Category Archives: contemporary

First pubs of 2019

Woohoo, I’m kicking off 2019 with a double re-release! My first publications in January will be two novelettes I originally wrote for Evernight Publishing back in 2013; the rights reverted back to me in 2018, and I’m currently in the process of re-editing them and putting them together for release with Belaurient Press.

The first story, A Boon by Moonlight, is my “boy meets Sidhe/boy asks Sidhe for boon/Sidhe asks for night in boy’s bed” piece. This one has a special place in my heart because I dearly want to go out drinking with these two (Zach could be our designated driver, and Jerrek would throw back vodka like it was water and provide running snarky commentary on everyone else in the bar. It would be great). The re-release will also include the unpublished short story “Snow Day” featuring Zach and Jerrek housebound antics during a polar vortex, so there’s some added value there. It should be out on 1/15 so if you’ve never read this one before you can pick it up then.

And may I just say that I’m freaking in love with this new cover? It screams M/M fantasy romance to me (I still can’t believe I’m writing fantasy romance, but my God it’s fun). Finding the stock image of the model in fantasy garb was a real gift, and the other model works with him extremely well. I may do a couple more tweaks to the image before release day, but what you see here is primarily the finished product.

Oh, funny but true story about the cover — I sent it to a couple of writer friends for feedback. One of them writes SF/fantasy and said, “This is for a fantasy romance story? Because the woman on the right looks like a Vulcan.” I had to explain about Jerrek, after which she said, “Ohhh. In that case, it looks great.” *grin*

The other re-release is Grading the Curve, my “hot for teacher” novelette. Whereas I can get Boon out next week, Curve won’t be out for another two weeks because 1) hoo boy, I learned a lot about characterization and backstory in the last five years, which means 2) this 13K novelette is about to become a 30K novella as I gleefully apply both the Editorial Machete and the Storytelling Spackling Knife with a freaking vengeance (seriously, I re-read the original MSS and was deeply grateful that it sank without a trace. It’s not horrible, mind you, but it was clear I had no idea how to write a good, solid MF romance at that time).

The eagle-eyed among you may have noted the extra name on this cover and want to know who the heck Natasha Stark is. Well, she’s me — as of 2019 I’m using that nom de plume for all of my contemporary romances (and yes, there will be more of them — I’ve got at least four romcoms in mind), and this is my way of introducing her. It’s mainly for marketing purposes, since there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of overlap between contemporary romance readers and SF/fantasy/PN romance readers. I want to make it easy for people to find (and ideally buy) what they want to read, so SF, fantasy, or paranormal romance readers can stick with Nicola’s books, and contemporary romance readers can focus on Natasha’s books.

Oh, God. I’m going to have to set up a totally separate website/social media presence at some point for Natasha, aren’t I? I need a drink…

Meanwhile I’m also working on King of Blades (Two Thrones 4) and Natasha’s next romcom, tentatively titled Screen Kiss, so those should be out in March or so. So many books to write, so little time…

Mid Week Tease: Uncertainty Principle #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! This week I’m teasing you with the opening to Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2). It picks up a few weeks after the end of Degree of Resistance, and follows Evie and Ben as they try to adjust to life with each other outside the Pacifica Protectorate. Needless to say, their relationship is about to get complicated, particularly when Ben starts having flashbacks to his time as a brainwashed Osiris Corps agent. This teaser isn’t very sexy, but don’t worry — hot times are acomin’, yes they are!

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

The office wasn’t as nearly luxurious as visitors expected it to be. The walls were smooth white plaster interspersed with hand-width bands of stone ranging from olive to gold, all of it native to the West Coast. A few tasteful pieces of art had been placed here and there, lit by overhead LED spotlights; a Hopi Kachina figure, a shimmering beaded fiber sculpture from Keller’s Siren period, Bernini’s marble bust of Medusa. The floor was a prosaic pine that had been stripped and sealed with a polish that gave it nigh-diamond hardness. It looked more like the office of a corporation CFO, perhaps, or a Shareholder who had reached the age where she didn’t need to show off her wealth anymore.

Which was why John Ballardie liked it. Staying one step ahead of people’s expectations was not only something he enjoyed, but helped to keep both his political allies and enemies on their toes.

What he didn’t enjoy was having those same tables turned on him. “What do you mean, Song Lin’s body is still missing?” he asked.

His personal assistant Eve stood in front of his desk, unflappable in her custom business wear and red-framed SmartSpex. “Her body was never found after the attack on Gold Rush. It was assumed to have been,” she paused, making a polite face, “rendered unrecoverable. The investigation was closed when Song Dae-Jung had his sister declared officially dead. The park officials were eager to repair the damage and reopen, so they went along with Mr. Song’s wishes.”

This wasn’t the first time Song Dae-Jung had tried to sneak a private interest under the board’s nose. He’d thought the man had learned his lesson by now, but apparently that wasn’t the case. “Have the investigation re-opened. It doesn’t stop until they find a body. In fact, have them keep an eye out for her bodyguard and PA as well. I don’t care what Song says—I doubt his sister’s dead. She’s too damn smart for that.”

Eve’s SmartSpex flickered as the thin layer coating the inside of the lenses tracked her eye movements and translated them into computer commands. “There’s another issue, sir. Benjamin Drake is also missing.”

He felt himself grow still. “From where?”

“Gold Rush, sir.”

Annoyance and suspicion flash-heated into rage. “What in God’s name was he doing there?”

