Like a number of authors, I write for more than one publisher. As a matter of fact, I currently actively write for four, have a complete manuscript out for consideration with a fifth and am running out a contract on yet another. Each publisher offers me something different, a way to avoid being pigeon-holed.
I also currently have Works-in-Progress (WIPs) for each of the four active publishers. Sometimes just the task of keeping them all up and running is as stress-inducing as the writing itself. Why then do I do it? Well, first of all, I’m in the middle of established series for two of the publishers. The third publisher gives me a chance to stretch my creative wings in a more “erotic” area not covered by the other publishers. And, the fourth, gave the book of my heart a home when everyone was telling me ‘secret books aren’t selling’. Since it’s release, that non-seller has been my best seller. Just goes to show you, not everyone can predict what will sell and what won’t.
How do I keep track of each project? Or, more precisely, how do I keep on track?
I calendar eachWIP. I set aside 3-day stretches per book and a half day for edits, followed by a day off before I move onto the next project. I truly like going from book to book, genre to genre, mostly because they’re so diverse I never get tired of writing. This week I thought I’d share a short tidbit from each of the current projects.
First, the next book in my Golden Decade of Rock and Roll series from The Wild Rose Press.
Are You Lonesome Tonight is a vintage historical set in 1960.
Elk Grove Village, IL, September, 1960
“Can you move just a little to the left? Yes, that’s it. Much better. Now, take it in your hand just like this.”
Lesley moved her hand cautiously across the smooth surface, eager to learn from Jake’s expertise. Her hand slipped, her obvious ineptitude drawing his deep-throated groan. Cautiously, she began again.
“Now squeeze, gently. Good. Not too tight,” he cautioned. “You don’t want to do damage.”
“I’m trying,” she said. “This is all foreign to me. I’ve never done anything quite so daring.”
“I’m sorry. I guess I’m not used to doing this with a beginner. You’ll get the hang of it eventually. Only a few more minutes and we’ll be done, I promise. Just take it easy, and relax.”
“Hey, mom, whatcha’ doing.” The sound of her son Tyler’s voice reverberated around Lesley, his words echoing in the small space, causing her hand to slip.
“I’m trying to fix this darned leaky pipe,” she explained. “Jake…Mr. Spencer was teaching me how to wield a wrench.”
“Why don’t you just call the plumber?” Tyler asked.
“Because plumbers cost money, something we don’t have.”
“Can’t you just ask dad for the money?”
Lesley gritted her teeth in a mixture of anger and frustration. “I’d rather learn how to do this myself.”
Tyler removed a cookie from the jar on the counter, replacing the ceramic lid with a solid clank. “Suit yourself. I still think a plumber would do a better job.”
Next, the third book in the McCade Legacy Series from Entangled Publishing.
The Barrister’s Temptation is the story of the illegitimate leaf on the McCade tree.
Vicksburg, Mississippi, Early December, 1868
“You need to have a word with those women who work for your Mama, little girl. I don’t want the likes of them up here in my store.”
“They can go wherever they want. They’re free women.”
Aiden Parker shut his office door and secured the lock, his attention drawn to the sound of raised voices just two storefronts away. He recognized the first voice as that of the storekeeper, Miriam Hoskins, although the second voice eluded him.
Because Mrs. Hoskins was one of his valued clients, he turned toward the argument. Surely he should offer his assistance to mediate the heated discussion. What he really wanted was to head home, have a quick supper and relax in front of the fireplace with a glass of brandy clutched tightly in his fist.
Instead, the distinct ire of Mrs. Hoskins’ voice hurried his steps. “Their kind needs to learn their place.”
He came to an abrupt halt, just as the other woman—a diminutive redhead—fired the next volley. “That’s funny. I could have sworn Molly’s place was beneath the likes of your husband just two nights ago.”
Miriam Hoskins raised her hand but, thankfully, he caught her wrist on its way to the young woman`s cheek. “Ladies, perhaps I can offer my assistance to help—”
The redhead flashed him a scowl. “And just who the blazes are you?”
Miriam Hoskins pulled her wrist from his grasp and turned on the younger woman. “He’s my barrister. I’m certain he’ll confirm for you, Cassie Maguire, the fact that I can refuse admittance to my place of business to whomever I choose.”
Miss Maguire’s amber gaze flared and met his head-on. A twitch tugged at the corner of his mouth and he fought back a threatening smile.
She planted her hands on slim hips and raised her chin an extra notch. “Is that so, Mr. Barrister? Can she refuse to allow my mother’s employees to shop in her store?”
