Revisiting the Past: Revising My Novel Green Fire

•July 15, 2017 • 1 Comment

Some background:

I’ve been writing since 1995 and been published in e-books/indie press since 1998.  In that time period, I’ve done a lot of  writing and have published every book I have completed. We won’t discuss the ones that are still notes or half-finished because another plot bunny came along and distracted me—Bunny!!—or because my Muse left the building. 🙂

In all I have written 20 novels,  6 novellas, and 3 short stories — and all are in print BUT FOR ONE — and that one is Green Fire, my 2003 paranormal romantic suspense release from the former indie press, LTDBooks (Canada).

[Left: New cover for Green Fire, designed by April Martinez, Copyright, 2011.]

When LTDBooks closed its  doors at the end of 2005, it was a sad day — I adored the owner (love you, Laura!) and had great experiences at LTD. My rights to all my books published at LTD were immediately given back. My Gooden & Knight books went to Liquid Silver Publishing without any changes. Then I fairly quickly revised and self-published Fatal Vision and Death Benefits.

But not Green Fire. 

I had to put Green Fire on the back-burner, because I’d found great success with my Security Specialist International and Prime Chronicles series. The fan demand and that of my publisher was such that I devoted all my time to putting out books in those two series. Revised versions of previously published books were not a high priority.

In 2011, I finally had reached a point where I had a large enough gap between series books — or so I thought– to devote a few weeks to do a clean edit and then get Green Fire back out there. Um, no.

I began a Green Fire revision and found it taking a lot of time. I had pressure to get to work on Prime Selection (#2 in that series) since my Prime fans had been so patient while I whipped out Eye of the Storm (#1) and Stormy Weather Baby (#1.5) in my SSI series. Since that time — between parent deaths, son moving clear across the country, husband’s major surgery, a bunch more SSI books and another couple of Prime books — and a Kindle World book for Robyn Peterman’s Magic & Mayhem World — I just shelved Green Fire as a To-Do project.

So here I am in 2017 working on it again.  You’d think it shouldn’t take much, right?  After all, this is a book that was accepted and edited by LTDBooks, published to decent reviews back in 2003, and was a finalist in the Dream Realm Contest, paranormal division in 2003. I even went to ArmadilloCon for the awards ceremony (lost, but, hey … finalled!). Plus, I had gotten a bit of a start on the revision back in 2011. I wasn’t working with a blank slate here.

Short answer:  It’s not an easy revision. To use one of my favorite phrases, “I’ve slept since then,” — then being when I first wrote the book in 2002-2003.

I’ve been an Acquisitions and a Copy Editor, read/studied writing techniques, taught writing, critiqued a lot of other authors’ books, and written a shit ton of books since 2003.  I know I am a better, cleaner, tighter writer than I was way back in the beginning. Plus, romance readers’ tastes have changed.

This is an issue for any author who republishes long out-of-print books — do I leave it as originally written?– OR — do I clean house and bring it up to date for the current romance reading population?

So, what’s the problem with this specific book?

Long answer:   Green Fire was the fourth book I had written.  At that point in time, I was still doing the Nora Roberts’ head-hopping thing (BTW, Nora can get away with it; most other authors … not). Multiple points of view even when not head-hopping. Overuse of adverbs. Redundancy. Repetitiveness. Passive voice. And the odd wandering body part. Plus, nit-picky things most readers wouldn’t notice,  but I do. Yes, I am anal.

My decision: This book needed a complete overhaul so I could claim it anew with some semblance of pride.  I had started on some of the POV issues back in 2011.  Figured out early on that the way I wrote the book, I couldn’t really get rid of all the POV characters, but, at least, I wouldn’t head hop with them.

I even had my fave final line editor (love you, Ezra!) take a whack at a semi-revised revision. Bless him, he made judicious edits, but was concerned about changing my story, my voice — and that was the correct thing for him to do.

After fixing what he found and re-reading it, I decided it needed a more extensive revision. Enough more that when I republish it will need a new copyright since there will be enough textual changes such as deletions, new material, and extensive rewriting to demand such (you can edit a book and keep the same copyright number if the changes are technical such as typos and the like).

This is where I am now:  I am touching every page and revising/editing/rewriting.

To keep this revision on track, I am doing a chapter a day. On the days I can’t do a chapter, I make it up the next time I hit the computer. At this rate, I should have a final revised copy to send to my crit buddy (love you, Cheri!), who will then eviscerate it, and I then will accept or reject her evisceration and prepare a final version for publication.

Bottom line, I still like the book’s basic concept and plot. A lithomancer heroine, i.e., she controls stone energy or magic. Lots of action and suspense with the heroine inheriting the family land and becoming the person in her family who protects the family’s legacy and is destined to produce the next generation. The hero is a DEA agent who has magic of his own and his magic complements the heroine’s — together they are stronger than alone. Bad guys abound: evil boss from heroine’s past, drug cartel leader who’s discovered the secret on the land the heroine inherits and wants it, and the cartel minions who try to obtain the land and one of which has his own agenda. Oh and an honorable good guy law officer (yes, he needs his own book — not sure it’ll ever happen) who falls for the heroine and loses out. Basically, your typical Monette Michaels’ book.

Cross your fingers and wish me luck. I hope to have the improved Green Fire out before the end of the summer. Well, let’s put it this way, I have to get this done and soon, since  I have a Prime book (Damon and Susa’s story) to write by the end of the year. There’s always another book waiting to be written.