“There was a request to have Osiris personnel assigned to Gold Rush as security,” his PA said. “Mainly due to the number of Shareholders and other notables scheduled to attend the anniversary celebration. General Camden approved it and Drake was sent to the park. According to park records Drake’s chancellor was upgraded with a new persona after his transfer and he was assigned a street character. Tracking records show that he was in the Palais Hotel at the time of the attack, but his body hasn’t been located in the debris, either.”

A missing Shareholder who was sister to one of the most powerful board members in Pacifica was bad enough. To have Drake go missing from the same location at the same time—the situation stank to high heaven. “I want Camden here today,” Ballardie ground out. “I don’t care where she is or what she’s doing. She’s in my office before midnight.”

Eve blinked and her SmartSpex lightened momentarily. “She’s at the Eugene Toyshop. I’ll summon her immediately.”

He dismissed the PA with a curt nod. Alone, he stood and went to the only window in the office, a western exposure where he could see the bulk of downtown Redding at a glance. 30 stories below, the wide blue band of the Sacramento River was barely visible against the thick greenery of the parks on either bank of the river. If the city wasn’t covered by a dome he’d be able to see the mountains of the Shasta Cascade off to the west from this elevation.

He didn’t need this now, not with Alhambra so close to completion. Camden would simply have to turn the protectorate upside down and shake until his missing citizens—or their bodies—dropped out.

****

Flashes in the dark. The yellow cruciate rose of old-fashioned automatic weapons, and the bluish glow of modern bolt rifles. One side was better equipped than the other, but it didn’t mean the weaker side was going to give up.

Not until the last one of them was dead. And they would die. Those were his orders, and he would follow them.

He walked through the darkness, night goggles betraying the sullen silhouettes of the desert landscape. On either side were other soldiers in identical armor, his siblings in arms. They were there to serve the good of the Pacifica Protectorate. And the good of the protectorate called for the destruction of this enemy camp.

A form darted across his field of vision. It didn’t meet the parameters of those who must be protected. Enemy. He brought his rifle up and fired. The form toppled over, momentum giving it one last step on its path before gravity tumbled it to the ground.

He marched to the now-still body, finger on the rifle’s trigger in case it was a trick. But his aim had been good. A black, burnt hole the size of a golf ball adorned the ragged jacket on the enemy’s back between the shoulder blades.

He kicked the body over. Now-blind eyes stared at the night sky. He estimated the enemy’s age to be between twelve and fourteen. Parameters satisfied, he rejoined the other soldiers on their advance through the camp as they continued to kill the enemy. Those were his orders. He would follow them—

Ben jerked up, a muffled scream rasping in his throat. Cold sweat covered the parts of his body that could still produce perspiration, and his chest ached from the rapid thudding beat  of his heart.

Fuck. It was a dream. Just a bad dream.

He lay back down and closed his eyes, rubbing at the sockets until they made soft clicking noises. It didn’t help. In his mind he could still see the dead boy sprawled in the rocky dust, face turned to the heavens as if expecting a savior to arrive.

But there hadn’t been a savior. Only the Osiris Corps following orders.


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I’m Still Here (oh, and please buy my books — I have an A/C repair to pay off)

Sorry about the radio silence — between trying to get various books formatted and out (my very first romance novel Storm Season has been re-released with a new cover and re-edited content, AND it’s on sale for 99¢ — go take a look!), the increasingly scary situation going on with our current administration, the #GetLoud crusade against bookstuffers and assorted scammers, me taking a jewelry fabrication course, and assorted other things I’ve been a little busy.

The latest event was our downstairs A/C unit going out over the weekend — as it’s been flirting with triple digits here in the clavicle of Texas, this was not a laughing matter. The repairman came today and we now have cool air again for just a shade under a grand. *sigh* So if you need something entertaining to take your mind off things, I currently have five titles on sale for 99¢:

To My Muse will be coming off sale on 7/1 and Degree of Resistance will be taking its place, so if you haven’t read my hilarious romcom yet go get a copy while it’s still ridiculously cheap.

But not all is doom and gloom around the Cameron manse. The #GetLoud campaign, spearheaded by the brilliant Suzan Tisdale, Heather C. Leigh, Bianca Sommerfield, and David Gaughran, has finally generated enough complaints and bad press that the Big River are now taking down bookstuffers. Not all of them are gone, mind you — I still counted at least three in the top 20 of Romantic Comedy a few minutes ago — but the ranks are definitely looking different now. And if Amazon sticks to their guns and doesn’t let these people create new accounts (which according to their TOS is what’s supposed to happen), we may actually have a respite where KU has real, legitimate novels in it again.

At least, until the stuffers figure out a new scam. Which they will, because they’re unethical hacks who simply want to make money. In the meantime, however, I’m going to experiment and put Red Robin and the Huntsman back into KU for three months because it’s not really selling wide, and if it attracts readers in KU that might persuade them to check out the rest of the Two Thrones series (the next book, King of Blades, should be out in November, BTW).

Also, I’m finishing up Shifter Woods: Snarl (see cover at left) and that will be out on 7/10, so mark your calendars! The final novella in the current series, Shifter Woods: Scream (which is Deputy Jane’s story — the eagle shifter finds herself mated to a hot tiger shifter AND a half-elf zoologist in a crossover with Siobhan Muir’s Cloudburst, Colorado series), will be out sometime in September, and then I have to think about a plot for a full-length Esposito County Shifters novel. One possibility is Caleb and Laurie finally getting married — that is, if she can take time out from her new big story and he can deal with a group of religious preppers who are trying to set up a compound in the county. All of the characters from the novellas will be in that one, and I can build from there.

