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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Advice to a Young or New Writer by Janice Seagraves

Hi, my name is Janice Seagraves.

This is my advice to writers just starting out.

First of all you need to finish your story. Don't call it a book. It's not a book yet. Until it’s finished, it's a work in progress, or what we call a WIP.

Nifty huh?

We have all kinds of lingo in the industry, and if you want to be a writer you'll need to learn all of them.

When you finish your story then you can call it a manuscript. If you have your manuscript edited and polished until it shines, crafted the perfect query letter-blurb-synopsis and send it to a publisher/editor who is in the right mood, he/she might offer you a contract for it, but it’s still a manuscript.

Then after all the contracts have been signed and after the edits are all done . . . finally it’s a book. Or an ebook, but it’s still a book.

Okay? Still with me.

Here's the next thing and it hard to hear, but don't show your WIP to anyone right now. It's not finished, or you might not have developed your voice yet.

That takes time.

But you have time, right?

I don't mean to discourage anyone, but it took me ten years of working toward publication to finally see one of manuscripts turned into a book. But hey, I was going to be ten years older anyway, right? And it may take you a shorter period of time than it did me. You never know. *shrug*

Here's what you’re going to have to do to help develop your voice and your story telling ability, which will turn you into a writer: (BTW, if your writing a blog, you are a writer. )

First: take some classes. If you can't afford to take a night class or go back to college, don't get discouraged. You can take them online. Or: take a workshop: a workshop is similar to a class, but it's of a shorter duration. And you can take it online in the comfort of your own home. I like taking workshops because they're much cheaper than a class at your local college, but in some cases more intensive. There are some groups or websites which offer free workshops, like Romance Divas which is also free to join. Or Savvy authors that cost the last time I check about $30.00 a year, but joining cuts the price of the workshop classes down a lot or sometimes to free.

The best thing that happened to me was joining some yahoo groups. Sure there are a lot of groups that are just for promo, but there are some that can really help you learn a lot about the publishing industry. You'll have to really seek these out, but it’s well worth it. Most are free to join and the lessons there are invaluable. You can also check on Facebook.

If you want someone to help with your work, you can join a critique group. I'm on Roses critique group, and the Romance Critique Group or you can take an editing class.

You'll also need to decide what genre you’re going to write in. There are many to chose from: contemporary, science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. And all of these can be a sub-genre of romance if that is what you’re interested in.

Once you know what genre you want to write in, you'll need to read it and study it. You'll need to know the market and how to promote it too. Your blog can also be your platform, which will help you build an audience, which in turn will help to sell your published books.

But if you decide to write romance, then you'll need to have a have a happily-ever-after (HEA) ending or at least a happy-for-now (HFN). Life could go smash-bang at any time, but readers will want their fantasy ending. Give it to them.

Remember to take your time. Don't be in a hurry to send off your manuscript. Make sure it's as finally polished as possible.

If you want to write well--make every word count.

After all Hemingway didn't do it over night and neither did Stephen King, Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Laura K. Hamilton, Jim Butcher, or Kim Harrison.

Or me. *smile*

But to be successful as any of these people, you'll have write a lot, read a lot, be dedicated to your craft and have a lot of luck.

And all these people have one thing in common---they were all once an unknown writer with a dream, just like you.

Good luck and keep writing.

