Sneak Peek of the next Caitlin Ross novel!

So…I kind of accidentally started working on the eighth book in the Caitlin Ross series, The Sun and the Moon. Here’s a brief excerpt to pique your interest! Remember, if you’re new to the series you have SEVEN books to catch up on before you’re ready for this one.That should get you through a major portion of your Goodreads challenge for the year! Enjoy!

(From Chapter Two)
“Timber.”
The sheriff stops to clear his throat, and now he’s positively terrified. They’re on the last-name basis of male buddies, MacDuff and Bruce to each other, seldom more. That Bruce has strayed outside the lines of their well-defined relationship means something is amiss. Still, no good comes of jumping to conclusions; it may not be personal. Perhaps Bruce needs his input on a professional matter. He has, over the years, and sometimes, then, when he has to admit things happen beyond his ken, his habitual composure cracks.
He’s lying to himself, and he knows it.
“Hank.” He grips the other’s hand, hard enough to make him wince. “What’s going on?”
“I need you to come with me, Timber. There’s been…an incident.”
The sheriff’s tone destroys hope. Images flood his brain: a car flipped, Caitlin and the bairn bleeding, dead. His throat dries at once.
“What is it? Caitlin…Sammie, are they all right? Are they—?” Alive, he wants to say, but he can’t get the word out.
“Your daughter is fine. Caitlin is….”
“WHAT?”
He’s aware that, behind his back, every head on the site has turned to look at him. With an effort, he lowers his voice.
“Tell me. Tell me now, fast.” Make the wound quick, like ripping off a bandage, so you can’t feel the pain of skin tearing.
Bruce shoves his hat up to scratch his head. “She’s had some kind of episode in the park, I guess. Hallucinating. Started screaming. Babbling about vines. Or that’s what the mom who called the ambulance said. They took her to Triangle Hospital in restraints.”
His heart sinks when he hears the word “episode;” he knows what this is. What triggered it, though? Surely She wouldn’t have had call to work a great magic in the park. It doesn’t matter; She needs him. Before Bruce finishes the last sentence, he’s halfway to the truck, pausing only at the door to ask after his child.
“And Sammie?” His voice snags on his daughter’s name.
Bruce scurries to catch up. “CPS has her for now. It’s not my jurisdiction, you know, but I knew you’d be working up here. So…look, follow me and I’ll get you to Triangle fast. Full siren all the way.”
The drive to Triangle takes forever, and he can scarce keep his mind on the road. What could have triggered one of Caitlin’s mad events? And Her alone with the wean and him not there to guide Her? Praise all gods for the kindness of strangers! But maybe not the one god. That god whose name it’s better not to speak. He doesn’t know, exactly, what it is between that god and his wife, but he’d have to be deaf, dumb, blind and stupid not to know there’s something. And he knows enough about that god to make a connection between him and Caitlin’s odd spells. Hasn’t he seen them often enough? And hasn’t he seen what the god can do with a drink or a tap of his staff?
Knowing he couldn’t have foreseen it, could not have been there, he still blames himself. Whatever comes of it is on his head, and whatever has to be done about it is his to do.

Cover Reveal: The Well Below the Valley!

Those of you who follow the Caitlin Ross Adventures have been waiting a long time for the seventh book in the series, and I have news at last! As you may know, this was an exceedingly difficult book for me to write. Over the last two years, I’ve started and stopped many times, and discarded half a dozen potential plots and tens of thousands of words. Even after I stumbled on the right plot, I had to rewrite over and over to integrate all the various elements. Now I can tell you The Well Below the Valley will be released this coming August 2nd, which is, by strange coincidence, the date the book itself begins. Let’s see what it’s about.

Six months after the birth of her daughter, Caitlin Ross’s life is in a tailspin. Still suffering from what he endured at the hands of his former lover, her husband, Timber MacDuff, has drawn away. The gods have stopped speaking, except for vague hints in bad dreams. Unwilling to face reality, Caitlin goes about her daily routine as if nothing has changed while deep inside she longs for distraction.

When the county sheriff asks for help with a puzzling situation, Caitlin believes her prayers have been answered. A rancher has drowned in the middle of a desert, and the means appear supernatural. The case is right up Caitlin’s alley, but her interest pits her against Timber, who insists getting involved is too dangerous now that she’s a mother. Neither he nor Caitlin realizes a greater danger awaits. Strange events in Gordarosa have brought the area to the attention of a group known as Shade Tracers. Mundane mortals, they’ve taken it upon themselves to protect humanity from magic—with deadly force, if necessary. One holds Caitlin responsible for a personal tragedy, and will stop at nothing to see justice done.

