Sunday, 29 May 2016

#samplesunday - CUTTING OUT

It's #samplesunday time.

And a great opportunity for you to get a look at our books. Make sure to follow us on Twitter to get notice of when: @bottomdrawerpub

Today we're previewing MM Contemporary novel Cutting Out from Meredith Shayne. 



A twenty-year veteran of the shearing shed, Aussie Shane Cooper loves his job, and the home he’s made for himself in New Zealand. If he’s a little lonely, he’s got good mates to keep his spirits up. When a hot, cocky young shearer named Lachlan Moore catches his eye at a competition, he’s content to look but not touch, knowing the young man is out of his league.

Lachie wouldn’t mind a piece of Shane, but the gorgeous gun shearer from Australia is soon forgotten when the Christchurch earthquake hits, and tragedy strikes Lachie’s family. Lachie deals with it the best he can, cutting himself off from all he knows. A year later and he’s back in the shearing shed, out of practice and lacking confidence. That Shane’s there to watch him flounder doesn’t help his nerves.

As Lachlan struggles to re-acclimatise, Shane can’t resist giving him a hand to get back on his feet. As they move from friends to something more, Shane finds himself wanting to know everything he can about Lachie. But Lachie’s got secrets he desperately wants to keep, and when things come to a head, those secrets might just mean the end of them before they’ve truly begun.


Please enjoy this sample chapter from the book . . . 


CHAPTER TWO

VISITING CHRISTCHURCH to see family also meant catching up with old friends for a drink or ten, so Lachie was still asleep on the Tuesday morning when someone knocked on the door to his childhood bedroom. At first he lay still, only moving when he heard the second knock.

He kept his eyes closed. “Come in.” God, his voice sounded like he’d swallowed frogs and chased them down with sandpaper. He cleared his throat and frowned at how much his hair stunk like smoke.
The door opened, and after a moment he could hear his father laughing. “Good night last night, then?”

Lachie groaned and blinked his eyes open, squinting up at his dad without lifting his head. “Yeah, you could say that.” He cleared his throat again. “What’s up?”

His dad came into the room and sat down on the edge of the bed. “Nothing’s up. I just wanted to know if you were going to meet me in town for lunch, that’s all. Remember I said I was working in the CBD today? A few good cafes and things have sprung up since you were here last, and we could celebrate your competition win.”

Lachie smiled a little and closed his eyes again, performing a silent assessment of whether he could move from the bed for long enough to actually leave the house. Answer: no. “Ah . . . probably not.”

His father laughed. “I thought you might say that. It’s okay. There’s always tomorrow, right?”

Lachie smiled. “Right. We can definitely do something tomorrow. I’ll spend today . . . resting. To prepare for it.”

His father chuckled, and Lachie felt a gentle hand on the top of his head, ruffling his hair. “You do that, and I’ll see you tonight when I get home.”

“Yep,” Lachie said, opening his eyes for long enough to watch his father walk to the door. “It’s nice to be home.”

His father paused in the doorway, looking down at him with a smile. “It’s nice to have you home, son. Get some sleep, take some Berocca, and I’ll see you tonight.”

Lachie smiled. “Yeah, okay. Have a nice day.”


“I CAN’T BELIEVE you dragged me up Queenstown Hill. Haven’t we been here a million times? I thought we were going somewhere interesting. With less of a fucking incline. Jesus.”

Shane stopped by the tourism panel art and looked at his friend Zach, who was looking decidedly green around the gills. “God, you’re such a whinger. Why wouldn’t you want to be out here on a day like this? And you, a walking tour guide and all. You’re a disgrace to your profession.”

“Fuck you. I’m hungover. That’s what I am.” Originally from Tasmania, Zach Harris was in his mid-thirties, handsome in a blue-eyed, blond, square-jawed, male-model kind of way, teeth blindingly white, and charm oozing from every pore. To top things off, he was a ski instructor in the high season, and a walking trail guide in the summer. He had people—men and women, which was fine by him—falling at his feet all year round. Right then, he didn’t look as hot as he usually did, because he looked like he was about to throw up. He stopped and raked a hand through his sweaty hair, then reached for Shane’s backpack and yanked a bottle of water out of it. As he tipped his head back, throat working as he drank most of the bottle in one go, Shane had to admit he understood why people did pant over him. But he and Zach had never slept together, and Shane didn’t regret that. They’d met almost as soon as Shane arrived in Queenstown ten years before. They’d had a fondness for the same pub, and an Australian accent coming from someone who didn’t seem like a tourist had drawn Shane like a magnet. First they’d bonded over being Australian in a sea of Kiwis, Brits, and South Africans. Then they’d discovered they had more in common, and not just a love of cock; Shane didn’t ski, but he loved to hike, and once Zach had found that out, he’d taken Shane exploring the walking tracks of Queenstown and its surrounds every chance he could get. They’d spent days out in the wilderness, scruffy and unwashed. Zach was the only person who knew why Shane had left Australia, and why he didn’t bother going back, and he’d never said a judgemental word about it. That was the kind of friend Shane had needed back then, not a friends-with-benefits one.

