Monthly Archives: February 2013

Tempt the Stars has a cover!

tempthestars

Tempt the Stars has a cover! This is always the point at which a book starts to feel real to me. Hope you like!

Q&A #38

Question 1: Do Rakshasas actually shape shift or are they relying on illusion to fool their prey?

Rakshasas are spirits normally. They can take bodies when they choose, however, if they have saved up enough power. But there’s no requirement that those bodies should be human ones. They assume whatever form will best suit their ends.

Question 2: Do lampades have the same shape shifting/illusion abilities as Rakshasas?

Lampades don’t shape-shift, but they are skilled at illusion. They can look like anybody they choose–or anybody you want.

Question 3: Is Rian the “daughter” of Rosier? Does Pritkin think of Rian as his half-sister?

No, all incubi can reproduce and Rosier is hardly the only one doing so. Besides, for centuries he put most of his time into gaining himself a human child, so he actually has fewer children than some others of his kind.

Question 4: Cassie gets her power to see, talk, and control ghosts from her father. So I am a bit confused about how, in the third book, one of the Misfits, who is only clairvoyant, can see and talk to Billy-Joe. Could you explain this to me?

The short answer is, clairvoyants can sometimes see and even more rarely interact with ghosts. But what Cassie does, having a ghostly servant who acts as a friend/confidant/errand boy, is something entirely different. Her relationship with ghosts is explained in Tempt the Stars in detail, if it interests you.

Question 5: (this might be spoilery, lol) If Cassie’s father’s spirit was captured in some paperweight and taken into faerie, is he still in spirit form? In the second book, Billy became corporeal when he went into faerie, so would Cassie’s dad still be incorporeal?

This was answered in another Q&A. I basically said that Cassie’s father is a big subject, and will be addressed in the books. You learn a good deal about him in Tempt the Stars. All I can say on this particular point is that he is trapped in a magical snare, not free to move about as Billy Joe was. So the question of corporeal/incorporeal is moot until that changes.

Question 6: Do you take your short stories into account when writing your novels? For example, will the interactions in the Pritkin shorts somehow affect the characters responses & emotions in the future novels?

All of my stories are taken into account when I write a new one. So yes, the Pritkin shorts matter. They are free, so I don’t believe that this should cause a hardship for anyone. Although it wouldn’t in any case, since I try to give enough information within the novels to know what is happening, even if someone has missed the shorts.

Valentine Contest Winners

As far as I’m concerned, everyone who entered is a winner, since all of you helped make it a fun and memorable contest. But I only have two prizes to give out, so let’s get to it.

The art contest:

The criteria I used to select winners in the art part of the contest was pretty simple: a) how well did it fit the contest guidelines (aka was it a cheesy romance novel-type cover), b) how hard did I laugh when I saw it. I thought that would be enough to make for an easy choice, but boy was I mistaken. This was probably the best group of entries I’ve ever gotten for a contest, and I pretty much loved every single one. But after a LOT of consideration, I finally narrowed it down to two, and I just couldn’t choose between them. So they both get a prize.

Congrats go to Austin McCora (who submitted two great entries, but who won for the cheesefest of Cassie, Mircea and the shoes) and the mysterious Lannister, who dared to pair Mircea and Marlowe in the steamiest of illicit love stories! Seriously, you two crack me up!

The written contest:

The criteria I used to select the winners in the written part of the contest was a little more complex (since I know more about writing that I do about art!) It was: a) how well did it explain the image used as a prompt, b) how believable was it (in other words, could I see the characters in this situation), c) how entertaining was it, d) how well did it fit in with the Valentine’s Day theme. And while there were some truly hilarious, witty and just plain fun entries, there was one that knocked it out of the park on all of the above criteria. So congrats go to Mandy Justice for the cutest little story about Cupid ever!

Thanks again to everyone who participated–you guys are awesome! And winners, please send in the address to which you’d like your prize mailed. For any winners who may be overseas, if you’d prefer an Amazon gift certificate to a B&N, please indicate that when you write in. Thanks everyone, and have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day Contest 2013: Written Entries

The Valentine’s Day Contest this year had two parts. The visual entries were highlighted in the last post; this is about the written entries. Everyone was given the image below, and asked to write a paragraph or so about what Cassie and Pritkin were up to (with a Valentine theme, of course). The responses were fantastic, as I’m sure you’ll agree. The fourteen finalists are listed below the image, in no particular order. The winners will be announced tomorrow. Enjoy!

pritkin_cassie

Author: Annette Nimmo:

“Cassie, get down from there!”

Pritkin glared up at the tiny blonde woman stumbling along the old, narrow rampart. Her arms were rotating like the spokes of windmill, but she didn’t seem all that concerned for the two hundred feet drop to her right. In fact, she was giggling as he made a futile grab for one of her hands.

“Cassie, stop being foolish!” he ordered her. “Come down now.”

Her only response was a half-hiccup, half-laugh. Pritkin cursed under his breath and, not for the first time that night, wished he’d stayed in Vegas. This is all Jonas’ fault, he thought sourly as he watched Cassie teeter another few steps along the rampart. It had been the eccentric old mage’s idea to come to Edinburgh for ‘research purposes’. He’d said there was a chap he knew who might be able to teach Cassie more about her powers. The only evidence of teaching Pritkin had witnessed, however, had been how to down several bottles of whisky.

“Whee!” Cassie squealed, flapping her arms wildly. “I feel like I’m flying!”

“You are,” Pritkin muttered. “Flying drunk.”

She lost her balance again, her back arching as she threatened to plummet over the edge. Heart lurching, Pritkin sprang forward, managing to grab one of her arms just in time. With more force than he intended he yanked her down to the courtyard beside him. Caught off balance she stumbled into him and he had to grab her waist to steady her.

She gave a breathless laugh and raised her eyes to his face. They shone brightly in the darkness, the night making them seem a deeper shade of blue than usual, almost sapphire. Her cheeks were flushed from the cold and the alcohol and her breath fanned lightly across his chin, sending a sudden shiver of awareness through him.
His heart thudded again, but with a different kind of fear. Deep inside that familiar hunger stirred. He was acutely aware of Cassie’s body pressed into his, of how warm and soft she felt, and how enticing her scent was.

It would be too easy to pull her closer, to take what he wanted. He couldn’t. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t safe.
He knew he should push her away, step back, put distance between them. But he couldn’t move.

“Cassie…,” he started to say, voice rough.

“Sshh,” she interrupted him. “Don’t speak.”

He swallowed, closing his eyes as she leaned closer into him. Her breath was warm on his lips now and his blood started to rush. The yearning was unbearable, deep and searing, tearing him apart. Her nails dug into the hard muscles of his arms and the air left his lungs with a juddering sigh. There was no use fighting it; how could he, when there was nothing else he wanted more?

It was at that moment, when he was finally ready to surrender, that he felt her go limp in his arms. His eyes opened as her head crashed onto his shoulder, her weight nearly unbalancing them both. Glancing down he saw that her eyes were closed, her face turned into the crook of his neck. Her lips were parted, a little trail of drool escaping the corner of her mouth. He stared down at her for a long minute, not quite able to believe what he was seeing. But there could be only one conclusion: she was out cold.

___________________________

Author: Samantha Williamson

Note: Sam misunderstood the challenge, and therefore presented a story that did not fit the photo. But it was so much fun, I had to include it anyway!

“So how did Dee Sire manage to talk to you into this again?”asked Pritkin as he held up a piece of pink sparkly fabric that looked more like scraps than a dress.

“Well, you know how persuasive the 3 D’s can be,” Cassie replied as she rooted through a box of props, “Besides, they thought it would be good publicity for the new Pythia to be the judge of their ‘Can you date a D?’ challenge for Valentine’s Day.”