Past and present converge in Caitlin’s darkest adventure yet. With her own life at stake, she must journey through time to uncover the truth behind the Shade Tracer’s obsession. Success could provide the key to solving the local mystery. Failure will doom her to a life on the run, forever hunted.

Artist Matt Davis* has outdone himself with the cover for this one. I know you’ll love it as much as I do. And here it is!

well002

In case that hasn’t got you excited enough, here’s a brief excerpt.

Just then, some odd flickers from the BLM land adjacent our property caught my eye. Shading my brow with my hand, I squinted into the distance. A flash. A beat, and then another. No regular rhythm. They seemed to originate from the low hill from which we often watched the moonrise.

Some kids dicking around with a mirror. BLM land was public property, and this section lay convenient to town. Bored local teens partied there. Timber and I combed the ground a couple of times a month, picking up the trash they left behind.

I bent to retrieve my basket. As I straightened, the light flashed again, this time with a distinctive quality hard to define. Less like a mirror. More like a flame. I’d just settled on the difference when something whizzed past my left ear, and a cluster of berries fell off the rowan tree at the center of the garden. A split second later, a sharp CRACK! rang through the air.

My jaw dropped. What the hell? I lifted my eyes from the rowan berries to the hilltop in time to see the light flash again. At the same time, panicked voice shouted not three feet behind me.

“Jesus Christ, Caitlin! Get DOWN!”

A heavy object struck my back, knocking me to the ground. My basket flew from my hand, spilling my harvest. I hit the earth with a shock that drove the wind from my lungs. An I lay there, cheek in damp soil, the intense, green scent of bruised tomato vines clogged my nose. A foot from my head, a pepper plant exploded. CRACK! Understanding washed over me, and I began to shake.

Someone was shooting at me.

Who’s shooting at Caitlin and why? And who may her mysterious savior be? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

*For more information on Matt Davis’s work, follow @GreyDevil13 on Twitter, or contact him at rockandhillstudio@gmail.com.

I Complain About Stakes

It’s common wisdom for writers that an effective story contains three things: Character, plot, and stakes. A person risks something to accomplish something. An author works hard to make queries, pitches, and blurbs reflect all three in the least number of syllables. For example, “When (Character) discovers (Plot Point 1) she must (Plot Point 2) or else (Stakes).”

I’m going to come out and say it: I hate working with stakes. As far as my technical ability goes, it’s probably the thing I understand least and do the worst job of. For a long time, I thought I was worst at plotting, but I was wrong. A plot is simply what happens. It can be any sequence of events: “I went to the store, and the store was closed, so I got on the bus and went to another store. I bought some orange juice, because I like orange juice.” That’s a plot. But it’s not a very good one, because there aren’t any stakes. As far as we know, there is no risk to the narrator. There would be no consequence of NOT getting orange juice, except, possibly, mild disappointment.

I have a hard time with stakes partly because of my world view and partly because of my writing process. For me, writing is an attempt to express a gut feeling or mood; at least, I began that way. I usually start with a character and try to put them in a situation that evokes the mood for which I’m aiming. In my teens, I wrote a lot of pieces–I suppose they might qualify as prose poems–that spoke of smells and sounds and sights and memories without anything actually happening. When I branched out into longer fiction, I knew something had to happen, but for the most part I inserted random events that seemed like they would be “cool” without being able to link them in any coherent fashion. Or else, I stole plots from other authors. I generally ended up with a bunch of still slides of emotional high points, through which my characters moved without much rhyme or reason. Stuff happened because I said it happened. But my characters didn’t make a journey or evolve.

In fact, it wasn’t until much later, when I started querying and pitching, that I ever heard anyone refer to stakes. It gave me a kind of “slap my head” moment: “Oh, of course, that’s the hook. Duh.” But then, when I considered my work, I couldn’t find the stakes to save my life. I thought they were there, but they often were very subtle and only rarely did I articulate them in any coherent way. Sometimes I did all right. “Unless she finds a way to heal him, both will lose their souls.” Those are pretty good stakes (in my opinion). Other times, not so much. “Unless she interferes, the world will be changed.” Um, okay? Mostly I think, “So what? Why is that a bad thing?” And I have a hard time answering. Especially in a 140-character pitch.

I even have a hard time finding the stakes in other authors’ works. Or caring about them. “If he doesn’t make the basketball team, he won’t get the girl.” So? Why don’t you find another girl who doesn’t require you to become someone you’re not? Which is another novel altogether, I suppose. Maybe choosing between trying to change yourself to suit someone else and learning to accept yourself and eventually find the way to happiness would make a good story, but what are the stakes there? I don’t get it. How would you turn that into a hook?