Shane had no sympathy for him in the present though. “How can you be hung over on a Tuesday, for fuck’s sake? It’s not ski season. Are any bars here even open on a Monday?”

“Are you serious?” Zach rolled his eyes and shoved the empty water bottle back in Shane’s pack. “You’re such a monk, Cooper. This is one of the most popular tourist traps in New Zealand—of course there are places to drink on a Monday. Even you could have a drink on a Monday, if you came out with me more often.”

Shane suppressed a sigh of exasperation. He knew what was involved when Zach went out on the prowl, and he was over it. He could find his own hook-ups. He just didn’t want to do that in Queenstown anymore. Don’t shit where you eat, that was his new motto now he was old enough to know better. Zach just hadn’t got that through his thick skull yet. “Come on.” Shane started upwards again. “Think yourself lucky I picked a trail with trees so you could have some shade.”

“Whatever,” Zach said, under his breath but loud enough for Shane to hear, which was definitely on purpose.

Shane ignored him. Soon they came out of the tree line and got a view of The Remarkables. Shane stopped and looked at the mountain peaks, and the small body of water in front of them, and felt the muscles of his neck and shoulders relax. He sighed softly, and then Zach came up beside him.

“You know, if you came out with me more, you might not need to relax by being in nature. You could relax in other ways. Ways that don’t involve trees, or your right hand.”

“Shut up.” Shane kept walking, up towards the Basket of Dreams sculpture. He loved the Queenstown Hill Time Walk mostly for the view you could get from the Basket of Dreams. “I get laid. Just not as often as you.” Zach seemed to get laid every five minutes; most people didn’t get laid as much as him.

“Well, maybe you should try—”

“Maybe you should try shutting your gob. I didn’t come up here to get a lecture about my love life.” Shane punched Zach on the shoulder. “Let me enjoy the view for five seconds, all right?”

Zach grumbled and rubbed at his arm, but to his credit, he did stay quiet for a good five minutes. But then he looked at his watch and said, “Right. It’s one o’clock. By the time we get down, it’ll be beer o’clock. Let’s get a move on.” He slapped Shane on the back and started heading down the hill.

Shane took one more look at the view, then jogged after him. “You know, one day you’re going to get too old for the hair of the dog to work, and that day I’m going to laugh. I’m going to laugh right in your face.”

Zach’s laugh floated up the hill. “Okay, old man. You’ll be waiting a while for that day.”

It took them about an hour to get back to civilisation. They headed to the nearest pub, keen for air conditioning as well as a cold brew and some food. It didn’t seem they were likely to get food and drink though, because when they stepped into the bar area, sighing in relief at the cool air hitting their overheated skin, every person in the place was frozen in place around a wall-mounted TV, staring up at it.

“Looks like something interesting’s happened,” Zach said as he approached the TV.

“Looks like it.” Shane followed him, coming to a stop on the edge of the small crowd and looking up at the TV to see what it was.


THE HOUSE was quiet when Lachie woke. He got up, pulled a pair of tracksuit pants on, and scrubbed a hand through his hair as he shuffled through the house. His mother was nowhere to be seen. There was no note for him on the fridge door like there usually was when he was home and she had gone out for a while, so she couldn’t be too far away. He got himself some cereal and switched the radio on, frowning and switching it from some AM talk show to the FM rock station. He sat at the island to eat, humming along to the music as he ate and drank his coffee, closing his eyes and sighing as the caffeine spread through his system.