“Do really think this is the best way to appear to the public as the new Pythia?” Pritkin looked skeptically at Cassie through the midriff baring hole in what was to be her attire for the event.

Cassie had to laugh at the look of sheer horror on his face. Though he’d never really been a proper English gentleman, Pritkin seemed to have adopted some of their ideas about appropriate clothing for women. His idea of proper attire for her new title as Pythia would involve enough fabric to drown a team of mermaids.

Cassie smirked, “I picked that one out, and it is a lot more modest than what Dee Licious set out for me. I’d be happy to show you her top pick,” Cassie leered.

“I don’t believe that will be necessary Miss Palmer,”Pritkin quipped.

“Gods, are we back to the Miss Palmer thing again?” Cassie grumbled and rolled her eyes and started digging in the prop box again.

“We have training to do today. That is undeniably more important than your debut in a drag show Valentine special in this hellish casino. Pun fully intended.” Pritkin pinched the bridge of his nose as if fighting a headache. “What are you searching for in that box?”

“I’m searching for a pillar,” came Cassie’s muffled voice from where she was bent over into the box. “Maybe we can place your virtue on top of it to keep it safe from all of the Valentine debauchery and save your delicate sensibilities.”

“D-Delicate sensibilities?!” Pritkin sputtered. “Half incubus war mage possessing delicate sensibilities? Place my virtue on a pillar? Have you gone mad woman?” Pritkin’s face was turning an interesting shade of purple.

“Oh, there it is!” Cassie exclaimed suddenly, completely oblivious to Pritkin’s outburst, “I’m glad I found it, geez did they have to put in the very bottom of the box?”

Pritkin recovered enough to see the sparkly tiny shorts Cassie pulled from the box. “What in heaven’s name are those?” he asked.

“Oh, didn’t I tell you?” she smirked, “This is your costume. I told the 3 D’s there was no way I could participate without my bodyguard being present. So they agreed that you could be the curtain boy.”

“I’m going to be the what?” he asked, suddenly wishing he were anywhere else.

“The curtain boy, you know, the one who pulls the curtains back to reveal the contestants one at a time? Seriously, have you never watched a game show?” Cassie asked.

“And I have to wear these?” he said, examining the tiny shorts.

“Yep, that’s your official bodyguard uniform tonight,”she said with a small smile.

“No.” Pritkin stated. “There’s no way you can make me wear these pathetic excuse for jockey shorts.”

“Pritkin, it’s Valentine’s Day, you’re a half incubus war mage who’s battled dragons and dark mages and all kinds of evil crap. I’d think you could handle parading around half naked in some sparkly shorts for one night. Or maybe I was wrong and you’d rather Marco be my guard tonight?” Cassie sneered, eyes glinting with mischief, as she dangled the sequined shorts in front of Pritkin’s face.

Pritkin leaned forward into Cassie and wrapped one arm around her waist. She fitted her body to his and tilted her head back slightly so she could look into his eyes. Her smile widened. “What’s so amusing Miss Palmer?” he gritted out.

Cassie could barely contain her laughter. “You think that costume is bad, this is the one Dee Vine picked out just for you,” Cassie said and pulled a hot pink sequined thong from behind her back that resembled half of a handkerchief held together by dental floss.

“Oh my god, Miss Palmer if you think…”

“Dee Sire you owe me 50 bucks! I told you I could make him turn purple!” Cassie yelled as she stumbled away from Pritkin laughing.

“You didn’t let me finish,” Pritkin whispered behind her. “I was saying, I wouldn’t wear that in front of all these people, but I might wear it for you.”

Cassie couldn’t suppress a full body shiver. But instead of taking the bait she turned and looked him in the eye and said, “Tease! Now go put those tiny shorts on and let’s get this show on the road!”

Pritkin groaned but headed to the dressing room grumbling the whole way about bodyguard duties and how nobody respected half incubus war mages anymore.

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Author: Sophie Edkins:

“What are the chances that Mr Hyde will make an appearence?” I was trying hard not to focus on the lips that so rarely smiled and yet ALWAYS managed to steal my breath when they did. They were so close…so achingly close…

A smile was playing there, and humour danced in Pritkin’s eyes. “Are you comparing me to Dr. Jekyll?” he murmured.

“Maybe.” The answer came out breathy. I didn’t know if it was the result of his breath dancing warm on my skin, or his arm, which was snaked around my waist and pulling me closer into that hard chest of his. Damnit. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the idea of Rosier making an appearence if we toyed too close. Goose bumps rose on my flesh at the thought and I shuddered in the warm night.

“Why’d you ask?” Was he leaning closer?

I didn’t get to answer, because right that second a red bolt of lightening struck the light fixed to the alley wall above my head, showering us in sparks. Pritkin shoved me up against the brick, covering me with his body. the familiar, vibrant green eyes bore into mine, wild with adrenaline.

“Of all the rotten luck,” he muttered, just as a herd of footsteps ran up the narrow gap between the building walls, the owners firing lazer-bright spells in our direction.

Disappointed and silently cursing, i grabbed Pritkin’s hand and shifted.

____________________________________

Author: Pamela Christiansen

“Do you see this face?” I demanded, scowling up at Pritkin. “This is my ‘I am not happy’ face.” The jerk had the nerve to simply smirk down at me, sending my blood pressure through the roof. “Damnit, Pritkin, this was supposed to be a stealth mission. We go in, we buy the shoes, we go back. But no, you just had to interfere with something that wasn’t any of our business.”

Pritkin ignored most of my rant, wrapping one arm around me as he shot a quick look down the narrow alley to make sure we hadn’t been followed.

“I’ve seen your ‘happy face’ and am well aware that isn’t it,” I was informed. “If you’ll be so kind as to take us home, I’d be more than willing to put that look on your face for several hours.”

My mouth fell open at the blatant offer before snapping shut with a click.

“You’d better,” I threatened before sending us back to our own time.

____________________________________________

Author: Chris Seibers

Note: This was another one that didn’t follow the guidelines (bad author, no cookie!). But like the one above, it was just too good to skip!

Mircea leaned back against the exquisite antique chair he was sitting in as he watched his daughter check herself over in the full length mirror. Her dark hair bobbed as she turned admiring the midnight colored skin tight dress she wore. She tugged at the sleeves and hem managing to cover most of the bruises she had recently acquired.

“There isn’t anything I can say to change your mind about tonight.” It was a statement more than a question Mircea knew how stubborn Dory could be.

“No. “Dory agreed as she put some final touches of makeup on.

“You really should be resting.” Her father complained.”

“I’ll be fine. I’ve been resting for the last week. Everyone has been watching me so closely I haven’t been able to do anything remotely interesting. It’s Valentine’s day and I am going to go out and have a nice dinner with my boyfriend. After what I’ve been through lately I deserve a bit of fun.”

“All right, just try not to destroy anything while you’re out. “ Mircea replied shaking his head in fond exasperation.

“I’ll try.” Dory smiled and leaned in to give Mircea a quick kiss on the cheek before she headed for the door.
Mircea was still staring after her with a bemused expression on his face when a soft sound and a lovely scent heralded the Pithia’s arrival. He looked up at Cassie with a smile but before he could even get a word out felt the slap of her hand across his face.

“How could you!” The blond growled and promptly disappeared.”

Meeting his own confused glance in the mirror he noticed the smudge of lipstick that was quickly being enveloped by a large red handprint.

Touching the surface lightly to heal it he laughed. “Love is complicated.”

_____________________________________________

Author: Vikki Lawrence

‘Cassie’ growled Pritkin.

‘Hush now, don’t rush me. I’m too busy relishing this moment,’ She glanced down, ‘besides, you really do have a magnificent butt, give me a moment to admire it.’

