Guest Post: Author Jude Knight

Today, I bring you a post from Jude Knight, author of Farewell to Kindness, Candle’s Christmas Chair, and her latest release, A Baron for Becky. (All of which are available on Amazon and to which I’ve included the links below, including an excerpt from A Baron for Becky.)

She has graced me with a wonderful post about a character every reader of Regency-era fiction will know about: The Rake.

And so, without further ado, I turn it over to Ms. Knight.

Writing Realistic Rakes in Romantic Fiction

In modern historical romantic fiction, the hero is often a rake who sees the error of his ways when he falls in love with the heroine, and—after undergoing various trials—becomes a faithful husband and devoted family man.

Most of those rakes, I suggest, are not rakes at all. They’re what we today would call womanisers or players, but they’re not rakes in the sense that the term was used in Georgian and Regency England. Our rake heroes sleep with multiple lovers (either sequentially or concurrently) or keep a series of mistresses, or both. But back then, the term signified a much more disreputable character. It needed to. Otherwise, most of the male half of Polite Society would have been defined as rakes. And a fair percentage of the female half.

We are talking of a time when one in five women in London earned their living from the sex trade, guide books to the charms, locations, and prices of various sex workers were best-selling publications, men vied for the attention of the reigning courtesans of the day and of leading actresses, and both men and women chose their spouses for pedigree and social advantage then sought love elsewhere.

In those days, a rakehell was defined as a person who was lewd, debauched, and womanising. Rakes gambled, partied and drank hard, and they pursued their pleasures with cold calculation. To earn the name of rake or rakehell meant doing something outrageous—seducing innocence, conducting orgies in public, waving a public flag of corrupt behaviour under the noses of the keepers of moral outrage. For example, two of those who defined the term simulated sex with one another while preaching naked to the crowd from an alehouse balcony.

Drunkenness certainly didn’t make a man a rake—the consumption of alcohol recorded in diaries of the time is staggering. Fornication and adultery weren’t enough either, at least when conducted with a modicum of discretion (which meant in private or, if in public, then with other people who were doing the same thing).

Lord Byron earned the name with many sexual escapades, including—so rumour had it—an affair with his sister. His drinking and gambling didn’t help, either. But none of these would have been particularly notable if they had not been carried out in public.

The Italian adventurer Giacomo Casanova mixed in the highest circles, and did not become notorious until he wrote the story of his life.

On the other hand, William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, lived with his wife and his mistress, who was his wife’s best friend. The three did not share the details of their relationship with the wider world, so there was gossip, but not condemnation. Devonshire is also rumoured to have been one of Lady Jersey’s lovers (the mother of the Lady Jersey of Almack fame).

I planned for my Marquis of Aldridge to be a real rake: a person whose behaviour, despite his social status as the heir to a duke, causes mothers to warn their daughters about him. On the other hand, I didn’t want him to be a totally unsympathetic character. After all, not only is he the only hero on the scene for the first half of the book; he’s also going to be the hero of his own book after he has been through a few more trials and tribulations.

He has had mixed reviews since A Baron for Becky was published. Most reviewers like the rogue, and are asking for his story, while still acknowledging that he is a libertine. One or two dislike him heartily, and one said:

Note to author: your main characters were very interesting but you hinted at some type of redemption for one particular character that I just cannot fathom. I challenge you to make me like him better because I disliked him throughout the story.

Now there’s a challenge I can’t refuse!


A Baron for Becky BfB cover final small

Becky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde – the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.

Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.


Aldridge never did find out how he came to be naked, alone, and sleeping in the small summerhouse in the garden of a country cottage. His last memory of the night before had him twenty miles away, and—although not dressed—in a comfortable bed, and in company.

The first time he woke, he had no idea how far he’d come, but the moonlight was bright enough to show him half-trellised window openings, and an archway leading down a short flight of steps into a garden. A house loomed a few hundred feet away, a dark shape against the star-bright sky. But getting up seemed like too much trouble, particularly with a headache that seemed to hang inches above him, threatening to split his head if he moved. The cushioned bench on which he lay invited him to shut his eyes and go back to sleep. Time enough to find out where he was in the morning.

When he woke again, he was facing away from the archway entrance, and there was someone behind him. Silence now, but in his memory the sound of light footsteps shifting the stones on the path outside, followed by twin intakes of breath as the walkers saw him.

One of them spoke; a woman’s voice, but low—almost husky. “Sarah, go back to the first rose bush and watch the house.”

“Yes, mama.” A child’s voice.

Aldridge waited until he heard the child dance lightly down the steps and away along the path, then shifted his weight slightly so that his pelvis flattened, dragging the rest of his torso over till he was lying on his back.

He waited for the exclamation of shock, but none came. Carefully— he wanted to observe her before he let her know he was awake, and anyway, any sudden movement might start up the hammers above his eye sockets—he cracked open his lids enough so to watch through his lashes.

He could see more than he expected. The woman had a shuttered lantern she was using to examine him, starting at his feet. She paused so long when she reached his morning salute that it grew even prouder, then swept the beam from the lantern up his torso so quickly he barely had time to slam his lids shut before the light reached and lingered over his face.

A Baron for Becky is available at:


Amazon UK

Amazon Aus


Barnes & Noble



Jude KnightJude Knight writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

Jude Knight is the pen name of Judy Knighton. After a career in commercial writing, editing, and publishing, Jude is returning to her first love, fiction. Her novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was released in December 2014, and is in the top ten on several Amazon bestseller lists in the US and UK. Her first novel Farewell to Kindness, was released on 1 April, and is first in a series: The Golden Redepennings.

