RWA screencap recap

I got back from the RWA (Romance Writers of America) convention Monday afternoon, and since then, I’ve been busy catching up on laundry, emails, snail mails, work issues, and dishes. You know, the typical glamorous life of an author ;). On top of all this, my revision letter for The Sweetest Burn just landed, so I will be busy with that over the next couple weeks. Because of all this, I’m going to recap the fun I had a RWA from my Tweets about it, so here you go. As you can see, I still haven’t mastered the art of taking good selfies, so apologies for blurriness in the pics ;).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s it from me for now, but NEXT WEEK, I will be hosting a giveaway on my blog, so be sure to check back if you want to win free books :).

RWA, away!

The RWA conference is almost here, and I’m packing my bags to attend.

RWA

Romance Writers of America®
35th Annual Conference
New York Marriott Marquis
New York, New York
July 22–25, 2015
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If you are in the New York area, the Literacy signing is OPEN TO THE PUBLIC and free to attend, so you don’t need a convention ticket to see me and hundreds of other authors. If you are attending the convention, here is where you can find me. At each event, I will be signing books, giving away swag, and chatting with whoever stops by.
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Wednesday, July 22nd:
5:30pm – 7:30pm. RWA Literacy Autographing. Westside Ballroom.
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Thursday, July 23rd:

10:00 am – 11:00 am. Avon Publisher Book signing. Westside Ballroom 1&2.

Friday, July 24th:
10:00am – 11:00 am. Harlequin signing. Westside Ballroom 3 & 4.
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Now, I have a terrible memory, and I am even more terrible at putting faces to names, so if I’ve met you before and I don’t recognize you, please don’t be offended. I do that to my own extended family (“Hi, cousin Joe, nice to meet you! Wait, we’ve met several times before? Uh, then nice to meet you again…”)
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This bad memory combined with my inability to properly match faces to names has another, unfortunate side effect, especially since I know a lot of people through the internet and thus have rarely seen them in person. Result: I have hugged total strangers because I’ve confused them with acquaintances with similar names. This has happened so often, my agent joked that I should wear a tee shirt that says “I’m Hugging Who I THINK You Are.”
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So, if I don’t know you and I try to hug you, my apologies in advance ;).
Hope to see some of you next week at the convention!

 

Outtakes From The Grave

As I mentioned in a previous post, I finished writing The Sweetest Burn, book two in the Broken Destiny series, about two weeks ago. Then, I went on vacation, hence the silence on the blog. I’m back now, and on the move again with the RWA (Romance Writers of America) convention in New York next week.  Before I pack that suitcase, however, I wanted to give everyone a head’s up about a question that I get asked a lot: what happened to the deleted scenes from the Night Huntress books that you used to have on your website?

First, an explanation to those of you who don’t already know the story. The first four Night Huntress books were the first books I had ever written, and I never thought they’d be published because, well, I hadn’t even started trying to get published at that point. I wrote them for me, which meant that I took more page time to explore the characters through alternate scenarios, multiple side plots, additional backstory, additional love scenes, and increased personal revelations.

At some point while I was writing book four, my husband suggested that I should see if I could get the first novel published before I kept writing more in the same series. I agreed, albeit reluctantly because again, I didn’t expect that these books would sell. I’d always been told that writers never sell the first book they wrote, and since no publisher would start at the second, third, or fourth book in a series, I figured that writing these would be nothing more than an enjoyable learning experience. Still, pursuing publication would pacify my husband, so I began looking for a literary agent. This was back in 2004, and I knew nothing about publishing nor did I know anyone in the industry. The digital market didn’t exist at this point, so self-publishing wasn’t a viable option. My chances were limited to having a literary agent sign me so that a publisher might take a chance on me, or never being published at all.

