Justified, a character recap

Note: This recap is spoiler-free for the ending of Justified.

Back in 2010, my husband and I heard about a new show that was described as a sort of modern-day Western, with a dash of cops-versus-robbers. We hadn’t heard of most of the cast before, but we liked the lead actor, Timothy Olyphant, so we decided to check out the first episode.

That was all it took to get hooked on Justified.
Raylan rachelIn the interest of space, I’m not going to do a season-by-season recap or even a broad highlight of the storyline. Instead, I’m going to take about what was the driving force behind my love of this series: the characters. Walton Groggins, who played Boyd, quickly became my second-favorite character after Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan. In fact, during some seasons, I might have been rooting for Boyd a wee bit more than Raylan even though Boyd was the show’s mostly-unapologetic villain.

Boyd gifIn my humble opinion, Groggins’ multi-layered, finely-nuanced performance of Boyd should be a lesson in how to craft a villain who truly sees himself as the hero of his own story (as writers know, that’s the starting point for crafting a believable villain, but it’s rarely done so well as here.)

Raylan, on the other hand, is the epitome of an anti-hero. I remember reading a study a few years back that claimed to find similarities in the “function” of cops’ brains and criminals’ brains. Raylan’s character certainly seemed to support the theory that the thought patterns of law enforcers and law breakers can be surprisingly similar, even if their actions are distinctly (or usually) opposite. Olyphant’s portrayal of Raylan, a modern Federal Marshall who has more than a touch of Old West mentality, blurred the line on cop versus criminal more than a few times, but in a way that left me cheering him when he crossed into what was distinctly un-lawman-like territory. Why? Raylan’s motivation. He didn’t cross those lines without a reason that I, as the viewer, could sympathize with. Take, for example, a mob guy telling Raylan that he was going to kill Raylan’s pregnant girlfriend the first chance he got. What happens next was illegal, but for me, it was understandable.

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6-marshalstiffieI also loved the side characters. There were many, so I’m only going to list my favorites, such as Art, Raylan’s gruff-but-fair boss who is also a father figure to him; Tim, a Federal Marshall coworker who’s a former decorated veteran sharpshooter; Ellen May, an endearing prostitute who humanizes a profession that’s very easy to look down upon; Bob, a seemingly inept deputy who turns out to have surprising grit; Limehouse, a criminal with his own finely-honed since of justice, and Wynn, a shifty criminal who is, above all, a survivor. Lest anyone think that Justified was light on strong female characters, it wasn’t. I just wanted to reserve them for their own paragraphs :).

Ava gifWhen we first meet Ava, she comes off as a beautiful, flirty, ditsy blonde… if you don’t count her almost casually describing how she shot and killed her abusive husband over his favorite meal of fried chicken. Joelle Carter did a fantastic job of portraying Ava as person who let her physical abuse harden her into someone you did not f—k with, while at the same time, showing a woman who longed for a stable, loving relationship and a family. Ava was also honest with herself over her unfortunate tendency to fall for men who would ultimately disappoint her, and the way she grimly soldiered on in a world where she was often dismissed as arm candy had me rooting for her. Ava was frequently underestimated, and she used that to her advantage in ways that ended up shocking the people who thought they knew her best.

Racehl gifRachel, played beautifully by Erika Tazel, is another Federal Marshall coworker. Being a petite, lovely African American woman in a male-oriented (and frequently racist) world, Rachel quickly shows that she is a force to be reckoned with, both for her guts and her intelligence. She goes toe-to-toe with the bad guys almost as much as she does with Raylan, and is one of the few people who seems able to get Raylan to do what he should do instead of what he wants to do…some of the time, anyway. Rachel has many, many great scenes in Justified, but if I had a complaint, it would be that I wished her character would have been more deeply explored. I thought that Rachel had the potential for a lot more storylines (spinoff, anyone?), and was I the only one rooting for her and Tim to get together?

Kaitlyn Dever plays Loretta, a teenage girl who’s first introduced to the storyline as a victim of an older man’s very-unwanted attentions. Despite being on the fence about her at first, Loretta grew into one of my favorite characters. To say she’s had an unconventional upbringing is putting it mildly; Loretta cut her teeth on the crime business at an appallingly young age, as a scene where she sells “herbal relief” in school highlights. But, growing up in the middle of the illegal weed industry meant that it was all Loretta knew. From her recollections, you can almost image her playing as a child among the drying marijuana plants in the hollers of Harlan, and how she manages to rise above the many, many, many adults who try to use her was simply badass. I might not agree with a lot of Loretta’s choices, but I applauded her for her fierce inner strength.

Honorable mention goes to Mags, played brilliantly by Margo Martindale. Mags only appeared for season 2, but her portrayal as the matriarch of the Bennett crime family was so memorable, hubby and I bought a jar of apple pie flavored moonshine in honor of Mags (if you’ve seen season 2, you’ll get the inner joke ;)). On the turn of a dime, Mags could go from motherly and folksy to ruthless and terrifying, all with the same sweet smile. I would never want to meet someone like Mags in real life (come to think, the same could be said for quite a few of my favorite characters on this show) but it was a true pleasure to watch her on TV.

JustifiedWhy am I talking about Justified, some of you might wonder? Because the series finale was last night. As mentioned earlier, you won’t find any spoilers here – and DON’T leave any in the comments, it’s awful to spoil people who aren’t looking to know what happens in advance! – but I will say that I was satisfied with the ending. Not everything went the way I would have preferred, but enough of it did that I was left with a good feeling. After being so upset over how Dexter, another favorite show, ended, I was nervous about the finale of Justified, but my concerns turned out to be unfounded. Let me tell you, that was a relief. I hate when I invest years of time and emotion in something that ends in a way that makes me regret going along for the ride in the first place. Justified didn’t do that, so if you’re in the market for a character-driven show that sometimes blurs the lines between the peacekeepers and the outlaws, I highly recommend it. And hey, lucky you who haven’t seen it yet – you can now watch all the episodes at your preferred pace, whereas I had to wait years to see how it would all turn out :).

And now for a brief, off-topic reminder: The second part of Pack, a free werewolf short story, will be posted this Saturday the 18th. If you haven’t read Part 1 of Pack, you can find it here.

Pack

Back in early 2008, I wrote a short story for the Mammoth Book Of Paranormal Romance anthology called Pack. If you haven’t read it before, Pack was my first (and to date, only) werewolf story. Later, when I got my rights back, I self-published Pack with authors Ilona Andrews and Meljean Brook in an ebook-only anthology called Under Her Skin. In the years since, Meljean, Ilona and I have dipped more into self-publishing, so a couple months ago, we decided to break up the anthology and self-publish our stories on our own as individual shorts.

That is what will eventually happen to Pack, but before it does, I wanted to offer it free to my readers for a limited time. I really enjoyed writing Pack because I’ve been a fan of werewolf stories almost as long as I’ve been a fan of vampire ones, so it was fun for me to get to play around in that world. Some of you who’ve already read Pack have contacted me to ask if I’d ever write another story set in this world. The answer is kind of yes and kind of no. Here is why it’s kind of no: in the many years since I wrote Pack, I’ve thought up ways to expand the mythology to include more shapeshifters, give it a more complex origin story, and change it from a secret, “closed” world to an open one where the average person knows that shifters exist, and some of those people have to work with them. So, that’s why I wouldn’t write in the “same” world that Pack features. Why it’s kind of yes is because one day, I would like to play with a bigger, more complex world that still has some of the tropes found in Pack, but with my current deadlines, I have no immediate plans to do so. Still, it’s something that continues to tickle my brain, so you never know when an entire book might come out of that :).