‘Cassie…’ he repeated. She looked up from her thorough inspection and met his pained gaze. Pritkin really did have the most beautiful eyes, you could drown it them, and be very happy about it too. His lips moved to say her name again. ‘Cass…’

‘If you growl my name in that oh so menacing way of yours one more time, we won’t do this at all.’

Wrapping a muscled arm around her waist Pritkin pulled Cassie close. ‘You can admire me as much as you want…afterwards. I’ve waited long enough for you tonight as it is.’

‘Being bossy won’t help you either,’ she said as she moved her hand over the firm muscles she had always enjoyed the look of. A man never looked so good in jeans, they just moulded to his body like a second skin.

‘Cassie,’ Pritkin groaned, ‘I can’t take much more.’ His muscles bulged as he gripped her hips hard to keep himself from crying out.

‘You ready?’ At his nod, Cassie draped her body over his. The heat from his body was like a blanket wrapping her tightly. After pausing for a moment to relish the feel of his body against hers, she slid her hand down and curled her hand around the hard shaft.

And yanked.

With a pop, the enchanted arrow came free and Pritkin slumped in relief.

Cassie couldn’t help herself, she started to laugh, and laugh, and laugh. Pritkin glared from underneath his sweat drenched hair, ‘I fail to see how this is funny’.

‘Seriously? You don’t see how you getting shot by a magic arrow on Valentine’s Day is funny? That would have been enough but the fact that the mighty John Pritkin got shot in the ass…’ she dissolved into a fresh round of giggles. ‘I think I’m going to frame this’ she said, holding up the offending arrow.

‘No.’

‘Or put it on Ebay, I’m sure plenty of people will want to know the story…’ Cassie dodged, as Pritkin lunged towards her. ‘Now now, that’s just rude, after all I did just save your ass…ouch’ she dropped the arrow as it abruptly burst into flames. ‘Damn it, that’s not fair.’ She whined.

‘All’s fair in love and war, isn’t that the saying?’Pritkin said smugly.

‘Now no one will ever believe this.’

_____________________________________________

Author: Suzanne Bluff

Entry 1

I will not back down, I will not back down Cassie silently chanted as she stared balefully at her current pain -in-the-ass, otherwise known as John Pritkin. To really emphasis her point Cassie put her hands on her hips and continued trying to bore a hole through his stubborn head with her eyes. He just tightened his grip on the back of her t-shirt and returned her gaze with a smirk playing across his lips.

“Give it to me,” Cassie said through gritted teeth.

Pritkin leaned forward his lips an inch away from hers “Make. Me.”

Cassie ignored the brief shudder of…irritation, definitely irritation, as she felt a puff of warm air hit her flushed cheeks along with his smug response.

Without another word Cassie snatched the orange vial from his belt and held it threateningly over the ground. “Give it to me.” She briefly saw his arrogant eyes widen as she clutched the vial tightly in her hand before he quickly grabbed her wrist jerking it from her hands. Eyes wide they both watch it arc across the alley before coming to their senses running in the opposite direction.

This would be a practice session neither of them would ever forget Cassie thought as she watched the head of the lantern shoot across the night sky like a comet.

Entry 2

Milly’s felt old, her bones were creaking reminding her of her long gone mother’s rocking chair, the chair that was her current destination that was positioned by her window. She liked to watch the stars, as she looked at the vastness of the night sky and the diamond bright stars it brought her back a sense of wonder, transforming her into a child and taking away the aches of old age. But rather then star gaze, Milly’s eyes landed earthbound on a young couple arguing on the street outside. She smiled as she watched the young woman’s curly blonde hair bob in frustration as she stood hands on hips glaring at her lover. Her young man glared right back and started gesticulating madly with his hands, as she stood clearly unimpressed by his display. He dragged her closer, plastering her to his front and bent his head closer as her right hand smoothed down his back, was he going to kiss her? She jerked her head to the window squinting at the young lovers, her nose almost to the glass. BOOM!

Milly jumped and saw a plume of smoke rising to the stars. She glanced back to the young lovers thinking to warn them, but they were gone.

______________________________________________

Author: Mandy Justice

“Cassie…” Priktin whispered through gritted teeth as the little blonde pushed herself up against him.

“Pritkin…” She mocked as she tugged on his hand to place it on her lower back while her own free one rested on her hip. “I told you I could help so let me help.”

“If this backfires it could be very bad.” He responded stiffly as his body tensed in reaction to hers leaning into him.

“But you won’t tell me how, you won’t even tell me what this thing is. Look you said it’s attracted to couples on Valentine’s Day so isn’t this the best way to get it?” She smirked up at him and his lips pursed tighter together. “You could look a little more enthusiastic.” She jutted out her breasts to press them up against his own chest.

“Cassie-mmph!” He sucked in a breathe as a small hand made its way to his rear and squeezed his cheeks.

“You know these jeans just don’t do justice for that.” A mischievous smile played on her face and he felt his jaw clenching.

“I think you’re enjoying this too much.” He clipped.

“Isn’t that the point?” She moved in closer, he didn’t think that was possible, and tilted her head up so their lips were inches apart and he could feel her breathe hot on his face. The temperature made a substantial leap as both of their bodies heated up and flushed their skin. Blue light suddenly flashed beside them as Pritkin’s shield’s reacted to the attack. Cassie blinked in surprise as the object that shot towards them vanished in a burst of red mist.

“Was that-?” The war mage jerked his hand out and a net flew out at lightning speed. It was also accompanied by actual lightning that shot out in tendrils of electric fingers. They closed down on the little creature and Pritkin clenched his fingers as the net shrunk down and pulled the thing towards him. Cassie gaped in astonishment as the chubby little toddler with freaking wings stared up at Pritkin with a pout on its face.

“Cupid!”She exclaimed as the mage raised an eyebrow at her. “Are you frigging-Seriously?”

______________________________________

Author: Arushi Pareek

Pritkin: I look at her, and I know I am stuck. Not the good kind of stuck. Maybe not the bad kind of stuck. But stuck. It’s not the looks, though she will throw a hissy fit if she hears me say this, I have seen women who were much more beautiful, but there is something about her, that makes me feel, human. I’m not. As it turns out, neither is she, not really but… well, she sees me. And for that, just for that, I am well and truly stuck.

Cassie: Is he gonna kiss me? Is he not gonna kiss me? What is he THINKING?!!

___________________________________________

Author: Stacy Feldman

“Or you’ll what?” Cassie said. “You promised me a night out on the town; a tour of London. It’s Valentine’s Day for crying out loud! If you’re going to pass 42°Raw off as dinner….then you owe me dessert.”

She moved toward him with a seductive sway in her step. Everything about her pose issued a direct challenge to emphasize her words. From the gleam in her unflinching gaze, the set of her lips and jut of her jaw, through the full line of her body now pressed tightly against his. He already told her no. He’d be damned if he backed down now, but then again, he already was. She put a hand on her hip as she leaned further into him, pushing against all his carefully constructed boundaries, figuratively and otherwise.

He took an unsteady breath trying to ignore her hip digging into his thigh and repeated his statement, “Back up before something happens that we’ll both regret.” The tension between them was so thick it nearly rolled in waves. His fingers knotted into her T-Shirt at the small of her back, holding her tightly against him, though he fought with himself to push her away.

She leaned fully against him now with her arms wrapped around his shoulders, fingers combing through the short hairs at the back of his neck. She cocked her head to the side, “I don’t know that I’d regret it Pritkin,” she whispered hotly against his lips.

“Then I’ll regret it enough for the both of us,” he stated through clenched teeth as she slowly chipped away at his defenses. God how this woman provoked him!

Her hands smoothed down his shoulders, sliding down his sides around his waist to his back where her fingers traced the waistband of his worn jeans. He closed his eyes, inhaling deeply and leaned his head forward to rest against hers, “Cassie….” He whispered—and she was gone.