I revised my first book many times while shopping for an agent, and it was during those years that I learned to be ruthless about paring my story down to only the scenes that kept the pacing taut and advanced the main plot. This meant that later, I ended up taking out a lot of material from the original versions of my second, third, and fourth novels. This wasn’t easy because I loved those versions, but to quote Stephen King, sometimes, you have to kill your darlings. However, I saved all that extra material instead of outright deleting it. Over the years, I posted a scene or two to show readers some of what didn’t make it into the published novels, and I was surprised and delighted when readers requested more. Last year, I posted a large, alternate “middle” version of Destined For An Early Grave, Night Huntress book four, and when I asked readers if they wanted to see more alternate versions, the answer was a resounding yes.

That’s why I decided to compile my deleted scenes and alternate versions into one single file, so that readers could see the full version of Cat and Bones’s story in addition to the official, published novels. This has been a big task. Because of my many revisions, I had several different versions of each of the first four novels spread out onto old disks, CD’s, emails, and/or backup files on my hard drive. For added complication, some of the files were password-protected, and in the decade-plus since I wrote them, I forgot what the passwords were. That meant I had to comb through over ten years of “sent” files on my email to see if I’d emailed the story to any friends for feedback (I had, thank God!) Then, once I had versions I could actually open, I read through everything to pull out only the best scenes and alternate versions. I also wanted to include commentary as to why a particular scene or version didn’t make it into the published books so that readers could get a glimpse into my thought process. After that, I’m going to send the entire compilation to be professionally proofread and copy-edited. Needless to say, in their original versions, there were grammatical errors galore.

The result will be Outtakes From The Grave, a sort of pseudo-companion anthology which will contain all of the deleted scenes I previously posted, plus lots of never-before-posted scenes and three alternate versions from sections of three different books, all with added commentary. I’m still not done compiling everything, and already, it’s well over a hundred thousand words, so it will be longer than the length of a regular novel. I expect it to take another month before I have everything compiled and laid out in linear series timeline, then it will be off to copyediting and proofreading. All in all, I expect to self-publish Outtakes From The Grave in ebook toward the end of this year.

Sorry for the delay on this, but I hope this explanation clears up why it’s taken so long. Thank you for your patience, and I hope that once Outtakes From The Grave is available, you will enjoy revisiting Cat, Bones, and the rest of the Night Huntress gang as much as I enjoyed writing about them :).

For clarification, all of these deleted scenes and alternate versions are from the first four books of the Night Huntress series only.

Somehow, it keeps coming back to the aliens

Saturday afternoon, I finished The Sweetest Burn, book two in the Broken Destiny series. I’ve said before that my two favorite words to write are “the end” even if I know that it really only means “take one” because there will be revisions. In fact, I already revised the first 100 pages of The Sweetest Burn while still writing the novel. Now that it’s turned in, I will do at least one more revision based on my editor’s recommendations, then at least one more based on the copy editor’s notes, and then I will have a final chance to tweak the book once again when I receive the page proofs. This is the normal process for every book, by the way, and I thank God for that because first drafts are full of suck. That’s kind of expected, or editors and copy editors wouldn’t have jobs to begin with. Last year at the Romantic Times convention, I had a first draft mistakenly released to the public via Arcs (advance reading copies) for The Beautiful Ashes, and it felt as embarrassing as if I’d gone out in public without my clothes on. Just like I wouldn’t choose to go around in public naked, I never want readers getting a hold of my books before the editing process has been completed again because all those edits? They’re like clothes for a book. You could go without them, but then ALL your flaws are hangin’ out there for the world to see ;).