You can find Jude at:

Visit Jude’s Website

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Jude’s Other Books (on Amazon)

Candle’s Christmas Chair (free novella)

Farewell to Kindness (Book One, the Golden Redepennings)

Happy Birthday

Today is my book’s birthday. The day The Half Killed is thrust out into the world, naked and squalling and…

No, no. Scratch that. Not that kind of birthday. But it is new, and this is the day when it takes on a new life, so to speak. A life as something that no longer belongs to me, and me alone.

This is only my second novel, so I don’t have a tradition I celebrate with each book’s release. There’s no champagne here, no party, no special dinner or anything of the like. I have to go grocery shopping today, and I have to fold laundry, and I will no doubt have to change diapers and make macaroni and cheese and settle myriad squabbles between my children. And I will try not to spend too much time watching the sales rankings or wondering if and when new reviews will come in. Perhaps one of the kids will spill their chocolate milk on the carpet. That should keep me occupied and away from the computer for a little while.

And so I’m sitting here, much too late at night, wondering what I should put down in this post to commemorate this momentous event. I mean, this book took eight years to find its way out of my hands into… well, other people’s hands. (You can tell this is late at night, right? Words are dribbling out of my head as my brain slowly slips into slumber while the rest of my body remains irritatingly alert.) I researched into the wee hours of the morning. I kept copious notes on the most insane details and minutiae of nineteenth-century life in London. A London I then had to skew just a few steps into the realms of fantasy and the supernatural.

One option I have is to go over all the things I’ve mentioned in various places while I twiddled my thumbs leading up to this point. I could mention that you can read the first three chapters here, or that there are several other excerpts and deleted scenes here, here, over here , and one more right here. Or I could even link back to other posts on other blogs about writing historical fiction.

Or I could go short and sweet, and simply post the dedication I wrote for my husband:


(Okay, it’s just a tad blurry. But it’s a new camera, and I was still working out all the settings.)

Or I could post my acknowledgements, my thank you to the people who dealt with me over the last eight years of literary gestation:

I could not have done this without the help from a great many people, a few of whom I will go out of my way to mention here: A.J. Navarre for her tremendous artwork (along with the motivation it gave me to cross the finish line). K.S. Villoso for constantly nudging me along, nit-picking, and reminding me of the myriad spelling differences that exist from one English-speaking nation to another. Amanda Bohannan for her amazing, amazing editing skills. I also can’t leave out all of the folks at Breaking Quills and World Tree Publishing for their talents in beta-reading, editing, proofreading, and listening patiently as I nattered on about the most irritating of plot and historical minutiae. To all of these and many, many more…

Thank you.

I could link to The Half Killed’s Goodreads page, where the reviews have been trickling in.

Or my author page on Facebook, where you can… watch me natter on about writing and books and other general things. (I should be better at selling myself by now. Which… Hmm, that sounded worse than I meant it to. But I trust you know what I mean.)

I even considered coming up with a list of reasons why you should Buy My Book. I didn’t get very far with that one. It was mostly filled with desperate and dramatic tales of having to eat Ramen noodles or drinking tap water instead of bottled. But I already drink tap water (sometimes), so that one didn’t really gain much momentum.

So all I can say is that if you bought my book, or are planning to purchase it, I hope you enjoy it. I love this book, I love its characters, and I plan on spending more time with some of them in the future. And I hope you will, too.

Thank you.


The Half Killed is now available on Amazon! In both ebook and paperback! Go, me!


Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.

She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London.

And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control.

Strong and Sweet Shall Their Tongues Be


When one thinks of Spiritualism, often mediums and seances and well-executed sleight of hand tricks come to mind. It’s easy to throw everything under the same umbrella as psychic hotlines and crystal balls, but where did the Spiritualist movement begin, and why were women so often seen at the forefront of it?

It began in upstate New York, already a religious hotbed with the advent of Mormonism and also the activities of the Second Great Awakening. And it began with three sisters, the Fox sisters, who claimed that on March 31, 1848, they had made contact with a spirit.

This is where the practice of “rapping” has its start, where one would ask questions to the air and hope for a response of knocks against the tabletop standing in for speech, like a ghostly Morse Code. The Fox sisters were quickly taken in by the Quakers, and from there the movement spread, other young women stepping forward with claims of having been visited by spirits, healed by spirits, receiving vital messages from spirits. And the women were often young, often lovely, and so able to draw a crowd.

Spiritualism appealed to the upper and middle classes, and especially those who had recently lost a loved one. And with the Civil War breaking out only thirteen years after the Fox sisters responded to those first knocks, thousands and thousands of families watched their sons march to battle and never come home again. The search for life after death began in earnest, beyond Christianity’s teachings and promises of eternal life for the soul. Seances soon became the order of the day, despite their being likened to the practices of witchcraft (and even being blamed for the Civil War on at least one occasion) Seances were even conducted in the White House during the years of Abraham Lincoln, and Spiritualism was often embraced by those who shunned organized religion.

Which is not surprising that the two didn’t go hand in hand, as both Christians and Jews adhered to the verse in Leviticus 20:6 that states: “I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.”

Well, then.