Matrix Crystal Series

Blurb: Team Alpha Three’s spaceship is out of power after fighting a wormhole, and parked on the primitive world of Zenevieva. With half the team sick from radiation poisoning, the team commander entrust geologist, Maya Gladstone, to find enough matrix crystals to power up their spacecraft, so they can go home to Earth.
Vach Namaste of the powerful Clan Namaste, a native of the planet, has desire the lovely Maya since she stepped off the spaceship on that astonishing day a year ago. He’s hounded her every step since. As Hymeneal Night approaches, he makes plans to take her as his bride… willing or not.
Excerpt: As promised, Maya bought another cheap tote so she wouldn’t damage her prize. Then she worked her way through the bazaar, buying supplies for the next day’s trip. As she went from tent to tent, hunting down the few veggies, fruit and other types of food that she could digest, she caught glimpses of the Zeeman following her. She tensed. What does he want with me?
She stalked completely round one of the tents to come face to face with him. Now’s my chance. “Why are you following me?”
“What? I don’t know what you mean.” He took a step back.
Maya grabbed a fistful of his dark brown robes. “Yes, you do. You’ve been dogging my steps from moment I set foot on your planet.” She suddenly noticed that the young man was bigger than she’d thought. His chest was deep and his shoulders broad. His arms were larger than Bobby’s and he worked out. And here I am, holding him by his clothes.
He stared at her hand. “I like you and want to get to know you. If you were one of my people, I would woo you.”
She realized his robe wasn’t made from the rough, homespun fabric used by the common Zeeman. Is he a clan lord?  Maya loosened her grip on the silky material. “Who are you?”
He moved back and swept his arm down in an elaborate bow. “My name is Vach Namaste of the Namaste clan. It would please me if you remembered it.”
With a flutter of his robes, he hurried away, weaving through the crowd. It wasn’t until he had disappeared that Maya realized that he’d been speaking to her in English.
Vach finally reached the edge of the bazaar, where he had tied up his steed. He patted its thick neck. “Hey, Brawley.”
His mount woke up with a snort, then lipped at his hand, demanding a treat. It was still standing in the same place that he left it and no one had bothered it. No one would dare touch a sherakey, not even this sleepy fellow. Reaching into a pouch, Vach dug out a sweet lump for his mount. Giving him the treat, Vach turned to see if the human female had followed.
She hadn’t.
He felt disappointed. But she wasn’t of his race and didn’t understand the proper way to act. If she wanted him to woo her, she should have followed him. If she didn’t, then she should have knocked him on his well-bred butt, just like the human guard had suggested.
Vach had wanted this human female since he saw her step out of the spaceship on that astonishing day a year ago. Her blue eyes drew him closer. Her long, red hair made him want to run his fingers through it. Her curves sent flames of desire flickering through his body. He’d taken to coming into town regularly to stroll by the compound, just to see if she would be there. Today had been one of those rare good days when she was there to follow. He learned a little more about her each time. Now he knew she wanted to find something. If he knew what it was, maybe he could find it for her.
Climbing up on the saddle, Vach clicked his tongue and his mount started down the dusty road toward the Namaste bachelor compound. He contemplated his plan for Hymeneal Night. Vach already knew from eavesdropping at the map seller’s tent that Maya would be out on the desert, all alone.
And then he’d get his chance to have her.
My Christmas book is available in paperback for the first time.
Matrix Crystal Christmas is made up of two short stories. I wrote this collection for the fans of my novel, Matrix Crystal Hunters.
In Crystal Flower Christmas: Vach and Maya are on a mission to undam the Laonooco River for the drought stricken region. As heartache fractures their marriage, will the gift of a crystal flower mend their relationship or break it beyond repair?
In Crystal Clear Christmas: Plague has struck the village of Zama and the citizens blame the only human left on Zenevieva, Maya. Will Vach make the ultimate sacrifice to save his wife?
Excerpt from Crystal Flower Christmas:
After she rolled up the futon, Vach walked in, picked it up and took it out. The sexy way he smiled at her reminded her of how they’d met five years ago on a trip to a dig site, looking for matrix crystals on Hymeneal Night.
