Friday, March 29, 2013

New Cover REVEAL: A Ranger’s Tale by Mysti Parker

The world of Tallenmere was born in January, 2011 with this first exciting story about Caliphany, an elven noblewoman who longs to leave her gilded cage, and Galadin, the half-elf former pirate who trains her to do just that. To better reflect its place in the burgeoning series and Caliphany's choice between two good men, cover artist Caroline Andrus and I tore down the original cover to make room for a whole new look! 

Join us for this exciting reveal party on Facebook, Friday, March 29 from 5-10 PM EST. Bring a friend, too. There do be prizes, mateys! 
*$25 gift card
*Signed Print copy of A Ranger’s Tale
*And MORE!

In the world of Tallenmere, an elven noblewoman longed to leave her gilded cage. A half-breed former pirate wanted nothing more than to escape his guilty past. Easier said than done...

High elf Caliphany Aranea leads an enviable life as King Leopold's niece and daughter of Sirius, Leogard's most famous wizard. Yet, being forced to follow in her father's footsteps and being betrothed to a man she doesn't even like makes her want a taste of life outside the city walls.

As a young boy, half-elf Galadin Trudeaux witnessed his parents' death at the hands of pirates. After being raised by those same murderers and forced to do their bidding, he escaped and now lives an honest life as a sea merchant and ranger.

When two brutes at Leogard Harbor attempt to kidnap Caliphany while she dreams of faraway lands, Galadin comes to her rescue. Impressed by his skills, she asks him to train her as a ranger. Though he is hesitant at first to train a woman of her class, Caliphany's hefty sack of gold finally persuades him. Unfortunately, her father is not amused, and the two must escape before Caliphany faces a forced marriage and Galadin faces a noose.

From that moment on, she and Galadin embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Only if they can survive the trials ahead, will they find a love that stands the test of time.
You can find the brand new version of A Ranger’s Tale with its shiny new cover at all major online bookstores, including:
All Romance eBooks
Coffeetime Romance

About the Author
Mysti Parker (pseudonym) is a full time wife, mother of three, and a writer. Her first novel, A Ranger’s Tale was published in January, 2011 by Melange Books, and the second in the fantasy romance series, Serenya's Song, was published in April 2012. Book Three, Hearts in Exile, is expected to be born in the summer of 2013. Mysti reviews books for SQ Magazine, an online specfic publication, and is the proud owner of Unwritten, a blog recently voted #3 for eCollegeFinder’s Top Writing Blogs award. She resides in Buckner, KY with her husband and three children.

Mysti’s other writings have appeared in the anthologies Hearts of Tomorrow, Christmas Lites, and Christmas Lites II. Her flash fiction has appeared on the online magazine EveryDayFiction. She is currently a book reviewer for the online speculative fiction magazine SQ Mag and has served as a class mentor in Writers Village University's six week free course, F2K.

The Tallenmere Series:
A Ranger’s Tale
Serenya’s Song
Hearts in Exile (coming summer 2013)

Twitter: @MystiParker

Excerpt from Neveah: Breaking the Wicked

Yesterday we talked with Angie Merriam. Today read an excerpt from her novel, Neveah: Breaking the Wicked

Kelsha felt the impending war deep in her bones. The feeling excited her greatly. Having her hybrid by her side only stoked the flames in her belly. At times, the thought of her two men actually being one made her feel slightly strange but most of the time she felt like the luckiest woman in Neveah. Who else could claim to be loved by the sweetest, kindest man, while being desired by the darkest most twisted man? Her heart was filled
with love and adoration while her body was satisfied by lust and animalism. Her life could be perfect. Would be perfect, as soon as the Levannah family was dethroned and all of Neveah followed her.

She heard the man’s body stir in the bed as she stood near the window, admiring her land. She could feel his eyes on her, though he didn’t make a sound. Her olive skin was exposed and glistened in the ray of moon-light that grazed through her window. Her ebony hair fell around her shoulders to the small of her back. She felt powerful and sexy standing there with nothing between her bare body and his eyes except the thick strands of her tresses. With each tiny movement a strand would wave slightly exposing a new patch of skin to tease him. Yes. She knew he was watching her.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Demons in the Big Easy is Free

Demons in the Big Easy on Amazon is free today through Saturday. If you don't have it yet, please download, and when you've read it, I'd love a review.

Adventurous in her youth, Cassandra built gateways between Domhan and its parallel realm of Earth. Now she’s too old for that kind of thing. But something is making it easier for demons to pass into Domhan. Not only that, but their behavior becomes inexplicable: whenever Cassandra banishes one, it laughs at her rather than resists, and it promises it will soon devour her essence and that of every resident of her small village. Cassandra is certain such a thing is impossible, for strong wards protect her village.

But then Cassandra’s granddaughter Aine falls through an unstable gateway. Cassandra is the only one within a hundred miles capable of creating a gateway and bringing Aine back. Despite her aching joints, Cassandra goes after her, and the gateway lands her in New Orleans. But something goes wrong with her tracking spell, which indicates Aine exists in four different places at once. As Cassandra struggles to find the true location of her granddaughter in the Big Easy, she discovers the source of the demons’ confidence.  Now, with an unlikely pair of allies—her timid granddaughter and a homeless man who may or may not be crazy—she has to not only save her granddaughter but also prevent both Domhan and Earth from being overrun by demons.


Today my guest is Angie Merriam, author of Neveah. Tomorrow, come back for an excerpt. 

Tell us a little about yourself? 

Perhaps something not many people know? I am lucky to live in the PacNW and to be married to my best friend. We have three wonderful children and a goofy dog. Beyond writing and reading I love movies, music, and have had a life long dream of meeting Jon Bon Jovi.

What made you want to become a writer? 

I have a very active imagination but gave up writing after high school to raise my family. However, all those ideas and stories have always been there waiting to get out. When my husband kindly suggested I take up a “hobby” of some kind so that I am not lost when my kids leave home, it was easy....I had to write again.

Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read? 