But many seances or “sittings” at the time had overtones of attending a small, intimate church service. The attendees would often pray, asking God for guidance in their search for knowledge and attempts to communicate with the spirits who were believed to exist on a higher plane than mere humans. Christian hymns were sung, verses from the Bible were quoted (though not the one from Leviticus, I’m sure.) Everything was meant to have the feel of something like a Bible study or meeting at someone’s house. Nothing one would usually associate with a movement later exposed as being riddled with fraud and chicanery.

Which isn’t surprising, really. During a time when hundreds of thousands of men lost their lives to a hideous war (and Spiritualism would see another surge in popularity after World War I took the lives of over seventeen million people), the scientific community was buzzing with the findings of Robert Chambers, who published Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation in 1844, and Charles Darwin, who published his Origin of Species in 1859.

And along with these things, slavery was on its way to being abolished in the United States (and had already been abolished in England in 1833), and with the move into the Industrial Age which allowed more women into the workforce, women began to fight for the right to vote and for equal pay. So during all of this upheaval as the western world was thrust into the modern age, as people became disillusioned with the organized religion of the nineteenth century, it’s not surprising that some people began the search for something that would give them proof of life after death, that there was still something more for them beyond this existence, and that not all of life’s mysteries had been solved by the scientists and industrialists of the age.

And it was women who often stood at the head of the Spiritualist movement (though many men became famous mediums as well). Women, who were believed to be more sensitive to the messages being sent from the other side of the veil. Though this perceived weakness in their sex allowed many of them to become adept businesswomen and performers, touring across the United States and Europe to sold-out crowds. That is, until many of their lauded tricks and materializations were discovered to be nothing more than animal livers and old sheets.

Spiritualism still exists today, mostly stripped down of its hallmarks of levitating tables and automatic writing and ectoplasmic figures. But for many years it drew interest from people like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, and Pierre and Marie Curie, and even Queen Victoria was rumored to use the services of a medium to contact her beloved Prince Albert and hear his messages to her from beyond the grave.

In writing The Half Killed, I researched a religious movement that traced its origins to three sisters in upstate New York and followed its spread across the continents. Women sometimes benefitted greatly from the Spiritualist movement, suddenly finding themselves in places of power and recognition, their voices not only heard but revered. Despite the steady disintegration of the movement in later years and the skeptical eye laid on it as the nineteenth century wound to a close, it signalled a change in how women were regarded in matters of religion, science, and industry. Changes that are still rippling through the ether to this day.

To the Pain

Autumn 2013 090

This has been a difficult year. In November of last year, a week before my birthday and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I had a miscarriage at just shy of thirteen weeks of pregnancy. Three days after losing the baby, after coming home from the hospital and being ordered to rest and recuperate from what happened, I picked up my laptop and wrote this:

One out of every four pregnancies ends in miscarriage.

That’s the statistic they gave me as I laid on a stretcher in the emergency room, after they’d changed the sheets and various bed-sized pads for the second and third times, the previous sets sitting on the floor in sodden piles, amid smears of blood and so much worse.

I was nearly twelve weeks pregnant, almost to the end of the first trimester and that point when it’s supposedly safe to proclaim to the world that you’re pregnant. But on a Saturday morning, six days before my thirty-fourth birthday, I woke up and realized I had started to bleed.

It was my fourth pregnancy, the first three all having culminated in bouncing, screaming, healthy babies being delivered into this world. I knew what was normal for my body and what would trigger a call to the doctor. Blood was bad. I knew this. So I picked up the phone and dialed the number.

I wasn’t having any cramps or pain. The bleeding wasn’t heavy. I was told to stay home, to rest, and see if it stopped. At lunchtime, it nearly did. But by dinnertime, the bleeding picked up in strength, and by bedtime, I was having contractions.

I called the doctor again. They told me to go to the emergency room.

My mom came down to watch the kids, who were all slumbering peacefully in their beds, and my husband and I braved the cold for the fifteen-minute drive to the hospital.

As we waited to be admitted, and as we were asked the same questions over and over about when the bleeding began and how many pregnancies I’d had and whether I smoked or drank or took my prenatal vitamins, the contractions grew in strength. When we’d arrived, I would’ve put them on a 4 or 5 on the pain scale. By the time they led us back into the ER, they’d leapt up to an 8.

The nurses tried to remain positive and optimistic at first. Bleeding didn’t necessarily mean a miscarriage. Even the contractions could be a symptom of something else, something not connected with me losing my child. But then a particularly strong contraction swept over me, and a particularly large amount of blood came out of me. The nurse rushed in to check on me and change the pads and the sheets beneath me. She glanced down at the soiled pads. Her expression changed. She announced that it no longer looked positive.

At that point, I knew I was in labor for a child that would not live, that probably was no longer even alive. I had never been in that position before. Me, the one who had gone through three complication-free pregnancies and complication-free deliveries. Had I started to think too highly of my fertile body? Or was this merely a fluke, my turn to add to the statistic stated to me by the doctor who came in to assure me that I had done nothing to bring on this miscarriage?

As the night wore on, my husband dozed as much as he could and I flipped through the cable channels, settling on Phineas and Ferb and hideously awful purses on one of a half-dozen shop-at-home channels. And as I laid there, dizzy from morphine and exhausted from everything else, I continued to bleed, and I watched as my belly slowly shrank down, as if there had never been a baby in there in the first place.

What I don’t want is for this fourth pregnancy, the first of mine not to make it to full-term, to become nothing more than a statistic. I was pregnant. I went through morning sickness, just like the others. I had already started experiencing weird food cravings and a constant need to pee, just like the others. I had looked forward to feeling the baby kick, to finding out if it was a boy or a girl, to holding that messy little newborn as it blinked through the goo on its eyes and took its first breaths of stale, hospital air.