She’d desired him then. After they married, she’d longed to have babies with him and now look at the result. They’d lost their one and only child.
It’s my fault. If I had accepted what had been given to me and not wanted it all, perfect husband and children, we wouldn’t be suffering now.
After pulling on her coat and a tugging knit cap over her head, Maya dragged herself out of the tent. Vach brought her breakfast a flat bread sandwich made with tama cheese and lightly fried winter veggies. She nodded her thanks and took the food, then sat by the fire and stared into it.
Vach knelt down to look at her. “What happened? You were fine just a little while ago, and now you’re not.”
She pulled away and shook her head. “Never mind. It’s not important.” She gazed into the fire. “Nothing important.”
“What’s wrong?” Xeno asked.
Vach stood. “I don’t know.”
After breakfast, the tents were struck down and the snags loaded up. Vach pulled a winter riding cloak around Maya, and then directed her to a rock so she could mount Brawley. She was glad that the aging sherakey would follow the other animals and all she’d have to do was sit in the saddle.
Once she was astride her mount, her husband checked the stirrups like he always did. He stopped and looked up at her. “I have something to give you that I was saving for
Winter Solstice or your Earth Christmas.”
He took out a wrapped item out of Zareth’s saddle bag and brought it to her. He pressed the gift into her hand. Something about the feel of the present seemed familiar.
She unwrapped the gift. It was one of her missing crystal flowers. She tightened her jaw and glared at him. “It was you!”
“Yes, it was.” He smirked at her and ran to get on his mount.
She took the reins and kicked Brawley so she could get closer to Vach. “You’re the one who’s been stealing the flowers I made?”
“Yes.” He gave her another one of his smug smiles. Vach urged Zareth into a canter, leaving her and Brawley in the dust.
“It took hours to make those flowers, you jerk!” Maya shoved the flower in her coat pocket, then dug her heels into her steed’s sides and took off after him. “Move it, Brawley. I know you can go faster than this.”
“Hey, wait! Where are you two going?” Xeno yelled from behind them.
Maya chased her jackass of a husband all day. Every time she got close to him, he’d smile back at her in that insufferable way. “So, what are you going to do about it?” he said each time.
Then he’d leave her in the dust again.
For the kindle:
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On Smashwords:
This book is about Vach and Maya’s son River, and it is called Matrix Crystal River.
My first two books in the series are now only 0.99 cents. The latest in my series is $2.99, so you can literally buy my entire series for less than $5.00.
After twenty-five years, the Earthlings were back. River Namaste swears he’ll never help the humans find matrix crystals, until he meets, Winona Miracle, Team Alpha Six’s geologist. Shy and vulnerable, the black haired, dark eyed beauty is all he wants.
But is she ready to put aside her goals for him?
At a rest area, Winona was left behind with River and Ori. She prayed that no one would wander into the spot while they were there. The men fed the animals and waited.
Walking around the area, she tried to get the kinks out of her legs. The woodlands looked different than the conifer forest back home. The leaves were mostly in burgundy and bright greens. She picked up a white-and-pink stone and turned it over in her hands. Quartz with some thick, dark silver veining. If I had a smelting setup, I could produce silver.
“Winona,” River called softly.
She went to him. “Yes, what is it?”
“You seem nervous.”
“Well, of course I am.” She glanced around. “Did you see the dirty looks we got from that fishing village?”
“You needn’t worry. I’ll watch out for you.”
“Gee, thanks. And who will protect you?”
He laughed. “I don’t need anyone to keep me safe.”
“Oh, sure. No one will attack a big hunk of man meat like you.”
“Man meat? What does that mean?” One side of his mouth curled up.
Jeez, why did I say that? She turned to walk away. “Never mind. It’s just an expression.”
He hooked a hand around her arm. “Don’t go.”
His wonderful spicy male scent was almost too much. “River, I—”
He pulled her up against him. Before she knew it, his lips were on hers. Once he swept his tongue into her mouth, she was lost. She slipped an arm behind his head and pressed herself against him.
“River,” called out Ori. “They’re back.”
He abruptly dropped her on her feet and stepped away.
When did I get lifted off the ground? She turned away, wiped her mouth, and pulled up her scarf, trying to hide whatever damage his rough kiss might have caused. God, what a kiss. Her panties were soaking wet.
The Kindle:

Janice Seagraves’s Amazon page:
“Mom.” Rain waved at Maya. “Someone is here to see you.”
“Oh?” With one last swat at her clothes, Maya marched over.
“He says he’s a merchant.” Rain gestured at Steen.
Maya scanned his attire and snorted. “Tell your commander, nice try.”
His stomach dropped. “Huh? What did I do wrong?”
“Whoever coached you was misguided. For one thing, your clothes are the wrong type. Merchants don’t wear rough weave.” Maya rubbed the fabric of his sleeve between her thumb and forefinger. “That’s for peasants. Too fine a weave would be clan, so you’d have to find something in-between.” She stared at his eyes a moment. “Are those contacts?”
He rubbed his eyelids. “Implants. I can tolerate the bright sun with them.”
She gave a nod. “You’ll need it here. Nice touch with the hair, by the way.”
He fingered a braid. “At least I did something right.”
“It’s a little long for so many braids. And the skin tone… Is that a skin dye?” She stared at his face.
“DNA treatments.”
“How about the Zeeman dual belly buttons?”
Steen pulled up his shirt.
“Wow. Which is fake?”
“The top.” He handed her his tote. “I brought a gift for you.”
She cocked her head to the side and sighed. Taking the tote, she nodded toward the house. “Will you come in for some tea?”
“Yes, thank you.” He bowed low, hiding a smile.
Maya led the way up on the porch. He did what she did, removing his shoes, washing his feet in the basin then pulling on a pair of house slippers she handed him.
“Nice. You invoked guest privilege,” Rain said in his ear. “Mother is human but practices the ways of the Zeeman.”
“I know.” He smirked at her.
With a reluctant expression, Maya held the door open for him. “Tea won’t be but a moment.”
“Goddess tea.” He bowed again.
“Of course.” Maya disappeared into the kitchen.
Rain showed him the dining table. “My father and brother probably won’t be as nice as my mom.”
He sat on the richly carved black ironwood chair next to Rain. “You’re an attractive young female. Maybe I should have said I came here to woo you?”
Interest lit her gaze. “And then you’d have to answer a lot of questions from both my parents. We take wooing very seriously here in Zama.”