He barely heard it over the music at first, a distant, ominous rumble that got louder over half a minute. He noticed it properly a second before the house began to shake; at first there was a sickening roll, then a side-to-side lurch that almost toppled Lachie from his seat. He ducked as things began to fall off shelves, and scrambled for the doorway when cupboard doors started slamming open, dishes and cups falling out onto the floor, smashing and flinging shards everywhere. The power went out as Lachie grabbed the doorjamb to steady himself. The music stopped immediately. The movement of the house died almost as quickly, but Lachie stood still, his heart beating a million miles an hour as he clung to the doorway, his legs like jelly. Since the first earthquake the previous September, Christchurch had had hundreds of aftershocks, so many that even Lachie, who didn’t even live there most of the time, had lost count of how many he’d felt. But no matter how many earthquakes he’d been through, he never got used to them, and fuck, that had been a big one. The kitchen was a mess of broken crockery and glass lying in pools of milk, coffee, and juice, dotted here and there with soggy cereal. Outside, a car alarm started wailing, and people began calling out to each other, sounding shaken, but not panicked. That made him feel a bit better; if people who had experienced many more earthquakes than him weren’t panicking, then there mustn’t be a reason to. Lachie closed his eyes for a minute, taking some deep breaths to calm his fluttering heart. There was bound to be an aftershock, but he wasn’t about to hang around and wait for the house to fall down around his ears. He retrieved his phone from the bedroom and sent a quick text to his mother, not really expecting an answer; after the last big quake, the phone network had crashed pretty much straight away, and had stayed that way for hours, but it was worth a try for his peace of mind, at least. He then picked his way across the lounge room, stepping carefully around the books and CDs that littered the floor amongst the smashed frames of family photos. Stepping into the jandals he’d left at the door the day before, he tugged the front door open and went outside to see if anyone needed help.

Like last time, even houses in the same street had been affected differently. Some, like Lachie’s house, had no visible structural or land damage, but in others, huge cracks had appeared in the walls, trees had fallen down, retaining walls had crumbled. In some places, there was liquefaction, where the ground had just turned to mush, puddles of liquefied earth bubbling up through cracks in the grass and road surface. Down the end of the street, water poured out of the ground: a burst water pipe. Lachie was just glad it wasn’t the sewerage pipe.

The neighbours all pitched in to help each other, clearing things away, shovelling earth and broken bricks, banding together to shift falling trees. Propping each other up through the aftershocks. As time went on, information started to trickle in about the quake from people who had tuned in to the newscast on whatever they had that would run on batteries. It had been a six-point-three-magnitude quake, and it had caused a lot of damage in the CBD. Buildings had collapsed, people had been hurt. People were abandoning their cars in the street, and the Prime Minister had asked people to leave the central city. There were people trapped, they said. Some had died. The fatality count changed every time someone said it. Hearing that, Lachie’s stomach twisted, and he started calling his mother and father, alternating the calls every ten minutes. As he’d known it would be, the network was overloaded, and nothing would connect. He sent a text to his sister, Ngaire, hoping that at least would get through, but he heard nothing. And there was no reply from his mother from earlier, either. He tried to ignore the churning anxiety in his belly and got back to work. It would be all right. He’d hear from them soon.


LACHIE WAS just helping the woman across the road with a huge tree branch that had fallen onto the windscreen of her car when his mother came around the corner, huffing and puffing and with supermarket bags in each hand.

“Mum!” Lachie ran up and took the bags out of her hands. “What happened to you? I’ve been trying to call you. Where’s the car?”

She stopped, leaning over a little to catch her breath. “An earthquake happened, love. Don’t tell me you slept through it.”

He laughed, the sound short and sharp, but still filled with the relief he felt over the fact that she was okay. That she didn’t seem upset or worried settled his nerves even more. “Yes, Mum, I know there was an earthquake. The house is a huge mess. There wasn’t any way I could have slept through that. I meant, why aren’t you driving? Is the car wrecked?”

She shook her head. “No, it’s just a few streets away. There’s so much liquefaction up the road. I got to a point where I couldn’t get any further.”

“Okay, well, we’ll sort the car out later.” He started to nudge her towards the house. “Are you okay though?”

She nodded. “I’m fine, love, I was in the supermarket car park when it happened, away from anything that could fall on me. Ngaire texted me. She and Ken are fine; the teachers are keeping them at school until they can be collected. Are you okay?” She looked him up and down. “You didn’t get hit with anything? Were you still in bed?”

“No, although I’d probably have been in less danger that way.” He transferred all the bags to one hand so he could open the door. “There’s a lot of crap all over the floor. I haven’t had time to clean it up yet, sorry. So watch where you walk. Don’t take your shoes off.” He looked in the bags. “The power’s out. I hope you don’t have much fridge stuff in here.”