His head popped up and he cursed under his breath as he saw her some 20 yards away rifling for quids in his wallet after picking it from his back pocket as she shifted.

“There!” she cried triumphantly, holding up a £10 note. “Dessert is on you tonight!”

__________________________________________

Author: Kim C.

I crouched in a shadow made by the flickering light of the overhead lantern, cradled my bruised ribs, and tried to catch my breath. For a 60 year old bishop he had put up a good fight; maybe next time he would just let me read the damn book. My breath caught as I heard footsteps quickly advancing down the alleyway. I straightened up and got ready to shift, wincing as my most-likely-broken tailbone protested the movement. I squinted into the darkness, not believing my eyes as the menacing figure advancing toward me resolved into the familiar form of a very pissed off war mage. How had Pritkin gotten here?

“Cassie! Are you intentionally trying to give me a heart attack?” Pritkin snarled, a muscle in his jaw twitching in irritation as he moved into my personal space and roughly grabbed my arms. His piercing green eyes roved over my body, quickly assessing me for any visible injuries, while his hands deftly patted me down, checking for broken bones. I winced slightly as his hands slid over my bruised ribs and he snorted.

“I leave you alone for thirty seconds and you find trouble, why am I not surprised?” When he had assured himself that I wasn’t in imminent danger of death, his expression softened slightly and his lips quirked into a provocative smile. The hands that had been dispassionately probing my ribs fanned up to brush the undersides of my breasts. He closed the distance between us and, before I could protest, his lips were on mine roughly demanding and tasting bitterly of coffee. My heart sped up as my hand involuntarily rose to grab a handful of his stupid hair and pull him closer to me. A wave of heat rushed from his bare skin to mine, leaving me flushed and wanting; I made an inarticulate sound of need and he responded by pulling me even closer. I clung to the hard planes of his broad shoulders as his other hand moved down my body to tighten on my ass… and a hot spike of pain seared through me as his fingers ground into my abused tailbone.

I sucked in a breath and jerked back in pain and surprise. Pritkin’s eyes had started to bleed black and his breathing was erratic; an expression of frustrated need was plain in his green eyes. The pain had brought me to my senses and lust was quickly being replaced by confusion and anger. I put my hands on my hips and looked up at him challengingly.

“What the hell are you doing? And how did you even get here?” Pritkin was capable of many things, but I was pretty sure time travel wasn’t part of his repertoire. I briefly considered the idea that the man standing before me might actually be Rosier, but quickly dismissed it. I knew, instinctively, that this was Pritkin; not to mention that Rosier wouldn’t be caught dead in that outfit.

“You brought me here yourself not ten minutes ago.” Pritkin’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “What are you wearing? Where is your cloak?” Before I could answer, we both turned as loud footsteps announced the arrival of a cloaked figure.

“Pritkin, where the hell have you been?” The voice coming from within the cloak sounded eerily familiar, and Pritkin’s face paled when he heard it. His eyes went from mine to the stranger’s and he jumped back from me as if burned

“Don’t mention anything about this next time you see me!” Pritkin cryptically warned his eyes deadly serious, before running down the alleyway to join the cloaked stranger. I was just about to call after him and demand an explanation when I remembered that I was the only one who ever called him Pritkin.

___________________________________

Author: Cecy Castaño

(This entry is in Spanish and English, the English version follows)

Sus labios se posaron sobre los míos, a pocos centímetros, haciendo cualquier pensamiento en mi cabeza incoherente y totalmente invalido. De pronto, lo único que importaba era su cuerpo, caliente y suave, tan cerca de mí que era imposible decir donde terminaba el suyo y empezaba el mío. Sus manos se deslizaron por mis hombros hasta detrás de mi cuello. Se detuvieron allí y tiró de mi cabeza. Mis ojos se encontraron con los de ella y supe que no había vuelta atrás. La besé con desesperación, con hambre, con ansia, con deseo. La empujé contra la pared y la alcé de forma que tuvo que envolver sus piernas a mi alrededor. Me apreté contra ella y sus uñas se clavaron en mi piel. Bajé los labios trazando un camino por su cuello hasta llegar al borde de su top, donde la piel clara y sugerente de sus pechos parecía llamarme a gritos. Me detuve allí, saboreando cada centímetro lentamente. Gimió mi nombre en un susurro y apretujó mi cabello mal cortado en sus pequeñas manos. Deslicé mis manos por su espalda casi desnuda hasta llegar al borde de su pantalón, donde me detuve dubitativo.

-Si paras ahora, te mato –gritó. Reí y seguí.

Sus manos dejaron la inactividad y comenzaron a sacarme la polera, ignorando todas las armas mortales que podrían explotar. La ayudé más eficientemente y dejé todo en el suelo, a nuestro lado. Envolví su rostro entre mis manos, las ondas rubias de su cabello sobresaliendo de entre mis dedos en una aureola casi fantasmal. Ella sonrió, provocativamente, me acerqué deliberadamente lento y…

Un almohadazo en la cara me sacó de la ensoñación.

–Pritkin a Tierra, ¿estás ahí? –preguntó Cassie. Me limité a mirarla. Otra vez, soñando despierto.

–¿En serio es tan difícil pensar en algún regalo que quisieras que te dé por San Valentín? –preguntó–. No sé, algo especial… ¿Un pastel de tofu?

Podría haber dicho lo que pensaba, que mi regalo perfecto de San Valentín estaba sentado frente a mí con una cara bastante enfadada, por cierto, pero en vez de eso, me limité a responder:

–Un pastel de Tofu suena bien.

* * *

Her lips danced over mine, a few inches away, making any thought in my head incoherent and pretty damned confusing. Suddenly, all that mattered was her body, soft and warm, so close to me that it was impossible to say were hers ended and mine started. Her hands slid down my shoulders to the back of my neck and stopped there while she pulled my head up. Our eyes met and I knew it, there was no going back now. I kissed her, desperately, hungry, just like I knew she wanted. I pushed her against the wall and lift her so she had to embrace me with her legs. I pressed against her and her nails pierced my skin. I kissed down her neck until the beginning of her thin t-shirt where the clear and evocative skin of her breasts seemed to sing to me. I stopped there, tasting every single inch of her. She moaned my name in a whisper and squeezed my badly cut hair with her little hands. I slid my hands down her back and stopped when I reached the border of her old jeans.

“You stop now, I kill you” she grunted. I laughed, and then I continued my way.

Her hands, quiet until that moment, came back to life and started to take off my shirt, ignoring the many mortal weapons that could explode at any moment. I efficiently helped her, letting everything next to us. I held her face in my hands, her curly blonde hair coming out from the spaces between my fingers in some kind of ghostly aura. She smiled, provocatively, I pulled nearer, deliberately slow and…

A pillow in my head got me out of the day-dream.

“Earth to Pritkin, are you there?” Cassie asked. I merely looked at her. I’ve been day-dreaming, again.
“Is it really so hard to think of one single thing I could give you for Valentine’s Day?” She asked, “I don’t know, some special stuff… a tofu pie?”

I could have said what I was thinking, what I really wanted: that my perfect Valentine’s gift was sitting in front of me with a very angry face. But instead, I ended up saying nothing alike.

“A tofu pie sounds good.”

____________________________________

Author: Georgia Skoupa

“Typical!” I said as I rammed my head towards Pritkin’s chest. “It’s Valentine’s Day and instead of doing something romantic, I’m stuck with Pythia-duty!”

He gently pushed me a few inches away. As I looked at him he bore an expression of amusement and exasperation. I tilted my head back and looked at the sky. It was a cold February night with no moon but plenty of stars. It could have been beautiful, but for the fact that I wasn’t dressed for the occasion, that whatever it was inside those street lamps stunk and not to mention how the walls around as smelled.

