Monday, December 31, 2012

Making the Year-End Lists, Checking Them Twice

It's been amazingly gratifying to watch the year-end lists come up and see some familiar books on there!

So in no particular order, but with great thanks...

--To Christal at Badass Book Reviews for naming the Sentinels as one of the site's Best New Series for 2012.

--To the New Orleans Times-Picayune, for naming Royal Street to their Top Five Louisiana-Set Fiction Reads for 2012.

--To reviewer Paul Goat Allen, who named Royal Street among his Best Paranormal Fantasy Books of 2012 on the Barnes and Noble Explorations SF/F website.

--To Lee at She Wolf Reads for naming Elysian Fields (and Susannah Sandlin's Omega) to her 2013 Wish List.

--To Kimberly at Kimba the Caffeinated Reviewer for naming Royal Street among her Top 10 Adult Reads of 2012 (with an honorable mention to Susannah Sandlin's Redemption).

--To Melliane at Between Dreams and Reality for naming Royal Street among her Best Books of 2012.

--To Jennifer at The Book Nympho for choosing Elysian Fields among her top 10 Books I Can't Wait for in 2013 and for naming Alex Warin one of her Top 10 Book Boyfriends of 2012.

--To Laura at Book Chick City for naming Royal Street one of her Top 10 Books of 2012.

--To Maghon at Happy Tails and Tales for naming Royal Street and River Road to her Best of 2012 List (as well as Susannah Sandlin's Redemption and Absolution).

Did I miss a list? Let me know!

New Releases Dec. 24-31 and Reader’s Choice C*ntest

It’s the last Reader’s Choice contest of the year! And we have a pretty good list this week, so see what you’d like to read. Of this list, there are lots of releases in long-running series that I haven’t read, so I’m going kind of off my normal path this week and picking as my most-wanted The Hermetic Millennia by John C. Wright, which sounds fascinating.

What do you want to read? As always, leave a comment telling me the book you’d most like to win, and maybe will make your wishes come true. Your choice of print or digital unless otherwise stated. International? Of course! As long as Book Depository delivers to your country, please enter. If you’d prefer the first book in a series listed here, that’s okay, too.

Gates of Rapture (The World of Ascension #6), by Caris Roane (December 24, St. Martin’s)
As a vampire and a warrior, Leto Distra is deadly. But after years of being forced to drink dying blood, he is now part beast, a wild savage thing lurking beneath the surface. With war on the horizon, Leto is determined to help the Guardians of Ascension destroy the enemy who turned him into a monster. And there’s only one woman who can help him. Grace Albion is certain that she’s meant to be with Leto, but their future may be cut short by the impending battle. Now Grace must embrace her obsidian flame powers, and bind her powers with Leto’s, if they’re ever going to survive. With the fate of the world at stake, they must tap into powers they never knew they had, and unlock their deepest passions.

A Love Untamed (Feral Warriors #7), by Pamela Palmer (December 26, Avon)
The newest member of the elite Feral Warriors brotherhood, Fox is eager to prove himself on the frontlines of battle against the Daemons. When paired with the legendary Ilina warrior, Melisande, he expects the fierce beauty to quickly fall under the spell of his quite considerable charm. Instead, he finds himself spellbound by a woman who’s his match in every way. Beneath Melisande’s brittle exterior lies centuries of pain and a violent hatred of all shape-shifters, a hatred that slowly crumbles after they’re caught in a deadly and cunning Mage trap and she glimpses a surprising depth in her far-too-seductive partner. Their survival demands unconditional trust, and their salvation surrender to a wild, untamed love.

A Soul So Wicked (Moon Chasers #6), by Sharie Kohler (December 26, Pocket)
A lycan generations old, Darius roams the earth seeking redemption as he hunts the one responsible for his terrible curse. The last thing he expects, however, is to find a tantalizing woman beneath the demon witch who’s as desperate for redemption, and love, as he is. For more than 1,000 years, Tresa, an enslaved demon witch who has spent her long life tormented by the devastating mistakes of her past, has roamed the earth fleeing her demon, trying to make amends and avoid unleashing further evil upon the world. Although she feels deserving of the torment she has brought on herself, in Darius’s arms she begins to feel the most dangerous thing of all: hope that maybe passion can burn hotter than the evil hunting her.