Matrix Crystal Rebels:
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Saturday, November 24, 2018

Give Thanks for the Simple (sometimes silly) Pleasures

Thanksgiving just passed. I hope you all had a great holiday with friends and family. This time of year, we like to reflect on those things we’re most thankful for. I give thanks for my husband and son, and that we’re all healthy. I’m thankful we have enough food to eat and a roof over our heads. I’m thankful for the road trip to the National Parks out West my husband, son, and I took a few months ago.

However, I thought it would be fun to list other more simple, even silly, things I’m thankful for, those things that give me pleasure, no matter how small. Here’s my list, not in any particular order.

·       The Zombie Apocalypse hasn’t happened yet
·       That first sip of coffee in the morning
·       That first sip of wine with my evening meal
·       Happy Hour at my favorite watering holes
·       Weight Watchers cream cheese slathered on a Thomas’ bagel thin (only 5 WW Smartpoints)
·       Williams-Sonoma Pecan Pumpkin Butter
·       Anything pumpkin
·       Netflix
·       Dark chocolate with rich, red wine

·       Romance novel heroes with their sculpted bodies and lovemaking skills, but most of all their kindness toward others and their willingness to sacrifice for those they love
·       Hallmark Christmas movies
·       Christmas songs
·       Scoring a Kate Spade handbag at a deep, deep discount
·       Scoring anything at a discount
·       Any day the sun shines
·       Girlfriends
·       Books, mine and others I love
·       My cats

·       Mani-pedis
·       Sandals
·       Homemade soup
·       Amazon Prime (although I spend way too much there)

I could go on and on but then I’d never finish this blog. What are your favorite simple pleasures?

Take time from your busy holiday schedules to read a romance. If you like holiday romances, here are a few I think you’ll enjoy.

Like Hallmark movies with sizzle?
A Groom for Christmas (Love On a Dare Book 1)

Fun holiday read.

A GROOM FOR CHRISTMAS is a new twist on the classic Hallmark Christmas movie full of family, humor, love, and a little bit of redemption.

Family pressure just might make her do something crazy...

When a young woman hires her hometown’s former bad boy to be her pretend fiancé for the holidays, she finds she can’t wrap up her feelings as easily as a Christmas gift.

New York jewelry designer Graceann Palmer has two days to find a fiancé to bring home to Pennsylvania for the holidays so her matchmaking mama will quit fixing her up with jerks. The Falcon, a motorcycle-riding, leather-clad former high school crush, helped her out once before. Maybe he'll do it again.

Jake Falco, man of many mysteries, is back in town on a mission—one the people of Spirit Lake most likely won't appreciate. When Graceann presents him with her crazy scheme, it gives him something he's always wanted—a chance to get to know Graceann. It also gives him the perfect opportunity to add fuel to his project of revenge. 

But as Jake and Graceann grow closer, their engagement-of-convenience begins to feel like the real deal—until Jake’s secrets are revealed. 

Can a relationship that began with lies and secrets bloom like a rare Christmas rose into happily-ever-after?

2013 Snow Globes Award Contest Finalist
Winner! 2014 New Jersey Romance Writers Golden Leaf Award
2014 Readers' Choice Nominee, Best Couple, Love Romances Cafe
2014 RomCon Awards Finalist

Wedded On a Dare, Love On a Dare Book 2, coming Spring 2019

Universal link:

Like a few new twists on classic fairy tales?

A Cinderella Christmas

Short. Sweet. Fantasy.

Jessica Gallo no longer believed in fairytales or happy endings. And she certainly didn’t believe she’d find her Prince Charming at Saks Fifth Avenue. Her Fairy Godmother thought differently.

2014 EPIC Award Finalist, Best Short Romance

Her Snow White Christmas (Snow Globe Magic Book 1)

WINNER 2016 EPPIE Award for Best Short Work.

A Christmas snow globe from a mysterious stranger swirls holiday magic for a sophisticated New York woman with a broken heart and a handsome Iraq War vet with a secret.