“There’s packs of ice in the deep freeze in the garage, we’ll fill up some chilly bins, hey?” She tutted when she saw the state of the lounge room. “Oh love, would you look at this mess.” She clucked her tongue a bit more, staring around at all the books on the floor.

“The kitchen’s worse. A lot of things broke. And there’s food on the floor.” Lachie stepped carefully across the lounge room and put the bags down near the kitchen door. “I’ll clean it up.”

“Not with jandals on, you won’t,” his mother said. “Why don’t you go get the ice first, and we’ll set up the chilly bins. Then you can put some proper shoes on.”

“Okay.” He paused. “I heard that people have been hurt in town. Have you heard from Dad?”

His mother shook her head, reaching out to squeeze his hand. “Not yet, love. But the phones are only working on and off. It’s always impossible to get through straight after a quake. Remember last time?” Last time, they hadn’t heard from his father for a couple of hours. Lachie nodded. “I’m sure he’s fine. He’ll contact us when he can. I’ll try to call him when I get back from getting the kids, hey?”

“I’ll go get them.” Lachie headed for the front door. “You just . . .” Put the kettle on, he was going to say. But not without power. And no water either, until the pipe down the road was fixed. But this wasn’t their first rodeo earthquake-wise, and he knew there was a shit load of supplies in the garage. “I’ll get the camping stove and water out too while I’m at it, hey? And some fresh batteries for the radio. You can call Dad while I’m out.”

He could hear the smile in his mother’s voice as she stood in the middle of the lounge room, bending down to pick up some things off the floor. “Okay, love. We’ll get there, one step at a time.” Just before he stepped through the door, she tutted to herself again, saying softly, “Well, that’ll need a new frame then, won’t it?”

He smiled and went out to the garage to get everything organised.


Cutting Out is available in e-book and print from all major sellers. Details for Cutting Out, including sellers' links, are at:

Bottom Drawer Publications

Also available at:

Amazon

Apple

B&N

Kobo


Find Meredith Shayne at:

www.meredithshayne.com



Saturday, 28 May 2016

Cover Reveal - Igniting the Spark

Here it is . . . the cover for the much anticipated fourth book in the Daughter of Fire Series, Igniting the Spark, by Michelle Irwin, due for release on 30 June 2016.




Summary

Death beckons, calling Evie Myers to the darkness. She isn’t ready to leave, and Clay isn’t ready to let her go.
After fighting back from the brink, Evie’s life is forever altered. Together with Clay, she finds a home and sanctuary within the fae community. Everything has changed, and life is perfect. Or so they believe. 
They soon learn their trip into the heart of the Rain kicked off a revolution, and Clay is called back into the fold. But when Evie needs Clay the most, one mission will risk it all.
When her happy ending hangs in the balance, and everything looks lost, how will Evie find the strength to fight for what she wants the most?

Add on Goodreads:

The book will be available for preorder from

16 June 2016

. . . stay tuned for details.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

#samplesunday - THE GROOM

It's #samplesunday again.

And a great opportunity for you to get a look at our books. Make sure to follow us on Twitter to get notice of when: @bottomdrawerpub

Today we we're checking out The Groom from Elise Marion. 





When Lyle Cummings is left standing at the altar on his wedding day, all of his carefully composed plans for the future come crashing down around him. The pragmatic doctor is left questioning his well-ordered existence and wondering if there isn't more to life than the achievements of wealth and career.

When he meets Katrina Giordano, a fiery lounge singer with more passion in her pinky finger than he possesses in his entire body, his mundane life is turned upside down. In Katrina, he finds everything his life has been lacking. With her, he will learn that what he thought was love really wasn't at all.

But will Katrina's dark past threaten the happiness that Lyle has found after so much heartache? With her life, and now his, hanging in the balance, Lyle will find himself tested when it comes to how far he will go for love. 


Please enjoy this sample chapter from the book . . . 


CHAPTER THREE

LYLE WAS SNATCHED abruptly out of sleep by the blaring of his cell phone. The irritating chirp combined with the vibrations coming from his pocket, making it impossible for him to slide back into the alcohol-induced slumber he’d finally succumbed to a few hours ago. Scraping his fingernails over the rough stubble lining his jaw, he reached for his cell phone with his free hand and glared at the screen through blurry eyes.

He didn’t say a word as he pressed the green call button and held the phone to his ear, but he was sure a grunt of some kind passed from between his lips. The voice of Dan, his co-worker, best friend, and best man, filled his ear and echoed through his pounding head.