Original Green Fire Blurb (yes, this needs to be revised, too!) :

Lisa MacDougall is not your normal jewelry designer. Her genetic ability to sense which gemstones complement her clients’ chakras has made her designs famous. Increasingly, her job at Romanoff’s Jewelry Store in New York City has become uncomfortable with Andrei Romanoff’s aggressive sexual overtures. Her inheritance from a previously unknown relative in North Carolina couldn’t have come at a better time.

Lisa picks up stakes and moves to the Blue Ridge tourist town. Here she discovers her ability to read crystal energy is just the tip of the iceberg and that her Uncle Lon has left her more than just a quaint mountain property.

DEA Agent Marco Santiago is on the trail of the Verde Fogate drug cartel. A raid on a Miami warehouse goes bad, and all the DEA finds after months of planning is a lead to a lawyer in Ben Lomond, North Carolina and the words “green fire.” Marco and his partner head for the Blue Ridge Mountains to get to the bottom of what the cartel finds so interesting in Ben Lomond.

Marco finds that the woman who possesses the “green fire” is his complement in magic. But before Lisa and he can look toward a future together, they both must deal with evil from their past.

 

[Right:  Original Green Fire cover, Ariana Overton, Copyright, 2003]

Excerpt (unedited from the current revision):

“Do not go gentle into that good night.”
Lon MacDougall halted his nocturnal patrol. Standing under the denuded branches of an oak, he knew he was a sitting duck for the men who stalked him, but he’d had enough of their games. His affairs were in order. They wouldn’t get the land and the treasure it sheltered, the treasure he’d protected since the day his older brother Rob had left North Carolina, turning his back on his birthright.

Wheezing heavily then wincing at the sharp pain caused by the cancer eating away at his insides, Lon moved from his quasi-shelter and headed back toward his cabin. He silently chuckled as his shadowers followed. Stumbling silently over a small rise in the land, Lon swore. In younger, healthier days, he’d have moved through the night like a bobcat, silent and lethal. No way would some damn foreigners have been able to stalk him on his own land. But the cancer had ended all that.

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Tonight, he’d die. He’d chosen his manner of death—the quick death of a defender rather than the inevitable slow torture of the disease. The bastards didn’t know it, but they were doing him a favor.

Reaching the porch of his ancestral home, Lon stopped, then smiled. Yes, the land would be safe now. With Rob long since dead, he’d finally tracked Rob’s child to New York City. It had taken him almost a year to find the last surviving MacDougall. His brother had done what he’d sworn he would never do—produced an heir.

And the heir had the power.

The poor fools trying to get the land and the treasure it sheltered would never know what hit them. Lon frowned, wishing he could push fate off a little bit longer, wishing he could be around to help Rob’s child acclimate. Well, he’d done the best he could. The land was in the heir’s name. The tools the heir would need to learn to harness the power were safely away from North Carolina, awaiting the word of his death. He’d done all he could.

The rest would be up to her—Rob’s daughter.

Lon’s still keen eyesight pierced the dark shadows within the forest, zeroing in on movement where there should be none. The night air resonated with the sound of stealthy footsteps. Lon shook his head and sighed. Yep, too bad he wouldn’t be around to help her. He turned to meet death head on. A sound like a hornet. The prick of a dart. It was over that quickly.

As Lon fell off the porch onto the pine-needle-covered ground, he smiled. He’d won; they’d lost—and they didn’t even know it.

“Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight…”

Monette Michaels, Copyright, 2017.

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What A Witch Wants is Out Now!!

•June 21, 2017 • Comments Off on What A Witch Wants is Out Now!!

I am thrilled to announce that What A Witch Wants, my contribution to Robyn Peterman’s Magic & Mayhem World, is now LIVE at Amazon.US. [Apologies to my international fans, but Kindle World books are only sold on the US Amazon bookstore].

What is a Kindle World, and Magic & Mayhem world, in particular?  Basically, a Kindle World is a fictional world created by an author, and other authors are invited to write a book using elements of character, setting, and genre as dictated by the originating author.

Robyn’s Magic & Mayhem world is paranormal and populated by witches and shifters and other sundry paranormal types. We, as authors, are then invited to use as many or as few of the attributes of Robyn’s world to create our own stories.

In What A Witch Wants, I have used quite a few of Robyn’s original characters and her setting of Assjacket, West Virginia.  My story integrates her world, I hope, seamlessly.  It was a challenge and it was fun — and as I mentioned in a previous blog [Returning to My Roots], it was a breath of fresh air to go back to the paranormal world where I began my writing career.

Will I do more in Robyn’s world?  I never say never — and I did leave  my heroine Amethyst’s sister Gloriana hanging out there, married to a jerk chosen by her and Ammy’s controlling mother. Glory just might need a Shifter of her own — and Assjacket has more than enough room for another witch.

Blurb:

Wanting is good; getting is harder.

Magical artifacts can be deadly…or seductive, and Amethyst St. John delights in them all. She’s curator for the U.K. Covens’ Magical Artifacts Library, and her magic isn’t the usual run-of-the-mill hocus-pocus. Oh no. With her powers, she can turn the nastiest artifact harmless.

Unfortunately, her magic is useless when her egotistical mother pressures her to marry a depraved aristocrat. So, when the most powerful witch in the world asks her to present an artifact—a very intimate piece of the infamous wizard Merlin—to their sister city Assjacket, West Virginia, Amethyst jumps at the chance.

Bobcat Shifter Kerr Montgomery, chief detective for Assjacket, has better things to do than meet some British ambassador witch … until he catches Amethyst’s scent. She’s his mate—the one woman who can complete his soul. But his Ammy doesn’t understand mating. And she distrusts men. Even worse, she won’t be in Assjacket long enough to change her mind.