As a child, Avery Coleman loved Snow White and dreamed of Prince Charming. The adult Avery no longer believes in fairy tales. She’d settle for a handsome prince as ambitious for success as she is. Then an eccentric woman gives Avery a Christmas snow globe, advising her that princes come in many disguises. But when family obligations call Avery from Manhattan back to her small hometown in Vermont, she finds there aren’t many princes to be found in the forest of her family’s Christmas tree lot. At least it’s a vacation from her wicked witch of a boss.

Iraq War veteran Josh Huntsman always did what was expected of him. Believing there had to be more to life than chasing money and prestige, he’d left the corporate world for life in the Army. But his stint in the military cost him more than expected. Back from Iraq, Josh hides his past, volunteering at the homeless shelter and working at a Christmas tree lot. He isn’t ready to rejoin the rat race, and definitely has no use for a bright-lights-big-city girl like the ambitious fiancée who dumped him.

Leaving New York to spend the holidays selling Christmas trees in Vermont might sound magical to some, but for Avery, it’s a return to the place she worked hard to escape. But it’s Christmas and magic swirls in the air like glitter in a snow globe. And a single kiss might awaken a lifetime of happily ever after.

Universal link:

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

With the days getting shorter and even here in SoCal, cooler, it is almost time for Thanksgiving Day. this pic is of our table last year, before we all sat down. We don't all get together every year and there will be six of us on the actual day, but next weekend we'll have a lot more for a barbecue up in the mountains.

There's still a lot to do to get ready. Pies and cranberry sauce. I always make my great-grandmother's homemade bread. Then all the dishes that make it Thanksgiving whether there are six or thirty of us. Rutabegas (I think it's the Irish in us) and potatoes and stuffing and turkey and gravy and stuffed celery and two kinds of olives. Three kinds of cranberry... And we have a ham.

I know how fortunate we are to have so many good things to eat and so many people to love. I'm grateful to have my mom after a couple of scary illnesses. My stepdad who always is there to help us no matter what. My brothers and sisters in law, nieces and nephews. My friends and neighbors--I still live in the neighborhood I grew up in during the Dark Ages about six hundred years ago ;). Or sometimes it just seems that long!

But also a new family I never dreamed I'd be lucky enough to have. As a little girl growing up in the house right next door, I wished to be an author. I have a few of my single page early attempts. And when I finally did get published, I was elated. I'm very grateful to be an author and an editor and a publisher.

I am more grateful for the people in this book world. For my fellow authors who help each other at every turn and who still provide my reader side with stories and worlds that keep me up into the night. For all the others who work in our industry, the editors who make my books readable, the cover artists who make them eye catching.

And of course the readers. At this thankful time of the year, I'd like to thank all of you who make it possible for me to have the best job I can imagine. For your kind reviews and all the time you share my books on social media or tell your friends about them. For your happy faces and sweet greetings at book signings and for the fun we have at those events just hanging out.

Thank all of you so much!  I hope this is your best Thanksgiving ever. I'll be thinking of all of you when we hold hands around the table tomorrow night and eat a --hopefully--delicious dinner. For now, I'd better start cooking or we'll be having grilled cheese.

This pic of a couple of my relatives last year plus our photo bombing Banshee always makes me smile!  If you'll tell me in the comments below what makes you smile about the holiday, I'd love to hear it!
Hugs and Happy Thanksgiving! Kate

Monday, November 19, 2018

Turkey Bites and Other Delights

This is Sharon Hamilton. I've always told people that I'm a Christian with a bent antennae, and I have to say that pretty much sums up my life. As a toddler, I used to make faces at the church audience by standing up in the pew between my parents, staring behind them, making faces and making the other churchgoers snicker and laugh. I also threw up in the choir loft during the Christmas performance, and I forgot my lines at the annual Christmas Candlelight vigil, while I tried to recite the Christmas Story. I slipped in the Baptistry when I got baptised and nearly pulled down the minister.

Some would say, I haven't exactly been charmed, even though I was the granddaughter of a very famous evangelist who held tent meetings for thousands. He was just my grandpa.

I got the message, dear readers, just skewed. Bent.

So of course at this time of year, I'd come out with a Vampire book, right? It does begin at Christmas, and my hero, a dark coven vamp, thinks about the Christmas story and all that it means for humans, because he isn't one.

I think it's a little way to break up your Holidays. Something to sink your teeth into, and yes, it comes out tomorrow! AND it's only .99.