But because those things didn’t happen does not make it any less than the others, relegating it to a lower status. I have been pregnant four times. I am a mother four times over. Should I become pregnant again, it will be my fifth pregnancy and my fifth child.


I didn’t write any further than that. I’m not sure I needed to. By the time I tapped out that last paragraph, I was spent. Some of the pain and the grief had drained out of me, leaving me feeling numb.

I went through a difficult time after that. A hard winter with bitter cold and a tremendous amount of snow and ice didn’t help matters. I was probably depressed, though I hadn’t experienced anything like it before and didn’t understand until afterwards what was going on. But I felt very little, simply moving forward through each day, thankful for making it to the end of it, and going to sleep at night, hoping not to dream.

My father’s health took a downturn at the same time. The winter was even harder on him. By spring, we knew it was going to be his last year with us, perhaps his last summer. But he didn’t even make it to summer.

And the pain is different now. With losing the baby, it was immediate and sharp, leaving a grey void in its wake that slowly faded into nothing. With my father, perhaps because there was such a build up towards the end with his chronic health problems, it doesn’t feel the same at all. I feel it constantly, but only if I allow myself to. After the baby, there was the cold emptiness. With my father, the sorrow is a living thing, always alert, waiting to pounce on me the moment I let down my guard.

My urge to write, then, is different, too. After the miscarriage, it was like pushing poison out of a wound. Putting my chin to my chest and writing as many words as I could, as quickly as I could, without a thought as to typos or mistakes. Just going, going, going until I was too tired and I could finally close my eyes and sleep. Now, I’m distracted. Wanting to take on a bajillion projects at once, unable to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time.

Because pain and grief are these strange, intangible things. There’s no right or wrong way to approach them, because they are never the same animal. One might be strong enough to always hold you in its grip, while the other might release you with nothing more than a sigh.

And here I sit, the words still pouring out of me, not even sure if I have a particular point to this post or any kind of message I wish to impart to the world. Beginning, middle, and end is how these things are supposed to go. But our lives, and the pain left behind when a life leaves us, don’t always seem to follow that arc.

Beginning… middle… end.

And still it hurts. And still I write.

Guest Post – Author Sheri Williams


When I started writing I just knew that I was going to write romance. It was almost solely what I read at that time, and I knew it. I knew I could write it. And I did. But slowly my muse changed. I met other writers and they wrote romance as well, but also they wrote paranormal, regency, and gothic-style stories. And I went, “Hey, I could do that too.” I could go out of my comfort zone, or should I say my “supposed” comfort zone, because in my travels from genre to genre I have found that my comfort zone is wide. I mean, wide. In the past year I have written contemporary romance, paranormal romance, Gothic horror with a dash of romance, and fantasy/horror.

That is a wide swath of genres, and I love it. I love that on any given day I am writing about pink haired tattoo artists, or elvish assassins. About a troupe of occult investigators in the 1800’s or a teenage dragon speaker. It keeps my head clear of all the many, many voices and it keeps my writing diverse. Also, I’m not going to lie, spending a good amount of time on Pinterest “researching” makes my writing endeavours even more fun. I mean how else am I going to find out that the wooden clogs Asian people wear are called “Geta”. Or that the ornate square carriages that are carried by people are called “litters”. I mean, did you know that? I didn’t, but once I started searching for background information for my new serial set in a sort of Feudal Japan, I got to learn all sorts of new stuff. And I never would have learned that if I had kept myself in that romance comfort zone.

I will never give up the romance, I’m not saying that, but I am having so much fun romping around in other genres, like I was my own weird version of Little Bunny Fu Fu, that I keep accidentally pushing the straight up romances to the back burner. In the coming months I’ll be working on more fantasy/horror, the sequel to my gothic horror with a touch of romance, and oh so much more. But the romance, oh man, the ideas are piling up. I have a whole folder of single lines, of short paragraphs, of inspirational pics and I will return to it, probably mid-next year. But until then it’s all gargoyles and parasols, kimonos and manor houses. Oh, and I can’t forget the trolls either. 🙂

I’m having a blast in all the worlds I’ve been making up. I hope you’ll come and join me there. My latest release was a short titled The Piano, in the Girls Rock Horror Harder EZine put out by the Forsaken Imprint of Booktrope publishing. And I’ll have more with them coming out in October, as well as a paranormal romance in the Bewitching Desires Anthology put together by some of my writing group The Writing Wenches (wicked cool peeps there).

You can find Sheri Williams on Facebook, Twitter, and at her website!

Her contribution to the Girls Rock Horror Harder EZine is available on Amazon (along with lots of other great stories), and her romance roots can be found in Unwrapping Love, an anthology of twenty-one short stories all sharing a holiday theme.


So my first week off work this month went well and I accomplished stuff. Like cleaning all of the kid’s bathtub boys that had started to get… weird. And taking out the bedroom windows to wipe them down and vacuuming the screens and all of those random chores that you only do every once in a while and when you finally do get to them you wonder WHY ON EARTH you waited so long because… ugh.

Though I suspect the cat bed may no longer contain any cloth and is just made of years and years worth of compressed cat hair.

In other news, it is now eleven days (I think? Do I count today? I’m never certain if I should) until the release of The Half Killed. Reviews are coming in on Goodreads. The giveaway is still going strong (over 500 people requesting it)! The ebook is still on sale for only 99 cents! I am trying not to lose my mind between now and the 25th.