And then someone steals Merlin’s intimate body part. Ammy, aided by Kerr, sets out on a quest to find the artifact. In the process, she discovers what she really wants.

Short Excerpt:

Chapter 1

 

Arse-on-Wharfe, England

 

Incoming. Beelzebub’s bitch at twelve o’clock.

The sarcastic tone of her familiar whispered through Amethyst Sophia St. John’s mind. She straightened up from the magical artifact she’d been bent over for the last hour. Rubbing her aching lower back with grubby hands, she cast him an admonishing glance. “Oliver … be nice.”

Meh. I call them like I see them. The huge gray-and-white tabby yawned, then began to groom his thick fur.

Amethyst couldn’t really scold Oliver for his low opinion of her mother since she totally shared it.

Mildred Earlene St. John was a horrible mother and an even lousier person who lived only to further her wealth and status.

Amethyst took a fortifying breath as the unique signature of her mother’s magic preceded her into the dusty bowels of the United Kingdom Covens’ Magical Artifacts Library where Amethyst had chosen to work today.

Don’t you mean chosen to hide? Oliver shot her a fess-up stare, proving he could groom and poke through her thoughts at the same time.

Amethyst rubbed her tired eyes. “Okay, hide. But in my defense, I have a lot of work to do.” Plus, her mother hated the basement, called it that “rat-infested cess pit.”

Whatever.

As much as she loved her position as the library’s head curator, the demands on her time and attention were frequent and seemingly unending. She scanned the stacks and stacks of artifacts that needed to be classified and their specific magic either defined, repaired, or, for some of the more dangerous artifacts, contained before they could be made available for the library’s members and invited guests to study.

Oliver uttered a disgusted meow over Amethyst’s equivocation. Work-shmerk. You’re hiding because Beelzebub’s bitch called and said she planned to visit today.

That, too. When it came to her rapaciously ambitious mother, Amethyst followed a strict avoidance policy and had even moved out of the family’s manse several months ago, much to her mother’s severe disapproval.

Bottom line, what Amethyst wanted out of life and what her mother demanded were so diametrically opposed as to place them in separate universes.

The only reasons Amethyst still dealt with her mother were—one: her mother, the High Witch for the local coven, was nominally her boss, and, two: there was still a part of Amethyst that wanted her mother’s love and approval.

Fat chance at that ever happening. Oliver sniffed. That bitch doesn’t have a heart.

“Amethyst!” Her mother’s strident tones had her clenching her jaw.

Oliver rubbed his head against her arm and purred. His energy soothed her. After an affectionate head butt, he plopped his furry arse next to the artifact she currently worked on. Maybe they could move the library to Timbuktu?

She wished.

Mildred—as her daughters were told to address her—stopped in front of Amethyst and cast a haughty glare at Oliver who’d stuck a leg in the air and had blithely begun to groom his balls with vigor as if the task was essential to the continuation of life on the planet.

It could happen. Good grooming is next to godliness.

Amethyst snickered, then immediately sobered as Mildred focused her death-ray glare on her.

“What in the name of the Blessed Goddess are you wearing?” Her parent sniffed, a sour expression fixed on her too-thin face.

Frowning, Amethyst looked down at the much-washed tee featuring the iconic Rolling Stones’ tongue, her distressed blue jeans, and her favorite black-and-white Chuck Taylor high-tops and shrugged. “Clothes?”

Mildred, as always, was dressed as if she were about to have an audience with the Queen of England. Today’s ensemble was Chanel and pearls.

“Rags, more like it. Really, Amethyst, you’re twenty-four years old and born into one of the most prestigious families in England. Yet, you still dress like a cross between a teenager and a homeless person. Don’t you have any pride in your appearance? Any respect for your family’s ancient lineage and reputation?”

A right snot-nosed social bigot, isn’t she?

Her mother’s criticisms weren’t anything Amethyst hadn’t heard before, but she refused to engage her mother on topics that weren’t important in the grander scheme of things—such as clothing choices. A long time ago, Amethyst had made the decision to save her energy for far more dangerous points of disagreement.

Mildred circled around the room, a look of rampant disgust on her face as she swiped a perfectly manicured finger over a dusty box of magically warded Celtic grave goods. “Look at this filthy place. Amethyst, if you had a decent job, one befitting your station—”

And there it was; one of the battles Amethyst had decided was worth fighting. Mildred loathed Amethyst’s job and was horribly embarrassed by her daughter’s peculiar mix of magic.

But Amethyst loved her job, relished the challenge of taking on every dirty artifact and potentially explosive bit of ancient magic. Her magical abilities, unlike many witches, were neither healing nor creative, but something totally unique. Her power allowed her to sense, track, fix, and survive magical wards and spells thousands of years old. Her specific abilities were the main reason she’d been chosen for her current position at a very young age. Most curators of magical artifacts were far older.

Amethyst’s magic had been discovered at the age of five during a family visit to the British Museum. While viewing the Egyptian exhibit, she’d accidentally unleashed a mummy’s nasty curse. Purely on instinct, she’d quickly reversed and contained the curse’s effects. Her father had laughed and praised his “very talented daughter.” Mildred had looked horrified and stated no child of hers could possess such a lowborn skill.

From that day on, nothing Amethyst had done pleased her mother—yet, Amethyst had continued to try … until recently.

“Amethyst, you haven’t heard a word I’ve said.” Her mother’s lips had thinned to the point of disappearing.

You didn’t miss much. Blah, blah, blah-da-dee-fucking blah. Repeat. Oliver yawned and curled into a ball, his eyes slitted as he glared at Mildred. Acid-tongued bitch.

