bag, and pulled out a dark blue bottle as Niall waved to the serving girl for some glasses.  The empty glasses were placed on the table along with the ale they had ordered.  Seth poured out a small amount of Sanctis as Phoebe passed out the drink.

Gavin lifted his glass. “To a successful partnership.”

Niall, nodded his head in their direction.  “May the gods be willing.”

They all drank the herbal, conversation drifting to nothing of importance as they waited for the herbal to take effect.  It did not take long— no more than ten minutes— when Phoebe noticed her eyesight had sharpened and she could now hear things clear across the tavern.  Even the taste of her ale seemed more pronounce, the hops and yeast distinct in their flavors.

“I’ll be damned.  It actually works.”  Conall tilted his head to the side.  “Ye can sort of focus on what ye wanna hear, aye?”

Gavin nodded.  “It takes a little getting used to, but ye’ll have it down in no time.”

“Aye.  And how long does it last?  Do ye ken?”  Niall was looking at the liquid remaining in his glass.

Phoebe answered him.  “It depends on the quantity you’ve had and whether or not the drink has been diluted.  At its full strength, I’d say two ounces of Sanctis should keep the effect going for close to two hours.  If you cut it by half, you’ll cut its effectiveness and longevity by half.”

Niall nodded.  “I’d be willing to send two hundred weapons with ammunition— the latest tinkerings, mind— and another twenty men, all well trained and capable of training others.  What do ye say?”

Gavin gave it a minute and then said, “Make it two fifty and twenty five, and ye’ll have yerself a deal.”

“Aye.  Agreed, if ye’ll also throw in two barrels of Viridis.”

Phoebe smiled.  “Agreed.”
***

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

FREE!! And What That Might Mean



It is with a great deal of excitement that I write this post.  As of late this afternoon, Viridis is now free on Amazon!!  I can't tell you how excited I am! I'll admit, I was worried that if Amazon didn't make Viridis free, then my marketing strategy for this series would have been sunk.  It was a risk I was willing to take, and it now appears to be paying off.

I know that offering a book for free is still controversial.  Some argue that it devalues the book and my work.  However, I'm willing to take that risk if it means more people will download my book, and then perhaps enjoy it enough to want to purchase the second.  This means getting Viridis into the hands of as many people as possible.  Does that mean everyone will read it?  Doubtful.  But I do think the number of people that will download it and read it now that it's free, will outweigh the number of those that would purchase the book at a price and read it.

And so far the numbers are encouraging, and lead me to believe it was a risk worth taking.  On Sept 1, I uploaded Viridis onto Amazon and sold, at $.99, approximately 114 copies.  This evening, Viridis went free on Amazon, and in the last 4.5 hours there have been 123 copies downloaded.  I have to say, I'm blown away by the difference in numbers, and if getting the first book into the hands of readers is key in getting them to buy the second, then I think going free, especially as an unknown author, is the way to go-- for me at least.

Can't wait to see how this all plays out!  And for those interested in reading the second book in the series, Devil on a Sparrow's Wing, it should be out in just a few weeks.  There was a bit of a delay when I had a plot epiphany.  Gotta love it when that happens!  : )

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Viridis is Up & a Word on Pricing



I'm excited to announce that Viridis is now available through Amazon and Smashwords (why oh why are you taking so long, B&N?  Update:  Finally up at B&N!! And now it's FREE!).

It's currently FREE on Smashwords, though it's still .99 on Amazon.  If you're not familiar with Amazon's pricing policy, I'll try my best to explain it as I understand it.  See, you can't actually price an ebook for free on Amazon, even though there are plenty of free books on their site.  If you want your book to be free, you need to price it free elsewhere, and then hope Amazon "decides" to make your book free in an effort to match the lower price.  There's no guarantee it'll happen though.

I thought long and hard about how to approach pricing.  There are many schools of thought on pricing an ebook.  Some feel that writing the book took time and effort, and should be priced accordingly, even if it's a selfpub'd ebook.  Others feel that price is a marketing tool, and use it to their advantage.

As an unknown author, I don't expect someone to pay a price equivalent to that of traditionally published books.  It's just too great a risk for someone to take with their hard earned cash.  Does it mean the book isn't worth that price?  Of course not, but I think it's a realistic view about people's buying habits.

Then there's pricing the book for under $5.  I think this is a good option if you have a huge audience to market to, and have the time to really market it hardcore.