In other other news, I wrote a flash fiction piece the other day (What is flash fiction? A short, short story/scene of only a few hundred words) to get my creative juices flowing. I’m calling it The Bargain, because I’m terrible at naming things (my children will hate me when they finally realize that their names aren’t like other kids’) and I’m sharing it here. Because I’m good like that.


The Bargain

The seller of souls arrived just before the storm.

I stood in the doorway, my slight frame filling the narrow gap meant to keep out the worst of the day’s heat. My father had already returned to the fields for the afternoon. My mother sat in her room, nursing a headache and cursing her stays.

The warmth pressed against my lungs, coating my tongue and burning the back of my throat when I opened my mouth to speak.

“Good afternoon,” the salesman said, preempting any speech I could make. “Is your mother or father at home?”

“My mother’s in the kitchen,” I lied, careful not to blink. “My father’s just out back.” About a mile out back, hacking at the cotton that drooped beneath the weight of the bolls.

The man’s grey eyes sparked, and one corner of his mouth lifted in a smile. “Well, that’s just swell, m’dear. I won’t take up much of your time.” He cocked his head to one side, and the skin beside his eyes crinkled as he gave me half a wink.

I said nothing, every breath like pulling in a draught of air through a compress.

“And besides,” he continued. “You’ve got a good head on your shoulders. I bet you’re top of your class, aren’t you?”

I nodded before I could stop myself. My hands sought out the edge of my pinafore, my shoulders pushing back as pride lifted my chin.

“Then you’ll know a bargain when you see one, hmm?” Long fingers, fingers my piano teacher would covet, reached into a pocket and drew out a small jar, clear glass, the size of an inkpot and stoppered with a cork. But instead of ink, the substance inside shimmered, like pearls turned to liquid, as if the haze that lingered over the fields were condensed inside that tiny container. “I don’t ask for much,” he said, and turned the jar over in his hands. The substance moved, a drift of cloud before my eyes. “A small price, really. That locket there you have around your neck. That should do.”

My hand sought out the locket, a soft bulge beneath my dress. He couldn’t have seen it, couldn’t have known it was there. But my fingers moved of their own accord, opening up the clasp with a flick of my fingernail.

“A fair trade,” he said, and pressed the jar into my palm as he drew the necklace from between my fingers. I clutched the bottle to my chest, to the very spot where the locket had been, out of sight to all but him. Behind him, the sky darkened, though not a ripple of air disturbed the fields of green and white. “They’re yours now.” He smiled again, and I noticed then the lack of perspiration on his face, the coolness of his fingers as they’d brushed mine. “Guard them well,” he said, before he slipped the locket into his pocket, bowed his head, and turned on his heel to walk away.

The Half Killed – Another Deleted Scene

Saturday was my last day of teaching until after Labor Day, which means today is the day I’m overwhelmed with the false hope of getting SO MUCH accomplished during the next month of supposed freedom. At this moment, my mind is brimming with thoughts of cleaning the entire house from top to bottom, even those pesky chores like scrubbing behind the knobs on the stove with a toothbrush, and also writing an entire book and reading twenty others, taking the kids to the park every day, teaching them an entire grade’s worth of curriculum, and baking cookies and cupcakes and muffins every afternoon while also concocting glorious dinners every other night.

Yeah, we all know what will really happen, and how I’ll be smothered with disappointment over how much time I’ve wasted once the end of August rolls around. But let me have my aspirations towards glory before the inevitable fall, okay?

Meanwhile, it is just over two weeks (!!!) until the release of The Half Killed, and while I have some more educational posts planned about Spiritualism during the Victorian era and so on, since today is my first official day off, I’m presenting to you another deleted scene (you will not believe how many deleted scenes I’m often left with after finishing a story) from the youth of my protagonist, Dorothea Hawes. So read and enjoy, because I’m about to go bake some cookies.



Marta was quite adamant that you should come with her, though you’d never seen her before that day, and you thought her breath smelled strongly of the old fish at Hyde Market.

Her hands were rough on your skin, tugging at your jaw, and then she told you to open your mouth, and you looked over at the matron, but she only nodded. So you opened your mouth, and Marta said that you had good teeth, and a nose that might not do so well, and what was to be done with your hair? But the rest of you was tolerable, and hadn’t they been feeding you? And then the matron lied, saying that she offered you all sorts of good, wholesome foods. But she said that you were a naughty child, wasting your dinner because you didn’t want to eat it.

Marta laughed then, saying she would be glad to keep someone who did not eat her out of house and home. And then she took hold of your arm, and you remembered the firmness of her grip, and you wondered if there would be marks and bruises left on your skin where she had touched you. Her hand remained on your arm as she led you outside, into a black cab led by a horse that shifted restlessly as you approached, and she sat quite close to you, as if she were afraid that you might fling open the door and run away from her. But you allowed her to lead you, your head as clouded as it was, and still she fidgeted with you, pulling at the ends of your hair, tilting your head back so as to take a long look at your throat.

You thought that Marta might be taking you to her house, and she did, much later. But first she said there was a visit that needed to made, and you would be a good girl and indulge her, wouldn’t you? So when the cab finally stopped some twenty minutes later, Marta pinched your cheeks to make them rosy and took you to a small house, tucked between two other small houses, but all of them leaning against each other, their walls bowing outward and inward from the strain of so much weight.