Amethyst petted Oliver’s head and let the witch-familiar connection calm her nerves. “Mildred, why are you here?”

“Two reasons.” Her mother paced back and forth in front of the work table. “First, you turned down Reginald Wolverstone’s offer of marriage.”

And there was one of the other battles Amethyst would engage in with her mother.

Amethyst refused to marry a warlock of Mildred’s choice merely to further her mother’s skewed ideas of power.

Copyright, 2017, Monette Michaels.

*****

Want to see where Robyn’s Magic & Mayhem world began? 

Read Robyn’s books in this world:

Book 1 — FREE!!

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

OUT NOW! Book 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out all the June 2017 Magic & Mayhem Releases. Just Click on the Meme.

 

 

Returning To My Roots

•May 30, 2017 • Comments Off on Returning To My Roots

It’s been awhile since I last blogged. Mea culpa.

That’s what happens between getting one book out and promoting it (An Ill Wind, the subject of my last blog), updating a web site, and writing a new work, simultaneously.

My next release was both a challenge and a joy.  A challenge — because I haven’t written in the genre for a long time; a joy — because it was just so much fun. I luurve witches and shifters.

Yes, I am returning to my roots in the paranormal romance genre. My first published book as Monette Michaels was Fatal Vision(psychic heroine), way back in 1998.

After Fatal, I published several more paranormal romances, most with suspense aspects:  the Gooden & Knight (witches, shifters, and vampires) series under my Monette Michaels pen name and the Coven of the Wolf series (witches and shifters) under my Rae Morgan pen name. Then I wrote Eye of the Storm (Book 1 in the Security Specialists International series, romantic thrillers with former military heroes and kick-ass heroines) and Prime Obsession (Book 1 in the Prime Chronicles series, scifi romance).  Both those series took off and I left paranormal behind.

But no longer.

I am happy to announce my participation in Robyn Peterman’s Magic and Mayhem Kindle World with my novella What A Witch Wants.

All the Magic and Mayhem KW releases will be on June 21st, and a super-extravaganza Release Party will happen soon thereafter. You won’t want to miss this party — there’ll be games with prizes, give-aways, and lots of fun and laughter. Watch for  the details on the release party here and on my Author FaceBook page.

When Robyn approached me about bringing my toys to play in her sandbox, the timing and circumstances were right. I was able to choose one of several Magic and Mayhem KW release dates which fit in between one of my series books and the start of another.  Also, I could write a stand-alone, meaning the book would be fully in her world and not crossing over or mentioning any of my other series or books.  This was important to me. I had been approached by several other authors (super authors!!) with fabulous Kindle Worlds — but either the timing sucked or the only ideas I had would’ve crossed over into my already established series. And no matter how I read the KW contract, all the lawyer and former contracts arbitrator in me saw were serious complications down the road.  So, I made an unwritten rule — if approached for a KW project, (a) it would have to fit into my writing schedule (I try to get two full-length series books out a year), and (b) it would have to be a stand-alone.

Robyn approached me. Timing worked. Concept worked. Thus, What A Witch Wants was born.

Want to know more about Robyn’s Magic and Mayhem Kindle World — check her books and other books in the world out HERE.

Here’s my Blurb:

Magical artifacts can be deadly…or seductive, and Amethyst St. John delights in them all. She’s curator for the U.K. Covens’ Magical Artifacts Library, and her magic isn’t the usual run-of-the-mill hocus-pocus. Oh no. With her powers, she can turn the nastiest artifact harmless.

Unfortunately, her magic is useless when her egotistical mother pressures her to marry a depraved aristocrat.  So, when the most powerful witch in the world asks her to present an artifact—a very intimate piece of the infamous wizard Merlin—to their sister city Assjacket, West Virginia, Amethyst jumps at the chance.

Bobcat Shifter Kerr Montgomery, chief detective for Assjacket, has better things to do than meet some British ambassador witch … until he catches Amethyst’s scent. She’s his mate—the one woman who can complete his soul. But his Ammy doesn’t understand mating. And she distrusts men. Even worse, she won’t be in Assjacket long enough to change her mind.

And then someone steals Merlin’s intimate body part. Ammy, aided by Kerr, sets out on a quest to find the artifact. In the process, she discovers what she really wants.

Here’s a Sneak Peek:

“I can see there’s no reasoning with you now.” Mildred sniffed, a disdainful sound. “We’ll be revisiting the issue of Reginald again…”

No, they wouldn’t. What Amethyst wanted in a man—in a husband—was a loving partner who’d respect her wishes and back her against the world.

“…but there’s no time now, that nutcase Baba Yaga will be arriving soon, which is the second reason—”

Mildred’s words were cut off as a thundering, raging whirlwind of magical power swept into the room.

Now that’s some magic! Oliver raised his head and sniffed. Pu-r-r-rfect.

Amethyst held onto Oliver, but the tempest passed around them as if they were encased in a protective bubble—and not one of Amethyst’s making.

Mildred, on the other hand, didn’t fare so well. The wind picked her up, tossed her around like dandelion fluff, then dumped her on the floor in an ungainly heap.

Are those Spanx? Oliver craned his neck to check out her mother’s exposed lower half.

Amethyst bit back a laugh as she eyed her parent’s wind-tossed hair and disheveled clothing. Somehow Mildred had also lost both her shoes.
And, yes, the undergarments were Spanx.