I sighed and pulled myself together. Just then Pritkin whispered to my ear: “Shall we dance?” Before I could even register the meaning of this, I was moving. I could hear music, a rhythm that invited me to sway and twirl and shake. The air around me went from ice cold to refreshing cold. I could feel the warmth emanating from the street lamps, the smell of old wood and stone. “This is ridiculous!” a part of me said. “It is a dream!” But it wasn’t. I could hear the crunching noise the soles of our shoes made on the cobbled-street. I could hear our breaths and our hearts pumping. Suddenly I realized that it wasn’t a dream, it was magic. I looked at Pritkin and was surprised to see the green in his eyes through the shadows of the night. Then I let myself go. He led and I danced along. Had it been anyone else I would have probably embarrassed myself. He did an odd twirl and as I looked straight into his eyes once more we shifted.

_________________________________

Author: Jon Ortmann

Reaching across his chest Pritkin pulled an inky black vile from his potions belt.

“Cassie, I wouldn’t ask you to do this if we had any other options”.

Cassie drug her eyes away from the clear, crisp green gaze of Pritkin’s to the vile he held in his hand. As she reached out to take the concoction, their fingers brushed together and a zing flew up her arm. She took an immediate step back. Reading the label and raising a quizzical brow she asked, “L: potion 9? What exactly will this do?” Raising the vile and lifting it to her nose, Cassie took a quick whiff. “Ugh! This stuff smells like turpentine! You want me to drink this? Think again.”

With an expression that looked to be bordering on pain, Pritkin said, “Trust me. Drink it. Eventually its side affects will wear off, but in the meantime it will keep you safe.”

“Safe? From that chubby little angel chasing me with the bows? How?”

“Please will you stop asking questions and just drink it.”

Stepping toe to toe with him she said, “Not until you give me straight answers. What will this potion do to me?”

Looking away from her, Pritkin mumbled incoherent words under his breath.

“Excuse me? Louder please and try to annunciate.”

Turning back to her, Pritkin pinned her with his gaze, wrapped an arm across her lower back and pulled her close to him. Through gritted teeth he said, “This potion will allow you to fall head-over-heels for its creator, so for a time you will be immune to those nasty little arrows Cupid keeps sending your direction. That way if he gets a lucky shot off and hits you, he won’t be able to control the Pythia and her heartstrings for his own personal gain. He is a devious little creature that wrecks havoc on unsuspecting victims. Trust me; you don’t want to be part of his schemes.”

Cassie, taking advantage of their closeness, leaned further in against his chest and asks, “Are you the maker of this potion?”

“I am.”

“And what if I’m already head-over-heels for someone? Won’t I be immune to Cupid’s arrows if my heart is already taken?”

“Technically, yes. However, if you are the least unsure then his arrows will trump your . . .”

Tuning out Pritkin’s warning, Cassie looked down at the vile she still held in her hand. After a moment she said softly, “I don’t need this.” At the same time she let the vile slide from her fingers to hit the cobblestones with a crack and small splash.

Pritkin looking torn stared at her in disbelief.

“Is the thought of loving me for a short while to much to ask for your safety? Cassie, the potion would have worked. The affects would have worn off.”

Looking him straight in the eyes, a small smile on her face Cassie replied, “Who said I needed a potion for that?”

A big thank you to everyone who participated!

2013 Valentine’s Day Contest

This gallery contains 17 photos.

The Valentine’s Day contest was awesome, with so many great entries it was a challenge to keep up with them all! There were two categories: art and written. This post is about the art category, in which readers were asked to create a cheesy romance-style cover for any of the Cassie Palmer/Dory Basarab characters. Some were funny, some were sexy, some were crazy, and I loved every single one. So here for your perusing pleasure are the entries in the art challenge:

Choosing a winner was TOUGH! Who I chose and the rationale will be posted tomorrow.

Postcards from Fantasyland

disney1

In a continuing effort to switch over bits and pieces from other sources to my shiny, shiny new blog, I present you with a post I did recently for my old blog/another website.

People always ask me what my favorite thing about writing is, and I never know what to tell them. The truth is, I love all of it: the plotting, the character design, the research…you name it, and I enjoy it. But if I absolutely had to pick one thing that I like better than all the rest, I’d have to say world-building.

After all, what could be more satisfying than getting to design an entire world for your characters to play in? It’s like the SIMS on steroids! And it’s also hugely important, since the world of any fantasy series serves as a foundation for everything else. Get it wrong and, like a house of cards, the story that depends on it will likely fall apart, too. So, how do you get it right?

The old adage is to write what you know. But that wouldn’t seem to apply to fantasy, since none of us have experienced hunting with a werewolf or partying with the Fey or riding a dragon (more’s the pity). But experience doesn’t have to be exact to be useful, and mine certainly played a large part in crafting my world. Of course, it helped that those experiences were partly in fantasyland. Literally.

Like a lot of people in Orlando, Florida, I worked my way through college at Walt Disney World. I was also part of the crew selected to help open Disneyland, Paris, mainly because of my appalling, lousy, no good, very bad French, which amazingly enough was still better than what the average Disney employee possessed–AKA none. French is not a language spoken frequently in Central Florida. Anyway, that gave me a chance to experience a theme park being built from the ground up. And while there are no theme parks in my novels, my experiences with Disney probably had a lot to do with why there is a magical casino named Dante’s.

Dante’s is a glowering heap on the Vegas Strip designed to look like a haunted house on the outside and various ideas of the underworld on the inside. It’s a functioning hotel and casino, but it is also a way for the supernatural community of Vegas to gamble, drink and hide in plain sight, since the humans they encounter take them to be merely part of the ambiance. And since the eruption of a war in the magical community, it also serves as the headquarters of one of the factions in the fight.

It may seem like a stretch from Disney, the squeaky clean family vacation capital of the world, to Dante’s, a den of supernatural vice, villainy and intrigue. But in fact, they have a lot in common. And I don’t mean just the basic day-to-day workings of a massive entertainment complex, although knowledge of that sort of thing does help from time to time. But mostly I mean in its air of barely restrained chaos.

What, you say? Disney chaotic? But it always looks so organized. So calm. So perfect. And in many ways, it is. The fact that that tens of thousands of people are fed, entertained and subtly but effectively herded where Disney wants them to go each and every day is little short of miraculous. But behind the scenes, at least when I worked there, things were a lot less polished. Not to mention frequently more than a little…surreal.

Things like walking into a break room in Epcot Center and seeing Michael Jackson in the back, playing Ms. Packman. It took me a second to recognize him, since he was in normal clothes and sans bodyguards, entourage or anybody at all. Disney just kind of let him…wander around. I had to ask him to move so I could get into the ladies’ room.

Or the time the parking attendants at Walt Disney World had a scheduling snafu that resulted in too many showing up for work on the same day. And that then resulted in them getting bored. Which they alleviated by parking all of the incoming cars in the huge Disney lot…by color. It worked great until the park closed and thousands of tourists who only knew that they had rented a white Buick–or a tan Honda or a blue Accord–emerged from the trams to discover themselves faced with row upon row of the exact same car. The old timer who told me that story said it took into the wee hours of the morning to sort it all out, since, of course, many of the tourists hadn’t memorized their rental car’s license number.

Or the time a bunch of drunk frat boys decided to celebrate graduation by dumping Pooh Bear into the moat around Cinderella’s castle. Which, let’s face it, would have been pretty damn funny. If Pooh wasn’t wearing a giant and very heavy Pooh head that acted like an anchor. And if he’d known how to swim. (Don’t worry, security fished him out before he went to the great theme park in the sky. And seriously, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Pooh bear soaking wet and cussing up a storm).

Or the time at Disneyland Paris, when another disgruntled character actor decided he’d had enough. And let Disney know about it by taking off everything but his giant Mickey head and then streaking down Main Street. At noon.

