Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Clifford and Claire, Scene 2

   Yeah, keeping up a regular blog is kind of a pain, especially when you really want to spend your time writing. (Not that blogging isn’t a form of writing. It’s just not the kind of writing I’d prefer to be doing.) Anyway, as I promised in my last post, I’ve decided to cheat for a few weeks and post a series of scenes from Red Wolf Rising. That way I won’t have to come up with a new idea each time, avoiding the increasing probability it will be a lame one.

  So, picking up where we left off last time, here’s how Clifford Crane and Claire Deerfoot first met…

The image of his eyes swam before her vision as she darted through the trees. Even through the thick lenses of the glasses he wore she could see they were a soft brown, kind and intelligent, with a pervasive sadness that she had expected. And now she knew the source of the sadness.

There was a wolf trapped inside him, with no way to get out. And it was a special kind of wolf, like no other she’d encountered throughout her nearly one thousand years. She could feel it. She stopped, sat on her haunches, and looked back over her shoulder. He was far behind her now and hidden from view by the dense woods. She stood, turned, raised her nose to the breeze and pricked her ears.

He hadn’t moved from where she’d left him. She imagined him standing in the pathway, perplexed and perhaps a bit frightened at the encounter. She took a half step back in his direction, but stopped as she heard the sound of his footsteps start up, quickly resume their jogging pace and begin to fade away down the trail. She sat back down.

No wonder she was drawn to him. He was a werewolf. Or would be if…

Before she even realized she’d made the decision, she loped off in a different direction, towards another section of the jogging trail a ways ahead of him. The inevitable flurry of justifiable doubts rose in her mind.

She ignored them.

She emerged from the woods at another section of the jogging trail where an open, grassy area had been created as a rest and exercise stop. Chinning and push-up bars were scattered about as well as benches for sit-ups, stretching, or just resting. She trotted over to one of the benches where her clothes lay folded in a neat pile on top of a small blanket. She stretched out in the damp grass in front of the bench, closed her eyes, and willed the change.

It took longer than she expected. She tried not to be impatient, to accept the consequences of taxing her ancient body with constant changing and not enough food, but she didn’t have much time. The man would arrive in moments. She had to be changed and dressed by then.

But when the change was complete exhaustion overcame her, and she lay naked in the wet grass, unable to find the energy to get up and put on her clothes. Her body needed food and rest. Sleep beckoned and her eyes tried to close.

The sound of approaching footsteps sent a wave of panic-induced energy through her. Her eyes popped wide. She had fallen asleep. Crap! She lifted herself up, got her feet underneath her, and stood shakily. She felt dizzy and disoriented as she stumbled towards the bench where her clothes were. Shivering in the cold, she grabbed her shirt.

The man jogged into the clearing, stopped short, and stared.

Claire dropped the shirt, jerked the blanket from under the pile of clothes, and hurriedly threw it around her shoulders. She turned and faced the man across the clearing. Embarrassment and exhaustion made her light-headed, and her knees buckled. Luckily, the bench was under her. She felt her bony rear end hit it, hard. She sat there for a moment, swaying, clutching the blanket around her and trying to focus her senses.

Suddenly the man was kneeling in front of her, holding a hand out to steady her and asking if she was okay. “Oh,” she said, startled. Some moments had passed from her awareness. She felt her balance going again, and the man was sitting beside her on the bench, his arm around her and her head on his shoulder. He was pungent, solid, and warm. She allowed herself to settle against him while she collected herself.

What now? Moments passed. She could feel his discomfort, but he continued to hold her, not saying anything. Awkward. Very awkward. What am I going to do, now? How in the world am I going to explain myself? She shifted against him, involuntarily. She kept her head on his shoulder, fearing to look at him and thus start a conversation for which she wasn’t yet ready.

He adjusted his arm to support her new position. “Are you okay, ma’am?” he asked.