As mentioned, Pack is a short story, but it’s still a little long for a blog post. That’s why I’m splitting it into Part A and Part B. Part A is below and it consists of approximately half the story. Part B will go up next Saturday, the 18th. All that being said, I hope that you enjoy the first part of Pack. Legal disclaimer: All rights reserved and copyrighted to Jeaniene Frost.

***

Chapter One 

I knew I was being hunted before I heard the growl. First, there had been flashes of gray and black in the trees around me, too fast for me to make out. Then crackling of dried leaves and twigs as those forms came nearer. And that primal, icy feeling on the back of my neck that told me I’d just moved from the top of the food chain to prey.

No one was around to help me, either. This was Yellowstone National Park, one of the last great American wildernesses. I hadn’t seen another soul since my friends Brandy and Tom abandoned the hike three days ago, and I’d been lost for two days now. A wave of fear rolled over me, making my stomach clench in a nauseating way. Whatever had growled, it wasn’t alone.

New growls emerged from behind the trees—low, guttural, and more menacing than a mugger in a dark alley. I flicked my gaze around, trying to hone in on the source while I drew my backpack off my shoulders. I had a gun in there which I’d brought along in what I’d thought was over-the-top paranoia. Now I wished I’d brought an Uzi and some grenades, too.

I had the backpack on the ground and was pulling the gun out when the animal struck. It came at me with incredible speed, plowing right into me and knocking me over. Instinctively, I scrambled back, holding my hands out in defense and convinced I’d feel teeth tearing into me at any moment. The wolf – God, it was a huge wolf! – didn’t lunge for my throat, though. It stood a few feet away, mouth open in what seemed to me to be a sick caricature of a grin, with my gun on the ground between its paws.

I’d dropped the gun. How could I have been so stupid as to drop the gun?

That thought raced through my mind, followed by a slew of if onlys. If only I hadn’t gone on this camping trip. If only Brandy hadn’t twisted her ankle, forcing her and Tom to leave early. If only I hadn’t been so determined to continue the hike alone. If only the map hadn’t gotten ruined. If only I’d had a satellite phone, instead of my useless, out-of-area cellular.

And if only I hadn’t dropped the damn gun when an enormous wolf charged me. That would probably be the last regret I ever had.

Twigs snapped behind me. My head jerked back while I still tried to keep an eye on the wolf in front of me. Five more wolves cleared the trees, running around me with an easy, deadly grace. I started to scoot back more, but there was nowhere to go. My heart was pounding while my breath came in strange, jagged gasps.

You’re lost out in the middle of nowhere, and these wolves are going to eat you. Oh God, no, please. I don’t want to die… 

Only four days ago, I’d been laughing with my friends about how great it was to be outdoors, instead of trapped inside our stuffy offices. This was the vacation I’d been waiting years to take. How could this be happening?

One of the circling wolves broke from the ranks and charged me. I flung up my hands in useless defense when the huge gray wolf let out a growl that sounded like a word.

“Mine.”

I gasped. That wolf did not just speak! But its yellow eyes gleamed with a savage intelligence and another rumbling, coherent growl came out of its throat.

“You. Dieee.”

I abandoned all logic to scramble to my feet, running as fast as I could even while knowing it was futile. Sudden, scalding pain in my ankle had me stumbling, but I didn’t stop. I lurched on, heart hammering and tears blurring my vision. Around me, the wolves gleefully yipped as they kept pace.

More pain seared my leg. I fell, panic urging me to get up even though both my legs felt like they were on fire. I tried to run again, but my left ankle buckled. The wolves’ cries became more excited. They darted in, nipping me and drawing blood before bounding back and ducking out of the way of my wild punches. I couldn’t run anymore, but I staggered forward, looking for anything that would help me. Maybe I could climb a tree. Maybe I could find a heavy branch to use as a weapon.

It’s too late for that, Marlee, said an insidious voice in my head. Just give up. It’ll be over soon. 

The enormous gray wolf suddenly jumped in front of me. Its mouth was open, fangs gleaming in the late afternoon light. It let out a howl that stopped the other wolves in their tracks. Then they joined in, filling the air with their victorious cries. The gray wolf became silent, coming closer while its companions continued their howls. I braced myself, images of my family and friends flashing in my mind. They’ll never know what happened to you. You’ll just be another vanished hiker in the woods… 

Despite my overwhelming fear, anger also reared up in me. I looked at the gray wolf, only a foot away now. You might kill me, but I’m going to hurt you before you do. 

When it lunged, I was ready. Its fangs sank into my right arm, which I’d thrown up to protect my throat. But even as I almost fainted at the agony of its teeth tearing my flesh, I didn’t hesitate. My left thumb jammed into its eye, as deep as it could go.

Something like a scream came out of the wolf. Or maybe I was the one screaming. Either way, it took a second for the next, new sound to register, but when it did, I felt a surge of hope. It was the loud, unmistakable boom of a gunshot.

The gray wolf let go of me. I sagged back, clutching my torn arm to my chest. The wolf’s right eye was bleeding and it was panting, but it didn’t run. Neither did the other wolves. They crouched, staring over my shoulder, snarls coming from their throats.

“Leave,” the gray wolf said, garbled but intelligible.

I’m hallucinating again, I thought. Maybe I’ve passed out. Maybe I’m being ripped to pieces right now. 

Something brushed by me. I recoiled when I saw it was several more wolves. With my good arm, I began flailing at them in a pathetic attempt to keep them away, but they ignored me. Their attention seemed fixed on the other, snarling wolves.

When a gorgeous, naked man appeared and squatted down next to me, I knew I was hallucinating. I might have even let out a laugh. Maybe all of this was just a horrible dream, and I’d wake up safe in my tent.

“Are you all right?” the man asked, looking me over.

Now I was sure I laughed, but it had an edge of hysteria to it. “Never better.”

I looked at his face – and gasped. His eyes were amber and slanted, just like the wolves’ eyes, and the same wildness lurked in them.

God, please let this be a dream! 

The man stood. He had a gun pointed at the gray wolf. “You’ve gone too far, Gabriel,” he said. “Hunting humans is forbidden. The pack will judge you for this.”

The wolf snarled. “They hunt us,” it said.

“They don’t know better,” the man replied. “We do. Either you come with us, or I shoot you with her gun.”

I was shaking my head from side to side, even though no one was paying attention to me anymore, it seemed. Talking wolves didn’t exist. Handsome, muscular men didn’t walk around naked in the forest, chatting with non-existent talking wolves. Why couldn’t I wake up? And what was that noise? It was getting louder, like a swarm of bees approaching.

When the gray wolf sat down, shuddered, and its fur began disappearing into its body, I didn’t even blink. I was concentrating more on finding the source of that buzzing noise. It was almost deafening now.

The last thing I saw before the noise rose to a crescendo and my vision went black was the wolf’s fur being replaced by skin…and the body of a naked man where the gray wolf had just been.

 

Chapter Two 

Pain tugged on my leg. My eyes opened with a rush of terror as my last memory came roaring back.

The wolves. Attacking me.

“No!” I screamed, trying to defend myself.

Something big held me down. I was so panicked, it took me a moment to realize that it wasn’t biting me or covered in fur.

“You’re all right, the doctor is just setting your ankle,” said a deep voice.

My head felt cottony, but I tried to shake that off as I took stock of my surroundings. I was in a bed. An older blond woman was giving me a mildly irate look as she bent over my ankle. Someone held my upper body in an unyielding grip, and from the muscled arms wrapped around me, whoever it was didn’t look like a nurse.