In Fantasy–in other words, in my genre–stakes are often huge: Death, Dismemberment, Apocalypse. I have a hard time caring about those standard tropes. Everyone dies, and the world as we know it won’t last forever. I’m interested in smaller things: personal trials, family problems, past trauma. Okay, maybe those aren’t categorically SMALL, but it’s hard to convey them in a few words. You have to care about the characters FIRST. THEN you’ll care about their experience. This is a difficult thing to express in a pitch or a blurb.

An early reader of She Moved Through the Fair told me she didn’t think Caitlin had a good reason to get involved in the plot because she wasn’t personally attached to the murder victim. There wasn’t any threat to her if she didn’t personally solve the murder; in fact, getting involved created the threat. I thought about that for a long time. Caitlin got involved because magic was the murder weapon and she was the only person aware of that fact. If she didn’t look into it, no one else would. In the end, I decided that was good enough. Her character, her sense of responsibility toward others within her particular field of expertise, was enough. Besides, the book isn’t really a Whodunnit. It’s about a load of other things, like wishes, and consequences, and desire.

I get tied up a lot because I don’t like making antagonists EVIL. Usually they have valid desires of their own; it’s their methods that are problematic, or they make stupid mistakes that put people at risk. The one time I invented a really evil antagonist, the whole time I was writing the book I kept thinking, “This is so stupid.” It’s my most popular novel so far.

A lot of authors take positive delight in doing horrible things to their characters. I don’t. I’ve gotten good mileage out of traumatizing my male protagonist, but I can’t keep doing that forever. I know I need to so something awful to a secondary character people care about soon, and I don’t want to!

I still haven’t found the stakes for book seven. I have a vague idea of something I might do, but once again a part of me is thinking, “It’s so stupid. I can never pull that off.”

Maybe that means I’m on the right track.

 

 

When Heroes Kill: Character, Culture, Context

Like everyone else on the planet (it seems), we’ve been watching the adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Daredevil on Netflix. It’s an excellent series, with great acting, great writing, character development for EVERYONE, even the villains, and better treatment of women than any of the other comic adaptations, big or small screen, that I’ve yet seen. (Netflix did not pay me to say this.)

I never followed Daredevil the Book, although I must have seen the character around in other books or read about him or something, because when the Ben Affleck movie version came out (I liked it. So sue me.), I already knew the basics of the character. In fact, I must have learned his origins early on, because when I read the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles origin story, my first thought was “OMG, they came out of the same accident that made Daredevil!!!!”

Anyway, one thing I didn’t know was that a central theme of the Daredevil mythos is, “Is it okay for the hero to kill, or does that make him as bad as the villains? How do you accomplish your mission without crossing that line?” I’ve nutshelled the idea here, because it’s a complex question that would take me many more words to properly express. In comic books, as well as in much literature in a contemporary setting, the heroes DON’T KILL. It’s part of what defines them, the reluctance to take a life and the willingness to turn criminals over to the law. They might beat the crap out of them first. They might maim and mutilate. But they don’t kill.

In the mid-eighties, when I was doing my heaviest comic book reading, several heroes crossed this line. Green Arrow and Batman both come to mind (I was mostly a DC reader), but there may have been others. There may be others now. And for the purposes of this post, I’m talking about straight-up superhero books rather than darker anti-heroes or horror books, where people got killed all the time.

I started thinking about this again, watching Daredevil, because it’s a question I had to face in my own work: Can the hero take out the villains and still be a hero? When I was writing A Maid in Bedlam, it was one of my central problems as an author. I wanted him to do it, without question. I wanted him to do it because I’d given him a sword and I wanted him to use it. Because the idea of staging a giant bloodbath on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder tickled me. And, frankly, because a big, well-built guy competent with a sword is a huge turn on. But it made me queasy, because the bad guys were humans, not supernatural entities. I didn’t know if letting Timber kill them would be okay.

Except, if he didn’t, the problem would remain. You couldn’t keep most of these people in a jail; I established that early on. Not unless you denied them any kind of human interaction pretty much forever, which would be inhumane. Well, long story short, I had my bloodbath. My central issue became keeping my protagonists out of prison. And none of my readers rose up to complain about my choice.

Why not?

“Violence isn’t always the answer, he knows. Some would say it’s never the answer. “Violence begets violence,” goes the old saw. It feeds on itself and is never satisfied. When you’ve had your revenge, wiped out your enemies, what then? It’s a letdown, a disappointment, coming off that energy. Like after sex, when things go dark for a time, and you feel as if there really should have been more to it. So you keep after it, keep after that transcendent feeling, until you wear yourself out, and then, at least you can sleep.