Mid Week Tease: To My Muse #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! This week I’m featuring one last snippet from To My Muse where Tom and Lily hit the big Hollywood party thrown by Sir Nathan. God, I had such a good time writing this book. In the coming weeks, I’ll be back to posting snippets from Shifter Woods: Snarl and Uncertainty Principle.

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

We heard the hum of party noise before we reached the main foyer. It was seriously different from my family’s parties—for one thing, there was a decided lack of Bollywood hits and I-pop blasting through the air, and waiters were walking around with trays of full champagne flutes. Not a single harried teenaged girl fetching some lassi for a thirsty auntie in sight. Dadi would be so disappointed in Sir Nathan.

Tom snagged a pair of flutes for us, passing one to me. “Drink up,” he advised. “It’ll make the evening a bit more enjoyable.”

I sipped my champagne. Naturally it was delicious. “Yeah, no, I’m still nervous,” I whispered after swallowing.

“Give it a chance to circulate.” He looped his arm around my waist and guided me towards the people standing in discreet groupings of two and three. “Smile and nod, darling.”

Great. Now I had the penguins from Madagascar caroling in my head. Smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave. Biting back an insane urge to call Tom “Private,” I did as he suggested.

The damnedest thing was, it worked. Complete strangers nodded back at me, with the occasional assessing glance thrown in for good measure. Only this time the assessment added up to “one of us.” I felt Matthiu’s work on my face like a mask. They had no clue.

Tom led me through a thickening crowd into the main entertainment area that I’d seen last night. All the lights were on this time, set to low, and the room was full of people chatting to each other with the occasional laugh sparkling in the air. Underneath the chatter was a soft medley of cocktail bar classics coming from the grand piano in the corner.

To my surprise, Sir Nathan was playing it. “Thought so,” Tom murmured, guiding me over. “You couldn’t resist performing, could you?” he said to our host.

Sir Nathan gave us a genial smile as his fingers moved over the keyboard. “The pianist is taking a break, so I thought I’d fill in for him. You look lovely tonight, my dear,” he added to me.

I had to stop myself from curtseying. “Thank you, Sir Nathan. You look pretty spiffy yourself.”

He chuckled at that. “It’s all Ana’s doing. I’d look like a right scruff if it wasn’t for her. And you cleaned up well, lad.”

“Also Ana’s doing,” Tom said, glancing around. “Any hotspots I should know about?”

Sir Nathan peered at the crowed without losing a beat. “Rob Valentine from the network is here—you know him, I believe—and some of the European producers are drifting around as well. I haven’t seen the lovely Claudine yet, but I’m sure we’ll hear the trumpets once she arrives.”

I knew I liked him. “Where’s Ana?” I asked.

“Giving the caterers their final instructions, then she planned on holding court in the Tuscan Room. You should be able to find it,” he said to Tom.

“I may need a GPS, but I’ll find it,” Tom said acerbically. “We’ll let you get back to tinkling the ivories.”

“Good man.”

Sir Nathan swung into a jazzy version of “Piano Man” as we wandered off. “Okay, so what’s the plan?” I asked as quietly as I could.

“We circulate, chat with the people I know, and casually strike up conversations with various producers and studio execs,” Tom explained. “I’ll mention that we have a package we’re putting together with Nathan and feed them the elevator pitch. Hopefully that’ll be enough to get me some meetings, and then we build from that.”

I knew what an elevator pitch was—a brief but catchy overview of a plot meant to be delivered in thirty seconds or less: ‘She’s a rich girl engaged to an abusive capitalist, he’s a poor artist looking forward to a future in America. Against all odds they fall in love, but an iceberg crashes into their plans as well as their ship.’ That’s a crappy version of an elevator pitch for Titanic, but you get the idea. “So what’s the pitch for Right Hand?”

He spread his hands. “After World War II, a progressive pope shocks the Vatican by taking a nun as his chief advisor,” he announced.

I considered it. “Eh.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Well, it’s factually true but there’s no oomph to it. How about, ‘As Europe rebuilds from the ruins of World War II, a rebellious Pius XII shocks the Vatican by taking on an advisor they can’t control—a nun.”

He considered my phrasing. “But couldn’t they control her? I mean, if they talked to the head of her order.”

“Yeah, but if Pius was giving the orders he kind of outranks the head of her order. Okay, how about, ‘From the ruins of World War II, a controversial pope and a stubborn nun’s relationship will shock the Vatican—and change the world forever.’”

“I like it. Naughty enough to get people’s attention without tipping over into outright salaciousness. We can go into details about the relationship once they’re interested.” He kissed my temple. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

I felt warm all over, which was a good thing because the house AC was cranked to handle the crowd. “So am I.”


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Mid Week Tease: To My Muse #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! This week To My Muse was released, and I want to feature a rather nice scene between Tom and Lily.

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

If I’d had to spend the time before the party alone with Tom, we were not staying out of that amazing bed, and once that happened I’m not sure I’d have the strength of character to get dressed and go to the party. I wouldn’t put it past our hostess to realize that and take steps.