His voice was so gentle and kind. She had to respond in some manner. “I think so,” she replied softly. “Weak,” she added. “Sorry.” He squeezed her gently and a sigh escaped before she could stop it. “Thank you,” she whispered. Okay, that was at least an appropriate thing to say. He was helping, after all.

Clifford let his eyes roam about the scene, looking for telltale clues to explain this old woman now in his arms. “It’s okay,” he said. “Have you been sleeping out here?” Some of the homeless in the area used the greenway for a place to sleep in warm weather, and Clifford had surprised a few during his early morning jogs. But they usually found sheltered spots hidden along the trail, not out in the open like this, nor at this time of year. “You know they’ll arrest you if they find you, right? When’s the last time you had something to eat?”

He thinks I’m a derelict! At the realization, she started to defend herself, but thought better of it. Maybe that’s a piece of luck. Just answer the questions you can answer. “I ate something yesterday,” she said. That was the truth.

“I ate something yesterday,” she said, louder.
“No,” he chuckled, “I meant, what did you eat?”
“Oh,” she said. Great, now he thinks I’m a stupid derelict.”Uh, I had grapes, some cheese… and a doughnut,” she added.
“That doesn’t sound like much,” he said.

No, it doesn’t, does it? She was beginning to regret sacrificing the hunt this morning. She had fantasized about meeting the man for months now. The current scenario hadn’t been part of the fantasy. “It was enough,” she said. Or would have been had I hunted this morning.

“Look,” he said. “I was thinking about going to IHOP from here. Let me buy you some breakfast.” Oh, god, why did I offer that? It had just slipped out. True, he’d been thinking about going out for breakfast, but he couldn’t really afford it. And Kathryn would shit if she knew, especially after the fight they’d had the night before over the budget.
Claire’s mouth began to water at the thought of pancakes. With sausage, and maybe an egg and some grits. And spend some time with this man, she thought guiltily. Again with wanton disregard for the consequences, she said, “Yes, that would be nice. Thank you.”

   Well, that’s it for now. I’ll have a couple more scenes to share next week. If you haven’t read the first two books, there are links below to sites where you can purchase them in various formats. The ebooks are only $2.99! Check ‘em out, and see what the hoopla is all about.

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback    in Charlotte

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback   in Charlotte Smashwords
Until next time, happy reading!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Clifford and Claire, Scene 1

 Hi, folks. I’ve been remiss in my blogging lately. It’s because I’ve been working on the final book in the Red Wolf trilogy, Red Wolf Rising. Therefore, I won’t apologize. Instead, I’ll share with you a little of what I’ve been writing.
  From the first beta reader of The Draculata Nest, folks have asked for more of the back story of the relationship between Clifford and Claire, his deceased lover, the one responsible for turning him into a werewolf. Then, in The Dragon of Doughton Park, there’s that surprise ending that makes you wonder…
    In Red Wolf Rising, Clifford and Claire’s story will be told in a series of flashbacks while… (whoops, can’t reveal that, yet). Anyway, over the next few weeks I’ll give y’all a sneak preview of their first encounter. Here’s scene one. Clifford, during an early morning jog, has nearly run into a large white “dog”…

  Clifford Crane stood rock-still, staring into the underbrush at the side of the trail into which the huge white dog had disappeared. His heart was pounding in his chest, and he could feel his legs twitching and shaking as the muscles cooled and the adrenaline rush faded. That was no dog. That was a fucking wolf!

No, that was impossible. There were reportedly coyotes in the greenway, but no wolf pack could survive in this limited range of territory. (How did he know that?) But he’d looked into her eyes. (How did he know it was a female?) There was a shocking intelligence in them.

Over the pounding of the pulse in his ears he could hear her crashing through the woods away from him. The noise soon faded and then stopped altogether. Was she now watching him from the cover of the underbrush, with those eyes?

He took a deep breath and exhaled. The light breeze blew the condensation back in his face and fogged his glasses. Shit. He needed to get moving in order to clear them; his sweat-soaked shirt would never do the job.