Instead, I'm taking the drug dealer approach.  I'm giving the reader a sample of my writing by offering the first book for free, and hoping they'll like it enough to buy the second book in the series, and then the third, etc.  I debated putting it out there for .99 (and did for about 24 hours), to see if there would be a perceived value or incentive in getting the reader to actually read the book if they paid a small amount for it.  However, after talking to Ruth Cardello about her success with offering the first book for free, and then charging for the second book, I decided to offer Viridis for free.  Since May, Ruth has had over 200,000 downloads of her free book, and is averaging approximately 200 purchases of her second book a DAY since she published it just a few weeks ago.  Can't argue with those numbers, though I'd be happy to just do a percentage of those figures.

So there you have it! Viridis is now published and available for your entertainment pleasure.  And with luck, it will soon be available on Amazon for free.  If you do take the time to download and read it, I hope you'll enjoy it.   

Friday, August 26, 2011

Viridis-- A Sneak Peek!



I'm still planning on e-publishing Viridis in the upcoming weeks, but wanted to give you a sneak peek.  Above is also the final cover.   It feels like this has been a long journey, and I'll admit, I'm a bit nervous to take this next step.  Can't move forward though if you're not willing to take a risk.  I do hope you'll enjoy.

Viridis by Calista Taylor

Chapter One

London, January 1866

The body lay as it had fallen, the man’s limbs bent at awkward angles.  Holding the lantern out to shed light onto the scene, Inspector William Thomas crouched down, careful to avoid the pool of blood that had frozen onto the cobbles.  Shifting the body over, he made note that the blood beneath had not yet had a chance to ice.  The man couldn’t have been dead more than a few hours.  Any longer, and he’d have been stripped of any valuables, the harsh cold being the only thing to keep the street urchins at bay thus far.
Looking around the dark alley, there was little evidence to be had, other than the body itself.  No signs that a struggle had ensued.  Nothing left behind.  It must have been done quick and with surprise, since a young man like this would be apt to put up a fight.
Even through the dim flickering lantern light, William was able to identify the killing blow as having come from a fuse gun, the burn in the fabric and the hole of singed flesh all the evidence he needed.  At least his death would have come quick, a small mercy.
The man’s face had frozen into one of shock.  It was still a beautiful face even in death, framed by locks of gold, youthful, with a strong jaw.
Someone would be missing this man come morning.  By the cut and quality of the cloth he wore, it was certain this was a man of wealth.  The poor went missing and dead too often for most to notice or care.  It was a cruel injustice, but that did not change the reality of the matter.
          “Do we have any identification?”  William turned to the constable who had found the body during his rounds.
          “That we do, Inspector, and it’s not likely you’re going to have an easy night of it.  According to the calling card found on his person, this is Lord Niles Hawthorne.”  The constable handed it to him.
          “A bit out of his way to be wandering into this part of town.  More than likely he’d been over to Viridis.  No other reason to be in this part of the city.” 
           Viridis was a dinner theatre and club offering a drink by the same name.  Lady Phoebe Hughes had developed the strong distillation from a variety of plant essences, and as of late, more and more of London’s elite were turning to the newly developed herbal for refreshment and escape.  Viridis offered all the best traits of intoxication—and then some— with none of the undesirable side effects.  Indeed, the club Viridis had been designed with London’s elite in mind, offering them not only a fashionable and entertaining destination, but also one that managed to retain a sense of respectability and decorum, despite the nature of the herbal, which once consumed, was rumored to have the effect of an aphrodisiac.
          William could see the attraction.  Physically, the herbal did not make one susceptible to dependency.  However, that was not to say one did not develop a mental predilection for the euphoria and heightened senses it brought on, both mentally and physically.  And it was the physical effect of the drink that attracted so many followers. It was rumored that when Viridis was taken in its undiluted form, an orgasm could be brought on by a single kiss.
          With so many of influence frequenting the club, the local authorities had been willing to overlook its rather salacious, yet tasteful reputation, but with a murder only blocks from Viridis’ doorsteps, William would need to take a much closer look at the club and its proprietress.
          It was high time William paid Lady Phoebe Hughes a visit.


