Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Friday, April 20, 2012

Escaping Notice is FREE!

For April 20 and 21 only, Escaping Notice, a Regency romantic mystery, is free! This is the fourth book in the Archer family series, but never fear, you don't need to read them in any particular order and they all contain the adventure, romance and lighthearted fun, along with a murder or two that you've grown to love. In fact, I may have to dream up a few more long-lost relatives and write a few more books for this series--I never expected it to be this popular. I guess everyone likes a laugh or two.

So what's this one about? Here's a brief blurb and excerpt. I hope you enjoy it.


The murderer made his first mistake when he tried to kill Hugh Castle, the Earl of Monnow. His second mistake was killing Hugh's younger brother, instead. 

Wrestling with grief, Hugh is determined to discover why he was the target and get justice for his brother's death. When everyone assumes he drowned along with his brother when their sabotaged boat foundered, Hugh fosters that belief to trick the elusive killer into revealing himself.

But Hugh doesn’t count on running into two others also desperate to escape notice by assuming false identities. Helen Archer lost the fabled Peckham necklace at a ball given at Ormsby and risks censure and shame if she doesn’t find it. Young Edward Brown only wants to escape his unpleasant guardians and go to sea like his hero, Admiral Nelson. When the three meet, Helen and Hugh discover they are both going to Ormsby and hatch the perfect plan. By masquerading as servants, they can gain access to Hugh’s grand house and accomplish their missions in secret.

However, Edward objects for purely practical reasons. He wants to go to sea, not to Ormsby, and he definitely doesn’t want to spend his days polishing boots as a pretend servant. But the young boy's objections are overruled.

The adventure begins.


In this scene, Helen, Hugh, and Edward have been accepted into the household as new servants. Hugh and Knighton Gaunt, an inquiry agent Hugh hired to help him investigate, are breaking the news to Hugh's aunt that the earl's boat sank with Lionel and presumably the earl on board. Hugh is still hoping he was wrong and that Lionel somehow survived, but in his heart, he knows his brother perished at sea.

Unseen by the others, Helen entered the hallway. She stood hesitantly a few feet away from the tense cluster. As if sensing him, she looked in Hugh’s direction. When he caught her eye, he shook his head. She transferred her gaze to the floor.

Symes was the first to notice her. “You there,” he said. “Did you bring Miss Leigh’s brandy?”

“Yes, sir.” She held out a small glass filled with amber liquid.

“She’s had a terrible shock.” He waved her forward.

She handed the glass to Miss Leigh, who grabbed it and swallowed the contents in one gulp, causing her to go into a paroxysm of coughing. Helen eased the small glass from her hand and put an arm around Miss Leigh’s thin shoulders.

“May I help you upstairs? You should lie down.” Helen’s puzzled gaze flew first to Mr. Symes and then Mr. Gaunt, but both ignored her. “Come, Miss Leigh, you should lie down.”

Face red and damp from coughing, Miss Leigh leaned on Helen’s arm, and allowed herself to be led away.

When Gaunt placed his hat on his head in preparation to leave, Hugh slid quietly through the library and out of the French doors into the garden. He headed towards the front drive, hoping to cut Gaunt off before he departed. Halfway around, he met his quarry. Hugh waved and led him off towards a small copse of trees where they could not be seen from the house.

“What have you discovered?” Hugh asked, turning abruptly as he rounded the bole of a large oak.

“It’s early, yet,” Gaunt remarked. “They have collected the debris from the Twilight, however. And the constabulary of Burnham-on-Sea has instituted an investigation.”

“Any sign of Lionel?”

“Not yet. I’m sorry.”

Hugh ran a hand through his hair, glancing once over his shoulder in the direction of Ormsby. “Why did you not warn my aunt that Lionel is most likely dead? She may not see it as a kindness when she finds out.”

“You’ve presented me with a bit of a problem, my lord. According to your story, you were the only one who knew your brother went out with you on the Twilight. It would be impossible for me to know, or tell anyone, that Lionel is most likely drowned. Without his remains, how would I know unless you had told me?”

“Yes, but damn it, when she does discover it —”

“I’m sorry. However, there is no easy way to do this; no way to spare her feelings  ̶ or those of anyone else.

“There is no sign, then, of Lionel?”

“No. As I mentioned, it’s possible that he survived —”

“No,” Hugh said, feeling the waves battering him, tearing him away from the foundering boat and his brother. The unbearable, unforgiveable lightness when he had lost his grip on Lionel. “No. I realize there is no proof, but he could not have survived. Eventually, we’ll have to reveal that Lionel is dead.”

Thanks and enjoy!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Jack Russells, or is that Jane Russells?

Folks may wonder why I’ve been a tad quiet lately, but it’s because we have a new member of the family: a Jack Russell Terrier named Miss Daisy May. Or a Jane Russell, as my husband says. We adopted her from a friend of my husband’s who did not want her anymore. She’s a year old and had been boarded in a kennel.

