Tempted & Taken by Rhenna Morgan

Tempted & Taken by Rhenna MorganI think it was Axel in the book who commented about the brotherhood going international, but he’s right. Darya brought in a new twist before the Men of Haven novels could fall too much into a pattern. Some elements were the same in both the brothers helping Darya out and the relationship cementing about half way in to leave more room to devote to the external crisis, but if the broad strokes were similar, the specific story is brand new.

She’s on the run and living under an assumed name when she crosses paths with Knox. Sure, his mind drew her first, but she struggles with a crush on him that’s both physical and mental when she decides to ask for a programming mentorship. She’s got persistence where she doesn’t think she has talent, and he’s the best programmer she knows of. Her attraction is more of an inconvenience than anything else, but when it’s obvious Knox returns the sexual interest, she is determined to indulge in another of her fantasies.

It may be because Knox has specific sexual hang-ups (or rather relationship ones), but while this book is just as explicit as the others, it felt as if more time was spent on the sex…a little too much for my preference…and once again it pushed the boundaries. That said, while I did feel one scene in particular went on too long, each scene served to break away the barriers that had made Knox into a welcome lover but never a boyfriend despite his half-suppressed dreams of finding someone he could trust enough to tear down those walls.

Trust made up a huge theme in the story, in both the personal and suspense threads especially considering everything about Darya, even the name she first gives, is a lie. Knox has a lot to lose, though he’s worried more for his heart than his life despite Darya’s fears. Darya holds her secrets close because she thinks revealing them will put the man she loves and his whole family at risk, but Knox isn’t going to let her go without a fight, no matter who he has to face.

I loved seeing their relationship come together, especially with how the other brothers tease and push Knox into setting his fears aside. Darya’s trying to live up to the sacrifices made in her name, but she feels it as a debt until Knox’s family of the heart makes her one of their own.

While a Russian is her enemy, not only is Darya Russian, but she tells them about others who have helped her, some living in the same gray area of honor and violence the Brotherhood seems to find itself in all too often. I liked how the portrayals were not one-sided, but rather showed different cultures with similar rules, and some bad eggs.

I can’t give specifics without spoiling, but there’s one point when I thought Darya would run, and the story would spring from that point. Instead, she did something much better, and yes, the story did hinge on that choice, but in a way that felt more original than many suspense novels.

Ultimately, despite my quibbles about the amount of sex, this is a true addition to the series with characters that have depth; the same balance of alpha male meaning support and protect rather than cage (critical in this book); and a focus on chosen family standing up for each other no matter what. I also very much appreciated how Darya worked with Knox rather than letting him take over for her, not just in the major crises but always. It’s a strong series with a real sense of honor that flows throughout.

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The Third NaNo 2017 Progress Report: Distractions

Consistency hasn’t really been a thing this year, but I have managed to write–something–every day. I did a little better on average, I think, but managed to burn through a good bit of my cushion this week, then raised it again to end up with 1375 words to spare. I also had both my third best day and my absolute worst day this time.

I also recovered not once but twice from writing downturns, and the story is still carrying on well. Perhaps a bit too well.

This year’s NaNo is not as much of a mish-mash as I’d hoped. I mentioned wanting to finish Traps and Treachery at 70,000 words but it now stands around 75,000 words, and there’s still a bit more to work through before the end. When the series runs between 50k and 65k, tucking an 80k or higher novel into the mix is strange.

Maybe I’ll do some as a novella if there’s a good break point, but this is how I write. I follow the story and let the characters point out what they would do in each instance. That offers up some surprises, but generally, those are better than what I would have pushed through.

I haven’t had a lot of complaints so far, but I will see if I can do something about all this length in the editing phase. If not, I’ll be happier to put out a good story than continue a word count pattern. If yes, I’ll have a handy pile of excerpts to share. Either way is a win.

Here are the numbers I was talking about:

Day Total New Words
15 26938 1721
16 29149 2211
17 30935 1786
18 31059 124
19 32293 1234
20 34715 2422

Ah, yes, the title says distractions, and I haven’t really addressed that part of my tale. In the chart above, you will notice on day 18 I wrote only 124 words. I’m lucky I managed that much.