Neveah Breaking the Wicked is the 3rd book in the Neveah trilogy. All three books are fantasy with some romance, adventure, and magic. The main characters have evolved from innocent and naïve lovers to strong adults. They have overcome betrayal and tragedy. This last one brings the series to an end with an intense battle of good vs evil. On a side note, there are some racy sex scenes so the series is for those at least 18.

What gives you inspiration for your book?

Anything and everything. I am lucky to live in place that is beautiful and at times magical which gives me a back drop for my stories, but I get the spark of an idea from many different situations.

Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination? 

Mostly from my imagination, however, I did use names of a few family members.

Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why? 

I can't chose only one; that's like choosing a favorite child. I am quit fond of my main characters Lilly and Shep. They really did begin as innocent young adults but had to quickly grow up and adjust to a world that they never knew existed. I also really like Kelsha and Jax..the villains. They were great fun to write. I am generally a nice, passive person so writing a completely vile character was really fun.

What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer? 

Honestly, I surprised myself at how the sex scenes that flowed and just how awful I could write a character. I am also pleasantly surprised as to how nice and welcoming the writing community is. I have met some really talented and nice people since beginning this journey, and I am thankful for the things I have learned from them.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up as as an adult?

I love all kinds of books and writers. Everything from Nora Roberts to Stephanie Meyer to J K Rowling to Toni Morrison. Gone with the Wind is one of my favorite books. I can't say any one book or writer did any one thing for me rather they collectively helped me decide the kind of writer I wanted to be.

Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer?  If so, what do you do during the day?  

I am a lead Medical Assistant in a specialist office where I also do billing.

What is your favorite writing tip or quote?

My favorite tip is to with your instinct and write what makes you happy. Don't be afraid to express yourself.

Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years? Do you have any other books in the works?

I hope to write full time in the future. I am currently writing another book though I am not quit sure where it is going yet, but I am excited to find out. I am thinking about doing another anthology soon as well that deals with addiction. We will see, so many possibilities.

Where can we find you online? 

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Last Priestess

Yesterday we talked with Elizabeth Baxter, author of The Last Priestess, Book I of The Song Maker. Today, learn more about her book and read an excerpt. If you enjoy it, buy a copy, and be sure to comment.


There is a name that is uttered only in whispers. The Songmaker. A ruthless rebel mage, he is bringing civil war to the once-peaceful kingdom of Amaury, enveloping all in a tide of violence. For Maegwin, a tormented priestess, the path forward lies in forgiving her temple's enemies—but she dreams only of revenge. For Rovann, a loyal mage haunted by his failures, salvation might be found in the unthinkable: defying the very king he swore to protect. If they are to succeed they must form an unlikely alliance. For someone must stand against the Songmaker. Someone must save Amaury from his dark designs. But first, they’ll have to learn to trust each other.

And so a magical fantasy of darkness and redemption begins.


A priestess whose entire sisterhood was burned to death in a deliberately set fire teams up with the king’s mage (a man tormented by his wife’s suicide) to stop a dangerous rebel mage, known only as The Songmaker. While Rovann seeks to protect his king, Maegwin’s only goal is revenge against those who murdered her sisters. Both Maegwin and Rovann are complex, compelling characters who you want to win despite their character flaws. The plot is fast paced and will keep you turning the pages and up late at night. I could wish for a little more resolution in the ending, and there was too much gore for my taste, especially in the final battle, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Priestess and strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in fantasy literature. I look forward to reading the next volume in The Songmaker series. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.


Maegwin de Romily woke with a headache on the morning of her execution.
As she roused from frightening dreams she became aware of smells first: damp stone, rotting straw, an undercurrent of urine. Next came sounds: the slow drip of water, the skitter of rats, the hushed voices of the other prisoners. Then finally, sight. Dawn sunlight fell through the barred window so brightly it brought tears to her eyes and made her head pound like a drum, beating out the rhythm of her heart.
She levered herself into a sitting position and clasped her head as pain rampaged through her brain. Last night, after she had smashed her knee into his groin, the guard had punched her so hard she was surprised to find all her teeth still in place. But at least he’d left her alone after that. A headache and swollen jaw were a small price to avoid rape.
She leaned forward, pressing her forehead against the cold, damp stone of the cell floor, hoping for some relief.
“Sho-La, my mistress,” she whispered. “Give me the strength to meet my death with honor. I am lost in the dark. Guide me.” The words echoed off the walls and faded into silence. There was no answer.
Maegwin glanced at the window. Outside, in the town of Mallyn, life went on as normal. The townspeople would be getting dressed, emptying chamber pots, cooking breakfast and doing the simple things people did every morning. In a few hours Maegwin would be led to the gallows and hanged and nobody in Mallyn would care.
Maegwin shook her head, pushing the somber thoughts away. Instead, she brought to mind the morning prayers she'd been taught in the temple of Sho-La.

Blessed Mother, guide me.
Blessed Mother, heal me.
Blessed Mother, teach me.
Blessed Mother, I am yours. 

“Pssst! Maegwin? You awake?”
She crawled to the door and slumped against the bars. “Good morning, Morran.”
A bearded face appeared at the cell bars opposite. Deep lines framed eyes filled with worry. “Ah, lassie, you had me frightened last night. It would have been easier to let him have what he wanted. I thought he was going to kill you.”
Maegwin smiled wryly. “Would it have mattered, Morran?”
The old man's face became stern. “Now, don’t go talking like that. We aren’t beaten yet! Something will turn up, you’ll see. The Songmaker will save us.”
Maegwin sighed. She was tired of hearing him prattle on about this Songmaker of his.  “How many times, old man? I’m not one of you.”
“Well mayhap you should be. Where has loyalty to the king got you, eh? He’s going to hang you whether you be a rebel or no.”
Maegwin didn’t reply. He wouldn't listen. For Morran there were two choices: you were either loyal to the king or loyal to the rebels. But Maegwin had never sworn loyalty to either and yet she'd been dragged into the conflict anyway.
Maegwin closed her eyes, remembering the day that had changed her life forever. Had it really only been a week ago? How could her life change so much in so short a time? She recalled the soft pressure as her sword blade slid between Lord Meryk Hounsey’s ribs and punctured his fiercely beating heart. She tasted the spray of hot blood across her face and smelled the sweat that soaked his expensive clothes.
And heard the screaming of her sisters.
“Hoi, Morran!" someone shouted, jolting her from her thoughts. "Are you rambling on about your bloody Songmaker again? I was an idiot to listen to your lies! Damn you to the Darkness, old man. Your sweet words have brought me nothing but a noose!”
“Ah, you’re a chicken-hearted bastard, Randle!” shouted Morran. “If not for you they wouldn’t have caught the rest of us. You deserve to hang!”
“Really? And what would you have done if they had captured your wife and son? Kept your mouth shut and sacrificed them for your precious Songmaker I suppose?”
“Better that than betray the cause. You lost your faith, Randle. The Songmaker will save us, you’ll see.”
Randle laughed shrilly. “Fool! I doubt the Songmaker even knows your name! He certainly won’t give two shits when you’re dancing on the end of a rope!”
Morran retorted but Maegwin shut their voices out, shuffled over to the window, and lifted her face up to the sunlight. She had no desire to spend her last hours listening to them argue. Through the bars, she could see a blue sky dotted with tiny wisps of clouds. A beautiful summer's day.
A good day to die.