Ah, fun times.

So when people ask me how I come up with the talking shrunken heads at Dante’s tiki bar, or the cocktail waitresses who get pinched by the animated, severed limbs that make up their skirts, or the famous but very dead performers in the lounge (zombie Hendricks or Elvis anyone?) I just smile. And say that it really doesn’t take that much imagination at all.

Q&A #37: (First published to Facebook, January 6, 2013)

Warning: This Q&A is a little different, involving only one question and basically being an essay on why I made Cassie the way she is. Anyone not particularly interested in the technical aspects of novel writing are advised to skip it. Also, the usual caveat applies–this is only my opinion, but that’s okay since it’s my books I’m discussing.

A question came in for the Q&A, which I decided to answer in detail. That’s partly because I’m sick and taking a day off from my usual writing schedule, not feeling very creative at the moment. So I have the time. But it also happens to be a question that I’m asked regularly in interviews, and I’d like to set the record straight.

I read alot of urban fantasy and love yours, but it seems Cassie is, I don’t know, a little weak? Why did you make her the way you did? I mean, she can’t even shoot a gun!

First, I’m going to be bitchy, because I am always bitchy, and because my head hurts right now. And point out that this:

Alot

is an alot. By the way, if any of you aren’t yet familiar with the awesomeness that is Hyperbole and a Half may I suggest you remedy that immediately? You are missing out.

You mean, I assume, that you read a lot of urban fantasy, and I’m glad that mine is a part of that (although probably not now, huh?) Anyway, I used to be confused by questions like yours, since I didn’t view Cassie that way, even in the first few books of the series. But eventually I realized that the question wasn’t referring to personality/backbone but to power.

Cassie starts the series as a clairvoyant who stumbles into time-travel abilities once she becomes Pythia, the chief seer of the supernatural world. Now, that doesn’t seem like a bad skill set to me (sometimes, especially near a deadline, I’d love to be able to turn the clock back!) But compared to the usual gun-toting, wisecracking, blow-’em-up-and-sort-’em-out-later types that populate much of urban fantasy, I suppose her attributes do appear a little “softer.”

My answer to this question was usually to point out that Cassie is the lead character, but that the Cassandra Palmer series is an ensemble effort (think Avengers Assemble rather than The Hulk). And that Cassie’s abilities were designed to complement those of the other characters. So she didn’t need to be all things to all people and do every single thing herself, which I always found stretching credulity anyway.

Now, that wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t exactly the truth, either. At least, not the whole truth. I just didn’t think that the bloggers who asked me for a short Q&A really wanted a novel on character creation. But you asked and I’m bored, so here goes.

Have you ever noticed that many urban fantasy series are fairly short-lived? In some cases, maybe the books just didn’t resonate with readers and they got the old corporate ax. But in many more, it was the author who chose to end them after only three to five books. Now, maybe some of those authors just like writing shorter story arcs, which is absolutely their prerogative. But that often seemed like kind of a waste to me, since a good portion of the space in most fantasy series’ early books is devoted to world-building. Ending a series early therefore doesn’t leave a lot of time to explore the characters’ personalities, or provide much room for a story arc.

That’s particularly true since, unlike epic fantasy, urban fantasy tends to have a limited page count. My publisher prefers nothing over 120,000 words, and ideally would like the books to come in at closer to 100,000. It’s simple economics: it costs more to edit, print and ship longer books, and while e-books are making those distinctions less important, they’re still there. I know because I frequently go over that maximum!

So, why have such short series? I think the reason has to do with where some authors choose to start their characters. Of course, few these days are going to go Dicken’s route and start a character off at birth, but every author has to decide whether to begin the story earlier or later in their character’s development. And most choose later. Why? Because it plays well with readers.

There’s little that most fantasy fans like more than an ass-kicking, name-taking, alpha lead character to drive a series. That’s why the rows of urban fantasy books tend to be dominated by leather-wearing protagonists, usually in scary surroundings and carrying one or more deadly weapons. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. And going that route does have some pretty big advantages.

For one, a lot of readers are not known for patience (don’t look at me like that–you know it’s true), and if you want them to get past book one, you have to hook them early. And the easiest way to do that is to give them what they want. So if they want the traditional butt-kicking hero, why not just give it to them?

For another, it’s just plain easier to write a hero who is at the top of his or her skill set. You don’t have to come up with explanations for why your lead is heading boldly out to confront the bad guys. Why wouldn’t he? He’s Iron Man! Or the Hulk! Or Captain America! He can handle himself. But, of course, if your hero is a normal gal in a happy face T-shirt who couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a gun even if she threw it, AKA Cassie when my series begins, then you have to work much harder to get her into a believable set of circumstances where she must confront the villain. You also have to manage to find a way for her to beat him when the opposite would seem far more likely.

It’s not surprising, then, that many urban fantasies choose to start their hero out either at or near the top of her game. And for a few books, that works great. The series is dynamic, villains are falling left and right, quips are being quipped and fun is being had. But then comes book number four, or possibly five if the writer is especially skilled. And the wall is hit.

The problem is that, even in fantasy–or maybe especially in fantasy–characters have to act in a way that is believable. When you’re demanding so much suspension of disbelief where your universe is concerned, something has to ground your story and that something is usually going to be your characters. And what is not believable is to have a character who never changes.

Change, whether good or bad, is part of human life, and a static character therefore starts to feel unreal after a while. The problem is, if you’ve started a character out near the top of her arc, where are you going to take her? Yes, it is possible for people to change in emotional ways: to work through a problem they’ve had with someone or something in their past (AKA the Inigo Montoya approach). Or to find true love (AKA the Harlequin approach), although that’s more often found in the realms of paranormal romance. Or to fulfill a destiny in some way. And all of those are legitimate story arcs. However, they also tend to be short ones.

So after a few books, when much of the world building is done and the characters are set and the hero has completed her arc, the author starts to wonder…now what? Or sometimes the audience does, when it seems like a bunch of otherwise good characters are wandering around in search of a storyline. The reason they don’t have one is that their story has been told. It’s done, it’s over, and all that’s left is to ride off into the sunset. And so the series folds.

At least, ideally it does. Since the only other option is to morph the character out of all recognition, AKA the weird approach, and essentially give yourself a new character to work with. And therefore a new arc, for a few books anyway. This has been done successfully on occasion, but it’s risky, since it can cause a backlash from readers when they see a favorite character change to the point of no longer being recognizable.

Which brings us back to Cassie–or Frodo at Bag End, or Harry Potter in his closet. Having heroes start at a much earlier point in their arc often makes an author work harder at the beginning, because there’s not as many bells and whistles to keep people entertained, and because their character can come off looking weak even in comparison to her own supporting cast! But it pays dividends in the long run. A lot of dividends.

Dividend 1: It makes the series longer, since your character needs time to change from Harry Potter to Harry Freaking Potter, which in turns allows you more books with which to explore his psyche and flesh him out. When your story starts before everything gets crazy (or at least before it gets as crazy as it inevitably will), the reader gets to grow along with your hero. They get taken on the journey, too, instead of just being shown this character that is already fully formed before the first scene opens. Also, if your main character’s arc is longer, it gives an opportunity to flesh out side characters as well, leading to a more well-rounded cast.

Dividend #2: It is wonderful for building tension. Nothing takes the wind out of a story’s sails faster than having overpowered heroes. You want the protagonist to have to work and struggle to overcome the odds against him or her. You want to have readers on the edge of their seats, wondering how your hero is going to get out of it this time. You want readers to identify with the character, to worry along with him, to bite their nails and be glued to the page, thinking that maybe this is the end because ohmyGodnowaywesurvivethis! And you don’t get that with an overpowered hero.