“Let go of me.”

That grip didn’t loosen. “Doc?”

“You can let her go, Daniel,” the blond woman said.

In my next blink, I was free, staring around the room with its wood walls, rustic interior, and bloody bandages on the floor. I didn’t have the best health insurance, but unless medical standards had really dropped, this wasn’t a hospital.

It took a second for me to recognize the tall, russet-haired man by the bed. “You’re the naked guy,” I blurted. He wasn’t naked now, wearing a pair of loose-fitting denim jeans and a long-sleeved shirt.

He smiled, but it looked strained. “You remember.”

Not all of it. I knew he’d stopped the wolves from attacking me, but I couldn’t remember how, exactly. Or why he’d been naked in the woods in the first place.

There was something about the wolves. Something really important that my groggy mind couldn’t quite recall.

“The wolves…” I began.

“I need to finish this,” the woman interrupted me. “Hold still. You’ll feel some pressure.”

She certainly sounds like a doctor, I thought. Professional, uncaring, and using the word ‘pressure’ to describe what would probably hurt like hell.

My premonition proved correct. A burning pain started in my ankle as she probed, muttering to herself while she shifted it a few times.

“Where am I?” I asked, biting back a yelp. “Is this a Ranger station or something?”

The man stared at me, his hazel eyes seeming to probe as much as the doctor’s pitiless fingers.

“What’s your name?”

“Marlee. Marlee Peters.”

“The sedative shouldn’t have worn off this quickly,” the woman remarked when I couldn’t help but yank back as she manipulated my ankle in a direction it didn’t want to go. “You know that, Daniel.”

“So give me another one,” I said, clenching my teeth as the pain began to throb. ‘Pressure’, my ass!

Daniel, as the doctor called him, let out a sigh. “Damn Gabriel,” he muttered.

Gabriel.

The name conjured up an image of a huge gray wolf glaring at me, one eye bleeding. They hunt us, it had said. Then it started writhing on the ground, its fur disappearing…

I tried to bolt out of bed, but Daniel had me pinned back before I’d even cleared the covers.

“It’s all right, Marlee,” he said.

“Like hell it is!” Whatever remains of the sedative they’d given me wore off in the flash of that memory. Run, my mind urged.

From over his shoulder, I could see the blond woman sit back in disgust. “I can’t work like this,” she muttered.

“Get Joshua,” Daniel told her, still holding me to the bed.

I screamed for help, which drowned out any reply the woman made. I kicked, too, even though that hurt my ankle like I’d set it on fire.

Daniel went from holding me down to flattening me on the bed with his body. It was like a ton of bricks just landed on me. He even had his legs tangled in mine so I couldn’t kick. I couldn’t move, but I could keep screaming, which I did, long and loud. He winced.

“Stop that. You’re hurting my ears.”

His arms were pinning mine down, but his hands were loose near my face. He could have covered my mouth to shut me up, but he didn’t. That meant he wasn’t concerned about anyone overhearing, which meant there was no one near enough to help.

I stopped screaming, trying another tactic. “Let me go. I’ll leave and you’ll never see me again.”

“Why were you in the woods alone, Marlee?” he asked. “That’s not very safe.”

Considering my current situation, the absurdity of that statement made me laugh. “You don’t say?”

He ignored that. “You remember what you saw. That’s why you stink like fear now.”

“It wasn’t real,” I muttered. “I was tired, I’d been lost for days, and I panicked because of the attack –”

“You know it’s real,” he cut me off. “Sorry, but you know, so we can’t just let you go. Even if nothing comes of your bites.”

That froze me more than the two hundred pounds of muscle holding me down. I’d been bitten – several times, in fact. I’d seen the movies, knew enough of the folklore to know what happened to a person who’d been bitten by a…

“This can’t be real,” I whispered.

His gaze was grim. “It’s as real as it gets.”

***

I insisted on sitting in a chair to meet Joshua. Daniel stood next to me, his presence a silent threat that any attempts to leave would be quickly stopped. Still, when one met the leader of a pack of werewolves, one wanted not to be trapped under another werewolf in bed, right? Yeah, I thought so, too.

Of course, I was also still thinking – hoping – that I’d just eaten some bad mushrooms along the trail and none of this was real. Be careful what you wish for, ran through my mind. I’d wished for years to go to Yellowstone. My ex-boyfriend, Paul, and I had planned this trip, down to the places we’d hike and where we’d camp. We were thrilled when my best friend Brandy and her boyfriend had agreed to come. The more the merrier, right?

But things had changed. Paul moved to Manhattan, our relationship couldn’t overcome the long-distance strain, and four months later, I ended up being a third wheel on this trip instead of it being a fun, couples’ getaway. Add that to being overworked and underpaid as a paralegal, and you had my fervent wish for something new and exciting to come into my life.

Looks like I got that wish, though it might come with a set of claws. I waited, missing my small cubicle at the office more than I’d ever missed anything.

Ten minutes later, the blond doctor returned with a man in his late forties. He had  edges of gray on his temples, but the rest of his hair was thick and auburn — the same color as Daniel’s, actually. He also had a similar large, muscular build, albeit not quite as lean as Daniel’s. He wore a tan jacket and vest over his collared shirt, with a pair of denim pants.

In short, he looked like your typical Yellowstone tourist, not the leader of a secret pack of monsters.

“I’m Joshua,” he introduced himself, holding out a hand.

At a loss over what else to do, I shook it. Part of me wanted to run screaming out the door, and the other part wanted to burst into tears. Surprisingly, this myriad of emotions left me feeling slightly numb, like I was running on auto-pilot.

“Marlee.”

Joshua sat on the edge of the bed. His posture was casual, but there was nothing relaxed in his gaze. He looked me over as if I were a potentially-contagious virus. I fought not to hold my breath.

“What happened yesterday was very unfortunate,” Joshua began.

“Yesterday?” I couldn’t help but exclaim, glancing at the window. It was nearly dusk. I’d thought it was the same day as the attack.

“Yesterday,” Joshua repeated, giving me a frown that said he wasn’t used to being interrupted. “A member of our pack was…distraught over his wife’s death. He and a few others began hunting you. You were lucky Daniel found them when he did, but you’d been bitten, so we couldn’t drop you off at the nearest hospital. You haven’t heard of our kind before, Marlee, and there’s a reason. We do whatever’s necessary to protect the secrecy of our existence.”

We’ll kill for it was left unsaid, but I heard that loud and clear in the subtext. I nodded, striving to hold onto my numbness. Hysteria wouldn’t help me, no matter how tempting it was to give in to that.

“A person has to be bitten several times to be at risk of transforming, and half the people who’ve been bitten still don’t turn,” Joshua went on briskly. “We won’t know whether you’ll turn into one of us until the next full moon, two weeks away.”

Two weeks? It would take that long for me to find out whether or not I’d become a monster? I’d go insane wondering until then. And if it did happen…well, suicide didn’t sound like a bad idea all the sudden.

“What happens if after the full moon, I’m not…ah…like the rest of you?” I couldn’t bring myself to say a werewolf. I just couldn’t.

Joshua gave me a thin smile. “That depends on you. Either you stay with us, as a member of the skinwalker part of our pack, or…”

He shrugged. That single gesture completed his sentence in the most chilling way. Or we kill you. 

One way or the other, I was screwed.

 

Chapter Three  

“Hungry?”

I sat in the chair, my broken ankle finally in a cast, and glared at Daniel before replying.

“Somewhere between the death threats and the thought of turning into a four-legged monster, I lost my appetite.”