Gilded (The St. Croix Chronicles #2), by Karina Cooper (December 26, Avon)
In the gleaming heights of Victorian London, a world of deception awaits an unconventional Society lady. Though Society demands that I make a good marriage, I, Cherry St. Croix, have neither the time nor the interest. I am on the trail of a murder with no victim, a mystery with no motive, and the key to an alchemical formula that could be my family’s legacy. Above the foggy drift, an earl insists on my attention, while my friends watch my increasingly desperate attempts to remain my own woman. From the silken demands of the Midnight Menagerie, to whose dangerously seductive ringmaster I owe a debt, to the rigorous pressures of the peerage, all are conspiring to place before me a choice that will forever change my life.

Last Kiss Goodnight (Otherworld Assassin #1), by Gena Showalter (December 26, Pocket)
Black ops agent Solomon Judah awakens caged and bound in a twisted zoo where otherworlders are the main attraction. Vika Lukas, the owner’s daughter, is tasked with Solo’s care and feeding. The monster inside him yearns to kill her on sight, even though she holds the key to his escape. But the human side of him realizes the beautiful deaf girl is more than she seems, she’s his. Vika endures the captives’ taunts and loathing, hoping to keep them alive even if she can’t free them. Only, Solo is different, he protects her. But as hostility turns to forbidden romance, his feelings for her will be used against him, and he’ll be put to a killer test.

A Taste of Ice (The Elementals #2), by Hanna Martine (December 31, Berkley)
Five years ago, Xavier escaped from the Ofarian Plant. Today he calls a Colorado mountain town home. It’s there he buries himself in his work, swearing off magic and relationships, until a woman threatens every promise he’s made to himself. Cat has always known she is different. Water speaks to her on an uncanny level, and she channels this gift into beautiful painted waterscapes. Now, a gallery is debuting her work in Colorado, and it’ll reveal far more about her than she imagined. The spark between Cat and Xavier is enough to throw both of them off balance. Dangerous because Xavier comes to suspect that Cat is an Ofarian, his people’s enemy. But they’re both about to discover a far greater, more malicious power at play.

Blessed by a Demon’s Mark (Kat Redding #3), by E.S. Moore (December 31, Kensington)
Kat Redding’s life is dangerous enough when she’s hunting the rogue vampires who prey on Pureblood humans. But now that Kat is thinking of getting out of the killing business, she’s faced with a slew of new problems. Like the demon Beligral, who offers help at an escalating cost, and the werewolf cult with whom she’s entwined professionally and personally. And then there’s Countess Baset, the terrifying vampire who wants Kat to become her personal assassin. It’s no wonder that Kat has been seeking refuge in the mysterious town known as Delai. Even in this haven, something feels askew. Delai is a little too serene. And the more she discovers, the more Kat realizes that the only choice left to her is not whether to do battle, but which side she’ll risk her life to defend.

Death’s Angel (Lost Angels #3), by Heather Killough-Walden (December 31, Signet)
Since the beginning of time, the archangels have longed to know true love. When four female angels were created for the four archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Azrael, a chaos spurred by jealousy erupted, and the archesses were secreted away to Earth. The four archangels followed. As the Angel of Death, Azrael could never be like his brothers. While the others fell to Earth in human form, Azrael descended as a vampire. At his brother Gabriel’s wedding, Azrael set his golden eyes on Sophie Bryce. He is certain she is his destined mate. But Sophie is haunted by unspeakable demons of her own. When supernatural forces emerge from the shadows, threatening Sophie, Azrael is the only one who can protect her. But to do it, he must reveal his true, savage self.

The Trouble with Fate (Mystwalker #1), by Leigh Evans (December 24, St. Martin’s)
My name is Hedi Peacock. I’m not human, and I have the pointy Fae ears and Were inner-bitch to prove it. My childhood was damn near perfect, all fur and magic until a werewolf killed my father and the Fae executed my mother. I’ve never forgiven either side. Especially Robson Trowbridge. He was a part-time werewolf, a full-time bastard, and the first and only boy I ever loved. Until he became the prime suspect in my father’s death. Today I’m a half-breed barista working at a fancy coffee house, living with my loopy Aunt Lou and a temperamental amulet named Merry. But when a pack of Weres decides to kidnap my aunt and force me to steal another amulet, the only one who can help me is the last person I ever thought I’d turn to: Robson Trowbridge.

Blood Winter (Horngate Witches #4), by Diana Pharaoh Francis (December 26, Pocket)
Winter is coming to Montana and Shadowblade warrior Max is expecting trouble. People are banding together, many flocking to the congregation of Sterling Savage, a fire-and-brimstone preacher. Unbeknownst to him, the “divine” voice he’s been hearing isn’t God but a demon that feeds on hate, death, and destruction. Max and her people at Horngate are all that stand in its way. Savage starts a war between his congregants and two other powerful gangs in the city. When he manages to capture Max’s niece, brother, and several teenagers from Horngate, Max tries to free them. Going undercover in the cult compound, Max swiftly realizes just how seductive Savage is. But courage, loyalty, and friendship are powerful forces, and Max doesn’t like to lose.