He took a step, then another. Ouch. His calves threatened to cramp from the sudden resumption of activity, another reminder that he was getting older. It took him longer to warm up these days yet his body cooled so quickly. But he soon settled into a steady rhythm, and the cramping receded.

He’d been counting steps, since he often missed the mile markers along the trail in the dark. He tried to resume his count, but his encounter with the wolf-dog had caused him to forget where he’d left off. He started over. Step-step-step. One. Step-step-step. Two. Count to one-hundred-twenty, then walk for a count of sixty and start jogging again.

He soon lost count as the vision of the snow white wolf-dog intruded on his thoughts. Had someone’s pet gotten loose, somehow escaping the confines of one of the apartments in the complexes that bordered this side of the greenway? He hadn’t noticed a collar, but the encounter had been rather sudden and he’d been focused on those clear gray intelligent eyes.

Maybe he should try to lure the dog to him, see if there was a collar after all, maybe with an address or phone number. The owner of such a beautiful animal would probably be frantic with worry. His steps began to slow. He stopped and looked uncertainly back in the direction the animal had disappeared. He’d frightened her as much as she’d frightened him. She was probably long gone. Too bad, he thought, I’d really like to meet the owner.
He resumed jogging. Step-step-step. One. Step-step-step. Two.

   For those of you who read the first two books, I hope that scene gives you something to chew on. If you haven’t read them, there are links below to sites where you can purchase them in various formats. The ebooks are only $2.99! Check ‘em out, and see what the hoopla is all about.

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback    in Charlotte

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte     Smashwords
Until next time, happy reading!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

They're Called Milkshakes, Dear

  It’s St. Valentines Day, and before I go any further I should send out as much love as I can possibly muster to all my friends and readers out there who take the time to follow my antics on this blog! You guys rock. I can’t say it enough.

 That being said…

  I don’t usually do V Day. At this point in my life I’ve become a bit jaded to romance. I find it much more fun to write about than to deal with in reality, so on February 14 each year I usually hunker down somewhere and try to ignore the hoopla. But Caribou Coffee is running a 2-for-1 special to celebrate, so here I am working on the third chapter of Red Wolf Rising and observing the couples come and go. Even if I can’t embrace it, I have to acknowledge there is something in the air.

   Or maybe it’s just the caffeine buzz.

   This is the one day a year set aside to pay homage to significant other in our lives, to make them feel extra special, and, if the following conversation over breakfast with a friend, who will remain anonymous for obvious reasons, is any indication…

Me:     So, are you and <insert anonymous significant other’s name here> doing       anything special today for Valentines?
            Him: Oh, shit. This is Valentines Day?

   … there may be some stress involved as well.

   Yeah, the problem for many of us is that making an effort to make that someone feel extra special one day a year doesn’t begin to make up for lack of such effort the other 364. Going overboard with the flowers, candy, and dinner out might just keep us hanging on a bit longer.
   Forgetting might be the last straw.
                                                     Oh, shit! It's Valentines Day?
   Whether you regard it as romance or just lust, love is the most popular and least understood subject on the planet. It is easy to fall into and hard to maintain. Just check out the number of self-help books on relationships. Spoken at the right moment, the phrase, “I love you,” carries as much weight as the most powerful incantation of the darkest necromancer. And once uttered, there is an obligation to prove its veracity… over and over and over.

   This is not easy to do, especially for men. Typically, we lack the capacity to express our feelings in ways women understand or accept. Combine that deficiency with a roving eye (yeah, I don’t know any man who doesn’t look), and we’re faced with a serious problem. But there are techniques we can use, passed down from father to son.

   None of them work.

   Here’s a case in point, one of my favorite memories of my dear old departed Dad.

   My Dad loved my Mom. I’m not sure my Mom realized it, considering some of the stuff they went through over 60 years of marriage, but from the perspective of a grown man, I know he did. He just had a real dysfunctional way of showing it sometimes. (Yeah, I learned from the master.)