“Hey there, Mildew, you old bat. How’s tricks?” The speaker was a beautiful, 30-ish-looking blonde wearing an off-the-shoulder black-and-white striped top paired with a short ruffled denim skirt over fishnet leggings, white sneakers, and a lacy scarf tied in her curls a la Madonna of the Desperately Seeking Susan era. The magic coming off the sartorially stuck-in-the-80s witch was old—hundreds of years old—and extremely potent. “And if I’m a nutcase, you’re a battle-ax.”

Baba Yaga had arrived.

The wily witch, the Goddess-chosen leader of the world’s witches, had probably been present all along, cloaking her magic as she spied on the two of them. As far as Amethyst knew, no magic user, no matter how old and proficient, could sense Baba Yaga’s presence if the witch didn’t want them to.

Baba Yaga looked over at Amethyst and winked. “Love the tee, chica. I have it in four colors. Mick signed one for me after a long night of sexual bliss. That man sure knew how to use those skinny hips—and that tongue.” She laughed as she did a little bump-and-grind move. “So … how’s the most-talented magical artifacts curator in the world doing?”

“Fine, Baba Yaga.” Amethyst smiled shyly. She adored Baba Yaga who’d always gone out of her way to boost Amethyst’s self-esteem after the death of her father in a spell gone wrong when Amethyst was eight years old.

Copyright, 2017, Monette Michaels.

Sneak Preview — An Ill Wind, Security Specialists International #5

•December 20, 2016 • 4 Comments

mm_ssi5_anillwind_300x400

For those who have been waiting on Trey Maddox and Dr. Fiona Teague’s story, the wait is almost over. Book is in final line edits and then it will go to formatting. After that, I will upload and begin posting links as the book is published at the various retailers. Please enjoy this sneak peek.– Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my fans — Monette Michaels

****

 

Blurb:

A damaged woman fleeing her past.

After being stalked then attacked by a colleague, Dr. Fiona Teague flees to a New Mexico border town. Working in a clinic, Fee endeavors to overcome the horror of that night. To her dismay, Trey Maddox, her brother’s friend, refuses to be deterred from pursuing a relationship with her. If only she weren’t so broken … Trey’s everything a woman could want—honorable, strong, heroic, but he deserves better than a damaged woman.

A strong, capable protector determined to lure her into the shelter of his arms.    

During an Idaho blizzard, SSI operative Trey Maddox met Fee over the barrel of a rifle as she protected his pregnant sister-in-law. The gutsy little doc then ignored her own physical injuries to deliver his nephew. How could Trey not fall for her? Before he could persuade her to stay in Idaho, she’d cut and run to New Mexico. Undeterred by the distance, he pursues her, eroding her resistance with patience and tenacious good humor. And, finally, she agrees to an actual “date.”

But the ill wind that had destroyed her once before now sweeps through Fee’s life again. She’s kidnapped by a drug cartel. Trey arrives to find her house a bloody crime scene. The cartel has no idea of the ruthless hunter they’ve unleashed. Trey will storm hell itself in order to rescue Fee and make her his, once and for all.

Excerpt:
Copyright, 2016, Monette Michaels.
All rights reserved.

Prologue

11 pm, February 20th
Stanley Parker Health Center
Columbus, New Mexico

Dr. Fiona Teague’s stomach growled. Six-year-old Maria Cortez giggled, the first sound that wasn’t a whimper or a mewl of pain since the child’s arrival at the emergency room. Fee swept a lock of black silky hair off Maria’s face. The girl had an ugly bruise on her forehead. Maria’s brother had shoved the little girl and she’d fallen off her front porch and—head met sidewalk.

“Are you feeling better, chica?”

The x-rays hadn’t shown any fracture, thank goodness. Fee had cleaned the bloody scrape, administered a prescription-strength dose of Tylenol, and applied ice to get the swelling down. There really wasn’t anything else she could do.

Maria shrugged her shoulders, her big brown eyes still moist from earlier tears.

Fee looked at Maria’s mother. “Señora, just keep an eye on Maria. Wake her up every hour just to make sure she can. If you can’t rouse her, or if she throws up or complains of severe headaches, bring her back in right away. I’m going to have Nurse Pia schedule a follow-up visit for Maria at the clinic on Monday.”

Gracias, Dr. Teague.” Señora Cortez picked up Maria who clung like a monkey to her mother. The woman left the exam area. The now-chastised older brother fell into step with his mother. The father was missing in action. Pia Lopez had told her the man was a drug runner for the Sinaloa cartel.

It was don’t ask, don’t tell—business as usual in this ER in a U.S.-Mexico border community.
Pia walked up to Fee. “Well, that was different.” The petite nurse was a Mexican-American who’d lived in Columbus, New Mexico, her whole life except for the time she’d left to attend nursing school in Austin, Texas. She was one of the best nurses Fee had ever worked with anywhere.

“Well, it definitely was a break from treating addicts who’ve decided to mix heroin and crystal meth.” Drug overdoses or, in the case of speedballing, drug stupidity was a lot of what Fee dealt with during her shifts, day or night. The rest of her cases tended to be knifings and gun shot wounds which arose out of the running and selling of drugs.

Fee’s stomach growled again. “I need to eat. Want to grab a bite with me? I brought a couple of sandwiches and am happy to share.”
Pia shook her head, a sly smile on her face. “I’ve eaten, thanks. Besides someone is here and has brought you some of my mama’s chicken enchiladas you like so well.”

Carmela Lopez owned and was the chief cook for a local diner called Mamacitas. Fee ate or carried out a lot of her meals from there.

Fee smiled. “Your mother is so sweet to think of me. What did she bring you?”

“Not my mama.” Pia shoved her in the direction of the small break room. “Go see.”

Her surprise meal guest had to be Price. Her brother had mentioned something about visiting this week. It would be just like him to get Pia’s mother to make Fee’s favorite Mexican meal.