Part of me wondered why I dared to be so surly to him. The other part figured I was as good as dead anyway, so it didn’t matter.

Daniel grunted. “Suit yourself, but I’m getting something.”

He stood, stretched, and then held out a hand. I just stared at it.

“What?”

“You’re coming with me,” he replied. “Who knows what kind of trouble you’d stir up if I left you alone?”

“And I suppose you’ll just drag me along anyway if I refuse?”

A smile quirked his mouth that I would’ve found charming, under other circumstances. “You learn fast, don’t you?”

I gave Daniel another withering look that didn’t seem to faze him. He was extremely handsome, in an outdoorsy-type of way. His hair was chin length and russet, and he had a faint weathering to his features that spoke of long days outside. Daniel only looked a couple years older than me, which would put him at about thirty, but there was an air of command about him that made him seem older. None of the lawyers at my office had managed to pull off such a dominating presence, in fact.

But I wasn’t about to let him know how much he intimidated me. Wasn’t there a saying that showing fear in front of an animal made it more aggressive? That sounded familiar, so I had to play things off as if I wasn’t as terrified as I was. Maybe chutzpah would work.

“So, you’re the group’s babysitter, is that it?”

He smiled at my challenging tone. “I’m the pack’s enforcer, so it’s my job to make sure anyone who’s a danger to us – like you – doesn’t get away. And I’m very good at my job, Marlee.”

At over six feet tall with muscles bulging from every limb, yeah, Daniel looked like he did a very good job of enforcing. He’d scare anyone with half a brain.

“What are you going to do with me for the next two weeks? You can’t just keep me tied to your hip.” I didn’t even want to think about after that, or what might happen on the full moon.

He rubbed a knuckle under his chin as he considered me. “With your limp, you wouldn’t get far even if you did manage to slip away from me – which you wouldn’t. So, let’s get some dinner, then you can wash up and begin plotting ways to outsmart us dumb animals.”

Daniel said that last part with an arch look that let me know he was both aware of my aversion to what they were and of my dreams of escape. I glanced away, gritting my teeth. I had to be a lot better at fooling them if I had any hope of escaping.

“Didn’t you say you were hungry?” I replied, to change the subect.

He held out his hand to me again. “Come on. Let’s eat.”

*** 

I had to take Daniel’s arm to avoid hopping on one leg to the dining lodge. They didn’t give me any crutches, which I supposed was deliberate so as to keep me at a disadvantage. As I got my first real look at where I was, I was surprised to see that it resembled some sort of tiny Wild West town, of all things. A narrow strip of street ran down between the twin rows of shops, lodgings, and…were those saloons? It was so surreal, as if I’d been transported back in time. I half expected someone to gallop by on horseback, shooting at the moon.

“What is this place?” I asked.

Daniel let out an amused grunt. “Not what you were expecting, right? Let me guess. You thought we’d live in a big den in the woods?”

From his tone and expression, he was teasing, but I wasn’t trying to make friends with my kidnapper.

“The 1800’s called. They want their Tombstone replica back,” I replied. Two could play at being a smart ass.

I was using his arm as a sort of brace, but Daniel managed to keep perfect pace with me. His reflexes were so fast, he counter-balanced my every step, so I almost walked at my normal speed.

“You’re not far off,” he said, ignoring my sarcasm. “This was an old mining town back in the nineteenth century. It was empty for decades after the silver dried up, but then some of my relatives bought it and the surrounding land. We restored many of the original buildings and cabins, plus added upgrades. Now, we rent it out seasonally as a private resort area.”

That brought me to a stop. “Werewolves are running a resort town?” I asked incredulously.

He shrugged. “We have to make a living, just like everyone else.”

This was like being in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

As we walked, we passed several people on our way down the street. I was surprised at how normal they looked. There were men and women of varying ages, plus a couple children, and everyone appeared to be minding their own business – aside from all the sideways glances I was getting.

“Are all of them like you?” I asked, keeping my voice calm. My heart had started to pound, however, and if the movies were right, they could hear it. There were so many of them. How would I ever get away? 

“Most of them,” Daniel said. “The others are skinwalkers – normal people, to you. But you don’t have to be afraid of anyone, Marlee. We’re not what you think we are.”

“I’ve already had some of your group try to kill me, and you and Joshua seem pretty open about how you’ll finish the job,” I replied shortly. “So you’ll excuse me if I don’t buy the whole ‘we’re misunderstood’ speech.”

Something flashed in Daniel’s hazel eyes. It made me back up a step, but his hand shot out and gripped my arm.

“Why’d you bring that gun camping with you?” he asked, his voice soft. “You brought it for protection, right? Because if anyone tried to hurt you, you’d hurt them, right? Well, now imagine if someone’s trying to hurt your entire family. How far would you go to stop them?”

Daniel leaned in, tightening his grip so I couldn’t pull back. “I’d do anything to stop that,” he whispered near my ear. “Including holding you hostage. If you got away, you’d tell people about us. People who would come to hurt and kill my family. So, I might not like it sometimes, but I am ruthless when it comes to protecting my pack. And don’t pretend you wouldn’t be the same way, if the shoe were on the other foot.”

That gleam of wildness was in his eyes again. The otherness that reminded me that an animal lurked inside him. I shivered.

“Let go of me.”

He did, dropping my arm only to hold his out again. “We’re almost there,” he said, nodding at the square building to the left.

I balanced on his arm again. We didn’t speak as we walked the rest of the way to the dining lodge.

*** 

It looked like any normal, rustic restaurant inside, if a little more upscale. Instead of smaller tables scattered throughout, there were several long tables arranged in the room, each seating over a dozen. The food seemed to be served family-style, with large dishes placed in the middle of the tables from which everyone took their servings. There was a moment of quiet as Daniel and I walked in.

“This is Marlee,” Daniel said to the room at large. “She’s joining us.”

I didn’t know if he meant for dinner, as a possible new werewolf, or some other cryptic thing. I didn’t argue, though. Not with dozens of pairs of inhumanly sharp eyes focused on me. Now I knew how a piece of meat felt when it was dangled above a crocodile pit.

“Hi,” I said. God, that sounded stupid, but what else was I supposed to say? Somebody call 911 sounded tempting, but I didn’t think it would do any good.

An older woman bustled up to me, smiling. “Welcome, dear! Aren’t you pretty? Such beautiful brown hair.”

I just wanted to sit, hide, and plot my escape, not exchange pleasantries with Mrs. Butterworth’s version of a werewolf.

“Um, thanks.” That was the best I could come up with, and yes, it was pathetic.

“Let’s set you up over here, it’s quieter,” she said, leading Daniel and I to a table that only had four other people at it.

“Thanks, Mom,” Daniel replied.

I stopped so fast, I almost staggered. “Mom?

A grin edged his mouth. “Everyone has one, after all.”

“Quit teasing Marlee, she looks starved,” his mother said to Daniel, holding out a chair for me. “We have some excellent venison stew for dinner tonight. That should help put the color back in your face.”

I sat at the table, avoiding eye contact with the other four people, though I did notice one was a female. Daniel sat next to me, that challenging little half-smile still on his face.

“Not what you expected again?” he asked.

I glanced around the room once more. People were laughing, eating, and chatting. Sure, I kept getting discreet looks, but no one was licking their chops in a menacing way at me. Maybe I’d imagined the types of looks I was getting before, because now, it all seemed terribly…civilized.

“No,” I replied, and left it at that. These people might appear to be nice, but they were my kidnappers. My executioners, if I refused to become one of their group. All the table manners in the world couldn’t make up for that.

“Daniel,” someone at the table said. “Introduce me.”