I followed Ana’s assistant to the other side of the house, where she showed me down a hallway to a luxurious bedroom suite done in shades of teal and cream that was easily large enough to host one of my grandparents’ parties. Nathan was nowhere in sight, but what sounded like a Bach cantata drifted out of a side room. “She’s waiting for you,” Sue said, waving at the doorway.

I poked my head in, and immediately fell in love with one of the most gorgeous old school dressing rooms I’d ever seen. The dominant tone was a warm, feminine peach that went beautifully with the immaculate white woodwork along all the walls. More white woodwork surrounded glass-fronted shelves over wide drawers and an amazing number of closet compartments. An elegant black ironwork chandelier with frosted glass lampshades rimmed in terra cotta hung from an oval cutout in the ceiling, and a huge custom vanity table had been built into another wall with more shelves on either side of a ginormous mirror in an antique square silver frame.

Ana sat at the table wearing a silk robe with her hair skimmed back behind a head wrap, calmly dabbing some cream onto her face. I wasn’t used to seeing her without makeup on; I knew she was somewhere in her late sixties, but she had that Helen Mirren gift of good skin that had held up extremely well over the years. There were wrinkles here and there, yes, but they looked tasteful and appropriate, as if a completely smooth face would have been unbearably gauche.

She smiled at me in the mirror. “Hello, Lily. Did you have a pleasant time today?”

“Yes, and thank you so much for sending us to Huffington’s,” I said. “Wait until you see the dress Tom bought.”

“What color?”

“Deep sapphire blue.”

Her eyes lit up. “Oh, that will look marvelous on you. And that works out well for me, too. Sue, bring the Bulgari Festa set, please.”

The PA disappeared through yet another doorway, returning with a black velvet case. She opened it and I gasped. Inside was a spectacular pendant necklace made up of what I had to assume was white gold, with sprays of diamonds and sapphires around a perfect cushion-cut sapphire that was big enough to choke a horse. The chain was constructed of white gold teardrop loops crusted with more diamonds and sapphires, each loop interspersed with a solitaire diamond.

“Oh, Ana, that is completely gorgeous,” I said, every sparkly-loving atom of my being lusting after that magnificent necklace. “Are you wearing this tonight?”

“No, my dear. You are.”

Screech. “I—what?”

She smiled. “If you’re wearing the sapphire blue Christian Siriano that Taffy mentioned to me, then this will go perfectly with it.” She turned to Sue. “I believe the Le Magnifiche Creazioni earrings will go well with this.”

Sue beamed at me. “They’re in the bottom of the case, madam.”

“Excellent. I do appreciate your foresight, my dear.”

Aaaaand motor functions came back on line. “I can’t wear this!” I squeaked. “This is Bulgari!” I knew Bulgari jewelry, had mooned over it in Vogue and other fashion magazines, but never thought I’d be allowed within touching distance. To wear it? Holy Kali and all her hands, this one necklace had to be worth more than everything I’d ever owned put together. “What if I spill something on it? What if I drop it?”

“Well, if you spill something on it, you can always wash it off,” Ana said practically. “It’s the nice thing about metal and gemstones—they’re very hard to stain. And the latch will make sure it stays in place.”

The practical side of me recoiled from the very idea of touching that gorgeous pendant, much less hanging it around my neck. The princess side of me wanted to squeal and go show it off to Tom. “Ana, I can’t—”

“Yes, you can. In fact, I’ll be very disappointed if you don’t wear it tonight.” She gave me a faux-stern look. “And you don’t want to disappoint your hostess, do you?”

I swallowed hard. It would be rude to turn down such a generous gesture, that was true. And it wasn’t as if I’d be wearing it outside where something bad could happen. They’d have security at this party, right?

“No, I don’t,” I said in a small voice. “Thank you.”

“There, that’s settled.” She tapped her lips. “I thought you might want to get ready here, since there’s plenty of room. Sue will show you to the shower and you can freshen up, then we’ll have Celeste get to work on your hair while Matthiu does my makeup, then we’ll trade. It’ll leave Thomas with your bathroom to himself. That way, you won’t need to dance around him to get at the mirror.”

The thought of Tom getting ready in the bathroom, fresh out of the shower with a towel wrapped around that muscular waist, made my eyes cross a little and a whole lot of regret gush through me. Before I could say anything, a gorgeous black woman in a sleek black pinstriped smock and a man with a purple-tinted beard came in. Ana gave them air kisses and introduced me while Sue bustled around pulling more items out of the closets.

Celeste clicked her tongue as she studied my hair. “Oh, you’re going to be a handful, gorgeous,” she said in a cheerful East End accent. “What products do you use?”

I rattled them off with an apology for presenting her with my nightmare cloud of hair. She waved it off. “Don’t fret, pet. I’m an expert with curls. We’ll tame them into something spectacular, wait and see.”

Meanwhile, Matthiu stroked his beard as he stared at my skin. “Absolute silk,” he declared. “What are you wearing tonight?”

“Um, a dress?”

“I meant color, angel.”

“Cobalt blue,” Ana advised. “With a fairly deep V neckline, so make sure the makeup carries over onto her chest.”

That earned her an eye roll for the ages before he turned back to me. “Right, you. Off to the shower, and I want your face clean and bare. Don’t moisturize—I’ll take care of that.”

“Uh, okay.” This was starting to remind me of family weddings where various aunties would pull me into a bedroom and get me dolled up in proper Hindi maiden finery since that was out of Mom’s wheelhouse. At least tonight I didn’t have to worry about someone hovering with a giant needle and wondering if they had time to pierce my nose.