What does this have to do with the aliens mentioned in the subject line, you might wonder? *grin* I’m getting to that. As you can imagine, finishing a book is a thrilling and exhausting process. And apparently, when my mind reaches that critical combination of thrilled/exhausted, it manifests aliens in my dreams. I seriously do not know why, but when I was close to finishing the first Night Prince book in 2011, this alien dream happened. And the day after I turned in The Sweetest Burn, my brain struck again with the aliens. In this dream, I had also just finished turning in The Sweetest Burn when I suddenly realized that I’d forgotten to add all the alien characters to it. Worse than that, without the alien characters, then I couldn’t add the intergalactic civil war subplot between battling alien factions that was so critical to the book, it would be the main plot of the final novel in the Broken Destiny series. I woke up from that dream still furious with myself for not remembering to add the aliens and alien war subplot. However, as anyone who’s read The Beautiful Ashes already knows, there are NO ALIENS in the Broken Destiny series. In fact, I’ve never written about aliens in my life, and I have no alien stories sitting around in my brain, either… or do I? *wink* In my dream, I had a whole list of characters, plots and subplots, so my subconscious clearly begs to differ. However, I didn’t write them down once I woke up, so now, most of it is gone from memory. Let’s see if it comes back when I’m done or almost done writing my next novel. If so, then I’ll take it as a sign from above to consider writing an alien book ;).

funny-pictures-cat-sees-ufo

Twitter bites

Only three more days until turn-in time for The Sweetest Burn, and as per usual, I will be writing up to the verylast minute. So, in lieu of actual content for this post, I’m copying my Tweets from the past week. After a long day writing, 140 characters is about all the mental prowess I have left in me, as you will soon see :).

If you want more of these inanities in real time, follow me on Twitter here.
Now *cracks knuckles* climax of the novel, here I come!

From a mouthful to a shovel-full

In one of my recent posts, I talked about the delicate balance while writing of not giving too much information on page because then it can be data-dumpy, and also not holding too much back because vagueness can breed confusion or lead to misunderstandings. My recent phone conversation with a fellow author sums up the problems of the latter to a T, I think ;).

Here is a paraphrased transcript:

Author friend: “I’ve finally gotten past my new book paralysis.”

Me: *thinking of how the scariest words I write are “Chapter One” and how stressful it is to come up with a decent beginning because it’s the foundation that the entire novel rests or falls on* “Great!”

Author friend: “I only wrote six hundred words the first day I started it, though.”

Me: *thinking of new building groundbreaking ceremonies where the builder throws the first shovel of dirt onto a construction site to signal the beginning of the project. “Hey, congrats! That’s the first shovel, right?”

Author friend *pauses, then laughs* “First shovel of crap? Okay, sure, that’s one way to look at it.”

Me: *stuttering in my haste to explain* “No, not crap! Of course I would never say that you wrote crap! I mean, I wouldn’t think it either, and…”

Author friend *dying laughing* “Really?”

Me:  *barely making sense in my haste to reassure* “I meant a construction analogy! You know, first shovel of dirt and… not that I think you write dirt, either-”

Author friend *still laughing hysterically* “I get it. I’m just having fun with you now.”

Me: *laughing now, too* “Oh, yeah, I am a wordsmith. Fear my eloquence!”

 

And that, everyone, is why I am so glad that (1) I have a chance to revise when I write, because I probably won’t get things right the first time, and (2) I have an editor, who will point out the mistakes that I didn’t get right the second time, either :).

Hope you’re having a good Monday!

Yes, it IS a big deal

Warning: I talk about incest and sexual assault in this post, as well as reveal some personal details that could easily be classified as “TMI.” Skip if these are trigger issues or if you’re only looking for professional book updates.

A while back, in response to an online discussion about rape, I posted a blog where I detailed how, at age 8, I was forced to watch incest followed by an attempted sexual assault. I am 41, happily married and in good mental health, yet this incident had a profound impact on me back then and some of that impact continues to this day.

When it happened, I was so young that I didn’t understand what I was witnessing, or the enormity of the assault that my neighbor attempted on me following it. I can assure you, however, at a level that transcended mature understanding, I knew that it was wrong, and though I didn’t know why, I felt as if it had somehow fouled me. It didn’t stop there. The subconscious fallout followed me into my teen years and into my early years of marriage, where, among other things, there was a particular sexual position I would not do because it triggered the memory of this incident. Over three decades later, I can’t even look at a “fainting couch” without my first instinct being deep revulsion because it was the type of furniture used for this incident. I don’t know if this is also the reason I have trust issues, control issues, can’t give a friendly acquaintance a hug without a second of mental prep, or if all those are just personality traits I would have had anyway. Some things are easy to link this incident back to. Some things are not.