I glanced up, meeting a pair of blue eyes on a smiling face. Black hair hung past his shoulders, untamed and playful, like his expression.

“Finn.” There was a hint of a growl in Daniel’s voice that hadn’t been there before. “This is Marlee. Marlee, my younger brother, Finn.”

Again I was surprised at the family connection, though I shouldn’t have been. Why wouldn’t all of their kind congregate together? Isn’t that what normal wolves did?

“Hi,” I said in the same non-committal tone I’d used before.

“Charmed,” Finn replied, grin widening.

“Cut her a break, she’s had a bad day,” the girl next to him muttered before giving me a sympathetic glance. “I’m Laurel, Daniel’s cousin. Sorry about what happened to you.”

“Which part?” I couldn’t help but ask. 

She sighed, her gaze sympathetic. “All of it.”

There was no stopping my snort. “Yeah. Me, too.”

Daniel cleared his throat. I returned my gaze to the table in front of me, tracing its edge. It’ll be another day or so before people even realize something’s happened to me. How long after that before Brandy or my parents organize a search, if there is one? How many days will go by before they give me up for dead? How am I supposed to just sit here, surrounded by werewolves, and pretend nothing is wrong? 

I would never see any of them again. Eventually, my parents would bury an empty casket. I’d never be able to tell them I loved them, hear their voice again… I may as well have been killed in that attack yesterday. With that realization, a tear slid down my cheek. I sucked in my breath, trying to hold back the pain, the grief, but that only made it worse. Another one came down. Then another. I bent my head, hoping my hair would hide it, when a warm hand landed on my shoulder.

“Laurel, have the food sent to my cabin,” Daniel said, then he scooped me up before I could even protest. We were out of the dining lodge and down the street in the next few heartbeats.

“God, you’re so fast,” I gasped in astonishment. Fresh tears spurted. How could I ever get away, if he moved this fast and there was a town full of more creatures like him?

“You’re going to be okay, Marlee,” he said.

No, I wasn’t. I was trapped in a strange place surrounded by creatures that weren’t supposed to exist. My old life might not have been all champagne and roses, but no one had the right to rip me away from it without my consent. The enormity of what I’d lost between yesterday and today slammed into me. I didn’t care anymore that the tears wouldn’t stop, or that I started hitting Daniel. My grief was too sharp to worry about embarrassment or consequences.

 

Chapter Four  

Wolves were chasing me, biting at my ankles, snarling as they crowded around me, letting out howls that made my blood turn to ice. I ran, twigs stinging me as I darted between the trees, gasping for breath, crying out with each new flash of pain in my legs. They were toying with me. My death was only a matter of time. 

The full moon came into view between the trees, illuminating more wolves in my path. I screamed at them, but it came out as a howl. Horrified, I looked down to see that my feet had turned into paws. Fur slithered up my body, replacing my skin. I fell forward, claws shooting out of my fingers… 

“NO!”

I woke up screaming the word, flinging the sheets away like they were animals attacking me. It took me a second to orient myself. Wood ceiling, wood walls, an antler chandelier above me. Right. I was in Daniel’s cabin. All the better to make sure I couldn’t escape.

He sat in the reclining chair on the opposite side of the room, eyes slitted. Watching me. He’d slept in the chair last night. I guess I should appreciate him giving me the bed, but my gratitude was in short supply.

“Another nightmare?” he asked quietly.

I’d had them all night. Either I was getting eaten by wolves, or I was turning into one. Terrifying no matter which way you sliced it.

Daniel stretched. The afghan he’d thrown over himself slipped, revealing that he’d taken off his shirt. Cords of muscles flexed beneath taut, tanned skin.

Despite everything, I looked. I’d never seen such a perfectly muscled body before – at least, one that wasn’t on TV advertising gym equipment. Daniel didn’t have the bloated look associated with steroid users, but he had a thick, brawny frame that usually spoke of many hours in a gym. Absurdly, the image of a werewolf bench-pressing flashed in my mind.

I glanced up to find Daniel staring at me. He didn’t wink or make a comment, but there was no doubt he knew I’d been staring at his body.

I managed to shrug. “Stockholm syndrome,” I said. “The whole ‘bonding with your captor’ thing. I’ve already cried in your arms, now I’m checking you out. Just ignore it. Of course, I can’t be your first captive, so you’re probably used to this.”

A faint smile touched his mouth. “You’re the first female I’ve had to quarantine, and none of the men looked at me the way you did.”

There was something deeper in his voice with that last sentence. I shivered, both from unease and other things. Yes, Daniel was very attractive with his dark russet hair, thick brows, full mouth, and piercing hazel eyes – not to mention that body. But this wasn’t a first date. This was a hostage situation, and a macabre one at that.

“Don’t let it go to your head. I’m scared to death and looking for any form of comfort,” I said, regaining control of my wayward emotions. “Speaking of that, since a certain murderous gray wolf keeps appearing in my nightmares, I need to know. What happened to Gabriel?”

Daniel’s face became shuttered. “He’s under arrest. If you shift, he dies for infecting you against your will. If you don’t turn, Joshua said Gabriel losing his eye was punishment enough. Joshua had liquid silver poured into Gabriel’s eye so it wouldn’t heal.”

Their harshness apparently wasn’t limited just to outsiders. I felt mildly sick over what I’d heard, but under the circumstances, pity for Gabriel was beyond me.

“And the others?” Gabriel hadn’t been alone when he’d ambushed me.

“They run the gauntlet.”

Daniel said it lightly, but I swallowed. “As in, the thing Native Indians used to do with captives, where they line up on both sides and beat the shit out of the person as he tries to dash down the center?”

That hint of wildness was back in Daniel’s gaze again, a primal, untamed gleam I’d never seen except in the eyes of an animal. On a full-grown man, it both was mesmerizing and frightening.

“Something like that. Except we’ll be in our fur, and they won’t be.”

I couldn’t help but gulp. That sounded barbaric, and it was on my account. As I pushed back the graphic images my mind supplied, something else occurred to me.

“But it isn’t the full moon. How can you…you know?” In fact, how had any of the werewolves changed form the other day, if I had to wait until the full moon to see if I was infected?

Daniel translated what I couldn’t say out loud. “Once we’re past the first year, we can shift at will. New pack members are dependent on the full moon to change, though.”

I digested this. “So, right now, you could turn into a –”

“Wolf,” he finished for me, his slow smile doing nothing to detract from the new intensity in his gaze. “Yes.”

So many emotions crashed through me. Fear. Revulsion. Curiosity. Disbelief. What if all of this was a twisted farce, and I hadn’t seen what I’d thought was a wolf turning into a man in the woods? What if this was just a town full of crazies who thought they were wolves, and in my stress, I’d bought into that?

“Show me,” I said.

***

 

Again, hope you enjoyed! Please check back on Saturday, April 18th for Part B and the remainder of Pack.

Whatcha watchin’?

I’ve been humming along writing The Sweetest Burn, book two in the Broken Destiny series, so I don’t have much to blog about that wouldn’t be a rephrasing of “I wrote words!” And really, how interesting is that to say in several different ways, let alone one? :) I will have some scene snippets from The Sweetest Burn for you soon, however. I enjoy posting little glimpses of my works-in-progress and I hope you enjoy reading them.