I hoped.

****

After a long shower and a relaxing orgasm assisted by a fantasy of a naked and very enthusiastic Lily, I touched up my shave and cleaned my teeth. Once that was done, there was nothing else to do but wander into the empty bedroom, a towel wrapped around my waist in case my spunky screenwriter came back early. Although I doubted that was going to happen. Ana had clearly taken her in hand and was going to work some supermodel magic tonight.

Which, if I was being honest with myself, bothered me a little. I’m sure the results would be spectacular, but I rather liked Lily in her capris and Vans, hair loose and curling around her face. If Ana did the job that I knew she could do, Lily would wind up suitably coiffed and dressed for the cover of Vogue. Worse, she could well wind up the belle of the ball tonight. Assuming that Nathan invited his usual mix of industry movers and shakers, vencap types, and a few out and out billionaires, it meant that there would be any number of rich, handsome men at the party tonight who would take one look at her and offer to sweep her off to a Vail ski lodge or Lake Como palazzo without a second thought.

Whereas I couldn’t even pay her for a script treatment. The more I thought about it, the more I regretted haggling on her points with Theresa. I must have come off as a skinflint bastard.
Well, that settled it. Even if it had to come out of my share, I was bumping up her percentage to a full two points. I’d let her know as soon as she got back. Hopefully that would be enough to stop her head from being turned by some A-lister with a private jet.

Grateful that I’d remembered to pack dress socks, I got dressed from the skin out in my new duds. Once the fancy silk tie was in place, I settled back down with La Popessa, running through the now-familiar text and mentally casting various roles. I had just hit on Liam as a good fit for one of the monsignors when the door opened and I looked up. “Finally. I thought I’d have to send the fire brigade—”

The joke died on my lips as I stared at the vision that floated into the room. Oh, Ana, you wicked, talented woman, you. I wasn’t going to have to fight off studio execs and venture capitalists. I was going to have to fight off every straight man in the place, and probably a few lesbians for good measure.

I already knew that the ridiculously expensive but gorgeous frock skimmed Lily’s curves like a McLaren performance vehicle on an Alpine road. But Ana hadn’t stopped there. A professional had taken brushes and makeup to Lily’s face and made her skin glow and her eyes sparkle. Her dark curls were now twisted and tamed in an elegant updo that let delicate little ringlets frame her face, and whatever scent she was wearing should have been marketed as “Devastating” and only sold to licensed dealers.

If that wasn’t enough to throw me for a loop, the sapphire that hung over her deliciously plump décolletage could have choked a Christmas goose. “My God,” I murmured. “You’re beautiful.”

She bit her lips gently as her blush deepened. “I feel like Cinderella.”

“Good. You should.” I stood, tugging my jacket straight and trying to will my libido down. Thank God for tight boxer-briefs is all I can say. “I take it the jewelry is Ana’s?”

Lily touched it gingerly. “She insisted I wear it. I’m freaking out just thinking about it.”

“Don’t. She was right.” I went to her, pulling her into my arms. “It makes you even more stunning.”

Close up, her eyes were captivating pools of rich brown with the tiniest flecks of gold around the iris. How had I gone for so long without looking into them? “Are you ready?” I asked.

Her arms went around my neck, holding on for dear life. “Do I have a choice?”

“I’m afraid not.”

She took a deep breath. “Then I’m ready. Let’s do this.”


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To My Muse 99¢ release SALE

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon AU

Smashwords

Ever do something really, really dumb?

When too much tequila and an enabling BFF put Lily Nayar’s romance novel Feast of Lovers into the hands of its inspiration, sexy British actor Tom Morrison, Lily is horrified. Now she’s determined to get her book back, even if that means breaking into Tom’s hotel room to do it.

With the help of a strategic lie and an Oscar-winning knight, Lily’s screwball plan catapults her into the middle of her very own Cinderella story, Hollywood style. But will a vengeful actress ruin Lily’s shot at a real life HEA with Tom?

I still get nervous

To My Muse is my ninth full-length novel, not counting the various novellas, novelettes, and short stories I’ve written since becoming a professional writer in 1995, and the fifth I’ve self-published. I should be used to the process by now, but I still get anxious the night before release day. Did I cross all my Ts and dot all my Is? Are there errors in the finished version (there are. There always are. I have come to accept this as part of being human)? Did I send out ARCs to all the reviewers? Am I doing enough promo? Am I doing too much promo?

Will people like it?

That’s the big thing, of course. Will people see my amusing ads and catchy blurb and think, “Yeah, I’ll splash out on this, what the heck.” And if they do that, will they like it or think, “Aw, man. I should’ve gotten a venti Frappucino instead.”

I’m hoping people like it. I’ve gotten a response already from one reviewer (which shocked the heck out of me because I didn’t think she’d be able to get to it until June) and she’s giving it five stars. The betas all liked it, the editor liked it, the sensitivity reader liked it (Lily’s half-Indian. You bet your ass this white lady used a sensitivity reader, AND I fixed the things she told me to fix). But I still worry. That’s normal. And I know there will be people who don’t like it, and that’s also normal. I can’t entertain all of the people all of the time. Mainly, I hope I won’t offend anyone with my story of Lily and her family. Indian culture and diaspora is magnificently detailed and exhaustively extensive, and I’ve very much enjoyed my research into it in order to create the Nayar family in as accurate and respectful a manner as possible. I also know, however, that there will be things I missed, and for that I apologize and ask your indulgence.

