Oh, boy. This is my first guest blog as a nearly-published romance author, and I’m a little nervous.
Okay. A lot nervous.
I’ve always had stories in my head. There’s always been a kind of narration going in my brain. Sometimes it reads like a script, laying out events that happened the day before. Or a difficult conversation I need to have (or wish I could have) with someone. Other times, it’s a scene from whatever I’m writing, playing out in images and description and dialogue. But that’s all safely in my head, where it always sounds good and no one else can see or hear or judge.
Or experience my stories with me. Yes, my stories are safe in my head. But what good is being a storyteller, if you don’t have the guts to put your stories down on paper and send them out into the world, to share them with others?
It took me a long time to understand this about myself, but that’s my passion: telling stories. I love stories. I love movies and scripted television. As long as we’re talking happy endings and good guys winning, that is. I distinctly recall the cheers that erupted in the theatre when Han and Chewie swooped in to help Luke make his run down that Death Star trench. Xena and Hercules were Must-See Friday-night television for me and my friends. And I’ve been reading since I could hold a book. My first love was science fiction and fantasy. Then I started sneaking peeks at the romances Granny shared with Mom, which Mom tucked away on the shelf in the enclosed back porch that we called our kitchen nook. And then I started reading those romances cover to cover, swept away by the emotional journeys of people as they fell in love. As they chose each other, no matter their faults or fears, and made whatever sacrifices they needed to make to build a life together.
Did you catch that I called them people? Of course, they’re characters, imagined by someone and crafted by someone, their actions and thoughts and emotions carefully chosen word by word, page by page, scene by scene. But man, if the writer has done their job well, those characters can be as real to readers or viewers as living, breathing people.
Especially in romance. Because these characters are fighting for what we all want: love. Families. Healthy relationships. Fulfilling lives. Whether they’re dragon shifters like mine or Wall Street billionaires or Victorian heiresses. We see ourselves in these characters. We connect to them on a deeply personal level.
Some writers will describe their process as listening to their characters as if their characters are telling them what to do. My process is more like a series of discoveries of what someone might be like if this or that happened to them, of choices I consciously make to build them from the inside out. Whatever the process, those characters we love come from the mind and heart of a storyteller. And if they’re in a published book, then that writer had the guts to put their characters and those characters’ journeys into words and send them out to the world. And hopefully into readers’ hearts.
And here I am, finally ready to join the ranks of the published and share my stories. Or nearly ready. I may have made this decision to finally put my work out there, but apparently, I’ve got way more to learn about how to do that than I realized, despite years of working toward this goal.
So yeah, I’m a lot nervous. I wish I at least had the cover ready to share. I’ll be back here next month, a grateful guest blogger of the kind and generous Delilah Devlin, and I’ll have more for you then, including a chance to win a set of dragon magnets. In the meantime, comment for a chance to win a copy of Fire’s Rising as soon as it’s available this fall.
But no more waiting! It’s time. So here, for the first time ever, is an excerpt from my debut paranormal romance Fire’s Rising, when my hero and heroine meet. I hope you’ll like my story. And I especially hope you’ll like my characters and take them into your heart. They’ve certainly spent a lot of time in mine.
Excerpt from Fire’s Rising…
To set the scene: Cole is a fire dragon shifter of Clan Drakon, (the other half of his dual soul is the dragon Aithos), and as Fire’s Rising opens, he’s out searching with water dragon shifter Sonnan for the newborn dragon his clan chief and mentor James has been sensing. Her name is Liliana. She’s alone, stuck in a bad situation, and doesn’t yet understand why a fire has always burned at the heart of her. Or why that fire has finally, suddenly, broken free.
Fire. Cole smelled it on the wind, tasted it on his tongue. And this time, that taste held the tang of a dragon’s magic. He beat his wings and turned into the wind, to the source of the scent, hope and dread both burning hot embers in his chest.
I’ve got her! James’ thought cut, edged razor sharp with triumph.
Cole curled his wings to catch an updraft and soared higher. She’s east and north of me. I can smell the fire. Get me a better location, James, he demanded.
Astoria, not far from the East River. Hurry, Cole, James said. Cole couldn’t miss the tension now coiling in his mentor’s voice. I sense her dragon’s magic–and her fire–but I can barely sense her.
His talons fisted, a roar building in his throat. They were too late. She was burning. Had she hurt anyone? Had she hurt herself?
Understood, James. Sonnan, be quick. And be ready. If she can’t hear me, you’ll need to shock her out of this fire the old-fashioned way.
With water, Sonnan agreed, her mental voice as cool and clear as the water she commanded. On my way.
Fire flared high, still miles distant but unmistakable to his vision. The blaze flashed, bright and powerful. The shock wave throbbed against him in a sharp, hot burst moments later.