I helped my husband sell his wildlife photography at the Nevada Humane Society craft fair, but when the event had ended, instead of heading home as planned, we lingered to collect part of the local wildlife.

Meet Biscotti, the newest member of our family. She was found on the streets, but from her behavior is not a true feral. Yes, this most likely means someone abandoned her, but their loss is our gain.

©Colin Fisk (cell phone photo)

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5 Interesting Links for 11-17-2017

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Restoration (Environment)

Coral reefs are important to sea life and humans alike, but they are dying at a rapid rate. This study offers hope for a way to restore the reefs.

Literature (Evolution)

An analysis of the philosophies within Victorian literature surrounding evolution and how they informed the story and characters of Theodora Goss’s novel The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter.

Editing (Writing)

A look at when a professional editor is valuable and when it is too soon or not cost efficient to hire one.

Teenagers (Psychology)

A look at the treatment and potential causes for an upswing in teenage severe anxiety.

Tools (Digital Art)

Tips and step-by-step instructions for using python to automate the GIMP open source art software.

An Innocent Secret (Book 3 of Uncommon Lords and Ladies)

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Where Do Stories Come From? Guest Post by Paul Toolan

I’ve spoken about creativity and inspiration a time or two on Tales to Tide You Over, and Paul Toolan offers a narrative description of his process that I found quite compelling. I hope you do as well.

Note: He uses British spelling and grammar.

‘Where do your stories come from?’

If only I received royalties every time a reader asks me this!

Here, there and everywhere is the true but unhelpful answer. In ‘A View from Memory Hill’, there’s a story called Old Man, Young Pub that was triggered by seeing…an old man in a young pub!

I was at the Brighton Festival [Brighton, England – I used to live there] with old friends/fellow retirees. We dropped in to a wonderful, low-ceilinged pub called The Basketmakers, whose decor has barely been touched since it opened. I remember thinking we were the oldest people there, among many young and lively folk, some dressed in the trendiest fashion, some so far ahead they were next year.

It was a hot day, but as I looked around I spotted an old gentleman in a tweed jacket and tie, standing at the bar, quietly sipping his pint. All around him, bright young things were loud and full of energy. They squatted on bar stools, but no-one offered a seat to the old guy, and his legs could have used one. I wondered about his silent thoughts.

His anonymity, mine too, amongst this colourful crowd threw up a name: Smith. With the conscious germ of a story now in my head, I called him Frank Smith in hope he would eventually be frank enough to tell some sort of tale. I never spoke to this old man, but later when I sat at my keyboard, I spoke to Frank Smith, or he to me. I really don’t know which came first.

What I had was a character and a setting. No plot, no events, no history. Yet. But Frank Smith travelled with me, later in the Arts Festival, to a shabby-chic little theatre where, on hard seats, we watched a trio of skilled actors on a bare, dark stage. Magically, they brought to life some of Damon Runyan’s New York Prohibition stories.

Shortly after, inside that inexplicable swirl called a writer’s head, two separate experiences merged. Frank Smith went to his local pub; and he went to see a play. To keep the story structure tight, I made the theatre a blacked-out room at his pub, and had him go out of sheer boredom. Frank would have liked the Damon Runyan stories, but there’s insufficient conflict in what characters enjoy. I needed to change the play, to find one that Frank Smith liked less, that triggered something of his history, his demons or regrets.

On my bookshelves I have ‘Samuel Beckett: The Complete Dramatic Works’. I browsed through it. ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ seemed ideal. It featured an old man’s memories, recalled with the aid of an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. Krapp is a drinker too, which resonated with Frank. While flicking through, I revisited ‘Rockaby’, a short Beckett play featuring an old woman in a rocking chair, remembering her past. Within moments, Frank Smith had a wife.

A day or two later, I named her Lucy. Then killed her off. The story would have become a novel if I hadn’t, and I wanted to balance Frank’s ageing memories – of Lucy and others – with voices of youth. So along came the young woman who ushers the audience to their seats in ‘the long thin dark theatre’ where Krapp’s Last Tape is performed. Her surprise that Frank turned up at all, among so many young people, releases the demons that rumbled as Frank watched the play. Short stories need a moment of realisation or change, and the clash between her enthusiasm for the play’s use of the past and Frank’s disturbed memories provided this.