Contemporary romantic comedy is a new subgenre for me, but hopefully Muse won’t be my one and only entry in it. I have other books planned, in between new entries in my existing series. I promise you, I will make the time to get them written.

And now, back to work on Shifter Woods: Snarl.

Dream Casting TO MY MUSE

I’m assuming that we all heard the bad news about Lucifer today (WHY, Fox. WHY?). That being said, it did occur to me that this meant certain actors I had mentally cast as characters in To My Muse were now available for work. And since my editor and at least two beta readers have told me that 1) they laughed their asses off while reading it, and 2) this really needs to be turned into a script, I clearly need to win the Powerball and produce the damn movie myself.

Keep all sharp objects away from my reality bubble, please. I’m allowed to dream.

And in case you don’t know the plot to the book, here you go: Ever do something really, really dumb?

When too much tequila and an enabling BFF put Lily Nayar’s romance novel Feast of Lovers into the hands of its inspiration, sexy British actor Tom Morrison, Lily is horrified. Now she’s determined to get her book back, even if that means breaking into Tom’s hotel room to do it.

With the help of a strategic lie and a charismatic knight, Lily’s screwball plan catapults her into the middle of her very own Cinderella story, Hollywood style. But will a vengeful actress ruin Lily’s shot at a real life HEA with Tom?

So, anyway, let’s take a quick trip into Nic’s mind and see who she would cast for the movie version of To My Muse:


LilyNayarLily Nayar (played by Liza Koshy). Funny, snarky, wannabe screenwriter working as a tech writer by day and romance writer by night.

She never meant to send a copy of her romance novel Feast of Lovers to its inspiration, sexy British actor Tom Morrison. When tequila shots and an enabling BFF bring this about, however, a horrified Lily is determined to get her book back — even if that means breaking into Tom’s hotel room while he’s on location.

Needless to say, hijinks ensue.

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Tom Morrison (played by Tom Ellis). Third lead on the dystopian steampunk series GearShifter, he’s flattered when he learns that he’s inspired a romance novel by “Lilian DeVries.” The last thing he expects to find, however, is Lily facing off against his sexually rapacious costar Claudine Ellery in his hotel room.

When he pretends that Lily is his girlfriend in order to discourage Claudine, it triggers a series of events that wind up with him hiring Lily to write a spec script for his dream project, a biopic of Pope Pius XII. As you do.

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Sir Nathan Chapman (played by Sir Ben Kingsley). Oscar-winning actor, knight, and Tom’s costar on GearShifter, he’s also Tom’s first choice to play Pope Pius XII in At the Right Hand.

The genial actor gets an earful from Claudine first, however, and assumes that Tom and Lily are dating when Tom introduces her as AtRH‘s screenwriter. When he tells Tom to bring Lily to the Chapmans’ anniversary party in Palm Springs, Tom convinces Lily to come along in order to keep Nathan happy.

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Lady Ana Chapman (played by Dame Helen Mirren). Former Ukrainian supermodel, businesswoman, and leading light of LA philanthropy, she and Nathan are old friends of Tom. She’s delighted to meet Lily and takes the younger woman under her wing for the party, lending her a stunning Bulgari necklace and earring set to complete her transformation to successful young Hollywood elite. Why, yes, she plays the fairy godmother in this Cinderella re-telling, why do you ask?

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Theresa Eastridge (played by Quinta Brunson). Lily’s BFF and Senior video producer at ThruPut, the social media company that turned into a global juggernaut when nobody was looking.

No-nonsense but empathetic as all hell, Theresa gets sucked into Lily’s insane plan because it was her idea to send Tom the copy of Feast of Lovers in the first place. She also writes the contract that gives Lily 1.5 points, gross, on Right Hand, because that’s just how she rolls.

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Claudine Ellery (played by Charlize Theron). Fourth lead of GearShifter. Blonde, beautiful, bitchy, and more than a bit sensitive about the fact that she’s on the wrong side of 40.

Claudine is slated to star in a movie scripted by Lily’s ex-boyfriend (one eensy thing — Lily wrote 2/3 of the script). Oh, and she really wants to add Tom’s notch to her bedpost. Needless to say, she does not appreciate Lily cockblocking her (or threatening to cunt punt her into Arizona).

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Marion “Bubbles” Warner (played by Rachel Dratch). Lily’s manager at Golden State Bank, she’s a micromanaging nightmare. God forbid you put the wrong header on an email. She clearly needs to get drunk, laid, and a life outside of the bank, not necessarily in that order.

Why, yes, I may have had managers like this in my tech writing career. Never piss off a writer, for they will use you in their books years later, and they will be ruthless.

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Liam Hennessy (played by Louis Herthum). A respected character actor and Tom’s costar on GearShifter, he gets drawn into the At the Right Hand michigas when Tom decides to cast him as a monsignor in Right Hand.

Also, Lou is kinda responsible for To My Muse in the first place so I wanted to give him a cameo. The similarity in initials should be a big honking clue about that.

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SanjayNayarSanjay Nayar (played by Jay Chandrasekhar). Lily’s engineer dad, he’s responsible for most of her good habits as well as her storytelling skills. Plus he bails her out of a tight spot with his parents, so he’s getting the extra large Best Dad Ever mug filled with chocolate-covered espresso beans this year for Father’s Day.