Rovann rode into the clearing and yanked the reins, pulling his horse to a halt in a spray of mud. The acrid odor of charred wood lingered on the air, strong enough to make his horse snort and stamp, unwilling to go closer.
Rovann studied the scene. A once-magnificent building lay in ruins in the center of the clearing. The walls and roof had collapsed, leaving a heap of rubble. Blackened beams stuck out from the pile like the fingers of a corpse.
The surrounding forest lay quiet and peaceful, giving no clues to what happened here. In an oak nearby a squirrel chirped angrily at Rovann’s intrusion. A blackbird alighted on a holly branch, stared at Rovann with one beady eye, and then took off into the trees.
The saddle creaked as Rovann swung his leg over the horse's back and jumped to the ground. Drawing his short-sword, he padded silently toward the ruins. Crouching at the base of a wall, he placed his palm on the blackened stone and closed his eyes. Nothing. No resonance remained within the granite. The fire must be at least a week old.
Rovann straightened and re-sheathed his short-sword. There were no clues here. Lord Cedric Hounsey, on whose land the temple lay, claimed the blaze had been an accident. But Rovann suspected otherwise. Yet, without survivors to dispute the lord's story, there was little he could do about it. Rovann kicked the ground in frustration, sending up a shower of ash that blew back at him, covering him in a fine gray cloak.
His horse, Glynn, snorted and gazed at his master with ears pricked forward. Rovann trotted back to his mount and noticed a piece of parchment pinned to the trunk of a large sycamore. He strode over and ripped it down. He scanned the crude black letters, his breath quickening. There was still a chance. But he had to get to Mallyn. And fast. 
 Swinging into the saddle, he kicked Glynn into motion, leaving behind the woods and coming down onto the paved Kingsroad. Glynn's hooves made a loud 'clip-clop' on the hard stones. The sun was just poking above the tree-line. Lazy streamers of mist rose from the fields. Farm workers dotted the road, pulling carts or carrying tools. They stared at Rovann with wide, fearful eyes, wary of strangers.
Rovann chewed his lip. If he didn’t reach Mallyn by midday… Shaking his head, he choked the thought. He would not fail. Could not. He had a duty to his king, to his people. Rovann smiled crookedly. Duty. That word again. Istra always hated how he was torn in two.
Duty? she would say. Must it come before everything? Before us?
Ahead, the Kingsroad forked. Rovann cursed, pulled Glynn to a stop and threw his hands up in frustration. The roads were identical with no way-markers to aid the travel-weary stranger.
“What do you think, Glynn?” he asked his horse.
The chestnut gelding flicked his ears idly.
Rovann closed his eyes and slowed his breathing to a deep, steady rhythm. He felt the life around him: the thump of Glynn’s heart, the rustle of rodents in the undergrowth, the movement of worms in the soil. Thousands of tiny life forces shimmered, connected by the all-encompassing tapestry of the Eorthe. Rovann pushed his senses further out and found it: a mass of iridescent life energy so strong it could only indicate a town full of people. It lay to the south-west, many miles distant.
He opened his eyes and sank forward, fatigue flooding his limbs. Pressing his head into Glynn’s mane, he breathed in the musty smell of the horse and impressed the image of their destination on the beast's mind. Clinging on, he pressed Glynn into a gallop down the south-western road.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Elizabeth Baxter, Interview

This week's guest is Elizabeth Baxter, author of The Last Priestess, a fascinating fantasy novel. Tomorrow you can see my review and read an excerpt. Today, we have an interview.

Tell us a little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?

Um. Other than being a cricket fan? Obsessed with fantasy fiction? One thing that people always find surprising is that way back my family owned a castle. It’s just a ruin now sitting on a hill about twenty miles from my house, but it’s still cool to think that my ancestors once lived there.

What made you want to become a writer?

I can’t really answer that question. It’s just something that’s always been inside me. Since I was six years old, I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I once saw an interview with JK Rowling where she was asked the same question. Her answer went something like, “I can’t understand why the whole world doesn’t want to be a writer. What’s better than it?” And that’s how I feel.

Could you tell us a bit about The Last Priestess?

The Last Priestess is an epic fantasy tale that centers around two main characters: Maegwin (the last priestess of the title) and Rovann, a mage who serves the king. These two are thrown together as they try to track down a rebel mage, Maegwin because she wants revenge for the slaying of her order, Rovann because the mage poses a threat to the kingdom. They don’t trust each other. They don’t even like each other much. And yet somehow they have to work together to achieve their goals. Along the way they learn a lot about themselves and each other and discover that the problems facing the kingdom run much deeper than they thought.

What gave you inspiration for your book?

It started with the magic system. I was doodling in a sketch book one day when an idea for seven interconnected realms of existence popped into my head, so I drew a map of it.  Each realm had its own laws of physics and was dominated by one particular element. Once I had that in place I needed the characters to fill it. Maegwin and Rovann came strolling into my head and voila...the story was born.

Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?

I’m a sucker for tragic, handsome heroes, so I’d probably go with Rovann.

Your novel is Indie published. What made you decide to take that route?

I was actually offered a traditional publishing contract that I turned down. Perhaps I was crazy to do that but I’ve not regretted it since. I thought I could have more fun and keep more control over my writing by doing it myself. And I was right. Going indie has been exhausting, confusing, frustrating and daunting. But it’s also been enjoyable as hell. I’d highly recommend it to any aspiring writers sick of the slush pile of trad publishing.

What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?

How supportive and knowledgeable the writing community is. I’ve learnt so much from other writers and everyone is so generous with their advice. It’s great.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

There were three writers who had a huge influence on me growing up. One was JRR Tolkien (don't all fantasy writers say that?) as LOTR just blew me away. Another was Richard Adams (writer of Watership Down--how I loved that book!), and lastly Stephen Donaldson from whom I learned how goodies and baddies aren't always so black and white but varying shades of grey.

Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer?  If so, what do you do during the day? 

I’m a college lecturer. I specialize in diagnosing and teaching students with dyslexia and other learning difficulties. It’s very rewarding (and hard work!).

What is your favorite writing tip or quote?

"Every paragraph should have a killer sentence." Can't remember who said it, but I have it stuck on my wall. Along with, "Great characters=eccentricity."

Tell us a little about your plans for the future.  Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years?  Do you have any other books in the works?

2013 is going to be a big year for me. I’ve got four short stories and three full-length novels planned for release. Book 2 of The Songmaker, King’s Mage should hopefully be out later in the spring. In five year’s time? Living in the Maldives and writing the odd story here and there of course!

Any advice you have for other writers?

Have fun. Learn everything you can. Never give up. Oh, and buy yourself a treadmill because you are going to spend many hours sitting on your backside.

Where can we find you online? 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Once Upon a Set of Wheels by L. M. Steel

Yesterday we read an interview from L. M. Steel. Today read an excerpt from Once Upon a Set of Wheels. If you like it, be sure to comment and pick up a copy.


 On the seventeenth of May 1982, a baby girl was found in an abandoned stolen car, on the bridge of a dam. This is Lotus' story: from the abuse by her adoptive father, several foster homes and care homes. She finds unlikely allies in petty criminals, but her life of crime extends much further than they ever realise. When death occurs who would ever suspect the shy little girl who nobody wants?

On the seventeenth of May 1982, an infant girl of only a few hours old was found in an abandoned stolen car, on the bridge of a dam. Abandoned for no one, for no one came to claim her as their child, no one came to say that they were responsible for this babe, no one came to love her. This was how it was to be, always.

The police called her ‘Lotus’ after the Lotus Esprit her life was discovered in. ‘Ogden’ after the dam the car rested over on that day. Lotus Ogden was named and a person.

Lotus tells us the story of her short life, from the abuse at the hands of her adoptive father, to the several foster families, children's homes and detentions. She finds unlikely allies in car thieves and drug dealers but her life of crime extends so much further than any of them ever realise.

So very young, she takes her first life and realises how easy it was, and how no-one would ever suspect the poor, timid, shy little girl who nobody  calls their own.