Blood-Kissed Sky (Darkness Before Dawn #2), by J.A. London (December 26, HarperTeen)
Young Adult. There’s nowhere left to hide. I thought vampires were our enemies, they controlled our lives, isolated our cities, and demanded our blood, until I met Victor. With Victor taking over as the new Lord Valentine, things were supposed to get better. Instead, they’re worse than ever. Day Walkers, a new breed of vampires who can walk in the sun, are terrorizing the city. Blood supplies are low, and if Victor’s vampires don’t get enough, they will become infected with the Thirst—a disease that will turn them into mindless killers. To stop it, I must journey across the desolate wasteland to the very place where the sickness began. I can only hope that the answers that await me are enough to save us all, before it’s too late.

Demon’s Curse (Imnada Brotherhood #1), by Alexa Egan (December 26, Pocket)
A rising star on the Covent Garden stage, Bianca Parrino believes she has everything she wants. When her close friend, Adam, is murdered, and Bianca is suspected in his death, she is unwittingly drawn into the search for his killer. A member of the mysterious race of shape-shifting Imnada and part of an elite military unit, Captain Mac Flannery gathered intelligence during the Napoleonic wars. As a result of a savage massacre, Mac and the men he served with are cursed. One of them has been found murdered, and Mac suspects the existence of the Imnada has been discovered. His only link to unearthing the truth is the actress who turns up at Adam’s funeral. Mac has more to contend with than Bianca’s overt mistrust. Because Adam’s killer is back, and Mac is next on his list.

Forbidden (Otherworld Stories #10.1 Novella), by Kelley Armstrong (December 28, Subterranean)
The team-spirit sign by the side of the highway seems a good omen to loner Morgan Walsh. Then he wakes naked in the woods, surrounded by wolf tracks and a ring of suspicious cops. The situation only gets worse when he’s bailed out by Alpha-elect Elena Michaels and Clayton Danvers, her terrifying enforcer and mate. Disappointed that such a promising young werewolf risked exposing them, Elena isn’t expecting anything from the pesky retrieval job except some much-needed alone time with Clay. Instead, she finds a different kind of evil stalking the streets and forests of Westwood, New York. Trapped in town by a snowstorm and sabotage, Elena, Clay and Morgan must find the mysterious threat before it sets its sights on them.

Black Fallen (Dark Ink Chronicles #4), by Elle Jasper (December 31, Signet)
There’s only one thing more lethal than a vampire. A Black Fallen. Rather, a fallen angel engulfed in the blackest of magic. Tattoo artist, Riley Poe, has changed. After surviving the bites of three potent Strigoi, she has acquired traits from each that parallel those of the most lethal of vampires. Her strength, speed, hearing are unmatched. She’s about to put those powers to good use. Riley, along with her guardian vampire, Eli Dupre, Riley’s brother, Seth Poe, and Eli’s brother, Phin Dupre, and Strigoi vampire Victorian Arcos agree to join Jake Andorra’s elite WUP team. Worldwide Unexplained Phenomenon takes cases too dangerous for humans to handle. There are unholy, lethal disturbances in the ancient city of Edinburgh, and Riley and the others accept the mission.

Touch of the Demon (Kara Gillian #5), by Diana Rowland (December 31, DAW)
Kara Gillian is in Deep Trouble. Kara is the prisoner of the demonic Lord Mzatal, but quickly discovers that she’s far more than a mere hostage. He has his own plans to use Kara and keep her from Rhyzkahl, the demonic lord she is sworn to serve. Intrigue and treachery run rampant amongst all lords, and Kara is hard pressed to keep her wits about her. Her abilities as a homicide detective are put to the test as she seeks the truth about FBI Agent Ryan Kristoff, Rhyzkahl, and herself. She soon discovers that she has her own history in the demon realm, one that goes back farther than she could have ever imagined. She’s going to need all the strength and tenacity she’s developed as a cop and a summoner, or the hell she endures may well last forever.