Lots of heroes kill. They kill the villains in Epic Fantasy and Historical Fiction, in Science Fiction and Thrillers and Paranormal. Luke Skywalker and Han Solo killed Stormtroopers and TIE fighter pilots. Jamie Fraser kills his uncle and numerous English. Rand al’Thor kills people (though at times he feels really bad about it). So why not the heroes of Contemporary and Urban Fantasy? Why not those heroes who are larger than life, who populate THIS world? Oliver Queen spent the entire first season of Arrow putting down criminals and getting vilified for it. Then he had a change of heart. But has it made him any more effective in pursuing his mission? Has it made him any more popular? Current events in the series point to no.

There are several good reasons not to kill your villains off. In serialized fiction, the obvious one is you might need them again in another story arc. Creating a good villain is hard work! Don’t dispose of them unless you absolutely have to. Another reason not to kill your villains would be that it doesn’t serve the story. I’m still mad that Lursa and B’Etor were summarily dispatched in the travesty that was Star Trek: Generations. But why balk at getting rid of horrible people you don’t need?

By the way, I’m not proposing any definitive answer one way or the other. I’m just looking at something that interests me.

One question that comes up when you raise this topic is: “How long can you keep doing that before you become the thing you’re trying to stop?” Another is, “Can violence lead to lasting peace?” (And thanks to Kris Holt for raising both of those on Twitter when I was exploring this question there.) My personal answers are, I don’t think anything leads to a truly lasting peace, because everything is ephemeral. It’s probably no good to stir up conflict or to go looking for it, but being prepared to meet it? Sure. Of course, this raises the question of “How do you know when you’re prepared enough?” which can lead to arms races and all kinds of tricky stuff when you take it into a larger sphere. But I’m talking about a personal level, rather than a governmental one. As for the first question, I personally don’t believe it follows that one thing necessarily leads to the other. All kinds of things make a difference: Motivation, Ego, Mindfulness to name a few. It’s true that when you train in a martial art, MOST of the practice is learning to balance the Art with the Martial. Learning to cross the street when you sense danger, rather than take on the gang. Or so my Sensei used to say.

I’ve also got a cop-out answer: The question isn’t really applicable in my books, because my hero isn’t a vigilante.

 He’s pretty sure Caitlin would tell him violence isn’t the answer at all. She has a soft heart. She feels bad about killing slugs in the garden. But Caitlin never had the experience of the world that he had. She  turns inward; he turns outward. Everything he is, he shows to the world, even if the world finds it an affront. She has secrets at Her core that no one can penetrate. She protects Herself from the world, and he flies in its face. So he’s learned that there must be violence, sometimes. After all, the slugs in the garden must be killed. They’d take over, else.

Of course, context matters. In a historical novel, we can say that killing each other in the year 1233, or 1842, wasn’t uncommon. People lived closer to death. In Science Fiction, in Epic Fantasy, we get to define the terms. Plus, those villains we choose for our heroes to kill could often be replaced with cardboard cutouts. We know them only as antagonists, not as people. I’ve noticed when authors delve into their villains as people, examine what motivates them instead of simply saying “Bad Guy,” the characters are much less likely to meet their Fates at the hand of the hero. Because then the hero would be killing a human being rather than a trope. And it’s not okay to kill human beings, or to “humanize” the alien species we mean to kill. We know the Cave Troll in Lord of the Rings is a danger. We never hear about the Cave Troll’s childhood or the Cave Troll’s mother.

I do this myself. It’s hard for me, because I never have been able to subscribe to notions of absolute good and absolute evil. One reason I like my first book less than others is that the antagonists are less fully developed (and I still had a problem with disposing of one of them). I do believe that people aren’t inherently one thing or the other, but that circumstances make us what we are. So, in order to justify getting rid of them, I have to dehumanize my villains. I don’t explore them enough as people. And I still have a horrible time coming up with actions bad enough to merit a death sentence.

I believe that we like to think of our contemporary culture as more civilized, and that in civilized societies we don’t go around killing people out of hand. Not up close and personal. War doesn’t count. The rhetoric of war allows us to dehumanize vast numbers of people, be they of a different culture, religion, race, gender, or what have you, the better to slaughter them. When you kill someone up close and personal, it’s “murder,” no matter what your justification. Now, I don’t have a problem with this (I’d hope it would be obvious that I’m not encouraging terminal solutions to arguments). I’m not even a supporter of “capital punishment” (lovely euphemism). The justice system is, in my opinion, too flawed in many regards to hand out death sentences. If new evidence comes up afterward, it’s too late. If a capital charge is proven beyond doubt, the appeals process is so drawn-out that it becomes its own punishment. I do believe that some criminals probably need to be removed from society on a more or less permanent basis. I also believe their numbers are smaller than we think, and even of those possibly quite a few would do well on some kind of frontier planet, where “less civilized” actions might be an actual life skill. Pity we don’t have one.