It was, however, very easy to link it to my outrage and heartbreak at hearing the Duggar parents minimalize the molestation of their daughters with statements like “this was touching somebody over their clothes” although “there were a couple instances where he touched them under their clothes” but hey, it “only happened a few times” and “It was, like, a few seconds“ plus “they [the girls] probably didn’t even understand it” and “a lot of families have said that they’ve had similar things happen in their families” with the implication seeming to be, so why is everyone acting like this is such a big deal? Of course, no one needs to have an incident like mine (or worse) in their past to be outraged by this, but if you do and you hear people deny the seriousness of molestation, plus downplay the painful repercussions of it, it can cut a little bit deeper. YES, every incident counts. YES, it is traumatizing, and YES, IT IS A BIG DEAL, even if you’re so young when it happens that it takes years to fully understand what occurred.

This isn’t a political issue, although it’s being hijacked as one by some. It isn’t a religious one, either, although I’ve seen some claim that it’s non-Christians looking for a reason to attack Christians (for the record, I am a Christian.) This also isn’t about whether or not Jesus has forgiven them (Romans 13:1-2* instructs Christians to obey the laws of the land, so spiritual forgiveness, even if given, has nothing to do with societal repercussions for crimes.) This is about the seriousness of the crime of molestation and the protection of children from molesters. When people attempt to minimalize molestation and/or downplay the pain that it causes, at best it shows a deplorable lack of sympathy for the victims, and at worst creates an environment where molestation isn’t worthy of being treated as a “real” crime.  However, opinions do not downgrade crimes into non-crimes, so while some have opined that what happened with the Duggar family was merely “a mistake,” the truth remains that child molestation is a serious, awful crime, and the repercussions to its victims are very, very real, and in many cases, ongoing.

If you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse or molestation, even if it happened many years ago, there is help for you. Please check out some of these organizations:

R.A.I.N.N.

National Center For Victims Of Crime

Child Molestation Research And Prevention Institute

N.S.O.P.W

 

* Romans 13:1-2, NIV version: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

The ups and downs of being focused

I’m still busy chugging away on The Sweetest Burn, but last week, I took a couple days off from writing to – gasp – think about the book to make sure that I’m showing the characters, plot and subplot the way I see them in my head. That’s a lot harder than it sounds, believe it or not. I’ve said before that what appears on the page is usually only 25% of what I have in my head. That’s because I know a thousand miscellaneous details that would kill the plot or pacing, should I write even half of them down. So, with every book, I cherry-pick what I show. Sometimes, that results in boring data-dumps that will get deleted in revisions. Sometimes, that results in being too vague and more clarity needing to be added. After all, readers only know about the characters, plot and subplots from what’s on the page, so what seems like an obvious reveal to me might need to be spelled out more since readers can’t read my mind to get the rest of the details ;). This “taking time to think” part of the process doesn’t result in any new words – at least, not while it’s going on – but it results in better words when I’m back at my keyboard.

You may remember from my last post that I tend to be very tunnel-visioned when I’m close to the end of a book. My husband likens it to a form of literary ADD because I can get so wrapped up in the story that I sometimes don’t notice what’s going on around me. This once resulted in my leaving the house without pants on (don’t judge me; I only made it onto my porch before a draft had me looking down and then I ran right back inside!) but this guy might have even more tunnel-vision than me. *grin* Watch the video below to see what I mean.

Click here for a link to the entire story.

Hope you’re having a great week!

