Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing (Week 29).

When Robert K. Lewis, one of the most amazing and utterly kick-butt writers I know, asked me if I'd take part in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, I couldn't say no.  And did I mention he's got a book being released in just a few months?  Guaranteed to blow you away.  

Figured this would be a great opportunity to tell you a little more about my most current books.

1- What is the working title of your book? 
I'm currently working on A Highland Heist.  It's the third book in my series, following The Highlander's Hope and A Highland Home. 
2- Where did the idea come from for the book? 
In the first book, my main characters find these priceless jewels, so I figured it would be fun to incorporate the jewels into this third book, since my two main characters deal with security-- one builds contraptions for museums and the other does computer security.  But their personalities are completely at odds, so it makes for some fun moments.
3- What genre does your book fall under?
It's a contemporary romance with a touch of suspense.
4- Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I think Noah Huntley would be pretty close for Conall.  Not sure about Maggie-- she's Irish and really spunky.  I'm open to suggestions!
5- What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A long lost treasure, a smart and sexy historian and Scotland's most eligible bachelor-- what could go wrong?
6- Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The entire series is self published with the first in the series free!
7- How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I'm still working on A Highland Heist, but most my books take 3-6 months to write.
8- What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
It's really a lot of fun, and a light read. 

Tagged for next week (Week 30) is my very talented writer friend, Jean Oram, who writes not only amazing non-fiction about keeping your kids happy and healthy, but also writes wonderfully fun romances. Check out her blog next Wednesday, December 26, when it's her turn to post answers to these same questions about her own works-in-progress!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


So sorry I've been MIA.  But I have a good excuse!  I swear!!  : )

Back in May I decided I'd switch gears a bit with my writing, and write a contemporary romance or two or three.  Not that I don't love my steampunk/victorian romances, but I needed a bit of a break.  You've been living in the past too long when your everyday speech starts sounding odd to friends and family.

With my decision made, I buckled down and set myself some deadlines.  I wanted to have the first of two novels completed and up, with the first one free, by the holiday season.  Normally, my steampunk novels are close to 100K words, and getting two books of that length written in six months time would be close to impossible for me--especially when still juggling my biotech classes, book cover business, and lets not forget my family--but the nice thing with contemporary romances is that they're typically only 55-60K words. A far more doable prospect.  And it's been really fun if a bit crazy.

Happy to say, I reached my goal, and finally feel like I can come up for air!  Book one, The Highlander's Hope, and book two, A Highland Home, are both up now at all venues-- Amazon, B&N (though book 1 is missing its cover-- an issue I'm frantically trying to resolve), iTunes, Kobo, etc.  Oh!!  And they're written under a new pen name-- Cali MacKay.  Given that these are contemporary romances that are sweet, light and fun reads, and  rather different to my Calista Taylor stories which tend to have a darker edge, I figured it might be best to keep the two separated.  Not that the pen name's a secret-- just a way of easily distinguishing my two writing styles.  Of course, I couldn't resist my Scottish heroes, so at least that's the same.

Oh!  And my steampunk craft book is also now available!!  Yeah... a busy few months.  ; )  Promise to try and keep things updated more frequently.  Thanks for putting up with me!!  And don't forget to pick up your copy of The Highlander's Hope-- it's FREE!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

JACK-- Now Available!

I'm happy to say, JACK is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!  With Jack the Ripper as a grim reaper who's gone rogue, I hope JACK offers a unique take on the murders.

I know it probably seems odd to combine a romance with the Jack the Ripper mystery and murders, but the story primarily focuses on the romance between the two reapers searching for Jack, while the murders serve as more of a backdrop-- and yet, not all is as it seems.  Though this is a story about one of the most famous serial killers, I promise it's not a gore-fest.

There were some great sites out there that chronicled the Jack the Ripper murders, but most indispensable was Casebook: Jack the Ripper.  There was also great info at and the Metropolitan Police site.

Here's a bit of a sample. I do hope you'll enjoy it!!

