[Snappy Title Goes Here]

It’s Friday and I’m sitting here, trying to wake up a bit. (It’s not working out too well, seeing as how I misspelled about four of the words in that sentence. And then I forgot the second “s” in “misspell.”) One child is watching Moana while another seems to be staring into some great, dark void and a third is probably eating something he shouldn’t and the fourth is still upstairs sleeping. (Lucky child. She’ll be doing chores later to pay for her gift of sleeping in.) And here I am, already misplacing the point of this paragraph.

It’s been that kind of week.

Basically, I hit a wall. Not a writer’s block kind of wall or anything like that, just a moment where everything I was doing became too much and my brain began to squelch in my head like so much useless squelchy stuff and things like clipping coupons became rather taxing.

I had Reasons, you know. The Firstborn came out in May. The Bride Price came out on Tuesday. I’m polishing up another book set to come out in October. There are two anthologies set for this fall that I’m slated to be a part of. And then there are children in this house, spilling out of every crevice (crevasse?), constantly needing more food and clean underpants and wanting to go places like swimming pools and the library and dance lessons. And then my husband picked up some bug/illness/plague which involved him having a terrible fever off and on for a week and a cough that sounded like his lungs wanted to break free from the paltry confines of his ribcage and then my brain went NOPE and here we are.

It’s Friday, and I’m still trying to wake up.

I gave myself a couple of weeks to breathe. I mean, The Bride Price still had to have its debut. But I didn’t write anything new, not really. All the other characters, sitting in their lovely little worlds (okay, some of them have not-so-lovely worlds where people kill one another with hammers and then they miss afternoon tea) had to be pushed back for a bit, while I tried to remember basic things like daily ablutions and consuming food that wasn’t a cookie or cake or… I don’t know. The names of other types of food are escaping me right now.

But the moral of this story (Yes, there’s a moral, watch me meander my way towards it) is that you need to find a way to give your brain a break from time to time. Even if it’s only a five-minute mini-break while you hunker in the bathroom and cry over the Oreos you hid from the kids (… what?), your brain needs a moment to step back and regroup.

Over the next three-ish months, I’m starting my oldest in third grade work, my second daughter in first grade work, my oldest boy in pre-k, and all while trying to keep my toddler from sledding down the stairs or eating the drywall. I’ll have two – possibly three – writing-related releases. The girls will start up their dance lessons for the fall and there will be library things and homeschool things and LAUNDRY DEAR LORD WHY DO YOU KEEP WEARING CLOTHES AND THEN CHANGING INTO OTHER CLOTHES AND WHY DO I HAVE MORE UNMATCHED SOCKS IN THIS HOUSE THAN MATCHED???

*deep breath* Moral, Quenby. Don’t forget the moral.

So. To sum up!

The Bride Price is out now and it has a shiny new cover! cover_sub1_800

See? So shiny…

I managed to somehow (hides sacrificial goat remains) make it the shortlist of a flash fiction contest headed up by fantasy author Mark Lawrence.

One of the little dudes inhabiting this household turned four AND got a haircut.

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And that’s my week! Now… back to work.

After Oreos, of course.

 

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The Firstborn is here! … now I have to tidy up.

.It’s release day! The Firstborn is born, a bouncing new book, ready to be read and enjoyed!

(To help matters along, I’ll just get all the links and such out of the way.)

Want to buy the ebook? (Ignore the fact that I sound like I’m selling knock-off watches from the trunk of my car): http://amzn.to/2puCT2i

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Sophia has sacrificed everything for her younger sister, Lucy. She has removed them from the only home they ever knew, taken on the care of Lucy’s illegitimate son, George, and even assumed the role of a widow and mother in order to erase all hint of scandal from the boy’s birth. But rumor continues to follow them like the darkest of clouds, and Sophia must adapt to her new existence as a false widow with no prospects beyond the doors of her small cottage.

Lord Haughton will stop at nothing to prevent the slightest whiff of disgrace from tainting his family’s name. When he learns of his younger brother’s latest indiscretion-one that leaves a bastard child in his wake-Haughton rushes across the country to offer the boy’s mother a comfortable living in exchange for her silence about the child’s true parentage. But he arrives only to have his generous offer thrown back in his face by Sophia Brixton, a sharp-tongued and sharper-witted woman who proceeds to toss him out of her house. But just because he is banished from her home does not mean he is so easily banished from her life.

Yes, you want to buy this book. Why? So that I can afford to hire someone to come in and clean my house while I’m busy writing, editing, marketing, cooking, homeschooling my kids, changing diapers, and occasionally bathing. (I am an occasional bather. It’s an occupational hazard of being a parent.)