Much ado about nothing

Apologies for the long break between blog posts. I’ve been busy writing The Sweetest Burn, and if I can meet my word count goals over the next three weeks, the book will be done. I tend to get very tunnel-visioned when I’m within sniffing distance of the finish line, so while I’ve meant to blog, it hasn’t happened. On top of that, some masochistic part of me decided that this was the perfect time to also start dieting and exercising. That’s a lot healthier for me, of course, but it takes up pretty much whatever is left of my willpower, so by the end of the day, I have all of the drive and mental prowess of a vegetable. In hindsight, it’s probably been a good thing that I haven’t blogged. Who wants to read a post that mostly consists of different variations on “tired” “recumbent bikes are evil” “so excited about a scene I wrote, but I can’t tell you about it” or “I would murder someone for a cupcake right now”?  😉

Gotham-TV-Show-Fox-LogoIt hasn’t been all work and no play, however. At night, I unwind by watching TV, and I recently finished glomming through season 1 of Gotham. I’d hesitated to watch this show because I felt like I already knew the end of Commissioner Gordon’s story from watching the Batman trilogy, so why bother with everything that came before? But, hubby really wanted to see it, so I gave in, and now, I’m glad I did.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t care for the first couple episodes because it seemed that the show tried too hard to portray the world as dark and gritty. I already expected that, so it was overkill for me. Around episode three or four, however, the show found its humor, twisted though it might be, and the characters showed other nuances that rounded them out in far more interesting ways. At the start of the series, Gordon was my least-favorite character. By the end, he was climbing high on the charts. I also loved the new take on Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s butler, who in Gotham is a snarky badass who can raze you with his fists or his wits, depending on what the circumstances call for. The other character who stole the show for me was Penguin. He’s a horrible, horrible person, but he revels in his own shiftiness with such Machiavellian glee that he’s a scene-stealer every time he appears on screen. I also loved the different take on the Riddler’s origins, and as a long-time fan of the canceled-too-early show, Firefly, I loved seeing Morena Baccarin back on the screen as Leslie, a medical examiner with grit, humor, and unrepentant curiosity. Props also to young Catwoman, whose backstory is now far more believable and sympathetic, in my opinion.

I’ve also finally started reading author Julia Quinn. I know, I know – what took me so long, right? One advantage to being late on the Quinn bandwagon is that I now have lots of novels to read. Plus, in addition to everything else, I’ve been working on a Super Secret project with four author friends, and while I can’t say anything about it now (told you, no one wants to hear that! :)) I’ll be able to spill all the details soon, and I’m so excited because I think it will be a blast!

RWAOh, a final reminder: if you’re attending the Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference this July in New York, I hope to see you there! I recently added it to my 2015 appearances, and I will be at the Literacy Signing on Wednesday night. More details here. If you want to make sure that you don’t miss a new book release from me or an appearance in your area, have the reminders come to you by signing up for my newsletter, hosted by CoffeeTime Romance.

That’s it from me for now. Hope all of you are enjoying your start to summer!

Books, movies and TV shows

Like millions of other people, I rushed out to see Avengers 2: Age Of Ultron. I really liked it (and now I want a Hulk/Black Widow movie to happen) but I have to admit that I liked the first Avengers more. Age Of Ultron followed typical movie sequel format by having more action, explosions, and chase scenes than the first one, and that came at the price of character development, in my opinion. Now, to be fair, there are a LOT of characters. Since many of them have their own movies centered around them, to adequately flesh out each one while still moving the Avengers-as-a-team storyline along is an impossible task, so my nitpicks are just that: nitpicks. Overall, it’s a good, fun movie, and I look forward to seeing the next Avengers, plus the next Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk… you get the picture ;).

May isn’t just the start of the summer movie season. It’s also the time that TV networks renew shows and/or drop the ax on them. I blogged before about how I liked the new TV show Forever, which reminded me of Castle with light supernatural elements, but it’s probably going to get canceled. Revenge, one of my guilty pleasures, has already gotten the ax. I am crossing my fingers that the brand-new show iZombie does not meet these same fates. It’s funny and twisted, with a dash of dark, and I would be so disappointed if it’s not renewed for a second season. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend it.