The fact that I would pay to watch Jay read the phone book has nothing to do with this mental casting choice, truly.

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Dr. Helen Nayar (played by Ashley Judd). Lily’s thoracic surgeon mom and referee for the Family Dinner battles between her kids. Patient is her middle name, and not just because she’s a doctor.

Helen loves her husband and kids, appreciates her in-laws, and enjoys her life. She just wishes Lily would do something a bit more constructive with her life. Which, considering her engineer husband and CTO son, is understandable.

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Derek Nayar (played by Suraj Sharma). Lily’s younger brother and CTO at Limner FX. A hard-charging executive who thrives on pressure and deadlines, he really, really, REALLY wants Lily to come work for him. Lily would rather orally service Steve Bannon. Also, she still remembers making Derek dress up as a Power Puff Girl for Halloween one year, which would just cause problems at work.

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Diya “Dadi” Nayar (played by Suhasini Mulay). Lily’s paternal grandmother, she wants her family to be happy, successful, and enthusiastic about their Indian heritage. Great-grandkids wouldn’t hurt, either. But she won’t hesitate to take a slipper to a grandchild if it becomes necessary (looking at Derek).

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Arjun “Dada” Nayar (played by Anupam Kher). Lily’s paternal grandfather, he’s the successful CEO of an import business. He’s not overly thrilled with Tom, however, when Lily and Tom run into her parents and grandparents while shopping in Palm Springs.

Sick? I don’t have time to be sick. I have a book to edit.

Bah. Virus, be gone. I have too much work to do.

So, To My Muse is off to the betas and editor, I have the media packet put together, it’s currently churning through Amazon for pre-order, and I’ll brave the Smashwords Meat Grinder tomorrow to get the doc ready for that so that I can collect all the non-Amazon buy links, put them in my media packet, and send that off to bloggers, reviewers, and other folks who might talk up my work.

This was … a scarily easy edit. I’m not sure if that’s good or not. As I explained to Ramón, editing is normally more like wringing each page until blood drips out of it and the words reluctantly fall in a pleasing order. For TMM, it was more like, “Oh, that’s funny … and that’s funny … hee!” There were definitely things that needed to be edited, but it wasn’t nearly as soul-wracking as it usually it. I don’t know if it’s because this is a standalone, a contemporary romance, or a romcom. Getting feedback from the betas and my editor will either reassure me that I didn’t do anything wrong, or explain gently but firmly that I was fooling myself about this story and there’s lots I need to fix. We’ll see.

But in the meantime, I think I’ve pretty much done everything I can apart from the Meat Grinder for promo prep. Part of me wants to go make jewelry. The other part wants to collapse in bed and watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. Decisions, decisions…

Mid Week Tease: To My Muse #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, folks! This week I’m teasing you with another snippet from To My Muse. I’ve backed things up a bit to Tom’s first scene, where we get to see his viewpoint upon finding a gorgeous romance writer in his hotel room about to throw down with his costar. There’s no real sexytimes in this teaser, but you do see the beginning of Tom’s attraction to Lily.

Oh, and to explain the pics, that’s hilarious actress/Youtuber Liza Koshy and Lucifer‘s Tom Ellis, who are playing Lily and Tom in my head. You’re welcome!

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

“Jeez, Tom, will you relax?” Jolene chided me. “You snort up half of Peru or what?”

“Sorry.” I tried to stay still while the GearShifter makeup goddess dabbed some dark powder along my cheekbone, referring to pictures that the continuity girl had taken earlier that day to match up the distribution pattern. We’d already shot a full day and I’d been looking forward to a relaxing evening of memorization over room service followed up with a glass of wine and five fitful hours of sleep as I wondered how the hell I was going to pull At the Right Hand together.

Instead, God (or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, take your pick) had smiled down upon me and sent me Lily Nayar, screenwriter of my dreams. And then I had to leave her at the hotel and come back to this thrice-buggered set just as we were ready to discuss what I needed for the script, hence my jittering. She wouldn’t change her mind, would she? I mean, she’s getting gross points, for God’s sake.

I’m not sure what had shocked me more when I’d walked into my hotel room earlier that afternoon—seeing Claudine standing there in nothing but a towel and a scowl, or seeing this tiny, gorgeous woman glaring up at Claud as if she was going to shred her like a honey badger. It took me a beat before I recognized the shorter woman as the romance writer who had tweeted at me last week to tell me that I’d inspired her latest novel. I have an actor’s ego, just about able to fit through your average supernova, so of course I was chuffed that my performance on GearShifter had prompted someone to write a swoony kissing book. I’d asked her to send a copy to my agent’s office, figuring that I’d stick it in a bookcase and look at it fondly when I wanted to be reminded of the days when I was lusted after by American women.

What I hadn’t expected was it to be messengered to my house along with the contracts for the luxury car commercials I was going to be doing voiceovers for (a British accent makes everything sound more luxe to the Americans, bless their colonial hearts). Normally non-business items sit in my agent’s mail room until the pile reaches a certain size limit and then they get shipped to me en masse, but Eric’s minions had apparently decided to be industrious for once. I’d been leaving for the airport when the messenger showed up so I stuck the large envelope in my carryon, figuring I’d read the contracts on the flight to Las Vegas. When I reached in to get them, however, I pulled out Lily’s book instead.