 Chapter Two

           Lady Phoebe Hughes moved through the club, greeting her customers and making sure they were enjoying themselves.  The second show of the night— far more risqué than anything else in London— had just gotten underway and nearly all the tables were filled with London’s elite, men and women alike. 
           She had made the club as extravagant as time and money had allowed— gilded chandeliers above, rococo carved furnishings, and exquisite Persian rugs below— offering the nobility of London a place to come and dine while watching a bit of entertainment, not too unlike what one would find in Paris.  Though the theater and show allowed the ladies some semblance of an acceptable façade, the true reason they came was for her herbal concoction, Viridis, which had become all the rage among London society.
          Though she had originally developed the herbal to lift one’s mood, she had not anticipated the scope of its effects. Once consumed, it induced a certain euphoria, heightening the senses and making skin sensitive to the touch, leaving a person acutely aware of their carnal needs.
          Satisfied that things were running smoothly, Phoebe headed to the Sanctorum—a private area reserved for her best customers, connected to the front of the club by a wide corridor. She had spared no expense in this room, and though it had been dear, it had paid for itself in short time.
          Reminiscent of a gentlemen’s club, the Sanctorum was a large sitting room, comfortably outfitted with plenty of areas for relaxation, including large comfortable chairs and a roaring fire, which bathed everything in a gilded light.  It was a casual atmosphere affording a more intimate environment away from the theater. It was in this private area that her most elite customers congregated, and though the theatergoers had access to Viridis, it was only in this part of the club that one gained access to the stronger version of the drink.
          Beyond the Sanctorum, Phoebe had added yet another area which housed private rooms, enabling one to seek a clandestine rendezvous. The entrance was hidden by an optical diffuser, a tinkering that allowed one to pass through unnoticed.  She thought of the tinkerer who’d drawn up the original plans for the diffuser, and her heart ached at the memory of him.  He had left over a year ago, and she’d been forced to hire another tinkerer to build it.    
          A long mahogany bar occupied the far corner of the sitting room and was currently being run by her younger brother, Gabriel, who chatted with his patrons, entertaining them as he poured their drinks.  He was the only family she had left.  Their mother had died when she had been just ten, with her father dying several years later of a broken heart.  Then there was their sister, Imogene, gone just over a year.  They only had each other now.   
          He nodded to her in acknowledgment, and she could not help but smile at his handsome face.  Just a few years younger than herself at three and twenty, running the club would have been impossible if not for his constant help. 
          She approached the bar with a smile, but grew wary when her brother’s eyes darted around the room, a sigh escaping his lips.  “What is it, love?”
          Gabriel reached out and gave her hand a quick squeeze.  “Phoebe…”  He gave his head a shake, then looked up at her with a hint of smile.  “There’s someone here to see you.”  He motioned with a tilt of the head and a sparkle in his eyes to the gentleman sitting by the fire.
          Though the man’s back was to her and she could only see his luscious chestnut locks, she knew, without a single doubt in her mind, that it was he.  It had been over a year since she had last seen him, over a year since his duty to the Cause had called him away. And now he was here.  Her tinkerer.
          Her chest tightened and her heart picked up its pace, thundering away against her ribcage.  She glanced at Gabriel, steeled herself with a deep breath, and moved across the room on wobbly legs, her pulse deafening inside her head.  She closed the distance between them quickly, scarcely acknowledging the friendly greetings of her regular customers as she passed, her focus on him complete.
           She reached out, her hand hovering above his shoulder, not sure she could touch him without having her heart stop.  Before she could muster the courage, he turned around, his eyes locking on hers.
           “Phoebe.”  He stood to greet her, but took no more than a step towards her.
           “Seth.”  Her mouth had suddenly gone dry, her heart tripping over itself.  How she wished he didn’t have this affect on her.  “I hadn’t realized you had returned.”  She was barely able to get the words out.
            “Just this morning.  Please, sit with me.  It’s been too long.”  He motioned to the vacant chair across from him, sitting back in his own. 
           Phoebe fell into the chair before her legs gave out, her corset the only thing keeping her upright.  She was unable to look at him without being flooded with memories of their nights together, of his touch, and of the dark days after her sister’s death when no one—not even Seth—could reach her.
            Soon after their father’s death, Imogene had become plagued by melancholy and Phoebe had spent countless hours in her father’s abandoned laboratory, desperate to develop an herbal cure that would help her save her.  Unfortunately, Phoebe’s breakthrough had come only months too late. By the time the formula had been perfected, Imogene had already taken her own life.
            “You look beautiful, Phoebe.”  He moved to the edge of his chair, and reached out to take her hand in his.  “Do you know how I’ve missed you?  There wasn’t a day that went by when I didn’t think of you.”
             Though she wanted nothing more than to sink into his arms and forget how desperately alone she’d been this last year, she yanked her hand away, her anger and hurt getting the best of her.  “How dare you! How dare you say you’ve missed me. You left me, Seth. Left me when I needed you most.” All of the emotions she’d kept bottled up for so long came flooding back, and she had to blink away the tears that threatened.
             He flinched at her words.  “You know that’s not the reality of it.  It killed me to leave you the way I did.”  He reached out to her again, but stopped just short of touching her.