“Climb out of whatever liquor bottle you’ve sunk to the bottom of and answer the damn door. I’ve been down here buzzing you for the last fifteen minutes.”

Lyle groaned and ended the call, tossing his phone onto the couch beside him. He didn’t want to see or talk to anyone, but he also knew Dan wouldn’t leave until he let him up. Fighting nausea and the urge to fall back onto the couch and sleep until the end of the year, Lyle peeled himself off the leather and shuffled on bare feet through the house. He buzzed Dan up, barking “I’ll be in the shower” through the intercom before continuing on his dizzying voyage to the master bedroom, unlocking the front door on his way to let Dan in.

He was too hung over to give a damn about rose petals on the bed this morning and managed to getinto the bathroom and his marble-tiled walk-in shower without melting into a puddle of depression on the floor. The hot sting of the shower woke him up some, and he welcomed the pain of nearly scalding water. It turned his skin red and filled the shower with steam, relaxing his muscles until he felt nearly weightless. He faintly heard Dan enter the apartment, the slamming of the front door, and the gentle hum of voices. One of them was feminine, and Lyle distinctly recognized the Southern tones of Twila, his housekeeper. She was supposed to have the next week off for obvious reasons, but Lyle should have known she’d show up today.

Meddlesome woman.

He took his time, avoidance his strategy for as long as he could get away with it. After a while, he knew Twila would come running in to be sure he hadn’t passed out in the shower and drowned—that woman watched way too many horror films—so he quickly dried and threw on a pair of dry-cleaned khakis and an already starched white shirt, sliding on socks and loafers before combing his wet hair back from his face and leaving the room.

Twila had already brewed a pot of coffee and was across the room in a flash, a white ceramic mug extended and full of her strong, potent brew. Dan was seated at the long, curved bar jutting away from the kitchen, his own cup and a plate of Twila’s scrambled eggs in front of him.

“Good morning,” Twila chirped cheerily. Lyle glared at her over the cup but took a sip of the coffee—no need to let it go to waste.

“You’re not supposed to be here,” Lyle said eventually, his voice low and raspy.

Twila bustled back over to the stove, piling a plate with bacon, toast, eggs and a mixture of cantaloupe and honeydew melon. She set the plate on the bar and pulled a stool out for Lyle.

“Well, I am here, so you’re just going to have to deal with it,” she said in that abrasive way of hers. 
Usually Lyle appreciated her frankness and in-your-face personality. Today, he wasn’t in the mood.

He speared Dan with his sharp gaze, his hand once again finding the five o’clock shadow on his face. The stubble irritated him, but he didn’t feel like shaving.

“What about you?” he asked. “What the hell do you want?”

Before Dan could even answer, Lyle already knew. Dan was wearing his “lucky” plaid pants and golf shoes.

“Thought we could play a few rounds at the club today.”

“Okay, stop it, both of you.” He couldn’t help the edge in his voice; it was just kind of there.

“Stop what? Eat your eggs.”

Lyle cut his eyes toward Twila. “I don’t want eggs.”

“Then drink your coffee.”

Already mid-sip, Lyle shot both intruders another defiant stare over his mug. He didn’t want them here. He didn’t want anyone here. He definitely didn’t want to talk about . . .

“Has she called?” Twila asked as she moved toward the dishwasher, unloading Lyle’s meager dishes from the day before and replacing them with her used pans.

Lyle snatched his gaze away from the dark colored contents of his mug. “Did who call?” He’d hoped his voice would have enough warning in it that she would take the hint. No such luck.

“Holly. You think she’d at least call to apologize or—”

Twila yelped in surprise, and Dan leaped about a mile in the air as a white ceramic plate made contact with the ecru wall. Scrambled eggs joined the d├ęcor, a sunburst of yellow against the neutral tone. Bacon grease dripped down the wall in slow motion, traveling in rivulets toward the broken bits of plate spread out over the tiles.

“Get out, both of you,” he said calmly.

Dan, who looked as if he was about ready to haul Lyle off to the nearest psych ward, traded nervous glances with Twila, who had already lifted her broom and dustpan and was headed toward the mess staining the walls and floor.

“Stop!” Lyle barked. “Stop cleaning. Stop cooking and stop asking me questions about her. Stop asking me to go play golf and stop calling me. And for God’s sake—I don’t think I’m asking for too much here—get the hell out and leave me alone!”