I don’t know if Tempo knew at that point my involvement in the events that lead to Detective Wilkinson’s departure from the police force, but in time he came to understand my way of handling a difficult situation. We never spoke of it, or any other of my activities it was a quiet understanding we had. I had my own way of doing things, and if events ever lead to extremes, I handled them with extreme measures, but nothing was ever said about it.
Tempo read out the article that followed the headline, as I made some toast and coffee, and got myself some breakfast and a cup of tea. The food felt good, it wasn’t a three-course meal but it filled me, and this was the landmark breakfast, after this meal I never went hungry again. I always found food from somewhere, yes sometimes it was from yet another dustbin, but I never went longer than a few hours before I was fed.
The report explained that he was found between midnight and one o’clock; on first discovery it appeared that he been for a drink and stumbled over a wall. On the road side the wall was only a few feet high, on the other side it fell thirty feet to a farmer’s field. It explained that he was actually undercover, although it didn’t say what the case was, those details were released later. There were no signs of a struggle, no evidence to suggest anyone else was present, it just seemed he had fell and a large stone from the old Yorkshire built wall had fallen with him. Even if they did suspect someone else was there, would they ever even consider it was a little seven-year-old girl? I silently sniggered to myself; I was getting good at this. I wasn’t proud of myself, I knew I had done wrong, very wrong, and deep inside I hated what I was becoming; but each time it came a little easier, a little less frightening, a little more acceptable, and in time, much more necessary.
This is most likely where you will hear the story of my life from. Apart from the murders, my life before the age of seven has not and most likely, will not be disclosed in newspapers. Tempo agreed to let me stay with him for a while, but as long as I earned my keep. I knew it wouldn’t be long before social services caught up with me so I decided to do as Tempo told me and earn his trust. I hoped by doing this, when they did come he would protect me. For the first few days I stayed at his house, I made him food and drinks, and cleaned up a bit. The upstairs of his place was filled with what he called surplus stock: record players, televisions, and some beet Amax videos that were no good to anyone. A lot of it was entertainment goods, and at the time, being naïve as I was, I figured it was something to do with his DJ work. I also helped ‘repair’ these goods, which involved, scratching off serial numbers; sometimes he took different ones apart and used different parts to make new ones. As time went on I was educated in the art of dealing in stolen goods and fencing.
After a few days Miss Tetley came knocking at his door with a police officer. At first I thought she knew that I was there, but as I hid upstairs and listened to their conversation, it turned out to be just routine questioning. Tempo had been the one who had taken Robert and I to the school after the Enright’s left, and they were just asking if I had been in touch. He answered their questions, quite calmly, and denied any knowledge of where I was; he was very convincing. I hid myself in the spare room with the surplus stock, I kept as quiet as I could, I didn’t even breathe till I absolutely had to. I heard them leave and thank him for his co-operation, but I didn’t go downstairs till Tempo came up and got me, that was when we decided it would be better if I ‘disappeared.’
“Right, Steve McQuin!” he stated as he slumped in his chair, and I placed myself on the middle cushion of his couch. “You being here isn’t exactly doing me any favours.”
“But I thought I was helping.” I stuttered out, I was terrified he was going to turn me out in the cold.
“You are, and you’re doing a good job, but I don’t want the social services to keep coming round, and I definitely don’t want cops round here all that often. So … what are we going to do?” I just shrugged my shoulders, as he drew a deep breath and stared at me. “Look…” he began as he sat forward putting his hands together. “I like you, you’re a good kid, and you do some decent work for me, so I’m not gonna ring that Tetley woman up and say you’ve shown up.” I was so relieved. “But I can’t have anyone on the street seeing you in here and reporting me. So I’ll do you a deal. You can stay in the garage, it’s quite warm, it’s got an electric point where you can plug in a kettle, and some space to set up a camp bed. It’s not gonna be the most glamorous place in the world, and we’ll have to figure something out about food, but for now it’s either that or that Moor Green place.”
“The garage sounds great!” I jumped in before he could say anything else. “I can even do some work down there for you if you like.” He gave me a smile, and got up to go into the kitchen, as he did he pointed at the telly, which was my cue to get out the Marijuana and start cutting and weighing. I smiled back and got to work, ‘we’ decided to wait until late at night till we walked down to the garage, so not to be seen.
The garage wasn’t great, but after I substituted the kettle for an electric heater, it soon warmed up. At first I felt like a stray cat, Tempo would come down twice a day and bring me scraps of dinner and a two-litre bottle of water. I had a bucket in the corner as a toilet, which I would empty late at night down a drain at the end of the road. I wasn’t exactly living the high life, but I was comfortable. I worked for Tempo inside the ‘enclosure’, just small things at first, rewiring plugs, checking fuses, scratching serial numbers, and testing everything, telly’s, stereo’s, video’s, even toasters and other appliances, anything he could lay his hands on. I also helped with the car ringing whenever he got one in. I didn’t really understand what we were doing, all I knew was I was earning my keep. For the first couple of weeks that was my life, when Tempo wasn’t around and there was no work to do, I would curl up next to the heater, and read the paper Tempo had left behind, or a book that he said he had ‘found’. Some were interesting, some were boring, but they kept me occupied and entertained. Life went on day to day and I was happy, it wasn’t a family or a real home, but I had what I thought was a friend and roof over my head. My work progressed, I started rewiring whole stereo systems and TV’s, and stripping some down, taking out car stereos and fitting them in others, I actually thought this was a real repair shop. I soon learned the reality of Tempo’s occupation, but still it didn’t bother me that much, I had done much worse than dealing in stolen goods.
The day came for what we called my first ‘field mission’. It was just the two of us on this occasion, he brought me some black leggings and a black sweater, a hat and some kid sized goalie gloves; he couldn’t find leather gloves in children’s sizes. By this time it was March, I had been hiding for nearly two months, and I hadn’t seen proper daylight for some time, only as a silhouette in the garage doorway when Tempo brought me lunch.
March 3rd 1990, my first time out on the job, it was a little scary and a little nerve racking, but also very exciting. I got all my gear out at seven o’clock, made sure everything was there, I laid it all out neat, almost like an officer preparing his uniform. I then poured a small cup of water and brushed my teeth, my conditions might not have been the cleanest and brightest, but I always took care in my personal hygiene. I then stripped and wiped myself down with a sponge, pulled one of Tempo’s T-shirts over me, and got into my little bed, Tempo was coming for me at two-thirty, so I set my alarm for one-thirty so I could get myself ready in time. It was no use, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep, I just kept tossing and turning and going to the toilet. By the time my alarm went off, I had already got dressed, brushed my teeth again and emptied my ‘potty’. I still had an hour to go, so I made sure the car I shared my ‘room’ with was all empty and clear, Tempo said that was important. It was only an old banger, and Tempo said it wouldn’t be sold on, we would take all the good stuff and then scrap it, ‘the disposable partner’ he called it. I waited and waited, all sat ready to go, I could feel the adrenaline pump through me, and I could barely sit still. Time went by, two-thirty came and went, three o’clock the same, just as I was starting to feel disappointed and ready to go back to sleep, the garage door opened at three-thirty-five.
“Sorry smudge.” Tempo yawned as he made his way in; he never called me by my real name, ever. “I overslept, but I’m here now so let’s get going, we’re already behind.” He looked like death, he had obviously been ‘smoking’ and whatever else, but I didn’t care, I was too excited to care. He opened the car door and I ran round and got in the passenger side, we drove out the garage, and he got out and closed it, then we were off.
“Where are we going?” I asked all fidgety after five minutes.
“A mate I know gave me a tip on some stock, so we’re going to pick it up. I thought it’d be good for you to learn how the whole of my business works.” He smiled and winked as if I got the joke. “When you’re a bit bigger, I’ll also show you how to drive, just in case you’re needed.” My eyes widened with surprise and joy, ‘me, drive? How cool would that be?’