Would Trey Maddox be with him? Fee’s pulse raced and a tingle of excitement traveled over her skin. She would never admit it out loud, but when Trey hadn’t come the last time Price visited, she’d missed him. Missed him a lot—more than a lot—and that had shocked her. She still wasn’t sure she was ready for the type of relationship Trey wanted with her. A relationship he’d patiently pursued for months, making the trip from Idaho frequently, most often in the company of her brother.

Fee entered the break room and stopped just inside the door.

Her heart stuttered as she took in all that was Trey Maddox. The man was six-foot, four inches of alpha-male with thick, dark hair and green eyes. Those eyes now gleamed as he approached her in a panther-like glide. “Hey, little doc.”

Only Trey called her that. She’d grown to like his pet name for her, mostly because of the affectionate tone in his voice when he said it. No one before him had ever cared enough to use an endearment when speaking to her.

“You look beautiful.” His languid perusal burned over every inch of her. His expression grew more sensual.

Trey needed his eyes examined. She had on no make-up and a set of green scrubs that had blood and other bodily fluids that would put most people off their food. But the look in his eyes had her believing his words. To him, she was beautiful and that fact both confused her and made her grateful.

“Trey…” Flustered at his all-encompassing gaze, Fee looked around. “…um, where’s my brother?”

“He’s on an op…” he said.

Trey stopped less than a foot away from her. His gaze seemed fixed on her mouth. Her breath caught in her throat and she wondered if he’d kiss her.

Kiss him. You know you want to.

No, she couldn’t. She was a woman who’d had really bad luck with the men in her past.

Trey’s not those other guys, and, for sure, he isn’t the stalker-rapist Adam-fucking-Stall.

Definitely not. She shuddered at the thought of the former colleague who’d raped her, denied he’d done it, and was the reason she’d run from Detroit to this middle of effin’ nowhere border town.

“…so I came in his place and brought you a meal.” Trey held out his hand. “Come and sit down. Let me serve you. Señora Lopez sent enough food for both of us. The smell has had me salivating ever since I picked up the food from her house.”

Fee placed her cold hand in his large, warm one. The innocent touch thrilled her, more so than kisses from any other man. “You didn’t have to come.”

“Yes, I did.” Trey lifted her hand to his lips and kissed the tips of her fingers. “I missed seeing you last month.” He looked into her eyes. “I wasn’t missing this month, too.”

“Okay.” She swallowed hard. His expression … his voice … his words overwhelmed her. He looked at her as if she were as essential to him as oxygen.

Looking away, she focused on the table. Oh my. Happy tears threatened to choke her.

He’d set the cheap plastic table with a bouquet of flowers, candles, china, silver, and cloth napkins.
No one, not even her beloved brother Price, had ever done anything so nice, so special for her. “Y-y-you put my Diet Pepsi in a wine glass.”

Past bad experiences with and insecurities about men were swept away in a groundswell of joy. Fee pulled her hand loose, stood on her tip toes, and brushed a kiss over his lips. “Th-that’s so sweet. Th-thank you.”

“You’re welcome … and you’re the sweet one.” Leaning down, he cupped her face and gave her kiss back to her and then took it up another notch.

Holy hell. The man could kiss.

Trey took his time as he nibbled and licked her lips. There was no aggression in his touch; if there had been, she’d have recoiled. Instead, he was gently insistent, and she opened to his lips and tongue and shyly returned the kiss.

“Fee,” he murmured as he continued to press light kisses on her mouth. “You taste good, and I’d love nothing more than to kiss you for hours, but this probably isn’t the best time or place.”

Damn, one kiss, and a fairly innocent one at that, and Fee’s brain took a short vacation, losing all sense of time and space. No man’s kisses or intimate touch had ever taken her out of herself before.

Shaking off the sensual haze, she nodded. “Yeah. The ER’s quiet right now, but—” Her stomach rumbled loudly.

Trey chuckled. Tucking some of her curls behind her ear, he kissed the tip of her nose. “But it could get busy, and you need fuel so you can handle the rest of your shift. Sit, let me serve you supper.”

He took her arm and led her to the table and then held the wobbly plastic and metal chair for her. She sat and scooted closer to the table and placed the napkin on her lap. Taking a sip of the Diet Pepsi, she watched as he pulled out the food and served her two chicken enchiladas along with some beans and rice.

Fee inhaled the aroma and her mouth watered. “Smells divine. What did Carmela make you?”

“I have the pork enchiladas, but with the same tomatillo sauce she put on yours.” Trey sat and took a long pull from the dewy bottle of Dos Equis by his place setting. “Eat. Catch me up on what’s happened since I was here last.”

Fee took a bite of her food and found it was easy to talk to Trey about her patients—in general terms, of course, she’d never violate their privacy—and about life in the small border town. She even told him how Pia was ignoring Sheriff Levi Gray Wolf’s romantic overtures and how worried both Carmela and Pia were about Pia’s brother Ernesto who ran drugs for the cartel.

Trey’s expression grew darker the more Fee revealed about Pia’s brother. He held up a hand, halting her words. “Are you using the security system Price and I installed at your place?”

“Yes.” She let out an exasperated sigh at the autocratic note in his tone. Both men had lectured her on safety rules several times since she’d moved to New Mexico. “I set the system every night.”

“Fee…” A stern look on his face, Trey reached across the small table and tipped up her chin. “You’re very precious to your brother, to my sister-in-law and her family—and to me. Use the system whenever you’re home, day or night. Cartel asshats can attack during the day just as easily as the night. Okay?”