But he was fire, too. Aithos snarled in recognition and burning need and surged forward, wings straining in a pounding rhythm.
She was one of them. She was a fire dragon of Clan Drakon. Nothing mattered more than finding her, protecting her, and bringing her home. Nothing. Whatever had happened, whatever she’d done, whatever the consequences of her awakening, they’d get her through it. But he had to actually find her first.
Cole slid deep into Aithos’ strength and power, trusting the dragon half of his being to do what he’d been born to do. Fly. Arms and legs tucked tight, his long tail a counterbalance streaming behind him, his massive wings beat strong and true as he read the air currents on pure instinct. They reached the river in minutes.
Flames reached high into the night, driven by hunger and fury, the fire stretching for at least a mile along what appeared to be a business district on the opposite shore. Cole stared in horror. Their drakaina was in the middle of that?
Where the man in him saw an inferno and felt the horror of what would be lost to it, though, the beast saw the currents and patterns of the magic that lay beneath it. What stood at the center of all that burning power was clear to his dragon. And it was another of their kind.
Aithos folded his wings and dove, neck stretched out and chin tucked as he streaked across the river. He plummeted to the rooftops, spreading his wings again at the last possible moment to dump their speed in a breathtaking jolt, the powerful beats scattering the flames as they hovered in mid air.
But only for a moment. Then the heat rose again to scorch his breath, the flames skipping back across the tarmac of the parking lot below him in a searing rush.
Man and dragon both saw her now, still in human form, standing next to the shell of a burning car. The ragged, smoking remains of her clothes hung off her tall, slim form, her legs spread and back arched, her arms stretched wide. Long, dark red curls twisted wildly about a bruised and battered face. But her eyes blazed with power, her lips stretched in feral joy.
We have found her, Aithos broadcast. He angled his wings and dropped into the fire, landing far enough from her that if she shifted, she’d have enough room.
Call to her, Cole said.
Aithos pushed to his hind legs and rose to his full height and roared. It was the command of a fully grown and mature fire dragon, demanding acknowledgment and obedience from a newborn. The deep, throaty blast pushed the flames back for another moment and made her hair dance. But she didn’t acknowledge the call in any way.
Her dragon cannot hear me over the power of her fire.
Cole answered by pushing close enough to the front of their bond that magic surged and dragon surrendered his form to that of the man. But not all the way. His skin would be no match for the heat she was generating. He approached her cautiously, in human form but protected by the dragon’s scales.
Volume hadn’t worked. Neither had the simple shock of seeing a dragon land in front of her. If she could actually see anything beyond her flames. He pitched his words so soft and low they were nearly sub-vocal.
“Can you hear me?”
Nothing. No reaction. He tried again, murmuring soothing, wordless sounds of comfort. The only response was an explosion a block or so away as something blew.
Cole, James pathed to him. This is all over the news. I’ve lost count of the number of engines responding, and they’ll be there in less than five minutes. If the news helicopters don’t beat them. You’re out of time.
Clouds already roiled as they massed above him. Sonnan was close.
Hear me, he pathed to the young woman. Please. It’s time for you to come home.
The power blazing in her eyes flickered. But only for a heartbeat. The hope in his chest crisped to ashes as the fires raged on around them.
Hit her, Sonnan, he ordered, and braced himself for the deluge. Hard.
The skies opened.
* * *
Water—cold—water? Crashing water. Beating her throbbing face, smothering her and drenching her lovely flames and smashing her down.
Lili screamed and sucked in water, choked and fell moaning, shivering, to her knees. Reaching for heat, needing the heat back. Where was the heat?
“Can you hear me?”
Not Maks, not Maks or that disgusting–
“Drakaina? Can you hear me?”
The voice was calm, soothing, gently compelling. She raised her head, vaguely surprised to find it still attached, blinked rain and the last of the flickering flames from her eyes.
A man, a naked man, with broad shoulders and slender hips, his skin glistening in moonlight and pouring rain.
Twisting eddies of color and light danced across him, crimson and gold. Shimmering down each muscle, hugging his shoulders, sparking at his fingertips. Watching made her dizzy, made her wonder why she’d thought he was standing there naked in the middle of a parking lot.
“We’re here to help,” he said in that beautiful voice. “Are you all right?”
Was she all right?
Lili blinked, her gaze drawn to the flecks of warm light in his eyes, in his unwavering stare. He shouldn’t ask things like that. Not about her. Maks wouldn’t like it.
“Drakaina,” he said, urgently now. “This fire stretches for at least a mile, and Sonnan’s rain can’t reach everywhere. We think people are trapped in some of these buildings. Can you put the fire out?”
People? Lili lurched to her feet, spinning, stumbling, peering desperately through the downpour and the darkness, but there were no life-size piles of smoldering ashes. They must have gotten away before–
People. Trapped. Oh, no… No!