We drove right across town to a place called Boothtown. We drove straight through on the main road, and just before we got to the top of the hill we turned up a cobbled hill. There were three or four very tall houses, all built in old stone, all the houses were dark, except one had what looked like a landing light on, classic ‘out’ sign. The street was dark and quiet except for the streetlights and night shift Lorries. We walked round to the front of the houses on the main road, there were some steps leading down to the front kitchen doors, and we made our way down the steps of the first house, the one with the light on. Standing outside the door Tempo took a quick look around and turned to me. He seemed nervous and anxious, and shaking, but I think that was the cold, I was freezing; I was only wearing thin leggings.
“Right smudge, time for an Oliver Twist.” He said looking at me rubbing his hands together. I had read that book, and enjoyed it, but I didn’t quite understand what he was getting at. He looked down, at the bottom of the door was a small cat flap, I still didn’t get it, I just looked at him. “Well what are you waiting for?” I just looked at him, and then all around me, and then back at Tempo, I had no idea. He bent down and guided me to do the same, pointing at the cat flap he looked at me, quite annoyed, and said, “You, go through there.” Now I got it, but it was tiny, I knew I was small, but I wasn’t sure I could get through that. Seeing he was annoyed I thought I’d better try, so I reached in, arms first and went to slide my head and shoulders in. “Once you’re in, unlock the door, or if the key’s not there, the window and let me in.” I nodded to say I understood and attempted to wiggle my way through the tiny hole. It took me a while, the hardest part was getting my shoulders through, it took some pulling and pushing, and at one point I thought I had knocked one out of it’s socket, but it was just where it still hurt from Martin’s hammer. I still screamed. Tempo kicked my foot to tell me to shut up, so I just gritted my teeth and carried on squeezing. Eventually I pulled myself back out, I sat on the stone cold floor and just stared at Tempo, his face said I wasn’t allowed to give up but I couldn’t really see an option. I sat and looked at the hole, assessing the situation I thought for a while, and just as Tempo was about to say something I jumped to my feet and walked up the steps. I knew he wanted to shout after me but he couldn’t risk waking any of the neighbours up. As he followed me up, ready to blow his top, I took off my shoes and socks, jumped on the railings round the steps and grabbed the metal drainpipe. The bathroom window was small but it was bigger than the cat flap. I shimmied my way up, gripping it with my feet, and quite quickly, got up the tall building. I leant over to the frosted window and balanced one foot on the ledge.
“It’s shut!” Tempo whispered up behind me, still annoyed. I just ignored him; I got my balance and as quietly as I could, punched the window frame. It worked like a charm; it was an old window and had a fastener that allowed you to have it open at different lengths. It popped off the hook, and getting my fingernails underneath I was able to wedge it open. I reached inside and gripping the frame, pulled my whole body onto the ledge, once on I slithered myself through the window. On hitting the floor, head first, I got my socks out from where I’d tucked them into my leggings, put them on and ran downstairs.
I let Tempo in through the kitchen window; I couldn’t find the key for the door so he had to do a bit of climbing as well. He didn’t say anything when he got in, he just ran up the stairs to the living room. It was a tall, but very thin house, the kitchen was at the bottom, the living room above, and then above that a small bedroom and bathroom. I followed him up and watched as he scanned the room and its contents, he pulled a post it pad out of his pocket and started sticking the pages on things.
“Anything with a sticker on, that you can carry, unplug and take down to the kitchen.” He said in a hurried whisper, he was anxious about something, almost panicking, I soon learned that this was just his way; he always acted like this on the job. I did as I was told and carried the VCR, a lamp, a couple of speakers and some tapes and videocassettes down to the kitchen, I couldn’t carry the telly, it was huge. After making a small pile in the middle of the kitchen I went back upstairs to find Tempo rummaging through little pots, like he was madly trying to find something.
“Is everything all right?” I asked after a minute or two, I was unsure of what to say, he seemed very much on edge.
“We need a key!” he stated as he started throwing things on the floor.
“A key?” I asked curiously, I didn’t understand, we were already in the house.
“Yes a key, a key!” he hissed at me. I was scared now, I didn’t like it when he got angry, as I understood it angry people hurt you. I quickly darted up the stairs, I didn’t want to be in his way, and I had a feeling. I remembered when I lived at Martin’s house, Kevin used to keep a spare key in a slipper in his wardrobe, it was left there in case of emergencies. I ran into the bedroom, it was bigger than you’d expect, or at least it seemed to be. There was a double bed, a bedside table with a full ashtray on it, and that was basically it, typical bachelor pad. The wardrobe was big, in fact it was massive, but it was built into the wall, so I guess that saved space, and so made the room seem bigger. The doors were massive, and were all mirrors, even the handles. I didn’t bother switching the light on, but I could still see my reflection. I hated looking in the mirror; it always reminded me of when I would lock myself in the bathroom after Martin had beaten me. Looking over the bruises, feeling the agony, wanting to cry, but never! I would never cry, not for anyone. It also meant I had to look at myself; I didn’t like looking at myself, especially my eyes. Looking into my own eyes, I could see me. Any other time I could ignore it, but when I saw myself, my own eyes, my own evil eyes staring back at me, I knew what I really was. I quickly flung open the wardrobe door to stop myself from freaking out and started searching. There wasn’t much in there, I guess who ever lived here had gone on a long holiday, there were no shoes, and there were no keys in the slippers. I started rummaging through coat pockets, but still nothing. I didn’t want to go back down stairs empty handed, I thought Tempo would be angry, so I just sat on the end of the bed and tried to think. I was about to give up and go down and face the music when I noticed a photo on the windowsill. It was a man and a woman, both quite young, I’d say early twenties, and I figured it was the owner and his girlfriend. I stared at it for a minute or two, and thought about what we were doing. I wasn’t as naïve as I’d like to have thought, I knew we burgling this man’s house, stealing all his possessions that he had worked hard to pay for. In one night we were taking it all away. If he had the time, I think Tempo would have taken the kitchen sink, he was totally gutting the place, I don’t know how we got it all in the car. I stared at the picture in its nice silver frame; they looked happy, really in love, and totally unaware.
“Are you having a shit or sommat?” I heard Tempo scream from downstairs, he was getting frustrated. I jumped up from the bed and grabbed the photo, smashing it on the windowsill I ripped the happy moment out of the frame and just as I thought, there was a key. I grabbed it, dropped the frame on the floor and ran downstairs. Tempo had his angry face on and stared at me as though he was ready to blow, but before he could shout anything, I held the key up. His scowl turned to relief, and he grabbed the key out of my hand.
“Right, let’s get all of this out and into the car.” He said as he rushed down to the kitchen. “Then we can get the hell out of here!” He opened the kitchen door and I started carrying things out, the video, tapes, the toaster, a blender, the stereo and even some toilet roll, Tempo said he was running out and it beat buying any. The car had a really big boot, and nearly everything fit in, the telly and the stereo system went on the back seat, we loaded up and then as fast as he could Tempo drove us back to the garage. We got everything out and stacked it up; he said we would deal with it all in the morning. We then started pulling the car apart, taking the stereo out, even the seats; we left just the ‘vitals’ that the car needed to run on.
“Right, now I’m gonna show you what we do with the getaway car.” He said smiling with relief that it was nearly over. If he hadn’t slept in, it would’ve been over an hour ago. We got in the car and once again drove off, we drove along the dark back roads and up into the surrounding hillsides. We drove for about half an hour at high speeds, along winding country roads, and up steep hills, the surroundings were peaceful, yet a little creepy. Mist seemed to creep over the horizon like a haunting shadow; it was just like a scene out of a Hitchcock film. Finally we stopped, we were in the middle of nowhere, there were no houses, no streetlights, nothing, just rolling fields of heather. We got out of the car into the freezing cold night air, and Tempo popped the hood on the car.
“Smudge, come round here.” He beckoned me over to the front of the vehicle with the bonnet open. “Grab those spark plugs, they could be useful.” I did as I was told, and then Tempo used his hand to shoo me away, telling me to stand clear. He took a box of matches out his pocket, undoing the cap on the engine, he lit a match and holding his hand round it so it didn’t blow out, dropped it in the engine. He then came over to me, grabbed my arm and shouted; “Now we leg it!” I ran along with him as fast as I could, I had trouble running because of my leg, but I put up with the pain, I didn’t want to get left behind in this place. After about five minutes we heard a bang, and turning round we saw the flames reaching into the dark sky, it was almost artistic as the bright orange flames rose like a giant against the silhouette of the dark moors. Job done!    