Without waiting for either of them to answer or make a move, Lyle turned and fled, retreating back to his office and away from wide-eyed stares and the stench of pity. By the time he’d lowered himself into the plush, leather chair behind his desk, he heard the slam of the front door and knew that he was alone. Sagging against the back of the chair with relief, Lyle booted up his computer, cringing in emotional pain that seemed to translate itself into the physical as Holly’s face filled the screen. The photo was a candid shot someone had snapped of them at a holiday mixer for the surgical staff at Mount Sinai Medical Center last December. In it, they appeared the quintessential couple; Lyle in his bow tie and tux, Holly in a sexy but demure red cocktail dress.

In the photo, Lyle had one arm around Holly, pulling her back against his front. His eyes were on her, full of adoration and pride at the beauty of the woman on his arm. Maybe he’d been about to lean in for a kiss, he couldn’t quite remember. Holly’s attention was focused elsewhere, her gaze just beyond the camera, her red lips parted in a smile. As his computer finished booting, he couldn’t help leaning forward to study the picture, his elbows propped on the desk, his chin resting on his hands.

Looking at the photo now, he couldn’t help but think of the irony of his current situation. Had he really been blind enough to think Holly actually loved him? The old saying went, that a picture was worth a thousand words; in this case the photo on his desktop was speaking volumes. Throughout their year-long relationship, Lyle had been entirely devoted to her and, just like in this picture, focused completely on her. It never dawned on him to second-guess her words of love. Now he realized that Holly’s eyes had never been fixed on him, and her love had never been equal to his. Like a fool, he’d believed that marriage would solidify them, that if he showered her with all the adoration, money, gifts, and security—everything that he thought a woman would want—she would eventually come to feel as passionately about him as he did her.

It just hadn’t been enough. Even on what should have been the most important and profound day of his life, it hadn’t been enough.

Deciding that he’d suffered more than any man had a right to, Lyle went through the motions of changing the desktop picture to something more generic. White clouds against a blue sky splashed across the screen, and he was finally able to get down to the business of checking his email. In his inbox, he found about fifteen messages from friends and family members, people he hardly ever heard from. Subject lines such as “my condolences” and “hang in there” filled his computer screen, flooding Lyle’s gut with cold, heavy stones of disgust. He deleted each one without opening them, deciding that he’d had more than enough pity for one day already and it wasn’t even ten a.m. yet.

That done, he shot an email to the Chief of Surgery at Mount Sinai and told his boss that he’d be back to work in the morning. He neglected to include that his right hand was still swollen and bruised and that performing surgery was out of the question for now, but decided to deal with that later. There were plenty of things to do without going into the operating room, and Lyle intended to bury himself in even the most menial of tasks to keep from having to think about anything else.

_____

He was back again. Katrina noticed him the moment he stepped into Parson’s, his dirty-blond head towering above most of the men in the room. He wasn’t the kind of guy who would catch her eye ordinarily. He was obviously a working stiff, the type to clash with her free-spirited personality. It wasn’t just the starched khakis or the Oxfords that gave it away; it was something in his posture, in his carriage that suggested it. If she had to guess, she’d peg him as some kind of high-powered attorney or stockbroker.

Definitely not the kind of guy she’d normally pay attention to.

And yet there was something else that caught her gaze and kept it, a deep and obvious trauma that showed itself in his eyes. Intertwined in the swirling green and brown tones of his irises, Katrina found the barely-hidden emotion and recognized it for what it was. Agony.

Angie breezed past her with a full tray of empty beer mugs, pausing as she followed Katrina’s gaze toward the bar.

“Oh,” she said, surprised. “Sad Guy’s back.”

“Sad Guy?”

Angie shrugged, shifting the tray of mugs to balance them expertly with one hand. “Well, I don’t know his real name, but that’s what I’m going to call him. It definitely fits. Came in here yesterday wearing a penguin suit but looking like he’d just left the boxing ring.”

Angie moved on through the crowd, weaving her way back to the kitchen, reappearing a few seconds later with a set of clean mugs. Sad Guy was now seated at the bar, and Angie made a beeline for him, giving him what Katrina liked to call the “bartender’s smile.” Full of concern, understanding, and charm, the “bartender’s smile” hooked bar drinkers every time. The two chatted casually for a while, and Angie inspected his knuckles before nodding in approval. Katrina overheard a few snatches of conversation in which Angie offered him a free single malt scotch on the rocks before moving back behind the bar to make the drink. Sad Guy accepted it, and Angie went on about her work.