Because I don’t have much going on aside from work, let’s talk about TV. One of my favorite pastimes aside from reading is to unwind on the couch while watching TV. As an aside, I usually fall asleep to an episode of World’s Dumbest. No matter what boneheaded thing I might have done in the day, watching that show allows me to feel intellectually superior, at least for 45 minutes ;). But what I’m really excited about is the return of Outlander to the Starz channel tonight.  I first read the book, Outlander, over twenty years ago, and it was my gateway drug to first-person narrative. It also made me a lifelong fan of Jamie and Claire, so you can imagine my happiness when I heard that the series was picked up by Starz. The fact that the series is (thus far) staying close to the book, plus it’s extremely well-acted, and Sam Heughan looks almost identical to how I pictured Jamie in my mind, is just the icing on the cake.

If you haven’t checked out the Outlander series, I could not recommend the books enough. If you haven’t checked out the TV series yet, same deal. Here’s a trailer, for a teaser:

Another show I recently started watching that I’m really enjoying is iZombie. It debuted on the CW network March 13th and there are currently three episodes out. This show manages to be quirky, darkly comedic and warmhearted, all at the same time. The heroine finds herself unexpectedly undead, and navigating all the crazy consequences of that while still trying to live a “normal” life reminded me of a blend between the former TV show Dead Like Me and the movie Warm Bodies. To see what I mean, here’s the trailer below.

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So, what TV show did you newly discover, or what show are you looking forward to starting up again?

Topic potpourri

As the subject line states, I have no central theme for today’s post. Just different items. First up, I’ve added one more appearance to my 2015 schedule. I will now be attending the Romance Writers of America (RWA) convention in New York, NY from July 22nd through July 25th, at the New York Marriott Marquis. I don’t have a specific schedule yet, but once I do, I’ll post it. Right now, all I know is that I’ll be at the mass signing (open to the public) on July 22nd. If you’re attending RWA, hope to see you there.

Loki Jan 2015Yesterday, I found out that my youngest dog, Loki, will need to get double-knee surgery on his hind legs to repair his knees. How does a dog who’s just turning 3 end up with bad knees, you wonder? Apparently it’s a birth defect where the “grooves” that are supposed to hold his knee caps in place are smooth instead of grooved, so his kneecaps have a tendency to slip out of their socket. I feel guilty because we had no idea that there was a problem until a few days ago, when we saw Loki periodically hold up his back right leg when he walked. On the plus side, Loki is so young that his runaway kneecaps haven’t caused any arthritis or tendon shredding, so there’s no permanent damage. I, as a worried dog mommy, will be a bundle of nerves as we await confirmation from a specialist and then go about scheduling the first of his two surgeries. Poor little guy, he has no idea that he has some rough roads ahead until this can get fixed. Here he is in January, guarding the stuffing from the toy he’d just de-fluffed.

J and J at ApollyConIn totally random news, I need to get a new, “official” author photo. The one I had been using was from 2011, when my hair was longer and I’d gone with blond highlights. Now, my hair is shorter and auburn, as evidenced from the photo to the left from last month, when my sister and I dressed up in our Greek-themed costumes for ApollyCon. I think I’ll stick with shorter and auburn for a while, or until I grow bored, whichever comes first. I’ve bounced back and forth between light brown (my natural color), red, auburn and blondish for the past twenty years and I see no reason to stop now. I might be too chicken by the permanence of a tattoo to get one of those, but I can play with my hair color when I want to change things up a bit. The only color I haven’t tried is black. I’m so pale, people would think I was going for a goth look to match my vampire novels, and I already get that from all the black clothes I wear when in reality, that’s just laziness. Black goes with everything, so that’s why it’s a main staple in my wardrobe.

Finally, if you didn’t see my post last week, I announced that the next character in my vampire series to get his own novel with be Ian. I also opened the floor to guessing who the heroine would be. If you more details, including hints as to the heroine’s identity, then go here.

That’s it for me :). Hope you’re having a nice weekend, and hope you have good week next week!

Thanks, and about that bribe…

Thanks to everyone who voted for Up From The Grave in the DABWAHA competition! Our bracket had a record turnout, however, Up From The Grave did not advance. Still, it was really cool to have it in the contest at all, let alone to have it make it past the first round. Plus, I loved the book that did advance (Magic Breaks) and it was written by my bestie, Ilona Andrews, so I am very happy for her. If you’re following DABWAHA (and it’s a great way to get reading recommendations) be sure to vote for Magic Breaks and Burn For Me in the coming brackets! If you haven’t read them, I highly recommend both because Ilona’s books are as fabulous as she is :).

Some of you might be wondering, what about that bribe you offered if you won? Since you didn’t, are you not going to write an Ian book now? *grin* As I mentioned, Ilona’s one of my BFF’s, so when she Tweeted this during our fake Twitter fight, she was right:

 

After I finish the Night Prince series, the next front runner for  a vampire book is Ian. As many of you know, I’ve said for years that Ian is moving closer to his own book, and if I didn’t already have a story in mind for him, I wouldn’t have offered his book as a bribe. However, as mentioned, I still have to finish the Night Prince series (one more book), plus the Broken Destiny series (two more books) so, an Ian book is still a little ways off. You will see him pop up in the final Night Prince book as a side character, though, and having Vlad and Ian interact together should be a lot of fun to write.

Before you ask, I’m not revealing who the heroine is for Ian’s future book yet. To give you a hint, she has appeared in the Night Huntress series before. That’s all you’re getting out of me at the moment, so you are welcome to take your best guess, but I will neither confirm nor deny any of them yet ;).

That’s it from me. Thanks again, happy speculating, and hope you’re enjoying your Sunday!

My DABWAHA bribe

ETA: Today is the day! Vote for Up From The Grave here on March 21st between noon and midnight only, Eastern Daylight Time.

For your amusement, I have copied and pasted the Twitter “fight” that Ilona Andrews and I had last night, whereupon we used our rapier wits (heh!) to insult each other’s books, all to vie for your votes. For the full reason (with Ian book bribe included!) on why I think I should win instead of Ilona, read below the Tweet fight :).

***

 

***

In case you haven’t heard of it, DABWAHA is a fun book competition run by Dear Author and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books every March to coincide with March Madness. In similar style, books are paired off against each other, with the winner advancing to the next bracket, and so on, until there is only one. I have a special place in my heart for the Smart Bitches blog because many years ago, they gave me the very first book review I ever received on Halfway To The Grave. So, you can imagine how flattered I was to see my final Cat and Bones novel, Up From The Grave, make it into the DABWAHA competition this year. It’s like the universe was closing a circle somewhere.

Up From The Grave made it through the first round on DABWAHA. On March 21st from Noon to Midnight (EDT) only, the polls will be open to see if it advances again. However, it’s up against a very excellent novel by my longtime friend, author Ilona Andrews. I, of course, upon seeing this, decided that I couldn’t possibly ask my readers to help me defeat a novel by one of my BFF’s…..wait, what did Ilona post on her blog?

Oh no she didn’t! 

Ilona was offering a bribe to her readers to crush my book? All right, then! *takes off gloves* It’s ON, bey-otch! :)

So, what bribe shall I offer you to entice you into voting for Up From The Grave at this link TODAY, March 21st, from noon to midnight? Hmmm, what about….if it beats my now-former BFF’s book, then…

The next vampire spinoff novel I write will feature Ian as the hero.

That’s right, Ian lovers, he can be all yours, if you help me show my vote-hungry friend that she might have started this with the bribes, but I will finish it! *insert “Spartans, prepare for glory!” war cry here*

So, readers, if you’re Team Ian, vote for Up From The Grave on March 21st between noon and midnight EDT. Then, spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, whatever. We only have a 12 hour window to make this happen.

Besides, Ilona has another novel in this year’s DABWAHA competition anyway ;).

 

 

Disclaimer: This bribe-off and all corresponding smack talk is purely in jest. Ilona is my BFF and always will be :).