Life went back to normal; me in the garage fixing bits and bobs, and making the most of my situation. Tempo off loaded the goods and he said he made a good return on them. He even gave me a little bit of spending money, not a lot, just ten quid, but it made me feel good, like I had a proper job. I didn’t really have anything to spend money on, I stayed in the garage all the time, and so I saved it under my pillow. After a few more jobs it started to build, and so did I, I didn’t feel guilty about ripping people off anymore, they had their living, I had mine, that’s life! I was encouraged more when Tempo said the customers were really happy with my work; that was the key to any good business, making sure the customers are happy with your standards so they’ll come back. Of course our settings increased when we ‘expanded’ but at this time we worked from the council garage on small jobs, robbing houses, a bit of car ringing and trading stolen goods. Still it was here where I learned everything I know about being a pro criminal, and as I got deeper into this life, the guilt over what had come before started to fade away. It was all in the past, I couldn’t change it, and it got to the point where even if I could, I didn’t want to change it, I didn’t give a damn. I still never looked in a mirror, I didn’t have to, I knew what I was, I didn’t have to see it. I hardened myself to everything; I was turning into a reflection of Tempo, ‘live for today; for tomorrow may never come. Screw the past; it can’t be changed, and if anyone asks; lie!’ It might not be moralistic, but at that time in my life I had nothing to guide me but Tempo, he was my parent, my teacher and my best friend, the biggest influence in my life, what else would you expect me to become?
I started to get braver as I got harder and would venture out during the day, still only in hours when I knew people were at work and kids at school, I had to remember I used to live here as a neighbour, people knew me. I got myself into the small town by the market place, and bought myself a six-way extension lead, a kettle, and a second hand sandwich toaster with the money I had saved under my pillow. I got the bus back up to the garage, and I paid the fare! Tempo brought me down some tea bags and sugar, two cups, butter, cheese and a knife, I plugged in the heater, kettle and toaster; which needed rewiring. I then used the other three sockets for a surplus telly, a video and a little portable radio. I could only watch videotapes, as there was no aerial, but I would watch all the ones we got in before they were sold on.
By June I started to get more involved with the business, not only was I an expert cat burglar, you could lock all the doors and windows and tape down all the pet entrances, and I could still get in and rob you blind. I was also quite a talented salesman. I would go to the car boot sales with Tempo, never the local ones, but over to Wakefield and Bingley where no one could recognise me. Tempo said I was a natural; I would sell twice as much as he would, and always for more than the original tagged price, he said ‘I could sell tea to a china-man.’ I didn’t know what that meant but I loved it when he praised my efforts, for once in my life I had someone encouraging me. My education didn’t go that much unattended to either; I read books all the time, and newspapers, tabloids and broadsheets. Tempo ‘found’ me a dictionary after he got sick of all my questions. I soon learned the basics of politics, I knew the government structure, and that Edwina Curry had seriously pissed off farmers, and that in fact, there wasn’t a wide spread salmonella outbreak. I read books that were way beyond my age, but I enjoyed and understood them, (except for Shakespeare, no-one understands Shakespeare.) I could write well, not neatly but well, and I would be in charge of ‘stock’ listing. My maths abilities stayed strong as well, I would price everything up, receipt everything that came in and out, and eventually made up the ‘books’ keeping check of all the money that came in. I was eight years old and basically running a private business, Tempo was always the boss, but I was the one who looked after all the ‘business’s interests’ and I was as good as any accountant. If I hadn’t spiralled into the life I did, I truly believe I could have made a decent life for myself in the world of business; I certainly had the head for it.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