London, August 7, 1888
It was a pity to ruin such perfection with death, but death waited for no one and made few distinctions.  Lilly strolled through the park that beautiful sunny morning, looking for the reason she’d been drawn to the area.  It didn’t take long for her to find him, the telltale sign of golden light surrounding the handsome young man.  A perfect day and a perfect life would both soon come to an end.
She walked in his direction, the cobbles splattered with the shifting light and shadows that played through the tree branches.  Then, just within reach, she pretended to stumble.  The young gentleman, acting on reflex and instinct, caught her just as she’d anticipated. 
“Pardon me, sir.”  Still in his arms, Lilly gave him a shy smile.  A tingling warmth radiated from her hand as she marked the poor man, the golden light around him now fading to grey. 
She thanked him for his assistance and then continued down the road with a pang of regret.  With her job now complete, he would not live longer than a week.  It was always more difficult when they were young and healthy, but she did not choose who lived or died.  She only carried out Fate’s decisions. 
With her reaps complete, and no longer in the mood to be out in the city, she took her carriage home with nothing but her thoughts as company for the ride.  She had not chosen this life, but it was better than the alternative of a cold dark grave—though not by much.  Even after ten years of bringing death to unsuspecting souls, she had yet to do more than ignore the guilt that tore her up inside, and mourn all she’d left behind, her life taken away before she’d had the chance to fully live it. 
Daniel, her footman, let her in and informed her that she had company.  “He insisted on waiting for you, m’ lady.”  He handed her the man’s calling card.  “I dared not turn him away.  He’s in the sitting room.”
She needed no more than a quick glance at the card to see why.  “Some tea, if you would be so kind.”
She steeled herself with a deep breath, managed a smile, and entered the sitting room.  “Lord Archer.  What a pleasant surprise.  It’s been too long.”  She couldn’t quite keep the sarcasm from her voice or her heart from racing at the sight of him.  It nearly escaped her memory how tall and handsome the bastard was.  Not that he’d forgotten.
“Lilly, love, certainly we know each other well enough that you can call me by my given name.”  The corners of Mason’s full and pouty mouth turned up in a hint of a smile, as a dark lock fell casually past hazel eyes.  “I had not thought it possible for you to look even more beautiful than the last time we met, and yet I am mistaken.” 
Lilly was not wont to believe a single word, given that she no longer aged.  She looked no older than twenty three—the age at which she died—though her facial features had been altered just enough to give her a new identity.  It was a small protection lest she run into someone she knew from her life amongst the living.
When Mason closed the distance between them, she crossed her arms in front of her, hoping it would offer some protection from his charms.  It seemed Mason was the one man she could seldom resist for long.  No matter how hard she fought it, there was something about him that weakened her defenses.  
“What do you want, Mason?  I have no patience for your games.”
“That’s a pity, my dear, for you know how fun they can be.”   He ran a gentle finger down the line of her cheek. 
She managed a glare while cursing her body’s reaction to his touch, a tingling heat that refused to be ignored.  “I’m in no mood, and quite frankly, I’d rather be alone.”
“Did you have a difficult day?”  His eyes softened while he took her in, his touch warm as he gently cupped her cheek.
“Damn it, Mason.” She swatted his hand away, frustration getting the better of her.  “I hate it when they’re young.  They think they have their whole life ahead of them, and then I come along and cut that life short.”
“You have too kind a heart, my dear.  We do not make the decisions, even if it’s our duty to carry them out.” 
He leaned in and stole a lingering kiss—and she let him, needing to feel a part of her fleeting humanity. 
His mood then turned towards the serious.  “Unfortunately, I’m here on a difficult matter, though I’d like nothing more than for us to pick up where we left off.”
Lilly rubbed her arms to ward off a sudden chill, despite the warm summer air.  Mason was not one of the Elders, but had been around long enough to hold a position of power.  She could not imagine any of his business as chancellor would concern her, even if she was one of his reapers.  “What is it?”
“It’s Torrington.”  He searched her face as he spoke and it made her wonder why.  “Seems like he’s gotten himself in a bit of trouble and has gone missing.  I’m afraid the Elders aren’t happy in the least, and need him found.” 
Dark, brooding, Jack Torrington.  Her heart skipped a beat to hear his name.  She had hoped to find a bit of normalcy with him, yet in the end, both her past and his had been too much to overcome.
“Well, I’ve not seen him in months, and you know well enough that anything I had with Jack ended years ago.”  She held Mason’s gaze so he’d know she spoke the truth.  The last time she’d drawn the attention of the Elders, she’d barely survived it. 
He stepped to her side and wrapped an arm around her waist, bending his head towards hers.  “It may have ended, but no one’s ever been closer to him, and you were also the only one he had… relations with on this side of the veil.  I need your help, and you know him better than any of us, love.” 
What did her relations with Jack have to do with the matter?  Feeling uneasy, she stepped out of Mason’s arms and put some distance between them.  “Why are you looking for him? What sort of trouble has he gotten into?”
“I’ll explain while we take my carriage.  I’d not ask if it weren’t necessary, but there’s no way around it, I’m afraid.”
“You want to go now?”  Her mind raced through the possibilities and came up empty.  Though Jack’s dislike for being a reaper was no secret, he was not one to get himself into any sort of trouble.  Indeed the only time Jack had ever strayed from the rules the Elders set forth was in order to help her.  “Tell me what’s happened, Mason.” 
“Words cannot even describe.”