Ack-Ack Macaque, by Gareth L. Powell (December 26, Solaris)
In 1944, as waves of German ninjas parachute into Kent, Britain’s best hopes for victory lie with a Spitfire pilot codenamed Ack-Ack Macaque. The trouble is, Ack-Ack Macaque is a cynical, one-eyed, cigar-chomping monkey, and he’s starting to doubt everything, including his own existence. A century later, in a world where France and Great Britain merged in the late 1950s and nuclear-powered Zeppelins encircle the globe, ex-journalist Victoria Valois finds herself drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the man who butchered her husband and stole her electronic soul. In Paris, after taking part in an illegal break-in at a research laboratory, the heir to the British throne goes on the run. And all the while, the doomsday clock ticks towards Armageddon.

Doktor Glass, by Thomas Brennan (December 31, Ace)
The Transatlantic Span is the industrial marvel of the nineteenth century, a suspension bridge stretching from Liverpool to New York City. It’s a work of art...until a faceless corpse is found in its shadows. Inspector Matthew Langton, tortured by grief for his late wife, takes charge of the investigation, believing the faceless man a part of a conspiracy to assassinate Queen Victoria on the upcoming Inauguration Day of the Span. But the truth is far more bizarre. There are chilling rumors of the Jar Boys, soul snatchers who come under cover of night. Most frightening of all is the mythic and elusive Doktor Glass, who may not only be behind the illicit trade in souls, but who may hold the key to what happened to the inspector’s own beloved wife on her deathbed.
Dinosaur Thunder (Thunder #3), by James F. David (December 24, Forge)
Eighteen years ago, the prehistoric past collided with the present as time itself underwent a tremendous disruption. Neighborhoods, towns, and cities were replaced by dense primeval jungles and modern humanity suddenly found itself sharing the world with dinosaurs. In the end, measures were taken to halt the disruptions and the crisis appeared to be over. Until now. New dinosaurs begin to appear. As time begins to unravel once more, Nick Paulson, director of the Office of Security Science, finds a time passage to the Cretaceous period where humans, ripped from the twenty-first century, are barely surviving in the past. As the asteroid that ends the reign of dinosaurs rushes toward Earth, Nick and his allies must survive a war between species and save the future as we know it.

The Hermetic Millennia, by John C. Wright (December 24, Tor)
Menelaus Illation Montrose, Texas gunslinger, idealist, and posthuman genius, has gone into cryo-suspension following the discovery that, in 8,000 years, a powerful alien intelligence will reach Earth to assess humanity’s value as slaves. He is awakened repeatedly throughout the centuries to confront the woes of an ever-changing and violent world, witnessing millennia of change compressed into a few years of subjective time. The result is a breathtaking vision of future history like nothing before imagined. Montrose’s immortal enemies and former shipmates from the starship Hermetic harness the forces of evolution and social engineering to continuously reshape the Earth in their image, seeking to create a version of man the approaching slavers will find worthy.

Captained by former Detached Guerrilla Forces Colonel R.A. “Rags” Cutter, the Cutter Force Initiative is one of the best. A specialized team consisting of both aliens and humans, the Cutters offer services ranging from fight training and protection to extraction and assassination, as long as the target deserves it and their employer makes good on payday. When they’re hired to find and rescue Indira, the soon-to-be-married daughter of the Rajah Ramal of New Mumbai, the teams’ first task is to identify the kidnapper. The obvious suspects are insurgents who want to overthrow the rajanate, but as other forces enter the game and an assassination attempt is made on Ramal, the Cutters realize that their in-and-out extraction job is about to get a lot more interesting, and a lot more lethal.

Luck of the Draw (Xanth #36), by Piers Anthony (December 24, Tor)
Bryce is summoned to Xanth as part of a wager between the Demons Earth and Xanth. To his surprise, he has left behind his home and family and eighty-year-old body forever, in exchange for youth and magic, and a quest. He must court and marry Princess Harmony, who is anything but willing to be courted!

The Shadow’s Heir (The Risen Sun #1), by K.J. Taylor (December 24, Ace)
Laela Redguard was born with the black hair of the Northern kingdom and the blue eyes of the Southern people, forever marking her as a hated half-breed child of both. The fierce and strong-willed Laela decides to leave her adoptive father’s home in the hopes of finding acceptance in the North, where the ruthless King Arenadd and the dark griffin Skandar rule. She cannot avoid falling victim to a pair of common thugs. When a stranger saves her life and gives her a place to stay, Laela is shocked to learn he is Arenadd himself. Arenadd is unsure what compels him to help this girl, but there is something about her that seems familiar, something he cannot remember, something that may rise up to banish the darkness forever.