She captured his hand and squeezed it. “Okay. You know you’re as bossy as my brother.”

Trey pulled his hand from hers and traced her lips with the tip of a finger. “I ain’t your brother, sweetheart.”

God, and didn’t she know it. Her feelings for Trey were intense—had always been strong from the day she met him—but the feelings had grown over the months. He’d burrowed under her skin, slowly but surely.

All too soon, they finished their meal. Drawing out her time with him, she helped him clean up the table and then walked him to the ER exit. “Thanks again for visiting and bringing me a meal.”

“You’re very welcome, little doc.” Trey took her in his arms and kissed her deeply, then let her go. “See you in a month. Maybe I can take you out for a real date next time?”

“Maybe. I’ll think on it.”

“You do that.” He gave her a panty-melting smile, then turned and left.

Fee watched until he got in his rental and drove away. She already missed him.

 

Covers to Color: The Final Product

•April 27, 2016 • Comments Off on Covers to Color: The Final Product

MM_CoversToColor_page01For the past weeks, I’ve shared the journey to creating a coloring book from my book covers – from the idea’s origins to the legal aspects to how April created the illustrations and laid out the book. This blog is about the final product.

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After all the initial work, the coloring book still had to be printed and assembled. So?  Do I have a printer do all the work?  OR Do I run the copies and assemble it myself?  This is totally a matter of personal choice and I don’t mind repetitive collation and stapling for the final 100 coloring books.

Just to give you a ballpark idea of what it would’ve cost me to have OfficeMax’s printing facility to run the copies and then collate and staple them — 100 finished coloring books would’ve cost around $500.  That included using card stock with double-sided color printing for the front and back cover, single-sided B&W interior pages on a 24# paper, collation and stapling.

I decided to eliminate the collation and stapling labor costs and ended up paying 45% less for the covers and interior pages printing.  I then assembled them while watching the Food Network — my best mindless activity time. Below, you can see the materials for assembly.  Would I do this project again?  Sure. The fans who have received the coloring books so far said they liked them and thought it was a cool idea.  I’ll be bringing some with me to Lori Foster’s Reader Author Get-Together in June and will be handing them out at the book signing on Friday, June 10th from 3-5 pm.  The book signing is open to the public and is at the Cincinnati Marriott — North in West Chester.  Come see me and get a copy.

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Covers to Color: Laying Out the Coloring Book

•April 20, 2016 • Comments Off on Covers to Color: Laying Out the Coloring Book

MM_CoversToColor_page01In the previous weeks in this series, we’ve covered how and why we came up with the idea to create a coloring book of cover art, the legal aspects of creating such coloring pages from existing art, and the actual method to create the coloring page. This week, Guest Blogger April Martinez of Graphicfantastic will walk us through how she laid out the final coloring book.

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There are two parts to creating a coloring book. The first involves the illustrations. The second involves putting all those illustrations together. These do not necessarily involve the same skill set.

As both an illustrator and a print graphic designer, I feel it is important to point that out, especially to anyone who is considering having a coloring book made. There are people who can create artwork but can’t design, and there are people who can design but can’t create artwork.

Illustration can be a very organic and intuitive form of creative expression, whether one does it by hand or with the help of a computer. Design, on the other hand, requires a more technical bent; and good design requires some experience. So, the production of a coloring book might involve the talents of two different people.

Since my skill set is wide enough, I took care of both parts. I’ve already talked about the first part, the illustrations, being done in Illustrator. The second part, the book design, was done in InDesign.

The first thing to consider was how Moni would have the book printed and at what size. She and I agreed on a standard 8.5” x 11” size so she could have it printed anywhere, and since we couldn’t be sure what sort of paper quality she would have available to her, I decided to design the book so that each illustration was on its own sheet — no other illustration on the back of it, just a blank page. This way, if people want to color with markers instead of color pencils, they don’t have to worry about ink bleeding through to the other side, ruining another cover illustration.

My Patterns coloring book was done with a bleed so that the illustrated patterns would go all the way out to the trim (the edge of the page), but for Moni’s book, I decided to have a margin for a simple border. It wasn’t just so that the colored illustrations would present better and lend themselves well to being framed if the colorist wished it; this was also because some printers don’t have the capability to print all the way to the edges of the paper, and Moni or whatever print service she decided to use might not have access to a paper trimmer. So the margins were also for ease of production.

For the front and back cover, I created a “halfway colored” version of the illustrations, as this is a shortcut to communicating to anyone looking at the cover that this is a coloring book.

And since this is a *promotional* coloring book, I set aside some space to show Moni’s other titles.

The result is a 12-page booklet in high resolution PDF form, something that would print out nice and sharp in detail. Normally, such a PDF with this many images at such a large dimension would have a huge file size, but because the illustrations are in vector format (done in Illustrator), it came out to just 9.6 MB, not much bigger than a print book cover flat might be.MM_CoversToColor_page12

After that, it’s up to Moni how to print and produce the physical book.

Can I just say “I love the coloring book April created for me.”  Next week, I’ll share what I did and why in producing the final product.

Covers to Color: Creating Illustrations by April Martinez

•April 13, 2016 • Comments Off on Covers to Color: Creating Illustrations by April Martinez

MM_CoversToColor_page01The last two weeks I covered how this idea of making a coloring book of my book covers came about and the legal issues all authors must address in order to do such a project.  This week and next, April Martinez, my fabulous cover artist and the person who created my coloring book, will talk about her process.

Creating the Illustrations

When Moni came to me about a coloring book for her, I’d already been mulling over the best way to convert existing cover art into coloring book line art.