He wasn’t sure who her mother’s employees were, or why Mrs. Hoskins wanted them barred from her establishment, yet he was reluctant to provide a firm answer. Especially, if it meant Cassie Maguire would turn and leave. He wasn’t quite ready to see her go.
He mustered up his most serious, lawyer-like expression. “Well, first of all, it would depend on the circumstances. Have these people done anything to warrant exclusion such as thievery or public drunkenness?”
She shook her head. Shoulder length hair dusted alabaster skin at the neckline of her dress. Aiden’s body clenched tightly. His fingers itched with the urge to gather a strand of the gossamer silk in his hand and run it between his thumb and forefinger.
“They’ve done nothing other than spend their hard-earned wages on the wares in this mercantile.”
He turned to face Mrs. Hoskins. “Have they stolen anything? Broken something.”
The shopkeeper crossed her arms in front of her, the thickness of her forearms settling beneath an ample bosom. “No, they haven’t. However, allowing women of such ill repute to shop in my store makes my other customers uncomfortable.”
Miss Maguire shook her head and snorted a laugh. “Oh, fiddlesticks. I’d wager at least half of your fine customers are regulars at The Wild Pony.”
The Wild Pony? Her claim caught him totally off guard. “The saloon…that’s your family business?” He tried to staunch the words even as they were leaving his lips. Or, at the very least, couch the sound of surprise in his voice. Unfortunately, it appeared he’d been unsuccessful when Cassie Maguire’s features pinched. Her lashes fluttered, as if fighting back tears or, possibly embarrassment. He wished, with all his being, he could take back the bald statement.
She stepped back and then off the wooden walkway and into the street. “Yes, The Wild Pony belongs to my mother, not to mention the attached whorehouse.” Sparing one last heated glance in Mrs. Hoskins direction, she met his gaze, her eyes widening with emotion. “You’re welcome to stop by any time.” She took two more steps and then stopped to add, “Although, we’re usually quite busy on Thursdays.”
Her sarcasm forced him to bite back an outright chuckle. He wasn’t sure what to make of Cassie Maguire. Surely she was beautiful, spirited and full of conviction. He admired the way she stuck up for her mother’s employees. He wasn’t sure why, but he felt he should say something to keep her from walking away angry. “Wait, Miss Maguire.” When she stopped but didn’t turn, he took a step in her direction. “Perhaps I could talk to Mrs. Hoskins on your friends’ behalf. Surely, their money is as good as any.”
He couldn’t tell if his offer had made things better or worse. She swung around slowly, her glorious mane of hair floating from side to side, teasing her shoulders and his senses at the same time.
“Their money’s better than most, I’d reckon.” She surveyed the open street around them. “After all, it used to belong to a goodly number of these fine, upstanding citizens of Vicksburg. So, Mr. Barrister—”
“Aiden. Aiden Parker.”
She nodded. Her shoulders lifted and fell on a delicate sigh. “Neither me, nor the ladies of The Wild Pony need your help. But, I do appreciate the offer.”
Third, is my next project with Soul Mate Publishing.
The Eye of the Pharaoh is a time travel set between modern-day New Orleans and 1920′s Egypt with a bit of paranormal activity thrown in for good measure.
Department of Art and Archeology, Princeton University
Teri Hunter stood in the doorway of the dark and musty storeroom. A dim light shone from a glass-enclosed workroom in the far corner.
She took a tentative step forward. The floorboards creaked beneath her feet, and she could have sworn something small and furry brushed against her ankle. A shiver ran down her back, yet she fought the urge to return to turn and run.
Her breath held, she pushed forward, winding her way past a half-dozen crates, some open, some not. To her left she heard a rustling of paper, to her right the distinct sound of footsteps. Her apprehension grew. The hair on her forearms stood at attention.
She’d barely made it halfway across the room when she bumped into something large and solid. When she looked up, she came face to face with the painted mask of an Egyptian noble. The chipped finish gave the death mask an almost deranged look of menace.
Side-stepping the ancient sarcophagus, Teri moved closer to the light.
That was when she saw him. Dr. Joshua Cain.
Bent over his workbench, he held an ornate canopic jar in one hand and a fine horsehair brush in the other. With each stroke of the brush, he cleared away thousands of years of accumulated dirt, revealing yet another fraction of an inch of the beautiful artifact.
She couldn’t see his face, yet his shoulders were broad. His hair, dark brown with a hint of gray, brushed the collar of his lab coat.
He shifted on the stool, inching closer to the small overhead lamp. When he turned the jar over in his hands, Teri found herself mesmerized by the gentle way his long fingers caressed the priceless object. Beneath the sleeves of her silk blouse, her skin tingled.