Monday, February 13, 2012

Using Story Boards for Inspiration (via Pinterest!)

I've always kept folders on my computer for pictures I'd come across that reminded me of my characters or books, BUT I recently started to do something a little bit different-- Story Boards!!

There's something about having a field of pictures laid out in front you, immersing you in a visual experience that calls to your muse.  It's even better when it's easy to attach pictures a variety of boards with just a few clicks.  My critique partner and writing buddy, Jean Oram, recently turned me on to Pinterest, and I've gotta say-- it's been revolutionary for me. 

With Pinterest, you download a small file that applies a "Pin it!" button to your browser bar, so whenever you find something to pin, you just click on the button, and you can add it to the board of your choice.  How easy is that!!  And I'll confess-- I use it for stuff other than storyboards.  It really is just an easy way to visually bookmark things.

The other nice thing about Pinterest is you can follow a picture back to people's boards where you'll find more pictures similar to the original, and also a link back to the original source.  This makes it a great way to find new sources for inspiration.

Within just a week or two, I've put together a story boards for the manuscripts I'm currently working on, in addition to boards I can use for inspiration when it comes to writing.  I'm a very visual person, so surrounding myself with amazing photos always triggers all sorts of story ideas.   The other great thing about a storyboard is it allows me to "see" all the little details in a scene, since I tend to be very sparse when it comes to including descriptions of any sort.  By looking at a picture, I can see all the little details that bring a story to life, and  I'd likely overlook.

The photos often come from "pins" others have added to their own Pinterest boards, but other great sources for pictures are Tumblr (a sort of visual blog venue), Deviantart, and Flickr.  If I'm looking for models that might match up with my characters, I like browsing for male models and for female models. For visually stunning photos, do a search (Flickr has a great collection) of HDR.  This is a photographic technique that results in photos that will blow you away.

Now for the one drawback with Pinterest.  I don't know why-- and I hope it's only a growing pains thing for them-- but their search engine, to put it mildly, sucks.  I've tried searching for friends I know are on there, but come up empty handed.  And searches for items turn up fewer results than I'd expect.  Still, for putting together a story board, quick and easy, it's been amazing, and I've still found more photos than I know what to do with.

So, I wish you happy pinning!!  And if you feel like following me or checking out my Pinterest boards, I can be found here!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kid's Play

Today we're taking a bit of a detour from our normal corsets and discussing the written word.  A great friend-- and my critique partner!-- has put together an awesome site about Kid's Play.  And really, if you've got young ones running underfoot, what could be better than finding a great way to keep them busy and happy, so that you might even be able to get a bit of writing done?

So without further ado, I'd like to introduce Jean Oram, creator of It's All Kid's Play. 

  • You’ve recently started promoting your blog Kid’s Play, a cool site where parents can find ideas to keep bored kids happy, occupied and active—and on a tight budget, no less.  As a writer of fiction, did you find it difficult to blog about something non-writing related or does writing fiction help with the creativity you need for the ideas in your blog? 
I think writing fiction has helped me define my voice. As for creativity, I think all fiction writers are creative by their very nature. We’ve tuned into that child inside that is constantly asking ‘why’ and ‘what happens if…” So fiction writing has definitely helped in that regard.

As for blogging about non-writing related things, anything I am interested in, inspired by, or believe in seems to be fairly easy to write about.