But the question remains to me: Does the choice to apply terminal justice make a person less of a hero? In the case of Timber “He-Man” MacDuff, I don’t like to think so. He’s not arbitrary. He does what he has to and no more. When he’s killed, it’s been to protect those less able to protect themselves, and it’s always the last possible solution (except for those couple times when he was younger and more hot-tempered). He remembers every face.

As far as writing goes, I think you can choose one way or the other and still make your character sympathetic. It’s a matter of balance, in the character and in the story. Timber is both a swordsman and a healer. His blade has two edges: One to harm, and one to heal. Sometimes surgery is necessary. I expect the question of who made him Judge, Jury, and Executioner will come up again in a later book (actually, I know it will). For now, I thought it through and gave him leave to do what he felt necessary.

Some people think they have no right to judge. To label this one a slug, and this one not. To make the choice between life and death.
He’s not one of them.

(All block quotes taken from “Summoning Scáthach,” in the collection Fits o’ the Season, © 2012 by Katherine Lampe)

Character Profile: Timber MacDuff

Last week, I did a “Meet My Main Character” blog profiling the heroine of my supernatural adventure series, Caitlin Ross. Since then, a number of people have requested that I do a follow-up profile focused on the hero of the series, Timber MacDuff. I told my friend, Jennie Davenport, that I’d do Timber if she did Henry, the hero of her upcoming novel, Hemlock Veils. (Obligatory plug: Hemlock Veils is NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER FOR KINDLE!) Well, she did. So I guess I’m obligated to uphold my end of the deal.

Say hello to Timber MacDuff.

Say hello, Timber.
Say hello, Timber.

I’m going to skip the questions of “is this a fictional or historical character?” and “What’s the setting?” because Timber shares these things with Caitlin, so you can look at her post if you like. Some stories covering bits of Timber’s early life, a few of which you can find under the “Timber MacDuff” menu in the sidebar of this blog, are set outside of the universe of the novels, in Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; and Los Angeles, California.

Moving onward.

What should we know about Timber?

It’s funny, but sometimes, writing mostly in the first person, I feel like I know other characters better than I do Caitlin, whose point of view I’m voicing. I think this is because when you write in the first person, you take on your point of view character’s thoughts and sensations, so you end up spending a lot of time describing what she sees and feels. More than you generally do addressing your POV character’s inner world and attitudes. In this way, it can be a challenge to paint a distinct picture of your POV character except inasmuch as she views the world around her.

Take that, all you people who think writing first person is for amateurs.

Anyway.

Timber Alasdair MacDuff was born in Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. He’s the oldest of six siblings, all of whom his woodworker father, with a peculiar sense of humor, named for trees. “I got the generic,” Timber says of his own name. He grew up speaking Gaelic until he was seven, and in fact was named in Gaelic: Fiodh. About that time, his family decided to emigrate (his mother’s brothers already had), and the family started speaking English exclusively. Timber doesn’t remember a lot of his childhood language, except for bits hanging around in his subconscious and a rather extensive vocabulary of profanity (which his uncles took care that he should remember).

Timber had a lot of trouble adjusting to the United States, with the result that he got in a great many fights and was kicked out of school on a regular basis. He started running away at twelve, and at fourteen left home for good. For the next three years, he lived on the streets of various cities. Shortly before his eighteenth birthday, a family friend tracked him down and dragged him back to Oregon. This family friend was a shaman, and he took it upon himself to train a reluctant Timber in the shamanic practices of healing and making spiritual journeys. He also insisted Timber complete his education and go to college.

After this intervention, Timber did straighten up and fly right for the most part, although he still has a temper and has been known to take a flexible stance when interpreting the law. At heart, he’s a good guy. He’s good with children and animals–in fact, he has a remarkable ability to communicate with “creatures.” He gets along with most people, and can be exceptionally charming when it suits him. An attractive man, he likes women and women like him; these days, however, he is devoted to his wife, Caitlin, of whom he is fiercely protective. A risk-taker himself, he finds it infuriating when Caitlin puts herself in danger.