‘We’ve all been something,’ was all he managed to say. ‘Known someone.’

The story might have ended there, but because the theme of age and youth was well-established I felt more could be done. I went back to the keyboard and jiggled the plot, making Frank inadvertently upset the ‘woman in black’, so her young hopes and dreams could quietly confront his regrets.

“In the half-dark, she looked squarely at him, black T-shirt and jeans appraising jacket and tie. A slight twitch flickered her lips. He thought there might be tears.

‘We all have dreams,’ she said, in the quietest voice he’d ever heard. ‘I’d rather dream than drift, any day.’ She pressed her lips together to control the twitch, but it continued. ‘What’s wrong with having dreams?’ she asked.”

This exchange then allowed a more positive development in Frank, making for a more satisfying conclusion [in my view, anyway, but I’d love to hear yours too].

So, a chance observation in a pub, a visit to a play, a book on a shelf, some musings and experiments at the keyboard – and before too long there’s a character’s voice, a felt situation, and a set of realisations. If it was as easy as I’ve made it sound…

I drop in to a pub maybe once week. I’m wondering if I should go more often. Pubs are full of people, and where there are people, there are stories.

You can find A View from the Memory Hill here: smarturl.it/avwm

~ Paul Toolan

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Ichor Well By Joseph R. Lallo

Ichor Well By Joseph R. LalloI enjoy the Free Wrench stories because of the ingenuity, sheer insanity, and grand adventures centered on good, if a little odd, people. This book holds true to those elements and offers some growing moments I wasn’t expecting. As with the others, it’s told in a rotating point of view, giving even small characters a moment to hold the limelight. This works especially well to demonstrate the themes around the difference between legends and realities. I did enjoy the early conversation on this very topic, especially with regards to the dreadnought’s destruction seeing as it was the least believed by fuggers, and by far, the most accurate.

Ichor Well both brings back some characters from Skykeep in an interesting way and introduces a host of new characters, some of whom have their own complete, if truncated, character arcs while others just may carry on into later books. One in particular I hope to see more of as she reminds me a little of Nita, though with a different specialty. I also enjoyed the expansion of Gunner’s character while the ability of the crew to point out moments of humor is fun, whether self-directed, or gently poking fun at others’ failure to demonstrate characteristics like subterfuge.

The story plays to the Wind Breaker’s crew’s strengths, especially those most would consider failings, particularly where Lil and Coop are concerned. If the story belongs to any one character in specific, I’d say Lil’s ponderings and observations hold the most weight, allowing for a significant character arc while everything is falling apart around them.

Seriously, what could be a more enticing offer than the chance at true freedom, and what better to balance it against but the almost sure expectation it’ll turn out to be a trap? How the crew works around both their own concerns and the situations they face is wonderful to be seen. Their arch nemesis plays a shadow role, something he would object to at length, but while in some ways he’s surprisingly effective, in others he’s very much overblown. It offers some humor as well. He’s not a character I’d like to spend more time with for reasons of arrogance and maltreatment of those around him, but at the same time, it’s hard to look away because I want to see how he’s going to trip over his ego, which is a compelling power in and of itself.

Another aspect I very much appreciated was the growth in the crew’s understanding of the fuggers. There were many instances of cross-cultural communication that stripped away false information in favor of a, sometimes terrifying, truth. Lucius, their unknown enemy, was instrumental in demonstrating how fugger society worked, but other characters also provided tidbits to build a greater picture where before there was only supposition and rumor. Gunner shared an interesting thought at one point as to how it was better not to know a people you universally hate because you might discover some don’t deserve that emotion.

All in all, there’s a lot going on, both action and character growth, while pretty much everyone gets their moment to shine, even Wink and especially Nikita, the two aye-ayes. The epilogue also contains a nice teaser for the next book that was well-seeded enough for me to wonder if that was the case earlier on, but I never found the confirmation until then.

The Free Wrench series continues to delight me, and I look forward to seeing just how the next one shapes up.

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