She waited for him to place the jar on the workbench before she cleared her throat, coughing softly to get his attention.
He turned on the stool, his attention draw to, of all things, her feet. Inside her sensible, three-inch heels, her toes curled.
He raised his head slowly, his intense perusal running over her like water from a hot shower, causing her cheeks to flush warmly. Their gazes met briefly, his brown eyes magnified by the protective goggles he wore. His jaw, covered with the stubble of a day-old beard, was square, his lips full and turned down in an obvious frown of disapproval.
“How the devil do you expect to work in that outfit?” he asked, his voice deeper, richer than she expected.
Teri glanced down at her suit, the pencil-straight skirt hugging her knees. “Excuse me?”
“I heard what you said, Dr. Cain,” she explained. “I just don’t understand why my choice of clothing should matter?”
“You can’t empty dust-covered crates dressed like an uptight librarian?”
And, finally, my next erotic romance from Decadent Publishing, currently in the final galley stages.
The Mysterious Mrs. Pennybaker is set in 1922 Manhattan and the story of a woman who served as a “Hello Girl” during the first world war.
Manhattan – Upper East Side, May, 1922
“Mrs. Pennybaker, the Coppers are at the door. Shall I show them in?”
Ariel Trumont Pennybaker tucked the papers she’d been reading into the drawer of the chair-side table. She stood, pressed the wrinkles from her satin drop waist dress, and straightened the starched headband holding her wild, brown curls in place. “Yes. Of course, Marie. I’m always happy to speak with our wonderful men in blue.”
“Humph, wonderful indeed,” the older women grumbled. “Those flatfoots don’t know their arses from a hole in the ground. They’re all on the take.”
Ariel stifled a laugh at Marie’s disapproval of the local authorities. Although, given the trouble Marie’s somewhat colorful family had suffered over the past few years, her maid’s disapproval didn’t come as a surprise.
The moment the two officers came through the door, it was obvious this wasn’t one of their usual shakedowns. The captain himself had come this time, and that didn’t bode well for the topic of conversation.
“Captain Beaton, how may I help you today?”
“Mrs. Pennybaker, we understand you held a party here last evening. And, a loud party at that. Neighbors attest to the fact there was drinking involved.”
“I did indeed, Captain. A rather nice fundraiser in honor of the new rehabilitation home built for our war veterans.”
“And was there drinking, Mrs. Pennybaker?”
She nodded and smiled. “You bet your shiny silver badge there was. And lots of it.” She paused, studying the captain for a brief moment before adding, “And, as prohibited by the 18th Amendment to the constitution, I neither produced nor sold the liquor to my guests. Everything was given free of charge from my late husband’s vast cellar.”
“You don’t call making the swells donate to your cause the same as selling the liquor?”
“Of course not, Captain. I would have given them food and drink, whether they donated to the home or not.”
The second officer, a much younger man, stepped forward. “The Volstead Act…”
Ariel took a step forward until she stood opposite the man. Her bold advance stopped him mid-sentence. When their eyes met she raised her hand and ran her fingertip rather teasingly across the officer’s name tag.
“The Volstead Act, Lieutenant McMillan, does not prohibit the consumption of any wine or liquor purchased prior to its enactment on October 28, 1919. I assure you, my late husband’s cellar contains stock purchased long before the passing of either the 18th Amendment or the Volstead Act.” She edged toward the door, eager to escort her unwanted guests out. “Now, if you gentlemen will excuse me, I need to prepare for another fundraiser later this evening at the home of the mayor.”
Lieutenant McMillan started toward the door, but the Captain stood his ground. The sight of his well-fed and unkempt person making bile rise in her throat.
“Not so fast, Mrs. Pennybaker,” Beaton warned. “There’s still the matter of inspecting your cellar.”
“An inspection?” Concern hammered within her chest. The cellar held secrets far more dangerous than bottles of booze. She drew a few calming breaths and composed herself in a matter of seconds. She knew from experience, a calm demeanor would guarantee the safety of her cache.
“Yes. Despite your assurances, we need to see for ourselves there’s no bootleg liquor hiding among your late husband’s stores.”
With much reluctance she motioned the two men forward and then followed them into the hallway. “Marie!”
Within seconds the woman appeared at her side. “Yes, Ma’am?’
“I would appreciate it if you could accompany the officers and me to the wine cellar.” Turning to the captain, she explained, “I would feel more comfortable in the company of one of my employees. I hope you understand, Captain Beaton.”
The captain snorted, no doubt amused by her concern. “Whatever suits your fancy, Mrs. Pennybaker. We’re interested in the hooch. Nothing more.”