The woman who answered the door did not smile when she saw you, and Marta gave you a nudge when she realized that you were staring quite boldly at the woman’s eyes. Different colors they were, one pale blue, and one black, and the blue one never fixing on anything, but twitching this way and that, looking all around while the black one gazed directly at your face. You were still staring when Marta chivvied you into the house, your feet tripping over layers of rugs, your eyes adjusting to the dim, sooty light. The woman lit no extra candles or lamps, the shadows growing thicker as she took her seat in front of the cold fireplace, pulled out a small tray from behind her chair and laid it across her lap.

The tiles rattled as she spread them out on the tray, small squares that she turned and turned until they all faced the same way, the black of the crudely drawn letters standing out against the rubbed whiteness of the wood. And then she passed her hand over them, her fingers seeming to dance in the air, and yet her face showed no indication that she knew anything of the movement. And while her fingers moved, she spoke to you, asking your name, how old you were, everything so innocuous, and you couldn’t help but glance at the tiles, wondering why she didn’t look for her answers in them.

Marta said nothing. All through the interview, she kept herself to the shadows, but you knew she was listening, that she would never miss a word, even when the fat woman with the tiles lowered her voice to a whisper that was difficult for even you to hear, as close as you stood.

The woman’s fingers began to move in more of a pattern, and soon she began tapping against the tiles, spelling out words, entire phrases, before she would pause, close her eyes for a moment, and pose another question to you.

It all ended so quickly. Marta returned to your side, and the woman began gathering up her tiles, dropping them one by one into a small canvas sack that she wore on a string around her neck, the bag tucked into the front of her dress. And she saw you watching her, and for the first time, she smiled at you, all of her hideous teeth on display. And then she patted her ample bosom, where the little bag of letters was hidden, and she told you that they would be yours one day, only she hoped that you wouldn’t leave them to burn with everything else.

But you didn’t have an opportunity to ask what she meant, because Marta was already speaking again, asking the woman if you would be any good, if you would be worth the investment she was ready to make. And something in the woman’s face changed then, a dark look passing over her features. And when she raised her eyes, both the black and the blue at once, they swept from Marta’s face to rest on your own.

You wanted to look away, and you did, after a while. But she held you for a moment, and you wondered, you wondered how much she knew, if she could sense what was even then in your mind, how the voices screeched, so much louder to you there in the silence of the cold, dark room. And when she opened her mouth to speak, it was her voice vying for attention with the ones that were always with you, but you heard her tell Marta that you weren’t like the others, and you heard the warning that underlaid her words. But Marta laughed again, always laughing when she shouldn’t have been, and she said she was glad for that, that she hoped you would be different, that audiences were tired of the same old thing, and wouldn’t they be willing to pay for a glimpse of something new?


Don’t forget! You can pre-order The Half Killed for only .99 cents here!

Or you can enter the Goodreads for one of three signed paperback copies here!

By Its Cover

There are parts of writing and publishing that I love and parts I absolutely abhor. I hate writing a blurb (that handful of paragraphs on the back of the book that tells you, the reader, what it’s all about – without giving away too much, of course). I hate the moment I get notes back from my editor and the moment I have to open the file and scroll through all the things that could be fixed, should be fixed, and will be fixed – by me, often late at night and with an expression of grim determination on my face. But there is one part of writing I absolutely adore, and it has little to do with words: Creating the cover.

Now, I’m not an artist. I don’t paint. I don’t draw. Leave me a few spare minutes in Microsoft Paint and I’ll gift you with a stick figure and some sort of blob thing that might be a turkey… or a radish. So I have Ash Navarre, a designer, and luckily, I’ve had her for all of my books. And she is awesome, and not merely because she puts up with my demands and constant tweaking.

My first book, Knotted, is light, frothy, and sweet. There’s no blood or murder, no bad language and no sex scenes. So I needed something that reflected that. After some back and forth discussion with Ash, and a few early versions that were scrapped as new edits were made to the story, this became the final result:


Now, my second novel – fortunately or unfortunately – is nothing like my first. The Half Killed is dark, set in the latter part of the Victorian Era in London, and contains such light and happy plot points as murder, demon possession, and mental trauma. Which means that pinks and blues and a kicky little font were pretty much out of the running.

Now, the Victorians are known for having a tremendous obsession with death and the macabre. And considering the subject matter of the story, Ash created a picture that suited the words inside perfectly:


Honestly, there wasn’t a tremendous amount of going back and forth on this one. I told Ash what I DIDN’T want (which tends to be easier for me to figure out than what I DO want), she said she had an idea of which she showed me some of the initial sketches (to see if I’d be okay with it), and away she went. And I love it.

Then, last year, I wrote a short, contemporary story that was included in the Christmas Anthology, Unwrapping Love. Now, Ash didn’t make the cover for the anthology, but she did make the standalone cover for my own story, a 10k word jaunt about Christmas, ballet, and the one that got away.


And the final cover she created for me is the most recent. Next month, I plan on debuting a new story on Wattpad, a story about angels and demons amid the strictures of Victorian society. I asked Ash to “throw something together for me”, and this is what she came up with:


Once again, she shows why she’s the cover designer, and I… am not.

But she’s not only done cover design work for me. She created the cover for her own book:


She’s also created two stunning covers for author K.S. Villoso:




Along with an upcoming debut novel from Wendy Altland:


So I am thrilled to be working with such a talented cover designer, who works so well with every author – and always reads at least some version of the story before creating a cover for it – in order to give them exactly what they wanted, sometimes coming up with a picture they may not have even had in mind until she shows us where our words are taking her.