  • Can you tell us a little bit about Kid’s Play? 
My website,, has hundreds of activities, arts and crafts, games, party ideas, boredom busters, challenges and other great things for children and families or for people looking to try “slow parenting” (essentially the opposite of hyper-parenting). 

Basically, the premise behind the site is that screen time is taking over many childhoods because it is an easy way to engage children (that’s how TV shows, computer/video games and movies are designed). However, as experts are learning, too much screen time is not healthy for child development as what children engage in shapes their brain and screen time limits our brain’s plasticity (ability to create connections). Yikes!

On the other hand, free play (unstructured, unscheduled play) has been found to be very healthy for children. It has been found to increase problem-solving skills, self-esteem, grow personal confidence, increase communication skills, decrease depression, reduce the risk of obesity, increase resiliency, and so many other positive things. In fact, play has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as the right of every child. 

So, that’s where It’s All Kid’s Play comes in. It’s a resource that is a TON of fun for families to help them beat back the boredom blues and find engaging ways to bring free play back into their lives. 

  • How do you get your ideas for your projects and activities? 
I started this project several years ago when my daughter was about a year old. I wrote down  one thing that I wanted to remember that seemed cool—she was too young to do it yet. And by the end of three days I had over 200 ideas in that notebook. It seems that one idea comes to me and soon all its friends want to come and hang out too! (I now have close to 1000.)

  • What’s one of your favorite activities? 

My favourites are definitely in the ‘tricky challenges’ section. I love the way kids get totally into things like trying to lick their elbow, touch their nose or chin with their tongue, touch their elbows behind their back, cross their eyes, wiggle their ears and/or nose. I used to turn my 4 & 5-year-old class at the library completely wild with these sorts of challenges before we’d do story time. (Why on earth they continue to agree to put me in a library, I don’t know! I’m so disruptive!) Before long we’d be doing things like trying to put our foot behind our head (ouch!) and suck on our big toe (can still do that one!). I love the energy and creativity that comes out when kids test what they can do.

  • I know you write adult fiction.  Have you thought about writing children’s books also?

I have a partially completed middle grade (for ages 7-10ish) novel that is about a boy ghost. However, life keeps interfering on completing that one. I’d like to get back to it though. It’s a fun premise.

  • It seems like you have such a knack for coming up with ideas to keep kids busy.  Did you have a very creative childhood?  Do you think it did/didn’t have an influence?

My own childhood has totally influenced my philosophy on play as well as my website It’s All Kid’s Play.

I grew up on an acreage/farm on the outskirts of a hamlet (population 100). While I was lucky to be part of a baby boom (there were 6 of us girls and 1 boy within 2 years of each other right in town), there were still periods of boredom where I didn’t know what to do and had to figure out how to entertain myself. (We didn’t have cable/satellite, internet wasn’t around, I didn’t have an Atari, and videos weren’t around particularly affordable.)

As well, us girls (and Ryan) would get bored doing the same stuff over and over again and so they’d turn to me to ‘fix’ it. So, I’d write out a list of things we could play (sounds familiar doesn’t it?) and we’d all choose something and whatever everyone didn’t mind doing, we’d do! We made some pretty awesome forts out of the junk on our farm.

  • What’s next for Kid’s Play?

Hopefully it will appear bigger, greater and even more fun in book form! <crosses fingers and prays to the gods of publishing and all things wonderful>

  • Ice cream sandwiches or cupcakes?  Finger painting or playing in the mud?  Pink polka dot elephants or purple unicorns? 
Awesome question! I can’t believe you are going to make me choose!
Okay, hands down ice cream sandwiches—one of my all time favourites!
While I’m always a sucker for playing in the mud (I make a mean mudpie with pine cone lacing), today I’m in the mood for finger painting. I love the feel of cool, smooth, wet paint between my fingers!
And finally, I’m going to go with those awesome elephants as I’ve never been a unicorn kind of gal--although I do recognize their allure.

  • Where can we find you and all your great ideas?

I’m all over the place. I must be making up for the lack of screen time during my youth. ;)

Personal website and blog:

It’s All Kid’s Play:

Twitter: writing related stuff:
Twitter: Kid’s Play activity of the day and parenting resources:

Facebook (resources, activity of the day, etc.) for It’s All Kid’s Play:

Thank you so much for having me, Calista! I appreciate it. Happy playing!

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!  : )