Right off the bat the cover surprised me. It had a Dutch Master feel to the colors and composition, and not a himbo in sight. Instead, a rather intent couple posed back to back in front of a menacing medieval structure. I flipped to the first page, figuring I’d scan it to see what I’d wrought in the mind of a fantasy romance writer.

When we landed in Vegas forty minutes later, I was deep in the middle of Chapter Three. To my surprise Ms. Nayar had woven together a terrific combination of politics, sex, and comic revenge. It was as if someone had taken Game of Thrones, gotten rid of the gore and rapey bits, bumped up the sexytimes and made them consensual, and added a laugh track. I even rather liked “my” character, a rather cold but fundamentally decent baron named Montmorency who had to work with a noblewoman to stop her sister from being married off to an oaf. I was disappointed when I had to put the book away and deplane.

I picked it up again that night after memorizing my lines for the next day and kept reading far later than I should have. I did take a break at one point and went to Lily’s author website to see what else she had on offer. Apparently Feast of Lovers was fifth in a series so I had more reading material to look forward to. Curious, I clicked on her About page. “Lilian DeVries” turned out to be a gorgeous woman with sparkling brown eyes and a mass of lovely dark curls that, if they were anything like my sisters’, probably drove her spare every morning. She looked like she’d been giggling mid-pic, and I wondered what her laugh sounded like.

So you can imagine my surprise when I walked into my hotel room and saw her facing off with a terrycloth-clad Claudine. Actually, Claud’s presence tipped it out of the “surprise” box and into the “what the actual FUCK” box. You see, my costar had made it very clear early last season that I was expected to grace her bed at some point. I, in return, had made it very clear that I wasn’t interested. Or at least I thought I had. Claud was absolutely gorgeous, yes. She was also catty, manipulative, and more than a bit egotistic, and I didn’t feel like putting up with her “all shall love me and despair” attitude just for a shag.

Apparently she’d taken that as a challenge, hence her appearance in my room wearing nothing but a towel. I suspect things would have gotten TMZ-level difficult if Lily hadn’t picked up on my silent pleading and pretended to be my girlfriend. When she delivered her quintessentially American ultimatum, I was torn between sympathetically cringing and wanting to cheer.

Chasing off Claud was enough to make me worship the fierce Ms. Nayar in and of itself. But mirable dictu, she turned out to be a screenwriter as well as a novelist, and she was familiar with Piux XII and Mother Pascalina, and she was willing to write a spec script for me. I can only assume that the room key botch-up was divinely inspired because there was no other explanation for how she wound up in my hotel room at just the right time. Now that I had the script lined up, I could work on wheedling Nathan to commit to the film, at which point the rest of the production would hopefully fall into place.

While the business part of my brain plotted and planned, the part concerned with everything below the belt was reminding me that 1) Lily was even lovelier in person, 2) smelled amazing, and 3) she thought I was at least moderately attractive, if her book was anything to judge by, so 4) I could very possibly be in there. The business part overheard that and icily told the fun part that I needed her for her writing talent, not for her curvy little body and expressive face. I caved to the business side; my unruly penis would just have to stay safely in my trousers until we started production, bugger it all.

But now instead of discussing the plot of my movie with my talented (and gorgeous) screenwriter, I was back at the GearShifter set in my increasingly ripe costume while fake dirt was being applied to my face. So much for the glamour of acting.

“Did you ever find out why we got called back?” the man in the chair next to me asked. Liam Hennessy was an American character actor known for his work in police procedurals and paranormal shows. On our show he played a morally ambiguous fixer with a penchant for sadism, which was hilarious because in real life he was a perfect gentleman with a penchant for landscape photography. If he was grumbling a bit about being called back to set, I felt justified about being pissed off.

I shrugged and Jolene made an annoyed noise at my movement. “Sorry,” I apologized to her, before adding to Liam, “Something about the camera placement being off for the CGI.”

Liam glanced at the neon green sleeve that covered his right arm and hand and sighed. In post it would be replaced by the grungy biomechanical limb that his character used to terrorize my costars. “Why do I have a feeling that’s gonna involve me?”

I grimaced in sympathy. I didn’t understand all of the fancy special effects tech, but I did know that anyone who wore green neoprene or movement capture suits wound up doing more work than the rest of us. “Maybe it won’t take that long,” I offered. “Are you working the weekend?”

“Nope. As soon as they clear me tomorrow I’m heading back to LA.” He smiled. “Got a camping date with my kid. If they need anything else, they can wait until next week.”

“Good on you, mate.” One of my more treasured daydreams was to find someone who could put up with my mad career, settle down, and have a couple of squalling brats that we’d love to distraction. I couldn’t see that happening in LA, though, and I hadn’t met anyone in London that I’d fancied enough. “Have a s’more for me.”

Jolene declared Liam done and shooed him out of the makeup trailer. “You staying clear of the Queen of Whore Island?” she asked once we were alone.

“Oh, Christ, Jo. You won’t believe what she did.” Makeup people were a combination of artist, technician, miracle worker, and psychologist and always had their fingers on the pulse of a set, so I poured out what had happened in my hotel room. “You should have seen her face when Lily threatened to cunt punt her into Arizona.”

Jolene giggled in conspiratorial delight. “That one sounds like a keeper, babe. You better treat her right.”

Part of me wanted to do just that, ideally in my bed over a long weekend, or even longer if I could manage it. Down, lad. Movie first, seduction later.


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