If you’re not going to design your own covers, then try as hard as you can to find someone who will give you what you want, who knows what they’re doing, and who only wants the best, most suitable image on the front of your book. Your cover is the first thing that people see, and I will confess that I have purchased books and checked them out from the library solely on their cover alone. Don’t settle. This is important stuff, people.


Knotted is available on Amazon.

The Half Killed is available on Amazon.

First Position is available as part of the Unwrapping Love anthology, but will be available separately in Fall 2015.

A Darkling Way will be free to read on Wattpad in September, 2015.

Good As Dead is available on Amazon.

Jaeth’s Eye is available on Amazon.

Birthplace and The Crimson Gown with both be available in Winter 2015.

Writing with Children


I love my kids. I really do. Even though I had to type that first bit about four times because my two-year-old son kept smacking the keyboard of my laptop and screaming into my chin. But they do put limits on my time and my ability to get things done. Before I had kids, I would decide to do something, and then I could do it. (I didn’t necessarily get it done right away. Just because I was single and childless didn’t mean I wasn’t also Queen of the Procrastinators.)

But once you add kids to the mix, everything changes. “Going out” before children meant getting dressed, grabbing your coat, gloves, keys, wallet, what-have-you, and walking out the door. “Going out” after children means sending two children to the potty and changing the diaper of the third one, changing their clothes, wiping the sticky stuff off their faces, combing their hair, searching for shoes (DEAR LORD HOW DO YOU HAVE SIX SHOES FOR YOUR RIGHT FOOT AND ZERO FOR YOUR LEFT???), going to the potty again because someone didn’t poop the first time, wiping hands and faces again, WHERE ARE YOUR PANTS??? I LAID OUT PANTS FOR YOU!!!, tossing snacks and juice and wipes into the diaper bag, WHY IS THERE MARKER ALL OVER YOUR FACE? WHERE DID YOU GET A MARKER???, and rinse and repeat for another thirty minutes until you finally herd all three children out to the car after managing to talk them down from bringing seventeen stuffed animals with them to only four.

Trying to write with children in the house pretty much follows the same formula. Yet every day begins with the delusion that once I’ve fed everyone breakfast and once everyone has evacuated their bowels (three times for the toddler, more often than not) they’ll go off to their corner of the living room and play with their blocks and train sets and dollhouses and leave me to my corner of the living room for a lengthy amount of writing time.

No, no, no. This almost never happens. Why? Because reality. So how do I write while three young children run circles around me. Very slowly. But here’s what I do to accomplish SOMETHING on a daily basis.

1. Work On Several Things At Once

On any given day, I add a few hundred words to two or three different stories. I have to. Gone are the days when I could sit down at the end of a long Monday and focus on one story and one story alone and allow my mind to completely immerse itself in every little detail of that world. Now, I have several books and short stories I’m working on at the same time, so that when I’m suddenly pulled away from one scene by a spilled cup of juice or a fight over a toy or WHY IS THERE CAR GREASE ON THE CARPET? WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? I can start on something else once I’ve lost my train of thought.

2. Keep Writing Implements Easy to Access at All Times

I used to keep my laptop nearby all the time and then simply pop over and jot down a few lines when I had a free minute, but then my toddler figured out how to open it and pry all the keys off the keyboard and then I cried and much chocolate and potato chips were consumed. So now I have to keep the desk shut whenever I walk away it for more then 3.2 seconds. But I also have a dry erase board on my refrigerator for when notes and lines pop into my head at random moments, notebooks and pens and crayons everywhere, and I’ve even written things on my hand. And on receipts. And coupons. And on that free weekly newspaper thing that shows up in my mailbox and I never look at it but they pile up week after week until I finally bundle them up and toss them into the recycling before I turn into one of those people who ends up buried in her own junk mail.

Wait. What was I talking about again? Oh, right. Always keep something nearby with which you can write. Even if it’s a stack of Post-Its while you’re hidden away in the bathroom for a fifteen-second pee break.

3. Sleep is for Losers

Seriously. I have given up sleep for writing time. This is just how it is. Doesn’t Martha Stewart sleep only four hours a night? Well, I’m not going to take over the world and get all the laundry sorted AND edit that penultimate chapter of my novel while getting eight hours of rest a night.

4. Set a Timer

But then, for those magical times when my children do ensconce themselves in playtime, and no one is grabbing for my time or grinding purple chalk into the living room carpet, it’s often too easy to slip away into writing and forget that I do have to eat and use the bathroom and feed my children and change that diaper before it becomes something I need to burn in order to cleanse the world of its existence. So set a timer, or you’ll look up an hour later to find your daughter painting your toddler with red nail polish in order to make him look like Iron Man. (True story.)

5. Take Advantage of Every Opportunity

Oh, the husband is driving to church today? Bring along a notebook or a netbook and type away in the passenger seat. Grandma is playing with the kids? Jog upstairs and write for ten minutes. You somehow managed to go to the grocery store on your own as if you were your own person and not a marsupial with multiple babies crawling around in your pouch? Sit in the car for fifteen minutes afterwards and munch your spoils while working out the tangle of that tricky paragraph.

Because here’s what I’ve learned having three kids: Time does not exist as it used to. It jumps in huge leaps and bounds, and clocks and planners and scheduling don’t mean a thing when your child is flipping out because their favorite blanket is going on a much-needed tumble through the wash. So grasp at every moment to write and to read and to create.