Five hundred years ago, the famed Witchbreaker, Lord Stark Tower, launched a war against the cult of witches, nearly wiping them out. Today, only a handful of women still practice the craft in secret. A young witch named Sorrow has dedicated her life to changing this reality. She bonds her soul with Rott, the primal dragon of decay, giving her nearly limitless powers of destruction. Tapping this power comes at the cost of her humanity, leading her on a quest to find the greatest witch of all time, Avaris, in hopes of mastering her dark magic. Hunting Avaris, fate throws her into a partnership with a man who wants to be the new Witchbreaker. Can either of them survive their quests when their journey leads them into battle with Tempest, the primal dragon of storms?
Battle: The House War: Book Five (The House War #5), byMichelle Sagara West (December 31, DAW)
Jewel A Terafin has become the target of assassins and of a demon beyond her ability to defeat. No place within Averalaan remains safe, when elemental forces can change the very structure of the city, when the old ways are opening to release wild magic, when former enemies become uneasy allies and longtime allies are called into question.

Dreamspinner (Nine Kingdoms #7), by Lynn Kurland (December 31, Berkley)
Aisling of Bruadair has lived a provincial life, heedless ofthe evil creeping over her land. That ordinary existence changes forever when she is sent to the opposite end of the world to find a master swordsman. If she fails, her life, and her country’s safety, will be forfeit. She just never expected that swordsman to be a wounded elven prince masquerading as a simple soldier. Rùnach of Ceangail has spent years in obscurity, ignoring battles he can no longer fight. And although he has been drawn back into the world, he fully intends to live an unremarkable life far away from events he knows he cannot change. Until Rùnach meets Aisling and realizes that she is far more than what she seems, that their alliance has attracted unwelcome notice, and that some battles must be fought.

The Dog in the Dark (Noble Dead: Series 3, #2), by Barb Hendeeand J.C. Hendee (December 31, Roc)
Barely escaping the city of Calm Seatt, and the assassins hunting them, Magiere, Leesil, and the elven dog Chap sail south to continue their quest to find the powerful Orb of Air before their enemies do. The aging elven assassin Brot’an has forced himself on them by offering his protection. Chap doesn’t believe this ruse, however, and seeks to uncover the assassin’s true agenda. Meanwhile, Magiere struggles with her own dark nature, using Leesil’s love as an anchor to keep her grounded. For the personal price she paid to procure the Orb of Fire was more than she thought. But that is exactly what the cunning Brot’an wants to know. And he is willing to do whatever it takes, even if he must reveal his own dreaded secrets that may cost the entire party their lives, and their very souls.

Five entries possible: +1 for comment to tell me what book you want, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow, +1 for a Tweet or RT about the contest, +1 for a Facebook follow. This contest is international to any place Book Depository ships. Contests end at midnight CDT U.S. on Saturday, and winners are announced on Sunday’s blog. It’s the responsibility of the winner to contact me with their mailing info. Books unclaimed after a month will go into the Book Horde list (see tab at the top of the page).

Now….go forth and comment!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Scene-Snippet Sunday (and Weekly W*nners)

First, thanks to everyone who joined in for Fiction Week last week. It was fun to trot out the Sentinels stories from the past year. I'll leave them up here for another few days, then they're gone until I write some new ones!

Thanks to these folks who commented during the week: Each of you has won your choice of: Royal Street, either US or UK edition, or digital; River Road, either US or UK edition, or digital; an "Honorary Sentinel" t-shirt (all are XL size); or, from Susannah Sandlin books, Redemption (print, digital or audio), Absolution (print, digital, or audio), or a "Property of Penton Vampires" t-shirt (all are XL). OR you can pick a book from the Book Horde tab, above. (No, it's still not the full list yet.)

Winners are: Timitra, Jen M, Christina K, and Lorrie0729. Send me an email and let me know what you'd like!

Today, I have a short, short, short scene-snippet from Elysian Fields, which has taken up the majority of my time over the holiday break (preventing me from all the other things I'd planned to get done!) as the final revisions are made. I came across this sentence last night, which had a note from my editor that said: "Oooooh."

LOL. It's a really cruel snippet, I realize, so I'll apologize for being such a tease....

Okay, so here's the setup....I can't tell you much about this scene because it's too spoilerific. I think the plot of this book must be tightly woven because I've been having trouble finding scene-snippets to run--that's probably a good thing! Let's just say DJ is in a world of trouble here, the people she has traditionally relied on for help are not available for one reason or another, and...she's outside in a strange place in the dark. There. That's all I can say:

I pondered questions that had no answers and, shivering, burrowed closer and sought warmth from the wrong man. -- Elysian Fields, Chapter 30, Manuscript Page 276.