We’ve had her for a week now.

Why am I telling you this? Well, you see, we’d been warned against Jack Russells, just like we were warned about adopting one of our other “children,” a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Molly.

Prior to this, we’d only had labs (and chows and other strays) and as everyone knows, labs are “easy.”

How did this all come about?

Well, my husband decided he wanted to give me a Jack Russell for Christmas, but when the breeder heard that we also had two cats, he refused to give my husband a dog. So, we figured it was just one of those ideas that would never take root. You see, we have a bad habit of adopting strays and right now, our menagerie consists of:

A chocolate Labrador Retriever named Rowdy—the result of an accident with a chocolate lab female one of our friends owned. Rowdy is 128 lbs and a totally loveable giant.

A Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Molly—a big girl at 90 lbs and s sweet as can be and absurdly smart, although she freaks outif you say, “No!”

An orange cat named Psycho—a male, stray cat who is totally psycho. He has absolutely NO sense of self preservation and we found him on our porch one day, sleeping while the dogs barked like crazy at him. Nuts. Completely.

A tortoise-shell cat named Cricket—a female stray who decided to live with us despite the fact that she totally hates all dogs. She tolerates Rowdy, though. Every critter on earth loves Rowdy. I’ve had serious concerns at times that someone would “walk off” with him just because he’s just so cool about everything.

Enter…Miss Daisy May. Yes, despite the breeder’s warning, my husband’s friend decided he wanted to get rid of her (he’d inexplicably called her Stripe, which reminded me of that evil Gremlin so we renamed her). We brought her home a week ago.

Here’s how it went.
1st hour: The cats freaked and disappeared upstairs. Molly hated her. Rowdy fell in love with her initially, but soon cooled. I imagine his internal thoughts went:
“Wow! Cool! A sweet, nubile female…wait. What is this? Where’s the rest of her? Okay, maybe she’s not really my dream come true. Okay. Whatever. I’m over it.”

But Miss Daisy May took one look at Rowdy and her internal thoughts must have been something like: “Wow! Cool! Tall, dark and handsome! I love you!” She proceeded to curl up in his bed, next to him. She slept with him the first night. She continues to adore him, despite his general attitude that She Does Not Exist.

Miss Daisy May also learned how to open the front door and come inside. The other dogs generally come in through the back door because their combined weight can pop open the door unless it is locked. They then gallop through the house and out the front door. Miss Daisy May is the first one to figure out how to get back inside from the front door.

Day Two: Psycho decided he’d had enough hiding. He sniffed at Daisy. Daisy sniffed at him and wanted to play, but Psycho is too old and didn’t appreciate it so he abandoned the idea and hid again.

Interesting note: Miss Daisy May seems to be housebroken, even though the owner told us she was not. At least she goes outside and we’ve seen no evidence of going inside.
She and Molly have made friends and spent an hour chasing each other around the front yard.

Also, after taking the pack for our twice-daily walk, Miss Daisy May has decided she’s a retriever because she goes right into the pond along with the other dogs. Oh, and we’ve discovered she’ll actually retrieve. Cool.

I’m teaching her to sit.

Day Three: the cats have come out of hiding, realizing that Miss Daisy May isn’t going to up and die the way Cricket wants her to. Cricket hates her, but then Cricket hates all dogs. Psycho is willing to play for a few seconds before he has enough and abandons playtime for a quiet nap. Psycho is back to sleeping on my lap and is willing to share it with Miss Daisy May. There’s still a bit of sibling rivalry, but since they both end up asleep, it’s working out.

Miss Daisy May is getting better about sitting, and we’re enjoying playing fetch with her.

At the start of another week: We can say that as usual, despite conventional wisdom, things have worked out. We have cats and dogs living together. We love them all. They more or less get along.

How do we do it?

I admit, we’re lucky. We have 20 acres, 17 of which are wooded/swamp. We have a pond and 1 acre fenced for the dogs. We walk the dogs twice a day about a mile (it’s a mile round trip to the mailbox) and we’re good about exhausting the dogs.

The key really is exhausting the animals before they come inside.

The biggest enemy is boredom so when the animals get antsy, we toss them outside. They have an acre fenced in to mess around in, and when it's hot, we leave the back gate open so they can go to the pond.

A week after adopting Miss Daisy May, she’s settled in beautifully. She is giving Miss Molly much needed exercise and acting as a heating pad for Mr. Rowdy’s old bones. Psycho is asleep on my lap right now, with Miss Daisy May at my side as I write this. Once again, we’ve flouted the conventional wisdom that you can’t have Jack Russell dogs and cats. But then, our Jack Russell also swims and retrieves, and I intend to teach her some tricks.

It’s quite a menagerie, but a happy one.