A carpenter by trade, Timber enjoys fly fishing and shooting pool. As well, he’s a mean hand with a broadsword and practices daily. When inactive, he gets bored easily and fidgets, which drives Caitlin up the wall. (And now this sounds like an on-line dating profile, so I’m just going to stop.)

Not in a good mood.
Not in a good mood.

What’s the main conflict? What messes him up?

Timber’s main conflict is finding a balance between the two sides of his personality, the warrior and the healer. He’s a larger-than-life personality, who should really have been born in an earlier time, when mayhem, bloodshed, and edged weapons were more the rule. He often feels too big for his surroundings, and he has a hard time keeping his inner violence in check. He hates to admit defeat or lack of ability, and this tendency has gotten him into trouble more than once.

Timber has a great many things messing him up. He doesn’t feel he fits in the world. He despises the injustice he sees all around him and feels powerless to address it in any meaningful way. During the course of an eventful life, he’s done things he wishes he hasn’t had to do. He doesn’t precisely regret them, but the memories torment him.

As the series progresses, we learn more details about Timber’s past and the true source of his conflict. When he was a child he almost died from a severe illness. During his delirium, he experienced a vision of his future which greatly disturbed him, in which he saw himself doing something he does not want to do and facing something he does not want to face. To date he has never told anyone but his shamanic teacher about this vision. Not even Caitlin, although he expects she’ll have to know about it sooner or later. (Right now, I plan to resolve this situation for Timber in what will be book ten, tentatively titled “Over the Sea to Skye.”)

What is Timber’s Personal Goal?

Timber’s not a very goal-oriented individual. He lives almost entirely in the moment. At most, he plans a little way ahead, to the next battle, the next job, the next confrontation. If he could have anything for himself, it would be to escape the future he saw, but he has little expectation that will be possible. In the meantime, it’s enough for him to love and care for his headstrong wife–as much as she lets him.

That’s as much as I can say about Timber without revealing too many of his secrets. If you want to find out more, read the Caitlin Ross series. Timber also has his own collection of short stories, The Fits o’ the Season, available here.

I hope you have enjoyed this profile. Thanks for taking the time to read it!

Timber by WolfenM
Timber by WolfenM

 

 

Meet My Main Character!

Welcome to the Meet My Main Character Blog Tour! My friend, Sonya Craig, invited me on this outing. Sonya is the author of the Taiga Chavez adventures, a science fiction series about the struggle between a plucky heroine with a rude mouth and a mind of her own and a corrupt planetary government with visions of empire that threaten the galaxy as we know it. She’s also a classic car nut with a wicked sense of humor and a talent for art. So check her out!

My books are the Caitlin Ross Adventures, so, as you might expect, my main character is…Caitlin Ross. Caitlin is a Witch, both by natural talent and philosophical bent. Her talent gives her the ability to use non-physical energy sources to create physical changes in her environment. For example, she can bend light around herself to become invisible, or create a barrier between herself and a threat. She also engages in ritual magic and spell-work when appropriate, and is an exceptional Tarot reader.

A silly image of Caitlin I made with a manga generator.
A silly image of Caitlin I made with a manga generator.

Is she a fictional or a historical person?

Caitlin’s adventures take place in the “real” world, but she is mostly fictional. I say “mostly” because she keeps showing up at my house and raiding my fridge.

Where and when is the story set?

The series covers a lot of geographical territory and a number of years. Most of the books take place in Gordarosa, a fictional rural town in Western Colorado. The series also visits Boulder, Colorado, and Detroit, Michigan, as well as various Otherworldly locations. The time is “Present Day,” with the first book, THE UNQUIET GRAVE, covering events in the summer of 2007. The rest of the series proper has so far gone through winter of 2009, with the exception of the fourth book, a prequel novel, which is set in the summer of 1999. A related collection of short stories takes place in the fall of 2001.

What should we know about Caitlin?

Caitlin sees herself as reclusive, shy, and reserved. She also thinks of herself as relatively normal. She likes to garden and do various crafts, like embroidering and crochet. She’s musical, and when we first see her, she’s the leader of an Irish group, Red Branch, in which she plays the flute and sings. She loves her husband and her cats, but isn’t close to many others in her community. She doesn’t believe her supernatural abilities have anything to do with this, although she sees the world in a far different light from those she terms “Mundanes.” She never intends to get involved in the weird incidents that insist on barging into her life, but somehow she always does. Her curiosity is insatiable, and she can’t stand not knowing the answers to questions and not trying to solve any problem that presents itself. Sometimes she takes risks that put her in danger (much to the dismay of her husband), but she views this as the practical thing to do at the time. She feels responsible for those around her, whether or not she has any close connection to them.

What is the main conflict?