Dividend #3: You get to help with genre diversity. Urban fantasy is still a relatively young genre, which means it’s a bit more dynamic and less set in its ways than some. But there are already signs of tropes, clichés and stock characters developing. And let’s face it, if every hero is a super-powered, suave, take-no-prisoners type, things get boring fast. Personally, I like to play against type.

That’s why even my other heroine, Dorina Basarab, who is a lot more traditionally butt-kicking than Cassie, has elements that make her very unusual for the genre. She’s a dhampir, half-vampire/half-human, with something of a split personality thing going on, since her two halves never really merged all that well. In a sense, she’s two people in one, and at least one of them is as crazy as a bed bug. But that’s half the fun! Longer series give you a chance to do some pretty unusual things with your characters, and that’s only healthy for the genre overall.

Dividend #4: For the reader, your world and characters start to feel like home. Because, seriously, how many people read Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories for the mystery? I’m a mystery buff, and I love me some Rex Stout. But I’ll be the first to admit that his ability to put together a compelling mystery was, er, somewhat limited. But it didn’t matter, because nobody read them for the mysteries anyway. We read them for the characters.

We wanted to know what Fritz was cooking that day and what Wolfe was reading and what girl Archie was pursuing and how the orchids on the roof were doing. And we wanted to know these things because we cared about the characters, and because that old brownstone had become a second home for us, one where we felt completely at ease and yet suitably tingly, because a body could drop out of a closet at any second. It was our second home because we’d visited so many times over such a long period, that it began to feel like we’d actually lived there, too. But you don’t get that feeling out of a one-off book, no matter how good it is. For that, it takes a series and a long one. And a long series takes a special kind of protagonist.

Q&A #36: (First published on Facebook December 21, 2012)

Q#1: The name of Louis-Cesare’s court, Les Pléiades, refers to the constellation? Or to the nymphs, for whom the stars are named? How did it come to be named so? And are all main vampire courts named?

I never know how to answer questions like these, since there’s a book answer and a real-world answer, and I’m not sure which you want. The book answer is that the estate was named after the Pléiade, a group of sixteenth-century French poets whose work Louis-Cesare liked when he was a boy. So, yes, the poets named themselves after the constellation, but Louis-Cesare wasn’t thinking of the stars when he named the estate. The real-world answer is that I lived in an apartment complex called Les Pléiades in Marne-la-Vallée when I was sent to France as part of the opening crew for Disneyland Paris. It was my introduction to Europe, and I had a fun time. Okay, mostly fun. Anyway, here’s baby me in my Disney outfit:

EuroDisney

Q#2: In Curse the Dawn, Alphonse says of Marlowe “I thought he liked stubborn, powerful, complicated types”. Any hints about who Alphonse is talking about? And also, why is Alphonse of all people saying this? I don’t get the impression he and Marlowe are best buds. How does he know what ‘type’Marlowe likes? Do lesser vampires gossip about Senators’ love lives the way we might gossip about movie stars?

Yes. Senators are celebrities in Cassie’s world. Very much like rock stars. And Marlowe is an object of fascination because he’s so mysterious. He’s always being linked with somebody.:-)

Q#3: What historical figure (if any) is Hassani based on?

Hassan-i Sabbā, the founder of the Order of Assassins. Since he’s head of the African Senate, which governs the Middle East as well as Africa, I thought it only fair to use someone with ties to both regions. Hassani was born in Iran and ended up in Cairo, so he fit. Plus, he and the order he founded have always interested me.

Q#4: I was wondering how Pritkin’s singing voice sounds. Is there any singer who comes close to how he sounds in your head?

No, not really. Of course, I don’t listen to music much, so I wouldn’t. He’s a nice tenor, though, if that helps.

Q#5: For the Q&A, I was wondering what happened to Marco’s date in Curse the Dawn. He said that Cassie was enough trouble. So did he actually go on the date and something disastrous happened or did he just call it off? I’m pretty sure this isn’t a spoiler, so it’s safe to ask.

Marco was a little busy to worry about dating in Hunt the Moon! In fact, body-guarding Cassie has taken a tragic toll on his personal life. He said to tell interested ladies that he’s still available, however, and that he doesn’t bite…hard. 🙂

Q&A #35: (First published on Facebook December 8, 2012)

1) Firstly, Pritkin’s predicament is very confusing for me. Francoise’s incubus lover (is his name Randy?) doesn’t seem to kill the women he sleeps with, and neither does Casanova. So I can think of two possibilities: 1) Only the lord of the incubi (and by extension his son) are strong enough to kill people through feeding or 2) Incubi can control the feeding and turn it off before they hurt their partner. In fact, didn’t Pritkin say in HtM that it’s considered bad form to hurt one’s partner? So, what’s Pritkin missing that he suddenly starts to suck the life out of Cassie? It is that his incubus side is too hungry to stop? (If the answer is too spoiler-y I completely understand.)

The answer isn’t spoilery. It’s explained in the books and I also think I answered it somewhere in the Q&A sessions, although maybe not well enough. Let me try again.

There’s two things going on here: feeding and sex. And there’s two kinds of sex: human and demon. The human variety is usually happening when an incubus feeds, because that’s how they access the life force (through human lust) and sex is a great way to sustain lust over a longish period. They are in total control of how much they take during this process, however, and do not normally drain their partners. Why would they? It would mean constantly looking for new ones, and once you have a circle of donors that are to your taste, why change?

Pritkin, as half incubus, inherited his father’s ability to feed this way, and has the same control over it that any incubus does. He therefore doesn’t have to drain a partner when he feeds. Yet he drained his wife anyway. So what gives?

What happened with Pritkin’s wife was not just a feeding. And he was not in control of it because he didn’t initiate it. Remember, she was a demon, too, if a very minor one. So she was able to initiate the feedback loop that serves as demon sex. Ideally, this means an exchange of power–not just power going from one person to another as in a feeding, but a loop in which both partners take and give, and occasionally, get a bonus in the form of a transfer of talents or the birth of a new demon.

Anyway, Pritkin’s wife initiated demon sex hoping for a bonus in the form of more power for her, allowing her to join the demon world the way she’d always wanted–as someone to be respected. But she forgot (or wasn’t informed, or decided to risk) the fact that a loop is exactly that. It wouldn’t be just her feeding from Pritkin; he would be feeding from her, too. And as it turned out, she didn’t have all that much to give.

So, before Pritkin realized what had happened, his wife had started a very different kind of sex than the one he’d had in mind. And that was a problem. Because remember, he’s Rosier’s son. He is a powerful incubus, or would be if he chose to exercise his abilities. He was so much more powerful than this little almost-human minor demon, in fact, that when the loop began, he drained her before she had a chance to get anything back.

Pritkin blamed himself because a) he killed her. Any way you want to slice it, she ended up a dried out husk in his arms, and you don’t just forget something like that. And b) if he’d been willing to do what his father wanted and have sex with demons before his marriage (in order to help the family), then he would have realized what was happening when she initiated the loop and maybe known how to shut it down. But he hadn’t and he didn’t and she was dead and it was his fault.

So after all that, let’s look at your question about Pritkin’s attitude toward Cassie (or any other woman, for that matter). His attitude is influenced by two major things:

If he had sex he went to hell: Because of the whole thing with his father, and being under interdict by the demon council, if he had sex of any kind, he knew he’d be pulled back to hell with no more chances of parole. Now, think about that for a second. Here he is, a creature designed to live partly off of sex and the power it brings him, and yet he’s now barred from having it. Ever. Again.

He can’t feed, except under very rare circumstances, because if he does, his life is basically over. That’s going to mess with someone’s head. Lusting after something, yet knowing he can’t have it, yet lusting after it even more because he can’t have it…not a good treadmill to be on. So his attitude toward sex is rather the same as a recovering alcoholic’s toward alcohol. Meaning, it’s seriously conflicted.