L.M. Steel Tells All

Today's featured author is LM Steel; the L stands for Lee. Her book Once Upon A Set Of Wheels is a two-part crime drama. Read about her today, and I'm have an excerpt for you tomorrow. Go ahead and leave a comment if you enjoyed it.

Tell us a little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?

On paper I’m a forensic scientist, by trade I’m a factory baker, by day I’m a technologist, by history I’m an ex-farmers daughter, by family venture I’m a kitchen, but by choice hope and ambition I’m a writer. I’m a jack of many trades I guess.

I’m a Yorkshire lass at heart, no matter where I travel. And no matter that I write drama, crime and comedy, I am a huge science fiction geek! (I’m a proud trekkie; I even have my own com badge!)

What made you want to become a writer?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember; I actually had my first poem read out on Children BBC radio when I was seven. From there on I have continued to write poems, short stories, novels, scripts, even had a go at a few songs.

What prompted me to start writing is that ever since I was a child I have had a wild imagination and keen desire to share my own fantasy’s and tales with the world. For what is a story teller, without someone to tell the story to?

Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?

Once Upon A Set Of Wheels, is a two part story as it is a long story.

The first part is Baby Driver; and tells the story of Lotus Ogden who was abandoned as a baby in a stolen Lotus Esprit. She is abused at the hands of her adoptive father and then moved into foster care where she is also abused, neglected and abandoned. She finds allies in car thieves and drug dealers whom she adores and follows, but is also aware that she can manipulate and wrap around her finger.

Very young she takes a life in self-defence, and gets away with it as no-one would ever suspect the shy little girl no-one really care about.

The Second Part: Take it to the Limit; follows Lotus as she grows into a teenager and becomes ever so much more dangerous. No longer acting as a cornered animal fighting back and defending herself, she is calculating and malicious. Having her heart broken three times in her early teens, she decides the life of crime isn’t worth it anymore: She is determined to have a normal life and will rid herself of almost everyone from her past to achieve it.

What gives you inspiration for your book?

I actually recently wrote a blog about this as I was asked what inspired me to write first person as a serial killer. (I think it was just a check to make it wasn’t first hand experience!) Many things inspire me to write, from soaps to Star Trek. Many of the stories I write now are developed from ideas I had as a teenager: I love Star Trek, but in all the episodes and series they never had a teenage female character; they had a lot of teenage boys; Wesley Crusher, Jake Sisko, Nog. No teenage girls. Being a teenage girl when it was on I found this sad as there was no character to relate to, and having a wild imagination, I actually created one in my head that would have fit into the stories. I should point out here that my ultimate dream as a writer would be to write a star trek film, I have six actual story lines for films, four of which I have combined, twisted, messed about and merged and built the framework and leading characters in Once Upon A Set Of Wheels.
Also songs. I listen to the lyrics of songs and try and fathom what story could be behind the words, what could have happened to inspire such words and music, and it develops overtime into a full blown story.
In fact in once Upon A Set of Wheels, all the chapter titles are song titles from the last fifty years, almost as a homage to the inspiration they leant me in developing the story.

The major ones in this story was Simon and Garfunkel’s hits. The first of course is obvious by the first part of the story: Baby Driver. I listened to it over and over and thought about why someone would have parents with so many professions? Of course came along Foster care. After that I just love the nickname: baby Driver and the main line of the chorus that caught my attention was of course Once Upon A Pair Of Wheels.

The Boxer, I love this song, and listening to the words I envisaged at first lotus and then Tempo. A beaten up, desolate waste of a person that had so much potential but found himself on the wrong road in life.

Sound Of Silence. Of course this was an inspiration, it’s the cover song to the video and in the very first chapter, but why was it an inspiration? the lyrics in the first verse! ‘The image that was planted in my brain, still remains.’ It made think and wonder what image could stay with you, could haunt you, could mould you and affect you for your entire life?

Bridge Over Trouble Water. This was the inspiration for the most important character aside from Lotus; Sergeant Graham Davidson. Listen to the lyrics all the way through; it’s a song of protection, guidance, refuge and love—the love of a father for a child. No matter what she would do wrong he will always be there for her.

Are your characters based off real people or did they come entirely from your imagination?

I think their personalities definitely came from real people, but their identities I created myself, trying to see myself in those situations, I came up with characters I had never intended as I realized, in that situation, I would need someone else there.

Lotus’ personality came very much from a girl that used to hang around the shop I worked at when I first started writing it. She was always on her own, waiting for her parents to finish work, sometimes till I finished at nine in the evening. She was only about ten or eleven, and she always came off as so angry, but at the same time very lonely, which was why she hung out with us at the shop all the time.

Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?

It has to be Miss Tetley because she starts off being very misunderstood. She is seen as strict, dominant and almost uncaring; then we realize with Lotus that she is in fact the most important person in her life, and although she’s strict, she’ll fight tooth and nail for her when most give up, which lets face it is how most of us see our mothers as we grow up and then realize everything they actually do for us.

What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?

The long hours, I’ve been up since Six am; it’s now nearly midnight, and I’m still tapping away, whether it’s writing or marketing my books, and I know it’ll be the same tomorrow and the next day, but at first it really took me by surprise just how little sleep I was getting. I’m getting the hang of it now though...I think.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Narnia! I loved all seven books; they set my imagination alight!

My mum used to read them to me and my sister every night at bedtime, and we fell in love with them. From that time on I just loved stories and books, reading them and writing them, I just wanted to let my imagination go crazy and create something as beautiful as Narnia.

Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer?  If so, what do you do during the day? 

I am a technologist for a large corporation working in research and development, which basically at the moment as I understand it means I’m a bit of a lab monkey. But I do love science, and the work is interesting at times, and until I become the next JK Rowling (all positive thoughts and prayers for that please) it pays the bills.

What is your favorite writing tip or quote?

It’s actually an Einstein quote:
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.

Tell us a little about your plans for the future.  Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years?  Do you have any other books in the works?

Well I’d love to be the next JK Rowling, but I’d be happy to be able to work as a writer fulltime, enjoying the work I’m doing and making a comfortable enough living that I can dedicate my time to it completely.

I’m working on 2 projects at the moment:
I’m working on a story which is actually based on a true story. It’s called Wedding in Paradise, and it’s based on a family holiday to Thailand for my sister’s wedding.
This idea is very much based on truth as a result of my family’s trip to Thailand for my sister’s wedding in 2010, which became a cross between the most hilarious holiday and a real holiday from hell. The two weeks we spent there seriously could not be made up; it was just too ridiculous worthy of national lampoons.
It was a hilarious calamity, and I’m using as the base for my first attempt at a comedy story.

I am also picking up a story I started writing a while ago and have finally decided to get back to it:
Birds Of Prey, which is another two-part crime story that is a kind of parallel to Once upon A Set Of Wheels, about a family on the other side of town who are even more dangerous than Lotus. They are the family of Maureen Astin who we know from Once Upon A Set of Wheels as one of the most evil foe Lotus finds herself up against... if we thought she was a nasty piece of the family!

Where can we find you online? (please cut and paste links):
Twitter: @LMSteel1