But I’ve also learned that when my child needs me, or when all three of them need me at once, the laptop and the papers and the red pen are put away for a time. Because they’ll grow up, and all too soon. But the stories that are stashed away inside my head? They’ll still be there. Maybe some of the details will change, but they’ll stick around, even after my children have grown up and gone away.

The Half Killed – Deleted Scene

I’ve posted a couple of these before already, deleted scenes that never made it into the book. But they’re necessary, always necessary in laying out the details of a character’s background, a bit of history that never makes it into the current events of the book, but needs to exist to shape everyone and everything in the world trapped inside said book.

And so today I bring you another deleted scene, from the childhood of my main protagonist, Dorothea Hawes. If you’d like to read the other deleted scenes I’ve posted so far, you can find them here and here.

I hope you enjoy.

In Sleep

The matron’s woolen dress smelled of perpetual damp, the fumes only growing stronger when she stood quite near a fire or any other source of heat. The heavy skirt, darkened with dirt and moisture near the hem, swished across the wood floor, caught on the edges of the threadbare rugs, and knocked the occasional chair off balance. But when she stood over your shoulder, the rough weave of the wool scratched your arm, and you thought of nothing but brushing it off like you would an irritating insect. But you could not, and so you remained still, with the old woman breathing down your neck, her bones creaking in time with the slow, steady cadence of your words.

And when you faltered, she only hit your back with the flat of her hand, your spine straightening, sometimes even arching away from her touch. It was never a forceful strike, nothing meant to cause you pain, but simply a reminder that she was there, that she was behind you, beside you, watching, listening to the Word of God as recited by your tongue. It became clear to your mind, quite soon after your arrival, that she never touched you but to hit you, and that this same queerness of behavior followed true with her treatment of all the other girls. And there were so many of them now, enough girls to fill every bed, so that you fell asleep every night to the sounds of breathing and bare feet kicking at thin blankets.

As soon as you finished reading, the book passed to the next girl, and then the next, until the entire lesson had been read. One of the other matrons spoke then, telling you to go to your rooms, and the lights were put out behind you, darkness filling your wake as the footsteps of fifty girls shuffled up the stairs to the dormitories.

There was some light from the moon, casting shadows on the wall as you stepped out of your dress and took care to hang it on the peg beside your bed. The nightgown was cold, and you shivered as the stiff fabric slid across your arms, over your back, but it did little to prepare you for the cold of the blanket that you tugged up to your chin, over your mouth, just high enough so you wouldn’t have to see the pale cloud of steam escape from your lips every time you exhaled.

One by one, the girls around you fell asleep. Better to sleep than to suffer through the cold, and you wished that sleep would come to you, but it never did, leastways not until the ephemeral light of dawn colored the windows, and then only a few minutes of rest were your before the bells began to ring, another day called to life with the sound of shuffling feet, this time tramping down the stairs, on their way to breakfast.

The sleep itself was not what frightened you. It was the dreams, the visions that flashed before your eyes, always right there, yet always just out of reach. And the voices were louder then, because you didn’t have the strength to fight against them or to shut them out. And knowing this, they taunted you, telling you things you never wished to know. And in the morning, when the ringing of the bells pushed that other ringing out of your mind, you only felt more tired than the night before, the look on your face prompting a few of the other girls to ask if you were unwell. But you told them that you were fine, and then you washed your face, and rebraided your hair, pinning it close to your head before covering it with the stiff white cap.

Another day of lessons then, of basic reading and writing, and then hours of sewing, or in your case, because your stitching had never been fine, of untangling bits of thread and yarn for the others to use. The work was dull, numbing to both body and mind, and you sat with your eyes narrowed, your back bent over the task, and when the lights dimmed, the work was brought nearer to your face, until your eyes were mere slits, the red reaching in from the corners, stinging until you had no choice but to wipe the tears away with the back of your hand.

Night came again, overtaking you before you were aware of it, the bells ringing again, and you fell into step behind the other girls, while being pushed up the stairs by the dozen or so girls behind you. Another night, your dress hanging on the peg, and the exhaustion swept over you and around you until the dreams pressed in again, the voices attacking with greater precision, never trying at the same place twice, but always searching for a weak point. And when they found it, they slipped inside, only you couldn’t battle them in your sleep. One voice in particular was more familiar than the others, yet it spoke softly to you then, almost lulling you into a deeper slumber, one that threatened to smother you with its offer of comfort.

The screaming didn’t wake you. Your throat was already sore from it, as if you’d been crying out for some time, and when you finally opened your eyes, you saw the other girls in the dormitory, all of them crowding away from you, pressed against their own beds, against the walls, a few of them running out the door, nearly falling down the stairs in their haste to escape.

One of the matrons appeared a few moments later, still in her nightdress. You remember the look on her face, the horror that flashed in her eyes, and it was then that you noticed the placement of the other beds in the room, all of them far away from your own, as if they’d been swept toward the walls with a great hand, and only your bed still sat untouched in its original position.

Gathering herself, the matron staggered forward, her hands on your shoulders, gripping them, shaking until the screaming stopped, and you gasped for breath, unaware before that moment that you had almost fainted from lack of air. She struck your cheek and called you a stupid girl, a monster, and as she spoke, the soft, familiar voice echoed the same thought in your ear. Only you were much more inclined to believe him above all others.



The Half Killed is currently available for pre-order at for only .99 cents from now until August 25th. You can check out the reviews on Goodreads and add it to your list.