            “My sister had just died, but your assignment for the Cause took precedence. It always has, and I know now that it always will— which is fine, but let’s not pretend, Seth. I know your priorities.”
            “Phoebe, please.  I would have stayed if I could have, but you know I was the only one who could have fixed the geostat on such short notice. You know how important it was to get it back up and running.” 
            Seth was a brilliant tinkerer—one of the many reasons Phoebe had fallen in love with him. The geostat was one of Seth’s most innovative tinkerings, bringing much needed income to the Cause by making the mining of the arctic Outlands a possibility.  
            Controlled by the Cause, the Outlands were located so far to the north that water and land iced to become one.  While the earth in the Outlands was rich, the severe weather conditions had made mining previously impossible.  Only Seth’s geostat was capable of digging through the hardest earth and working in the harshest conditions. 
           Tinkerers were incredibly important to the Cause, for it was through their innovations that they sought to better the lives of the people, working for the good of all mankind. Though she had always done all she could to help the Cause, Phoebe did not always agree with the methods and demands made by those running things, and felt they often asked too much from those willing to help—too much from men like Seth.
            Seth got out of his seat and knelt in front of her, pulling her fighting hands into his.  Phoebe allowed herself a moment to really look at him.  His hair was disheveled, longer than he usually wore it, and he had lost some weight since she had last seen him, his muscular form now leaner, more hardened than it had been when he’d left.  But his eyes were still the deep blue-green of a tropical lagoon, intelligent and kind, promising far too much.
            How she wanted to just throw her arms around his neck and bury herself in his warmth, breathe in his scent.  But she feared it would always end the same way, with him abandoning her to go save the world.  So she held fast to her convictions, and gingerly removed her hands from his. “I do not know if I can do this again.  Things have changed since you left.”
            He retreated to his chair, giving her the space she needed.  “Yes.  I can see that.  Congratulations on your success.  It’s well deserved.  I know how hard you worked on it.”
           “Thank you.  You know, it probably would have never happened if it hadn’t been for your help.  Have you had a chance to try it?  It’s quite good actually.”    She gave him a bit of a smile, as the initial shock of seeing him wore off and her heart slowed its gallop.  She told herself she would be fine if she could only manage to avoid discussing their relationship.
            “Not yet, but I was hoping you would join me.”  He raised his eyebrows in question.
            “Of course.”  Phoebe caught the attention of one of her girls.  “From my private reserve, please.” She could not help but notice Seth’s eyes go wide for just a moment as he took in the girl’s uniform before quickly looking away, a blush creeping across his cheeks.  Though the waitress’s outfits were tasteful and elegant, they did run towards the provocative.
            With the girl gone, they sat in silence, just taking in one another while they waited, getting used to being in each other’s company once again.  It was not long before the young woman returned, wheeling a small cart before her.  She greeted them with a small curtsey.
            “Thank you, Maggie,” Phoebe said, by way of dismissal.   She picked up the small, dark green bottle and poured a thimble-sized amount into two slender crystal glasses.  The liquid was slightly viscous, and just the palest of greens.  “From my own personal supply.  Normally we dilute the strength, and though this still isn’t at full concentration, it’s not too far from it.”  Handing him a glass, she said, “Welcome back, Seth.”
             He lifted his glass to hers, and she watched as he took a tentative sip.  “You are right.  It is quite good.”  He took another sip, and then smiled.  “A little different from your earlier formulations.”
             Phoebe thanked him before bringing her own drink to her lips. There was only a hint of bitterness, with dominant notes of citrus and herb.  It was slightly sweet, and it went down with an alcoholic burn that sent a warm heat through her body.  She did not often drink Viridis herself.      
             Although the side effects of the drink were limited, it did seem to make one susceptible to an overly rosy view of things, and the other lustier characteristics of the herbal did not lend themselves overly when one did not have an outlet for release.  She knew that in ten minutes time that heat would turn into a mellow euphoria, sending tingles across her skin, leaving it sensitive enough that the mere breath of one’s lover could ignite passions.
             “So are you going to tell me of your adventures?  It must have been exciting over in the Outlands.”  When he was assigned the mission, she’d begged him to take her with him, wanting only to escape her anguish over her sister’s death, but he had refused, claiming the conditions to be too harsh for her to endure.
              “I wouldn’t have called it exciting.  Nothing but metal and grime, barely another soul to be found.  It’s just too cold for most humans and even the steam techs have problems when they go up to the surface for any length of time.  Actually, it was Gavin that brought me back on his airship.  He sends his regards.”
               “Gavin?”  Though she could not help but smile at the thought of their dear friend, she also could not stop her pulse from picking up its pace. When he had last visited her some six months ago, their visit had ended badly.  “It’s been months since I saw him last.  I do hope he’s well.  He’s always taking on such dangerous cargo runs.  I always fear he’ll run into some difficulty.” 
                Fearless and accomplished, Gavin flew when others refused—whether it be horrible weather conditions, territories at war or precious cargo—he was one of the most sought after airship captains. Gavin never shied away from a perilous situation, and had a knack for always landing on his feet.
               “He always manages, does he not?” Seth said with a smile. “He’ll be staying in London for a bit, so I trust he’ll show up around here at some point or another.  Seth took another sip of his drink and then gave his head a shake.  “This is something powerful, Phoebe.  No wonder you cut its strength,” he said, his eyes intense, sparkling.