   This particular incident occurred during a family excursion to the beach. After an afternoon of playing in the surf, Dad took us to the local drive-in for milkshakes. (For those of you under a certain age, I’ll explain that drive-in’s were the precursors to today’s fast food restaurants. They were small buildings containing little more than a kitchen, surrounded by a large parking lot. Folks pulled their cars into the lot and a waitress, or carhop, came to the cars to take their orders.)

  I couldn’t have been more than ten at the time, but I was old enough to know a good looking woman when I saw her, and one of the carhops at this particular drive-in was smokin’ hot. Not by today’s standards, but fifties hot. Back when there was no such thing a women’s size six. Busty. Full hips. Lots of curves. Tight blouse. Short-shorts.

   My Dad saw her, too, and since he couldn’t very well hide that he noticed, he decided to use a technique he sometimes employed to try and convey to my Mom that he thought this other girl wasn’t as hot as the one he married. He tried to make fun of the carhop.

   As the voluptuous brunette moved from car to car, he made witty comments about her endowments, such as “looks like two possums trying to fight their way out of a croaker sack.” I didn’t know what that meant, but I remember my Mom giggling at his comments. Dad was on a roll.

   It backfired when the possums changed direction and started fighting their way towards our car.

   Now, my Dad was not the shy, retiring type by any means. He was usually glib and entertaining, the life of the party. I can count on one hand the number of times I saw him get flustered. This was one of those times.

   The young woman sashayed over. Dad fumbled with the handle to roll the window down. It started up a few inches before changing direction and barely making it down by the time short-shorts leaned a hip against the hood of our car, bent forward, providing a better view of her ample bosom, smacked her gum, and asked, “What can I getcha?”

   Dad did his best to pull it together. “Uh… we’d like, uh, four… uh…”

   Short-shorts smacked her gum. Dad held his hands up in a circle in an effort to describe what he couldn’t seem to find words for.

   “… nice, uh… hot…”

   I swear to god, he said hot.

   “… thick, uh…” He waved his cupped hands in the air, liked a frustrated mime playing charades. That’s when my Mom spoke up in a dry, condescending voice, dripping sarcasm…

  “They’re called milkshakes... dear.”

   Dad turned three shades of red. There was no way out. He was busted.

   My memory goes blank at that point. I assume we finally got our milkshakes, but I really couldn’t say. I do know the story resurfaced at inconvenient (for Dad) times while I was growing up, always by Mom, never us kids.

   And I think it was one of the motivations for the roses and candy Dad gave Mom on Valentines Days.

But, I digress. Y’all should read a couple of pretty good books I wrote. Here’s how to get them. Just click on the link for the reading format of your choice:

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback    in Charlotte

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords
Until next time, happy reading!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Do We Ever Get Over That First Crush?

 I’m on Cloud Nine, folks, absolutely giddy over the four-and-a-half-out-of-five “fangs” review of Dragon posted by paranormal author, Kristy Berridge, on her blog a few days ago. Click the link under her picture to check it out…
                                                                 Kristy's Review   
  How about that? Yeah, I’m still dancing around days later, even though it’s not the highest-rated review I’ve had for this book (in fact, it’s the lowest, but, never mind, that’s not the point). Why? Well, I’m ‘a tell you why, right now. 

 I’ve been waiting for this review for a while, with more than the usual trepidation. (I actually wrote most of this blog post over a month ago, when I first realized what was going on.) You see, when I published my first novel in 2011, I was introduced to Kristy’s blog and was impressed with her clever postings and conscientious reviews. I read and reviewed her novel, The Hunted, which I enjoyed. I gave her a copy of my novel to review.

   She took her own sweet time getting around to reading it (she later told me the original cover put her off), so I was a little surprised when the second book popped up on her “recent reads” list as quickly as it did. It stayed at the top for a long time, and I kept expecting the review to appear any day. It didn’t. In fact, other books on the list seemed like they were getting bumped ahead of it. Normally, I would let this kind of thing go, but in Kristy’s case, it bothered me.