Mean. I'm just mean.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Read a Deleted Chapter from Royal Street: Booked

Thanks for joining me for "Free Fiction Week"--it has been fun tweaking and re-posting my Sentinels short stories. I'm finishing off the week with a deleted chapter from Royal Street. It was a chapter I liked, but, as my editor pointed out, it didn't really "advance the story." But it was fun!

Click here to read Booked. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Pirate’s Alley: A Free Sentinels Story by Suzanne Johnson

Welcome to the last day of Holiday Fiction Week! Today's story features everybody's favorite undead pirate, Jean Lafitte...

Leave a comment to win a signed copy of one of my books: Royal Street (US or UK version), River Road (US or UK version), Redemption by Susannah Sandlin (print or audio), or Absolution by Susannah Sandlin (print or audio). Have all the books? Let me pick out a surprise book or a T-shirt for you.

“Pirate’s Alley” takes place in the world of  the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series.
This story takes place one year before the events of Royal Street.

“Arrr, Matey, ask me who it is.” Megan leaned across the counter with a squinched eye and skewed mouth, trying—and failing—to look like a pirate chick. All it earned us was a few stares from the combination of business people and students stuffing down omelettes at the Camellia Grill. “Ask me who my guest is, Rhyn me girl, or I’ll lash ye to the mast.”
            I hunched over my plate and pretended not to know my roommate. Meg hadn’t shut up about “Talk Like a Pirate Day” for the last month, planning her big party and teasing at her special guest. I didn’t do pirates. And unless Orlando Bloom showed up in a blond wig and tights answering to the name Legolas, I didn’t care who her special guest was, either.
            New Orleans’ streetcars rumbled on the tracks behind us, and an occasional ship’s horn bellowed from the Mississippi River a block away. Black men in crisp white shirts and bow ties shouted to each other and bantered with customers across the counters as they flipped omelettes, fried bacon, and poured coffee.
            “I’m not going to beg you to tell me who your guest is.” I downed my last bite of egg and dabbed at my mouth with a napkin. “If you want to tell me, tell me. Otherwise, I’ve got a finance test next Wednesday and that’s my priority.”
            I’d put finance off till my last semester of grad school and time had run out. No finance, no MBA. I hated every second of it.
            “Pffft.” Meg grabbed both checks and slid off her stool. “It’s only Friday. Party’s on Sunday. That gives you plenty of time to study.”
            I shook my head and let Meg pay for breakfast. She could afford it. Scoffing at grad school, she’d gone straight to work after finishing at Tulane last year. She put her art degree to work designing floats at Mardi Gras World while I tried to understand the complexities of corporate finance.
            We walked to the corner and waited for the streetcar, Meg in a pout, hands stuffed in the pockets of her jeans.
            Finally, I gave in. “Okay, tell me about the special guest.”
            She feigned indifference for about three seconds before caving. “Remember I told you I’d been experimenting with”—her voice dipped to a stage whisper—“my gifts?”
            Good Lord. Meg fancied herself a witch or a warlock or some other kind of magic-wielding headcase. I’d never seen anything other than a good sense of intuition from her.
            “Yeah, so?”
            “So, I’ve figured out a way to summon Jean Lafitte—I mean the real Jean Lafitte, not an impersonator. Just think—New Orleans’ most famous pirate at our party!”
            “Your party.” I groaned inwardly. She’d finally gone insane, and her family lived in Massachusetts. That left me to call the little men in white coats and have her committed. If the little men wore bad pirate suits beneath those white coats, she’d probably go without a fight.
            “Meg.” I kept my voice reasonable, as if this weren’t the most ridiculous conversation in history. “Jean Lafitte has been dead for, God, at least two hundred years.” Arguably New Orleans’ most infamous citizen in the city’s long history of infamy, Lafitte had torn up the waters of Southeast Louisiana before the War of 1812, if I remembered my history lessons. “And he was a real pirate. I mean, he, like, killed people. Not exactly my idea of a party favor.”
            She waved me off, climbing the steps into the streetcar and dropping her coins in the box. “That was just bad PR.”
            I slid in the seat next to her. “Bad PR? Well, jeez, too bad Jean Lafitte couldn’t hire a decent publicist.”
            “Look, I’ve read up on him, okay? He was the gentleman pirate. Really smart. He had pirate flunkies to do all the dirty work.”
            We swayed as the streetcar made its sharp turn from Carrollton onto St. Charles Avenue and rumbled toward Tulane. “Great. He won’t kill you himself—he’ll just order someone else to do it.”
            Why was I arguing with her? It’s not like she could really summon Jean Lafitte.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Caridad Pineiro's Campaign for New Jersey Hurricane Relief

(Coming tomorrow: The final story of Free Fiction Week, "Pirate's Alley"!)