               Phoebe nodded in agreement, feeling her shoulders relax. Drinking Viridis with Seth probably wasn’t the wisest of decisions. Inventing the drink had not made her immune to its effects, and Phoebe felt her resolve to keep her distance from him melting away. The room was suddenly much too warm, her garments far too restrictive, and her breath so shallow she felt she might faint. Each pounding beat of her heart sent a pulse of need through her very core.
               “I’ve missed you, Seth.” The words were out before she could stop herself. She inwardly scolded herself for being weak and looked down at the glass in her hands.  “You could have written, you know.”
                He sat forward on the edge of his seat, only a breath away.  “By the gods, Phoebe, do ye not think I would have written or called if it were at all a possibility?  You know the Aether is weak that far north, making communication an impossibility.”  A faint Scottish lilt crept into his voice, as it always did when his emotions were running high or when he let his guard down.  How she had missed it.   The pain in his voice and the pleading in his eyes tore at her defenses, and she reached for his hand as he asked, “Do ye not know how hard it was to leave ye here?”
              “Is this gentleman bothering you, Phoebe?”  A cold, familiar voice came from behind them, cutting through the warm effects of the Viridis, sending a shard of panic through her heart.
              “Victor,” she stood and forced a smile. “Thank you, but no. Everything is fine here.”
The last person she wanted to see was Lord Victor Fenwick— especially with Seth present. In Seth’s absence, Phoebe had no other amorous ties, and Victor had started courting her soon after she opened her club, even going as far as asking Gabriel for her hand in marriage.  Gabriel had made it clear it was her decision to make, which only made Victor more persistent in his pursuit.
              Seth also stood, the crease in his brow making it clear he was unhappy about the interruption.  Phoebe made the introductions.  “Lord Victor Fenwick, Mr. Seth Elliott.”
             Though they were both exceptionally handsome, they couldn’t have been more different. Seth was tall, lean and muscular. His dark hair was long enough to brush his collar, his strong jaw clean-shaven. Though not born into a family of wealth, Seth’s brilliant work as a philanthropist and tinkerer had elevated his status in society—one of the reasons the Cause found him so valuable
             Where Seth was tall, dark, and lean, Victor was shorter and brawnier of build, his strong cheekbones framed by his well-trimmed blonde beard. As part of a family prominent in London society, Victor was more concerned with wealth, status, and power than the well-being of others.
            The two gentlemen glowered at one another, towering over Phoebe’s petite frame like two dogs fighting over their turf.  Victor spoke first, his voice a growl.  “I have not seen you at Viridis before, Mr. Elliott.  I must confess to spending a fair amount of time here, as I’m never able to go very long without paying dear Phoebe a visit.”
             Seth smiled at Victor, his gaze sharp and unwavering. “It is true.  I have only just returned from a trip abroad, though I consider myself lucky to be familiar with both Phoebe and her curious herbal, having had the pleasure of helping her with her endeavor.”  Turning to Phoebe with a smile, he took her hand in his.  “Indeed I do not think I’ll ever forget the effect that very first batch had on me— or you as I recall.”
            Phoebe blushed crimson at the memory.  Indeed, it was that first batch that led to the discovery of the true effects of Viridis and the rumor amongst London society that the herbal could bring on an orgasm with a single kiss.
            When Gabriel waved her over, she was relieved to have an excuse to leave.  Between the effects of the drink, the memories of Seth, and the two men hovering over her, it was all too much for her to handle. 
             “I’m terribly sorry, but my brother is hailing me.  If you will both excuse me, I do hope you will enjoy the rest of your evening.”  Then without waiting for a response, she walked back to the bar on still-wobbly legs.
             “That was looking like a precarious situation you had gotten yourself into.”  Gabriel gave her a crooked smile, making him all the more handsome, his dark curls bringing out the blue of his eyes.
              “I cannot thank you enough for your help.  I think it has left me feeling a bit drained, though.  I’m going to retire for the evening, if you think you can manage things here.”
              “You know that’s never a problem, love.  Truth of the matter is, you have the place so well-staffed, it could run itself without either of us here.  Your escape, however, might not be so easily made.”  He motioned behind her with his chin. 
               She turned just in time to see Seth approaching, her pulse becoming erratic as he neared. 
“Let me at least see you home, Phoebe.”  The gentle pleading in his voice tore at her few remaining defenses.
              Victor stood where she’d left him, his thick arms folded across his chest, his mouth set into a thin line.  But her attention strayed only for a moment— Seth was too close, his scent too familiar. 
              Unable to resist him any longer, she gave Seth a nod of agreement, despite the fact that she could still feel Victor’s gaze upon her.  She knew he was not a man she should anger, but she had never returned his advances, though he was always showing up at the club, bringing her small gifts.  Perhaps this would finally make it clear that she had no interest in him romantically, even if she felt just a little guilty, wondering if she had inadvertently encouraged him in some way.  
            Seth took her hand in his, his touch pulling her from her thoughts. He brought it to his lips before tucking it in the crook of his elbow, a smile on his face, his eyes dancing in the dim lamplight.  Her pulse raced as she walked out of the room on his arm, hoping she would not later regret her decision, for even though she had not said a word, already she could feel her heart surrendering to him. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Lemons to Lemonade Experiment