   As the weeks dragged on, I began to get more and more anxious. I started poking around in other venues to see if she’d posted the review on Amazon or Goodreads and was just waiting for the right time to put it on her blog. You know, when other obligations were out of the way. Eventually, I decided that she hated the book and was wrestling with how to give it a bad review and not hurt my feelings.

   That’s okay, I thought. Just be honest, Kristy. I can take it. Go ahead and get it over with. And why should I care anyway? My books aren’t for everyone. Some people like them. Some people don’t.

   But I really wanted Kristy to like it, and I instantly understood why when I ran across her profile picture on Goodreads. Check it out…

   When I saw that smile, my heart skipped a beat. You see, I was the occasional lucky recipient of that smile from another girl long ago. Yep, that's right. I had become a victim of what we call in the counseling profession, counter-transference, something that happens when a counselor projects the personality of someone he’s known in the past onto a client.
   I wanted to please an old girlfriend. And not just any old girlfriend. Kristy Berridge was Jackie, the girl I had a huge crush on from my adolescent years all through high school, and, although I haven’t seen her for 45 years, even today.

   Not to take anything away from Kristy (which can be one of the dangers of counter-transference, by the way).  If the above photo is any indication, Kristy Berridge is a babe. Plus, she’s funny and clever, writes paranormal fantasy novels, and has that slightly exotic factor of being from Australia. For a sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal geek like me, that’s quite a package. We’re talking Wonder Woman status. Definitely crush material.

   But she’s not Jackie.

   When I choose to look back over my long list of regrets (not a recommended activity), Jackie is at the top. We met in the 4th grade, I think, and I liked her instantly. I demonstrated my affection in all the ways young boys with no social skills do. I sat near her whenever the teachers would allow. I poked her with my pencil. I pulled her hair. I hid her books from her. I pestered her incessantly until she begged me to leave her alone.
   I didn’t.
   I couldn’t.

   If Jackie ever went through that awkward phase of growth most teenagers go through I don’t remember. By the time I realized I liked her that way she had grown into a graceful young woman. She was poised and she was genuine. She never played any of those head games the other girls did. I, on the other hand, was clumsy and out-of-synch throughout my teenage years, especially when I was around her.

   My family moved across town while I was in junior high, and Jackie and I ended up going to separate high schools. We dated a number of times, things like a movie, miniature golf, or bowling, and I took her to my prom, but each time was traumatic for me. It would take me weeks to work up the courage to call and ask her out, and I was always amazed and overjoyed when she said yes. My moments of joy were short-lived, however, because I immediately began to worry about the date and how I would act. By the time date night came around, I’d be a nervous wreck.

   Before picking her up, I’d take an extra lap around her block, then sit in the car nervously rehearsing what to say when she answered the door. In the days before bucket seats, Jackie would scoot close to me while I drove. I don’t know why she did it, whether she wanted to be near me or thought it was dating protocol, but sometimes it helped me get up enough courage to put my arm around her. When I did, I often cold-cocked her with an elbow, smoothie that I was. I’m not kidding, it happened more than twice. Through the years, I’ve had the occasional unpleasant fantasy where Jackie’s cuddling with her lover after a satisfying round of sex. He gently strokes her brow and asks…

   What’s this knot on your forehead?
   Oh, that’s where this dorky guy I went out with in high school kept hitting me with his elbow. The doctor says I’m okay, as long as it doesn’t happen again.
   (Shudder) It’s not one of my favorite daydreams.

   I think we went out twice the summer we graduated from high school. I remember getting  drunk one weekend my freshman year in college and calling her. She told me she was seeing someone. I gave up after that. Our paths never crossed again.

   I could never be myself around her. Not that I had a clue what “myself” was at the time, but with other girls I didn’t care so much what they thought of me and so I could be more at ease. Why not with Jackie? I know I felt guilty and embarrassed at how I’d treated her in grade school. I know I was afraid of the vulnerability she’d see if she knew just how deeply she had me in thrall. Mostly I was afraid that if she really got to know me she wouldn’t like what she saw.