Those of you who come to this site often know that my own experiences as a New Orleanian during Hurricane Katrina had a big impact on my life, in ways both good and bad. I was able to use my own experiences in my books, both in the inspiration for my Sentinels of New Orleans series and as a way to continue supporting Southeast Louisiana (a percentage of author royalties from the sale of River Road are being donated to the Greater New Orleans Foundation's Oil Spill Relief Fund).

The other positive impact for me was being able to go back to NOLA for several years after the hurricane and play what I think was an important part of the rebuilding. One of my closest friends, Lauri, was with me every step of the way. She and her sister Amanda (also a dear friend) traveled into the flood-ravaged city with me the first time after the storm to see what was left of my life. And they came back again a few months later, not only lending moral support but donning hazmat suits and mucking out flooded houses in my old Lakeview neighborhood.

Lauri lives in New York City, and through her experiences with Superstorm Sandy, I've been reminded of what a traumatic experience a storm like this is. Let me tell you, even if your own home is sound, even if your own block or neighborhood is okay, every aspect of your life is touched by it every single day. People you know are forced to move on. Places you cherished are gone. Tempers are short, and hearts are exposed. It will take years to rebuild--ten years, not two or three. The rest of the world has already moved on while people in New York and New Jersey are still trying to piece together a way to live.

So, I'm very pleased to have bestselling author Caridad Pineiro here today, talking about her new book The Prince's Gamble, and how a visit to the Jersey Shore before Sandy hit has given a new meaning to her book. Caridad is donating all proceeds for The Prince's Gamble, from now until March 1, to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund. Links to purchase the book can be found at the end of her post. It's only a $2.99 download, folks--and it can make a difference.

Now, welcome Caridad!

I love writing about kick ass heroines! Sometimes it’s in the paranormal world, but in my latest release, THE PRINCE’S GAMBLE, it’s all about humans who can be even scarier than monsters.

The heroine in THE PRINCE’S GAMBLE is FBI Agent Kathleen Martinez who is determined to find out if Russian Prince Alexander Ivanov is as good as he seems or if he is behind the money laundering going on in his new Atlantic City casino.

Kathleen has had contact with the Ivanov family before, when she was investigating a white slavery ring. Because of that, Prince Alexander is on her list as a possible suspect, but as her investigation reveals new facets to the very handsome prince, she battles her attraction in order to complete her investigation.

Along the way, Kathleen will also have to kick some butt when she runs across some thugs from the Russian mafia in Atlantic City.

Why Atlantic City you may wonder? The inspiration for this romantic suspense was a trip to Las Vegas with some writing friends. They actually double-dog dared me to write a story that could include some of our experiences, like a visit to a pole dancing class.

That dare resulted in my researching the kinds of illegal activities that go on in casinos and working them into the story for THE PRINCE’S GAMBLE. Being a Jersey Girl, however, I knew that the location had to be Atlantic City. I’ve been to the casinos there and I thought it would be great to include my personal observations of the people there into the story.

When I wrote the initial draft, however, Hurricane Sandy had yet to hit the Jersey Shore. It did so barely two weeks before the book was supposed to be released, but I knew that I had to include the story. Especially when I got a firsthand look at the damage and wanted to do something to not only send a message of hope to my neighbors on the Jersey Shore, but also help raise money to rebuild and repair the damage that was done.

I immediately went into the final draft and added sections mentioning how Prince Alexander had helped the local people during the storm and how the boardwalk and buildings were being rebuilt. I’m hoping that in the next few years, my beloved Jersey Shore will be back bigger and better than before.

To help do that, I am donating 100 percent of my share of the proceeds from sales of THE PRINCE’S GAMBLE to the Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund.

I hope you’ll help my New Jersey neighbors by supporting this campaign!

Thanks, Caridad! You can download The Prince's Gamble from Amazon and from Barnes and Noble. Remember, if you don't have a Kindle, you can download the free Kindle app for your PC, Mac, iPhone or iPad.

(And come back tomorrow for a visit with Jean Lafitte!)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rivalry: A Sentinels Story by Suzanne Johnson

Welcome to Holiday Fiction Week, with a different story every day!

