Another Except from A Dark & Stormy Knight

Georgia McKnight would do anything for her daughter Eden, but the one thing she's failed to do is to provide her daughter with a model of a good marriage. To remedy that, she's set her sights on converting her friendship with Daniel, the divorced father of Eden's best friend, into a romance. Unfortunately, she has to leave Dallas for the summer to help her parents in Hero Creek, where her ex-husband waits, scheming to win her back.

Sol McKnight has three passions in his life: riding bulls, his daughter, and the woman he married right out of high school. He's pulled some underhanded tricks over the years in order to keep his ex-wife single. He doesn't regret a single one of them because, well, they worked. But now, she's come home and he has a chance to win her back for good. If he's smart about it, maybe he can make her see that she belongs with him.

That's the back cover blurb from A Dark & Stormy Knight. I love second chance stories myself. I'm hoping you do, too, but just in case you're not hooked yet, I thought I'd share another excerpt from A Dark & Stormy Knight.

This occurs after Georgia is back in Hero Creek. She's stressed from dealing with her parents and runs into Sol at the local watering hole. The temptation to spend the night with him is too much for her to resist. Sol is, of course, delighted and is eager to get her home before she changes her mind. Of course, nothing ever goes smoothly for Sol.

They were a mile from Sol’s trailer when the red and blue lights flashed in his rearview mirror. “Shit, damn, and hellfire!” Sol ground out from clenched teeth. “We’re on a back road, for pity’s sake!” He eased over to the shoulder.

Georgia slid away as he reached into his hip pocket for his license. “Registration’s in the glove box. Would’ja get it for me?” 

A flashlight shone in through his window. “In a hurry, Sol?” 

“Not anymore,” Sol grumbled as he offered his license. “How you doing, Tyrone?” 

“Better’n you.” Tyrone flashed the light at Georgia. “Then again, maybe not.” 

Georgia shielded her eyes from the glare, and Tyrone lowered the light so it didn’t catch her dead-on. Sol stifled a growl as it lit up her chest. 

“Hey, Georgia. I heard about your mama. How’s she doing?” 

Georgia hesitated as though shifting mental gears then said, “She getting better, but it’s a slow process.” She pressed the registration into Sol’s hand. Sol offered it up, blocking the light that illuminated her chest. 

“Heard you was taking care of her,” Tyrone said, talking around Sol. “How long you figure to be around?” 

“You gonna write me a ticket, Tyrone?” Sol interrupted. This wasn’t a damned class reunion.The flashlight shifted to the license. “You been drinking tonight?” Tyrone’s voice lost its chatty quality. 

“Not me,” Sol lied.

 Tyrone pursed his lips and waited as though a little silence could get Sol to confess. 

Sol kept his gaze steady and his mouth shut. 

“You gonna keep driving like you got a bear on your tail?” 

Sol sighed heavily. “No.” 

“I should write you up anyway.” 

Sol ground his teeth. Tyrone was one of the good ol’ boys, but Jake had gone out with Tyrone’s girlfriend a couple of months before when he was home on break from Texas A&M, and Tyrone wasn’t above making Sol pay for his brother’s indiscretion. 

“You promise to slow it down, and I’ll let you go with a warning.” 

“You got my word,” Sol said, grateful to the bone that Tyrone wasn’t pulling him out of the truck and making him do stupid human tricks to prove his sobriety. “Slow and easy.” 

He took his time pocketing his wallet. By the time the registration was back in the glove box, Tyrone had driven away. Sol watched the patrol car’s taillights disappear down the road ahead of them then glanced at Georgia. Looking at her, his chest went all hollow, and he had to struggle to breathe. He couldn’t believe she was there with him. Then he saw the look on her face and knew she was about to change directions on him. 

He reached over, hooked her neck, dragged her over to him, and laid a hard, wet kiss on her mouth before she could say it. He kissed her until he felt the resistance pass out of her, like an evil spirit being exorcised. 

I love you. If his lips hadn’t been busy, he would have said it out loud. The close call made him pull back. 

She didn’t want to hear that. At least not from him.

Poor Sol. He's really going to have to up his game if he wants to win Georgia back. 

A Dark & Stormy Knight is available at Amazon and will soon be available at other major online retailers.

Thursday writing quote ~ G.K. Chesterton

“A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”
G.K. Chesterton, Heretics

It's Release Day!

Okay, make that release day plus one. A Dark & Stormy Knight went live on Amazon around 5 p.m. yesterday. I'm still working on the file to load to Smashwords who will distribute it to Barnes & Noble and other venues, but that should be done soon, but it's there on Amazon, so I'm counting it.