Here's an excerpt. Enjoy my twisted introduction to the Holiday Season. Be sure to endulge to excess--the only way to truly live!

Here's a portion of the first chapter from Christmas Bite:

Lionel Jett had always thought Christmastime was more about angels, than celebrating vampires and their vampire society. But the emotional responses within his soul ticked like a timebomb. On the one hand, the beautiful candlelit services, held at night so he could attend, were striking and revived in him his higher calling to protect the innocent and all things good and pure. To eliminate evil.
Christmas celebrated the birth of an innocent, after all—a birth that would forever change humanity. Mortals believed that a woman conceived a child without having sex. Well, Lionel had seen many things in his three hundred years of life, and he couldn’t rule out that this legend was actually fact. For if that occurred, then the possibility of redemption for himself, existed, as well as the chance for peace amongst the two vampire species.
            His thick frame was forced to hunch a bit, his shoulders rounded so he could fit into the pews made for much smaller beings, mostly mortal. The wooden, hand-carved benches weren’t constructed for huge, dark coven vampires, unless they were designed to say, “you are not welcome.”
            The Gregorian chants reverberated throughout the halls of the chapel where Marcus had first met his fated mate, Ann. Lionel watched a woman and her children light tiny, red votive candles in the alcove at the side. The light made their faces glow with that effect only mortals had. It was as if the goodness in them showed through their transparent skin, laced with the life-giving blood of their species, an elixir to some, and the highly prized substance others would die to protect.
Of all their traits, mortals’ best gift to the world was that of love and innocence. Though some of their race claimed to be warriors, they would never be matches for the evil likes of the strongest dark covens.
But their God had told mortals they could achieve anything if they had faith. They had the gift of belief because their lives were so short. Of course, they believed in miracles. Unfortunately, they’d never live long enough to see true miracles or the way the world really was.
He could sign on to safeguard those ideas. It was something that spoke to him as a true warrior. He’d be able to defend those who had no clue they needed protecting. And he might die doing so, without any observance on their part.
Mortals were a strange combination of emotions and traits. They scared easily. They sometimes maintained bravado, like the David and Goliath story from their bible. They were underdogs, but like in the beloved story, they never stopped fighting though the odds were against them. They sometimes allowed anger to interrupt their lifeline or justified its benefits when it really never helped them.
But their most stunning quality was that of compassion. On that, they could teach the world. They had the gift of living a life untainted, if they so choose. Trusting in their God when, in actuality, their unseen vampire brethren were responsible for much of their safety. They believed in the laws of nature more than the laws of vampire. Lionel found this humorous.
The delicate children’s choir made their way down the center aisle, each child holding an inverted paper cup with a white candle stuck into the base, so their little hands would be protected from any dripping wax. Their voices were soothing. He could make out every one of them, and it left him gentled, like listening to a babbling brook with water flowing over pebbles beneath the current. Each child had a distinctive series of tones, sometimes with thoughts laced in there, if the mind read was strong with them.
He remembered the night they said mass for Maria Monteleone, the only woman in Lionel’s life he ever loved. He’d gladly foregone any chance at having a sexual relationship with her just to be in her presence and had begged her to live on after the death of her mortal husband, to take the turning late in her life. It was always a difficult decision for every Golden, all born as mortal children, and given the option to take the turning ceremony beyond after puberty. Most chose to live a life of immortality. But she, like her predeceased husband before her, refused, smiled, touched his cheek with her dainty lavender scented palm, and shared a tear with him.
“Lionel, my trusted protector, I know what’s in your heart. I am given life enough with the knowledge that it’s there. No need for us to speak of it or demonstrate it to anyone but ourselves. Our eternal secret.”
He’d wanted to take her in his arms, but he would never shatter what they had. He was the only one she would take on as a protector, and the family knew Lionel would die doing so, if necessary. It was beautiful Maria who had saved his life by asking he and his two brothers be made vampire when she found all them left for dead after an attack by a dark coven lord who had obliterated their family.
The elder Monteleones had decided a trusted dark would do the turning, so that there would always be distance between Maria and her dear Lionel. He always wondered if she’d argued for another choice for him. Had she desired he be made in her own image or requested she be his maker? That question haunted Lionel for centuries.
He was there when she married Marcus and Paolo’s father, was there as she bore him the dozen children, and as she continually turned down her husband’s request to turn together. As a faithful husband, he dutifully remained at her side, mortal, sharing their short love and family.
Lionel was with her as her mortal life left her, on a starlit evening when the real stars were in her eyes, until they became fixed on him and then floated away. Like a piece of tissue paper, her spirit was gone, to become one with her God of Humans and her Mother Nature.
The hole in his heart was still the largest pain in his life. There wasn’t a day that went by when he didn’t wonder what would have happened if he’d chosen to take a more active role in that relationship with her or could have fought stronger for what he knew was something like an inter-species fating that never could be consummated.
He looked up at the bleeding figure of Christ nailed to a wooden cross, and he understood the man’s pain, the regrets he might have had, his need to protect and love his flock, and to die for them. The miracle had been sent, only to have the evil factions of the mortal crowd kill him off. He walked amongst his people understanding this, all the while he remained on earth.
Lionel hoped that he still lived somewhere they called Heaven. For he and his vampire brothers and sisters, death was usually just the end of a long, long life. There was no Heaven. There was no happily ever after in the clouds that sent rain and wind and sometimes covered the sun and the moon. It was just death, with nothing beyond.
And yet, as he listened to the beautiful chanting and allowed the scents of mortals to envelop him, he felt the heat of their bodies, and some of their thoughts and worries. He’d like to pretend he believed in a time that would last, where everything would be perfect and not end. Where love, like the love he had for Maria, would reign eternal.
He was hopeful. It was a silly thought, but it was something that warmed him from the inside, as if he was a mortal again, as if he still held that innocent light inside.