   Do we ever get over that first crush?

   For me, the answer is obviously, no. Oh, I moved on a long time ago. More than once since then I’ve been convinced that I’ve found the one in another girl. And if things really happen for a reason, like some folks claim, then it’s probably for the best we weren’t together. Most likely I would have dragged her along the self-destructive path down which I’d already started. She deserved better, and I hope she got it.

   But I’ll never be over her. She’ll continue to sneak into a random thought, or a daydream, or be reincarnated in a smile in the photograph of another pretty woman on the other side of the world.

   But, I digress. Y’all should read a couple of pretty good books I wrote. Here’s how to get them. Just click on the link for the reading format of your choice:

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook   ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords
Until next time, happy reading!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tags, Labels, and Adult Content

February 1, 2013 11:00 pm

 Smashwords is cool…
  … to follow up on a theme from the last post…
   As you might remember, I’ve been formatting and publishing on Smashwords the last few weeks. Well, I got The Dragon of Doughton Park on there with premium catalog status last week (the link is below if you want to check it out), and I had to immediately face some personal issues… again.

 When you self-publish, you have to describe your work and tag and label it so your prospective audience can find it. For me, it’s a necessary evil, because I hate putting a label on anything, especially myself or my work.

   It’s natural for the human mind to categorize and stereotype. We need to do something to try and make sense and order in a chaotic universe. We almost have to do it to others to keep from going insane, but nobody likes to have it done to them.

   Quite a dilemma, huh?

   After struggling to write a short description (under 400 characters) and agonizing over which two genres to include my books in I was faced with the task of listing some “tags” that would aid folks who were searching for something to read. The problem with these tags is, it’ll lead some people who are looking for something specific to my stuff, but it will also exclude everyone else from finding it.

    I can’t help it. I’m a glass-half-empty kind of guy. I’m thinking, at this point, that I’ve already narrowed my audience to people who like paranormal fantasy and paranormal romance. Who else am I going to exclude?

   Laugh if you want, but if you check the reviews of my books you’ll see a recurring comment, such as “this is not the usual type of book that I read, but I enjoyed it.” Sure, there are elements of the paranormal, science fiction, and romance, but I believe the story has a universal appeal. My personal reading is an eclectic mix. I think the series of novels I’m writing now will appeal to an eclectic mix of readers, even if the central character is a werewolf, which pigeon-hole’s them into a specific genre.

   The final blow with Smashwords comes when I have to admit there is “adult content” in the books. Smashwords has an adult content filter that is automatically turned on in their default search. So, automatically, folks will not see my titles even if they search the genre and the tag words. Turn the filter off, and my titles get sandwiched between erotic masterpieces that have descriptions written with misspelled words and incomplete sentences, titles such as Gangbang Adventures and The Big Book of Sluts. My covers, with the near child-like, innocent quality of the Ray DeLotell artwork, look out of place – and they are.


   Well, it is what it is. My dream is that the day will come when folks will search for books written by John Hundley. In the meantime, turn off the adult content filter, and type in werewolf, vampire, dragons, paranormal fantasy. Maybe you’ll find something good.

Walking the floor over you…
   I’m still waiting anxiously for a certain author/blogger to post her review of Dragon. I can’t believe I’m this nervous about it. Jeez, will you quit piddling around? Just go ahead and get it over with, already. Do your worst. I can take it.

Blame it on my day job…
   Careful what you wish for. I’ve been complaining I have no time to write because of my day job. I was hoping I could pull a few less hours so I could squeeze in some more writing time, and it happened. They’re cutting my weekly hours from 40 to 16!
   Gulp. I really need to sell some more books now. Y’all click on the links below. I need to pay the rent!

Here's all the ways to get my books...You can purchase my books through the following venues…

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle   ebook for Nook   ebook for Kobo   in Paperback   in Charlotte 

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo     in Paperback   
in Charlotte   Smashwords

Until next time… Happy Reading!