Put simply, he’s scared to death: He may logically, cerebrally, intellectually know that feeding and demon sex are entirely different things. He may know that he can control a feeding. He may know that there is absolutely no reason he should ever drain a partner again (through either method, really, since he must have figured out how to shut the feedback loop down. Otherwise, his father could hardly use him as intended now that his parole has been reversed, right? He’d drain all his partners!) So clearly, Pritkin isn’t a threat to anyone–except in his own mind. Or when Rosier decided to help him out of it, as in the scene with Cassie in the car in HTM.

Pritkin probably was a real danger to her there, because he was dying and desperate and out of his head, and his power was reaching for any possible connection that might help. But under normal circumstances, no, he wouldn’t be. But here’s the thing–he doesn’t know that. Or, rather, he does intellectually, but not in his gut.

Someone wrote to me once asking why Pritkin doesn’t just “get over it already.” She said it had been a hundred years, give or take, and it was time to put the past behind him. She said, basically, he ought to man up. All of which may very well be true. But the human (or half human in this case) mind doesn’t really work like that, does it? Humans aren’t robots and we don’t always just get over things, even small things, all that easily. And what Pritkin is dealing with isn’t small. Besides, he really does mistrust his father and he doesn’t want to help him get even more power when there’s no telling what he might plan to do with it.

Are we cool now?

2) Secondly, we were wondering where Mircea’s female vampires are. The only two we really meet, Sal and Eugenie, were made by Tony. Wouldn’t Mircea want one or two female guards around, for things that Cassie might not want a man for? (Like when she was visiting Augustine and needed to change). Is it simply that Mircea was originally very “close” with the female vampires and doesn’t want to rub his past in Cassie’s face?

Mircea doesn’t have any female vampires watching Cassie because he doesn’t have any female vampires. Some of his master-level servants do, but the whole Sal thing didn’t turn out great, so he prefers only people he directly controls around Cassie now. And that means guys, because that’s all he has. And no, I’m not going to tell you why (although you’ll figure it out eventually).

3) How did Louis-Cesare know that Dory had all his memories?

Because he was there when the transfer happened, and because they’ve been sharing mental space pretty regularly ever since (because Dory was drinking Fey wine like it was going out of style).

4) Did Mircea intend for Dory and Louis Cesare to be together?

No, but he’s not mad about it.

5) Will Caedmon be back in the next book?

There’s a very good chance.

6) Will we see the Irin that appeared in Fury’s Kiss again?

Lol, maybe.

7) Will we learn more about Dory’s mother?

Yes, eventually.

Q&A #34: (First published on Facebook November 11, 2012)

QUESTION 1: About the title, does Fury’s Kiss refers to Dorina, opposed to Dory, since Midnight’s Daughter was Dory and Death’s Mistress was Christine?

Yes, it was Dorina who received the kiss (from the Irin child) which allowed her and Dory’s natures to meet and do what they did.

QUESTON 2: In Death’s Mistress, Mircea said he and Marlowe had worked to select master vampires with political views similar to their own and skilled in combat, but did any of those masters manage to get a senate seat, apart from Louis-Cesare, who was supposed to be banned, and Dory?

You’ll find out all about the senate in the next book—I promise! But I will say that Mircea and Marlowe’s faction wasn’t as successful as they had hoped, which was one reason the Consul was willing to do what she did. Simply put, they needed the extra vote.

QUESTION 3: Did Mircea know of the traditional gift to children who become masters when he changed his brothers? If so, what did he give Radu? And did Radu ever give anything to Louis-Cesare, maybe anonymously or later when they could meet again?

Yes, Mircea knew. He’d had to trap Radu (in the kind of magical snare you see him use on Vlad in Claimed by Shadow) to stop his aging, because he wasn’t a master yet when Radu became seriously ill. So by the time Mircea finally was able to change his brother, he’d had a chance to learn a little more about the vampire world. As for what he gave him–the villa in Tuscany that Radu mentions in Fury’s Kiss. It was where ‘Du became so fond of making wine!

And no, Radu couldn’t give anything to Louis-Cesare, because he wasn’t supposed to have any contact with him at all (see Midnight’s Daughter for why). He wasn’t there when Louis attained master status, as a result. So now he’s doing his best to rectify that oversight and give him Dory!

QUESTION 4: If it’s not a spoiler, does Dorina see the type and intensity of magic, when she sees the auras? How does it relate to her seeing vampires’ family line?

I think you might be confusing two of her abilities. Dory can see the bonds between vampires (or their family aura, if you like) as can some other vamps. But one of her master’s gifts, which never manifested until this book because it was carried on Dorina’s side of the mind, was also related to sight. Dorina sees further along the electromagnetic spectrum than humans, or even most vampires, including infrared. In other words, she sees heat signatures, and can therefore identify what she’s hunting even in pure darkness.

QUESTION 5: At which age did Dory begin to have problems with her powers, when did Mircea began to separate her two sides and how long did it take him to complete the barrier?

Dory began to have trouble between her two halves early, with minor blackouts even before she met Mircea. But it didn’t become a serious threat to her health until they’d been in Venice for several years. Mircea then began trying to find a solution by traveling (at great risk, because he belonged to no one and was therefore under no one’s protection) to various areas of Italy and beyond to talk to well-known healers. Incidentally, that’s why he never demonstrates any of the fear most vamps show about using the ley line system. He had to use it early on to go and come quickly, because he couldn’t afford to leave Dory for long, but he also couldn’t take her with him due to the danger.

In any case, when he failed to find help, he returned to Venice, where the family was based because it was an open port (and they therefore weren’t violating any family’s territory by being there). It made it safer for them, but nothing was safer for Dory, who was having more and more trouble as time went on. Mircea was finally left with no choice but to try his novel approach to the problem and to separate her two natures. But remember, he was not a master then. He was weak, and it drained him greatly to do what he did. He got a little help, as you’ll see in “Masks”, but it was still an uphill battle to contain a vampire half that was gaining in strength almost as fast as he was.

It took decades to isolate Dory from her other nature. But Mircea never “completed” the barrier because Dorina never stopped growing in power and thereby threatening its integrity. He managed to stabilize Dory a few decades after he gained master status, which was lucky, because having a dhampir attached to his growing court was gaining her too much attention. It was likely to get her killed if she stayed with him any longer (because dhampirs were a no-no in the vampire world), so he had to let her go. But he erased much of her memory before doing so. He was afraid that, if she knew about Dorina, it would have been impossible to keep her from reaching out to her other side and thereby to maintain the barrier.

And it required maintaining. That was one reason, beyond wanting to see her, that Mircea reconnected with her every decade or so. He had to check on the stability of the wall, and to add to it as necessary, or risk a breech. Dorina had inherited his mental abilities, and while she was completely untrained and also handicapped by only being “out” occasionally, she had nonetheless gained master status. And containing a mentally adept master is not so easy.

Hope that clarifies things!

QUESTION 6: Marlowe has some diehard fans and we’re a little obsessed with his sex life, since it seems he hasn’t been laid for about 400 years. This would clearly explain why he’s perpetually angry! Maybe this also explains why, after reading Fury’s Kiss, some of us are now speculating wildly about him and Dory. I mean, what was that ‘searing look’ about at the end? Any words of comfort for frustrated Marlowe fans?

Lol! Where do you guys come up with this stuff? Honestly!

But you asked, so firstly, Marlowe has never been celibate, much less for 400 years! Secondly, he isn’t perpetually angry, just when he’s around Dory. Third, I honestly applaud the creativity, but no. Just…no. It is safe to say that Dory and Marlowe loathe each other (see Q&A #33 for why, beyond the obvious). However, I will say that Dory’s love life has some…ups and downs…headed her way. Or should I say, Dorina’s does? 🙂