Last year, my fellow cover artists and I were discussing how the popularity of coloring books has worked its way even into the romance industry — one New York publisher had already turned their cover art into black and white illustrations that their readers could color, and smaller publishers were considering doing the same. So, when the topic of Photoshop tips and tricks came up, we cover artists began to look for a quick and easy way to turn photo-manipulated cover designs into simpler line drawings. We shared among ourselves links to videos and how-to blogs, debating over the best way to do this.

I was skeptical of all the methods, though, even of the ones I’d shared or developed myself.

See … the thing is, there is no quick and easy way to turn a photo-based image into line art that a colorist would actually want to color.

The best you might be able to create with a few Photoshop tricks is something that looks like a realistic pencil drawing or a textured and artfully done pen and ink illustration. It is not, however, something a coloring book enthusiast would necessarily want to color.

 

Amazon Reviews on Gray Scale Coloring Books

Some Amazon Reviews on Gray Scale Coloring Books

Why is this?

Well … if you look at a coloring book illustration, especially in a popular coloring book, the artwork is fairly simple and spartan. By “simple,” I don’t mean anything like stick figures and children’s drawings; I mean that the artwork is typically uncluttered by textures, highlights, shadows, and details that might add depth to the drawing. It is crisp black ink on clean white paper, no gradations of color such as grays to add shading or 3D shape to the representation on the page. If you think about it, a coloring book illustration is actually quite an abstract version of whatever it’s supposed to be. It’s almost a written language, the world laid down in symbols of black markings, a simple line drawing meant to communicate with uncomplicated brevity a universe of much deeper meaning.

The colorists, mind you, are meant to add all that texture and meaning to the illustration themselves. It is their purpose to give shape and color to the line art, like adding muscles, fat, and skin to a skeletal framework.

So … using a Photoshop trick to turn something into line art doesn’t necessarily work because a Photoshop trick will merely take all the detail in a photo-based image and translate it into black or gray pixels — i.e., turn it into a grayscale image. If there is a lot of texture and grain, or a lot of gradations of color and shadow, Photoshop won’t know how to translate that into its barest form — i.e., solid outlines, the most basic language that a human colorist can understand and work with. It just won’t know what to keep and what to throw out, at least not as well as a human mind could.

This is especially the case when the artwork you want to convert is a beautifully textured image, artfully lit, fading one element into another in a pleasing montage-like collage. In fact, the result is often just too finished or too busy to do anything more with it. It might be utterly beautiful in its detail, but a colorist looks at that and thinks, “That’s not something I can color.” They may not even want to. Why bother? There’s no room for their own interpretation.

So, when Moni came to me, not only had I already weighed the pros and cons of each Photoshop trick I’d come across or developed, but I had also already seen some Amazon reviews on coloring books created in this quick and easy way (see above) — and I had already learned a few things in creating my own coloring book, which I’d created from scratch with no Photoshop filters. I decided then that Moni’s coloring book would be a good opportunity for me to really test my own theories on this.

And here is what I did:

1. The quick-and-easy Photoshop conversion

Moni gave me four titles to work with, the first being Prime Imperative. This being my first attempt at converting one of my covers into a coloring book illustration, I decided to give some Photoshop methods a good college try.

False modesty aside, I have “mad skills” in Photoshop — über-mad skills — and I’ve written the tutorials to prove it. None of the YouTube videos people recommended were revelations to me; I already knew most of the tricks. Yet … I couldn’t find a single way in Photoshop to turn Prime Imperative into simple line art that someone would want to color.

Not only did I try multiple ways, but I also combined a number of different ways to try to get the best result. Parts and pieces of the image that already had good contrast and large expanses of color, I did in one way. Other parts and pieces that had a complex gradation of colors and a lot of detail, I did in another way. I did a lot of versions. I did them in layers. I did them in stages, and I did them with the different settings and options tweaked. It was one giant trial-and-error session that proved to me that the “quick-and-easy” way was far from quick and far from easy.

The very best I could come up with was this:

 

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PhotoShop Method, (c) 2016, Graphicfantastic, All Rights Reserved.

 

2. The time-consuming hand-drawn method

By this point, I’d figured drawing the illustration by hand would take less time and yield better results. I was wrong about the time, but I was right about the results.

I imported the cover art into, not Photoshop, but Illustrator, and I imported it as a template. I then used the pen or pencil tool — anything with a 1pt. stroke, really — and actually traced the lines in the artwork. Given the detail in the artwork, it was as time-consuming as one might expect it to be, probably more than a full day’s work, maybe 8-10 hours with a Wacom pen and tablet, simply laying down line by line, using my human brain to decide what to outline and what to leave out.

For an artist like me more accustomed to working with stock photos and Photoshop tools, the work seemed overly slow and tedious. Despite my early experience with hand-drawn art, I’d gotten way too used to the instant gratification of photo-manipulated work. So I was practically brain-dead by the time I finished.

But I was relieved to finally be able to send Moni the two experiments — the Photoshop-converted version and this hand-drawn version:

 

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Hand-drawn Method (c) 2016, Graphicfantastic, All Rights Reserved.

 

Which of these two would you color? If you’re anything like me, you’d prefer the second one; there’s just more room for interpretation.

This made me cringe as an artist trying to make a living, though. Creating a coloring book illustration by hand is just so much work. I would have to charge a full day’s pay for each drawing, at least, and who would want to pay that? Oy.

But the hand-drawn version really did end up being the better one, so I did the other three by hand as well.

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I loved the results April produced with the hand-drawn method. 

Next week, April will be back and discuss the laying out of the coloring book, which includes the amazing front and back covers.