On the plus side, some of my other favorite TV shows are returning soon. I really liked The Strain, although it’s about as dark of a take on vampires as you can get. Defiance is another favorite, although it took me several episodes before I got into it. Longmire will also return in the near future, and I am so glad that it was picked up by Netflix after A&E cancelled it because I was not ready to say goodbye to those characters.

And finally, I’ve been busy writing The Sweetest Burn, book two in the Broken Destiny series, which will release sometime around the end of this year. I posted the description on my website, but I haven’t posted any teasers yet, so now seemed as good of a time as any. Here’s a snippet from early on in The Sweetest Burn. I’ve tried to take out any spoilers, so you’ll see a “censored” in the text, and this scene in the novel is longer. Also, this is pre-revisions and pre-copyedits, so you might see some grammar errors and missing and/or extra words, too. Apologies for those, and I hope you enjoy!

***

I rolled over and stuffed the pillow in a new position under my head. Useless. The bed was comfy, the RV was quiet, and yet I’d lain here, wide awake, for hours.

“Ivy.”

My gaze flew to the door, but it was still closed. I hadn’t imagined hearing Adrian say my name, though, so I strained my ears and waited.

“Ivy, come outside.” Adrian’s voice was low but clear, and I realized that he was speaking to me through the exterior wall of the RV. “I need to show you something.”

I got up, mostly because I couldn’t stand to toss and turn anymore. I doubted something was wrong or Adrian wouldn’t be whispering. Plus, we’d parked at the edge of an old cemetery. Demons couldn’t cross onto hallowed ground, so we were safe from them. Hallowed ground wasn’t a deterrent to minions, but there’d need to be a lot of them to pose a threat with Adrian, Brutus and Costa here, not to mention me.

The thought cheered me. I wasn’t the same helpless girl I’d been when this whole thing started. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Well, I’d had lots of things try to kill me, so by extension, I had to be stronger by leaps and bounds.

Once out of the bedroom, I tiptoed past a snoring Costa, who was on the sofa bed. The lone pillow on the floor must have been where Adrian had slept. He rarely used blankets, having long ago become well-acclimated to the cold. Like Costa, I piled on the blankets to offset my memories of the dark, icy realms, but most of Adrian’s time there had consisted of him being treated better than a king, so maybe he didn’t mind the memories as much.

Adrian had left the RV door open a crack, so it made no noise when I opened it to go outside. He’d moved away from my side of the trailer and stood near one of the old tombstones. It took a second for me to realize that Brutus was perched on top of a crypt next to him. If I hadn’t spotted the gargoyle’s red, iridescent eyes, I might’ve mistaken him for an elaborate statue.

“What’s up?” I said, keeping my voice down although we were the only ones who seemed to have difficulty sleeping.

Adrian wore a jacket and jeans, and until he turned to face me, I didn’t realize that those were all the clothes he had on. The jacket was open, and moonlight reflected off muscles in his chest while shadows gave his abs more definition than they already had. His chest was hairless, but a line of dark gold started at his abdomen before disappearing into the jeans that hung low on his hips. That line invited me to explore everything I couldn’t see, and as he walked toward me, every ripple of muscles reminded me of the lethal power contained inside his stunningly-sculpted body.

“Is this what you wanted to show me?” I asked, a tiny crack in my voice belying the quip. “If so, that’s playing dirty.”

A slow smile curled his mouth. “If I were playing dirty to get inside your pants, I wouldn’t be wearing anything.”

Yeah, I thought, dragging my gaze away from his physique, that’d probably do it. Out loud, I said, “Why did you want me to come out? If it’s about what I said before…”

His smile faded. “No, but now that you mention it, that did piss me off. I don’t care what [censored] thinks of me, but you shouldn’t lie about what you feel, and we both know our lineage has nothing to do with what’s between us.”