Katrina glanced at her watch and realized that it was almost time for her to go on. For some reason, she could feel the eyes of Sad Guy on her back as she moved up the four steps to the small stage. It was ridiculous, really. Parson’s was full, and most everyone was watching her take her place, some of the regulars already applauding in anticipation of her performance. It wasn’t that his gaze was lascivious either. There were plenty of men in the bar, most of whom had hit on her at least once and a few very persistent stalkers that Jake had been forced to bodily remove from the premises once or twice. Something about this gaze was different, and as she lifted her guitar from its case, took her place on the high stool, and flicked on her microphone, she changed her mind about the first number she would sing.

“Good evening, everyone,” she said, immediately met with catcalls, whistles, and applause. She laughed, a deep, throaty sound that she knew made her seem mysterious. She lowered her head as she strummed absently on the guitar, knowing that the curtain of curls falling over one eye added to the mystery. With the dim lighting of the lounge she was veiled, her own pain masked in seduction and promise. It was what kept her regulars coming back, what drew people to her. She knew it and understood how to work the crowd. She did it now without thinking . . . she’d been rehearsing her act for years. Yet something about this night was different. This time, as she leaned toward the mic, her lips almost touching it, she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the hazel ones boring into hers from across the room.

“As you know I like to start with a more upbeat number, but tonight I’m going to do things a bit differently,” she said as she strummed. “I’m going to sing a song by one of my favorite artists. She’s not very well known, but her music moves me. I hope it moves you too. The song is “Your Eyes” by Amel Larrieux.”

The words came from her mouth as she played, capturing the audience with the very first note.

Your eyes greeted mine and whispered
Softly, slowly a secret only for me.

Katrina sang the words, swaying from side to side on her stool, her fingers moving skillfully over the strings, plucking out the chords she had practiced over and over after learning the song by ear, having never learned to read sheet music.

Your eyes took their sweet time silently penetrating mine,

All the while, her eyes remained locked on the source of her inspiration, the hazel and green orbs that had caused her to change the direction of her entire set.

Spoke to me, slowly
Just to me.

The words stayed with her through the night, long after she’d finished singing, long after she’d collected her tips and closed her guitar case, long after Parson’s had emptied for the night and she’d hailed a cab home.

Even as she lay in bed that night, she couldn’t forget the image of the only pair of eyes she’d ever seen that were as pain-filled as her own.



Special promotional price until the end of May 2016, only:

99c



The Groom is available in e-book and print from all major sellers. Details for The Groom, including sellers' links, are at:

Bottom Drawer Publications

Also available at:

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Find Elise Marion at:






Also by Elise Marion:

My Ex-Wife's Wedding





“If anyone here has any reasons as to why Holly and Lyle should not be joined in Holy Matrimony, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.”
Does anyone ever speak up?  Has a bride or groom ever hoped for someone to say something so that they don’t have to?  All of this, and more, is flashing though Holly’s mind as she’s standing at the altar with her soon-to-be-husband, Lyle. He’s good-looking, kind, dependable and he loves her. What more could a woman want?

Available for FREE download:

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Inaugural #WritingTips Post



“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway


Scene Setting – Part 1 – Talking Heads



Hello, and welcome to our first blog feature providing writing and editing tips. Today we're going to be talking about something we see quite frequently while editing—“talking heads.” Talking heads takes place in a manuscript when there is a great conversation going on, usually a long conversation or scene, where there is no setting or actions for what is happening around the characters. Sometimes it’s not obvious straight up as the dialogue is riveting, but then the reader starts to wonder things: Where are they? Are they just standing there and not moving while they are talking?

Example:

Eve slapped his face, hard, and then took off. Adam needed to talk to her about what happened. Letting her go was not an option.

“Hey, Eve,” he shouted. “Slow down, baby, I just need you to listen to me.”

Eve’s steps faltered, and his heart soared that she might let him make it up to her.

“I don’t want to talk to you.”

Eve was crying hard when he found her. Adam’s heart wrenched at the sight, knowing he’d caused her pain.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it when I said that your bottom looked big in that leaf.”


Let’s identify the problems in this short scene:

1.     Where is this scene taking place, and what does it look like?
2.     Where did Eve go?
3.     How did Adam get to her?
4.     What were their bodies doing during the scene, or were their hands by their sides the whole time after the initial slap?