This is my livingroom: 001

The youngest is down for a nap. The older three are watching Wild Kratts (that’s educational, right?) I stood on a chair despite my horrible fear of small heights (Long story short: I can stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon and not be scared. Stick me on a stool to change a lightbulb? I’m going to die) to bring this picture to you. And then I turned around and snapped a picture of my kitchen sink.

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Equally gorgeous. (At least this is proof that I feed my children.)

Sometimes, people refer to me as some kind of supermom. I make costumes for my kids to wear to the movies (Ola wants to be Wonder Woman for the movie’s release next month), I bake all the time, I crochet things, I sew stuff, I take the family to the park and we learn about nature and commune with unicorns.

But this is the reality. While snatching minutes here and there for writing and teaching my kids about Charles I (yes, they love the stories about the rulers who end up meeting a ghastly end) and eating all the cookies I baked, this is what happens to the house. (And before someone chimes in to tell me that I need to create a chore wheel for my kids: My kids do chores. They clean bathroom sinks and bathroom floors and put away dishes and pick up toys and make their beds. But last week, they were sniffly, and we were all just too almost-sick and exhausted to care.)

So I’ve written a book. My fourth full-length book! I’m happy and proud and ecstatic and many other words from a thesaurus. And I’m also hungry, my hair needs brushed, and I really do need to load the dishwasher.

Happy Tuesday. 🙂

“The Firstborn” – Yet Another Excerpt

To those who have been reading my blog lately, you’ll know I’m fighting with the last chapter or so of my next book, The Firstborn. It’s a charming (hopefully?) Regency romance about two “firstborn” people from separate families (Lord Finnian Haughton and Mrs. Sophia Brixton) who spend all of their free time cleaning up after their younger, more scandal-prone siblings.

Today, I’m sharing a large chunk of the first chapter with you, in which we’re introduced to Finnian and – through conversation – Sophia.

And here’s hoping that my next post is a huge, celebratory affair about how I finally finished this bugger of a book!

(Oh, and if you’re interested? My inspiration for Finnian, just wandering around, contemplating life before he crushes said existence out of a lovely flower.)

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There were too many letters. An inordinate amount of them, spilling out of crevices and sliding out of their well-organized stacks. Most were invitations, a fact that irritated Lord Finnian Haughton to no end. Invitations to balls, to routs, to garden parties and afternoon teas, where he would be expected to deal with the attentions of no small number of simpering females. And all of them with their eyelashes fluttering while a mere turn and snap of their fans spoke a language he would never be able to decipher.

This morning’s stack of cards sat on his desk, the light spilling in through the window, sending a solitary beam across the topmost letter. A glance at the direction told him more than he needed to know. The lettering was too fine and flowery, a woman’s hand, and a noticeable aroma emanated from the paper, as if it had been glazed with rose water before being sent round to his townhouse.

He understood their interest in him, and his position in polite society. He was a man. A gentleman. A titled gentleman with a rather large fortune. And, most bothersome of all, a titled gentleman, possessed of a large fortune, who—according to that polite society which insisted on tossing flowery cards and invitations at him as if they were tossing bread crumbs to a duck in a pond—had decided to remain stubbornly ensconced in his current life as a bachelor.

He gave the corner of his newspaper a shake and reached out for his cup of tea. From another part of the house, he heard a knock on the front door, followed by the measured step of Gleeson showing no haste in his effort to answer it. Haughton waited, his eyes gazing at a vague point beyond the edge of the newspaper as the butler’s steps made their way towards his study. Another knock, this one on his own door, and a grey, tonsured head bowed itself into the room.

“It’s Mr. Winston, my lord. Shall I…?”

Haughton nodded in reply to the unfinished query. Gleeson disappeared, the steps receded, and he folded his newspaper into a stiff rectangle that landed with an audible smack on top of the pile of invitations.

“Finn?”

Haughton glanced up at the door as another man, this one dressed in a coat and trousers of a dull, forgettable color, entered the sunlit room.

“Winston.” Haughton sat up in his own chair and indicated the one opposite him with a wave of his hand. “I didn’t expect to see you again so soon.”

Winston strolled forward, his hands clasped around both hat and gloves, neither of which had managed to be relinquished to the butler upon his arrival. He let out a sigh as he lowered himself into his seat, scratched his chin, and ran a bare hand over his neatly trimmed brown hair.

“Have you breakfasted?” Haughton asked, his eyes taking in the obvious wear on the man’s suit and the scuffs on his boots.