UK sale and what I am/have been reading

Guess what, UK readers? Remember all those times I’ve posted about US ebook sales and you’ve bemoaned the fact that the sale wasn’t honored overseas? Well, this one is just for you! From now until the first week of April, Amazon UK has the ebook edition of The Beautiful Ashes, Broken Destiny book one, as a Kindle Monthly deal, so you can pick it up for only $.99US readers, so far Amazon hasn’t matched the deal, but they did lower the ebook price to $4.99, so if you haven’t started Ivy and Adrian’s story yet, it’s available now at a reduced price.

Speaking of Ivy and Adrian’s story, I’m cruising along writing the second book, The Sweetest Burn, which will release around the end of the year. If you missed my earlier post about it, I have the description available here.

On one of my other recent posts, I blogged about a book I’d blurbed, and a few of you asked me to compile a list of all the books I’d given official quotes on. I really like this suggestion, but it’s going to take a little time since I’m going back over a 7+ year period and I’m not the most organized person :). Plus, as mentioned, writing has been going well, so I’ve been giving that my full attention instead of digging through emails. In the meantime, please allow me to share some books I’ve recently enjoyed. Let’s start with what I’m reading now:

Rock HardROCK HARD by Nalini Singh

In New York Times Bestselling author Nalini Singh’s newest contemporary romance, passion ignites between a gorgeous, sinfully sexy man who built himself up from nothing and a shy woman who has a terrible secret in her past…

Wealthy businessman Gabriel Bishop rules the boardroom with the same determination and ruthlessness that made him a rock star on the rugby field. He knows what he wants, and he’ll go after it no-holds-barred. And what he wants is Charlotte Baird.

Charlotte knows she’s a mouse. Emotionally scarred and painfully shy, she just wants to do her job and remain as invisible as possible. But the new CEO—a brilliant, broad-shouldered T-Rex of a man who growls and storms through the office, leaving carnage in his wake—clearly has other plans. Plans that may be equal parts business and bedroom. If Charlotte intends to survive this battle of wits and hearts, the mouse will have to learn to wrangle the T-Rex. Game on.

My take: I’m reading this now and I love it! In fact, I was tired when I first picked it up, but I was soon so engaged in the story and characters that I kept reading until my vision became so blurry that the words were too fuzzy for me to go on. I have work and family today, but tomorrow, I have a date to finish this novel and I can’t wait.

 

beguile a beastTo Beguile A Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt

CAN A WOUNDED BEAST . . .

Reclusive Sir Alistair Munroe has hidden in his castle ever since returning from the Colonies, scarred inside and out. But when a mysterious beauty arrives at his door, the passions he’s kept suppressed for years begin to awaken.

TRUST A BEAUTY WITH A PAST . . .

Running from past mistakes has taken legendary beauty Helen Fitzwilliam from the luxury of the ton to a crumbling Scottish castle . . . and a job as a housekeeper. Yet Helen is determined to start a new life and she won’t let dust-or a beast of a man-scare her away.

TO TAME HIS MOST SECRET DESIRES?

Beneath Helen’s beautiful façade, Alistair finds a courageous and sensual woman. A woman who doesn’t back away from his surliness-or his scars. But just as he begins to believe in true love, Helen’s secret past threatens to tear them apart. Now both Beast and Beauty must fight for the one thing neither believed they could find-a happy ever after.

My Take: Such a great romance with a Beauty and the Best twist! While sexy and totally alpha, the hero definitely isn’t your cookie-cutter type: his face is heavily scarred and he wears an eye patch over his missing eye. The heroine also bucks tradition by being a former-mistress-turned-single-mother on the run. Watching them fall in love while healing themselves inside and out was a heartfelt, delightful treat.

 

FrozenFrozen by Meljean Brook

A paranormal romance novella

For a year and a half, Olivia Martin has tried to forget Erik Gulbrandr, the glacial man who’d scorched her mouth with a single kiss. But when Olivia finds herself snowbound with Erik on the winter solstice, she discovers that the man who set her body aflame is cursed by abominable needs — and a desire that might destroy them both…

My Take: Just because my first two books were contemporary and historical, you didn’t think I’d stopped reading paranormals, did you? :) Of course not! This paranormal element featured a twist on the Norse Frost Giant mythology that I found inventive and interesting. I’m also not usually a fan of novellas versus novels, but I really liked this one and didn’t feel cheated at all by its shorter length. If you’re a fan of Meljean Brooks, you won’t want to miss this. If you’re new to her, this novella is a great way to sample her excellent storytelling skills.

That’s it on my end for now. Wishing all of you very happy reading!

My “Dear Me” letter

Note: This post has nothing to do with books, appearances or publishing news, so skip if you only want professional updates.

I saw on the news that a Twitter hastag has been going around called #DearMe, where women are encouraged to Tweet advice to – you guessed it – their former, teen selves. I started thinking about what I would say to Teen Jeaniene, if a wormhole in time opened up and I had the chance, and I quickly realized that the list would be too long for Twitter. Every so often, I talk about personal things on my blog. Many of you have said that you enjoyed getting a glimpse into the person behind the books, so I thought I’d write out the things that I wish I could tell my young, teenage self, especially during some of the most difficult times. So, here goes. For illustration, I dug up some pictures of me from age thirteen through seventeen. These were taken Before Digital Era (yes, such a time did exist :)) so I had to line them up and then scan them in order to post them. As you can see, these could also be called the Perm Years. Thankfully, I grew out of that phase, too.

teen yearsDear Me:

First off, it’s going to be okay. I know it doesn’t feel like that some days, but it will. Even better, the things that make you so upset and angry now are going to fade into memories where the hurt becomes shadows instead of sledgehammers. Some things, you’re even going to laugh over. That sounds impossible now, but believe me, it will happen. You won’t laugh over everything later, but the things that hurt the worst will be the tools that shape you into someone stronger. Even the ones that don’t make you stronger have a purpose because they’ll make you able to empathize with others, whether their struggles were similar or different. Pain is pain, after all, in whatever form it takes.

One of my first pieces of advice is to please, stop making yourself throw up. You’re only chasing an illusion and a lie. People who are thin, pretty and popular are not automatically happier. They’re dealing with their own problems, and their “everything is great” attitude is as much of a camouflage as you running the water in the bathroom so that no one hears you purge. You will never be happy until you realize that happiness has NOTHING TO DO with outward appearances. Stop punishing yourself for not being the size that you think you should be, or for not having as many friends as you’re “supposed” to have, or any of the other things you feel like you’ve failed over. None of them are a magic ticket to a better life, and the awful things you tell yourself as you’re bent over that toilet bowl are shredding your soul. You are worth immeasurably more than other people’s opinions. You just don’t know it yet.

Speaking of that, you don’t need to get drunk at parties. You don’t even like the taste of beer, wine or shots, and they make you sick, anyway. Plus, you’re doing it for the same reason that you’re bulimic: you’re trying to be someone you’re not in order to fit in. Guess what – so are most of the people around you. In fact, it will take all of your twenties to get over who you pretended to be in your teens, and when you finally realize who you actually are, you’re going to be okay with that. You’ll even wonder why you wasted so much time, energy and pain on trying to be anyone else, because you won’t even be able to remember the names of the people you were so concerned about fitting in with back then.

wedding photoThat brings us to the guy you’ve off-and-on dated. He isn’t The One. In fact, he’s going to cheat on you with one of your best friends, and you’re just lucky you didn’t get caught when you keyed his car for it. Even his cheating will turn out okay, though, because afterward, you’re going to go out with one of his best friends just to piss him off, and guess what? That guy is The One. You’re even going to marry him at nineteen, watch your friends and his make bets on how fast you two will divorce, and laugh about it over twenty-two years later as you celebrate your latest anniversary together.