“Tell that to every Archon and demon alive,” I muttered, mentally kicking myself for bringing the subject up. I should just keep a piece of tape handy so I could slap it over my mouth every time I had the urge to say something stupid.

“I don’t care what they think, either,” Adrian said silkily, closing the distance between us.

I backed away, holding out my hands to ward him off. “Don’t. If this is why you called me out here, I’m leaving.”

Hard assessment filled his features, as if judging whether I meant that, but he stopped. “It’s not why, but I can’t help it. Don’t say you haven’t missed me, too, or I’ll know that you’re lying.”

“Really? How will you know?” I said, deciding that I’d much rather challenge him than admit to that.

He came close enough to brush my hair away from my neck. I was only wearing a tank top over my pajama pants, and I told myself it was the night air hitting my skin that made shiver. His fingers trailed over my neck, lingering on the spot where it felt like my heart was trying to escape through my jugular.

“Because when you lie, your pulse pounds even harder.”

I moved away. Even his light touch was affecting me. Damn the memories that had come flooding back, taunting me with how his hands had felt when they’d explored other parts of my body.

“You’re wearing the necklace.” The masculine satisfaction in his voice scattered more shivers over me. I closed my hand over the pendant, as if concealing it made that any less true.

“I, ah, had nowhere else to put it yet,” I mumbled.

Adrian laughed, but the knowing sound was nothing compared to the intensity in his gaze. “This time, I don’t even have to look at your pulse to know you’re lying.”

What was I going to say? That I’d taken it off twice, only to put it back on because it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, and I still couldn’t believe he’d given it to me? Better my lame response than admit to that.

Brutus interrupted the moment by hopping off the crypt and stretching out his wings to their full extension. Then he chuffed at Adrian as if to say, hey, pal, remember me?

Adrian threw a rueful look at the gargoyle. “You’re anxious to get started, I know, but your timing sucks.”

I actually loved the gargoyle’s timing. In fact, the next hunk of raw pot roast meat I came across had Brutus’s name written all over it. Then I looked more closely at the gargoyle, noticing that he had something around his neck, too.

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing.

Adrian cast one more look at the diamond in my cleavage. Then, he walked over to Brutus and fingered the straps.

“It’s why I called you out here. You’re about to have your first flying lesson.”

I knew my ears weren’t malfunctioning, yet I still repeated his statement as if I’d misheard him. “Flying lesson?” Are you serious? my mind added in a screech.

He patted Brutus, murmuring to him in Demonish before he answered me. “I’ve had Brutus since right after he was born. He was so small, I could carry him around like a baby, and he broke every fragile object in my house when he was learning how to fly.”

The mental image of baby Brutus learning how to fly was adorable, but it didn’t quell my apprehension. “But I don’t want to learn how to ride Brutus when he flies.”

He shrugged. “The RV’s got its perks, but speed isn’t one of them. That makes it terrible for getaways if we come under attack. Brutus has speed, maneuverability, and his hide is so thick, minions would need a rocket launcher to bring him down.”

Brutus chuffed, lifting his head a notch higher. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear the gargoyle understood ever word because then he fluffed out his wings as though he were preening.

“You’re all that and a bag of badass,” I told him, smiling when he chuffed again as if in agreement. Then I returned my attention to Adrian. “I get why you wanted to learn how to ride him, but why do you want me to?”

Adrian fingered the straps around Brutus’s neck, which I now realized was a harness. “It takes strength and concentration. If I were injured, I wouldn’t be able to do it, and Brutus maxes out at carrying three people in his arms.”

I swallowed hard. I didn’t like heights and I hadn’t even been good at horseback riding the few times I’d tried it. The thought of trying to ride on a flying gargoyle’s back made my stomach roil, but the thought of Adrian being left behind again was a thousand times worse. I’d rather puke my guts out than risk that. Hell, I’d rather die, but I’d keep that to myself.

“Okay,” I said, forcing a smile as I approached Brutus. “Let’s get the flying lesson started.”

***