“Yes, early.” Those two words revealed an accent that held no connection to any town or borough within fifty miles of London. Haughton had never inquired after Winston’s origins, and Winston had never made any move to volunteer the information.

“So.” Haughton cleared his throat. “Since you’re not here to dine with me, I take it you’ve…”

“I’ve found her.”

Haughton looked up from his cup. The dregs of his tea slid down his throat, leaving a bitter aftertaste that threatened to linger on his tongue for some time. “And the child?”

Winston nodded, his chin dipping down to touch the simple folds of his neckcloth. “A bouncing, blustering specimen of childhood. Quite a healthy thing, he looks to be.”

A breath slid out of Haughton’s lungs as he allowed his own head to tip back. He found himself staring up at a ceiling painted with all manner of cherubs and pudgy, angelic creatures, their grotesque smiles having beamed down on his own head, and his father’s before him, since his mother had commissioned the ghastly artwork some three decades before.

“The woman.” Haughton shut his eyes. He would have to paint over that damned ceiling one of these days, perhaps once this latest mess was cleared away. “What was her name? Susan?”

“Sophia,” Winston provided. “Sophia Brixton.”

“Sophia…” An image of a young woman appeared in his mind: short and curved, with dark hair and fair skin beneath rouged cheeks and rouged nipples and anything else that it was fashion to have rouged. It was a type, he realized. His brother’s type, and never had David dared to deviate from the original template. “What have you learned about her?”

“Currently lives in Stantreath,” Winston said, as he sat up in the chair and reached inside his coat for a small pad of paper. A brush of his thumb across his tongue and he began to flick through the pages. “Up in Northumberland, right near to the coast. She’s got herself a tidy little cottage that she shares with one sister.” He licked his thumb again and turned another page. “Parents are gone. Father was a tradesman, ran a rag and bottle shop of some sort. The younger sister, that would be one Lucy Penrose, has no fortune of her own. Mrs. Brixton possesses an annuity of a mere fifty pounds per annum.”

“Wait.” Haughton held up one hand as one of the details finally wriggled its way to the forefront of his thoughts. “Mrs. Brixton? She is married?”

“A widow, as far as the gossip travels. But I was unable to discover any proof a previous marriage or of the prior existence of a Mr. Brixton.”

Haughton raised one eyebrow. “You believe she’s lying?”

Winston tilted his head to one side. “You know I’m not one for guesses and conjecture. But I would not rule out a false marriage in order to pass off the child as legitimate.”

“Of course.” Haughton grumbled under his breath and pushed himself out of his chair. He shook his head, pushed his fingers through his own dark hair, and moved to stand in front of the window. “Go on,” he prompted after a moment. “I want to know everything.”

“Well…” Another lick of the thumb, another turn of the page. “There’s Stantreath… cottage… Ah, yes, here we are. There’s no maid in the household, but there is a hired girl who helps out several times a week. Ah… She attends services regularly, rarely leaves the child at home, um… dresses modestly, above average height, red hair…”

“What was that?” Haughton spun on his heel as he turned away from the window. “That last bit? What did you say?”

“Erm… red hair?”

“No.” Haughton shook his head. “That cannot be right. My brother abhors red hair, especially when it comes to the fairer sex.”

Winston raised one shoulder as he tipped his head to one side. “Perhaps the boy has had a change of heart.”

“Or perhaps he succumbed to a moment of uncharacteristic desperation.”

Winston’s eyebrows pushed upwards into his forehead. “Or… perhaps this Mrs. Brixton possesses some other charm, something beyond a mere head of hair.”

Haughton sniffed. “You know as well as I, my brother is incapable of looking beyond anything but the most superficial of charms.”

“Which means…?”

“Which means that he was probably so inebriated at the time that he wouldn’t have known whether he was making love to a real, warm-blooded woman or a freshly plumped cushion.”

***


The Firstborn – An Excerpt

Okay, so I promised to blog more. And to fill everyone in on what I’m working on at the moment. Which is about six different projects. But let’s get started with the one that is the most complete (I’m up to Chapter Twenty-Four with maybe a chapter and a half to go).

This one is called The Firstborn. It’s set in 1814, in England, and takes place in several locations, including London (of course), Northumberland, and Derbyshire. One of the main locations is in a little village called Stantreath, which I’ve based – loosely – on the real village of Bamburgh on the coast of Northumberland. Which looks a little bit like this:

Bamburgh Castle, England

Yes, I know. I KNOW.