Lili closed her eyes and threw her arms wide and reached, reached wide, far, for heat, for flames, for that which burned and scorched and seared.
She called and called. Come back to me, come, COME, until she stretched thin and brittle across the endless cold and silence, until she was nothing but that single, pain-filled word, screamed over and over in blackness.
Nothing. Nothing. She couldn’t do this, she’d never tried to call the heat to her before, it wouldn’t come back. Despair cut like an icy blade. There was nothing, she was nothing, and–
How many times had Maks told her that? No, no, Maks was gone, he was gone, she must have finally made him afraid of her. She hadn’t meant to, but that wouldn’t matter. Not to him.
The blow had staggered her, fear rising acrid in her mouth and brittle in her gut that time as it did now. She faltered, shaking, stepping back.
No. He was gone. Maks was gone. Wasn’t he?
He always comes back, the fear whispered. And he’s going to be so mad…
She set her feet, gritted her teeth. Clutching at the burning embers within, she reached.
A whiff of smoke gave her the strength to stretch farther, farther, again, more. An instant of warmth against her wet fingertips, a flicker of heat in the depths of her soul.
More, more, come to me, come TO ME, the call a desperate cry that resonated within her in a low, husky echo.
And the fire roared, snapping back. Scorching her breath. Skittering across her skin and writhing in her belly.
Burning. She was burning.
With lovely, lovely heat…
She staggered, blind and deaf to everything but the conflagration she’d harnessed, that licked and hissed and consumed the last of her strength and slowly, sullenly, flickered lower.
But it didn’t go out. The fire never went out. Not as long as there was breath in her body.
She’d done it. The fire in the buildings and cars, at least, was out, and the one within her was quiet. Lili dropped her aching arms and drew a long, shuddering sigh as some last, tiny, stubborn spark of life still left in her forced her heavy eyes open.
He still stood there in front of her. Had even drawn closer, despite what he’d just seen her do. And this time, he wasn’t alone. A woman now stood next to him, shoulder to shoulder, the light flickering across her skin silver and a blue so dark it was nearly black. They seemed poised, tense. Waiting for her to collapse.
“We’re here to help,” he repeated, slowly. “I’m Cole, and this is Sonnan.”
Naked or not, and she still couldn’t be sure, they were magnificent. Both of them. Shining and sleek and so very strong.
Not like her.
They would have stood up to Maks. They would have found a way to leave him.
She stared at them, frowning, sadness rolling over her in a cold wave. Why couldn’t she be that strong?
“What do you want from me?” she rasped, trying to at least sound strong and fierce and not at all like her vision was darkening or her heartbeat was pounding in her ears or her knees were buckling–
He caught her as she sagged, easing down with her in a tangled heap. “Drakaina?”
She tried to answer, to tell him to stop calling her that strange word and leave her alone. She tried to get up and run somewhere, anywhere, now that Maks finally wasn’t looking. But all she managed was a low, low moan.
She should have been afraid. He had his hands on her. But fear wasn’t enough to push her to her feet. Or even to raise her arm to smack his hands away. She had nothing left.
Warm fingers brushed her snarled, sodden hair back from her face.”It’s all right,” that beautiful voice soothed. “We’ll take you someplace safe, where you can rest. You’ll be safe. I promise.”
Safety didn’t exist. Not for her. Because there was no place in the world that Maks wouldn’t come for her.
For the freak who belonged to him.
More hands, straightening her legs with care and easy strength. “I think she did it. I think the fire’s completely out.” The woman. Her voice held all the sweet rain and cool, gentle breezes that Lili had ever longed for in that stinking hot cell of a studio. “Is she all right?”
“We need to get her back to Nina. Now.”
His words came from far away, clipped and angry, but she couldn’t make herself care. What they did with her, they did with her. What could it possibly matter?
Maks would find her. He would never let her go. It was only a matter of time.
He was going to be so mad.
She knew that. Nothing.
… except the fire that meant everything, that had taken everything from her. The embers lay quietly, banked and glowering in her belly.
Grace Adams is a 2017 Golden Heart® finalist and award-winning author of paranormal romance who loves nothing more than a happy ending. Whatever the genre, regardless of the medium, as long as justice prevails, the good guys win, and people are falling in love, she’s in.
A lifelong reader of science fiction, fantasy, and of course romance, Grace also enjoys painting and drawing and is an avid skier. One of those rare Geeks who loves both Star Wars AND Star Trek, she’s got a closet full of costumes she created and firmly believes that she who dies with the most fabric (and books) (and shoes) wins.
Grace has a B.S. in Mathematics from Ursinus College and an M.A. in English from Wright State University. She is a veteran of the USAF as a communications officer and currently works as an IT Controls Analyst. She shares her home with the best super cats ever, Thor and Loki.