To celebrate, I thought I'd share a snippet and introduce you to Georgia's grandmother. She's a feisty old lady. A lot of fun in her own right.

“There you are,” Grams said. “I wanted to let you know I’m leaving as soon as Delores gets here.”

“Are you sure you don’t want something to eat before you go?” Georgia brushed off the seat of her jeans before following her grandmother inside.
“Not a chance,” Grams said, walking and talking as she checked the contents of her purse for the forty-seventh time. “Cecelia’s son was up from the gulf last week, and he always brings her a butt load of cracked crab that she serves on these fancy crackers. I ain’t spoiling my appetite when I can pig out on that.” She closed her purse. “Oh, there’s Delores.”

Georgia looked out the living room window to see an older Cadillac pull in. Grams hung the handle of her purse over her arm and headed out. Georgia stood in the open screen door, ready to grab for her if she missed her footing on the steps. When Grams reached the yard without mishap, Georgia looked toward the car. 

Had Delores gotten out? She didn’t see her anywhere. A movement from inside the car caught her attention. It looked like . . . She squinted. A hand. Was someone waving at her? 

Holy hell. Delores had always been petite, but age had shrunk her to the size of a squirrel. She could barely see over the steering wheel. In fact, she probably looked through it. 

Georgia’s hands itched to grab Grams and forbid her to ride with Delores, but since she wasn’t Grams’ mama, grounding her wasn’t an option. Grams would just call her a worrywart and insist on going anyway. Hoping this wasn’t the last time she’d see her grandmother alive, Georgia waved hesitantly back as Grams got in the car. 

Her daddy’s pickup pulled in as Delores and Grams were about to pull out. The pickup stopped next to them as though her daddy planned to talk to Delores from his open window, but Delores pulled out as if she hadn’t noticed, and Georgia again questioned why she’d let Grams get in that car. Was this a preview of what she had to look forward to when Eden and her friends started driving? Hell, no, Georgia decided as her Daddy parked the pickup to come in for dinner; Eden she could ground

I can't help wishing I'd had a grandmother like this. Hope you like her. 

A Dark & Stormy Knight is available at Amazon.

Five Star Books - Dragonsbane

I've been posting a "Best Books I've Read" at the end of each year for awhile now. They're fun posts because, like any reader, I enjoy sharing books I've enjoyed. But that still leaves out a lot of books. Decades of books, so I've decided to add a feature to my rotation of blogs topic where I share a book I especially liked.

I don't consider this a book review as such because I'm not going to feature new books or what I read last week. I'm not going to tell you about books I don't like. This is strictly going to feature books (not necessarily romance) that I loved. Books I consider 5-star reads.

Keep in mind that what makes a book a 5-star read varies from person to person and no one agrees on everything, so your mileage may vary.

I'm going to start with a book I recently reread for the umpteenth time. Dragonsbane was the first Barbara Hambly book I ever read and remains one of my favorites to this day. She's also my all-time favorite fantasy author.

The description from Amazon reads:
An idealistic young prince convinces an aging warrior and a struggling witch to help him kill the dragon that is terrorizing his kingdom

As a vicious dragon stalks the Southlands, Crown Prince Gareth ventures to the forbidding North in search of the only man who can kill it. He is Lord Aversin, the Dragonsbane, whose dragon-slaying days have won him renown across the land. But when Gareth finds Lord Aversin, he discovers the mighty hero is squat and bespectacled, the ruler of a mud-village who admits that he killed the dragon not with a lance, but with ignoble poison. Still, he’ll have to do.
Gareth and Aversin set off in company with Jenny Waynest, a witch with great ambitions but disappointingly puny powers—a ragtag crew destined to become legendary, or die in the attempt.

Before I go any further, I have to question who the hell wrote this? John Aversin was never described as "squat" in the book. He's six feet tall and a fine figure of a man. Yes, he wears glasses and kudos to Hambly for still managing to make him an attractive hero. In fact, when I first read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, I recognized a bit of John in Jamie Frasier. I still feel as though John might be the prototype for Jamie.

And yes, Gareth finds him standing ankle-deep in the mud of a pig wallow, but John is Laird of the entire Winterlands, a piece of the kingdom the crown has failed to protect for the last hundred years, and even though John is a scholar at heart, he takes his responsibility seriously, as one would expect a hero to do. And he is a hero. The only man alive who's killed a dragon.

      Dragonsbane, they called him.
     Slayer of dragons.
     Or a dragon, anyway. And, he'd later found out, not such a very big one at that

And like any good hero, he accepts that he must go slay this new dragon that's taken over The Deep, the home of the gnomes, and claimed their gold. He goes, even though he knows his odds of success aren't good and that failure will mean his death. But Gareth has promised that the king will give him anything he wants, and John wants the king to provide troops to protect the people of the Winterlands from the bandits and Iceriders that grow more bold all the time.