Know what else you’re not going to believe? That faith will see you through every rough road as well as every smooth one. I know; you don’t believe in God, and even if you thought He did exist, you’d expect Him to be chasing you with a lightning bolt in one hand and a list of everything you’ve done wrong in the other. Well, you’re partially right. He is chasing you, only He’s doing it with open arms and more love than you can imagine because He’s already forgiven everything you’ve ever done as well as everything you will ever do. All He wants is for you to turn around and see Him so that you’ll know that. One day, you will, then faith will give you the strength to stop basing your self-worth on what other people think. It’ll give you courage, too, and with that courage, you’ll chase your dream of being an author even though you’ve never gone to college, never took a single writing class, and generally have no idea what you’re doing. If I told you how blessed your career turns out to be, you won’t even believe me. It’s okay. I didn’t believe it at first, either. In fact, I still insist that my editor sends me copies of bestseller lists whenever my books are on them, because until I see it with my own eyes, it still seems too incredible to be real.

So, Teen Jeaniene, don’t give up. You’ll make it through, and more importantly, you’ll be okay. Here’s a hug from across the years. After you’re done with it, pass it on to the people around you. They need it, too.

Oh, one final piece of advice: Stop sunning yourself topless on your roof. Yes, it gets rid of tan lines, but the neighbors can totally see you.

Broken Destiny book two news & Apollycon!

Many of you have been asking me about the next novel in the Broken Destiny series featuring Ivy and Adrian. I’ve been mum on the subject because (1) Bound By Flames’s recent release has taken center stage, and (2) my publisher and I were still working out some details, but now I have some news to share. First up, it has a title! The next novel in the Broken Destiny series will be called…

THE SWEETEST BURN

And there’s more! I also have the back cover copy to share with you, so here it is below:

The breathtaking second novel in New York Times bestselling author Jeaniene Frost’s Broken Destiny series finds Ivy and Adrian rekindling their alliance – and passion – as the struggle for the fate of the world begins . . .

Conquering a supernatural realm turned out to be easier than getting over a broken heart. But her initial victory has made Ivy a target for revenge, forcing her to reunite with the dangerous – and dangerously sexy – Adrian. Ivy isn’t sure which will be harder: finding the hallowed weapon that will repair the crumbling walls between demon and human realms, or resisting Adrian, who’s decided that come hell or high water, he will make Ivy his.
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At first, Adrian tried to resist his feelings for Ivy. Now, determined to break the curse that dooms their love, he’s vowed to save her and to have her. If only he can persuade her to forgive his past sins.  But defying destiny—and surrendering to the smoldering desire between them —will bring consequences and sacrifices they never imagined…
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The Sweetest Burn will release around the end of this year. No pre-order links yet, but once I have those and a firm date, I will let everyone know. Same deal with the cover. I already had the very difficult task of deciding between four equally hot men to determine which one of them would be on the cover. Yes, it’s a dirty job, but someone had to do it *wink*.

If you haven’t read The Beautiful Ashes, book one in the Broken Destiny series, it is available now in ebook, paperback, and audio. Speaking of the paperback version, it originally released in Trade (the bigger-sized version of a paperback), but the mass market paperback will release in September. To celebrate the mass market edition’s release, The Beautiful Ashes is getting a hot new cover and a updated description that’s more in line with the tone/content of the book. Some readers confused the NA (New Adult) designation with YA (Young Adult) and thus erroneously thought that this was a “children’s” series. Um, NO. New Adult means that there is definite adult content and it is not intended for young readers, so the new cover / description will (hopefully) make that abundantly apparent. Once I’m allowed to post the updated cover and description, I will.

Apollycon_banner_pngNext up is Apollycon! If you’re in the Philadelphia, PA area on Saturday the 28th, come on out. Even if you missed your chance to get a ticket to the VIR or Party event, there are still a few tickets left for the signing, and the signing is free. ApollyCon is a multi-author event, and check out the lineup of authors that will be there! Jennifer L. Armentrout , Mary Ting , Tiffany King , Kristen Proby , Mary Lindsey , Susan Dennard , Sophie Jordan , Katie McGarry , Chelsea M. Cameron , Page Morgan , Cora Carmack , Jay Crownover , Kristi Cook , Amalie Howard , Rachel Harris , Wendy Higgins , Jeaniene Frost , Laura Kaye , Sarah J. Maas , Jamie McGuire , Megan Erickson , Rachel Hollis , Ann Marie Frohoff , Katee Robert ,Tessa Bailey , Jen McLaughlin , Alexandra Bracken , Tina Reber , Jamie Shaw , Riley Edgewood , Cristin Terrill and Elizabeth Briggs.

That’s all for me. Hope to see some of you at ApollyCon tomorrow!

Book rec: The Return

Calling all paranormal romance lovers: I have a new book recommendation for you! I first read The Return by Jennifer L. Armentrout a few months ago. How did I do that when its official release date was only yesterday? Well, one of the cool perks of being friendly with other authors is getting the occasional early look at an upcoming release. Do I shamelessly use this to try to get early looks on books that I want to read? Ah, YES (don’t judge me – you would, too! :))

Here is the cover and description for The Return, book one in the Titan series:

THE-RETURN_ARMENTROUT_Oct2014cover-300x450The Fates are cackling their bony asses off…

It’s been a year since Seth made the deal with the gods that pledged his life to them. And so far, the jobs they’ve given him have been violent and bloody–which is kind of all right with him. But now Apollo has something else in mind for Seth. He’s got to play protector while keeping his hands and fingers off, and for someone who really has a problem with restraint, this new assignment might be the most challenging yet.

Josie has no idea what this crazy hot guy’s deal might be, but it’s a good bet that his arrival means the new life she started after leaving home is about to be thrown into an Olympian-sized blender turned up to puree. Either Josie is going insane or a nightmare straight out of ancient myth is gunning for her.
But it might be the unlikely attraction simmering between her and the golden-eyed, secret-keeping Seth that may prove to be the most dangerous thing of all.

Because history has once again been flipped to repeat.

Order from: Amazon, B&N, iBooks, BooksAMillion, Powells, Downpour, Audible.com, or your favorite store.

The Return is a fun, sexy blend of modern times and Greek mythology. For all of my readers who’ve lamented the fact that I don’t write from the hero’s point of view, you’ll be pleased to know that this book features both the hero’s and the heroine’s pov. I loved The Return so much that I blurbed it, and what might not be commonly known is that I’m a stingy blurb-er (my editor and agent can attest to this, and it’s probably been the cause of a few at-work alcohol shots for them over the years.) To get an “official” endorsement from me, I don’t just have to really like a book, I have to loooove a book. When I finished The Return, I had that happy-from-a-great-book-glow, mixed with an impatience to read the next in the series, which is why I had this to say about it:

“Sizzling, forbidden romance and non-stop action make The Return an addictive read. Sign me up for the sequel – I am now officially a Seth-aholic.” Jeaniene Frost

But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say: “As Seth learns to restrain his violent instincts and Josie trains hers up, the romance and danger both escalate at a feverish pace. Armentrout dives deep into the psyches of both hero and heroine, deftly switching from one point of view to another, while creating a drum-tight sense of suspense and sexual tension from the first page to the last. This is a very promising start to the series.”

The Return is also currently rocking a 5-star review average on Amazon, so if you’re in the mood for something new to read, I highly recommend that you check it out.