When we first see Caitlin, she has refused to use her powers for a number of years because a supernatural entity once warned her that doing so would have consequences she would not like. Caitlin has always had a love/hate relationship with magic. She’s most herself when she allows herself to be the Witch that she is, but magic has also been the root of problems in her life, especially with her emotionally abusive family, who consider it a symptom of a socially unacceptable disease. in THE UNQUIET GRAVE, a series of strange events at the bar where her band is performing require her to reevaluate her position. Although there is an antagonist she will need to confront, the main conflict is between Caitlin’s desire to return to living a magical life and her fear of what will happen if she does.

Subsequent books in the series follow Caitlin as she solves various magically-rooted problems and matches wits with adversaries both human and supernatural. The arc of the series as a whole deals with Caitlin facing the consequences of reclaiming a magical life. The books are also, in great part, about interpersonal relationships, both Caitlin’s with her husband and that of the world as we know it with the world unseen.

What is Caitlin’s personal goal?

Caitlin just wants to be left alone! She wants everything to be tidy and quiet, so she can get on with life. Unfortunately, her fate is to have a messy life, and a number of entities have plans for her.

Publication Information

There are six books in the Caitlin Ross series so far: THE UNQUIET GRAVE, SHE MOVED THROUGH THE FAIR, A MAID IN BEDLAM, THE PARTING GLASS, THE CRUEL MOTHER, and DEMON LOVER. I am currently working on the seventh volume, DEATH AND THE LADY, which I hope to publish in the late spring or early summer of 2015. All the books are available both in print and for E reader, and you can view or download excerpts from Smashwords. For more information, you can check out my Amazon author page, my Smashwords profile, or my Goodreads profile. You can also stay up to date on Caitlin’s adventures by signing up for my newsletter.

Sketch of Caitlin my cover artist was kind enough to provide at the absolute last minute.
Sketch of Caitlin my cover artist was kind enough to provide at the absolute last minute.

Next on the tour:

Angelina Williamson is a writer, gardener, herbalist, Vespa-rider, wearer of hats, and preparer for the Zombie Apocalypse. Her book, WINTER (Cricket and Grey), is available here.

Niko Staten is a Reader, Writer, Mother, Dreamer, Part-time sleeper and full-time geek. Pescatarian, former Vegan, former Child, former Human. Married. Redhead. Also possibly alive.

Both will be continuing the tour the week of October 20th, so stay tuned!

Visit my cover artist, WolfenM on Twitter or at deviantArt!

 

 

 

The Work In Progress Writing Tour

Hello, and welcome to another Blog Tour post! This week it’s the “WIP Lines” tour. My friend Sonya Craig tagged me to follow her post from last week. Sonya is one of the foundations of my Twitter crew, a funny, talented, and creative lady who writes Old School Science Fiction with a spunky and snarky heroine. She’s also an amazing artist and you should definitely check her out.

Sonya Craig's take on yours truly.
Sonya Craig’s take on yours truly.

So, what is this WIP tour? Well, it’s a chance for me to tell you about what I’m working on at the moment and share some lines–the first line or two of each of the first three chapters, to be precise–to get all you fans excited, so that you, in turn, can haunt my Twitter feed and encourage me to keep going. Or possibly make scathing comments about how I don’t write fast enough, but I’d prefer the former.

I happen to have a special treat for all you readers: I’m working on not just ONE WIP, but TWO!!! So I’m going to tell you a bit about each of them.

The first thing I’m working on these days is a trio of novellas about everyone’s favorite Scottish shaman, Timber MacDuff. Depending on whether or not you’ve read any of the Caitlin Ross novels–and depending on which ones you’ve read–you may know our estimable Scot was rather a problem child in his youth, who started running away from home at the age of twelve and left for good at fourteen. For the next three and a half years, he lived on the streets, until the man who would become his teacher dragged him 0ut of squalor by the ear and knocked some sense into him.

Timber as a character has always fascinated me. I find that writing primarily in the first person, as I do, the stories become as much or more about the people the POV character interacts with and how she feels about them as they are about Caitlin herself. So, in a way, we come to know Timber very well. And yet, he retains a certain mystery. I’m not one of those authors who sits down and writes a huge back story for every character; I let the back story reveal itself as needed. And although I knew Timber had had a difficult time as a young man, I never knew quite why someone with a loving family like his would go the way he did. I wanted to explore this in more detail, so in May of 2013 I started writing.  I’ve been working on this project in fits and starts since then, and am currently about halfway through the third novella, tentatively titled “Eyes Full of Stars.” Early versions of the first two novellas, “How He Left” and “Into the Void” are available under the Timber MacDuff sidebar of this blog, in case you’re interested. The three stories explore the circumstances that caused Timber to leave home in the first place, a series of events that shaped the person he would be for the next few years, and, finally, Mitch’s rescue and Timber’s decision to embrace the shamanic path.