In spite of all that this is really Jenny's story. She's something of a hedge witch whose magical ability has never been what she longs for it to be. She's torn between her love for John and their two children and the hunger to immerse herself in her study of magic.  She goes on this journey because she loves John. She's also foolishly looked into the future, and the glimpse she got showed her John dying from his wounds.

She doesn't know if she can change that fate, but she has to try. It works out much as she foresaw, but with the help of the dying dragon, she saves John, but the cost is a promise to heal the dragon. Turns out the old wisdom that says Save a dragon, slave a dragon is true. But in the healing process, this dragon has seen Jenny's heart, and he can offer her what she wants more than anything else.

As you can see, the characters have complexity. I love that about this story. And it's character driven as all Hambly's books are.

Whenever I read one of her books after a long time away from her, Hambly's writing always awes me. Her prose are flawless. Never a wasted word. Never a moment when I want something she doesn't give me. If I'm ever half the writer she is, I'll die happy.

Dragonsbane was originally published in 1985. It's the first (and best IMHO) of the four books in the Winterlands series but it stands alone nicely, and that's how I usually read it. If this sort of story appeals to you, you should definitely give it a try.

The Hero's Journey - A Comparison

I especially love the first part of this. The symmetry is fascinating.

And now I have a burning desire to watch Lord of the Rings again.

Thursday Writing Quotes ~ Pixar

Pixar Story Telling Rules

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

#9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d'you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can't just write ‘cool'. What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

The Soundtrack - Clint Black

In Knight of Hearts, Mac's avocation is poker. Specifically, Texas Hold 'Em. Bluffing and playing his cards (both literally and figuratively) close to his chest comes up often in the story, so even though I'm not a huge fan of Clint Black's, I had to include the song A Good Run of Bad Luck. It's just so Mac.

Another of Clint's songs I especially like.

Thursday Writing Quotes ~ Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler's Ten Commandments 

1. It must be credibly motivated, both as to the original situation and the dénouement.
2. It must be technically sound as to the methods of murder and detection.
3. It must be realistic in character, setting and atmosphere. It must be about real people in a real world.
4. It must have a sound story value apart from the mystery element: i.e., the investigation itself must be an adventure worth reading.
5. It must have enough essential simplicity to be explained easily when the time comes.
6. It must baffle a reasonably intelligent reader.
7. The solution must seem inevitable once revealed.
8. It must not try to do everything at once. If it is a puzzle story operating in a rather cool, reasonable atmosphere, it cannot also be a violent adventure or a passionate romance.
9. It must punish the criminal in one way or another, not necessarily by operation of the law…. If the detective fails to resolve the consequences of the crime, the story is an unresolved chord and leaves irritation behind it.
10. It must be honest with the reader.

The Pope in the Pool

I've raved about Blake Snyder's Save the Cat before, mostly because it's the best book about story structure out there. But that's not all it has to offer. One of the screenwriter's tricks he discusses is the Pope in the Pool.

This tactic was developed to deal with the problem of exposition. In case you're unclear about what exposition is exactly, Snyder defines it succinctly as: backstory or details of the plot that must be told to the audience in order for them to understand what happens next. 

The obvious problem is that when there's a lot of information to give to the reader, the scene risks being dull. The Pope in the Pool, so name by Mike Chedar, is based on a screenplay by George Englund where to counter the boredom that comes with lengthy exposition, they set the scene at the Vatican swimming pool and put the Pope in swim trunks, thereby giving the audience something interesting to focus on. Dull scene rescued.

I recently wrote a scene where my two MCs are interviewing a third character. There's lots of information I needed to have come out in the scene, but when I finished the first draft, the scene was flat and, frankly, dull.

To fix the problem, I used my own version of the Pope in the Pool.

On a whim, I'd given the third person a lap dog, so I went back and allowed the dog to become "affectionate" with the hero's leg. The heroine discreetly rescues the hero by picking up the dog. It was a start, but it wasn't enough. The scene still felt flat. So I decided the heroine is allergic to dogs.

Now there are several things going on in the scene and it's far more interesting. There's conflict and something that each character wants [u]right now[/u]. Even though it has nothing to do with the main plot of the story, the immediate wants give the scene life it didn't have before. Plus, I've just opened up some intriguing possibilities now that I know the heroine has a dog allergy. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with the information, but the possibilities are fun to play with.

How do you rescue boring exposition?