Setting the scene:

Eve slapped his face, hard, and then took off from their encampment. Adam chased after her, surprised at how fast she was running. He needed to talk to her about what happened. Letting her go was not an option. The Garden of Eden was overgrown, though, lush with all manner of flowering shrubs and long grass, and he soon lost sight of her among the dense foliage.

“Hey, Eve,” he shouted. “Slow down, baby, I just need you to listen to me.”

Eve’s steps faltered, and his heart soared that she might let him make it up to her.

“I don’t want to talk to you.” Eve’s voice filtered back at him from the wall of green, still out of sight.

Adam put on a burst of speed, and as he rounded the large willow tree on the banks of the stream that ran through the garden, he caught sight of her. She was sitting on a log on the very edge of the garden; her head was bowed down, and she was sobbing into her hands. His heart wrenched at the sight, knowing he’d caused her pain.

He slowed down as he trod over the uneven ground that separated them and then knelt in front of her, taking her hands in his. She tried to pull away, but he held her fingers a little tighter.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it when I said that your bottom looked big in that leaf.”


As shown in the example solution above, it’s not necessary to laboriously detail the surroundings as if you are describing them for a travel program. For example:

The Garden of Eden was the home of Adam and Eve. The first thing to greet you on entering the Garden of Eden was the flowering Ash. It was a tall tree with lots of branches and flowering foliage. As you moved through the garden there were low and high bushes that sometimes flowered in springtime. Next was the middle of the garden . . .


When setting the scene, incorporate what you can naturally in the narrative or dialogue rather than provide a breakdown of what a character sees. In the example, the location is set by where Eve ran from (the encampment) and then more detail by way of why Adam lost sight of Eve so quickly (the G of E was overgrown and lush with foliage). Adam & Eve’s movements are added naturally (Eve runs, Adam chases her and finds her sitting on a log with her head in her hands, which he then takes into his hands to plead his case).

Adam and Eve are no longer talking heads.




Look out for a future writing tip: Setting the Scene – Part 2 – Floating objects.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

2016 RONE Awards - VALAMINE

Jane Stoker's medieval fantasy Valamine has been nominated for a 2016 RONE Award at InD'tale Magazine. If you loved Valamine like we did, make sure to vote and get this book moved on to the next round in the Fantasy/SciFi category.

Vote here:



“Valamine” begins with extraordinary action that leaps right off of the page! The opening battle sequence is the stuff of nightmares and draws the reader into a frightening world of beasts and blood. —InD'tale Magazine


Remember this beautiful cover . . .



And here's an excerpt to remind everyone what all the fuss is about . . .

VALAMINE STRETCHED. The ache between her legs was a sweet kind of pain. She curled up next to Nyle and watched rays of early morning light filter through the drapes and cast shapes on the floor. So many things were racing through her mind that sleep had become impossible. Nyle had no such qualms, and after their third, rather more gentle bout of lovemaking, he’d drifted off. He was currently uttering small grunting snores, much to Valamine’s amusement.

In the soft light, he looked like a different man to the fierce warrior she’d grown to know. The lines and angles of his face were less pronounced, the furrows in his brow, an almost constant feature, relaxed. He looked younger than she’d ever seen him, kind of like she expected he’d looked as a boy. If he had a son, would he look like this? She brought herself up sharply at the notion and reminded herself that there were some herbal preparations she would need to take in the next few hours to prevent a pregnancy. Valamine thought back to their energetic antics of the past few hours. She should probably double the dose, just to be sure.

She watched the warrior sleep. He was handsome and stoic, and she respected him. He made her laugh, when he wasn’t making her crazy, and he was the most honourable man she had ever met. But she couldn’t allow herself to look deeper into her feelings. She couldn’t allow herself to start imagining a future life, or a family. Even if they were able to convince the Glamorians of the need to help and save the Shaman lands, they were from different cultures, different castes. She would not fit in his world the same as he wouldn’t fit into hers. She would see how far this could go, take her pleasure while she could—she owed herself that much. But she must prepare herself for the inevitable. That they would, one day soon, walk their paths separately.


Valamine shuddered at the idea and snuggled closer to Nyle. Despite her concerns she felt safer and happier than she had in a long time. I don’t care, she thought to herself, I don’t care if this is only for a short while, only a way to cope with the horror of what’s happening. I have this now. The warrior mumbled in his sleep and wrapped one muscular arm around her, pulling her into his side. Valamine drifted off to sleep.

* * *

You can read the entire 4 1/2 star review Valamine received from InD'tale Magazine here:



For more information about Valamine and links to purchase, visit:



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