The Lines

How He Left

“For the Lord’s sake, Timber! Will ye not at least get a haircut?”

He scowls up at his mother from beneath the lock of hair that always seems to be falling into his eyes. It annoys him, but he’s never going to let her know it.

“I dinna believe Jesus Christ gives a damn about the length of my hair,” he says, watching her cross from stove to sink.

Into the Void

He stares in the mirror and thinks about how he’s aged.

It’s not in his face so much. He’s thinner, so his face is thinner, too. But that’s only made his features finer. His cheekbones stand out like blades. A pimp in the Tenderloin broke his nose last month. He caught the bastard threatening one of the girls he knows and called him on it, which was stupid because the bugger was armed and could have done him worse damage if he’d cared to.

Eyes Full of Stars

Summer in LA: Hot and dry, with a dust-filled wind whipping around the corners of buildings and ripping crumpled newspapers from overflowing trash bins, sending them skittering down the streets like artificial tumbleweeds. A smell on the air of gasoline and baked asphalt mixes with the brown fug of exhaust and smog. Somewhere to the west, the ocean rolls in ceaseless breakers up to beaches where sun-warmed girls in bikinis flirt with the waves and bleached studs play volleyball, showing off for the girls.

My first Fan Art: Timber as seen by Sonya Craig
My first Fan Art: Timber as seen by Sonya Craig

The other thing I’m working on is the seventh book in the Caitlin Ross series, Death and the Lady. It’s October, eight months after the events of Demon Lover. Timber is still trying to cope with the trauma of having been imprisoned and raped, Caitlin is tearing her hair out over Timber’s reluctance to confide in her, and both of them are dealing with the realities of being first-time parents. When a wealthy acquaintance approaches Caitlin about putting a band together to play at her autumn wedding, Caitlin doesn’t feel she can refuse. And it turns out to be a good thing she and Timber are there, because when a friend collapses on the dance floor, Timber’s able to bring him back from the dead. What neither of them know, though, is that saving their friend is the beginning of a series of events that will reunite many of the supporting characters from previous volumes in a rush to solve a series of bizarre crimes before the energy of the Samhain season fuels a vendetta with Caitlin as its target.

I’m not very far into this one. In fact, when Sonya asked me to participate in this blog tour, I hadn’t yet written chapter three! But I got it done, I’m into chapter four now, and so, for your enjoyment, here are some introductory lines.

Death and the Lady

Chapter One

It began at a wedding.

It began with a death.

Autumn exploded through the Gordarosa valley in a burst of crimson and gold. The Harvest Festival at the end of September made way for an October of brilliant, warm days and crisp nights. The summer’s hay and corn had all been gathered in, signaling the season of yellow pumpkins and trees bent under the weight of apples and pears. All around town, anxious gardeners plucked tomatoes bursting with juice and crossed their fingers against the first frost, praying for the green globes yet on the vine to ripen before it arrived.

Chapter Two

Timber roused enough when we got home to heave himself into the house and stumble upstairs, where he fell full length across the bed and passed out again without removing his boots. After the long day and its spectacular end, I felt like joining him. My energy had plummeted as soon as our house had come in sight, leaving me shaking in every limb, with black spots in the corners of my eyes.

Chapter Three

I hadn’t seen Zee—nobody used his legal name, Josef Zdrojkowski, for obvious reasons—in seven or eight years. A wanderer who never stayed in one town longer than it took for him to figure it out, he’d left Boulder a few months before Timber and I had. We wrote, but rarely; keeping track of him was too hard for regular correspondence. Now and again a postcard reached us from some far-flung region of the North or South American continent, and once he’d sent a package from a village in Peru. But he’d never visited.

So there you have it: My two works in progress. Are you excited yet?

Next up on the WIP Lines Blog Tour is Angelina Williamson. A bleeding liberal and expert at using power tools moderately well, Angelina writes a variety of things including YA Dystopia. In addition to her Better Than Bullets personal blog, she keeps an urban homesteading blog at Stitch and Boots, and sells neat stuff in her Etsy store, for which I unfortunately don’t have a link at hand. She’s an amazing gardener who knows what herb will save you in case of a Zombie Apocalypse, and if she were a man, her balls would be skinned peaches. Just sayin’. Next week she’ll be sharing her WIP Lines with you, so be sure to check her out!

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