It's not exactly news that the publishing industry is going through some major changes as ebooks and ereaders gain in popularity and sales.  E-publishing today is a far cry from what self publishing was, even just a few years ago.  In the past, it was very difficult to achieve sales, primarily because the deck was stacked against you.  Not only did you not have name recognition and a following, but the price of a self published book was equal or higher than that of a book published by a mainstream publisher.

Enter the E-book.  By epublishing, you're given a very powerful tool.  And that tool is price.  Most readers won't risk $10-$15 of their hard earned cash on an unknown self published author, however the risk is negligible with a free or moderately priced ebook.  Readers don't mind taking a chance if all they're risking is a dollar or two.

About two years ago, my steampunk romance/mystery novel was out on the first round of submissions.  We were getting some great feedback from editors and even made it to acquisitions and second reads on several occasions.  Unfortunately, many of the big publishers felt that steampunk romance was just a bit too "out there" for a mainstream audience, and didn't want to take the risk.  It was disappointing, but we'd only gone out to a small handful of publishers and there were many more.  Then came a hard blow-- the agency I was with decided to switch exclusively to YA, MG and children's books, and I suddenly found myself without an agent, and with a book that had already been partially submitted.  This meant there was no chance another agent would bother with it.  And I even had the sequel written.  Two books, down the tubes.

And then the rise of ebooks!!  So, here is where my experiment begins.  I have two books collecting dust, and I'm now thinking, "Why not?"  At the least, maybe I'll get a few more followers just in time for the release of my steampunk craft book due out next spring. 

I'll admit, I'm sort of excited about this.  Really excited.  I had thought the book and the series had great potential, and was devastated that it might never get read.  And now it's been given a second chance.  I'll still query my current manuscript, but I like the idea that others may read my Viridis series.  And did you notice the cover?  Must thank Marcus Ranum for providing the stock for the model and Obsidian Dawn for the photoshop brushes.

I'll be sure to keep you updated with how it all goes, though I'm still not quite ready to epublish the book yet.  I hear I should have some sort of launch plan, so I'll be looking into that.  I may also publish the second book in the series at the same time. I figure, it's probably best to have both books available, right?  Tentatively I'm thinking in a month's time.

So that's my story and those are my plans.  Here's hoping I can turn those lemons into lemonade.  Has anyone here gone the route of epublishing?  How has it turned out for you?