The wedding feast had begun. It was humorous that the Monteleones made a great show of eating to excess, though Lionel knew they’d be sick as dogs afterward. But they were stubborn about their secrecy, and as long as it was a mixed crowd of both trusted mortals and vampires of both species, the ruse would be continued. He stood with his arm around young Lucius while they watched his father, the handsome Paolo, and his new bride, Carabella, dance to the alluring viola music around a huge firepit stoked with logs the size of most humans. Paolo’s face was filled with the mirth Lionel had always envied.
Out of the blue, Lucius asked his question. “Do you miss your brother?”
Jeb had traced the dark coven lord, Dag, to a desert somewhere on the other side of the globe, to end him, saving the Lucius’ father’s life at the cost of his own.
“Of course, young prince. But his time had come. He’d had a wonderful and exciting life, keeping all you lot safe so your family can save the world. Don’t you know that?”
Lucius thought about that for a short time. His six years was not commensurate with his knowledge of the ways of the world. He’d seen a lot in his brief time as son to one brother, only to find out he belonged to the other.
“Can I tell you something I’ve never told anyone?”
“Careful, young Lucius. I am bound to tell the truth, always.”
“I know it. But I want to tell you anyway.”
The boy’s eyes followed his new stepmom and his father across the ampetheater. Lionel remembered days when there were dark coven sacrifices held in this space. He remembered the blood rituals of those difficult times, shortly before Maria’s boys were grown. Although he was not sure, some of his relatives might have lost their lives in this very place. He shook off the vision and answered the boy. “You can certainly trust in my confidence.”
“I don’t miss my mother. I like that Cara is going to be my new mother. I think she’ll bring me a little brother or sister.”
Lionel was struck with this thought. Cara had been made, and the turning had taken place, which wasn’t always successful, just before her mortal death. Paolo had given her his own blood. Even so, he wasn’t sure Cara and Paolo could have offspring.
Lucius looked up at him. “Am I evil for saying this?”
Lionel knelt, placing his plate-sized hands on Lucius’ forearms and elbows, his face eye-level with the boy. “You are very lucky, young princeling. Your mortal aunt was forgiven for your mother’s demise because she protected all of you in that action. Maya would have not been the kind of mother you deserve. You deserve—”
He saw a group of young Goldens arrive, all of them in their teens and early twenties. Some had taken the turning, but several were clearly still mortal. He understood them to be friends since childhood.
As the group parted, some took to the dance floor. A tall dark-haired beauty swayed to the music, engaging the troupe of fiddlers who enjoyed her sultry dance moves. She was a curiously carefree mortal woman and Lionel couldn’t take his eyes off her. She threw her head back, swung her hips from side to side and sent her light, peach-colored, mortal arms reaching out to the sky. She pulled up her long curls, holding them atop her head as she swiveled her hips and turned in his direction.
When their eyes met, her mouth dropped open and she became motionless, though the lively music continued behind her.
Lionel’s heart leapt from his chest. Grateful she was not yet turned, he did not have to make some excuse if she heard the kettledrum in his chest that pumped his life force into overdrive. He resisted the urge to run to her, pick her up and carry her away, where he could satisfy all his questions.
Was this woman Maria, come back to life after three hundred years? The Maria he first knew before her marriage, her family, and her death?
The woman who stood across the bonfire from him looked identical to Maria.
Lucius wiggled free as Lionel had gripped his arms and gave gave his young charge welts.
“I’m sorry, son. I just thought I saw something. Forgive me if I hurt you.”
Lucius remained two steps away from him, watching, as Lionel rose to full height, slowly uncoiling his enormous body. His mouth dry, his fangs aching, his mind reeled from the erotic thoughts that came at him like a firehose.
All too suddenly, she was gone. She’d pulled a brightly colored shawl over her head and neck and ran into the heavy foliage at the edge of the clearing.
Lucius turned to see what he was focusing on.
“The young woman who was dancing over there, she should not have gone into the forest alone. I fear for her life,” he told his charge.
Lucius nodded. “Then go get her. Protect her, Lionel—or—” he peered up at him with a question on his face— “don’t you want to?”
“It isn’t that, but I’m to stay and protect you.”
This part was true. He caught the attention of his younger brother, Hugh—“huge” as he was known to the ladies he bedded—and angled his head towards the woods. Hugh had a lapse in judgment and traced, instead of running like a mortal. Lionel scanned the crowd, and no one seemed to have noticed.
            What am I looking for, brother? Hugh asked telepathically from behind the wooded surround.
            “The spitting image of Maria Monteleone. Tell me it isn’t so, brother. I pray to god she’s safe, but I also pray it isn’t her,” he whispered.
            “What?” asked Lucius.
            “Sorry, I was giving instructions to Hugh.”
            Seconds later, a group of the young Goldens came screaming from the woods, followed by a dark vamp dressed in black rags. He stopped at the site of the campfire. His flesh peeled, and part of his face had been scratched off. His tongue hung limply, dripping bloody saliva.
The fiddle music stopped as several males from the partygoers came within feet of his disgusting frame. Several in the crowd began to moan, and there were a few suppressed screams. Precious seconds passed while the dark vamp and his would-be attackers held the standoff. Lionel scanned the young Goldens and didn’t see any sign of the young Maria look-alike.
The dark vamp began to grin, his chest heaving. He fingered something around his neck Lionel had missed. It was the colorful shawl the young Golden had been wearing just moments before.
Lionel didn’t have time to look for his brother. He traced to the creature, hoisting him high up into the sky and tearing his head from his body out of eyesight of the crowd below. He threw the remnants of the vamp’s torso into another bonfire he found several miles away, at a distant farm. Before he let the body loose, he removed the shawl and stuffed it into his shirt.
Damages, brother? Are you there?
All is well, Lionel. She is alive, and safe. He was a rogue no coven to back him up. But it has us all shook.
He won’t be back, Lionel told his brother.
He traced to the edge of the celebration, then walked through dense foliage toward the circle of fire. They had brought the young Golden toward the heat, and a group of elder men surrounded her, so he could not see her fate. As he pressed himself towards the center, he could see the ugly, bloody bite on her neck and the rivulets of dark ooze descending down her chest, meeting between her breasts. Her eyes were dazed as she rolled her head back and cried.
Paolo was there, giving her first aid. Lionel sat next to her mother, who brought warm compresses and was whispering questions.
“Will she be infected, Paolo? She is still mortal and a virgin. Will this affect—?”
“No, Freya. She’s intact. He didn’t do a blood rape. She’s intact.”
“Oh, thank God,” the woman sighed, leaning into Lionel’s chest. Paolo gave him a frown.
“I have Lucius,” said Hugh from the back of the crowd.
Freya’s daughter stubbornly righted herself and accepted the salve that was applied to her neck taken from the kit Paolo carried with him 24/7. Her eyes swung around, perusing the crowd until she saw Lionel again, and their stares locked.
Her gaze lowered slightly, looking at something on Lionel’s chest.
“He’s gone, Madame,” he told her. “He will no longer trouble you, or any of us.”
But she was still peering at his chest. Looking down, he saw the remnants of her flowered shawl sticking out from the buttons on his white shirt. He drew it out, damp from the mixture of sweat and bloody detritus. He extended his arm and handed it to her.
She didn’t look at the shawl. As she grabbed the cloth, her eyes were fixed on Lionel like he was her lifeline, her future.
He was instantly hit with the cold facts of their state. She would most likely be not his lifeline, but a straight ticket to Hell itself.

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