Leave a comment to win a signed copy of one of my books: Royal Street (US or UK version), River Road (US or UK version), Redemptionby Susannah Sandlin (print or audio), or Absolutionby Susannah Sandlin (print or audio). Have all the books? Let me pick out a surprise book or a T-shirt for you.

A Prequel from the
Sentinels of New Orleans series

Copyright 2012 Suzanne Johnson

The Picayune Memorial High School Maroon Tide expected to have a helluva season, and I was determined to be part of it, sophomore or no sophomore. I planted my feet on the grass field, brown from the blistering August sun and dotted with muddy patches from a recent rain, and watched as the ball arced high into the air and fell in a graceful spiral toward my chest.
My cousin Jake’s head butted into my gut, the pigskin bounced off his helmet, and we crashed, mud splattering our jerseys. The helmet went flying and I got a mouthful of blood when my teeth cranked down on my lower lip. One shoulder pad stuck out the neck of my shirt.
Folks who say blood tastes like copper are fools. It tasted like iron and, today, black south Mississippi dirt.
You think a skinny-assed sophomore’s gonna earn a startin’ spot, hotshot?” Jake ripped his own helmet off and tried to crack me in the head with it, but he’d forgotten my summer growth spurt. He might be a junior and I might be skinny, but I was taller than him now and stronger for reasons he’d never understand. I flipped him easily and shoved his face in the mud hard enough for it to plow through his nose and out his ass.
“Warins—Alexander and Jacob. You damn-fool rednecks get to my office now.” Coach Bo Dean—we all called him Jethro—charged toward us with sweat rolling down his face and piggy brown eyes screwed up tight.
I rolled off Jake and he sat up, spitting mud on my arm. “Good job, dickface. Now look what you done.”
I was still scrambling for a comeback when meaty fists the size of hamhocks grabbed a handful of Jake’s blond hair and my dark, hauling us to our feet. Jethro was righteously pissed.
“Office. Now, ladies.” He shoved us in the direction of the high school gym.
We made the walk of the damned in silence, except Jake kept slipping looks at me out the corner of his eye.
What?” This was his fault, but I knew he’d figure out a way to pin the blame on me.
You cut your lip when I clocked you,” he mumbled, too low for Jethro to hear. “I saw the blood.”
So, why ain’t it cut now?”
I slid my tongue to the corner of my mouth and found it unmarked. Shit. Jake wouldn’t let it drop; he was like a freakin’ bulldog. All of a sudden, a fistfight was the least of my worries.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Intervention: A Free Sentinels Story by Suzanne Johnson

Merry Christmas! 

Welcome to Holiday Fiction Week, with a different story every day!

Leave a comment to win a signed copy of one of my books: Royal Street (US or UK version), River Road (US or UK version), Redemption by Susannah Sandlin (print or audio), or Absolution by Susannah Sandlin (print or audio). Have all the books? Let me pick out a surprise book or a T-shirt for you. (And for a special silly holiday poem, head over to Susannah Sandlin's website!) 

©2012 Suzanne Johnson

Author’s Note: “Intervention” is a short story set in the world of the Sentinels of New Orleans series. This story takes place approximately two years before Royal Street.

Family. He loved them, but what a pain in the ass they could be. His cousin was cooling his jets in a New Orleans jail. Again.
Ending the phone call with his mother, Alexander Warin massaged the residual throbbing in his temple and squinted through the slats of his living room blinds. His soon-to-be-ex girlfriend stalked around his car clutching a rumpled piece of paper. He recognized the “Dear Cindy” letter on FBI letterhead he’d slipped under her door after his early-morning jog. 
It had been a chickenshit move, but lately she’d gotten clingy and possessive. He’d never promised hearts and flowers. If the woman wanted a lapdog, she needed to date an accountant, or a vet.
He clenched his jaw muscles as she tested the lock on the driver’s-side door of his black Mercedes convertible, polished to its habitual gloss. If she as much as thought about scraping her car keys across his custom paint job, she would see how handcuffs felt when she was fully dressed.
Hands on her hips, she stared at the front of his condo a few long moments before sticking up the middle finger of each hand in the classic gesture for things they’d already done upside down and sideways. Then she climbed back in her sissy little SUV and left skid marks on his driveway.
He grinned and let the slats flap shut. Perfect.
Alex returned to his bedroom, throwing clothes in the suitcase he’d begun packing halfway through his mom’s call. Norma Warin was not a force to be denied, and if she said drive to New Orleans and get your cousin out of jail, well, he’d be spending his long weekend dealing with Jake.