Also, Stantreath, the name I created, breaks down to Stan=stone, stony and treath=beach. So “Stony Beach”. There you go.

Now, the story in The Firstborn is fairly basic, I think. Our male main character, Finnian Haughton, is the oldest child and son in his family, and has been left with the task of cleaning up all the messes made by his younger brother, David. Our female main character, Sophia Brixton, is the oldest of two daughters, and has been left to manage the messes made by her flighty and immature younger sister, including a child her younger sister bore out of wedlock. To Finnian’s younger brother, David.

*ahem*

Hence the title “The Firstborn”, since our story centers around three characters (Finn, Sophia, and the baby George) who are all the firstborn of their families.

Our two main characters meet when Finnian travels up to Northumberland in order to take care of business, i.e. throw some money at Sophia (who he initially and mistakenly supposes to be George’s mother) so that she’ll never turn up on his doorstep or reveal that his younger brother has been cavorting around town, so to speak, producing illegitimate children all over the place.

Sophia, as you might imagine, does not take kindly to Finnian’s intentions.

So today I bring you an excerpt from the third chapter, which is also when Finn and Sophia first sit down and make one another’s acquaintance. So to speak.

***

“I see you’ve decided to be tenacious,” Sophia said without pausing in her work. She leaned across the table, wiping from corner to corner before returning to the wash basin to wring out her dripping cloth. “All right, then.” She slapped the cloth over the edge of the basin and spun around, her arms crossed over her chest, her mouth set. “What brings you here? And no attempts to baffle me or to evade the truth, if you please. Just tell me… what do you want?”

Haughton felt uneasy. Up to this point, nothing had transpired in the way he’d imagined it would. And as for Sophia, she was too blunt, and too intelligent. And that was what worried him most.

He gestured towards the recently vacated table. “Will you be seated?”

The slightest stiffening of her spine. “I’ll stand, thank you.”

He cleared his throat. She was not going to make this easy for him. A point for her, since he doubted she had any idea what had brought him all this way. “The child—”

“George,” she said, interrupting him. “His name is George, after our father.”

“Of course.”

“No,” she spoke again, while his next words still danced on the tip of his tongue. “Not ‘of course’. Such a phrase denotes your being aware that our father’s name was George, or knowing what type of a man he was and why we would choose to honor him in such a way. But here you are, darkening my doorstep seven months after his birth. A fact which proves to me that either you didn’t know about him before now, or you simply didn’t care.”

He inclined his head, yet dared not take his eyes off of her, not for a second. “My apologies. I assure you it was the former, and as soon as I discovered that my brother had a son—”

“And where is your brother? And why are you here in his stead?”

Haughton could feel his temper beginning to rise. Never before had he ever allowed himself to show anger in front of a woman, and yet she seemed to be the most infuriating creature he’d ever encountered, almost as if she’d been designed to say precisely the right things that would most irritate him. “He is… in London. I assume.”

“You assume?” To his surprise, her mouth broke into a smile and a soft laugh emanated from the back of her throat. “In other words, you have about as much sway over the life of your brother as I have over my sister.”

“I’m not here to discuss my family,” he said, his voice taking on a note of warning he hadn’t even intended to be there.

“Oh, but I’m sure you’re here with the sole purpose of discussing mine. Or am I wrong?” A flash in her eyes countered the steel in his voice. “The mere fact that you’ve arrived today with a prior knowledge of not only both our names, our location, George’s existence, and no doubt a myriad other trivial items concerning our past and present life tells me that you’ve gone to great lengths to find out everything you could before traveling all the way here from…” She waved her right hand in a vague circle. “… wherever you call home. Which means, no doubt, that you wanted the upper hand in this discussion. Which also means that I will most likely not care for whatever it is you’ve come to tell me.”

Haughton fumed in silence. If the baby’s mother was even half as maddening as the woman standing before him, he wondered how David had survived with his manhood and his sanity intact. “I had come here with the intention of speaking to the mother of my brother’s child,” he ground out between clenched teeth.

“But she is not here,” she said, delivering the confession as if it were a weapon. “And she is not like to be anytime soon. And since your appearance here is most likely connected with George, then you will have to make do with speaking to me.”

“Very well,” he sighed. But he felt as if all of his confidence had been drained away from him, and the surety he’d felt upon arriving here that the matter of the child’s welfare would be swiftly dealt with—and in his favor—had been skillfully chipped away by every word to come out of Sophia’s mouth. “Shall we?” He inclined his head towards the chairs that flanked the table.

“Of course,” she said, and slipped gracefully into the seat that he pulled out for her.

***